Friday, July 29, 2011

Lilies That Grow in My Garden

If you read my blog regularly, you might recall me saying that my three favorite perennial flowers are hardy hibiscus, lilies, and iris, in that order.  The lilies are one of my favorites for good reason.  This one is my favorite of all of them. 

These lilies are ones that I purchased from the lady that grows hybrid lilies that she pollinates herself.  I have many other lilies in my yard, but they were left by the previous owner, and they are pretty, but they are the kind of daylilies you can go to a nursery and buy. 

I love these lilies though because they are one of a kind...this one reminds me of yogurt and jam.

I think these are lilies that I got for free when I purchased some of the fancier lilies, but they are also very pretty. 

Some of these I have had for a few years, and I think they are seeding and making babies that are crosses of each other.  I suppose one day I might try crossing my own lilies, but at this point, I'm content to let the bees and wasps take care of that for me.

You can tell I have gone through a really peach/yellow/orange phase in the last few years.  I think next time I buy, I will look for white or a lemony yellow. 

This one and the next are my newest ones.  This is only their 2nd year in my garden and they make 30-40 blooms on one clump.  I go through several weeks with blooms, even though they only last one day.  The only thing I don't like about lilies is having to go through and clean up all the yucky old blooms to keep them looking tidy.  You also have to watch out for the pollen...if you get it on your clothes, it is there forever. 

This clump of lilies reminds me of a braeburn apple.  They are so gorgeous. 

Lilies are the gift that keeps on giving...the clump will keep growing and should be divided every 2 to 3 years to keeps it blooming well.  I will leave these for one more year before I divide them.  Then I will have lilies to put somewhere else or give to a friend!

Do you grow special lilies in your yard?  I'd love to know if you hybridize your own lilies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Apple Picking...for Free!

Last week I had the opportunity to go and pick free organic apples.  DH has a work friend with an apple tree in his backyard.  He is single and lives alone; not much of a canner.  When he heard DH raving about how wonderful a cook and canner I am (I'm embellishing for the sake of the story), he offered up his apples, since they are just getting in the way of the lawn mower at his place. 

I went to Menards and purchased a fruit picker (which was ridiculously expensive:  $25.00!!!) However, it will pay for itself this year in the money I save buying apples at the orchard this fall.  DH's friend warned us that it was a really tall tree, so we threw some baskets and the ladder in the back of the van and headed over. 

DH told me on the way over, "I'm just going along to watch; I found you the apples, so I'm going to sit back and relax."  Yet who do we see picking the apples in the pictures?  He is...because he LOVES me...

He is even seen here to be utilizing the stepladder and the apple picker at the same time. 

As you can see, I got quite a few apples.  I'm not sure how this translates into apple measurements...but I think it is at least a bushel.  Now I have to figure out what to do with them all.  I was a little surprised that there were apples ready so early in the year.  I did some checking, and I am fairly certain they are called 'Lodi' apples. 

From what I read about them, Lodi apples are often considered the first apple of the season, ready in mid July.  They are an improvement on their parent variety, called Yellow Transparent.  I would consider most of the Lodi apples to be green though.  I wonder if many people confuse them with the yellow transparents.  They are very soft, and very tart.  They have an extremely sharp taste, that comes through even with the cooking.  It seems as if they are used almost exclusively for applesauce due to how quickly they cook down.  I am wondering however, if this will make  it hard to use them for other things.  They are definitely not good fresh eating apples. 

I know after all the help I got from DH getting these apples, he's curious to see what I do with them.  I'm going to make applesauce with them for sure, and experiment with some other recipes.  They do not store well  at all, only a week or two by most accounts, so I need to use them FAST.  If you know of any uses for Lodi apples, please comment.  I am also in need of recipes, keeping in mind that these apples cook to mush very quickly.  Thanks for the comments!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Boys & Bugs (& Brothers...)

Yesterday my brother and his family came up to Iowa to visit us.  His two little boys are a little younger than my son, and I am absolutely delighted when I get to see them.  They wanted to see something cool in Iowa, so of course I took them to one of our favorite places, Reiman Gardens.  The boys loved the butterflies especially...they got as close as possible to check out the wings.

Since they are all boys, they seem to get along well, and they have similar interests.  I like this shot of them looking awed by the beauty of the butterflies. 

We have had some almost record heat this week, and what is a hot day without....ICE CREAM. 

Some of us wear it more than

The boys got to work out some of their energy on the chimes...they all took a turn making some music. 

We got to spend a whole day together, which only happens a few times a year.  I really want my son to know his extended family and be close to them, so he has a support system as he grows up.  On the other side, I want my nephews to know me as they grow up as well. 

After we left the gardens, they came over to my house and I got to cook them dinner.  We got to talk a long time, and then they headed home.  It really was a wonderful day. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Garlic!

This is my 2nd year growing garlic, and this year, I didn't have to MOVE the garlic midyear.  As you may or may not remember, I moved in late February of 2010.  In mid October of 2009, when I was planting the garlic, I did not realize I was going to be moving in a few months.  I did get the chance to move it later on, but I seriously disrupted the growth cycle.  Still, it was okay.  But this year, they stayed where I put them, October till now. 

I knew it was time to harvest the garlic because the tops started to yellow a lot, like this picture above.  Last year, I waited until the leaves were a lot more yellow, and I had a hard time finding all the garlic.  Waiting so long, the tops had deteriorated a lot more and I couldn't tell where the bulbs were under the ground.  About a month ago, I removed the seed and stem part of the garlic plant, called the scape.  There are basically two kinds of garlic, hardneck and softneck, and hardneck is the type that makes a scape.  All my garlic is hardneck this year...I would like to grow some softneck garlic though too, because that is the kind that you can braid and hang up in your kitchen.  Hardneck garlic doesn't store as long as softneck garlic, they say, but mine did just fine last year.  You can see a post showing the garlic scapes here.  Cutting off the scapes makes the bulbs grow much bigger because they don't have to put so much energy into making their seed head. 

I've found that the best way to get the garlic out is to use a large tined fork.  I step down on the fork a few inches back from where I think the clove is, and lift it up, to loosen the ground up.  If you have cultivated your soil well in the fall, when you planted the garlic, it shouldn't be too hard to loosen it up now.  Then, since you didn't wait too long to harvest your garlic (smile), you can reach down and gently pull the garlic bulb loose from the dirt. 

Elephant Garlic!
I tried some elephant garlic this year.  Elephant garlic is not a true garlic, but actually is a kind of wild leek.  But I grow it with the garlic, since it allows itself to be treated as such.  These bulbs turned out to be huge!  The flavor is nice, and a tad bit milder than the real garlic. 

This is a variety called Georgian Fire.  Seed Savers says this one is a true 'white hot' garlic, with a pleasant heat.  I can't wait to try it out.   I also grew Siberian Garlic and Chesnok Red this year.  Siberian is a good all purpose garlic, while chesnok is good for baking and roasting.  I tried to cover all my bases. 

For the time being, I put all the garlic into my barn (aka my enclosed front porch).  I will leave it there for a few weeks to cure, to dry out so it will store better for as long as possible.  I'm sure a lot of it will go into marinara and salsas that I will be canning later in the summer.

I'd love to hear about your garlic experiences...especially other varieties that people grow.  I need to learn how to properly roast garlic without burning the heck out of it.  If you like the smell of garlic, come on on over and sit on my's smelling pretty good out there about now. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

A MiniVacation to Illinois

 My friend Melissa from C'est la Vie recently had a baby...darling little Henry.  Melissa, (who I call Missy, I'm probably the only one in the world that still calls her that) and I have been friends for going on 14 years now.  We have been friends through college, boyfriends, marriage, long-distance moves, divorces, and children.  We work pretty hard to keep our friendship going, even with our busy lives. That means almost every summer, my son and I head out to the Chicago suburbs to visit.  This time though, I got some baby crack!  Not like the crack on his backside.  I mean the drug that an adorable baby is to most women.  My son was pretty entranced by Henry too...he spent a lot of time holding, feeding, and loving on the baby.  He even said he would love to be a babysitter, except for the poopy diaper part. 

 Henry is only 5 weeks old, which means he can't hold on to many things yet, and he kicks randomly, but doesn't have a lot of coordinated movements yet.  I couldn't resist giving him this little teddy bear while he was lying on his boppy pillow.  I thought maybe I saw him smile a little bit and give it a few kicks like he was enjoying himself. (Probably my imagination).

My son hasn't been this little in quite a while, so I really enjoyed getting some serious baby lovin' in.  He fell asleep in the crook of my arm a few times...I could get used to this. 

When I wasn't snorting baby smell, we got to spend a lot of time visiting.  We spent one whole day eating and shopping.  Here we were having a little 'snack' at Houlihans. 

If you see my friend Missy's will know she also has an outgoing 2-year old son named Nick.   My son also spent a lot of time chasing and running around with Nick.  I'll leave you with this video of them having an awesome time in the dressing rooms at a store at the outlet mall.  I was trying a shirt on, and Missy took this video.  Obviously, there wasn't anyone else in the dressing rooms, or we wouldn't have let them run in and out like that.  It would have been quite shocking to anyone who would have been in there.  But it did keep the kids busy for a few minutes. 

I have so many pictures I'll have to show some more in another post.  In the meantime, where have you gone this summer?  Don't you love getting to visit old friends?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bloom Day...A Few Days Late

red tropical hibiscus
Tropical Hibiscus

brown pansy in late summer
A Pansy - Hanging on through the heat

red monarda bee balm
Bee Balm

Heirloom Runner Bean - Painted Lady

ruffled edged hybrid lily
Hybrid Lily

mounding nasturtium vanilla berry
Nasturtium - Vanilla Berry

yellow coreopsis

 speedwell veronica

salmon pink geranium
Salmon Geranium

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Puzzles and Pigs

We had company on Saturday, one of my dearest friends, as close as family.  She brought some gifts for the grandbabies, since she couldn't make it to the birthday party on Wednesday.  One present she brought was this great guinea pig puzzle. 

As you know...I have kind of a 'thing' for guinea pigs.  So I thought this puzzle was ADORABLE.  You may not know that I LOVE puzzles.  So much that once I start one, I can hardly do anything else until it it done.  I kept having to tear myself away from this one to make pizzas for the kids.  Food? What, you kids don't need to eat, do you? 

This puzzle was kind of hard for a small one, because almost all the pieces looked like white or hair. Besides doing the puzzle, we watched a cheesy but okay VanDiesel movie, ate some buffalo chicken dip, and did a garden tour.  My friend is a master gardener, so I like to pick her brain a little bit and show her some of the projects I've been working on. 

As you can see, we still got the puzzle done.  I think I might get a frame and save this one...he's pretty cute, don't you think?

Friday, July 8, 2011

More Entertaining Faces...Courtesy of the Birthday Boy

 Evidently my son has been taking lessons from his younger nephews, you can see their interesting faces here.  When I looked at the pictures I took during the birthday party the other day, I found quite a few pics of him that made me giggle.  These are not natural faces, trust me, this kid is posing for these pictures. 

 Granted, he was really excited about getting this panda pillow pet.  He has been asking for one for several months.  He is a funny kid.  He also asked for a compass, a slide whistle...(I'm like WTF Batman!), I had to look up what a slide whistle WAS.  I recognized the sound, but I had never actually seen one in real life. 

 He got this Playmobil set from his Pop Pop.  He was thrilled.  If you have never heard of Playmobils, here is the link to their site.  I played with these things when I was a little girl, and I saved a bunch of them that he plays with now.  I don't think I ever had a set this big and cool when I was young though.  It is a school, and the little people have ALL these accessories.  They are like the little people that come with legos, but a little bigger and more complex. 

 I was really surprised how much he liked the pillow pet.  He has carried it around with him most of the time since the party yesterday.  I sprang for the 'real' pillow pet, not the knockoff.  It is super soft.  I guess it is rather soothing. 

In all, he was in a spectacular mood for most of the day.  He had a good attitude during the party and interacted well with everybody there.  Sometimes he can be rather moody, so I can never predict what flavor I am going to get with him.  I think you can tell by the way he is sharing a story with his new friend, we had a really good day. 
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