Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Richter Park Photos

I thought I'd share some more of my Richter Park Golf Course photos. These are some of my favorites. You'll notice, it's doesn't look very golf course-ish in these photos. These photos exclude the greens for the most part, although I did photograph the greens as well. I'm lucky to live in such a pretty neighborhood.

This is the very right edge of the putting green on the 3rd hole.

A view of the West Lake Reservoir through the trees along the edge of the 7th Hole.

Boggs Pond behind the 13th Tee Box.

Swans on West Lake Reservoir by the 7th Hole Red Tees.

Looking towards Middle River Road.

Trees along 2nd Hole.

Lit up trees along 2nd Hole.

New Banner

Today I decided that it was time for a new blog banner. This summer and fall, I've been working on a little photography project for the local golf course, Richter Park. I decided to make my new banner one of my panoramas that I shot at Richter. It was the peak of the fall season and a beautiful day when I shot this back in October.

Click here to see an enlarged version.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bee & Artichoke

Bumble Bee on an Artichoke flower.

I sort of lost track of my artichokes and missed my opportunity for harvesting a few of them. They went to flower. No matter though, the bees love a nice big artichoke flower. I spent a few minutes watching a bumble bee explore this artichoke flower in the morning sunshine.

A few other visitors came by while he was at it. Another smaller bee, a long horn bee, was sort of bothering the bumble bee. He kept landing on the bumble bee. Not sure why he was doing that.

A long horn bee pestering a bumble bee on an artichoke flower.

I uploaded a new HD video to vimeo today. You can press the play button to watch it from within this window.

Bee & Artichoke from Jen Hill on Vimeo.

You can also click the enlarge icon on the lower right hand corner to make it full screen.

If you would like to see the video in HD, click here. I highly recommend viewing the HD version.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Raise your hand if you've ever seen a rainbow. I haven't seen many. To tell you the truth I don't really remember seeing them until recent years. Seems since I met my hubby, I've seen a lot more rainbows. I mean the real kind, that are up there in the sky. Sure, I can make my own rainbow any sunny day with a garden hose. But I'm talking about the magical visions that conjure fairy tales. Maybe the reason I see them more now, is that I believe I'll see a rainbow... if I look for it. Whenever there's a sun shower, I go out and look for the sun, turn my back to it and scan the sky for a rainbow.

July 1, I think I saw the best rainbow ever. It was early evening and there was a thunderstorm. We've been having a lot of those around here lately. Hubby and I went out to pick up some take out for dinner. Then, there it was a rainbow. Hungry as I was, I wanted that picture more than dinner. I said aloud, "I wish I had my camera. I want to go up to the golf course and photograph that rainbow." With that, Hubby turned the car around, brought me home, where I ran into the house and grabbed my camera. We rushed up to the course. I hopped out of the car and started shooting away. Below is the resulting shot. If you look carefully, there is a faint second rainbow to the left of the predominant one.

July 1 a late day thunderstorm brought us a rainbow.

This bowl of veggies is colorful, even if not quite a rainbow. Things have been a bit delayed this year. We had a cold May and too much rain (and clouds that go with it) in June. Finally, finally July is giving us some sunny weather. Maybe that July 1st rainbow was a omen of good things to come.

Today I picked a couple handfuls of Dragon Tongue snap beans, Red Swan snap beans, a yellow zucchini, 2 Sungold tomatoes (2nd & 3rd to ripen so far!), and one baby Fooled You Jalapeno pepper.

A couple days ago I picked this pair of Cue Ball zucchinis. Aren't they cute? They look like little mint green pumpkins to me.

Peas and carrots on July 8th. These went into a salad and it was delicious.

A baby eggplant forming. It won't be long now. All we need is some tomatoes!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Great Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes are pretty and unique.

One of my favorite things to grow is garlic. You plant the cloves in the fall and then there they are in the spring. Green leaves poking through the soil. Doesn't get much easier than that. After the leaves grow big and tall, a stalk emerges from the center of the leaves. This is the garlic scape. It curls around in a loop. If you leave it alone, it will eventually straighten out and a flower will open atop the stalk.

Garlic Scape Harvest. This is half of my garlic scapes.

Since I grow garlic for the bulb that grows beneath the soil, not the flowers, I cut the scape off. Conventional wisdom says the plant will direct it's energy to increasing the bulb size if you cut the scape off. And guess what? They're edible! Yup, and they taste like garlic. So what does one do with garlic scapes? Some people make pesto, some make soup, and some like to stir fry them with other veggies.

Freshly pureed Garlic Scape Pesto. What can we do with this?

I made a garlic scape pesto. Extremely easy to do. Versatile too. Here's the recipe:

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 lb. garlic scapes
1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Cut the garlic scapes into 2-3 inch pieces. Puree in the food processor. Add Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest and pulse a few times. Add the olive oil while the food processor runs and continue to let it run until the oil is thoroughly combined. Add salt to taste.

This can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

It's very garlicy, as in raw garlic, and very green. You can use it as is tossed with pasta. The raw pesto tastes a little bit too raw for me, so I experimented with a few uses I could think of for the pesto. First night was on spaghetti in the raw state.

After the spaghetti, Hubby went away for a few days on a business trip, so I only had myself to experiment on. I made garlic scape pesto grilled chicken. I slathered the chicken breast heavily with the pesto, then cooked it on the grill. With that, I made garlic scape pesto twice baked potatoes. Bake a potato, slice in half, scoop out the insides, mix with sour cream, garlic scape pesto, and stuff it back in the potato skin. Top with parmesan cheese and heat on the grill till it looks toasty.

Garlic Scape Pesto Grilled Chicken & Twice Baked Potato

Still had a lot of garlic scapes left. Next I made garlic scape soup. Here's the recipe:

Garlic Scape Soup

3 Cups Garlic Scapes cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 medium onion chopped
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. dried ground thyme
3 Cups chicken broth (vegetable stock can be substituted)
1 Cup Light Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Saute the garlic scapes and onion in olive oil over medium heat until vegetables are soft. This takes a while and your onion will get nicely caramelized. Add thyme and cook one minute more, stirring to coat all the vegetables. Let cool. Puree vegetables in food processor, with about a cup of the chicken stock, until smooth. Put it back in the soup pot, add the remaining chicken broth and heat up. Warm up the cream and stir in to the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Scape Soup.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time Traveling

Maybe you've been wondering where I've been. I haven't posted in a while. Did I get swallowed up by a black hole? Did I fall off the face of the earth? Nope. Just time traveling. See I've been to the future. I didn't even realize that was what happened. But it's obvious that it's tomorrow for me. Look at the newspaper's date.

I couldn't believe it myself at first. It started out as an ordinary day. Breakfast, shower, etc. Went out to check the garden. Wandered over to the mailbox and grabbed today's paper. Wednesday, June 25... Wednesday, June 25??? How could this be? I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Today is Tuesday," I told myself. "It has to be because yesterday was Monday. Yes it was." But how could I dispute, there it was in black and white! Everyone knows newspapers don't lie, right?

My evidence! I'm a time traveler!

Friday, June 6, 2008

June Flowers

I'll always post still pictures, but sometimes it's fun to do video. I'm tired of the poor quality of youtube. I guess I can't complain since it's free. But I decided to try something new. I uploaded an HD video to vimeo today. You can press the play button to watch it from within this window, but you can also click the enlarge icon on the lower right hand corner to make it full screen.

If you would like to see the video in HD, click here. I highly recommend viewing the HD version.

In this video you will see peonies, irises, columbine, and alliums. Here is the video! Hope you enjoy it. June is a great time for flowers.

Hilladay's Flowers June 2008 from Jen on Vimeo.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bird & Bee

I like bees. We do have a variety of bees around here. I think this one is a carpenter bee. Funny thing, I was googling carpenter bee and almost every site that came up had to do with getting rid of them. Pretty much everything I skimmed over said to use pesticides. I don't want to get rid of my bees. I just wanted some information. What I found out is that carpenter bees, as I would have guessed, excavate hollows in wood to nest. They do not consume the wood. Carpenter bees feed on pollen and nectar, as evidenced in the photos below. They are important pollinators. Here are two photos of a bee enjoying my strawberry patch. We've got a bumper crop of strawberry flowers this year. I can hardly wait for those berries. It won't be long now.

People, please don't use pesticides indiscriminately. We need our bees. They pollinate our food crops. It would be hard for us to eat without them.

We can also thank our hummingbird friends for pollinating things. Like the bee, they feed on nectar too. They also eat many insects. I don't think I'd ever get tired of watching these tiny, amazing birds hover around the garden sticking their needle shaped bills into flowers. These tiny guys are only about 3 inches tall and about 3 grams in weight. They consume twice their body weight each day. It takes a lot of energy to buzz around the garden like that. During one of those rainy days this week, I got some video of a hummer taking a rest on the garden fence. It was raining, but it didn't seem to bother her.

Press the arrow icon in the image below to start the video.

Dogwood Time

Okay, so I'm just a tiny bit behind with my dogwood pictures, but they're so pretty, I wanted to share some pictures late as they may be. Every spring, I take pictures of our two dogwood trees. Even though they have "dog" in the name, they are Henry cat's favorite climbing trees. Their trunks are just the right circumference for wrapping his paws around and propelling himself up.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

CSI: My Eggy

Everything seemed to be going fine with the Chickadees. The mama was spending her days in the nesting box. The daddy watched from nearby and brought mama food when she needed it. He would fly over and land on the front of the box. She would stick her head out and take the food from his beak.

Before we thought mama was sitting on her eggs, we took a peek inside of the nesting box. She had added lots of soft fur. Some of it may even have been Clarence's fur that we set out after brushing him one day. There was also an egg. Only one that I could see. But there could have been more. Chickadees will sometimes cover over the eggs before leaving the nest and they're very tiny eggs at that.

April 26, we opened the box to find an egg in the nest.

I did happen to see a tussle of birds around the nest box on May 10. It was over very quickly and the participants few away quickly. It was hard to tell what happened.

A few days passed and I hadn't seen the chickadees around. They're much less conspicuous than the bluebirds were, but I did usually see them at least once during the day. Then I heard first and then saw a wren. They have a very distinctive song. The wren went into the chickadee box. I ran outside and the wren flew away yelling at me as he went. I went over to the the nesting box and listened. I didn't hear anything. I scratched at the box lightly... nothing. I knocked a little louder... not a peep. I went inside and tried to go back to work. But I just couldn't get it out of my head that something was wrong. I got my dentist mirror and went back out to the box. Poked the mirror inside and all I saw was an empty nest. No mama. No eggs. No babies either. Disappointment.

When Hubby came home, we went out, opened the nesting box together, and investigated the crime scene. We confirmed what I already knew. The wren's had tossed out the chickadees. I found egg shells on the ground. One was mostly still intact, with the wren's peck mark still apparent.

May 13, egg shells on the ground, with the telltale wren peck hole.

Wren's are aggressive, territorial birds. They are native birds and it is illegal to hurt them. Click here to read more about wrens. They are extremely prolific birds. They do not peck the other birds eggs out of necessity. More likely is that they have a nest somewhere in the vicinity and it is their way to claim all nesting sites for themselves whether or not they use it. Many times, they build "dummy nests", piles of sticks that fill a nesting cavity so as to keep out other would be occupants.

I opened the nesting box door and left it open. Since no one is nesting there now, I will leave the door open for a while. This will keep the wrens from using the box or filling it with a dummy nest.

Days like this make me wonder, why does nature have to be this way? It's not easy being a bird, that's for sure.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

To the mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day. Here is a bouquet that I cut this morning. It consists of some of the last daffodils, the first Irises, and some newly emerged ferns, not fully ferned out yet.

The bouquet probably could have used a few more flowers, but I somehow feel bad to cut too many. I think they may just last longer if I don't cut them and leave them outside. That's my unscientific thinking. For all I know, the opposite may be true.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lovely Spring

You really can't beat a beautiful spring day. There's nothing like a couple of rainy days to make you appreciate it even more. Here are some pictures from yesterday, after the rain stopped.

As I was in the kitchen yesterday, something caught my eye out the window. Bleeding hearts! I had forgotten all about them. Three years ago, I planted some of these in my side yard. They bloomed and then immediately got eaten by deer. I gave up on them after that. I figured they wouldn't return because they had been defoliated so early in their young lives. Well, they're back. I plan to transplant them to my little side garden near the house soon, for better protection.

Love the Bleeding hearts, their blossoms look just like little dangling hearts. What's not to like? They also come in pink, red and with variations in blossom form.

Clarence likes them too. He wanted me to get his picture in front of the bleeding hearts. I mean, why else would he sit right in front of them while I'm taking a picture, right?

Daffodils! I love daffodils! They are so pretty, so happy, they come up early in spring, and bonus, one of the few things the deer won't eat! Hooray for daffodils! The Latin or botanical name for daffodils is Narcissus. Whichever you choose to call them, they are synonyms, either is correct, although the common name is Daffodil.

The funny thing about these two daffodils is that they were somewhat forgotten. I purchased them in the fall and put them on a shelf in my garage. I just never got around to planting them. During our mild winter, on a balmy day in January, I decided to plant them in the unfrozen ground. Well, better late than never, they flowered for me beautifully come spring. Daffodils store energy for flowering the previous growing season. They do need a chill time to signal to flower when it warms in the spring. Since they were stored in my cold, unheated garage, they got the chill they needed anyway. I'm not recommending planting your bulbs this way, but if you forget this fall, there's still a chance for them if you get them in the ground during the winter.

I sure do love a nice juicy peach. That's what I have on my mind when I look at my peach tree. It's so hard to get a good peach at the grocery store. Sometimes I buy a few and one will be good and the rest, not so good. I planted this Elberta peach a couple years ago. It's sure does want to produce for me. It's got blossoms all over it. However, the last two years, when it came time for the peaches to ripen, I was out of town! Not fair. It's so sad to find your peaches on the ground upon returning home. I have high hopes this year.

My Elberta Peach is looking better than ever.

April Asparagus

Purple Passion Asparagus

Do not adjust your monitor. That's purple asparagus your looking at. Isn't it pretty? When I started my asparagus patch in the spring of 2006, I was delighted to find out that there was a purple asparagus! I had never seen purple asparagus before and didn't really know what to expect. Like most purple vegetables, it does turn green when cooked. Of course there's nothing that says you can't eat your asparagus raw, especially when it's freshly harvested from your own garden. It's so tender, if you do opt to cook it, it only needs a minute of cooking... seriously.

The first spears emerge in my garden the third week of April. We'll be harvesting into May. This is the first vegetable I get to eat from my garden in the spring. As I harvest the first few spears, we will only get a few here and there. So I cut them up and add them to a salad. That way we each get a taste of asparagus.

Most people have not seen what asparagus looks like as it grows in the garden. So I thought I'd share some pictures. The asparagus spears we eat are tender new shoots that emerge from the crowns below the surface.

Asparagus has a permanent home in my raised bed garden.

Asparagus is a hardy perennial. My favorite kind of veggie. I planted it once and it grows back each year. A well cared for asparagus patch can live for 25 to 30 years, or so I'm told. I'll have to wait a while to find out for myself. Most people plant one year old crowns purchased from a nursery, as I did (here's a good source for crowns, Nourse Farms). You can also start your own asparagus seeds, but you'll have to wait a couple years longer to harvest any spears. Conventional wisdom says you do not harvest any the first year after planting. All you get to do is look at them. This allows the plants to get established.

I'll admit, it was pretty hard not harvesting any spears the first year. I let all of the spears, fern out and grow to maturity the first year. Henry found it to be a nice place to take a shady nap. He would curl up under the ferns as I would work in the garden. He's looking pretty sleepy here. It's just about time to lay down for a nap.

Asparagus is not just for eating. Henry likes it as a cool summer spot.

The second spring, you may harvest 2 or 3 spears per plant (third spring if you're starting from seed). I think I harvested even less than that, cautious of over harvesting. I wanted my plants to get well established. The third spring, is the best because you can harvest any spears that have a diameter greater than 3/8 of an inch and let all the skinnier ones fern out. The purple passion asparagus does turn green as it ferns out. Only the newly emerged spears are purple. I also have green asparagus in my patch, Jersey Giant. Ironically, my Jersey Giant asparagus is smaller than the purple passion. This one pictured below was too small to harvest. You can see the tip of the spear is beginning to loosen. Soon it will grow taller and fern out.

Jersey (not so) Giant asparagus.

Asparagus likes a neutral pH soil. That would be a pH of 7. If your soil is naturally on the acidic side, you'll need to add lime to the soil to make the asparagus grow happily. A pH lower than 6 and you'll have hard time growing it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Does one say "Happy" on Earth Day? Well, I like it, so Happy Earth Day to you. I might even start saying Happy Tuesday to you too. Why not. Undoubtedly, everywhere you go today, people (?), well probably not people, but media, tv, newspapers, etc. will be telling you how and why you should be more green. I know, it's true what Kermit said, "It's not easy being green."

One of the easiest things you can do to be more earth friendly is to grow your own food, as in fruits and vegetables, and why not, throw in some herbs while you're at it. You really don't have to have big garden in order to grow some veggies of your own. Many things can be container grown. I'll give you a hint, some of the easiest things to grow are lettuce, snap beans, and zucchini. It really is just about as easy as putting a seed in the soil or potting mix. Food you grow in your backyard doesn't have to be trucked in from across the country, or flown in from another country. Not only does that make it more earth friendly (no fuel is spent bringing to you), but an added benefit is that it tastes better. You'll be so proud of something you grew yourself.

Now you might be thinking, "Where do I get seeds? I don't want to mail order and pay shipping and have to wait." Well, next time you're at the supermarket, or hardware store, or even one of those big box "mart" stores, you can pick up a packet or two of seeds real cheap. Think about the potential in a pack of seeds, how much food you can grow from one pack of seeds. Another option is to buy starts at a nursery (small plants). That works too. But there's something about growing from seed that's really cool. Think of the speck of tomato seed. In that tiny seed, is the potential to grow into a big plant, that will produce many fruits. Inside each fruit is a more seeds! Think of the potential!

If you really want to be green while growing your greens, you can reuse a container you already have laying around. Cut the top off a gallon container (only for something small like herbs or lettuce), use and old bucket (5 gallon works for tomatoes), or that planter where you once had flowers and now sits unused. I guarantee, you'll get more compliments, and interest from something edible, than that dead annual from two years ago. Make sure to poke or drill some drainage holes in the bottom. Make sure you use a nice fluffy, light potting mix. Anything marked top soil is not going to work, too heavy. And forget about scraping some soil out of the yard and plopping it into a container.

You're going to need full sun. That means the spot where you put your container will have sun on it most, if not all of the day. If all you have is partial sun, give it a shot. You may get something out of it, it's better than nothing.

The back of the seed pack (and sometimes the front) will tell you how deep to plant the seed, how many days to maturity (that's when you can pick the fruit/veg!), and maybe some tips on care.

Vegetables not your bag? Well, you can grow a small fruit tree right in a container. Put it on your patio (full sun of course!) or deck, or where ever you want. Check out these cool apple trees from Miller Nurseries.

Well, I better get going. I've got some earth day celebrating of my own to do. With that, I'll leave you with these words from Kermit:

"But green's the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

They're Baaack

Imperial Star Artichoke, 2007 growing season.

I must admit, I am a bit fascinated by artichokes. It's not quite to the point of obsession, like I am with tomatoes, but I find them more interesting than many of the other vegetables I grow. I think that stems from the fact that they are not really widely grown in this part of the country. So it's a bit of a challenge.

Last spring/summer I grew my first artichokes, Imperial Star Artichokes. They produced flowers (that's the part we eat) their first year, which is a plus, since artichokes are a perennial that produce (most of the time) in it's second year. However, it was questionable if they would survive the winter here. Actually, they are only supposed to be hardy down to USDA zone 8 (even more detailed maps here) and we are in zone 6 here. What does all this zone business mean? Well, it's just a way for gardeners to gauge how well a given plant will survive the extreme cold of winter in a given geographical region. In theory, you'd want perennial plants (plants the come back year after year) that are rated to survive your zone or colder if you live in a cold area. The lower your zone number the colder it gets in the winter. It doesn't take into account how hot it gets in the summer, how long a growing season you have, or all the many other variables that go into growing plants. Many people get confused by the zone thing and think that if one lives in a higher zoned area, you must have a longer growing season, and vice versa. This is not so. Your growing season is determined by the number of frost free days you have and also how hot it gets in the hottest part of your summer. For example Dallas, TX is zone 8, as is Seattle, WA. Obviously the two have different weather and completely different growing seasons. If you lived in Texas, you might have a spring garden and a fall garden, because the heat of summer would kill your crops. While in Washington, it might be mild all through the spring and summer. To add to the confusion there are micro-climates within zones that can throw you for a loop. If you lived on top of a mountain, it might be much colder than down in the valley. So it would seem the zone system is flawed. But, if you use it simply as a way to determine how cold a temperature a give perennial plant can take, it should work for you.

Last summer I let some of the buds go to flower.

So back to artichokes. Once the artichoke foliage died back from the fall frost, I took measures to protect it from our cold winter. I cut back the plant and piled about a foot of shredded fall leaves on top of the plants and then covered the entire raised bed with a plastic tarp to keep too much moisture from rotting the plants. I weighted down the plastic tarp around the edges with large rocks and bricks. It stayed that way all through the winter. Rain came down, snow piled up, ice formed, the whole works. Then in spring it started to warm up. My other perennial plants started popping up. I figured it was time to uncover the artichokes. So the first week of April, I pulled back the tarp and pushed away the leaves. The leaves smelled earthy, a nice scent. The bottom few inches of shredded leaves had already turned into compost, a nice black crumbly layer. I removed most of the pile of leaves and left a few inches to feed the plants, and hopefully act as a mulch and prevent weeds from sprouting. There was just the tiniest bit of growth on three of the plants. Slowly, they are waking up from a long winter sleep. I have a good feeling we'll have quite the crop of artichokes this year. They are said to produce in abundance the second year.

By April 20 new growth appears on the old stump and increases each day.

It looks as though only three of the six plants have growth so far. I'm not sure if the other three are just slower to wake up, or they may be dead. I'll give them until May to do something. During the winter, I sometimes get carried away while looking at seed catalogs and websites. I bought some new artichoke seeds of Violetto Artichoke. The description says, "Beautiful purple heads of artichokes look like flowers (because they are) on these plants. Fruit is more elongated than the green globe type. There is some variation in the seed and the Italian supplier recommends removing any weedy looking seedlings before setting out. Start indoors for a mid-summer crop even in Maine." To me that sounds like the seed is not pure and may have come from cross pollinated stock. I guess I'll take my chances. These seedlings look quite happy and robust. Although I did start them kind of late. My first batch did not germinate. I don't know why, sometimes that just happens to even the most experienced of seed starters. I tried again and most of the seeds germinated. Now that I know my old plants survived, I will have to find a spot for these or give them away. I'm thinking about putting a couple in an Earth Box (I have 3) and then in the winter, storing it in the garage for protection.

Violetto artichoke seedlings. No weedy looking seedlings here! What are they talking about?

Now some call them weeds and some call them volunteers, but if you let a plant go to seed, you may have some seedlings that pop up unexpectedly. Such is the case in the artichoke bed. I found this volunteer yesterday. Funny thing is, it popped up next to one of the plants that hasn't started growing yet (possibly dead). Isn't nature a wonderful thing?

Look familiar? A volunteer artichoke a few weeks behind the ones started inside.