Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pride, Prejudice, and Caesar Dressing

If you had told me even five years ago that I would enjoy public speaking, I would never have believed it. I'd have laughed uncontrollably and maybe called you a name. But, as it happens, I love talking about gardening. I especially enjoy speaking at Hidden Lake Gardens, where people are very enthusiastic and participatory. Back in December, as I entered the grounds to teach the evergreen centerpiece class, I noticed they had added a new digital sign, encased in an impressive brick and stone structure, near the entrance. This sturdy wayfarer cycles through upcoming events in friendly red lights (the photo lights look yellow, but I swear they were red!). Enchanted, I paused to read all the messages, which included a listing for my class. Wow! My name (or as close to it as I'd ever come) in lights! I sat transfixed, feeling my self-worth rise by the second through the warm glow of the red letters. I wished I had my camera to capture this sweet, tender moment. Jolted back to reality by a car honking behind me, I moved along, resolved to take my camera for my next class, and got on with life.

For my next class, I indeed had my camera in tow. I boldly stopped at the sign, my hazards flashing, rolled down the window, focused the camera, and eagerly awaited my proud, shining moment. And waited. And waited. My class was not listed. When I casually wondered aloud about this to Karen, the education coordinator, she patiently explained that if a class is full, they don't advertise it on the board. Undeterred, I explained my growing narcissistic need for a photo for my blog. She graciously humored me and offered to recreate the listing and take its photo just for me. I didn't really expect her to, but she did. Because that's the kind of person Karen is and why I really enjoy my HLG experience.

The other day, the photo above appeared in my inbox. One day she roped in the tech person and they set out to satisfy their quirky instructor's wishes. Apparently the name of the class ("Fun with Winter Seed Sowing") was too long, so she decided simply to list my name. This truly wasn't my intention, but she must have sensed my starstruck desires. The text in place, she braved the cold to head out to the entrance to snap the photo. Apparently, police officers like to park in their driveway to catch speeders, and one was in place. Of course he rolled down the window and wondered what Karen was doing! So thank you, Karen, for braving the weather and police interrogation to indulge me in my whims!

Yesterday I spied Groundhog 1 for the first time this year. I love all living creatures but have certain irreconcilable differences with this rotund, burrowing, lattice-destroying, fresh-greens-eating lifeform. We used to have a truce about things (eating a little bit of many things is OK, eating all of anything is bad), but last year we had several zinnia and morning glory slaughters, plus collateral damage to wood lattice along the bottom of the deck, despite ongoing mediation. For his part, the groundhog was happy to see me. "Ah, human, so we meet again. Greetings to you and your tender green leaflets!"

Caesar Dressing
Yesterday, Carole and I attended Spring Day at Henry Ford Estate. Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens gave an, as always, entertaining and informative talk on heirloom bulbs. George Papadelis of Telly's Greenhouse gave an engaging and amusing overview of new plants for 2008. I'm not so into the latest cultivars per se, but I like to look at pretty photos of plants. And he definitely knows his plants and genuinely loves gardening. It was also interesting to discover that the Troy-based retailer has greenhouses in Willis. I'd love to take a tour there and see their seeding machine in operation! For lunch, Marcus Reish, chef at HFE, demonstrated making salad dressing, which he graciously passed around for us to taste. They were all good, but I could easily have consumed the entire sample of the Caesar dressing straight from the container. Man, that was good. Orders of magnitude better than any Caesar dressing I've ever had. I will post the recipe later, if Carole wrote it down.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


It started snowing late yesterday afternoon and stopped some time at night. Even this late in March, my heart sings watching big flakes fall against the tree-lined backdrop of my backyard. And I've always enjoyed snow shoveling. What can I say. My winter seed sowing containers are happy under a soft white blanket of snow. Because nothing has sprouted yet, there's no danger of it being too cold for the seedlings.

And in further news, my Easter bunny is safe, having survived intact since my last post, with only one day to go until Easter. Amazing? Yes! Incredible? Yes? But how, you ask? Well, let me assure you that it doesn't have anything to do with any new-found powers of mind control or will power, nor have I suddenly adopted a healthy eating regime. Instead, it has to do with knowing who I am, accepting my frailties, and working around them. Yep, I outsmarted myself by removing temptation and enrolling my bunny in the Peter Rabbit Protection Program (patent pending). Since Monday, it has been safely relocated at a friend's house (said Peter) where I will not be tempted to nibble on its ears (or, actually, bottom. Ever since I was a kid I hated starting by chomping the ears off, so I ate from the bottom up... though finishing with a decapitated head is, admittedly, disconcerting also!). Which is a really, really good thing as I'm jonesing for some chocolate right now, even though I'm soon to gorge myself with brunch at Madras Masala (yum yum yum yum oh hell yes) with my friend Aunita.

So I'll make due with reasonable facsimile chocolate bunnies (the second strip had two more panels, but I really like just the first):

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's (Almost) Spring!

I have a weird relationship with Easter bunnies, and I'm hoping the one pictured, guarded by sugar-free Peeps, will make it to Easter. Thus far, two others have failed. Ahem. While I prefer dark chocolate to milk in general, this isn't the case for Easter rabbits. And as much as I like many brands of chocolates, for Easter rabbits, only Lindt will do. Num num num. In 2006, I thought, at 40, I was too mature for Easter rabbits and didn't get one. Of course a few days before Easter when I realized how foolish I had been, the Lindt rabbits were long since sold out. Much pouting ensued. In 2007, I shopped early and got a nice dark chocolate Lindt bunny. Only, for some reason, it didn't strike me at all as an Easter rabbit and I didn't end up eating it until December! This year's the charm, I'm sure!

The other Easter essential in my world is a Cadbury's caramel egg, but only when microwaved for 3-5 seconds--just long enough to warm and melt the caramel, but not damage the chocolate coating. It's a whole 'nother world from the room temperature version. Thanks, Shaun!

I finally got to round two of winter seed sowing, with help from my friend Carole. I sowed two more flats: Tom Thumb black velvet nasturtium, chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), castor bean (so funky!), and kiss me over the garden gate (Polygonum orientale).


Winter Sowing Tip #1:
Check your flats for moisture! They should have condensation on the lids.

I also sowed some seeds in containers: La Bamba French marigold, red marigold (from a seed swap; I'll be surprised!), beefsteak and homestead tomatoes, some kind of basil (Packetus lostus), and Calendula Flashback mix.

Winter Sowing Tip #2:
Older milk jugs are hard to fit back together once they've been cut. A coworker had given me about a dozen milk jugs when I was thinking of teaching a hands-on winter sowing class (and I don't even recall why that didn't end up happening) over a year ago. I used those jugs today. They didn't look warped just sitting around, but after drilling holes and cutting, it was harder to tape the cut edges back together than on newer containers. Another reason not to be a packrat, yah!


Finally, I took a little walk through my garden, to see if anything looked alive. The buds of forsythias looked hopeful, as did some creeping thyme which is evergreen. (Well, some seems to be, and this one was. Others of the same kind don't look as green. Ah, micro climates!)


Some tiger lilies in a protected area near my house were bravely pushing leaves above ground, in and about last year's foliage and some duck feathers. Ducks descend by the dozens in my backyard, eating anything that spills from the bird feeders, including husks. Some of the males can be quite aggressive to other males, so there's often a commotion of wing beating and honking. Subsequently, I find duck feathers here and there. (No ducks were harmed in shooting this photo. I do admit to having The Birds-like angst about mobs of ducks, but neither of my cats will even attempt any posturing or empty threats to scare them off.)

And finally, out front, Fiona is showing me which branches of the dogwood will need pruning (crossing branches particularly irritate her). (In the interests of fairness, James wants me to report that he was on my bed sleeping when this photo was being taken.)