Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween snack

Brined pumpkin seeds -- delicious!

We don't normally get many (if any) trick-or-treaters out here in the boonies, but I always carve at least one pumpkin. Have to. Have to have the seeds. Have to have the seeds to roast them. Must have roasted pumpkin seeds. Some years I carve pumpkins that we've grown; this year we didn't grow pumpkins so I carved a couple brought home from the grocery store.

This year, for the first time, I tried brining the pumpkin seeds. I found the tip at apartment therapy. First, clean the seeds and place them in a saucepan. Then, for each cup of seeds, add two cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Add a touch of olive oil. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

After simmering, drain and toss with more olive oil and some spices if you like. I added a little sea salt and a generous sprinkling of curry powder. Mix and spread the seeds on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 F. for about 25 minutes, checking and stirring the seeds periodically.

I also did a standard seed roasting to compare. (Mix cleaned seeds with olive oil, sea salt and hot curry powder. Roast at 300 F. for about 40 minutes.) The difference was subtle, but I think the brined seeds had a little more depth. And they weren't any harder to prepare.

These guys gave up their seeds for me.

Short respite from the gloom

It felt good to soak up some blue sky for a little while this afternoon.

We had a sliver of blue sky this afternoon, a rarity this soggy October. So there was opportunity for a little playtime outside with the silly dog. But playtime makes him thirsty and with all of the water garden tubs emptied for the winter, he made do with the weedy ditch on the north side of the front yard. It's actually one of his favorite places to get a drink; he likes to lie down in it and lap up the water.

Find the dog in the tall grass.

Later in the day, there was another burst of rain and one of the best rainbows I've seen in years -- the photo doesn't do it justice. It happened so fast -- within a minute the sun was behind a cl
oud again.

The rainbow was gone almost as quickly as it appeared.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Watch 'Botany'

What would you do for a plant you love? In the fall, the Rose Garden in Duluth becomes a series of trenches as the roses are tipped and buried for the winter. Sort of looks like gravediggers gone crazy, doesn't it?

Program note for plant geeks: "The Botany of Desire" airs at 7 tonight on PBS. Based on the book by Michael Pollan, the public broadcasters describe it this way: "The human-plant relationship is explored via the stories of the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato. Included: how the apple came to be sweet; "tulip mania" in the Netherlands circa the 1630s, when tulips were traded for large sums of money; the history and physiology of marijuana; the genetically modified (and no longer available) New Leaf potato, which featured a microorganism that repelled potato beetles. Michael Pollan ("The Botany of Desire") hosts. Frances McDormand narrates.'' Find a preview here.

The relationships between people and plants are always fascinating. Take, for example, the Rose Garden in Duluth. Every fall, volunteers dig trenches (Minnesota Tip Method) for protecting the roses too delicate to take northern winters. And every spring, volunteers uncover them and set them out for another season. When you love something that much, the work involved is worth it. But does this mean the roses really are the ones in control? Hmmm.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bye-bye 'African Moon'

It's not yet Halloween, but next year's seed catalogs already are arriving.

'African Moon' boasts a cheery flower. But is it an Osteospermum or Dimorphotheca?

The first of the seed catalogs for 2010 arrived in the mail this week. I'm still trying to tie up all the loose ends from 2009. Blame some of it on our wet, dreary October, but I still have containers to empty, dahlias to dig for overwintering and seed trays to wash. 2010 seems like a long way off. But on a gloomy afternoon, I'll take the bait and flip through the pages of the Thompson & Morgan catalog. After all, that red cosmos ('Rubenza') on the cover is plenty attractive.

On the sale pages for discontinued seed is one of my favorite annuals from this past summer: Osteospermum 'African Moon.' Say it ain't so! The plant isn't perfect, but it's just as garden-worthy as many other annuals. The foliage can be a little floppy, but the flower is a nice white with yellow-apricot edges. It bloomed its head off, and I think if I had been diligent about deadheading I could have gotten even more out of it.

The poor plant has suffered from some ambiguous marketing. T&M sells the seed as Osteospermum pluvialis and in the catalog refers to Dimorphotheca as a synonym for Osteospermum. But says that Dimorphotheca and Osteospermum are not the same. Stokes Seeds lists them as separate genera. This sort of disconnect makes it hard for home gardeners to know exactly what they're getting. What we thought was Osteospermum seems to more accurately be Dimorphotheca.

Naming issues aside, we may have to order some seed
s earlier than planned or seek out other sources to keep our 'African Moon' shining.

One cool thing about 'African Moon' is that its flowers close in the evening or on overcast days. The undersides of the petals are pretty in their own right.

That's 'African Moon' at top left and Osteospermum 'Asti White' on the right. There seems to be no confusion about 'Asti White's' Osteospermum roots.

A low-growing phlox borders a bright patch of 'African Moon.' 'African Moon's' foliage appeared disappointingly limp in 2008 so this year I planted them closer together and they seemed to appreciate the tighter quarters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Easy fruit-fly trap

A little wine for the flies.

Fruit flies seem to follow when the garden harvest gets moved indoors. Here's a tip we learned from a friend who is a former restaurateur: Pour a little wine in a jar or glass, cover it with plastic wrap and poke a tiny hole or two in the plastic. The fruit flies are attracted to the wine, fly in and can't escape. Whatever produce you have on the kitchen counter is safe.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October weather rant

This is what we woke up to this morning. Need I say more?

At least the silly dog enjoys the first snow of the season.

The pear's foliage contrasts with a carpet of white.

Salvia 'Victoria' huddles under the "dusting" of snow that last night's forecast warned us about.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pie for all

This is too cool! Individual pies baked in short canning jars. Find it over at They had me with the sweet stuff and then they said chicken pot pie. Can you say Fat Chicken Farm chickens?

I've always been intimidated by the prospect of baking a pie with a crust. But this sounds easy enough even for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In honor of deer

The knock at the door came early, though not unreasonably so. The gentleman said his daughter-in-law had hit and injured a deer on the road. They had called for help but it had been a half-hour already and did we by any chance have a gun? The doe was suffering terribly.

We're not really hunters but we do have a gun and a few minutes later the doe took her last breath and crossed to wherever it is we go when life is gone. Her body lay near the woods on the south side of our property.

Deer are as much a part of our gardening life here as the perennials and trees we plant, the vegetables we nurture, or the red squirrels who help themselves at the bird feeders. We take note of deer-resistant plants, wrap choice shrubs and trees in protective cages through the winter and spread deer repellent in the spring to keep them away from the crocus and tulips. I curse them when I see the damage they do to our plantings, and I love them as I watch them pass gracefully through the yard, looking for food in the winter.

So later in the day, as I was pushing bulbs into the ground near our newly constructed pool, I decided to give this autumn crocus a different name. I will call it the Doe Crocus. Because, after all, the deer are as much a part of our little landscape as we are.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Summer in September swan song

The sunny, warm disposition of September has given way to an October so far marked by wind, clouds and rain. Only a few days ago we were enjoying a perfect autumn day. What makes such a day?

Asters so heavy with bloom they can barely keep their heads up and have to lean on the phlox.

ums in full glory.

So many onions harvested the aroma wafts across the garden.

Sweet corn and shallots (in the stack of trays on the right) are harvested, too. Every year we wonder whether we'll get sweet corn here. And every year we have a respectable harvest. Even when the corn is knocked flat (remember August).

A flock of sandhill cranes flying across the clear blue sky. (Are they heading to Nebraska?) And a couple of late roses floating in a bowl by the bed. And a supper of corn chowder made with freshly harvested corn and potatoes.

And a box of bulbs arriving in the afternoon -- including fall-blooming crocus and a selection of spring-blooming tulips. Gardeners always look ahead.