Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I love going to this event because it really puts me in the spirit for the holidays. The open house hours will be from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., although it will be prettiest when it's dark outside.
Manito Park is located at 4 W. 21st Ave., on Spokane's South Hill. The event is free.
This weekend (Dec. 14-15), the Friends of Manito will host an open house in the Manito Meeting Room, which is located just east of Gaiser Conservatory. The hours will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and this event is also free. There will be refreshments and plenty of holiday cheer on hand!
I hope you can fit these events into your busy holiday schedule. It's well worth your time.
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 9:27 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Yesterday, I purchased an Amaryllis bulb kit from Northwest Seed & Pet for $8.99. A kit is basically a bulb, some potting soil and a flower pot. You can also buy individual Amaryllis bulbs and provide your own container for planting them. These bulbs can be found in stores everywhere, usually in kit form.
Last year, my husband Bill gave me 2 Amaryllis bulbs, one of which came with the basket and glass hurricane vase you see in the photo above, so that's what I'm going to plant mine in. The variety I bought is 'Apple Blossom' which should be beautiful when it starts blooming.
You can use any type of container but be sure to select one that is quite sturdy since blooming Amaryllis can get rather top-heavy. I prefer to use containers that have drainage holes for everything I grow indoors. My glass vase doesn't have holes in it, so I'm just careful not to over-water the bulb.
To plant the bulbs, you can use a sterile potting mix or even just grow them in a container filled with marbles or pebbles.
If you're using potting soil, lightly moisten it first. Place a couple of inches of it into the bottom of the container, then put the bulb (with the pointy-end up) on top of that. Continue adding soil until all but the top third of the bulb is covered.
Place the container in a sunny location where the temperature stays at about 60 degrees or above. Being near a south-facing window is ideal and will speed up its growth. Since the bulb will rot if you over-water it, only water when the top inch of the potting medium feels dry to the touch.
You will be amazed at how quickly the bulb starts growing. It's actually the moisture of the potting medium that causes it to sprout. As it grows, the stalk will probably lean in the direction of the sunlight so be sure to rotate the pot every few days to encourage straight growth.
Amaryllis will take about 8 to 10 weeks to start blooming, and once they do, the flowers are breathtaking. To illustrate how quickly they grow, I'm planning to take a photo of mine at least once a week so you can monitor its growth.
I hope this information will encourage you to buy Amaryllis bulbs, both for gifts and for yourself. They are truly the perfect gift that goes easy on the budget!
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 9:32 AM
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
What do I need to do to be ready? Well, I need to go through my leftover seeds from seasons past and discard any that are past their prime. There are some seeds that last quite a long time and others that have a relatively short shelf life. Once I refresh my memory about what I have on hand, I'll have a better idea which seeds I should be looking for in the new catalogs.
While I don't want to be wasteful, I don't always have the time to sow old seeds and wait to see if they're going to germinate. I want to hit the ground running, so to speak, by having good quality seeds right from the start. Conversely, I don't want to toss any seeds that would be good for two or three more years either.
I thought you might find it helpful to know the shelf life of commonly-planted vegetable seeds so that when you go through your leftovers, you know which ones to toss and which to keep.
Here is a list of the number of years vegetable seeds remain viable, provided they have been stored in cool, dark and dry conditions:
1 year: Onion, parsley, parsnip
2 years: Corn, leek, pepper
3 years: Bean, broccoli, carrot, pea, spinach
4 years: Beet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, eggplant, kale, pumpkin, squash, tomato, turnip
5 years: Cucumber, melon, radish
6 years: Lettuce
Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 10:41 AM
Monday, December 2, 2013
Now that December is officially here, it's beginning to look a bit more like Christmas around here. I made two swags yesterday: one for our mailbox post and the other for our wood shed door. Just for fun, and just because I have the materials on hand anyway.
If you've never made a swag before, I thought you'd appreciate a quick how-to. They are incredibly easy and quick to make, and can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Here's how:
2. (photo at left) And, of course, you'll need several boughs from trees like pine, spruce, fir, juniper or cedar that are 3 to 4 feet long. You might also want some small branches from a holly bush or a plant that has berries on it. Don't worry about pruning a few branches from your conifers or other shrubs this time of year; they can handle it. I take this opportunity to prune off low-hanging branches or others that are growing out into a garden path.
3. While wearing gloves, pick up a nice combination of different types of boughs -- holding the cut end of each -- until you have the size swag you will want (see photo below). Don't worry if some of the boughs are longer than you want because you can tidy things up once you've wired the branches together or even after you hang the swag.
4. Cut about an 18" length of floral wire and tightly wind it around the branches a few inches below the cut ends. Twist the ends of the wire around a few times to make sure it won't come loose.
5. Make a bow. This is the part that some folks can be apprehensive about (I know because I used to be one of them) but it's quite easy. Since it's simpler to see someone demonstrating it than if I were to just write out the directions, I found a bow-making tutorial on YouTube that might be more helpful: Holiday Bow Making.
6. When you're at the last step of making the bow, be sure to use a long piece of floral wire to hold it together so you can easily tie it to your swag. Go ahead and tie it on, just a few inches down from the top and arrange the ribbon so it looks its best.
7. Hang your swag in the desired location: maybe it will be on a door, or the main pillars on your front porch, a garden gate, or perhaps on your mailbox post. I usually hammer in a nail that has a large head to it to hang swags from but you can also use your floral wire to attach it to whatever you're hanging it on. Do any necessary last-minute primping of the bow and use your pruners to trim off any parts of the branches that aren't hanging to your liking.
There! Wasn't that easy? I hope you'll enjoy it throughout the holiday season and certainly all visitors will be impressed with your decorating prowess!
Monday, November 25, 2013
Do you have any pumpkins left over from your garden? There is nothing finer than a homemade pumpkin pie, especially when you fill it with the yummy goodness of your very own, homegrown pumpkins. Even if you didn't grow any, you can easily find pie pumpkins, also known as sugar pumpkins, at the grocery store.
You would think that turning a pumpkin into puree is difficult but I'm here to tell you it's easy as can be. I just made a pie yesterday and took photos of the steps, so let's dive into the technique:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place a pumpkin weighing about 5 pounds into a roasting pan, to roast whole. The great thing is you don't have to cut it into halves or chunks which can be tricky to do because of their thick skins.
3. Put pan into the oven and set a timer for 90 minutes.
4. Now you can go do something else or get started on making your pie shell. If you aren't pastry-inclined, you can always buy a pre-made pie shell at the store although I think they have a funky taste to them.
You'll want to make either a 9" or 10" pie shell. I consult with my old Betty Crocker cookbook for the recipe but you can find plenty of tasty recipes on the web.
5. After the 90 minutes are over, the pumpkin skin will look darker. When you touch the skin, it should feel quite soft. Remove from oven and carefully slice it in half. This will help it cool quickly.
6. Remove the seeds and stringy pulp around them; discard. Isn't this easy?
7. Scoop out the pulp, which is usually about an inch thick. Place in a food processor or use a masher to turn it into puree. I've found that a 5-lb. pumpkin will usually yield about 3 cups of puree, which is an ideal amount for a pie.
8. Pour the puree into a mixing bowl and add the ingredients for your pie filling. My all-time favorite recipe is Martha Stewart's "Sugar Pumpkin Molasses Pie" from her "Pies and Tarts" cookbook. Obviously, I don't have the rights to reprint the recipe here but if you do a web search for "sugar pumpkin molasses pie," you'll find many recipes that include a little molasses. The recipe I use calls for eggs, molasses, honey, milk, ginger and cinnamon -- a delightful mix!
Here are links to other potential pie recipes: on Martha Stewart's on AllRecipes.com's websites.
9. Pumpkin pies usually require about an hour of baking at 375 degrees. You will be amazed at how flavorful a homemade, homegrown pumpkin pie tastes, and everyone you share it with will just love it!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 8:36 AM
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Here are more of the photos I took while my friends and I were making decorative holiday items for our homes and for gifts, using natural materials from our gardens:
|Two wreaths using non-traditional color themes with pretty accents and ornaments.|
|I made this for a gift for some friends.|
|This is a swag one of my friends made, just beautiful!|
|This one is a metal sleigh filled with greenery.|
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 6:03 AM
Yesterday, I got together with several friends to make decorative holiday items using natural materials from our gardens. We made wreaths, centerpieces, candle arrangements, gifts and so on.
If you've been following my blog for a long time, you know that I bring up this topic each year as the holiday season approaches. That's because it is my hope you will get inspired to do something along these lines as well.
This time, a friend of mine hosted the gathering. She has a nursery business so had gone to a wholesaler to pick up small plants and decorative containers at a low cost for us to use. Each of us brought cuttings of different types of plants from our gardens: pine, cedar, fir and spruce prunings; branches with berries on them (Beautyberry, Hawthorne, Mountain Ash, etc.); Salal and sheet moss from the coast; red-twig Dogwood branches; and pinecones. All of these natural materials were for us to share with each other.
Carol, our hostess, made a crockpot full of chili and had coffee, tea and cider for us to enjoy. The rest of us brought soup, salads, scones, homemade bread, cookies and other yummy foods. I mean, after all, food should play an important role in the gathering, right? Carol also had Christmas music playing in the background to put us in the mood.
Each of us also brought supplies for projects we specifically had in mind like ribbons, ornaments, seedpods, wreath forms, floral wire, pruners, baskets and other containers.
My friends were camera-shy, which I completely respect, but I did take photos of various projects in the works. Everything turned out so beautifully. You would think they were items you'd purchase (for big bucks, I might add) at a store but everything was handmade by the group. Each item was quite simple to make. Our shared lunch was delicious and we all had an absolutely delightful visit with each other!
Because I took several photos, I'm dividing them up between two posts so be sure to look at the post above this one. I hope this inspires you to make holiday items for your home or to give as gifts! If you have any questions, just drop me a note at email@example.com or write a comment on this post.
Also, if you are curious to read what I've made in past years, here are a couple of posts: Holiday decor and Make your own Christmas wreath.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
1. Nichols Garden Nursery: They are offering 10% off orders of vegetable, herb and flower seeds. The promo code to use is "elephant" and the offer expires on Monday, Nov. 25. I know the Nichols personally and they are lovely folks. They are truly committed to gardening organically and eating healthfully.
2. Renee's Garden Seeds: She is offering 15% off all orders through Dec. 17. The promo code is "HOLIDAY13" and the discount applies to your entire order. I've gotten seeds from Renee's for several years now. I love the unusual varieties she carries and her customer service is excellent! I see they have several great gift ideas for gardeners as well so be sure to check them out.
3. Johnny's Selected Seeds: These folks will give you $10 off any order of $30 or more. The offer code is 14-1079, and you can use it either for online orders or telephone orders. The offer is good until Jan. 10, 2014. I've bought seeds from them that I've been very happy with, and they're also a good source for different thicknesses of floating row covers as well as red plastic tomato mulch.
The above offers are a great way to start getting your 2014 garden plans organized and each company has gifts for the gardeners on your list! (can I be on your list?)
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 3:48 PM
Monday, November 18, 2013
Since we have a bird-feeding station, there are lot of birds flying around which attracts the attention of these hawks as well as Coopers' hawks and Goshawks. All of them eat birds and rodents.
While I love watching the little birds come to our feeders, I don't begrudge the hawks their meals because it's all a part of the balance of nature.
Sharp-Shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) are about 11" in length and they have a wingspan of nearly 2 feet. They're very lightweight -- weighing a mere 5 oz. -- but very adept at chasing their prey in and around shrubs and trees in the garden. They have a very quick wingbeat. Their range is generally the northern United States, Canada and Alaska.
I believe this Sharp-Shinned hawk is an adult bird, based on the dark blue-gray color of its back and the top of its head.
So if you see a small hawk zipping around your garden, you can feel honored that they're paying you a visit!
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 9:29 AM
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I wrote a travel article for today's edition of The Spokesman-Review about that cruise as I know there are a lot of folks who receive Viking's mailings and are intrigued. But there are a lot of unknowns if you've never been on a river cruise so that's why I wrote the article. Here is a direct link to it on The Spokesman-Review's website, Spokesman.com: Cruising the Rhine. Four of my photos ran with the story, which you can view by clicking on the "all photos" link beneath the first photo.
I hope you'll enjoy the article and if you have any questions, just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if you are new to this blog, you'll notice I've written a lot of little travel stories below about the gardens we visited and/or garden-related items I saw on the trip.
Posted by Susan Mulvihill at 10:53 AM