Saturday, July 30, 2011

Digging up Spring Bulbs

Little grape hyacinths are one of my favorite spring bloomers.  Their striking purple color seems to shout "you've got to look at me".
They are planted in several areas around the yard, but the largest colony was along the edge of this planter box.  We trimmed back this flowering cherry and I wanted to put some colorful perennials along the edge and move the hyacinths back a little.
After hours of digging in this small space, I have over 500 hyacinth bulbs to replant.
Apparently the bulbs were happily multiplying where they wereLooks like my simple little project is going to be a week long ordeal That's okay, I know I'll be really happy next spring when the yard explodes with purple.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sweet Summer Corn

The great tasting sweet corn from Olathe, Colorado, grown over on the Western Slope, finally came in to the stores this week.
Didn't have any big plans for the day, so we shucked and washed four dozen ears of corn this morning.

Blanched them in batches of eight at a time for about 4 minutes.
Then plunged them in ice water until they cooled off.  After they drained the tedious part began.  Cutting the kernels off  forty eight corn cobs takes some time, and can be quite messy.
Having done this before, I decided to save myself some cleanup time and move everything off the counter. (Next time I'll do it on a table out in the middle of the yard and have even less cleanup.)
I ended up with twenty eight cups of sweet corn kernels, which I vacuum sealed in two cup portions. Now I'll be able to have fresh Colorado corn even on a snow day. But first,  I think we deserve a batch of basil corn fritters on the grill tonight.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Seedless green grapes

I've got grapes.
I taste one every day, and they are not ready for human consumption.  But they are getting there,  looking good.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wild Blackberries

This is really cool:  I have a wild blackberry bush in my front planter.  I didn't put it there, but I am happy to have it all the same.  Apparently, after some investigation on my part, I discovered that each berry is really made up of lots of tiny, round, shiny berries stuck together—an aggregate fruit.  Each tiny berry in the cluster has its own seed, so one animal eating one fruit spreads many seeds.  I have a lot of birds that frequent my yard, so I'm thanking them all.
The fruit, which ripens in early summer through mid fall, goes from green to red to black.  I discovered the plant when the berries were all green, so I've been watching it for a while.
The berries are growing from the center of this flower.  According to what I've read, wild blackberries are like the ones you buy, only much tastier.  I am ready for that.
Here's the update on the zucchini crop... the first three are part of dinner tonight.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eggplant Fries

The August issue of Bon Appetit included a requested Eggplant Fries recipe from Terzo Piano, a restaurant inside the Art Institute of Chicago.  I made them and was very pleased with the results.
While my Japanese Eggplant has a few fruit growing, it's not the right variety for making  this recipe.   
The ever popular Black Beauty Eggplant with it's large oval fruit is perfect. After cutting the eggplant into 1/2" rounds, then 1/2" sticks you submerge them in ice and water for at least 2 hrs.  This is a key step to insuring the fries don't soak up any oil.
After coating the fries with a rice flour mixture, working in batches, they are fried for several minutes, or until golden.
The Institute's Chef has perfected the coating recipe to yield a wonderful light crunch when done, similar to a tempura texture. 
There is a dipping sauce, similar to the Greek Tzatziki sauce, that is included in the recipe.  I liked it enough, but will jazz it up a bit next time I make these, which will be soon.  They were really, really good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Smoke Bush

There are at least seven varieties of the Smoke Bush.  It's a deciduous shrub, a member of the Sumac family, that grows like a tree in zones 4-9.  It gives year round interest with nice fall color.
This particular shrub, is Cotinus Grace, growing at Denver Botanical Gardens and it grabbed my full attention.  When it blooms during the summer, it appears to be covered in pink lace.  They can grow to 15' X 15'.
Here's a close up of the bloom, it really is pretty.  I'm thinking of yanking a tree out of my yard and putting one in.  It requires full sun, is tolerant of drought conditions and salt but prefers well drained soil and is a slow grower.  I believe I have the  perfect spot for it.
Lastly, I want to share with you the serenity of this peaceful pond at Denver Botanical Gardens.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Yeah for Squash blossoms

This summers first Squash blossoms! 
You know what that means.  Soon we'll have more zucchini than two people can possibly eat.  If it gets to that, I'll start putting them on the neighbors porches late at night.
These Bush Blue Lake beans are climbing their way up the strings and loaded with white blossoms.
Three cucumbers are latching on to the frame I gave them for support.
These little Sun Gold Tomatoes will probably never make it in to a salad.  Not that they won't ripen, but I usually eat them off the vine while I'm working outside.
I'm going to give the neighbors bees all of the credit.  We have a symbiotic relationship with our neighbor--his bees are good for my plants, and my plants supply his bees with pollen.  The second story that was recently added to the hive, is completely full of honey.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Eiseman Hut -- the Alpine hostel

The drive up the mountain to the Eiseman Hut was only 9 winding vertical miles, once you left the pavement off of I-70 at Vail.
The road was extremely pitted with deep ruts and huge holes.  It had been raining quite a bit, so there were also some very deceiving deep pot holes of water.  It was an obstacle course, but worth every tight knuckle grip.
Not counting the 30 minutes we had to wait for the loggers who were working on the Pine Beetle kill logs, it was a 65 minute drive up.  One of the logging machines can pick up the tree, strip the limbs and debark it, maneuvering the tree as if it were a toothpick. (This is not that machine)
We saw a lot of felled trees, but at least they are now using  the beetle kill pine instead of cutting down perfectly good trees.
The West side of the Eiseman Hut.  I know what you are thinking...this is not a hut. It is an authentic vertical stack log cabin that happens to sleep sixteen. Snow enthusiasts last winter were treated to an epic season that buried this building.
Another load arriving.  Part of the crew went  into the mountain with chainsaws, filled the truck and brought them back to us.  We had a 25 ton log splitter, whose duty this weekend was to split 10 cords of wood.  Here we are dumping the second load near the outhouse.
When it's our turn at the log splitter, as a team, Bob & I have developed a very efficient and expedient way of turning it into firewood.
At the end of the day, we were always treated with a magnificent sunset.
As the sun goes down..
John Muir said it best, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

10th Mountain Eiseman Hut

It's nice to take the grand view every once in a while.  Now I am not diminishing any part of living here in Arvada, the suburbs of Denver.  I love the Mile High City, and in Arvada we are at 5337'.  But to get to 11,180' and work at a Volunteer gig for 3 days is really incredible.  Miles and miles of wilderness with no skyscrapers, asphalt or traffic jams.
Here we are over looking Vail, Beaver Creek and Mt Holy Cross, which is above Vail.  This was early Friday upon our arrival, with only more wonderful views to come.

At 5:00, when the whistle blew(it's really not like that) we climbed 100' or so to the ridge line, and did a short hike.  You can see that we are above treeline.  Just love being this close to the clouds.
Enjoying a quiet moment alone on the deck, only then do the natives show up.
This is not a fire on the horizon, apparently it's just a typical sunset here.
I'm thinking I want to share a few more photos, because right now, I'm missing the high country.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Keeping up in the yard

This the Golden Rain Tree.  I enjoy the different looks it has while growing during the season.  All the little yellow flowers will turn into peach colored paper lanterns in another month or so.  Really stunning to see.  
The early day blue sky served as a great background.
These dark orange day lilies really get your attention.
The grapes are growing.  I just need to keep the little squirrels and birds away long enough for them to mature so I can eat them.  Fortunately the leaf cover above is helping to disguise the fact that the grapes are growing below.
And who in the U.S. hasn't heard that Colorado has been rained on for 9 straight days?  We are talking heavy rain, many inches, some have even had damaging hail ( cross your fingers-- so far, not in my yard ) But all that rain sure did make for a beautiful sunset.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grilled Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus is delicious and so easy to do on the grill.  A little olive or rosemary oil, some garlic and pepper, and that's it.  Right now it is so plentiful in the stores , that I make it on grill several times a week.  I do have 12 plants in my garden, but I treat them like grape tomatoes.  When they get to be about 10" tall, I just snap them off and eat them while I'm working in the yard.
We've all heard the old tale that said get the thin stalks because they were more tender, but that really isn't true.  I've started peeling the bottom 3-4" of each asparagus stalk before it's cooked and WOW, what a difference.  I only cut off less than an inch from the bottom of the stalk, and then peel above that.  It is so tender.  I use to bend the stalk and let it break wherever it wanted, and that sometimes took up to 3 inches off the end.  I know you must recall the times you've been eating the end of the asparagus,  it just doesn't want to break down, and you feel like you are chewing on a straw.  Try this technique just once, and if you're not pleased,  then don't do it again.  Yes it is a little time consuming, but well worth the effort.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Butterflies, how wonderful...

Larkspur is a favorite of theirs.  My Bee Balm is just starting to bloom, can't wait for him to discover those flowers.
This swallowtail is in our yard every day.   He has two buddies that occasionally tag along.
 It is wonderful to watch them fluttering about the yard.

It seems he also likes the Hops.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sucessive plantings for greens

What a wonderful Sunday morning..Coffee in hand, in the back yard wandering through the plants at 7am.  Checking the growth on every living thing out there, enjoying the quiet but for the birds chirping, which was wonderful.  Decided to pull some of the greens that were starting to bolt:  spinach, arugula, micro greens and mizuna.
 Filled my 5 quart Super Duper Kitchen Aid Salad spinner with the good greens left on what I was discarding.  Then put in second plantings of arugula, spinach, gourmet greens and chard.
 Love this Kitchen Aid Spinner, use it every night.
And get a look at this...I had a vase full of blossoms for the kitchen from the bolting greens.  It doesn't get any better.  Enjoy life... it's delicious.