Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summer Drive



This is one of my favorite fields in the valley. I drove by it on my way up to a nearby lake this morning. It's very peaceful out here.

Less than a minute after taking this picture however, I was harassed by a few wasps. I decided to jump back in the car to get away from them but unfortunately, they jumped in with me.
Better yet, they were in my pants leg. Knowing the inevitable, I swatted at them. I felt the sting and that's when I jumped out of the car and pulled down my pants. In fact, I went further than that and took them off altogether.

Standing in the middle of the road with no pants on, I realized yet another luxury of living in the country. You may take your pants off anywhere you like without much fear that there will be witnesses.



Here's a familiar scene around here. The orchards are almost ready to harvest. The white boxes you see stacked will soon be filled with several varieties of ripe pears and apples. And you'll be glad to know that during this stop, I managed to keep my pants on.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Flower Farm



Hubby came to the flower farm with me last night. How cute is that?



The flower farm is surrounded by rows upon rows of orchards. Set amongst the orchards are two acres of glorious flower fields. The photo above was taken in the dahlia patch, which consists of six long rows of every dahlia variety you can imagine.



This is the back entrance to the flower farm house, a pristine Dutch Colonial that is now operated by our local historical society. Indoors, a local winery gives tastings and shares the history of the house and farm. Let me just say, that I want to move in and play house here!



It was cute to watch hubby walk around and say things like, "how about a purple one?" We had only one pair of pruners so I did all of the cutting. Hubby made his visit more of a nature walk and it was really sweet to watch. It reminded me of that poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that goes:

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.



The flower farm is such a nurturing place to go. To see so many flowers blooming in abundance offers the biggest case of warm fuzzies. It's also exciting to go home and fill your house with so many beautiful flowers. Our excursion to the farm provided us with four beautiful bouquets of dahlias. The cost: $10.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sweet Little Owl



I reframed this owl print. This was actually a birthday present that I gave my Grandmother years ago. She loved birds. The print means a lot to me so I thought I'd give it a makeover with an old frame and a lighter mat.



Above is what it looked like before. As you can see it's more contemporary and not as crisp or bright with its darker frame and mats.

For the first time, I tried the Museum Grade UV Glass because I thought the UV Clear I used on my peony piece was too reflective. In fact, I ended up replacing the glass in the peony piece with the Museum Grade UV Glass as well.

Most of the art we have in our home are original oil or acrylic landscape paintings. But lately I've been framing up some prints because I'm working on a salon wall for our den.

The antique frame was $20 (what a deal!). Add in the custom cut Museum Grade UV Glass, which was $23, and the custom cut mat for $12, my new piece of artwork cost me $55.
But more than the affordable cost of hanging a new piece of art in my home, I am reminded of the memory of my Grandmother and her passionate love of nature.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Berry Crisp



Fruit crisps, fruit pies, fruit cobbler...any combination of warm baked fruit with a dollop of creamy vanilla ice cream is pretty much my favorite dessert.

That said, it didn't take long for me to think of using some of our market berries for a yummy crisp. We also happen to have this wonderful organic vanilla ice cream in our freezer. So really, the crisp was half-made anyway.

This is the recipe I use for my crisp toppings. I used this on an apple crisp I made when we had company last. I sprinkled a little sugar on the apples but with these berries, they're so sweet on their own, I didn't add anything.

Crisp Topping
4 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of thick rolled oats

In a Cuisinart, blend butter through flour. Then add oats and pulse a few times to blend. I put oats in at the end so that they stay as whole as possible. The topping will be enough for a nine inch pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done. I wait until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

P.S. Hubby and I went on a date over the weekend and saw the movie Julie & Julia. It really inspired me to crack open that "Baking with Julia" cookbook I got ions ago and yet, have never used. Today I made it as far as opening it up and looking at all the pretty pictures. We'll see what follows...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hanging the Hammock


Over the past several years, we've often spoke of how nice it would be to have a hammock. But it wasn't until today that we followed through on that thought.

So here is our new hammock. We set it up under some trees by the barn. It's completely shaded with views of the grapes and the dry summer fields.

So far I'm the only one who has reclined in the hammock. Hubby has been going non-stop trying to get that entry pathway in. In part due to the plate compactor (to compact gravel) that has to be returned by morning.

Plans for our hammock include morning, afternoon and/or evening naps. It will also serve as a cozy place to read a book, a magazine or the paper. But most of all, I imagine it will be a place to do absolutely nothing.



Market Berries


The Farmer's Market is getting more and more interesting. There were still lots of berries to choose from but now squash, beets, carrots, peas, tomatoes, basil, zucchini...are all showing up in abundance.
I chose the 'variety pack' and got the above blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. When I got home, I transfered them into these vintage berry containers. I just love their thin wood walls held together with the green wire rim.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Reduce Your Catalogs



Many months ago I came across a non-profit organization that enabled you to stop delivery of unsolicited catalogues by mail. I jumped at the chance because the number of catalogues we were receiving at that time was staggering.

The web site is very user-friendly. You just sign up and then select from an existing database the catalogs you no longer wish to receive. I stopped everything we were receiving since the stores we shop at provide paperless versions online.

The results have been great, which makes for fewer trips to the recycling station!

Go here: http://www.catalogchoice.org/

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beets



Hubby loves beet salad. It's probably one of his favorite summer salads. Since I'm on a mission to make a bunch of cold salads to have over the weekend, I knew beet salad had to be one of them!

Recipe:


6 bunches of beets (or 20 beets)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt 
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 garlic clove minced

Cut stems off beets and bake at 350 for an hour, or until done.
Let cool, and then rub off skins. Quarter beets into large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix in tarragon through garlic. Stir well and then pour over beets.

Toss well, chill and eat.

WARNING: Never think you can out smart a beet. Always wear your apron.



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Our Picket Fence



Although almost too tired to utter the words, we have indeed finished (there's one last section to do after we put in our entry walkway) building our picket fence. It was hard work and it took longer than we would have imagined but we are both in agreement that we couldn't of hired anyone to do a better job. Well, we couldn't have 'afforded' to hire anyone to do a job as meticulous as us.

I say us as both hubby and I are each meticulous in our own unique ways. His primary focus is mathematical harmony, precision, and durability, all of which include a calculator, a tape measure, lots of math and a level. These things are foreign to me.

For me, meticulous comes in the form of aesthetics. If you remember, it was I who prolonged this project by insisting that we sand each (there were over 300) picket to create a uniform finish. It was also I who felt compelled to hand-pick each picket based on its aesthetic rating. Best pickets go to areas most visible, second-grade pickets go to areas of fence least visible.

Also, in effort to achieve an old-fashioned look, we were once again required to go against the grain. Something we've had to do a lot during our old house remodel. In regards to the picket fence, it meant going with regular cedar posts (which are naturally weather resistant), instead of the recommended chemically treated posts (with their awful pitted finish). We also opted to attach the rails of the fence to each post with screws, spackling and painting all of the screw holes, instead of using the highly visible metal brackets they insisted upon.

The fence offers a wonderful sanctuary to our property. Our farmhouse sits on 7-acres, three of which consist of open fields surrounding the house. The fence provides a separate space around the yard that almost feels like an extension of the house itself.



I'll post more pictures of the fence once we use up the rest of the pavers we have camped out in our yard. The pavers will be used to create an entry walkway and also to create the floor to our outdoor dining patio, projects that have been on hold while we've been building our fence.
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