Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Raining And The Squash Are Growing!!

I've already used two large zucchini to make a "pizza" type casserole from my low carb days and Saturday I made a very large pot of ratatouille using up three very large zucchini, 2 eggplant (from store), two bell peppers and an onion.  It is very tasty just by itself or served with rice or pasta.

I'm sure, if I went out to the garden, between raindrops, I would find a few more yellow squash.  As soon as I have enough "poundage" I will be slicing and frying it down with butter and onions. The only thing keeping me in the house is the mosquitos.  Masses of them.  All wanting to bite me.

The cucumbers are starting to grow also.  I have two kinds.  Burpless and pickling.

I am working on my 1200 calorie diet.  Some days it's easy and other days (it's only been a week) I go over, not much, but closer to 1500.  I don't see any movement on the scale but...... I still have to try.   My knee doesn't hurt so much today but my face (around the eyes) is swollen.  Looks like I got punched.  Like last fall.  Only it's not red and itchy like last year.  Red itchy goggles is what it looked like last fall.  It's always something.  I'm getting very tired of it.

I worked on my 10 by 10 art today.  And started the second piece.  I stopped about 25% in, to hang it on the wall and decide what it needs.  That worked with the first piece, which is ready for the hand stitching part.  The "details" so to speak.  While I was threading and rethreading the machine (it doesn't like invisible thread) I noticed the maidenhair ferns have flowers on long arching stems (who knew they flowered?).  And the Carol Mackie Daphne is looking very good.  Not bad for a $5 yard sale shrub.  If I hadn't gone into my work room to sew--I would have missed seeing both of these things.

And the heather is flowering beautifully (in pink and white).  And it's gotten really big.  I may have planted too many of the small ones, too tightly, but I can always dig them up and move them.  But I had no idea they would grow so fast and so thick. It's really amazing. They were in small 3 inch pots in 2012.

I've found a few good perennials for my garden.  Or, more likely, eventually I moved them to places where they actually like growing.  The heather which is new to me, the Pig Squeak (bergenia) which is finally happy, and the maidenhair ferns.  Gardening looks easy but it's not.  You have to pay attention and move things if they aren't doing well.  And then move them again.  When it works you feel like a garden rock star--when it doesn't you feel, well, not so great.

I also discovered the flats of 9 dahlias that we have been selling for as long as I have worked at the greenhouse.  Who knew they got so full and bushy and covered in flowers?  Everyone but me.  Most of my window box customers got a few in each of their boxes.  I needed yellow and we were temporarily out of marigolds.  Next year, I am getting the pink ones.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bountiful Perennials & My Doctor's Rant

It's the season for flowering perennials.  The ones being delivered to me at work (to put out for sale) are very full, very tall and very interesting to bees.  Yes, we have bees.  Lots of them.

I like this border in front of the white picket fence.  Salvia, Lady's Mantle and climbing pink roses. Repeating a pattern along the length of the fence is very attractive and also very expensive.  Few regular customers are able to afford this, but the landscapers regularly purchase multiples for their clients. Why are we more likely to spend money if someone else is doing the work?

In personal garden news, I have more weeds than flowers.  Ugh.  This is due to a lack of ground covering mulch.  When I was at home (not working much), gardening, everything got mulch.  G doesn't mulch.  We have a huge pile of composting maple leaves--an excellent mulch-- but we aren't using it.  At times like this, I wonder if it would be better if he worked for a living and I stayed home to garden. Both of us at home isn't going to work for me. I like to be here alone some of the time.

The vegetable garden is finally getting ready for super production.  My basket, the last time I collected produce, contained zucchini, one yellow squash, four cucumbers, five tomatoes, 2 cups of blueberries and five raspberries.  I ate the raspberries right away.  Finally!  Produce.

I am planning to go to the supermarket and get an eggplant and make a baked ratatouille.  Not the stewed one.  More of a layered casserole.

My other "news" is that I returned to the doctor who drove me to tears (you are obese) and the 1200 calorie diet in 2007.   I expected the "my God, you have gained 50 pounds!!!" rant.  But I also was given orders to get my knee and hip X-rayed (done) and also to make an appointment with a foot doctor (done).  My doctor thinks all my leg and hip problems may just be caused by my feet.  "Awful" feet, in her opinion.  I won't disagree.   And she has told me to limit myself to 1200 calories and no salt.  I am supposed to have lost 2 to 4 pounds by Tuesday (not).  A week since I last darkened her exam room.  I don't need to express my opinion that she isn't wildly popular as a doctor around here.

I told her I didn't think it would work.  She just looked at me over her glasses.  This time around I am more inclined to eat products that have only 5 or less ingredients.  My Bran Flakes have 5.  The lower the calories on manufactured foods--the larger the ingredient list on the package.  Mostly chemicals. So, that leaves me with mostly fruit, vegetables, eggs and small amounts of meat.  Dairy is a problem as it is high calorie in it's simplest form.  Low fat or non fat isn't actually "food".  Read the side of the container if you don't believe me.  So, I have soy milk for my cereal but finding a soy yogurt here in my Town isn't easy.  I did find a plain nonfat organic yogurt with only 2 ingredients.  I haven't tasted it yet.

Well, I have to get going.  I have 30 minutes of cardio to do (planting some things in the street side plot), the grocery to visit and the garden to pick and weed.

Guess what?  Been a whole week and NOT A PEEP from the appliance repair people.  No part.  No guy to install part.  Nothing.  Not pleased.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And, it's Monday

I have wanted a cozy little kitchen like this one in many segments of my life.  I think a small, tiny space is safer when my life is out of control.  I once had a metal shelf unit with cream and red containers.  I sold it last September in the yard sale on my daughter's street.  At the time I was feeling like I was in control of my life--then it went off the rails and is still causing me panic.

It's Monday.  3:23.  The service tech never showed up to repair the fridge.  I didn't think he would.  G has replaced the first block of ice in the fridge with a second one.  We are getting used to going out on the porch for milk and butter.

I purchased two flats of very tall, overgrown annuals yesterday.  I had to cut the mat of roots off the bottom and then cut each flat into 12 blocks with a very big knife.  Each block contains one very tall ageratum or cream marigold.  The ageratum can possibly grow to 30 inches and the marigolds to 15.  I planted younger (June) marigolds in one of the parking lot containers at work.  I was impressed with how great they look.  Both flats cost me all of $3.84.  Perhaps they will impress me and look great here in my garden as well? I'm sure they are happy to be here in my garden and not in the dumpster at work.

I have harvested 6 nice heavy zucchini from my garden (one was shredded for a chocolate loaf and two went into a zucchini crust for a meat pie), 1.5 pounds of small yellow squash, all my heads of garlic (last year I waited too long and the cloves opened so I pulled early), one onion and the last of the peas. I also pulled up all the pea vines and added fertilizer and planted my pole beans.  Too many.  But I like the beans to look more like a carnival or circus climbing all over the pergola. Four of my tomatoes are changing color.  And they are big tomatoes.  I have not picked the large green peppers as I am waiting for them to turn to red as well.  My row of tomato plants is now nearly as tall as I am. Siberian Reds, Green Zebra, Abe Lincoln, Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold along with the shorter, Early Girls.

One single raspberry has ripened.  But it was very good.  The others are coming right along.  I can see future blackberries on my vines.  It will be weeks yet before I pick them and end up with bleeding ankles and arms.  I intend to make a blackberry pie this year.  I actually could make one now, as I have bags of blackberries in the freezer.  I haven't been able to make a dent in the fruit in the freezer, even eating fruit with yogurt for lunch 3 days a week.  And it's all from my garden.

The blueberry bushes are loaded with fruit.  Not ripe yet.  Still green.   My friend Patty has tons of grapes on her vines.  I am begging her to give them to me so I can make grape jelly again.  It was messy but the jelly was so good.  And we've run out.  I could also try making something out of the blueberries.  Preserves?  There is nothing quite as awful as cooking jelly on a hot August evening and then making a water bath and boiling the jars.  Then doing the dishes.

My fig tree has started to make figs.  I was worried that it wouldn't but a few weeks ago I started seeing little bumps above each leaf.  I think there are 20 or 30 of them.  I am watering and feeding the tree in hopes of them ripening this time.  G likes fig preserves.  Another set of hot jars.

Do you make jelly and preserves?  I tried tomato jam last summer and that stuff was amazing.  If I don't have enough tomatoes this year I will look for farm stand boxes for canning.

And then there's the Brandied Cranberry Sauce my neighbor gave us last Thanksgiving.  OMG. Which reminds me to add a bottle of brandy to the shopping list in November.

Update:  Repair guy showed up at 4pm.  Took all the shelving out of the fridge ( G and I just finished washing and drying it), used my hairdryer to melt the ice clogging a vent and then left.  He needs to order a part (a three way valve switch) and that will come in whenever it comes in.  So, we are making friends with the fridge on the porch which now has everything in it.  It may be days.  It may be weeks.  It could even be months.  The freezer and ice maker are still working.

Dinner out by the Atlantic Ocean.  The Dolphin.  Lobster.  But before that, a nice gin and tonic on Patty's deck, under the grapes.  I will take the camera and stun you with the sights here in Maine by the ocean.  This really is "the way life should be"  except for appliance repair.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mid-Summer, sigh.

I long for muted, cool places.  Out of the sun, humidity and grit.  I am sticky and gritty most of the days at work.  Cleaning petunias is just about the worst thing to be forced to do.

I collected this photo of a bath with shower for my carpenter.  I want the baths to be about nothing.  The absence of "stuff".

Now--to the meat of this post.  My refrigerator.  A RANT!!!  Naming names.

My fridge is less than 18 months old.  The fridge part has stopped "holding temperature" while the freezer part continues to work.  I got this phrase from G who was in the restaurant business for over 30 years.  He knows about failure to hold temp.  Food gets warm.

We called our service warranty provider.  It will be 5 days or more before they can sent a technician.  They tried calling the two providers that are local.  One no longer has any employees trained to fix anything and the second didn't answer their business phone.  Five days with a fridge that won't hold temperature is a bit too long.  In July.

G then asked to speak to a supervisor. After 40 minutes he got one. In Michigan.  That's when we got an appointment.  In 5 days. Because we live in a "rural" area.  And she also gave us a 6 month "free" extension to our warranty.  Now, from my point of view, that warranty is worth nothing.  More of it?  Less than nothing.

G then called Loews where we bought the fridge and the warranty.  By then we wanted to "return" the fridge and get a new replacement.  They said no but offered us a "loaner" fridge for the 5 days.  It would come the next day between 2 and 5 pm.

We waited.  5pm came and went.  Then, at 8:30, I saw the Lowes truck.  Two guys brought in a very nice utility fridge and strongly suggested we put it on the back porch and not the garage.  From experience, they knew we would be using the "loaner" far longer than 5 days.  Cause they can't get "parts".  They said "keep it" as LONG as you want.  Just call when your  fridge is fixed.

We were also told we are "lucky" to have bought a Whirlpool.  The "unlucky" are the folks who purchased Samsung fridges ( I almost did) because there are NO technicians who can service Samsung in the entire state of Maine.  Which means none of the ones that have failed to hold temperature are even waiting to be fixed.  They are just broken.  Period.

They guys who delivered the loaner had been out since 7 am and still had two loaner fridges on the truck to deliver.

The point of this post:  buy local from the guy in your Town or city who hires and pays a guy to service your purchases.  Whirlpool couldn't care less (from our perspective on a 45 minute wait to get to talk to someone about service and then another 40 minutes to wait to speak to a supervisor).  Lowes was at least nice enough to give us a way to have cold food while we waited.

It was very nice to have cold milk with my bran flakes this morning instead of room temp milk.

In Garden News.  I have four lovely, shiny, heavy zucchini in the loaner fridge and I am making chocolate zucchini bread tomorrow (day off) and a pan of zucchini brownies.  I didn't get any zukes last summer and I am very happy with my harvest so far.  I might have enough to make a few jars of zucchini bread and butter pickles.   The cucumber plants are climbing the trellis.  Yeah!!!  And my yellow onions are about 3 inches in diameter.  I also have two little turnips.  I had three but I ate one. Raw with salt.