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Winter Garden Struggles

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This year has been my worst year of winter gardening since I started, just under 10 years ago.

Last winter we barely kissed freezing temps, this year we have already hit high teens to low 20s three times. I have row cover which adds 5 degrees, but that just isn’t enough for some plants.

I have lost all of the cabbage (napa/red/green), at least half of the broccoli, most of the cauliflower, swiss chard, peas, radishes and the kohlrabi.

My carrots have succumbed to caterpillars.

The survivors include spinach, kale, collards, romanesca cauliflower, some broccoli, garlic, and brussel sprouts.

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The broccoli that has been strong enough to fight the extreme cold is now bolting due to the record heat.

I have replanted the peas, recently planted onions, and scattered hairy vetch in the place of the vacated plants.

The winter so far has rotated from the aforementioned lows to highs in the high 80s. Most years I question why I even attempt a winter garden, this year I really have no answer. My only saving grace is that I planted everything from seed, so the money I spent was less than in recent years.

Out West Trip Part 3

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State 7 – Wyoming – Part 1

Wyoming started with a trip to Jackson Hole.

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We stopped at this touristy town for some lunch, and another beer flight at Snake River Brewing. Great tasting beer, especially the red, which was hibiscus based.

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We roamed through town for the afternoon and did a little shopping. The highlight was these cool antler arches around the town square. One afternoon was enough. I definitely couldn’t see staying for an extended amount of time here.

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From here we headed north to the Grand Tetons. This breathtaking mountain range doesn’t get the attention of Yellowstone, but deserves ever bit as much.

We stopped numerous times to take photos.

I read about an old barn which is one of the most famous Grand Teton photo ops. Luckily, being the off season, we only ran into a few other enthusiasts.

We also saw our first Bison. We weren’t the only ones excited about them.

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Soon after our first Bison we ran into a bit of snow.

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We weren’t sure if we would see any more snow on the trip, so Eric stopped to make a tiny snowman.

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Baby Bison

The melting snow gave way to awesome waterfalls!

Just like you’d imagine, two Bison greeted us as we entered Yellowstone. At the time we didn’t realize how prevalent Bison on the roadways would be in the next few days. We got a little too close for comfort on the last shot. As we passed by the last bison started moving a bit aggressively towards the car behind us.

We stayed for two nights in Yellowstone, our only spot on our journey where we rested for more than one night. We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Old Faithful Inn.

It is considered the largest log structure in the world. It is a magical place to stay, but we should have listened to the reviews and not eaten in the main restaurant. Trust me, don’t do it!

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We splurged and got one of the newer rooms. There are a whole section of rooms with communal showers and bathrooms, that wasn’t gonna fly.

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We watched Old Faithful erupt on our first night. The length of time between eruptions varies and it quickly approached total darkness before we were finally rewarded for our patience.

We started our full day in Yellowstone with an early drive out to Lamar Valley. We decided to drive straight out and then slowly make our way back. We were hoping to get animals grazing in the early daylight hours. Our plan worked and we saw plenty of Pronghorn, Elk, Bison, Mule Deer and even a Bear on our way back.

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Our run-in with the bear was very unexpected. As you travel through Yellowstone, you’ll find that when people are pulled over there is usually something to see. As were returning from Lamar Valley there were about 10-20 cars pulled over to the side of the road. We decided to follow suit. When we pulled into the nearest open spot, we nearly ran over a bear! The sight of the bear within 50 feet threw us for a loop. The obvious answer to the question “What do we do?” is “take pictures” — from in the car of course.

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Our next stop was the hot springs. These are a must see. You know you’ve arrived as soon as you step out of your car, as the smell of sulphur wafts through the air. It’s not unbearable, unless you are overly sensitive to smell.

The colors vary based on the amount and type of minerals in the specific hot spring. They also vary from fairly clear to milky.

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The hot springs are also very accessible. The wooden pathways weave in between the landscape, getting right in the heart of the action.

Hit a traffic jam on our way back to the hotel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck Stock

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When we processed our last round of ducks we decided to piece them out (breasts, legs, wings) and save the carcasses for stock. Today was the Detroit Lions bye week, so I took the opportunity to make duck stock.

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The first step was to coat the bones with canola oil and salt. I then roasted them for an hour at 400 degrees. I used 6 the bodies and necks of 6 ducks.

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After roasting, I put the bones in a very large stock pot and covered them with water. I simmered the bones for about 3 hours.

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While the bones were simmering, I tossed chopped onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in the duck fat and roasted the veggies in the oven for 45 minutes. After roasting, I added a few cups of water to scrape up the bits stuck to the pan.

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Next, I stirred everything together, along with sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and pepper. I cooked this for another 2 hours.

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Once cooked, I removed the bones and strained out the veggies and herbs. I used paper towels in a sieve, replacing the paper towels several times.

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After straining, I simmered the stock for a while longer, concentrating the flavor.

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Finally, I put the stock in canning jars, let them cool a bit, and put them in the freezer. I don’t have a pressure canner, which is why I did not can the stock. I ended up with 10 pints!

I used the recipe from Hank Shaw’s “Duck Duck Goose” as a guideline.

 

 

 

The Other Muhly

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In Austin, Gulf Muhly gets all the love, and for good reason. The waves of fuchsia seed heads are our best attempt at fall color. They are planted in groupings all around town, and you can’t help but take notice.

A few years ago, I purchased several Gulf Muhlys, and picked up a Big Muhly at the same time. This is an absolutely stunning grass as well, and shouldn’t be forgotten for its more popular sibling.

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Big Muhly Seedheads

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Gulf Muhly Seedheads

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In Austin, Hatch Chiles have their own season. Each August our main grocery store, HEB, is filled with the smell of roasting chiles. I always buy several pound, use a bunch right away and freeze the rest to get me through the year. One of my favorite dishes is Hatch Chile Walnut Pesto.

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I start with walnuts and garlic.

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In go the chiles, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan.

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Blend it all together in the food processor.

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We roast several ducks at a time and then freeze them in small packages for easy use. I just took a package of frozen smoked duck and heated it in the water as it came to a boil.

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Boil the pasta, making sure to reserve a small amount of the boiling water to add to the pesto when mixing in with the pasta.

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Yum!

Bloom Day 9/16

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Oxblood Lily

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Ruby Crystal Grass

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Ruby Crystal Grass

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Tropical Sage

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Liriope

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Carl … just because

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This garden was something to behold. It was our last garden on the tour, and we drove all well into Wisconsin for this beauty. After arriving the gardener and artist, DeRaad, insisted that we all take a tour. We split into two groups and I chose to DeRaad’s group and stayed close to the front, very interested to hear her story and the inspiration behind her art.

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This one-armed sculpture was DeRaad’s first. She said that you could easily tell her early figures by the hand-drawn face, since the self-taught sculptor had not yet learned how to craft facial features. At some point a branch fell and broke snapped the arm from this fellow. She creatively dealt with the problem.

I then asked the artist what inspired her to begin mosaics and sculpting. She said that potters previously resided in the 1800 farmhouse and flawed pottery had been broken against the trees. When she found the broken pieces she decided to do something with them, and her mosaic work began.

The garden was a walk through time, marked by these incredible arches, the last one I managed to catch my friend Diana (from SharingNaturesGarden).

DeRaad also had an assortment of colorful benches. She showed us how to make benches, specifically how to make them strong enough to support 20 people. She insisted that it is so easy, and we all can do it. I’m a little skeptical!

The artist clearly is fascinated with birds. Avian sculptures from flamingos to chickens to woodpeckers dotted the landscape.

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These birds are in the early stage. She is planning to add them to a bench she’s working on.

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This very personal sculpture was created in honor of her son. DeRaad said her son has always been a bit of a daredevil and has been near death several times. On one of these occasions, when she wasn’t sure if he’d pull through, she poured her heart into her work.

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This stunning farmhouse actually belongs to the neighbors. How lucky to have such an incredible backdrop.

Finishing off with a few more favorites.