First Chicken Eggs

Can I be any more excited about the first chicken eggs from the girls?  Pretty much not…

First Chicken Eggs

First Chicken Eggs

Definitely compliments of the Buff Orpingtons since they lay light brown eggs.

First Chicken Eggs

I’ve had a few people ask via social media why they’re laying in such cold weather, and the reason is that their laying cycle is triggered by light, not the cold temps.  I truly am surprised I have eggs at this point since I still thought they were too young, but I gather Orps lay early and quite often throughout the winter.  My other two breeds, Barred Rocks and Ameraucanas will most likely start laying in the Spring…

I’m taking this as a sign that Spring is truly on it’s way!  Hope you all have signs of it around you as well (and if you do send me a link or a line!)

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A Few Vacation Pics…

We spent a week in the Florida Keys for our winter vacation and it was such a treat to see some flora and fauna.  I don’t know how much snow you have on the ground by you, or how low your temps have gone (and sorry to my non-U.S. readers for whining), but we have some seriously deep drifts and it was -6 degrees fahrenheit today.  I’m done with winter…

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

I love this shot.  This is a giant poinsettia that’s thriving in it’s spot against a stone wall.  I had seen them growing in Greece years ago, but I didn’t think they’d survive anywhere in the U.S.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsThis gardener had packed spanish moss around her tree-tied orchids.  Not sure if it would help or hinder the orchid.

Vacation PicsEvery now and then I remember that I’ve downloaded the app Waterlogue.  It’s kind of cool.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

 

Vacation Pics


Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Poolside visitor.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Palm in bloom.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Our island retreat.

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Seriously!  Right???

Vacation Pics

Vacation Pics

Vacation PicsSo that’s vacation in a nutshell.  Have you booked a trip and gotten out this year?  Was this year so bad you’re planning on booking and bolting next year?  Would love to hear where you’re going or what you’ve done!

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Beautiful Winter Tree Bark

Beautiful Winter Bark

When you’re up to your eyeballs in snow, and you have to walk super slowly along walkways or you’ll wipe out on the ice underfoot, it gives you that extra moment to stop and take a look at beautiful winter tree bark that you would not otherwise notice.

It’s not a silver lining but it’s all I really have to work with…

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Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

When I was young, my parents would frequently take us to a dear friends restaurant in NYC named The Chambertin.  Without fail, I alway ordered clams chablis, duck a la’ orange and a light and fluffy chocolate mousse that is absolutely, sublimely perfect (and I really don’t like dessert to be honest).  It took forever to figure out how they made it – I was stuck in the egg trap (whipped, yolks etc.), and invariably they we’re dense and heavy.  I stumbled upon a recipe that used gelatin to achieve the fluff without the density and it worked.  This recipe has evolved over the years and it’s the flavor of my childhood, and I’m calling it the Ultimate Chocolate Mousse – and it is!

And I admit this has zero to do with gardening, but really, since it’s chocolate, who cares, right?

Ultimate Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tspns Unflavored Gelatin
  • 2 Tbspns Cold Water
  • 2 1 Oz. Chocolate Squares (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Tspn Mace
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tspn Vanilla

Directions

Soften gelatin in the cold water. Set aside.
Put the chocolate, 1/2 cup sugar, mace and milk in a double boiler and heat until the chocolate melts. Don not let it boil.
Beat until smooth. I have an old rotary blender but you could use a whisk.
Add the gelatin and stir until it's melted. Pour into a bowl and chill until it's nice and thick, then beat it until it's fluffy.
Whip the cream and add the remaining sugar and the vanilla. Fold the whipped cream and the chocolate mixture together. Squish into cute little cups and top with toasted nuts. Chill.

And I always rig a double boiler with two pots.  No need to have extra equipment you have to store.

This mousse lived up to my memories.  Hope you enjoy it too.

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Meyer Lemon Oddities

Meyer Lemon Oddities

Just a quick post on my wacky Meyer lemons.  The large and crazy Meyer in the photo above is mine – great flavor, nice and mild but about the size of a softball, and then the standard grocery store Meyer below.  Odd, no?  There’s lots of pith, but also plenty of juicy fruit.  I think it’s probably a crazy mix of some other citrus, possibly a Ponderosa?  Who knows, but it’s fun and the tree is loaded with fruit so I’m not complaining.

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White Bean and Kale Stew

White Bean and Kale StewJust so you know (a.k.a. full disclosure), I did not use kale from my garden for this recipe.  There is kale out there – I swear it – but it’s buried under a couple feet of snow at this moment and while I love you all, I’m not that dedicated…

So everyone has a version of this soup I think.  It’s yummy and hearty and can be served to vegetarians with ease just by swapping in veggie stock.  I also love it since I can top it with an acre of parmesan cheese.  I dressed this version up a bit with a toasted parm crouton, but a wave of grated cheese is simply amazing too.

White Bean and Kale Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 Yellow Onion (diced)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Bundles Kale (deveined and chopped into reasonable sized pieces)
  • 6 Cups Chicken or Veggie Stock (use the good stuff if you're not using homemade)
  • 1 28 Oz. Can Italian Tomatoes (squish them with your hand before adding them to the pot)
  • 2 15.5 Oz Cans Cannellini Beans (drained)
  • 1 Tspn Thyme
  • 2 Tbspns Dried Celery Leaves (you can use fresh, just throw them in with the onions and garlic to sauté)
  • 3 Slices Hearty Whole Wheat Bread, not from a plastic bag if you know what I mean (cubed)
  • 1 Rind Parmesan Cheese
  • S&P (to taste)
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Over a medium flame, pour a bit of olive oil into a large, heavy bottomed pan and add the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Cook until onion starts to pale.
Add the chopped kale, stir for a minute or so to allow it to shrink down a bit, and then add the stock and tomatoes.
Next add your beans, cheese rind, thyme and celery. Give a good stir and then add the bread. Cover and simmer for a good half an hour or until the bread breaks down.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and top with a cute little homemade crouton if desired.

White Bean and Kale Stew

I save my left over parm cheese rinds in a bag in the freezer (my freezer is kind of frightening honestly, there are some crazy things in there).  They’re also great in minestrone so it’s nice to have on hand.  Waste not, want not right?  Also, you can see in the photo above a few garbanzo’s floating around – I ran out of cannellini so I popped them in.  It worked really well.  And if you’d like to make your own stock, here’s how I make my veggie stock, which also falls into the ‘waste not want not department’, and here’s another great version if you don’t want bags of vegetable scraps lying around.

Happy gardening (and cooking) all!

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Wordless Wednesday

You mean you want me to come out?

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Reclaimed Tiles

As I mentioned, we’re building a house.  We’ve been trying to honor the old house we tore down (so many great memories) and one small way has been to try and preserve a few bits and pieces of the old structure and incorporate them into the new place.  The tiles below we’re pried from the kitchen backsplash, thankfully with minimal damage, and will be returned to a place of honor in the new kitchen.

Reclaimed Tiles

Reclaimed Tiles

Reclaimed Tiles

Reclaimed Tiles

Reclaimed Tiles

Reclaimed Tiles

I’ve already posted a couple of these on social media, but I love them and wanted to share all of them.  Fun no?  They date from some point in the 60′s which was when the original place was built.  The kitchen that these were in was microscopic but there we’re so many great meals churned out of it, I hope these help to continue the tradition and the yummy kitchen karma.

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Seed Orders

It took forever, but finally my seed orders went out last week and they have arrived back in record time.  I’ve found this year that for some reason I’ve been drawn to anything with color.  Maybe it’s all the snow that’s been flying, but the thought of a colorful garden is so appealing right now.

Seed OrdersSo what’s so colorful in  my order?… The kaleidoscope carrots in the picture above of course (red carrots anyone?), watermelon radishes, purple tomatillo’s, rainbow chard (which also looks so awesome in a vase), a purple artichoke named ‘Opera’ (planning on putting these babies in planters at the front door), ruby moon hyacinth beans, funky, red lettuces and tons of new flowers for the cutting garden like Bombay Yellow Gold celosia and multi hued yarrow.

I’m also trying a few new things this year.  Some are marginal in my area like fava beans (maybe served with a nice chianti…) and some are just new and fun like a specialty melon I’m excited about  - and hopefully it will be the correct melon this year, not like the Jenny Lind from last year that turned out to be a banana melon.  Just sayin’.

And sometimes what you don’t order is just as telling as what you do.  I’m obsessed with mushrooms – not the magic kind – and there is one in particular one I’d like to try and grow, it’s called ‘Chicken of the Woods’.  Territorial Seeds sells inoculated dowels and I’m dying to try them.  I can’t figure out why I haven’t ordered them though…

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods, Image via Michigan Mushroom Hunters

So what are you ordering this year for your garden???  Are you sticking with the tried and true or branching out a bit???

Happy armchair gardening everyone!

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The Wild Lawn

Starting a Lawn after Construction

We’re building a house in the woods.  In the process of tearing down an old house, and erecting a new one, the lawn that was there has been utterly destroyed.  I loved that lawn!  I had crawled on it as a baby, run on it as a child, helped push a lawnmower around it during my youth and have spent hours lying on it looking up at the clouds or stars.  It wasn’t a conventional lush, green lawn either, it was filled with what most would consider weeds – thyme, strawberry plants, small native flowers, mosses, funky little sedges and all kinds of woodland plants.  It was amazing. Now I’m faced with the task of replanting a lawn that I don’t really want to be ‘planted’, I want a wild lawn.

Starting a Lawn after Construction

My Mother and Father put in the original lawn about 50 years ago using seed, but with only a few cuttings a year (if that), no fertilizer, herbicides or supplemental water, the native plants started to creep into the open areas and then did an outright take-over.  Would this lawn work in a suburban setting?  Probably not, but it’s so perfect in this woodland setting that I’m going to do my best to recreate it’s wild beauty.

Sampling from a 'wild'lawn

Sampling from a 'wild'lawn

Sampling from a 'wild'lawn

Sampling from a 'wild'lawn

Sampling from a 'wild'lawn

I know I’ll have to remove rocks, repair the soil that’s been washed away and then put down a base layer of standard seed, but I’m planning on transplanting plant material in from other parts of the property and tucking them in with that seed.  Hopefully they will establish themselves quickly and return the lawn to it’s naturally wild state that I love so much.

And here is a link to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on planting a native grass lawn if you have lots of energy…

Dream of Spring everyone!

 

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