Tuesday, July 30, 2013

tsuga tuesday

"Hi! I'm Tsuga. I'm the cute one."

"This is the other Tsuga, Tsuga canadensis.
Told you - I'm the cute one!"

"Ever since I was about two weeks old, none of the fences around here work properly anymore. Only my head fits through the holes! What fun is that? I ask you!"

"Some goats stop nibbling on peoples' clothing at an early age. They decide it's just not worthwhile." 

"Well, I'm no quitter! I am confident that one day, a piece of clothing is going to be edible. Or at the very least, tear-able! I shall persevere!"

"My perseverance certainly pays off in other areas." 

"Guess what? This bit of twine may be holding the tarp in place.  What will you give me not to pull on it? Think fast - LOL!"

"When I was only two days old, I didn't know anything.
I couldn't wait to tackle the universe.

I thought the world would be my oyster oatfield."

"I was so right."


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

miscellaneous mushrooms

(Just because they always catch my eye. So intriguing!)

Sunday, July 21, 2013


One place where Piper and I often go for a walk (me) and a run (Piper) is a few miles from home. There is a road along each side of a pond, and we go to whichever side has no cars in the parking area because if there are other walkers, I feel I must keep Piper on lead.

By "pond," in this case, I mean a very shallow, wide, mucky wetland.

Historically, this area was once known as a "water meadow." I think this may be a term that came over with the 17th- and 18th-century settlers, but which is no longer in common usage here. Maybe it is still used in other places?

If any readers have heard this term used to describe a landscape or environment, please do speak up in the comments! Thank you!

I interpret "water meadow" to mean an area which supported meadow vegetation but which would typically contain standing or running water for at least part of the year. I picture it used as rough pasture where cattle could be turned out for grazing.  (I really do "picture it."  I see it as an 18th-century engraving of cattle grazing in a rough, lowland meadow, with both sedge-y and hedge-y vegetation. You probably know exactly the sort of engraving I mean.)

At some point in more recent history, a small dam was built at one end, turning the water meadow into a shallow pond.

Piper doesn't care for swimming.  I carefully introduced her to swimming in a lovely clear unmucky lake when she was a youngster, and she discovered that she doesn't enjoy the feeling of bouyancy.  Even after all these years of various water adventures, she finds the moment when she can't feel the bottom anymore - well, not scary exactly, because she is a Big Dog, not a Little Baby Dog - rather unsettling.

But that's okay, Piper always knows how to make her own fun.  In years past, when we used to go for walks with my friend Sue and Piper's friend Wolfgang, Wolfie would leap into water and swim purposefully out after as many sticks as a person could toss. Meanwhile, Piper would plunge back and through the shallows, making lots of huge splashes and saying to us all, "Look at me! I'm swimming, too!"

Piper does enjoy shallow water, and it doesn't have to be lovely clean water, oh no. Piper enjoys bogging. And since the pond we often walk along is pretty much one big bog, I always tell Piper at the start of a walk whether or not she is free to go into the water that day. It often just depends on which side of the pond we are walking along.

Hock-deep in muck
On the east side of the pond, there is a little brook where Piper can go paddling and rinse off most of the muck just before getting in the car to go home.

Piper in the rinse cycle.

On the west side of the pond, the side with the little dam, there is no brook.  There is only More Muck.  No rinsing option here.

Looks like a rinse opportunity, but it's really a few inches of muddy water atop more - you guessed it! - muck.

Yesterday we visited the west side, and as soon as we got into the woods and I took the lead off, I asked Piper to stay out of the water. "Please stay out of the water, Piper," I said.

"More running, no water. Got it!"

All went smoothly until I got distracted for a while:

I never buy blueberries, because they never taste like this.

After a splendid feast that comes once a year with luck, I noticed the woods had grown quiet. I whistled for Piper and soon heard her galloping toward me through the underbrush.

But she stopped just out of sight.

I suddenly had a sort of premonition.

It was truer than most premonitions.

Oh Piper.

"Hi! What?"

"Oh. Uh. Erm. I forgot."

"But look how happy I am!"

It's pretty much impossible to be cross with a happy Piper.  I think this is one of Piper's best features, actually. It's certainly a lucky feature, from Piper's perspective!

But readers?

You are so lucky this is not a scratch-and-sniff picture!

We drove home with all the windows wide open. And the car sat in the sun with all the doors wide open all afternoon, until I had to drive for two hours round-trip to pick up hay. Last night I left the car crammed chockablock full of hay bales, hopefully replacing the smell of muck with the smell of fresh meadow grass.

Oddly, I just this moment realized we've come full circle with another kind of "water meadow"!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

my caterpillar hero

I discovered this stunning caterpillar this morning, and identified it (easily done!) as an Abbott's Sphinx.  I was thrilled to see it on asiatic bittersweet, one of the more obnoxious invasives I deal with daily.

You go, Sphecodina abbottii!!! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

in the kitchen

Today was a Big Day in the Kitchen.

Only by my standards, but still.

It started with a pot of farro, but since that is not a big deal (even by my standards) the day still seemed average. Farro doesn't even really count as cooking.

Then I realized that although the humidity was 98 percent during chores this morning, the temperature was only 86F, so, heck, almost cool! Maybe a good day to use the oven? It's been a while.

I pulled a couple of storebought pie shells out of the recently reactivated camouflage freezer (that's a story for another day) and set about preparing to bake.

Do you blind-bake pie crusts? And if so, do you have any idea why it is called that? Sort of an odd name. It's just poking a lot of holes in a raw pie crust then baking it for a short time to seal the inner surface of the crust a bit. The holes reduce the puffing up that can happen between the crust and the pie tin, and the sealing helps prevent a soggy crust later on.

I blind-baked both pie crusts, to make better use of the hot oven. One came out at 8 minutes, when it was just slightly lightly barely tinted brown - that's the quiche crust. The other stayed in for a few more minutes to really bake through. It may become a frozen dessert pie.

Not sure.
Never made one before.
Stay turned!

The quiche was my standard "recipe": toss in some of whatever is on hand. Today it was: 7 eggs, a big splash of cream from the top of a jug of raw milk, a couple of handfuls of chopped broccoli, a few spoonfuls of Rotel (canned chopped tomatoes and green chili peppers), and loads of shredded sharp cheddar.
Sound good?
Here's how it looked just out of the oven:

And unlike that rogue quiche of a few weeks ago, this one had more quiche-like topography:

(Oh look!  There's a big container of farro cooling in the background!  It did make it into a picture!)

while the quiche was in the oven,
along came a crazy thought:

Wouldn't this be a fine time to try Tipper's cornbread recipe?

After all, the oven was already on, right?
So what's another 100 degrees?

The recipe was so very simple. Thank goodness. Because this was the third thing I cooked today (you'll notice I am now counting the farro). For me, that pushed this day right into a sort of Wild Cooking Marathon.

(I know. I'm not much of a cook. Fortunately, Piper does not care. Sometimes the goats seem to be muttering, though.)

Twenty minutes later:

I wish I had a better right-out-of-the-oven picture, but to be honest, I was in too much of a hurry to take a picture like this:

I meant to flip the cornbread out of the pan in one piece, but suddenly realized something: I don't own a plate as big as my skillet. No problem, though. Those first two wedges popped right out of the pan. With no trouble. At all.

This is not the first time I've tried to make cornbread, but it is without a doubt the first time I've made cornbread that tastes the way I think cornbread ought to taste.

And the texture!
I mean, do you see the size of that missing section? You would be amazed at the amount of butter that much properly-textured cornbread can hold on to!  My, my.

Thank you, Tipper, for sharing your recipe - and please thank The Deer Hunter for his more freewheeling method, too. Maybe next time!

There will certainly be a next time, and pretty soon, too.  Because this time, there won't be enough leftovers to try making cornbread salad!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

a walk in the sun

When Piper comes along on a trip to the feed store, we usually stop midway at a public walking trail that makes a loop through the fields of a working farm.  Here Piper must stay on lead, but on a sunny day, perhaps 90F with high humidity, a walk on a lead is not as boring as it might sound.

It's a very different habitat from Piper's usual woodsy ramble. Lots of open field, hedgerows, and long-distance views.
And haze, when it's humid.

We see many plants and birds that thrive in open conditions, quite different from what we see at home.  I don't know what kind of butterfly is enjoying the milkweed, but isn't it lovely?

Note the two strands of electric fence - another very good reason for Piper to be on lead!

The farmland is nearly all pasture and hayfields, but this little knoll has a few trees that provide very welcome shade.
 These lilies tell the story of a former home site.  One sees them all over New England, often in small gaps in the forest, along abandoned cart roads, or in an area where there is no other sign of human habitation, past or present. 
Like a cheerful greeting from the past.
Even though it was all walking, no running, Piper doesn't look too disappointed, does she?  She took our sedate constitutional in typical happy-go-lucky style.

So, when we continued on to the feed store I invited Piper to come inside with me and choose her own treat from the bin.  It was crunch, crunch, crunch, all the way home. 

There are a few additional chores in the mornings lately, which is slowing me down.  But tomorrow I will try to get everything done early, so we can get into the woods for our more typical mayhem:


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

advice on insect damage?

Or should I say,

Insect damage! 


Behold, the gorgeous cauliflower.  And associates.

Something nibbled several of the first cauliflower plants a while ago.

Happily, it wasn't this bunch of hooligans; they were being very good and eating only what they should have been eating.
Good goats.  Carry on.

Also happily, the nibbled plants rallied and recovered, putting out new leaves.  I rejoiced!

I also paid very close attention, and although I never saw bugs eating the leaves, I did sometimes find teeny-tiny white bumps - insect eggs, maybe? - in a scattered group on the underside of a leaf or two.  I destroyed them immediately, by rubbing them out with my thumb and finger on either side of the leaf.

I know.  Ewww.

But it seemed necessary.

But ewww.

Moving on...

Now there has been a repeat attack, of awful severity.
One example:


This makes me wince.  I can only imagine how it makes the cauliflower feel.

I still have not seen any bugs, and any white bumps have been dealt with right away.  Sometimes I do notice a little bit of darkness inside the little nook created where a leaf attaches to a stem.  I thought it might just be dirt, but now have taken to flushing the dark bits out with a spray bottle of water, just in case it's some kind of bug-related bother.


"Teeny-tiny white bumps."
"Little bit of darkness."

Maybe, just maybe, this is another situation where eyeglasses might be helpful.  I prefer to use my hand lens, but I can't find it.  Possibly eyeglasses would help in situation also.

More insect damage:
my one ground cherry plant has also been struggling with attackers, but almost from Day One.
Leaves get chewed up, the plant gamely puts out new growth. Holes appear in the new growth.
It's very hard to watch.

I think it's a different kind of bug than the cauliflower attacker.  I occasionally spot (and try to grab) a very small stripey winged creature on one of the ground cherry leaves.  There has never been a huge number of these bugs on the plant at one time - three, max - but there certainly is an ongoing problem with leaves being eaten.  Those bugs are quick, too...I've only managed to catch a few, by knocking them from the leaf into a jar of water before they saw me (and the jar) coming.

So far, all I've done is spray plants every couple of days with a very weak solution of water and tea tree oil, and sometimes other essential oils such as balsam, eucalyptus, and cedar.  It's a spray I use on myself when working outdoors and I usually have a bottle within reach.

Clearly I need to do more.  After seeing those cauliflower plants this morning, I am determined to find a stronger - but still organic - option.  Or many options.  I will be happy to experiment.

I know many of you lovely readers are also gardeners, so if you can suggest anything I would be so very grateful!

I planted more cauliflower and also cabbage last week, when the feed store had clearance-priced the last of their organic seedlings.  This morning the little cauliflowers look like this:

I want to prevent insects from even getting start on these little ones!  They are just beginning to recover from too many weeks spent crammed into tiny cubicles of potting soil.

The determination (for lack of a better word), the flexibility and the resilience of plants is a source of constant inspiration to me.

Morning smile provided by this sprout, growing in the tiny space between the base and leg of the goats' stanchion.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions on dealing with damaging insects!!!