Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seventh Day December

Some days, when the sun is bright, it's comfortable enough to sit on the deck in the winter. 
But not for very long.

I was gone before the sun was fully up and didn't get home until after the sun had set, so Brian took on photography responsibilities for this Seventh Day. This time of year the garden is spare and muted but still pleasing. Days are short, snow is a constant companion and cold is the new normal. Take a look at what we see when we go out and about. Find photos here or in the sidebar at right.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Short days

We are moving steadily toward the shortest day of the year. Here, the sun peeks through the trees across the road just after 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Delicious Brussels sprouts and cheese tart

This Brussels sprouts and cheese tart is a keeper. Below, this is how the sprouts look on the plant before being harvested. They're kind of like mini cabbages. They're also attractive to deer and we have to use wire or sheets late in the season to keep the harvest from being eaten.

Here's another good reason to grow Brussels sprouts -- this cheese and sprouts tart.

The recipe comes courtesy of the Star Tribune's food section via Newsday -- yes, there still are newspapers that recognize the value of food sections.

Brian made the tart for a Thanksgiving Day appetizer, putting some of the last of the Brussels sprouts to flavorful use. The verdict -- a unanimous "yes," even the self-described sprouts-hater among the four of us found the tart appealing. Well, he at least found it palatable. The dual cooking approach -- sauteing and roasting -- eliminates the bitter that some people are sensitive to. Here's a link to the recipe (I've also copied it below.) Brian did make one change -- he substituted Jarlsberg cheese for the Gruyere. The leek and thyme called for in the recipe came from our garden, too.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

• 1 (14-ounce) sheet puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin

• 10 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved

• Salt

• Ground black pepper

• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

• 4 ounces shredded Gruyère (we used Jarlsberg) cheese

• 1 egg, lightly beaten


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry and place in middle of baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork. Cover with plastic and place in freezer.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leek and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are spotty brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has cooked off (this will take less than 30 seconds). Scrape into a bowl, stir in thyme and set aside to cool.

Remove puff pastry from freezer, and spread cooled Brussels sprouts mixture over it, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Sprinkle the cheese over the Brussels sprouts.

Brush edge of dough with egg. Bake until the pastry is golden and cheese is browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm or let come to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November greens

The lettuce and spinach were in the ground only hours earlier. That half-moon slice of radish near center top is a new favorite called 'Chinese Red Meat.' Below, behold a bowl of 'Tyee' spinach.

The last of the salad greens were harvested over the weekend. The spinach and lettuce held up quite well under the floating row covers, put in place as much for deer protection as for an extra degree or two on the thermometer.

The spinach -- handsome, sturdy leaves of 'Tyee' -- were cooked with cream. Popeye would be proud!

The lettuce -- a beautiful red called 'Galactic' and a speckled loose-head variety called 'Mottistone' -- consorted with some of the spinach in an early winter salad fortified with carrots, red onion and radishes harvested earlier this fall and stored in the fridge or in the crawlspace under the stairs.

Even in Zone 3-4, it is still possible to enjoy salad picked only hours earlier on a cold, gray day at the end of November.

Sources include Johnny's Selected Seeds and Territorial Seed Company. We found the Galactic seed at Johnny's but it doesn't look like they carry it anymore.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

(Rosy) Seventh Day November

Some mornings, when the timing and circumstances are just right, the sun crests the trees across the road and throws beams of golden or pink light onto the tops of the trees behind our house. The effect only lasts a few minutes, but those few minutes are magical.

On this Nov. 7 we were treated to a "rosy-fingered dawn." And then we were treated to an evening meal of freshly picked lettuce and parsnips. The hours between were filled with work so we're a little shy on photos this time around. Still, click here or see the sidebar at right for more images.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Better late than never: Seventh Day October

 A bee works over a stand of asters in the backyard.

Did you think that maybe we had fallen off the face of the Earth? That maybe we had finally had enough of all the nonsense we've been witnessing thanks to the politicians and big-business types? That maybe we had decided just to pack it in and go off the grid? As tempting as that may be, the real reason you haven't seen much here lately is that we've been really, really busy.

October was a month of transition -- both in the garden and out of the garden. So let's talk garden: 
  • Containers of summer annuals and vegetables have been emptied.
  • Pots of scented geraniums and other plants for overwintering have been brought inside. Still need to find homes for everything. The dining room floor is way too crowded!
  • Waterlilies and umbrella plants stowed in the closet under the stairs.
  • Fish moved into winter quarters in the aquarium in the guest room. All four appear to be adjusting well.
  • Harvesting potatoes, carrots, onions. Eating celeriac, beets, parsnips, spinach and lettuce.
  • Planting garlic.
  • Planting the martagon lilies we bought during a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden.
  • Cages going up for winter deer protection.
October passed by too quickly. Here, at least, we can slow down a little and see where we've been.  Take a look here or in the sidebar at right.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Between harvest and compost

Where do cornstalks go after the sweet corn is harvested and before they're tossed into the compost pile?

To Bill and Phil's house as part of their annual Halloween extravaganza.

The display also includes giant inflatable pumpkins, a pirate ship, a train and a black cat. Oh, and a simple maze constructed of hay bales.

They'll break down the Halloween decorations as soon as the last trick-or-treaters have visited. Christmas is calling.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dinner, together

 A grouse is almost too heavy to balance on a stem of this viburnum while a chipmunk hangs upside down to grab his share of berries. Below: The berries.

The viburnum at the end of the driveway became a popular dining destination earlier this week. The shrub, Viburnum dentatum Red Feather, was loaded with blue-black berries -- until they were discovered by the birds, including this grouse, and the chipmunks.

The shrub is a good choice for our garden. It doesn't need a lot of coddling, always a happy attribute around here. In spring, the emerging foliage is maroon and because of some prominent veining, the young leaves themselves look something like feathers. White flat-top flowers follow. The berries arrive in fall as the foliage begins to turn purple.
These days, we're seeing lots of bird activity as the fruit on the crab apple, viburnums, roses and other shrubs ripen. The blue jays already have stripped a frontyard oak of its acorns. Sparrows scoot through the perennials searching out whatever seeds and other food they can find on the ground. And the Silly Dog has to keep track of the resident chipmunks as they run through the garden caching whatever they don't immediately devour.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Back to normal

The Silly Dog had the staples from his surgery of two weeks ago removed today, and we're happy to report that he is back chasing chipmunks and racing the UPS truck.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black walnut update: Surprise!

 A chicken wire cage will protect the black walnut seedling from deer and rabbits.

Look what happens when you're not paying attention.

The background: We sowed 14 black walnuts in fall 2009. Three germinated. They were planted out back on the "nature trail" last fall. This spring, they looked good. We were hopeful. But then, nothing. Did a cold snap kill the buds? Who knows. There were too many other things to think about and we left the sad-looking stems alone. 

A couple of weeks ago we made the discovery. One of the seedling trees has put out a robust show of leaves. It lives!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seventh Day September: Go Team!

 Blue Hubbard squash

New this month -- photos taken by both of the Silly Dog's keepers. While I was away working on a project, the other half of the sillydoggarden team filled the gap by shooting images of lots of cool stuff (like that squash, above).

September is racing by -- we had three consecutive nights of frost/freeze this past week so many of the tender annuals are toast. But we also have a bunch of beans and corn in the freezer and trays of onions curing in the garage. The root crops will be harvested later. And even on a rainy day like today, the garden has the beginning of that burnished autumn glow.

See what's been going on at sillydoggarden by clicking here or going to the slide show in the sidebar at right.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011


8:13 p.m. Saturday. View from the backyard deck.
Already, the days are getting noticeably shorter. The sun is rising about a minute later and setting about a minute earlier. A minute here and a minute there and pretty soon you're talking about real time. 

Yesterday's sunset was particularly stunning.

8:14 p.m. Saturday. View from the backyard deck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August bubbling away

 I've had the water lily ('Chromatella') for more than 15 years. The floating plants are new additions we purchased at Winter Greenhouse in May.

August is going by way too fast. Here is some of it captured and saved in The Seventh Day Project: August 2011. (Or see sidebar at right)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I believe we're at that point in the season where we're taking out more plant material than we're putting in. This is the front bed with bee balm ('Raspberry Wine'), phlox, Oriental lilies and allium.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday: On mornings like this, it's all about the light

Clouds left over from the night's thundershowers depart about 6:30 a.m.

 The sun rises above the trees and throws its light across the vegetable garden. (Whoo-hoo, look at that corn growing!)

 Tiger lily buds drip with moisture.

 Phlox catches the light.

 Buds swell on the 'Casa Blanca' lilies.

 The light plays off all the moisture in the air. And off those big puffs of Arctic blue willow (center).

 Sea holly (eryngium) almost looks like an alien plant in this light.

Bee balm 'Raspberry Wine' snuggles with some lily buds.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Until we get the real thing, these ducks will have to do. They're floating in one of our waterlily tubs. Those are glass bubbles floating along with them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Slacker returns with Seventh Day July

Astrantia, with its papery blossoms, seems to me to be a much-underused perennial. 
So, yes, I've been slacking at the blog a little bit. Blame it on the mojitos. But here, finally, is the Seventh Day Project: July 2011. Take a peek into my world. Here or in the sidebar at right.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rushing into July

 Allium moly 'Jeannine' is a departure from the pinks and purples common in the Allium genus. She is sunny and dependable and gets better year after year.

The state may be shut down, but there's plenty going on at sillydoggarden. Once the rain and the wind let up earlier this week, the party kicked into high gear: Roses, peonies, lilacs, iris (bearded, flag, Siberian), martagon lilies, hardy geraniums, thyme. The many players really know how to rock!

I'm planting out the last of the annuals this weekend, and the vegetable garden is pretty much in -- we need to re-sow beans thanks to all the rain. The good news is that the drainpipe installed between the cold frame and one of the raised beds worked like a charm during last night's downpour.

Bearded iris in the back. On the left is the Nebraska Immigrant and on the right is the iris from Chicago.

'Brand's Magnificent' is one of several new peonies in the garden. Like other peonies, the flowers are showy, the foliage is handsome and the deer don't seem to like them.

The 'Miss Kim' lilacs are spectacular this year. And the fragrance will knock your socks off!

 And, here's a wider view of 'Jeannine.'

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rain delay

 The photo only looks out of focus. That's what happens when you shoot out a window wet from a driving rain. The blue blob in the center is a stand of iris.

Summer must not have received the memo. Her presence was nowhere to be found today. Wind. Serious wind. And rain. Serious rain. The rain held off until early afternoon so we were able to do some weeding, but much of the transplanting -- already late because of the cool, wet weather -- will have to wait. Sillydoggarden is soggy, sodden and saturated.

But -- looking on the bright side -- it's not a tornado, a drought, a fire or a flood. And the wind keeps the bugs down.

The weather people promise sun and 70 degrees by the weekend. Summer finally will show up and a planting marathon is on the agenda.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seventh Day June

 Heucherella 'Rosalie.' Heucherellas are a cross between heuchera and tiarella.

The cool temperatures and plentiful rain have been good for many of the spring bloomers -- here's some of what's happening in the garden this early June. Take a peek around the place in the slide show in the sidebar.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beautiful fawns

We stumbled onto these babies in the woods behind our house this weekend. Brian spotted them just a few feet from where he was foraging for moss for making hanging baskets. He and the silly dog must have unintentionally spooked their mama and she took off. Fortunately, the silly dog didn't see the twins; Brian hustled Dakota back to the house and told me to get the camera.

We watched the fawns for a couple of minutes. They were still wet and may have just been delivered. They huddled together and tried to make themselves as small as possible on the forest floor. The Minnesota DNR says very young fawns have almost no scent and instinctively lie still -- adaptations that help them elude predators.

We left after taking a few photos -- we were sure their mother was nearby and wanting to tend to her twins. We felt privileged to have seen them.

Friday, June 3, 2011

At the end of the day ...

... potatoes planted;
more peas sowed;
leeks transplanted;
campanula divided, moved and mulched;
'Autumn Joy' sedum divided, moved and mulched;
arugula harvested for salad for supper;
chives snipped for topping baked potatoes;
and a very tired Silly Dog fast asleep.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring in Winter

 The path from the lower parking lot to the display gardens and greenhouses.

I love how one of my favorite places to visit in spring is named Winter.

After months of cold and snow, it seems crazy that I'd look forward to visiting a place with that chilly moniker. But I always do. And the visit to Winter Greenhouse in Wisconsin never disappoints.

The folks there don't just offer plants for sale; they show them off in their display gardens. And how!

The sunny garden includes a pond.

A view of the sunny garden from the other direction, from under the crab apple.

The woodland garden was made possible by thinning trees and laying mulch-covered paths.

A bounty of plants -- including hosta, trillium, lungwort, ferns, lamium and spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips -- fill the woodland garden.