March 18, 2013

September 22, 2009 Shades of the Night

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:03 pm

There are a number of plants in the nightshade family, most prominent among them the potato and the tomato. Late last night, President Obama was on the Late Show with David Letterman, and accepted a gift from an audience member – a heart-shaped potato. Did you see that dinky thing? That was no potato, that was simply an aberration! At least, that’s how it appeared compared to our potato, posted on this blog back in April:
lovin' potato

Now that’s a heart-shaped potato! I knew I should have sent it off to the White House!

In other nightshade news, there are two new appearances of Tim Stark on the net. One is from NPR’s Science Friday on the subject of late blight, the same problem that caused the great Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. This year it’s wreaked havoc upon the tomato crops in the northeastern US.  And there’s another video just up on youtube. It’s an intro for a video chefs tour of New York city being produced by the website Much of the video is filmed at Tim’s farm and at his market stand in New York, at the Union Square Greenmarket. Here’s the intro:

Can’t wait for the rest of the tour! Thank God that many of the tomatos have so far escaped the blight. I’m not tired of them yet, nor have I frozen enough to last me over the winter.

August 30, 2009 Big Tomato Time

Filed under: ◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:30 pm

This year I planted a tomato with a very colorful name: Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter. I guess it’s called that because Charlie’s tomatoes produced so well he could pay off his house?? Tim has been raising these for years, but I never tried one in our own little garden before. All the tomatoes took their time this year, but this one’s finally here, and worth the wait.
Radiator Charlie's

These tomatoes may not be exactly round, but they are BIG! Not too big, but this one, for instance, weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces, and you certainly don’t need too many slices for your sandwich. In fact, you may have to make a little bit bigger burger than usual, or you could lose it under a slice like this.
Radiator Charlie's

The juicy, meaty slices you see above were consumed with our baked salmon last night. Mmmmmm. But it took until lunch today for the two of us to finish just this one tomato!

August 18, 2009 Camera Woes

Filed under: General,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:19 pm

It seems that I may have prematurely announced the end of rose season. My all-time favorite pink rose has once again burst into profuse bloom. Here’s a picture I took on Monday.
first prize

You can see clearly from the many buds surrounding the flowers already open, that it would be a real show of pink bloom. And so it is. Today, there are 5 fully open roses on the plant, (2 are past their prime), and 7 partly opened buds. Absolutely glorious. I would love to show you a picture – but yesterday my trusty old Canon A80 digital camera started showing lines of interference or static across the display. And, much to my dismay, the lines also appear in the saved pictures themselves. So as much as I would love this photo, I won’t have it unless I quickly borrow or buy another camera.

I did find, though, when I Googled the problem, that Canon issued a service advisory about the problem – and if in fact the symptoms my camera displays are due to the condition they found, the repair, including shipping to the service facility, is free of charge. And the camera is long since out of warranty. So it’s already on its way back to Canon, and according to the Canon rep, and backed up by what I’ve read posted on the web, it should be back in just about a week.

So I’m happy that my favorite camera may not actually be terminal. A new camera, and the associated learning curve that becomes ever steeper as I age, is not exactly something I’ve been looking forward to. Then again, a wider-angle of view would be nice, so I don’t need to hold the camera too far away from the subject to get it all in the frame….so I’ve been looking around.

I probably won’t buy another camera before mine returns, but I might get another one anyway, even if the A80 recuperates fully. And based on how long I’ve had this one, how much I’ve used it, the ease of use and the useful features – not to mention my positive customer service experience – I’ll probably get another Canon. That should also help lessen the aforementioned learning curve, assuming that not too many features have changed in the last four or five years.

Still, I’d love to get a picture of those roses today…..

March 17, 2013

August 10, 2009 Tomato season revisited

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:53 pm


tomato timeAs we do every year, we’re again celebrating tomato season. Because of a cool, wet spring and early summer, the tomatoes were late to arrive here, but are now ripening in great numbers. And today Tim, our resident farmer and tomato guru, was once again on the CBS Early Show, sharing his tomato expertise.
Here’s the story, complete with a couple of his favorite recipes.

And here is the video:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

March 15, 2013

June 23, 2009 2+ Sunny Days!

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:55 pm

Maybe my complaining had some effect, though I doubt it. But the ever evolving seasons have finally brought a change in our weather, and I’ve been able to spend more time out and around the yard and fields. The white wild strawberries are actually still producing, and now the red raspberries are coming too! And another thing – along our driveway there’s a wild cherry tree.
wild cherry tree
When I was a kid I loved wild cherry Life Savers, but never tasted wild cherry flavor anywhere else. Well, here it is, at its’ source. They’re small but sweet, and just ripening.
wild cherry tree
The wineberries are swelling now, too, and won’t be far behind. But while I was out along the driveway, I snapped these pictures of another shrub, the elderberry. It’s currently in flower, if a little past its peak, but it’s blooming heavily this year. If you look closely at the first picture of the cherry tree, you can see it below and to the left 0f the tree in the distance, at the corner of the field – just to the right of the lower part of the drive.
Close up it’s much more impressive.

As you head down the drive to the road, and follow the road to the corner, you come to the base of the hill upon which the house stands. It’s a large rock outcropping, which apparently has some special significance, because local colleges’ geology classes stop on annual field trips. The rocks stretch upward from the side of the road by the stream, right into our basement, one side of which has no floor but rather a large mound of rock.

I mention all this because the coming of summer has brought another profusion of bloom: the prickly pear cactus that spill down over the rock to the gravel below.
prickly pear
prickly pear
prickly pear
prickly pear

On the way back up the drive to the house, I stopped by the field for some fresh-dug red potatoes (and some parsley to prepare them with). Also on tonight’s menu, sauteed beet greens with garlic. The spring rains and now the early summer sun have brought us a true wealth of beauty and sustenance, with an anticipation of much more to come. But now it’s time to get down to work, getting ready for our summer show at Kutztown this weekend.

June 20, 2009 More gloomy days

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:54 pm

If you follow any other blogs from this area of the country (eastern Pennsylvania), you probably already know that we’ve been having a rainy June. Our local airport this month has recorded 13 days with measurable precipitation, 7 without. What’s more, today is the sixth or seventh day this month with a rainfall greater than a half inch. We’ve more than doubled the average rainfall for June so far, and we’re 1 1/2 degrees cooler than average overall this month.
Remembering how distressing it’s been in past years as drought conditions made gardening difficult, I’m reluctant to wish away the rain, but a little moderation would be nice. So far, at least, not much has rotted away, and most things are growing like crazy, thanks to all the rain and the occasional sunny afternoon. One thing that the rain has made easier was something I did this afternoon, between downpours. I went to the garden and pulled carrots for dinner.
In the somewhat rocky and clayey soil, it can become necessary to actually go dig the carrots with a trowel (especially those twisty ones), but not when the ground is so saturated. Today they came out easily, with just a firm, steady pull on the tops. We have two different varieties, one orange and one white – we argue over which is sweeter.

Next week is our summer extravaganza antique show; hopefully better weather for that. And we need some tomato weather soon!

June 6, 2009 Today in the garden

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:32 pm

Today we spent the morning selling at our local antique market, so didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend gardening, but this afternoon did manage to put in a few basil plants among our tomatoes. After that, I went to the field to see what I’d find for dinner. It had been rainy all this week until today, so I hadn’t been looking, and was amazed how much everything had grown.

We had stopped on the way home and bought a fresh tuna steak, so tonight’s menu is blackened tuna served on a bed of steamed rice over arugula. with creole mustard on the side – we picked two different kinds of arugula in the garden, but I think we’ll use the wild variety with this dinner because the flavor’s a little stronger and nuttier. The regular is on the left with the lobed leaves, the wild on the right is more deeply notched and jagged.

We’ll also have asparagus on the side – can’t get enough and there are only a couple of weeks left in the season. But while I was getting the asparagus, I got more as well. See, there’s rain predicted for most of next week as well, so I figured I might as well be prepared. Here’s some of today’s harvest:

And I’m not sure about what we’ll have for dessert, but it’ll include this patriotic assortment:

OK, it’s only patriotic because of the blue plate, but I like how the red and the white strawberries look together on the cobalt blue. Now, will it be vanilla ice cream, or New York style cheesecake?

June 1, 2009 Peony time

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Gardens,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:26 pm

Memorial day, first of June, or whatever milestone you use to mark it, this is the time of year that the peonies bloom. There are long rows of peonies along our driveway, and for the two ot three days from the time that they open until it rains and they’re beaten to the ground, they’re delightful. So today, before the showers and thunderstorms that are in the forecast for tonight and the next three days, was the time to pick some to enjoy indoors. The smell is luscious.


One thing that I never realized until maybe 10 or 12 years ago, was that there are particular vases for peonies. The two shown above, Japanese, show peonies on them along with exotic birds. These belonged to my parents, though I can’t say I remember them from my childhood. I do remember my Dad’s gardens, though, and the peonies that grew at the end of the yard, so perhaps these vases were actually used for peonies years ago. Since the vases became mine, they have yet to pass a springtime without their proper contents.


I found another peony vase among our things, too, not sure where this one came from, except that it’s marked Germany. So while the two that match find their usual place on the mantel, the odd one out will be upstairs, further spreading the scent and color of spring.

May 19, 2009 The garden rose…

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:12 pm

As gardeners, around here we’re a rather laissez-faire bunch. Though the garden in front of the house is still referred to as the rose garden, there are but two hybrid tea roses and a wild red rose sprung from another’s rootstock. Instead we’ve been working allowing the garden to go back to a wildflower (They are NOT weeds!) and perennial garden that needs a bit less time and care, but still delights. One of the plants that’s become naturalized there is the Lunaria. Also known as money plant, honesty plant, and silver dollar plant, it’s a biennial, producing only a small two leaved green plant the first year. In the second, it produces a tall shoot of lovely purple blossoms in early spring.

At this time of year, between the early daffodils and pinks, and slightly later iris, it’s our most profuse bloomer. Later, it will bear its flat green seedpods that fade to pale tan, then nearly white by fall. When the seeds are shed, the remaining membrane is silvery, whence arises the silver dollar (and therefore money) name. Not sure where the honesty plant name comes from, but I guess we like people to be honest where money is concerned. No doubt you’ve seen these in dried arrangements. I have none to show in a photograph now, so we have to wait for fall.

This morning we awoke to frost, after setting a record low temperature last night. Late for a frost, but we were ready, with all the tomato plants covered. Beautiful warm sun today, and the iris are indeed beginning their showy season. We always seem to be just a little later than many of our neighbors in the garden – many had iris in bloom a week earlier – even as near as a mile or two away. That’s ok, though, as it seems to prolong our favorite season, spring.

Also beginning to bloom now are the periwinkle, lilacs and wild phlox.

May 3, 2009 A weed by any other name

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:04 pm

A weed, indeed!

Dandelion is a wildflower, providing us with some of the earliest available seasonal produce in the form of very nutritious crowns and leaves. We generally collect dandelion from beneath a layer of last season’s fallen leaves that have collected in corners of our yard. Those leaves are often blanched for lack of exposure to sunlight, and among the tastiest, tenderest and least bitter of all dandelion. Vitamin and mineral levels are at least twice those of fresh broccoli, and of course there are few calories. Never fear, though, because we live in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the standard dressing for dandelion is hot bacon dressing, made with bacon, eggs, milk and vinegar, with some sugar added. So you’ll still get your quota of calories and cholesterol!

Foraging friends tell us that they eat dandelion all year, that the bitterness is not overly bothersome if cooked with an ameliorating salty flavor. By now, of course, we’re on to spinach, arugula and other garden greens. Meanwhile, the lowly dandelion, at this point in its season, has also become a great toy, in it’s way – who among us has not enjoyed the perennial childhood pleasure of contributing a puff or two to help spread and propagate their downy floating seeds?