[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 💁®ðŸŒ°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.