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August 2010

Herbalicious

My herb garden is growing crazy this year!  Between the herbs planted here and there in my perennial beds and the herbs in containers, I've got plenty of fresh herbs to snip when I'm cooking.  Now, though, it's time to set some aside for use during the cold months.

This batch of herbs -- freshly picked in the early morning --

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. . . is busy becoming French Herb Vinegar.

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It's "resting" in my cupboard now, and in a couple of weeks, I'll strain it into bottles -- and pour it over fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.  Yum!

And these herbs -- freshly picked in the morning a couple of weeks ago, and then bundled up to hang and dry in my garden work station --

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. . . are now crushed,

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labeled, and ready to use.

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As for my basil, which doesn't dry well. . .  I chopped it up and froze it into cubes.  Each cube is equal to about 1 Tablespoon of fresh, chopped basil.

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Mmmmmmmm!  Herbalicious!


Tasty Tomatoes

Somebody. . .

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likes tomatoes!

Yes, Jenny - who also counts bananas and strawberries among her favorite foods - loves to eat tomatoes!  She "discovered" them at my Mom and Dad's house last weekend, and now she waits patiently for me to harvest my own.

This basket . . .

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contained about 2-3 dozen cherry tomatoes.  But by the time I realized what was happening. . . there was only one left!

I'm going to have to watch my ripening tomatoes a lot more carefully!  (Note:  tomato plants are poisonous to dogs -- the leaves and stems, that is.  The fruit is fine for them to eat. )


Inspiration in the Park

Last Saturday, my Mom and I made our annual visit to Art in the Park in Holland.  It's always a fun day -- filled with shopping and browsing and eating and . . . well, looking at the plantings in the park (I never leave my Gardening-Self behind!).  I mean. . . check out this moss and succulent tower!

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And this gorgeous Kousa dogwood (I want one. . .)!

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Anyway, back to the "art" part of Art in the Park. . . The event is juried. . . so most of the 300 vendors display pretty high-quality "stuff" (although there are still the requisite crochet-trim kitchen towels in abundance!).  I discovered a vendor this year, though. . . artist and dollmaker Jennifer Gould. . . and her dolls took my breath away!

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They were stunning.  Just wonderful!  Sadly, I didn't bring one home (they're very, very pricey), but I did gather all of Jennifer's materials -- and learned that she teaches classes!  I would love to take one of her classes and try some of her techniques for myself!

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I also found a woman doing traditional rug hooking.

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I've always wanted to try this.  I think it appeals to me for the same reasons knitting appeals to me -- the mix of color, texture, and pattern.

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I especially liked these fish. . .

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(She gives classes, too! )

In the end, I bought a kit to make a wool penny rug -- like this one (the circles; on the left). . .

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and this very clever metal flower for my garden. . .

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It's made of old silverware!

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My Mom and I ended the day with a stop to the new pie shop downtown. . .

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and a charming yarn shop (with the biggest selection of Rowan yarns I've seen in one place outside of Liberty!).

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What a great - inspiring - day!





A Constant Craving

A little music, please. . .

A few months ago, this sweater hit Ravelry. . . and, for me, it was a . . . constant craving!  I had to make it!  Just had to.  So, once I finished a few other things I was working on (because I'm That Kind of knitter), I cast on.

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I think it might have been the pockets. . . or maybe the chance to use some cool buttons (which were inspired by my Boston ferns).

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Whatever the attraction, it was quick and fun to knit!  (Click here for Ravelry details.)



Bringin' Home the Bacon

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This week, Carole has us. . . thinking of bacon. . . with Ten Reasons to Love Bacon.  Hmmmmm.  This one requires a little thinking. . . because as kmkat pointed out earlier today. . .

1.   Taste

2.   Aroma

Where do you go from there?  How about. . .

3.   Kevin

What else?

4.   It goes with everything

5.   It's easy to cook

6.   You can eat it all day (a meat that segues from breakfast to dinner)

7.   You can share it with your dog

8.   It tastes great with beer

9.   It tastes great with wine

10.  BLTs


A Day in the Gardens

Last Friday I spent the day in East Lansing at Michigan State University's annual "Garden Day Conference" -- sponsored by the MSU Horticulture Gardens

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Like all conferences, some years are better than others. . . fortunately, this was one of the Good Years.  The weather was perfect, the speakers were great, I signed up for interesting sessions, AND . . . the boxed lunches were catered by the Grand Traverse Pie Company!  (Trust me, it doesn't get much better than that!)

The keynote speaker at the conference was David Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.  His message is poignant -- and inspiring.  He explained, in clear language. . . with humor and wonderful photography. . . the importance of biodiversity, and how we -- as gardeners and "land owners" -- can make a difference in halting habitat destruction.  "Nature" doesn't happen. . . somewhere else.  It happens in our own backyards . . . and we really can do things to create a haven for wildlife in our own gardens.  My biggest personal take-away from Tallamy's presentation:  less lawn!  (Get that shovel ready, Tom!)

Rain-barrel 

I went to a break-out session on building your own rain barrel.  Now, I'm already convinced I WANT a rain barrel (or two).   Rain barrels can help save water (statistics show that most homeowners can save 1,300 gallons of water by using a rain barrel during the peak summer months) -- protecting the environment.  Not only do rain barrels save money and energy, but they divert water from storm drains and decrease the impact of runoff to streams.  I attended this session to see if I could put together a rain barrel of my own.  And, you know, I could.  But I'd have to invest in several tools I don't already own.  Plus, it seems that finding food-grade, 55-gallon barrels presents a bit of a challenge!  And. . . the barrel they used to demonstrate during my session had been obtained from a pickle factory.  The smell. . . of pickles. . . was overpowering. . . once they drilled into the barrel.  My biggest personal take-away:  buy a ready-made rain barrel!

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I also went to a break-out session on attracting native bees to your garden.  This subject is fascinating to me -- and I'm all set to do what I can to make it easy for native bees to nest in my landscape.  Honeybees get all the press. . . but they don't do all the work!  Native bees to do a fabulous job at pollinating the plants in our gardens.  Native plants. . . attract native bees, so I'm going to pay close attention to my plant-choices as I expand my gardens (see above. . . less lawn).  I'm also going to provide places for native bees to nest.  Some bees (mason bees) like to nest in small holes and tubes.  The wall in the photo above is just being installed in the MSU vegetable demonstration garden.  The tubes and spaces between the logs provide nesting sites for mason bees (they will be adding to the wall through the season; they'll also be drilling small 5-inch long holes in the logs for additional nesting sites).  I'm going to purchase some inexpensive bee houses to place in my yard.  I'm also going to provide bare spots in my gardens (instead of covering all areas with mulch) because other native bees like to nest in the ground.  My biggest personal take-away: native bees don't sting very often. . . because they're too busy collecting pollen for their offspring; they're the "single mothers" of the bee world.

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I also got a chance to check out the wonderful gardens on campus.  It's always fun to check out what's new -- because the MSU Horticulture Gardens do a lot of testing of new plant introductions and new gardening techniques.  I saw that they're testing huge batches of sun-loving impatiens, for example. . .

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They also have a wonderful demonstration vegetable garden.  I've never seen okra growing before, but now I think I might have to plant some. . . just for this blossom!

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MSU has a charming children's garden, too, filled with kid-friendly plants like this one (straight out of Dr. Seuss, don't you think?). . .

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(That's Elephant Head Amaranth.)  Or these really long -- and very cool -- red noodle beans!

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There are cute little stepping stones throughout the children's garden. . .

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and little touches of whimsy everywhere you look!

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I had a great day in the gardens!

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All I Ever Want to Do

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This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is. . . Ten Things to Bring on Vacation.  Now, I LOVE vacation.  I love to travel.  I love to "sight-see."  I love to check out new places.  You could say. . . Vacation . . .

. . . it's all I ever want to do**!

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But over the years. . . after many vacations. . .

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. . . I've learned that it's really important . . .

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. . . to plan ahead . . .

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. . . and pack lightly!

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So . . . here are Ten Things To Take On Vacation -- in your carry-on bag!

  1. Passport
  2. Copy of your trip itinerary
  3. Important phone numbers
  4. Camera -- and extra batteries
  5. Bottle of water (but only after going through security!)
  6. Travel guidebooks and maps for your destination
  7. Tylenol and Imodium (won't vacation without it!)
  8. iPod (and charger*)
  9. Book and/or magazine and/or simple knitting project
  10. Cell phone (and charger)

Bon voyage!

==========

* There are great "charging stations" throughout most airports now, so you can charge up while waiting for your flight!

** Sorry for the terrible quality on the video.  I so wanted to include it. . . but the "good one" is copyright protected and couldn't be embedded.


Hoppin' and a'Boppin'

Last night I found a robin. . . cooling off in my birdbath.  He just sat there. . . for the longest time.

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I had just changed the water, so I'm sure he was just enjoying the cool spot.

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Then. . . he just went for it!  Bath time!

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Rockin' robin!  Tweet - tweet - tweet!  He was really gonna rock tonight!