Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Photo Shoot

  Here's my contribution to the Saturday Photo Party, a weekly meme hosted by Alyce at :At Home With Books   Check it out!

      I took a series of photos of this older woman wading in the shallows along the rocky coast of Massachusetts. The hat, the long loose skirt, her stance, the sparkling water and the rocks captured my imagination.  It was a portrait waiting to be painted!

       After the vacation was over, I  played with the  photo  in my editing program, something I've never done before.

      This is the result:


Have you ever "photoshopped"  a picture in this way?  Did you like the results?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Like It Hot!

 Hot winds of July fit
 like a wet blanket
on a humid night.

Garden paths lit
with roman candles,
flame-colored flowers.

       It's time to slow the pace, to think about  a summer respite, perhaps a vacation.

       But first a last look at the lovely redheads and hotter than hot pinks and golden girls of July.  Some will bloom through August,  some will fade before mid-summer.

      July and August are all about attracting as many butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to our garden as we can.

      Having them as guests feels like a gift,  of color,  of sweet fragrance,  of the beauty of nature, and especially  a gift of the miracle of life in all of its diversity.

Josie's buttery yellow day lilies

First of at least two oregano crops

Pretty annuals hug the ground

Wild bee balm, loved by bees,  butterflies and hummingbirds

Wild marshmallow - Roots can be dug, dried and used to make tea

Trumpet Vine- a hummingbird invitation

Butterfly Bush  shelters the ever faithful Cinco de Mayo roses

A tiny bouquet of roses perfumes the whole house!

Phlox heat up a sunny corner of the perennial bed

Virginia's day lilies bloom from July 15 to mid September 

Garlic chives getting ready to bloom

Lobelia, another hummingbird magnet

Black-eyed Susans

This daylily gets redder every year.  It used to be a rust color.

Bumble bee and cone flowers still going strong!

Softer  colors in the shady garden

Pappa's helper loves to spray the garden!

July!  Yes! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Fond Memory of Capriland's

Capriland's Herb Farm

         My long  love affair with herbs and herb gardening began back in the 70's.  I was newly married and living in Connecticut.  A friend invited me to tour Capriland's, an herb farm not too far from my home at that time.  I was immediately interested since I loved gardening and besides the tour included an herbal lunch!

        I will never forget the experience of wandering through the gardens that sunny, humid day in midsummer.  It was like coming home and yet I had never been there.  

Bee Balm- perfect for Earl Grey Tea
      As we walked, the owner of the garden, an older woman named Adelma Simmons, introduced us to each plant by breaking off a piece of the plant, bruising it, and passing it around for us to experience the aroma. 

     Some scents were familiar to me, of course, but many were not.  Never before had I inhaled so many delightful fragrances.  Most of my experience with herbs up until that day had been opening a jar of dried oregano.  What a wondrous world was revealed to me when I smelled my first fresh herb! 
Apple-scented Chamomile  
      Our tour guide, a trailblazing herbalist who wrote many books on herb gardening, well before herbs became popular,  acquainted us with each plant and it’s usefulness, both in cooking and as medicine. 

    Once I heard about the medicinal qualities of these amazing plants, I was off and running.  I had learned in pharmacology that many drugs, like aspirin and digitalis, were originally made from plants,  but  it never occurred to me that some plants could be used by anyone to heal everyday aches and pains. 

         After returning home from the farm, I immediately started a few basil plants on my tiny patio outside the apartment and set out to learn as much as I could about herb gardening.   Although it would be a few years before I could plant a garden in my own yard, I did the best I could with pots outside my kitchen door. 

         I’ve planted several herb gardens in the  years since I visited that farm. My plants grow in Massachusetts, Brooklyn,  San Franscisco and several places on Long Island.

        The garden I tend now comes closest to my memory of Capriland’s.  I love to stroll about, pinching off a bit of hyssop or rosemary and inhaling the scent, bees and butterflies buzzing and fluttering along with me.  I stop near the basil patch to catch a breath of heaven and dream of the pesto I’ll make in a few weeks.  

Flowering Fennel
    I always say hello to my stately bronze fennel and lean in for a whiff.  I’ll harvest the seeds in September and use them to make fennel tea for my mother when she complains of “gas.”  I catch the scent of thyme as I step along the path.  It reminds me of the blessed relief I get from sinus pain during the winter by making an inhalation of thyme.  
Drying Lavender for the winter

    When I have a headache, I  find the lavender, break off a few sprigs and inhale deeply.  Soon the headache eases and I can think again.   Of course, I could take two aspirin , but I’d rather go for a walk in my garden and use the incomparable scent of lavender for relief.  It conjures up Capriland’s and Adelma Simmons who turned me on to herbs!  

   Adelma Simmons'  many books are still in print.  My favorite is Herb Gardens of Delight.  It describes eight different herb gardens and what to plant in each.  It includes fragrance, culinary, dye,  medicinal, and four other gardens. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Photo Shoot

Creamy Shasta Daisy  bathing in the late day light.

Posted at the Saturday Snapshot  party at :  At Home With Books  Check it out!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Did Someone Say Zucchini?

    Here comes the zucchini!  Last week I received 5 good sized zucchini squashes in my Golden Earthworm CSA box and two days later, my generous neighbor left 4 equally healthy looking zucchinis on my stoop.

It's an embarrassment of green squash. A plethora of zucca.  The quintessential mid-summer glut. And I just picked up this  week's share  a few minutes ago.  Guess what?  More zucchini!

But what is the point of all these veggies, if not to eat them when they are just off the vine. So I set out to find ways to slip those little green  devils into my recipes.

Here are three fast and easy ways to use zucchini.  As the summer wears on I plan to hunt up an old pickle recipe that is buried in my recipe box.  As I recall, it was easy and worked for zucchini and cukes.  For now, this is what we are eating:

Greek Potato Zucchini Bake

This recipe is strictly seat-of-the -pants peasant food.  I made it up as I went along.  I scrubbed and sliced 2 good sized potatoes , 2 zucchini  and  an onion. Doused them with olive oil then layered them in my favorite souffle pan. Potatoes, squash,  onions.  Sprinkle with fresh basil, hot pepper flakes, and lots of  feta cheese.   Then do it again.  Top with  chopped tomato, lots of fresh basil, and kalamata olives, pitted.
Bake in the oven on 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Cool slightly and serve in wedges.  (We ate the leftovers cold for breakfast the next day.)

Add a salad and call it dinner!

Italian Style Zucchini Side Dish

Ingredients :
     Olive oil
                                 Salt and pepper to taste
                                 Romano Cheese, grated

Toss all ingredients into the foil, seal and put on the grill for about 15 minutes.

Put this on the grill with  chicken and baked potatoes - no pots to clean!

Pasta With Green Squash, White Beans and Fried Sage

Quickly saute the sliced zucchini with lots of garlic, onions and hot pepper flakes to taste in olive oil.  Add a can of white or cannellini beans and cook for another minute.  Go out to the garden and pick about 20 large sage leaves or buy them fresh in the market.  (Do not use dried)  
Cook pasta al dente and add it to the pan with the zucchini. Add some white wine. Mix well and reheat.  
Fry the sage leaves in a separate pan in olive oil until crispy.  Crumble over the pasta.
Frying the  sage gives  a very different flavor to this dish, not at all like the familiar Thanksgiving stuffing flavor. It can also be used to garnish soups and just about anything else.   Try it!   

We had lots of leftovers for a lunch the next day

Garden Sage

Experiment with new ways to use up all that zucchini!  Do you have a  favorite recipe for this ubiquitous summer veggie?  If so, I invite you to share it in the comments section  below.  Thank you!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Weekend!

   We were going to run away for the weekend but didn't get it together in time so we found ways to have a restful weekend right in the neighborhood.

  On Saturday, while the Admiral slept in, I got up with the birds and took a four mile walk.  What a great way to start a summer day.  Absolutely no one is up at 6 AM on a Saturday and the streets were deserted.  I did a nice long loop and when I got home, there was a lovely cup of tea waiting for me on the new porch.

     We just added this room  to our home and this is our first summer enjoying it.  It overlooks the garden and catches all the breezes.  We feel like we are blessed to have breakfast with God's blue jays and orioles every morning.

  After breakfast, the Admiral decided to take it easy, something he seldom does, so he put his feet up and had a delicious newspaper/book fest.  

   I opted for an active day and I started by weeding for two hours.  Along the way, I harvested some basil for our dinner salad.  I like to keep picking the tops off the basil all summer so it doesn't bloom.  This forces the plants to grow more leaves and then in August or early September, I have enough to make large batches of pesto for freezing.  

  While I was weeding, harvesting and clipping things that were overstepping their bounds, I happened upon a large stash of peppermint which had run amok while I wasn't looking.  I cut a massive amount of it and took a break to pull off the brown leaves.  I washed it and put it in the 'drying room.'

   Next, I picked some flowers for my bouquet and turned this:

                  Into this:

  We decided to plan a hike for early Sunday so we showered and skipped off to church on Saturday evening.  Then a simple easy dinner on the porch, again serenaded by our bird friends.

  Sunday morning, we surprised ourselves by getting up early!  After blueberry pancakes for the Admiral and cereal and fruit for me, we packed some water, a few granola bars, and my camera and drove  to one of our favorite hiking spots in Sunken Meadow State Park.  
  We hiked for a few hours, through the woods and along the wetlands path(which is only a path when the tide is out!) As usual, I wandered about like a drunken butterfly, looking for (and finding)  so many creatures and plants  to be intrigued by and , if I was lucky, to photograph.  Good thing I have the Admiral to be on the lookout for lions and tigers and bears and high tide!  

 The wild honeysuckle grows willy-nilly along the edge of the woods, attracting butterflies of all colors.  This one was resting and I was able to take it's picture.

My husband, who often spots things I would otherwise miss, pointed out this butterfly which I was able to grab a photo of, because it was resting for several minutes.  This Angelwing is often hard to spot.  With its wings closed, it looks just like a dead leaf.  

This army of sand crabs was playing near the water's edge.  There must have been thousands of them popping in and out of their little holes all along the beach.  I wish The Boy had been with us.  He would have loved catching them.

I was delighted to spy a large group of swallows resting on some dead branches near the water.  I've seen swallows in flight for years since we are surrounded by wetlands and they are arial acrobats when it comes to  chasing flying insects. This was the first opportunity I had to get some photos.  I believe they are barn swallows.

The Rosa Rugosas grow wild all along our shoreline. Their bright pink flowers give way to flashy orange hips.  I enjoy using the hips in some of my tea recipes but don't always have an opportunity to harvest them in the wild.  The best hips are the ones that undergo a frost, so picking them requires a visit to the shore in the fall.

Just before we left the park, we found a bench facing the wetland and these two Snowy Egrets arrived to go fishing among the rocks along the shore. The adult  moved in tandem with the  juvenile, never moving more than six feet from her off-spring.  Nice finish to a hike!

   Home again, in time for a late afternoon date with the New York Times and a short nap on the porch.

Today's Thought - "Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known."  Garrison Keillor

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Photo Shoot

Yellow Rumped Warbler in  Rocky Mountain National Park
Be sure to visit the other participants in the Saturday Snapshots over at At Home With Books

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Early Riser

Weeding at
 six forty-five 
 A.M. and already
 I am perspiring.
Little rivers tickle down my back and face, mixing with the citronella I
bathed in,  before venturing into mosquito territory.  There is a sparrow
 in the cherry tree, serenading  early risers.  I sweat and remind
 myself that  all this bending will keep me young, allegedly. I spot
a dragonfly
on the bee balm
right next to my leg.
Breath skips out
of me.  Now 
 he flies,
as a
on a
ever it
is a

Thought for today - A zen moment with a dragonfly inspired me to write a poem.  Have you had a zen moment recently?

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