Look! Purple flowers!!! I’ve had vinca vines many times in the past. I like having them trailing down from hanging pots, swaying with the breezes. I like them in my big planters lined on the front walk, ‘connecting’ lawn to flower. In all that time, however, I don’t think I have ever had them flower. I’m guessing that is because I usually don’t buy them until sometime in May, which might be past their flowering time. This year life continues to be ‘different’. No – this has nothing to do with the pandemic. This is about the seasons.
The past winter was very mild. Other than some crazy cold days in February, it wasn’t that cold. I have been amazed at how many of my plants wintered over on the porch. Even my rosemary, which doesn’t make it onto the porch, survived. And thrived. Usually it hangs in there until February, then one night it will throw up its metaphorical arms and die. Not this year. I have all sorts of things coming back, which is great! What’s not so great is that for many of them I have no idea what they are. 🙂 Ah, the perennial question: Are they weeds or are they flowers?
Some things are recognizable- jasmine, vinca, dusty miller. The herbs: lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, chives, lemon balm. LOTS of mint. I think the dianthus is back. But there is a lot of green that I’m not recognizing.
I cropped the photos so you don’t see the 2 huge bags of potting soil and the huge bag of top soil. I’ve been buying more planters and pots. 🙂 I bought seeds again this year, knowing even as I did so that last year’s didn’t work all that well. Actually, my cosmos and zinnias did – I sowed them directly into the beds. I’m going to try again with radishes. I was unable to resist picking up 2 Romaine plants. 🙂 I really need a “support group” but I want the one that tells me what I’m doing is natural and healthy, not the one that tries to help me quit.
I was born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, lived here all my life with the exception of college. I am indeed a Jersey girl. But sometimes the laws governing this state make me crazy. I’ve run into it with regulation preventing our family doctor from writing a proper prescription for my son, and I’ve come up against the laws preventing me from buying alcohol.
I was reading the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago and there was an article about replacements for eggnog (a truly repellent drink). There were recipes and pictures and one in particular caught my attention. I was reading the print version which had many pictures and recipes, but I see that the online link (assuming it will work for you) comes up with the very same cocktail that caught my fancy – Shaken and Firred (adapted from Heidi Smart of Hood River Distillers, Hood River, Oregon). The picture all by itself is enticing – cool, simple, herbal. When I read the recipe, I was determined to try this drink.
1 oz vodka
1 oz Clear Creek Douglas Fir Brandy
1/4 oz dry vermouth
Add these to an ice-filled shaker, shake and strain into a martini glass rimmed with sugar and garnished with a sprig of rosemary.
Delicious, right???? I sent my husband an email and asked him to call our 3 preferred liquor stores and see if they had the Douglas Fir brandy. I wasn’t expecting that they would, but I thought we’d try the simple approach first. They did not have it and only one offered to obtain it for us. I stopped in that store a day or so later and left my name and number for someone to call me back so I could order (the cashier could not do that). Never heard back. Okay, not a show stopper. I was out with a friend and asked her if she had a high-end liquor store near her that might carry the Douglas Fir brandy. We got out our smart phones and began calling about. Nope, none of the stores near there carried it and none offered to help order. Fine, be that way. When I got home I went online to order it. I found a distributor, placed an order, got a confirming email and was quite pleased.
The next morning I received an email from the distributor telling me they were out of stock and couldn’t fill the order. So I tried a different distributor, at twice the price (old joke from my Treasury of Jewish Folklore: 6 kopeks? Sam down the street is selling fish for 3 kopeks! So why don’t you buy from Sam? Because Sam is out of fish. When *I* am out of fish, *I* sell it for 3 kopeks also!). These folks told me right up front – we’re sorry – we cannot ship liquor to NJ. Not really a surprise – I was pretty sure that was true and had been quite surprised when my order had gone through the night before.
Now, however, it was becoming more than wanting to try this drink. Now it was becoming a matter of ‘oh yeah, you think you are so smart you can STOP me from getting what I WANT???’ Time to be creative. I contacted my son and told him to look for it at his stores (because I could see that there WERE stores in Phoenix that carried the Douglas Fir brandy). Then I thought I’d never see it if I left it up to him so I went online again to order it SENT to him and then he could mail it to me. *smile* I’m so clever. Not. Apparently it could not be shipped directly to Arizona either. All the Phoenix stores were out of stock and the nearest store with stock was in Washington. A long drive from Tempe. So now I’m really ticked. This is beyond amusing – I am GOING TO GET THIS BRANDY. Big gun time. I contacted my friend Tess who LIVES in Oregon. Hah! I’ll get someone to walk up and buy a bottle directly and mail it to me.
I contacted Tess (who thought at first I was a spammer because I foolishly used FB messaging instead of simply texting). Once I proved my bona fides (by sending her a photo of the cauliflower ornament in my sukkah) we ended up having a long phone conversation, catching up with our lives. She promised to get me information. The next morning I had an email from her. It supplied the NJ distributor for Clear Creek, the contact’s name, his cell phone, and the fact that he still had 7 cases left. *laughing* We should take that information to the local liquor store and have them order it. I was traveling on business but my husband did indeed take the information to the store. They said they were placing an order that day and they would add the brandy to the order. On Friday my husband went to retrieve our treasure – 2 bottles of Clear Creek Douglas Fir brandy. They’d ordered 4 bottles and we took 2. *laughing* We hadn’t even TASTED it yet.
That night was the big unveiling! Once I’d fed the cats (you remember them, right? black cat, gray cat, white cat), my time was mine. I went outside and cut some fresh rosemary. I rimmed the martini glass with sugar. I assembled the ingredients. I filled the shaker, shook and strained. Placed the rosemary on the glass. BEAUTIFUL!!! I took a sip. Well. Not exactly what I was expecting. 🙂
I’d wondered about the taste when I opened the bottle of brandy. It didn’t really SMELL very much like fir. The drink really didn’t taste much like fir either. It wasn’t bad, mind you, it simply wasn’t the herbally flavor I was imagining. My husband and I discussed it, dissected it. We thought that perhaps substituting genepys des alpes for the vermouth might get it closer to herbs and trees. That was last night’s experiment. Still not matching my desire. My husband wants to mix it with chambord, but I want a green drink, not a pink drink. I want herbs, not fruit. I tried soaking rosemary in a little bit of simple syrup and added that. It might have worked had I given it more time – there really was no rosemary taste. Now I’m looking for rosemary bitters, I see that such a thing exists. I want an herbal, plant flavor. Any suggestions for a recipe?
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I love my garden. I love flowers, I love growing herbs for cooking, I love the smell of greenery. I know that I have many bulbs I could dig up and winter-over, but it’s all too much effort at this point. At the same time I’m very happy come the fall and I can stop taking care of all of the plants. 🙂 Maybe some day (that oft-referenced, never-actioned retirement) I’ll be the kind of person to dig up bulbs and store them in the basement. That day is not today. I do, however, attempt to winter over the succulents. They are interesting and comparatively tidy. Even more relevant, however, is the fact that the cats appear to be uninterested in them. This year I also brought in one of the palm trees from the front porch. I’m not sure which species it is exactly, but I checked all of the ones that look like what I have and they were all okay for cats. I bought it at Home Depot so if anyone can put a better identification on it, that would be helpful.
When I had the kitchen updated a bit approximately 12 years ago, I added grow lights to the bay window. I had visions of starting plants from seeds, and growing herbs in the winter. I did some of that but not very much. Instead I’ve been using that area to winter-over the succulents. I started with succulents a few years ago after seeing the beautiful arrangements my sister made. I had one pot, and it was small enough that I could bring it in and out. Last year I expanded to another pot, a big one that was on a roller out front. It weighs a ton. My husband brought it in for me and we had it on the floor by the door to the deck. This year that location is no longer available so we had to lift it up to the window seat in the breakfast room bay window. Oh my, that thing is HEAVY. Two of the three palms had already died by the time we were moving the plants inside, but one of them still appeared to be salvageable. I pruned off all of the obviously brown and broken fronds and we brought that in as well.
The major problem with bringing the plants inside is the water. First I need to remember to water them. Second I need to remember not to over-water them and flood the shelf underneath. The pot in the kitchen is easy – not too big, not too heavy. The other 2 pots are extremely heavy and I thought they might crack anything that wasn’t metal or soft plastic. They are sitting on platters that function but are not aesthetically pleasing. My new kitchen and breakfast room are definitely about aesthetically pleasing. I’m on the hunt for some platter that is attractive, of the correct depth, and waterproof. And THAT’S why there is no picture of the base of the pots! I also moved a grow light into the breakfast room – you can see the pinkish light in the photo. I’m not sure that will be sufficient light for the succulents, but I hope it works. My memory tells me that the palm does NOT need direct sunlight (it was on the porch, after all), so I am hoping that it will have sufficient light from the window and what it gets from the grow light.
Many of my herbs winter-over with no assistance from me. The mint has been coming back for a few years as do the chives. Last year the thyme also managed to save a bit of itself. I take all of the big pots, take the flowers out and put them in the compost (or in the leaf bags) and put the now plant-less pots on the porch. Then I take whichever herbs have survived the frost and cold and place those pots as the second row. They line the railing so they can get whatever sun and rain comes their way. The chives seem to manage on this benign neglect so I put them in the corner where I hope they will get the most sun and rain. We’ll see how the others do. The pot with the rosemary and bay leaves is way too heavy to move. I’ve considered digging up those 2 plants and bringing them inside simply for the lovely smell. Maybe if I get super ambitious this weekend I’ll do that. But if past performance is any indicator of future earnings – probably not that likely. 🙂
And now for the obligatory cat photo. GC was all curled up on the couch. She meowed a few times but obliged me by staying in that spot. She’s such a sweet girl.