Sunday, September 15, 2019

September 15, 2019-Celebrate trees

Yesterday, Saturday, was a clean up day in the garden. We had two thunderstorms this past week. It was pick-up-sticks day.
The storms did give us nice rains. I have not had to water for quite some time.

Then there are the leaves. They have started coming down.
We have these wonderful mature trees in the yard. They were all mature trees when we moved here 36 years ago.
I have been thinking about trees more this week, having just finished reading the book "The Overstory." Let me show you some pictures.

There is an elm tree in the front parkway.  It is one of the original elms, from a time when Elm trees lined the streets.

 Elm Tree

This the view of the trees from down the street. The Elm is on the right. The Linden, looking actually a little taller, is on the left.
Our house is between those two trees. You can't see the house for the trees.

This picture on the right is looking at the Elm tree from the side of our house.

It twists and turns more than the other trees.
If you notice in the picture from down the street, it actually reaches across the street, way up high.

                                  Here is another picture of just the                                         Elm tree.

There many squirrels in all the trees. We see their acrobatics in the Elm tree, from our bedroom window.

 Black Walnut Tree

We then have a Black Walnut tree in the front yard. It supports the hanging plants. It supposedly is a little toxic to plants. I have not found it that difficult to grow things, including hosta, right at its base.

I love the pictures looking up.

The Walnut tree is the home to the ropes that give us orchid cactus in the summer and sometimes pumpkins in the winter.

I try to get the hanging plants out on their ropes as soon as there are leaves for a certain amount of shade. Unfortunately the Walnut trees is very late to put out its leaves. The only tree that is later is the Sycamore.

This picture, looking towards the front yard, allows you to see both the Walnut and Elm trees.

Linden Tree

In the side yard, there is this quite tall Linden tree. If you look at the picture at the top from a block away it appears the tallest of all the trees.

The Linden tree dwarfs the house.

The Linden and the Sycamore grow together, in the back/side yard, much the way the Elm tree and the Walnut meet in the front yard.

Here is that picture looking up.

Sycamore Tree

In the middle of the back yard is the Sycamore tree. It is sometimes called a Plane tree. An arborist we knew once called it a "dirty" tree. It does drop various body parts at various times. There is a point in August when it seems to shed its skin, dropping bark all over the place. And branches and twigs which snag in other trees. And leaves.

The bark turns white as it ascends to the sky.

Buckeye Tree

Finally there is the Buckeye tree. You know Buckeyes? As in Ohio State? Well this tree is the first to drop its leaves. They actually are mostly half gone. There are still plenty of buckeye nuts  in the tree, to rain upon visitors when the wind picks up. We do have a few children that now go to school through the back yard, mostly looking for buckeyes.

You can see the Buckeye tree thinning.
You can also see the power lines. The Buckeye is the one tree in the group that has to worry about the wire protection crews. They come through Iowa City, like they must many places, and really are hard on the trees.

In this shot you can see more sky than you would have a month ago.

While I am on the inventory I should mention the smaller trees. There are crabapples, white and pink. They all must be 50 years old at this point. The pink ones along the street are nearing their end.
I am replacing those trees with little dogwoods. So far there are two that are doing well, and one that will need to be replaced. It did not make it through the polar vortex from last winter.

There is also the pink dogwood by the house, which was a birthday present for Julia perhaps 30 years ago. It has reached up to the second floor and now can support some hanging orchids in the summer.

There is also a regular Maple tree planted near the Elm tree, in the parkway.

This little tree was already planted when we arrived. We figure it was planted when they thought the Elm tree would die of the Dutch elm disease.
Needless to say Maple trees are mostly not an understory tree. It has survived for 40 years but is rather short.

There were some flowers this week.

After what seemed like a long wait this lovely white cattleya orchid finally bloomed last Sunday.
It is called Arctic Star Snow Queen.
It was rewarded by being able to come inside for the rest of the week. That way it avoided the storms that showed up several times this past week.

Here it is, all nice and sheltered.

Japanese Anemones

This variety started to bloom this week.

So did this white one.

This is the pink kind that has been blooming for weeks.

A waterlily finally bloomed this week. That was right before the raccoons got in the pond trying to catch the fish.

Here is a bougainvillea flower.
The three plants are doing well. This red one is blooming, but only along the tips of the branches.

Here is a clump of fall crocus that grew during the week.

What a great group shot.

For your real color fix this week, here are a few zinnias.

 Here is a short video with Starry Night Hibiscus.

Julia's recipe
Barbecue Sauce
Here is the link to all Julia's recipes that have appeared on the blog. Really- all of them since she started posting several years ago.

As I have probably mentioned, I do not have a history with BBQ. Greeks grill things, sometimes on a spit over an open fire, but no tomato-y sauce.  I am not sure Germans or Hungarians or Poles even grill. However, in recent years, I have come around on BBQ, thanks to Mrs. Pavelka's pork and a slow-cooker. We have bought half of a pig from Mrs. Pavelka on two occasions, and we end up with lots of bacon and pork chops and sausage. We also get some ribs and some paving-brick-sized packages labeled "pork roast" or "fresh ham roast." These roasts are bone-in pieces of front or back leg, and they benefit from long slow low cooking. Which is what happens in a slow cooker. When we slow-cook roasts, we end up with tender meat (and easy-to-remove bones) which we chop up and serve as pulled pork (more accurately chopped pork) sandwiches. With our own BBQ sauce. Recently we slow-cooked ribs and served them with sauce too. I know there are BBQ sauces out there in commerce, but why not make your own? It tastes great, uses pretty standard ingredients and keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. This recipe is a slightly tinkered-with recipe from the Cook's Illustrated's cookbook.

Here are the ingredients: 1 onion (more on this later); 1/4 cup water; 1 teaspoon smushed garlic; 1 cup ketchup; 2 tablespoons cider vinegar (any vinegar, really); 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce; 2 tablespoons dijon mustard (any mustard will do); 5 tablespoons molasses; 1 teaspoon tabasco (or other hot sauce); 2 tablespoons regular oil; 1 teaspoon chili powder; 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

The only odd step is the first. I cleaned and cut up the onion. I put the chunks into the food processor along with the1/4 cup of water. I zizzed it up and then poured the onion slush into a strainer with a measuring cup underneath. The goal is to have 1/2 onion juice. I came up a little short, so I added a bit more water to the strainer. You want onion-y liquid.

You can discard the solids. Or use them in something else. Philip's eggplant salad. Or spaghetti sauce or added to a rice dish at the beginning - when you add the stock or other liquid.

Next I got out a medium bowl and measured in the onion juice, ketchup, vinegar, mustard, worcestershire sauce, molasses, tabasco and black pepper. I whisked that up.

Next, I measured the oil into a saucepan. When the oil had heated up (on medium-high heat), I added the chili powder, cayenne pepper and garlic. As soon as I could smell the garlic (which was about 30 seconds), I poured the ketchup mixture in and scraped all the sticky parts into the saucepan from the bowl. Everybody in. 

I whisked and then brought the mixture to a boil. At that point, I turned it down and let it simmer for 25 minutes. I let it cool down to room temperature before we ate it.

And here it is slathered all over some very tender ribs. We also had corn on the cob (it's still summer here in terms of sweet corn) and German potato salad. And a green salad, of course. And, as I recall, some kind of pie.

We put the rest of the sauce in a canning jar with a tight-fitting lid - we had about 2 cups of extra sauce. It will live happily in the refrigerator until the next pork adventure. Or maybe on hamburgers or meat loaf instead of ketchup.

Odds and Ends

The City has published the Leaf sucking schedule for the fall.
This tells you when the City's big vacuum cleaner will come around and suck up the leaves you have piled up for them on the curb.
It is always a challenge to find which zone we are in.

More rain and wind last night.
Picking up sticks will just have to start all over again.

Many Night Blooming Cereus should bloom this week.

Better times are coming, even if we have to go through another winter to get there.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

September 8, 2019- New things

Saturday morning, 5 a.m.
It is so dark out. I am already up and it is only five o'clock. It seems I have an internal alarm clock that just goes off about then. It was only yesterday that I could get outside and tackle some project in the garden by 5:30.
Not any more.
Sunrise is at 6:38.

But I do have my garden to do list for the weekend. It is an ambitious one. I have several parts of the garden that I want to redo. One place, for example, has some sad Siberian Iris. They just do not get enough sun there. The plan is to dig up a circle about 5 feet across. Anything there will be saved. The soil will then be supplemented with a little peat moss, some compost, and some composted chicken manure.
Then I get to put something there. I think I have just the nice big  hosta plant to go there.

Here is one area that we reset yesterday. This daylily bed had not really been touched in 10 years. We redid that corner. We pulled out everything, dug down 7 inches, got all the weeds out, and added the supplements. Then I put most of the lilies back.

Saturday 10pm.
This evening we are getting a steady drizzle. I have no idea whether it will amount to anything.

Part of the longer term to do list is the thin the hosta. There is no way around the fact that the plants get bigger. I could get rid of every third plant and greatly improve the look of beds.
With a little more energy I would have a sale.  I did that each spring when I was younger. (One could make that a refrain.)

This week was a short work week. That can be a good thing. It does leave you confused for a while about what day it is.
I am quite busy at work at the moment. When you work for yourself that can be a good thing. But would it not be nice to just take an afternoon off.

Last weekend, which was 3 days long, was certainly pleasant. One day I went window shopping at the local garden center. I found something that I just couldn't resist. But I knew I had no room for it. It wants sun.
So I came home and looked to see what could be moved. I found a place. I went back before someone else would buy the plant.

Here is the flower I could not resist.

This is hardy Hibiscus Starry Starry Night.

As you can tell from this picture there are those pink flowers and then the foliage is almost black.

While this one from the garden center was prepared to just start to bloom in the stores in September, these hardy hibiscus do bloom late in the summer.

I hope you see why I had to find a place for it.

The other star of the week was the other Night Blooming Cereus. I got this plant and several like it two years ago. It blooms late in the year. This past week there were several different plants that bloomed, all with but a single flower.

I could not determine which picture I liked best. This first picture was taken early in the morning, when the sun had reached the flower but not the houses across the street.
The star effect is rather amazing.

Here is the enlargement of that picture. You can see more detail of the wonderful center of the flower.
This flower opened after 10 pm, which was the last time I looked at it. It stayed open until maybe noon.

Here is that hoya in the front yard. I liked this picture showing the flowers peeking out from behind one of the leaves.

This is the time for fall crocuses. In my efforts to clean up I need to remember where the plants are.
Here is one little clump emerging.

There is always pink.

Still nothing from the cattleya orchid that has seemed about to bloom for two weeks.
The other Night Blooming Cereus has four buds on the big plant. They are all together in one area. I think in about 2 weeks there will be a nice show.

Here is one of the NBC's on a tall branch.

Julia's recipe
Zucchini pie

Here is the link to all Julia's recipes that have appeared on the blog. Really- all of them since she started posting several years ago. (The recipe for barbecue sauce will be next week.)

We have a cookbook from the early 1980s called Greene On Greens, because the chef/author was named Bert Greene and all of the recipes involve vegetables. Some of the recipes don't work for me - eggplant soup for example. Others are regulars in our kitchen like broccoli-potato soup. We tried this recipe this summer when we found ourselves in possession of a lot of zucchini and in search of something new to do with it. This is a nice recipe which could be a brunch main dish or a side dish with some kind of simply prepared protein - grilled or roasted fish or chicken.

Here are the ingredients: 3 tablespoons olive oil; 3/4 cup diced onion (say 1/4" pieces); 1 teaspoon or so smushed garlic (about 2 cloves, depending on how big your cloves are); 1-1/2 or so cups zucchini slices (more on this later - 2 small or 1 medium zucchini); 1/2 cup chopped tomato (I used a Roma which is not very seedy); 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley; 2 teaspoons dried basil (2 tablespoons sliced up fresh basil if you are so fortunate to have some); 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon (not essential to my mind); 1 tablespoon vinegar; 4 eggs; 1/4 cup milk; 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese; 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper. A lot of ingredients, I'll grant you, but nothing exotic.

I cleaned and diced the onion and cleaned and smushed the garlic. I also washed and sliced the zucchini into thin (1/4") rounds and chopped up the tomato.

I had small zucchini. If you have a medium zucchini, cut it in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and then slice it into 1/4" half moons.

I put the oil in a big skillet and when the oil was warmed up, I added the onions and garlic and cooked them over medium heat for a few minutes (say 5 or 6 minutes).

When the onions and garlic were soft, I added the zucchini and cooked the mixture for another 4 or 5 minutes.

At this point (while things were cooking), I lubed up a 10" pie plate and turned the oven on to 350 degrees.

Next, I added the chopped tomato, chopped parsley, dried basil and dried tarragon and the vinegar. At that point, I reduced the heat to low-medium and let the mixture cook for another 4-5 minutes. I sprinkled on about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. You may want a bit more or less salt and pepper.

While the mixture was cooking, I mixed the 4 eggs with the milk in a bowl and grated the Monterey Jack.

Then I put the vegetable mixture in the pie plate and poured the egg mixture over top of it. Lastly I sprinkled the top with both kinds of cheese and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

The pie is done when it is golden brown on top and doesn't jiggle. A knife stuck into the pie should come out clean - not goopy. This may take 25 or 30 minutes depending on your oven.

Let the pie sit for 10 minutes, and then it is ready to eat.

Here it is on the plate. We had it with baked chicken and green salad. The leftovers are fine - like leftover quiche without the crust.

Odds and Ends

Last week I mentioned that I was trying to make a hibiscus into a "standard." I wondered where that word came from. For those of you who do not read the "comments" to the blog, (they appear at the end of each week's post) my friend Pat provided the answer.

She wrote 
The use of "standard" in horticulture, meaning something grown on one erect stem, dates from the 1600s and is related to the verb "stand." Much earlier, "standard" was used to mean a flag (something erected conspicuously), and another noun, "stander," meant something upright.

Thank you Pat.
And thank you everyone who uses the "comments" method of communication.

Neighborhood news:
On one of our walks this past week we noticed these wonderful mushrooms. They were in the parkway about a block from our house.

Here is a closeup.

Dale Chihuly could not construct anything that is this amazing.

This next picture was also taken in the neighborhood.  There is a not so busy street nearby that has a hole in it. This is not just a pot hole. It is real serious hole, that would do real damage if you drove over it. Well the City crew is not ready to fix the hole yet. So they set out these cones. Someone came along and decorated the cones. I would like to think it was the City crew, but I suspect not.

By the way Pat- do you know where the name "pot hole" came from?
That was the best I could do with a garden word puzzler for the week. I will try harder.

Sunday morning 6:30.
We finally had a good rain last night.
I will know how much after I check the rain gauge.
There were many things in the garden that needed rain.
It was in the forecast and it did not disappoint.