Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shopping at home first: Decorating from my garden and the back of the closet.

 At Saturday's farmers' market, there was a woman selling lovely small wreaths and swags for fall decorating. But instead of buying one, I thought, hey, I can make something like that myself. And like the little red hen, I did.

One dollar is what I paid at a craft store for the unadorned  grapevine wreath above. At home, I strolled around the yard, snipping bits of this and that to tuck into the wreath.
The flowers from this hydrangea bush, above, will dry nicely and last for some time. I also snipped some tiny crab apples, some dried bee balm, a bit of evergreen, a few herbs. What doesn't hold up can easily be replaced.
 I have to remind myself that there is plenty of fodder for seasonal decorating already in and around our house. I just have to remember to shop at home first. The rusty pan, above, could make an interesting planter.
This dark red basket, probably from some long ago Christmas gift, can also work for fall. The color is like red delicious apples, I think. And the dark yellow pillar candle, below, rediscovered tucked away in a cupboard, will work itself in somewhere.
Re-purposing what we already own makes a lot of sense. Beyond just seasonal frou frous, it's good for the planet and the pocketbook to use what we already have for all sorts of needs. 

Use it up, wear it out,
Make it do or do without.

And just like the little red hen, I did.

Click on photos to enlarge them.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Muggy and buggy: Where's that Adirondack fall weather I love so much?

I planned to do some gardening today but it was just too unpleasant out. Wet, wet, wet, and very mosquitoey. I gave up working at home and went out to do some errands.

I was also in search of some fall gardening inspiration. Thinking to do some fall planters and bring some color to the fading yard, I sallied forth.  Armed with a discount coupon, I headed first to Oligny's, above, where they always have something interesting to look at. I like this old washtub over-flowing with plants. But there, too, the mosquitoes were unbearable so I didn't linger long.
Home Depot had these colorful pots. I think the orange ones would be great for this time of year. The berry-colored pots would make nice fall planters, too. I thought about these orange pansies, below...
 ... and looked long and hard at asters again. I hate that this recession makes me feel guilty about buying stuff for our garden. But it's a very inconsistent guilt. We all have our vices.
What I did succumb to later was the lure of pumpkins.  Just outside of Ballston Spa, there's a family that has a seasonal stand. You can't beat their price unless you grow your own.
 They have a nice variety of sizes and colors, all quite reasonable.
 In case you live in the area, you can find their stand at 385 Malta Avenue.
This was $20 worth of pumpkins. I know, I did not need $20 worth of pumpkins. But I was supporting a local farmer! And they're recyclable! And this was a lotta pumpkins for the price. Such a deal I couldn't pass up. (Darn guilt!)
 Back at home, I set them around the yard and house. Instant color to brighten this gloomy day.
 Next to the garage...
 ... and on the front porch...
...I hope the pumpkins last until Thanksgiving. With any luck, all three of our children and their families will make it home for the holiday this November. We haven't all been together in one place in several years. I have my fingers crossed.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

A fox, a farmers' market, my favorite time of year

Our neighborhood red fox came calling again last evening. It was dusk and I had to photograph her through a screened window. Sadly, this means I can't show you her gorgeous color.

The HH* and I have mixed  feelings about Ms. Fox. It's wonderful to see this beautiful creature up close, but we worry about how our two small dogs would fare in a close encounter.

We watched Ms. Fox scarf up spilled bird seed for a few minutes, then the HH walked outside to shoo her away. I hope this doesn't mean I will have to stop putting out seed for the birds.

This morning, I headed for the Saratoga Farmers' Market again.
 It's such a lively, colorful place.
I bought potatoes, green beans, lettuce, but not tomatoes. I have a good-sized basket of those still from my own garden.
 I will make sauce tonight to serve with pasta and eggplant parm.
I bought apples (for apple crisp, maybe?) and farm-fresh Battenkill skimmed milk and some cream, both in returnable glass bottles. Oh, it's so good. How can skimmed milk be so good?
I bought ground beef from locally-raised Angus, free of hormones and all the other bad stuff some folks feed to cattle.
 The potluck picnic sounds like fun. Might jot that on the calendar, although the HH works on Sundays.
 I was temped by the asters, but they are definitely not perennial for me. Mums come back well, but never asters. I don't know what I do wrong.
 Zinnias. Must remember to plant those next year. They are easy and inexpensive to grow from seed. I just never think of them at the right time. 

Ah, next year. Gardening always gives one something to plan for and to look forward to. But if you like to be done with things, don't become a gardener. On the other hand, if you need an incentive to make it through a north country January, it's an excellent hobby.

But it's not winter yet and fall is truly my favorite time of year. Happy harvesting to you.

* HH = Handsome Husband


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Young Turkeys and My Weekly Reader

Coming home from the grocery store this afternoon, I encountered a family of young turkeys by the side of the road.

These days, flocks of turkeys are not a rare sight in New York State. But that wasn't always the case.
I remember being in elementary school, second or third grade perhaps, and reading in Weekly Reader about how New York was planning to reintroduce turkeys across the state. Today, I googled information about this to see if I was remembering the story correctly. I was!
According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, wild turkeys were abundant in New York State during the 1600's. Uncontrolled hunting and the intensive clearing of forests resulted in the demise of our native turkeys.

1844 was the date of the last recorded observation of native wild turkeys in New York State.

Not until a century later did wild turkeys move northward from Pennsylvania into southwestern New York. In 1957, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began relocating birds to other areas of the state.

According to SUNY ESF, the return of the wild turkey to New York State is truly a success story in the field of wildlife conservation.

Wild turkey populations in New York have increased dramatically from an estimated 2,000 in 1959 to what DEC says is now 250,000 to 300,000 birds.

Today, the mama of these young turkeys was getting nervous by my stopped car. I could hear her calling to her brood and like good children everywhere, they hustled to get closer to mom.

These turkeys make me feel optimistic about the world. Maybe mankind can actually undo some of the damage we cause. 

Hope and wild turkeys: both good things to have in large supply, along with a stack of Weekly Readers for eager young minds.

Happy back-to-school week, New York friends!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Simple Things

There was a time when I did quite a lot of baking. I guess with just two of us at home now, I've gotten out of the habit. But today, I felt like making bread.

The house fills with a terrific homey smell when bread bakes.
 When the bread comes out of the oven, I let it cool on its side for a while.
 The recipe I used today came to me via my former, and now late, mother-in-law, Marjorie Machell. There's not much on the recipe card. You would have to know a bit about baking bread for it to be of any use. (The stain proves it's been a well-used recipe. Never trust a recipe card without stains, I say.)
 Today, I used a mix of unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat flour, and some oatmeal to make up the needed 15 cups for four loaves.  It's a pretty forgiving recipe.

 My oldest son, John, who like his grandmother is a very good cook, taught me this kitchen tip. John labels everything in both his home kitchen and at his restaurant. The label tells what's in the container and/or when it was opened. Very handy for things in my home
like salad dressing, when I'm wondering just how long it's been sitting in the fridge. I need to do this more rigorously. Waste not, want not.

Which brings me to this: I was thinking about Marge Machell today as I mixed and kneaded the bread. She was great at making a full life out of simple things: sewing, knitting, quilting, cooking, family. She and many of her generation, including my own parents, lived through the Great Depression and were formed by it. They were pros when it came to waste not, want not habits and skills. My own mother darned socks and sewed her own curtains. My Grandfather Coombs ate mostly what he grew in his own garden and the fish he caught from the sea. My Grandmother Holmes put up jellies and jams and did beautiful needlework. Bob's stepmother, Florence, could make fabulous soup out of practically nothing. I don't think any of them missed a thing by not having cell phones or computers linked to the Internet. They read, they talked, they made things from scratch. 

As the economy continues to slow, I am glad I have inherited some of these simple skills from my parents, in-laws, and grandparents. I only hope that I have taught my own children enough of them.

P.S. The Handsome Husband just came home from work and has already devoured two thick slices of bread.
"It's very good," he says. (Me: modest smile.)