Monday, November 22, 2010

fall color

I finally got some pictures together for the 2010 Fall Color Project hosted by Dave at The Home Garden.
Fall has been slow to come to Atlanta. I've waited for the peak of color in my yard and I may have missed it. This is what I do have:
Let's start by looking upward.  The golden leaves of the driveway Japanese maple sparkle with the sun behind them.  Some green Southern Magnolia leaves show to the right, and tall green pines from across the street show through too, but the sky is a wonderful clear autumn blue.

I then looked at the other Japanese maples. The leaves on the umbrella tree directly in front of our house changes straight to a pinkish red. I love the daintiness of the feathery leaves.  

The boys were outside and watched me as I took photos. They climbed under the tree where they were almost hidden to outsiders. I decided to look at their view.  Sitting on the ground, under the six foot tree, gave a perfect rosy glow to the day.  Again, the Southern Magnolia offers green contrast above it.

In my backyard, I have a third Japanese Maple.  I think it may be time for me to learn their proper names, since each is so clearly different from the others.  My favorite is towering well above our two story house.  The red will probably look better next week. Or the leaves could all be on the ground. Who knows?

But for now, this is pretty good.  This photo was taken from the bathroom window. The whole bathroom glows with pink light in the late afternoon. 

The view with the window open, but still from the second floor, shows the color off even better.  The green roof of the playset is slightly visible through behind the tree.  The tree has become naturally espaliered against the back of the house.  It is just open and light enough to be lovely without darkening the house.

Many of the other trees in the yard are still green.  Since we don't have many pines and the green is still deciduous, they'll come around eventually.  As I said, it has been a slow, unusual year for fall color in Atlanta.

I went to great lengths to save this maple.  I'd found the sapling in the middle of my front lawn and transplanted it to the current location on the back.  As I began my terracing project last spring, I was told that the full sized tree could be replaced for less than the cost of working around it.  I solved that problem by doing the work myself.  And I seem to have done well; the tree is still happy and healthy.  And covered in a fresh yellow.

It is hoped that the English ivy, seen behind the tree, will be gone by next year.  I am cautiously optimistic about the project.  Whether or not I build more terracing wall, I'm less sure.  Dang that was hard work!

Enjoy a taste of fall in Atlanta. We generally have a long season. Today the forecast predicted temps in the low seventies, which has been typical. The days are perfect for yard work. But... the last tree, our great oak, will wait another month to drop it's leaves, brown and boring and slow to compost. We generally spend New Year's Day raking the last of the leaves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

cooking up some zest

I think I should post recipes here more often.  I cook every night with fresh healthy ingredients, and I seldom spend more than thirty minutes cooking.  I picked up eighty pounds of grass fed beef yesterday and kept about thirty of that.  I couldn't wait to have some and this recipe was perfect. Tonight we're having Italian Beef, which is simmering in the crock pot as I write.  The recipe is from my sis-in-law, but I don't like to buy seasoning mixes, so I did a bit of online investigation and simply added herbs and spices on my own.  I haven't tasted them side by side to compare, but mine is pretty good as is, so I'm unlikely to bother.

Zesty Italian Beef
  • beef shoulder roast (2.5#)
  • 1/2 bottle beer (This is the disadvantage of starting this at breakfast.  My solution was to put the whole bottle in)
  • 3/4 c. jarred, sliced banana peppers
  • 1 pkg Zesty Italian dressing mix
    • OR
  • 2 t. dried basil]
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t dried parsley
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook this in your crock 6-8 hours on low, then shred the meat.  Serve it on rolls with sliced cheese (Provolone is suggested, but never in my fridge, so I think we'll try them with Swiss tonight.) 

I'll saute some kale with this I think.

Steam-Saute of any mild Green (chard, spinach, kale)

I start by putting my large skillet on the lowest temperature my stovetop allows and adding a dollop of olive oil... maybe two tablespoons. I add a clove of minced garlic to this while I prep the kale.  I chop the kale before I wash it, then I don't bother drying it.  Usually the garlic is smelling great by now, and I add the kale stems to the pan.  I give them 2-3 minutes alone, then I add the rest of the wet kale.  Just in case, add a bit more water. Give it a toss, put the lid on it and crank the heat until it steams up, then put the heat back on low.  After about five minutes toss it around a bit, then replace the lid and cook it another five minutes.  Remove the lid, cooking it up to five more minutes more if needed to let some of the water evaporate.  We salt at the table if necessary.

And!  As a treat, I'll include a recipe adapted from one my neighbor has shared.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
2 T butter- melt it in a 2 qt. casserole in the microwave, 30 seconds on high
add 1/4c brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cayenne (adjust as needed)
1 T water
2-3 c. pecan halves
Cover and microwave 4 minutes, stirring every minute.  Cool on parchment paper or foil.  Eat only some.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

four seasons garden

I've been focusing my gardening on the driveway area this fall.  It has the most character this time of year but still needed some filling in.  I've been planning the new backyard terrace garden in my mind but haven't done much actual work yet.

As I tended the driveway garden, I realized that I had four garden areas, and each has its own season.  This was never planned.  I only sort-of plan my gardens, since not much that I plan out there comes to pass.  The seasonal garden discovery is just chance.
November in the Driveway Garden
The Driveway Garden has yellow, white and purple chrysanthemums and some purple asters, as well as white feverfew, all of which came back this fall.  I added some white chrysanthemums, more asters and the obedient plant from my neighbor.  The obedient plant has flower buds on it and seems settled.  We haven't had a frost yet, so it may have time to bloom.  I've put more ajuga in there too, to contribute to the purple tones.  I think I'll add heuchera next year in both rusty purple colors and a vibrant golden green, and maybe put out a sweet potato vine if I can keep one alive all winter indoors.  I think the chartreuse would look good with the purple.  All this is under a Japanese maple which has gone golden recently.

The Driveway Garden is my fall garden.

The new terrace wall I built gives me a chance to fight the English Ivy.  The plan, to eradicate the ivy from the back yard, will have to progress in parts.  I may pay someone to do the majority of it, but as the ivy is doing a fine job of holding up the hill, I'm not sure I dare rip it all out yet.  I'll experiment with my terrace plantings to see what does a good job of erosion control.  I've made some progress, but the ivy has the advantage of growing down hill and toward the sun as it encroaches into my new plants.

The just-completed terrace wall, which will become the Terrace Garden for winter
I'm trying to keep the area evergreen. This is our main focus from inside the house.  We're used to seeing all the green ivy, which isn't terribly exciting to regard, but at least it isn't brown and dead in the winter.  Additionally, I want this to be a (relatively) maintenance free area once I get it planted.  I have enough to tend already.  So, I'll put in a few more yew, many more Christmas ferns, and some of the suggestions from Faire Garden such as hardy geraniums, euphorbia dulcis, creeping jenny (I had no idea this wintered over so nicely here!) more heuchera here too, and carex or sedge, which I think will look great at the bottom of the wall.  The portion that gets some sun could possibly handle dianthus, but I'm not too optimistic that it would bloom well.

The Terrace Garden will be my winter garden.

March in my Woodlands Garden.
The area that fills most of my front yard is well shaded in the summer, but in the spring, before the massive oak leafs out, it is filled with spring color.  I have found some great woodland flowers, brought by birds, and I have cultivated more wildflowers on my own.  The phlox and vinca are covered with purple blooms, the forsythia, quince, azaleas, and bulbs all add bright, overlapping colors.

The Woodlands Garden is my spring garden.
June in the Sidewalk Garden.  It looked even better in July (and when we'd picked up the Magnolia leaves!)
Up by the front sidewalk, there are daisies, black-eyed Susans, and purple coneflowers.  I have encouraged lamb's ear and purple heart to fill in all gaps as the summer progresses.  We hide a few cherry tomato plants in the middle. (They're still producing today.) By August, the lantana is covered in yellow and orange, as well as with butterflies.  I have just added a rain barrel in here to help keep this area alive all summer, since it tends to droop as the heat comes on and the rain stops. 

Because this is the front of the house, there is multi-season interest here too.  The corner is packed with bulbs of all kinds and is the first area of the yard to show signs of spring.  The umbrella shaped Japanese maple turns purple in the fall, highlighting the remaining purple heart.  In the winter we rely on the bones of the maple, but I have just planted Yuletide camellias by the front door.

The Sidewalk Garden is my summer garden.

Four gardens-- four seasons!

Monday, November 8, 2010

improving every day

I'm not sure I've given much detail here; I'll just say that Bug was not an easy baby.  For example, the first thing the first nurse said about him at birth was, "My what a beautiful baby. My goodness, he has strong lungs!"  He used to leave our ears ringing when we held him to try to comfort him.  When we enrolled him in a morning out program, before he'd turned two, they asked us to describe him with one word.  CD and I finally settled on "more".

I tried every week to get to a yoga class. I tried to prove that Einstein's definition of insanity was wrong.  If only I tried the same class one more time, this time Bug wouldn't scream and the YMCA nursery staff wouldn't come to get me, I'd hope.  I hated to be a pessimist, but to be on the safe side, I set my yoga mat near the door.  I enjoyed the warm up every week for a year.  And then they came to get me and I left.

I coped.  Half a yoga class was better than none.  We tried to get help a few times, but he was just under the threshold for having "a problem."  And yet, we knew that an unpredicted change would set him off.  Rushing him was a waste of time.  The change in seasonal clothing was an issue.

Much has improved in the past six years, but he is still a sensitive and emotional child. This morning we had the first  meltdown we've had in a long time.  Maybe the first this school year.  It could have been the time change- he went to bed at changed time but woke up an hour earlier than needed for school.  It could have been that this was the first morning I pulled out the winter jackets.  It could have been the phase of the moon, I'll never know.  But it was time to leave to walk to school and Bug was a mess. 

By the time the issue was settled, the boys needed to be driven to school.  This change in plans was upsetting to Bug too, but he managed to pull himself together enough to leave. 

I went to yoga.  I can go to the YMCA for a yoga class these days anytime I want.  I can be running late too, and not have to check in a crying kid to the nursery.  I forget to enjoy this most of the time.

Today, as I walked through the parking lot, a mom was struggling with twins, about a year and a half old.  One was refusing to hold her hand, so she hefted him up along with her purse, the large diaper bag and her yoga mat.  With the other hand she held the little girl who wanted to walk on the curbs the long way around.  I could see myself in her face.  There was no reason to rush the kids, it would just make her later than she thought she'd be already.

I offered to carry the yoga mat, and waited for her so I could get the doors.  She said it was her first attempt to bring them to the nursery.  Since we were going to the same room, I said I'd take the mat to class while she checked the kids in.  She came into the room at the last minute and whispered to me, "traumatic separation."

We warmed up.  When the nursery staff came to the door she knew it was for her, and she left.  I almost started to cry.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I found this at the grocery today.  Marked down since Halloween is over and no one eats "SCARROTS" after Halloween.  Carrots?  Really?  Either celebrate the holiday or don't, but don't give some poor unsuspecting kid carrots in his Trick or Treat bag.  If you can't read the small print, it says, "Eat 'em like junk food."

This is the kind of stuff kids want in that Trick or Treat bag.  We finally made the gingerbread haunted house yesterday.  Lots of Skittles and M&M's with a few interesting candies.  There was also a gummy roadkill possum that might have looked good at the house, but I'd already eaten it.  Pineapple.  One of the best gummy candies I'd ever eaten.  Seriously.

Since they are individually packed, there will be carrots in the lunchbox for a while.  I can't pass up a bargain, especially one that amuses me, is healthy, and will certainly get eaten around here.  I will add the "Scarrots" to this marvelous assortment I received in my CSA today.  Italian dandelion, turnips, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, basil, crowder peas, lady peas and lettuce.  My mom took eggplant, squash, and half of some of what I have.We can get produce all winter from individual farmers, but the CSA ends at Thanksgiving.

This last photo is Pook's broken finger.  It is unrelated to "Scarrots" and to gingerbread haunted houses.  He broke it playing football with Bug on Monday.  He was so tired and crabby from the late night Trick or Treating that I gave him very little attention when he said he'd hurt it.  But Tuesday morning it was very purple at the first two joints and something felt wrong.

First we went to vote. The kids had the day off school to allow voting to take place in the building.  (Safety issue I assume.) Then we built and decorated the gingerbread house, then we went to the Urgent Care center for x-rays.  With the doctor's permission, we headed straight from there to a bowling alley.  (I know, it seems so wrong to take a child with a broken finger bowling.  But it was his left hand.)  We had won two hours of bowling with a $1 raffle ticket last May.  Before it expired I wanted to get over there and yesterday felt like the best opportunity.  As I said, I can't pass up a bargain.

We met A&K and their dad, who is a teacher and had the day off too.  Fun was had by all.  Their dad was the only one who broke 100, and then only barely.  Using gutter guards.  Their dad tried to put Pook's name on the board as "Pinkie" but Pook objected.  He's very self conscious of this large splint. (It comes almost to his elbow, and will be replaced by a cast on Tuesday.  Not sure if they're overreacting or if his pinkie is that big of a deal.)

And now today is Wednesday but it feels like a Monday.  I guess that will make the week go by quickly.