Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Seed Catalogs

Seed catalogs keep arriving in my mailbox. The newest one, today, came from a company from which I had bought tomato seeds last year and - on a whim - a package of pepper seeds: Medusa. At the end of the season, just as freezing weather was threatening, I had one tiny pot of 3 (tiny) Medusas left, so I brought it indoors. They're still alive, still doing well. In fact, I have already harvested quite a crop of seeds from these small plants and am eager to see, next spring, what they will produce.

Winter Weather Calls for Soup

A simmering pot of soup on the kitchen stove can make a nippy winter day bearable. This is a time-consuming recipe (about one hour prep and two hours cooking), but it is oh, so worth it!

This is what you need:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
(the regular kind, not the sweet ones)
6 to 10 cloves of garlic
(depending on the size of the cloves)
4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups shredded green cabbage
2 large, firm potatoes (red or Yukon gold)
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 14.5 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
(oh, what the *%@! - make it a whole cup!)
8 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

This is what you do:
Stage 1 of 4:
Heat the oil in a large soup kettle.
Sautee chopped onions until golden.
Add garlic; stir for a minute or two.
Stir in celery and carrots.
Add cabbage; stir and cook till wilted.

Stage 2 of 4:
Add potatoes, turnips and parsnips.
Stir and cook for a minute or two.

Stage 3 of 4:

Add tomatoes, with liquid.
(chop tomatoes a little)
Add parsley and stock; stir gently.
Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil.
Cover completely, turn heat down and simmer for 2 hours.
Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Stage 4 of 4 – the best!
Serving suggestion: to each soup bowl, add a few drops of Tabasco and/or sprinkle with some grated Parmesan or Gruyere. But it is good without the additions also!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow on Christmas

I am so glad I left lots of plants "a mess" this fall, including this Solidago that has made friends with a Rosemary and contributed to excellent shelter for small birds that visit the feeders in my garden and then find a place to hide for a while.

The Holly looks as lovely in the snow today as it did two days ago in sunshine.

The Nandina was sheltered from the snow by shrubs and a pine tree.

The Pyracantha, by contrast, bore the full brunt of the storm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho, Ho - Jolly Holly!

The Holly, Nandina and Pyracantha berries are all shining enticingly in this afternoon's sunshine. If the weather forecast is correct, they'll be covered in ice and/or snow by this time tomorrow.

Merry Christmas to my readers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who Needs Dried Rosemary?

The other evening, making a vegetable soup with beans, carrots and kale, I realized I had no dried Rosemary. Who needs dried Rosemary? It grows 4 or 5 feet tall in several places in my garden. So, with a flashlight and a pair of scissors, the mission was accomplished. The soup was divine. The recipe is on Feed Your Good Dog.

Winter Gardens - Brilliant!

My neighborhood, like many others in the Atlanta area – and indeed the country – has experienced “the housing crisis” in full. Developers and builders have gone out of business. One Home Owners Association Management Company after another has come in and made matters better or worse (the current one, number four, is a good one!). There are too many renters. But that may be better than abandoned houses. There are foreclosures. There are “home for sale” signs, by owner or listed with a real estate company, everywhere and the properties are lingering on the market, some for two years or longer.

Sounds like your neighborhood? We’re all in the same boat!

This year, about six months ago, we finally had an HOA Board and a management company that saw merit in having a garden club, so I started one and, by default, became its President. With an initial membership of four (Catherine, Sally and Helen in addition to myself), we started meeting once a month, quickly added three more members (Denelle, Pat and Sandy) and then another (Debbie). Eight strong, we began planning programs. Helen took responsibility for a September workshop on soil, lawns and trees. The program was excellent, but the turn-out meager. Catherine proposed a “progressive winter garden tour”, much as neighborhoods have for decades held progressive dinners. We all supported the idea and the event was held today.

Congratulations, Catherine! It was splendid! Turn-out was 30+, at last count, most of them from outside our neighborhood (the local newspapers did a great job announcing the event), and we’ve put our sub-division on the map and made some new friends.

Morale of the story? The glass is not just half full, it’s almost overflowing! If your neighborhood is suffering from the real estate blues, do something! We are making a start in our neighborhood, and today’s event surpassed all expectations. Now enjoy images from the gardens that were on the tour:

This garden has a fresh yet polished look to it, with nicely pruned shrubs and plantings of pansies and snapdragons.

Santa Claus cannot possible skip this family! With a 'natural' look to its garden, the season is being celebrated with reindeer, candy canes, wreaths and more.

This garden always attracts attention, no matter the season. With conifers, small trees and seasonal color, it's no wonder cars slow down when they pass. The rear garden is equally stunning, even including grape vines.

Along with strategically-placed pots of Viola, this basket of Cyclamen is an immediate attention-getter.

The photograph does not do the garden justice; these homeowners have made their front door the main focal point, with both downstairs and upstairs holiday decorations visible through the window.

An excellent example of how a sloping lot can be used for seasonal color. Here, pansies flow off to the left, to come to a halt neat the Crape Myrtle on the corner. Between the stairs to the front door and the driveway, a specimen conifer attracts attention.

The final home on today's tour, our project manager and her husband's, welcomed visitors with beautiful indoor decorations, many of them generations-old, live entertainment and a warm holiday drink. Many of the plants in this garden, not in this photograph and only becoming visible again in spring, come from a decades-old family garden in Pennsylvania and have accompanied the couple on their journey south.

We did it, in our neighborhood -- celebrate the season, forget for a moment the real estate mess and the Great Recession -- and you can do it, too!