Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watching You Watching Me

After dinner last evening I went out to the garden, hoe in hand, to plant some cucumbers and dill along one of the arbors. As soon as I started to work the soil, I saw this little guy looking up at me from the other side of the arbor.

I'm not knowledgeable about toads so I don't know his proper name. But I do know toads are welcome in my garden. As far as I can tell, they do no harm to my plants and they eat unwelcome insects and slugs.

He watched me as I hoed the soil, watched me tuck the cucumber seeds into the dirt, watched me cover the seeds and tamp the dirt lightly with my rake. The entire time he just looked up at me from his little hole, not even blinking. (Do toads have eyelids? I couldn't tell.) Only his elastic throat expanded and contracted.

After I finished planting, I went back to the house for my camera and took a couple of pictures of friend Toad. Then I just squatted there and looked at him for a bit. Some people might find toads "icky" or gross. If you take some time to really watch them, you'll see their skin is a patchwork of browns, tans and greys with a mottled texture. This toad's skin had lots of baggy wrinkles, almost like an elephant's on a very small scale. Toads don't leap up and growl at you. Mostly they just want to be left alone to dig their little holes and catch a tasty meal. Seeing this toad watch me so steadily for so long, I couldn't help but wonder what he was seeing and what went on in his brain. Mentally I wished him well and thanked him for adding some extra pleasure to my evening in the garden.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raspberry Reverie

They're back! Rubus strigosus. A little bit sweet, a little bit tart. Dusky red when ripe and oh-so-fragile. Careful! Don't squeeze 'em when you pick 'em. An antidote to summer's swelter. Red raspberries.

Our bushes are a variety that begins to bear fruit in June. At first it's a modest crop and the berries are pretty small. I like to call them nuggets. Every few days we can gather several cups of them.

Here's a recipe for Raspberry Nuggets -
Take 10 to 12 nuggets.
Make a cup of your hand.
Pour the nuggets into the cup.
Open your mouth.
Toss the nuggets in.
Chew slowly. Let that delicate flavor play on your taste buds.

In addition to this recipe, I put the berry morsels in yogurt, on granola, in my morning oatmeal with maple syrup, and, oh my gosh, on buckwheat pancakes. Right now there are even enough raspberries to make a pan or two of my Ruby Slipper Brownies. Brownies are always a treat but the berries take a starring role in these.

Come September the bushes usually kick up production and the berries get larger and more numerous. You have more to show for your picking time. But I'm in no hurry. A bowl of these lovelies every few days is enough to keep me in smiles for the next month or two...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lettuce Leaves and Swallowtails

Thunderstorms rolled through this morning. Our rain gauge collected one and a half inches in the past 7 hours. About 15 minutes ago the sun appeared, so I ventured out to the garden. We obviously had pounding rain because a couple of my tender tomato plants are broken and all of the salad greens are flattened to the ground. I think (or at least hope) they'll revive in a day or two. But luckily I picked a huge basketful yesterday so we can still have salad with dinner tonight.

Isn't it curious? There was a time when iceberg lettuce was the ubiquitous lettuce in the grocery stores and restaurants. Now however, our lettuce choices are nearly as extensive as our yarn choices. I always plant several tried and true varieties - Green Ice, Red Sails, Oak Leaf, for instance. But I also try something new each year. This year the newbies include Red Salad Bowl, a burgundy red leaf with a smooth flavor and Blushed Butter Oaks. It's appropriately named. The ruffly light green leaves have a faint blush of red on the edges, and its flavor is, well, buttery-delicious!

After surveying the garden damage, I took advantage of the clearing sky to get a photo of one of my knitting works in progress - the Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark.

The yarn is from Alpacas d'Auxvasse, a hand-dyed laceweight blend of 90% Suri alpaca and 10% merino wool. I'm using size US3 needles.

Now that the garden is demanding lots of attention, my knitting projects are moving along slowly. In the case of this shawl, that's just fine. It's too hot and sticky to even think about wearing a warm, fuzzy shawl. But I know I'll be happy to have it when the seasons change once again, and colorful just-picked salads are only a photo in my garden journal.