Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Suppose you prepared a party...

 Outside it was a mess after the storm had blown through so the driveway had to be swept clean...

 the dog was charged with looking out for the early arrivals...
 a host of ghosts settled down ready to flee one by one at the sound of the doorbell...
 the candy basket was filled with the candy you like along with the decorated pencils that are popular...
it got plenty dark out there...
this fellow kept a sense of humor about it all...

BUT no-one came!

I guess we didn't get the memo that said Halloween was cancelled this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Before-the-storm fall colors

No matter which weather forecast you listen to we are in for a humdinger of a storm here on Monday and Tuesday. So I decided I should post some photos I have taken this week to remind me of what it look like before the storm.

It seems I have been raking leaves all week long. On Wednesday I raked the same areas three times. That does sound ridiculous but there is new grass there and I want to keep the leaves off it as much as possible.

 On Wednesday (the multi raking day) this is what the trees look like. Note that maple on the right as the tips were just beginning to yellow and it was looking quite spectacular.

 See why I was raking so often?

 Here is that same maple tree only two days later - and the overnight temperatures were in the 50's (10 C for those accustomed to Celsius) so nowhere near frost. That thin strip of grass behind the tree is one of the areas I have been trying hard to keep clear of leaves to give the newly seeded grass a good chance to grow.

 Leaves from the maple and the tulip poplar are overwhelming the New England asters.

 Look quickly, that strip of grass behind the birdbath is relatively leaf free.

 The fall season does encourage the photographer gene!

 Not quite in focus but the color is there. Haven't we been working hard?

 It has been quite a week - I had to clear off the front porch so the painter could get to the trim around the front door. That meant hauling all the flower pots off and there were double the usual number as I had refugees from the driveway still there from when the driveway seal was redone a few weeks back.

Now in preparation for the storm I have tucked the flower pots back into the protection of the front porch. Excuse the quilt block posing in front and focus instead on the flower still bravely blooming on the hibiscus plant.

It has been quite a week for this homeowner - not only was there the painter but I had to have the furnace and air conditioner replaced so it has been all go around here. I have lost track of how many hours I've spent raking leaves.

And now a storm to deal with. Oh well, at least it will keep me home and workman free!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Perfect weather for a day out

Today was a glorious early Fall day with a blue sky and trees that are just beginning to change color. The October calendar is loaded with events every weekend that offer a way to enjoy a day out.

Every year the town of Waterford holds it's homes tour and crafts exhibit over the first weekend in October and I decided to visit this year which is the 69th annual event. The entire town is a National Historic Landmark District and the townspeople are very proud of that and come together for this three day event. The streets within the historic village are closed to traffic, selected homes which have been beautifully restored are open for touring and many very fine craftspeople come and set up their booths in a tent or inside one of the Waterford buildings. There is food, music and demonstrations along with events relating to he Civil War era.

I missed seeing the music group that plays in this area. Many of the homes were built in the late 1700's and into the 1800's. The most common roofing style is the raised seam metal roof.

 This home is known as the Pink House. It is in use as a B & B today and was one of the homes open for the tour that I was fortunate to see inside of. Many homes were built of Waterford brick which proved to be quite soft. This house, painted pink over the brick, has become a known landmark; "just opposite the Pink House" or "four doors up from the Pink House".

 The town was originally a Quaker town and also was home to many African-Americans. One thing that I noticed today that seemed to mar the view was the proliferation of political campaign signs. This home, the Marshall Claggett house, was originally on a farm north of Waterford. In 1870 it was dismantled by African-American Marshall Claggett and moved to this lot. The Claggett family raised nine children here and it remained in black ownership until the late 20th century. It will be open for viewing on Saturday and Sunday.

 Tents for the crafters are located in several locations in the town - this one is the Bond Street Barn exhibit area. Here is a vendor tent where the craftsman was making walking sticks from chestnut fence rails. The craftspeople are in period costume and very happy to demonstrate their craft. There is a rigorous application and jurying process to ensure that the craftspeople are producing high quality products.

 Another picturesque cottage on Main Street.

 Here we saw the blacksmith's assistant heating the iron.

 The village area is built on quite steep lots and for many houses the main living areas are a floor above street level. It was quite common for there to be no interior staircase linking the floors - in some instances this was perhaps because the building housed a business at the street level with living accommodations above.

 A number of the homes have clearly been added on to over the years. There seemed to be no compunction to use the same material for the addition and thus many homes appear like this - part brick and part stone.

 All the homeowners make an effort to decorate the exterior of their property. In this case there were pops of color from the seasonal chrysanthemums but also the two bright blue chairs on the rear side porch.

Before I left home I thought about taking my sun hat but that was all I did - think about it. This lady was smarter than I was. Note the two front doors on this house.

You could easily fill the entire day here and perhaps more. I was only able to visit for four hours today and wished I could have been there longer. You can find out more by going to

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Audrey a.k.a. the feral tomato plant

I have had some fun in the garden this year watching the progress of the "volunteer" tomato plants.

This one was somewhat of a late starter. But it has certainly made up for lost time. This is only one plant and it is rooted in the garden bed below the deck in an area that loses the sun by mid afternoon.

From the lawn side this is what you see:

 I had to scurry outside this morning when the lawn mowers arrived earlier than I had expected. As you can see the plant keeps over flowing it's boundary and spilling onto the lawn. It was a very quick tidy up to lift the sprawl from the grass and tuck it back in behind the low fence. Undoubtedly it will be back out on the grass in a couple more days.

 Now on the deck it is beginning to take over. Stretching from left to right as well as the interweave among the flowers in the pots, it is 18' or more from left tip to right tip. Because it is sprawled on the ground I had not been trying to pick anything and to begin with the slugs were getting there faster than I was. But now there lots and lots of fruit trusses and many of them are clean and dry and above the dirt level so I have begun to be able to pick some. They turn out to be a large  red cherry tomato. Which is good since most all  the other volunteers are yellow and orange varieties.

And to prove the contrariness of nature; on the same day I was photographing the summer tomato plant which still is producing blossoms I find that the autumn clematis has burst into bloom. Earlier in the season I had to relocate it as it was getting too much shade in the original location. Not satisfied with where I moved it to it has reached out and scrambled over the holly tree on the left and the ornamental plum on the right. It is that latter tree that was providing too much shade for the clematis to bloom in the past couple of years.

There is enjoyment to be had from waiting to see what nature will do despite the best efforts of the gardener.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Cool Day

It has been a long and hot summer so a Sunday afternoon that we are having today with a temperature of only 72 degrees F (22C) and rain is quite a change.

We sometimes eat dinner out on the deck and can then enjoy seeing the hummingbirds come to feed at the same time.  But some days ago I found a new guest at the feeder;

This smart butterfly and discovered there was more than the blooms of the flowers to be enjoyed. There have also been a lot of goldfinches in the garden this year flitting from seedhead to seedhead in among the coneflowers.

It's the time of year when I feel as though I should be eating tomatoes at every meal as there are so many of them.

 I thought this was a great color combination. The tomatoes are both yellow and orange; most of my plants this year are volunteers from earlier years so I take what I get.

Recently friends were over to share in a potluck dinner and one friend introduced us to Salad Caprese which, in her version anyway, is slices of tomato alternating with slices of mozzarella cheese with lots of fresh basil strewn over the top and dressed at the last minute with a balsamic vinegar reduction.

 I hightailed it to the store to find the balsamic vinegar reduction and now use it to make a simple tomato salad (caprese without the mozzarella cheese as that does not grow in my garden!)

 Looking in the fridge I put together this salad of arugula, strawberries, blueberries, sugared pecans and crumbled feta cheese and then drizzled a little of the balsamic reduction over top.

On another night, company was coming and I was making pork tenderloin with beans from the farmstand and I decided to make a peach cobbler variation as well (peaches also from the farm stand).

My garden does not have a lot of produce but it does provide a jumping off point for several dishes. And the just picked rosemary for the pork or basil for the tomatoes or mint that I might add to a simple side of sliced fresh peaches all make for great summertime eating.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Sad Loss in the Back Garden

On Friday the screaming of a chain saw was heard in the back garden. When listening closely it was also possible to hear the trees and birds screaming. Why? Because what was coming down was two more cedar trees and one of them was a tree much beloved by the birds visiting my back garden especially in the winter months.
 Here is a not so good photo of the cedar tree in late 2008. It was quite a presence then in the tree area.

Here are the birds all over it in January of this year.

But here is the poor thing on August 1 of this year. We have had a number of storms lately that have blown down trees and I did not want to risk this one falling towards the house.

 Here is the sight halfway through. I was so sad; I had to retreat to the upstairs and watch out the window.

 And here is the gap now in my landscape. See that tall silver stump on the far right? That is what is now left of the second tree that had to come down on Friday.

You can perhaps see why. To the near left was the cedar that died last year that got taken half down earlier in the spring. That was where the green man was hanging. But Friday I decided it needed to go totally and the one to the right could now host the green man.

It has been a sad season in my back garden. The grass is not doing so well and the flowers are not putting on the usual wonderful display. I can count seven stumps from cedar trees that we have lost in the last few years along this front row of trees. I wish I knew why they are no longer thriving.

The next problem will be what happens to what used to be my shade garden. It is located behind where the big cedar was but now it will take the hot mid afternoon sun. So there will be more plants to mourn I'm thinking.

Time to put my garden thinking hat on and ponder what I can do to return beauty to my back garden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Half-Baked Posts

From time to time I think "this would make a good blog post" and I take a photo or two. But for some reason or another I never get to turning the thought into a post. Sometimes it is because the post was going to be about a meal and it seems a better idea to just eat the food while it's hot and delicious rather than spend extra time posing the plate and taking the backup shots.

Tonight was one of those nights. So I decided to gather a few of those thoughts and photos and post them anyway even if the whole story is not quite "baked" yet.

Okay, we have the jumping photos to contend with I see.

On Sundays we usually have brunch which means an egg meal. This week's brunch had started with the purchase of some smoked salmon on Friday. By Sunday we decided to turn that into a version of Eggs Benedict. This version began with slices of sour dough bread, topped with smoked salmon, poached egg and then smothered in hollandaise sauce.

Now the challenge always starts with using the dreaded egg poacher. It has these four little cups that are coated in a supposed non stick coating. But, you guessed it, the eggs always stick. So we have finally figured out we need to butter the inside of each cup first. Then once we put the eggs in it is important not to fully cover the pan as there is no vent on the lid. Now, with precise timing we can sometimes remember how long we poached the eggs for last time to get the desired setting of the yolk. So off goes the burner. Then starts the challenge of how to get the egg out of the poaching cup. Yes, we have buttered the cup so the egg will slide out with a little coaxing but first you need to pick up the cup; that would be the cup with the metal handle which has just been sitting in simmering hot water. Burning of the fingers slows things down.

To add to the fun this week I was so intent on getting the egg out (hey, I got four out perfectly) that I forgot that the salmon should have gone on the toast first, before I slid the perfectly poached egg on. Sigh. So one person was detailed to carefully lift the egg, taking care not to cut open the yolk, while the other poked the slices of salmon underneath.

The end result tasted just fine although by now we were more intent on eating than on snapping more photos.

For dinner tonight we had decided to have gumbo to use some of the okra I had bought at the Farmers Market on Saturday. Now this was a bold choice when we were choosing our menus on Sunday as gumbo is not something I have made with any regularity. With some vague idea I had bought chicken sausage, chicken thighs and shrimp and thought that would be the basis of the gumbo. This afternoon I thought perhaps I should look at a recipe. Oh. That seems like a lot of stirring, ingredients, chopping up and more. Oh well. So using a bit of this recipe and a bit of that recipe but mainly just winging it, a concoction was produced.
We all agreed it tasted just fine.

 This position behind the kitchen faucets is often taken by a vase of flowers. But in the summertime I keep an ever changing bowl of red tomatoes picked fresh from the garden. They can be snacked on during the day or turned into a side dish for dinner.

 These are my volunteer plants. I have no idea what variety they are - the fruit is larger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a regular sized one.

These ones have ripened first. We have had about four yellow cherry tomatoes from the pots on the deck but it will be a week or so before we get any more of them. In the meantime these plants are loaded.

So there you are. A bit of this and a bit of that.

Friday, July 6, 2012

There's Been a Distraction

The weather has provided a major distraction for the past week. Temperatures have been quite a lot higher than the normal for this time of year; I believe I heard that we have had nine days in a row of "high" temperatures over 95F/35C. Do not be understanding this to mean that's all it has been...

A week ago after one of the really hot days we had a sudden storm blow in just after 10pm. At first there was this very very strong wind and we had to go out to rescue the potted tomato plants from being blown over. Then we noticed the barbecue/grill had been blown across the driveway and tipped over so there was a mad dash to fix that and secure the propane gas tank. On the heels of the wind it rained for maybe thirty minutes and then we lost power. It was around 10.30pm Friday night.

The power did not come back on again until 5.25pm Tuesday late afternoon. I did the math - that was 91 hours without power. During that time the temperatures were peaking above 95F/35C and the humidity was super high. This was not a pleasant place to live.

 Before the storm I had a pair of orangey red hibiscus plants in ceramic pots on the front steps. The plants were very pretty and each day new blossoms appeared and although each blossom lasts only one day there was always a show of color.

 But the wind toppled over one of the plants and pots. I no longer have a pair of pots.

 I was able to rescue the plant however and it continues to bloom. Meanwhile the hunt to locate a new pot to match the first (existing) one continues unsuccessfully.

 This holly tree had been pecked all around the main trunk by woodpeckers some many months ago. But it was still holding on until the strong wind. Now I'll need to get the step ladder out and cut out the broken main trunk.
 But in the garden, a week after the big storm, nature continues on. The swallowtails have found the butterfly bush. And, for the first time this season, just before dinnertime tonight, I saw three hummingbirds chasing each other around the feeder. There has been a single hummer for the past several weeks but tonight was the first opportunity to see that competition has shown up.

 I see there is a first tomato starting to turn color.

 The kitchen was a sorry sight. We had to totally empty out the fridge and the freezer and dump practically everything after being without power for that long.

Daily I went out on scavenging trips. I needed to first find a friend who had electricity so we could recharge various devices. Then I had to find a store that had ice for sale. If the store had ice for sale I would buy three bags and then I could also buy enough fresh food to make lunch and dinner for that day. The ice chests began to take over the kitchen. On the plus side the fridge and freezer have not been this clean since they were new twelve years ago! In fact we were engaged in washing out the inside of the fridge when we heard the happy sound of timeclocks resetting and the fans starting up at 5.25pm Tuesday when the electricity came back on.

This is where our power must come from. All day on Tuesday I saw the power company employees working on this pole. To begin with they had to remove all the trees/tree limbs that had crashed down on it and then they had to make repairs to the equipment. And then, hooray, we had power once more.

Some areas of our village still have no power. And some of those are homes where they rely on electricity to pump water from wells and to dispose of sewage into the septic tank. At least we did not have that added problem.

But for the first time that I can recall, along with losing the electricity we also lost the landline telephone and the cellphone reception. The phones began to work again in a sporadic fashion on Sunday afternoon.

These have been days to build character...despite the fact that I thought I already had more than enough character.

Saturday (tomorrow) and Sunday are predicted to be the two hottest days. And then finally, on Monday, we may return to more reasonable summer temperatures. I sure hope so.