Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunflowers, Goldenrod Infused Oil, And Other Things

The sunflowers have begun to bloom in my garden! They're so tall, somewhere around 9ft. I had to stand over between the zucchini and the bush beans to snap this picture.

My black-white kitty came out to the garden with me to roll in the dirt path and rub on one of my row-marker sticks.

Today I made some goldenrod infused oil. I did it the down and dirty quick way. I've never made infused oil before, but what seems like acres and acres of goldenrod is about to burst into bloom, so if this doesn't work, believe me, there's plenty more where that came from.

How I Made My Goldenrod Infused Oil

I snipped some of the first goldenrod to bloom and took it right home and put it into two cups of extra-virgin olive oil (just the blooms, but I think some people use the leaves too). I had about three stems of goldenrod. The olive oil was in the top part of a double boiler. I filled the oil up with the fresh goldenrod so that there wasn't any room left, but careful that the goldenrod wasn't heaping out of the oil.

I let the oil/goldenrod sit in the double boiler over gently simmering water for a couple of hours. I made sure the water didn't boil away by adding a little more to it every 20 minutes. I was very careful not to let any water get into the oil/goldenrod. After letting the oil cool a bit, I strained it through cheesecloth into a clean jar. Now I'll let it sit undisturbed for a few days so that the cloudiness can settle out. The moisture from the fresh blossoms will supposedly settle to the bottom by then and I'll be able to siphon off the oil into another jar.

Some people only use dried herbs when infusing oil so that it lessens the risk of the oil getting moldy after a time. Also, another way to infuse the oil is to take your time. Place the herbs in the oil, place a lid on the container, and let it sit in the sun for a few weeks. Strain, and voila! You have infused oil. That's how I'm going to do it with my calendula.

We have a very large apple tree in our back yard which was there when we purchased the house. We have never done the necessary things to ensure bug-free apples, so the apples are always too buggy to eat. Sometimes you can find a few that aren't, and they're a treat, crisp, sweet, and with almost a clovey spice to them. When my daughter took horseback riding lessons, she would often take a few to the horses. They ate them up.

We're considering pruning the tree into shape and doing what it takes to help the apples stay bug free in coming years. I'd better get the canning supplies out!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sharing Our Corn

Something got into our corn. It knocked down several plants and ate the corn off of the cob. I've heard, or read, somewhere that Native Americans would plant their squash so that it grew underneath their corn plants. It helped keep things like racoons out of the corn. Apparently racoons don't like walking over the prickly squash plants to get to the corn.

Maybe I'll try that next year.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drying Calendula


I've harvested the first of my calendula. I almost didn't want to cut these pretty blossoms, but lots more are on their way. I'll be hanging my calendula to dry it, and then I'll collect the dried petals to use in making lotions, facial washes, and first-aid preparations (for cuts, burns, and scrapes).

Now that I've taken the picture, I'll move this hanging bunch to a darker room to complete its drying.

I'm leaving some flowers in the garden so that I'll have seed for next year. I love how there are rich yellows, golden oranges, and light and dark centers, sometimes on the same plant!

I don't know why, but this is really exciting for me. I've ordered dried plants and herbs before with which I've made lotions and facial washes, but growing things to use in your own garden is much more fun. And I've never made my own calendula preparations before. I was tempted to buy dried petals last winter, but instead I ordered seeds for the garden, and now my wait is paying off with beautiful blooms.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Woodsy the Kitten

The little kitten from yesterday's post, the one that some people were going to leave to fend for itself in the mountains of Pennsylvania, is once again the feature of today's post.

Yesterday it was not a purry, secure, playful type of kitten. It was a scared, run and hide, get away from me type of kitten. But it has become more secure and sure of its surroundings and today you can see for yourself in this video what kind of a kitten it is.

I'm still referring to the kitten as 'it' because I have no idea what gender it is. Sometimes when they're very little it's not always obvious. And it has no name because we can't keep it. We have to find a nice home for the tiny little thing. Anyone out there in the Cleveland-Akron area who would like to give this almost-Pennsylvania-mountain-woodland kitty a nice, loving home?

Are you sure?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wild Woodland Kitten

My daughter went camping and came home with this:

It doesn't stay still for long.

My daughter met some people in the mountain woodlands of Pennsylvania while she was camping. They had this kitten with them. They said, "Do you want it? 'Cause we're just gonna leave it here."

Can you imagine? The little thing is barely 8 weeks old, if that. My daughter cannot comprehend such people.

Bloom Day - August!

This is my second-ever bloom day post. Woot! I love looking at other bloom day posts to see what's blooming in other people's gardens the world over. If you would like to see these posts, or if you would like to share what's blooming in your garden, head over to the May Dreams Gardens blog. To share pictures of your garden, leave a link to your blog in the comments section. Or simply follow the links already there to see some truly beautiful pictures from gardens the world over.

The blooms in my garden this August are few. My Rose of Shannon bushes are in bloom:

And this relative of the gladiola that actually likes shade, is adding a bit of color to a sunless spot:

My true gladioli are in bloom, but sadly, the dog tends to knock the top heavy blooms over in his zeal to chase balls. The color of these flowers is striking. I can't take credit for planting them, they were here when we bought the house:

I'm really excited about my calendula - they're finally beginning to bloom! Here's the very first one to open. I ordered the seeds from an Amish farm and they arrived with handwritten instructions for planting and a note saying they hoped I would enjoy my flowers:

Like in my last bloom day post, I have taken a few pictures of the things blooming in the park next to my house. I always enjoy the wildflowers that grow there in the untamed nooks and crannies.

Some of the smaller thistle is still in bloom, although most has gone to seed (which makes the goldfinches happy):

The picture below is of one of my favorite plants to come across. This is pokeweed. I know, it sounds like something you'd want to take the weed-whacker to, but it is honestly one of the most lovely plants to look at. The colors are what make it a treat for the eye. You see the pinks and the greens? The plant has variations of these colors throughout, ranging from delicate, newborn greens and softest pinks, to darker, established greens and rich, deep purples. Pokeweed can grow quite large and the juice from the purple berries can be used to make ink (I believe civil war soldiers often availed themselves of this ink to write letters home). The only part that's edible are the very young leaves, which, if cooked and prepared correctly, can be turned into something called poke sallet. If it's not done the right way, though, it's on the poisonous side (I've never tried it):

The first of the goldenrod has begun to bloom. There is a fallow farmer's field nearby which is now full of goldenrod. In September I will visit the field to see if I can get a picture of the field in bloom.

The Queen Anne's lace and the chicory are still blooming at full force:

And this lovely, purple flower, the name of which I have no idea, has just begun to bloom (edit here ~ thanks to the Nan Ondra over at Gardening Gone Wild, I now know that this is ironweed):

Below is a parting shot of some chicory. The bees were very busy in it this morning:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Enormous Egg

I just finished re-reading The Enormous Egg, by Oliver Butterworth. I read a lot of middle-grade and young adult fiction, and while perusing the stacks in my library I saw The Enormous Egg. I had to check it out.

I have very fond memories of this book, although I'd never actually read it until now. Well then, how can I have such fond memories of it, you may ask? It was read to me when I was around six years old. My family and a neighbor family down the street rented a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains for a week one summer, and every evening before bed, Mrs. Hinze would read to all of the assorted children from this book.

Oh, it was a lot of fun each night before bed to hear about this chicken who laid an egg which hatched into a dinosaur! And the name that Nate Twitchell gave to his little dinosaur has never left my head. I think that every time I've ever seen a Triceratops I've thought of the name, Uncle Beazley. What also made the book come alive was, at that time, I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and had visited the National Zoo and the Natural History Museum many times - places that figure prominently in the book.

At one point, I'm not sure exactly when, the Natural History Museum put two dinosaur sculptures out front, just across the street so they were actually on the Mall. One of the sculptures was a Triceratops. Of course we all called it Uncle Beazley every time we saw it. I'm not sure if the sculptures are still there. It seems like little children liked to climb on them, so eventually a low fence was placed around them. And then it seems like they may not have been there when I had a chance to take my own little tots to see the sights in D.C. many years ago.

Okay, I just checked. To see a picture of the Triceratops sculpture and to find out where it is nowadays, follow this link.

Anyway, the book is still charming, and although it was published for the first time way back in 1956, I think it would still be a good read for a child today. Sure, there are some kind of unbelievable things that happen (you may be thinking - chicken hatching a dinosaur; but I'm thinking - little kid is allowed to ride dinosaur around D.C. unsupervised, and some pretty over the top actions by some senators). But really, those kinds of things don't bother little kids. They have lots and lots of imagination and can deal with things that we grown-ups can't.

When my husband came home and saw the book lying on the table, he said, "The Enormous Egg?! That was one of my favorite books!"

Read it to someone you love today. You'll be glad you did, and the illustrations by Louis Darling will delight.

Friday, August 8, 2008

How the publishing industry works - Not!

For the writers out there, this will make you giggle. For those who have no idea how the publishing industry works, this may seem a reasonable depiction of how to write a book and get it published. Enjoy:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nelson-Kennedy Ledges

There is a place called Nelson-Kennedy Ledges, which is a state park up here in northeast Ohio.

You might not think of Ohio as having places like this - rocky, mossy, full of crevasses to explore.

But they're here.

Down in the deeper places it's cool on a hot summer's afternoon.

The rocks turn green with thick layers of moss and hanging ferns.

It's a fun place to go for a hike.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Editorial Comments- the writers out there will giggle

There is a hilarious post up at Finding Wonderland having to do with editorial comments. I haven't experienced comments from an editor's point of view yet, but these comments are strikingly familiar to the types of things that you might get from a critique group. Please follow this link to read editorial comments gone awry for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Summing up July: Knitting, Felting, Fireworks, Writing, Gardening, Sadness and Happiness

The fireworks for my nice little town are shot off in the park next door. We have front row seats. The first year we lived here, my children each had a friend over and we all sat on a blanket on the roof over our garage and watched what seemed like our own personal fireworks show. We learned, though. If you live in this neighborhood, you are almost obligated to have a party on fireworks day/night. The whole subdivision is a wall-to-wall party. So now my husband invites friends from work. We grill, everyone brings something, we eat outside, play lawn games, make s’mores. The sun goes down, we don sweatshirts and bug spray and gather on blankets laid out on a hillock next to the park. The fireworks are always spectacular and have an in-your-face excitement to them. So that’s what we did at the beginning of July – we had our fireworks party.

We also began to harvest things from our garden. Peas were the first things ready for picking.

Now the zucchini are providing for our table. So far we’ve had zucchini bread and steamed zucchini mixed with green beans from the garden, and then sprinkled with fresh peas. Yum! The green beans are my favorite. They are yummy and abundant. Our tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but we have a lot on the vine.

The corn has just begun to tassel, I noticed that the calendula is getting ready to bloom, and I think the sunflowers are getting as close as they can to the sky before they decide to bud. They’re tall and magnificent.

One of our kitties had to be put to sleep in July. Just last week, in fact. Now when I walk out to the garden, I pass her little resting spot, and that of one of our other little kitties.

Here she is on the right, thirteen years ago, with the little girl who grew up with her and loved her every minute of those thirteen years.

Sadness and Happiness. The art of living is figuring out how to heal from the one so you can embrace the other.

I’m working on a new novel. It’s for ages 11 and up, targeted for boys. It has rugby, ghost hunting, and a new girlfriend who may or may not be a ghost. It was my turn for critique in July and my critique group really liked the first chapter. One of the comments written by one of them was, “I hope you know where you’re going with this, because I really like it and I want to read the rest.” Hee! I don’t really know where I’m going with it. And that’s kind of a problem. I have ideas, but I really need a good twist, a wow element to give my idea some real spice. Trying to come up with that element has only led me to a little alley in my head that’s boxed in by concrete walls. Not a fertile place for go-go ideas. So I left July stuck somewhere in chapter two. Page 28 to be exact.

I’m hoping August will find my mind working again. It’s my birthday month! Woo hoo! I already got an e-birthday coupon from my favorite yarn shop – Miss Chickpea’s Funky Fibers. At least creativity will flow through knitting, if not through writing!

Speaking of which, the end of July saw me finishing a pair of knitted slippers and felting them.

They’re thick and cushy (I knitted them with two strands of yarn so they’d felt up nice and thick). In fact, they’re still drying out because they’re so thick, and it’s been a tad humid. Can’t wait to slip them on my feet and try them out. I’m ready for winter!

This happy little gnome, who used to help hold up a plant, is waving July goodbye. He's wishing you a wonderful August!