Winding Down

Posted on October 31, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , |

Plants - KaleKale is a trooper plant, continuing right into winter, losing all its leaves in the snow and sprouting right up again when spring arrives.  Here is one of mine that will continue producing even in frost.  The leaves will be frozen crunchy hard.  Doesn’t matter.  Cut off and bring inside, they thaw beautifully.  I don’t know how they do it!  I just hope the snow holds off.

Plants - Lemon ThymeAnd here is my lemon thyme, fully harvested for winter about a month ago.  It has already grown back quite a bit!  I may get a little more harvested.  There’s nothing like fresh lemon thyme thrown into eggs and soups.

I’m amazed at how alive the garden still is even though the blanket of leaves is falling rapidly.

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Growing Garlic 101

Posted on October 30, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Plants | Tags: , , , |

Plants - Garlic 1Now is the time!  Go to the farmer’s market and buy some garlic bulbs.  Break them apart.  Put the pointier end up and the flatter part down – about 2 inches down and about 3 inches apart.  Cover with the plentiful leaves that are everywhere right now and forget about them!

I planted about 50 plants the other day.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow.  Perfect.

Plants - Garlic 2Now they will grow their roots.  All winter they will settle in and get comfortable,   readying themselves for the spring that is certain to come!

Plants - Garlic 3In spring they will steadily grow to about 3 feet tall.  Come June they will produce flowers, called scapes, which I will cut off to sauté and enjoy like asparagus.  And by mid-July the greens will be about halfway dried up.  Time to harvest!  I then dig them out, hack off the tops and place them in a box to cure in the basement.  Then I’ll be eating and re-planting next fall.  Easy peasy!  Garlic is extremely healthy, it’s a great first crop for anyone, even kids, because it is super successful (no pests bother it really) and it’s yummy!

I got a good question on facebook:  What do you mean by cure?

Here’s the answer:  Cure is for root vegetables like sweet potatoes and garlic that benefit from a drying time which is why I put them in the basement near my dehumidifier.  You can eat the garlic fresh, but curing the bulk of it by just letting it rest and dry for about a month will make it keep longer/better.  Some people bundle it together by the stalks and hang it up for good air circulation during the curing time.  It also stops all the growing and readies it for planting.  Thank you to Glenda for the question!

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Giant Cottonwood

Posted on October 26, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Plants | Tags: , , , , |

Plants - Cottonwood 2               Plants - Cottonwood 3

Out for a lunchtime stroll with Bill on a break from my class, we came upon this enormous tree.  I couldn’t recognize it.  With the shape of an elm, but leaves I didn’t know, we took some pics, grabbed a leaf and wandered on, puzzling over it.  Then we found a ranger’s cabin actually manned by friendly rangers who easily identified it as a cottonwood.  Well that explains the mystery, these trees have been banned from sale for quite awhile in my state because of the mess they make with their cottony seeds in spring, but here, in North Dakota along the Red River that is known to flood it makes perfect sense:

“The cottonwoods are exceptionally tolerant of flooding, erosion, and flood deposits filling around the trunk.”  Wikipedia

I love a little mystery like this – solved.  Such fun and such a beautiful tree!

Plants - Cottonwood 1

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Can You Eat a Puff Ball?

Posted on October 21, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Plants, Safety | Tags: , , , |

Food - Puff BallTo answer my own question in the title, yes!  Generally they are washed, sliced, battered and sautéed in butter.  You must make sure it IS a puffball and that it isn’t too old.  There are good websites out there for this like the Mushroom Journal based in Illinois which is a good one for me to look at.  You should always check sources that are as local as possible.  Do not eat any mushroom based on information you are reading here!  I’ve heard of disasters where foreigners found mushrooms in their new locale that looked just like some from their native land, but they were deadly varieties and wiped out the whole clan.  So KNOW before you eat.

I’ve been watching this puff ball for a few days.  It started out about softball size and has mushroomed (ha, ha, love that pun!) to basketball size.  I just photographed it, though, because we don’t eat them at out house.  Bill has a very rare reaction to puff balls where he just can’t digest them at all.  When he eats them they just lay in his stomach like a rock for days.  Very painful.  I actually don’t think they taste all that great.  They remind me of eggplant, rather bland.  So, we pass on them here.  But they are fascinating to watch progress on the forest floor.

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I Found a Wood Blewit!

Posted on October 20, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Photography, Plants | Tags: , , , , |

Food - Wood Blewit 1What a treasure to find right here in my own woods.  Bluish/lavender in color and very yummy sautéed in butter.  But you better know what you are doing if you harvest and eat your own mushrooms because there are some that can kill you!

How do I do it?  Consult an expert, of course!  My own neighbor, “Over-the-Hill-Shirley,” who lives, you guessed it, right over the hill behind our house, has been mushrooming for about 30 years.  My policy is I don’t eat anything she hasn’t inspected.  I photographed this one, cut it and left it on my picnic table for her, and then I got the message later that it is a “Perfect specimen!”

Shirley was excited because we haven’t seen blewits in our woods for about 5 years now.  So maybe this is a blewit year!

Food - Wood Blewit 2Blewits have a lovely lavender tight gill arrangement on their undersides, a bulbous base, and a yummy flavor.  Do not take this information here as any kind of proof that you have a blewit that is safe to eat!  Find someone who knows and check with them!  Even books and videos are hard to go by.  I like the French method where you can take mushrooms in to pharmacies for proper identification before consuming.  Can you imagine the liability!?  Also, you would have to have lots of people who have this knowledge.  In the U.S. I think this is rare, but there are people around if you seek them out!

Food - Wood Blewit 3These slices were quite yummy after their stint on the stove.  The wood blewit retains its lovely color even after cooking.  And they must be thoroughly cooked to be good to eat.

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Ligularia Goodbye

Posted on October 5, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Plants, Poetry | Tags: , , , , |

Plants - Ligularia Seedheads

Winter prep is done.

Life tucked safely underground.

Seeds ripening and ready.

The bitter cold their final step.

Making them ready to grow.

In spring’s first light.

Ligularia seedheads in Wisconsin.  They need a cold period to grow.   

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Oregano and Lemon Thyme Harvest

Posted on September 11, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Plants - Oregano and Lemon Thyme

Free food – I love it!  Both these plants have come back for at least 4 years.  I just whack them down, dunk in a bucket of cold water, rinse and spin in the salad spinner.  Then lay out on paper towels in baskets and forget about them!  In a few weeks they are crispy.  Then it’s time to shove them into tins.  The oregano gets massaged to drop leaf parts into tomato sauce, pizzas, salads, eggs, you name it.  Same with the lemon thyme, which is a favorite on eggs.  It doesn’t get any easier than this!  These plants are completely neglected by me and the bugs in the garden.  Their high essential oil content protects them and me when I eat them!

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Zephyr Lily

Posted on September 1, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Plants, Poetry | Tags: , , , , |

Plants - Zephyr Lilly






Even the zephyr lily offers life lessons.

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Joe Pye Weed

Posted on August 28, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , |

Plants - Joe Pye WeedI heard a lot about Joe Pye Weed online.  It’s supposed to be a great plant that gets tall (mine is about 5’5″), loves water, and comes back absolutely reliably after even brutal winters.  Sounds like my kind of plant!

Then it blooms.

Ok, I’m unimpressed.  The blooms are downright ugly.  I would say at their peak they look dead.  Dead color, dried-up looking, yuck!

Ah, but there is a fabulous reason to grow them:  they make a great element in a bee and butterfly haven!  My plant is covered with bees every day all day.  They love this plant.  I’ve also seen heavy butterfly activity.  Why does every plant I grow have to be a looker to me?  Maybe I grow plants to treat the bees and butterflies.  They are confronted by poison chemicals just about everywhere, but I like that they are free to enjoy my garden without worry.

Plants - Joe Pye Weed 2

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Suburban Farmer

Posted on August 18, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Plants | Tags: , , |

Plants - Plums 1

Here’s my dad, the suburban farmer, with one of his plum trees so laden with fruit he had to prop up the branches with boards!  He is amazing, tending to a small orchard of sorts:  pears, apples, plums, peaches, apricots, hazelnuts, spread out around his suburban lawn.  In addition to all this there is the huge vegetable garden!  This is fun for him, every growing season there are setbacks and triumphs.  It’s always a combination of skill, hard work, and the whims of nature.

Plants - Plums 2

Ah, but those triumphs are so sweet!

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