“Stalk”ing

Mostly this post was for my curiosity. I have a small corner devoted to asparagus. Very little is produced possibly because of age, but more likely because of me planting it wrong. However one asparagus crown amazes every time it grows a stalk because the stalks are so big, but it will only grow one at a time.

Out of curiosity, I went back through my photos to track dates. I take a picture every time it grew a stalk because I am always so impressed by the size. (Imagine the possible dick jokes here). So far it has managed 4 stalks this season, averaging 20 days between each stalk.

I tried to do some research about how long it takes for a stalk to grow, but most articles wanted to ramble on about waiting a year for the crowns blah, blah, blah, knew that. I did find a statistic that the stalks grow 2 inches per day so I guess I could reverse engineer that. However I don’t know if that is two inches a day from the start or once it breaks through the ground. Shrug. I got nothin’. Certainly don’t have much asparagus.

Hey, Bun!

I have a small bunny who reliably finds the game camera in the yard, and acts like I’ve set it up for a photoshoot.

It got really hot recently and I did not see the bun for a couple of days. Usually I would see it in the mornings and early evenings more or less deciding what to destroy in my garden (pepper plants seem to be the answer). I was concerned. There’s traffic and plenty of predators.

However I discovered that the bunny just opted for a cooler time of day.

T80

There’s a possum also trying to get in on the photo action. We’ll see how it goes.

T80

Arm Day: The 10 minute knead

Humidity is 72% and it feels like way more than 77 degrees in my kitchen, but I’m going to bake. Allegedly warm and humid is a good thing for rising dough. I’m also out of bread--this stuff freezes well if pre-sliced and I have not bought a loaf of regular bread in ages— and Vincenzo needs attention.

Vincenzo is my sourdough starter that I acquired from a baking friend last May (Happy 1 Year Birthday Vincenzo!) when we were all trapped at home apparently hoarding toilet paper and yeast. Yes, there was such an uptick in people baking at home that stores struggled to keep yeast in stock. I now reflexively buy a packet whenever I walk down that aisle at the store. I have a reminder in my phone that pops up at 9 a.m. on Thursdays: “Feed starter.” He has been well fed and needs to either be used or dumped which just seems wasteful.

I’ve tried a couple of different bread recipes, but landed on a “San Francisco” recipe that is my favorite and has yielded the best results. The first time I adhered to the recipe and the chopped onion topping. It was good, but ….what if?! I ditched the onion for the next batch and started mixing in chopped up rosemary and thyme, sprinkling rosemary, thyme and salt on the top instead of onion. Oh, the warm, earthy smell. The perfect bread for whatever, but especially if you needed to sop up some herby olive oil and nibble some cheese.

After MomBert sent me an article about a local baker who sells sourdough loaves at the farmers market near her, I tried to do some researching about what and how I could add things to my bread. It was a lot!! There was an overwhelming amount of information and discussions about what ingredients need presoaked to maintain moisture and which didn’t and when was the best time add items. As established, I am not a scientist, a park ranger, or a vet, but I am a fan of let’s throw it in there and see what happens when I’m just baking for the sake of baking. I am much more fastidious if the end product is going to other humans.

So today’s product has rosemary from my herb garden, sundried tomatoes in oil, some shredded from a block parmesan, and garlic scapes because I have a ton and why not? This recipe has 3 different rise times, but requires only 10 minutes of kneading hence “arm day” as mind wandered to whether or not this counted as a workout.

Humidity and yeast at work. Note yellow squirrel holding my essential olive oil mister. It is the latest addition to my squirrel army.

I have taken to baking the loaves in my cast iron skillets for easy clean up. This is a doubled recipe. Would eat again.

The end product.

Another harvest

Garlic scapes harvest

Savory, concentrated

Edible delight

Yes, you can eat them! Grill them or dice them up and use in dishes. They are straight garlic goodness. I ate one while I worked.

Garlic scapes grow from hard neck varieties of garlic. When I cut them, it signals the plant to use energy on growing the garlic bulb. Left too long, the scapes become hard and chewy but create a pretty corkscrew shape.

Allegedly garlic and plants in that family help keep certain molds away which is why there is some garlic around my roses and throughout my flowerbeds in addition to the garden space.

Ants Can’t Handle the Truth

Despite it being spring AND May, the weather has fluctuated from the 30s to the 60s and back again. As my yard and garden comes back to life, I’ve been making slow attempts at cleaning and bringing things out of their winter state. The temperatures plus the most insane time in the school year has not helped my progress. I’d certainly rather be gardening, but there are 20 gazilliion post-it notes and reminders that need my attention.

During one episode of shuffling around the patio, I rearranged and cleaned some ceramic pots. Days later, when I was briefly back again, I noticed that one pot now had mounds of dirt around its base.

It had been colonized. The pot sitting directly on the ground against my back patio window, practically inviting entrance to the house was full to the brim with ants.

Life lesson: ants cannot handle the responsibility, nay the temptation, of a pot sitting directly on the ground.

It was the only pot on the patio without those apparently crucial ceramic feet lifting it an inch off the ground. When I picked it up, ants poured out of the drainage hole. I rolled it over on its side to decide my next move.

I couldn’t murder them outright. They must serve a purpose in my garden. However I also wanted to use that pot without being swarmed and I did not want them building an addition into my house.

Ultimately I tipped the pot upside down in the garden, revealing hundreds of scurrying bodies and a collection of larvae. Hopefully the next tempting spot to squat will be more appropriate.

Zoom in to be either fascinated or grossed out.

Sounds Like Spring

It’s no Red Winged Blackbird, but the call still says spring.

Last weekend was the first day of Spring and it’s sexy time for any number of creatures. In fact, it’s all they’re talking about. With that in mind, Adventure Buddy and I took advantage of a park program promising amorous salamanders in the vernal pools. The description said boots were suggested, but we did not realize that it was to the degree of our naturalist’s hip waders.

The naturalist started by checking her overnight traps. No salamanders, but we saw fairy shrimp, water bugs, and what turned out to be two frogs busy making more frogs.

They are Western Chorus Frogs which are different from Spring Peepers. Their song dominated all other noises. It sounded as if we should see them everywhere.

The second vernal pool was filled with cattails on the edge of a prairie area. I actually saw a large frog there, but my tiny net and poor skills were no match for it.

This area was possibly even more vociferous.

To borrow from e.e. cummings, spring is when the world is “mud-luscious” and “puddle wonderful.” I just need taller boots.

Bird Nerd: Big Game!

Much as I would love to get rid of Facebook most days, I can’t abandon the bird photography group where I’m a lurking member. I lurk because I have little to contribute aside from “loves” and questions. These people have giant cameras and a penchant for being in the woods at the crack of dawn. Their pictures are detailed, up close, and dramatic. I love them. I also love that this group gives me guidance on spots to visit.

Thanks to the group’s posts, I got to witness two major- major to me- birds in December: Sandhill cranes and a Snowy Owl. When I woke up to a post naming a specific pond in a specific metro park as a gathering point for a large group of Sandhill Cranes, I got Adventure Buddy on the road and headed out.

We had a short hike out to the site, but we got to observe the eagles’ nest on the way. The male was hanging out in a dead tree and the female was poised on the nest. A birder with a bigger camera said that they had just added another branch to the nest.

Of course, common songbirds are just as exciting and capable of dramatic poses, and far away swans are lovely too.

When we cleared the woods at the edge of the pond, it took a moment to spot the cranes. The largest portion were blending into the water’s edge and more were wandering through the grasses. We counted over twenty. At one point, a crane sounded the alarm or yelled, “everybody into the pool!” and the group in the grasses formed a conga line back to the pond.

Walking back to the car, we heard a crane call from another part of the park. Two rebels had broken off from the larger group and were conveniently hanging out by the duck blinds, but calling back to the large group.

Sound up!

I’d love to make it to one of the spots where hundreds of Sandhill Cranes land together during migrations.

However I have mixed feelings about the Snowy Owl.

Much of what I know about Snowy Owls comes from a series of posts by Julie Zickefoose an artist and naturalist from my home town area. Julie covered the story of a Snowy Owl that landed in a busy urban area, was injured, starving, and eventually captured for rehabilitation. Her photographs and first hand knowledge make a trip to her site worthwhile.

Snowy Owls show up in Ohio because they are juveniles who have been pushed out of their territory, oddly enough, due to an overabundance of food when they were hatched. They show up here, people swarm to experience the magic, and the owl potentially starves or encounters things like cars and electrical wires that are not a part of their habitat.

(My pictures are as zoomed in as possible with my camera and then extremely cropped during editing. With the naked eye, we basically were looking at a white blob against the rocks while visiting to maintain distance.)

The group posted and the local paper wrote articles about the owl’s location. Selfishly, I could not resist the opportunity to see it: Harry Potter’s Hedwig. While we were there, photographers came and went, staying back. Others had reported seeing the owl hunt in a nearby field. Of all the possible spots, it ended up at a large lake and wooded park so maybe there is hope for it.

Fluffy, feathery hope after cleaning its talons.