Saturday, October 20, 2012

October Blooms

Just when I think the garden is winding down I am pleased to see mums and asters coming into their prime.  I know they will be blooming now but it still comes as a bit of a surprise each fall.  This is a combo that I am particularly fond of.  The aster I think is Aster Fricartii, Wonder of Staffa.  I got it from my father some years back and it is a winner, blooming here in the Piedmont of NC from September into late October.  I especially like it together with this dark pink mum and so we have planted them together along one edge of the yard.
  Camellia Cecilia in Bud
The camellias too are beginning to open.  We've planted lots of them in the past few years ever since I  worked at Camellia Forest and now they are beginning to get settled in and offer a good show of blooms.  I've decided camellias are a bit fickle, they need enough sun and light to set flowers but not so much that they get burned in the winter time.  It also seems quite helpful to feed them a couple of times a year to help set good buds.  The ones we've managed to put in the right place and treat well are finally rewarding us with blooms and more vigorous growth.  
Camellia Cecilia
A friend once said that when you add new shrubs and trees to the landscape "the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap" and I think there is a lot of truth to this statement. Things are doing especially well this year as we had a decent amount of rain in the second half of the summer and early fall.

Here is another mum that is a great shade.  We have a variety of colors as mums tend to cross and mix over time.  Some have gotten kind of washed out and are almost white or a very pale pink and others have gone quite dark, some almost red.  It's interesting to see what happens over time if they are allowed to mix and blend. 

I worked outside all afternoon, it was a glorious day and finally I felt I was getting on the other side of the cold I've had this week.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts at hand washing and trying to avoid contaminating him, David is now down with the same bug.  Oh well, the least I can do is go pull some dinner together for us.

Friday, October 19, 2012

In trying times, try gardening for a change

I was miffed to discover recently that most of my Chapel Hill News Articles (listed on the right side of my blog page)  have been sent to the archives and can no longer be read by clicking on the link there.  Reading through them in my files, I think these are pretty good pieces and I want people to be able to link to them, as an example of my published work. I do aspire to actually publish more work sometime in this life!

So, I decided I would "reprint" a few of the favorites here and I think this one written in October of 2008 seems fairly appropriate with the election coming up.  See what you think.

Originally published in The Chapel Hill News October 22, 2008:

October is the month when my partner David and I begin to chip away at the list of annual fall tasks that include cleaning out the stove pipes and gutters, cutting firewood, cleaning up the gardens and laying a fresh layer of mulch around the perennials.  It gives us a break from the incessant discussions about the election and the failing economy.

Motivation for chores can be hard when the days are filled with brilliant color from changing leaves against clear blue skies. We want to take a break from the hard work of the summer garden and enjoy the autumn.  I want to escape from digging shrub holes and walk down to the creek to watch the falling leaves swirl down out of the trees and drift lazily along the surface of the water. 

We’ve wiled away some recent afternoons roaming around our place, discussing plans for the landscape.  Where to build stone walls, make new pathways, or plant additional trees and shrubs.  Living in the country with land around us offers an endless opportunity for expansion. It’s a bit like a balloon note on a sub-prime mortgage, for every hour spent planning; there will be 100 hours of doing required.  The longer we live here, the more grandiose the schemes become, the older we get, the slower the projects are completed, but instead of worrying about our bank accounts or the latest smear campaign, we ponder which bulbs to order and where to plant them.
I want to turn off NPR and enjoy the flower garden which has entered another phase of bloom worthy of long contemplation.  Pink, salmon and purple mums and blue asters billow out of the beds, punctuated by the bright oranges, reds and yellows of late zinnias putting on one last show. 

As the days grow shorter, and the election closer, our desire for comfort foods increases.  Unable to completely let go and eager for the latest in the ongoing political and financial battles, we listen to the radio while eating suppers of tender homegrown salads made festive with beets and carrots, sharp with radishes and nasturtiums.   The cool weather allows us to turn on the oven and bake; the scent of crusty loaves of bread, homemade veggie pizzas, and apple-oatmeal muffins wafts from our kitchen.

As November approaches; the sun moves lower, shadows grow longer and the stock market continues its roller coaster ride.  A delicate balance has to be achieved between enjoying the gorgeous days, getting necessary work done before winter, and not letting politics take over every conversation.  Maintaining our place is an effort, but if everything goes awry, at least we’ll have vegetables to eat, a beautiful garden to relax in and endless chores to help take our minds off the financial problems.  

Hope you enjoyed this one, it seems not much has really changed.  Look for others as we roll along, I'll try to add them as seems timely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grey Speckled Cow Peas

So I'm home with a cold, not so sick that I have to take to my bed, sometimes I think I would prefer that- well I say I would- but really?  All the same, I'm feeling crummy enough to not have energy for much of anything.  I hate this- I'm a terrible patient, there are so many things that I need and want to be doing.  You know- house cleaning would be kind of a good idea, its been weeks, or working out in the garden.  It's a spectacular fall day, clear and sunny, just under 70 degrees, there are fall veggies to weed and mulch, summer veggies to pull out, weeds and mulching over the whole place actually would be very useful.  But instead, I'm doing light duty things like shelling peas.

I have this handy little sheller that I inherited from my mother, shoots the shells out one end and the peas back at you.  It's the kind of task that would be good to have small children around for so they could run after the peas that fly across the room.  But there are none of those here, so I instead, put on my spectacles and rove around picking up all that I can find that have been flung to the far corners of the house.

These grey speckled cow peas are a new variety for me.  You know, if you're a regular reader, about my zaniness for beans.  These are an heirloom variety, in the same family as the purple hull black-eyed peas that I've grown for many years, but entirely different in nature.  For one- they are impossible to shell when fresh but need to be picked as they are starting to dry out and then allowed to dry out completely before attempting to shell them.  The purple hulls are quite easy to shell by hand when fresh and pop into the freezer for later use as "fresh" peas.  I've yet to cook any of these speckled peas, though they are very beautiful with their mauve mottled coloration and white eyes.  I think this would make an excellent Formica pattern for a kitchen counter.  Or maybe a screen saver background.
I'll let you know how they taste when I get around to cooking some, I'm guessing I might get about a quart of dried beans off my tiny experimental patch. I planted an area about 5x6, that has reached to more like 10x10, they're a bit rambling and very prolific.  I like that in a bean.

So I'm off for another cup of ginger lemon tea with honey accept I'm out of honey so thinking of trying sorghum, I've got lots of that, I wonder if it will have the same soothing properties?  Will see.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Back from the beach and settling into autumn

Once again, despite my spouting to the contrary- another month has whooshed past without a post.  It's amazing.  I don't even have a really good excuse accept I've just been distracted by life I guess.
Hitt-Rogers Clan
We did spend a week at our favorite beach house at Trout and Ocean and were so lucky and delighted to have the entire Missouri faction of the family show up to share the fun.  Most special was the delectable Aria, all the way from Olympia, Washington, my grand niece and she was grand, I absolutely ate her up every morsel!
My brother Jon is about the only person I know that would welcome the above combo, peanut butter and onion on the left, pimento cheese on the right, all washed down with a cold brew.  I think this was the day he boasted of taking not one, but two naps.  Now that's truly being on holiday.
Our encampment, daily erected in some variation on the colorful theme. Late afternoon- everyone was probably at the house eating or napping.

Back at home, we've had hot and humid weather followed by cold and rainy.  In fact its been the wettest late summer/early autumn period that I remember in some years.  I'm glad to have the rain and see all the waterways flowing fully, but hoping to see some of that crisp, dry, sunny weather in the very near future that truly speaks autumn to me.

The fall veggie garden planted about a month ago just before our exit for the beach is coming along famously, all the seeds are up, carrots, spinach, lettuce, chois, turnips.  The only thing that's a little rough are the beets which got attacked by caterpillars when I wasn't looking, we'll see if I rescued them in time. The broccoli, cabbage and collards are loving the cool, wet weather.  Hoping to be able to start harvesting some greens in a few more weeks.  I start to really crave fresh greens about now and have been eating up the ones I froze in the sprig time.  We've also been making big pots of soup and baking bread to make us comfy on the chilly wet days.

I'm glad the summer is finally past and really looking forward to fall and winter and slowing down a tad.