Indoor winter garden

Earlier this month, I moved the plants from the balcony indoors for the winter. I harvested the basil (that never survives long indoors), and the hardy sage is still outside, but everything else is adapting well to the more sheltered environment.

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New flower

The African violets are indoors year-round, of course. This one’s growing a new flower.

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This bookshelf is angled toward the window, and is home to three African violets and a rose bush as well as books and photo albums. (Note the leaves on the rose bush on the lowest shelf – that’s about to change.)

Rose bush gets a haircut.

Rose bush gets a haircut.

Three weeks later…

Pruned rosebush growing new leaves

Pruned rosebush growing new leaves

It’s growing new leaves already. I think I pruned at the wrong time of year, but the new growth must be a good sign.

The herbs are in the kitchen. Fresh parsley and chives are a nice complement to tomato soup.

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Chives, basil, mint, rosemary, dried flowers

Mint, parsley, rosemary

Mint, parsley, rosemary

Do I detect a note of minty freshness?

Do I detect a note of minty freshness?

DSC07595This orangey flower is from Trader Joe’s. I have no idea what it is, but it did fine outdoors in the summer and seems to be doing just as well indoors. We gave it a squirrel finger puppet for a friend.

And that’s my winter garden. Apparently, it’s enough to qualify me for the coveted spot of “person who is responsible for keeping the office plants from dying,” as well. I hope they survive this week…Happy Thanksgiving!

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Beer croutons

Once upon a time at the Draft Barn in Brooklyn, I tasted beer croutons. And they were marvelous. So I decided to try to re-create them at home, with some advice with my friend (and baking/beer expert) Tim. Here’s what I did:

DSC07658Ingredients:

5-6 Tbsp beer
5-6 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 cups cubed bread
1 tsp salt
fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt butter and mix it with beer and salt in a large bowl, then toss the cubed bread in the butter-beer mixture until it’s coated. Once the bread cubes are thoroughly coated, spread them on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp and delicious.

Next time, I might try with pumpernickel or dark rye, and another tablespoon or two of butter. But this first attempt was relatively successful. (So successful, in fact, that I have no pictures of the finished croutons.)

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Camouflage

No question who this armchair really belongs to.

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If you guessed “Sudo,” you are correct. Those adoption people were not kidding when they said greyhounds love soft surfaces.

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Puppy picture

My mom just found a photo of her Australian shepherd, Lucas, when he was a puppy:

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There aren’t enough “awwww”s in the world, right? And you can’t even see his little pink belly.

There aren’t enough “awwww”s in the world, right? And you can’t even see his little pink belly.

One thing we missed out on by adopting an adult dog was the adorable puppy stage. (And greyhound puppies ARE adorable.) Of course, it’s also less work to bring an adult dog into the home, and when you adopt a greyhound from the track, you’re usually their first home/family, so they bond to you much like a puppy does, which is pretty much the best of both worlds.

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Seven years old and still cute. Look at those ears! And those long, long legs. Perfect for jumping on furniture!

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Enjoying some sunshine from the comfort of the couch.

Outside on one of the last warm days. She really wants to join us in the hammock, but that would be a disaster.

Outside on one of the last warm days. She really wants to join us in the hammock, but that would be a disaster.

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Fall leaves and apple picking

Fall is here! (Ignore the 75-degree day we just had, and the 78 degree high predicted for tomorrow.) The leaves are changing, and this year the trees are particularly colorful.

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Sudo has been enjoying some ground-level foliage:

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A friend and I went apple picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, where they have hayrides (pulled by tractors, not horses), goats, pigs, rabbits, pumpkins, rows upon rows of various kinds of apple trees, fresh-from-the-oven cider donuts, and North America’s largest hedge maze.

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This is only part of the hedge maze. It really is enormous.

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The maze would have been a totally different experience had the goats been in it, but the animals were across the street in a separate part of the orchard. Probably for the best.

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Spencer apples, destined to become part of an apple crisp. Mmm.

Even on an overcast day, the leaves were bright.

Even on an overcast day, the leaves were bright.

I made an apple crisp when I got home, and the rest of the apples are for eating and for making applesauce. All in all, a good day out.

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Sudo sans a toe

Some of you may know that Sudo has been limping on and off for the past couple months. We already knew she had some arthritis in one of her toes, but this wasn’t that; a different toe on the same foot had swollen to almost twice its normal size. Our vet thought it might be an infection and prescribed some antibiotics, which helped a little, but the swelling never completely went away, and she started limping again.

Our next stop was the animal hospital, where they took an x-ray of the foot and found that a tumor had eaten away at one of her toe bones, fracturing it. No wonder she was hopping around on three legs – she had a broken toe! The vet “disarticulated” (removed) the toe in question, and sent the tumor off for a biopsy. (Fingers crossed for good news there, although “good news” and “biopsy” don’t exactly go together like peas and carrots.)

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Meanwhile, Sudo is in a splint for the rest of this week. (The vet warned us not to be alarmed at the size of the splint; most of it is padding, since greyhounds don’t have much padding of their own.) Her appetite is good and she’s been more willing to put weight on her leg, which is a good sign, I think. She’s spending most of her time snoozing…just like usual.

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10/1/2014 Update! The tumor in the toe was Stage Two of a type of cancer that doesn’t spread, so Sudo is cancer-free, as far as the vet can tell. She’s still a little limpy, but we hope that will get better soon. Meanwhile, she has to wear a ridiculous collar to prevent her from licking at her remaining toes…stay tuned for photos.

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Garden updates: too-tall tomatoes, failed squash, thriving herbs and roses

Meant to post this garden update at the beginning of September, and here it is more than halfway through the month…

Here’s what things looked like in July, and here’s what they looked like in May.

Tomatoes: I let them get too tall, so they put more energy into growing stems and leaves than into growing fruit. (Also, I had to do some tricky rigging with twine, once they grew taller than their cages.) The tomatoes they have produced, though, have been good, particularly the yellow cherry tomatoes. The pretty yellow-striped red roma tomatoes were susceptible to blossom end rot, but I put eggshells in the soil for calcium and that seemed to help a little.

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Herbs: Doing great! We’ve used the basil on pizza, the chives on salmon, the mint in lemonade, the parsley in chicken salad, the sage in buttered pasta. Yum.

Roses: Also, improbably, doing very well. I’m not sure why I was so doubtful except that (a) they started out as a tiny gift plant in a decorative red pot, and (b) I’ve never grown roses before. Now I’m not sure whether I should bring the pot inside for the winter, or transplant them into the ground and cut them back, or what. Advice is welcome!

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Flowers: The peachy-pink verbena (not pictured) is still doing well. The orangey flowers that were doing so well before succumbed to aphids. I gave them a brief second life by spraying them with soapy water and then Neem oil, but ultimately the aphids won the day.

Small snacking bell peppers: One plant produced nothing; the other plant produced exactly one pepper. It spent a long, long time turning from pale yellow-green to red, and then we ate it, and it was delicious.

From Anne’s garden: My cousin Anne gave me a few things from her garden. The honeysuckle vine, sadly, died, but these two little ones are still doing well:

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Squash: The squash died. I don’t know why.

Strawberries: Last year’s plants flowered but never made berries, though the plants look happy and healthy; this year’s plant made a few berries in early June but they either atrophied before ripening, or birds or bugs got to them. Next year I’ll put the nets on as soon as I plant them, or maybe I’ll try one of those strawberry jar pots or hanging baskets.

Purple flower bushes: I planted three of these (two of one kind, one of another) in our little patch of front yard in early August. I was able to make a nice rock border from all the rocks I dug up out of the soil. Allegedly these will survive the winter and bloom again next year.

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The major lesson of the summer: make sure the tomato plants don’t get too tall. I’m half expecting a kid named Jack to show up in our backyard and start climbing.

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