Friday, December 2, 2016

Greens Day

The gathering of holiday greens each year can be a bit of a hassle.  Despite promises to the contrary I have not yet planted any boxwood or holly here for this purpose.  And you cannot make much of an arrangement with all white pine or all spruce, both of which I can scrounge.  I even have some yellow juniper.  But no holly, and little variety.  So, this year, after ordering a box of fresh holly from an eBay seller, I began driving around with a pair of pruners and a plastic bag.

The gas station bordering my office parking lot has a couple of red pines behind it and they have very long course needles.  There are some small scotch pines in the ditch right around the corner here.  And then I was at Wegman's grocery looking through their cut greens when I met my friend Mickey who has a small greenhouse and produce stand.  I confessed to her that I was walking around town with pruning shears in my pocket and she said "oh just go out to the farm.  I cut a Colorado spruce tree for wreaths and I'm done with it.  The butt is laying on the lawn.  Take all you want."
So I ended up with three pine varieties and two spruce varieties, juniper and the mail-order American holly that is loaded with berries.

Over the past few weeks I had staged all the boxes and bowls, equipped them with the necessary oasis or foam blocks, and chosen which set of candles for each arrangement.  I'm telling you, they haven't come up with too many Christmas decorating inventions that can top remote control LED candles!  The funny part is that we discovered last year that every time Tim changes the TV channel, a set of candles turns on or off.

The fake rose hips above, I bought when the autumn florals were on clearance.  I prefer the more muted colors to the standard Christmas red or gold.  Not that I'm short on those.  I brought them in, stuck them in that cream can and I decided I liked it so much just the way it was that I was going to have to use something else for my centerpiece.  I did pull a few berry clumps off the wire stems but refuse to cut the bunches up as planned.  I'll have to remember to watch for more next year,

This year I have a thing for tin.  And I've always liked graters,  This little assortment is actually my favorite ensemble this year.  I have some LED tapers ordered that will fit inside them,  The base is the screen from a cheese mold.  The other part of the cheese mold is holding walnuts

Of course you don't have to use greens everywhere.  Sometimes pine cones do fine on their own,  These tin steamers dress up for the holidays every year.

This Jelke Oleomargarine crate from the 20s was here at this house when I moved in.  It usually stays in the garden shed doing dirty work, but this year I washed and oiled it and brought it in the house.

And of course, the Nabisco cracker box.  This box got fake spruce and juniper limbs that are so realistic I have to look twice to see which I'm using.  Assembling boxes of mixed greens is a surprising amount of work and I feel a bit mangled.  I am not done of course.  I have orange slices drying in the oven and cranberries to string.  And I do have a very nice assortment of greens left but I promised Tim that while I am not completely done decorating, I will refrain from jumping up in the middle of dinner to rearrange something.  For tonight anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Lettuce is Still Going

We have had several night in the mid-20s but the lettuce is still surviving.  
It is not growing anymore so I am cutting entire plants.

Sunday we had our last round with the oak leaves.  The ones in the lawn will blow away by spring but the ones caught up in the garden fence refuse to move along and must be forcibly removed

And we're clean as a whistle again

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Last Nice Morning?

This morning was sunny and warm 56 degrees F and knowing that by this evening it may be snowing, I asked the cat if she would like to go out and check the garden with me.  I had a few winterizing chores left to do.

Of course she did.  All she really does is go and sit for a few minutes facing each direction, to make sure the borders are secure, then she demands a treat from the garden shed and heads back to the house.

My lettuce has been doing well under it's frost cover.  We've had a dozen frosty mornings, but nothing approaching the limit of 26 degrees that the frost cover is rated for.  That is about to change.  The weather is supposed to turn today, rain by noon, snow in the evening, and then be rotten until Tuesday finishing up with a night forecast at 22 degrees which will put an end to gardening.

For those of you not familiar with "Lake Effect" snow, let me show you the "Snowvember" storm which hit Buffalo on Nov 18th, 2014.  Cold arctic air passes over warm Lake Erie, picks up a huge amount of moisture, and then immediately dumps it as snow over the cooler land mass.  You can have several feet of snow on one side of the street, and nothing on the other side.

This monster dumped up to five feet of snow over the course of two days.  Now we are lucky enough to live about 20 miles east of the "snow belt" so we may not get the 12 inches predicted tonight into tomorrow, but then again....

It may be days before it will be pleasant enough to go out to the garden again, and in the mean time, the lettuce will have to try to survive a killing frost.  So I've done my best to prepare it.
I picked a week's worth of lettuce taking the whole plants along the vulnerable edges, removed all the dead or damaged leaves, and watered it well.

Then I tucked it under a second layer of frost covering and wished it luck.  Everything I am over-wintering went into the cold frame along with full watering cans to keep things watered until the soil freezes solid..  There are vinca vine, mums, spearmint and cat nip along with some potted tulip bulbs and a tri-colored sweet potato vine.  The frost will kill the foliage by spring, but the roots will be fine.  All my large spike plants are in my office where my boss believes they are multiplying daily.  They may even be too big by spring!

Within the hour the bright sunrise was being over taken by black rain clouds from the west.  The wind is picking up and I've retreated to the house.  And that may be my last nice, warm gardening morning until spring.

UPDATE:  12:00pm


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Adventures in Antiquing

One year ago we had our Chimney Cupboard adventure and we are at it again (and yes we saw our first snowfall - again).  My kitchen collection has grown and I have more than 85 pieces of enamelware.  I've run out of places to display or store them and they are literally accumulating in drifts on shelves and in corners.  Tim has been wanting a double cupboard to go with my Hoosier and two chimney cupboards and he finally found what he was looking for.  

I had been casually watching Ebay for a double cupboard and there was a seller that was selling two double cupboards and a single chimney cupboard on separate listings.  They were in our state but well out of our territory.  Towards the end of the long listing, Tim called the guy up and offered him a bundled price for the whole set.  They had been listed for months and he had a lot of interest, but large items like that are really hard to ship and there was a lot of talk but no action.  Even for us they were a long day's drive on the other end of New York state (and back) but it was worth an antiquing adventure and anything can be done if you put your mind to it.

Things just fell into place too easily.  As luck would have it, the seller had a brother living in Rochester so he was willing to come more than half way and meet us for the exchange.  We have had several adventures like this, meeting sellers in WalMart parking lots (this time it was Lowes) and loading very heavy and cumbersome items into the truck.  Today we traveled up the stunningly beautiful Genesee River Valley leaf peeping and antiquing.  We hit a couple of stores, met up with our seller and had a pleasant lunch talking about collecting junk.

The three cabinets just fit (tightly) into the truck bed and were strapped down where they rode happily with nary a quiver or a flutter.  These cabinets are so light weight that if you can get a hold of one, a single person can easily move it around.

A portion of the enamelware over flow

We knew they were in good condition but the original plan was to paint them to match the other green cabinets.  When we got them home and unwrapped we realized that painting these would not necessarily be a crime against antiques, but certainly a colossal. waste. of. time.
They are not in pristine condition, but the cracks and chips are minor for 80+ year old cupboards and the Ivory color is very complimentary to the collection.  No need to be all matchy matchy.
These cabinets were made by the I-XL Furniture Company in Goshen Indiana sometime in the 1920s and sold by the Montgomery Ward catalog.  The original Montgomery Ward tags with the shipping address is still stuck securely to the back of each cabinet.

Last year's cabinet before and after
And you remember the kind of clean up we are used to dealing with.

Of course there is absolutely no room on the main floor of our tiny house for another stick of furniture.  Until we get the new garage built and my hobby room ready (and the collection out of the dining room, off the porch and up from the basement), these cabinets will have to live down in the basement and make themselves useful.  Now I can store all my collecting overflow neatly inside and free up a whole bunch of shelves for other stuff.  Like canning jars.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Milquetoast Boys

My grandmother told me her mother always warned her "beware those milquetoast boys". My husband makes poached eggs in milk and then serves me the eggs over toast and himself the leftover milk over a stack of toast. It was several years before it dawned on me that I had gone and married myself a "milk toast boy".  

But its a nice warm breakfast for a cool autumn day when the best thing to do is to stay inside and cook something.  I have a spicy scented candle burning and I'm sipping apple cider while I give the house a good deep cleaning right to the walls in preparation for holiday decorating.  Once I mark that off my list I am free to putter along with my creative projects as the mood strikes me knowing I can put them in place without discovering a layer of crud on a shelf.

Autumn is in full swing here.  We are enjoying a few days of steady moderate rain which we have not had in months.  We've had over cast days and the occasional deluge, but no quiet rainy days to rest inside the house.  We have been at peak color with absolutely beautiful clear days but the rain is finally bringing the leaves down in droves.  

Every 5 days or so we do a leaf cleanup which involves blowing leaves with the big gas powered leaf blower, and then mulching them into the lawn with the lawn mower.  We blow them out of corners, and out from under shrubs and out of the ground cover (as best we can) so that in the spring when we mulch all the landscape beds we don't have bushels of sodden, moldy leaves to deal with.   It takes one person four hours, or two people less than two hours.

And the next day it looks like this.

But I have to admit it is a little bit fun.  Except for the garden because you have to blow them out of the gate, and the gate is not on a corner.  Tim has even considered adding a leaf exit door to a corner panel for just this purpose.  Alternatively, you can blow all the leaves in a corner and then change to the leave sucker/chopper and vacuum them all up and make chopped leaf mulch out of them.  If you coordinate your efforts between the blower and the mower, you can move a lot of leaves in a big hurry.

Chopped leaf mulch is a wonderful thing to put onto your beds in the fall. Just remember to follow up with a light layer of compost so your leaves don't blow away.  In the spring, they leaves will be almost completely broken down and you will find scores of plump, happy earthworms in your garden.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Daffodil Day

Today I planted 150 bulbs in about 40 holes.  With fertilizer.
We did 120 of Breck's early to mid-season mix  and 30 of the late mix.  The bulbs were big and beautiful this year and there were a lot of them!  I sorted them out on the kitchen counter and it looked like a big job.  Two hours later when I still had bulbs in my pail, I knew I was right.  It WAS a big job,

Each hole got three to five bulbs and there were a few singles tucked here and there.  You know we have a neighbor who is an engineer - once he was planting a whole bed full of tulip bulbs and he asked me:  "how do you keep track of where you planted the last bulb?"  Well, there are two approaches to that problem.  Either you can set out all your bulbs where you want them and then dig a hole under each one or:  duhn duhn duhhhnnn.... wait to cover them up............  

Before I went out I browsed through a couple years of spring photos familiarizing myself with  the location of bulbs already planted, which areas needed a better balance of color, and which areas only had early of late color.
And while I was perusing the photos I kept noticing photos of...

Beautiful fluffy mulch and sharp edges!

Planting beds full of Spring promise.


Fresh veggies.

Today was a beautiful day but everything is looking like old age.  Mulch is thread bare and dried out.  Dried leaves are strewn everywhere.  What foliage is left uncut is a little brown and frost burnt.  It would be wonderful to be in March with a whole planting season ahead.

I have finished all my fall potting.  My office window is full of huge, hip high spikes from the combination pots.  The cold frame is full of vinca vine.  We have such a bad deer problem here that the only way to enjoy tulips is to pot them in containers and keep them out of harms way.  Last year I planted them in big planters in the vegetable garden but I wasn't ready to commit to that again this year so I potted up a tray full of gallon pots which are in the garden now but will be taken in either to the chicken coop or the cold frame to keep them from freezing too solid,

Saturday, October 8, 2016


Summer is over and the time has come.  
Last weekend we pulled and cut and put away and buttoned up.
Now comes a lot of leaf blowing,

There were plenty of green tomatoes

and jalapenos for stuffing and chopping

I still have a batch of bush beans going strong.
Bush beans will keep going until frost takes them out.

This morning I cut a week's worth of lettuce before the rain came.
This summer I bought this lettuce keeper which I really like. 
It's nice to have a dedicated container that has a set place in the fridge so
I don't have to free up the right container or use plastic bags.

And this is what is left to grow on.
The romaine in particular is big and beautiful.

Here are the last of the zucchini.  There is one plant left and it
is no longer putting out male flowers so this is it.

The strawberries rebounded from their severe hair cut.

I am almost half way through unplanting my combination pots saving the spikes and vines for next year.  These are going in the warm south facing window wall at my office and the vinca vines do fine in the cold frame.

We are enjoying the fall mums.  We have a pair of these at the doorway and I like the tri-color so well I'm going to try to winter them over for next year.  They are hardy so they should be OK in the cold frame too. 

And for next weekend's project - a hundred and fifty daffodil bulbs to plant.