Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 29, 2017-What happened to spring?

From April 16, 2017 to April 26, 2017 the high temperatures in Iowa City ranged from 59 to 80. Spring was in high season. The sun was shining.

On Thursday of this past week, I wore my winter coat. We had turned on the heat in the house. We are now in the middle of a weekend when the highs will be in the mid 40's and there will be rain.
It is not exactly the best weather to garden.
We even had a fire in the fireplace Saturday afternoon.

But it is great weather if you are a lupine.
You just always need to have some plant/flower that will like whatever the weather happens to be.

As for the rain, we actually needed some rain.
As for the cold, there is no snow here.
There are also no frost warnings for our part of Iowa.
It was 17 degrees in Estes Park, Colorado this morning.

In the garden we are approaching sort of an in between time. Most of the spring flowers, including the bluebells are finished or fading. It is not yet time for the colors of summer. In fact there is a lot of spent foliage at the moment, between the squill and aconite and the bluebells.
The hosta are exploding, in a good way. This is the time of year to consider which ones need to move a little.

But there is still color, with opportunities for pictures.  The little iris are blooming. The late spring bulbs have begun.  There is so much work to do.

As I put the finishing touches on this post I can hear the wind blowing. It is going to be another mostly inside day.

Last week's voting

What an interesting change in voting. Voting for two. Did you find that easier than voting for one? The most votes were for the Monsella tulip. It really was able to stop the most pedestrians the last several weeks.

I am reminded of the voting method recently selected by the State of Maine. They actually will do this for all their voting. It is called "rank choice voting". You can (but I assume you do not have to) vote for who you prefer, and in addition you select your second and third choices. If no one gets a majority then the lowest candidate gets eliminated and the second place votes from that candidate get distributed amount the rest. If there is still no majority the next lowest candidate is thrown out. I hope you get the picture. In the end someone gets a majority. For an explanation you can see this article.
In Maine this was designed so that some nut would not again be elected with 40% of the vote, when the other 60% clearly would have favored a nonnutty candidate. (I like the word "nonnut". )
So here is how your vote broke down last week on the blog.

Monsella tulip       13
DeCaen anemone  11
Epimedium      11
Daffodil           9
Yellow tulips   7
Dwarf Iris        5
Yellow fritillaria 4
Red and white tulip 2

This week's pictures

#1 Dwarf Iris Lime Pixie
This is one of the little iris I ordered last fall. It is a beauty.
Some of these little iris have wonderful color combinations.

#2 Rue Anemone
This is a little rue anemone. It is a wildflower that grows in the woods. I have been pleased that they come back quite well the next year, as long as they do not have something planted right on top of them.
They will then clump up in a few years. The picture of the clump is in the bonus section.

#3 Dogwood blossoms
I can't get enough pictures of these wonderful flowers.

This is an enlargement from a picture taken from about 30 feet. I still have not gotten out the ladder to photograph the flowers close up.

#4   Pulmonaria
also called lungwort.
I really like the color combination. The plant really is quite large. The full picture is in the bonus section.

#5 Euphorbia patterns.
Sometimes beauty can be found just in the patterns that you see,

#6  Tree peony rescued from the elements

This lovely tree peony would have preferred to bloom on the plant. A branch and the wind and rain had other ideas Saturday. I rescued the flower. It is now over our kitchen sink, the most visible place in the house. Once it came inside it started to open. What a glorious color.

That is all for this week. The rain and cold sort of closed the garden down these last few days.
Let's do that vote for two again. 

Bonus pictures

This is hosta Liberty. I could imagine an entire garden with just Liberty hostas.

Here is the group of Lime Pixies.

I like the colors on this flower. If it had not been in the voting last week I would have put it in this week.

I love the yellow and orange.

Trillium Grandiflorum.

The Rue anemone clump.

Note the colored straws. I use them to mark where I have special plants that may disappear by summer.
I really do not want to plant something right on top of them.

This clump is about 4 years old.

More little iris. Some are really quite little.

Sometimes the lack of color can be attractive.

Here is one of my lupine seedlings. It will likely not bloom this year, but will be ready to make a large clump with many flower spikes next year.
I love the water in the center of the leaf, just like a big diamond.

I enlarged this picture up because there are so many wonderful things to see. There is Liberty the hosta. To its right is my tree peony, with a white flower that will open with the first warm weather. Below that is one of the clumps of double bloodroot. Continuing around the circle there is that wonderful and very full pulmonaria.

Dogwood flowers.

A dance of 3 tulips in the cold and the rain.

Hosta patterns.

Say hello to the pink dogwood.

Julia's recipe this week

Philip and I lived on a farm with a bunch of other young folks in the 1970s, in rural Poweshiek County Iowa, down the road (Highway 6 and then gravel) from Grinnell College where we went to school. We were an earnest bunch, although not without our amusements and frivolities. Of course, we made and consumed granola. It was a thing. Then we grew up, as people do, and we communards all went our separate ways. Somewhere in the transition to adulthood we lost track of granola. Until some years later when Alton Brown (the Good Eats guy) reminded me about granola. And so I started making granola again, simpler than in earlier days, but very good. This recipe is largely A. Brown's recipe, and I am grateful to him for bringing it back. I am also grateful for his sock puppets.

Here is the assemblage of all of the components. I measured 6 cups of uncooked regular (not instant, not steel-cut, not thick) rolled oats in a big bowl. I added 3 cups of a combination of sliced raw almonds, raw cashew pieces and unsweetened coconut, If you only have sweetened coconut, go easy and reduce the brown sugar, which I will talk about below, or else your granola will be too sweet.

My mixture had more almonds than either cashews or coconut, because I had more almonds and I like almonds. If you don't like coconut or cashews, leave them out. If you don't like almonds, what's wrong with you? You can substitute walnuts or pecans - chop or break them up a bit because walnuts halves or pecans halves would be kind of big.

Here is the bowl with the oats and the nuts and the coconut. And I added to the mixture: 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Table salt would be fine. I then mixed these ingredients with my hands to make sure that any little brown sugar lumps broke up and were thoroughly mixed in.

This bowl is actually a big, wide earthenware crock used, I believe, in past times to let raw milk separate and cream rise. I have several which I use to mix big batches of dough or to make apple butter in the oven or to make granola.

After mixing these ingredients up by hand, I added 1/4 cup of coconut oil (which I measured in a chunk and then melted over low heat) and 1/4 cup of maple syrup, first measuring the melted coconut oil and then the maple syrup so that the oil would coat the measuring cup and the maple syrup would slide right out. I have coconut oil, which works well in granola. If you don't have coconut oil, use mild or unflavored vegetable oil - no olive oil here. I stirred up the whole thing with a big wooden spoon, to work in the wet ingredients. And it was ready for the oven. I had remembered to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used two half-sheet pans with silpat type liners. You will want some kind of liner on the pan, and you will want the baking pans to have rims. If you have smaller pans, you'll need to used more pans. If you don't have silpats, use parchment.

I baked the pans in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, then I took the pans out, stirred the granola around, rotated the pans (top/bottom, front/back) and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Your kitchen should start to smell granola-y. The granola should just be beginning to turn light brown. Do not overbake!

I let the granola cool in the pans for a while.

Then when the granola was cool enough to work with, I poured it back into the crock. Then I added about 1-1/2 cups of raisins and worked the raisins in with my hands.

If you don't like raisins, but you do like craisins, use craisins. Or dried blueberries or currants or maybe dried cherries. If you don't like dried fruit at all, then leave it out altogether. Your granola will be delicious.

It is surprisingly filling. I eat it as a cereal with milk. I know folks who eat it with yogurt. Sometimes folks just eat it by the handful. This recipe, including the raisins, made about 11 cups, enough for a bunch of breakfasts or snacks.

Odds and Ends

This amazing article and video were in the NY Times this week. It is about the desert blooming. Scroll down in the article until you find the video of all the cactus flowers opening using time lapse photography.

Since I was inside the house on Saturday afternoon due to the steady  rain,  I planted a tray of California poppy seeds. I could plant them outside but I do not know at the moment where I will put the plants.
I also moved my blackberry and candy lily seedlings into bigger pots.

The leaves have all come out on the trees this week. Actually there are still a few holdouts like the walnut trees and the some of the oak trees. This is important to me since I hang plants from the trees. I need a leaf cover before I can do that. Otherwise the plants will sunburn, if the sun ever shines.

I like to work on the blog in the early morning before it is light out. That is getting earlier each day.

Whatever eats the columbine this time of year has started eating them. It is rather disturbing. Rabbits was my first guess. If any of you have ideas let me know.

Even though it is cold out, I do believe we will get through most of April in Iowa City without a frost. The record keepers this year say the last frost was on April 7.
If you look around outside, it is amazing that it is still April.

Enjoy the week and the arrival of May.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

It just keeps on going- April 23, 2017

The pink dogwood this week begins to look like a Japanese screen painting, particularly with the bluebells in the background.

The pink dogwood was a birthday present for Julia maybe 25 years ago. It used to grace our kitchen window. Several years ago a family of cardinals made a nest right there. Now the tree has grown and is up to our bedroom window. That is on the next floor. It makes it difficult to photograph flowers without getting out the ladder which I will not do.

The bluebells are at their best at the moment. The cooler weather preserves everything. Having mentioned cool weather it does appear that we are past any danger of frost. (It is a chilly 38 as I make the final edits this morning.)

The little iris have begun to bloom.
The tree peonies, including my own seedlings should bloom soon. My first seedling bloomed last year on May 5.  In the garden this year we are almost exactly where we were last year at this time.
The crabapple trees are blooming. We have white ones and pink ones. The white ones are enormous and full. The pink ones are aging and thinning. That is sad but they are probably 50 years old. They do not get enough sun. At least that is the explanation given me by the tree nursery. I tend to believe that since I would have thought they would have wanted to sell me replacement trees.

I hope you are enjoying the extra voting opportunities. I figure the pictures keep coming, so why not have some voting.

In last week's voting, the winner was the Double Bloodroot. What a story. It was lost.  Now it is back. I even have a source should I want some more.

The full voting was

Double Bloodroot 16
Pasque Flower  7
Black Hellebore  6
Daffodil  3
Tulip  3

This week it gets even better.
For maybe the first time ever, I have these eight pictures selected. They are all from this week. It was really difficult to limit it to even that number. You can tell that from the bonus pictures this week.

With so many pictures I think I will let you vote for two.
How are you at following directions?

So here they are.

#1 epimedium Flamingo Dancing

My epimedium (what would be the plural) are peaking right now. Some are finished. I am going to do the inventory and find some lost labels.

They can be difficult to photograph.

Education alert: They are also called barrenwort or horny goat weed. (I do not make this stuff up. )

In the bonus pictures there is another picture that could have been with this big group but I had to draw the line somewhere.

#2 Monsella, the crazy tulip.
This may be Julia's favorite flower. Bright. Colorful. But quite crazy.

In the front parkway it is the one group of flowers mot apt to have walkers stop.

They do not hold up over time. You really have to plant new ones every several years.
There is a picture in the bonus section of the  Monsella group.

#3 De caen anemone

This is a first time for me with this not hardy bulb. It looks like a poppy. It is an anemone.
I bought two of these red plants from a box store. It gives quite the  splash. It seems to be going to keep flowering perhaps until it gets hot.

You should know this flower comes in blue. Maybe I ought to find that plant.

Make sure to look in the bonus section for the progression of this picture  to the real closeup. It does make you think about what kind of picture do you like.

#4 Tulipa tarda
Go yellow.
This species tulip (found in nature) was first cultivated commercially in 1590. Wow. That flower has been around for a while. It grows low to the ground. I think the entire flower is not more than 5 inches tall. It is a keeper.

#5 Dainty daffodil

Some flowers will knock you over with absolute color. This is the other end of that spectrum. I really like the subtle pink.

#6 Dwarf Bearded Iris
This lovely little pair were some of the early blooming Bearded Iris.
The short ones bloom first. Then the middle sized ones. Guess who comes next? The tall ones-you got it.
I like the short ones since you never ever have to stake them. They will never blow over.

#7   Another great tulip
It seems like it is in the group called Lily flowering Tulips. I cannot determine the name. It might be called Ballade.
The red and white goes so well with the blue and green background.

Tulips can be good in a big group. They can also be good all by themselves. Well in my yard they are all by themselves in a sea of blue.

#8 Crown Imperial Fritillaria
This is right out of Dr. Seuss.
And it is also 2 feet tall.
Another great yellow flower.

Remember you can vote for two.

Bonus pictures

Another epimedium. They do make it hard to see the face of the flower.

Here is the backyard at the moment.

Here is the Monsella group.

This is one of my Mitsch daffodils. He was a daffodil breeder for at least 50 years. He designed daffodils that would cost $20 each (or more). I never bought any directly from him. My regret. Some of his varieties would become manageable in price, after so many years. This one was given to me by a friend.
The Mitsch  web cite is no longer available. It was quite something to see what a $20 daffodils would look like.

Here is another picture of this year's crown imperials. They are rather finicky. I bought 10 last fall. 3 of each color came up, and of those, only 4 bloomed.

I like this picture in part because of the shadow.

Bluebells start out pink. Sometimes they stay pink for a while. You think maybe you have the great pink mutation. Eventually it turns blue.

Here is this wonderful trillium  called luteum.

This is trillium grandiflorum.
I starts white and fades to pink.
This blooms later than the rest. It just started this past week.

Hosta Liberty and bluebells is a winning combination.

Here is the front parkway bed. You can see the Monsella tulips.

What wonderful color. This is not Monsella. It is almost the anti Monsella.

This is what is left from one of the tulips after the petals fell off.

This is the original picture from which the cropped picture at the beginning of the post came.

Here is a closeup of the petals.
The picture was taken from right outside the kitchen door, looking across the driveway at the dogwood. That is how I could picture the petals without a ladder.

De Caen #1
Remember this comes in blue.


Imagine that on your wall.
That should go into the all closeup competition.

Hosta Sagae  and bluebells.

This is a little Korean iris, back by the pod.

Nothing needs to be said about this marvel.

It looks like some prize winning floral display. Do you see how I could have had a few more pictures in this week's competition?

How about this for the center of a flower.


Another tulip

Another Dwarf Bearded Iris
I love some of the color combinations. The purple fuzzy thing is nice.

Here is that epimedium that should be with the 8. Then there would be 9.
This is Domino.

This is Epimedium Cherry Tart.

Here is my white bluebell. It is actually smaller than last year. Go figure.

Julia's recipe

Fish soup, maybe cioppino

Philip's father was born and raised in Chincoteague, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore, in an area of the country sometimes called Delmarva, but to be consistent it should be Delmarvi. Anyway, the family still owns the house that Philip's father was born in, and we go there in the summer for a few days, as we have done for many, many years. Katie and her family and friends now spend a week or even two at the house in the summer. We eat seafood and walk on the beach and read books.

In recent years, there has been a recipe written in pencil on a piece of paper affixed to the refrigerator in the Chincoteague kitchen with a magnet. I think of it as Denny's fish soup, and now that I look around on the Internet, I think it is a variation of cioppino.

We live in Iowa, which is pretty far from any seacoast, but sometimes a person wants fish soup anyway. This was the state of affairs a couple of weeks ago, so I made a variation on the variations of cioppino, one step removed from Denny's fish soup.

I had four kinds of seafood: about 1/2 lb. of sole, 1 lb. of little clams in their shells, about 1/2 lb. of scallops and about 3/4 lb. of medium shrimp. All frozen, all from the New Pioneer Co-op which participates in some ethical fishery society.  The fish stayed frozen until needed for the recipe.

I do not believe there are rules about what kind of seafood, but I think shellfish and swimm-y fish are both standard.

All of the ingredients are on the counter above, although not easy to distinguish one from the other. I started by chopping up an onion, some green pepper and a fennel bulb. I ended up with about 1 cup of onion and about 3/4 cup of green pepper. I don't use fennel much. I cut off the pretty green frond-y part, and cut off the root remnant and washed the remaining bulb. I did not peel it. I cut it in half and then sliced up each half. I ended up with about 1 cup of fennel slices. I smushed up 3 garlic cloves. Then I put 3 (or so) tablespoons of olive oil in the big red enameled pot and added the vegetables as well as about 1to 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I cooked this mixture over medium heat (stirring some) until the onions were soft/translucent.

Then I added a quart of frozen chicken stock (the lump in the left side of the pot), 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 1 bottle of clam juice, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and maybe a cup of wine. I used the wine to rinse out the tomato cans. I let that simmer for about 30 minutes, which was good because that let the frozen chicken stock thaw out and get acquainted with the other ingredients.

Meanwhile, I cleaned the shrimp and cut up the sole into smallish chunks (say 1" squares) and rinsed the scallops.  Then I added all the seafood to the pot and put a lid on it and let it cook for 5 minutes or maybe 10 minutes until 1) the clams were open, 2) the shrimp were pink, 3) the scallops were translucent and 4) ditto with the sole.

I added a splash of rice wine vinegar and put it on the table. While the soup was cooking, I made rice. Put a spoonful of rice in the bottom of your bowl, add a couple of ladles of soup and it's supper.

Odds and Ends

Have I mentioned dandelions?  They do show up in the garden. The task it to dig them up before they turn into one of those puff balls. Sometimes when I am watching the Cubs baseball game I will take a break and go dig up 25 dandelions.

Gardening can now start earlier and earlier. It is light out at 6:15.

Someone was asking me about the bluebells. I explained that in a month they would all be gone. The garden would be different. There would be leaves on all the trees. The orchids would be outside. So would the cacti and the orchid cacti. And then there will be lilies and lilium and caladium.

It just keeps on coming.

If you have read here to the end, I appreciate that. Sometimes I think I put too much in, each week. Your comments and reply emails keep me going too.