Welcome to my Western Pennsylvania garden. Join me on a "Walk Down the Garden Path".

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Sweet Trip to Hershey PA

Last week we took a trip to Central PA to visit Hershey and Gettysburg. Our first stop was Hershey and the beautiful Hershey Gardens. The Hershey Gardens are right next to the luxurious Hershey Hotel and right across the street from Hershey Park. If you are in Hershey you shouldn't miss them, they are spectacular.

When you first enter the gardens, you are amidst the huge rose gardens. It's fabulous, with a pond, gazebo, and rose arches. These are rose gardens like I can only imagine having. Remember, when visiting professional gardens to constantly remind yourself that it is impractical to think that you can recreate this at home. Maybe you can recreate 1% at home but don't belittle your own garden for not measuring up to the professionally tended gardens in size, variety, or lack of weeds :)

The Japanese Garden was very peaceful, with a reflecting pond and gurgling brook. It was so peaceful that it was here Lillian dozed off for her nap.

The Herb Garden area was another favorite of mine. It featured a fig tree, laden with figs. The herbs were divided into groups such as culinary, medicinal, and dyeing.

We saw many elements of whimsy throughout, like this bunny peeking out from some grasses in the Ornamental Grass Garden.

These False Autumn Crocus (Colchium speciosum) were a burst of color.

The Seasonal Garden was awash with color galore and mounds of mums for fall. I particularly like the hedge rows dividing the areas.

There is also a wonderful Children's Garden, Arboretum, and Conifer Collection which I will talk about in subsequent posts. I don't want this to get too long and this way I can post more photos :)

After we left the gardens, we stopped at Hershey's Chocolate World (just five minutes away) to take the Chocolate Factory Tour and load up on some sweet Hershey's chocolate. This was a quick stop, but well worth it!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Storm Damage from Ike

Here are some pictures my husband took of the storm damage we sustained when Hurricane Ike raced north. I haven't had a chance to take the tour yet but these pictures speak for themselves. And they are saying we have a lot of work to do to clean up from Ike!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Queen Autumn

I posted this on my other blog but thought I would share it here as well.

Queen Autumn

Autumn robes the trees
In fiery reds and golds
Signaling her reign

Today is the first day of my favorite season - Autumn. My favorite because the weather (at least where I live) is, in my opinion, the best at this time of year- nice warm days, cool nights, low humidity. It's also the time of year we usually go on vacation and so the memories of those past trips always come rushing back when the days start to get shorter. And since my daughter was born in the fall last year, there is a new reason for me to enjoy it.

Not to mention that the changing of the leaves is one of nature's most beautiful annual events. I could drive around leaf watching for days. Of course instead of driving, hiking is really the preferable mode of transport. To follow where the peak fall colors are, visit Dave at The Home Garden. He is coordinating a tracking of the timing of the peak colors.

Enjoy the fall days and the changing of the leaves. These days are fleeting and it won't be long now when the reds and golds are replaced with white and ice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Veggie Garden Update ~ September 2008

Well it looks like I will get this in under the wire for the 20th. At least, if I type fast.

I have to admit that I haven't been paying too much attention to the vegetable garden as of late, only because there has been so much else going on with Ike and the power loss and our roof / garage project. We are also planning a little trip for next week, so that has taken most of my internet time. But I was able to take a tour today and here is what I found.

The beets and carrots are still there, and getting bigger. They deer haven't been bothering them as of late and so they have actually gotten some tops back. I think I will leave them in the ground a while longer and hope they get a bit larger.

Here was the best surprise. Some of the eggplant had gotten quite large. I will be able to pick these once we are back from our trip.

Here's a little pumpkin. We have several this size. All of the larger ones didn't make it. They were eaten by some creature. So we'll be off to the pumpkin patch to buy some in October.

This picture of the asparagus reminded me of Christmas. Surprisingly, I saw Christmas decorations on display already in the stores. That's a bit much I thought. Let's get through Halloween first.

This is not from the vegetable garden, but it is edible so I thought I would include it. Here are two lemons growing quite nicely. Too bad the plant will have to come inside soon which will rob it of the precious sun it so needs.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew

In conjunction with A Way To Garden and Dinner Tonight's continuing food fest, I am posting one of my favorite fall recipes ~ Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew. The topic of the food fest being winter squash and pumpkins of course.

Unfortunately, all my squash were eaten by beasts roaming my garden at night. But there is always a great selection in the store and farmer's markets this time of year. So if you end up with some Butternuts and you want a different way to cook them, try this recipe. It's an easy crock-pot one too! Feel free to add whatever vegetables you like to this stew. I've used sweet potatoes before in place of the squash and it turned out just fine.

Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew
From "giant book of super nutritious recipes" by Carol Heding Munson, Sandra L. Woodruff, and Bob Schwiers

1 1/2 pound Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 medium potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 slender carrots, sliced diagonally 3/4 inch thick, or 12 baby carrots
1 cup frozen cut green beans
1 can (14 ounces) fat-free beef broth
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 pound low-fat turkey sausage or light kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
4 small onions, halved
1/4 cup cold water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
Snipped fresh parsley, for garnish

Combine the squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, broth, vinegar, pepper, and rosemary in an electric slow cooker.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat; add the onions and cook until the onions are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage and onions to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended, 6 to 8 hours. In a measuring cup, mix the water and cornstarch, and pour the mixture into the stew. Mix well and heat (should be boiling) until the liquid has thickened. Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ooooooooo Went the Wind...

"Ooooooooo went the wind. And out went the lights. And five little pumpkins, rolled out of sight." These lines are from one of my daughters books. You may wonder why I am quoting children's books. One reason is I am at the library. The other is, that is exactly what happened the other night as Ike raced North.

Although Ike went up through Ohio, we got blasted in Western PA with up to 79 mph winds. It was amazing how the trees were bending in the wind. Luckily we didn't have any damage to the house. Just some branches down right around the house. Up in the back of our property is a different story. There are several trees down and it will take a strong effort to get that cleaned up.

Of course, I have no pictures to show you at this time because we have no power. And it's not expected to be back on until maybe Thursday or Friday morning. I hope I am pleasantly surprised when I get home to find us connected to the power grid again, but I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, we have our generator to keep the freezer and refrigerator good and cold. And since we have a well, we need it for the pump to work so we have water. These are the main things. With electricity I would be able to connect at home, but we haven't phone or internet either.

It could have been worse. It's just a few days of inconvenience. Once I'm back online, I'll be catching up with everyone and posting some pictures. I hope you are all safe and sound.

Friday, September 12, 2008

If I'd only known how to make it rain...

Well it seems that the way to get rain to my Western PA garden was not doing a rain dance, no, it was scheduling roof work to be done. Yes, that's right, no rain for two months and the day after my garage roof is ripped off, it's pouring, with days of rain for the forecast. Isn't that the way it always is.

Anyway, having the roof replaced on the two detached garages is just one step of many in some outdoor renovations which are happening this fall. I should say, hopefully happening this fall. Until they are completed, one never knows.

Fall, the time of big projects. The work in the garden is usually slowing down and thoughts of winter are creeping in, as are thoughts that the year will soon be over and what have we accomplished! So, time to hurry up and accomplish something. One year it was having the siding replaced and a new front door installed. Last year, it was the roof on the house and the two bedrooms redone. This involved more work than that statement indicates as it involved wallpaper removal. I'll just leave it at that. Last years frenzy of work was done in the summer/very early fall - to prepare for the BIG fall project of welcoming Baby Lillian to our home. But enough of past projects and onto this years.

Next to our little garage there stands a tree, a very big, dying, I think cottonwood tree. Well, no more. On Labor Day, with the help of John's Dad, we took out most of the tree. All that remains you can see below, and this will come down in the near future. Half of this tree died earlier in the summer, dropping all it's leaves like it was October.

Next step, have the roofs replaced. As you can see, this roof is in very bad shape.

The other side looks much better but it must all be replaced.

On the big garage, the roof also needs to be replaced. I will be so happy to not be picking up shingles from the yard each time there is a storm. Oh, one last step before the roofers can come, that trumpet vine that has started to take over in its quest for world domination, must get a haircut.

After the roofs are replaced, the little garage is going to get an awning attached to it. This will be off to the right, covering the concrete area, making a nice, covered area for all sorts of garden activities. Once the awning is attached, gutters will be added, and they will be set up to empty into rain barrels. You can never stock up enough water. The awning is John's parents old awning which used to cover their deck. We've had it for a while but have just decided how to best utilize it.

On the left side of the little garage, we took out some very overgrown bushes. Right now some of the trunks and the roots are still there. I'm not looking forward to getting those out. But this is to be a new bed! Yeah! I'm still thinking over what will go here, but it will all be perennial.

Well, that's the plan as it stands right now. I am happy for the rain, but it is interrupting our plan and makes for a bit of dampness in the garage as the old shingles are off but the new ones not on yet. So after all that time of praying for rain, now I'm praying for sunshine. Ironic, isn't it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Day to Remember

It doesn't seem like it's been seven years, but it has been. Please take a moment today, Patriot's Day, to remember the victims and heroes of 9/11. They are forever in our hearts.

The Names
September 6, 2002
by poet laureate of the United States Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tomato Salsa!

Look at these beauties!

Even though my tomatoes did not do so well this year due to the deer and the drought, my husband's parents have been getting quite a few tomatoes - and all at once. So they were so kind as to bring us some. This has been great for us, for what is summer without a BLT sandwich with fresh, home-grown tomato?

So thanks to them, we have had salsa, BLT's, and I was able to freeze several quarts of tomatoes for soups and chili's this winter.

Here are some pictures of the salsa I made. It's just tomatoes, some pepper, onion, garlic, corn, black beans, and a seasoning mix I had. To prepare the tomatoes I did the traditional concasse, that is, core and score, boil to loosen the skins, plunge into ice water, peel, seed, and chop. It's a little bit of work but the only way for good salsa. This is what I did before freezing the tomatoes as well. The seasoning mix I used for the salsa said you could eat it fresh, can it, or freeze it. I really didn't want to do any canning but the freezing intrigued me. I was worried it would be really watery though when thawed. Has anyone ever tried freezing salsa? If so, please share your results, I am so curious.

A pot of boiling tomatoes

Delicious Salsa, where are the chips?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Grapey Goodness!

One of the pleasant benefits of our property are the grapes which grow wild up in the back. I'm not sure what kind they are exactly, but I think they are a type of concord grape. Of course, since they grow high, high, up in the trees, we need to be giants in order to pick and enjoy them. We were able to find a few low hanging ones, which we quickly picked. These do have seeds, so not so great for just eating. Instead, we put them on the stove with some water, smashed them up, and then strained them, to yield some lovely, grapey juice. This was strong, concentrated grape so we added water to make it a good drinking consistency. My husband can drink it just like this. I find it a little sour, so I add a little Splenda to mine.

One of our plans is to take cuttings from these vines and bring them closer to the ground. Then maybe we will be able to harvest enough to make some wine - yum!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day ~ September 2008

Owls intrigue me. Maybe because they are not usually seen. We hear their hoot - hoot up in the woods every so often. For Muse Day this September, I choose three owl nursery rhymes / poems. I wish I had an owl photo to share, but the one in my daughter's bedroom will have to suffice. Thanks to Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for hosting this monthly poetry circle.

A Wise Old Owl

A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard:
Why can't we all be like that bird?

The Owl

The owl is wary, the owl is wise.
He knows all the names of the stars in the skies.
He hoots and he toots and he lives by his wits,
but mostly he sits. . . (and he sits. . . and he sits).

I Talk With the Moon

I talk with the moon, said the owl
While she lingers over my tree
I talk with the moon, said the owl
And the night belongs to me.

I talk with the sun, said the wren
As soon as he starts to shine
I talk with the sun, said the wren
And the day is mine.