Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The snow is still on the ground, barely, and through the trees I see the red of a huge timber truck loading up enormous sections of the road-side oak recently felled by the utility company. We were worried that a repeat of the 100-year snowfall from last year was about to make a repeat appearance this 101st year! But no. We got all the enjoyment of a snowfall with none of the work. I don't count wiping an inch of snow off my windshield as 'work' - especially when I didn't even have to do that; the king beat me to it!

No, I did not take snow pictures. There are still plenty from last year! (Just click - this link here and it'll all come back to you. . . .)

This is the first Christmas with a "grandchild". Meet wee Toto! [not his real name, to protect the poor innocent] He wasn't with us this Christmas, but we got to see pictures. He loved his Ravens jersey and promptly spit up on it. That's love - true love! He hasn't said much about this hat I made him, but his picture is making the rounds of the facebook community. Yoda-baby! Yes, I made it. From a pattern I worked out in my head and tried on Bear, as Toto stand-in. Meanwhile, I've just seen miniature versions for warming easter eggs, masquerading as wee bunnies!

Too cute.

Here's the link to a reference to Debbie Bliss' book The Knitter's Year, which contains the pattern. Toto will likely be festooned with a rabbit version come Easter. . . .

Poor kid.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the purge

. . . . in which the queen-mum attempts to poison her offspring.

The queen-mum and her consort have recently returned from their annual world cruise. As is their wont, they return with little treats from the local markets. Spices, condiments and coffees are popular acquisitions and this trip was no exception.

The bottles of Madeira were broken by their bearers (so the entire travel party smelled strongly of the inside of a tavern when they emerged to be picked up), but the seeds and coffee packets survived, as did the black T-shirt with "Barcelona" spelled out in rhinestones. We opened the coffee today.

OK - the king opened the coffee. He's the one entrusted with the secret greenwood coffee recipe! It's a blend, and usually involves a scoop or two of 'foreign' coffee, for colour and flavor.

As he reported: strange colour. . . . Acrid odor.

Flavor? Ah. . . . well. . . .

"Is this coffee?!!"

No ingredients listed.

"Hmmmm. There's a picture of some sort of grain on the front. It says Delta Cafes, but why would you illustrate coffee with a picture of grain?"

"I thought it was feathers. . . ."

" 'Cevada - Torrada Moida'. . . . What if that's not the brand name?! Wonder what Cevada means?"

As a word, Cevada is not exactly intuitive. Coffee is coffee, kaffee, cafe; pasta is pasta; and wine is wein, vin, vino. . . . but Cevada? I typed it into a Google search and hit "translate this page".

"Great. We're drinking roasted barley, known for it's purgative and laxative qualities. . . ."

That queen-mum!

Wonder who else got "coffee" from the world cruise? Should we tell them, do you think? [grin]

I guess you could put it on top of your cereal - because it sure ruins a good cuppa coffee!

Note the universal "throw this out" symbol next to the recycle one. . . .

Yep. I'm thinking compost.

We'll be roasting her for years over this one. . . . It's almost as good as the basil/pepper mix-up! Live and learn. This was fun. Thanks, Maman. I love you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Les Herbes du Bois Vert

The full 2010 herb crop is (and has been) in.

I consulted my notes on the "recipe" for les herbes du bois vert - the greenwood version of herbes de provence - and remembered that it was generally a quarter rosemary, a quarter thyme, a quarter savory and a quarter of whatever else there was (including lavender, tarragon, sage, etc.)

Oh, and I've also consulted with a scholar in Paris, and she advises that the correct phrase would be les herbes du bois vert. So I guess it's not what I'd come up with - herbes de le bois vert - which I'm sure is atrocious grammar, but which had a nice ring to it! I was a little too proud to suggest same to my scholarly source. . . .

This year, what I ended up with (herb-wise) was:

Rosemary ( 3/4 oz. I know there are bags more of it, but where?!)
Savory (1/4 oz. - supplemented with 1 oz. of 'boughten' savory from the local market, my savory languished in the extreme heat this summer)
Thyme (2 1/2 oz.)
Oregano (3/4 oz.)
Basil (1 1/4 oz.)
Sage (1 1/2 oz.)
Lavender (1/2 oz.)
Tarragon and Parsley (trace amounts - less than 1/4 oz. each)

I started out doing the math and ended up just throwing everything into the big wooden salad bowl. It's what there was, this year, so that's what's going in! All but the sage. I'm not crazy about a heavy sage flavor, so I only put a handful of sage in. Here's a close up, and you can still see the sage leaves at the very top. Blended and put into containers, I ended up with more than enough to share and last me through the winter and to the next herb crop! Les Herbes du Bois Vert, 2010.

(and that's French for "done!" I think. . . .)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

another year, another potato

I left the potatoes in longer this year, and put in more plants. It didn't help. Here's the potato harvest this year. Here was last year's. You noticed too, did you?

More potato plants left in longer equals fewer potatoes. They were smaller, too.

Go figure!

Ah well - they were free, and they're pretty red potatoes. I cut up the ones at the bottom of the bag which had started sprouting, let the cuts 'heal' for a few days in the air, and then threw them in the ground. Other than that, I ignored them all summer until just today, when I dug where I hoped I remembered planting them. It's a couple servings. Surely that's worth the planting and the harvesting!

After I'd gotten all the earth turned over and smoothed out again, I took the sprouting potatoes I'd cut up a few days ago and threw them in. Maybe I'll get a fall potato crop? Maybe they just don't like hot weather. . . . Ireland doesn't have hot weather and look what they do with potatoes! The nasturtiums that also flourish over there (and which barely limped along here this summer) have finally started flourishing here, now that the weather has cooled off. I'm going to take that as a sign that this is potato growing weather and we'll see what happens.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

yellow on yellow

No moths were injured during this photo shoot. No yellow paint was applied. He came that way. Really! Think about it like this: if you were this colour and saw a house this colour, wouldn't you set up residence there? It would be a serendipitous sign I don't know that I could resist. A 'message from God'. . . .

OK. Look. If I had painted this guy, would I have been able to get him the same colour all the way around? Including getting him to hold still long enough to daube on the camouflage spots and get full coverage around the legs and antennae? He'd be a dead bug by then, and this guy is clearly not. See? That's a vertical wall he's clinging to, not a horizontal surface.

Now what sort of bug he is, is anybody's guess. I'm just glad he moved in. Glad, so long as he stays outside! No moths allowed in, to ravage wool socks and sweaters. And that is final. I don't care what colour you are.

Speaking of colour, that's really more of a saffron now, wouldn't you say? Yellow is so generic. . . .

P.S. - thanks to alert reader Tiffany, we now know this is a Crocus Geometer. Thanks to the MagickCanoe, we learn that there are Crocus Geometers and FALSE Crocus Geometers. Who knew?!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

night sky

There is the unmistakable hint of fall in the air. At the same time, a very late firefly has been lighting up in the pasture the last two evenings. I love this time of year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the melon

You will have noted the use of the singular.

There was one. It was smaller than it appears in this picture. I say this in the interest of full disclosure, but I do not care to give you a picture proving the fact.

I left it on the vine a good long time, hoping it would get bigger. It did not. I finally harvested it when I could smell it when I strolled past. It was starting to attract the attention of small, boring insects as well, who had just started an attack on the dirt-side of the rind. . . . No matter, though; they didn't get far.

The melon was good, if a bit over-ripe already. And small. I know I mentioned small.

Oh well! I've saved the seeds and will try again next year. I think I'll put them over where the cucumbers grew so extravagantly this year!

[sigh. . . .] I had such high hopes when I first wrote about the melons [heh! melons. . . .] back in May. . . .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

fall slaw

I harvested the first red cabbage. After the lessons learned from eggplants and cucumbers, I began to worry that leaving the cabbage in the ground all summer might not result in a larger head of cabbage, it might just result in a tougher head of cabbage! My fears were not ill-founded. I was not able to cut the cabbage off its cabbage stalk with my garden shears, but had to pull the whole thing out of the ground. It reminded me of the plant in Little Shop of Horrors. You see the resemblance, I'm sure!

It also reminded me of certain old-fashioned so-called cabbage roses. I've always loved that rose form.

Anyway, one cabbage was out of the ground, tattered outside leaves removed and the stalk sawed off with a big, serrated knife. The moment of truth was at hand. I picked up my sharpest chef knife and prepared to cut the cabbage head in half. My first impression was of a wonderful peppery aroma. I've never smelled anything quite that strong or lovely from a cabbage I've bought in a store. I only hoped that it was not because the cabbage was past-eating; over-ripe! My second impression was of delight in the precise form on the inside. I would love a stamped impression of this, on paper. Actually, I think I've seen a wonderful woodcut of something similar, along the lines of Albrecht Dürer.

I chopped and tasted. The cabbage is not the tenderest I've ever tasted, but it had a wonderful flavor. When combined with a mustard ginger dressing, it was delicious! This, by the way, is one of the most flavorful slaw dressings I've ever tasted. You can combine the cabbage with grated carrot and/or granny smith apples and it is even better. It had a lovely taste of Fall - and the promise of cool weather and harvest. . . .

Here's the recipe for Fall Slaw:

1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or cider)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons grated ginger root
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (if you also have coarse whole-grain mustard, do half regular Dijon and half whole-grain)
2 teaspoons mayo
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcstershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed
freshly ground pepper

Whisk it all together, and then whisk in just a bit of good olive oil at the very end (2 to 3 tablespoons, say). Pour the oil in slowly as you whisk, so it will emulsify. Stir in the slaw. It's even better the next day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the malevolent hummingbug

I was thrilled the other day to see what appeared to be a miniature hummingbird buzzing the violas that were still braving this summer's intense heat. Upon closer examination, he appeared to have antennae and legs. A hummingbug? Cool!

On the other side of the garden, I've started having to police the tomato plants for enormous caterpillars which - overnight - can defoliate the entire top of the plant. I hate those things! They hold on to the plant when you try to pull them off, spit green juice at you, and have a thorn-type horn at one end which I'm sure they would deploy if I didn't wear my garden gloves!

The detection and destruction of these invaders caused some domestic discord here at the greenwood. I was happy to detect them, not so happy to squash them. I'm squeamish that way. Actually, I should say that I was squeamish that way. . . . The king had made his refusal to garden well-known, upfront, so I can't really blame him for refusing to help me fight disgusting caterpillars in the garden. I did rather think that he would take pity on my girly sensibilities and dispatch the creatures for me, once captured.

Apparently not.

Feeling very sorry for myself, with the first one I went out, routed the worm, threw him on the compost heap, covered him with a leaf and bisected him with my trowel! No sweat; no muss; no gory details. I then thought about how our society insulates us from most bad stuff to the point where we either deny that bad stuff exists entirely, or run screaming from the room in horror when we can not ignore it. Farmers have no such luxury. A caterpillar chomping on a tomato plant can wreak havoc in a half hour. If you wish eventually to eat your produce, spraying deadly chemicals on it is probably not the answer. Killing is.

I never really thought I'd come to the point of saying that killing is the answer to anything. This, in spite of the ancient wisdom that there is a time for everything. . . . (and no, having planted even 20 tomato plants does not really qualify me as a "farmer", but I am learning some farmer lessons, I like to think.)

Anyway, I dispatch anywhere from one to six of these things a day now. They can be hard to spot, sometimes, but you develop a knack for seeing them after a while.

Imagine my horror when, instead of the usual green goblin, I got a green guy covered by white egg sacks?!!! Oh! My! Blech!!!! YUCK!!!! I did NOT want egg sacks in the compost heap. I substituted suffocation by doggie-do bag for trowel bisection. That night, I did some research. What ARE these creatures who have invaded my garden?!

I learned two things. First, the tomato hornworm grows up to be a moth - no surprise there - but it's the "hawk", "Sphinx" or "hummingbird" moth. The hummingbug!!!

Second, if you see the hornworms with the white protrusions on them, you are not supposed to kill them. Yes, that's correct, folks. Don't kill them because those aren't hornworm eggs on them, they're wasp eggs! Yay! And the wasps will kill the hornworms! Yay!! So let's have more wasps!!!

. . . like we need more wasps. . . .

Actually, it's a different kind of wasp they're talking about and I have resumed placing the parasitized hornworms in the compost pile. Good luck to those braconid wasps!

And that hummingbug had better stay out of my sight.

By the way, I think that the first full-grown, vine-ripened tomato will come off the vine this evening. It's been a long time - and 3 jumbo containers of cayenne pepper - coming.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

last year/this year

Last year, on July 14, we ate our first full-sized tomato. This year, on July 14, the deer pulled all our still ripening full-sized tomatoes off the tomato plants.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, first thing in August, it was all about the tomato. This year, it's cucumbers. Here's the harvest from yesterday. Today, I finally picked the overlooked ones. Who knew they'd be so pretty and orangey-yellow? I'm definitely saving seeds for next year. They're drying as we speak. What I did discover is that yellow cucumbers are unbelievably bitter. The same holds true for over-ripe eggplants, I now learn. Now they tell me! Here I've been waiting for the eggplants to get nice and ripe. . . .

The white ones turn yellow. . . . which I am told means they'll be bitter. [I don't eat them myself, so I wouldn't know!] Here's what I picked this morning. Yep. Two yellow eggplants. And one white one. A purple one past its prime, and another couple small purple ones that should be delicious!

Postscript: the small purple ones were apparently NOT delicious. They were bitter. So were the yellow ones. AND the white one. The purple one 'past its prime' was not bitter, but largely tasteless and tough. Eggplant FAIL. Although they are pretty, growing in the garden. . . .

Sunday, July 25, 2010

basil, basil everywhere

Maybe there is such a thing as too much basil. Here's what I brought in yesterday. Here's what I cut today, along with several carrots the deer have ignored. That's a lot of basil, and there's more where this came from! Not to mention out back, in the water garden. Last year, it produced a ton of basil.

This year, there's Genovese basil (the standard), African blue basil, Box globe basil and cinnamon basil. All of which is trying very hard to flower and go to seed. With nary a tomato in sight.

Sigh. . . .

Well then, next up: pesto! If we don't have tomatoes to do caprese we'll have to do pasta with pesto. So there! I think I have all the ingredients on hand.

But first, wash, dry and strip basil leaves. From yesterday's harvest, I got 2 gallon ziplock bags of leaves, and what look like tobacco stains on my fingers. Oh, and a headache and a backache. . . . I'm not exactly looking forward to smelling basil for another 3 or 4 hours today, or stripping off the teeny-tiny box basil leaves. But I suspect I'll be pleased in the middle of the winter when we can pull out a basil-ly green bag of frozen summer! (at least that's what I'm telling myself for motivation now).


I fell in love with these socks the first time I saw them.

I've been wanting to cast on to knit them ever since! The problem was finding a nice shade of green yarn. Sock yarn these days is all variegated or hand-painted it seems, at least in the shops. If you do find a single coloured sock yarn, it is either acrylic or a poisonous shade. What gives? I had some cotton yarn in a nice green, but it proved to be a little too thick for socks, and trying to knit it on smaller needles ended up with me constantly battling split yarn. No fun! Then, I found 'mood indigo' variegated cotton/bamboo yarn at the Sea Needles shop in Bethany Beach. The owner there told me they rarely stocked solid colour sock yarns because it simply didn't sell. . . . Sheesh! In future I'll have to order sock yarn online, I guess. This colour looks nice with jeans, but also has black in it, which I wear a good deal more often. Anyway, I cast these socks on 3 different times in 2 different yarns and 3 different gauges before the 'three times is a charm' kicked in. One sock is finally done now. It's comfy. I'm still not crazy about these socks in variegated yarn; it disguises the really cool ribbing details. Look closely, past the wild colour flamboyance. I really need to make these in a solid colour.

First, though, I have to knit another sock to go with this one! I've just cast on for sock number 2.

Friday, July 23, 2010

the cucumber remedy: a vichyssoise!

What to do with a surplus of cucumbers? A friend suggested a cold cucumber soup [?!] and gave a general idea of the recipe. I'd never heard of it. It sounded wierd! But the more I thought of it - in 100 degree plus temperatures - the better it sounded.

This is a somewhat different version I ended up coming up with, which was delicious! Here's the recipe: Cucumber garlic chive vichyssoise

Really, I can't tell you how good this is. Even the king - who initially was not inclined to be a fan - enjoyed it. In fact, I am instructed that the soup is to be preferred over what was to be my next project: Pickles!

Luckily, there promises to be a surfeit of cucumbers - so perhaps I can make both before the end of the growing season.

P.S. - in the recipe, I neglected to note that the potatoes should be peeled and cubed. Please so note!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

on the beach

The pictures by Michael Shakespeare Gregg of the child dedication/baptism last weekend are so splendid, I didn't want to bury them in an otherwise rather drab post about liturgies!

Here is the family in question: Here, the 'officiants'. Aunt Dawn with Joshua, the elder. He did well! And now it's Joey's turn. He looks a bit ill at ease; perhaps we'll hold Uncle Jeff's hand. . . . . . . and he did well, too. It was quite a day. . . .

Here's the liturgy again, for those who wanted it.

All photos in this post (c) 2010 Michael Shakespeare Gregg