Friday, September 10, 2010

a late summer walk


A few days ago, I went out on a little walk with "the big dogs." It isn't how I would have it in my own home, but my dad continues this separation between inside dogs and outside dogs. My siblings and I would like to have these doggies inside during the winter, but between my mom's allergies, dad's insistence that they are for "outside" and a general obsessiveness about keeping things clean, it will never happen. When I have my own house I will always have dogs that can snuggle up with me on the couch at night for a good lot of trashy TV.

Anyways, Sven is more of a poser for the camera than Ole is. Ole tends to run or look away, like you're trying capture part of his soul if you point the camera at him, while Sven will sit and stare at you--mildly interested.

This was one of the last gorgeous autumny-summer days. Now, if we're lucky, we'll get a few summery-autumn days before things start to freeze. The temperature shifted down to the sixties quite abruptly after this, and it has been wonderfully gray and rainy. As someone who carries a sun umbrella and doesn't in any way enjoy being overheated (on a beach towel or otherwise) this has been a most welcome change.


You can see the corn fields in the distance turning gold, and there are these matching wild, sunflowery coneflowers everywhere now.


Our grove is full of these jewel-like plums, but they aren't quite as full as in years past, as we've had some pest problems. (Is that a little bokeh? Yes?)


Have I captured the way these fruits bunch and suspend themselves in the branches like so many round red ornaments? I hope so. It is impossible not to reach out an arm and watch them fall while you give the branches a shake or two.


Behind the plums is a row that has these great bunches of decorative blueberry-like berries. I don't know what they are, but I am quite certain that they are not edible.



More of the plum trees, some without fruit but with autumn colors shining through. I think these must be the ones that produce the white flowers in the spring.


Our soybean field soaking up the last of the summer sun.




Again, these miniature sun flowers are absolutely everywhere, but if you look closely you can see the variety of wildflowers that are about. Most, however, are also yellow.




A sunset over the "lake." Or is it a pond?


Anyways, sunset pictures are a dime-a-dozen during the summer, moving on.

We have this great, squat juniper (?) variety tree right on the edge of the property, by the lake, and it is currently completely laden with these wonderful berries so that it is a whole shade lighter than its greens. Unfortunately the failing light wouldn't let me take a proper picture of the whole thing.


I adore the way the light shines through these brambles-- it is a little sinister and dead looking, and very, very fall.


Of course, the dogs are still around! They were getting impatient with me stopping and taking pictures. I was, admittedly, being eaten by mosquitoes as well.



Ole says, hurry up!



We have two apple trees that grow closer to our house and it is currently the off-year for the one that actually produces big green apples. How it does this, and the other doesn't, I don't know because neither have ever been properly taken care of or pruned. This one is spindly and sort of pops out a handful of tiny red apples every year that are inevitable worm eaten by the time you see them. Pretty though.


Apparently the farmer's market isn't selling apples yet because we had a frost on mother's day this year and it set everything back. When we DO get some nice ones, though, I really want to make apple jellies again. They're like portable apple sauce cubes. You don't need a spoon!

Friday, September 3, 2010

the garden as it is

My parents, always a good subject, have been obsessed with the concept of this garden for years. They call it the "walled garden," presumably to keep out deer and wind (we live in such a windy place that they're building turbines less than a mile from us, which we are not that thrilled about).

It was built entirely by my dad and brother, and as it was a scramble to finish it between winter and the growing season, we didn't have enough time to plant very many things, or plant very nicely. It is sort of a mess.



We only have successful crops of beets, zucchini and green beans so far.


My wonderful mother planted about six packets of various vines in a corner that could have been more than filled by a few seeds. The result, it seems, is a lot of vines and very few fruits growing. I've found a few pumpkins to put boards under but there appear to be a LOT of these ornamental gourds.


Which aren't good for anything, really. It is all a big cross pollinated jumble that will have to be tilled over next spring.

The growing season here is so short (it may freeze any night now) that it took this long to get zinnias.


We have big plans for the garden next year though. If I am still around (which I more than half hope that I am not because it would mean I still don't have a job) I intend to move the pumpkin patch to the hillside where it was before and just do my best to keep away whatever was eating the pumpkins. I'm also very intrigued by the idea of planting colorful fingerling potatoes, onions and garlic. People in Minnesota, sadly, do not use garlic (Scandinavian foods have very little seasoning in my experience). Ah well, there is always the farmer's market until then.

a domestic weekend

Last weekend was rather unusual-- the parents had left to move Anders back to college and I had the house to myself for three days while they were in Chicago. I'm not sure that this is entirely normal, but I was really looking forward to this as there is something completely wonderful about living out a few days on completely your own line. When there are people around they tend to budge in here and there and change the way you would go about things or keep you from doing them entirely. Most people are more flexible than I am, so they don't seem to mind this deviation from their natural course, but I really NEED some respite and I barely ever get it now that I live at home.

So, I was rather upset when I found out that my twin would be coming back from the cities to stay for two days because of a baby shower. Steph is completely delightful in her own habitat (which happens to be the cities) but she is one of those people who never clean up after themselves and tend to make a lot of messes. When I woke up last Saturday, I found her laying on the couch looking disheveled and complaining that she needed food, saying that Mom had told her I would make her dinner. Well, this is her house as much as it is mine, so I told her she could make her own food. But she was so bleary-eyed and obviously hungover (wearing makeup from the night before, quite nice for a baby shower) that I eventually gave in when I went out to the garden and found these beets.


I completely forgave her the trouble of peeling and chopping because they were so satisfying to pull up. I tossed the pieces in a bit of olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, red pepper and fresh thyme. Baked at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until they were tender when pierced by a fork.


After I did this, however, I remembered that it is much more fun to make food for other people than yourself (especially when you are on a diet) and went on a little baking rampage.

We have the most ridiculous patch of zucchini that had been neglected and had produced zucchini that nobody really wanted to eat because they looked like limbs. Steph and I went back out to the garden, bolstered by the idea of eating food freshly picked, to try to salvage one to make bread.


Ole and Sven got the rejects, as Steph convinces them that they are new toys.



They didn't need much persuading. They like to play with things from the garden and will even pick vegetables for this purpose.

Such clever dogs.


I selected the smallest zucchini we could find and grated it for the bread.


Even though it was small, I still only used a little over half of it to get the two cups required by the recipe. This is the one I used, with some adjustments. I added the nutmeg from Smitten Kitchen's almost identical recipe. Being on the health-food kick I am, I didn't feel like adding a whole cup of oil-- might as well make a proper cake if you're going to add that much, I thought, so I substituted about 3/4 cup honey greek yogurt instead (not very low fat anyways) and a bit of milk to make the batter. I did two of the three cups of flour with wheat flour, decreased the sugar a bit and added chopped walnuts.

Making things like this healthy is really less fun, but I figured that-- what with three eggs and fatty yogurt-- that it would taste pretty good anyways and it was quite moist. Of course nothing is as good as it would be with a cup of oil, but it was very tasty nonetheless, especially after it had been wrapped up in plastic for a few days.


On a different tangent, I blame Steph, in part, for making me bake healthy zucchini bread. Our sister Anna was married this summer and I defy anyone to see pictures of themselves like this and not want to lose a few pounds.

Steph, fashion diva that she is, has no idea how to dress body shapes that are unlike her own. She is tiny and petite and I am like Joan Harris in a dress that was marketed to petites to create the illusion of hips and bust. I weigh 135 pounds and still look like a lump. I can only think that Steph was trying to be part of the great tradition of buying unflattering bridesmaid dresses. (The professional photos, which we just got this week, are a completely different and incredibly infuriating story. Is there anything worse that paying a lot for pictures of a wedding and getting back eight blurry shots of the ceremony from the back of the church and none of the couple walking down the aisle or even of the bride and her family? Ughh! Where are Mom and Dad?)

a normal one

Since this photo was taken I've lost ten pounds-- a real ten pounds, not the I've-been-on-a-liquid-and-laxative-diet ten pounds (I could never manage that anyways). I've been going to the gym for an hour of cardio five times a week, eating healthier meals and trying not to snack. Sometimes I do yoga videos on hulu while constantly watching the stairs in case anyone comes up to gaze on my embarrassing poses.

Tirade over. Back to the baking, if you are still with me. Steph, unlike me, actually has a job and mentioned that she didn't have a lot to pack for lunch. I offered to make her bread for sandwiches (I make wonderful breads!) but she said she'd rather have something italian-like with herbs. I usually make wheat bread with milk and molasses so this was rather different for me. Suffice to say I was feeling a bit lazy because I must have just googled "herb bread" and used the first recipe with Parmesan instead of Romano cheese. (Steph later told me it tasted like pizza but I thought it smelled very good.) I also made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies for her lunch and her boyfriend, who loves them. I add walnuts and cinnamon but forgot the coconut, though they were very delicious anyways. It was quite late when it was all finished.


Anders has been on various diets for his digestive problems all summer (no gluten, then no sugar or gluten, then no yeast no sugar no gluten, then some flour and lots of sugar) and I hadn't been able to bake anything without feeling very guilty, so this was a nice change.