Category Archives: garden

Soft days of autumn

View of Madison, Indiana, from the inn. It’s a quaint, arty little town about forty minutes up the river from Louisville. I wanted to get a photo of the sunrise in the morning but the whole river valley was fogged in. Couldn’t see a foot in front of myself.

The soft days of autumn seem to be sneaking up on us. From temperatures in the 80s a week ago, to lows in the 50s and even 40s now.  I love autumn with the smell of wood smoke and newly fallen leaves.  The golden sunshine and the reds and yellows of the leaves.  Everything seems to be winding down…but not quite yet.

This is the view from the Clifty Falls Inn. That is the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side. Another week or two, and those hills will be ablaze with color.

My husband and I visited Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana.  This 1400 acre park sits on the banks of the Ohio river and boasts some beautiful views of the river scenes, foliage, and the town of Madison. There is some great hiking here, too.  Unfortunately, with the dry September, the falls weren’t running so we’ll have to plan a visit for another time.

The variety of pumpkins and gourds at the farm was amazing. I could have brought home three times as many. But they provide a little fall color for the season. And in the end, get tossed into the chicken pen. The ladies are very appreciative.

We just spent one night at the inn but it was a pleasant getaway.  On our return, it seemed as if the leaves had begun changing colors overnight.  We stopped to buy pumpkins at the Cornucopia Family Farm.  This was our first visit but apparently they have many visitors from a wide area.  Whole families were there for the hayrides and popcorn, children’s activities and, well, to buy pumpkins.  I have never seen so many varieties.  I wanted them all but had to restrain myself.

We discovered this beautiful little country church as we were looking for the pumpkin farm.

As we drove home on the country backroads, we saw little churches and just enjoyed the day.  There were several Amish buggies on the roads.  It was Saturday, after all.  Just so relaxing to be out and about.

Late garden harvest of loads of peppers and a few tomatoes. Plenty more peppers to pick, too!

Summer tasks are winding down here on the farm.  The garden has about had it but I’m a hold out for the last green bean.  Still have plenty of peppers to pick as well as the sweet potatoes.  And the zinnias which I grow for cutting are still vibrant. Some of them are taller than me!

Firewood. This is nice, dry and seasoned firewood and splits easily. The basement is already stacked but there’s plenty more wood to split.

It’s time to put away the fishing gear. Although, really, does the season ever end? The impatiens and coleus are getting a little leggy.

The leaves are starting to turn and drop.  We usually just grind them up with the mower for mulch.  And our stack of winter firewood is growing.  We share a log splitter with the neighbor which is great for gnarly old pieces of wood.  But the boys actually like to split the wood by hand with a maul.  There is a lot more skill to this than it looks, requiring just the right swinging rhythm and twist of the wrist.  It’s nice of them to come out and help the old man out once in awhile.

The zinnias that I use for cutting are still going strong. Some of them are taller than me! In the background are the desiccated stalks of the sunflowers that the goldfinches have stripped. And those poles on the left hold motion sensitive lights which help scare away the night critters. Sometimes.

The next month will find me out tidying up the place before it gets too cold.  Maybe sitting by the firepit with a hot beverage and a book.  I hope you have a quite place to retreat, too.  Enjoy the season.

The last rose. Well maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I bring this little beauty inside in the winter just to enjoy the beautiful perfume on a cold day.

Something a little different

I’ve been taking a break for the past several weeks from working on my current series of paintings Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread.  Although I tend to be pretty disciplined when I’m working on a big project, sometimes I need a respite.  Recently I’ve returned to some old themes, particularly western scenes and my travels.  Culling through a couple of decades’ worth of old photos, scenes that I may have skipped previously, now draw me in.  It doesn’t always have to be the entire picture, just a small portion of it.  And I always feel free to change things around.

Atrium at Longwood Gardens, du Pont estate, Pennsylvania. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Here are a couple of my most recent paintings from my travels.  The first one is of the Atrium at Longwood Gardens on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania.  Although I visited in March of that year, it was still beautiful.  The gardens under glass were particularly impressive. Touted as the most beautiful garden in America, I couldn’t disagree.

Garden Cherub, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16. Pittsburgh, PA Kit Miracle

The second painting is from a different trip to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact.  One of our favorite places to visit is The Strip District, a multi-block area of food shops and restaurants, fish markets and collectibles.  This particular shop had some very enticing items in the front of the shop, but as I walked through the store to the back, they had a garden shop with rusty gates and ironwork, birdbaths and outdoor trellises.  I loved this little garden cherub.  Now I wish I had purchased him but at least I could capture him in paint.

Both of these paintings are painted on red-toned canvases which peeks through, adding another layer of liveliness to the scenes.

In case you are interested, these are both available in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt.  AND….I’m having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday.  Free shipping, too.

July flowers in the garden

One of the smaller sunflowers. I think it is Ring of Fire but am not positive.

The heat has arrived and the humidity has never left.  I’ve been occupied with painting in the studio but the yard and garden are never far from my mind.  A quick tour around this week reminded me that I need to get out there and weed again.  Didn’t I just weed that?  Well, time to go around again.

Zinnias which I use for casual arrangements.

The garden is going well and starting to produce.  Green beans, squash, peppers.  The snow peas are nearly past and the lettuce and asparagus are long gone.  We had to replant the corn as the first plantings weren’t doing too well.  I think probably due to some wascally wabbits.  Anyway, the next crops of corn are coming along nicely.

The hostas are almost over. These are actually light purple.

So far, only some cherry tomatoes but the other varieties are heavy with fruit.  Won’t be too long.  And the eggplant has survived the flea beetles and are looking healthy.

I love the shape of the budding sunflowers. They are such interesting flowers with lots of geometric shapes.

But I always have a passion for flowers.  They grow all over the yard.  Many perennials and some are very old as they were here when we moved here decades ago.  But the garden will always have zinnias and cosmos for cutting.  This year I have six kinds of sunflowers in two long rows.

The new sunflower patch. I’m so anxious to see the whole patch in bloom.

Plus!….I added a new 30 x 30 foot patch to plant sunflowers.  This is just below the spring garden.  And, I planted it with the birdseed sunflowers, probably oiled sunflower seeds, as I felt they probably didn’t have any chemicals on them since they were for the birds.  By the time I got to this area, I was flagging after all the other gardening work.  I just sowed the seeds, scratched them in with the rake and called it a day.  I thought the birds and the rabbits would have them all.  But, to my surprise, they took off and are now blooming.  Yes, there are some weeds in there but plenty of flowers. It’s always fun to experiment with new gardening ideas.

All the sunflowers feed the birds (or whomever).

Purple cone flowers.

The last of the lilies.

Mystery flower. These flowers started coming up in my peonies a few years ago. I let them stay as the butterflies seem to like them. But I really don’t know what they are? Any help out there would be appreciated.

A spring tour of the yard

One of my favorite views is of the front yard and the old woodshed. The white patches are swaths of spring beauties, a delicate tiny white flower with faint pink stripes. The forsythia are past but the lilies of the valley are coming in as are the day lilies.

After an unseasonably warm early spring with temperatures in the 70s and even up to 80, the flowers and other signs of spring are nearly overwhelming.  I love spring!

This old house had an abundance of established trees and flowers when we moved here but we have added many ourselves over the years.  Plus, I’m a great one for digging things up and moving them.  I’ve also shared many plants over the years with friends and family.  Did I mention how much I love spring?

Come take a little walk around the yard with me to see what is happening.

The east field is a study in various shades of green. The yellow flowers are actually weeds but they’re pretty this time of year.

Crabapple from a start from another tree in the yard. Before is a white magnolia (not in bloom yet) with shiny leaves.

Columbine. No work at all except that they spread everywhere. Such a beautiful, delicate flower.

These bluebells are so easy to grow and require no maintenance at all. They totally die back to come up again next year. I love the way they start out as pink and then the blossoms turn a beautiful sky blue. I’ve moved them all over the yard. The little white flowers are spring beauties, along with grape hyacinths, and some spent daffodils.

The lilacs were here when we bought the place. You can smell their perfume all across the yard.

Not a flower but the martin nest built on the porch of my studio. Yes, we have a martin house but the bluebirds live there. The martins usually build on top of their previous nest but it finally fell down last year. It took them about two weeks of bringing mud, weeds and moss to make this new home.

Narcissus take over after the daffodils are done.

Violets are wildflowers that some people think are weeds. But I love their beauty and variety of colors from blues to deep purples to variegated to cream.

The redbud is a delicate under-story tree which grows from central Indiana and south, throughout the Midwest and southern mountains. The flowers are directly on the branches. The heart-shaped leaves don’t come out until later. They pair well with dogwoods which are just starting to come out and the woods are loaded with them.

I love tulips but they’re difficult to grow around here. The deer think they’re candy and they often don’t make it to bloom.

We call this a tulip tree around here but it really is a variety of magnolia. It’s a new addition to the yard so we were surprised to see it bloom this year.

Azaleas. This color pairs great with the orangey/peach azalea next to it.

Signs of spring

We’ve had an unusually warm winter down here in Southern Indiana.  The warmest recorded in 140 years!  Very little snow but plenty of rain.  The past week saw temperatures in the 50s and 60s.  All of this warm weather has given a real push to spring.  Today I took a little walk around the yard and this is what I saw.

Crocuses all over the yard, appearing in the most unusual places, courtesy of children planting them where they wish.

First, several different kinds of crocuses.  Over the years I’ve purchased bags of these in the fall and let the kids and now grand kids plant them.  It is always a surprise to see where they come up.  And some of them seem to travel from where I planted them many years ago.  I really don’t know how they do that.

Daffodils emerging with day lilies in the background.

The early daffodils are always a welcome harbinger of spring.  It seems the singles come out earliest, especially the ones that were already naturalized in this old homestead.  We have doubles and other colors but they come out a bit later.  Another “walking” plant as they seem to come up in the strangest places, not where I have planted them at all.

Forsythia jungle. This will be a golden mountain in another week or two.

The forsythia jungle has grown from the three small plants that I bought end of season at the tractor supply center many years ago.  About fifteen years ago, I had one of my sons dig up the resets and plant them along the road.  The past few years they have made quite a showing.  I hope the travelers enjoy them.  He replanted some lilac starts, too, but they’re a bit slower.

Flowering quince, ready to pop.

This is a flowering quince bush ready to pop.  I’m sure the sun and 60 degree temps will lead to an explosion of blooms real soon.  The start came from my mother’s garden so I always think of her when I pass by.

Twenty tons of rock delivered this week to repair the winter damage.

After all the rain and mud this winter, we just had twenty tons of rock delivered for the drive.  It seems that we’re always trying to keep up here on the farm, man against nature…and nature is winning.

Down at the creek. The peepers are creating a cacophony of noise!

The peepers are going to town down at the creek.  I love this early sound of spring.  Sometimes the beaver have dammed the stream so I can see a one acre pond through the trees.  Fortunately, not this year.

Hazelnut bushes with catkins.

I also spotted a lot of hazelnut bushes coming into bloom.  They’re not real showy but they make a nice addition to a spring bouquet.  I cut some forsythia branches last week and forced them into bloom.  It only took about three days for them to come out and brings a needed touch of spring indoors.  Check out this previous post for how to do this.

Runaway daffodils. I really don’t know how they got here.

Some call this vinca an invasive species but I really like their periwinkle flowers. Yes, I have to pull out tons of vines in the spring, but I think they’re worth it.

Tulips and flowering trees will be out soon as will the spring beauties and violets. And my husband prepped the cold frame for sowing some lettuce soon.  Can’t wait.

Anyway, that’s the spring update from this part of my world.  I hope you are seeing signs of spring in your neck of the woods, too.

September garden update

Cherry tomatoes from just two bushes, picked mid September.

Normally this time of year, the garden starts slowing down. Not this year.  Despite the record-breaking temperatures and drought, our garden is still producing.

Dried cherry tomatoes. A jar of yummy deliciousness.

While most of the regular tomatoes have slowed down, the cherry tomatoes are still coming on strong.  We have a debate whether the best ones are Sweet 100s or Sweet One Million.  They’re both delicious.  I have been drying plenty of them in the dehydrator.  I found the best and quickest way to dry them is to cut them in half and then gently squeeze out the seeds.  They will dry much faster.  We love to put them in bread or just eat them straight for snacks.  Yummm.

Fresh green beans from the second crop planted in mid-July.

And the green beans which I replanted in July have been coming in.  Amazingly, they’re better than the first batch we planted last spring.  Big and juicy and practically bug free.  I love green beans!

A multitude of peppers. Jalapenos, Anaheim, and sweet yellow peppers.

The peppers haven’t given up either.  We have jalapeno, Anaheim and sweet peppers.  A few of the hot peppers go a long way so we’re always glad to share them with the neighbors.

Sweet potatoes cluster, all from one slip. Variety Puerto Rican vining.

My husband loves sweet potatoes.  This clump is from just one slip!  And he planted fifty slips!  And they’re still growing (the vines haven’t died back yet).

Although the squirrels are harvesting most of our walnuts, I always feel a kinship as I “squirrel” away our garden produce.  Apologies for the bad pun.

A walk through the yard

After weeks of oppressive heat and no rain, we finally had a few storms blow through here earlier this week.  Not only did the yard and garden receive a beneficial watering, but the temperatures have dropped to actually pleasant for late August.  The windows are flung open and I can’t help but want to play outside.

Chicken in the Woods fungi. Such a beautiful color and shape. This is supposed to be edible but I’m not too fond of wild mushrooms.

This evening the dog and I took a walk around the yard to see what was going on.  The first thing to catch my eye was a spectacular Chicken of the Woods mushroom.  It grows in about the same place every year.  It’s supposed to be edible and is highly sought after, but I’m not much for wild fungi.

Garden sunflowers about a week ago. Some of these beauties were over twelve feet tall!

Sunflowers down after the big storm blew through here earlier this week.

This sunflower seed head is already being harvested by the little critters.

And here are two photos of my giant sunflowers.  One from a week ago.  And the other from a few days ago, after the storm knocked them down. Well, all is not wasted.  Apparently the critters are already feasting on the seeds.  Enough flowers are still standing for the hummingbirds and finches, too.

Wild Joe Pye weed is a perennial which grows throughout the Midwest. The butterflies love it and it’s supposed to have been valued for its medicinal properties by the pioneers.

Our yard is surrounded by fields and woods.  There are banks of Joe Pye weed and Jewel-weed.  So pretty for summer bouquets.

We planted this peach tree over thirty years ago. It blew over many years ago but has managed to survive and even provide some of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever eaten….if I can get to them before the animals do.

And here is an old survivor, a thirty year old peach tree which still produces.

Damage to cedar bench from wood bees (Carpenter bees), and the wood peckers who went after their larvae.

As a little sidebar, I am showing you the damage to the cedar benches we refinished a couple of years ago.  The wood bees (Carpenter bee), digs a hole into the wood and lays her eggs.  This only causes a little round hole but the inside is eaten out like a honeycomb which weakens the wood.  The real damage you see are from the pileated woodpeckers who are going after the larvae.  Gggggggggggrrrrrr.

The last lily of the season. I’ve drawn and painted this one many times.

Here is a photo of the last lily of the summer.  It is a beautiful peach color with a yellow interior.  I’m not sure what variety this is but I have painted it several times over the years.

Beautiful large hosta blooming in late August. Variety Plantaginea Aphrodite.

Finally, these large white hostas (Plantaginea Aphrodite) are just coming out.  They’re the last of my hostas to bloom in the garden.  They have large white bell-shaped flowers and a heavenly perfume.  I especially like the whorls of flowers.  They’re very hardy and need little care.

So, this is just a walk though my little corner of the world.  I hope that you have someplace where you can enjoy a bit of the outdoors, to reflect and just admire.

In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

  John Muir

Thick Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage

Thick Kale Soup served with crusty multi-grain bread. Great any time of year.

We often think of soup as being a cold weather food but actually soup is great any time of year.  You can just go “shopping” in your fridge or garden and come up with a variety of tasty and healthy options.  After my recent post of my Corn Chowder recipe, I had a request for the Kale soup recipe.  So here goes.

This soup has been a family favorite for years and we’re likely to make it any time of year.  It is often a little thicker than soup (stewp?) but it is hardy any way you make it.

Ingredients:

·         3 tablespoons olive oil ·         1 large bunch of kale, deveined, chopped
·         1 pound smoked sausage, cut up ·         2 quarts chicken broth
·         1 large onion, chopped ·         2 cans white beans (northern, cannelloni )
·         4-8 cloves of garlic,diced ·         Cracked pepper
·         4 large potatoes, cubed ·         Salt to taste

 

Heat the olive oil in a 6 – 8 quart soup pot.  Add the chopped smoked sausage.  You can use any kind of smoked sausage – regular, light, turkey, or even Polish kielbasa. Stir and brown.

Add the chopped onion and stir until clear.  Add the minced garlic.  Keep stirring so they don’t burn.

Kale soup – Step 1. Brown the cut up sausage, add the onions and garlic.

Meanwhile, wash and strip the tough veins out of the kale.  Rough chop and add to the mixture, stirring until wilted.  Add the chicken broth and cover. Bring to simmer.

Step 2. Add the chopped kale and wilt in pan.

Wash and dice the potatoes.  Sometimes I leave the peel on just for added texture. Add to the pot after it comes to a slow boil.  Cover and bring back to simmer.

Step 3. Add the chicken broth, bring to simmer. Add the cubed potatoes and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked (about 15-20 minutes), use an old fashioned potato masher and rough mash them in the pot.  This just helps the soup to thicken.

Then add the two cans of beans (drained).  Frankly, I just use whatever white beans I have available.  I’ve even added butter beans and it works fine.

Add the cracked pepper to taste.  You probably won’t need any salt as the sausage is pretty salty, but suit yourself.

Serve with crusty bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

Corn chowder

Sweet corn, bi-color. Peaches and cream variety.

It’s that time of year for those of us who grow gardens.  The produce is coming in and we have to scurry like squirrels to put it all away.  Fresh green beans and new potatoes.  Juicy sliced tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes popping in your mouth.  With the vagaries of the weather this summer – buckets of rain in June and the beginnings of a drought now – I feel lucky to be able to pluck anything at all from the garden.  But we always say that.  Some years it’s too many zucchinis.  This year, none.  I even had to replant the green beans. We can never quite predict what the bounty will be.

With all of these fresh veggies, we’re making soups -vegetable, minestrone, and fresh tomato.  Sometimes Thick Kale soup with smoked sausage. But this morning I picked the first batch of sweet corn.  I think this variety is peaches and cream and it’s so so good.  We’ll put most in the freezer but I made a triple batch of one of our favorite soups, Corn Chowder. I thought I’d share this family favorite recipe with you.  You can use canned corn but fresh is better.

Ingredients

·         ½ pound bacon cut up fine ·         2 cups milk
·         1 small onion, cut fine ·         3 tablespoons cornstarch
·         1 – 2 potatoes, cubed ·         1 ½ teaspoons salt
·         1 cup water or chicken broth (or both) ·         ¼ teaspoon fresh grated black pepper
·         1 ½ cups corn cut fresh off the cob (or canned) ·         Couple of dashes of garlic powder

In a large soup pot (6 -8 quarts or larger if you increase the recipe), saute bacon until soft and half cooked.  Drain the fat. Add chopped onion and stir. Cook until soft.  Add cubed potatoes and stir.  Partially cook (about 5 minutes).  Add water or broth, corn, spices and bring to low boil. Stir in milk.  Bring back to simmer.  Make a slurry of the cornstarch (mix it with a little water), then slowly pour in while stirring.  This will thicken the soup.  Simmer until potatoes are done, adding additional milk or broth to thin. Serves 6 -8.

That’s pretty much it.  You will want to double or triple this recipe because it is sooooo good.  Serve with fresh hearty bread or cornbread.

Mangia!

Summer garden

Giant tomato, Park Whopper My husband ate the entire tomato for lunch. Yummmm.

 

You haven’t heard me bragging about the garden this summer because, well, in a word, it’s been awful.  We usually plant a big garden (25 x 40) and a small spring garden which holds spring crops, such as, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, etc.

Tomatoes ready for canning.

Everything was looking good before we went out west last month on vacation.  Although we enjoyed wonderful weather on our trip, apparently the Midwest received buckets of rain the entire time.  We returned to a garden full of weeds, at least, that which was not drowned.  I could watch them grow on the deer cam.

Multi-stemmed sunflowers just came out this week. They’re already being eyed by the goldfinches.

Red sunflower being strangled with a morning glory. The bees are loving this.

Then with a couple of weeks of extreme heat, there were some crops that we just gave up on.  The peas blew past, the kale, lettuce and spinach bolted.  The beans, corn, and squash in the big garden looked anemic.

New bean crop. The red line gives you an indication of location.

This past month we have spent hoeing and weeding, feeding and trimming.  Some things we’ve just given up on.  I planted new beans a couple of weeks ago and they’re up now, doing nicely.  The sweet corn has recovered but we’re trying to keep the varmints out of it until we can pick it.  The raccoons have already cleaned out the apple trees and devastated my seckle pear.

Swallowtail on some volunteer flowers.

Butterfly and zinnias

A bouquet of zinnias just for me. I love cut flowers in the garden.

The sunflowers are out, the butterflies are loving the zinnias, and we’ll still probably end up with way too many tomatoes.

Anyway, that’s life in the country.