Picture Snob

October 29, 2010

How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office


This is a great book. I bought it for my daughter and her husband when they first moved into their house. The place had just been painted and I was worried about the fumes from carpeting and paint. But the book offered much more. There are studies conducted by NASA which show that plants remove pollutants from the air. The book has great photos of houseplants and a very easy to read scale which shows what pollutants each plant removes, how easy the plant is to care for, and how beset by insects it might be. We went for a Fincus, Dumb Cane, Peace plant, and an English Ivy. My strategy was to buy the easy to care for plants that removed a lot of pollutants and to see how well they survived in my daughter's household where no one much is interested in caring for them.

The Fincus lasted several years and finally for no apparent reason, started dropping all it's leaves and died. But the several year were worth it. It's a lovely tree and can grow very tall under the right conditions. A teacher friend of mine had one ten feet tall in her classroom. The Dumb Cane was very attractive and lasted longer. The three suvivors of the original picks are Pothos, Snake plant, the English Ivy, and Spider plant.

I'm building a new house and am going to use this book to pick out house plants. I'll have plenty of light and so am looking forward to another Fincus and some rubber plants. I want to grow a Dumb Cane really big also. I loved that plant. It's exciting to think that these lovely plants will also help clean the air and keep it fresh for me year round.

I repeat. "This is a great book!"

At How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office

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October 27, 2010

Clouds on the mountain and a soft rain falling and I remember the flower seeds


Yesterday I took the timers off the faucets and brought in the sprinklers. The fall rains are coming and it is wonderful to see the clouds come in bringing the soft moist air. The tables and outdoor chairs have been brought into the garage and I'm ready for the change of the season.

Today I'll spread the wildflower seed I bought a few weeks ago. I planted some last fall and had great success. The whole area around the new house had a continuous display blue, pink, purple and orange flowers. Some of the wildflowers will reseed, but to make sure and even increase the blooms, i'm planting more and today is the perfect day to do it.

Territorial seed has a great California wildflower mix I use. It has aprroximately 20 species of native and naturalized wildflowers are drought tolerant but will appreciate some water during the hottest part of the year. You can look forward to plants ranging 3 to 4 feet tall with blooms in shades of purple, red, white, yellow, and blue from spring through fall.

At Wildflower Seeds

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October 22, 2010

The October sun just keeps giving

We are having lovely golden days with falling leaves punctuating the time and reminding us that the weather is changing. It's very cool in the mornings, but no frost has come yet. The broccoli is still producing and there are even some beans coming on. The Sungold tomatoes were the first to ripen and they are still ripening and tasting so sweet that it's a contest between them and the grapes for sweetness. It's such a beautiful time of year.

I friend dropped by who grows roses and since I know nothing about pruning them, I asked her for advice. My roses are deer pruned, but somehow the deer never bother these by the side of the cabin.


She explained to me that a simple rule of thumb is to prune the branches that have bloomed down to the first leaf stalk that has five leaves. I have been doing that with good result. But I probably could benefit from this book, which has all the information about care and feeding of roses.

At Roses for Dummies [Paperback]

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October 21, 2010

Pumpkin time is here!

We love those orange globes that make great pies as well as provide the essential ingredients for Halloween fun.
This may be too late for this year, but many people, especially kids, like to personalize their pumpkins -- inscribe their names or draw a picture or a face on one of their growing treasures. Perhaps it has something to do with the urge to establish ownership, engage in primitive tribal scarring, or simply to co-create with nature. Wait until the pumpkin is about 3 to 4 weeks old or developed enough to have smooth, slightly toughened skin (all fuzz long gone). Any blunt tool will do; a large nail works fine or even a ball point pen. Break the skin and don't penetrate more than 1/8 inch. There will be some "bleeding" for a few hours after surgery. Wipe the marking during the next few hours, and it should seal within a day. At first, it may be hard to see the results; but the scar will show in time and will grow in size along with the pumpkin

As the fruit ripens, the vine displays the inevitable signs of age: older leaves become tattered, fewer flowers bloom and the energy of the plant seems to turn more inward, focusing on the fruit filled with the seeds that hold the promise of the future. Eventually, the scraggly vines lie like skeletons through the garden while the pumpkins -- fiery skulls that have trapped the energy of summer -- are scattered throughout.

Pumpkins are ready to harvest once the color of the fruit has deepened into one of the shades of the setting sun -- somewhere between deep yellow and fiery red, depending on the variety. Leave several inches of stem -- it helps them stay fresh -- and let them cure in the sun for 10 days. Cover them at night if there is danger of frost. Then, store the harvest in a dry cool place. With proper care, you may just have pumpkins until Spring.

And then of course, there's the Jack-o'Lantern!


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October 20, 2010

An October garden treat--the last taste of summer


As the garden winds down in October, I often roam through the rows and pick whatever is ripe. If the day is cool, I make a fresh soup with whatever I have harvested. It's such a delight and I never bother with a recipe because everything is so fresh and tasty. I usually saute the onions and garlic with squash or kale or carrots and then add tomatoes and a sprig of rosemary or some basil--whatever I have found. If there aren't enough tomatoes, I use a cream sauce or add some chicken broth. It reminds me of my childhood, when I would come home from school and ask, "What's for supper, Mom?" and smell the soup simmering on the stove. It's the perfect meal for a cold October night and a great use of the last fresh vegetables from the garden.

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October 19, 2010

Plant bulbs in fall for blooms in spring


Now is the time in most of the country when you can plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. The selections are amazing and almost every nursery has collections of mixed bulbs which include tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and crocus as well as less familar species. I succombed to the impulse buy at Costco and got their 50 bulb mix of yellow and red rannumculus, forgetting temporarily(until I got home) that the ranunculus I planted last fall did not do well. In fact, I have not seen one, not one, ranunculus open it's flower. If the plants sent up leaves, the deer must have cropped them off as soon as they broke ground. Nonetheless, I am planting them again and hope to put some in around the new house to brighten up the heavy clay that the construction has left.

This fall bulb selection looks really interesting. It is a bulb collection of wildflowers. The picture shows tulips, daffidols and crocus.There is no information of the species but since the flowers are supposed to naturalize and spread, I'm thinking it's worth a try.

At Wild Flower Bulb Garden

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October 18, 2010

Organic Bytes is a newletter that informs and provides action alerts


Why We Need Labels

Only 26% of the U.S. public understands that most junk foods and animal products contain GMO ingredients.

The FDA is moving fast to approve a brave new world of GMO foods, including genetically engineered animals like Frankenfish, the eel-like-ocean-pout-chinook-Atlantic-salmon mix.
Genetically modified foods are less nutritious, more likely to trigger an allergy, and contain higher levels of growth hormones and pesticides. Yet GM foods aren't required to be rigorously tested for food safety before they end up in grocery stores and restaurants.
Common genetically modified food ingredients include corn syrup from GM corn, sugar from GM sugar beets, vegetable oils from GM soy, cotton and canola, and cheese, eggs, milk and meat from animals given GM feed or shot up with GM growth hormones and vaccines.

The same foods that are making people fat, sick, and undernourished are the ones that Monsanto has genetically engineered. High fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, fryer grease, chicken nuggets, and bacon cheese burgers all contain GMOs.

The industrial-scale mono-crop farms, factory farms and slaughterhouses that are abusing workers and animals, destroying the soil, poisoning the water, polluting the atmosphere with climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, and creating a breeding ground for mad cow disease, E. coli, salmonella, and swine flu, are the best customers for Monsanto's RoundUp Ready and Bt-spliced crops. Agribusiness thrives off feeding taxpayer subsidized GMO crops, especially corn, soy and cotton seeds, to the chickens, pigs and cows they keep confined in cesspools of their own waste.

Companies like Monsanto and AquaBounty (the Frankenfish inventor), claim that GMOs are "sustainable" because they're going to feed the world as the global climate crisis accelerates. But genetic engineering companies' business model - mass-marketing techno-fixes for the industrialized food system - only perpetuates the waste and pollution that have already made agriculture the source of at least one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

GMOs can't beat the capacity of organics for restoration, resilience, and abundance. Organic agriculture is the best way to remove billions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and safely sequester them for centuries in the living soil of organic farms, pastures, and rangelands. If all the world's cropland were transitioned to organic, it would sequester 40% of current greenhouse gas emissions. Organic systems also produce higher yields than GMOs and are more resistant to droughts, floods, diseases and pests.

The organic solution to the climate crisis is threatened by contamination from GMOs. Organic agriculture relies on the diversity and resilience of the thousands of varieties of crops and food animals that humans have cultivated for every soil and climate on Earth. GMOs, also known as "recombinant DNA", are bizarre combinations of foreign genes forcefully inserted into "host organisms" from different species. Once you insert foreign genes into a food crop or animal, these mutant varieties breed and reproduce. These GE mutations are likely permanent, meaning that it is only a matter of time before natural and organic varieties are contaminated with GMO traits.

GMO contamination could lead to the collapse of the industrialized food system. GMOs have the capacity to break the species barrier. Weeds that plague row crops have adopted the RoundUp Ready trait, creating super-weeds that are forcing farmers to turn to greater amounts of super-toxic herbicides and pesticides. The overuse of RoundUp, the most widely-used pesticide in the history of agriculture, enhances the virulence of pathogens such as Fusarium and may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious.

At Organic Bytes

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October 15, 2010

Preserving herbs in oil and vinegar


If you're taking some clippings of herbs in before the freeze kills them this winter, you might think about preserving some in oil or in vinegars. Drying herbs if fairly simple if you put them in a paper bag and hang them in a warm dry place. Freezing them when completely dry is a good way to keep the aroma fresh.

However, you can also preserve herbs by collecting them in the morning and washing the dust and/or dirt off and stuffing a canning jar full of which ever herbs you want to use. Then fill the jar with either oil or vinegar. Use a light sented oil, not olive oil. Let the jar sit in a sunny location for a couple of weeks and then strain the oil or vinegar and return the liquid to the bottle. You can fill small jars with the mix, label them and give them as gifts. Or use old wine bottles that have been thoroughly washed and put a cork stopper in the top and you have a perfect container for storing your scented oil and vinegar. This type of preservation is simple and delicious.

This book is a great guide to growing, using and preserving herbs.

At The Complete Illustrated Book to Herbs: Growing, Health and Beauty, Cooking, Crafts

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October 14, 2010

Don't forget to save some of those heirloom seeds!


Now is the time to take any of the heirloom seeds and save them. It's not an arduous process. Bean and pea seeds are the easiest. They can be left on the vine until the pod dries and then havested. Simply open the pods and store the seed in a glass jar.

Tomatoes are a little more complicated. Some gardeners like to let the tomato ferment before saving the seed and they insist that this fermenting process is necessary for the seeds to germinate. If you have unpicked overripe tomatoes on the vine, you are halfway there as the feminting process has already begun. You can put the squishy tomato right in a jar, cover it with cheese cloth and let it sit some more until you see a mold form on the top. Then put the whole mess in a strainer and run cool water over it until the seed is uncovered and cleaned. Spread the seeds on a paper towel and let dry. When totally dry they can be stored in a plastic ziplock bag and labeled.

If this sounds too much for you, there are those who say the whole ferminting process can be skipped. In this case, you take your best, biggest most flavorful tomato and mash it. Then move on to the strainer and rinse the seeds until they are clean and follow the same directions as in the ferminted tomatoes.

An even simplier method of tomato seed saving is to scoop out the seeds with a spoon but the seeds and the gelintous mass on a paper plate or towel, let it dry and store the seed as above.

If you are totally into saving all the seed you can, then this book will be invaluable;

At Saving Seeds: The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (A Down-to-Earth Gardening Book)

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October 13, 2010

Time to plant the garlic!

9947_2398_large.jpgI tilled in chicken manure in the row where I am going to plant the garlic. It has been shipped from Territorial seed and is due to arrive any day. I also put manure on a row where i will plant some late lettuce and greens in hopes that they will prosper before the really cold weather hits.

I reseeded some clover on the bare places where the quail ate the ground cover and mulched around the broccoli and Brussel sprouts and the young tender beets to protect them from the coming frost. It felt good to be out in the late garden where a few tomatoes are still ripening and the grapes have gotten sweet so that it's hard to pass the vines without stopping for refreshment. It's a good time to be in the garden as the season settles into fall. There is a quiet and stillness there, with a few butterflys still exploring for food and bees busy on the later flowers. The earth seems to be at peace right now, having accomplished everything, before the big storms of winter come to toss and turn and freeze the remaining plants. I sat for a while just enjoying the moment, remembering and being grateful for the feasts the garden provides.

At Territorial Seed

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October 8, 2010

A mystery break in of the garden!

I was doing my usual routine garden walk, checking to see what needed watering when I saw to my astonishment that the back fence by the gate was torn down! The back fence line needs replacing and I haven't gotten around to it. I've nailed up some wood stringers across the weak places where the break in the fence was and so I went to get nails, hammer and wire to fix the fix. Of course, the fix was less stable than the fix that it fixed, but I promised myself that I would buy the fencing and replace the sagging old fence that has been there for 30 years or so.

So as I carry the tools back to the shed, I pass the grapevine in the garden and notice that the birds have been after the grapes. There are tons of them this year. I stop to taste them and find them at last sweet enough for me. The birds are the first to know. And I stop to eat a few. And that is when I discover that the whole left side of the grape abor has collapsed and fallen on the rototiller! Yeesh! First moles, now chaos and destruction!


The broken fence and the broken grape arbor all add up to a bear in the garden whose weight would make short work of both items, but I searched the ground around for footprints and found none. No deer prints. No bear prints. Nothing. Now the ground was wet enough to pick up both deer and bear prints but both animals would have left tracks, not to mention poop!

Maybe it's just that things fall apart which is also true. So far the fix of the fence has held and there have been no more intrusions.

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October 7, 2010

Garden greens--a forgotten treat


I was in the garden checking on the ground cover to see if any of it had survived the quail coveys coming through and I was pleased to see the rye up and some vetch. Then I came across a small patch of greens I had planted with leftover seeds. They were huge leaved and tall and I picked some for supper. I had forgotten all about them because once the summer crops of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and corn come on, I forget about everything but eating them.

I have to say the greens were delicious, sauted with olive oil and garlic and a welcome change. Now I' m going to plant more while the weather is warm enough for them to get some growth. In a couple of days, the little patch I planted will be eaten up.

At Salad Greens - Renee's Stir Fry Mix Seeds

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October 6, 2010

Mole, vole, or pocket gopher?

OK. It's getting serious.

You remember I put out some caster beans as a preventative when I saw the mounds of garden soil slowly creeping further out into the garden. Now the mounds have gone past the carrots and our in the middle of the main garden. And I have to do something about this infestation. But the problem is, what critter is it. Moles, voles, and pocket gophers all live in tunnels.

The information I found is that moles leave round mounds connected by tunnels and they eat mainly worms. Voles or meadow mice ofter move into the tunnels and eat plants, often damaging bulbs or trees. Pocket gophers leave a C shaped mound with a round plug in the middle. So given that information, my problem is a mole, probably one or two and they have found the soil and earthwoms I have tried so hard to nurture.

Here is the tunnel.


Now what to do? Since all I have at hand is the castor bean I"m going to pour a bunch into the hole and the mounds I just dug out and cover them back up while I study the myriad mole traps that are advertised on the web or try to find someone who can help me find the anti mole solution. I also think starting the tiller and going over the area of mole activity might be a deterrent. It's worth a try. Anybody out there have a sure fire cure?

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October 5, 2010

Cloudy and cool! Fall has come!


Everything is still mostly green and it hasn't frozen yet, but suddenly the weather has turned autumnal. It rained about 1/2 inch and since then the mornings have been foggy and cool and if sunshine comes, it comes too late in the day to do any good. I'm hoping that the quail have left some of the ground cover for the garden. They have been out there, scratching and clucking and chortling to themselves as they peck away. As soon as I go out of the house, the whole covey files up in the air, only to return, clucking and chucking to each other.

Everything has slowed way down. A friend came and picked about half the tomatoes and now I feel like the ones left are all I may have. All the warm weather vegies are just sitting still. I still want to make the ratatoiuie before all the warm vegetables are finished.

Here is a great recipe from Epicurious:

2 1/2 lb tomatoes (4 large)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions (1 1/2 lb total), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 assorted bell peppers (green, red, and/or yellow; 1 1/2 lb total), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini (2 lb), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and fresh basil
print a shopping list for this recipe


Skin the tomatoes then

Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.

While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.

Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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October 4, 2010

A bird feeder with all the features it needs


This bird feeder is a little pricey, but also looks to have all the features that correct what is wrong with so many feeders. It has two trays, a small perching one for the little birds and a larger tray underneath that bigger birds can stand on and peck away. The design is clever in that the large tray catches the seeds that the small birds scatter. That keeps the seed off the ground and away from the squirrels and other pests.

The feeder also has a squirrel guard so the squirrels can't climb on the feeder pole to get at the seed. The feeder we have in Boston, has a squirrel proof door on the feeder that closes when a large mammal or bird lands on it, but seed still falls to the ground and the squirrels seem quite content with knocking against the pole, scattering seed and getting their food that way. The larger underneath tray should eliminate that problem.

The base if free standing and the whole unit weighs 11 pounds. The tube feeder itself slides down the pole for easy cleaning. You can rinse the tube out with a hose and slide it back up and be done. Very slick design.

At Effortless Birdfeeder

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October 1, 2010

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