Monday, October 28, 2013

Tommy's Marigolds

Tommy's marigold garden in late October
I stopped to see my cousin Tommy the other day and was astounded by his border of marigolds. The colors of this mix were flaming!!! It's late October here in western PA and we have yet to have a killing frost.
Now most of you probably have no real attraction to marigolds. They are very common place in the garden and have a rather obnoxious fragrance. Marigolds are said to repel certain garden pests - both bugs and animals. I have not made the effort to border my garden in marigolds to protect them from anything. As I was leaving Tommy's, he offered me some seeds for next year's garden. If you know me well, you will know that I rarely turn down free seed, even marigold seed. Tommy ran to the basement to get them. He returned with one of those gallon sized plastic jugs, like you get pretzels or cheese balls in at Big Lots, full of marigold seeds!!! We guessed there were about 3 million seeds in there. Tom just picked all the dead blooms off during the season. He's still picking them. Can't wait to plant them in the spring. Thanks Tommy!!!



Early garden
Late July



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Long Road Home

It's been a while since I last published anything. So instead of filling in any gaps of time, I am going to pretend it was just last week since my last post.
Summer has ended, as usual, and we are mid way thru Autumn. "Fall" as we all like to call it, is a word used instead of Autumn. I googled that and found several perspectives on the use of the word. Long story short, either word is acceptable. The leaves are falling in Fall. Fall/Autumn also means the end of the gardening season here is western PA. Over the passed few days I have moved the tender plants inside, cut back the Zebra grass, and emptied the rain barrel. Freeze is eminent. Snow flurries are fore casted for tomorrow. Not enough to go sledding, as I had to explain to 5 year old Carter but it will start the snow season. It's about time for snow.
Fortunately, I have a small greenhouse that I can find solace in for the long winter months ahead. I cannot afford to heat it so I grow cold tolerant crops. These include spinach, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, arugula, and cilantro. I do cover the cilantro with a frost blanket. It was a great refuge last winter.
Next writing will be a recipe for my favorite Autumn soup.
See you.
p.s. I have to give photo credit to Claire Ann Reeger. This is Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly enjoying a zinnia.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Asparagus Season

Spring in western PA brings the coveted asparagus crop. Our patch is well over 20 years old and still producing beautiful, succulent spears of the perennial vegetable. We hand pick it. The spear will snap where tender meets tough. Just trim a smidge off the bottom of the spear and you are good to go. Many people do not appreciate asparagus. My guess is they have not had it prepared correctly. My new favorite way to fix it is roasting the spears with olive oil and sea salt. Set your oven to 400 degrees. Select the thicker spears and align on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle a good olive oil over them and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for about 10 minutes then roll the spears over and roast some more. I wait until they are slightly browned. You can decide how you like them best.
Asparagus season is spread over about 8 weeks. Usually starting in late April and going thru late May, depending on the weather. It pouts in cold weather but comes back quick with warmer night temperatures.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I cannot believe it has been half a year since my last post. I just don't know where the time went.

My resolution for 2012 is to post at least once a week. So far... I am 4 weeks behind. It's okay, January is not over.

Instead of looking back to catch up, let's just go bravely forward. Through a serious of undercooked and overcooked meals, I was able to purchase a new stove!!! It is a beauty. It has a split oven with one of them being a convection oven. There is a fifth burner in the middle of the stove top that came with a Lodge griddle. So for the last few days, I have been experimenting with all the buttons. I have been baking and cooking every gray day here in western PA. Molly is fussing that she is gaining weight. It's winter, we need the extra insulation.

My favorite drink - Winter or Summer - is iced green tea unsweetened. I would always order one at Starbuck's - one venti iced green tea unsweetened. However, lots of times, it came sweetened. People just have a hard time believing I really don't want or even like the extra sugar. Now that prices have increased everywhere, my favorite drink is over $2.00 per glass. I purchased an iced tea maker at Kmart for $22.49. I found an amazing green tea at Big Lots. Prince of Peace (I love the name) Premium Green Tea comes in box of 100 tea bags for $2.50. It makes a sharp, clean glass of green tea. My new favorite thing to do is to flavor the green tea with Bigelow brand Lemon Lift* tea bags, or Plantation Mint*. Stash brand tea is an excellent tea when you can find it here on the east coast. Stash is based in Portland, Oregon - it would be a great excuse to go to Portland again - just to get some Stash. Unfortunately, a trip to Portland is not in the travel budget this month - or this year for matter. I can just hear my husband now when I announce that I am headed to Portland to get more Stash. I was lucky to find a box of Stash Pomegranate Raspberry green tea at our TJMaxx. Always check the specialty food aisle when you stop in. I have found some fantastic treasures there.

Using the iced tea maker, follow the instructions for water, add 7 Prince of Peace green tea bags, 3 bags of flavored tea to the brew basket. Fill your pitcher with ice and press the start button. In about 5 minutes you have an icy pitcher of refreshing tea. Be sure to squeeze the tea bags into the pitcher and discard. Stir the pitcher well and pour over ice into a tall glass. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Swing into Summer

I am so far behind on my blogging. I have some great pictures to share but no time for the words to go with them.
We are busy harvesting and weeding all the glorious crops we planted in May. We sell at 4 Farmers Markets during the week. We are members of Penns Corners Farm Alliance - a co-op of farmers from western Pennsylvania that supply over 500 CSA members and fine restaurants in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.
 We received grant money to install a "high tunnel" - just a season extending greenhouse that we don't heat. We use roll up sides for ventilation. The purpose of the high tunnel is to be able to produce vegetables earlier and later in the growing season. We have had great fun with it.

 Once we finally got it ready to plant, we had to decide what to grow. I wanted to mix up the selection so I could see what was simple and successful. We planted 3 types of lettuces, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, zucchini squash, yellow squash, sunburst squash, cucumbers and pickling cukes. We trellised the cukes, installed drip irrigation, and placed an Adirondack chair inside. My cousing Phyllis sat and watched me weed will sipping a glass of vino!!! She is such a morale booster.
It has been like a little garden club house. We are busy with the weeds. Once the lettuce was harvested, we planted a mix of heirloom tomatoes plants that we coerced out of my friend Beth. They look great Beth.
We are busy picking blueberries - it is July you know!!!
Chat soon. Mary

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

April Showers!!!

Really, here in western PA we average about 2.5" of rain for the month of April. This April our total rainfall was just over 5". Needless to say, we should have amazing May flowers as the adage goes.
The excessive rain has brought about a very abundant growth of Morel mushrooms. These woodland delicacies can be found throughout western Pennsylvania in mid Spring if the growing conditions are favorable. 
Smaller variety found in the "North Woods"

My father was an avid "shroomer". He taught me when and where to find Morels. There was only one ideal location that he knew of. From Spring to Spring we would check for them. This year with the extreme rain, Molly and I have found them in the most unlikely places. (A good "shroomer" never reveals her sources!!!) We have spent several rainy afternoons in the woods. The thrill of finding your first one is great. They are camoflauged well. Once you spot the first one, it becomes easier to find more. We only pick about one of every three we find. You want to leave some there to reproduce. It sure is hard to walk away from them. We left this big one in the picture. Think of the babies it will produce!!! My favorite way to eat a Morel is sauteed in just a bit of butter. There are great recipes out there for fancy stuff but I just like them simple and savory.
That is a dime on the ground beside this giant Morel.

Spring delights!!!

A quick and easy spring dish is asparagus sauteed with Morels served over angel hair or in a risotto. Be sure to grate some fresh Parmesan over top.
Eat lots of this fresh and often because the season is so short.
Be sure to get out and enjoy the new season and the fun things that come with it.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Blooming of the Easter Egg Tree

A deciduous Easter Egg tree and shrub.

From mid March through the end of April, the colorful Easter Egg tree blooms throughout western Pennsylvania. This colorful display of "blooms" can be seen on deciduous trees and shrubs and also on evergreen shrubs. The Easter Egg tree/shrub is more or less a miracle of nature. It would appear that one does not need two trees to have the blooms. I have noticed a single blooming tree with no other blooming tree within miles. I have yet to see honey bees swarming to gather nectar from the blooms. So pollination is not an issue of concern either.
  I have looked in the local garden centers and big box retailers and have yet to find a seedling/sapling to plant in my own garden.  There is a seed company out of Georgia that sells an "Easter Egg tree" seed.
 The picture on the website is that of a white egg- shaped eggplant. Not what I was looking for.
Googling for a live Easter Egg tree only brings search results about using a branch stuck in a bucket with blown decorated egg shells hanging on it. Even gardening guru, Martha Stewart only shows the German and Swiss traditional branch with blown egg shells. For those fortunate to have an Easter Egg tree blooming in their yard, congratulations. 
 As you travel around town on these last days before The Bunny comes, be sure to keep an eye out for these sure signs that warmer, sunnier days are to come.

A coveted  Weeping Easter Egg tree

Evergreen Easter shrubs

A well-established Easter Egg tree in full bloom