Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekend Wisdom: What's the Story Behind Jarlsberg Cheese?

Huffington Post recently posted an article entitled "What Your Favorite Cheese Says About You."  These personality analyses are apparently designed to help you know who you really are.  When we read them, we secretly hope that we're shown to be only good with a smidgeon of spunk, snark, and silly. I don't think we really give much credence to these pseudo-Freudian exercises, but it's all in good fun.

In the latest cheesy edition, by virtue of my favorite cheese being Swiss, I am deemed to be a liar.  Well.  It's said that even a liar tells the truth sometimes and I would imagine the inverse is true too, but lying is something I just don't do, save for those little white ones that don't really matter to anyone except the person you're lying to.  ("No, it does not make you look fat.")  So much for that.

But let's talk about my favorite cheese.  Swiss.  The cheese that doesn't taste a thing like it smells.  The sense of smell is closely affiliated with our sense of taste, so why on earth do we like cheese so much?  Even Swiss cheese doesn't come close to being the stinkiest cheese of all, but clearly, there are millions who don't let the strong odor bother us and we chow down.

Swiss cheese originated in Switzerland (hence, the common name) and my nearly lifelong penpal from there told me years ago that what most of us think of as Swiss cheese is properly called Emmenthaler, coming from the Emmental region of Switzerland. But Swiss cheese is also made elsewhere and a number of varieties exist.

Ohio plays a major part in the cheese world, in spite of most people thinking of Wisconsin as the cheese capital in the U.S. The biggest producer of all-natural Swiss cheese in the U.S. is located in Brewster, Ohio.  And Baby Swiss was invented here.  The characteristic holes are the result of bacteria (one is Streptococcus!) producing gases as one bacteria consumes the lactic acid produced by the others, and the bigger the holes, the longer the cheese has been aged.  However, hole size is regulated because it becomes a problem for mechanical slicers when they're too large.

I like all kinds of Swiss cheese, but my favorite is Jarlsberg (pronounced yarlz'-berg), which doesn't come from Switzerland at all, but Norway.  It seems that the formula for producing Jarlsberg cheese is closely guarded and it is only made in Norway, except for two other places in all the world.  One is in Ireland and guess where the other one is.  Go on, guess.

That's right - Ohio.  The cultures used to make my favorite cheese are imported by Alpine Cheese in Winesburg, Ohio, and they do their part in satisfying the country's taste for the Number One most imported cheese in the country - over $125 million worth each year.

All I really care is that this sweet, nutty cheese is sitting in my refrigerator right now and I can partake of its deliciousness when the mood strikes.  Which is often.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Abutilon

Parlor Maple
(Abutilon pictum)

Zone 9-10
3-10' tall
Sun to Part Shade
Blooms all year
Keep soil moist

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Fine Foliage" Book Giveaway

You know how excited Jenny and I were that Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants made the Amazon Best Books of 2013 list about a month ago?  Well, I know a couple of other authors who knew just how we felt.  Christina Salwitz and Karen Chapman wrote Fine Foliage: Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container and their book made the list, too!

I did a review of it over on Horticulture's website, back in April:

Besides being a neat little package of horticultural eye candy that could stand on this merit alone, Fine Foliage delivers much more for beginning and seasoned gardeners alike. For those challenged or overwhelmed by the plant choices available for combining in the garden or the container, Karen and Christina come to the rescue, giving more than 60 examples of what works together, without the use of blooms.

Starting out by explaining the science behind their beautiful combinations, readers will soon learn how to start playing with possibilities in their own gardens. Most of the book, however, is a graphic volume of recipes, one after another, of simply gorgeous plant pairings, with such names as “Bright Lights, Big City,” “Deep Sea Jungle,” and “Ribbons and Curls.” To make things even easier, shade plants and sun plants are given separate sections, and other vital growing requirements such as hardiness zone are provided.

With its genius play on texture and color, Fine Foliage will almost make you forget that flowers exist. Or at the very least, that you don’t need to rely on them for beauty in the garden.

I've often said if I were forced to choose between flowers and foliage that I'd choose foliage every time. (Thank goodness I don't have to choose though!) Christina and Karen's book illustrates beautifully why I feel this way.

I've got an extra copy of Fine Foliage here that I'm going to send to one lucky reader.  All you have to do to enter to win is to leave a comment on this blog post, telling me the name of one of your favorite foliage plants.  If you don't have one, just tell me you'd like to win the book.

Be sure to include a way to contact you if you're the winner.  I'll pick a winner sometime after midnight this Friday, December 20th, using's Random Number Generator.  If it all goes well, the book could be in your hands by Christmas.  U.S. entries only, please.


The winner is jchapstk !  You'll be receiving your book this week!  Congratulations and enjoy!  Thanks to all who entered.  The book can be ordered from if you want a copy of your own.  And you know you do.  :-)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Need Garden Gloves? Here's a Giveaway!
A few weeks ago, Kara, over at Angela's Garden,contacted me and asked if I'd like to host another glove giveaway just before Christmas.  Since I have a pair of my own and like them, I quickly said, "Sure!"  I always love hosting a giveaway of things that I use and like.

So here we go...

One lucky reader will win a pair of Classic Leather Gloves, valued at $29.  These are made of washable, lanolin-infused kidskin (that means they're soft and will stay that way), with padded palms, reinforced stress points, and outside seams (to help prevent blisters).  They come in sizes S, M, and L and you'll get the size you want in Willow, which is a nice shade of green.
Photo from Angela's Garden

But WAIT!  There's MORE!

Kara also is giving the winner a matching pair of Willow Knee Pads! These are made of a synthetic stretch material and are filled with gel.  They have a Velcro-type closure that's adjustable and sell for $17.
Photo from Angela's Garden
All totaled, if you ordered these from the website, it would cost you $46 for the pair of gloves and the knee pads, and $5 for shipping, so whoever wins will be getting $51 worth of value for FREE!  And right at the perfect time of year to gift a gardener on your list.  That gardener can even be you, because doesn't everybody shop for themselves while shopping for others?

Here's how to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post, telling me what size glove you wear.  (Size guide is here.)
  • Be sure to give me a way to contact you, should you be the winner.  Blogger does not always automatically provide this information.
  • This is not required and she didn't mention it, but I'm sure Kara would appreciate it if you "Liked" her page on Facebook.

I don't know how to make it any easier for you to enter.  You have until midnight EST on Sunday night, December 15, 2013, to leave your comment with your size and contact info.  On Monday, I'll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner.  So there you enter already!  You can't win if you don't enter!  And Happy Holidays!

EDIT:  We have a winner!

That means that Teresa Soule, you are the winner!  I'll be contacting you to get your shipping information.  Congratulations!  And thanks to all who entered!  Another giveaway is coming right up!

I received no compensation whatsoever for hosting this giveaway.  I received a free pair of gloves from Angela's Garden in connection with a previous giveaway last June.  All opinions stated here are my own.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

P. Allen Smith's Rustic Collection ~ And Our Library!

Christmas comes earlier this year. just seems like it because Thanksgiving was later than most years.  As a procrastinator extraordinaire, I like that it did, but with fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'll still be right up to the last minute preparing, just like all the other years prior.  I know there's a solution to this problem I have, and I'm workin' on it.

I did get the Christmas tree up by Thanksgiving, which is always my goal, so that we can decorate it when the kids come for dinner that day.  But this year, Hannah stole the show and the tree remained bare until I got it decorated yesterday.

Another thing that helped jump-start me this year was a lovely box of live greens that arrived the day before Thanksgiving, courtesy of my friends, P. Allen Smith and Heidi Berry, over at the Berry Family of Nurseries.  They sent a wreath last year that looked good for months, and this year I got a 15-foot garland.

I knew exactly what I was going to do with the garland, because each year I put one on the short bannister at the bottom part of our stairs.  When you walk through our front door, it's one of the first things you see, so it's the ideal place to put this.  And this year, because I'm using live greens instead of my usual artificial garland, it smells good too!  Walk in my house, and it smells like a Christmas tree. Mmmmmm!

The garland came as a kit, with six pre-wired ribbons and eight pine cones: four white ones and four natural ones.  I was a little worried about whether the garland would hold together as I wound it around the bannister, but it's really well put together and I didn't lose anything more than small pieces of the juniper.

Since I didn't need all 15 feet of the garland for this area, I simply cut it in two and used the other half on top of our bookcase.  I don't have that part completely decorated yet, or I'd show that to you too.  But it's nice that this was long enough that I could use it in two different places, and of course that lovely fragrance is in both places, too.


This was part of the P. Allen Smith Rustic Collection, which has companion pieces available (seven, in all) along with the garland, at Home Depot.  They're only available online, so have a look at all the collections here.

Look what they're doing and YOU can help!

Allen and Heidi are doing something really nice this year.  The top three bloggers with the most interaction on Allen's Pinterest board will get a collection of greenery sent to a local non-profit, charity, or religious organization.  If my blog post is one of the three winners, I'm having the greenery sent to The Paulding County Carnegie Library.

Our local library isn't large, but it's pretty special.  It's been designated an Ohio Historical Landmark because it's the first county library in the United States to be funded by The Andrew Carnegie Foundation and was established in 1912.  It serves our rural area well (2012 population of Paulding County was 19,295), and there are several branches in the little towns throughout the county, as well as a bookmobile.  The staff at the library is very supportive of local authors (like me!) and they've got plenty of activities for kids and adults alike throughout the year.

I'd like to see this special place receive some Christmas cheer, and if you'd like to help, just head over to Allen's Pinterest page and either "like" the pin about my blog post or leave a comment on that pin or even better, REPIN IT!  On December 9th - that's next Monday - they'll have their winners.  If you don't see the pin there yet, it will be very soon!

In any case, I hope you'll have a blessed holiday season!

The Rustic Collection Garland was provided to me free of charge by P. Allen Smith and The Berry Family of Nurseries.  All opinions stated here are my own.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: LEAVES

Wingthorn rose
(Rosa sericea)

Weeping larch
(Larix decidua 'Pendula')

Pin oak
(Quercus palustris)

Dwarf Fothergilla
(Fothergilla gardenii 'Mt. Airy')

Burning Bush
(Euonymus alatus)

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba


Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Inaba shidare')

Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum 'Full Moon')

Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Orangeola')

Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum 'Autumn Moon')

Japanese maple 'Harp Strings'
(Acer palmatum 'Koto-no-ito')

Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum 'Emperor I')

Kousa dogwood
(Cornus kousa)

Hydrangea macrophylla

Endless Summer® Hydrangea

(Hydrangea macrophylla 'Lady in Red')

Japanese Forest Grass
(Hakonechloa macra)


Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry
(Prunus 'Snofozam')

Japanese maple
(Acer palmatum 'Emperor I')

(Liquidambar styraciflua)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Peeking Under the Leaves

When you have over 100 trees on an acre, that makes for a lot of leaves in the fall.  That might be an annoyance to some, but we take it in stride, as we have for the 36 years we've lived here.  Since we've enlarged the gardens over the last ten years or so, we've actually welcomed the fact that we have plenty of leaves.

Leaves return rich nutrients back to the soil if allowed to decompose.  How do you think that beautiful, dark, loose soil that you find in a woods got there?  We have heavy clay as our natural soil type around here, but just go into a woods and dig around and you'll see something entirely different.  In most cases, you'll be able to dig without the aid of tools, just using your hands.

In a woods, the decaying process is ongoing - year after year, things die, they decompose, they grow, they die again.  And for the most part, the process is uninterrupted.  But in a garden, we control the environment and we change the natural process of things.  So sometimes we have to provide a little help with the decomposition and nourishing the soil part.

Here, we chop the excess leaves and add it to the compost bins.  Usually, all it takes is several months over the course of a winter for whatever we've put in the bins to decompose into rich, dark compost suitable for adding to our gardens.  But there are some places where we let the leaves remain.  Unless they're going to smother small perennials,  allowing some leaves to remain provides a winter home for beneficial insects.  Like ladybugs.

Don't worry.  I covered them back up.

They're all tucked away for the winter now.  I'd feel bad if I'd taken all the leaves away.  They would likely have found another place to stay but I want them here in my garden where they'll help control aphids and other pests during the growing season.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

SweeTango® Apple - Let Your Taste Buds Dance!

If the only apple I'd ever tasted was 'Red Delicious', I don't think I'd eat very many apples.  It tastes okay, but once I had a 'Granny Smith', I turned my back on 'Red Delicious'.  There were other apples that came later - 'Gala', 'Fuji', 'Idared', and many more.  Then along came Honeycrisp™ and it was game over.

I can pinch pennies with the best of 'em, but I like Honeycrisp™ so well that I'm willing to pay a higher price for them because they really are that much better, according to my taste buds.  I like JAZZ™ apples too, but Honeycrisp™ still wins out.

SweeTango® apples                                                                    Stemilt Growers / Wikimedia Commons

This week, I found a new (to me) apple in the produce section.  It was the name that caught my attention: SweeTango®.  I guessed that it would be sweet and tart - just the way I like my apples.  There was the matter of texture and juiciness too, but there was only one way to find out how it measured up.  I bought five of them.
Today, I ate my first SweeTango® and it's all that a good eating apple should be.  Just the right combination of sweet with a hint of tart.  The flesh was firm and dense and crispy when I bit into it.  Not overly juicy, but juicy enough.  Finally - and this is big - the skin tasted good too.  So many apples have skins that have a slightly bitter taste but not this one.  As I said on Facebook, this apple may just give Honeycrisp™ a run for the money.

It's not surprising that SweeTango® rivals Honeycrisp™ because Honeycrisp™ is one of its parents.  Crossed with Zestar!™,  SweeTango® was hybridized at the University of Minnesota, the same program that brought us 'Haralson', 'Honeygold', and yes, Honeycrisp™.  It debuted in 2009.


It took them 10 years to get  SweeTango® just right.  It took me just a few seconds to confirm it.

*This blog post contains a video.  If you are receiving Our Little Acre by email, the video may not appear.  Click here to go to the Our Little Acre website to view it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Indoor Plant Décor" - It's Everywhere!

Well, not everywhere, but Jenny and I continue in our march towards world dominance and I'm happy to say it's progressing quite nicely.  More news on that in a bit.

Background: Croton / Bloom: Abutilon
Up here in the soon-to-be frozen hinterlands of Northwest Ohio, plant lovers have brought their gardens inside, where they can live happy as clams until we all go back outside together, sometime around April or May. Tender perennials and tropicals now occupy all kinds of indoor space next to the year-round residents and you might think we have a bit of a "plant problem" if you walk into my house right now.  Let me tell you, it's not a problem at all

My husband Romie has always said that he loves it when the plants are all inside for the winter because he feels like he's living in a jungle. This is a man whose dream is to live in a cabin in the woods up on a remote mountain.  Just him and nature.  This is sort of like that, right?  Yeah.

In any case, before you ask, yes, it takes some time to water these 100+ plants (I haven't really counted, but this figure is likely well below the actual number), but when we water, we get to admire their finer qualities up close, and that's a big reason why we have them in the first place - they're real lookers, these houseplants!  They also help to filter the air, which is a plus for my allergy-plagued hubby.

So, back to ruling the world...  Our book, Indoor Plant Décor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants, is doing very well and is popping up all over the internet in some pretty cool places!  There have been some giveaways, including one which P. Allen Smith has been hosting for the past week over on his blog

If you have our book already, you know that Allen loves it and gave his recommendation, which appears on the back cover:

"Kylee Baumle and Jenny Peterson's passion for designing with indoor plants makes them the perfect guides to help us make new, fresh and stylish additions to every room.  The brilliance of Indoor Plant Décor is its clarity in communicating their creative ideas."

- P. Allen Smith

We even got a line on the COVER!  Woot!
We were featured in the September/October issue of the Saturday Evening Post magazine, as well as garnering a spot in their online site.  They really liked one of our DIY features that goes along with each design chapter in the book, and you can see the video they made of themselves making our cork planters, as well as a really fun interview they did with the two of us. 

And then there was a review over at Southern Living magazine, by senior writer Steve Bender, a.k.a. The Grumpy Gardener.  Like I told Steve when thanking him for giving our book some real estate on the site of their popular publication, it's always an honor to have some of The Grump's snark thrown your way.  But seriously, I love this review a lot because what he says he likes about it is exactly what we wanted to do when we set out to write the book.  That spells success, as far as I'm concerned.

Our book was also featured in an article on and in the same week, we learned that Indoor Plant Décor was on Amazon's List of the Top Books for 2013 in our category!!!!!!!!!

 This is how it looks on Amazon, even though we're #18 out of the top 19. 
We don't care how they show it.  We're just pleased as punch to be on THE LIST!!

Making the Amazon list is just about the best thing that could have happened to us as authors and something that took us completely by surprise.  Of course, we're extremely happy about it and we hope that all the readers that made that possible are enjoying our book.  If you've purchased a copy of our book, thank you!  And if you haven't, we're suggesting that you do.  Here's where you can get it:
Barnes & Noble (it's in their bricks and mortar stores too)
Powell's Books


If you want a signed copy for yourself or as a special gift for the holidays, you can order that right here (see the right-hand sidebar).  I'll even gift wrap it for free!  Just let me know in the notes section when you pay, who you want me to inscribe it to and if you want it tied up in a bow.

Can I just make one more really important point about our book?  You might be tempted to think that it's just for gardeners and I can see how you might think that.  But it's also for those that like to decorate their homes.  You see, this is what our book is really all about. 

Plants can add panache and give your home a personal touch in ways that a pillow or curtains can't.  Plants go with every style, no matter what yours is, and our book helps you choose those that will enhance it.  There's a big wide world of houseplants out there - something for everyone - so let us help you get started!  It's kind of like eating potato chips.  You won't be able to stop with one.

Anyway, just wanted to share some of our good news with you!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coach Vince Dooley: The Man and the Garden

At this time last year, I'd never heard of Vince Dooley.  In case you haven't either, he was the head football coach at the University of Georgia for 25 years (1964-1988) and  its athletic director from 1979 to 2004.  With Coach Dooley at the helm, the Bulldogs won six Southeastern Conference titles and one National Championship (1980).  He received numerous awards, including being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Coach Vince Dooley
You'd think I'd at least know this honored man's name, given that both of our sons-in-law played football, one as the quarterback for his college team. Both of them are mad for the game and have managed to turn both of our daughters into football fans as well. But the fact of the matter is, I don't like football.  I never have, even when I was a high school cheerleader cheering for a team playing a game that I don't think I'll ever completely understand.  I'm more of a baseball and basketball kind of gal.

Then last January, while attending National Green Centre in St. Louis, the Western Landscape & Nursery Association's education and trade show, Coach Dooley was a keynote speaker and I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him in person.

Why would a football coach be speaking to a bunch of hort heads?  It turns out that football isn't his only passion.  The University of Georgia is also home to some horticultural giants, namely Dr. Michael Dirr and Dr. Allan Armitage.  I'll bet you recognize those names. Curiosity and a desire to learn impelled Coach Dooley to take horticulture classes at U of G and he became a personal friend of both Dirr and Armitage.

In the years since, Coach Dooley has created a world class garden at his home in Athens, Georgia.  He wrote a book about it too.  Because I'd heard Coach speak and shared a little bit of personal conversation with him, I began reading his book with the desire to get to know him a little better and learn more about his gardening adventures.

Coach Dooley is a very down-to-earth, humble, and congenial person who clearly loves gardening and talking to others who love it too.  The journey he's traveled since taking up gardening is fascinating and one that most of us can only dream about.  He shares the details in his book, which also has some beautiful impressionist artwork by his friend, Steve Penley, along with some photos of his own garden.

The friendship he developed with both Dr. Armitage and Dr. Dirr is now legendary and oh what I'd give to be a little mouse in one of their pockets when they've got their heads together!  These men are very serious about their plants, but they know how to have a good time as well.  I learned quite a bit about some behind-the-scenes activities of the plant-obsessed.

The University of Georgia is home to one of the nation's foremost trial gardens.  Dr. Armitage started it in 1982 and many plant introductions have come out of the program.  The university is also home to the 313-acre state botanical garden.  Imagine living with all this green goodness around you!  Despite having all this in his own backyard, Coach Dooley has traveled extensively with Dr. Dirr and Dr. Armitage, along with his lovely wife, Barbara, and in his book, he whet my appetite for seeing some of the places he's been.

If I've got one quibble with the book, it's that there aren't enough photos of his garden.  Guess I'll just have to take Coach Dooley up on his invitation one of these days and go see it for myself:

Maybe I should brush up on my football.  If anyone could lure me into that arena and end up with me actually enjoying it, Coach Dooley could.

Vince Dooley's Garden: The Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach
by Vince Dooley
with paintings by Steve Penley

154 pages, hardcover
Looking Glass Books, 2010
List price:  $35.00

It was a two-fer!  Meeting Dr. Michael Dirr (left) and Coach Vince Dooley (R) was the
highlight of my trip to St. Louis.

When I wanted to purchase a copy of Coach Dooley's book from him, he wouldn't hear of it.  He gave it to me, asking only that I send him a copy of my book when it was published.  Never in a million years would I have expected to be swapping books with a man such as this.  It was an honor to meet you, Coach, and your good friend, too.  ;-)

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