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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Simple onion barley soup

Chicken soup is the usual prescription for those who are under the weather, but chicken has always been my least favorite part of chicken soup; it’s usually tough, stringy, chewy, and flavorless. When I’m sick, I like to make a stripped-down version of cock-a-leekie soup, with just onions, broth (from bouillon cubes), and barley. It’s easy and relatively quick to make, reheats well (though it thickens as the barley absorbs more of the broth; you can add more broth, or just water), and is flavorful and soothing.

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup barley
salt & pepper to taste

Saute chopped onion in butter on medium heat in a pan or pot. In a separate soup pot, bring the broth to a boil, and add the barley. (Barley cooking time will vary; check the package for directions. I used Trader Joe’s “Ten Minute” barley, which always needs longer than ten minutes.) A few minutes before the barley is ready, add the buttery onions to the soup pot and stir.

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Our Trip to Portland, Part 2

After our ill-fated first attempt, we did actually make it to Portland the last weekend in August. Here’s the story in pictures and captions.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

Taking a break in the garden.

Taking a break in the garden.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

This one speaks for itself.

This one speaks for itself.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

 

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Strawberry Top Water

I meant to post this three months ago* when strawberry season was at its height, but here it is now: strawberry top water!

*”What with one thing and another, three years passed.” -William Goldman, The Princess Bride

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This is an idea I found via Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini, and I have very little to add except that it is a delicious idea and you should make strawberry water any time you have strawberries in the house. It’s like that cucumber-infused water they have at spas, only a hundred times better. And it hits that sweet spot: it’s low effort, but looks/tastes impressive.

  • Rinse strawberries. Slice off the tops, put them in a jar of water, put the jar in the fridge for several hours (overnight is okay).
  • Drain the water and toss the berry tops. Drink delicious, pale pink strawberry water right away or store for 1-2 days in fridge.
  • If you have some fresh herbs around, especially basil or mint, a few leaves make a tasty addition. Same goes for a little sliver of lemon. Strawberry-lemon-mint water, anyone?

It’s quite refreshing. And of course, it’s a nice complement to whatever you plan to do with the rest of the strawberry.

 

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Homemade chocolate ice cream

Last summer we made a few flavors of ice cream using the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment. We learned a few things:

  • Don’t even bother trying to make ice cream if it’s already over 80 degrees in the house. The ice cream will not get to a proper consistency no matter how long you churn it.
  • Small batches are better than large batches. Homemade ice cream doesn’t last as long as commercially manufactured ice cream, and it is very, very sad to have to throw it out.

This year, we checked out Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book from the library. Not that recipes online can’t be trusted (in fact, the peach ice cream we made last year was a Ben & Jerry’s recipe we found online), but the library had it, so why not?

The first recipe we tried (Jerry’s chocolate, with unsweetened chocolate cocoa powder) was a five-star success every step of the way; we have been enjoying it every evening since we made it. (I say “we” but I mean “Ben.” All I did was pour the batter into the bowl. And lick the bowl.) We followed the recipe exactly, except instead of adding the optional chocolate chips, we added Heath bar bits.

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Our friends gave us two excellent reusable containers made for storing ice cream. Before this I didn’t know such things existed, but if you’re making your own ice cream, I can’t recommend these highly enough.

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I suspect they might also be good for freezing soups in wintertime, but I’d be setting myself up for disappointment there: imagine opening a container that says “ice cream” and finding anything other than ice cream inside.

For now, it’s this. And it’s delicious.

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