Picture Snob

July 23, 2010

Midsummer Southern Exposure provides a delicious summer dish

The Southern Exposure Newsletter just arrived via email. It has a great idea for a surplus of cucumbers. I had hoped to plant too many but am down to two plants because of the striped cucumber beetle, and the new seedlings are too young to produce. This recipe for white gazpacho sounds wonderful!


2 large or 6 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (pickling cucumbers work just fine)
1 medium garlic clove
1 cup stock
1 cup sour cream (or substitute plain yogurt or soy yogurt for a vegan dish)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
For Garnish
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup minced chives
1. Combine cucumbers and garlic in the food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Add stock, vinegar, sour cream, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pulse briefly to blend. Move the soup to a bowl and cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Pour into individual serving bowls and garnish with tomatoes and chives. Serves 4-6.

Sounds fantastic for a hot summer's day!

At Southern Exposure

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July 16, 2010

Now Cucumbers can solve all our problems!!!


The Amazing Cucumber

This information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their "Spotlight on the Home" series that highlighted creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area. (WOW)

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!! (DOUBLE WOW)

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber sliced rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

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July 15, 2010

Shade where you want it and when you need it

I have a space on the house we are finishing that will get tons of hot sun in the afternoon. The coolaroo triangular shape will fit perfectly in the space and provide the much needed shade. Eventually I will build a trellis there and have some grapes or wisteria for shade, but until I have time to grow and train the plants, this will do a great job.

If you have a spot in the garden or on the deck or patio that needs some shade and cooler temperatures, this sun shade will do the job. It comes in both green and sand and has stainless steel hardware fasteners. It has a 10 year warranty against UV degradation. You can create your own uniquely designed outdoor living space using multiple sizes and colors of sail shades.


At Coolaroo Triangle Shade Sail 16 Feet 5 Inches with Hardware Kit, Brunswick Green

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July 14, 2010

Midsummer extravagance!


When I walked around the garden today, I was so happy to see the tomatoes ripening, to pick some lettuce and the last of the peas. The summer squash is pouring out abundance, the beets are big and delicious, the corn knee high and cucumbers flowering inspite of being eaten down a couple of times by the striped beetles. It makes me feel so rich to be in the midst of growing, thriving life.

I tilled the weeds that have cropped up, disturbing a robin nest in the grapevines. Two or more speckled babies flew out and both momma and papa circled me aggressively while a speckled baby sat very still in the oregano, blinking shiny black eyes. It was one of those moments where there is stillness in the midst of life and I just stared lovingly at this tiny feathered bit of life before I finished tilling and left mom and dad to figure out how best to protect their family. Today all is quiet. Babies have been rescued and now I begin to plant the next stage of the garden.

It is easy to forget in the middle of all this abundance, that there are crops that need to be planted. I'm going to put in a second planting of beans and lettuce and fertilize the corn again. Corn is a heavy feeder and I like to see the leaves a deep green instead of lime green. So onward with the work to keep me fed all summer and into the fall.

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June 25, 2010

A Celebration of Spring at Garden Snob - 2010


When spring comes, it comes with a rush that pushes everything before it. And it sprouts, and bursts, and seethes with energy, turning the world mad with greeness and with profusion. You can see the tiny oak flowers in their lime green perfection, teasing and tantalizing with all that is to come. Surely Eve gave Adam the apple in the springtime and the serpent might have been spring itself. And so you are ready, you go for it, you give yourself up to wild activity, to great fantasies of accomplishment because everything is again possible in the spring. It is a world of potential and of promise. And it's almost impossible not to plant something.

I wrote that years ago and it's so true. Now it is June and everything is at the peak of flowering. Going outside, the eye is stunned by brilliant colors, the nose by delightful scents and the ear by the trilling and arias of bird. It's a magic transformation of the world and a time for celebration of life! This year in Northern California the rains have brought a profusion of growth and radiant green late into the year. The river is still high and the days just starting to warm up. This is such a gift after several years in a row of hot, dry springs and the danger of fire always present.


So even though the garden was started late because of the rain and cold, I'm happy just eating lettuce and a few asparagus from the old asparagus bed because the new bed can't be harvested until next year. The strawberries, however, are faithfully putting out quarts and gallons of ripe juicy fruit. What a blessing to go out in the morning and pick just enough for cereal, or later, to pick them all, put some sugar on them, and let them sit in the fridge until the juices flow and have the best of all possible desserts in the evening. It makes me grateful to be alive!


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June 23, 2010

Why Gardeners are happy people

Common Soil Bacteria Can Have Antidepressant Effects
by DEREK MARKHAM on APRIL 12, 2009 ยท

A recent study by UK scientists discovered that a common soil bacteria activates cells in the brain to produce serotonin and can alter behavior similar to antidepressants.

"These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health. They also leave us wondering if we shouldn't all be spending more time playing in the dirt." - Dr Chris Lowry, Bristol University

The research, published in the journal Neuroscience by collaborators at Bristol University and University College London, used lab mice treated with Mycobacterium vaccae and found that it activated a specific group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) is an important neurotransmitter which plays a role regulating mood, metabolism, anger, aggression, sleep, and appetite, and is found in the brain, gut, and blood. A number of ailments are linked to low levels of serotonin, including anxiety and depression, bipolar disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Many antidepressants work with serotonin pathways to affect moods and anxiety, so finding a natural, commonly available substance that activates serotonin production could lead to new treatments for those suffering from depression.

While I don't see that doctors are going to start prescribing spoonfuls of dirt for clinical depression, this study affirms what many parents already know: Getting dirty is good for you.

Read more

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May 17, 2010

Spring finally seems to have arrived

One of the great pleasures of a gardener is to go outside in the morning and look at her/his plants, the seedlings, the soil and budding leaves and flowers. This morning I took a tour of the seed rows I planted before this last storm. I was so surprised and gratified to find the peas which I was sure would be rotted, sprouting! It just goes to show that nature has a mind of her own. Some of the mesclun is also showing it's first leaves. It brings such joy to the heart to be a part of this process, to be sowing and hopefully reaping the fruits of your own labor.


The strawberries are covered with flowers. I will weed them once more; to get the most from the bed, it has to be kept well weeded and fertilized. In many places the strawberries are so thick the weeds aren't a problem but in some places the grass has infiltrated the plants and I will have to dig it out. But strawberries, quarts and quarts of them are on the way.


There is still some kale, which although flowering will provide tasty leaves for stir frys until the lettuce is ready to begin eating. And I have several cilantro plants that overwintered and are going to seed where I will let them reseed and replenish that tasty garnish.

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May 7, 2010

A gardener's life is submits to the unexpected


I got my cool weather seeds planted and the whole ground cover tilled under. It was warm during the day and cool at night. The weather hadn't really settled in yet, but I had a couple of hot days where I had to water the seedlings and I started thinking about getting out timers and hoses. And I realize I didn't have a working gentle watering spray for keeping the seeds moist. But last night it started raining and it continued all night and all day today. It is pouring cats and dogs, sheep and cows, turtles and frogs! No kidding. In California in the spring, it usually dribbles a little, sometimes you get a real rain, but this is a winter time downpour that is quite unusual.

And what does a gardener do about this? Well, I am sitting and staring out the window in awe as the rain soaks everything. If it clears up tomorrow then the carrots, beets, peas and lettuce I planted will probably be fine, but this is supposed to continue for a few days! I am particulary worried about the peas which I soaked before planting. I often use the technique of getting the seeds really wet and puffed up before putting them in the ground by leaving them overnight in a jar of water. It works well when the weather is hot, but when a rain comes, like this, and it's cool, then I can loose the seeds to rot which may be happening as I speak. Some of the seeds were starting to sprout and their survival wiil depend on how far along they are and if the roots are deep enough not to be drowned out in the puddles developing in the seed rows.

But nonetheless, this Orbit Hose Spray Nozzle has seven different spray patterns and all the reviews are raving about it so I think it is worth ordering. "I know the sun's gonna shine in my backyard someday."

At Orbit 58228D Lawn & Garden 7-Pattern Plastic Pistol Hose Spray Nozzle

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April 28, 2010

Thoughts of a Frustrated Gardener on a Cold April Day

It's one of those cold April days with strong winds so that I have a fire going and am staying inside. A day or so ago, I planted the peas and then it rained and now the cold has settled in which doesn't bode well for germination. That is especially true since I soaked the seeds first, thinking they would need the extra moisture and was wrong. It rained. So the seed may very well rot in the cold wet ground. It's happened before and since I going to town tomorrow I'll buy some more seed just in case.

It's always hard when the weather takes a step back into winter. I was all ready to continue the tilling and planting. I like to get the carrots in before it turns too hot. Here in the California mountains, spring often doesn't last long and suddenly it's summer and cool weather vegies won't germinate well and I've planted and replanted carrots. Now I'm sorry I didn't get them in the ground. I noticed some of the strawberry flowers had turned black at the center, a sign that frost had visited them. What to do on a day like this except sit and stare out the window at the windblown rose bush and hope for more sun tomorrow?


One of the things I did notice today was that the wildflowers that I planted around the new house had germinated and there were tiny flowers blooming. The Baby Blue eyes were particularly pretty.Nemophila_menziesii1.jpg

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April 2, 2010

A typical spring day before Easter produces the usual anxiety

I have a big party on Easter afternoon after the church events and Easter egg hunts, everyone heads my way to celebrate the spring. But the weather never fails to cause me anxiety since I live in a small cabin and there's not really room for 20 or 30 people and yet they come. So if it's not warm enough outside for us to sit out in the yard, I put up a tarp on the deck and set up tables for food out there, and we all crowd into the house or shiver under the tarp. The charcoal bbq grill provides some heat for people to stand around.

This year the new house was supposed to be ready, but of course it isn't. These things always take longer than planned.

Today it snowed hard for a while and now the sun is out. It rained all day and night yesterday and is supposed to rain on and off the rest of the week and through the weekend. I bought some really pretty Ranunculus(the ones I planted aren't up yet), Shasta Daisies, and Primroses and it's been too wet to plant them. So they sit on the deck and soak in the rain. They're beginning to look a little the worse for wear so I may have to get out in the rain and snow and plant them anyway because it's now raining again.


So although March is supposed to go out like a lamb, in the mountains both March and April fluctuate between spring and winter, one minute making you think spring is finally here, and next taking you two steps back into soggy snowy winter. There's nothing smooth about seasonal change here. It's either too hot too soon, or too cold too late. So it helps to have a day just to sit and stare out the window and wonder how many times the weather can change its mind in one day.

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