Sunday, March 24, 2013

The yard is ready for spring snow

Winter is behind us and Spring is poking through.  Although the only bulbs blooming so far are the crocus, there is evidence of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths rising from their slumber in every garden bed.
This past week there were a few days of wonderful early summer weather, with temperatures in the 60's and 70's.  Without missing a beat, we took advantage of the warmer weather and cleaned up the remainder of the planters, then created an additional 70 square feet of growing space, by enlarging a couple of beds, and adding a new one(ie: removing sodded areas). 
Aside from enriching the existing planters, the expansion made it necessary to get 2 1/2 yards of a compost soil blend and 3 yards of organic mulch; we are talking 5 loads in the truck.
These tulips won't be affected by the fresh layer of snow that is about to cover them. 
Looks like we got it all done just in time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quinoa Salad with fruit and nuts

I know I've talked about quinoa many times before and my love for any dish that contains this wonderful gluten-free superfoodQuinoa, being a complete protein, is also a good source of fiber and calcium.  Given all that, here is another salad that every quinoa lover needs to have in their recipe files.  The combination of caramelized balsamic red onions, toasted walnuts, diced bits of fennel, apple chunks and dried cranberries sing Hallelujah on your taste buds.
I adapted this recipe from the fall 2012 issue of GROW magazine, which is Fine Gardening's guide to vegetable gardening.  

Quinoa Salad with Apples, Walnuts, & Cranberries

1 C red quinoa
1/2 C white quinoa  
5 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 Tb balsamic  vinegar
3 C kale, thinly sliced
4-5 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 large crisp apples, cut into 1/2" dice
1 C toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 C finely diced fennel
3/4 C dried cranberries
3 Tb red wine vinegar
fresh ground black pepper
Feel free to use whatever color quinoa you have on hand.  I like to mix the white and red, but it all tastes the same.
Rinse quinoa, then place in a 3 quart pot with 2 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to low and simmer covered about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, let it sit 5 minutes then fluff with a fork and cool to room temperature.  
Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium high heat and add the onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring often, under tender, 6-8 minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar, and toss with the onions until the vinegar cooks away, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and let it cool.
In a large bowl, mix the quinoa, onions, kale, celery, apple, walnuts, fennel and cranberries.  In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 Tbs olive oil with the vinegar, 1/2 tsp of sea salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Pour the dressing over the salad and gently mix it in. Let it sit a bit, then taste.  Add more olive oil if it seems too dry. 
It is so refreshing and holds up well for several days in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is it a Mole or a Vole?

After the snow melted I discovered many holes in some of my bulb beds, usually near a plant base.  In some cases, as many as five holes down into the ground, leading to a single tunnel.  In order to put a stop to this, I needed to know exactly what type of animal  I was dealing with.
Moles are carnivorous; they eat worms and bugs, where Voles are vegetarian and eat blades of grass, bulbs and plant roots.  So setting a trap with peanut butter to catch a Mole would be pointless.  The main tell for a Mole, is the little mountain of dirt setting next to the hole, and there were no mountains of dirt.  The logical question for me is, what do the Voles do with all the dirt, because they are serious tunnel engineers?
This area was under snow, but that didn't seem to stop the Vole, he just scooted his way along the grass and ate the blades.
Here he's dug under the wood, into the planter and nibbled on the tender greens of a sprouting hyacinth.
This is an elaborate system that came out from under the deck, generally covered in snow.  Amazing!  I'm sure they are like mice, if there is one, you can bet there are more.  There is good news: I've caught one.  I can tell you from experience they won't go for almond butter, just use regular peanut butter.  As spring comes, I'm anxious to see which bulbs and young perennials survived this underground attack.  This battle will go on.