Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016- the cold is here

        The cold arrived in Iowa Friday morning sometime. Thursday it was 75 degrees. I took off early from work that afternoon and planted the last of my bulbs. In the springtime there will be some of our favorite tulips along with a few more smaller bulbs. 
        But we knew the cold was coming and it did. We went for our walk Friday before work. It was calm and almost 60. When we left the office for a late lunch there was a 30 mile per hour wind and the temperature was about 50 and falling. It was one of those winds that was in your face no matter which way you were walking. That wind then kept up all night, sounding like cold.
      But November is over half done. 4 months to go to Springtime. In one month the days will start getting longer. 

And the eleventh annual Mears garden picture contest starts in 2 weeks.

I have been getting ready for the picture contest. It is a good escape for me. I thought I would share some of the pictures from this past garden year that will not appear in the contest. (Perhaps you will think some should.)

I have always thought of myself as someone who would think outside the box. I have so many bluebells in the spring that this past year I potted some up in a hanging basket. Imagine if you can bluebells, not just covering the ground, but also in the trees.

Here is one of the many pulmonaria in the garden. What a great plant.The foliage looks good long into the fall, even after a hard freeze. The plant holds up well in a drought. We did not have a drought this year. In fact the no hose summer lasted all year.

Hosta Liberty continued to be a gem. I have it in several parts of the yard. Hosta plants are the backbone of my garden. They do not really appear in the contest much. 

This little early Siberian Iris reminds me that a simple single flower can make a great statement.

This is the seedpod for the pasque flower. I have always liked seedpods. 

This is hosta Victory. It is one of those focal points that a garden should have.

Amaryllis. I brought about 25 plants in to the garage Friday. I will try to make them go dormant and stay that way all winter. I then bring them outside to wake up in April. This picture was taken on June 1. Some will not cooperate, insisting on sending up their bloom stalks after the first of the year. 

I sometimes try artistic shots. This was a picture of the buds from the pink orchid cactus in late June. 

This is a back lit elephant ear leaf. I dug them all up this week. I am accumulating a nice collection. They do take some space and like sun. This should put a cap on how many I can get. There are is a black variety I really want to try.

I should report that by the end of this week the annual plant migration into the house progressed to the point that by Friday there were only a few stragglers outside. (They are now inside.) Our garage is still a plant staging area. I hope to get all the plants situated in their winter homes this weekend.

Here are a few pictures from the migration of the now house plants.
This is one of the last plants to come inside, just because of its size. It is a yellow clivia.  I have let this particular plant get big in a big pot, rather than divide it when it made side shoots. It is now safely upstairs where I will encourage it to be as dormant as possible for 4 months.

Here is the group of crotons in our living room.  The variety is called petra. They make quite a group.
I love crotons. Maybe I will have a post sometime just about the different varieties I grow.

They do have to come inside in the winter. They do not go dormant, even if you do try to slow them down a bit.

Now for the weekly feature provided by Julia.

Sweet Potatoes 
by Julia Mears

In trying times, it is good to have Thanksgiving, both as a time to eat together and as a time to think about positive things. In order to free up more time for conviviality or reflection, I have an easy thing to do with sweet potatoes. No brown sugar or pecans or (heaven forbid) marshmallows.

I started with two sweet potatoes from the farmers' market (for dinner for Philip and me). They were largish - bigger than my fist. I peeled them and sliced them and then cut the slices into cubes. I forgot to measure how many cups of cubes I had. I would guess 3 to 4 cups.

This picture is mid-prep. I put the cubes on a steamer basket and put the steamer in a suitable pot, added water, covered the pot and turned on the heat. The water should not be above the level of the bottom of the steamer basket. You probably already know this. I turned the heat down after the pot got going, and cooked until the chunks were very soft. It took about 25 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes were soft, I ran them through a ricer into a bowl. I ended up with about 2 cups of sieved sweet potatoes and a hockey puck of non-riced sweet potato stuff, which I discarded. Then I added a pinch of salt and one 6 ounce container of whole milk lemon yogurt to the riced sweet potatoes. I used Liberte. (Don't use non-fat yogurt.) Then I mixed it up with a rubber spatula. That's it. That's the whole deal.

I put the mixed-up sweet potatoes in an attractive dish and used one pat of butter to dot the surface. We were not quite ready to eat, so I put the lid on the dish and put it in a warm oven to wait for the rest of the meal to catch up. Sweet potatoes fixed this way are really very good.

A few notes. If you prefer, you can roast the sweet potatoes in their jackets in a 325 degree oven - roast them on a rimmed baking sheet so they can't roll off the pan. Then when they are soft, scoop the pulp out of the skins and proceed to the ricing stage. If you don't have a ricer (and why don't you?), you can mash with an old-fashioned potato masher. The texture will not be quite as smooth but this is not a big deal. Do not use an electric mixer or food processor, as there is something about the starch in sweet potatoes that goes haywire under pressure (as we all do), and the mixture turns gummy. Lastly, this is another of these forgiving or flexible recipes. If I had had 3 cups of riced sweet potatoes, one little container of yogurt would have been fine. But 4 cups or more and you will want 2 containers.

Here is the finished product. Enjoy.

That is it for the week. The cold is here. The plants are inside. Now I just have to figure out the schedule for taking care of all of them.

I am sure I have forgotten something.


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