Thursday, July 30, 2009

Food for the Brain

I've been concentrating lately on posts about food, and it occured to me that we sound like we just eat all the time. Not true. We have lots of other interests too, that's just our most photographable fun thing, this time of year.

This week we got a box full of food for the brain! I have a very kind friend who lives in a Chicago area neighborhood, very urban and busy place, who is a voracious reader. She chooses great books and, although she works way too many hours, still finds time to read 3 or 4 books at a time. A far more dedicated exerciser than I am, she has a book rack on her exercise bike and reads while she gets healthy.

A couple of times a year, she boxes up the ones she's done with and mails them to me. What a joy! We're constant readers here too, and the weekly library trip for books and DVD's is a requirement, but having this box full of almost new books arrive just for us to keep is so exciting! I always open it with a feeling like Christmas morning, because I never know what's inside, and where her roving mind is going to take us now.

I should have taken a picture of the box, showing how carefully she packs this box of goodies to send, but was way too excited to stop at that point. So here's a picture of the latest delivery, ready for us to explore over the weeks ahead. I've already read "Water For Elephants", gobbled it up from one evening to the next morning without stopping other than a few hours to sleep. (Hooray for retirement that lets me just drop everything and do that.) That book was great, and now we've found a whole new author to look up and see what other terrific books Sara Gruen has written.

Thanks Janet, for this terrific gift you've given us. We owe you some blueberries in return. We'll try to make a trip in to deliver them.....if they ever get ripe in this crazy weather.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden Bounty-AKA-The Lucky Cook!

It's such a joy to fix dinner these days. First I take the colander and sharp knife out to the garden to see what's ready for us to graze on, then take stock of what we need to go with it, and somehow combine it with a minimum of cooking, and POOF! Magic happens!
The pictures show one night's typical bounty, mixed salad greens, fresh herbs, (basil, parsley, lemon balm and thyme), tiny carrots, green onions and pea pods. All I had to do was add some mushrooms, pasta and a bottle of wine, and don't forget the garlic, there's dinner. AND we had wild black raspberries to go over our vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Today I picked pea pods and green beans to put into the freezer for winter and kept some of those wonderful huge tender romano beans to cook up with a bit of onions and potatoes for dinner.
Things coming on for meals really soon are tomatoes, (not quite ready, but fried and green, soon) Florence Fennel bulbs, potatoes almost ready to dig in the raised beds, lots of carrots, kale, collards, squash, cucumbers, and the melons aren't far behind. And sweet corn! We have 6 ears with silks hanging down. Won't be long now. What a wonderful time of year to be a veggie-saurus.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Our Own 'Shrooms!

Oh, Boy! We do love mushrooms-almost any kind of delicious edible mushrooms, and we're so lucky that we've been able to get them to grow right here on our own little three acres!
We brought home some cauliflower mushrooms that we found elsewhere a few years ago and poured the cleaning water and scraps at the foot of this old elm stump. Last summer Jim spotted the cauliflowers growing here in the ivy, but only after it was too old to eat. This summer he's been watching for them to bloom-and yesterday was the day! Anna helped him pull back the ivy so they could harvest about three pounds of mushroom from this patch. After cleaning, there was enough to fill the dehydrator for mushroom soups and sauces this winter, chop some fine for a pasta sauce with fresh herbs and garlic last night, and enough for at least two more meals in the refrigerator. Good thing it lasts for a while. What a delicious treat!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Greenhouse Progress

It's coming along. There are so many questions you have to settle when working on a project like this, that sometimes things just seem to stop, while we talk it over and research and come up with just the right options.

We finally figured out how to ventilate this greenhouse of ours. The problem is that we're going to try to use it in so many different ways. Spring and Fall, we want to use it to extend the growing season outside, start plants for the summer garden, and grow some late fall salads and things we won't be able to grow outside. During the colder months, we want to let the sun stream in, build up the heat in that space, store it in big water containers, and vent it into the house to heat it. During that time, it'll be too hot in the greenhouse for plants, so we'll have to suspend the growing part.

So whatever we do in the way of ventilation has to accomodate both uses for the space. We finally found a terrific 12" square exhaust fan that can be equipped with a temperature sensor switch, so when we're growing plants, we can vent the excess heat outdoors. When we are using it for heat storage, we can simply turn it off to let the heat build up. Then we found a nice solid core wooden door that Jim could shorten and fit in place. Since it's such a short opening, it had to be just the right kind of door.

Then for just pleasant fresh air, I found a tiny double glazed window with a screen at a garage sale that will simply open and close. We hope to put a small table and chairs in the greenhouse to enjoy a relaxing place in the sun, too. We sure do plan to get a lot of use out of this little space. The pictures show, the used bricks stacked up in front of the greenhouse, ready to pave the floor and store the heat from the sun when in place. Jim's putting the final touches on installing the tiny window, and you can see the door in place in the other end. The roof is covered, insulated and even reflective foil in place.

Next to come are the end walls, then the floor has to be dug up to add the river stone and bricks, then the polycarbonate for the clear front. Whew! How long do we have until Fall?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gaining More Sunlight

We took down a big tree yesterday. Now this isn't something we do a lot, but 40 years ago, there were way too many trees planted too close together and sometimes, you just have to open up a space. There was one tree that was so crowded it was leaning way off to the side to reach for some sunlight, and squashing the trees next to it. It was becoming a jungle out there!

So after discussing it thoroughly, Jim got out the trusty chain saw and down it came-just as he predicted, safely and without damaging anything but two small branches in the arborvitae.

Together we stacked the small branches for burning and then stood back to admire the sunlight streaming through that open space we'd made. We love the trees here, but sometimes they're just too thick. We might even get some grass to grow back there now, it could happen!

WE counted the rings on the cut surface and it looks like it was planted about 40 years ago, shortly before we bought the place and moved in. Notice the two lines of sap running down the trunk? Amazing to see how quickly that accumulated.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cool Evening Fire

It was cool the other night, and a fire after dinner felt good. It was so pretty, and as we sat with our feet, in warm sox, propped up and we sipped our after dinner wine and nibbled our cheese, we talked about how good our lifes are these days. I thought how it was a shame that we couldn't see this beauty any other day.

Here's my best effort, several pictures of the fire morphed into an active gif. didn't work. But it is a pretty picture of a fire, isn't it?