Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28, 2017 -The days are long

Thursday- It is five o'clock in the morning. The windows are open. Since it is still mostly dark I am particularly aware of the sounds.  (Sunrise is at 5:35.) There are birds already at this hour. There are some songbirds. We have lots of cardinals. There is an occasional owl But at some point there are  crows. Loud crows. Unlike dear, or ducks, one seems powerless to go shoo them away. How long will they go on like this? The answer was about 20 minutes. I don't remember the exact moment when they stopped. At some point they were gone.

Saturday- The birds are awake and it is 4:45 am. I have my coffee and maybe an hour before I should go outside and get to work. We had another nice rain yesterday. The weeds should pull nicely. The City picks up yard waste each Wednesday. (Yard waste means weeds.) My neighbor and I have four  trashcans with yard waste stickers on them. The stickers  cost $12.50 each. That is for 9 months. Theoretically we fill them up and then we can stop pulling weeds. It does not always work that way. Let me just say that we are able to fill the cans and more this time of year.
The City turns the yard waste into wonderful compost, which it then practically gives away. I use the compost to top dress beds in the fall. The rest of the year I use it to add to other professional dirt as a potting mix.
I just heard from the owl. It is so nice to have neighborhood owls. For the moment there are no crows. There are not any frogs. Usually you can hear them from the creek a half block away.

We are off to the east coast this coming Friday. Our grandson Christopher Philip, who was born in January, is getting baptized on Sunday, June 11 in New York City. In five days I will get to meet him for the first time. Julia went to see him in Maine in February. There was much snow. We are going to spend a week on an island in the Portland, Maine area.  We understand there will not be the Internet. The garden blog could miss a week or even two.

It is difficult being away from the garden. I wish I had a garden cam. Maybe I could get a drone that I could direct to fly around and look to see if the clematis had bloomed.
I did plant some seeds on Monday. I realized that if you were going to be away for a bit, you could plant seeds and they would be up when you came back.

In last week's voting the purple iris was the top vote getter. It was a wonderful color.

The full voting was
Purple Siberian Iris   13
White Iceland Poppy #1   11
Winky Columbine   10
Lupine 9
Gas plant   7
Peach Iceland poppy   6
White Iceland poppy #2    5

This week's pictures
When I give you pictures that are just from the past week you get to see the changes in the garden. It is Siberian Iris time. The Oriental Poppies have started.  The garden progresses, evolves.
Nothing quite illustrates this principle as the iris. There are iris from April to July. But they are different kinds. I can't think of any other flower type that evolves like that.

#1 Bluish Siberian Iris
It has been a good year for Siberian Iris. With the cooler weather they are lasting quite a while.

I will put a closeup in the bonus section. Sometimes I like the green background and the multiple flowers.

#2 Pink Oriental Poppies
The Oriental poppies started this week. This pink one has been with me for a long time. The do only bloom the one time, with one plant maybe sending up 3-4 flowers.
The Iceland poppies produce more flowers. I really should deadhead them at this point to keep them going.
As Julia tells me-there is always something.

#3 Allium closeup

What can I say? Stars

                                                                #4 Lupine after the rain
This particular plant has maybe 13 spikes this year on a fairly compact plant.

#5 Another Oriental poppy.
This is one of those flowers that just jumps out at you.
The color is a little hard to define. Red, maybe with some orange.

The picture looks like the poppy was just pasted onto the green background.

#6 Orange Iceland poppies
There are still lots of buds on the Iceland poppies yet to bloom.

There you have the flowers from the week of May 21.
You may vote for 2.

Bonus Pictures

This is a wonderful annual asclepias called Silky Road. An asclepias is a milkweed.
This particular plant is the plant that I found last August. I just bought the one plant. It had been   ten years since I had grown it. I liked it so much that I brought the plant and some cuttings inside.
I spent the winter taking more cuttings. They rooted easily. I have planted about 20 plants outside so far this spring. The first ones are starting to bloom. They should bloom all summer.

It is called milkweed because of the sap it yields when it is cut. It is white and sticky.

This Siberian Iris is a double. It is the only one I have like that.

Iceland poppy without the petals.


Another Siberian Iris.

Here were the pink Oriental poppies late in the day. They closed up for the evening in an interesting way.

A pair of amaryllis.
I mentioned progressions. The Amaryllis shelf will give way to the cactus shelf as soon as these stop blooming.

A clivia blooming.

The Oriental poppy sheds its pod early in the morning.

This is the nicest peony we have.

Here is the plant with all the flowers.

Here are more pictures of the pink poppies.
This picture should be in the voting.

The second picture is the pink poppies the next day after they opened and it rained. As you may remember I like pictures of the seedpods.

Here is the closeup.
I have one of those big glossy flower picture book with multiple pictures of the same flower. It goes from the bud to the seed pod. It is good. Sometimes the seed pod is almost as interesting as the flower.

Here is picture #1 that has been cropped. Cropping a picture can be addictive. I actually like this picture better.

Julia's Recipe
German Potato Salad

As I have mentioned before, the only grandmother I knew was German and born in the Old Country, which in her case was a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Banat. She came to America (Des Plaines, Illinois to be exact) in the early 1930s after marrying a German-American widower (she was a widow). My grandmother cooked what I now recognize as German food and Hungarian food. I just knew it as the food my grandmother cooked. She did not use recipes, saying that she cooked out of her fist, which I assume sounded more epigrammatic in German or Hungarian. I do not have her fist and so I have had to figure out how to make the things I remember her cooking. One dish I remember is German Potato Salad, and here's my approximation.

I started with 11 medium-ish red potatoes. Use red potatoes for this recipe. Not white or yellow and certainly not Russets. They will fall apart which is not good eats, as Alton Brown would say. I did not pick that number (11 medium-ish red potatoes); that's what was on hand. I put the potatoes in a big pot of cold water, with a big pinch of kosher salt. I brought the pot to a boil, turned down the heat and cooked the potatoes for about 20 minutes, until a sharp knife went in and out easily. If you have smaller potatoes, the cooking time will probably be shorter.

When the potatoes started to be done, I fished them out with a slotted spoon, smaller to bigger (that is, done earlier to done later), and I put them in a bowl of cold water so I could work with them. I peeled the skins off with my fingers (which is easy) and put the newly peeled potatoes in another bowl. I worked my way through all the potatoes, fishing them out of the hot water and peeling them.

Meanwhile, Philip started cooking 6 slices of bacon, because he likes to help. When the bacon was crisp (you want the bacon to be crisp), he poured the bacon grease into a Pyrex cup. There was about 1/3 cup of bacon grease. I poured about 2-1/2 tablespoons of the bacon grease back into the frying pan. While the potatoes were cooking, I chopped some onion pretty fine, about 3/4 cup of onion. And I sliced up some celery, about 1 cup of sliced celery. Let me add that celery is optional. I like it, and I remember it appearing in my grandmother's potato salad. If you don't like it, leave it out. That's okay.

I added the sliced celery and finely chopped onion to the bacon grease. At that point the heat was off, the pan still sizzled. When it calmed down, I turned on the heat and cooked the vegetables on low-medium heat until they were translucent (in the case of the onion) or limp (in the case of the celery).

While the vegetables were cooking, I turned around and started cutting up the potatoes. I cut them in half lengthwise and then sliced them across. I used a small serrated knife (as shown at right). and I recommend it. A serrated knife will not stick as much. There will be fewer broken potato slices.

I ended up with about 9 cups of potato slices, which I put in a big attractive bowl.

Next I turned back to the vegetables, which were translucent and/or limp. I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 2 tablespoons of regular flour. I stirred that together, then added 2/3 cup of cider vinegar and 1 cup of water. I still had warm water on the stove in the potato cooking pot and that's what I used. From the tap would be fine too. I stirred cooked the mixture on low-medium heat until it came to a boil. Then I stirred in 1/4 cup of sugar.

I added the potatoes to the big pan to swoosh the potatoes around in the sauce, then dumped the mixture back into the big attractive serving bowl and crumbled in the bacon. I ended up with a heaping 1/2 cup of bacon bits. I stirred gently, and there it is.

I think sometimes my grandmother garnished the salad with hard-boiled egg slices and paprika. That would be good. I have seen a recipe or two with chopped up dill pickles. I do not remember pickles in the potato salad, but I will not judge if you decide to go that way.

If you have gluten issues, I think you might try potato starch as a thickener. Seems fitting. Some kind of thickener is needed. This potato salad is served warm or at room temperature. Of course, it tastes good cold as well. Happy Memorial Day.

Odds and Ends

Stragglers- I am trying to get all the plants out of the house before we leave town. By the time we are done the only plants in the house will be a few violets.

Caladium report- About 20 of the 70 caladium I potted up, are up. Most of those are barely up. Those 20 have gone outside. The rest are coming up at a rate of 2-3/ day. I hope when I am back from the east coast I can start putting them around the garden.

Garden work can be divided into categories. Here are three that come to mind.
First there is maintenance. This includes weeding and dealing with the ordinary tasks of just keeping up. Actually it is mostly weeding.

Then there is planting and dividing and moving plants around. At my house this includes taking plants outside in the spring and taking them in in the fall. This would include putting out annuals and even growing things from seed.

Finally there are projects. This would include resetting an entire bed. Putting in a new path. Redoing a crumbling wall.
This week we finished the project of putting a new path around the walnut tree in the front yard.

We had started the path 2-3 weeks ago. Before it could be completed there were several large clumps of daffodils and a  hosta called Paul's Glory.
I took those last plants out this week, digging up the daffodils on Friday before the rain. There must have been 100 bulbs. I will dry them and store them for planting in September.

Here is what the area looked like first thing this morning.

Here is the finished product. There is nothing as comforting to a gardener than a new path. This gives access to the beds on both sides. It allows me to weed places that had been very hard to get to.
There is actually a very nice yellow toad lily just to the west of the tree trunk. I am not sure people even know it was there.

One thing was amusing. When we started the path one hosta, stuck out into the new path about 6 inches. When we finished it had grown to the entire width of the path.
I will have to decide what to do. I could just move the hosta, which is a lovely blue and white one. I could have the path just end with the hosta. Maybe that will depend if I can find a place to put it.

It is after 9 pm on Saturday night and I am tired. Monday is a holiday. That is good. I wonder if there will be an owl at 5 in the morning.
Have an enjoyable long weekend.
We will post again when we can.

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