The skins of each clove of this variety of garlic are purple as well. All of this garlic was started with a small handful of seeds given to us by some friends 5+ years ago. Garlic grown from seed takes three years to make a full head of garlic; if dug up in the first or second year of growing it is still edible; the heads will just only have 5-7 cloves on them. If garlic is grown from an individual clove you can plant it now (winter time) and harvest full heads of garlic by late spring/early summer.
Christmas came early for the garden (“the garden” here as anthropomorphic figure as it is a force larger than myself HAHahhaah)…
The new 2015 seeds have been shipped and delivered! (Though let’s face it, these aren’t the only seeds/plants I’ll procure for the 2015 growing season). Sunflowers…herbs…giant pumpkins…plant cuttings from friends/neighbors/etc. aren’t included on this list below. The list below are the varieties I ordered from http://www.rareseeds.com which is the website for Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located in Missouri. They have a location in historic Wethersfield, CT and a seed bank in Petaluma, CA.
Along with the name of each type I’ve added a note about why I chose that particular variety…
Mammoth Red Mangel Beet: A white fleshed beet with blushes of red. We have hard clay soil and growing large root vegetables really improves the dirt. Plus who doesn’t want a giant beet?
McGregor’s Favorite Beet: Because I used to live off of McGregor Boulevard. hHahaha
Giant Red Re-Selection Celery: Ooooo red celery?
(Kulli) Black Incan Corn: Onyx-black shiny kernels. Perfect for Halloween décor! And my parents recently took a trip to Peru. And we love alpacas and llamas and they’re from Peru.
Dragon Tongue Bush Bean: These were a 2013 favorite of the kids; tasty eaten raw right in the garden or with dips. Pretty purple stripes down flat pale yellow pods; pretty and tasty!
Dragon’s Egg Cucumber: Because of Game of Thrones; isn’t it coming back in 2015?! Winter is here! Spring is coming and there shall be the eggs of dragons in Spy Garden.
Sikkim Cucumber: Also looks like a dragon’s egg.
Tarwi Q’ollo Lupine: The description is very interesting:
(Lupinus mutabilis) The Tarwi Lupine is another one of the “lost”foods of the Incas. Originally cultivated only in the high andes, Tarwi is a plant supremely adapted to the stress of high altitudes-it can take drought, cold and wind and still be very productive. Nowadays agronomists and gardeners are taking a look at Tarwi for growing in other places other than the high mountains. In Denmark and Northern Europe it is being trialed as a new pulse crop. The beautiful white seeds are choc full of fats and proteins. Tarwi has been cultivated/domesticated for probably close to 2000 years. The seeds themselves cannot just be eaten without a little simple preparation. The seeds contain alkaloids that are bitter, fortunately they are quite easy to remove just by soaking and rinsing them over a few days period. In the past this noble crop of the Andes was known only by the poor indigenous peoples, today thanks to modern systems for rinsing large quantities of seeds it is now a “chic” food of the Urban wealthy. Our own friend john Glavis is raising Tarwi with great success on the California coast north of San Francisco. The seeds offered here are from select Peruvian strains tracked down by Joe. They need a long growing season but really like cool weather too, so the Pacific Northwest coast is a great place to try them, everyone else could just give them a shot and save any seeds produced to select them to adapt to new climates. (source)
Mitoyo: A nearly black eggplant; the description said it was one of the most delicious eggplants and can even be eaten raw.
Thai White Ribbed Eggplant: grew this one before from a free seed packet from Baker Creek and the variety did really well. Eggplants always seem to take FOREVER to mature in Spy Garden; so I’m going to start them indoors early this year.
Strawberry Spinach: I’ve tried growing this one before without success. Little red berries (that in the picture look like raspberries) and flat broad leaves that can be eaten like regular spinach.
Dwarf Banana Collection (PRE-ORDER): Mmmmm!
Hardy Kiwi Collection (PRE-ORDER): MMMmmm!
Rare Fig Assortment (PRE-ORDER): MMmmm!
Dishcloth or Luffa Gourd: A gourd you can wash dishes with? Had to see it in person! I’ve had my eye on this variety for years and finally gave in to my curiosity.
Quinoa, Shelly 25 Black: Because our good friend is named Shelly. And she’s a vegetarian and quinoa is an excellent source of protein!
Black Seeded Sesame: Mmmmm!
Flax: Flax fibers for making our own rope?! And seeds for eating! And pretty blue flowers!
Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry: We have grown giant cape gooseberries for the past two years and they took a long time to mature and didn’t produce too many berries. So trying a more classic variety of ground cherries.
Early White Vienna Kohlrabi: Baby picked this one. Kind of looks like a space-ship! We’ve grown the purple ones before. Tastes like cabbage.
Charentais Melon: French varieties always seem to do well in Spy Garden and we’ve grown Delice de la Table the past two years so wanted to try a new melon (like cantaloupe) this season.
Orangeglo Watermelon: Mmmmm! We grew this variety in 2013.
Royal Golden Watermelon: The rind turns a bright yellow/orange when ripe! Have tried unsuccessfully to grow this variety in the past.
Noordhollandse Bloedrode Onion: Like the looooong name haha; and the color is a striking, deep purple. Baby picked these.
Black Hungarian Pepper: We’ve grown these once before. Perfect amount of heat in a smooth, small black pepper. The plants themselves are also deep shades of green/purple and the blooms are purple.
Yellow Monster Pepper: In the pictures these were HUGE yellow peppers with green striations.
Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Pepper: Love the looooong name of this variety. Hahaha! These were one of Baby’s favorites for eating straight off the plants in the garden. Sweet and crunchy; these peppers turn yellow but we ate them before they ever got to that stage!
Thai Red Roselle: Very pretty plant we grew in 2013. Roselle is the tangy ingredient in the “zinger” varieties of tea.
Monstrueux De Viroflay Spinach: I always buy this variety. Good, tasty spinach!
Red Malabar Spinach: We had a small plant of this type in Squirrely Garden (the garden at Baby’s preschool) and I was intrigued. It looks like a succulent but you can eat the fleshy leaves.
Beleah Rose Lettuce: Baby picked this lettuce. Looks like a tutu!
Iran Squash: I bought this one because it reminded me of the show Homeland. I consider myself a master of diplomacy; having a symposium of seeds from many nations represented and all getting along famously right in my own front/side yard. Hahhaha
Triamble or Shamrock Squash: I have tried unsuccessfully to grow this variety of squash 2009-2013 and am still determined to grow it. It is a blue winter squash that has three lobes (like a shamrock). Maybe 2015 will be its year!
Victor or Red Warty Thing Squash: I don’t know if I’ll try to grow this or not; it was sort of an impulse buy. I want to get some pumpkin seeds from some 700+lb Atlantic Giants (from specialty pumpkin growers like this one) and try for some giant pumpkins. So may not have room for these bumpy round red fruits. I also had great success with Rouge de Vif d’Etampes pumpkins so am tempted to grow those again.
Delicious Tomato: We’ve grown these before. And yes, they’re delicious.
Wagner Blue Green Tomato: Because it looked very colorful in the picture.
Copia (Tigercopia) Tomato: A pretty yellow/red striped tomato.
Hyssop, Blue: I’ve grown this before. Lovely deep royal blue/purple blooms that grow on stalks (similar to lavender). It is supposed to be a natural cough suppressant.
Lion’s Tail or Wild Dagga: I’ve grown this one before. It is a perfect Halloween plant; orange and fuzzy flowers peek out through sharp and spiny seed pods. The time we grew this it was 10+ feet tall.
Dwarf Coral Garden Mix – Cockscomb: Perfect for the “coral reef” (an area of the garden which has ever-bearing strawberries).
Celosia, Pampas Plume Mix: So colorful! Very similar to the magenta amaranth we grow (Hartman’s Giant) but shorter (about 4 feet tall).
Alaska Red Shades Nasturtium: A deep red nasturtium; seemed unique to the usual bright, tropical shades of nasturtiums we normally grow.
Yellow Canary Creeper Nasturtium: A very weird looking flower (on the seed packet drawing); I’ve tried growing this twice before but it never made it. I’ve since found that nasturtiums do best with a fair amount of shade.
Yeti – Nasturtium: Because it’s Christmas! And don’t Yeti’s live near the North Pole?!
A (three hour!) hike through Shaw Nature Reserve today…
Imagine grade school if Ranger Rick were the headmaster…the state’s only Forest School emphasizes the outdoors. Children from ages 2 to 6 play on logs and boulders, rather than slides and monkey bars. They help grow their own food on-site, and prepare it in a teaching kitchen led by a chef. They follow the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, choosing their class projects and gaining essential skills along the way. “Our belief is that if you can learn it inside, you can learn it outside,” says president Ilya Eydelman. “It’s more than just a school with trees around it—although we do have more of that than most.” (from stlmag.com)
In the above photo the frothy yellow plant is asparagus (which we also grow in Spy Garden). I would actually like to dig up our asparagus and relocate it before spring but it has been VERY rainy/snowy/cold and still haven’t even gotten a chance to plant the garlic yet.
And because I am a sucker for the abstract…
After walking through through the Garden Glow we also visited Gardenland Express which is an indoor display of holiday flowers and plants and trains.
Click to learn more about Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Gardenland Express Holiday Flower and Train Show (both running now through January 3/4, 2015).
Click here for a direct link (it will open in a new window) to the article in the November/December issue of the magazine!
Here is an excerpt from the article about the pumpkins pictured earlier in this post…
Bright-red ‘Rouge Vif D’Etampes’ pumpkins dangle from a lattice arbor that also frames a garden vista centered with gray-green eucalyptus and frothy asparagus foliage. The decorative and highly edible squash were the most popular pumpkins in the Central Market in Paris in the 1880s and were used as the model for Cinderella’s coach.
I like to leave some carrots in the ground through winter to dig up for snowman’s noses. You can see in the above picture where the carrot greens have been gnawed off by deer. The deer fence has a large opening that we have not repaired yet, so they are sneaking in and taking what they can get (which at this point is not much!)
He was moving very slowly (cold blood!) so it was easy to catch him and bring him inside for a closer look (and photoshoot of course haha) before releasing him.
Happy Friday friends! Hope you all had a great week. Cold and darkness has enveloped Spy Garden as of late and we’re a bit behind in the raking, garlic planting and other fall garden to-dos…But one highlight of our week was watching Disney’s The Humpback of Notre Dame. Makes me want to read the original by Victor Hugo. As we watched it, the Spy (he’s 9), remarked,
“This is a little dark for Disney.”
Speaking of darkness, here is an excerpt from an interesting article about a new invention called Vantablack…
…the blackest black ever seen, or, actually, not seen….
Vantablack, for Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array, is made by “growing” carbon nanotubes on a metal surface. (A nanotube is a billionth of a meter thick, or about the width of three gold atoms.) Light is trapped between the tubes and bounces around until it’s absorbed, so almost no light gets out.
Vantablack has enthralled not just the tech world but also artists and architects. Ben Jensen, 48, a founder and the chief technology officer of Surrey NanoSystems, spoke by telephone from his laboratory in Newhaven, England, about the material’s applications and why it might not be quite right for your home. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Q. Why are people so excited about Vantablack?
A. The coating reflects so little light, three dimensions seem to disappear. When you look at Vantablack on some wrinkled aluminum foil, it looks like a black, flat, featureless void, even with your eyes right up to it. That and the fact that it’s the darkest material ever created.
How did all this start?
Growing carbon nanotubes isn’t new. But typically they’ve been grown at a very high temperature: 750 degrees centigrade. That would destroy most underlying materials, so they grew them on things like silicon, diamond and sapphire, which can stand high temperatures. We’re building on work to grow nanotubes at a lower temperature for microelectronics.
What’s special about carbon nanotubes?
It’s almost like an alien material from “Star Trek.” Imagine a drinking straw, closed at one end, with a wall one-atom thick. This straw is one-ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, but it is 10 times stronger than steel, and 10 times better at conducting heat than copper. It’s been known to exhibit what is called “ballistic transport”; electrons travel through it with almost no resistance. Vantablack packs billions of these straws together. (to read the full article in the NY Times click here)
Fascinating concept; and imagine the possibilities for artistic application of vantablack! In other color and light news…We are excited to visit Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden next week. Garden Glow is expected to sell out, so get your tickets soon!
I hope I can get some cool shots at Garden Glow; I always struggle trying to take decent photos at night. I’d also like to make a Spy Garden Garden Glow one day!
I’ve also been doing a little crocheting this week. Crocheting is such a great thing to do when it is frigid out!
I made the same shaped hat for myself in black wool. I’m making some leg warmers for Baby out of the same purple (super soft!) yarn. Baby demanded the leg warmers. Then she demanded I unravel them (a request I did not accommodate) Hahah She also demanded this morning…
“I want to listen to Taylor Swift RIGHT NOW!”
And some “new” music for the Spy too…
A few more random shots from the week…
Have a great weekend!
Circus Harmony does weekly circus training classes at Baby’s Forest School. They offer flying trapeze lessons and other fun classes. Here is an excerpt from their website:
RUN AWAY & JOIN THE CIRCUS & STILL BE HOME IN TIME FOR DINNER!
At the Circus Harmony Center on the third floor of City Museum and at numerous outreach locations throughout the St. Louis area, we offer a wide array of circus arts classes for ages 5 through adult. We have Fall and Winter/Spring and Summer sessions. You can also book workshops and private lessons any time of the year at City Museum or to come to you. Click on the link below for our current class schedule.
Our staff is headed by Jessica Hentoff, who has over 39 years of circus teaching and performing experience and includes Honored Artist of Mongolia, Rosa Yagaantsetseg, International Jugglers’ Association Excellence in Education Award Winner…(source)
Sounds fun, right? We have juggling clubs here (and I can juggle six with another person!) and our have some “circus” equipment; but I think I would like to add a Cloud Swing and Slackline and maybe a tightrope…;) haha
Still haven’t planted our garlic yet: maybe this weekend! Each one of the cloves will grow a whole head of garlic by early summer if planted now.
Mmm apple season! Here are some descriptions of locally grown apples…
Jonathan – Thin skin, creamy yellow meat with a great snap and wonderful balance of sweet / tart flavors and natural spiciness. At home raw on a fruit plate or baked into pie.
Fuji – Firm, dense flesh, reliably crispy, juicy and sweet with great shelf life. Excellent chopped in muffins and cakes; one of the best for serving raw. I served thousands of them on cheese plates raw, sliced, dunked in lemon water.
Granny Smith – Very crisp, tart, refreshing apple that combines well with sweeter varieties in baking, clearly preferable for use in salads.
Golden Delicious – Mellow, sweet apple suffered from years of mass-production abuse. Google it today and you see “very good flavor when home grown”.
Arkansas Black – Pretty dark red right now, they are good storage apples and the skin darkens in storage. A very solid apple, the slices will remain crisp in baking. Good acidity and a touch of astringency make a great back drop for fall spices.
Rome Beauty – 19th century heirloom originating in the township of Rome, Ohio. Very crunchy which makes this an outstanding pie apple for holding its shape and not weeping in the crust. Not super-sweet so takes well of apple pie spices and compliments without clashing on the cheese plate.
Winesap – Hard to find heirloom, very juicy, sweet-tart, deep, rich, spicy and, well, winey flavor. Eat raw, bake, excellent with cheese.
Empire – I see the flavor described as “vinous” but I would say melon-like, even elderflower. Great for raw applications or baked in a mix with other varieties.
Cortland – A McIntosh cultivar, red skin blushed with green and white to pale pink flesh. Nearly all US production is in New York State, almost within sight of Cornell University where it was developed at the start of the 20th century. Sweet-tart, all purpose apple good for jelly, pies, apple sauce, cider, fruit leather and all around eating too. Slow to brown when cut.
Crispin – Also known as Mutsu , a green apple with very sweet, honeyed flavors, juicy, crunchy and crispy. Excellent eating out of hand and very good baking.
Braeburn – Great eating apples originated in New Zealand in the 1950’s. Thin, yellow-green skin with a dark scarlet blush, its very juicy and moderately sweet with a remarkable depth of, well, appley flavor that suggests cinnamon before you add any.
Firm Gold – Related to Granny Smith, green skin, juicy flesh with a firm bite of acidity and a caramel-y sweetness.
All Apples mix or match – $2.50 / pound – 20lb case of a single variety – $2 / pound
These descriptions are from Baby’s school: they email out a LOooooong list of locally grown foods each week and you can order things and pick them up at the school. I’ve never ordered before (can’t believe I missed another fall opportunity to sample the elusive pawpaw!) But I do love reading the descriptions…
Missouri Seckel Pears - The Seckel (SEHK-uhl) Pear (aka the Sugar Pear) is superb for salads, sliced on sandwiches, for pickling or spicing. It is a true open-pollinated heirloom variety so there are lots of genetic variations and these, from Berger, Missouri are much larger than the standard Seckel. Like most pears, they are harvested pretty hard and ripen after picking. They are great for poaching right away, soften and sweeten in a paper bag in a few days to make a wonderful tart or pear sauce.
$2.75 / pound – 20lb case – $2.25 / pound
Illinois Asian Pears - I haven’t had local Asian Pears before so I’m looking forward. They arrive Thursday morning and I’m expecting juicy, crunchy, creamy white flesh with a sweet tang and lovely aroma. $2.75 / pound – 20lb case – $2.25 / pound
Fall Rhubarb – There doesn’t seem to be any commercial Rhubarb productions around here, so you have to find fanatics who love the stuff so much that they plant way too much for themselves and have extra to sell. If you are determined to use it with Strawberries, you are in luck. I have beautiful sweet local Strawberries in my freezer from the height of the dearly departed summer season but lots of good Rhubarb preparations do no need the crutch of Strawberries. 6.50 / pound
Frozen Elderberries – Big flavor, deep color, tiny berries, huge anti-oxidants. Associated in European folklore with fairies and elves, here is 100% edible frozen Elderberries packed into zip lock bags like buckshot in a shell. Very good for jam, great in muffins, excellent sauce for game meats. See what you come up with.
Apx. 4.5 lb. bags – $9 / pound
Aren’t they fun descriptions? Maple syrup, milled sorghum flour, flavored vinegars, pickled peppers, brown rice…It goes on, and on and on…for seven more pages! And ALL of these things are grown/prepared right here in Missouri! The descriptions remind me of those in seed catalogs (which we will soon be receiving in the mail)! Reading seed catalogs is a good cold weather activity: and we need lots of those because Baby, it’s cold outside! There were flurries here today. My poor silver dollar eucalyptus; it’s a huge plant in the garden I plan to dig up and bring indoors: hopefully it will survive until I can get out there and brave the cold and dig it up! But not tonight: Brrr! It’s in the 20’s (F) and windy. I prefer swimming laps in a warm pool to gardening while I adjust to the earlier darkness and the weather! Baby and I are also working diligently on our ballet. It’s more like yoga + ballet. So yollet. Yollet TM haha
Yollet. It’s a thing. #arabesqueallday
So inspiring! And check out these three pretty ballerina pictures below. They are from the ballerina project
The majority of ballerinas who have posed for the project are currently or have danced for companies such as American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Dresden Semperopera Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Ballet West, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet… (source)
And one more priceless ballet picture I came across this week…
So yes, Yollet, that is how Baby and I are celebrating the beautiful art of Ballet. More on our arabesques soon. But for now, I would like to define the helfie. That’s hair + selfie.
And a few more random things to share…
Happy Thursday Friends!
Right up the road from Spy Garden, friends of ours have a whole adorable herd of llamas and alpacas! We enjoyed our first (of hopefully many!) visits recently…
The owner of these llamas/alpacas uses the fur and spins thread and wool with it! I look forward to talking with her to learn more about this process (and see some of the things she makes with it!) For now, all I really know about llamas and alpacas is that they are a combination of a cuddly stuffed animal, a camel, and a pony and are SO much fun to play with (and photograph!)
Apparently mastodons used to roam freely in the land of Spy Garden. I didn’t even know what a mastodon was! It is like a wooly mammoth, but a bit smaller and with a less lumpy head.
That, friends, is a giant ground sloth: a Jefferson’s Ground Sloth.
After checking out the museum and watching a short video that taught us all about the history of the site, we hit the…
The “Bone Bed” sounds more exciting than it was; there are no public excavations at this time (so basically it was “the woods” haha) but still a very…
“Mastodon State Historic Site contains an important archaeological and paleontological site – the Kimmswick Bone Bed, where scientists discovered the first solid evidence of the coexistence of humans and the American mastodon in eastern North America.” (source)
Click here to visit the park’s website and learn more about this cool place!
Brrrr! Baby was going to be a pumpkin but opted for this cozy skeleton costume instead. She had long underwear and a full fleece zip up onsie under there; kind of like a Christmas Story Halloween haha.
We went to the Spy’s friend’s house in a nearby neighborhood for trick-or-treating.
And check out that golf-cart in the background; that is what we rode on while out-and-about. It was frigid and windy; but we all dressed warm and stayed toasty!
Back in the garden, Halloween brought with it…
Hope you all had a happy Halloween! I am already dreaming of next year’s pumpkins…
And one more link for you: the digital version of the Spy Garden article in St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine! (The article is on page 54!)
Baby was indeed behaving but showed little interest in the carving until all the pumpkins were lit up in the dark. She was busy breaking in her Halloween costume for tomorrow. What will she be? A pumpkin, of course!
I wanted to carve the name “Rouge Vif d’Etampes” and “Atlantic Giant” into two of the pumpkins, alas, I didn’t have that sort of patience within me aujourd’hui. I tend to employ (and enjoy!) the rough, impulsive and unplanned form of pumpkin carving. But feel free to just imagine it. Lovely, right? HHAhaha Both of these two varieties of pumpkins are “curcurbita maxima” so there is a possibility that they cross pollinated, which would mean the seeds contain a combination of the two varieties’ genetic material. I think I had fully intended to only grow winter squash of different species within the curcurbita genus (there is maxima, pepo, mixta and moschata) so that they wouldn’t cross-pollinate so that I could save the seeds. The seeds look unique to each variety; but what do you think? How likely is it that they two varieties mixed and my seeds will grow Rouge Vif d’Atlantic Giant Etampes pumpkins?!
I got twenty hard copies to send to my nearest and dearest will also share the link to the digital version of the article when it becomes available on November first! The article is so well written and does a wonderful job of capturing the Spy Garden spirit. The magazine will be available locally (at Dierbergs, Schnucks, etc.) in a couple of weeks! In the meantime, please enjoy the usual Spy Garden happenings…
And more shots of strawberry picking,..
…and another night…”Wicked Plants” night…
Beyond Spy Garden…
A Forest School is “an inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment” (source). Baby’s school is also inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education…”The child is also viewed as being an active constructor of knowledge. Rather than being seen as the target of instruction, children are seen as having the active role of an apprentice. This role also extends to that of a researcher. Much of the instruction at Reggio Emilia schools takes place in the form of projects where they have opportunities to explore, observe, hypothesize, question, and discuss to clarify their understanding. (source)
And at the top of that hill…
Down the other side of the hill…
Hmmmm a Frisbee Golf Injury? (during PE at school)…I was not there when this injury occurred, but I imagine it was something along these lines…
HAHAHah but the Spy is fine and will have the cast off in two weeks.
Since today is Sunday and a new episode of The Walking Dead is on tonight, sharing the Spy’s zombie story he recently wrote seems quite appropriate. Well, it would probably be more appropriate to try and come up with a Sunday devotional. All Saint’s Day is in October, which is sort of about dead people…And zombies are dead…Ok, stop! Am I seriously trying to relate zombies to Christianity? I mean…that is pretty farfetched!
This is not our church. Though I’m not judging. And maybe I should’ve gone to service here this morning just for material! We attend a more conservative (Lutheran) church and the sermons rarely involve zombies. So I will spare you a Spy Garden attempt at Jesus vs. zombies. Though it is sort of tempting.
The Spy’s zombie story is quite long: 1600 words!
The only thing I changed in typing this up were minor spelling errors. And twice I inserted my own comments in bold, for effect.
The Killing of the Zombie Werewolf by the Spy, age eight (written in fall of 2013)
One night I was walking in the woods. Then I heard a crack! I froze. Then I heard a big “grrrrrr!” I was really scared but I wanted to find out what it was. I started to get closer to the sound and when I got really close I saw two big red eyes. Then I got so close it started to walk toward me. I stepped back and it got closer. I could not tell what it was. But I could tell that it was a really big creature. I started to run and then I heard a giant “rarrrrrrr!” I was so scared that I tripped over a rock and started to roll down a hill and then I fell off a cliff and landed on my back.
I woke up about three hours later. I was still wondering what the animal was. I remembered seeing two red eyes. I was thinking so hard about it I could not feel the pain from falling off the cliff. When the sun came up I saw enormous footsteps. I started to walk after the footsteps. When I saw where they ended it was next to a big dead tree. There was a big hole in the tree and red blood came from the inside of it. I jumped down in the hole. I landed on a brick and I passed out.
I woke up six days later. When I woke up I was in a cage at the bottom of the tree. I saw a huge furry animal. I was right under a full moon. Now I knew what it was. It was a werewolf. I was about to yell for help until the werewolf saw me. It ran to the cage and slammed into it. It opened its jaws and bit into the metal. I tried to climb up the tree and then I fell. I saw that the metal was starting to break. The werewolf could almost get in. I started to climb the tree again and when I reached the top I got out and ran. I spotted a rifle and grabbed it and I shot the werewolf. It kept running after me but slower. Then it finally dropped to the ground. I went to the werewolf and shot it again.
I was feeling really good about myself. I went to the road and found a 1971 Dodge Charger. I punched through the glass and it had a giant sound. All you could hear was “Beeeep! Beeeeep! Beeep!” I saw someone coming really slowly. I saw some blood on his shirt and I was pretty scared but not that scared. I hopped in the car and I saw a screwdriver and I made it go into the key hole. The car was on and I stepped on the pedal and I went so fast. I ran over the zombie and he went flying. I stopped the car and backed up and ran him over again. He was dead. His brain was splattered everywhere. Then I smiled and slammed the pedal.
I drove up a hill and at the top there was a million zombies. I turned around and they heard me. They went running slowly after me. I thought that they were so slow that I turned back around. I ran over about 600 zombies. I was laughing so loud that it was louder than the beeping.
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH The car alarm is still going off?!
After that I stopped at a camp site in Atlanta. There was a bunch of people there with guns. There had to be a thousand guns. I got out of the car and they were pointing guns at me. I stepped back to my car and got out my rifle. I pointed it at them and said, “Put down the guns.” They said no and pulled the trigger. They missed me and I shot one of them. They surrendered and said, “Sorry for trying to shoot you. But we’re going to kill you anyways.”
I said, “Apology not accepted.” And I shot every single one of them. I took their guns and put them in the back seat. I drove out of the camp site and ran over some more zombies. It got really boring. I went for a little drive and then I saw another wolf but its arm was gone. I realized what it was. It was a zombie werewolf. I stepped on the pedal and then the werewolf zombie grabbed the car and threw it into the woods. The car landed in the middle of a giant mud puddle. I pushed the pedal and it could not get out. I pushed the pedal really hard and it finally got out of the mud. I drove out into the road again and the werewolf zombie was eating a man. I went the opposite way the zombie werewolf was. The werewolf zombie saw me and ran after me again. I pushed the pedal and it outran the zombie werewolf. It was so fast that I couldn’t even see the zombie werewolf.
I turned on the radio and the news was on. I turned up the radio and put a song on. Then zombies came running after me but they were running slowly. I turned around and ran over them all. I stopped at a gas station and filled up the gas in the car. Then I went in the gas station and saw some food. I realized I was really hungry. I ran to the food and put it in my car. I was eating gummy worms. I was going 200 miles per hour. I had “We will rock you” on.
The front of the car was busted so I fixed it up and then I saw a truck. It had a plow with spikes on it. I took the plow and put it on the front of the Charger. Then I got in the car
And hopefully now that infernal beeping of the car alarm had stopped! HAHhahaha
…and the zombie werewolf was in the road. I ran over the zombie werewolf and it died. Its body was split in half. I drove over and over the zombie werewolf. It was shredded up into a million pieces. I drove back to where I killed the werewolf and I went to where I shot it and it was gone. I knew what happened to the werewolf. It was eaten by a zombie.
I climbed down the tree and I climbed through where the hole in the cage was. There was nothing but dead people. Then I left the tree and went home. The next day the earth was back to normal. There were no werewolves or zombies or zombie werewolves. There were a lot more people then when there was the zombie werewolf apocalypse. I was wondering why there were more people then when it all happened. I asked my neighbor, “Why weren’t there any people in the apocalypse?” They said because the apocalypse was so easy to survive that they all hid from everything that happened. I said “If it was so easy, why did you hide?” They didn’t answer and ran back home. I said, “Wait.” And they went faster. One of them went into a cage and threw meat in. I ran over but they were already gone and there was a zombie.
I went home. I turned on the tv and watched a movie then I heard a “grrgrgrgrgrgr” and I was so scared I ran for my life. I went out the door and got in my car. I stepped on the pedal and ran over a zombie. Then I got out of my car and saw 1,000,000, 000 zombies. I realized how many guns I had and got a mini gun out. I blew up a million zombies and there was still like 50,000,000 zombies left. The zombies were coming like a freight train off the tracks. I saw the giant bullets from the gun were gone. I went to get more ammo but there wasn’t any more left. I got out a bazooka and demolished all of them.
Then I went back to where I shot the zombie. It was gone. I went in the house next to the cage. The house was completely empty. I checked all over the house. There was no sign of a zombie. I went outside and looked in the woods and saw the zombie. It was split in half and burned. I saw that its guts were splattered all over. I wanted to know who the person who did it was. There was a track of car tires. I followed the tracks until they ended. They ended at a jail in the middle of the woods. There were zombies with their jaws off and their arms gone. They were in chairs and they were tied to scare crows. Then I heard a car coming there was a nuclear bomb attached to the top of it. Then I ran behind a bush and watched what he did. A guy got out of the car and he took the nuclear bomb out. He chucked the bomb and set it on fire. Then I ran for my life. I got to my car and pushed the pedal as hard as I could. I was going 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles per hour. I was slowing down the gas was almost empty. The then car stopped. I was next to a big giant pile of gas tanks. I got out of the car and filled up the car. I got back into the car and drove all the way to China. When I got there, there was 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 zombies. I took a machine gun and killed 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 zombies.
We had our yearly parent-teacher conference last week shortly after he wrote this. I met with his teacher and by that point had only skimmed through part of this story (which he wrote at school). I said “Uhhhhh yeah I think his story was pretty gory.” She cheerfully replied “Oh yeah, they were supposed to be scary stories, it’s all good.”
Then he got a glowing report on all fronts. Reading, math, behavior, all stellar.
I didn’t have to explain about why we let our kid watch The Walking Dead or his sense of humor or have any other awkward conversations about guns or gore. When you excel at academics and keep up social graces subversive expression is really quite charming.
It’s a lesson I learned in school and a lesson I’m glad to see the Spy is learning as well.
As the squash vines die back and the tomatoes slow down; the marigolds take over…
Both the leaves and blooms of pineapple sage are edible.
I think I actually chose those pepper seeds because of the ridiculously long name haha. Baby loves to eat these plain. They are crunchy and sweet and do not get bitter as sweet bell peppers often do in our garden. They will turn yellow if allowed to ripen further, but taste great green as well. Here is the description of the…
Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szente Sweet Pepper…
One of the truly great Hungarian peppers. Yellow, flat, ribbed, pumpkin-shaped fruit have the tremendous flavor that peppers from Hungary are famous for. The flesh is very thick, crisp and juicy. This rare variety was collected at a farmers’ market in Matrafured, Hungary, but developed at Szentes, Hungary. A winning variety. (description from rareseeds.com)
Another favorite of mine in the garden right now is the…
This awesome plant (about six feet tall and gloriously fragrant) started off from a little seedling purchased at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s herb show this past spring. That link is for all you southern hemisphere-ers enjoying spring now!
Lots and lots of rain here in St. Louis this past week!
Really looking forward to the next clear fall day to get some proper shots of the garden with good lighting. The marigolds have exploded and the backdrop of the changing leaves will be gorgeous when the sun comes out! For now, just a few soggy shots.
All of our garlic has been hanging in the breezeway by our back door (outside). I pull off heads as I need them for cooking. Leaving them outside hasn’t been a problem until now. They are a bit damp; as soon as it dries out I am going to get planting and save another bunch (indoors!) for use through the winter. Each garlic clove planed now will grow into a whole head of garlic by next spring/early summer. Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow and great for repelling pests in the garden.
First, I suppose I have to explain why we allow our son (he’s nine) to watch The Walking Dead (it’s a zombie television show). Our philosophy is that we can overlook a little (ok I know it’s more than a little) gore and violence. We make him shut his eyes and cover his ears (and sometimes leave the room) during any…um… “kissing” scenes (i.e. Shane and Laurie, Glenn and Maggie)…For the record he doesn’t own or play any video games (violent or otherwise). And doesn’t care too. Which I think is pretty wonderful. So watching The Walking Dead is one of very few (somewhat questionable) guilty pleasures in which he indulges. And in the wise words of Cher Horowitz, “Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there’s no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.” HAHAHAHahaha
So about The Walking Dead…
The show is story-driven, not character-driven. Most of the characters are very annoying and make the worst decisions and brood around talking about their feelings, when they ought to be focusing on a perpetual water supply or planting a garden. And…
Are there no jokes in a zombie apocalypse?
Humor is vital in distressing times and the show is seriously lacking in punch lines. Despite these shortcomings, we just love to talk about what we would do in a zombie apocalypse and the show inspires these conversations.
There is something exciting about fighting against pure evil. A war against zombies eliminates all the tricky moral questions of real-life war. I think the appeal of killing zombies is that it is symbolic of destroying what is evil in the world, and ONLY the evil. When a zombie is shot, there is no question of, “Could he have been redeemed? Did the zombie leave behind a family? Friends? There is only the living and the (walking) dead. In non-apocalypse world, evil is so much more complex. All people do evil things in some capacity. Gossiping, judging, vanity…no one is innocent. But even the most horrific murderers could be redeemed (perhaps still punished for life, but forgiven in the eyes of God), at least I like to think so. I’d like to destroy all the corruption in the world, but is the expense of taking a life too high a price for the destruction of evil? A war with zombies is infinitely more simple than a war between the living.
The “Spy” (our son) likes the idea of destroying zombies. And I don’t find this disturbing, because the bullets and weapons are directed at something that is unquestionably vile, wicked and bad. The complexity of the human condition is entirely removed when a person “turns”.
If my kid was drawing pictures of tanks running over puppies, I would be concerned. But killing zombies? It’s basically being passionate about protecting what is good (life) through destroying what is bad (evil/death).
Once, after watching a couple of episodes (there’s often a marathon going on with all the old episodes) I was tucking him in and I asked “What is the main thing you’d want to do in a zombie apocalypse?” He replied,
“Find a ’71 Dodge Charger and just drive really fast down an open road.”
Me, “And that’s all?”
Him, “Well, it might be kind of hard to find a ’71 Dodge Charger, so a newer model Dodge Challenger would work. Or a Chevy Camero or a Ford Mustang. If I couldn’t find any older models. And I’d want to shoot zombies. It sounds evil, shooting zombies and stealing cars, but it’s a zombie apocalypse.”
As you can see, the boy driving this “Dodge Charger Zomby Killer” looks perfectly well-adjusted:
So anyways, though I can’t entirely relate to the enthusiasm the boys (my son and husband) feel about using zombies for target practice, I am drawn to other skills you would need in an apocalypse. Sewing, knitting, crocheting. Building a cozy fire. Cooking. Gardening. Though the world in a zombie apocalypse would make obtaining the basic needs for life more complicated, the focus would be entirely on those basic needs, and therefore simpler in some ways. Simple may not be the right word, just that our fundamental needs would get the attention they deserve. I deeply appreciate the simple things in life. Potable water, a fresh lemon, a hot cup of black coffee. It is important not to romanticize the notion of an apocalyptic world, because many people on this earth might as well be living in one. Pillaging and chaos and war and genocide and famines. The evils of such communities are very real and infinitely more complex than a world where zombies simply need to be destroyed. But I digress…
There would be a garden.
There would be weapons and stock piles of ammunition. But the garden…It would be a big garden. Chickens. Maybe some sheep. A cow? A few horses? In many ways, our ideal operation in a zombie apocalypse is pretty much my dream in real life (just sans walkers). Though in zombie-world there would be a bit more pressure for the garden to be productive and not just a pretty subject for me to photograph.
The season premiere of The Walking Dead is tonight on amc.
I’ll be watching to see if they plant anything.*
*This was originally published just before the season four premiere aired in fall 2013; and the first scene of the season WAS OF A GARDEN!!! Man, I really called that one; right?! This post has been republished for your enjoyment; as the season five premiere is tonight! So, once again, I’ll be looking to see what veggies they are growing. But I have a feeling those scary people in “Terminus” are no vegans.
Baby is Hamlet.
Puppy is the First Clown.
And I’ll be playing the part of Horatio.
ACT V, Scene 1. A Churchyard.
A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
For and a shrouding sheet:
O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.
[Throws up another skull]
There’s another: why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets,
his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?
now to knock him about the
sconce with a dirty shovel,
and will not tell him of
his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be
in’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes,
his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers,
will his vouchers vouch him
no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than
the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The
very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in
Not a jot more, my lord.
* * *
And truly our earthly life’s worth is nothing more than fine dirt. Perhaps if Hamlet were a gardener, he would not be so conflicted on the worth of a man, ha? For fine dirt is good enough for me!
*this post was originally published in October 2013
October is my favorite month of the year. I just love the brisk cool of fall, how the shadows get deeper and the sunlight and the leaves turn gold. The spooky sound of a blustery breeze blowing through corn stalks thrills me. I love October so much that I’ve become excessively poetic; in only three sentences.
October in Missouri is chock-full of possibilities for fall fun…Pickle some yard-long beans to look like spooky, pickled snakes (or worms)? Or hunt for paw paws and then see what they taste like (I’ve heard a cross between a banana and a mango)? Baby’s school served homemade paw-paw ice cream last week (I missed out on a taste)! I found a paw-paw tree near Wildhorse Creek but haven’t gotten the chance to actually harvest any; maybe next year?! We could prepare something with the pounds (and pounds!) of persimmons falling from trees in our yard? Hunt for edible mushrooms? Visit Owls and Orchids at the Butterfly House or Spirits in the Garden Friday nights at the Missouri Botanical Garden? Apple picking at Eckerts? Celebrate the 100th year of Rombach’s Farm? Cheering on the Cards in the playoffs (WOOooo!!!) is a no-brainer!….How about visit to Hermann’s Oktoberfest? A haunted tour of Lemp Mansion? A walk down zombie road? Or how about…
The xrays weren’t exactly in the name of October fun; Spy Sister got in a car wreck a few weeks ago and broke her nose! OWWWww!! Not to worry, she is fine.
You might think that I like Halloween so much, surely the kids would need new costumes every year? Not so! I love the tradition of using our homemade Halloween costumes more than once. How many uses can we get out of the pumpkin?
The pumpkin is just some orange fabric circles with an old towel sewed in between the layers (toastier and sturdier!) and then black fabric sewed on for the face.
Baby will likely wear this pumpkin one last time this year. And maybe next year she will fit in to…
The skeleton? When it is too small to be worn, I think I will hang it up and use it as decoration! I painted it on a pair of black sweats; using acrylic paint and outlining each bone with white puffy paint. The back is also painted. I used illustrations from an anatomy and physiology textbook as a guide.
For the Spy this year (and the past several years), he opts for my husband’s old Marine Corps gear…
I am a big fan of…
As an art history major (in 2005) I actually wrote a 30, yes THIRTY, page paper on the Picasso painting above. I don’t recall a single point I made in the paper but apparently the still life has been engraved in my mind, as I always recreate a version of it in my Halloween decor! So just remember, you need a skull in case you need to jazz up your still life!
I also love making eyeballs out of radishes and green olives…
These radish eyes are also great to add to veggie trays!
We have almost always followed the rule of; thou shalt only wear homemade Halloween costumes.
There are many wineries in our area. Prior to the Civil War, Missouri produced the most wine of any US state. There are two winery regions in our area: Augusta and Hermann. We have visited Hermann several times…
But I had never visited the Augusta region. So Spy Sister and I checked it out this past weekend and took Baby to a blustery fall lunch at…
We enjoyed our view, the lunch, live music and…
The Augusta region was nationally known for its wine during the 19th century, but Prohibition halted the state’s winemaking for decades. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a few pioneering souls began to refurbish the old vineyards and winery buildings.
One of these pioneers was Clayton Byers, who founded Montelle Vineyards in 1970. The winery was later purchased in 1998 by present owner and wine maker Tony Kooyumjian.
The secret to our success in producing outstanding wines is our vineyards. The Augusta area was chosen as the first viticultural area in the United States because of our unique soils, microclimate, and history, and it is our mission to produce wines that exemplify the uniqueness of this eleven square mile area.
Our philosophy is to farm our vineyards with a respect for the land and the environment. As a result, our wines are fresh, fragrant, focused, and well balanced, but most of all, express the uniqueness of our vineyards. It is this attention to detail that has enabled us to produce wines that are continuously recognized for their uniqueness and superior quality…We also aspire to reveal the pleasures of pairing fine wine and food. Therefore, our Klondike Café offers fresh, high quality cuisine to complement our wines. Choose from a wide selection of gourmet wraps, salads, sandwiches and pizzas to be enjoyed on our vast deck, where it is easy to lose yourself in a magnificent view of the Missouri River Valley.
The next time you have a meeting, event or just a weekend outing to plan, please keep “Missouri’s most scenic winery” in mind. (text and picture below from Montelle’s website)
It is a great time of year to visit Missouri’s many wineries. If you can’t make it, how about just reading the Bible? Might sound like a stretch, but I just had to share these…
Vineyards are mentioned throughout the old and new testament. Matthew chapter 20 (verses 1-16) is a parable (involving laborers in a vineyard) that invites a great discussion of notions of what is “fair” (temporally and spiritually). And in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible…
“Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.” Noah 9:20
And Noah lived to be 950 years old. Just saying! Soil, gardening, vineyards; these are good things. Spy Garden DEFINITELY needs its own little vineyard someday!
The Spy had a great birthday; he pitched at the second to last little league game of the fall ball season,
And he and his friend enjoyed playing in the yard for the afternoon.
This big pumpkin had started to rot. It didn’t look like it would make it to Halloween and so…
We didn’t grow this dragonfruit; I got it at the grocery. The flesh is NEON magenta with little black seeds. It tastes sort of like a bland watermelon. The looks are definitely more exciting than the flavor.
Beyond the garden…
Persimmons are best enjoyed just on the cusp of rotten. It is a fine, fine line, one that probably reflects why you do not see persimmons at the grocery store. Unripe, they are hideous and offensively inedible. Overripe they are, well, rotten. But just before rotten they have a complex orange flavor that is slightly medicinal and weirdly artificial-tasting. They taste exactly like those cheap plastic sleeves of flavored ice (the orange flavor).
Normally we taste a few and let the rest fall to the ground and rot (plus the deer eat them). In a perfect world, we’d make preserves and sauces and other delicacies with complex flavor profiles by adding some calyxes of roselle. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Persimmons have a higher calling. They are meteorologists.
The past few years we have enjoyed the tradition of cutting into a persimmon seed to see what the winter will be like. A fork means it will be a mild winter, a spoon means lots of snow and a knife means cold winter winds will blow.
I love winter, and snow is just so much fun and the more snow, the more wintering-garden pests will be killed off. I don’t really care what the weather will be in winter. Snow, no snow, cold, warm. It’s kind of like whatever, I’ll enjoy what I get. The weather changes drastically about every twelve hours in Missouri so I wouldn’t exactly buy a season pass to Hidden Valley on the sight of a spoon. I just think it is really fun to see the spoon, fork or knife (and we truly have seen all three!) in the persimmon seeds.
Note: If you do try and cut a persimmon seed be VERY careful. They are tough seeds so use a sharp knife and be very careful.
As for the upcoming 2014-2015 Winter? To be announced! The Spy collected a (specially chosen) persimmon seed for us to find out. Forecast coming soon!
Winding Brook Estate is a 17 acre lavender farm in our area. They have thousands of lavender plants and make all the products from their own lavender. The products at the…
…are beautiful and all handmade. You can really feel the passion the owners have for growing and using lavender. Lavender chocolates, lavender teas, lavender wreaths; so many beautiful things!
You can see the lavender fields in the background of the above photo. The farm lost hundreds of plants this past winter, where we experienced weeks at a time of well-below freezing temperatures.
Click here for a list of fall events at the Lavender Farm.
If you don’t live in the St. Louis area, you can still support this wonderful business via their online shop! I was so inspired by all the lavender, I knew it was high time I harvest the lavender of Spy Garden! We have five “Provence” plants and one “Fringed Variegated.”
Enjoying our lavender goodies back at home (pictured with Spy Garden lavender;)…
The elephant has a removable pouch filled with lavender (pictured above) that can be warmed in the microwave. It smells divine! So far as I can tell the stuffed animals and sachets are all hand-made as well. I am certainly inspired by this lavender farm and think I will be digging up our lavender plants to rest safely in our Winter Cellar Garden of Dormancy (WCGD if you prefer;) in case of another frigid winter. And in the spring we will definitely visiting the lavender farm again, as they sell several varieties of potted lavender plants at that time.
I’ve always wanted to make ink from black walnuts. I got the idea from Xplor magazine, which is a free publication issued by Missouri Conservationist. It’s a magazine about outdoor pursuits in Missouri, for kids. If you live in Missouri go here to request it. The instructions were pretty simple:
Gather a dozen walnuts. Unless you want stained skin, put on rubber gloves. Remove the nuts from their husks. Place the husks in a pot, cover them with water, and simmer on the stove for several hours. The longer you simmer, the darker the ink will be. Pour the ink through an old t-shirt into a quart jar. Add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to preserve the ink, and it’s ready to use. (source)
We often complete step one. We have lots of black walnut trees near our house…
…and often collect them for fun/for fall decor.
Once I thought to make the ink for a little after-school rainy day activity. I googled the instructions to double check a few things. Can you boil them whole? How long do they need to boil? I found A LOT of information. Information that quickly made me second guess the ink-making.
research five minutes of googling I also found out that black walnut ink isn’t black. It’s brown. This was a big disappointment. I mean, brown is ok in nature. Wood’s great. But brown as a color? Just not my favorite.
I had envisioned the striking contrast of deep black ink strokes (by the Spy and Baby) on some thick watercolor paper. Pollock for kids; a perfect lesson. Knowing those strokes would be (an unknown shade) of brown really took the wind out of my sails.
But I don’t want to discourage anyone from making ink: from walnuts or any other source. I love the idea of “the old way” of doing things. I use the phrase “in the old days” quite often.
However, I rarely commit to the labor intensive process of ye olde crafts. Usually imagining days of ole’ is enough for me. For the most part we stick to bottled paints and pens from a box. So I’ve decided I’m just going to write about making the ink. I’m feeling quite satisfied in this decision and I think the various fabrics around my house will benefit immensely.
It was an easy decision, made quickly after invoking one simple vision: Baby, with a jar of ink.
Jarfuls of ink aren’t the best thing to keep on hand for art-time with a three year old. Or even an eight year old. Or even myself. In my creative quests I am quite impatient. I get lost in the process and make a mess effectively without the aid of liquid ink. Photography is a good for me. Lots of room for error. Hundreds of blurry pictures aren’t hurting anyone. Handling hot, incredibly permanent pots and jars of ink may not be the best match for my creative talents.
Heavily pigmented acrylic paints do stain. But they’re thick. They can only travel so far.
But liquid ink?
So I’ve decided against the ink making. But I’m still providing the best of the best of what I found so that you
can stain your fabrics and ruin your kitchen make ink from black walnuts. Please do tell me how it goes.
You can follow the simple instructions at the beginning of this post. Or tackle the craft via these much more specific (and humorous) instructions that follow. All of the indented italicized blocks below are from various sites I found (one of which was fountainpennetwork.com)…
Step 1: Collecting the Nuts
I grabbed my coat and a rucksack and headed for the woods to try to find some walnuts the squirrels had overlooked. (source)
If you’re going to commit to walnut ink making, you ought to have a rucksack. I do not have a rucksack. Another tally under the reasons why I should hold off on the ink making.
I simply put them into my large canning pot and covered them with our well water. I homeschool, so I couldn’t do anything more with them that day. They soaked for about 24 hours before I could get back to them again. (source)
Walnut ink making apparently can’t be part of the homeschooling curriculum. So make sure you’re doing it on your free time (if you do homeschool..and if you’re going to make walnut ink you probably should). Tap water is out. You need well water. Preferably from a well you dug yourself.
I wore rubber gloves while I de-husked the black walnuts… Dehusking was hard on the gloves and they kept tearing on me… which is why I still ended up with stained fingers! (Yes, this stuff will stain countertops and everything else it touches, including the pots, strainers and other equipment that you need to process it with, so just be forewarned if you plan to try this. It’s best to set aside equipment just for this purpose.) (source)
“It’s best” to designate pots and supplies (and by “supplies” I mean, an entire kitchen) for the sole purpose of ink making. If you’re making that much of commitment to ink-making you’re going to want to have a lot of ink-using activities planned. So you can pretty much kiss blogging goodbye. Or write all your blog posts with the ink and then just photograph or scan the pages and post those.
I actually took the time to pick out the worms. I’m vegetarian and couldn’t stand the thought of bugs in my ink… it would’ve been a lot simpler just to boil the husks whole, but I knew a lot of worms would’ve been inside them and that would’ve bothered me to kill them. (source)
If you truly want to connect to the essence of the ink, you need to rescue the husk maggots. Black walnuts support these nonviolent creatures. If you fail to support these writhing gems, the ink’s harmony will be all thrown out of whack. Be one with the walnuts.
Step 2: Soak the Walnut Husks/Separate the Husks from the Nuts
The easiest way to obtain the husk material is to strew the nuts in your driveway and drive over them a few times. The shells are so hard, the weight of the car won’t smash them.
Let me reiterate: Drive over them A FEW times.
Several years ago we lived in a different house that had a huge black walnut tree. I wanted to get the meat out of them and eat the walnuts. I collected a big bucket full of the nuts. And forgot about it. So the nuts in the bucket became covered with rainwater. Which became a black stew that smelled like the fresh rot of a wet forest. Then someone told me about the “just run them over” tip. So I dumped the black liquid with the nuts onto our driveway. Then forgot about them. So we drove over them. Again and again. And again. For several months. Until all the nuts were mashed up and black stains covered our driveway in a gruesome (and quite unappetizing) mess. I don’t believe the stains ever came out. In remembering my success at these stains I realize, I’ve already made ink from black walnuts once before. Using rainwater. Which I believe trumps well water.
Step 3: The Cooking
After they are black, put them in a large pot for which you don’t have any great affection. (source)
This is a problem. I only have five pots. And while I don’t necessarily feel “affectionate” towards these stainless steel staples of my kitchen, I do use them quite often.
(Another warning: The walnuts, water, and ink all have a high capacity for staining anything they come into contact with. This includes kitchen counters, fingernails, dishes, wooden spoons, and your clothing.) (source)
I think we’ve established that.
I refer to the walnuts in disgusting terms, and they are pretty gross. They get slimy and moldy, and you’ll probably find all kinds of strange little bugs living in them. Don’t worry. It all cooks down to the same brown sludge. Except for those little pale brown beetle larvae. They stayed shiny and intact even after hours and hours of boiling. If the ick factor is too high, just remember that you must suffer for your art. So must those with whom you share your kitchen. (source)
I would argue that I’ve actually never suffered much in my artistic endeavors. I find painting or sculpting to be quite pleasant pursuits. My “sculpting” in the dirt has resulted in the occasional callus on my palm.
I’ve felt the sorrow in accidentally slicing a worm in half with my spade. Really, I do. But suffer? I just don’t know if I agree that we must suffer for art. I do think this particular ink-maker is being a silly nut. At least I think he’s joking.
Step 3: Preservatives
When it was finished, I added 8% alcohol by volume for a preservative (80-proof vodka, to be exact). In later batches, I went with 10% alcohol and 100-proof vodka, which is easier to figure out mathmatically. (For a 10% concentration of alcohol with 100-proof vodka, take the number of ounces of ink you have and divide it by 4 to obtain the amount of alcohol to add. Ex. If you have 32 ounces of ink, divide that by 4 = 8 ounces of alcohol to add). My cooked-down black walnut batches have never molded over, and some of them are 2 years old now. (source)
Ink making tip #759: Vodka makes you better at math.
Step 4: Using the Ink
This ink is meant for dip-pen use only, and not for fountain pens. It would likely ruin a fountain pen. It is especially well-suited to glass dip pens. I recommend gold-plated metal nibs to resist corrosion by the acidic ink.
Step 5: Regret
What’s not to like? Two things:
1. The ink has no lubricity. Zilch. It feels like you are writing with plain water. The nib just drags along.
2. The ink reacts with iron. This wears out a steel dip pen nib much faster than other inks. After writing about 20 pages, a regular pointed nib has sharp edges and needs to be touched up on a stone. (source)
So your kitchen is ruined, your hands are stained and crippled from hand-writing 20 (20?!) pages of goodness knows what (probably instructions of how to make ink). You’ve got an entire colony of husk maggots to support and a rucksack to wash. You’ve gained a gallon of distastefully brown ink that’s unpleasant to write with and will ruin your gold-plated nibs and your kitchen smells like vodka.
What’s not to like?
Most of the pumpkins we grew this year are pictured above. The big light orange ones are called Atlantic Giant. I will definitely grow those again and try to get an even bigger one. The Atlantic Giant variety holds the world-record for largest pumpkin. Check out this link to see a TWO THOUSAND pound Atlantic Giant! Challenge accepted! hahaha The deeper orange pumpkins are a French variety called Rouge Vif d’Etampes. They did really well and set a lot of pumpkins on the vine so I will also seriously consider growing those again. I’ll pass on the Jarrahdales (the little grey ones) as they didn’t do too great. I’ll try a different blue variety next year.
Excerpt from the newsletter…
Every Thursday is Bread Day…During Bread Day, the children of the Nursery Collaborative work to count their ingredients, count their scoops, fill measuring cups to the brim, and use safe food handling practices. From chocolate bread to apple cinnamon bread, they’ve made it all. Thanks for the delicious snacks!
The kids at her school name their class each year. Baby’s classroom named themselves the “Cantaloupe Camels” hahaha Squirrely Garden is the name the kids chose for the school garden. They have “Ninja Rock” on the playground and name different areas of the school and woods. I think kids make up the best names. Which is why I had my son name this site “Spy Garden”!
I love a good rerun. I can watch Seinfeld any time. I eat a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast pretty much every single day. I bake bread at least once a week. These things aren’t boring. Quite the opposite; they can be enjoyed over and over and over.
Our perspective is always changing (like the leaves! Sorry, terribly obvious analogy!)…I digress. But I do love fall. And fall (and other seasons) are sort of reruns in and of themselves. Our perspective is always changing, so really, we’re always looking at the same “old” things with fresh eyes. At least I try to do that. Which is why I enjoy reruns. Appreciate the same pieces of art I’ve enjoyed for years, repeat recipes, why my kids get multiple years use out of homemade Halloween costumes, etc., etc.
I’m grateful for the yearly rerun of autumn. I feel most inspired at this time of year and have been kicking around the idea of a new writing challenge. Around this time last year I wrote 100 essays in 100 days. 100 essays in 100 days seems a little extreme right now as I am gainfully employed as a nurse and value my beauty rest. So I thought I would sift through my favorites of the essays and spend a bit of time editing them. Refining them and taking out all the references to “I’m writing 100 essays in 100 days” and the fact that they were written for a blog. So that they can stand alone; as just essays. I think the best reruns do that. You don’t need to have seen the previous Seinfeld show to enjoy the one that follows. A good rerun can be enjoyed for a second, a third, a hundred times. Probably you don’t want to read my essays a hundred times. But maybe twice? Especially with my fancy new edits? If you’re new to Spy Garden, they’ll just seem like new posts so you won’t even know the difference. So I’m not going to advertise them as reruns. I’m just going to repost them. Exciting, I know. hahahhaha
So the pictures in this post are not reruns, but from the last week or so in and around Spy Garden. Because I’ve been too busy with my free time watching reruns to post anything. We’ve discovered Homeland and have already plowed through the first and most of the second season; it’s great show. It’s about spies…CIA spies. Obviously I can relate; having a secret identity and all. Hahahahahjaha
Happy Sunday friends, have a great week!
Monarchs are my absolute favorite butterflies and there’s loads of them flitting around the garden this year.
As for the hedgeapples…
Hedgeapples are also called Osage Oranges. Maclura Pomifera if you want to get fancy. They are not edible but have a wonderful fresh apple scent. I like them for fall decor and collect them every year. We don’t have hedgeapple trees on our property but I know where many good hedgeapple trees are around St. Louis (some are 50+ feet tall!)! It is a fun tradition we have to pull over on the side of the road and fill up bags full of the fallen fruits. It is a little early yet for a big collection (they start falling to the ground in another two weeks or so). Next time I feature hedgeapples in a post I’ll be sure to cut one open. They look even weirder on the inside and have a sticky white sap that looks like Elmer’s glue. I have friends who swear that hedgeapples repel spiders and put them in all the closets in their house. The wood of the trees is apparently perfect for making bows and the tree is also known as bowwood.
Back in the garden…
…As tomorrow we’re planning to harvest all of the pumpkins to celebrate the first official day of fall! We did already pick one of the Jarrahdales…
Squirrely Garden is the garden at Baby’s amazing Forest School. And I am the CEO of Squirrely Garden (best title ever). As an (unpaid) CEO I think up many duties for myself such as the obvious (weeding, digging, wheelbarrowing) but also documenting the garden’s progress with photos and emailing the school with garden to-do’s. I also designed the layout of the garden when we first dug the plots back in May. When the school wanted to apply for a grant from Gateway Greening, I helped them fill out the application and when it was time to tour the folks from GG with the school owners, I wore a baseball hat that says “Plays in the Dirt”. Clearly I take my CEO duties very seriously. Well, we cinched the deal and got the grant! The install date was today and Squirrely Garden gained four raised beds, six cubic yards of dirt, a slew of garden tools for little hands and the piece de resistance…(I’ll let that one be a surprise for the end of this post)…
In addition to installing the raised beds, we also edged some of the existing plots and moved some plants and harvested green tomatoes and lots of herbs.
Three big lemon grass plants were moved out of the garden down to the playground area. Lemon grass is a natural mosquito repellant.
The piece de resistance…
We always grow corn; mostly for the ornamental value (gotta have corn stalks for fall decor!) This year the corn set only sad little ears with irregular rows of kernels. I think this is because it was in a row that just does not get enough sun.
The knockout rose bush in the foreground has done so well this year. I pruned it aggressively in the spring and always pick off the buds left after the blooms are spent; this encourages new growth and lots of flowers. I’m thinking of expanding this little plot to be a larger rose garden. It would obscure this view of the garden a bit (this view is looking from the front porch of our house). But that might give it a more secret-garden feel! Eventually, will there be any grass left in our yard? ahhaah
A few hundred yards from our garden…a hike in the woods across the street…
Back in the garden…
My wedding dress! Ten years ago, Smoochie and I got married! Technically, it was one decade and one month ago. We were so busy digging and prepping for the St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine photo shoot on August 20th, we actually forgot our anniversary and both remembered later that night. But, not to worry, we’ll do something fun to celebrate at some point. For now, a few pictures of my dress will have to suffice! We eloped in a garden in northern Vermont; so really this is quite fitting.
After we were married we took pictures; a few with a scarecrow where we pretended the scarecrow was the justice of the peace marrying us. Hahaha. Perhaps Spy Garden needs a scarecrow in honor of a decade of marriage?! A reenactment?!
Happy weekend friends! Do you have any plans for your fall (or to my southern hemisphere friends, spring!) gardens? Baby and I are headed to her school garden (Squirrely Garden) for an exciting event. The Spy and Smoochie are off to baseball practice. Later, we’ll be doing some fall clean up in our garden. A writer from St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine is coming to interview us (they want quotes from the kids too!) tomorrow! There is no better excuse to deep clean your house (and garden) then someone from a home and lifestyle magazine coming to call, right?! hhHAhahhaha
Spy Garden mobile…
Home Depot is very conveniently located near Spy Garden and cheaper than the non-big-box nurseries (that are plentiful near Spy Garden). And Martha Stewart likes Home Depot and has product lines there. And Martha Stewart is awesome. Ergo, prior to the St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine photoshoot I took a couple trips to Home Depot for fall flowers and plants. Here I am:
She paints so meticulously! After seeing her paintings it makes me want to gain patience when I paint. Since I always stick to the…
James Rosenquist started his career as a billboard painter, creating advertisements and images of consumer goods on a monumental scale. His early training is evident in this work—vibrantly painted colors, block lettering, and enlarged details of recognizable imagery, in this case a bouquet of roses. Rosenquist drew inspiration for this painting from the back of a tour bus he regularly saw while painting signs in New York City’s Times Square. Sightseeing blurs the line between banal tourism and the supposedly elevated act of viewing art in a gallery or museum. (source St. Louis Art Museum)
It is getting blustery and chilly in Spy Garden: woooooo fall!
After scraping out the seeds, I carved up this pumpkin into big irregular chunks (think tuna steak-sized) and added loads of spices (paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, ginger, a Jamaican-jerk seasoning) and salt and a drizzle of oil and roast in the oven (flesh-side down) on a foil-lined baking sheet at 350 for awhile until the flesh becomes translucent. Then slice the skin off and enjoy! I dipped it in hot sauce and Dijon mustard. When roasted in this manner, pumpkin really does remind me of filets of fish; fresh-caught wild pumpkin-fillets. haha I should make some sashimi and pumpkin sushi to further illustrate my point.
I washed all the seeds and added the same combo of spices/drizzle of oil on them and also roasted those too. Yum! I will also save some of this variety of seeds (from the largest pumpkin). These Atlantic Giant pumpkins were grown from seeds from Baker Creek. Here is the description from their website:
110-125 days (C. maxima) Lovely, giant, pink-orange pumpkins can weigh over 800 lbs, and do so every year, with some reaching almost 1500 lbs.! This variety was introduced by Howard Dill, of Nova Scotia in 1978, and has since broken all records. (source)
There are seven Atlantic Giant plants and we had seven pumpkins; one small one rotted and we threw it in the woods and the other small one I picked and roasted (as described above). Five left to harvest; cooking, carving, curry, soup? So many possibilities for pumpkins. Winter squash is by far my favorite vegetable. So versatile.
Desription of the Jarrahdale from Baker Creek:
100 days. (C. maxima) Slate, blue-grey, 6-10 lb. pumpkins of superb quality. Their shape is flat and ribbed, and very decorative looking; also a good keeper. Popular in Australia; an excellent variety. (source)
Here is the description of Upper Ground Sweet Potato from the Baker Creek website:
(C. moschata) This heirloom is still grown by a few people in the South. An old, hardy type that grows well even in rather poor conditions and produces an abundance of medium-large, round-to-bell-shaped, tan fruit with moist orange flesh that is said to resemble that of the sweet potato, hence the name. Sweet, good quality, and it keeps very well. A really rugged variety that is going the way of the dinosaurs if people don’t work to save it. (source)
(Physalis peruviana) The cape gooseberry is native to Brazil and was grown in England by 1774. It was cultivated by settlers at the Cape of Good Hope before 1807. The delicious yellow fruit grow inside paper-like husks that are easy to peel. They are great dipped in melted chocolate or made into pies and preserves. Larger than the common ground cherry. (source)
Pictures of the garden on August 31, 2014
And yesterday, a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum…
I was drawn to the classical painting and sculpture…
late 2nd century BC–early 1st century AD
(27 BC–AD 330) (source)
It’s all just a good guess really, I mean no one REALLY knows EXACTLY where these pieces were found or when they were made…It’s what makes ancient art so mysterious!
Check out How to Sculpt for inspiration/instructions on how to make your own sculptures!
Matisse is one of my favorites…
I also like Frank Stella…
With a housepainter’s brush, Frank Stella methodically applied industrial enamel paint to the surface of this canvas. Thick black bands form concentric rectangles cut off along the bottom edge while thin off-white lines reveal unpainted portions of the canvas. The artist used an extra thick stretcher, a novel decision in 1959 that allowed Stella to emphasize that a painting is, in fact, a three-dimensional object. When asked about the content of his austere works such as this, Stella answered, “What you see is what you see,” underscoring the artist’s matter-of-fact, literal approach to painting. (source)
Richard Serra’s drawings to plan a large sculptural installation in St. Louis remind me of the Spy Garden deer fence plans:
Never underestimate a good sketch!
And the 2015 garden plan? Coming soon! But back to the St. Louis Art Museum…
I also enjoyed the Native American exhibits…
Soft, warm cradleboards shelter babies from the wind and cold, and provide a secure place for mothers to keep their young ones safe while they work and travel. Children often become so attached to their cradleboards that they try to crawl back into them even after they have outgrown them. Family members create cradleboards and imbue these objects with love, symbolic power, and protection. This cradleboard is of exceptional quality and reflects distinctive elements of outstanding Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) work, a tradition noted for technical excellence, crisp, even beadwork, and design shapes that include outlined hexagons and stepped “tipi” triangles with interior square doors. (source)
With every step or rush of wind, the rows of diagonal fringe and metal cones encircling this dress would sway and make a pleasing sound. The creation of sound and a sense of movement are hallmarks of the Southern Plains style. The long sides and neckline preserve the shape of the deer’s hind legs and tail to emphasize the raw material from which the dress was made, and to invest the wearer with the spirit of the once-living creature. (source)
One more favorite painting from my visit…
Compositionally (if that’s not a word, file it under neologisms) similar, but back at home…
and a test…
Happy Wednesday, friends!
Squirrely Garden is the garden at Baby’s school (and was named by the preschoolers). I am the CEO of Squirrely Garden, but have taken a bit of a break from my executive duties as of late. We went to Colorado, had to spiff up Spy Garden for a magazine photo shoot and most of all: it has been 100 degrees for two weeks. Today was the first day I’d even set foot in Squirrely Garden since July 17th…
I meant to just take a quick look today, but confronted with this weedy jungle I was compelled to clean up least one of the beds.
The weeds are rampant, but the heat seems to have just about let up, which means the kids (and teachers!) will be back in the garden regularly. We made a plan to get the whole garden weeded in the next couple of weeks and the other good news is that more than just weeds are growing…
I will definitely be taking some lemon grass shoots for our garden from this mass next time I’m up there: lemongrass is such a great flavor (and the smell…mmm!)
This eggplant variety is called Fengyuan purple and I am so happy it is growing in Squirrely Garden; the ones I planted in Spy Garden have yet to fruit.
Downhill from Squirrely Garden…
Very interested to see how this solar dehydrator works out; might have to have Smoochie build one for us if it is successful!
Hope your week is off to a good start! A Squirrely Garden (the garden at Baby’s school) update is coming soon. In the meantime, I’m sharing a school-wide email with you as a little sneak preview of something cool in progress at her school (and because it’s hilarious)…
Dear Friends,Have you noticed the weird wooden box that’s been pretending to mind its own business by our front door? No, it’s not a penalty box for obstinate children. It’s a solar dehydrator! And it will help us reach our food goal of “all local, all year.”But there’s a catch. We need your cans. About 300 of them will do. We need them for the solar panel. Now we know that many of you would never own up to drinking soda or the various other…er…beverages that come in cans. But we all know there’s some in your fridge right now. So go ahead and tip ‘em back. Then put on a brave face and bring those cans to in. No one will judge you.Oh, and don’t feel bad about the type of…er…beverage the cans are branded with. They will all be spray painted black to absorb heat from the sun and protect the innocent.
A photographer from St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles Magazine! A photoshoot in our garden!
The photographer showed me some of the images on her camera’s screen; they were unbelievable! She said it’s all about the lens.
The Spy and I rolled these balls from clay/dirt from our garden in about twenty minutes. We have high hopes for making some true dorodangos, but these added a little something extra to the tomato patch for the shoot!
Smoochie and the Spy found this butterfly cocoon (aka chrysalis) when trimming some tree branches next to the garden. We carefully attached it to a cut stalk of a sunflower (with some spiderweb thread I collected!)
and yesterday it hatched a monarch butterfly! We still have the empty chrysalis. My photos really do not do the chrysalis justice; it was opalescent shades of blue and green with the shadows of butterfly wings beneath and accents of (what looked like) 24 karat gold: amazing!
The day of the shoot (Wednesday, August 20th) it was overcast and completely flat light all day. Just before the photographer arrived, the sun came out and cast it’s long, late-afternoon rays crisply through the garden.
I will be sure to let you all know when Spy Garden is featured in the magazine (it may not be until fall 2015).The glossy magazine world is a lot less instantly gratifying as glog-world, right?! So exciting and fun to share the behind-the-scenes with you all, if well before the publish date! Hope you are having a great weekend!
And Baby is three!
Our Delice de la Table melons are a French variety grown from seeds I saved in 2013. I imagine if Cinderella were French, her carriage would be a Delice de la Table melon.
Lemon cucumbers are also growing up this trellis.
They are crisp and fresh and have a perfect cucumber flavor. As a bonus, this variety never gets bitter (in our experience) and it is so easy to tell when they are ripe:
It definitely feels like autumn! The air is crisp and cool. I know it doesn’t technically start for awhile, but since it is my absolute favorite season, I’m going to go ahead and start enjoying fall now!
If tomato plants become too tall for cages or stakes and curve over, as in the above photo, it is best to leave them as they are (especially if they’ve but drooping over for more than a day or so). Attempting to stand/stake them back up makes the tomato branches more prone to snapping. Plus, we’re in St. Louis, so we can appreciate a nice arch!
I examined each and every winter squash leaf; especially underneath each leaf, which as you can see from the photos is where they often lay the eggs. Wearing disposable vinyl gloves I picked off (and squished) all of the eggs, plus some of the squash bugs that had just hatched. BLECH! Also spotted some adult squash bugs and squished them too. I estimate I decimated 500 eggs/bugs! Wooo! Victory! It is great when you can stop these (literally) stinky pests at this stage (without using any sort of pesticides!).