Archive for April, 2010

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The Lure of Fallen Blossoms

April 29, 2010

It rained the last two days, knocking most of the Locust tree blossoms to the ground. Many people detest this kind of mess in their yard, but I think the snow-like appearance is delightful. Every time I walk around the perennial garden, it puts a smile on my face. There’s no explanation for this ticklish reaction. It’s just one of nature’s buoyant gifts that I enjoy.

The Locust tree (Robinia pseudo-acacia) was here long before me and I have loved it since moving on the property. The pinnately compound leaves produce a lovely feather influence while the flower clusters fill the air with a fragrance I can’t identify. Nor do I try with the pollen allergies that I have. Because of the thorny branches, it’s best to stay out of this tree. Still, the Locust tree is a nice delicate touch next to the strong oak. Certainly, the blossoms on the ground are less of a burden than the dreaded acorns.

 

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Budding Garden Thoughts

April 28, 2010

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“Gardening is an extension of one’s personality.

Show it off in a big way!”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Give and Take Continues . . .

April 27, 2010

It’s official. My perennial garden is black. That’s right, black, thanks to Sue Chinchiolo’s excess mulch. 

Sue’s landscape will be one of six gardens featured in the San Joaquin County Master Gardeners’ Garden Tour, May 2. (Click on Events for details.) Although Sue keeps her yard exceptionally manicured, there are always last-minute details or incomplete projects to finish, so I offered to help. 

Sue emailed scheduled days to me from which to choose. When I read that three other friends (whom I haven’t seen in some time) would be helping on Friday, I immediately chose the same day. 

Julie, Sharon, and Nancy didn’t know I would be helping. After they arrived, we shared hugs, big smiles, and happy greetings. Then we dug in, literally, into four yards of black mulch. 

For three hours, we top-dressed Sue’s front and back beds. Stepping back to view our work, we were satisfied. Sue was especially pleased. The rich black carpet emphasized the swath of color and texture in her beautiful beds. However, we only used half of the mulch. The nurseryman over estimated! 

Left to right: Sharon McDonald, Sue Chinchiolo, Nancy Rubey, Julie Moorehouse

 

Eager to get the mulch out of her driveway, and soon, Sue offered it to us. Sharon made a couple of calls and was waiting to hear back when I went home. Then, a couple of days later Sue sent an email offering the mulch to me. I was thrilled to have it. That evening, Joe, and I scooped it up shovel-full-by-shovel-full into the back of his truck, and then unloaded it, shovel-full-by-shovel-full, at the base of the garden steps. 

Yesterday morning, I removed the hay used in my perennial beds as mulch. The hay was molding in our barn and since buying mulch was out of the question this year, free hay was the next best material to retain moisture. Once I removed the hay, I hauled shovel-full-by-shovel-full into the garden. There was enough mulch to cover most of the main beds. 

Mulch was not on my wish list mentioned a few weeks back. I thought it too costly. So this unexpected gift is even more astounding. When I thought I was going to aid a friend, Sue ended up helping me. 

Suggestion:  Don’t use black mulch in vegetable beds. It’s chemically treated and spray painted. 

 

Above:  just one corner of  what you will see on the garden tour at Sue Chinchiolo’s home.  

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Queen of Quiche the Second

April 25, 2010

It’s asparagus season and my husband came home from work with a large bag. I decided to make Judy Crosby’s Asparagus Quiche (see Feature Writer) and purchased the ingredients the following day. This was my first quiche   baking attempt. Joe calls it sissy food, thus my reason for delay in making this wonderful dish. Nevertheless, I love quiche (and asparagus) and I wanted to make it at least once before I die.

Judy’s recipe was quick and easy to mix. (An A+ in my kitchen.) Once prepared, I put it into a preheated oven, closed the oven door, and then walked away without setting the timer. Eventually, I realized this and started peering through the glass door every five minutes. Time seemed to stretch into the next century. The egg mixture swelled in the slowest of slow motions, similar to a budding flower caught on film by a talented National Geographic photographer.

Finally done, out from the oven it came. After it had slightly cooled, I took a bite of my first homemade quiche. It was excellent.

ASPARAGUS TIDBITS:

  • Botanical nameAsparagus officinalis.
  • Harvest time:  February through April
  • Select:  Tight-closed tips with firm, straight green stalks. Dull green indicates an old asparagus. For even cooking time chose uniform stalk thickness.
  • Varieties:  Green, purple, violet, and wild.
  • Prep:  Refrigerate unwashed until you’re ready to cook, with ends trimmed and placed in an inch of water in a jar. Cover with plastic wrap or plastic bag. Before cooking, snap off ends and wash. Depending on your preference, some like to peel the lower stalks before cooking
  • Nutritional Value:  go to http://www.nutritiondata.com/  (This is a wonderful source.)

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Budding Garden Thoughts

April 23, 2010

MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

 

“Blunders in the garden

are similar to those in life . . .

both connect you to yourself.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre 

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Changing Colors

April 22, 2010

I’ve heard that the Indians believed if acorns fell early—in July—it was a sure sign of a wet winter. Well, guess what? My oak tree started dropping acorns last July, and we’ve had a wet winter. What I can’t explain, after a recent rain, is how the light cast a lilac hue on brown dried-up leaves in the photo above. It looks as if I digitally colorized it, but I didn’t. Honest!  (I can explain why it’s out of focus–I’m an amateur photographer.)

Another mystery is the 80-degree weather we had last Sunday and rain two days later. In fact, it poured. Spring and the hope of summer had dissipated behind gray clouds. Still, I wasn’t about to wheel the firewood back up the hill to the house. I wasn’t about to run outside to cover the patio furniture. Lazy, I know.

Aware that summer would come, I did enjoy the changing light of day, the cast of hues on leaves, a cup of hot chocolate, and a chance to take a break to meet with friends in town (more on that later).

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Child’s Day

April 20, 2010

Editor-in-Chief Phyllis Hoffman Depiano of Victoria magazine wrote in the May/June issue about a fantastic holiday she and a friend created when their children were growing up, Child’s Day.

It all came about when Phyllis’ six-year-old twin sons noticed that the calendar prompts the world to celebrate moms and dads, and grandparents, but not children.

They were right!

We also honor teachers, secretaries, and bosses. So, why don’t we hold a yearly observance for the children in our lives?

 

Phyllis and her friend chose June 30. 

Every year these two Moms had set this date aside to mark their childrens’ importance. An outing, games, a bag full of goodies and trinkets was all it took. How special they must have felt on Child’s Day . . .  and for how Phyllis listened to her little boys and took action in a way that said I heard you. I love you. Now that’s worth celebrating.

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The Queen of Quiches

April 19, 2010

A note from Dianne:  This is the last of Judy’s three columns. I am sad to see it end, but as a mother of four and grandmother of nine Judy has little time to spare. If you’ve enjoyed her stories and recipes, please take a moment to comment, and perhaps in the future she will return with more kitchen goodies. Thank you, Judy, for sharing.

Written by Judy Crosby

Here is another recipe from the woman who hates to cook. My husband and I were invited for Easter brunch at our oldest daughter’s house. I volunteered to make quiche, even though I had never made one before. Two weeks earlier, I discovered a recipe for asparagus quiche and it sounded good to me.

The day before Easter, I felt so ahead of the game that I made two quiches and had them done by two o’clock. As I pulled them out of the oven I was a little disappointed, the quiches seemed flatter than I had seen a quiche. It must be this recipe, I told myself, as I sat them on the counter to cool.

At three o’clock my daughter called, “Mom, how many quiches did you make?” I told her two and then she hesitantly asked, “Could you possible make one more, there are going to be a few more people than I originally thought.”

“No problem,” I replied. The recipe had gone together fairly easy, I just had to run to the store and buy more asparagus and more eggs. When we hung up the phone, my daughter-in-law called, with a slight problem that took 45 minutes to work out. At last I was off to the store, when I returned, of course my husband was hungry, seems he still likes to eat three times a day, much to my dismay. I proceeded to whip up a fast, easy dinner, soup, and sandwiches.

After dinner, I got busy with my third quiche. I looked at the recipe and almost choked, WHAT, the recipe now called for ¾ cup of milk, where before I had read ¼ cup. NO, this couldn’t be right. I read that little tiny print wrong. I made the new quiche according to the specific directions. It came out of the oven at least an inch thicker than the two before it and looked so pretty.

I took a deep breath and cut into the first quiche, ate a bite. It didn’t taste very good so I threw those two quiches in the garbage. It was now eight-thirty p.m. throwing on my jacket I yelled to my husband as I ran out the door, “I have to go get some more milk and asparagus”

Upon returning home, I was quiched out. I couldn’t make one more quiche that night. I would get up early in the morning and make two more quiches. The next morning at six a.m., following the recipe exactly, I once again made two perfect quiches. I now feel like the queen of quiche making, I could probably make one with my eyes closed.

Here is the recipe (Please read carefully), don’t do as I do, do as I say. Copyright © 2010 Judy Crosby

Asparagus Quiche (1 quiche)     

1 lb. asparagus; ends snapped off, and cut into 1-inch pieces;

4 to 5 green onions, sliced thin (1/2 cup)

1 Tb. Olive oil

I sheet pie pastry

3 large eggs

¾-cup evaporated milk

½-cup sour cream

½ tsp. tarragon

1 ½ cups grated Swiss cheese

Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper middle positions. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus and green onion with olive oil and generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roll Pastry and fit into a 9-inch pie pan, evenly distribute asparagus mixture over pastry. Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk, sour cream, tarragon, and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over crust and sprinkle with cheese.

Put quiche on upper-middle rack. Bake until filling is just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the quiche rest a few minutes then cut and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

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Budding Garden Thoughts

April 18, 2010

  MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected

“Go meet the mountains.

They wait for you . . .

beside redwood trees,

riverside fishing,

campfire songs,

meadow flowers . . .

family fun.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Springtime Snow

April 17, 2010

Still in my PJs, every morning as I cross the great room and look through the front window, I think I’m in the high Sierra Mountains in midwinter. Since I would never live in snow land (hate the cold), this beautiful display of Snow in Summer (Cerastium) is my kind of make-believe white fluff beneath a deep blue sky.

Planted eleven years ago, Snow in Summer spreads across the outer northeast edge of my garden and blooms April through May. It’s an easy, no fuss perennial with silvery gray foliage year round that’s seldom troubled by insects or disease. I read somewhere that it is a native of Italy, also known as Mouse Ear, Chickweed, and Silver Carpet. You can start Snow in Summer from seed indoors, direct sow outdoors, or plant six packs. Mine is in full sun but it also grows in part shade. Because Snow in Summer is draught tolerant it does well in rock gardens.

Although Snow in Summer isn’t foot-traffic friendly and it looks like a field of dead oats for about a month after the blooms dry, the rest of the year this warm version of freezing-cold fluff is so pretty it’s worth keeping.

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