[gardening] Backyard Shade Bed

Yesterday afternoon was really nice- cool and sunny. I used the edger to mark a clean line along the back yard shade bed to widen it a bit (all the flower beds are widened a bit every year- less lawn to mow!) and then mulched around everything.

Widened, weeded and mulched. Hostas are slowly making their way up.

I will probably divide the primrose this fall- it's doing so well- and put the new divisions closer to the front of the border. I'm off work next week to stay at home and garden. The forecast is looking like rain pretty much all week. As long as I have some dry weather to work outside and put in new plants, I don't mind too much. Rain is always good. 


[gardening] Purple flower power

I picked up a new perennial at Home Depot called Centaurea "Amethyst in Snow":

Centaurea montana

I've never seen a flower like this before- I love how weird it looks. Even the buds look like cool dragon eggs before they open up. Every perennial I've bought from Home Depot in the past has done really well, so I'm hoping to get lots of divisions from this in a couple years.

In the front walkway, creeping thyme is starting to bloom:

Creeping thyme- starting to bloom.

This stuff it great- it doesn't mind being trampled on and it smells great. I've ripped off a few pieces here and there and stuck them into other crevices around walking stones. It seems to thrive.


[travel] Day Trip

Dollar and I took a day trip to Northampton, MA yesterday. I had it all planned out. First, we'd have lunch at Curtis' BBQ in Putney on the way down. Except- we got there and it was closed. Only open Thurs through Sun. Devastated, I was all, "Okay. Day ruined. Let's go home." Ugh. Then I remembered Whetstone Station in Brattleboro and we went there for a bite and brews. We even got to sit out on the deck overlooking the Connecticut River.

Day trip. Lunch plans fell through- Curtis' BBQ in Putney wasn't open today. Sigh. I suppose lunch on the deck at Whetstone Station will have to do. ��⛅️��

It didn't suck. And their summer shandy/radler made with grapefruit GuS soda was the bomb.

Feeling better, we went the rest of the way to Northampton to spend all the moneys at Webs. Dollar basically sat in a recliner and played on his phone for however long (hours?) I went through the store. Then we found parking close to downtown and walked around. We walked through a farmer's market and down an alley. There's some cool graffiti around:

Northampton, MA rocks. Bought a ton of new yarn at Webs, old records at Turn It Up and saw some cool graffiti.

You can't tell by looking at the picture, but this alley smelled like pee.

Then on to Turn it Up! for cds and records:

Turn it Up!

I picked up some old records: Paul Revere and the Raiders, various Motown hits, Three Dog Night and some obscure 80's demo that looks so, so, so terrible I can't wait to listen to it.

Then Osaka for dinner:

Fancy roll

We rolled our bodies down to the car and headed home. A quick pit stop at the first rest area/welcome center in Vermont and I took this picture:

But it's always nice to return home to #vermont. ������ P.S. The entire state smells like lilacs right now.

Awesome day. The last time we made this trip, it was a Sunday. Curtis' was open but Webs wasn't. NEXT time, I'm going to make sure we go on a day that both are open. Sheesh. It shouldn't be so difficult to do!


[cooking] Bagels and Bialys

I took a cooking class with a friend at King Arthur Flour this past Sunday- bagels and bailys. It was a great class- I hadn't taken a bread class there yet. 

My bagels:

My bagels!

The dough is made with extra-high gluten flour and a stand mixer takes all the work out of kneading the dough. The final dough is insane- so smooth but as tough as Play-Doh. It was hard to cut through even with a bench scraper. I tried a few different techniques to shape the bagels, which is why they look so different.

The last part of the class were the bialys, which I'd never even heard of before. It's basically the same dough as the bagels- with out the malt flavor- and you don't boil them first. Make a little yarmulke with the dough and put some caramelized onion in the middle.


With a tiny piece of leftover dough, we made a little baby bialy. 

Baby bialy

Homemade bagels are the bomb. While I loathe having to buy "special" ingredients (high gluten flour, non-diastatic malt powder), it's worth it to be able to make these bagels at home. You can even slice the finished bagels, freeze them and then toast them straight from the freezer.


[gardening] Shade bed

Thing are quickly turning green:

Back yard

Apple trees are completely covered with blossoms. We had no wild apples last year. Here's hoping for a ton this fall so I can make cider again with my neighbors.

On May 2, I started digging a new part-shade bed:

Shade bed - digging

As of this weekend, it's pretty much done:

Shade bed - done.

Planted in this L-shaped bed: heuchera "palace purple", hostas, soloman's seal, primula veris, astilbe (no idea what color), catmint, lily of the valley, lady's mantle. I also started seeds in several spots for columbine, foxglove and Tibetan poppy.

The sempervivium are all doing well in the rock garden. This one is transitioning from red to green and it looks so "Christmas-y" right now:

Ho ho ho, Merrrrry Christmas. ������ Slowly morphing from red to green. #sempervivium

Finally, some irises that I got from a friend last summer are blooming:

Purple bearded irises

They are an amazing dark shade of purple. 


[gardening] Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart

Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart blooming in the back shade bed:

Old fashioned bleeding hearts.

Last year the plant was only 1 year old and produced three hearts. This year, there are 4 branches holding a dozen hearts each. At this rate- I can't wait to see how this plant looks in a couple years.

I've added more things to the new shade bed. My mother unknowingly had a nice, large patch of Lily of the Valley on a slope next to her house. We dug up a bucket-full and I added them to a couple places at my house. I've started columbine and foxglove seeds. I ordered a small amount of Tibetan poppy seeds and put those down. I don't know what will come of any of these seeds but I might as well throw them somewhere.

I have one more new (smaller, thank goodness) flower bed I'm going to expand. Then I'll get to the vegetable garden, which I've been putting off for weeks.


[gardening] Primrose

A new primrose plant blooming in the shade bed:

#primrose blooming in the shade bed. Hostas are only just starting to poke up. Old fashioned bleeding hearts will bloom next.

This was another one given to me last year. It's doing very well. I'd love to add more- I adore the look of silver-laced primrose and would like to find that somewhere.


[gardening] Lungwort

Lungwort (Pulmonaria) blooming in the backyard shade garden:

Purple and pink blooms on #pulmonaria #lungwort

I love that it has both purple and pink flowers on it! This is a new addition- last summer a knitting friend gave me a bit of this and that from so many of her plants. I'm a lazy gardener in that when I get something, I stick it in the ground and it's if grows- great, if not- it wasn't meant to be. I'm down with watering and weeding but I'm not into coddling and babying any plants. 


[vermont] Flowers in the wild

Saw some patches of white flowers down by the brook and went to inspect:

Sanguinaria canadensis. Or, bloodroot. It gets it's common name from the red-orange sap in the leaf and root.

It looks not-so-special from a distance, but up close:

Amazing to see #bloodroot on one of the few days it blooms. #sanguinaria #canadensis #nofilter

Stunning. The very center looks like a glowing piece of gold. I didn't doctor the photo at all or add any filters- that's just a picture with my iPhone. The bloom is even more special because it lasts only a day or two. A saw some had already gone by with their white petals on the ground.

Walked up up toward the house, I spotted some red trillium in the woods just off the driveway:

Red #trillium ��, aka Stinking Benjamin ����, aka Trillium erectum ��, aka wake-robin ����, aka Bethroot ��®��0⃣��

Love the deep burgundy shade. Best to admire from a distance- the common name is Stinking Benjamin because it smells like rotting meat and are pollinated by flies. I've never actually experienced this first hand but I don't hang around them very long and I definitely don't take a deep whiff of the flower.

In the back yard, the mystery plan has revealed itself to be Dicentra cucullaria, or Dutchman's breeches. 

Whoa, what are these? Mystery plant looks like yellow Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart... With horns. #dicentra?

I will take another picture after they open- they really do look like upside down puffy pants! I have no idea how this started growing here. I think I threw some seeds in this spot last year but nothing happened. Now there are at least 10 little plants coming up! I hope this thrives.


[misc] Santana Tuesday

The weather was so nice this weekend, the cats started acting kooky. At least, Santana was. I came in from the deck and looked over at the cat tree.

Santana in the cat tree

Whaaaaat. We've had this thing for years and she has never (willingly) put one paw on it.

In fact, I told Dollar, "You'll never guess where Santana was." He didn't believe me until I showed him the pictures.

Santana in the cat tree.



[vermont] Ramp season

Well, after being teased with 70 degree weather a couple of weeks ago and then enduring 40 - 50 degree days since, we finally got some spectacular weather this weekend. I went out with a cup of coffee Saturday first thing in the morning and didn't come back in until 2pm. Same for Sunday. 

All three hyacinths that I put in a few weeks ago opened up.

Hyacinths are blooming and smelling so nice. ������☺️

I'm glad I planted these by the front porch- you could smell them whenever a breeze went by.

The daffodils finally popped open:

Daffodils started popping open today! It's so yellow it hurts my eyes. ������

I dug a new part-shade flower bed (this is at 50% done Saturday afternoon) along an old rock wall:

Digging a new shade bed. Will finish the rest tomorrow. #ohmyachingback #dirtylife

I'm going to move some hostas over here when I divide them in a week. I should have some columbine seedlings to add this season. This would be a good place to dump some foxglove seeds. This spot definitely gets covered with leaves in the fall and I might leave it to emulate a forest floor garden- and move some of the trout lilies and springbeauty down from the woods to here. 

Speaking of springbeauty- I found some (Claytonia virginia) on the walk up to pick ramps:

Virginia #springbeauty (#claytonia virginica) all over the hardwood forest slope. So tiny but so pretty.

These are so small, they're easy to miss (or ignore) but I'm so glad I stopped to take close-up pictures. They are gorgeous.

Claytonia virginica

I made it to the patch of wild leeks (ramps):

Ramp time. Hiked up and picked a lot. Now to clean and wash them all.

The picked ramps, all washed and bundled and ready to use:

#ramps washed and ready to use.

I think I'm going to make one more trip up this weekend to pick some for my mom. In the meantime, I've got lots of compound butter and pesto to make. 


[cooking] Duck breasts

Last night I cooked a birthday dinner for one of my friends- Pan roasted duck breast with a blueberry balsamic reduction, with roasted new potatoes and asparagus:

Dinner last night was roasted duck breast with blueberry balsamic sauce. I don't know how I'm going to top this next year @jenmac1818

Duck breast is pretty easy- the only real danger is over-cooking it. I scored the fat in a criss-cross pattern first. You want to cut through the fat but not all the way down to the meat. Add salt and pepper and then place fat-side down in a pan over medium heat. Spoon off the fat as it renders. After 6 or 7 minutes, turn the heat down to low. Render for a another 6 or 7 minutes, spooning the fat out of the pan as it pools up. Then turn the breasts over and finish in a 400 degree oven for only 5 minutes.

Duck breasts before slicing. Spooned off nearly a cup of rendered fat while it was cooking.

I collected nearly a full cup of fat from just two breasts. I'm saving it- to roast potatoes in or something. Once the breasts came out of the pan to rest, I sautéed some shallots in the leftover bits, added blueberries and balsamic vinegar and reduced to make a nice sauce for the duck. The potatoes and asparagus I did in one pan in the oven (30 minutes for the potatoes alone, add the asparagus and roast both for another 15 minutes).

So, all in all a pretty easy, low stress dinner to execute. I was able to do it even after having (more than I'd care to admit) vodka drinks. 

Dessert was soft molasses cookies:

Spicy and glittery Soft Mosasses Cookies. Recipe from the Baker's Companion. @kingarthurflour

I love these cookies. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour's Baker's Companion and they come out perfect every time. And there's a decent amount of ginger in these cookies which is a digestive aid. 


[gardening] Sempervivium and sedum

Sedum spurium 'Tricolor' sprawling:

Sprawling succulent coming out of dormancy. Sedum spurium tricolor.

I added a few of these last year. Glad to see they wintered fine. Propagation sounds easy (as with practically all sedum I've read about)- break off a piece in the summer and stick it in the ground. Will try propagating several pieces.

Basic sempervivium, still winter red:

Sempervivium. Hens and chicks.

Will wait until this summer when the stem connecting the chick to the hen (stolon) withers before picking them all apart and putting them in new places.

These are the smallest hens and chicks that I have:

Tiny sempervivium. Hens and chicks.

The largest one in the picture is just smaller than a dime. These seems to propagate profusely, though. If I make a miniature garden in a container (which I would like to do this year), these would be great to add.


[knitting] Mad About the Gals

I finished Sock Madness Round #4 socks in record time:

Beaded socks

Pattern is "Mad About the Gals". I would definitely knit this again- in a solid color with beads going all the way down to the ankles. And then enter those socks into the Tunbridge Fair this fall. 


[misc] Murderface Monday


Still the sweetest cat in the universe. I try to give him real meat whenever appropriate (pieces of cooked chicken, hamburger, pork when not spiced with anything other than a bit of salt) and then he does cartwheels/backflips all over the house. It gets him so active and playful- I love seeing it.


[vermont] Snow. Still.

I thought this was the last of the snow in the back yard:

Last spot of snow. #goodriddance Okay plants, it's safe to come out now.

But then I saw a pile at the bottom of the driveway, from where the plow repeatedly pushed snow. So, sigh- there is still some but it's all mostly gone. After some seriously wonderful weather last weekend, the high today is going to be 48 and this weekend is meant to be in the low 50s. Ugh. We're still having some hard frosts in the morning.

This weekend is set to be pretty boring- getting the winter tires off the car, cleaning the house, finishing the socks. Which is okay by me.


[knitting] Mad About the Gals - Progress

Round 4 of Sock Madness:

Socks with beads. ����? Beads! #sockmadness9

Not too shabby for four days- the pattern is working up quickly for me. I should knit with beads more often- I really like it. Thank goodness for my DyakCraft DPNs. Pointiest of points. Makes the cables and fiddly k3tog (by k1 yo k1 into the same three stitches) a breeze. 


[gardening] Spring things

Crocuses are still the only things blooming at the moment:


But I couldn't resist picking up some orange tulips and purple hyacinths:

Teeny green things

A few of the irises that I received from a friend are coming up behind the tulips. And delphiniums that I started from seed last year. I'm religiously spraying things with repellent to keep the woodchuck from eating everything.

I cleaned up the flower beds and planted a ton of gladiolus bulbs. Seeds that were started indoors were brought outside yesterday to enjoy the sunny weather. Rain is forecast for much of the rest of the week, so that should keep me inside and knitting away on the next round of Sock Madness socks.


[knitting] Longing for Spring (aka Mud Season)

With only one spot left open on my Sock Madness team to make it to the next round, I sat down to finished my Round 3 socks as soon as I stepping in the house yesterday afternoon:

Longing for Spring

I only had a bit of the leg and cuff to do on the 2nd sock, so it didn't take very long. I put the socks onto the blockers, took a picture and emailed off the info (misidentifying my team as Team Friggers- I'm on Team Froggers). I made the last spot! Happy but immediately filled with directionless ennui, I decided to celebrate with vodka drinks. Next time I'll celebrate by working on my filler projects- they don't give me a hangover.


[misc] Penny Thursday

When you get so hot that you have to throw a leg out from under the covers:


I'm resisting the urge to post pictures every day of a new crocus bloom or a new blade of grass or buds on one of the new trees I planted last year or some of the seeds I started indoors last weekend already germinating... Well, I probably will post some of those pictures. I can't help it, it's so nice to be outside and see what's growing. 


[gardening] First crocus bloom

So far so good:

First crocus bloom. Stinky deer repellant spray seems to keep the woodchuck away.

Looks like lovely dew on the flower but it's stinky deer repellent that seems to be keeping the woodchuck away. It smells like garlic and rotten eggs and butt. I made the mistake of standing downwind when I was spraying one area. 

Most of the snow is gone- the flower beds are reappearing and in dire need of tidying. I'm daydreaming of all the new perennials I want to add this year. 


[crochet] Moroccan Midnight

I started a new filler project last week:

Moroccan Midnight

It will be a long infinity scarf. I have some skeins of Cascade Yarns' Casablanca which has long color repeats like Noro. I was thinking about something mitered but the color lengths are so long, the squares would end up being quite large. I found a pattern called Moroccan Midnight, which I felt apropos given the name of the yarn.

The pattern was a bit of a struggle. I had to watch several videos on how to do the Moroccan Tile Stitch. The yarn combo looks nice but the cone of brown tweed I'm using is a bit rough and thin- I'm hoping it's spinning oil from the mill and that the yarn will bloom when I wash it.

Anyway, I'll get back to it once I finish the most recent pair of Sock Madness socks.