LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 44: Daylilies, Daylilies, Dayliles … And A Bunch Of Voles

The daylilies are coming fast and furious, accompanied by a fierce outbreak of mosquitoes. I have 189 varieties of daylilies. My sister, Beckie, and I collect these and together we have 225 varieties. We also belong to the Bismarck-Mandan Daylily Club and have great fun together at the annual auction.

On Sunday, my absolute favorite of all of the 189 burst forth with its first blooms: Wide Wide World. There will be weeks of pleasure from this plant, which I strategically placed right next to my patio for maximum enjoyment.

In the vegetable beds, Jim has so far trapped 15 voles, so he is triumphant. The magic formula turned out to be half a peanut superglued to a mousetrap, and he runs his trap line twice a day. The photos below show the initial crop of new potatoes and the damage the varmints can do if left unchecked.

He also spends a good portion of his time harvesting vegetables. The cucumbers are coming on big and pickle-making will commence any day now. His special thrill was discovering that his pepper crop is ripening early this year. Peppers are tricky to grow here in the north country and last year, he had to ripen these in brown paper bags, late in the autumn.

Below is a gallery of some of the newest daylilies to open, along with a few zinnias for good measure.

Further in Summer than the Birds –

Pathetic from the Grass –

A Minor Nation celebrates

It’s unobtrusive Mass –

No Ordinance be seen –

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness –

‘Tis Audiblest, at Dusk –

When Day’s attempt is done –

And Nature nothing waits to do

But terminate in Tune –

Nor difference it knows

Of Cadence, or of Pause –

But simultaneous as Same –

The Service emphacize –

Nor know I when it cease –

At Candles, it is here –

When Sunrise is – that it is not –

Than this, I know no more –

The Earth has many keys –

Where Melody is not

Is the Unknown Peninsula –

Beauty – is Nature’s Fact –

But Witness for Her Land –

And Witness for Her Sea –

The Cricket is Her utmost

Of Elegy, to Me –

Emily Dickinson

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 43: The Daylilies Enter The Stage With A Bang

Now is the time when all of our hard work in the gardens of Red Oak House pay us with the joy of abundant blossoms and fresh vegetables. We’ve eaten the first of our tomato crop ― all juicy and scrumptious, along with fresh peas and beans. Now are the days of meals we call “nothing from the store.” Meanwhile, Jim is busy trapping a vole outbreak before these ruin our potato crop.

The daylilies have entered the stage with a bang. Their abundant blooms salve my displeasure that most of the zinnias have been consumed by slugs. Here is a gallery of some of my favorites from this week.

The winner for today was Happy Returns daylily, with 42 blossoms!

Wednesday, I counted 31 blossoms on Itsy Bitsy Spider daylily.

Although their beauty is more subtle, the hostas are blooming, too. What a great time of year it is.

“Each day you must say to yourself, Today I am going to begin.” ― Jean Pierre de Caussade

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 42 — A Mostly Cool June

Although we had a few scorcher days in June, most days it was cool and the Red Oak House windows remained wide open. Late June also brought the blessings of rain, an inch and a quarter in the last days of this week. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the drought is over.

The vegetable garden looks terrific, although the rabbits got the replanted broccoli and have munched about one-third of the carrots (these in an area outside the rabbit-proof fence). Pea harvest will begin this week and the potatoes show great promise.

My meager strawberry patch, sadly in a shaded area, rewarded me to a few bursts of flavor in my mouth. We talk of converting this patch to another use, but it is difficult to decide what to grow without ample sun, this being in the vegetable garden area.

Other bacciferous plants are being attacked by the robins, especially the juneberry and viburnum bushes. We try to be gracious with the co-inhabitants of this place and let them gorge.

Between the rabbits and some insects, the 90-some zinnias I planted this spring are down to about 25. I’ve dusted them with an organic powder and sprayed with Liquid Fence to save at least a few. I really like these annuals, but doubt that I will bother with any in the future as it is not worth it when I have hundreds of perennials.

We had visitors here a couple of weeks back, family from Mississippi. It was a great pleasure to show my cousin some of the beauty of North Dakota on his first visit to the state, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where the post-burn wildflower bloom is abundant, and Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

These are the days of summer when there is a brief pause — the early season flowers have subsided and the daylilies will soon explode in color. The walleye bite on the river has slowed and all talk here is of how high the river is with the massive releases from Lake Sakakawea.

Soon each day will be filled with harvesting the vegetables. A few early season daylilies and hosta have begun to bloom, and much of our time is spent sitting on the back patio watching the never-still house wren pair busily raising their brood. I captured a short video here and if you listen closely, you will hear the little ones cheeping frantically as the adults arrive with insects.

Now for some thoroughly enjoyable Fourth of July celebrations in Bismarck-Mandan with lots of fun, family and fireworks!

P.S. About the time I was publishing this, the baby house wrens flew the nest box. Pretty quiet on our patio now.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 40 — It Rains!

The days continue to grow longer here in the northern latitudes as the calendar progresses toward the summer solstice, and our garden is proof of that inescapable rhythm.

It finally has rained, although not much. Yet, we are extremely grateful for the precipitation, in spite of the fact that some of it fell as we were conducting our book sale.

I have no doubt that much of the death of perennials and shrubs I’ve observed this year is due to the constant need to irrigate with city water. Treated water is not nearly as beneficial as rain. On the bright side, a few plants I’d given up as dead are starting to show some life and as North Dakota gardening expert Don Kinzler said, one must have patience in a year like this. Sadly, my shrub rose is dead as a doornail.

I’ve resisted the urge to transplant two shrubs I have plans to relocate, given that this is the year our house is on the garden tour. Tweaking and moving is a constant way of life for the gardener. I keep a notebook throughout the year with my tasks for the garden.

Jim proclaims that the vegetable garden looks as good as it ever has and last Thursday we ate the first fresh lettuce. Jim also pointed out to me that the first blossoms are on the Bloody Butcher tomatoes, plants he sprouted from seed he had saved from last year’s crop. Meanwhile, the weeds are thriving in every location and keep us on our knees in removal mode.

Last week, a hellacious wind howled through in the night and blew about a billion elm seeds from the neighbor’s tree two houses over into drifts on our patio (below). Armed with a broom and dustpan, I scooped these up, knowing that next year I’ll be pulling the sprouts from the perennial beds by the thousands.

We’ve also grown very weary of all of the pine pollen in the air, which drifts in through our open windows and coats every flat service in the house (above). Hopefully, the rain of the past few days will take care of that problem.

The dwarf iris blooms have subsided and the remainder of bearded irises show hints of blooms to come. Lilac time has come and gone, except for the Korean lilac we have in (mostly) shade that blooms late and does not bloom profusely. I put it there because I had the idea that the aroma would float into our bedroom and bring us pleasant dreams. And so it does.

In their place are the blooms of the anemone, bleeding heart and violets. In one bed that has increasing shade as our trees grow taller, I’ve allowed the columbine to spread and am slowly moving the daylilies to sunnier locations. Yes, I know that columbine can be invasive; after the blooms are spent, I’ll take some action.

I hit up a neighborhood plant sale this past weekend and added two new daylilies and three new hostas to my collection. When I was weeding Tuesday, I watched a sleek, chocolate-colored vole scamper through the flower bed.

To replace the two vines that died or were killed by rabbits, I’ve planted a Trumpet vine and replaced the Autumn Revolution bittersweet. Shortly after this purchase, I discovered that the bittersweet vine that had been severed by the rabbits is sprouting from the root. It will take about five years for the bittersweet to grow to the size it had been. I’m going to carefully protect these with wire next fall.

Memorial Day has come and gone. We attended this year’s program at the nearby North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, where all of the speakers praised the rain that was dampening attendees. Our priest, Monsignor Chad Gion (left, with Jim, a U.S. Navy veteran) gave a marvelous closing prayer, encouraging us to “lead heroic lives.”

These days, when we sit down for a spell on the patio, the goldfinches on the sock thistle feeder entertain us. Around the back of the house, I heard a robin pitching quite a fit, which tells me that one of its hatchlings must be on the ground. Our resident house wren pair cheers us each day.

And another three-tenths of an inch of rain Tuesday night is so very welcome. The front yard hosta garden under the Red Oak tree looks marvelous this year. Jim is off to fish almost every day. June just may be the best month.

“If the light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” — Rumi

BEV BENDA: My Coach Bev — Are You Smarter Than A First-Grader About Fruits And Veggies?

I was listening to the radio recently when I heard a breakthrough news flash. It was so earth-shattering, I almost had to stop to reset my breathing.

The radio announcer reported that “new research” is out there that implies that fruits and vegetables are healthy for you and can help prevent disease.

Furthermore, if you can manage eating 10 servings a day, you would be healthier yet!

Fruits and vegetables healthy? Did you know that?

Ever heard of 5 A Day (Gives Us Power to Play? That’s the campaign that was out about 20 years ago.) What about the recommendation of 10 servings a day?(That came out a few years later.)

Did you know eating more fruits and veggies reduces risk of cancer?

If you knew these things, you are not smarter than a first-grader. You are equally smart as a first-grader. To be smarter, you would have to be able to identify and spell “anthocyanin” — the blue pigment in blueberries, plums, etc.

If anyone wasted our tax dollars to give us “new research” that teaches us that fruits and vegetables are healthy, they ought to stand in front of a tomato firing squad! This is basic common sense if not brainwashing by our parents and teachers. We know this.

Yet, herein lies the problem. Does knowledge about the benefits of fruits and vegetables get more people to eat them? I’m convinced it helps to backfire on them. When we had campaigns promoting 10 servings a day, we learned that people weren’t even yet up to five, so suggesting 10 to them made many people quit altogether.

Plus when you think about 10 servings of fruits and vegetables, could you do it? Could you eat 5 cups of Brussels sprouts? Now that’s not how the recommendation intended you to meet 10, but this is what many people envision in their minds.

Many years ago other research by Laurel Birch showed that children were more likely to eat vegetables if no one said a word about it. The same studies showed that both encouragement and praise sabotaged efforts to get children to eat veggies. Forcing them to eat veggies before they can leave the table teaches them to really hate green beans (or how to hide them inside a shirt sleeve.) Either way no one wins these food battles. And some coercion tactics border on child abuse.

When children can self-regulate, rather than be coerced or pushed to eat veggies, they have ownership and the right to explore a variety of tastes and textures.

Stop working so hard at trying to convince children to eat more fruits and veggies because they are healthy. The better approach is to simply have them available at meals and snacks. Put out a bowl of baby carrots or grapes on the kitchen table. Serve up tender-crisp broccoli with a touch of grated cheese at dinner time. Throw cut-up veggies in their scrambled eggs. Peel a juicy Cara Cara orange for bedtime snack.

Buy fruits and veggies, serve fruits and veggies. No need to talk about it, just do it.

Is mealtime less than fun at your house? Snack time a nightmare? Do you hear “yuk” at the dinner table and have trouble getting anyone to sit still for 20 minutes? It’s time to take control of your family’s eating routine, and it starts with you. Parents who have worked with My Coach Bev have achieved harmony at the dinner table. For more information, or to start working with Bev, please email bev@mycoachbev.com Let’s get started!

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken Stew

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering what to do with some leftover chicken, and with the temps in the teens, throwing together a stew came to mind. After all, stew has been known as a comfort food a long time.

The following recipe is the result. I didn’t have to venture out to buy any of the ingredients, either, since we still have carrots and onions from our garden as well as a nice supply of potatoes and frozen peas. Combined with the chicken, gravy and broth — which I made with the bird’s carcass — everything was in place for the stew.

Now I just wish we had some it for today, with 5 to 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground and temperatures in the single digits.

Chicken Stew
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small bites
1 cup chicken gravy
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups frozen peas
2 potatoes, cubed
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Serve with crusty bread.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Not Your Mom’s Ratatouille

If you’re a gardener who grows a variety of vegetables, the classic Nicoise dish, ratatouille, should be right up your alley.

The stewed vegetable entree consisting of eggplant, tomato, pepper, zucchini, onion and herbs has been has been a favorite in France for many, many years, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that ratatouille rose to the prominence it enjoys today.

That’s when the animated movie by that name from Disney/Pixar came out and a rat with a keen sense of smell named Remy became a great Parisian chef after a soujourn into French countryside.

I had been familiar with the dish since the 1970s, when co-workers Tim Fought and Marcia Harris, both prolific gardeners, introduced me to the tasty entree. Since then, I usually make a pot or two of it every summer — it’s very easy to prepare — with fresh produce from my own garden.

My recipe, which follows, contains all the vegetables listed above plus a few more, thus the name “Not Your Mother’s Ratatouille.”

It’s not the classical dish that you would find in an upscale restaurant in Nice, France, but I’m sure that my French-Canadians ancestors who came to North America as peasants in the 17th and 18th centuries would say “Oui.”

Not Your Mom’s Ratatouille
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato bruschetta
6 Roma tomatoes, skins removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
½ green pepper, chopped
1 small or ½ large eggplant, cubed
1 medium summer squash, seeds removed and cut into small chunks
3 small okra pods, sliced
1 cup cooked corn kernels
½ cup kale, chopped
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup red wine
Place olive oil and add the onion, garlic and celery. Saute for a few minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients except the kale and basil. Cook for about 15 minutes and then add kale and basil. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Broccoli Pasta Salad

Salads are for summertime — especially if you have a garden. There’s nothing like a bunch of fresh veggies from the garden — all tossed together in a bowl and seasoned with a homemade vinaigrette — to start off a meal.

With a nice crop of lettuce and kale in our garden, we’ve been enjoying fresh salads for going on three months now. And with the tomatoes just starting to ripen, the salads are only going to get better.

But there is more to salads than the greens. Take, for example, the following broccoli salad recipe, which has many variations, and is a favorite of ours in the summer.

We usually have three or four broccoli plants in the garden, which keep on producing right up until freeze-up. This summer, however, baby bunnies raised havoc with the plants, and we have only two out of four remaining, and they have been stunted by the “Wascally Wabbits,” as cartoon character Elmer Fudd used to call Bugs Bunny and his ilk.

The hasn’t stopped Therese from making the broccoli salad, though. I just finished the last of her most recent batch, all the while wishing there was more.

I guess I’ll have to settle for more garden green salads instead.

Broccoli Pasta Salad
2 cups broccoli, broken into bite-size pieces
4 ounces feta cheese
2 cups uncooked rotini pasta
½ cup black olives, chopped
1 7½-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 16-ounce bottle Italian dressing (can use fat-free)
Cook pasta according to package directions. Cool. Mix in large bowl with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate overnight.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak Garden Notes No. 26: Hosta Harvest

This year, I resolved to try new things in life. After years of my husband urging me to write more, I started my blog. It has been surprisingly gratifying. I spent a lifetime writing newsletters, press releases, letters, memos, emails and the Stoxen Library blog, and one does get better at writing by, well, writing. Reading thousands of books by really good writers is helpful, too.  (Incidentally, my husband resolved to be more grateful, a worthy goal.) Healthy distractions from the nonsense out of D.C. is as much as anything that I seek.

Since I was an undergraduate, I have enjoyed the essay form, and I rather like calling myself an essayist. It is not at all likely that fame and fortune will follow, but I care about that not one whit.

I also broke down and got on Twitter, @wilddakotawoman. It is a good source of headlines and such, and I follow writers and thinkers who I respect, including @RobertMacfarlane, @TimothyEgan and @TerryTempestWilliams.

The other day, I decided to try another new thing, in this instance with respect to gardening. I am harvesting my hosta seeds and planting in an area in the vegetable garden to see if I can successfully propagate my plants. If successful, I will add these to the garden sale that my sister and I are having this fall (perhaps this will be the “fortune” part).

Saturday was a pleasantly cool day with a gentle breeze, so I went to work. I cut off the stems with the blossoms and carefully placed the seed pods into envelopes, which I marked with the names of the plants.

At this point, I’ve harvested 11 varieties. There will be more, from plants that have not yet produced seeds. Before I plant, I will dry these in the sun for a time.

I was outside today, almost all day.  Now “that’s” a good day.

Speaking of the vegetable garden, Jim continues to harvest fresh vegetables each day. He is the little white speck you can see in this picture. He says planting the garden is very satisfying and harvesting it is the most satisfying thing he does, and he’s done it for many decades. Soon he is going to start making pickles, and I need a place to hide since I “hate” pickled anything.

Our year is anchored on gardening season, and we don’t travel far from home in the summer for this reason. At this point in July, I again find time to read books that are piling up. I highly recommend this book. Rebecca Solnit is a keen observer of the world and a brave writer. I’m savoring it. Her Facebook posts are excellent.

All good reasons to stay home. Cheers!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 19

Spring flowers have given way to the summer blossoms in our garden. We eat fresh greens every day and give away radishes. The garlic crop is pathetic, and it makes me sad to look at it as, the new bed Jim prepared last fall was too rich. Our purple-hulled pea crop is also a disappointment, as I fear we were too frugal in using last year’s remainder seeds.

I cannot buy purple-hulled peas here and, in my estimation, the black-eyed peas I can buy in Bismarck are like cheap whiskey is to Jack Daniels, much less savoury, no matter how they are prepared. My Aunt Frances from Alabama agrees with me on this point, so you don’t get much more of an authority than her.

It is time now to spend huge swaths of time sitting under the patio umbrella and reading. The house wrens have raised their first clutch and may be started on the second.