Archive for December, 2010

Snow Shoveling, A Morality Tale

I don’t know what the weatherpundits are going to call it, but around here it’s already The Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010; most of our roughly 20 inch blanket arrived on the 26th. Lunchtime’s lazy flakes started swirling toward whiteout at about 4 PM and the hours between dark and dawn were thick with a howling northeaster.

Although snow was still falling and blowing all morning on the 27th, the blowing showed a great deal more enthusiasm. No way to start shoveling much before noon, by which time the snow was what one might call “formerly fluffy.” It wasn’t heavy, exactly, compared to some snows I’ve hefted in my time, but it was already closer to igloo material than the original thistledown.

And there was a lot of it, so both of us were out there for hours. Bill started by clearing a path around the greenhouse and down to the bird feeder

snowbound greenhouse from inside

The greenhouse from inside (those shelves are 4 feet off the floor)

snowbound greenhouse with standing shovel

First chunk of first south window cleared

bird feeder and birds in snow

Birds, feeding

And that was the easy part. Next came

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Cookies in the Kitchen, Wild Mushrooms in the Woods

I’m having the usual veteran cookie baker’s dilemma: too many tempting new recipes vying with too many old favorites (we will not speak about too little time or too few pairs of roomy pants).

pepparkakor gingerbread cookies

Roll and cut Pepparkakor, the quintessential Solstice gingerbread cookie (animals, birds and stars belong to everyone, regardless of religion or lack of same.)

To cope this year, I’m going to try a 180 from the time honored “one dough, many  cookies” strategy. As soon as I get this posted I’m going to shrink the list and use the dough for spicy walnut ginger fingers to make the fancy cut out shapes necessary to a proper assortment. They’re only a distant cousin of pepparkakor , but under the circumstances I’ve decided they’re close enough.

Bill, meanwhile, has none of these problems. He just keeps going out mushrooming and will with luck bring home winter oysters, about which ( and a few others) he has written another guest post

oyster mushroom , pleurotus ostreatus

The delicious Winter Oyster Mushroom can withstand repeated freezing and thawing cycles and can be found through the Fall, Winter, and Spring in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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Baked Winter Squash with Jalapenos and Piave (V.N.I.)

baked squash with jalapenos and piave

The words are the recipe; heat the squash, then top with cheese and peppers. The initials stand for Very Nearly Instant: about 2 minutes in the microwave, because we almost always have some baked winter squash around.

It’s one of our favorite vegetables: in the garden, where it’s quite easy to grow if you have the space, in the kitchen, of course, and up in the bedroom under the bureaus, where it’s the first thing I see – other than Bill – every morning when I awake.

Terrific way to start the day, actually. No matter how gloomy the weather or discouraging the news, here’s this good sized supply of a beautiful winter staple that’s filling, flavorful, versatile AND (blare of trumpets) requires no refrigeration, canning, freezing or other special preservation. It stays perfectly good at room temperature for an entire season.

buttercup, tetsakabuto, candy roaster melon, queen of smyrna squash

Down from the bedroom for their closeup, clockwise from left: Buttercup, Tetsukabuto, Candy Roaster Melon Squash, Queen of Smyrna.

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Juniper ( Juniperus species)

OK, it’s officially evergreen season, when gardeners’ thoughts turn to plant material that does not shed its leaves and (in most cases) does not add any more brown to the landscape. That’s gardeners. Everyone else of course is thinking – or trying not to think – about Holiday/Solstice/Christmas trees.

I have already tied a shortbread recipe to these ubiquitous conifers and my strong feelings about them, but our friend Eric over at Yale has been inspired in a whole different direction. If you choose junipers, you’re not just honoring a symbol, you’re getting rid of pests.

blue star juniper

Recently planted ‘Blue Star’ Juniper. It will take about a decade to reach full size.

“Our Juniperus squamata ‘BlueStar’ shows how it got its name in this image,” says Eric. “It will take ten years or so to become 3 feet in spread and almost that in height. That slow growth combines with its excellent coloration to make it a good choice for the mixed border.”

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