Archive for September, 2019

Watermelon Radish

watermelon radishes

I was searching all over for the White Balsamic Vinegar that I like – Bellino Italian White Vinegar. I went to Shop Rite, Whole Foods, Wegman’s, Stop & Shop, Trader Joe’s, and even, as a long shot, Walmart. I was prepared to find it online when Shop Rite returned it to the shelves. Yay!!! As is my wont, I did check out the fresh produce in many of those stores – you never know what will look appealing and special. I was in Whole Foods when I saw “Watermelon Radishes“. I LOVE radishes and snack on them all the time. I’ve found the large organic ones are almost sweet as well as tart and crunchy. I’d never heard of a watermelon radish. I did what you would do – pulled out my phone and did a search. 🙂 I bought 4 of them. They are indeed an absolutely gorgeous color inside. The ones I had were a bit firmer and perhaps less flavorful than some of the regular red-and-white radishes, but they were still very tasty. I munched on one as a snack, and tossed the others into a green (and now pink) salad. For your viewing pleasure, and as a suggestion for enjoyment if you encounter them in your store, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Watermelon Radishes!

Walking in the Woods

fallen tree with multiple branches

This past weekend my friend Amy and I went off to walk in the woods. Neither of us wanted anything strenuous. We wanted to be outside in the fresh air, walking, in nature. We had several ideas: the Middlesex Greenway, the Great Swamp, Patterson Falls, the Raritan canal towpath, and the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, among many other options. I’m willing to bet that surprises many of you who probably have only seen pictures of NJ from the NJ Turnpike. NOT our best side, for sure. Try taking Rt 287 up north towards the NY state line – that will surprise you as well. Back in the late 1970s NJ was 2/3 forest. We have all sorts of preserved areas, national parks, state parks and of course the Pine Barrens. There is STILL a lot of Mother Nature green in our state.

twisted vines and branches

Twisted vines and branches

We opted for the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Amy had only ever seen a tiny sign at one corner of the preserve, and often wondered how/where you could get in there. I often pass 2 of the small parking areas that have trail beginnings. Other than that, neither of us knew anything about it. I was fairly certain it would be mostly flat walking as I knew the general area was not at all hilly, or at least not more than our town. Amy and I both walk about town so it seemed a safe choice. We thought we’d walk for perhaps an hour. I thought we might manage 3 miles that way as I knew we’d be walking, not trying to “make time” or get anywhere.

dead vines wrapped around tree trunk

I liked the texture from the vines wrapped about the trunk

My husband printed out 2 copies of the trail map for us. I figured we could park on Road 3, take the red trail to the orange trail, and then cut back on the white trail to get back to the car. Amy had her walking stick, and I had on long sleeves and long pants – I’d been warned by my neighbor about poison ivy.

bridge over the brook

Our first view of the brook – our surprise!

We parked the car and walked to the only trail opening that we saw. It was the blue and white entrance. We turned and went back because we wanted red. There was a flat field, maybe for parking? To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a barricade up or not, but we walked across gravel and grass and did indeed find a second trail head – the red trail. There was almost no one else on the trail – a bicyclist passed us at the beginning but it was just the 2 of us, chatting and walking and looking at the trees.
brook and tree roots

There were a LOT of dead trees. In as sense the dead trees were much more interesting than the live ones. There is such stark elegance in the stripped branches. They make such curious shapes. We started seeing all sorts of animals and items in the branches.

bark squirrel climbing down tree

Bark ‘squirrel’

We also discovered a brook. I wasn’t expecting a brook. That’s because I didn’t actually LOOK at the map other than to see trails. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you that we did not turn off where we had planned to turn back toward the car. We saw another brook when we were high up above it. My memory of the distances does not match with what I see on the map. I’m very bad at spatial recognition. But I’m fairly sure that we saw both brooks that are in the eastern side of the preserve.

bees heading home to dead log

can you see the bees heading home into the log?

Most of the path was completely clear. We had 2 spots where we did have to step over fallen trees. There were other spots where someone had come through and cut away large chunks of tree to open the trail.
cleared path

We figured out we had missed the turn to the white trail when the trail began climbing up and up and all we saw were orange markers and then saw orange and blue markers. We’d also been walking for well over an hour at that point. Hey, we were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

fallen tree roots making a wall

The base of this tree was like a huge wall – or from this angle – a mud monster

I took out my cell phone to see if by any chance the paths would be marked on the map. Not unexpectedly they were not. But using my phone, showing me in what direction I was moving, and using the trail map, we figured out that we needed to hang a sharp left onto the blue path and make our way back there.

criss crossed dead branches

luckily this was NOT on the path

We followed the blue and white paths to a trail exit and realized immediately that it was the one on Road 1, not Road 3. That was easily fixed by backing up a few feet and hanging a right on the white path. That took us back to where we had started – our first foray out of the parking lot. All in all we walked for approximately 2 hours and covered 3.7 miles, including multiple stops for me to take pictures, and a longer stop on a bench on the top of a hill overlooking the brook.

second brook

we were higher than it appears – I zoomed in

We saw only 5 other people, plus some youth hiking group that entered at the junction of the red and orange paths just ahead of our arrival there. We never saw them again. We saw the bicyclist twice – once heading in and once on the trail. We saw a woman with her young dog. I think she said it was an English Springer Spaniel, but it was absolutely terrified of us and we didn’t wish to prolong its misery. We passed a man on his way out at the Orange/Red trail end on Avenue E. We passed 2 young student looking types when we took our hard left onto the Blue path. That was it. We were undoubtedly the loudest slowest folks in the preserve. 🙂

bark possum walking up the tree

Bark possum walking up the tree

Once we were back at the car we decided we deserved some lunch. That of course necessitated thinking and deciding. As we cogitated I drove to show Amy some other neat things I knew in the area (but the horse wasn’t in the field 😦 ). She remembered a health food cafe she’d been to with a friend in our general vicinity. Given her description (near those strip malls, but not in them, but behind them, tucked away) I wasn’t sure we’d find that one but I did know where all the strip malls with tucked away back areas were in that area. We were such successful intrepid trekkers that day that not only did we find our way out of the woods unassisted, but we found her restaurant. We both had delicious wraps and iced coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect walk in the woods. Next time we’ll tackle the Great Swamp!

brook with bridge on blue path

Fall Garden Excitement

black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail butterfly

I have mentioned that I did not think I had ever seen a hummingbird until I saw one in June in Phoenix. My next-door-neighbor had a humming bird feeder and she saw them. My husband said that he had seen one in our yard once also (years ago). Other folks in town have said that they have hummingbirds. I have now seen one with my OWN EYES in MY garden!!!! I am SO EXCITED!!!!!!

False Starwort Bolton's Aster

zinnias, false starwort, canna lily all still in bloom

I was chatting with a neighbor. He is always threatening to steal my Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia (my big gorgeous yellow flowers). One year I gave him seeds from the flowers. I believe one year I even dug up a plant and gave it to him. He has not had any luck growing them. This year I gave him the botanical name AND the name of the place from where I get a few new plants each year (Heritage Flower Farm in Wisconsin). As we were chatting – that’s when I saw MY hummingbird! It was wonderful. It checked out the big canna lilies and flew away. My neighbor said that is where he sees them as well – feeding on his cannas. You KNOW next year I’m going to plant a FIELD of canna lilies!!!!
brown butterfly or moth

I never did anything about harvesting the seeds from the scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). I’m not sure the pod is even still there. I don’t think I have them in a very good spot. I may get some more for next year and put them elsewhere – maybe in front of the porch. The false starwort (Bolton’s Aster) is doing fantastic! It is indeed putting forth dozens of little white flowers. I don’t know if that’s a moth or a butterfly enjoying them. It flitted too much for me to get a sufficiently clear photo so that I could search on it. The black swallowtail was back as well. I think it might be a female. I have such a clear picture of it now but I can’t tell if the difference between the male and female on the web site is because they happen to have slightly different markings by the tail end, or if those different markings are how you tell male from female. I think this one looks more like the picture of the female black swallowtail

Not a weed

Those are DEFINITELY going to be flowers, not more leaves

The big bushy weed thing that was growing behind the zinnias and next to the cosmos – it’s not a weed!!!! Look – it has little flower buds on it! I can’t wait to see what comes up. I KNOW I have pulled that plant out in the past thinking it a weed. There is something growing out from under the yellow peony that I’m sure is a weed. But it, too, seems to have flowers so it gets to stay. The only flowering thing I pull is my goldenrod. The goldenrod would take over the entire yard if I let it. Its runners are extremely aggressive. 🙂 Even pulling out easily a dozen runners this spring, I will still have a nice crop.

flowering weed

hey – if it flowers, it can stay

Among my many “let’s just try it” this year was an attempt to grow cucumbers. I love cucumbers. I gave my niece my Mexican cucumber plant for last year, and thought maybe I’d see if I could get real cukes this year. As you can see from the picture, it does not appear that I succeeded. I probably did not give it enough light, and maybe it needed friends to pollinate properly. It does seem as if it’s TRYING to make a cucumber. We’ll give it more time and see what develops. Maybe I should tell it that it is a WEED and it would be more productive?

supposed to be a cucumber

Half a cucumber?

Time for My End Run

bifurcated tree 1

Dead, unsightly, I want them GONE!

It’s been 3 months now that I’ve been trying to get permission from my neighbors to remove the tree behind my garage. Half of the tree is dead. There are still some live branches on parts of it. When I got estimates back in JUNE all the experts suggested removing the entire tree. To do THAT I need a permit from the township and THEY required permission from my neighbors. I couldn’t get permission from my neighbor because she was selling the house at the end of July and didn’t want to risk any damage. She told me to take it up with the new owners. August came and there was no sign of new owners. FINALLY last week, August 28, I saw a moving van.

more dead branches

Still MORE dead branches – some already broken off

I went over to say hello and mention the tree. I know my timing was terrible, but hurricane season is coming and I want those branches GONE. I wasn’t completely awful. *smile* I brought a hanging plant (red begonias) and I had written down on paper my name, my husband’s name, our address and our home phone. I went to say hello and welcome to the neighborhood and please look at the dead tree and come by for a cocktail or coffee. My new neighbor, Mary Lou, seemed to be completely frazzled. I suspected my effort had just failed. It’s now a week later. I’d hoped that maybe we’d see signs of life there again Labor Day weekend but no, no one anywhere in sight.

branches over hanging garage

I should make my neighbor pay for this part – these are HIS tree

Enough is enough. The heck with them and the township. I called Paul the tree man back. I said – we don’t need a permit to take branches overhanging my property, correct? He said that was correct. I said – come and get them. I am sure you are correct and the whole tree should come down but that’s not happening any time soon, and the wind and rain season IS soon. At one point it appeared we’d get a larger part of Hurricane Dorian but thank goodness that is NOT happening. It now looks as if we’ll get rain and tropical force winds at the most. That can still cause a bit of damage, especially if things get caught in the power lines. Our town dates back to pre-Revolutionary war times so our power lines are all ABOVE ground. I told Paul that besides the “dead” tree I’d also like the cantilevered branch removed from my garage. He made some comment about little overhanging branches won’t damage the roof. I said, noooooo, this branch is easily 20 feet long and balanced on the point of the garage. He agreed to include that. 🙂 Next week. He’s due next week. YAY!!!!!

bifurcated tree trunk

The source of my troubles

To be fair, the tree is not 100% dead. It is bifurcated, and one trunk is mostly healthy. The other trunk is mostly dead. I suspect that the tree people are correct and ultimately the whole tree will need to come down. In the meantime, I am becoming quite content with my approach. Some of those live branches are still giving us privacy from the neighbors behind us. I like that privacy. I know that taking it down a branch or 3 at a time is the most expensive way to deal with it. I suspect the cost effective approach is to either leave it be until it comes down on its own (would that really be cost effective????) or get the various permissions to remove it entirely. I keep imagining large branches being whipped off and crashing into either my deck or my breakfast room bay window. Or large branches coated with ice and snow breaking away with enough of a drop to damage the garage roof. Since Paul agreed to come and remove all the branches I want removed, I’m going to convince myself that I have selected the over-all best approach. *grin* I’m there. That was easy! In the meantime, I continue to collect the dead branches that reach the ground. I’m hoping Paul will take them, too.
piles of dead branches

Wrong Season for This

IMG_1895

Not fair, not fair, not fair. Picture me throwing myself on the ground, having a major temper tantrum, arms and legs pounding the earth. I have a head cold. I mean, REALLY, who gets a head cold NOW???? I woke up Saturday with a scratchy sore throat. I thought it might have been from having dinner out the night before. Although the restaurant was lovely, they had music playing, which means everyone talking ups the volume, and ups it again and again because of everyone else upping the volume. But it didn’t go away. I felt poorly all day and ended up taking a nap. I woke up Sunday still congested and thought well maybe it’s allergies. Season is changing, maybe there is some pollen out there. I didn’t let it stop me from the important things like running errands and going to the block party. Monday – still congested and headache-y but I waged another foray in the Battle for a Beautiful Basement. I figured it was allergies (and dust in the basement) but when I went to the office on Tuesday, it would be banished by the closed ventilation system.

No such luck. 😦 I have a cold. I spent the entire day in the office blowing my nose and drinking gallons and gallons of hot and cold liquid. 😦 I couldn’t go visit my other mother as planned because I am obviously laden with germs. I did my coworkers a favor and am working from home today. I have my cold water with OJ to one side, my tissue box to the other, and an ever-growing mound of dirty tissues that I toss whenever I get up. It’s NOT FAIR!!!!! Itchy eyes, snuffles, post-nasal drip, and such a headache. Sigh. Do you think this means I might be spared a cold in the winter? Oh make it so.

IMG_1889

Some of us are feeling fine and having a good day.

Summer Bounty

produce still life

Friday was Farmers’ Market day. We’d eaten pretty much everything in the refrigerator. The caterpillars had my herbs. There were no ripe grape tomatoes on my plant. I definitely needed someone else’s produce if we were to have salads and snacks. It was glorious weather again, no hurricane near us yet. So I grabbed 2 bags and headed up to the market.
farmers' market pet vendor

I almost thought that it was going to be that rarity – a day when I saw no one I knew. I’d already picked up a few things when I realized I was staring at my next door neighbors. 🙂 We stood about chatting, as one does at the market. Larry took photos of us. This is apparently his “new thing” – documenting his life. Hah! He’s only half-way there. He needs to add commentary!
von thun's stand

As we chatted my good friends Matt and Janice came up. Their block was having their annual block party that weekend (yes, we went – it was great). Matt was walking about with a big huge watermelon and Janice had a sack full of eggplant for parmigiana. We’d probably have talked a lot longer, the market is so conducive for chatting, but Janice had an appointment she had to attend.
farmers' market sandwich board

I had finished picking my cukes, radishes and tomatoes when I heard someone calling my name. It was Bruce, who does occasional fix-it-up work for me. I hadn’t seen him in ages, it seems. I guess having a new kitchen cuts back on repairs. 🙂 We agreed we’d meet up at the block party.
baker's bounty

We had plans to go out to dinner with friends that night, so I didn’t need to do any food preparation once I got home. I decided to make a still life portrait of my purchases. The only thing not immediately recognizable are the pickles. Dr. Pickle is always at the farmers’ market. Thank goodness. Nothing like a good half sour pickle for a snack!
Dr Pickle


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