Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Well, Hurricane Irene blew threw here leaving us only with a truckload of downed branches and toppled sunflowers.  Not bad considering the high winds and deluge of rain.  We slept in the basement on Saturday night as a result of tornado warnings and the fear of falling trees.  But thankfully, nothing bad happened to us or anybody we know, other than power outages.  We spent Sunday helping our friends who live along the Delaware River   pack up their first floor because the Delaware was expected to flood. Fortunately, it is rising, but the predicted 'crest stage' is lower than expected and they shouldn't have a problem. It was touch and go all day yesterday and we just decided that since they had a lot of help, to just pack it up anyway. They own a big trailer and we put everything that wasn't going onto the second floor into it. Since they've been flooded 3 times before, they really don’t have that much on the first floor, but you know, you still need stuff to live your life. The stuff in the garage had to be moved too but they have a loft and lots of stuff went up there.  Various vehicles were taken to friend's houses on higher ground.  They said that they feel like just buying plastic porch furniture for the downstairs so they never have to move furniture again!

We lost power for about 9 hours, but I had frozen Tupperware containers (a fraction of the stash from my mother-in-law :) ) and kept the frozen blocks of ice in the freezer and it kept everything cold. Everything was still frozen solid even after 9 hours. We have lots of branches down (but only 1 big limb), but that is it. No trees on top of the house.  Dodged the bullet once again. The only event that we had was last night. We were tired from working and went to bed. I kept hearing noise in our bathroom - the plastic cup was knocked over, and it sounded like someone was rummaging through stuff in there. I thought it was hubby roaming through the house and he thought it was me. But I went into the bathroom and quickly turned on the lights and there was a mouse or rat or something that ran across the tub and sat under the toilet. But it was weird because it was pretty big and it looked at me rather than scramble and hide. I closed the door and waited to hear it again. It sounded like it was pushing on the screen and I quickly opened the door and there it was sitting on the window sill. We saw that it was one of those little flying squirrels that we have around here (I've only seen one once before) and it was trying to get out of the screen. It jumped down and hid in my plastic plant (it probably was the only thing recognizable to a squirrel. Probably thought it was a tree!). Hubby took out the screen and we closed the door and put a blanket under it to be sure that it didn't squeeze under the door and get into our room. Then I said to Hubby that I wasn't sure that it would go out the second story window and he said "It's a f--- flying squirrel!". And he was right. It was glad to get out and so that was the extent of our storm excitement!  Maybe I should send the story to the weather channel so that they have something to report from this area!

The garden was blown around, but seems OK except for the sunflowers that were knocked over.  They were almost done their bloom anyway.  The tomato plants continue to be battered from the many storms that we’ve had this summer, but are still producing a few pathetic looking tomatoes.  I sowed some spinach and lettuce seeds last week and they are starting to poke up from the soil, that is, if they weren’t washed away by the storm!  I continue to pull out the spent bean plants and squash, put in some compost from the bin and seed with my fall plantings.  The pole beans oddly weren’t damaged by the storm and I continue to pick beans for our dinners.  I’ve designated one bed for my hoophouse and am working on having greens well established by the time it gets cold here.  I really think that this winter will be the last winter for my hoophouse since it has some tears, but four winters is darned good for 12 ml plastic I think.  I have some ideas for a new design although the PVC hoophouse has been pretty successful.   At this point, I am getting tired of tomatoes (never thought that that would be possible!), and beans.  I am looking forward to great fall salads from the garden.  Believe it or not, I think that I enjoy the winter garden more than the summer garden.  There is just something so cool about shoveling a path out to the garden and picking fresh, delicious greens when everything else is frozen.  Remind me of this when I am complaining about the bitter winter!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's zucchini time and I'm sure that everybody is knee deep in summer squash.  What's better than hiding zucchini in dessert?!!!  I made the chocolate cake yesterday and everybody loves it.  I added a little expresso powder to it to liven it up.  Enjoy!


2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

 Sift flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon onto waxed paper.  Combine eggs, oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla in a large mixing bowl; beat until well mixed.  Stir in the flour mixture until smooth.  Stir in raisins into a greased 13x9x2” pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip.  Cool in pan on wire rack. 

2 1/2 cups regular all purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. grated orange peel
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
glaze (direction follow)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside. with a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. with a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini. alternatively stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition. pour the batter into a greased and floured 10" tube pan or bundt pan. bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes) or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly. drizzle glaze over cake. glaze: mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk and 1 tsp. vanilla. beat until smooth. cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10-12 servings.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


As I’ve noted in other blogs, my kids have inherited the gardening bug and have gardens in one form or another.  While visiting my son Michael and his wife Elly at their Columbus, Ohio apartment, I was treated to their amazing mini garden in their teeny tiny 10’ by 1’ (yes, you read right) slice of dirt.  Their back patio is almost entirely concrete, except for a very small amount of ground that holds their stockade fence.  So, not only is it incredibly small but it is also shaded for a good part of the day.  But that didn’t deter these two urbanites.  With some good old fashioned manure and a bag or two of new soil, they made that impossible space into a garden that supports cherry tomatoes and some very, very tall sunflowers.  Elly said that they have been enjoying their crop  of tomatoes while their neighbors are amazed at the towering sunflowers.  Herbs are planted in a window box and are used almost daily in their vegetarian dishes.  It is delightful to peer out of the sliders at this very tiny, amazing garden.  It makes it feel as though you really aren’t in the city, but in your own secret garden. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Finally, our hot spell has broken and our temperatures are normal for this area.  My garden really took a hit because of the heat and I don’t know if it will recover at this point.  Although I have lots of bean plants that are healthy and full of flowers, there have been very few beans.  I suppose that since there are flowers, there will be beans.  I pulled out the early bush beans and only have the pole variety left.  The tomatoes are still going strong, although the bamboo supports fell over in the wind storm.  They are kind of slumped all over the garden, but I am still picking, even though I have to kind of crawl under and through the vegetation.  There is nothing quite like the taste of a warm tomato, fresh picked from the garden.   Mmmmm.  Although I pop them in my mouth while browsing out there, I still have enough to make about four big batches of sauce for the winter.  Peppers are still producing slowly as are the zucchini.  I picked a bunch of acorn squash and haven’t decided just what to do with them yet.  I wish that they were butternut instead.  I guess I’ll have to stuff and bake them one of these days.  Next year I’ll be sure to plant the squash that I really want.  The sunflowers are blooming and they are beautiful waving high in the sky.  That is, before the birds eat their seed heads. 

So as you can see, the garden is pretty much on its own just now, although plans are being made for the hoophouse.  Compost is going into the bed that will hold the hoophouse, getting it ready for October.  The horse down the street has been producing lots of manure and I plan on getting a couple bags for my very own manure pile (my husband will be thrilled!).  I planted spinach, but either it hasn’t emerged yet or the rabbit ate it even before I saw it growing! 

My daughter said that her garden is doing great and she has been picking tons of beans, zucchini, cucumbers and squash.  She lives on the eastern side of the Berkshires and it is cooler there and so she never got the ‘heat stall’ that we had here.  She said that she is still picking lettuce and has picked it all summer long!  I thought that she was lucky until I realized that she will be dealing with winter a month before we do and I will still be picking vegetables when their ground is frozen.  That made me feel a little better.