Sunday, October 24, 2010

Good eating on a blustery fall evening

Boeuf Bourguignon Before: The day's harvest included (clockwise from left) parsley and thyme for the bouquet garni and peppers for salad; Purple Haze and Nelson carrots, yellow and red onions; Austrian Crescent potatoes; small yellow onions for braising. 

Boeuf Bourguignon After: The main dish was accompanied by steamed Austrian Crescent potatoes, garden salad, a freshly-baked baguette and peaches and cream for dessert.

Several weeks back we enjoyed a visit from family from Illinois. The day they arrived was cold, windy and wet, and the resident chef made the perfect call by preparing Boeuf Bourguignon to welcome them for their weekend stay. He loosely followed Julia Child's recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" doing what good cooks naturally do, adapting the recipe to suit their own tastes and available ingredients. Child says in the cookbook, "as is the case with most famous dishes, there are more ways than one to arrive at a good boeuf bourguignon. Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious dishes concocted by man ..." Amen to that.

It's cold and gray today and I'm remembering how delicious that meal was -- good food prepared with garden vegetables harvested only hours earlier, a simple table setting with tealights and small bouquets of sedum and parsley, plenty of red wine and good conversation. It doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Update: The Great Black Walnut Experiment

The black walnut seedlings were planted Sept. 7 to give them a chance to put down roots before winter. No soil amendments necessary.

Just barely up.
Last November we planted 14 pots of black walnuts. Having never tried to grow black walnuts before, we kept our expectations realistic. Information from the Extension Service suggested that maybe half (seven) would germinate. Well, we didn't hit the halfway mark, but we still feel pretty darn good that three did germinate.

Starting to flush.
None of the pots were coddled. They were left out in the snow and cold all winter to satisfy their stratification needs. As temperatures warmed in the spring, we checked to make sure the pots didn't dry out, but that was it. By the end of May you could see the seedlings -- hunched over but ready to pop and grow.

The three seedlings.
Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is interesting partly because it is an allelopathic plant. (Definition alert: Allelopathy refers to the ability of some plants to produce toxic substances that can affect other nearby plants. It's one way to beat competition for space, light, etc.) Black walnut produces juglone, a chemical that can be toxic to certain sensitive plants such as tomatoes. The West Virginia University Extension Service has a list of plants that are sensitive to juglone and some that are tolerant.

By July the three seedlings were green and sturdy. In September, they were ready for planting.

We chose sites back along the nature trail, put them in the ground and caged them to give them a better chance at survival. The rest is up to them.

Just planted on Sept. 7.

Now, the leaves have dropped and without the cage, you'd be hard-pressed to locate the seedling.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Seventh Day October

Dakota leads the way from the stream back to the house on an unseasonably warm Oct. 7. 
We've entered a new season, and already it feels like it's slipping away. Autumn won't wait; you have to be ready to get the most pleasure out of the changing colors and the extraordinary light. Choosing plants at sillydoggarden includes consideration of fall color. You'll see some of our choices in the slide show/album. And you'll see some of the borrowed landscape that adds so much depth to the garden this time of year. As always, check it out in the sidebar at top right.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Night visitor

Caught redhanded! A raccoon made a bold, but unsuccessful, attempt on a birdfeeder on a recent night.

The silly dog was first to notice the raccoon on the deck the other night. Out on the final-before-bedtime pee, Dakota stepped out the side door, stopped, turned toward the deck and stuck his nose in the air. Something was amiss, he seemed to be saying. Then I heard the thumping.

Suspecting raccoons, I got Dakota back in the house and then got the camera. Sure enough, there was one, balancing on the deck railing with his back to the house. A feeder full of sunflower seeds dangled above him. He seemed to be in no hurry to leave, so I snapped a few photos, took Dakota out front to do his business and then took another look. Still there. Still there an hour later. Are we that scary?

Raccoons can be trouble in the garden. They'll eat the goldfish in the pond and feast on the corn. In fact, the first raccoons we saw this year was just as the corn was ready to harvest. Coincidence? I think not.

Fortunately, we had the motion-detecting sprinklers to protect the corn harvest. And we have Dakota to alert us to trouble the rest of the time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Worth it on every level

Saturday morning there were 21 open flowers and 6 fat buds about to burst on this potted brugmansia. I left a second, bigger potted brug to take a temperature hit and it will move directly to its winter location without a sunny stopover. 

It's not easy growing tender beauties such as brugmansia where winter temperatures dip way, way below freezing and spring doesn't really get under way until May. But then you get a flush of bloom like the one this week and all the hassle is worth it.

This potted brugmansia came in one or two weeks ago when the weather forecast made it clear we were flirting with damaging temperatures. It bloomed earlier this summer and had just set another round of buds. The plant typically drives me crazy -- the foliage always tends toward the chloratic side no matter how much fertilizer I give it, and inside it drops most of its leaves into a messy pile on the floor. The leaves that remain are a magnet for spider mites. But it MUST come in for the winter or die so I haul it in (it's heavy!) and let it go dormant by not watering, cutting it back a smidge and putting it in the dark closet under the stairs. And it will get there, and stay there until next April or so, after these flowers are gone.

Meanwhile, it makes a statement in a corner of the dining room. The fragrance reminds me of a load of laundry fresh in from the clothesline. It's especially nice at night when the blossoms fully open and the fragrance wafts throughout the main living area. 

I love this plant. I can't imagine my home without it.