Friday, June 29, 2012

Ogunquit 1

A colleague of mine, a Japanese guy, once told me that the Japanese have this impression of Maine as being covered in fog and evergreens and Stephen King is walking around trying to frighten people.  I was intrigued by this, because I'm pretty sure that's the standard American impression as well.  Plus lobstahhh, of course.  

I've always wanted to see Maine.  I came close once.  Planned the whole thing out, camping by the seashore, Acadia National Park, and Bar Harbor.  The week before the trip I was abruptly dumped by the guy I was going to go with.  Of course I realize that that wasn't Maine's fault.  Nonetheless I stopped talking about visiting for awhile.  We grew estranged, Maine and I.  

Fast forward a decade after my near-Maine experience, Our friends got engaged and announced their plans to get married in Maine, where the bride had been raised.  And so it came to pass that D and I put Bobby in doggie-jail and off we went to Boston by way of Atlanta from Cincinnati (we saved enough to make the transfers worth it, believe me).  We rented a car and drove up through Massachussetts and about five minutes worth of New Hampshire to that Mitten Dipping into the Atlantic, Maine.

Ogunquit is a land by the sea, 

where trolleys roam the streets, 

where the art of signcraft is alive and well,

where wacky weather vanes greet you,


... bakers?  

and possessing absolutely amazing scenery.


and that's not all!

the Oarweed : best clam chowder we've ever had anywhere period
the Marginal Way : goooorgeous

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nectar: Dinner Club

We had a different sort of dining experience recently at Nectar, in Mt. Lookout.  A piece was recently done on this restaurant in the eating-local-mag EDIBLE), and an acquaintance of ours talked them up.    

We happened upon to visit Nectar during one of their periodic Dinner Club events.  On these nights dinner is a single event with a set menu, designed around a certain theme, the menu is prepared with seasonal, locally farmed ingredients.  We happened upon them for "Products of the Hive," a dinner event designed around the central theme of honey.  

I don't know that I would have sought out goat cheese beignets in my life before this experience, but I now know that I should have.  By god, I should have.  I can't remember being more pleasantly surprised by some unassuming looking dish.  I shamed myself by not allowing the waiter to take away the table's shared plate until I'd eaten no less than three.  I blame the steroids (allergic reaction, long story).  The salad was no great shakes for me, and the dessert wasn't my thing (D loved them both though), but truly a delight was the "local poisson, " which has got to be "poissin" misspelled because I was expecting, no, dreading a honeyed-fish and instead I got this awesome, moist and flavorful wee chicken.  

Eh, french stuff.  Who can be expected to spell correctly, am I right?  

they sent us off with a comb to enjoy at home

They announced that their next theme event will be garlic.  I love me some garlic, so I'm tempted to try the next Dinner Club event.  It was a long evening, much longer than your normal dining experience would be, so you have to expect that that, that is, the eating,  is your entire evening.  And the price is steep, or seems so to me.  Then again, we eat in a lot.  And pricey is pretty much what one might expect from a touted "culinary event."  

 I can say I'd be interested in trying the normal fare.  I'm not one to be impressed or put off by decor, but I can say that in matters of decor, as well as in matters of general enjoyableness of the food and experience, it was the opposite of the experience we had at Cumin.  The decor at Cumin accosts the eye with its trendiness and the food made me yak in the parking lot of the nearby police station on our way home (*I was not cited for illegal dumping).  The decor at Nectar was... goats and stuff.  Yeah.  But I kept my meal, thanks, which is the way I prefer it.  

I enjoyed that the local farmer/apiarist spoke about his (newly learned) trade before the dinner.  How the bees sieve off the pollen from their catch-pouches, how many flower-visits go into making pollen.  Bees made the news in the big mysterious population die-offs a few years ago that were never thoroughly explained by science.  The apiarist told us that there have been several historical die-offs of bees in the past, not so many as to be cyclical, not so few as to be entirely shocking.  Bees are pretty special.  They got some press with that Bee movie a few years ago, but don't get their due often enough.  

I learned from that movie that bees are so un-aerodynamic that science can't fully explain how they are able to fly in the first place.  Not a great film, but I learned something.

Personally, I think its sugar-power.  After dinner I was humming on honey-energy myself.  I was so buzzed I half-expected to fly home.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Front Garden Grade Card

People tell you not to flip out when you plant perennials for the first time.  You need to have an eye for the long term picture.  They will eventually yield that full-out English garden grown-in-together-for-years look.  After a few years.  If one needs immediate validation as a gardener, annuals are a better choice.  They poof up, they die, and next year you start all over again. 

Well I can wait.  Delayed gratification is better.  And yet.
I have garden anxiety.  When the box arrived from Bluestone I peeked in excitedly (that's a lie, I tore that box open) and the stalks of my perennials seemed so small.  Are they going to be ok out there?  A strong gust of wind would blow them over, or so it seemed.  And now that they've been in the ground about a month now, I have to say that I'm a bit worried that I may not have any green on these thumbs at all.

In the beginning, the geraniums looked... bad.

Geranium Rozanne

They haven't gotten much bigger after a month.  Not much in new green growth, but there are finally flowers.  
I think maybe they need more water than I've been giving them.  I can say that now that I am a newly minted gardener, I am keenly aware of the weather.  I'm always checking for the next rain.  

If anyone has any geranium advice, I'm all ears!

Salvia "Eveline"
Out of 4 plants, this was the only healthy one of the bunch, I'm sorry to say.
Little buds peeping out, and the first signs of slug attacks
This was one of the first ones I pulled from the box.  This one actually flowered.

With the exception of this one pictured here, the salvia eveline looked terrible.  They were moldy and snail-ridden when I pulled them from the shipping box.
note the snail eggs
 Three of the salvia eveline came out like a train wreck.  Their leaves were either wilty and mushy or their were holes in the leaves.  They came out of the shipping box covered in slugs and slug eggs.  Strangely enough, none of the other plants had pests on them, not even the other species of salvia.

A few days after planting one of them died altogether, and the other two lost most of their leaves.  I sent a note and some photos to Bluestone, letting them know how disappointed I was in their slug-riddled flowers.   They were really stand-up about the whole thing.  I got an apology and replacement flowers within a week.  That's a good company, right there.  I approve.  They stood by the quality of their product, and I respect that.  Slugs can happen.

There were new holes in the salvia eveline leaves pretty much every time I checked them.  Finally I spoke to a colleague who told me that it was slugs.  Slugs again!  It seems that when you get rid of one garden nemesis (groundhogs) you find yourself another.  Sure enough there were slugs underneath the plant or on the underside of the leaves pretty much each time I checked it.  I tried slug poison pellets because Bobby is never unsupervised in the front yard.  Sure enough the snail presence diminished, and I don't often see the snot-like slug trails in the mulch anymore.   I did try the beer trap in the front flower bed as well, and again I never had a single slug in it.  The only effect it had was to make the front of our house smell like a college dorm.  

Salvia "Plumosa"

Unlike the salvia eveline, the plumosa hasn't been sluggy.  Right after planting they became infested with red spider mites and white flies.  I used a spray called Sevin for that, and it seems to have worked.  The plumosa leaves, which had yellowed from the stress of infestation regained their green color.  I respray whenever I catch a glimpse of white flies.  

You see how they flop over?  I'm not sure how to handle this.  The stems look pretty weak to me.  I wonder if this is simply because the flowers are too heavy, or if there's a structural weakness stemming from (no pun intended) something else...

I feel like I just can't catch a break with salvia.    

Nepeta Dropmore Hybrid (Catmint)
It had blooms right away, but then stopped flowering.  It has filled out with more greenery though, which is good enough for now.  At least its not dying.  
Patience, patience.

Nepeta Walker's Low (Catmint)
I have two of these, and they look like completely different plants. 

Plant one stands upright, growing tall. 

Plant two is growing along the ground.  
incidentally, this one isn't flowering at all...

Not looking real good.  May be sturdy enough to survive, but I'm losing confidence.  There is less greenery than there was when they were first planted.  Seeking out poppy advice is problematic because inevitably a google search bring up illicit poppy production webpages, which is not helpful.  

Iris "Big Blue"
not blooming, not real healthy.

Daylily "Barbara Mitchell"

There you have it.  the catmint and the geranium and the salvia are doing ok.  The poppies, irises, and lilies are regressing.  

50% is not a good gardening grade.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Belated Back Yard Update

Haven't posted for awhile.  Things have been busy for D and I both personally and professionally.  Oh, and we've also both been stricken with pretty gruesome cases of poison ivy.  

But full schedules and itchy rashes notwithstanding, we've made time for work around the yard.  With how crappy the yard used to look, I think we've made real progress.  

Remember this?  This was in the beginning.  The vine orgy.

note the overgrown mess of honeysuckle strangling the mulberry in the back

Fantastic tangle of dead crap left in mounds for us to clean up 
We cleaned up the dead vine remnants.  Then D removed the vintage, rusty laundry pole.

 This is what it looked like this spring  

We planted grass seed, and some weeds popped up.

 Transplanted hostas from the front.  
And they are being eaten by slugs.  Swiss cheese here.
I've tried beer traps, but using homebrew must be a mistake, because the beer traps are always empty.

It's not perfect, but its green and the lumber has been moved.  
The grass grew in very well at the base of the tree, and quickly too.  
I think the giant elephant-ear sized leaves look like rhubarb, but I haven't actually identified them.  If they are, they can stay.  If they are not rhubarb, they are outta here.

I planted another hosta and a second astilbe.  I need to mulch this area, but just haven't got around to it.  The lily has already bloomed.  It looks like it too made a successful transplant.  

And on the other side of the yard, the tree branches from the honeysuckle felled by my husband the were left to dry out along with whatever vine was strangling that tree here.  D chopped that down with an ax.

This side of the yard was pretty hideous for a few weeks.

:: wince ::
 The day finally came when the branches were dried enough to be (relatively) easily stripped down to be put into the yard waste bins for collection. 

 It was around this time that I got poison ivy
After hours outside stripping branches, I'd barely made a dent.
even with bobby's help

 D made a more orderly and controlled lumber pile.  Using 2 concrete sidewalk squares left intact from the concrete removal on the side of the house to raise the pile up off the ground to keep them dry, and four rebar poles.  We'll be covering the lumber pile with a tarp to keep the burn pile dry.  

And D spent a third afternoon breaking down more branches,
and this is what it looks like now.  Eh?

One more time.