Then after the kids were done, I re-painted over all the black parts real quick while they went inside (the lesson related to how God takes sin away)…and…
Hope you all are having a nice week!
Then after the kids were done, I re-painted over all the black parts real quick while they went inside (the lesson related to how God takes sin away)…and…
Hope you all are having a nice week!
I think these might be volunteers from last year; they look like a cross between Dragon’s Egg and Sikkim cucumbers (both of which I grew last year). In any case, they are delish (taste like a regular cucumber) and don’t get bitter with size/heat.
For like the past five years around early fall I think “man, I have got to try a paw paw this year!” But then never come across one (deer probably eat most of the ones within a human’s reach!). The other day I was running along the trail and there it was! They are delish; tastes like a banana with a tropical twist; very creamy and smooth. Interesting to find such a tropical-tasting treat growing in the forests of Missouri!
We are having a great time with the bunnies…
The two baby black ones (Bun Bun and Puff Puff) are a type of rabbit called Rex. The Rex breed originated in France and they were bred for their very soft fur. So they’re quite fancy.
From whence did these chic creatures come you ask? Some guy on craigslist selling them “mostly for meat, but sometimes for pets”. Hahah
I found this description of Rex rabbits and have found it to be accurate…
Rex rabbits tend to enjoy human company, and are often described as being more catlike than anything in their personality, happily laying around in their favorite spots before suddenly dashing up and binkying around with joy. (source)
Binkying you say? That’s not a real word!
OH YES IT IS!!!
A binky is a rabbits’ expression of pure joy. If you imagine being so happy that you literally jump for joy, then that is what your rabbit is doing when they binky.
Your rabbit can do a binky at any time; whilst running at high speeds, whilst slowly hopping around or from a complete stand still.
They jump into the air flicking their back feet and shaking their heads, possibly combined with a twisting landing. (source is from a blog called…Binky About).
As for Butkus…
He is a Holland Lop (or some mixed type of Lop). He is not as fancy. In fact, he’s a bit mangy.
Despite giving him a bath, he still is shedding and just generally looks disheveled.
The above is called “Bunny TV”. Open the door and just observe. Hahhaah Their hutch is quite large but right now they are just using the middle section (we are storing hay for their bedding in one side and alfalfa hay for eating on the other side). Once they get a little bigger we will open up another one of the sections.
Dexie has been present a few times while they hopped around her in the house and she hasn’t bothered them (mostly her face just gets REALLY serious), but for the most part we keep them separate (she has eaten her fair share of wild bunnies so we’re not taking any chances!)
One great thing about the bunnies is they are enjoying lots of things from the garden that we aren’t really going to eat plus other scraps that I would’ve otherwise thrown away. Half eaten apple? Cauliflower stalks? Perfect bunny treats! I realize a compost bin could serve this purpose, but bunnies are SO much cuter!
We have TONS of little white carrots this size and the bunnies are loving them.
Hope you all have a great holiday weekend!!
The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia. (from the Cahokia Mounds website)
There was a short movie and various exhibits that surmised the lifestyles of the “Mississippians” (couldn’t they have thought of a more exotic name?!) who inhabited this area/built these mounds. The “Golden Age” of Cahokia was apparently AD 1100-1200.
So my critique (ever the skeptic) of the above picture is..I doubt they mowed the lawn on those mounds.
The above picture isn’t the greatest, but I was shocked at the scale of Monks Mound (the biggest mound at Cahokia; the green model in the center) in comparison to the Great Pyramid of Cheops (top right). Monks Mound is 14 acres at the base and 100 feet high; the pyramid is taller (481 feet) but 13 acres at the base. Most people can picture an Aztec pyramid (e.g. Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico far left) but I would say the Illinois dirt mounds definitely get a lot less fame, right? I guess rocks are more impressive than dirt (to some!). Exhibit B:
Have you ever heard of wood henge? Didn’t think so! But I bet you’ve heard of the stone version!
And finally, on to the mounds…
I was also reminded of that terrifying movie Apocalypto. So we tried to get in touch with the vibes of these ancient grounds…
Come on kids, let’s pretend you’re being marched up that pyramid to be sacrificed!
The view was really great…
And there you have it…The Great Pyramids of Giza, The temples of the Aztec Empire, Stonehenge…no need to go so far if you’re wanting to see some ancient digs; just check out Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois!
And a big birthday surprise….
Gaaahhhhh!!! So adorable! I’m sure your in for A LOT more bunny pictures if you follow Spy Garden! So exciting for Babyzilla as she LOVES animals.
I am counting all the positive things about the rampant weeds in the garden. Its good for soil to be fallow for a season (or two? :), I get to see the huge variety of what grows naturally around here…wildflowers…There are many euphamisms for “neglected” or “overgrown”…and many benefits of an unkempt garden…
In other yummy things…
Also, not pictured but made the easiest, tastiest thing recently; pumpkin chickpea curry; basically a can of pureed pumpkin, a rinsed can of chickpeas, a pile of leftover roasted veggies (eggplant, onions, peppers, carrots), a glug of tomato sauce and a big pile of spices (turmeric, curry powder, ginger, salt, paprika, chili power, red chili flakes). Zest of a lime and the juice plus some lime basil from the garden. SO good, it was a big hit. (and seriously so easy!)
Hope you all have a nice weekend and are enjoying the last of summer!
I was so tempted to cook these up; I read up on them and they are very nutritious; fiber, protein, help lower cholesterol yadda yadda the list goes on. But still kinda freaked out by the prospect of eating wild mushrooms. If I did though, I think these would be the first kind I would eat because it seems there are no poisonous lookalikes (that I know of anyway!).
I can finally understand what all the excitement is about. I pretty much know zero about it, but Smoochie played (and is coaching his team now!) and I went to one of the practices and it was all very exciting. I can really understand wanting to slam into someone; it seems quite satisfying. HAhaha
Though we were paddling up river there is very little current on the branch. As you can see it would be possible to canoe around this island (which would mean canoeing out in the Missouri River; WOAH! Scary! (Maybe not yet with the kids).
This was a fun little adventure though we are still eager to take the canoe to a nice clear river on which we would not be horrified/terrified/traumatized to swim in HAHhaha!
Hope you all are having a nice week!
I was thinking today of doing a post, another set of plant close-ups and maybe a few shots of the kids looking cute. Redundant…repetitive, I know. I haven’t been posting too often and in that vein I was going to write a post called “Bare-Minimum Gardening” because that is pretty much the theme of the garden this year. The other themes of the garden are “Only the Strong Survive” and “Hopefully We Get Some Pumpkins” and “Herbs, Weeds and a Few Other Things”. You get the idea. Anyways, those taglines pretty much sum up the “Bare-Minimum Gardening” post I guess. Not exactly groundbreaking (though it was meant to be encouraging to would-be gardeners); so the topic may resurface…stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath- ha!)
Anyway today we decided to go to Purina Farms (mostly to pet the bunnies) and I almost didn’t bring the camera. We’ve done the cow milking there, seen the cute dog show (and pet the bunnies/pigs/chickens) and I’ve posted the pictures. It’s a nice easy place to walk around (and we live close to it) but again…redundant. I love a good re-run but I didn’t plan to take pictures…I mean, we don’t have to go do something new just because I want new fresh content, right?!
And then we stumbled upon this…
Ok so I know I’m yukking it up but these groomers were obviously really hard working and talented people; so more power to all involved with these dog-centric arts!
Happy Fourth of July! Hope you all are having a great summer!
And some flower portraits…
We have been enjoying many bouquets of cut flowers from the garden, and:
We have SOOOoooo many garlic scapes. They are good for eating (use anywhere you would garlic; they just have a milder flavor) and I love the whirly twirly spirals; perfect for a very cool arrangement!
Hope you all are having a nice start to your summer!
All the new editions in the garden made possible by Gateway Greening!
Happy weekend all!
There’s a full spring load of weeding, planting, tilling and building of support structures to do yet! But enough about the garden…We took our canoe on it’s maiden voyage!!!
It was so fun to pull out all our old raft guide gear and show it off!
After all the kids/parents left we all piled in for our own ride…
We are excited to explore other waterways in our area (the Black River and Current River are on the top of my list)! Hope you all are enjoying spring in your neck of the woods!
‘Zilla (that’s slang for Babyzilla) is really coming into her own with gardening; she is planning, planting; taking on real leadership role in Spy Garden this season! Very exciting! Hope you all had a blessed Easter and are enjoying spring as it arrives!
Spring break! Woooo!!! The week was a whirlwind tour of some of my favorite spots and things to do in southwest Florida (where I grew up).
Those structures are called fish huts, or fish shacks or fish cabins…The Department of Natural Resources, as the Florida state environmental agency was called in the mid 1980s, believed the structures were navigational hazards and destructive to sea grasses. And they also believed that since they had no plumbing, the people using them as bunk houses were likely creating sanitation problems. So the state started burning them down. Locals who wanted to preserve the fish huts were able to debunk these concern, according to Gladys Schneider of Bokeelia. She was hired as a consultant to compile the documentation needed to have the shanties declared historic. So our fish huts are still with us and a number are listed on National Register of Historic Places. (source)
The water on the estuary side of the island is brackish (a mix of fresh and salty water that changes depending on things like tide, rainfall and how much water is released from Lake Okeechobee (80 miles up the Caloosahatchee River from here).
Hunting for bait…While we were in this spot we saw a small bonnethead shark (illegal to shoot; quite unsportsman-like to catch with a bow and arrow (it would be like shooting fish in a barrell) (couldn’t resist haha). We were searching for rays (the fishing guide called them skates but really they are Southern Stingrays).
Catch and release, of course. These are endangered; due to being extremely easy to catch and being heavily over-harvested until 1990! Case in point…10 minutes later…
While in Florida we also got to drive up to Sarasota and visit some cousins!
Back out on the water…
Disclaimer: this post isn’t actually picture-less. Ha! But it does involve more words (and less pictures) than usual.
Today (March 3, 2016) I saw a bunch of blooming white snowdrops and small yellow crocus and thought that was a good enough reason to write a blog post. Alas, I don’t have pictures of any of the cheery spring flowers from today; but the bulbs in our yard are growing fast and soon spring will be in full swing and photos like these:
Shall be replaced with photos like this:
Our weather is indeed capricious. All of the pictures here are from roughly the last 10 days. Snow, sun, hot, cold; winter is Missouri is the best! No wonder it’s my favorite season; you get all four seasons in one; talk about variety! Who could ever be bored?!
We’ve seen lots of wildlife lately; Smoochie saw a coyote. I’ve seen a fox, a great blue heron and several Barred owls. Also, Dexie chased a groundhog right in front of me when we were running in the forest. It was a big fluffy groundhog that looked like a teddy bear; a desperate and angry teddy bear. Lumbering clumsily down the hillside, stopping at times to stand its ground to a barking Dexie. It must’ve known she wasn’t brave enough to eat it (she eventually left it alone). Dexie’s daily routine involves cornering possums and chasing deer around our house after the sun sets. On another recent jaunt in the forest she cornered a possum against a tree and I watched as it fainted (very convincingly).
Dawn and dusk are good times for animal-watching. Even if I just go out on my front deck and stand there for a minute I will likely see a bat if it is close to dusk (at least on one of our warmer days!). We’ve been wondering about the snakes. Did they spend the winter in the tree? Did their eggs ever hatch? I wonder if that big skink will appear again this spring (at least I think it’s been the same one!)? And I also wonder if that copperhead on our front steps last year was just a loner or part of some copperhead community den living under our front deck; is that paranoid?!
Animal-ing (I think I’ll trademark that) is a fun hobby. It is sort of a mindless and enjoyable to just think about the animals you’ve seen lately, take pictures of animals, read about animals…
Baby’s class (called the (kid-named of course): “Cantaloupe Camels”) was brainstorming ideas for the spring semester project. The kids are supposed to pick the subject matter for the project (part of Reggio philosophy). The Cantaloupe Camels picked “Fire”. And got vetoed. I was all for the fire project. I mean, it’s not like the kids had to set fires, they could’ve learned about famous fires, or learned about what is flammable or fire retardant. Famous paintings featuring fires? Candle-making? I mean, pyromania is just one aspect in the wide umbrella of the topic Fire, right?
And 2016 is the Red Fire Monkey Year according to Chinese calendar.
So basically Baby’s class is in touch with the universe. But I get it, they’re 3 (turning 4)…maybe it was a little too extreme. And so, Fire Project is postponed till Pre-K (win!) and the runner’s up project topic is: Animals!
Baby’s teacher sent out an email asking parents for help with direction on the Animal project. Here’s an excerpt:
So far the Cantaloupe Camels have successfully spotted fish, several birds, a dead snake, a crayfish claw and lots of animal evidence (scat, fur, feathers, prints). But where are all the animals? The children tried feeding the animals bread, hiding behind trees, fox walking very sneaky and sitting very still. Still, no new animals seen in weeks. The plan must be reconsidered.
We want to know what animals prefer to eat in order to better be able to serve them. If you have information or experience in this topic, please get back to us with how you can help.
Questions to consider:
Are there native plants that attract animals for a food source or other reasons? What plants are getting nibbled by your house? Have you planted anything specific to attract animals or insects? What type of feeders, if any, do you use? How can we feed the animals without disrupting the ecosystem?
Thank you for taking the time to make this project awesome! The Cantaloupe Camels are determined individuals and continue their search relentlessly.
So I can’t really think of any good tips for this animal project. Like I said, Animal-ing™ is a lovely mindless pursuit for me and might involve an hour in the woods with no animal sightings at all. How will this project develop? Je ne sais pas. I just hope it doesn’t involve a trip to the zoo (far too pedestrian an idea for Forest School). Haahaha
The thing about real animal-watching is that it is an ephemeral thing: fleeting moments, that you really can’t plan for or predict. I spend loads of time in the woods which is why I’ve seen so many animals in the past few weeks. But, a field trip to the woods doesn’t guarantee an animal-sighting, much less an entertaining display of action (e.g. happening upon, say, a snake mating). But what about the searching; isn’t that where the meaning lies?
Mindfulness, patience, a quiet meditation on the existence of animals; aren’t those good Animal-related project topics for three year olds?! Hahahahahahah
How about paintings of animals? If I had to plan the thing I would probably go the art-show route. An art show of animal paintings. Performance art? Animal topiaries? Something like that. When Spy boy was just a little spy he also did an animal project at Forest school (back when the school didn’t have a forest!) that culminated with an animal parade in which the kids created their own type of animal and designed their own costumes for an Animal Parade.
If you have any good tips for Baby’s class about the direction of the Animal Project/responses to their teacher’s questions, please leave them in the comments!
I ordered a ton of flower seeds from Baker Creek, along with some varieties of winter squash; more on all the different varieties soon!
And a few more hawk pictures that are blurry, but still kind of cool:
There were five hawks flying and screeching overhead when I took these pictures.
Hope you all are soaking up these winter days, no matter the weather!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
February is a great month. No spring in sight (I love winter haha!) so plenty of time yet for seed and plant (and dirt! I’m wanting a dirt delivery this year!) buying. And maybe some more snow for us?! We’ve had some nice warm days (in the 60’s!) which is great but I wouldn’t mind another few rounds of the white stuff. I think Valentine’s Day might be the world’s easiest holiday. Squares of cardstock with a pun and some candy…and call it good! The Spy has come up with his pun for the year and it’s one of my favorites! You’ll have to wait and see the final valentines. And maybe Baby will come up with her own valentines this year too!
We are going to let the blackberries go wild next year and have plans to add more trellising to support them. I’m imagining a tunnel-arbor of sorts with the blackberries on the outer part of the trellis so you can walk through and pick berries from inside.
I am also thinking of building (rather, having Smoochie build!) some sort of vertical growing thing for strawberry plants.
Deer have been hanging around in the garden (some large areas of fencing are down) so we also have plans to move (enlarge, obviously hahaha) the deer fence.
Happy February to you all!
This spot is not ideal for seedlings because it is right next to the heat vents so they could dry out quickly. But Babyzilla is on top of it. She planted all the seedlings and has been doing all the watering! We’ve only planted seeds we already have. I still need to place a seed order (probably will order from Baker Creek but might try another place if anyone has any good seed/plant source suggestions!)
Hope you all are having a nice weekend!
WOooo!!! 2016!!! Happy New Year!!!
Since this is the first post of the year, I figure I had better enthusiastically set the tone! haha
When it comes to gardening goals for 2016…
I’ve always been really focused on edibles. Radishes were the first thing I ever grew. As I dug in each tiny seedling into dry, clay soil I remember thinking, “This is a lot of work for a bunch of radishes!” Hahaha but there was obviously some allure; and I was hooked! I think I took about 20 pictures of those radishes I grew Hhahaa.
But this past year edibles just didn’t seem like my forte (aside from a prolific garlic harvest); and so in 2016 I am going to focus on flowers (edible flowers mostly!) and probably will try pumpkins (since they are my absolute favorite!). Also, houseplants. I was so inspired by a post Eliza Waters wrote entitled “Breathe Easy” citing a NASA study about how important plants are for cleaning indoor air.
We still have the Gingerbread Empire State Building. It is such a nice smelling decoration and I bet more graham crackers and ginger snaps (etc.) have sat for months in dingy storage warehouses…so when you think about it a few weeks (going on 3) for a fresh-baked good isn’t that old! If you’ll notice, some pieces are missing and tasted quite fresh; crispy and spicy, not stale at all! Though I didn’t eat the icing. Eventually we have to take it down. I have a friend who is setting firecrackers off in her tall gingerbread house to say goodbye to it!
But setting fire to the Empire State Building would seem really terrorist-y so we’ll not do that. For now I will just keep eating it; maybe let Babyzilla go to town on it.
She’s really not all that destructive, I jest. Check out how clean her kitchen is!
So I’m [insert branching out pun] from growing tomatoes/vegetables and want to explore other healthful uses of plants in 2016. Definitely want to make it to the MOBOT herb show and Shaw Wildflower market in 2016!
I’ve been prodding the kids for things they would like to do and accomplish in the coming year and mostly I have gotten some pretty mundane answers.
“Go to City Party!” (She means Party City, a party supply store like 7 miles from our house that we went to around Halloween just to browse for random spooky decorations). She also wants to visit the children’s garden at MOBOT again, which of course I am all for!
The Spy wants more baseball cards (“10 thousand more”) hahah and he is continually working on a list of players he wants to get cards for.
A blessed and healthy 2016 to you all! Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
I started a new goal of writing in a journal. The journal is one I got for Christmas and only has a short space to write, with a Bible verse (365 of them). So it’s no pressure; just jot a few notes down. I haven’t kept a journal ever (maybe sporadically in 5th grade?), so it is fun to try a new hobby. In response to,
“He fills my life with good things, so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.” Psalm 103:5
Honey, tea, water, lemon, legumes, rest, stretching, hiking, running, juggling, gardening, dancing, wash face 2x day, swimming, eat tons of vegetables, grains, oils, protein, facials, good posture, taking deep breaths, painting/sculpture/art, walking. Prayer. Paint nails/toes, clean bathroom, organize closets, vacuum, dust, slackline, arabesque;
Plus I wrote a list of places/parks in my area I would like to visit and included some other things; 10 glasses of water each day, tons of vegetables, lots of hot tea, write in journal daily, “Sophomore Year” of DNP Program, watch more TV, learn to unicycle, play outside often. And try out the canoe, of course!
Starting off the new year very under the weather I interpreted as a reminder to rest more (hence the “lots of hot tea” goal haha). Snuggling on the couch watching the X-files (sooo 90s it is great), movies (Jurassic World, The Sound of Music, etc.), is something I’m doing more often; no matter how much writing or reading time I need to put in for school. In order to be productive, creative and spiritual one needs to be well-rested!
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
I am officially one year into getting my doctorate in nursing, woo!! Likely because I started the program I have little recollection of what actually occurred in 2015, Haha! I read hundreds of articles and wrote pages and pages (and pages) of APA formatted research papers. Thank goodness for the Spy Garden blog to jog my memory. I enjoyed scrolling through all the posts of the year; realizing I did more than work and school. It all actually looked quite fun and relaxing! Haha!
2015 certainly wasn’t the best year for vegetables in Spy Garden. Sikkim cucumbers are the only thing that really stand out in my mind as prolific when it comes to produce.
The ground cherries also did well. The flowers in the garden were pretty great this year.
Celosia amazed with vibrant colors and unusual shapes and I saw more monarch butterflies than ever in the garden this year.
the AB brewery, and got to see the beautiful…
and the kids explored the awesome children’s garden at MOBOT.
ROA (a world-famous artist) coming to Forest School was very exciting:
Baby and the Spy got to ride horses a couple of times this year.
We painted a lot; and doing a collaborative painting (still in progress) with a friend was a highlight.
I started some new hobbies; running on trails and ballet. Well, when I say “ballet” I use that term loosely. What I mean is that Baby and I put on classical music and dance around; inspired by the ballerina project. We continue to work on our arabesques and grand jetes daily. Haha
Another huge highlight was the Spy attending summer camp (the same one I went to!)
We spotted numerous varieties of mushrooms this year.
Smoochie cut down some big dead trees in the yard…
and built an awesome new shed.
The Spy started pitching in little league and their team won their league championship.
Nana and Pop were in St. Louis the whole month of July which was really great.
We went all out with the Christmas decorations; our best yet!
A big standout of the year were the snakes living in a tree just feet from our front door. Getting to watch them (quite frequently!) this summer was a treat and I think this is the best photo I’ve ever taken:
And though scary (I almost stepped on it); seeing a copperhead was quite exciting and dramatic!
It seems the snakes may still be calling the tree home, so maybe we will catch them in 2016…
Happy New Year to all and thank you so much for visiting Spy Garden; see you in 2016!
Christmas is still in full swing around here as we abide by the rule of:
Thou shalt keep thine Christmas decorations up through New Year’s Day
Click here to see last year’s gingerbread (Eiffel Tower) and here for my basic recipe. This year’s version included garam masala and ground flax in the dough and fresh Meyer lemon juice in the icing; mmm!
And then it was…
It was so nice to visit the St. Louis Art Museum at this time of year; pretty much had the whole place to myself! No hustling or bustling here; but plenty of red, green and sparkly things to share!
I’ve shared pictures of some of these Native American pieces before; they are some of my favorites!
This bucolic scene of the Missouri countryside features high hills, full trees, and rocky banks. These features are executed in blocky prismatic forms influenced by the work of early European modernists such as Paul Cézanne. E. Oscar Thalinger belonged to the major professional associations for artists in St. Louis, including the modern artists’ group New Hats. In addition to his position as a prominent local artist, Thalinger served as the registrar of the City Art Museum (now the Saint Louis Art Museum) from 1913–1952. (Source: St. Louis Museum of Art)
And now for a tour around Spy Garden…
Hope you all have a wonderful week; and a very Merry Christmas!
Winter is sort of like having your own private collection of Rothko paintings, don’t you think?
Too much of a stretch?
I just like the simple color palattes (even if a lot of grays and browns)…But, assuming you do not want to see a series of swaths of grey trees and blue skies, I aimed for as much festive green as possible…
And the best shot for last…
Click here for a most Christmas-y, beautiful song! (King’s College Sussex Carol “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing”)
Considered an edible and medicinal mushroom. A closely related species is cultivated in Asia and can be found in the United States in Asian markets. In Chinese, its name is “Hei mu-er.” You may have eaten it in Chinese hot and sour soup. The wood ear has been reported to positively affect blood coagulation and decrease blood cholesterol levels. Since it is a popular edible mushroom in China, it may contribute to the low incidence of heart disease there. (source: Missouri Department of Conservation)
After we celebrated thanksgiving we spent the weekend decorating…
And on to Christmas it is!
The sun going down earlier means less time outdoors, but a lot more art indoors!
We finally got our first real cold weather today (even some snow, though it didn’t stick) so of course I am already thinking about next year’s garden. One plant I really want to grow is Lunaria (Silver Dollar Plant). Thanks to Eliza for the inspiration for that one! I missed having Eucalyptus (another Silver Dollar, haha!) this year, so would like to grow that again in 2016. And so the “to-grow” list begins.
Hope you all are having a nice weekend!
And a few fall pics of yore…
Fall is the best!
Happy Friday! And hope you all have a very Happy Halloween!!
And some more shots from early October…
On the other lake…
Happy Monday! Hope your week is off to a good start!
Considered a choice edible. As chicken mushrooms age, they get tough—cut off the tender outer edges and leave the rest on the tree. Recipes abound for this and the closely related pale chicken of the woods (L. cincinnatus). They have the texture of chicken, and with a little imagination can taste like chicken. Although both species are safe and delicious mushrooms, some people get a bit of stomach upset or swollen lips after eating them. Try just a small amount the first time.This fungus can be used as a chicken substitute in casseroles, enchiladas, and more. As with all wild mushrooms, be absolutely sure of your identification, cook it well, and only eat a small amount the first time you try it, since some people have bad reactions to otherwise edible mushrooms. (from the Missouri Department of Conservation website)
Missouri has dozens of edible wild mushrooms. Missouri also has dozens of poisonous mushrooms; some with names like Deadly Galerina and Destroying Angel. Thus, I am not too eager to start harvesting mushrooms and cooking them up! I would want to be much more of a mushroom-expert first. I couldn’t identify many of the varieties pictured below.
It feels like fall here; a nice, crisp chill in the air. Rain, thunder, wind. The garden will still be growing and changing until the first frost but here’s the low-down, re-cap of Spy Garden summer of 2015: A robust garlic harvest, lots of cucumbers (Sikkim and dragon’s eggs), plenty of blackberries, ground cherries and loads of fresh herbs. What to do with all the cucumbers?
Aside from eating them raw, I make super easy “pickles” like so: Buy a jar of Kosher Dill Claussen pickles (the best!) and eat. Then fill up the jar with your own washed and cut cukes and put it back in the fridge; 2 or 3 jars of Claussens for the price of 1! Or, how about roasting cucumbers? Why not?! I have been roasting the Sikkim cukes along with whatever other veggies I have on hand and they are great that way.
The pumpkins were sadly killed by squash vine borers but the Loofah gourds have climbed the teepee and so hopefully we will get a bunch of those! Not exactly winter squash, but maybe a close second? Also, the Hartman’s Giant Amaranth never disappoints and we have several very large, tall specimens this year.
This time last year St. Louis Homes & Lifestyles Magazine did a photoshoot of Spy Garden (click here to see the article)! The garden is definitely not in photo-shoot-ready mode (yet?! Maybe we’ll do some more serious weeding before the first frost?!) this year but that’s ok. Every year (and season) of gardening is always different. That is one of the best things about gardening!
And now, here are some really random recommendations (in no particular order)…
Below are some random pictures to continue with the non-sequitur theme of this post!
Hope you all are having a nice weekend!
Four years old! Babyzilla’s fourth birthday with some garden pictures mixed in…since they’re so festive…
In the summer of 1941, Missouri was in the midst of a rather severe drought. A drought so intense, it not only dropped the rivers and streams above ground, but the water table itself also depleted. At that time, the main level of Meramec Caverns seemed to ‘dead end’ at a wall with a small pool of water spilling out below. With the drop of the water table, the pool of water below the wall receded nearly six inches and allowed a cool, breeze to push into the cave between the wall’s bottom and top of the water. Les Dill was alerted of this change by his cave guides, and, being the adventurous man he was, Dill elected to go under the wall, through the water, and see what was on the other side. Once past the wall, Les was opened to yet another large area of branching networks…even more cave. It was here, too, Les found the artifacts traceable to the infamous Jesse James and the cave was dubbed ‘Jesse James Hideout’. (from Meramec Caverns website)
The 1890’s brought a new era of human interaction to the cave. During that time, locals from Stanton, MO would hold ‘cave parties’ during summer months to avoid the extreme heat. Meramec Caverns was especially popular for these types of events, as a very large room lie just 300 feet inside the cave entrance. The room was large enough to accommodate big crowds, as well as a 50 foot by 50 foot dance floor in the center. This earned the room the nickname of the ‘Ballroom’. Meramec Caverns, then known as Saltpeter Cave, was purchased in 1898 by Charles Ruepple, and he headed a dance committee along with other local men from Stanton. Dancing continued through the 1890’s and spilled over into 1900, but it would be another 33 years before the most significant event in the cave’s history. (from Meramec Caverns website)
Very hard to take pictures in a cave! As we progressed on the tour the lights behind us were shut off so we had to keep up with the “good lighting” to get pictures!. Its hard to even tell what color some of the rocks actually were because of the warmth of the light.
Lester Benton Dill, born in 1898, spent the majority of his youth exploring caves in the Meramec River Valley. Les began his cave promotion days with a small cave in Meramec State Park, known as Fisher’s Cave. Though Fisher’s Cave was exciting to work with, Les wanted more and in 1933 he approached Charles Ruepple about the prospect of purchasing his cave. Mr. Dill’s sole interest in the cave was to develop it into a show cave and allow it to be entertainment for the public. Charles was reluctant at first, but soon agreed to sell the cave to Les. Les changed the name from Saltpeter Cave to Meramec Caverns and quickly began promoting and offering cave tours to the public. (from Meramec Caverns website)
Meramec Caverns is still owned by descendants of the Dill family and it definitely has a unique “throw-back” feel to it.
They also had a few shops and a zip line activity, but we were most interested in the cave…
After the discovery of 1941 and the addition of an opened lower level room in 1947, uncovering miles of new passages and spectacular views, Meramec Caverns was complete. Meramec Caverns soon became known far and wide through signs plastered along the roads to attract tourist to the Caverns. Advertisements for the Caverns were also painted on barns in 14 states. Dill also pioneered the use of bumper stickers, then called bumper signs because the vinyl and adhesive used to attach stickers to cars had not yet been developed. While visitors toured the cave, Dill would have “bumper sign boys” tie the Meramec Caverns bumper signs on their cars giving him free advertising and visitors a free souvenir. (from Meramec Caverns website)
Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the St. Louis area!
And Grant’s Farm…
Click here to learn more about Grant’s Farm (yet another free St. Louis attraction!)
And just a few more random photos…
A few weeks ago we had Vacation Bible School at our church. There were about 25-30 kids there which was a great turnout!
In baseball news…
On to August!
The Lantern Festival is going on now (through August 23rd) at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The lanterns are best enjoyed at night when they are all lit up but it was cool to see them in daylight too!
At the children’s garden…
Happy Monday friends!
And a few shots from the St. Louis Art Museum…
and this is really gross but I want to share…
I’ll leave you with a more pleasant image (not that snakes aren’t cool and all)…
Hope you all had a nice weekend!
Hope you all had a great fourth of July weekend!
And on to July! Hope you all are having a nice summer!
This past weekend we traveled to…
Camp Merri-Mac has been a major influence in my life. I was a camper there from age 11-16 and I was a CIT (counselor in training) at 17. It is very fun for me to think of all of the things I do in my adult life that somehow relate to my days as a camper. Art, crocheting, gardening, swimming, exploring the woods: all of my hobbies and interests have some sort of roots in Camp Merri-Mac. There are wooden swings in our backyard. We spend lots of quality time in creeks. We even live on a one lane dirt/gravel road (just like camp!) Pretty much on any given afternoon, I might as well be at summer camp…enjoying our low ropes course (zip line, slack line and again, those joyous wooden swings!), singing camp songs to the kids (since they were babies!) and just generally spending loads of time outdoors learning new things.
Though there was no gardening at camp, gardening is very much a camp-type pursuit (again, outdoors: learning new things!). The excitement of tribal competition (Go Seminoles!) I now find at little league games (Go Knights!). Chapel is now church and the alarm clock is Reveille. Well maybe that last one’s a stretch;)! My sister always tells me our laundry smells like the laundry at camp. This is probably because we always have at least a couple of articles of clothing that have gotten thoroughly filthy and wet (another important tenet of summer camp!).
A major reason I’ve never gotten my kids any video games or let them play on a phone and limited TV time is because camp was (and still is) always totally technology-free. True to form, even on the (looong! 11+ hours!) drive to North Carolina, the kids stared out the window and sketched on scrap paper; no ipads or video games on our road trips just like “in my day” (I can say that now! Hahaha)!
In my professional life as a psychiatric nurse I guide and encourage others to find joy, meaning and purpose in life: something I began to learn at camp. Exploring the deeper value of leisure pursuits and conveying the importance of exploring spirituality are passions born at camp.
And of course there’s the creek and mud and friendship of Baby’s Forest School: much like camp (year round!)
Even though Camp Merri-Mac and Timberlake are on the same campus, they keep the two camps quite separate. Until now I didn’t know too much about Timberlake but I figured it is probably the greatest place on earth for a boy in the summer; since that’s true about Merri-Mac for girls!
So off we sent our first-born, our precocious progeny, into the blue ridge mountains for the next two weeks!
We hiked for four hours (much of which was uphill!) Whew!
This area is a beautiful place for a nice drive…
Finally it was time for drop-off!
The counselors snap shots of the kids and post them to a parents’ site so fortunately we have a little window into what he is up to…
In 2012, a great camp friend of mine invited me to be a raft guide, the summer after my freshman year of college, which is where I met Smoochie. So no camp? No Smoochie, no little spies, no Spy Garden! Thank God for camp!