Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not my camera

My SO tired of hearing me complain about my camera, so he loaned me his Olympus SP-590UZ.  I don't know what that designation means, but it does take better pictures than my little Sony.  The zoom lens really zooms, which makes it difficult to hold the camera steady, plus these were taken through the (dirty) windows of the West Wing.  And I don't have a fancy-shmancy photo editor.  What do you think?  Better?  I think I reduced them too much.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kale and stuff

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

I made some kale and white bean soup from a recipe in Yoga Journal.  I am not an eater of kale on a regular basis, but this soup turned out great, perhaps due to the vegetable stock (from a recipe in Love Soup) or maybe it was the honkin' big clove of garlic I used.  Anyway, it was perfect with some homemade bread on a snowy winter day.

Last week I placed my orders for seeds and plants.  I probably still have too many tomatoes, but I did try to tone things down.  Also, I considered just what I eat and what I want to eat. 

Ordinarily, I don't grow pumpkins because in the past I have not eaten them much.  That has been changing, but not to the point where I wanted to grow my own.  Then came disappointment in the local sugar pumpkins from last summer - no flavor.  So I am giving pumpkins a try this year.

Ditto sweet potatoes.  Store-bought are good, but I'm betting home-grown are better.  I picked a bush variety that should do fine in the grow sacks.

I like eggplant but one goes a long way in my kitchen.  With Burpee's new mix 'n match, though, I can get one plant, a container variety that produces small fruit that look perfect for a one person household.

I mixed and matched my eggplant with a variety of peppers plus some container tomatoes; that's where I went astray with the "love apples".  I want to see if salsa tomatoes were really better for salsa, plus I want an early tomato - I hate to wait.

There is no room for brassicas except maybe here and there, so I will look for locally grown plants if I think I can squeeze them in.  But there will be root vegetables following the garlic, for fall harvesting.  That is another food group I eat more of, now that I know to roast them in olive oil and sea salt.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of beans, green and wax, but this year I am reverting back to the tried and true Blue Lake Bush.  And I am growing more onions so that I can thin them for scallions.  And I must remember to plant the sunflowers this year.  What is a backyard without sunflowers?

I'm a volunteer that the rabbits did not eat

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter doldrums

Unusually pretty sunset for these parts

Once the holidays are over, it is a long slumber until spring.  Around here it does not snow much, so instead of a winter wonderland, we get dirty slush-covered browns and grays.  Even the initial manic of seed catalogs has given way to the depressive blahs of mid-January.  Bah.

When I purchased my ski equipment several years ago, I subconsciously made a pact with myself to ski whenever I could.  This has amounted to once or twice a year (see above comment about snow).  Last Saturday seemed like my only opportunity this year, so I drove to a nearby county park.  The snow on the trails was old and used, so the skiing turned into a lot of work.  And despite the signs stating the paths were closed to hikers, some bozos had tromped on the ski tracks, leaving bare ground showing where their heels struck.  I could hear my skis scraping bottom.  By the time I gave up, I had a big blister on the back of each heel and the realization that I see more wildlife in my own backyard.  I filed the excursion under the "We're going to have fun whether you want to or not, dammit" category and went home.

At least my backyard wildlife keeps me amused.  That rascally rabbit was out and about this morning.  It kept running along the chain link fence, from one side of the yard to the other.  Looking for a way out?  I was in an online meeting (stupid job) and tethered to my computer, so I could not get up and see if it could get through the gap by the gate.  Or maybe it is too dumb to remember the gap is there?  Or too blind to find it?  And what do rabbits eat in the winter, besides the bark off my shrubs (which are protected by chicken wire, thank you very much)?  There is cracked corn and sunflower seeds under the bird feeders, but I have also been throwing apple cores under the steps, just in case the poor thing needs something extra.  I know.  I'm hopeless.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Almost ready

A little over three inches

Technically, we need four inches of snow before breaking out the cross country skis.  The white stuff is still coming down, albeit in a finer state, but I'm hoping there will be enough.

In case you are wondering, I took pity on the last captured rabbit and unblocked the gap at one gate.  I just kept worrying there was a nest of babies somewhere in the backyard, starving to death in the bitter cold.  Getting soft in my old age, I guess.

Betsy sniffing for bunnies in front of the house
My neighbor across the street wandered over with his snow blower this afternoon.  The snow was light and fluffy, but I'm still glad I did not have to do the driveway by hand.

My driveway is 50' long
The snow brought in the birds.  On the left is a blue bird, on the right a goldfinch, and I'm not sure about the rest.  

One is coming in for a landing

After these departed, a hardy sparrow came to bathe.  Brrr!

Despite the snow on the ground, the gardening catalogs keep piling up.  Several years ago, I started receiving Growers Supply, which targets nurseries and market gardeners.  Lots of greenhouses and greenhouse supplies.  I have never ordered anything from them, but I like to scan its pages for ideas.  Since the voles ruined my potato crop last year, I am looking for ways to foil them this year.  Growers Supply suggests lining the bottom of raised beds with wire mesh.  I was considering enclosing the bed in mesh, but if I do the bottom as well, that would keep the little boogers out.  At least I don't have to contend with deer.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

First day of the rest of the year

Since the temps were in the 40's this morning and a cold front is on the way, I spent some time in the yard, cleaning up the flower bed on the south side of the house and the hosta bed on the north side, while Betsy sniffed out the rabbits in the front bushes.

Speaking of rabbits, I have been trying to clear my backyard of them for a while.  They girdled my serviceberry so badly it has never recovered - while alive and presumably healthy, it just won't grow.  Ditto the chokeberry.  All the shrubs are now protected by circles of chicken wire, and the chain link is lined with chicken wire and I have been catching the rabbits in a Havahart trap borrowed from a neighbor.  But somehow they keep sneaking back in.  I even dream about rabbits, sometimes that there are baby ones frolicking on the lawn.  The other night, I dreamed that there were several rabbits in the backyard and a hawk kept swooping down at them, but the hawk eventually caught a ground hog and flew away.

This morning there was a rabbit in the trap, so I freed it in the front yard, then patrolled the backyard fence.  The gates are the weak points.  At one, it looked like rabbits had dug under the chicken wire.  At the other, I found small snarls of chicken wire - do rabbits chew metal?  I reinforced the gaps under each gate with cement pavers and bricks.  While I was cleaning out the hosta bed, a rabbit (the same rabbit I caught?) ran toward the gate but could not get through.

When checking the fence, I found places in the meadow where rabbits had bedded down (and evidence that they had mowed down the Russian sage), but no sign of baby bunny nests.  That doesn't mean there isn't one under the porch steps or the shed, but I'm just going to try to harden my heart and pretend that is not possible.  La-la-la-la-la.

Feels like bad karma.