Did some weeding/mulching. Went to the Alumni parade in Hartford. Made a day-trip to Maine on Sunday for a wedding. Looking forward to an extra-long 4th of July weekend holiday!
Playing catch-up on a mystery cross-stitching project:
The Tunbridge Fair is only a couple months away and I need to start thinking about what I'd like to enter. I've been stash-diving in the hopes that I can build up some knitting momentum to start making some nice things.
A few flowers on my Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart:
I planted this last fall and was happy that it bloomed at all.
Currently I'm dealing with a beetle problem- they look like japanese beetles but they look more gold to me. They're eating leaves on my new ornamental trees and look to be damaging a few shrubs. I have another shrub that is turning black- I have no idea why. Some rust is popping up on coneflower leaves. Aphids are sucking a lot of young plants dry. I'm spraying bug killer here and there. I need to get a gardener with a greener thumb than mine to come up and diagnose all the problems. Before everything dies.
We have a couple Ninebark shrubs that were planted when we first moved into the house a few years ago. They weren't doing too well so last year I gave them a little extra fertilizer. This year I see buds! I had no idea this shrub flowered!
The flower heads close-up:
I'm going to take some cutting and try to propagate!
This past Tuesday I ran across a post somewhere that Martha Stewart was coming to King Arthur Flour in Norwich on Wednesday. I checked the course calendar and her class was simply titled "Cooking with Martha." I mean, it's Martha Stewart. The class should have been in bold, flashing, sparklee letters. It was sold out (of course) but I signed up for the waiting list. I heard back from KAF that afternoon that there was a spot- would I like it.
It was a 2 hour demonstration, rather than a cooking class, to accommodate more people. I arrived a little early and got a sweet seat in the 2nd row. Martha came in, foxy as ever:
She made a stollen, a flatbread and breakfast cookies. She told many stories and passed on information and helpful hints that one can only accrue over a lifetime of trial and error. Best of all, she was funny and quite frugal with her cooking techniques- she would scrape out every last bit from a mixing bowl or scrape off every last bit of dough from a mixing blade.
We tried everything at the end of the demo. I'll try making the flatbread at home next week but save the stollen for Christmas. I think the demo was a great success and I hope KAF brings her back again.
If there's anything my dad wants, it's eggrolls. So for Father's Day, the old man gets eggrolls. Because I'm a "wait until the last minute" type of person, I went shopping for the ingredients Saturday night. The grocery store had no large eggroll wrappers so I heaved a big sigh and got the small round ones, resigned to the fact that instead of making 30 large eggrolls, I'd have the back-breaking / finger-cramping work of making 300 smaller dumplings.
The filling had to be chopped finer than usual because they were going to be in such smaller packages. My usual eggroll filling consists of:
- 1lb cooked ground pork
- 1/2 block firm tofu
- sauteed spinach
- 1/2 head cabbage
- shredded carrots
- bean sprouts
- soy sauce
All mixed together by hand. It's so good to eat by the spoonful as you're making all the dumplings.
Made this for a Baking Bootcamp challenge that Joy the Baker and King Arthur Flour are running.
Seriously, it's one of the best things I've ever made. The berries and cinnamon are soooo good together. I considered only using one or two berries, but all three are perfect together. And it's pretty!
Looking forward to the next three challenges!
I have to get some bird books and start practicing backyard ornithology. We have so many birds. I was considering making some bluebird houses, to attract bluebirds. The bluebird population in America is declining due to House Sparrows (non-native and invasive; also murderous). This isn't a dire situation in Vermont (yet) because we have a lot of open land cultivated for agriculture, which they like. At our house, we have a lot of land and Dollar regularly mows a huge area of it. I was walking around the front yard with a friend, discussing building houses/attracting bluebirds, when a bluebird flew by right in front of our faces. So... nevermind. I'd still like to build houses but apparently there's no rush.
We have a Phoebe that built a nest under our deck as soon as we moved in and has used it to brood every year.
Mr. and Mrs. Hummingbird use the feeder all the time.
A goldfinch has been trying to get into the house for the past two mornings. It tap-tap-taps on the kitchen window. I wave my hands inside, saying, "Stop! You're going to hurt yourself!" Then it sits on the bird feeder bar:
Sometimes even when Mr. Hummingbird stops by for a drink:
I saw this dude strolling through the backyard:
When we were putting in the garden a couple weeks ago we saw a couple turkeys flying! I think they were gliding by from a higher elevation but it was crazy to see their huge wingspan.
We have a couple hawks that I've consistently seen since this spring. Mostly they slowly circle overhead, in a spiral manner. Occasionally I see a large shadow move across the ground and when I look up, I see a hawk flying kind of low. I don't really know how to identify it but based on it's shape/color, my guess is Red-Shouldered Hawk. Which would be pretty cool, since I don't think there are that many around.
And then this morning, I had to be a little late to work because this was at the base of our our driveway:
Terrible picture, I know, but I think it's a ruffed grouse. She was squatting down and I couldn't pass. I got out of the car. As soon as I did that, she stood up and a dozen chicks scattered out from underneath. It was akin to when you pick up a rock and bugs scatter in every direction. These tiny, yellow chicks went running into the tall grass on either side of the road. The female ran into the trees. I got back into my car and tried to crawl past. The female came running out of the woods and charged my car like, "COME AT ME, BRO! I'M NOT SCARED OF YOU!" I stopped and turned off the car.
Here's a video of her before she went back into the woods and called all her chicks. You can see one in the video but eventually they all came out and went to her call.
Dollar was staying home for the day and I heard something behind me at this point, back up at the house. I turned around and saw him on the porch, looking like "What are you doing down there?" I walked back up to tell him and by the time I made it back to the car (and inspected the tall grass around the dirt road), I assumed all the chicks were reunited with their mother. Whew.
I definitely need to get some birds books.
I'm growing some dank catnip out back (something keeps eating all the catnip I try to grow in the front yard) and brought in a few leaves for the cats yesterday. Murderface can't handle it:
He had to sleep it off in an Alchemist box.
In unrelated news, two local gamers won Tabletop Deathmatch, a boardgame design contest! It's so awesome and they so deserve it. The game is called Penny Press. They started a Kickstarter page to reach goals for super-nice components, extras and faster printing. Check out the video and consider backing the project if you'd like a copy!
I've never cooked nor eaten quail before but picked up a package of six frozen birds at Hmart. We were having some people over for dinner, so I marinated and set them up to roast:
They were tasty little dark meat birds but kind of a hassle to eat for not much meat. There's no delicate way to eat these- you've got to use your fingers.
The real hit of the evening were these biscuits:
The recipe is Breakfast Biscuits from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I really only use two cookbooks in my kitchen - the Baker's Companion for anything baked and The Joy of Cooking for everything else. These biscuits are brought together quickly then the dough rests for an hour in the freezer. I used a metal dough scraper to cut nice, sharp squares before baking.
I made the mistake of taking these out of the oven and then setting them to cool in front of guys. Hands started grabbing right away so I got small plates, butter and knives. So much for waiting to have them with dinner. I was lucky to get a couple for myself.
This past Friday night we set off a few small fireworks. Okay, it was more than a few and they were kind of large. We had friends over who had a cache of fireworks but nowhere to ignite them all. Since we have an in-progress firepit and big, wide-open back yard we had a little 4th of July preview.
Then things got bigger and bigger:
Time to get more fireworks.
If there was only one food I could eat for the rest of life, it would be jjigae (Korean stew). There are different kinds and a near infinite way you can customize them, but my favorite is kimchi jjigae. You need old, "sour" kimchi that's gone a bit soft and extra ferment-y. Some basic ingredients:
Brown beech mushrooms, tofu (I use Vermont Soy, which makes the best tofu), beef stock granules, gochujang, mature kimchi, scallions. Missing from this picture are a couple strips of pork belly (which were already sizzling away in the pot) and flat, oval rice cakes.
My method is probably not super-authentic but the result is good. I brown the pork belly, add a generous tablespoon on gochujang, dump in the kimchi and scrape up the bottom of the pot, add beef stock until the kimchi is barely covered, add the tofu slices and rice cakes, boil, add the mushrooms, boil more, add the scallions at the end. Serve with rice on the side.
If you like kimchi, you should definitely order this the next time you're at a Korean restaurant. To make it at home, you do need some special ingredients that you can only get at a Korean food store but it's so nice to be able to make this whenever you have old kimchi.
P.S. This will make your whole house smell like kimchi stew. Dollar and the cats run for the hills when I make this at home.
I've started going back to gaming on Wednesday nights- this is a great way to try new games before I make up my mind whether or not to buy. Last night we played Myrmes, a game of ants. Fairly complex to remember all the rules at the start but once things got going, it was a fun little game!
You develop your own ant colony and then send them up to the surface to collect resources and leave pheromone trails. The ant pieces are pretty cute:
I should also mention that the shop I play at is new: Black Moon Games in Lebanon, NH. It is directly under the Lebanon Village Marketplace next to the firestation around the green. Open gaming is every Wednesday night. There are lots of tables and space for anyone to come and join in. So come join in!
All the seedlings I planted are taking way too long to grow. I felt the need for new plants and picked up some perennials and annuals.
I bought 4 small ajuga plants at a local plant sale, which are already blooming:
Very pretty. I'm not sure I've seen ajuga before but I hope it does well and spreads.
I picked up two packs of dwarf asiatic lilies- 6 orange and 6 red. They seem to be doing well now- I hope they come back every year:
I'd still like to find some tall asiatic lilies to add to part-shade areas.
Over in the succulent bed, I added a white variety:
The tag said Echeveria 'Lola'. I asked and was told at the nursery that this will come back every year. When I got home and googled the variety, it's only hardy to a Zone 9. So, yeah, we'll see. I'm not going to dig this up and bring it in every winter. I'm just going to enjoy it this year and if it comes back, awesome. If not, oh well. I know that I won't be visiting this nursery again though. I bought several things and when the total came, I nearly barfed. Way over-priced when I can get perennials for free for much, much cheaper from local plant sales.
Some very small hens (only about the size of a quarter) laid teeny, tiny little chicks:
I love that these spread so prolifically. I've start giving these away once they fill up their current location.
And over in a small dappled-shade area, I planted two packs of coleus mixes- 12 different plants! I'm excited to see how this area looks as they grow.
I usually take the week of Memorial Day off to do all my gardening. This year I actually put in a vegetable garden:
Well, I had help. Someone came to rototill the area. We removed virtually all of the sod. Installed the fence. I still have to attach the gate. The soil here is really good- I raked it into long beds and planted onions (2 varieties), peppers (5 different plants), gourds (3 varieties), cucumbers, tomatoes. I have herbs that I've planted into a bed closer to the house for easier access.
I'm a littler nervous about this location since it's RIGHT next to some apple trees that deer frequent. But my great-grandmother and grandparents always had vegetable gardens in this location- and with no fence to boot. So we'll see.
Speaking of deer, I planted their favorite food in a shade bed behind the house:
I ordered 6 different hosta varieties from Green Mountain Hosta Nursery, 3 large and 3 medium sized plants. I planted them all along the back of the house and they look so nice! I also got some european ginger for the deep shade areas around the deck.
Around the vegetable garden, I need to tidy up the area around the outside of the fence and plant sunflowers along back, wildflowers on two sides and zinnias along the front. I need to do this soon since all these things are seeds and I want to get them into the ground asap.