Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Plant geek: summer blooms

We have really tried to add some diverse flowers to our yard so that we have something blooming from spring to fall. You know from earlier posts that I am a huge spring flower fan, yet many spring flowers bloom for such a short amount of time. That leaves a lot of months without color.

We added a flower bed to the south of our driveway. We wanted summer blooms and a high tolerance for drought and full sun. We have a mixture of several different types of plants and have some great color happening now.
The purple coneflowers are especially pretty.

They are pretty and plentiful!

We have some black-eyed susans and more white coneflowers, some daisy looking flowers and more.

The birds really love the coneflowers in the fall. They spend a lot of time pulling out the seeds. The butterflies and bees are also attracted to these flowers. All of the activity around this bed makes it a great part of the yard.

Last night's light was really pretty and I couldn't resist showing off these plants. Can't help the plant geekiness.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


We finally got a break from the summer heat with a wonderful rain shower this evening. After the rain ended, the light was so beautiful! The backyard and the hill beyond had this glow. Jeremy looked outside and told me to go get my camera. He was right - it was perfect for picture taking.
Our neighbors have this silo that can look really far away or when the light is just right, it appears to be in our backyard. I love the view of the silo over the corn tassels.
This old tree behind our garden had the benefit of the evening light. Loved the blue sky.
And, a rainbow!
The black-eyed susans are just about to bloom in full force by the driveway. The old truck looked pretty nice to us tonight, too. We love summer rain showers!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's hot outside!

With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, it's been hot! Add on the Kansas humidity and being outside is not fun for anyone.

Our alpacas are especially susceptible to heat stress and that requires us to keep a close eye on them during this time of year. We refill water often and spray down their bellies and legs to keep them cool.

When we first bought Scout and Blue, we would put a sprinkler in the pen. Scout was a huge fan.

He would dance and stomp over the sprinkler.

His next move was to lay as close to the sprinkler as possible.

He was very content to enjoy the cool down.

Not much has changed. Scout is the first in line for the spray down. He is content to be soaked. Now that the grass is gone from their pen, he will roll in the dirt for a nice mud coating. He's left looking pretty silly, but at least cooler.

Thank goodness for small things that give relief in the heat. And, thank goodness that our fiber mill washes the fiber really well. Our boys can be a muddy mess.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What a day!

My dear friend who is a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech (and a proud K-State alum) was back visiting. She contacted me about getting together and we were able to make schedules work for this afternoon. It was the perfect way to end the day with great conversation with a good friend.

She recently returned from the Ukraine where she spent time with a group volunteering at an orphanage. I loved hearing her stories about her travels and seeing pictures of the children.

She brought me this beautiful hand painted egg and a chocolate bar with a wrapper that is so pretty. Both are just so lovely that I wanted to share.
You have to see both sides of this great egg! This same friend gave me a tiny hand painted flower pot for a gift at my wedding shower. I treasure it, too. This egg from this friend just makes complete sense.
After dinner my husband and I went out the garden and I picked peas. Picking and shelling peas is one of my favorite garden activities.

Loved this day!

Fence posts

Between my drive to and from work and our walks on the country roads, I have started to look at fence posts. The hedge posts are my favorite. I can admire a well-made five wire fence with steel posts at the appropriate distances. These are the fences I want around land I own to keep livestock where they are meant to be. For general gawking, I like the old withered hedge posts with character.
I noticed these wildflowers next to this corner post and couldn't help but stop on the road and take a photo. Two things I love - two symbols of the prairie.
On our walk turned hike, we saw this cute bird and I loved the composition of the tiny bird on the massive post. It reminded me of the squirrel we caught last spring perched on the top of the fence post in our backyard.

This little squirrel entertained us one night. I also love seeing the corn field in the background just as the seeds had emerged. To see it now, it's hard to believe that was just a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beautiful Kansas sunrise

My favorite time of the day is the morning. This morning was especially nice to see that we had a break from the heat with a nice slow rain.
The colors in the morning sky were the second gift.
My favorite way to start the day is in our new addition watching the sunrise just behind the hill.
This is why we live in the country.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Black bean and tomato quinoa

We tried a new recipe tonight and it was a hit! I admit that it was a bit of a risk since it was a vegetarian dish and my husband was a little skeptical of the strange sounding main ingredient.

We tried quinoa before, but I will chalk our indifference to chef's error. It just wasn't spectacular. I take full responsibility, but am not easily discouraged in the kitchen. While cleaning the cupboards last week, I found the half used box and in my efforts to use that we buy decided to give it a try again. The recipe search began last week and I thought I had a winner.

This recipe had a very clean and fresh taste with the lime flavorings. It was fairly quick to make, even with all of the chopping. I did take some short cuts - like using pre-washed quinoa.

For the side, Jeremy made pita chips by crisping pita bread in the oven and we had our favorite hummus.

So, what is quinoa (KEEN-wah)? This is where my plant geek side comes out. It is like a grain, but all of my research says that it is actually the seed of a plant related to spinach. It is a really good source of protein and is reported to be a better protein because of the amino acids. There are a lot of other really good things in quinoa and it's one of those food you feel like earned you a gold star for eating well.

Tonight - two gold stars - one for being good for you and one for being a good tasting meal!

Black bean and tomato quinoa

2 teaspoons grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quinoa
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter, oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve each time. Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 2 quarts water), uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve in same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don't worry if lid doesn't fit tightly) and steam over medium heat until tender, fluffy, and dry, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and remove lid. Let stand, still covered with towel, 5 minutes.

Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First tomato by July 4

There are certain gardening guidelines that have been handed down from generation to generation in my family. You should plant your potatoes on St. Patrick's Day (which also happens to be my dad's birthday). If you want to avoid worrying about heavy frost, plant your tender plants after Mother's Day. Every gardener is shooting for the first ripe tomato by July 4.

We are not going to make it this year. We have some good looking green tomatoes, but are weeks away from having the first ripe tomato that marks the beginning of tomato season.

Tomato season means wonderful eating, breaking out all of our favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes, and putting into play our plans for canning. We have been talking about the wonderful pizza sauce and the ups and downs of various salsa recipes. We have tray after tray of ripe tomatoes on every available surface and a corner of my kitchen loaded up with jars, rings, flats, and all of the tools to preserve our garden's bounty.

We can't wait!

Until then...we watch...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Favorite gift

Earlier I posted about wrapping gifts for some staff members who were leaving my office. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, I didn't talk about what was under the wrapping - as if they read my blog, but just in case.

The book is Where will you be five years from today? by Dan Zadra. It was recommended by my friend Mary, who is the queen of cool finds.

The book is boldly designed and full of great quotes and important questions. It is my favorite book for people in transition - graduating, changing jobs, questioning next moves, and more.

This is a sample of the fun and bold design with great topics to really get you thinking.

Portions of the book are in workbook format. Though it is not my style to write in books, this book and a journal would be a great combination.

Even if you are not in transition, but maybe feeling a little stuck, this book is a great choice. And, couldn't we all benefit from asking ourselves where we will be in five years? And, then the real question - so, what are you doing about it?