Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Seedling Update

I started some seedlings back in January. Below there are lettuce, basil, cauliflower, pepper, tomato, parsley and broccoli seedlings. There are growing very slowly. I'm not sure if they need more heat, sun or fertilizer. They seem healthy. They are just slow which is probably OK because I haven't finished building the coldframe and after a warm January, we're having quite a cold spell now.
Here is a close up of the basil, and here is a photo of it on February 3rd. It's alive and growing, but ever so slowly.

The parsley looks good and has actually gotten some true leaves. It will be one of the first to go into the coldframe because it can stand some cold.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Finally Starting to Bloom

Two weeks ago one of my amaryllis plants was 9 inches tall. Today it was over 22 inches tall. You can see a small hint of color as the bud has finally started to open giving me an excuse touse the macro setting. A close up photo shows the bud just slightly open,
and a top view shows some stripes that I didn't see until I took the photo.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Central Heating is Back

Late Sunday night Sweetnicks hosts Weekend Dog Blogging so head on over later.

My dogs Cocoa and Kahlil get to be featured in Weekend Dog Blogging a lot so I thought I'd feature a guest dog. Pictured below is Roscoe. He is a coonhound. I didn't realize how big coonhounds were until Roscoe came to visit and I got to see him up close. I'm pretty sure if he stood up he'd be taller than I am. Roscoe is a nice boy and it's easy to tell what he was designed to do because he smells everything. I watched him run around our yard nose to the ground. He came to visit yesterday with his owner Mike. Roscoe spent the day playing out in the snow with my dog Kahlil and my son-in-law to be Barry's dog Bogie.

Here's s shot of Bogie and Kahlil. I tried to get a photo of the three of them, but there was a limit to just how long I was willing to stand out in the cold trying to take a picture of three moving dogs.
Mike and Barry didn't come to play like their dogs did though. They came to work. They worked all day and into the night past midnight. When they and the electrician who helped them were done, the broken old iron monster mentioned in my previous post was gone and a more colorful smaller new boiler, along with new gleaming copper pipes was in its place. Thanks Mike and Barry. It's so nice to have central heat after being without it since Monday. The temperature right now is 10F and it's predicted to go lower later. It's nice not to be throwing log after log into the fireplace tonight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


In the real world I write software. If my work is not backed up, it's possible to lose weeks of work in the blink of an eye. My employer creates backups to prevent this and I also have extra personal backups because, well, things happen at the worst possible moment and all systems can and will fail at some point. This I have learned the hard way.
Either because it's my nature or because I've been writing software too long, I like to have backups for lots of things. I have backup milk. It's milk in a box that can sit on a pantry shelf, but I keep it in the refrigerator so that it will be cold if I need it. If I run out of milk and a storm is coming, I can avoid the supermarket, because for some reason when there is going to be a storm, people swarm to the supermarket and it's really worth avoiding going anywhere near the place. I also have powered milk, but that's the backup of the backup and is for real emergencies like famine, flood, quarantine or needing milk to make brownies when the store is closed and there is no milk or backup milk.
I've been lucky enough to never loose power for much more than a day, but my flashlight and candles are ready. Because I heat the house with oil and my oil burner needs electricity to operate, I feel I need a backup source of heat. I have a fireplace for backup and wood to fuel it. I haven't lost power recently, but sadly the big iron monster furnace in the cellar is breathing it's last.
It's not surprising that the furnace, or as I recently learned to correctly call it boiler, is kaput. I think it's older than I am and I'm older than dirt. I'm told it originally burned coal and was retrofitted to burn oil. No one I know has burned coal around here for 50 years. The house was built in 1928 and the boiler could well be original. If it's lasted 77 years, I guess I can't ask for more and I know it's replacement will be more efficient. So while I'm waiting for a replacement. I using the backup furnace called a fireplace and I'm burning the backup fuel which I already had stored by the front door...just in case
If you think the fireplace isn't keeping me warm enough, don't worry. I also have a little electric heater, because....well, you never know when you'll need it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Food Obsession

Weekend Dog Bloggin hosted tonight by Alicat
Get well soon Sweetnicks

If you been reading this blog any length of time you probably know I have two dogs, Cocoa, a 12 year old German shorthaired pointer who is still full of spunk and 1 year old Kahlil who is still a pup, but shaping up well. Like people, every dog has their good and bad points. Cocoa's good points are that she is a sweet, dependable, upbeat dog. She's easy to have around and well behaved and trustworthy except in one area. Most any bad behavior on her part involves eating. I would say she is food obsessed and unfortunately anything she can swallow is considered food. Most dogs love food, but she is actually obsessed with it. Over the years I have paid some rather expensive vet bills that have been caused by her eating something that she shouldn't. When she was about a year old, unknown to us, she ate some kind rubber stopper she found outside somewhere. By the time the vet operated, she actually had ruptured her small intestine. He called me during the surgery, asking if he should even continue when he discovered this. He didn't think she would recover. I'm a softy, so I told him to give it a try. He reconfigured things and she actually pulled through. It wasn't cheap. I later learned that he slept in his office with her that night to tend to her through the night after the surgery. Another time she got into some Easter chocolate. Chocolate can poison a dog but, luckily it was not a large enough amount. Soap has disappeared from the edge of the bathtub. I've discovered holes in my jacket pockets that once held food. There was the time she ate a bottle of antibiotics. Child proof containers are not Cocoa proof! I've also discovered other strange things she's eaten, based on 'evidence' I've seen in the yard. Although she's mellowed a bit in her old age, she got herself in trouble again recently. When I was home with a bad cold, one of my daughters came by with a container of Chinese food for us to share. It was orange flavored chicken. It's a spicy dish with whole hot peppers in the sauce. I carefully pick these out, because the sauce is hot enough without soaking up more heat from the peppers sitting in it. We finished it off and somehow the 'empty' container got left on the counter. Later I found the container on the floor and threw it away. Then I promptly forgot about finding the empty container on the floor. A day later I noticed Cocoa had diarrhea. She got me up 4 times during the night to go out. The next day it continued. That night she woke me up many times during the night to go out. The third night, the diarrhea became bloody. I was now concerned. She's not a young dog. She'd been to the vet a week before for shots. Could she have picked up some illness. Of course it was Saturday night and blizzard had started which lasted all day Sunday. She seemed to be in reasonable good spirits was active and had an appetite. I was starting to get very sleep deprived. I started her on only chicken broth and waited for Monday morning to take her to the vet. The vet questioned me. Was there anything she could have gotten into. I didn't think so. She had no fever. The vet gave her subcutaneous fluids to prevent dehydration and told me to give no food at all that day and sent me home with pills to give her. The next day I was told to put her on small amounts of rice and chicken. It worked. She finally got better. The funny thing is that the minute I walked into the house from bringing her to the vet, I realized what had happened. It just came to me. She'd eaten about a dozen sauce covered chili peppers that were in the bottom of the 'empty' Chinese food container. So that came to $8.25 for the orange flavored chicken, $117.94 for the vet bill, 4 sleep deprived nights for me, and one very vary bad tummy ache for Cocoa who spent more than a few hours squatting outside in a blizzard. The funny thing is, I'm almost sure she'd do it again given the chance. On the other hand, I have been fully conditioned not to leave chili peppers around.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Manual Automatic Door?

My town hall is a beautiful old building. It was built in the 1880s, has a slate roof, leaded windows and many interesting brick details. As you can see, it even has a turret. It's a sturdy building with character both inside and outside and I could easily spend a whole afternoon photographing it.

A few nights ago I was at a meeting in the town hall. As I left the building through the side door that is shown in the fourth photo here, I saw the signs that are pictured. If you have trouble reading them, you can click on the photo to see a larger image. They read 'Manual/Automatic Door'. Is it me, or does this not really make sense? Aren't the words manual and automatic opposites? I know that the decades, I've spent programming computers have left me a little too literal minded sometime. But, really, it's confusing and seems funny and oxymoronic. I don't think it's trying to make a philosophical statement about the duality of the door. It's a pre-printed sticker so I have to think it's not unique. When I went back to take the photo, I did not actually study the door to determine how it might be automatic. I do remember that when I left the meeting, I pushed on the door and it worked as I expected a door to work. Perhaps there is a button somewhere that a handicapped person would use to open the door automatically. This was not explained in the sign. Thinking about it now, I realize I'll need to return and figure out exactly how it operates. I can say one thing. The sign is not intuitive, at least not to me. The part that makes the most sense is the brass plate that looks like it's been there many years. Without a single word, it's an icon that is intuitive and indicates I should push on it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reaping More Than I Sow

Here are some of my seedlings. They're just getting started. Most only still have their seed leaves. With some luck and the cooperation of nature, I'll be reaping a harvest like the picture I took below on July 28th of my harvest that day.
It's so nice to harvest fresh and tasty healthy vegetables. No store-bought tomato comes anywhere close in taste to those I grow myself. However that is not the only reason I garden. I garden because I enjoy it, and it gives me great pleasure. A little research tells me that gardening is the number one hobby in my country, America, so I guess I'm not alone. We are no longer an agrarian society, but it seems that millions of us as individuals can not leave our agrarian roots behind. I think that is a good thing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Little Lambs

Yesterday's post was a young lamb. Taken straight on it didn't really look very lamb-like. The lambs in both today's and yesterday's photo belong to my friend, Farmer Judy. These lambs are Merinos which are known for their fine soft wool.
Black wool is usually discarded by commercial buyers because it can't be dyed Good-quality dark fleece is highly esteemed, however, by handspinners and knitters, crafts people who can turn naturally shaded brown, gray, and black wool into beautiful creations. Nature has already colored it beautifully and the colors are permanent and won't run.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What is It?

It's more fun when you guess. Go ahead guess. What's to loose. Of course I'll post the answer tomorrow. Have fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Amaryllis Collection

I have a collection of amaryllis plants. Actually the word collection implies more thought than I've given the spent amaryllis bulbs that I've saved or been given over the years. Most people don't want to keep a bulb that will take a whole year to produce another flower and whose foliage is not very good looking. I think they are worth saving. I counted them today and discovered that I'm up to 9 pots of them. They usually bloom for me in late February or March. Last year I actually started writing the bloom date on the pot. I was curious if each one would be predictable. It's going to take a few years to complete that experiment. Last week the first of the amaryllis plants sent up a bud. At this stage they practically grow before your eyes. It's a great bulb to buy an impatient gardner. Every day you can see it grow some more. Below is the bud last Wednesday. I hadn't been turning it and it's growing toward the sun.
Just two days later on Friday, it's straightened out and a whole lot taller.
And today on Sunday, it's grown even taller. I measured it. It's 9 inches from the rim of the pot to the top of the bud.

Friday, February 10, 2006

How to Clone

Last summer I had a big bushy pot of geraniums out by my front door. I brought it inside last fall to winter over. My daughter's puppy Bogie, had a different idea. When I wasn't looking, he pulled some out and chewed the others off close to the base. There was almost nothing left. I moved the plant into a cool, bright room in the cellar hoping some of the chewed off stems would have enough left to regrow. After about 4 or 5 weeks the plant showed some regrowth. Below is a picture of it today, pathetic, but alive.
Because it's small and lopsided it will need more plants to fill in the bare spots. I wanted the same kind of geraniums that I had because a friend had grown them from seed and they are not available in local nurseries so I figured the answer was to clone it. Plants have been cloned in one way or another for thousands of years. If you take a cutting from a plant and grow it into a new plant (vegetative propagation), you are cloning the original plant because the new plant has the same genetic makeup as the donor plant. Many plants like strawberries clone themselves when they send out runners to form new plants. Geraniums are not to difficult to clone. First take some cuttings and remove any leaves near the bottom of the cutting. Then put a little rooting hormone on the bottom of the cutting and plant the cutting in some moist growing medium. Rooting hormone is found at most nurseries, but if you don't have any, most of your geranium cuttings may still root. If you don't have growing medium, just put the cuttings in a jar of water until you do. Some of the cuttings may wilt. Some will revive and do OK and some may not. After a few weeks they will start to form roots and soon you'll have a new plant.
I got 7 cuttings from the lopsided plant. Hopefully enough will live so that I can fill in the lopsided pot. If they all live I'll have a few extras for the garden. The clear container around the others has some water in it. This is to provide a little extra humidity to the cuttings.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fence Eating Trees

Norway maple starting to grow into fence

Fence running through crab apple tree

A tree may eventually engulf anything in it's way as it slowly grows. I've seen gravestones, fences, nails and clotheslines all 'eaten' by trees. For years I've used a small area north of my garage between the garage and a chainlink fence as a good out-of-the-way place to compost leaves and weeds. A few wild tree though have taken hold and probably managed to not get cleared out because they were very close to the fence. One of the trees is a crab apple tree that has managed to grow tall enough to get some sun over the garage. It has pretty flowers in spring so I've let it be. Over the years it's managed to grow right through the fence. Actually about 1/4 of the trunk is on the neighbors side of the fence.

Recently I was thinking about finding a place for a few dwarf fruit trees. In my post Thinking in Another Dimension - Espalier , I discussed how I'm planning on having a few fruit trees that I espalier to the front of my house. Another idea I'm thinking about is trying to graft some regular apple scions onto the crab apple. I figure I have nothing to loose and it would be a good tree on which to practice learning to graft. There is also a Norway maple growing through the same fence. All I can think of doing with that tree is adding it to the wood pile, unless someone has a better idea.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thinking in Another Dimension - Espalier

I’m trying to squeeze a few more dwarf fruit trees onto my small lot. I’ve been studying how many hours of sun is available in each potential spot and trying to figure out where I can put them where they will get enough sun and not block out the sun for something else, and where they will not get tripped over. Sometimes you can think about something too much and miss the obvious. North Country Maturing Gardener a fellow blogger helped me see the solution differently. A tree does not have to be three-dimensional. Actually it can be two-dimensional. Well not 2-dimensional in the true mathematical sense, but very flat, not roundish as we usually think of trees. Training trees in this manner is called espalier. It is practice of controlling the growth of the tree so that it grows relatively flat against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis. It’s great when space is limited and can often take advantage of a warmer microclimate close to a building or brick wall. I had not realized that I have an idea situation for this. The front of my house faces south, southeast. If I espalier trees to the front of my house, they will get almost full sun and will shade nothing except the house. The house is brick so I won’t have to worry about trying to paint the house around the tree. Now I just have to decide on the variety and size and pattern.

I actually found a photo I took in my archives of an example of espalier. It’s early in the season and I don’t think the tree on the left is fully leafed out so you can get a good look at the branches. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Lumembourg Garden, Paris France

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Paris Shop Windows

It looks like my cold is easing up a bit. The fever's gone, but I've still taken no new photos so I'll continue with the photos from my archives of Paris. The theme for today is sweets, and what better sweets than candy, jams and pastries. As always click on the photo to get a larger image

Jams in a shop window, Paris France

Chocolates in a shop window, Paris, France. Notice the chocolate artists palette and brush on the left and the chocolate boules on the right. Yumm

And best of all, the pastries we actually bought to serve guests that we were expecting. The tarts with strawberries, raspberries and custard are my favorites.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Spring Flowers

I'm home from work still sick today and still have no new photos, so here are a few spring flowers from the archives.

One of my favorite museums, the Rodin Museum in Paris, France. Taken from the garden in back

Allium, Belmont, MA USA

Tulip, Belmont, MA USA

Spring Blossoms, Notre Dame Church, Paris France

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Big Trucks

I've come down with a bad cold and have no new photos to post. So I went back though some of my old photos. Usually that means I end up in my folder of Paris pictures. Isn't it funny that you see new things whenever you look again at old photos. These two pictures were not taken on the same day so I don't think I'd looked at them together before. There is such a contrast between the relationship of the subjects in the first photo and that of the second photo. If your monitor is small you may have to click on the photos to see more detail.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

High Carb Cooking

This is the kind of supper I'm almost embarrassed to say I made. It was total comfort food, lots of carbs and little redeeming value, but oh so yummy. It's a nutella crepe.
At noon I'd eaten a delicious lunch of soup with homemade chicken stock, the kind that's all jellied when it's in the frig. The soup also had escarole and carrots. It tasted great, but, as I was to find out almost 6 hours later, it had little staying power. After lunch I left to do a list of errands. While doing them, I managed to get lost, get wet, get cold and finally get home tired and hungry with my throat feeling sore and my sinuses begging me to put hot towels on my face. I wanted to eat something easy, something warm and full of carbs. What I ended up making is crepes filled with nutella. This was not an upscale French restaurant kind of crepe. No, it was a large streets-of-Paris kind of crepe. Carbs filled with more carbs and folded over so that silverware in not required to eat it. Its something that's so easy to make with ingredients that are almost always on hand. It only takes a few minutes to make. In addition to my high carb nutella version, there is my daughter's favorite version, nutella and banana slices or the Americanized version, peanut butter and jelly crepes. There are many recipes for dinner or desert crepe, but her's my recipe for high carb crepes.

High Carb Crepes
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon melted butter or oil

1. Wisk together all ingredients until all lumps are removed.
2. In a 12 inch or larger oiled skillet pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup batter.
3. Move the pan around to spread out the batter so it's thin.
4. Cook on both sides until done.
5. Remove pancake from the pan and spread with nutella, jam or some other high carb spread. Be creative.
6. Fold in half. Fold again in quarters. Fold again in eights if possible.
7. Eat while it's still warm.
8. Repete steps 2-7 until you come to your senses or fall into a carb induced stupor.

makes 3 or 4 large crepes

Friday, February 03, 2006

Tiny Basil

It's probably too early to start seeds, but it's been such a warm winter that it always seems like spring is just around the corner and I had to start some seedlings. What you see here is basil finally starting to germinate after being planted on January 18th. Basil is usually slow to germinate for me. Maybe it's because I keep the house cool and it loves warm temperatures. The basil is necessary for my very favorite garden lunch. It's garden tomatoes, cut up with chopped basil, good olive oil and a little salt. I ate it constantly for lunch or with supper from mid July into October. I kept thinking I'd tire of it. I didn't. I refuse to buy tomatoes from the store. It's not worth it. I'll just wait until July. It's only less than half a year to go. :)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Not Just for Shoes

Like many others, I am on an eternal quest to be more organized. Recently I noticed a great way to organize all those hats and mittens. and other things that seems to accumulate in a post at Sugar Mountain Farm. There, Holly came up with an idea for a Hanging String Rack . I really liked the idea and want to make one for my home office to clip the bills that I need to pay and other papers that I must attend to instead of throwing them in a pile on my desk. If you are not the type of person who likes to make things, then I have another way to store hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, and even shoes . The canvas over-the-door shoe bags are great for this. I got the idea years ago when I saw a friend using these bags to store things other than shoes. They are also great for toys, underwear or socks in kids rooms or toiletries in a storage challanged bathroom. I googled "over the door shoe bags" and they seem to cost about $15.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Christmas Cactus Bloom

In my post yesterday, I showed a photo of some Christmas cactus buds that I took one week ago of a plant in my office. I hoped that today the plant would be in bloom. I brought my camera to work, and I was not disappointed. Not only had the buds opened, but it was a bright day with lots of sunlight streaming in the east window of our office. When I missed getting pictures of the flowers that bloomed on this plant in November, I thought I'd have to wait another year for the chance. This plant though, decided to give a second show today and I had my camera this time.

The petals backlit by the sun coming in the window