Sunday, July 25, 2010

Green blood

"A botanical miracle is the close similarity between cholorphyll and hemoglobin. The one difference in the two structural formulas is that the hub of every hemoglobin molecule is one atom of iron, while in chlorophyll it is one atom of magnesium. Chlorophyll is green because magnesium absorbs all but the green light spectrum. Blood is red because iron absorbs all but the red.

Chlorophyll is green blood. It is designed to capture light; blood is designed to capture oxygen. I was in awe when I learned that."

I just read this in the comments of the latest post at "Way to"  Isn't it fascinating?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

I'm not a huge pickle fan.  I do like watermelon rind pickles, and hope to make and can some this weekend.  When I was a kid, my mother used to make something we called refrigerator cucumbers.  I looked for a recipe recently online, and found something that seemed similar  - but of course I couldn't leave it alone, and had to diddle with it.  The recipe called for lots of sugar and vinegar, but since I don't like anything "sweet and sour," I converted it to a dill version:

1/2 of a medium onion - sliced thin
5-6 pickling sized cucumbers (I don't grow cukes, and bought English cucumber. Used 1 1/2)  sliced thin
1 Tbs. pickling/Kosher salt
about 2 tsp. dill   (I used dried)
pinch dried red pepper flakes   (optional)
solution 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar to cover cukes.

Place sliced onion, salt and dill in a medium (preferably glass) bowl.  Muddle a bit with a spoon to help release the flavors.  Add cukes, cover with vinegar/water solution. Stir, then cover tightly, and refridgerate at least overnight before eating.  Keeps a week or more in the fridge. 

These get icy cold in the fridge, so are a nice side dish on these hot days.  I also like them on cold sandwiches.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A fun experiment

I read a lot of blogs, so I don't remember where I read this, but they said if - instead of pulling celery stalks off the bunch one by one - you cut the root end off and plant it, it will grow.  I happened to have two bunches of celery here, so...... I cut off about an inch or so of the root end, and stuck them in the nearly empty pot where I had to pull up my squash plants. 

Look what I got!!

I found this sprout yesterday!   I have never known anyone to grow celery, so I don't know its growth habits, or whether there is enough time left in the season to get anything, but it's kind of 'something for nothing" so I've got nothing to lose.  (yes that is bunny poo you see) 

As for the other plants, I have fed the birds from a feeder off the corner of my deck for years, and there is a nice thick layer of sunflower shells on the ground there.  I had a couple of extra tomato plants, and not wanting to waste them, I stuck them in next to the rose that grows there.  Even though they only get sun for a few hours in that spot, they are very robust, full of blooms and little 'maters.   On the other hand, my potted tomato plants on the deck steps are only doing OK.  The yellow pear is still producing, but I think it may be succumbing to the tomato blight that is going around.  The heritage/non-hybrids varieties of tomatoes are still healthy so far.     The Burbee Beefsteak has only 1 tomato. (sigh) 

I always put a few flowers on my deck to enjoy from inside the house, and I think this is my favorite combo ever: 


I bought one dark red pelargonium, stuck in a clump of rudbeckia "Goldsturm' that spread like wildfire this Spring in the postage-stamp garden.  Likewise a piece of lavender 'Hidcote' I broke off last year and rooted over the winter, and my all-time favorite 'filler' annual - salvia 'Victoria Blue.'  There are also a few mini snapdragons at the foot of the lilac, but they didn't have any blooms at the time I took the photo.    It may be a little heat-stressed, or a tad past it's prime here, but I really like the combination of colors and textures.  

I am staying home from the auction this week!  I scored some neat things again last week - a copper heart-shaped tray, a signed piece of Israeli art pottery from the '50s, an old (1935) copy of one of L. Frank Baum's "Oz" series books, and a couple pieces of jewelry I plan to take apart and re-do more to my liking.  I keep spending more and more each week though.  I've got to regain control!    

That's it for today from Wren Cottage.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mid July catch-up

In the garden, failures and successes:

Remember this?

Earlier this month, my pattypan squash went from this..... to wilted icky mush within days.  I saw the tell-tale signs on some stems, picked them apart, and there were the culprits - squash borer!  The damage was done, they were too far gone, and had to be pulled up. 

My sugar snap peas produced a grand total of 27 pods. I thought I would get more than that from 6 plants.  And my lima beans, for all that fantastic growth earlier, have only produced 4 pods.  4 lousy pods! 

On the successful side, the tomatoes are doing well, and the yellow pear has given me lots of salad tomatoes.  The eggplant has put out new growth and blossoms, since I pruned it back. I hope to harvest basil and make pesto this weekend, and the onions and garlic are booming too.  OK, so my garden leans toward Italian - a good thing!

Speaking of Italian, the name 'Terra' just didn't work out for the newest Mini Rex. It just wasn't her.   She likes it when I speak Italian to her.  If I call her ''la bella bambina," (about the only words I know) she sticks her nose in my face, gets a dreamy look in her eyes, like "more, tell me more...."   So she says she is either Bella or Bambina - take your pick. 

Truffle, who has always been so laid-back and disinterested in anything, (although he learned to like having his head and ears stroked) has really perked up since he discovered FREEDOM ....relatively speaking.  The bedroom hallway has become the designated play area for the buns.  They are all much better about not leaving 'deposits' on the floor, so I let them out (one at a time, of course) from time to time to run and play in the hallway, since there are no dangerous electrical wires there, and I can close the rooms off if I need to.  Truffle was out for the first time a few nights ago, and I'm sure it's the first time in his life he has been out of a cage, except to be groomed.  After a little tentative sniffing and looking around, he started chasing the cats and doing 'binkies' all over.  He loved it, and has been a lot perkier when I come in to the bunny room to feed and water.  Poor thing. 

I went to the auction again last week, and though I spent more money, I still came home with some neat stuff - 2  half-gallon blue (old, pre 1937) Ball canning jars with zinc lids, two old kerosene lamps with blown glass chimneys and sweet little chamber-stick handles, another glass candle holder, and an old Lodge #8 (5 quart) cast iron Dutch oven. 

Mine is just like this, except it has a wire handle.  It's in good shape - just needs a little wire brush taken to the inside of the lid and to be re-seasoned.  A woman at the sale asked me as I was carrying it out, "what are you going to do with that old thing?"   I'm going to cook in it!    Since it's older, it's nice to know it's made in the USA, not one of the chinese-made ones that don't get the 'patina' as well, or so I'm told. 

I am loving my dehydrator.  I've had it going a lot since I bought it.  I've done lots of onions, diced celery and carrots (for making soup mix for this winter when I don't feel like chopping all the veggies), red and green peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms, some of my yellow tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries and a few plums.    Love it, love it!  

Until next time, from Wren Cottage....

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bunnie Birthdays

The Angoras have been getting haircuts and pedicures this week, one each night.  Since mine are in the house (and yes, that is messier than I thought it would be) I haven't had to worry about them in this brutal heat.  Still, they are obviously more comfortable with their summer hairdos.  The girls especially seem to be bothered the longer their wool gets, especially around their head and face, and have really liked getting "belly and bib" trims in-between full-body shearing.  Tonight was Holly's turn, and as I was finishing her up, I remembered that (I think) today is hers and Ivy's birthday.  Truffle's is next week on the 16th.  The girls got extra hay tonight in celebration.  I'm not sure Holly needed it though. She has always been a good eater, and when I got all that wool off her, I found that she is....uh, how shall I say....chubby!   Happy bunnie birthday, Holly and Ivy!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Someone at work told me about a few local auction houses that have regular 'sales.'  Even though I DO NOT need any more 'stuff' in my house, I went to one with her last week.  It was fun, and took me way back, to my pre-teen days, when my maternal Grandfather was living.  He moonlighted as an auctioneer.  Quite the renaissance man, he also was into stock car and go-cart racing. (can you say redneck, anyone?)  Sometimes my parents would drag me take me with them to auctions, where Grandpa was presiding.  I enjoy them much more now.  These are not Sothebys-style auctions - although they had some really nice things - but more the flea-market variety. 

I got all of these items (and one more, but I may give it as a gift, so I'm not showing it) for less than $20.   Cool, huh!  The 'depth of field' distorts things a little in this photo.  The platter is bigger than it looks here, the hobnail vase is smaller.   I think I'll be going back! 

The newest bunny did get a name. Since the silver one is 'Luna' for the moon, this new brown one will be 'Terra' for the earth.  Terra's body color has lightened a good bit since she came here. She was a lot darker, but she is still gorgeous.  Terra is a bit more reserved than Luna, who is just silly and goofy.   


The second picture is a little blurry (boy, is she fast!) but I wanted to show just how little the Mini Rex's are - only about 3 1/2 to 41/2 pounds.  My bright idea of housing them in the same cage was a total failure.  After letting them sniff each other for a couple of days with their cages side-by-side, I put them out together in 'neutral territory,' and it only took one sniff before Luna junped on Terra and beat her up.  Terra got her licks in though and I later found a big scratch on Luna's jaw. I tried it two or three times, but it was no good.   I really need to look into spaying some of these rabbits if I'm not going to breed them.    

Friday, July 2, 2010

Emergency Prep: First Aid Kits

It's that time of year.  With outdoor living and hot weather, come lots of little mishaps, and it points up the need to assemble and keep a good first aid kit.   I have several - a tiny one in my purse that I picked up in the 'travel sizes' section of the store, a slightly larger one with more stuff that I keep in the car, and a big honkin' one in the house for real emergencies - the "you and your neighbors are on your own until disaster relief people can get to you" size. 

Think of all the things that can happen, especially if you have kids:  blisters, cuts & scrapes, fireworks burns (!) from stepping on or picking up spent sparklers, heat exhaustion, bug bites/stings, splinters, ticks, etc.  And do you ever have what you need when you need it? Think home, camping/hiking, boat, barn, office/school, car ..... 

I took a first aid class a couple of years ago, and our instructor advised us to keep a small zip-lock bag in the door pocket of the car, filled with a clean white cotton washcloth and rubber (preferably Nitrile) gloves.  If someone is overheated the cloth can be wetted and put on their face, while the bag can be used to carry and  pour water over the person to wet their clothes.  If you have a cooler, the bag can be used as an ice pack.  If you should (God forbid) ever come across an accident on the road, put on the gloves and the cloth can be used to staunch bleeding until emergency services get there.  Pretty handy.  

There are tons of lists out there on the internet for putting together kits. Websites vary from those who just like to be prepared, to "survival" sites.  If that's too scary for you, here is a basic list from the Red Cross .  Generally speaking, the kits you buy in Walmart or the drug store are garbage - although the container might make a good base for assembling your own.  For a terrific craft project for kids, take an empty/clean Altoid tin or plastic travel soap box, and fill it with a few bandaids, anticeptic wipes and a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer.   It's never a bad idea to be prepared.