Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: First Snow

'Autumn Brilliance' fern is brilliant in winter, too.

Sedum seed heads catch some ice.

The miniature red rose bush is still stunning.

A little snow won't stop the spinach.

At least the white mulberry tree we've tried to kill is good for something.

Lily tries to get a drink from the iced over pond.

The maiden grass takes a bow to the cairn under the weight of snow and ice.

A warm blanket of snow for the garden

Ajania pacificum - always a late bloomer

Ice and duckweed frozen in the little pond

The chickens' first snow! (It bored them.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Got Moss? Moss Rocks! - Win One!

Bryum moss grows in between the brick pavers
on our walkways
Moss is cool. We have a fair amount of it growing all around here at Our Little Acre and it's fascinating. Think about it - it's one of those native plants that needs such little tending to, and it almost always looks perfect. It's a rich shade of green and ooooh, the textures! But it might just be one of the most unappreciated wonders of the natural world.

Scotch moss (Sagina subulata) fills in the spaces between flagstones
in a much more interesting way than grass or sand.

David Spain and Ken Gergle are moss mavens. They are the proprietors of Moss and Stone Gardens, located in the Piedmonts of North Carolina. Designing shade gardens, using stone, water, and moss as the main elements is their specialty.

David Spain (right) and Ken Gergle (left) show P. Allen Smith the new
Moss Rocks!™

This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting both David and Ken at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. They were there to debut the hottest thing to hit the gardening world since...oh, Chia Pets. Now before someone gets all upset about me comparing their Moss Rocks!™ to Chia Pets, I mean this in the best way.

Let's take a look at them both:

  • They're living things
  • They're adorable
  • They come in a choice of "models"
  • They fit on a tabletop
  • They're easy to care for
  • They make great gifts
  • They're affordable
In the case of  Moss Rocks!™, we can add "They're classy" to the list. And if you don't think so, David was a guest on The Martha Stewart Show last month, showing and telling about moss. Guess what each of the audience members went home with that day?

Photo courtesy of Moss and Stone Gardens

Moss Rocks!™ are ceramic pottery with a shiny crackle finish that contain Dicranum moss. They come in three sizes - Pebble, Cobble, and Boulder - and four colors - Toadstool, Bark, Raindrop, and Lichen. They're virtually maintenance-free, except for watering once a week.

There is no soil, they don't need to be fertilized, and they're drought tolerant, which means if you happen to miss watering them by a few days, they'll forgive you. And because moss grows well in shade, the lower light levels typical of most homes will suit them just fine, although it's recommended they receive bright indirect light.

David sent a Moss Rock!™ to me and as it sits on the end table next to the sofa, I find myself running my fingers over the top of the moss. It's almost like having one of the cats nearby - I can't resist petting it.

Now how would you like to have a Moss Rock!™ of your very own? One lucky reader is going to win a Cobble Moss Rock!™ (that's the medium size) in the color of their choice. All you have to do to be entered into the giveaway is leave a comment to this blog post telling which is your favorite color of Moss Rock!™ AND enter your information on the Rafflecopter form. You must do both things to qualify for the drawing, and do them by midnight, Sunday, December 4th, 2011.

If you can't wait until you see if you've won, or you want to buy some for gifts this holiday season (or for a birthday, or anniversary, or just because they're cool and you really want one of each color and size), you can purchase them on the website. You might find them locally too, just like I did when I attended the Tapestry of Tables celebration in nearby Napoleon, Ohio, a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the Rafflecopter form to fill out and don't forget to leave a comment, telling your favorite color of Moss Rock!™  Good luck!

WINNER!! has chosen a winner, and it's Diane McCarthy! Congratulations, Diane! Enjoy your Moss Rock!™

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs" Book Giveaway

It's here! The much-anticipated Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs by Michael Dirr is on bookshelves now and you get a chance to win one of your own! This is the most comprehensive collection of information on trees and shrubs ever published, with over 380 genera, more than 3700 species and cultivars, and 3500 photographs contained within its 951 pages.

This is a BIG book. It's the kind you use to boost small children at the dinner table. But that would be somewhat sacrilegious to use it in that way, given that it's been called "the bible" of woody plants. You'll want to keep it at hand to answer any and all questions you may have about the subject.

I received a review copy from Timber Press a couple of weeks ago and I've spent a fair amount of time looking through it and reading it. My official review is posted on my other blog, Gardening by the Book, as well as on Horticulture magazine's website. (Just click on either link to read it.)

Now...wouldn't you like to have one of these for your very own? Timber Press is giving one away this Friday, December 2, 2011. All you need to do is head on over to their site and leave a comment on the giveaway blog post by 4:00 PM PST that day. Good luck!

There are other bloggers that will be posting their reviews of the book this week too, promoting the giveaway. I'll update the list of them here as their blog posts are published.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Grow Your Own Mushrooms!

Either you love mushrooms or you don't like them at all, it seems. I happen to love them, although I'm picky about the kind. I don't care for morels, which grow in the woods around here. I like the common white button ones, in both their raw form or fried. Yum!

Did you know?
The common white button mushroom is
an immature portobello mushroom.

I was cruising the 'net one day last spring and came upon a website that offered a kit that lets you grow your own Pearl Oyster mushrooms. Put together by the folks at Back to the Roots, the kit consists of a block of recycled coffee grounds infused with mushroom spawn (seed). It's enclosed by plastic and housed by a cardboard box.

To start the growing process, you soak the block in water, then put it back into the cardboard box. Remove the perforated rectangular area on the side of the box, cut an X into the plastic, then mist it twice a day. Within 10 days, there be mushrooms!

I was skeptical. These things don't really work that easily, do they? Well, let me tell you what happened when I ordered one and tried it.

When the package arrived, I was getting ready to leave on a trip. I opened the shipping box and took out the mushroom kit. I set it aside in another room, to deal with when I returned home. A few weeks later, I brought the kit out. Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Without me doing a thing, the mushrooms had already started growing
out the top of the unopened box!

Those were dried out, so I cut them off and proceeded to follow the instructions for growing. But not a single mushroom grew.  I contacted the company to see what I might have done wrong and they were wonderful. They offered to send a replacement kit to me at no charge because they wanted me to try again and experience growing my own mushrooms successfully. (They do have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.)

The second kit arrived and once again, I followed the instructions and I GOT 'SHROOMS! They grew very quickly, even though I actually missed a day or two misting them. I cut them off, coated them in flour and fried them in butter. Both Romie and I liked them.

A neat thing about this kit is that once you've grown them from one side of the block, you can turn it over, slit the other side and grow some more, which I did. The kit costs $19.95 (includes a small mister), which might seem expensive, but the experience of growing them was really fun and each block has the potential of growing 1½ pounds of fresh mushrooms. Replacement bags are just $9.99.

I think this would make a fun gift for the holidays, especially for kids, but I had a pretty good time with it myself. For more information and to order, visit Back to the Roots at The kits are also available at Whole Foods Market.

UPDATE: Back to the Roots contacted me after I posted this and
is offering a 10% discount to my readers.
Just use the code mushrooms4me10 when placing your order.
And as always, you'll receive free shipping on orders of two or more!

*I have not been compensated in any way for this blog post. Back to the Roots was not aware that I was going to do a blog post about their product. I purchased the mushroom kit myself and the opinions expressed here are my own, based on my experience.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Regrow Together Project

Gardeners are good people. They’re willing to share plants and advice with novice gardeners and veterans alike. They know that collectively, they are greater than the sum of their parts. One gardener in particular has stepped up to coordinate a project of giving that gets gardeners and non-gardeners alike involved.

Michael Nolan
Michael Nolan has a heart for those that have been devastated by the national disasters our country has suffered this year at the hands of Mother Nature - floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes. Besides personal property losses such as homes, entire communities have been affected by the loss of the vegetation around them. These are things that give us a sense of place in the world – trees, shrubs, community gardens, personal gardens and landscaping. Many areas are now bare.

Julia Martz, author of SnarkyVegan blog, had her
garden damaged by flood waters in 2010.
Left alone, of course they’ll be green again. Natural growth is good and necessary in some areas, but we can help people rebuild their personal gardens with just a little elbow grease and sharing from the bounty of our own gardens. We know how much effort and care has gone into the gardens and know what this can mean to those who have lost theirs.

Extra plants, saved seeds, and a willingness to help others rebuild their gardens is what The Regrow Together Project is all about. Michael is the national coordinator for this project and each state has their own coordinator. If you know of an area that needs our help, please contact your state coordinator with information regarding the need. I have agreed to act as the state coordinator for Ohio.

For more information, visit their group on Facebook: The Regrow Together Project. If you want to help or you need help, please fill out the online form. The project is in the process of filing for 501(c)3 status.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Snoqualmie Falls

This past summer, Mom and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest to attend the Seattle Bloggers' Fling and to visit a good friend of Romie's and mine. Jim was such a gracious host, as we spent five more days after the Fling being chauffeured around one of the most beautiful parts of our country.

No visit to the Seattle area would be complete without a stop at Snoqualmie Falls, 25 miles east of Seattle. One of Washington State's most popular tourist attractions, the water plunges a dramatic 268 feet to the Snoqualmie River below. The word "Snoqualmie" is the English pronunciation of a Salish word meaning "moon."

It was a drizzly day when we drove to the falls, and that, coupled with the spray from the falls, gave them a sinister ambience. This may have contributed to the decision to use the lodge as the stand-in for the Great Northern Hotel in the popular TV series, Twin Peaks.

As you can imagine, a waterfall like that creates an immense amount of energy. There are two hydroelectric power plants at the falls. The world's first completely underground power plant, built in 1898, is embedded in the rock at the base of the falls. The second was built in 1910 and is located a little ways downstream. Together, the power plants generate enough energy to provide power to approximately 16,000 homes.

The Salish Lodge was built in 1919 and remodeled in 1988, with the fireplace being the only remaining part of the original structure. A beautiful gift shop stole a little bit of my time and I purchased some slate coasters with ferns imprinted on the surface.

Images from
Snoqualmie Falls

Rose petals left behind from a wedding...

Information about the falls and lodge was taken from Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving with Four Generations of Family

I like Thanksgiving the best of all holidays. I like other ones too, but Thanksgiving is the front runner. This year gave us an especially good thing to be thankful for. My grandma, who will be 97 the day after Christmas, has had a rough couple of months. At one point, we didn't think we'd celebrate another Thanksgiving with her. Ever.

But she is doing better and she got to come to our house to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family, as she usually does each year. She looked forward to this, not only to be with the family, but because she knew she'd get to see her cat, Abby.

Abby has her own story to tell. We've discovered the entire tale of her past, thanks to Janet Saltzman of the Great Lakes Bengal Rescue helping to put the pieces together. In a little less than 10 years, Abby has been moved 13 times. Considering that my grandma had her for four of those years, that means she was moved 12 times in six years. No wonder Abby has some behavioral quirks!

But Abby is living the life of a Conservatory Cat now and loving it. This makes Grandma happy - "You should bake a pie and take it to that vet for refusing to put Abby to sleep." - and the rest of us, too.  Abby has settled right in and accepted us as her surrogate parents, content to lay in our laps, "talking" to us (what a motormouth!),  and giving us affectionate head butts.

We brought Abby into the house so Grandma could see her and hold her and while Abby seemed to be a little stressed with so many people around, she cuddled up to Grandma and they got to spend a little time together.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Leftovers

23 November 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Pumpkin Torte Time!

With Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, thoughts turn to food and those special dishes we enjoy as we dine with family. I'll be doing the turkey again this year as well as the pumpkin torte that I'm known for. With the exception of my husband, our family likes this dessert better than pumpkin pie. It's not that he doesn't like the torte - he does. He just likes pie better.

To each his own, I say.

I've posted my recipe for the pumpkin torte a few times before, but I always get asked again for it when Thanksgiving rolls around, so here you go:

Kylee's Pumpkin Torte

1 yellow cake mix (take out 1 cup)
3 eggs
1¼ cup white sugar

¾ cup butter

¾ cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large can pumpkin pie mix

: Mix the cake mix (less 1 cup) with one egg and ½ cup butter. Press into the bottom of a greased jelly roll pan (10½ x 15½ x 1).
Filling: Mix until smooth - pumpkin pie mix, 2 eggs, and evaporated milk. Pour on top of the crust.
: Mix 1 cup cake mix, sugar, cinnamon and ¼ cup butter. Sprinkle on top of the pumpkin mixture. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

Enjoy the torte, enjoy the day, and don't forget to give thanks!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Does Perennial Really Mean?

Annual plants live for a year...

Convolvulus 'Ensign Blue'
Biennials live for two years...

Black Hollyhock
Alcea rosea
var. nigra
Perennials live forever...

Heuchera x brizoides 'Firefly'


Rudbeckia triloba

Oh, if only it were so.

Several times, after I've lost a plant or two in the garden, Romie will say to me, "Why did it die? What did you do wrong?" or "You shouldn't plant that one anymore." He thinks, like many people do, that perennials are immortal beings and if they succumb after several years of growing in our garden that surely I must have done something to it or I didn't do something I should have.

Not necessarily.

Did you know that "perennial" had
a symbol? Neither did I. This is it.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a perennial is "a plant that lives for more than two years." And in my garden, that's all the longer that some of them have lived. I don't know if that's the natural life span of those plants that didn't return after their second winter, or whether something else was the cause of their demise.

But it's nice to know that I've got yet another excuse to add to the list of why my plants die:

  • I watered them too much.
  • I didn't water them enough.
  • The bugs got 'em.
  • They had too much sun.
  • They had too much shade.
  • The rabbits had them for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.
  • The soil was too acidic.
  • The soil was too alkaline.
  • The chickens dug them up.
  • The winter was extraordinarily cold.
  • The neighbor's pig, Barney, sat on them.
  • They died of natural causes after a full and fabulous life of two years.

It's a miracle any plant lives at all, isn't it?

"Who? Me?"

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