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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wood Poppy

I'm not positive I have it's name right, but here is what I think is a Wood Poppy in the woods in my back yard. It was a new addition last year, and it seems to be a happy plant under the pines and spruces. It is no delicate little wildflower - it has a substance to it. Cold doesn't seem to faze it. Our collie can walk over it and it springs back. What a great plant. I hope ie reseeds all over the place!

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Merrybells in the Shade Border, early April

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Redbud, Early April

When I was growing up, we have two crabapples sentinels opening to the backyard, and one perfect Redbud on the left side. It had a graceful shape, the perfect small tree. And the buds! The delicate pink flowers were my favorite of the spring blooms. That was in Michigan. In my early thrities, I moved to the east coast and found out that Redbuds were native to the local hardwood forests, unlike in my home state. I have been enchanted since then, and visits to the woods in ealry spring takes my breath away. On our property, we have a wooded area that is second growth and degraded from what I see as the natural woods. We are adding dogwoods and redbuds to create a second story canpoy, and although it is taking a while, the redbuds are starting to grow.  Perfect. 

First Harvest: Mint

I was excited to have my first harvest meal of the year: Mint Marinated Lamb Kebabs.

I am one of those dummies that palnted mint years ago that wasn't properly contained (look to make sure the pot doesn't have drainage holes!!), and as a reuslt, I have been pulling it out of vegetable beds, paths, and flower beds for the last decade and a half.

It is one of the first plants back to life in the spring, and I pull it up with as many roots as I can get. I know there are more roots, and I will see more mint. Later in the year, it sneaks under other plants, and I may not notice it when the leaves are still nice and tender, so the "harvests" from weeding can't be used. But in spring, the mint is fresh, green, and tender, and oh-so-good. I planted some of it is a pot - always optimistic that it won't escape this time - so I can have fresh, tender mint for cooking later in the year, then took the roots off the rest and chopped it up for the marinade.

So if you have mint invading your beds, please try the marinade. It is wonderful on lamb, the natural mint combination (I used lamb from Evermore Farms, which is wonderful), but could be used on beef or buffalo as well.  I used about a pound and a half of meat, trimmed of fat. Here is the approximate mix:

Juice of one lemon (throw in some of the peel, too)
2 Tablespoons Honey
Big handful of fresh, minced mint (perhaps a cup)
4 cloves of minced garlic

Cut the meat into large chunks - 2 to 3 inch on each side. Put the marinade ingredients (mixed) and the meat in a Ziploc gallon bag or (slightly safer) in a lidded glass container and marinate in the refrigerator for no less than one hour or more than overnight. Take the meat out of the marinade, and put on metal skewers, leaving some room in between the chunks for most even cooking. Grill. Eat. Enjoy plain or with a sauce of equal amounts of greek yogurt and tahini.

Yum. One great weed.

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Work, Play, and the Creation of Beauty.

When I started my blog, it was supposed to be "life outside the office". I wrote a lot, then stopped. Clearly, there hasn't been enough "outside the office" in the last few months.

But the garden is blooming like crazy, veggies are popping, and my kitchen is starting to reflect the fresh harvests again. It is time to reclaim a balanced life between work and play.  My "play" involves one heck of a lot of work. Digging, planting, weeding outside. Chopping, sauteeing, baking inside. Whew.

When spending hours and hours and hours weeding and mulching last weekend, I can't say I was always having fun. Gardening involves a lot of grunt labor. So does good cooking - there is not a lot of glamour in endless vegetable chopping. But in both cases, the payoff is so great: the creation of beauty.

Beauty is the payoff. Visual beauty, glorious taste - I am a glutton for the sensual rewards of my labor. My eyes widen in celebration of a bloom, or the textured created by overlapping foliage. My taste buds rejoice in fresh, healthy foods.

I am not alone. Yesterday, Joanthan and I went to Longwood Gardens to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. It was crowded, of course, with people basking in the beauty of thousands of flower bulbs, forest wildflowers, and sniffing incredible fragrances. It took hundreds and hundreds of hours of labor to create such beauty - and none of it was my own labor. Joy, joy, joy!                    

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