Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 12, February 19, 2017 -Is it April?

I guess a mild winter is good. You save on heating bills. What I am saying? I know there is the expression "it is cold out." That means it is uncomfortable out. Mostly, we do not like the cold.
So why I am little apprehensive about 6 days in a row in February in Iowa when the temperatures are above 60? Actually, on Friday it was in the 70's. I guess I will only say it seems a little unnatural.
Then there is that whole ice cap thing.

Julia got home from Portland, Maine on Tuesday. She was visiting out new grandchild. They had a little over 30 inches of snow in the week she was there. Here are the contrasting pictures. I have alternated Portland pictures with Iowa pictures. You can tell the difference.

As you can see right above, the snowdrops are actually blooming this week. It was official when the first bees showed up. I always imagine some poor bee drawing the short straw and having to go out and see if there are any flowers yet. Something like that went on with Noah's ark I seem to recall. Well, that bee reported back that there were blooming snowdrops. A whole bunch came out.

In last week's contest here was your winner.

It was no contest. The toad lily, making a play for a #1 seed in the next round, dominated from start to finish.
The full voting was
Toad lily 25
Fall Crocus 9
Pink Orchid Cactus 8
Triumphator the lily 8

Week 12

We now move on to week 12, the last week of this first round of the Winter Picture Contest. It does seem right that we are almost done.
This week I decided to feature similar pictures, all cropped the same way. I am always about an even playing field.

#1 Amaryllis (March 3, 2016)

In Week 4 of the contest one of the contestants was an Amaryllis, blooming outside.  I have a bunch of these bulbs. Sometimes, despite my best efforts to keep them dormant until Spring, they bloom inside.
Here you have this single potted plant that bloomed in March. It got to be the featured plant on our dining room table for quite some time. It had six stalks as you can see. Each stalk had 2-4 flowers.
In real time I just brought it upstairs. This year it only had 3 bud stalks. I usually will leave them in the same pot for years. Maybe the reduction in blooming stalks should have me repot them in their own pots.

I bring my Amaryllis inside before the first frost. They live in the garage until it gets too cold. They they spend time in a basement closet. They are completely dormant by that point. All the leaves have died back. They have had no water for months.
According to the instructions on the box, when you get them in a box, you put them in dirt, and give them some water, once. You wait for the bud to emerge, which should not be long.
When they are in my closet, without light or water, something wakes some of them up. The plants just start growing.
I must then get them out of the dark closet. I water them at that point, giving them some fertilizer too. I maybe even treat them to some fresh dirt on top.
Then many of them will bloom.
(Some are duds and just put up leaves.)
After they bloom they can go in a window until it is warm enough to go outside.

#2 Hosta Sagae, with Bluebells (April 19, 2016)

Bluebells are coming. Place your orders now. So are the big hosta. This is Sagae. It certainly is in my top five hosta list.

#3 Pink Waterlily (June 23, 2016)

Not only are waterlilies great, but so are waterlily pictures. Look at the bottom of that leaf near the flower.

#4 Daylily called Fooled Me  (July 24, 2016)

I like daylily names. At some point I heard that there were something like 50,000 daylilies in commerce. Past of this is that it is so easy to make your own crosses. I have some of my own. So far they are just Mears Seedling No. whatever.
Daylilies bloom for only one day. Actually that is the case unless you have one that blooms in November. I had one daylily bloom at that time in 2016. It lasted 2-3 days. )There are certain varieties that are know to rebloom in the fall.

There you have it. Week 12 is now on the clock. Vote away. Will it be yellow, pink, blue, or red?
Tell me about your early spring, if you are having one.

Bonus pictures

In this section I try to give you other pictures of the contestants. All of the types of flowers this week have already been in the contest.

What to do?

How about I show you pictures of a flower that did not make the contest this year. It has been in the contest in prior years. That would be the Crown Imperial Fritillaria.  It was a little down last year. These pictures are from the previous 5 years. This past fall I planted 10 new ones, on the shelf along Fairview. They should be ideal for viewing maybe about April 1.
They make for wonderful pictures because of the other spring flowers around them.

How about a recipe

Marcella's Almond Butter Cake
as told by Julia Mears

I do not know who Marcella is. I first came across this recipe in the Cedar Rapids Gazette many years ago when I still subscribed to the CR Gazette, probably in the mid-1990s. Then, several years later, the same recipe, with the same name, turned up in a pamphlet of recipes collected by Johanna Beers, a remarkable person who for six decades or so (right up until her death) was the food/cooking writer for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, an unpretentious local (if Gannett-owned) newspaper that we still get.

This is an unusual cake; it is unleavened and has the texture of brownies rather than cake. It is also easy to make and a big hit.

I started by melting one stick (that is, 1/2 cup) of regular (that is, salted) butter in a saucepan, see left. This sauce pan is actually called a saucier, and it is very handy. The sides of the pan slope so it is easier to stir thing like white sauce or pudding or almond butter cake batter in this pan than in a pan with straight sides. When the butter was melted, I took the pan off the heat and stirred in 1-1/2 cups of sugar. After the sugar was mixed in, I added 2 eggs, and I whisked them in quickly as the butter/sugar mixture was still a little warm.

This is the whisking-in-the-eggs stage. Next, I added 1 teaspoon of almond extract and 1-1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. I whisked that in and switched to a wooden spoon to stir in 1-1/2 cups of flour. I have not made this with gluten-free flour, but I have had good results with King Arthur gluten-free flour and I would expect the recipe to work just fine with KA gluten-free flour. If you used unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon of regular (not kosher) salt.

Here is the batter all mixed up in the pan. I baked the batter in a 10" glass pie plate, which I had sprayed with no-stick spray, in a 350 degree oven. Or you could butter the pan. Flouring is not necessary.

Here is the batter in the pie plate. Note that the area of a 10" pie plate is about 75 square inches. You could bake this is a 7" x 11" rectangular pan (area = 77 square inches) or a 9" square cake pan (area = 81 square inches). Sometimes baking involves math.

I sprinkled a small handful of almonds (just raw - no need to toast them), and I baked the cake until a skewer just came out clean. In my oven, that's about 30 minutes. Over baking is not good.

And here is the finished product. We cut it into thin wedges to serve. It is a bit rich and very good. Try it.

Odds and ends
As strange as this winter has been or has not been, unless you are in Portland, I thought I would show you some pictures from 2012.

These first two pictures are from January 31, 2012.

January 31, 2012

These were all blooming on February 17, 2012. This year, 2016, we are actually a few days behind that February.

That year there was snow on March 3 giving us these wonderful pictures.

This was the winter acontie.

The first crocuses had not counted on snow.

These guys were in their element.

This was March 13, 2012. The very early spring flowers did not meant the lilacs would be blooming in April. Please notice that there was still grass in the back yard in 2012. Katie and I tore out the last grass in the backyard in 2015.

That is it for this week. Enjoy the warm weather while it is here. I even found some shorts yesterday. Remember,it will probably snow sometime soon.

1 comment:

JustGail said...

While I do appreciate a winter break with warmer temperatures, I'd rather it stay in the low-mid 40s, not the upper 60s-70s for a week like we just had.

I'm glad to find an Iowa garden blog, esp. one near my location, that's still being updated. Love your flower photos!