Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wisteria memories and an ID

I love Wisteria! I remember it growing over the back porch at my Great Aunt Mary's house and sitting out there with various great aunts (my grandmother was the youngest of 17!) while they chatted in early spring. The bees would always be buzzing away as they explored the intoxicating fragrance of the blossoms.

Later in the summer, the lush green leaves were a cooling canopy for us while we cleaned "snap" beans for a family dinner.

I suspect those memories prompted me to plant the one in the picture above about 8 years ago. In the past couple of years it has finally come into its own. I'm sure I planted it much too close to the house and with construction planned for the summer, it may have to be moved.

Spring is so full of beautiful sights, I can't seem to stop posting about them. Soon, I may have some glass to gush about, but right now...

This yellow flower is one we couldn't identify off-hand in one of our rambles. As it turns out, it is Marsh Marigold. Seeing it at a distance, we just weren't quite sure of it - thought perhaps it was an amazing stand of yellow violets. We saw more and more expanses and finally got close enough to snap a few pictures. After some consultation with a wildflower field guide, we came to the correct conclusion.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Alpacas again... and a newborn!

I just love these furry creatures and I happened to have a camera along today. I have been watching to see if, like there seem to be with every other animal in the fields, there were babies. Sure enough, I looked and there was a little fellow(?) lying down beside his momma all tuckered out.

They were far away as usual, but even my presence seemed to make them move.

The baby hauled himself up and trotted along behind Mom toward the far fence line. She sure keeps a good eye on him! One of the humans from the farm was just standing silently in the field among them. I think she was hoping for a better view of the baby too!

He/she sure looks spindly in the midst of these wooly creatures. By next winter, I imagine he'll seem just as puffy as the rest!

The neighbors seem to want to get a good look too...

I wonder how an animal can appear to be so regal and so goofy both at the same time!

I wish I had the camera along with me last night when Bob convinced me to go see some baby Pygmy Goats. I have a feeling we may go see them this weekend while Rob is home with friend(s). Baby Pygmies are as close to living stuffed animals as you can get with their perfect little hooves... No, we are NOT bringing any home!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Lancaster County Dessert Sampler

It is great selling to some of our area's popular tourist attractions because on the days we make deliveries, we get to see and visit a lot of beautiful and friendly places.

On our travels yesterday, we stopped by the Bird-in-Hand Bakeshop on Gibbons Road (in Bird-in-Hand!) and found this marvelous sampler of Lancaster County treats.

We are not known to be small (girth-wise) people in our area. Most of us have been raised on traditional German influenced farm diets and since most of us no longer work on the farms with the accompanying physical activity, it shows.

Regular meals involve lots of starches.. often more than one per sitting, along with sauces and lots of sweets.

Traditionally, every good Lancaster County housewife always had at least one - usually more - pie on the table for dinner. In the winter, when the fruit was scarce, Shoofly Pie, containing brown sugar and molasses filled the bill.

This sampler, containing not only Shoofly Pie, but a number of other local delicacies, is perfect for a visitor to our area to get a good taste of some of our sweet specialties.

On the platter we have: 1. Shoofly Pie , 2. Apple Struesel, 3. Whoopie Pie, 4. Chocolate Shoofly Pie and 5. Sticky Bun.

I purchased one of these samplers because our son is planning to bring a friend along home from college this weekend and wanted her to have a chance to try a bit of everything. She is from Connecticut and her father is a chef, so I'm sure she will enjoy it. I might have to go pick up a few more for everyone else to try, too!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Spring

Is it really this beautiful every year? I know it always amazes me.

I wanted to share some of the sights I am lucky enough to see every day.

This sight greets me each morning when I walk out to the shop... The red tulips and grape hyacinths grow outside the shop door.

I really believe the reds are much more vibrant this year... Everywhere, not just here, I see them and the red just glows! I asked Tina if it seemed that way to her and kinda got a blank stare (we do that to each other from time to time). I'd think maybe I was getting cataracts, but then they would seem dull rather than brighter

Walking past, or driving in and out the driveway for the past month I have seen the fruits of one fresh Autumn day.

Bob and I had purchased a number of bags of daffodil and tulip bulbs. He started up the tractor and scooped out big sections along the driveway, between clumps of day lilies. We placed the bulbs randomly and Voila! Each spring we are rewarded with this gorgeous display.

Most of the daffodils are already finished, but now the tulips have replaced them and the brilliant yellows are being replaced with oranges and reds, with the occasional stray pink!

Walking back into the house, I pass an exceptionally beautiful bed of various tulips. This bed is in the direct sunlight and the crocuses in it are some of the very first signs of spring.

We put some especially nice tulips in this one and it is just a joy.

The crabapple tree is one of my favorites... We have pictures of Rob helping his dad to plant it when he was probably 3 or 4.

The big pines behind the crabapple were Charlie Brown Christmas Trees when we moved in 20 years ago. They truly were tiny little misshapen things that I watched and pitied outside our kitchen window as "Bobby" and I would eat our breakfasts together.

Now, they have grown big and strong and bear very little resemblance to those sad little things. Just as Bobby is now Rob and grown into a man.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pay Back!

After our beautiful day goofing off yesterday, the piper had to be paid!

There were a couple of orders waiting to be filled and after pulling them from the shelves, we saw all the empty spots and realized there was a soaping extravaganza in the very near future - like today!

So, while Tina wrapped soaps for the orders, I made four batches of soap.

These are the soaps, neatly put away for the night in their molds. I made Lily of the Valley, Wise Woman, Seize the Day and Honey & Oats. Tomorrow, they will be unmolded, then cut and trimmed.

The shop is always permeated with the combined fragrances of all the soaps, but on soaping days, it is even stronger - yum!

Tina has had a project going for the last couple of months. Since we don't scrape the pot because the last bits of soap will not mix into the regular soap and may cause discolored spots. She was alarmed by all the soap that was scraped out of the soaping pot and into the trash.

She lined a small mold and when we were finished with a batch, she would then scrape it into the mold. If there were scraps after cutting and trimming, they were added to the mold. Eventually the mold was filled and the picture to the right was the result. Pretty colorful, huh? We have a new one going now and we can't wait to see the results. We're calling it "Wacky Soap".

So, tomorrow, the latest edition of The Essential Herbal will be hot off the presses and so I will be with Tina getting it sealed, stamped and in the mail. Can't wait to see the finished product. Each issue just seems to get better.

Sometime between now and Sunday, I hope to get my groceries for Easter Dinner!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Perfect Spring Day!

It was a glorious spring day here. It started slow, but, boy oh boy it turned out to be just great.

Tina and I decided today was the day to search for some Dutchmen's Breeches. A friend had clued us in on a place where they were growing wild and not protected by law so we though perhaps we could bring some home.

The weather was perfect and after attending to a few other errands, we started out. We went almost right to the spot and found our treasure trove. Neither of us had really seen them growing in the wild - at least not in such profusion. We dug a few and stashed them in the back of the car.

Our appetites were whetted and we continued on to a wildlife preserve near Safe Harbor called Shenk's Ferry. We had both heard of this place, but never visited.

We had heard tales of the amazing varieties of wild flowers that grow there and we had also been warned to only visit on a weekday because weekends were very crowded - which I would think would spoil the ambience!

As we drove down the bumpy dirt road leading to the walking path, we rounded a bend and Tina yelled, "Stop the car!" I barely had the car stopped when she jumped out and ran to a meadow like area that happened to be polluted with trilliums! Now, you have to understand that Tina has been attempting - unsuccessfully until this year - to plant trilliums in various places. She was ecstatic! They were interspersed with Dutchmen's breeches, so it was a great find.

I slowly drove the car along the road as she pranced and took picture after picture. As I rounded the next curve, the meadow rose up to become a steep hill, which was covered with Virginia Bluebells.

Just last week, I had purchased a plant of Bluebells at the Pa Herb Festival because I thought they were so beautiful and would make a wonderful addition to the native plants in our own woods. To see them in such numbers was almost overwhelming and we hadn't even officially entered the preserve yet!

I'll leave the rest of the reporting on plants to Tina, but I did find some interesting sights that caught my eye. For instance, the big hole in this tree trunk provided a perfect planter for some Dutchmen's Breeches and you can see what spilled out all around the base of the tree.

So many lovely sights and amazingly, the flowers started to become commonplace!

The path was nice and wide and well kept, on the side of a very steep hill, but creeping right to the edge was an astoundingly wild area. The path dropped off to the right steeply to a nice sized stream and some places it gurgled and splashed providing a pleasant accompaniment to our walk.

At a fork in the trail, this structure rose up from the side toward the stream. It completed the feeling of being in a faraway place. It reminded me of the ruins of a castle. I was waiting for a fairy or leprechaun to appear at any moment!

The whole experience was like something out of time. In fact at some point, we decided we had better turn around and get back to the car.

We have decided that the area will be changing almost daily and that we must get back hopefully once a week to document all the wonderful things there.

On the way back, the sun was shining ina different direction and so the flowers were not as evident, but it did seem that more had come into bloom while we were walking! We had only seen one Trout Lily on the way in, but a number more were to be seen on the way out.

This gnarled mass of roots was covered with a variety of flowers, but the real mystery was what might be living in the hollows!

We drove out of the preserve and rejoined the rest of the world, realizing we were hungry and thirsty, things we hadn't even thought about for a couple of hours while we were lost in another world.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Waking up to the world waking up!

What a beautiful morning! Yesterday, I looked outside and at first glance it appeared we had a shower overnight. You can see that things are "greening up" under the pergola outside our back door.

When I stepped outside, I saw... white stuff! It looked like a very thick frost and most of it had already melted away, but when I checked a little farther from the house, I found that it had, indeed, snowed!

This should not have surprised me since when we were kids, it seemed every spring we would hear the story of the day our grandparents were married, April 14, in the biggest snowstorm of the year!

I found a Motherwort plant (that I had forgotten that I had even planted) and saw how beautifully it is coming along, even with the snow tracery around it. That gorgeous bright green is sooo welcome after the grayness of winter.

The daffodils have been knocking themselves out for some time, but now the tulips are coming along to pick up the slack as the earliest daffodils begin to fade.

Actually, everything is starting to really wake up from it's winter nap.

I looked up and saw the sun just starting to peek through the pines behind the house and wanted to see what kind of a picture this shot would produce. I like it!

Those big pines give us such nice shade in the morning now, but when we moved here, over 20 years ago, they looked like Charlie Brown's Christmas trees! I think they each had about 2 branches and they were so misshapen. Rob was a baby then and when we sat in the kitchen as I fed him his breakfast, the sun came straight in the window, blinding me!

Of course, Rudy came with me on this early morning ramble. He looked up at me as I was pointing the camera his way and I felt the need to snap his picture.. he's such a sweetie!

His coat is so full and we have already begun brushing him to help the shedding along. He's, oh, so much more cooperative this year!

Shortly after we went back inside the house, we had some very serious looking snow squalls! They passed quickly and we went on to the sunny spring day we were hoping for.