Category Archives: Country Life

Self Seeding Plants

CosmosCosmos

Walking around the yard last month, I realized there are a number of plants growing that I didn’t plant. They are added blessings or gifts of nature, if you will. The cosmos all self-seeded from plants that my daughter gave us last year. My favorite is the dark pinkish orange that grew up in the crack between two sandstones. You can see its bare roots, but it is growing tall, nonetheless.

Morning glories

Morning glories

The morning glories reseed themselves prolifically every year and have done so since I first moved into this house. In fact, I didn’t even plant the first ones. They just magically appeared.

Cosmos

Cosmos

This glorious stand of cosmos also self-seeded.

Cleome

Cleomes

The cleomes have been coming up on their own each spring for several years now. I did plant three of them about five years ago. That next year I weeded out dozens of baby cleomes that sprouted all over my rose bed. Now we seem to get just the right amount and I am thankful for the pop of color they add to the fall garden.

Moon flower

Moon flower

We have a couple moon flower progeny that survive from plants we put in years ago. We get less each year. They seem to have trouble sprouting through the mulch and ground cover.

It is fun to see where these self- sowing plants will emerge in the spring. They often come up in unexpected places. Places where I would never plant them myself but that I later decide is just right. In between flagstones on the patio or coming out vertically between retaining wall stones of a flower bed. Occasionally, I transplant young sprouts to a more prime location. Other times Mother Nature does know best and I let them be.

Hiking: On the Trail Again

Fall Leaves

We didn’t hike much over the summer. It was too hot for me. Once the weather reached 80 degrees I started whining about it and when it hits 85 degrees I won’t even go. Not too mention the biting flies, mosquitos, and gnats.

But with the cooler fall weather, we are on the trails again. Fall is my favorite season, not only because of the temperatures, but the colors are just so beautiful. The maples are putting on a show with their golds and oranges. I especially like seeing the colors on the trees against the blue of the reservoir water at West Branch State Park where we usually hike.

Fern moss.

It doesn’t matter how many times we hike at West Branch, we always see something new to us that we hadn’t seen before. Last week I thought we had discovered something called a fern moss. Fern mosses are mosses that have a fernlike appearance and there are numerous types.

Another fern moss.

Upon further research, I discovered that these two photos are not of fern mosses at all. These are apparently something called ground pine or clubmoss. They are more closely related to ferns than either pine or moss. The plant with the flat needles is called ground cedar. As near as I can tell, the other one is called tree clubmoss.

These tiny plants grow very slowly. It takes up to 15 years until they are mature to the point where they can reproduce. For this reason it’s best to leave them alone.

We often see other sights that are new to us as we are out in the woods and walking along roadways. We see birds, snakes, minks, weasels, etc. It is fun looking them up in field guides or online to learn about exactly what it is we have encountered.

We take all five dogs with us when we hike. It seems funny not to have Nikki waiting for us back at home anymore after her passing last week. You can read about Nikki at this link. Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute

Stay tuned for more hiking adventures.

Books I Read in September 2021

Bag full of magic. Library books!

Once again I have not read as many books as I had hoped because life got in the way. This month it was providing support to my husband as he works on our house. This project is part of the roof structure, soffits, and fascia on the west side of the house. I did get up on the scaffolding a few times to hold things, but believe me, my husband did the brunt of the work. There is also some gable work to be done. In fact I was called away from this post for paint chip clean up.

Oh, and I have also spent quite a bit of time and extra work transitioning our new kitten into the house! See the photo at the end of this post for a glimpse of Jasper. More on him in a future post. He fits right in with our pack because he was a foundling, of course!

And so, on to my slim list of readings for the month of September.

  1. The Kew Garden Girls-Posy Lovell

During World War I, a group of women takes on the challenge of keeping the Royal Botanic Gardens in good upkeep. The book also takes on a number of social issues of the day. After having never heard of the White Feather Campaign before, this is the second book I have read this summer that addresses it. Also discussed are the Suffrage Movement, women’s rights, and domestic violence. The characters in the book become family to each other. A good read.

2. At Lighthouse Point-Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is the third book in a series. I have enjoyed them all and become attached to the family as they go about getting their lives in order. The setting is a Maine island near Bar Harbor, so of course I would be a fan. The youngest daughter Blaine has always been impulsive. Returning from two years in Paris, she sets about figuring out the course of her life, even if it doesn’t go as planned. All the sisters are featured in this latest installment.

3. Pup Fiction-Laurien Berenson

Another gem from the Berenson dog show circuit mysteries. Melanie’s friend mysteriously becomes the owner of three show quality Dalmatians. Shortly thereafter, her friend’s ex-husband shows up, murdered nearby. How could two unlikely events be related? You’ll have to read it to find out the answer.

4. The Shell Collector-Nancy Naigle

Widow Amanda Whittier and her two children are surviving the loss of their husband and father the best they can. Amanda moves them to the beach town where she met her husband, and they start a new life. The friendships they make, and the one they renew, help them to heal as well as help those around them. Amanda makes friends like the ones we all want to have. This book was so good, it had me in tears near the end. Definitely worth the read.

Magazines:  Eating Well, Ohio Magazine, Oprah Magazine, the Cottage Journal, Cottages and Bungalows, Writer’s Digest

New kitten, Jasper!

The Extent of My Abilities

Curtain
New curtains for door.

This afternoon, I took a pair of floor length curtains and made them into curtains that fit the window on our side door. This is the extent of my sewing abilities. I can do this, hem pants, and sew on buttons. That’s about it.

All my sewing is done by hand. My mother tried to teach me how to sew with a machine. She didn’t have much luck because I was left handed and she said I did everything backwards. She soon gave up. Her attempts to teach me how to crochet and knit didn’t fare any better.

I did have a bit of success at embroidery. Except for the time I embroidered my project to the blanket on my lap.

I did well at cross stitch and needle point. They are repetitive, so the concept is simple. Sometimes I like the repetitive nature. It is soothing to work on while watching television.

And there is an added bonus to the curtain project I did today. I can use the remaining fabric to make curtains for the bathroom window! I’ll save that for another day.

Cupolas Installed!

Cupola installation completed!

And suddenly there were cupolas on top of the workshop, where no cupolas had been before. Ok, so it wasn’t all that sudden, but I am very happy with them.

My husband built and installed these cupolas. I am truly amazed at what he is able to do with some wood, screen, and a sheet of aluminum. Not only that but the act of getting onto the rooftop and installing them was monumental in my eyes. And they look nice too.

I learned a lot about cupolas that I never knew before. I thought they were ornamental but that is not so. Or rather, they are ornamental, but that was not their original purpose. Cupolas, are structures added on top of a building, and they are often domed. They are intended to provide light and/or ventilation. The purpose of cupolas in barns is to assist in the drying of stored hay. The purpose of our cupola is to provide ventilation. We needed a way to release moisture and heat, and we weren’t happen with what ridge vents would offer in this situation.

For some reason the cupolas remind me of Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Their cupolas are much larger, but there’s no accounting for my mental associations.

Close-up of cupola.

Our cupolas have screens behind all the louvers to keep out bats and other critters. We do have bats around here because of all the dead trees and woods in the surrounding area. While I like bats, I don’t want them in my building, especially when I hope to have an upstairs office there one day. I am perfectly content to have them living nearby though, where they can swoop through the air and eat mosquitos to their heart’s content.

So, there is more than you probably ever wanted to know about cupolas. Enjoy!

Making Plum Preserves

Strainer
Straining the plum preserves.

We hard a large harvest from one of our plum bushes this year! We purchased them from our County Extension Office as pencil sized twigs several years ago. The largest is now about seven feet tall. They are covered with sweet smelling white blossoms in the spring. I recently read that the type we have are called wild plums or sand cherries, among a few other names. They start to bloom after three years and produce fruit after four to six years. So we may have even more fruit next year if our other bushes kick in.

I made our first batch of plum preserves last week. I followed a recipe I found on-line which called for lime zest and juice to be added. I strained the final product through a colander which was a bit of work and had some waste. The result was tasty, if a little tart.

Just after that we went to our neighbor’s barn sale. She will be moving soon and was clearing out a lot of things. We will miss Shirley. She has been a good neighbor. And Zekie has certainly enjoyed chasing the geese off her pond. https://sanctuary-acres.com/2021/03/22/a-working-dog/ My husband and I had found a few items and were ready to leave the barn sale when we saw one last item we had to have. It was the colander type strainer with wooden pestle seen above. Our neighbor said she had used it for making applesauce. We knew that it would be perfect for making plum preserves!

I had four more pounds of plums from this week’s picking, so I made more plum jam this afternoon. This time I made plum cinnamon for one batch and the other was plum ginger with freshly grated ginger root. Both are delicious. I used the new strainer set up to remove the plum skins and it worked beautifully.

Preserves
Two flavors of plum preserves.

I also made a peach custard pie this morning with peaches I purchased at a local farm stand. It was a productive day and I am happy we were able to take advantage of local produce.

Peach custard pie
Peach custard pie.

New Friends

Mourning Dove

We have a couple new residents here at Sanctuary Acres. At least for the time being. We have two young mourning doves hanging around in the patio area. There is a small pear tree in one of our raised beds that has a bird’s nest in the top. There are so many leaves around the nest that we never got a good look at the resident bird although we did hear nestlings chirping at one point and noticed an adult coming back to feed its young.

It must have been a mourning dove. Occasionally we see an adult, but usually it’s two slightly smaller birds that must have been born this year. They don’t show much fear of us or the dogs, having grown up with their nest so near us. They grew up watching us sit on the patio, so we are nothing of concern to them.

A young mourning dove listening to me talk.

I am able to get within a few feet of the young birds. Often when I enter the patio garden the doves are there. One time they were sitting on the brick walkway sunning themselves when I came along. They moved to keep around 3 or 4 feet in front of me, but never flew away or seemed too concerned. I can stand there and talk to them and they listen to my voice, cocking their heads from side to side as if they find the conversation very interesting. I have come upon the a number of times and taken the opportunity to socialize with them.

Claire watching our two young dove friends.

The doves spend some time in the pine trees that surround the patio. They sometimes fly down to the patio as if they want to hang out with us. They have even come to the patio when I am sitting out with the dogs. The dogs do show some interest in the doves. If the doves stay still, then the dogs leave them alone. The doves will fly up into the trees if one of the dogs runs near them and barks, but they will come back later.

I am working on teaching the dogs not to chase the doves when they move around. It is going pretty well. I tell the dogs, these are our doves. If they move towards the doves, I tell the dogs “no no.” This is working well. Claire is our most active dog and likes to watch them. She likes to watch every thing. Even she usually leaves the birds alone at my request. They provide fine entertainment.

I worry that I am not doing the birds any favors by acclimating them to humans and dogs. I hope they stay around here where they are safe. We certainly are enjoying having them around. I had forgotten how much I enjoy watching birds. I recently learned that mourning doves usually mate for life. And that their diet consists of seeds, which they eat from the ground or from a tray style bird feeder. They are too big and heavy for other types of feeders.

I don’t know how long we will have are little friends, but we are making the most of the time they are here.

Beat the Heat

Patio view

This is how I beat the heat after working outside.

In the morning I worked in the vegetable garden, removed Japanese beetles from my roses and fruit trees, watered hanging baskets, and hauled one of the dog crate pans outside to clean it with the hose.

After lunch, I pruned the bad grapes from our vines and went on my second round of Japanese beetle patrol of the day.

Then I decided it was too hot for any more foolishness of this nature. Ie.: Working. So I went for a dip in the pool where the water was a pleasant 79 degrees. Refreshing!

Patio view

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon on a lounge chair in the shade and read while enjoying the company of some of our dogs.

My pup

Zekie is my constant companion. He is rarely more than a few feet away from me. This is just as well. Otherwise I have to keep looking for him to see what trouble he is getting into.

Shetland Sheepdog

Claire likes to be outside. She has made it her job to keep track of all squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. She also barks at loud motorcycles and cars that she deems to be going too fast. Her true bliss seems to be keeping an eye on rodents residing in the rock pile.

Greyhound Cassius is a momma’s boy too!

Cassius likes to hang out near to wherever I happen to be. He was supposed to be my husband’s dog, but it turns out he is a momma’s boy. Wherever I go, there he is. He especially likes to lay in the middle of the kitchen floor as I attempt to work around him while preparing meals.

This is a typical summer day here at Sanctuary Acres. And once again, life is good!

A Summertime Walk

Pink sweet peas
Pink Sweetpeas

We haven’t been walking much lately because, well, there’s just so much to do around here in the summer time. After weeding, planting, deadheading plants, fertilizing, going on bug patrol (hello Japanese beetles), transplanting, trimming bushes and trees, not to mention mowing, there are not a lot of hours left in the day.

Black eyed Susan’s
Black-eyed Susan’s

However this afternoon, the dogs were so insistent and hopeful, that we couldn’t bear to refuse them a walk. And they really needed the exercise after being cooped up from yesterday’s rains.

Day lilies
Day lilies

So, we loaded the dogs up in the car and went to one of our regular trails at West Branch State Park. It is interesting to see how the plants along the trail side change with the seasons. I took pictures of a few of the wildflowers that we saw today as walked.

Wild rose
Wild Rose

It was a cool day, so the flies weren’t even too bad. It was nice to enjoy an outing with the pups.

Sweetpeas
White/light pink Sweetpeas

Being a weekday afternoon, we had the trail to ourselves which made for a relaxing time.

Yarrow
White Yarrow

There were many more types of wildflowers in bloom than what I am sharing here. This means we also saw lots of bees, and my favorite, a hummingbird moth!

Sheltie
Claire and me, on the ride home

Here is a selfie of Claire and me on the ride back home. She always sits on my lap in the car. It is the only way I know of to keep her from getting carsick!

A Recipe for Fresh Turnip Sauté

A turnip, just minutes out of the soil

I came up with this recipe a few years ago when we were inundated with turnips from the garden. There must have been 50 turnips, all ready for harvest at the same time. I learned my lesson. Now, I plant a short row of turnips and replant as I use them, so we have only a few turnips needing to be used at any one time.

Sautéed Turnip with Greens

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium turnip with greens,

Cut the end and top from the turnip. Discard end and set the greens aside. Peel the turnip and cut into slivers, or do a fine dice. Cut the greens from the turnip top and discard the top. Strip the tender greens from the tough part of the stems. You can just pull and strip them off with your hand in one fluid motion. Discard the stems. Hold the greens in a bunch on the cutting board and cut into long strips.

In a medium size skillet, heat the oil on medium heat until it swirls freely in the pan.* Add the garlic and cook until golden brown and crispy. Add the white part of the turnip and cook until tender and edges are browned. This only takes a few minutes. Add the greens to the pan and cook until partially wilted. Add more oil if needed. Be sure to flip the greens and stir in the garlic and turnip so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Add the salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens are fully wilted. They are especially tasty if you let the greens brown slightly. At this point, the dish is ready to serve. It holds well if you need to prepare other courses. Just turn the burner off and cover the pan. Let it sit on the burner to stay warm.

Serves 2-3 people.

Finished turnip dish.

*You may have noticed that I always mention heating the oil in the pan before adding the ingredients. This is an important step. Foods cook differently if they heat up along with the oil and it will change how the dish turns out. Also, some foods make stick to the bottom of the pan if they heat up along with the oil. You must, however, not let the oil get so hot that it smokes or it will burn your ingredients. Oil at the preferred temperature has a nice glossy flowing look to it as it swirls around the pan. It will also easily move around the pan and cover the entire bottom with ease.