Saturday, January 29, 2011

More Signs of Spring - Blossoms

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about an impending freeze and the threat on our peach tree, who is always fooled into blooming before the last frost.  Well, I am here to report that all is well with it.  In fact, the profussion of blossoms on it is a sight to behold.  If we get half as many peaches from this tree, I'll be a happy camper.

This poor tree has suffered through several hurricanes, hail, tropical downpours, and it just keeps coming back.  In 2004, the eye of two hurricanes passed over us.  We lost several fruit trees that year, this was the sole survivor of our peach and plum orchard.  What was left of it was basically a two foot stick... 

We have several red maples, all blooming and spreading their seeds all over the yard...

Red Maple flowers

See our cows, placidly chewing their cud in the sun?

The camelias look especially pretty this year.  I think all the cold weather is causing them to bloom in more profusion.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Signs of Spring - Newborn Chicks!

I woke up this morning to the confusing sound of chicks in the hallway...   and the sounds of excitement the kids were making as they brought these two hatchlings in for me to see.  We've had a couple of broody hens in the coop the last few weeks, they've sat through storms and bitter cold nights on their nests.  We placed a few more eggs in their clutches, hoping they'd hatch.  This is a first for us.  Hens that hatch their own eggs!  I just love the Marans breed.  I know they are also supposed to be good mothers, but at this point we just don't trust that the chicks will make it in the coop because of the other hens (and roosters) there.  Next time we see a broody chicken, we may have to think about how to relocate her to a more friendly coop with nests at ground level...  I feared the chicks would hatch and take a fall from the nests which are three or four feet off the ground.

We have two weeks left of possible freezes, give or take.  Spring comes early down here in Florida, and the middle of February is our last freeze date.  This year, I'm thinking we'll be extra cautious, considering the type of winter we've had.  It's been, by far, the coldest winter since I've lived in Florida, some 20+ years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ugly Weather

This is what the weather over our heads looks like this evening.  We just heard there are several tornadoes a few miles south and south east of us.  The next 30 minutes will be interesting... 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Harvest Monday - Parsley & Kale

Parsley must love our winters, because every years my parsley has a growth explosion right around this time. 

I'm going to be preserving some of it today.  I'll blend some olive oil with it and put it in ice cube trays for use later.  I am sure that the Black Swallowtail butterflies are looking forward to laying their eggs on what is left of these mounds of parsley.  The bees will also be happy to feed and pollinate its flowers, once the weather warms up; and I'm looking for ways to put it to good use!

It looks like next week I'll have peas to blog about.  I planted these last month.  They grow slowly in the winter, but they are so sweet and tender, much tastier than when the weather gets hot.  I'm looking forward to adding them to our salads.

The kale in the garden was perfect for the picking this morning. It's been freezing again in our neck of the woods the last two nights, and that's when kale is the best.  We'll be having Zuppa Toscana tonight...  I'll post about it this evening, it's one of our favorites.   I grew several varieties of kale this winter - curly and flat leaved, and purple kale.  I haven't noticed a significant different in their production, but I like having the variety, they brighten up the garden. 

Kale has a long history, it has been a staple in Europe since before the Middle Ages.  In northern Italy, they call it the prince of winter.  One quick way to cook it is to boil or steam the leaves (cutting out the hard ribs in the middle, of course), then sautee in olive oil and minced garlic for a couple of minutes. 

I'm linking with Harvest Monday today at Daphne's Dandelions, where others also link with their posts about their gardens and harvests.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quiche Lorraine

I made this quiche a couple of days ago and my mouth still waters remembering how good it was, really the best I've ever had.  I'm sure the difference was a combination of using one of my favorite cheeses and the richness of the filling.  I've learned that it is necessary to use cream, half-and-half and sour cream in this case, to get a really wonderful quiche.  Making your own crust from scratch... even better.

Quiche Lorraine
Adapted from Cook's Country recipe

5 slices bacon
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup finely shredded Gruyère cheese

Make your favorite pie crust.  Pre-bake it in oven rack adjusted to lower-middle position and heated oven to 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
While crust cools, cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes; transfer to paper towel-lined plate.  Cut into small pieces.  Whisk half-and-half, sour cream, eggs, yolk, salt pepper, nutmeg, Gruyère, and 3/4 of bacon in large bowl.
Pour custard into warm pie shell and bake until crust is golden and custard is set around edges, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining bacon over surface of quiche and continue to bake until center of quiche is barely set, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Serve. (Quiche can be refrigerated in airtight container or wrapped in plastic for 3 days)
Serve with salad and enjoy!

**Update 2/7/11** 
I ended up making two of these and putting one in the freezer.  We had it yesterday for lunch and it was perfect.  What a nice break, to just pull it out of the freezer, cover it with foil, then bake it (350 degrees) for 45 minutes - easy!
Linking with Foodie Friday

Monday, January 17, 2011

Harvest Monday

Radishes, lettuce, bok choy, parsley, dill, kale...  Most of our harvest is in the greens department these days.  Thankfully, we love them all.  The radishes are coming in now, soon we'll have beets, celery, and something new this year - leeks!  I can't wait to make potato and leek soup. 

Some of the bok choy has started to bolt, the flowers are edible and make a pretty garnish on a mixed salad too.

 I usually cook bok choy along with some sauteed onions and a can of cut-up tomatoes.

The white bok choy ribs go in first, as they take longer to cook.

Visit Daphne's blog to see what's growing on Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Garden Blooms

Bok choy blossoms
After a few frigid cold weeks in December, our weather turned, we had temperatures in the 70s last week.  This is a yearly occurrence here in Florida.  Many plants are deceived into thinking that spring has arrived... and they start blooming away.  I saw a few bees drinking nectar on these bok choy flowers. 

Sadly, our peach tree has done it again this year.  It is covered with these pretty pink flowers.  We will attempt to protect it this week, as another arctic blast is about to hit us tonight.  We expect two nights of freezing temperatures, uggghhh...

Artichoke - Imperial Star
On a happier note, this winter's experiment is loving the colder weather.  I planted artichoke seeds directly in the garden bed back in October.  They came up easily, and everyone asks what those "fern-looking plants" in the garden are.  Artichokes require a certain number of cold hours before they will produce a flower head.  The variety I planted, Imperial Star, requires 500 hours of temperatures under 50 degrees.  With all the cold weather we've had, I'm hoping we'll see a harvest. 

I am linking with Tuesday Garden Party at Oregon Cottage.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tomato Sprouts!

So, here are my newly sprouted tomatoes!  They are still in the hot water heater closet, nice and cozy.  We have a light in there, so they are not completely deprived, but they will soon need to come for some sun rays.  I think I'll bring them outside for a few minutes this afternoon.  They are so tender at this early stage, it's easy to lose them to the weather.


Even though it's 72 degrees outside, the house is still at 65.  Today will probably be the warmest day we'll have all week.  Thursday's high is forecasted to be 59, way too cold.  That would just not be warm enough for seedlings to thrive.  My thermometer tells me that it's just the right temperature over the water heater, 85... 

So, this is the challenge we have growing our own plants.  How to keep them at a steady, good temperature and moisture conditions?  I suppose we could buy and install grow lights, but space constraints do get in the way of that.  Maybe one of these days we'll come up with a good solution. 

How do you grow your plants from seed?

Linking with Harvest Monday today!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Drizzly Day at the Tower

The swans are always eager to greet visitors, hoping to be fed from the dispenser up the path...
We visited Bok Tower Gardens yesterday and enjoyed looking at it on a drizzly, foggy day.  The weather didn't detract from its beauty, and we practically had the entire park to ourselves.

After receiving their food, they decided to attempt snatching our umbrella...

A pair of hidden cardinals spied on us as we walked by.  I had fun playing with my new camera's color-pick feature.  I like how it makes whatever you pick stand out in the picture. 

Citrus trees are ready to be picked all around us here in Florida.  I don't know how the fruit seems to have survived the hard freezes we had before Christmas.

Bok Tower Gardens is a wildlife refuge, so there is always something to see by the ponds.  We saw several types of birds there yesterday.

There weren't too many things in bloom, except for the Camellias. 

This member of the cacti family was really big and healthy looking. 

... and so was this huge bamboo...  Emily requested to have her picture taken at that spot. :)

Linking with Blooming Friday and Fertilizer Friday, where you can see what other gardeners are blogging about as we begin this new year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolutions - gardening & knitting

I am not big on New Year's resolutions, but I think this year I will try to stick to two - staying on top of my seedlings for the spring garden and knitting presents in advance, so I'm not racing to finish at the last minute! 

Living in Central Florida, we must start vegetable seeds in the middle of the holiday season, or else we'll end up having to purchase expensive seedlings at the nursery.  The cost of those seedlings isn't sustainable, plus we wouldn't get to chose which varieties and would be stuck with whatever hybrids they grew in mass - no fun!  The trouble is, remembering to plant seeds during the busy holidays season is tough.  Getting back into the routine of daily watering and feeding also takes some getting used to.  So, I think this New Year's resolution may just give me the boost and motivation I need to get going again.

Yesterday, I posted about starting seeds on the hot water heater.  These are tomato seeds, already showing their roots.  I'll give them a day or two before transplanting.

Peppers, not ready yet...

Eggplant, showing very small roots in just a few seeds, so it will be a little longer for them too.

And my latest project, a pair of mittens following an ancient pattern originally made in the longstanding tradition of the Selbu knitters of Norway.  I love the geometry and all the details in their designs.
Again, a plan and schedule will be my key to success, I hope!

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