Sunday, May 30, 2010


Memorial Day weekend, the first holiday of summer, and a time of reflection on loss of loved ones...and heroes who risk and give their lives for us so we can live the life of our choice in America...and it's a great time for personal reflection.

Here are a few of the joys of our country life ---

Our Wee Gnome has joined the garden and overlooks the domain among the shamrocks. He makes me smile every day.

The birdhouse condo flower bed is in it's full glory - the blue delphiniums are beautiful, the roses glowing and the pansies still showing a happy yellow. A Wren family is setting up home in the top birdhouse.

These beautiful roses, a housewarming gift from sister Sandi, are a welcoming sight in the entry flowerbed. I think of her every time I look at the roses.  She loves pink and these are perfect Sandi pink roses - they glow just like her personality.

This is the year of the daisy - they are lush this year. Another happy flower that always brings a smile.
And the vegetable garden, to our delight, is thriving with the warm weather.

Beets, spinach and peas - yum--

Tomatoes are looking healthy - I can imagine the taste and can hardly wait-

and check out the peas...any day now.

The Dots are really growing, as you can see.  We turned them out to free range the first time today and they barely ventured out of their run but I'm sure as the days go on they will explore more of the yard.  We're counting on them to help the guineas with bug control. You can see that the dark ones are beginning to show their dots. The light chicks are the Easter Egg chickens.

I wish you could hear the birds, guineas, chickens, horses, bees, and neighbors cows that I am hearing now - the symphony of the country.
Have a safe, fun Memorial Day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The uglier side of country living....grrrrrr

OK, there is an ugly side to country living as I've alluded to before - BUGS!  And it appears the tiniest ones can bite and leave a welt the size of a quarter and itch like holy H---.  We're   inundated with gnats and noseeum's - who even knew what they were?  Even the guineas seem to be troubled by them and aren't making a dent in their population.  So we have assembled our arsenal of mostly organic solutions and will be attacking them today...
it is W-A-R!!!  My green leanings may actually move to heavy duty insecticdes if these organic solutions don't work.  I love being outside but have to be covered from head to toe - including the bee net over the face. At least I can get things done outside with it but it does take away the pleasure of sitting on the rocking chair sipping wine ---through the face net. We're hoping this is just a short lifecycle for these nuisance bugs - we heard when it gets hot they will go away.  One can only hope.

And while I'm at it the other big irritation is the Siberian Elms.The weather was PERFECT this year creating millions of seeds on every tree. Now, we are surrounded by elm trees at our place. We had very high winds the past couple days, up to 40mph and most of the seeds are now on the ground - literally millions of them.  Guess what germinates almost immediately upon hitting soil?  Boy, do I have a big weeding job - getting rid of the millions of potential trees in the flower beds, in the vegetable beds, in the lawn, everywhere.

On a more positive note, Mark gathered the guinea eggs (we discovered the guineas aren't very good mothers) which had not been tended very well and put them into an incubator.  We'll see if we get baby guineas. Maybe more guineas will help with the gnats and noseeum's.  Grrrrrrrr

Hope you are having a lovely bug free day where you live; and a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rocking chairs on the deck...and the livin' is easy-

We decided that we wanted rocking chairs on our deck so we priced them during spring sales and found a store offering them at a great price.  We wanted to buy 4 so we went to Grand Island and looked at them in the store.  They were exactly what we wanted so we "took them".  Mark went to get the pickup and I stayed at the door to receive the chairs.  Well, Mark pulled up in the pickup and the guys from the back showed up at the door with boxes vs. chairs. OMG!  That meant that we had to assemble them. I was sure that Mark would want to reject them.  I went outside with the store clerk and Mark checked the rearview mirror and I could tell that he wasn't a happy camper. The boxes sat on the deck for some time. Then one day he got them together in an afternoon.  They are exactly what we wanted...and a nice addition to the cottage.
Once we get the cottage and deck painted, they will really sit pretty.  Can't wait for you to join us on the deck with a lovely  bottle of wine...and some competitive spirit with horseshoes.

Check out our local winery just 6 miles from our
place...  The winery website will show you some of the vista that is ours.  This is the prairie and it is beautiful in its own way.  There is some lovely wine that grows here in Nebraska.  It isn't all CA or Europe wine that counts. Local can be really good. If you don't believe me, you'll just have to come visit to check it out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The first big harvest

Today was another warm rainy day and the vegetables have just popped out of the ground.  We harvested radishes - you can see that we'll need to share! I had outpatient hand surgery yesterday so Mark did all the cleaning of the radishes and spinach. We have a great partnership that is helpful because the garden wouldn't wait and the radishes would have been mammoth if we'd waited another day!

We also harvested lots of spinach; some for fresh salad and the rest to be frozen for next winter. We'll be harvesting spinach for some time.

The lettuce and carrots are taking hold; the broccoli and cauliflower are strong and the kale will be ready to eat soon.  We've been eating the beet tops of the thinnings in our salads.
The picture at the right are cherries in the making. The fruit is setting on so I'm hopeful that we'll have another large crop this summer.

The tomatoes and peppers made it into the ground this week before the rain and they are looking great. We're expecting very warm weather for the next week so that will totally transform the garden.

Fresh spinach is delicious prepared simply - just add the following dressing after cleaning thoroughly:

Honey Salad Dressing
  • 3 T white wine or wine vinegar (if using wine, use one that you would drink)
  • 3 T water
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • if using wine, add a splash of balsamic vinegar
  • pinch salt and pepper
     Mix well, drizzle over fresh greens

NOTE: Some of you have informed me that you cannot post comments after each Post. I've been troubleshooting the problem, and believe it is fixed. Thanks to all who have left comments and encouragement. Glad you are enjoying reading about life in the slow lane.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We have a new baby boy!

Tivio Valo had a horse colt last night and he is healthy and standing on his wobbly long legs this morning, eating and sleeping. He hasn't been named yet - he's a cutie as you can see. This was an exciting morning on the farm. Check him out...

Very gentle little guy...and of course a very calm mother.

Breakfast... life is good.

He is soooo soft and not at all afraid of us. 

 He has a star on the forehead

He's sleeping standing up - as with any baby, he sleeps alot. By afternoon, he was running and playing. A great addition to the farm.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Garden Arbor - the final touch

I wanted a rustic garden entrance structure made out of twigs. It seemed to be the right thing for this country garden. Mark surprised me one day this week when he created the arbor for me out of tree trimmings - what a guy, it was really a project and he made it happen. The morning glory and moonvine are both out of the ground and reaching up for a place to cling to and hopefully will be ready to climb the arch soon. That will be the glory of The Garden.

The Garden is beginning to take on structure and form including the "pea branches" that will be available for the peas to climb on as they grow; its a rustic trellis for the peas.  The peas, radishes, spinach, some lettuce, kale, beets, cauliflower, broccoli, onions are all up -  and strawberries are flowering -yeah!  Squash, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes & garlic are not up yet. Asparagus is trying its darndest to come up and establish itself. We're told the wild asparagus around here is great but we haven't found any yet. Herbs are doing great. We've been eating radishes, onions and spinach this week. Oh my, there is nothing like the flavor of fresh picked produce from your own garden.

We've had such a cold wet spell this past week that the tomatoes and peppers are still in the house just waiting to get outside and get started with their job. By the end of the day, they are leaning into the french doors and I have to turn them so they stay straight.

We missed the morel mushroom season this year - just got busy with the garden and didn't realize it was a short season. I won't do that next year - I love morels and to think they are growing under trees just waiting to be picked and I missed them. Sigh.

Parade of Homes

Boy, the birds have some good real estate around here.  Not only do we have lots of trees, plum thickets, and tall grasses but we have put up some great houses for our fine feathered friends. Here is the Parade of Homes...

I participate in Cornell University's Project FeederWatch during the winter as a citizen scientist counting birds at the feeders and bird bath.  It is a worthwhile project in that it is helping the real scientists gather data to determine what is happening to the bird population across the US and Canada.  If you have any interest in birds, I recommend checking out Project FeederWatch.  It doesn't take much time at all but for me it brought a great appreciation for birds and now a recognition of local and migrating birds.  It is actually quite exciting.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Garden & Critters

Mark got the metal livestock water tanks from ranching friends for my raised garden beds. Since my knee replacement surgery, I cannot kneel which is a detriment to a gardener. The solution is the used water tanks. He cut out the bottoms, filled with about 6 inches of gravel and topped off with great topsoil. Perfect!

Friend Irene Thomas calls the corrugated livestock tanks - "country chic" - OK, I'll buy that. The ranchers use them for cattle waterers. They are just the right height for me to easily plant, weed and harvest. They are exactly the wrong height for rabbits. Other critters haven't discovered them yet so I'm hopeful.

Everything is in but the warm weather plants - tomatoes and peppers. I have lots of heirloom tomatoes and peppers to go in the ground soon. We also planted 8 blueberry bushes, 2 raspberry bushes, and a small orchard - 4 apple trees, 3 cherry trees, 2 pear and 2 peach trees. We want to be good stewards of the land, so we are replenishing some of the trees that have died or aren't long for this life.  Arbor Day was started in NE so we ordered several trees inexpensively from them. We look forward to touring their tree farm and conference center this summer.

The lilacs were glorious this year. Just stepping out the door brought wonderful scents from the lilac bushes.  And the cherry tree was full of blossoms so we are counting on another big crop of sour cherries for pies, jams and to freeze for later.  The little cherry tree was so abundant last year that even with friends sharing we had lots for cherry pies - plural. Yum!  The new trees will take a few years before we'll
be able to enjoy the fruit. We planted several non-fruit trees from the Arbor Day foundation such as sugar maple, nut trees, dawn redwood, serviceberry, etc. Most of our deciduous trees here are elms and some ash. We have a good number of cedars and pine trees but the elms and ash are vulnerable to disease and many are old.
THE CRITTERS: We started with 31 birds but now are down 2 guineas and 3 chicks.  The culprit was a feral cat.  The cat is no longer a resident of our place and Mark built a very sturdy chicken scratch run so they are now safe.  It was a dog run which he topped with wire to keep everything out.They are getting big, aren't they? More like mini-hens now. The guineas are free range and they cover alot of ground vacuuming bugs. They are funny things, always moving on their skinny legs, making screeching noises whenever they think they perceive a threat - including the postman, bluejays, and sometimes the wind. I welcome their craziness because of the good they do in the country.  I'm counting on them to greatly reduce the bug population.  One has made a nest and laid 9 eggs (at last count) under the horse trailer in tall grass so we'll see if they are good brooders or not.

We've also had wild turkeys hanging around.  They eat alongside the guineas on some days.  There is a young tom turkey living around here too. One day I looked out the kitchen window and saw a tom with his tail feathers all spread out and doing the courting dance in our yard.  Not something you'd see in Burbank, CA!  It was a magnificent sight. Was too engrossed to get a picture.

Check out the turkeys next to the swing. They are hanging with the guineas. Amazing thing to see.  Mark just tilled this area to re-sod, so I'm sure there are lots of juicy bugs for easy picking.

It will be a couple weeks before we have newborn baby horses. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

And then some days are for baking ...

One of the most creative activities for me is baking bread and pies. There are some days where baking is the thing to do especially if it is rainy or too windy to be out in the garden.

Peaches frozen last summer were perfect for this pie. Yum!  It is Mark's favorite breakfast food...and snack...and dessert.  Also, made a plum tart and 4 loaves of sourdough bread - 2 very garlicky and 2 rosemary - fresh from the garden (see picture below - including one we had to "try" immediately to be sure it was good.  Tough job but somebody has to do it.)

I learned to make sourdough bread at the Pasadena LeCordon Bleu Culinary School that I attended on weekends while living and working in CA.  I've kept the sourdough starter alive now for four years. It is critical to feed the starter daily to keep it alive, it's like having a pet!  Sourdough starter is a method to capture "wild" yeast from the air to use in baking. You feed it with a mixture of flour and water which is simple but the results are wonderfully complex. The flavor, or degree of "sourness", depends on the yeast in the air of that geographical area. Apparently, San Francisco has the most sour yeast; certainly mine is much more mild.

After retirement when we first drove to NE to check out the possibility of living here, our dear friend Sasha, then age 8, took on the responsibility of feeding the starter for me for a month. She did an incredible job - I don't trust it with just anyone.  I brought it with me from CA, feeding it in the hotel room each evening and morning, during the move to NE.  I kept it alive while staying with friends as we were getting our house ready to move in. And when we went to North Carolina for Christmas, I again fed it every morning and evening in the hotel room - and made fresh bread regularly for the family while in NC. I got to share the starter with our two special nieces and also taught them how to make sourdough bread & pizza dough. That was a thrill for me. So my starter has made it cross country.  Sasha will be 10 this summer and she wants to learn to make bread while she is visiting us in July. I'm really looking forward to that.

You can't be a gardener without being a cook or at least a foodie.  As I care for all the veggies and fruits daily, I imagine what I will create with them when they are ripe. Such rich daydreams and promises of great eating is the motivation for me to keep up all the hard physical work in the garden.

Check out the rainbow behind the barn. Afternoon thunderstorms are so exciting and make the air so fresh. They are good for people as well as gardens.