Saturday, July 28, 2007

King Costata

We had delicious garden zucchini again tonight, and served it to houseguests earlier this week. We all agreed Costata Romanesca is the best zucchini we've ever tasted.

Tonight's dish was especially tasty, Zucchini in Brown Butter with Pecans from Gourmet magazine via

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup pecans (1 oz), coarsely chopped
1 lb zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
1/2 cup parmesan curls (shaved with a vegetable peeler from a piece of parmesan)
Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook pecans, stirring, until golden brown and butter is browned.

Add zucchini with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Serve zucchini topped with parmesan curls.

It's hot here. I skipped the parmesan curls and opted for freshly grated parmesan instead, and sliced the zucchini to take advantage of its pretty shape. Yum.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fishy and the Titmouse: The Movie

I didn't realize I had to hold the camera horizontally, but it is still pretty funny!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Mint

No, not where the coins are minted, but rather where the tasty and lovely to look at yet thuggish Apple mint.

As you can see in the photo, the bed behind the shade cloth covered bed is the mint, with a small patch of bee balm in the center. It is out of control, it has taken over 95% of the raised bed, and I am routinely weeding mint out of the vegetable garden. It smells suspiciously minty when the lawn in that area is mowed.

Dan keeps saying things like "we have to rip that whole bed out," or "we should just solarize the whole bed and kill all the weeds (i.e. mint)."
I DO want the space for more vegetables, BUT, I love the mint.

It is, as I said above, tasty, lovely to look at, and makes terrific mojitos! So, what to do about it?? I want a nice big patch for mojitos and mint jelly and chutneys and iced tea. We have several large plastic planters available (50 gal drum size and one only slightly smaller faux terra cotta pot.) But will the mint thrive in a pot? Or do we bury the pot? If so, how far down will mint roots travel?
Suggestions, anyone?

Zucchini and baby beets

For dinner tonight: Buttermilk marinated pork chops with a dried cranberry pan sauce, and from the garden, red and gold baby beets cooked in OJ, and sauteed zucchini with onion and nutmeg. YUM.

The zucchini is a new variety for me, Costata Romanesco from FEDCO. According to the catalog, it is "deeply striped and ribbed, [and] resembles Cocozelle, but its sweet mildly nutty flavor is distinctive. Also a productive source for tasty male squash blossoms. Tender skin damages easily, a liability for commercial transport." I really liked the shape of the slices, the ribs made the squash look scalloped, and the flavor was fabulous. Was it the variety or the cooking method?

The beets were also fabulous. If I'd known beets could taste like this, I'd have been eating them long, long ago. All those wasted years.... Time to make up lost ground, I say!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Report

I love bee balm, I think it might be my favorite flower. This one is Raspberry Wine.

The yogurt was a success. It set up nicely and tasted very much like the Fage Greek yogurt, but a trifle less creamy, probably as I skipped straining. Yum. It was NOT difficult, and will be way less expensive and more convenient than a special trip to purchase my fav Greek yogurt.

The vegetable garden is coming along well, although we've had some setbacks, namely killer striped cucumber beetles, and the evil rodent, Hogdemort. Yes, the wretched groundhog managed to make its way into the vegetable garden through a small gap between Henbogle Coop and the fence post. Arghhh!!!!!!! The newly sprouted pole beans (Gold of Bacau), nipped right off leaving no sets of leaves to recover. Samples of the other pole beans and the bush beans, too. Mmmm, parsley, a favorite. Oooh, carrots tops, oh and broccoli! YUM! Fortunately Dan saw Hogdemort exiting so we knew where the leak was, so to speak, and have closed the gap.

Something about the Diva cucumbers seems especially attractive to the striped cucumber beetles, and of course, once the arrived, they have spread to the other squashes, too. I used floating row cover until the plants outgrew it, now I am hoping that I can harvest some fruits before the bugs spread some disease. I do have tiny little cucumbers, and I did plant a second variety of cukes just last week, which are currently protected by row cover. I harvested 2 zucchini today, Costata Romanesca, and the rest of the pumpkin/squash patch is exploding. My tum was upset, though, so I'll cook the zukes tomorrow for dinner. I do see several baby pumpkins....

The potatoes are in need of additional mulching, and one of the plants is just blossoming. New potatoes soon! Spinach and lettuce are reveling in the cooler weather. Many buds are appearing on the tomatoes, but no little green tomatoes as of yet. The herb bed, other than the parsley, looks good, and the cutting garden has lots of flowers.

Our tenants the titmice are doing well. The other day I caught one of the babies peeking out of the nest.

I really like the new veg garden design, and hope we can eventually convert this layout into raised beds.

The blueberries are turning blue....

The flower beds are looking gorgeous. I really love how the two new beds turned out. I'll be tweaking here and there, but overall I love them both. Right now we've got shasta daisies, bee balm, flax flower, balloon flower, mountain bluet, lady's mantle, veronica, cleome, coreopsis, thyme, and the rose all blooming. Buds are appearing on the Jupiter's beard, golden glow, butterfly bush, and echinacea.

In front the astilbe is in full glorious bloom, and the lilies are really getting started. Hosta scapes are appearing and will bloom any day. One discordant note: the rose carnation poppy I started from seed last year looks suspiciously like a black eyed Susan. Sigh.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Family visits

It’s been a busy few weeks here at Henbogle. Last weekend, Dan’s parents and Aunt Sue came for a visit. It had been a long time since they had been here to Maine, so it was really great to see them.

We had a nice relaxed visit, ambling around the gardens, doing a bit of yard sale-ing with Mom, lounging on the deck and of course, admiring the happy hens and the new chicks.
We played a few games of Snatch, and taught Dan's new game Cathedral World, to Dan's Dad. (Dan and I have been playing a lot, it is very addictive, and we are pretty well matched.) Kyle and his sister Amanda came over for a visit, and we made strawberry ice cream, mmmmm, with those strawberries from the freezer. It was really great to see them, but all too soon, the visit was over and the van rolled away headed for New York.

Dan and I puttered around Monday, taking advantage of the crisp, clear skies to do laundry, then Tuesday loaded the kayaks for a lovely paddle in Litchfield on Buker and Jimmy Ponds.
We saw a loon family with 2 chicks early in the day at a distance, and later as we were headed out, the loons surfaced fairly close to me and called, making me jump, but I recovered enough to enjoy the close views of their chicks! These photos were not taken with a zoom lens, BTW.

Wednesday the rain clouds rolled in and we switched gears to inside projects. I’m attempting to make travel covers for the kayaks, and today experimented with making my own yogurt and making dulce de leche with sweetened condensed milk and the pressure cooker. So far, things look good on both counts – the yogurt has set up nicely and is now cooling in the fridge, and I didn’t blow up the pressure cooker. I made the yogurt by incubating scalded milk with my favorite Greek yogurt, Fage, then setting it in a cooler filled with very warm water, and leaving it for 4+/- hours (the can is to weight down a half-full jar). Details tomorrow after the taste test.

We’re planning on making dulce de leche ice cream when Dan’s sister is here for a visit next week, so I’ll report on the dulce de leche then.
Tomorrow – a report from the gardens.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Birthday Happiness

Michelle and Dan appear to have had a grand time celebrating the end of their youth yesterday. The weather cooperated with showers holding off until the presents had been opened.

We enjoyed meeting Michelle's family and of course, spending the afternoon with our dear friends. Michelle's brother Barry even attempted to solve our groundhog problem, but the crafty little rodent escaped, darn.

Yes, I said groundhog problem. A young groundhog has found a way into the chicken yard, probably under the fence somewhere. Yesterday I saw the wily rodent grazing on clover behind Henbogle Coop while the party was in full swing. He showed no interest in departing until Barry arrived with a hoe. I'm sure it will be just a matter of time until it attempts to dig under the fence to the vegetable garden. We need to train the chickens to chase it off.

Today, we are enjoying a relaxed, drizzly Sunday with Kyle and his girlfriend Megan. Thanks to all for coming and for bringing yummy side dishes and gifts! We are lucky to live in a great town and have wonderful friends and family to share the good times.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cake excitement!

Four cakes. I hope it is enough!

Since the chocolate cake is a bit hard to see, another shot.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cake, anyone?

Food snob that I am, a sheet cake from the grocery store to celebrate an important birthday just won't do, so today, I made 4 different pound cakes (yes, pound cakes --when you have hens, you make pound cakes!) a deep chocolate cake, with sweet cherry sauce, a buttered rum cake with pecans, a brown sugar pound cake, with peaches in brown sugar syrup, and an orange pound cake with orange custard sauce. That's 6 sticks of butter, 4 cups of sour cream and 22 eggs.

I don't much care for frosting, and I'm not patient enough to frost cakes beautifully. Since I am the baker, I get to choose the cake and I chose frosting-free bundt cakes with sauces that take advantage of the luscious fruits of summer.
I have yet to finish making all the sauces and decorate all the cakes, but will take photos if they turn out camera ready.

The house is as clean as it's been in a year, the yard looks fabulous, and the big thunderstorm this afternoon didn't crush the garden with hail (although I did have to prop up the shasta daisies with tomato cages, sigh). Oh well, we desperately needed the rain, even if it was only 1/2 an inch.

Still to do tomorrow morning: finish the sauces, make the coleslaw, get the pulled pork in the crock-pot to warm up, and a quick clutter patrol. We're ready!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

T Minus 2 Days

Things here at Henbogle are reaching a fever pitch as we prepare for Dan's and friend Michelle's silver birthday celebration, Together We're 100, on Saturday.

Plans call for the shindig to take place here in the garden unless the weather is downright wet, so we've been working our fingers to the bone to get things looking just so, as they say.

In the vegetable garden, the chard and carrot plot went from weedy to wonderful, well weeded and mulched with our own special blend of leaf mulch and compost.

The rest of the veggie garden was thoroughly weeded and mulched with hay.

Trudy and Trevor Titmouse kept us company while we were working in the garden. They've taken up residence in the nest box on the corner fence post.

The flower gardens are blooming, with the shasta daisies taking center stage.

The poor hydrangea in the front garden is blooming beautifully this year. For several years I was pruning it out of the lilac hedge, not realizing what it was, other than not a lilac --snip!

The coreopsis is blooming in front of the daisies, and in the silver garden along the driveway, the rose campion and veronica are blooming nicely, with the lavender vera and lamb's ears complimenting them at the end of the bed. I know some people prune off the lamb's ear blossoms, but I think they are beautiful in a rather alien way, and the bees love them, so I leave the blossoms.
We need rain, but at this point I hope it holds off until Sunday, at which point a good day-long gentle rain would be most welcome. But not before then.