Friday, September 8, 2017

Seeds

I have always lined my deck with 25 boxes of flowers.  But as the price of flowers climbed, I started collecting the seeds and growing my own under lights in the basement. I love doing this as it gets my hands in soil in January and I can watch the baby plants sprout and unfurl at the same time I am out snow blowing in below freezing weather.  

When I started a vegetable garden a friend recommended a certain heirloom tomato - the Rose tomato - and bought me my first plant.

This is a picture of a store bought tomato


They are bred to look “perfect” and for long shelf life.

Unfortunately the taste has been bred right out of them and they have little meat. They usually look like this:



This is a Rose.  

They are not always pretty

Sometimes they are downright strange


But they are large, usually at least 5 inches across and taste amazing.  One slice covers a sandwich and hangs out the sides.

And they are so dense that they don’t make a sandwich soggy.  In fact, I have to dig around to find seeds to save.


To save tomato seeds I soak them in water for a couple of days.  This helps remove the gelatin casing and separates the good seed from bad.  Floaters don’t make the cut.


Then I dried them for a couple of weeks.  

And store them until next March when I plant them under grow lights to start the process all over again.


I usually grow 4 different varieties of large fruit and 3 varieties of cherry tomatoes. This year I was introduced to the Kellogg Heirloom which is similar to the Rose but yellow and ripens a little earlier. It’s a keeper.

My vegetable and flower gardens are winding down for the year but I feel they still live on as I collect and process seeds in preparation for next year.  

If anyone is interested in any tomato seeds shoot me an email (listed under my profile).  I’d be happy to share this amazing tomato with you.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Love of the Mouse

My grandfather, a barber at the Algonquin Hotel, used to cut Walt Disney’s hair when he was in New York. My mother told me that once I met him and sat on his lap during his haircut.

algonquin.jpg

I have no memory of that but I mark it as the beginning of my love of Disney.  Sunday nights would find my family watching The Wonderful World of Disney and our first really big family vacation was to many of the western National Parks with a side trip to DisneyLand. Later as I pursued a career in planning, Walt Disney was studied as the one of the top planners of his time.  I still walk around his parks in awe of the layout, people moving and particularly the level of detail in every aspect of the experience.

Martha and I have taken our daughters to DisneyWorld 8 or 9 times,  always in winter as a break from the cold, snowy landscape of the northeast.  We went through the struggling with strollers stage, the waiting for character autographs stage, the waiting for the major thrill rides (I hold the hats) and the “have fun, we’ll meet up for dinner” stage.

Recently I have been to DisneyWorld a couple of times without Martha because she works in a school and prices are astronomical during school breaks. But she has been sorely missing The Mouse and so we planned a trip.  In August.  Florida in August.  

I know many people who hate Disney parks because of the expense and the crowds.  To me the magic is worth every penny and, having been so often, we know how to work the system and beat the crowds.

Our first day we reserved an event where we spent an hour eating mini desserts ( a LOT of mini desserts) and then had special seating for the fireworks show at the castle.  I have seen a lot of these spectacles but none that compared to this year’s with whole movie scenes being projected onto the castle.  



We have always stayed at a Park resort and therefore could book dinner reservations 6 months before the trip, always trying something new - Norway this year - and returning to old favorites like Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is an African buffet which allows non-adventurous eaters like myself the opportunity to try little bits of everything.  But I really go to Boma for the Zebra Domes.


You can find the recipe on-line which is basically coffee-kahlua flavored heavy cream, sugar, eggs, and chocolate ganache.  I ate an embarrassing amount.

This year a new section opened in the Animal Kingdom based on the movie Avatar.  There are only two attractions at this point - one a luminescent river ride through the land of Pandora


The other is a thrill ride which simulates flying on a Banshee.  Although I do not do standard thrill rides like rollercoasters or things that drop, the thought of being able to fly on the back of a large bird had me intrigued.  You sit on something similar to a motorcycle seat wearing 3D glasses, with your hands on the reins of your banshee. And then a screen opens and you are in Pandora swooping through lush forests, nose diving down waterfalls and soaring past floating mountains while you can feel your banshee breathing between your legs.  It is difficult to describe how awesome this ride was. We had a fast pass and waited about 10 minutes to go on but others have waited 4 hours and still said it was worth it.  

We had been worried about the weather in Florida in August and packed sleeveless, wicking shirts but except for the first day the skies were generally overcast and kept the heat at a moderate temperature.  But you would have never known it has August because the Magic Kingdom was already decorated for Mickey’s Halloween Party.  


WTF???  

Well except for that extreme rushing of the seasons, and the lack of “wow” I always feel when I travel from snow into palm trees in the winter, we had yet another magical time dining with princesses, hugging Pooh, eating foods from around the world, watching the wide eyed wonder of little kids, and generally reliving the sweet memories of youth.  

The world is such a crazy place right now. Five days in a fairy tale was the best medicine.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Peaches

Three years ago I started a small orchard with 2 pears and a peach tree. The first year the peach tree bloomed and sprouted hundreds of peaches.  Unfortunately some critters (I suspect squirrels) came in one night and pirated every single baby peach away.  The second year we had a very late frost that killed all fruit development.  This year the tree was a mass of beautiful pink blossoms which then created a mass of baby peaches.  


I was not very hopeful that they would mature without being absconded by some marauder but mature they did. Hundreds of them.  So many I had to brace some of the branches that were threatening to break under the weight.



Every day for the past 2 weeks I have been picking a huge bucket of them as they ripen.  But since they are not bred with preservatives they rot very quickly. So we have been in peach eating, giving away and processing mode.




Peach jam. Check.




Sliced peaches in canning jars.  Check.



Dehydrating peaches. Check.



Processing peaches is a very messy business and I am glad that the yield is finally starting to slow down.


But silly me, last year I was convinced that I would never get peaches to survive so I bought a second tree because I just liked the shape and flower of it.  So next year, critters willing, we will have twice as many peaches to deal with. Yikes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

For Eddie

There is a dog who needs some help.


He has suffered much abuse in his life.  He had his tail chopped off, was hung from a tree by a metal snare round his waist and left to die, and finally someone tried to kill him by hitting him over the skull with a metal bar with a spike on it.  They missed his skull and hit the top of his nose instead, hence the hole.  You can read more about him here https://sweffling.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/romanian-rescue-dog-2/




No living thing deserves to be treated with such violence.


Fortunately there are angels like Susanna in this world who love and  take care of those hurting animals, even when they themselves have heavy things on their plate.  


I have known Susanna as a blogging friend for a little while now and know her to be an extremely compassionate, empathetic person.  She so badly wants to help Eddie but as any of us who live with furry animals know, even routine vet care can be expensive.


Susanna has (reluctantly) started a crowdfunding page for Eddie. If you are able and so inclined, please kick in a few dollars*** for Eddie.

https://www.leetchi.com/c/money-pot-eddie-22587947


*** Susanna lives in England and therefore the funding page is in pounds.  I had no idea what the exchange rate was so I tried giving 30 pounds.  That turned out to be $39.10 on my credit card.  You can use that as a reference.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Full of Grace

After critters ate my entire first planting of green beans, the second crop is now ready for harvest.

Today's pickings

Visited Peachie in Boston where we went kayaking in the Charles River.  Very cool. We’ve decided that every trip should include a kayaking adventure.  

All the pink sailboats in the background were a kid's camp learning to sail.

Toured the inspirational Kennedy Museum and Library. I was not a big fan of the man, but greatly admired his politics.   



Back in the car for a quick visit to see my sister and family and finding a new route thereby avoiding all the Yankee Stadium traffic.

Had my yearly physical and was determined to be in pretty good shape. Cholesterol down, weight down, height steady and EKG strong.  Except for the increasingly irritating arthritis and possible reflux issues, I feel great.  I am hoping to make it to October which will mark the first whole year without a surgery in the last 5 years. Fingers crossed.

Good health is something I no longer take for granted and so I am particularly grateful today to still be able to enjoy friends, family and the great outdoors.


Monday, July 24, 2017

No Work and All Play

My body let it be known that it was time for some rest.  I enjoy projects but my arthritic hands, bursitis shoulder,  and decaying knees not so much.  So this past weekend:


I took my first swim in the lake. Truthfully, with all the cold rain we’ve had, the lake has been pretty chilly, but swim I did.  Not very far and very close to the shoreline, just in case.  I will need build up my endurance over time.


Beaner and a friend joined us for an easy, no stress BBQ that included farmstand, just picked corn on the cob.  Ultra sweet with butter running down my chin. Yum.


Took a quiet, easy kayak trip around the lake surveying the new construction. I tried to join a flock of geese but they would have no part of me.


the concrete structure is the dam that created the lake


Sat in my Adirondack chair and read an entire book - Little Big Lies - cover to cover.  An entertaining book with some very important messages about domestic abuse.   I am a pretty slow reader but this was a page turner.




I did stain the part of the reconstructed deck because, well, it’s just not a weekend at the lake without getting something done.


But I balanced that with a nap in my favorite hammock.  



Fresh air. Great summer food. Being in and on the water. Naps in a hammock.  Life is Good. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Lazy Days of Summer?


Summertime and the living is easy.

Unless you own a summer camp.

Fifteen years ago I built a deck for the lake house.  But to get around some zoning issues and the fact that the area is built on a rock shelf, I couldn’t put support piers into the ground. The whole deck (33 ft wide) floats and is supported by cement blocks.  Over time, as the northeast winters freeze the ground, the deck has heaved into a wavy, uneven mess.  This was the year to fix it.  First, remove 1000 screws that have wormed their way deep into the wood. About half came out. The other half had to be broken and/or hack sawed.  Then remove the supporting bolts to lower and heightened the corners as needed.  But of course, half the bolts broke requiring more hack sawing.  Bring in a couple more ‘heavier than hell’ cement supports (they were a lot lighter 15 years ago!) , cut and toenail in 12 joist supports and then screw all the top boards back on. It took us two 12 hour, backbreaking days to get it done.  It took me 3 days to recuperate from all my aches and pains. And unfortunately all that work and only 1/3 of the deck is done.  Then it will all need to be re-stained.


Two years ago Martha wanted to remove the carpeting in the dining area.  We peaked under a corner and saw wood flooring.  Great!   Until it all came up and we saw this.


Yep, they had run out of planks and so finished the floor with whatever non-matching wood they had left.  For the last 2 years Martha has been chirping at me to re-finish the floor.  I wanted to use wide plank pine, she wanted an engineered, easy to maintain floor.  We have looked for over a year and finally agreed on something so time to start that job.


Friday we were going to drive up and get the floor done together but on Thursday night we put out a skunk trap (yes, still dealing with a skunk issue at home) and actually caught one.  Unfortunately the pest control people could not come until Friday afternoon to relocate the animal so I went alone to do the floor while Martha waited at home, babysitting the skunk. By and large it was not a difficult job but very hard on my old weak knees.



Martha arrived just as I was doing the finishing touches (of course) and had a list of “smaller” jobs for the rest of the weekend.  Build shelves in the garage. Check.  Fix broken gutter. Check. Mow lawn. Check.  Meanwhile Martha was busy replacing some rusty old faucets, shampooing the carpets, painting shutters and hanging new lighting fixtures, a garage sale bargain. 

Occasionally we would take a break, sit in our Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake, sipping iced tea and wonder what it must be like to have a little mountain place to get away to and relax.  

We have no idea.