Blueberry Coffee Cake

blueberry coffee cake (640x424)It will be another month or two before our local blueberries are ready. But while we wait for our local berries, here is a recipe that uses fresh blueberries (or you can use frozen berries) that is good as a dessert or as a coffee bread.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Sift together flour and next 3 ingredients in another bowl. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Toss 1 1/4 cups blueberries in 1 tablespoon flour; fold into batter. Pour into a lightly grease 9-inch spring-form pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup blueberries.

4. Stir together 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, sliced almonds, and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove sides of pan.

Gardening in the Woods

raised beds (640x424)One of the challenges of living in the woods is that it is difficult to find a spot that has enough sun for growing vegetables. This year we decided to try raised beds in a clearing up the hill from the house. My husband and son built two beds and we have planted tomatoes, peppers, and okra in the raised beds. We also have some zucchini and herbs in another area closer to the house.

raspberries (640x424)We love raspberries and although we can buy fresh berries from a large orchard near our house, we decided to also try our hand at growing red raspberries.

red currants (640x424)My husband’s German mother used to also grow red currants and made wonderful raspberry-currant jelly. While red currants can’t be grown in some areas due to disease, we were able to buy plants to we are giving them a try, also.

Our soil is red clay full of rocks – which is not very conducive to gardening. The raised beds allowed us to bring in a richer soil and mix it with shredded leaf compost. We added a lot of compost to the rows for the raspberries and currents.

The challenge will be to see if the plants survive the woodchucks, deer and other critters. We added a couple of soaker hoses on a timer to help keep things watered as the weather gets warmer. This involved running several long hoses up the hill to reach the planting area.

So if we we can keep the animals away, cut a few more trees so there is plenty of light and keep everything watered, we will be picking fresh veggies and berries in a couple of months!

Wild Azalea

wild azalea 2 (640x424)One of the signs of spring in this area, in addition to the many blooming trees and wildflowers, is the wild azalea, Rhododendron canescens. It comes in varying shades of pink ranging from a very light pink to a rosy pink. The blooms only last for a short time but add a wonderful touch to color as you are walking in the woods or driving along the roads.

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Philadelphia Flower Show

flower show 22 (640x423)This year I served as a volunteer Horticulture Barrier Aide at the Philadelphia Flower Show – that means I stood behind the judges holding one end of a plastic rope to keep people away from the judges as they were judging the flowers. We followed our group of judges through may different classes including container gardens, evergreens, rock gardens, begonias and many more. It was very tiring standing still on a concrete floor for three hours behind the judges but the bonus was time to view the show before it opened to the public and to dream about spring.

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Yearly Bloom

Amaryllis This is the flower of an amaryllis from my grandmother. She passed away over 30 years ago so I am not sure how old the plant is but each winter, it sends up the orange/pink blossoms and reminds me of my grandmother’s love of flowers and gardening.066

Snow Topper

The pumpkins on the patio received caps of snow during the first snowfall of the season this past week.

The View from My Window

Autumn LeavesIf you spend much time with four or five-year-old little girls, you are certain to hear the phrase, “That is my favorite.” It may refer to food, colors, clothes, toys, animals or anything. As I was buying groceries last week, a dad asked his young daughter what type of peppers did she want. The little girl responded, “I like green peppers. That’s my favorite.”

If you asked my about what time of year I like best, I would say, “October, that is my favorite.” The weather is delightful, just cool enough for a light jacket or sweatshirt, summer haze is gone and we have clear blue skies, and the leaves on the trees go through an ever-changing display of colors.

Here are some photos from the woods surrounding our house. Too bad we cannot extend October and shorten January and February!

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Well, Hello There…

As I was cutting flowers, I ran across this big fellow. A quick internet search revealed it is a common garden spider called the Black and Yellow Argiope ( Argiope aurantia). They catch large insects such as grasshoppers and butterflies in their web. I decided I could pass on this flower and leave Mr. Spider alone.

Question Mark

Another butterfly taking advantage of the butterfly bush — the Question Mark butterfly seen earlier this summer.

Tobacco Growing

The Amish farmers use tobacco as a cash crop and most dairy farms have several rows of tobacco  growing in front of the corn.The corn, which is plentiful in this area, is used to feed the dairy cows. While it has been a very dry summer, the corn is still green and our conditions do not compare to the current drought conditions in the mid-west. Praying for all of our farmers who face difficult growing circumstances but continue to work the land.

Sweet Cherries

The sweet cherries are ready at the local orchard. Soon it will be cherry pie time as the sour cherries become available, then the blueberries, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears and apples. The fresh local fruit is always good fresh or baked between two crusts. Yum!

Shades of Hydrangea

I came to a new appreciation of hydrangeas when my daughter-in-law used them for her wedding. When we did some landscaping several years ago, we planted several hydrangeas and now we enjoy the beautiful shades of the blooms throughout the summer season.

Until I looked at the photos on the computer, I did not realize that this shot included a spider friend.

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Mountain Laurel Time

The state flower for Pennsylvania is in bloom now.  More information on the selection of the mountain laurel for the state flower, which is a blooming shrub rather than a typical flower, can be found here. I just enjoy the brief season with the pale pink blooms showing up along the country roads.

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In Praise of Greenhouses

My favorite place to visit from now until late fall is  Black Creek Greenhouse. It is owned and operated operated by a Mennonite family and was started in 1980. It has a wonderful selection of all types of plants, plus you can also pick up some locally grown produce and farm fresh eggs.

Customers use a variety of different types of transportation to get to the greenhouse. Including horse/buggy and bicycle.

I wander the aisles trying to figure out where I could plant more flowers… What will fit where, do I already have that plant and I might as well get just a few more plants… supporting local businesses, helping the economy and all that…. Continue reading

Closer Look

This is a close-up of a bearded iris blooming in the yard (Germanica Hemstitched). The nice thing about a macro lens is that you see things you never noticed before such as the fluffy “hairs” and the inner part of the bloom.  It is a reminder to be a closer and more thoughtful observer of the wonderfully diverse world surrounding us.

Hidden in the Woods

acaule, lady's slipper

The pink ladyslippers are making their annual appearance in the woods. Due to all of the downed limbs and trees from the October snowstorm, we do not have as many this year. But if you look closely and are careful of where you step you can still find groupings of the delicate pale pink member of the orchid family.

A New Perspective

Osteospermum Balvoyelo

I invested (“invest” sounds so much more responsible than I spent money on something I wanted but did not really need) in a macro lens for the camera today–40mm 2.8. Came home and, without reading any of the directions, put the lens on the camera and headed outside. Since we have an early spring, I have both spring blooming plants such as columbine, phlox and dogwood plus annuals that are more appropriate to the summer such as the African daisies. Here is the first effort at using the lens…. now maybe I will read the directions.

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The Promise of Peaches to Come

The peach trees are blooming at the local orchard with the promise of sweet, juicy peaches for the summer. The strange weather this year does not seem to have damaged the apples nor the peaches.

While peaches are usually associated with Georgia or South Carolina, there are many peach orchards in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. We are thankful to live near an orchard that grows all types of fresh fruit that we thoroughly enjoy in the summer. Continue reading

Shark Teeth and Wild Onions

Once again it is spring and I am digging up the wild onions in the flower beds and yard.  I know wild onions have their beneficial uses but they always grow where you don’t want them to grow and they grow in such profuse numbers. It seems that as soon as I pull one up, another rises in its place.

So I was thinking that maybe there is a genetic link between wild onions and shark teeth.

You know how sharks have an extra set of teeth behind the teeth that are being used. That way as soon as a shark loses a tooth, there is another one to pop into its place. It seems that wild onions operate on the same principle. As soon as an onion is pulled out of the flower bed, another wild onion that is waiting down below the ground suddenly rises up to take its place.

So when you come out to inspect what you think should be an onion-free flower bed in the morning, there are still as many wild onions growing as there were before you pulled them all out. Hence, the shark tooth principle in action.

I think maybe I will write up my theory for Nature magazine and apply for a grant to pursue this further. In the meantime, I need to go pull up some wild onions.