Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winter approaches quickly upon the garden spot

Winter approaches quickly upon the garden spot. Just last week we were remarking on how gentle November has been to us. Days were mild and nights hovered near freezing. We were thankful.

How quickly things change as a Nor’easter descends. Winds whipped and howled throughout the evening. Although actual snow has not fallen as of yet, the sense of winter is here. Extreme rain did fall, saturating the ground and seeping into our basement. We shield ourselves from the deluge and thrust out the stream that invades our home. We build fire to chase away the chill that threatens to leach into our walls. This battle will be long, it will be difficult, we lie dormant for now, but we WILL emerge in spring to welcome life and growth once again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The pies are cooling, the veggies are chopped, and the turkey is roasting in the oven. I wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all enjoying great food and family.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harvest Monday: November 23, 2009

I am very excited to be able to participate in Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Mondays this week. Below is my harvest for the week:

This is the only tomato that I have harvested this season. It’s a Super Marzano Tomato that came from a tomato plant that is growing inside. For those of you who don’t know, like many of us on the East coast, I lost all my tomatoes to Late Blight this past season before a single tomato blushed. You can read about it here and here.

This is a tomato plant that I rooted from a sucker back in July before Late Blight struck. My procrastination allowed it to live. At first, I kept it inside so I could care for it properly until it could be potted up and eventually planted outside. Then, it turned out I didn’t really have any place to plant it out in the garden. So it stayed on my windowsill. It grew as well as it could in its confined pot. I potted it up twice since then and it actually produced a few tomatoes:

And has a few more blossoms:

This little tomato was only about 3-inches long and was sliced up and used as a pizza topping along with some fresh rosemary that is also growing on the windowsill:

Hopefully there will be more to follow. This window in the winter actually receives a lot of sunlight and the woodstove keeps this room quite warm. I am curious to see how long this tomato plant will last.

Visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others have harvested this week.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Enjoying Unexpected Weather for Mid-November

Today was beautiful! Mostly sunny and warm for us this time of year at around 54˚F/13˚C. Perfect for puttering around the yard. So we took full advantage of it.

We finished gathering and shredding leaves. The parts to the leaf mulcher/blower arrived last week, so we’ve been shredding leaves a little at a time over the past few weeks. I spread shredded leaves over the newly dug up foundation garden:

I am hoping this will help keep some of the weeds down until I am ready to plant and mulch next year. I will till the leaves in next spring along with some additional amendments as the soil isn’t all that great. I am looking forward to planning and planting this garden from scratch.

The rest of the shredded leaves filled my old compost bin. I found that once the shredded leaves settled, it didn’t really amount to much. The new compost bin will wait until spring to be put together:

I also raked and gathered up a pile of pine needles (AKA pine straw). This worked really well for mulching between the rows of beans this past season.

The weather has been much warmer than normal this time of year. Even the spinach is still growing in the SFG without any protection. I had given up on my fall spinach planting, but I may be able to harvest a few leaves to top a sandwich or a wrap:

Some small garlic that I must have missed when harvesting have sprouted:

No signs of life yet from the garlic I planted last month. I even removed some of the shredded leaves to see if there was anything under there yet:

Nope, nothing there. I hope this just means that the garlic is focusing its energy growing roots instead of shoots. I guess I’ll find out next spring.

I can’t wait for next spring.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cast Iron Water Kettle

When we began using the woodstove for the first time, people warned me how drying wood heat was. A friend told me that his grandmother always kept a large cast iron kettle filled with water on the stove to help humidify the air. He had warm memories of her house filled with the smells of cloves and cinnamon that she added to the kettle.

I immediately was reminded of a old cast iron water kettle that I purchased several years ago at a yard sale for only a few bucks. The people I purchased it from used it on their own wood stove and the inside was caked with potpourri and rust. The plan was to clean it up and use it for a potted plant.

Instead it will continue its purpose as a kettle atop a wood burning stove. An occupation it may has been participating in for many years. I did some online research, and found several similar kettles for sale that say they are from the late 1800s to early 1900s. I don’t know this for sure as I haven’t found any proof of this yet.

The base of the kettle is inset to allow it to sit directly into a woodstove burner hole. It has a wire handle and a swivel lid with the words “Double Star” on one side of the lid and a number “8” on the other. I am not sure if the lid is original to the kettle, but it fits perfectly. Unfortunately, if there were any markings on the bottom of the kettle at one time they are no longer visible as the surface is a bit corroded.

Can anyone point me to a website where I can continue my research? Any help in identifying this kettle would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Remember the little Super Marzano Tomato that I rooted from a sucker? It is still growing inside. I was surprised to see a bit of blushing going on yesterday.

It looks like I will have at least one home grown tomato this season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lesson Learned: Buy Local

I thought I’d update you on the frustrating progress on the leaf blower/mulcher/shredder that I posted about previously. The webstore I purchased it from listed the seller. So when I discovered the problems, I contacted the seller via the link to email in the listing. They responded promptly, but they had no record of my sale and suggested I contact customer service of the webstore to see who really provided the product.

When I contacted the webstore customer service, I received a response stating that they were unable to send me the parts. Usually they would send out another unit, however that item was no longer available. They offered me a 20% discount, but this was the phrase that confused me:

Please know that this item cannot be returned because of health and safety reasons, we are unable to accept the return of items purchased from our store. If you are unsatisfied with a product or have experienced a problem with an item we can issue a full refund.

Sounds to me like I can keep the item AND get a full refund too? This non-return policy was not stated at the time of purchase.

Instead I contacted who I though was the original seller to explain the situation and ask if they sold the parts I needed. They did and provided me with pricing plus shipping. I then contacted the webstore customer service and told them that their offer of a 20% discount did not cover the replacement costs of the parts. The agreed to increase the refund.

So, with the replacement parts ordered and my credit card refunded, I now wait once again.

What irks me the most is the webstore says the product is sold by one seller and this seller has great reviews and feedback. However, it turns out this seller is one of four different sellers that the webstore actually sources the unit from. It’s deceptive. I know from my correspondences with the seller I thought I was purchasing from, they would have resolved my issues by simply sending me the parts.

Lesson learned, buy local. If there is a problem, drive back to the store for a refund or exchange.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gathering Leaves for the Compost Bins

Today didn’t go as planned. I recently ordered a leaf blower/vacuum to help gather the leaves in my yard for composting. It arrived on Friday, but one of the handles was missing. Because I ordered online, instead of simply exchanging at the store, I have to send an email, wait for them to respond, and ship me the missing part.

It will probably be another week before the replacement comes in. I was hoping to get the majority of the leaves cleaned up this weekend. So K figured out a temporary substitution for the handle so I could use the leaf blower/vacuum today.

The blower was strong and it was easy to blow the leaves quickly into a pile. Then I switched over to the vacuum/mulcher mode. The unit is advertised to reduce leaves at a 12:1 ratio. When the bag filled I used the leaves to mulch the garlic bed. The leaves were beautifully shredded:

However after only three bags of shredded leaves, the metal zipper on the vacuum bag broke into several pieces and the bag could no longer be used. I was very disappointed and sent a follow up email to the place I purchased the unit.

With the leaves already gathered into piles, I raked them onto a tarp then dragged the tarp across the yard to the compost bin area.

It was bit more labor intensive than I planned, but at least the leaves are gathered into one area for now. I need to acquire more pallets to build the compost bins because the woodpile required more pallets than I thought it would.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to work outside. Overall this past week has been warmer than expected allowing me to get a lot of things in the yard accomplished before winter. I am back to work on Monday, so today’s warm temps around 64˚F/18˚C were a nice way end to my vacation week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Scrap of Honesty: The “Honest Scrap Award”

I am an online social networking newbie. I have yet to tweet, join facebook or myspace, and I have only been blogging for a short time. I began this blog mostly as a personal garden journal and never really thought anyone would read it. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the community that can quickly form and grow among strangers from all over and all walks of life who happen to share a similar interest. I have learned, shared, and been inspired by many fellow garden bloggers.

I noticed that many of you are also members of Blotanical, a social network for gardening bloggers all over the world. I joined Blotanicall recently for more reading material now that my gardening is over for the long winter. I thought I would enjoy seeing what others were growing in other parts of the country and world.

As I was struggling to figure out how to maneuver around Blotanical, Jean from Jean’s Garden sent me a message. Turns out she gardens only a few towns over from me. As I was marveling at the coincidence, Jean asked if I knew Allison from A Tasteful Garden? I did not, but I quickly hopped over to A Tasteful Garden and learned that not only do we live and garden in the same town, but we also share a similar profession.

Since this discovery, I have become a fan and frequent visitor to A Tasteful Garden. The blog is not only about gardening. Allison shares her creative self in many ways by intertwining whimsical design with fabulous photography, and magnificent recipes. She also shares inspirational patterned textiles, illustrations, and pottery. Her daily photos and weekly wine walks remind me to interact more with nature and take a moment to enjoy the beauty around me.

Allison from A Tasteful Garden has kindly awarded the “Honest Scrap Award” to GrafixMuse’s Garden Spot. Allison, I am truly honored that you have passed this award on to my blog. I graciously accept and agree to pay this honor forward.

Here are the Guidelines of The Honest Scrap Award:
1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on me and link back to the blogger.
3. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that I find brilliant in content or design.
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog.
5. List at least ten (10) honest things about myself.

With 1 and 2 complete, I will move on to 3. There are a lot of blogs I read that I feel are brilliant in content or design. This was a difficult decision, but here they are in no particular order:

The Modern “Victory Garden”
A Growing Tradition
Daphne’s Dandelions
Sicilian Sisters Grow Some Food
The Corner Yard
The Informal Gardner
Urban Veggie Garden Blog
Jean’s Garden

Here are the 10 Honest Things About Myself. Some of these are quirky some are strange, but I am who I am, flaws and all. I hope you find these as amusing as I do:

1. I am number challenged. Even simple math can paralyze me even though I use it every day in my job. I often have to rely on a calculator and carry one with me always. I can’t even remember phone numbers. In fact if you ask me for my cell phone number, I will have to pull out my phone and look it up.

2. I can’t make a purchase of over $100 without doing research online, reading reviews, and shopping online to be sure I am getting the best value for my money.

3. As I mature, I find that I am a homebody. I would much rather cook dinner at home and watch a DVD with K and our animals, then go out for a night on the town. In the summer, I look forward to weekends because I can put on “gardening clothes” putter around the yard.

4. I am a workaholic. When I am working on a major design project, it is usually all consuming. If I am not actively working on the project, I am usually thinking about it. I have to divide up the project into smaller mini-goals so I feel some level of completeness and accomplishment before I dive back in to reach the next mini-goal. Luckily my employer allows me to adjust my work schedule to accommodate this. They allow me to often work from home to avoid interruptions and stay focused. I take great pride in completing my projects on time.

5. I have very hard natural nails. I am lucky that my nails seem to grow long and look really good when polished. I have to thank my mom for this as she helped to stop my nasty habit of chewing my nails at a young age. I have my nails manicured once every 4-weeks, but feel the need to clip them short often because they get in the way with typing and gardening.

6. My hair began turning grey when I was 18 years old. While most women in their 20s color their hair because it is stylish and fun, I was coloring my hair to cover the grey.

7. I hate driving in snow. Even though I live in Maine and it snows often, the absolute last place I want to be is on the road during a snowstorm. If there is more than 2-inches of snow on the road, I usually work from home instead of traveling to the office. Thank goodness again that my employer is flexible and allows me to do this.

8. I am a trustworthy person. I seem to be the person people come to when they need to talk or vent about various situations. I try to be nonjudgmental and try to keep an open mind on different perspectives, and I am honest when asked to give my opinion or viewpoint on certain situations. However, if someone says, “Please, don’t tell anyone.” I usually don’t unless it can cause someone great harm.

9. I have difficulty pronouncing certain words. I am well educated, read voraciously, and have a wide diversity of vocabulary, but sometimes when in conversation I am suddenly unable to pronounce the word I want to use. I can see the word, spell the word, and completely understand the meaning; but when I open my mouth to speak the word, it sometimes comes out garbled or I end up exaggerating the enunciation of the syllables of the word.

10. You can almost always find me in heels. I have the misfortune to being rather short. To compensate, I almost always wear heels or some sort of footwear that elevates me at least a couple of inches. It helps when trying to reach the highest shelf in the grocery store. I only wear sneakers when I am walking the dog or puttering around the yard.

Whew! That was tough. Now I am off to let the bloggers on my list know they have been tagged.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Turkey…Not Just for Thanksgiving

I am on vacation this week and planned on roasting a turkey today with all the fixings including stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, and various veggies. The stuffed turkey is roasting in the oven as I type this and pleasant aromas are beginning to fill the house along with the warm heat from the oven. The fact that it snowed today seems to add to the coziness.

Last year we purchased a chest freezer mostly for the purpose of stocking up on turkeys as they go on sale around the holidays. We love turkey and I usually roast a small, 10-15 pound turkey once a month during the winter. Not a bit goes to waste as leftovers are used in various ways from soups to sandwiches. Our cats, Jasmine and Mysty and dog, Bradie usually enjoy their share. Stock is made and frozen to be used throughout the year.

I have been able to experiment with different stuffing recipes and we have decided that sausage stuffing is our favorite. The original recipe I use has been modified slightly from this one at the Food & Wine website: Roasted Turkey with Italian Sausage Stuffing. Different types of sausage will give this recipe slightly different flavors. I was pleased to be able to use garlic, onions, and sage from my garden this time. Here is the recipe:

Turkey with Sausage Stuffing

1 10-15 pound turkey
1 pound sausage
6 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 14 ounce package cubed stuffing
2 medium onions, 1 finely diced, 1 cut into chunks
3 ribs of celery, 2 finely diced, 1 sliced into chunks
4 large garlic cloves, finely diced
1 medium carrot sliced
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
1/4 cup of olive oil
5 Tbsp butter, 4 Tbsp chilled, 1 Tbsp softened
Fresh ground pepper
Poultry seasoning
1/4 c flour

Sausage Stuffing:
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage and break it into small pieces as it cooks. Continue cooking until no pink remains. Add chopped onion, celery, and garlic. Mix in well and cook until softened. Add sage and 4-Tbsps chilled butter. Mix until butter is melted and ingredients are well blended.

Remove from heat and pour into a large heat safe bowl. Add packaged cubed stuffing, 2 tsp poultry seasoning, and pepper. Toss to mix. Add 2 cups turkey or chicken stock and stir to mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (The stuffing can be prepared the day before.)

Clean the turkey. Lower oven rack and preheat oven to 425˚F. Spoon stuffing loosely into the cavities of the turkey. Place remaining stuffing in a greased 2-quart baking dish and refrigerate. Skewer turkey openings, tie drumsticks together, and place on a rack in a large roasting pan. Rub turkey with 1 Tbsp softened butter and sprinkle 1 tsp poultry seasoning and rub in. Scatter turkey neck, giblets, chunked onion, carrot, and celery around the turkey. Add 1 cup turkey or chicken stock. Roast turkey uncovered for 30 minutes.

Lower oven temperature to 325˚F. Cover and roast for 3 to 4 hours longer basting turkey every half hour or so. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer registers 165 °F when inserted into the thickest part of the inner thigh and stuffing. Remove from oven and put aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Drizzle 1 cup turkey or chicken stock over the remaining stuffing in the 2-quart baking dish. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until the stuffing is heated through and top is crispy.

In a medium sauce pan, whisk 1/2 cup of turkey or chicken stock with 1/4 c flour until blended. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of stock, poultry seasoning and pepper to taste. Over high heat, bring to a boil and whisk together until thickened and no flour taste remains. Reduce temperature to low and keep warm until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

Remove stuffing from turkey cavity and place into a serving bowl. Carve the turkey and serve. Refrigerate roasting pan with the turkey carcass and pan juices until you are ready to make turkey stock.

A Bit of Winter

We woke up to a bit of winter this morning. It is supposed to turn to rain later so I took some pictures before it melted away.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Time to Take Back the Gardens

My morning began with a visit to Daphne’s Dandelions for Harvest Mondays to see what people have harvested from their gardens in the past week. I must admit, fall gardening is intriguing me more and more when I see what people are growing.

I am on vacation this week and I hope to accomplish some last minute projects before the snow flies. Now that the vegetable garden is cleaned up and ready for winter, my attention has turned to cleaning the other gardens in my yard.

When sprucing up the house to sell, the previous owners did some landscaping. They planted some shrubs around the yard, some foundation plantings, several crabapple trees, and a created a large flower garden. The yard made a grand impression on me when I first looked at the house.

At first I didn’t even know the difference between a weed and a perennial. It was only until the plant bloomed that I was able to identify it. Unfortunately, because of my ignorance some weeds have multiplied and taken over. Next year, I am hoping to take back my gardens one bed at a time.

One project that I am hoping to complete before winter is clearing this foundation section along the house:

The previous owners planted some Sea Green Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Sea Green”) in front of these windows. When I purchased this house they did look cute at only a foot high. Now several years later they have quickly overgrown their location. I have since learned that they can grow 6-feet tall and 8-feet wide.

We tried trimming them back, but within one season they were back to the original size. They also have an unpleasant odor that permeates the house from the open windows. Although I hate killing any growing thing, I finally made the decision that these have to go.

I am going to try to turn this into a new flower garden. On the left is a young crabapple tree and in the middle towards the back are some Bearded Iris. The crabapple tree will stay for now. I find it beautiful and the birds love it. However, I fear will have to be removed eventually too as it was planted really close to the house. Here are a few pictures of it from spring:

This is the Bearded Iris:

There are a lot of weeds both from the bird seeds and neglect. We started by removing the Juniper shrubs yesterday. Digging the stumps out will be some hard work. I hope to clean this area out and dig in some amendments to the soil so next year I will have a clean slate to work with.