ksmith: (Default)

I’ve felt pulled in all directions these last few weeks. I start one thing, and three others clamor for attention. So the goals for next few weeks are to settle down, focus on writing, finish dealing with the leaves, add a few more batches of soup/stew/something to the deep freeze…

…and that’s too many things to plan. I know I should focus on work and let the chores fall where they may. It’s the never-ending battle between the immediate sense of accomplishment I feel when I do something around the house and the mix of emotions related to writing: accomplishment, but also aggravation, that feeling of wandering lost in the woods because one word after the other–what’s up with that?

Meatloaf is simpler.


My reissued light fantasy stories, Continuing Education and 8 rms., full bsmt., are now available at Amazon as well as BookView Café.


Upcoming contest! From 7-14 November, you can enter for a chance to win ebooks of GIDEON and over 30 other thrillers AND a Kindle Fire. I will post the link as soon as the contest goes live.


No hard freeze yet in far NE Illinois, which means I still have flowers. The mums have faded and the hibiscus are losing their leaves. But the begonias in the planter are still plugging along despite nights in the 40s and squirrels digging holes in the soft dirt.

Autumn Begonias

Autumn Begonias

It’s nice to see shots of pink and white and leafy greenery amid all the warm shades, the yellow, orange and brown. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone.


‘Tis the season, so pumpkin spice is everywhere. I’m not a fan of the flavor in coffee and tea, but I do like pumpkin pie. So when I found a recipe for baked oatmeal with pumpkin, I decided to give it a shot. I used regular milk instead of almond milk, whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat, added extra spices, and used pecans instead of walnuts. Imagine not-too-sweet pumpkin pie. A good way to start a chilly day. Definitely a keeper.

 

Mirrored from .

ksmith: (Default)

I like basil. I don’t love it–I don’t find it as versatile as thyme or tarragon, frex. But I enjoy the scent of it on my hands, and it’s wonderful when tossed with olive oil and warm tortellini. I haven’t grown it these last few years, though, because the plants always seem to bolt on me. Lotsa flowers, which are edible if a little bitter. Fewer leaves.

When I was in Madison for Wiscon, I visited the Saturday morning Farmers Market with Jen Stevenson, and wound up buying a small flat of mixed basils, opal and a curly green variety I’d never seen before. At the time, I didn’t know why I was bothering even as I forked over the cash. I think part of me just likes growing things I can cook with. Anyway, two months on, the plants are going great guns, thick with fragrant leaves and not a flower to be seen:

Curly and opal basil

 

For whatever reason, I examined the plants again this morning. Picked a few browned leaves, then looked behind one of the big opals, and found this little guy:

 

Little Basil

 

The curly green plants are shorter than the opals, but this plant is definitely lagging behind. Little Basil. I turned the pot around to allow him to get more sun. I don’t think he can catch up to the other plants, but who knows?

Hello, my name is Kristine, and I feel sorry for plants.

(I also just went outside and rubbed my hands over the basil leaves and oh man do they smell good. A sharp cinnamon edge.)

As for the container Black Cherry, nothing is even close to edible. 9-10 bunches of greenies at various stages, and a number of flowers. I picked a ripe loner last week, and that’s going to have to do for a while. Could be well into August before anything is ready to eat.

Black Cherry greenies

 

Mirrored from .

ksmith: (Default)

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned my shady side yard before. I had it mulched a few years ago when it became obvious that the lawn would never fill in–too much shade from the ash and spruce and oak. The mulching proved expensive enough, but the cost of letting the landscaper fill in the area with plants was prohibitive, so I decided to do the best I could with what I had. I have added a couple of white hydrangeas; one is an Annabelle, but I’ve forgotten what the other is (ed. it’s a Limelight). Lots of hosta. Ferns and wild ginger donated by a friend​.

I’ve also let some native wildflowers encroach. Wild violet have started showing up along the edges. Wood anemones:

wood anemones

wood anemones

 

 

I’ve spotted trillium leaves, but no flowers. I hope they make it. I’ll welcome either purple or white, but I’ve seen the purple variety in the nearby woods and hope that’s what’s trying to grow.

Smooth Solomon’s seal have pretty much taken over the area around the gutter outlet. A member of the lily family. I used to pull them out every spring until I realized that 1) they were pretty, 2) they hid the gutter outlet, 3) they were free and 4) thriving.  So I let them go, and they have spread over the last two years:

Smooth Solomon's seal

Smooth Solomon’s seal

I added some non-natives as well. The astilbes are coming up gangbusters, but have yet to bloom. I also planted a couple of origami columbine**. The blue one didn’t survive the winter, but the red one did, and has put forth several blooms:

Origami columbine

Origami columbine

It’s nice to see a spot of color against all the green and white.

There’s still a large area of blank waiting to be filled in. I will probably stick with hosta, maybe a dozen or so planted in a ring. Another hydrangea in the middle? I will also let the wildflowers spread. They bring the woods close to the house.

**columbine are apparently native, but these are a hybrid variety

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (Default)

There will be no raised bed garden this summer.

I first installed it back in 2009. The first few tomato crops were incredible–I had 6-7 plants, and spent most every weekend from early August through early fall making marinara or tomato casserole or salads with fresh basil (I grew that, too). When the chill weather came, I picked the greenies and stuck them in paper bags to ripen, and had fresh tomatoes into December.

I added compost to the soil and added fresh soil every so often, but for whatever reason–weather, poor choice in plants–the harvests fell off. Last summer’s was the worst–it was so cool that even the farmstands struggled. I managed a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes and some mesclun. Part of me missed the buckets and buckets of harvest, but part of me didn’t care. It had stopped being fun.

I gave the plastic framing to the chimney repair guy, who had a friend who was planning a raised bed garden. That left the dirt, two squared-off mounds of tightly-packed topsoil. Today, I shoveled it into the wheelbarrow and dumped it around the plants near the deck. Over the next few weeks or months or however long it takes, I’ll trim the area with the edger and add more soil and mulch until it looks neat and proper. I have spirea and hibiscus growing there now, and would like to add a few more things. Some of the daffodils in the front yard are putting forth nothing but greenery, which means the bulbs have birthed bulblets that are sucking away the strength; I’ll separate those and stick some near the deck. Look for some shorter shrubs that flower. I am thinking about moving the birdbath garden to the sideyard outside the fence given that the seed that falls to the ground has attracted skunk for the last few years and Gaby has never met a skunk that she didn’t want to harass, the results of which you can guess. If I do that, I can move the astilbes that are growing there now to new homes near the deck….

That will be the outdoor project for the year. Get the backyard in shape.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (chainsaw)

Hello, blog. It’s been a while.

Well, a week. Almost.

Perfect weather today. 70-something, low humidity, sunny as hell. The backyard needed mowing, so after breakfast and the usual long walk with Herself the Elf, I set to it. Got to the spot around the admittedly-overgrown birdbath garden. Tried to push the mower underneath the overhanging branches of the prairie fire crabapple, and something in me just snapped. I shut off the mower, dug the serious long-handled branch clippers out the garage, and took down a few thin branches.

Then I said, oh hell with it, and got the chainsaw.

Did some major surgery on the poor unsuspecting prairie fire, cutting away a couple of semi-major branches and overhangs and trimming it into the more tree-like shape I wanted it to have. Stared in amazement at how much bigger that amount of trimmage made the backyard appear, and how much more sunlight hit the surrounding lawn. Cut down the nearby sand cherry, which had grown lopsided and developed some sort of disease that led to leaf loss. Trimmed the other sand cherry, then stopped when I realized how much yard waste I now needed to get rid of. I had a choice–I could spend the better part of the next two days cutting it up and stuffing it into lawn bags, or I could cut the branches into somewhat longer lengths and leave them piled on the curb for the city to collect. Problem is, the city collects on an irregular basis–the lawn beneath the piles could be dead by the time said piles were picked up. And I really didn’t have two days to spend cutting up branches.

So, I went with option 3–I called the usual tree trimmer guy, who will grind the stumps, dispose of the brush, and do some additional trimming besides–some of the oaks need a little work, and the sand cherry I trimmed isn’t really worth saving so that will be removed completely. After all that is done, I should finally be at the point where I can handle whatever else needs to be done in the landscaping department, she said hopefully.

September is going to be a stone bitch of a cleaning month. I should just have the junk hauler leave a dumpster in the driveway.

Thinking about work over the next few months, both house-related and not so much. I would like to revamp the website. Write a Jani novella, and a couple other short things for actual submission to markets. I also want to paint the kitchen cabinets, and maybe the bedrooms, but before that I need to toss/sell/donate as much as I possibly can. I see no reason other than sentiment why I can’t get rid of at least half my clothes. The Great Decluttering of 2013.

Finally saw a hummer this afternoon. I have plenty of hanging baskets with brightly-colored petunias, but it was the late lamented Rose of Sharon tree that really attracted them. Now that it’s gone, I doubt I will see as many little tweets as I used to. Plenty of dragonflies, though, some of which are the size of hummingbirds.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

Well, in a few days, at any rate.

The Juliet has a bunch that’s getting close:

Gettin' close

Gettin’ close

And the Black Crim has a few that are starting to turn:

Just getting started

Just getting started

The Juliet are more orange than they look in the photo. I think I will wait another couple of days, then pick one and see how it tastes.

The Kellogg’s Breakfast has one big termater, and nothing else. But, it was behind the others when it came to blossoms, and would have been pollinating about the time the heat wave struck. Warm nights (>75F) interfere with the process–it’s possible I may not see any more tomatoes for a while. Lots of little Juliets and Crims, though, so barring critter onslaught I should have some tasty salads in August.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

Back in May, I planted three tomato plants, then pretty much forgot about them because Life. Well, I checked them the other day and HOLY CHUTES AND LADDERS BATMAN, there are little greenies on two of the plants–both the Black Crim and Juliet have baby tomatoes. The Kelloggs Breakfast, OTOH, has many flowers but no greenies. It is also shorter and less full than the other two, and had developed spots and yellowing on lower foliage that reminded me of blight, but could also be attributed to all the rain and cool weather we’ve had. I removed the suspect ?branches?, and will keep an eye on the plant–if it looks as though it’s succumbing to something, it’s out. The Black Crim and Juliet, by contrast, appear fine, and I want them to stay that way.

The mesclun, meanwhile, is still producing–it’s nice to go out and harvest salad greens, then eat them minutes later. I also have some sprigs of volunteer dill, flavorful stuff that works well with tuna salad and grilled salmon. The raised bed basil perked up as the weather warmed, and are now a lovely dark green. The container basil, however, were yellow and spotted from the wet, so I cleared a place for them in the raised bed, and stuck them in.

Thanks to lack of time and days of rain, the yard is borderline out of control. Many are the things that need trimming, and the weeds have established bases in various parts of the lawn and are busy sending out little wagon trains of seedlings across the land. I’ll be breaking out the sprayer this weekend in hopes of halting expansion. That said, the flowers look good, the hosta are HUGE, and the lilies are forming buds. Astilbes are flowering. Unfortunately, I lost the lovely little Rose of Sharon tree that had bloomed so nicely over the bast 7-8 years. It was in a low spot in the yard that gets absolutely sodden after heavy rains, and this past winter’s rains just destroyed the root system. It didn’t bud at all this spring, and was dead by the time I dug it up. I’m bummed–it attracted bees and hummingbirds, and from July on would be awash with pale pink flowers.

Much to do this weekend, assuming the rains hold off. Branch trimming and weeding and moving around some ferns that I planted too close to other shrubs. May do some minor surgery on the pine in the front yard if I have time to break out Bucky the Chainsaw.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (snowsuit)

Memorial Day Weekend approaches. Today, it’s sunny, but windy and *cold*. Outlying areas could drop to mid-30s tonight, and folks at the hardware store were talking about a possible freeze even closer to the lake. I hope not–tomatoes and basil are in and they’re not going anywhere. We received some much needed rain over the past few days, about 1.5 inches, but the accompanying wind blew the blooms off a couple of the crabapples. The prairiefire is still hanging in there, but it’s lost about half its flowers. Petals all over the lawn, like pink snow.

In more conservative times (back when we were Zone 5), Memorial Day was the planting weekend around here. Now it’s a few weeks earlier seeing as we’re now Zone 5.5, but this weekend will make that a lie. 60s. Cloudy. 40s/50s at night. I ran the furnace this morning. A few days ago, I was running the A/C. I know–spring in Illinois. But it’s getting a little late for this.

Harvested a handful of mesclun for the dinner salad. One bright spot amid the chill.

Hit the hardware store on the way home. Bought some pink and white petunias in a basket, and a lime hydrangea (pale green flowers that turn pink as they age) for the shady side of the house. Some solar lanterns to hang about the backyard. Gaby had a grooming session–bath and summer clip–and looks very spiff.

I’m taking off Friday. Looking forward to the long weekend, even it stays cloudy.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

…when a girl’s best friend is her chainsaw.

Cut up spruce branches that fell over the winter. Bagged up the pieces. Nice to get that chore out of the way.

A few hiccups with regards the vegetable garden. I’ve been growing tomatoes for 4-5 years now, and always started them from seeds, in a tray, with a growlight. Tried a couple of storebought Roma plants the first year, only to find they carried late blight. So it was seed starts from then on.

Except for this year. The seeds I started–Paul Robeson, Black Cherry, and Sweet Basil–sprouted well enough. But over the last couple of weeks, the tomatoes lost their little leaves and the basil yellowed. Maybe it was the potting mix, or some disease that invaded the watering pad. Maybe the mix became too wet. Whatever the reason, they’re a wash. I stuck them in the ground, but they’re less than an inch tall, and I will be amazed if they survive.

So yesterday after work, I went to a garden store/nursery and bought plants. Two lovely Sweet Basils. Three tomato plants, a Black Crim, a Juliet, and a Kellogg’s Breakfast. A cool front is pushing through tonight, but it’s supposed to warm up after that–I will plant them then. Meanwhile, the mesclun have sprouted, and there are other little sprouts that I think came from the seeds the finches picked off the lettuces and chard last year.

Feels like cheating, going with started plants. But if I go with seeds again, I will have to use a warming pad, or get a little greenhouse, or something.

Took Gaby for a long walk this morning. Then I took her shopping, and left her outside while I worked. A long day, in other words. She’s asleep now, and may sleep through dinnertime.

I’ve eaten. Made a pizza, using a ready-made flatbread crust. A little sauce, asiago and mozzarella cheeses, artichoke hearts. Had it with a salad. It worked.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (hibiscus)

It’s sunny! And warm…ish. Lo 60s, which feels like 80F if you move around. Bought petunia baskets for the deck and begonias for the front yard planter–the petunias are deep magenta/magenta-white stripe, while the begonias are lovely shades of melon, pink, and vermilion. I also bought a backpack sprayer to apply the organic weed stuff, and a cartridge for the kitchen faucet, which is dripping on and off. The lawn is on tap for tomorrow, because you need to spray the stuff before things sprout. Normally, I would have done this in March/April, but it’s been cold here. Forsythia are finally blooming, and I am used to seeing that in, hey, March/April.

Took Gaby to an Open House at the kennel where she goes for daycare. She dashed about in the sun, then went up to selected individuals and rolled over for tummy rubs. The heat got to her after that–she is a cold weather dog–and she repaired to the shade and watched other dogs rough and tumble about. Crazy retrievers.

Puppy play date

Puppy play date

Shade Gaby

Best lunch ever–leftover grilled salmon, arugula salad w/ lemon juice and olive oil. Glass of chard. I will now either plant begonias or try to start the lawn mower. Maybe both.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (brollie)

Vacay day day. IT STOPPED RAINING! Took Gaby for a walk, which consisted of her sniffing and marking and sniffing some more because the ground has released All The Smells thanks to the rain and the thaw. Saturday errands–groceries, etc–will be run today. Soon. In the next few minutes, in fact.

2.3 inches of rain over the last 2-3 days, according to the hummingbird gauge. To my amazement, the ground is taking it up rather quickly. The backyard is still sodden, but the lake is gone. Seems to be gone. Not inclined to walk out there and check lest I get sucked into the mire.

The mesclun is finally popping up in the raised bed, almost two weeks after seeding. Yes, it has been cold, but I thought lettuces liked that. In any case, I will probably plant another row this weekend, keep the crop going.

In web news, spam is showing up in the filter again. So spammers have started registering? I will shorten the comment time, and see if that helps. It’s not a lot of spam–nothing like before. It’s just the principle of the thing. Don’t like giving them a toehold, not even a little one.

In life news…barring global financial meltdown, I will be retiring from the day job in September. Going to give the writing life a good shot. Going to give life in general a better shot.

Something about King’s illness triggered it. Not getting any younger. It’s time.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

First Saturday in a while that looked promising. Daytime temps are slowly rising, and in some spots the ground is defrosted enough to hoe. So, after a loooong walk with the Gabster, I worked outside for a little while. Picked up fallen branches. Raked out the raised bed and planted a couple of rows of mesclun, then went around to the east side of the yard and planted some hardy ferns that had arrived in yesterday’s mail. I also checked the plants–ferns, some hellebore I think–that I put in last fall. No sign of sproutage yet, but it’s probably way too early.

The problem with not knowing much about ferns and buying grab bag plants from an online vendor is that I can’t tell the root clumps apart–assuming that’s even possible–so I don’t know what I’ve planted where. Some of the ferns grow to 2 feet in height, others to 3 feet, and while I tried to spread them out and not put plants in front of others, there’s still a chance I will wind up with a jumble. Nothing I can do except wait for them to come up, then transplant as needed.

The raised bed was still frozen in spots, but there was enough loose soil on the lower level to risk a few mesclun seeds. Despite the ongoing cold and frozen ground, the Indestructible Chive is putting forth shoots. I cleaned out some of last year’s dead vegetation, but left enough to shelter and feed the new growth.

Indoors, I am going to have to remove the lid from the seed tray this weekend because the Paul Robeson sprout is already hitting it. The parsley had some sort of infestation–aphids? mites?–but a couple of applications of insecticidal soap seems to have taken care of them. The thyme, which I thought was a goner, is putting forth a healthy cluster of leafage. Yesterday, I gave the King gardenia–the gift from my vet’s office–a dose of acidic feed. A few of the lower leaves had yellowed, and I hunted online for info about gardenia diseases. I couldn’t find a match for the appearance of those leaves–yellow, with green spots–so I attributed it to 1) old leaves, or 2) leaves close to the ground that maybe got too wet, or 3) the need for soil acidification. Possibly a little of everything. Anyway, I moved the gardenia to a 5″ pot with plenty of new potting soil. I also made sure that the pot had a drainage hole so that the excess water can drain. Root rot is apparently a possible issue. Want to avoid that.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (gaby1)

Temps in the 30s today. Windy, cloudy, with a few flakes in the air. I spotted dandelion sprout around the honey locust, a ring of spring consisting of inch-high greenery, some of it frost-burned. Nothing on the east side of the yard yet, but that area is still under some snow. They’re calling for 50s by weeks end, which will likely mean 40s near the lake. I’ll take it, for now. So hungry for warmth, I can’t stand it. And greenery. Sick of brown and leafless.

Also spotted deer scat near some of my yew bushes, which look as though they have been chewed. I may need to spread some repellent. Also considering getting rid of the yews. I could replace them with planters that I would fill with something bright during the summer, like begonias. The area doesn’t get much sun, being a northern exposure, so plant varieties are limited and yews are a common fallback. But, they’re boring. So I will think about the planters, maybe calculate how much landscape brick I would need to build them. They would be pretty.

Gaby is still eating just enough and no more. I’ve tried chicken breast, and miss as often as I hit. Today, I tried bacon along with a bit of drippings, and garnered a little interest. She still has some padding around her ribs, so I probably shouldn’t worry yet. And it has been only three weeks since King. And she is still experiencing change, whether it’s trips to daycare or simply rides to the pet store big box. Her regular food had a consistency hiccup with the last lot–meat paste rather than moist burger. That hasn’t helped. I emailed the company to lodge a complaint, and did a search for other brands of duck-based canned food. They’re out there, but online places either want you to buy by the case, or charge so much for shipping that I wind up paying more for that than for the food itself. So, I found a couple of local, new-to-me stores that carry some of the brands. I’ll get hold of a can or two and have her try them. I want to have options in case she shows signs of going off the current brand entirely.

And yes, I know that raw may be an option, but I am reluctant to move Gaby away from duck until I know for sure that she won’t relapse into IBD hell.

No, her behavior hasn’t changed. She barks. She plays, both with me and at daycare. She just isn’t eating much.

She does enjoy her walks. If I take too long to eat breakfast in the morning, I am soon dealing with a head resting on my leg and tail-wagging wiggle butt. Once outside, she sniffs everything, marks the interesting stuff. Tried to give chase to some deer the other day, pulling and twisting the lead. I started fitting her with a harness after that–she has slipped out of a collar before, and if she ever took off after a deer, I doubt I would see her again. There are coyote in them thar woods.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

All the basil. Two of four Black Cherry. One of the Paul Robeson.

I really cut down on the number of seed plantings this year. 5 basil seeds, total. 4 each of the Black Cherry and Paul Robeson. I will plant all the basil if they take–more basil just means more pesto and tastier salads and pizza. If all the tomatoes take, I will still only plant one of each. That will allow them plenty of room in the upper level of the raised bed, with plenty of ventilation to discourage blight spores.

Snowing like mad downstate. We were slated for possible snow showers, but so far all the flakiness has stayed south. Let it remain so.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (sprout)

The basil seeds I planted last weekend are sprouting! The tomato seeds will take a bit longer, but the grow light is keeping them warm and I am hoping to see shoots in another week.

The lovely gardenia tree that my vet’s office sent has several buds that are going to unfurl Any Time Now. The poor thing needs a new pot–the one it’s in now is too small. I don’t have the right size on hand; looks like a 4-5 incher is needed if I want to continue to use the pretty decorative basket that the smaller pot came in. If not, I can put it in one of the containers that I already have. Drainage is apparently important, though, so I would have to remember to line the bottom with gravel so any excess water has a place to drain.

A nasty cold is racing ’round at the day job. Three folks have been hit that I know of. Apparently it hits hards, but doesn’t last too, too long. DO NOT WANT!

Repair guy repaired my clothes dryer today. Apparently this model has two belts instead of one, one for the drum and another for the exhaust fan. Was the exhaust fan belt that broke. Unfortunately, because I still tried to use the dryer when the vent wasn’t venting properly, things became hot enough that the glue that holds the front gasket in place melted. If the gasket had come loose completely, I would be looking at a new dryer purchase, but since there is still some glue in place, I may be okay. I will know that it has failed when the dryer starts eating clothes. Something to look forward too.

Another thing to look forward to–it may snow on Sunday! So fcking sick of the cold. I want warmth and sun and sitting out on the deck and grilling and flowers and greenery. Bees and hummingbirds and walking with Gaby along the forest footpath.

Speaking of Gaby, she’s doing well at daycare. Plays with All The Pupsters. Her eating is still spotty, but I am hoping she settles over the weekend. I’ve signed her up for basic obedience–that starts next month. I will see how much she enjoys Busy, and go from there.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

We’re under a weather advisory for tomorrow. Rain/sleet turning to wet snow. 2-5 inches, with “localized heavier amounts possible” in some areas. I live in one of those areas. Given that I will likely have to get up at oh-hell-thirty Wednesday morning to shovel, I am hoping for a smaller amount.

While we have received only about half the usual snowfall for the season, we have received about 110% of the average February total. Whacked winter continues apace.

As a protest against the coming onslaught, I ordered veggie seeds. Paul Robeson tomato seeds. Italian large-leaf basil. Mesclun mix. Along with the Robeson, I may plant the Black Cherry, which produced a lot of nice, largish cherry tomatoes last year. Nothing complicated planned, just stuff for salads and marinaras.

Thinking about goals for the spring/summer. Junk elimination–get rid of all the clothes I don’t wear, all the junk accrued over the last 25 years. Work on the kitchen and bathroom. Also thinking about the bedrooms–painting the dark woodwork white, painting the walls, getting new closet doors and curtain rods. Possibly new ceiling lights.

Busy times ahead.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (keanu)

The spam onslaught continues. It’s reached the point that I don’t even bother checking to see if anything legit got snagged in the net. Usually, Akismet will let through the odd piece of spam rather than filter out clean mail, but anything is possible. If you tried to post a comment on my site and find it never showed up, it’s likely gone. Try again.

Not a lick of snow yet this winter. On average, this means that snowfall for the season will be well below average. That’s good for day to day life, but bad for the Lake level, which is already near historic lows. I’m wondering what it means for next year, and whether it’s worth planning a vegetable garden. The blast of heat we had last summer battered the hell out of the tomatoes–I wound up with about a quarter of the usual harvest. Basil sucked. The only thing that did well was the Indestructible Chive, the cockroach of the veggie kingdom.

Kind of a disjointed post, but there’s not much more to report. Pondering changes around the house in the coming year that I can do myself–painting bedrooms, replacing curtain rods, rehabbing the kitchen cupboards. I’ve been gleaning ideas from This Old House, HGTV. Trying to decide which paint colors might work best.

And finally, midweek happiness is poking through the deep freeze and finding stashes of lamb chops and cranberry cake. And finding CONSTANTINE playing on SyFy, and getting to watch Tilda Swinton as Gabriel one more time.

It’s the best film for hair. Swinton’s and Rachel Weisz’s. If I could have just one fourth of Weisz’s hair in place of the dark lint currently stuck atop my head, I would be happy.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

Cold snap

Oct. 6th, 2012 10:31 am
ksmith: (orange leaf)

On Thursday, daytime temps brushed 80F. Then the cold front moved through, and the bottom fell out. Temps in the 50s, with daytime highs in the 40s over the weekend. Threat of frost along the lake, and hard freeze inland.

That meant that I needed to do something about the tomatoes still on the vine. I hadn’t felt the push to harvest to this point because temps were still reasonable and there weren’t enough reds to do anything with–no batches of marinara or crushed tomatoes this year. But there were a fair number of Black Cherry left, as well as a few largish fruits on each of the Italian plants and the Arkansas Traveler. So last night, I donned a barn coat, dug the snips out of the garage, and undertook the last tomato picking of 2012.

I filled a largish box–18x12x7 inches–with whatever tomatoes looked decent. There were a few reddening bigs, many greenies that may or may not ripen, and a bunch of ripe Black Cherry that may wind up in a batch of scalloped tomatoes even though they’re the Wrong Type for a casserole. Too watery. Maybe if I add more bread crumbs and bake a little longer….

Autumn has descended. Leaves are turning at speed–lots of yellow and gold so far. Half the backyard is covered. My favorite begonias are withered, and the hydrangea are browning. Sparrows and finches are hitting the feeders hard and stripping the last of the seeds from the bolted lettuces and chard.

Guess I need to set up an appointment for the furnace guy to do his annual check.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (utensils)

This year’s basil crop wasn’t the best. The plants, a mix of Italian Sweet Basil from Seeds of Italy and local cinnamon basil, started out well. But the heat wave hit them hard. The sweet basil only reached about 18 inches in height before going to flower. The cinnamon basil didn’t even reach 12 inches. I tried to keep the flowers trimmed back, but I didn’t do a good job keeping track and it all got away from me. The flowers sucked the strength from the plants–the leaves faded, and stayed small. Then the chill weather came, and the leaves started to brown. I knew I had to act fast if I wanted to salvage anything for pesto.

So yesterday, I trimmed about 6 cups of leaves and flowers (the flowers were green, still edible). Roasted walnuts and pine nuts, 1/4 cup each. Peeled a head of garlic. Salt, pepper, and one cup of good olive oil. Not enough grated parmesano reggiano–only 1/3 cup instead of the full cup noted in the recipe. Dumped it all into the food processor.

It’s not the best pesto I ever made, but it’s decent. Spread some on yesterday’s chicken sandwich. Today, I slathered it on broiled king salmon.

There are worse things in the world.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

It’s chilly, dammit. 50s. Sunny, but still. We had about half an inch of rain last night–I am so glad I bought that rain gauge–to add to the inch, inch and a half we have received over the past week or so.

Thanks to the rain and temperature moderation, the tomatoes are revitalized. The Black Cherry is officially nuts, and the other plants are putting out buds and new fruit all over the place. They look the way they should have back in July.

Even the basil look lively. I may get a batch of pesto out of them after all.

70s and 80s predicted through the week, but. Winter is coming. In past years, the tomatoes had given up the ghost around this time thanks to chill and blight. Currently, fingers crossed, while I am seeing some leaf die-off, I’m not seeing evidence of blight. A warmer than usual fall was predicted last I checked, so maybe fresh tomatoes in October are a possibility. If not, I may need to dig through recipes and give a green tomato jam or relish another try.

Late last summer, I bought some lovely “Mona Lavender” hanging baskets from a nearby big box. They bloomed through the fall, and were so pretty that when winter came, I decided to try to keep them going. I nursed them indoors, and even though the house was chilly and the light poor, they muddled through.

When spring arrived, I put them outside, and waited for flowers. And waited. Yes, I should have actually read the article that stated that shortened days trigger flowering, but I had no experience with this variety and thought I would at least see buds by midsummer.

Nope. Shortened days were the key. I returned from Chicon to find all three budding and flowering like mad. I am thinking of transferring them to larger pots, which would mean of course that I will need to find a place in the house for them to winter.

Below is a photo of one of the plants. They do well in shade, and I really wish I could put them in the ground on the shady east side of the house. Problem is, they don’t handle cold well. That makes wintering over a problem as the plants took up a fair amount of space in the dining room and shed leaves all winter thanks to the dryness and lack of sun. I guess I could move them into the basement with a grow light.

In other news, there’s one cool thing from Chicon that I forgot to mention. I was on my way to the Art Show when I encountered a young woman with a beastie perched on her shoulder. I thought it was a regular doll, until it moved. It was a puppet, which the woman controlled with a handheld widget.

Then her friend joined her, and, well. The blue beastie is cute, I think, but that monkey is downright creepy. The women bought them at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, which is local for me. I should visit sometime. would love one of those creatures…though maybe not that monkey.

Time to get to work, so I will wrap up with a grasshopper-with-a-death-wish that I spotted perched on the old TV aerial, well above the ground. I watched it as I sat on the deck–all it did was walk back and forth along the short crossbar. If it made it through the evening without a swift or bat spotting it, I would be surprised. It reminded me of those caterpillars(?) I’ve read about that are invaded by parasites that take over their minds and force them to climb trees and perch in full view of predators, the goal being that they get eaten so the parasite can spread.

And finally, my rain gauge hummingbird, with bonus Gaby.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

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