February 17, 2017

Flowers Outside in Winter

Although it has been unseasonably warm this year, I still didn't expect to find as many blooms in the shade garden as I actually saw. My Hellebores are always the first to bloom and usually in February. I can't see the flowers from the house so I decided to take a garden path walk the other day. I was so pleasantly surprised to find all three colors of Hellebore blooming as well as big fat buds on all my Camellias. Usually one or two of my Camellias refuse to bloom but this year I have buds on all of them. I'll post pictures of the blooms when they open in a few weeks. I tried an idea I saw somewhere about how to propagate Camellias by sticking a cutting right in the ground under the "mother" shrub. I did that last spring and so far it seems like 2 of the 4 cuttings I poked into the ground have survived! I'm leaving them there to get bigger before I dig and pot them. I'll for sure do more of them this year. The weird bloom at the bottom is a prickly shrub (Mahonia or Berberis) that I grew from a cutting. Our neighbor at a previous home had one and even though it is thorny, I love the early bloom and the purple berries that follow. The birds love those too.

Of course, the buttercups are beginning to poke up from their winter blanket of leaves and will be showing a little color soon.
Deep Pink Hellebore
White Hellebore

Mahonia or Berberis

Buttercup buds

February 3, 2017

How to Make Yogurt by the Quart in Your Yogurt Maker

I love my yogurt maker. (See this post about it .) I make yogurt every week in it. Bill and I both eat yogurt and granola for breakfast. Mine makes 7 little 8 oz jars of yogurt that take up a lot of space in my refrigerator. A while back, I decided to see if I could make my yogurt in pint jars instead. 4 of them fit into the yogurt maker. That worked and I was able to make 4 pints of yogurt at a time. Wide mouth jars make the yogurt easier to get out with a spoon.

Today I wondered if quart jars would work too. Sure enough, 3 quart jars fit my maker. I had to use a larger pot for the extra milk and I increased the time I leave the jars in the machine by about an hour. Now I have 3 quarts (I increased the amount of milk in my recipe to 3 quarts) of yummy yogurt taking up less space in fridge than the smaller jars and I don't have to make yogurt quite so often. I still use the clear cover that comes with the machine but I cover all of it with tea towels (see picture below). I think it keeps more heat in - it may not be necessary. I actually used the same amount of my heirloom yogurt as a starter in both pints and quarts as I did with the smaller batches. here's a link to a heirloom culture that makes your own yogurt the culture - lasts forever! Heirloom Yogurt Culture

Below are quart jars, the amount of culture I used and the covered yogurt maker.

January 27, 2017

Herb of the Month: Basil

When I did a survey of my Mimi's Greenhouse customers asking what herb they would not want to be without, Basil was the number one choice.

It is useful fresh and is easy to dry and save for later. Who doesn't love fresh pesto! Basil is an annual but it will reseed freely if you let it go to seed in the fall. To keep it producing all those tasty leaves, keep the flowers deadheaded until the end of August and then let it go to seed.

There are several varieties of Basil: Large leaf (my favorite) Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Purple Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, just to name a few.

Search my blog (link on the side bar) to find more posts about growing and using Basil

January 20, 2017

Bird Feeder for the Ground Feeding Birds

I'm better at making "Honey Do" lists than almost anything else I do. Thank goodness Bill is good with a list! I wanted a feeder to put under my hanging feeder on the deck. I had noticed the Red Birds, Doves, and even a Blue Bird or two picking at the berries that fell from my Nut and Berry hanging feeder. I made a little sketch and showed Bill what I wanted. I wanted to put it into the top of a big flower pot that in the summer will have herbs in it. Right now it's empty - the perfect spot for my feeder. It sits right under the hanging feeder and the mealworm feeder so I now have a nice little "watch from the kitchen" feeding station in addition to the three hanging feeders in the backyard.

Ground Feeder for Birds
 Below are sketches that Bill drew (he's a better "sketcher" than I) and pictures of what the finished product looks like . You may want to build one for yourself. We used scrap pine wood but you can buy wood in several sizes at most big box hardware stores. The little brackets too. You will need 2 brackets and some vinyl window screening. Bill made mine to fit my pot but you can make it any size you like. 

Bill's sketch
As you can see, the birds are happy with their feeder.

Birds at the feeders