08 September 2007

buttermilk biscuits

So humid here today. Did some good work outside, but took it really easy, as the air was so close. B spent the day reading A Separate Peace, with Dale at his side.

For a late mini lunch I made buttermilk biscuits that B and I ate with sorghum and some blackberries from the garden. Mmm.

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick butter
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Put the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Cut stick of butter into four or five pieces, and work it into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal (I just rub the butter and the flour together with my fingers). Pour in the buttermilk and stir until combined (I use a rubber spatula to do this). Put scoopfuls of the batter onto the cookie sheet (as if you're making large drop cookies; I get nine or ten biscuits out of this recipe). Bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until done.

(If you don't have buttermilk, leave out the baking soda and increase the baking powder to 4 teaspoons; use milk for the liquid.)

Freeze any you don't eat now. When you want one, wrap it in foil and heat it up in the oven for a few minutes.

You might snip some herbs into the dough, too. Tarragon, rosemary, you name it.

03 September 2007

what works II

Shasta daisy against purple smoke bush.

the first bit

I bought a pot of Clematis paniculata (also called Clematis terniflora) over at Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont, last week and was going to plant it to climb up a tripod I was going to construct of ash saplings. Well, I looked at the ash saplings I had piled in the orchard, grown over as they are with weeds, with the thinnest lengths, of course, at the bottom of the pile, and it was all just too much to contemplate last night.

I thought, You really have to get this in the ground before you go back to the city for the week. And then looking at the slope, Hmmm, won't sweet autumn clematis climb along the ground as well as it would up a trellis?

So I cleared a ten-foot swath in the jungle that is the slope and nestled the clematis in a nice deep hole. I subsequently read that when one plants clematis, one should locate the crown about two inches below the soil line, so this morning I dug up the rootball and replanted it. Then for decorative effect, I set an old plow attachment down next to it. I envision the clematis trailing decoratively over it, and, I hope, eventually covering it.

If it takes, it will be a tangle of green that bursts into soft white bloom at the end of summer.

02 September 2007

update on morning glories

All is well: The morning glories are unfurling.

wish list

We have a hedge of beautiful peonies in the garden courtesy of G, the previous owner. I don't know what variety they are, but they're pink and fragrant and huge. However, as I was leafing through the White Flower Farm Fall 2007 catalog a few days ago, there on page 65 was a picture of Paeonia “Fairy’s Petticoat,” which is a stunner. Pink infused with gold! Sold out for the season, unfortunately, but, oh, what a beautiful peony! (image from Klehm’s)

rose feeding

For the record, I fed the roses in August, even though I didn't post about it. I'm planning on moving the two sadly abused David Austin roses today to a sunnier clime, at which point I will feed them and the "Joseph's Coat" rose in the chicken coop.

the barn through the seasons

I'm quite frankly amazed at the difference in the landscape surrounding the barn between the middle of May and early September. I didn't remember how bare the trees were in May, or at least the fact that they hadn't leafed out completely by that point didn't seem like such a big deal. But now I think: May?! And only the beginnings of leaves?

the coop

Scott, who mows our lawn, asked me whether the plants we have in the chicken coop are wild. Are we trying to tame them, seeing as how we've caged them up? I thought that was funny.

two months' difference

What a difference two months makes: I'm still sitting here drinking my coffee and eating my oatmeal, but this morning I'm also wearing two shirts and a hooded sweatshirt in an attempt to warm up a bit before I go outside and begin the day. I'm awake; just freezing! The temperature went down to 48 degrees last night. Wow.

And how odd. The morning glories haven't opened yet. Normally they're the first spot of color I see when I come downstairs in the morning. Poor little hummingbird is vainly attempting to dip into yesterday's spent blossoms. Plenty of buds look as if they should be open, but they're shut tight for the time being.

01 September 2007

what works (and what doesn't)

Know why my two David Austin roses aren't growing very well? They're being shaded by about a jillion huge plants around them! This doesn't work.

Verbena bonariensis shooting through Boltonia asteroides "Pink Beauty." Definitely works.

Cleome here and cleome there. Doesn't work. Plant them in one clump.

The aforementioned V. bonariensis sort of coming up wherever it wants to. Doesn't work. However, I think a long line of it in the peony bed such that it forms a purple hedge in late summer might work very well.

Phlox paniculata "David" in the back of the perennial bed behind all the giant, wild-type pink phlox. Can't see "David" well. Doesn't work. Must move it to in front of the pink phlox.

Oriental poppies in the middle of the perennial bed. Even when the foliage is brand new, it looks somewhat dry and unattractive. Once the poppies have bloomed (and they are spectacular) the plants go dormant for the summer, and I am left with, first, clumps of dying foliage and, second, a huge hole in the border. Doesn't work. Planning on moving the poppies to the back of the bed, where they'll be the tallest plants in June by a longshot. And easier to cover up with something else once the blooms are gone.

More to come.


Our friend Alan was up last weekend, and he and I surveyed the slope and discussed possibilities. He doesn't much like goldenrod or daylilies, both of which to me are like old friends. So, of course, he suggested I get rid of a good chunk of the goldenrod I've let grow over the past few years over at the southern part of the slope. We'll see. He is now back in the city, but he called yesterday and left a message saying that he'd been thinking and had some ideas he wanted to bounce off of me.

On the possibility list so far are 15-foot-or-so drifts of the following:
What seem to be working right now are the blackberries (we've actually picked a bowlful so far, and more are on the way), the Helianthus "Lemon Queen" (which is colonizing the steepest part of the slope), the Rosa rugosa, and (sorry, Alan) the goldenrod. My goal is to have thick coverage, interesting shapes, and enough order so that I don't feel embarrassed when I look at the slope.

Alan made some good points:
  • I seem completely overwhelmed by it all
  • I can take it slowly; no one is forcing me to do everything at once
  • If I find that an idea isn't working, I can change my mind and move plants around
Now I know all of this, but it was a revelation to hear someone else say it.

full day of weeding

Up early this morning, and out to weed! B cleaned out a few of his beds so he could plant some beets and lettuces for fall. I started on the north side of the house and worked my way around, snapping off old hosta blossoms and teasing weeds out by the basketful. Things look much cleaner now.