Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Incredible Edible Eggs (And a Recipe!)

As of today, our eight hens have given us a total of 350 eggs, since Pippa first started laying in mid-September. It took until the middle of November for all eight to start laying, and though we rarely have an eight-egg day, we're pretty consistently getting 5-7 eggs per day now. Last week we got 38 eggs.

That's a lot of eggs.

We keep our two daughters and their husbands supplied with eggs and we also share with our parents. We love eggs and are thrilled to be able to walk to the back of our property and collect them from the coop. Sometimes they're so freshly-laid and warm that they steam as they hit the cold outside air when I remove them from the nesting box.

But as much as we like scrambled eggs, boiled eggs on salads, fried eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad, and baked eggs, we can't eat them as fast as the hens lay them. So we often offer them to friends and neighbors for sale. Our hens are not only feeding us breakfast, but now they're helping to pay for their own food!

I learned a few things about eggs last week. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids which the body requires in order to maintain good muscle tissue health. We have to get these from our diet, because we can't make these from other foods like we can the non-essential amino acids.

The protein in eggs is high quality, too. In fact, all other proteins are measured against that contained in eggs. Eggs also help the kidneys and liver to purify our body of toxins. The incredible edible egg, indeed.

And this fun fact: There are only two true colors of egg shells - blue and white. All other colors are added by the chicken to the outside of the egg. If you take a newly laid brown egg and it's still wet, you can wipe the color off. But once it's dried, you can't wash the color off. Don't believe it? Next time you crack open a brown egg, see what color the shell is on the inside.

When we were first married, I made a dish called simply "Baked Eggs." My mom made it when I was living at home and it's one of the recipes I still make nearly 40 years later. Here's the recipe, in case you want to make it, too.

Baked Eggs

Ready for the oven
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
¾ t. salt
2 cups milk
1 t. prepared mustard
Dash of pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce
⅛ t. Worcestershire sauce
4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6-8 eggs
½ t. paprika

Make a white sauce with butter, flour, salt and milk. Add mustard, pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce and blend well. Add grated cheese and stir until melted. Pour sauce into a greased 10" x 6" x 2" baking dish. Break eggs side-by-side on top of the sauce mixture. Sprinkle paprika on top either before or after baking.

Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes or until eggs are thoroughly baked. Serve by spooning each egg on top of a toasted English muffin half, along with some sauce. Serves 4-6, depending on the number of eggs used.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Bulbs Emerge Too Soon

This is a conversation I'm witness to every fall and winter:

"Oh no! My bulbs are coming up! It's not time!"
"Mine are too! This can't be good. What's going to happen to them when spring gets here?"

I learned several years ago that certain bulbs will make an appearance in the fall as a normal and expected occurrence. Grape hyacinths do it. So do most bulbs in the Allium family, including garlic. As a fellow gardener once told me, "It's their way of saying, 'Don't dig here!'" as you're looking for yet another place to put fall-planted bulbs.

Most of us would agree that this has been an unusual weather year. Here in Ohio, we had way too much rain in May, which delayed planting for both the farmers and the home gardeners. Then in June, it was as if someone turned the faucet off and didn't turn it back on until August. Someone turned the thermostat up too, as we experienced above normal temperatures for much of the summer.

The fall season was beautiful. It stayed warmer longer than usual. We got a nice amount of rain and the gardens perked up. Then there were a couple bouts with winter. Just two weeks ago, we had night temperatures in the low to mid-teens. 13°F is br-r-r cold. Last week, it was 53°F at midnight. While fickle weather is characteristic of the Midwest, this is not really normal.

Our gardens are a little bit confused too. With bulbs relying on temperatures to regulate their growth and blooming schedules, some of them just don't know whether to sleep or leap. My snow crocus are up about two inches all over the gardens. I took notice and though it's unusual for the crocus to do this, I didn't get too worried until I took a closer look.

16 December 2011
Daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium) on the left, crocus on the right

Not only is the foliage well out of the ground, the crocuses have got buds. Not good.

I did a little research online and found that this isn't unusual when warm winters happen in cold climates. Yes, spring bloom can be affected and that's something that only time will tell. But just about the only thing you can do is add some mulch to the early emergers and hope for the best.

They'll either make it okay through the winter and bloom as spring is springing, or they won't. I'll be disappointed if our warm fall weather robs us of the marvelous burst of color these and other spring bulbs bring, just when we think we can't take another wintry day.

Some years are like that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Got Snow? Win a Snow Thrower!

We've had some snow here at Our Little Acre already this season, even though winter doesn't technically arrive until Wednesday morning. It hasn't been anything that we needed to shovel by any means, but it's only a matter of time before we get a snowfall that requires a method of removal.

9 December 2011

The easiest way for us to take care of snowdrifts in the driveway and walkways is to use our Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Thrower we received from Troy-Bilt last winter for testing and review. You can read our review here, complete with video.

January 2011

If you have a winter snow issue, you just might want to enter this giveaway, because the nice people at Troy-Bilt are allowing me to give away a snow thrower again this year!! And the one they're providing for the giveaway is the very one we tested and have, the Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP. It really is a great snow thrower.

By leaving a comment on this blog post and entering your information in the Rafflecopter form, that gives you two entries into the giveaway. Just tell me what you would suggest as a Christmas gift for a 97-year-old woman in assisted living. (Hey, I'm desperate!)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Giving Plants the Cold Shoulder

Herbaceous peony
It came as a shock to me when I first began gardening that not everyone can grow tulips and peonies. If you live in the south, most spring bulbs that we in the north take for granted, like tulips, daffodils, crocuses and such, just won't make it down there. But of course, they have things that we can't grow in the ground year round either.

The problem with trying to grow tulips in the warmer climates is that these bulbs and plants need a period of cold weather - typically below 45°F - in order to flower. This is called vernalization. Bulbs can be pre-chilled and then planted, but southerners may not want to be bothered, just as many northerners may not want to dig up tender bulbs/corms/tubers in the fall, such as dahlias and gladiolus.

Cold temperatures also affect warm climate plants in a similar way when it comes to producing blooms. Several years ago, I purchased some Amazon lily (Eucharis grandiflora) bulbs while on a visit to Florida. I was taken by their beautiful white blooms and large, shiny green leaves. I brought them home, potted them up, and they grew wonderfully. But they didn't bloom.

Amazon Lily
Eucharis grandiflora

The lush green foliage of my Amazon lilies made for a beautiful house plant, but I longed for those gorgeous flowers. Why wouldn't my plants bloom? Quite by accident, I discovered that this is one of several plants that need cooler night temperatures in order to produce flowers. One winter, I put the Amazon lily in a spare bedroom that we only heat to about 55-60°F. When spring came, I put the plant back in the living room and one day I walked in there and found several blooms had appeared!

Christmas Cactus
Schlumbergera x buckleyi
Other plants that require this cooling off period in order to bloom are Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, which are also responsive to the shorter daylight hours. Some orchids can be spurred to bloom by keeping them cool for a period of time as well.

Sometimes it takes awhile for the lights to come on in my brain, but I had a thought a couple of weeks ago about this cool temperature thing. In all the years I've had jade plants, both common and variegated, I've never had a single one of them bloom. I didn't even realize that they were capable of producing beautiful flowers until I saw a large plant in full bloom last year at Planterra in Michigan.

Jade Plant
Crassula ovata
So what I'm going to do is put my jade plants in the cooler bedroom for the winter, then bring them out when spring gets here. No, that isn't exactly how things would be in their native environment, but plants can be fooled and coerced in many ways. This won't hurt them and maybe, just maybe, they'll pop out blooms.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Amaryllis Season Has Begun!

When winter comes, and the outside garden is fast asleep, it's time to grab color inside where you can find it. The winters are long and cold here in Ohio and each year I think I can't bear another one. I look for ways to lift my spirits, which can become as gray as the skies. I'm here to tell you that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a very real thing.

Hippeastrum papilio
Almost as soon as I fell in love with gardening, I thankfully discovered amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.). It was the butterfly amaryllis (Hippeastrum papilio) that drew me in, with its burgundy striping and indeed, petals that resemble butterfly wings.

Once the world of amaryllis was opened up to me, their siren song was strong and clear, and soon I had a collection. The bulbs were more pricey then (2005-2006) than they are now, although some companies still maintain what I consider to be prices higher than they should be. They may argue quality of bulbs as explanation and in some cases, it may be true, but I've always been able to find large, healthy bulbs in just about any cultivar that catches my eye, at a reasonable cost.

I keep my amaryllis bulbs from year to year, growing them outside in the summer and bringing them in for their resting period when frost comes. After six to eight weeks, I bring them up out of the basement, pot them up if they aren't already in pots. I water them a little bit and they're off and running, bringing my home that longed for color and me the joy of living with them.


Amaryllis blooms bring a fifth season to Our Little Acre and as of today, it's officially begun. The first 'Zombie' has opened and there are more on the way. More 'Zombie' and 'Blooming Bells' and 'Cherry Crush'. 'Dancing Queen' and my favorite, 'Blossom Peacock'. 'Rembrandt van Rijn' and 'Solomon' and 'Rilona'. 'Lemon-Lime' and 'White Peacock'. 'Benfica' and ... you get the picture. What a pretty picture it is - all winter long.

And sometimes, one will surprise me in summer, too.
'Blossom Peacock'

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up

Petunia x hybrida 'Improved Purple Wave'

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School
British politician (1874 - 1965)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Our Little Acre" - The Story Behind the Name

Monica Milla (Garden Faerie's Musings) and Brenda Haas (BGgarden) were having a Twitter discussion one day, talking about how their blogs got their names. I knew how Bren's had gotten hers, but Monica's story was new to me. They decided to ask other bloggers to share their stories of how their blogs got their names. Here's mine:

August 2004
Since 1977, we have lived in rural northwest Ohio on a small plot of land. We've always had a vegetable garden, but it was only since 2005 that I got involved with gardening in a big way, and started growing ornamental plants, too. Lots of them. As my passion for growing deepened, our older daughter Kara recognized that I needed a way to share what was happening in our gardens. She suggested I start a blog.

I gave it some thought and decided to just do it. Younger daughter Jenna had this idea that I sat around all day eating bonbons and watching soap operas on the days I didn't work as a dental hygienist. (I had cut back dramatically on my work schedule to just half a day a week.)

June 2008
Sometimes I wrote it as a story, and sometimes in journal form. Initially, it was started just to share things with family and maybe some friends. But soon there were comments from people I didn't know. I had a Julie and Julia moment. ("People are actually reading what I wrote!")

That was almost five years ago now; my first post was published on January 2, 2007. Much has happened in those years - so many wonderful friendships formed and opportunities presented. Writing Our Little Acre has changed my life in ways that I could never have imagined and I'm grateful for Kara's suggestion. I used to hate writing (seriously!) and now I have to write, much as a runner just has to run.

Oh...the name? We live on an acre, of course.

To read The Story Behind the Name of other bloggers, visit Monica's post at Garden Faerie's Musings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fields & Lane Gloves - A Review and Giveaway!

I used to be one of those people who dug right in and worked about in my garden, sans gloves. At the end of the day, my hands would be dry, my fingernails packed with dirt (no shame in that, though), and I’d have a few scrapes on my knuckles. Romie would berate me, saying, “Why don’t you wear your gloves??”

After a few times with sore hands, I finally got smart and did the glove thing. Besides, we’ve got cats and you know what “cats + dirt” equals. Now gloves are a valuable gardening tool for me and I’m a staunch advocate of wearing them. I’ve got a couple of brands that I especially like and now I’ve got another one.

When Fields & Lane contacted me about trying out a pair of their leather gloves, my first reaction was, “Sure!” Then I visited their website, because to be honest, I’d never heard of them before. The first thing I do when checking out a company is to read their About Us page. Before I tell you how I liked their gloves, let me tell you about the company.

Fields & Lane

They’re a family-owned business in Oregon, with the factory that makes these gloves (from U.S. materials) in Costa Rica. Not only do they provide a quality work environment for their employees there, but they’re also committed to helping special needs individuals through their donations to organizations in both the U.S. and Costa Rica.

They set up the Bonnie Jean Laughlin Foundation in 1998, named for their daughter, who had cerebral palsy and they donated thousands of gloves to workers after 9/11 and the earthquake in Haiti. This is a company that cares.

What about the gloves?

I tested The Forester, which is a partially-lined leather glove. They feel wonderful because they’re made from goatskin. Super soft, yet extremely durable, these gloves will go the distance. No, I haven’t had time to wear them out, but as someone who has used many, many different gloves over the last few years, I can spot quality.

The Forester

Goatskin is known for its durability, yet it doesn’t dry out or crack when it gets wet (after it dries). This is important for a gardening glove, since they can get muddy and wet as you use them, and they’ll need to be cleaned from time to time. (They recommend spot cleaning.)

One of the things that has consistently been irritating (in several ways) when I’ve worn some other gloves is the seaming. Some of them have the seams in the fingers placed right where they either rub in a bad spot or they’re in a place where it affects my tactile sense. But not the Fields and Lane gloves. Ideally, a glove would have no seams, but that’s not possible in a leather glove and the seams are in a good place on The Forester.

These gloves are lined on the palm side with a soft, slightly fuzzy polyester (87% recycled), nylon, and spandex fabric that provides some warmth and comfort. The back of the glove has a narrow gusset across the back of the hand with stretchy fabric that allows for flex as you grip your gardening tools.


I normally wear a size small in gloves, but the website has a size chart and when I measured my hand, it fell at the high end of small and low end of medium. I chose the medium, because they were leather and leather doesn’t give quite as much as fabric. When I first put them on, I thought they were the perfect size, but as I wore them and used them, I kind of wish I’d chosen the small. The leather gives more than I expected (though it doesn’t stretch out) and it starts to shape to your hand. They were still pretty comfortable to use though.

Using the gloves

I still hadn’t pruned my roses for winter, so I took advantage of the relatively nice day we had on Sunday, and did that. These gloves worked great – no thorny pricks for me!

I also needed to lay some mulch around the base of the roses as well as other plants, in preparation for winter’s cold, and though they got pretty dirty, they proved easy enough to clean. Once they dried and I put my hands into them again, the gloves were still supple.

The bottom line

The Flex
I like these gloves. They aren’t as bulky as some leather gloves I've tried and I feel like I could do just about any garden chore with them, except for weeding. I’ll always use the thinnest glove I can find for that. The company makes other gardening gloves too, and from the description, it looks like The Flex would work well for that (as well as other tasks). It still has the durability of goatskin, while being a lighter weight glove.

Now for the giveaway!!!

GUESS WHAT? Fields & Lane is allowing me to give away a prize package consisting of TWO pairs of their gloves! One lucky reader will receive one pair of The Forester and one pair of The Flex in the size of their choice. The Forester comes in men's sizes, too.

All you need to do to enter is:

  • Leave a comment to this blog post, telling me if you’re a faithful glove user or not.
  • Enter your information on the Rafflecopter form.   
  • Sign up for the Fields & Lane newsletter via their Facebook page

Do so by midnight, Sunday, December 11, 2011. Good luck!

WINNER!! has chosen a winner, and it's Rebecca Burlingham! Congratulations, Rebecca! Enjoy your Fields & Lane gloves!

*Fields & Lane provided me with The Forester gloves, as well as compensation for my review. That said, they wanted my honest opinion of their gloves, and as always, that’s what you get here at Our Little Acre.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Toledo Museum of Art

What’s that they say? You never take advantage of things in your own backyard? Toledo isn’t technically in my backyard – it’s about 85 miles away – but when we’re talking about an internationally known museum, that’s pretty close. I made my first visit to the Toledo Museum of Art on Friday and I can’t believe it’s taken me 54 years to get there.

Monroe Street facade of the Toledo Museum of Art with
Alexander Calder's Stegosaurus (1978)

Beaded wall at the entrance of the café
I met my friend Jan ( there in the morning and though we didn’t think we’d stay more than a couple of hours, it turned into a all-too-short, all-day experience. Both of us were so taken with the beauty and history that we stayed on the premises and had lunch at their café, because we didn’t want to waste time going somewhere else. That turned out to be a delightful and delicious choice.

Homemade potato soup and a salad with spinach, lettuces, red grapes, sheep’s milk feta cheese, spiced pecans, honey wheat croutons (did I forget anything?), topped with a sweet onion vinaigrette dressing and a cheese roll hit the spot.

We were taken on a tour of the main parts of the museum by David Urbank, Membership Sales Manager at the museum, and given that he had no warning of our visit, he was extremely gracious. In fact, every single employee of the museum was both personable and knowledgeable. Even when Jan broke a couple of rules, they were polite and understanding. To be fair, by the time I left, I too did a no-no (by accident!) and was treated with the same kindness.

What rules, you say? They’re very lenient about photography, by museum standards, but no flash is allowed because of the effect it has on the fragile artwork. Close-up images of special exhibits are not allowed, although they offer images for press of those items if needed. Also, no gum chewing allowed. That’s because they’ve had problems with inconsiderate people leaving it in inappropriate places when they’re finished with it.

The West Wing

Water Lilies, ca. 1922, is one of a series of 250 oil paintings
by Claude Monet, featuring his flower gardens at Giverny
When I stepped into the West Wing and saw Monet’s Water Lilies painting to my left, I had a feeling of standing on hallowed ground. That feeling would be repeated throughout the museum as I came upon one great painting after another: Rembrandt, Degas, Matisse, Rubens, Fragonard, Homer, van Gogh, Gaugin, Goya, Munch, Picasso, O'Keeffe, Klee, Remington, Wyeth, Miró, and Cézanne, just to name a few. There are other artistic greats, too: Brancusi, Chihuly, Ansel Adams, and Lalique. Impressive is the fact that not only does the Toledo museum have works by so many great artists, they have several by the same artist.


The museum was begun in 1901, the vision of members of the Tile Club, who took their idea to Edward Drummond Libbey, a local resident and business owner (Libbey Glass Company). Stockholders joined together and in December of that year, they had their first exhibition. Over the years, they outgrew several locations and the present structure on Monroe Street was built in 1912. Additions were constructed and opened in 1926 and 1933, thanks in great part to Florence Scott Libbey, wife of Edward, leaving the bulk of her estate to the museum.

The Peristyle, a Greek Revival style theater and concert hall, seats 1710, and is the winter home to the Toledo Symphony and the Toledo Opera. It was part of the 1933 museum building expansion. Mr. Urbank had the key to the doors and so let Jan and me go inside for a bird's eye view of the beautiful venue.

The Peristyle (1933)

Of interest to gardeners, the museum participated in the 1914 City Beautiful Campaign. This campaign encouraged the city’s residents to transform Toledo into the garden city of Ohio by planting flower and vegetable gardens. A horticulturist, W.H. Steffens, gave lectures on soils and plants and a local merchant donated gardening equipment. More than 200,000 flower and vegetable seed packets were sold at a penny apiece. When the campaign ended, 255 cash prizes were awarded to the best gardeners and the museum held a flower and vegetable exhibition in its galleries. Today, the museum is partnered with Toledo Grows, the community garden outreach program of Toledo Botanical Garden.

Children’s Programs and Education

From its beginning, the museum has made a special effort to welcome children. In its early days, young teens served as assistant docents. Regular visits by children and schools take advantage of their educational programs and since 1921, the museum has been partnered with the University of Toledo’s School of Design.

Here in the East Wing, we saw one of many groups of children that were
visiting the museum on Friday.
Just east of the museum sits the Center for the Visual Arts, a building designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect who designed Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and the BP Pedestrian Bridge, which I've seen several times. He also designed the Seattle Music Project, which I saw during our Seattle trip this past summer. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of the CVA, so I didn't seek it out. That's just one of the things I missed on my first visit, to be seen on the next.

The history of the buildings and programs aside, it’s the artwork contained within its walls that draws most people in. It seemed as though there was just one famous artists' work after another and I learned there were others that though I'd not heard of them before, I found I liked their work.

The Open Air Breakfast
William Merritt Chase

One of my very favorite paintings in the museum is The Open Air Breakfast by William Merritt Chase. I'd heard of Chase, but only vaguely remembered him to be an artist. Upon further exploration of his works, I found that he's widely considered to be the greatest American Impressionist painter. What I should have known before, I know now.

The museum's two copies of early first editions of the King James Bible
(1604 -1611) were on display for a limited time. We were fortunate to see them
as the display period ended the day after our visit.
Alabaster Head of a Female Votive Figure
(2600 B.C.), found in eastern Iraq

In addition to the numerous Masters' paintings, the museum has a vast inventory of ancient artifacts. Some are as old as the 26th century B.C. It's astounding that items survive that long when most of them weren't created with that kind of longevity in mind.

Across the street is the Glass Pavilion, where a beautiful representation of the history of glass is displayed. Jan and I watched a glass blowing demonstration and now have a new appreciation for the fine art. Glass is a very important part of Toledo's history and industry, and it's known as The Glass City.

Large Leaping Hare (1982)
Barry Flanagan
On the main museum side of Monroe street, extending the length of the building is a sculpture garden, containing 22 sculptures in landscaped gardens. The time of year and weather wasn't conducive to an all-out stroll through the gardens, but that will keep for another visit.

There is so much more to tell about the Toledo Museum of Art - more than I can tell in a blog post.There's still the art of Asia and Africa, the Paper Galleries, the Small Worlds Exhibit (through March 25, 2012), The Egypt Experience (through January 12, 2012), The Cloister, and the contemporary and modern art exhibits. More than 30,000 pieces of art are housed in these two buildings.

I've posted my photos in their entirety on Our Little Acre's Facebook page, so you can see more of what impressed me at the museum. My single favorite thing? Impossible to choose, although the feeling of standing a couple of feet away, face-to-face, with a Rembrandt is hard to forget.

Young Man With Plumed Hat
Rembrandt van Rijn

The Museum is just west of Toledo’s downtown business district, directly off Interstate 75, at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue. Their main business line is 800-255-8000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              800-255-8000      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.


Admission to the Museum is always FREE. Special exhibitions or events may require purchased tickets. Members are admitted free to all exhibitions and receive free admission and discounts for special programs, events, and Museum Store purchases. Hours
Tuesday–Thursday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Sunday Noon–6 p.m.

Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day

*My thanks to the Toledo Museum of Art for providing much of the historical information I've shared here.

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.)

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