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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge + W4W = Happy Accidents

I love a happy accident, especially when it involves expanding my garden to accommodate fabulous plants that were accidentally shipped to me, free of charge. In September two Peggy Martin roses arrived at my door, despite the fact that I hadn't ordered them. I was shocked, thrilled, and informed by the wonderful folks at the online nursery that the shipment had been an accident caused by a glitch in a new computer system. I couldn't believe my luck.

A week later, two more Peggy Martin roses arrived. Ecstatic but a bit perplexed and wondering where I was going to put four climbing roses, I called the company again. A second accident, no worries and no charges. By this point I was beginning to wonder if two roses would be arriving every week. Two of the Peggy's went to a friend and two went into a new garden bed I dug just for them. The company must have fixed the error because the deliveries stopped (unfortunately!). But a section of grass that I had been dreaming about ripping up to expand my garden now holds a new sunny, moist bed full of perennials shaded out by the ever expanding canopy of oak and ash trees in my garden. The only cost was compost and mulch.

I'm thankful for happy accidents and the humor and joy they can bring!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Anticipation

My attempts to grow amaryllis last year were disasterous. If you are tempted to buy a discounted amaryllis bulb in January after spotting it listing forlornly on a clearance shelf wedged between a battle scarred Christmas elf and a cheap bikini, just keep walking. You cannot save it. Let it die in peace.

But this year I started early and put the bulbs in a much larger pot than the one I used previously and it seems to be working. I like to think the extra soil is keeping them a bit warmer. Considering these bulbs are tropicals, maybe I should sprinkle a little sand around their base and play some steel guitar music for effect. :o)

Today I am thankful for the excitement of anticipation.

The amaryllis flowers will be pink and white.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Enough for Everyone

My family and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday to accommodate various work and travel schedules. A homemade feast will be laid out and our stomachs filled.  According to an article I read in our local newspaper, several hundred thousand pounds of food has been donated to area food banks. On Tuesday, 45,500 lbs of free turkey was handed out at Fed Ex Field in MD. The article brought me to tears. Today I am incredibly thankful that not only do I have enough to keep my family fed but that I was able to help those with less.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - The Upside Down Turkey

In addition to gardening, I love to cook and thought I'd share a recipe that I'm very thankful to have. Each year I cook Thanksgiving dinner for a large group of friends and family. It's hectic and loud and I love every minute. Cooking the turkey, believe it or not, is the easiest part. I pop it in the roasting pan for about 20 minutes, then take the pan out of the oven, turn the turkey upside down so the breast is pointing down in the roasting pan, and then stick it back in. It looks weird, but who cares! The fat from the bottom of the turkey seeps through the breast meat, ensuring the moistest turkey you've ever had. About 45 minutes before the turkey is done, I flip it back over so the skin on the top can roast to a fabulous crispy brown. It's mindlessly easy.

Here are the specifics:

1.    I start with an organic free range turkey that I've brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with salt   and pepper. I stuff the cavity with carrots and onions. I pour about a cup of water into the roasting pan and pop it into the oven breast side up at 400 F for about 20 minutes.

2.   Take the roasting pan out of the oven and use turkey liers to flip it over. These look like giant forks. I stick one in each side of the turkey near the wings and give the bird a big heave. I brush the bottom of the bird, which is now pointing up while the breast points down, with melted butter and salt and pepper, and then stick it back in the oven. I turn the temp down to 325 F.

3.    About 45 minutes before the turkey is done, take the roasting pan out of the oven again and flip the bird over so that's it's breast side up. Baste the top of the turkey with pan juices and stick it back in the oven. How long the turkey cooks depends on how big it is. This guide is really helpful.
Timetables for Turkey Roasting (325 °F oven temperature)

3.   There are a lot of interesting ways people determine if their turkey is done or not, but the jiggle-this or wiggle-that techniques aren't always reliable. But a meat thermometer is! When the breast reaches 170 and the dark meat reaches 180, the bird is done. You can take it out when the temps are about 2 degrees lower because the meat will continue to cook as the bird sits. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before you carve it. You can buy a meat thermometer at the grocery store.

4.   If you use this method, let me know!! It's easy and always works! Just don't drop the turkey. :o)

These are the turkey lifters and roasting pan I use. I bought them from Williams Sonoma. The picture above is from Williams Sonoma, too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Mick Said it Best

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need, ah yes...

The Rolling Stones

Three large crepe myrtles grow enthusiastically in the corner of my garden, their branches laden with frothy lavender flowers each summer and brilliant red foliage in the fall. But this year the leaves just curled up and died, scattering their remains along the carpet of mulch like dirt on a grave.

While the crepe myrtles shed their summer selves, the dogwood and 'Yoshino' cherry quietly began to blaze. Without the crepe myrtles to steal the show, they took center stage and I looked forward to seeing their new hue every morning before work. What I wanted was breathtaking fall color from every tree and shrub in my garden. Instead, I got just what I needed - solo performances that made me applaud.

Today I'm thankful I don't always get what I want because it makes me grateful for what I have. 

 'Yoshino' cherry  

Dogwood 'Stellar Pink'
Sweetspire 'Little Henry'

To see a crepe myrtle with beautful fall foliage, check out Southern Meadows blog. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Blame it on Elvis

A neighbor once asked me to tour her freshly painted and decorated house and then asked my opinion. It was lovely and well done, I offered. "But ya know, " I couldn't help but add, "my opinion doesn't really matter because I don't live here. You should decorate it in whatever style makes you happy. It's YOUR house." She just stared at me. "You could even carpet the ceiling. It worked for Elvis."  She threw her head back and laughed but I was serious.

Green shag carpet covers the ceiling of the Jungle Room at Graceland, Elvis's mansion in Tennesee.

I recently overheard a gardener belittling some of the more conventional fall shrubs as too common for her garden. She pitied the poor idiots who had resorted to stuffing their landscapes with the same plants that populate the grounds of local shopping centers and dentists offices. Where were the exotic, rare, and difficult to grow specimens that announced to the world a REAL gardener lived there? The more she babbled, the more irritated I became.

I'm thankful for every gardener who grows burning bush because they're gorgeous, azaleas because they love them, and Knock Out roses because they're easy. Pink flamingos and concrete fruit baskets may not be my cuppa tea, but if it's yours, drink up! I'm thankful for every gardener who declares to the world, "My garden has never been featured in a magazine and probably never will, I planted giant zinnias in the front yard because they make me happy, and if you don't like my kissing gnomes you can kiss my asster!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Caterpillar!!

I found this little buckeye butterfly caterpillar in the ragged remains of my almost-dormant perennial snapdragons today. They love the snaps and verbena bonariensis. Last summer I had several dozen buckeye caterpillars but this summer I didn't see any. However, I could have missed them because I wasn't really looking. I hope this little guy has a parka handy. I'm very thankful that it survived all the transplanting I've done and that there are still leaves on the snapdragon.

Buckeye butterflies (junonia coenia) are native to much of the warmer climates of the United States and can overwinter as a caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly. Their host foods include perennial snapdragons (antirrhinum), verebena bonariensis, toadflax (linaria), plantains, and ruellia. With the exception of the plantains, all of their host foods can be found in my garden, but I usually find them in my verbena and snaps.

These perennial snapdragons are champions of heat, drought, and full sun. They form a bushy mound about a foot wide and a foot high. I purchased mine at Plant Delights Nursery since I couldn't find them locally.

Buckeyes are small butterflies that seem to enjoy a wide variety of nectar producing plants. They were quite fond of my annual 'Buddy' gomphrena this summer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Getting to the Root of the Matter

I am incredibly thankful, especially during the summer, for the genius who invented and marketed soaker hoses.They are indispensible in keeping my garden watered and help keep my water bill low by concentrating the water where it's need most - the base of the plants instead of the mulch.

Soaker hoses surround these daylilies and allow me to give them extra water while also controlling how water the rest of my plants receiveI cover them with mulch after my transplanting is done and most of the leaves have fallen onto the soil.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - A Salute to My Veterans

Today as the US honors its veterans, I'm incredibly thankful for my husband who fought two wars from the air,

my cousin who fought a pointless war in back to back tours to Iraq,

my father, a Viet Nam veteran who died at 55 of stomach cancer from exposure to Agent Orange,

and my son who leaves soon for the Army.

I hope he never deploys.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Lucky Me!


I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my garden with my dog Scout. He is blind, diabetic and has thyroid disease and skin problems. He and his mom came to me about 18 months ago as the most undoglike dogs I had ever known. He had the personality of a filing cabinet and his mom Genie was an anxious, neurotic mess. My other three dogs immediately welcomed them into the pack and he's become my constant companion. He and Genie have become happy, silly, confident dogs who help harass the local squirrels and love to follow me around the garden.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Power up!

Today I'm thankful that Laurrie from My Weeds Are Very Sorry finally has power again after spending nine days without electricty after a crazy snow storm dumped two feet of snow on her fully foliaged garden, damaging and destroying many of her trees and shrubs.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge - Little Things

I'm thankful my pile of mulch is smaller today than it was yesterday. I don't mind mulching because I can help my garden and work out at the same time. However, I'm looking forward to putting my car back in the garage.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thankfulness Challenge: Simply Salvia

Two cherry red 'Maraschino' salvia grew in my garden this summer, squished in between larger, more aggressive plants. They barely bloomed and by the time I began weeding out rambunctious seedlings to give them more sun, they resembled one of those strange modern art sculptures that are best appreciated when viewed with your head tilted to the side and one eye closed.

But when trimmed and added to the motley collection of potted perennials on my patio, they began blooming and haven't stopped. I'm thankful for flowers that survive thugish neighbors and are beautiful regardless of how they are viewed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thank you!!

I recently commented on Southern Meadow's blog that I loved the idea she was following of creating a daily post of something we are thankful for, but that I wasn't sure I had time. My middle school is overcrowded and I have more students than I have ever had. When I catch up on my grading and school work, I fall behind on life. But when I catch up on life, I fall behind on work. I can't find any balance.

Originally proposed by Cat at the Whimsical Gardener, the challenge is to create a post a day that shows what we are thankful for. Simply said, I am thankful for all of you and your incredible blogs. You remind me to slow down, find peace, and remind myself that balance isn't a luxury but a necessity.