rainy day baby bella soup

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Following months of dry weather, Mother Nature delivered overcast skies, drizzle, and sporadic rain a few days back — and this moisture will continue for another few days. With exterior painting projects on hold, I turn to the kitchen to pass a part of my day.

Although the temperatures are a mild 72F with high humidity, I am in the mood for a silky soup — my baby bella soup. Whipped up with few ingredients in less than thirty minutes, I decided this recipe is good to share, especially with those who follow Wahl’s Paleo Protocol. I think Dr. Terry Wahls will approve.

ingredients are simple

ingredients are simple

Diane’s Simple Baby Bella Soup

  • One soup pot  (I cherish my Le Creuset Dutch oven)
  • 1 T each ghee and coconut oil (I always source organically)
  • 20 oz baby bellas, brushed and sliced. In this case these babies were so clean and the stems were so tender, I did not omit the stems.
  • 1/2 a medium white onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 generous pinch thyme leaves
  • 3 T arrowroot (a wonderful thickener found in the bulk department of Whole Foods)
  • 1 quart Imagine organic veggie broth (I swear by this brand, and I tried them all!)
  • 3/4 C. full fat organic coconut milk (don’t wimp out and use the diluted stuff!)
  • 1/4 C. good quality sherry (or in this case, I used Lairds Apple Brandy, as it was handy)
  • 2 t. Himalayan salt (I adore this salt)
  • 5-6 grinds of white pepper
  • chopped parsley (I always have fresh parsley growing somewhere in my garden)

OK, are you ready for this lesson?

Begin by melting the ghee and coconut oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.

saute onions then add baby bellas

saute onions then add baby bellas

Add sliced mushrooms and salt. Continue to saute for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle in arrowroot powder and stir constantly for 1 minute. (Do not be tempted to substitute corn starch).

add veggie stock and simmer

add veggie stock and simmer

Add full quart of veggie stock, pepper and increase heat to med-high until soup begins to simmer. Reduce heat back to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Add coconut milk, sherry or brandy (optional). Do not boil.
At this point, chopped parsley may be added, or the soup may be pureed in batches in a blender for a smooth, creamy soup.

finished soup in minutes

finished soup in minutes

Today I chose to leave the mushrooms in a rustic fashion with a few stems of parsley for garnish.
IF you have followed this recipe without deviation, you will have a silky, delicious, healthy, comforting meal to savor.

Disclaimer: For the past three months, I have followed the eating guidelines of Dr. Terry Wahls, author of The Wahls Protocol.  NO, I do not have any health issues, yet her protocol of NO dairy, NO sugar, NO gluten caught my attention, after numerous UVA students mentioned this diet to me while at market this summer. I adapted this recipe to suit Dr. Wahls guidelines and hope you enjoy this comfort food. And no, I do not receive any compensation for mentioning/showing the list of ingredients or from Dr. Terry Wahls. I simply believe these products are superb and this diet extremely beneficial to my lifestyle.

Let me know if you follow this protocol and if you find this soup delectable.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

does home ownership lead to a Cinderella complex?

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All summer long, I heard from friends and clients who recounted enviable trips abroad, long strolls on some distant shore, or another bucket list fulfilment. This summer, I was tethered to home…once again, only this season outdoor chores raised their shaggy heads without end. Once I began one paint/stain project, another surfaced.

gloves of Cinderella

gloves of Cinderella

In my last post, readers saw my newly designed/constructed carport. A long-awaited structure, now nearly complete. It awaits Cinderella and one final coat of paint.

not bad for three guys and a truck and a gal with a vision, heh?

not bad for three guys and a truck and a gal with a vision, heh?

This week I took on the challenge of the lower patio/deck. Retaining walls stand at each end, and troubled pressure treated deck boards, alas, needed removal or restoration. Since I spent a pretty penny covering this ugly concrete slab patio back in 2007, although since troubled by improperly installed boards, I decided not to remove them. With a new deck board product, DECKOVER by Behr, I decided to take one more stab at preservation/restoration.

aging deck boards following a good scrub...and screw down

aging deck boards following a good scrub…and screw down

new product ~ a cure all for ailing decks...I hope.

new product ~ a cure-all for ailing decks…I hope.

following two applications of DECKOVER, voila!

following two applications of DECKOVER, voila!

This application was not without challenges. First, the product was thick as molasses in January. Second, it required application without direct sunlight. Third, I chose a dark hue, and of course a few nudges appeared on the light foundation wall— necessitating a new coat of paint there…eventually.

high retaining wall had two coats of Olympic Solid stain in Oxford Brown. This product is super to work with.

high retaining wall had two coats of Olympic Solid stain in Oxford Brown. This product is super to work with.

the only thing holding this ancient railroad tie wall up is paint...

the only thing holding this ancient railroad tie wall up is paint…I keep it because pretty skinks reside here and what a mess to replace!

this old wall also makes a great display area for found items from the Potomac River.

this old wall also makes a great display area for found items from the Potomac River. Let us hope DECKOVER gives new life to this outdoor area

long view of restored patio space ~ I should use is more often...

long view of restored patio space ~ I should use it more often…

As I had much think time while I stroked, rolled, and blotted this summer, it became clear that indeed home ownership leads to a Cinderella complex. When all outdoor projects come full circle, and nary a brush stroke required, perhaps Prince Charming will sweep me away to dreamland. Ya think?

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

three men and a truck

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I confess, I have always lusted for a garage or carport for my sweet autos. For my entire adult life, I promised every auto a roof. Once I managed a fabric car cover for my Miata at the condo. This week changed that angst.

In July, I updated my fourteen-year-old Mazda MPV for this cutie, a Mazda 5. Still considered a Happy Van, Baby 5 is more compact and efficient, yet she can still haul bagged mulch and market tables with style and gusto.

newer wheels for the key lime pie maker...

newer wheels for the key lime pie maker…

Since this four-wheeled jewel was a splurge, I decided to pull out all the stops and design/build a proper carport — here and now. I have owned/renovated this house for thirteen years and was more than ready to splurge again.

The design had challenges, as it had to fit between a driveway wall and an HVAC unit. The house has a hip roof, and I did not want the overall height to exceed the height of the gutter, a mere 9’6″. Fortunately, I know an ego-light builder, who accepted my budget and had three subs available for this three-day project. The overall footprint was 12’W X 14’L with a two foot overhang.

Following a few weeks of design clarification with the builder, ahem, we struck a chord. He has built houses for twenty-five years, has an entourage of talented/polite subs, as I am merely a former interior designer with a vision. This collaboration was a success.

how exciting holes can be

how exciting hand-dug, rocked holes can be

end of first day ~ posts set

end of first day ~ posts set

view from the very hot, sunny driveway

view from the very hot, sunny driveway

beginning of day two ~ calculations, calculations. This is where I glazed over...

beginning of day two ~ calculations, calculations. This is where I glazed over…

nothing like young muscle strength...

nothing like young muscle strength…Travis was a Rock Star! Polite, talented, and a true professional who was kind to answer my occasional questions. Nothing like a good man with the right tool!

precise, critical cuts made by Jimmy, Kevin's dad.

precise, critical cuts made by Jimmy, Travis’ dad.

rafters in place

rafters in place

this is where I step in as primer/painter...although posts were damp, I primed posts where attachments were to be made. I am a broad stroke woman.

this is where I step in as primer/painter…although posts were damp, I primed post sides where attachments were to be made. In six months, painter will return to finish priming/painting remaining boards and posts. I am a broad-stroke woman. Father and son are attaching OSB sheeting and 30lb. roof felt in this photo.

ooo, yea. All these MiraTEC boards must receive one coat of finish coat before being applied, said me. There were twenty-four, sixteen feet long. Yup, a challenge for this gal.

ooh, yea. All these MiraTEC boards must receive one coat of finish before being applied, said I. There are twenty-four, sixteen feet long. Yup, a challenge for this gal. Ante up!

When the weather cooperated, each board was lugged into place, just far enough apart to set my foot. My goal was to stay one step ahead of the builders' needs.

Staging is critical. When the dew point cooperated, each board was lugged into place, just far enough apart to set my foot. My goal was to stay one step ahead of the builders’ needs. Giddy up!

Since MiraTEC had to be attached 24"OC, framing was added between posts.

Since MiraTEC had to be attached 24″OC, framing was added between posts. This side receives hot western sun year round.

The roofing was my choice...Ondura. A green building product made from recycled materials and  SO practical.

The roofing was my find…Ondura. A green building product made from recycled materials and SO practical. Made right here in Virginia.

MiraTEC slats applied to posts and framing, one inch apart. These guys made building look easy...

MiraTEC slats applied to posts and framing, one inch apart. These guys made building look easy…and pre-priming makes my job much easier down the road…Notice how precisely the new roof meets the existing gutter. Awesome!!!

primer coats were never ending. This beadboard sucked up primer like a thirsty elephant.

primer coats were never-ending. This beadboard sucked up primer like a thirsty elephant.

prep for the ceiling installation. Never ending measuring and cutting.

prep for the ceiling installation. Never-ending measuring and cutting. This family stayed on course the entire time ~ total dedication to the task at hand.

the third and final day, I kept up with the men as they attached the slats, I applied finish coat. Smooth sailing!

nearly completed carport project. The third and final day, I kept up with the men as they attached the slats, applying the first finish coat. Smooth sailing! I must return with a second coat, yet I can take a wee break today. Baby 5 in her new apartment…Rack has yet to be primed/painted…ahhh.

my vision placed a minimal structure at the end of this hip roof, leaning toward contemporary.

my design vision placed a minimal, free standing structure at the end of this hip roof, leaning toward contemporary. I think it hit the mark. If this structure was in Iowa, folks would swear I designed a corn crib…

not bad for three guys and a truck and a gal with a vision, heh?

not bad for three guys and a truck and a gal with a vision…

The builders need to tweak one small detail at the rear fascia, yet I am breathless, humbled, and grateful to have collaborated on this project with such wonderful people. Now to re-think, re-do this front bed…a mass planting of lavender would be nice.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

labor day 2014 came and went…

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new beginnings. An uncommon bramble replaces the Little Gem. Easier on this gardener.

new beginnings. An uncommon bramble ground cover replaces the Little Gem magnolia ~ easier on this gardener.

Yes, another national holiday in the USA came and went. At least Southern States was open for a few hours that morning. I headed over to collect three special orders of plant material and “take advantage” of their sale day. The three new Prague viburnum will replace the old, thorny, ugly Pyracantha,

Sunny by Knock Out is a gem in my garden. Easy care, yet requires daily deadheading.

Sunny by Knock Out is a gem in my garden. Easy care, yet requires daily deadheading. She was pressured by Japanese Beetles this season…

I did not blog during August, as it is my most dreaded month of the year. Heat and humidity rise to criminal heights in August yet I found myself painting and staining many outdoor surfaces. Grunt work to say the least. And copious amounts of perspiration. Ugh!
I also updated my automobile, and decided to protect my investment by designing/building a carport. Following three weeks of design, research and design changes, the structure was built this week.

newer wheels for the key lime pie maker...

newer wheels for the key lime pie maker…

Also during August, I had a Little Gem magnolia, an Hinoki, and three huge Pyracantha removed from my landscape.
The magnolia was too close to the lower patio and was constantly messy and broke whenever there was heavy, wet snow.
The Hinoki, which I adored, became the go to place for bagworms, and they won. I abhor spraying therefore Hinoki went to tree heaven when the chipper was visiting.
The three, huge pycanthia were hammered by wet snow last year and became an eyesore very quickly. My arborist made quick mulch from them in a mere forty-five minutes. Gone.

Now more eye candy…

Forty year old floribunda emerges in her new location, albeit tiny.

Forty year old floribunda emerges in her new location, albeit tiny.

Now to recover, replant, and renew — this summer turned out the be the summer of rejuvenation…check out my new carport in the next blog…

Welcome fall! Yay and phew!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

end of july ~ morning garden stroll

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Temperatures are unprecedented of late.
Cool, mild weather creates the perfect scenario for early garden strolls.
Join me on this morning’s meander and garden finds…

indeterminate cherry tomatoes ~ plumb and tasty

Sugar Sweet indeterminate cherry tomatoes ~ plump and tasty and first time to grow them here. Two volunteers appear to be a Rutgers and a red, tasty cherry with hundreds on the vine! Could it be Jobes Organics?

many more to come...

many more to come…

have I mentioned that zinnias are my favorite annual?

have I mentioned that zinnias are one of my favorite annuals?

baby bumblebee works at pollinating...

baby bumblebee works at pollinating…

this coloration reminds me of mardi gras!

this coloration reminds me of Mardi Gras!

raised bed arbors really function well...

raised bed arbors function well…

let's not forget the hardy yet delicate hosta bed

let’s not forget the hardy yet delicate hosta bed

What are you harvesting in your gardens today?

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

garden friends…the truest celebration

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July 4th is a day of celebration in the United States.
Fireworks no longer appeal to me…too loud, too buggy to watch.
I prefer the quiet sanctuary of my gardens and the miracles that flourish here.
The colors of nature out-dazzle any fireworks display in my book.
Want to see what I found in the garden this morning?
During absolute quiet, this silent winged beauty shared the morning.

Lucky shot this morning. This little hummer decided my zinnia/tomato bed is the perfect place to sun and snack.

lucky shot this morning. This little hummer decided my zinnia/tomato bed is the perfect place to sun and snack. It was here yesterday, and this morning, I had my camera

This little hummer sat for quite some time sunning and napping on my tomato cage.

this little hummer sat for quite some time sunning and napping on a tomato cage

confident to rest in my garden, I think this is the highest compliment a gardener can receive

confident to rest in my garden; I think this is the highest compliment a gardener can receive from wild creatures

Zinnias are one of my favorite annuals, as they dazzle the eye and provide nectar to pollinators

zinnias are my favorite annual, as they dazzle the eye and provide nectar for pollinators. I have them amongst my tomatoes ~ what a pleasant combination and reminiscent of fireworks, yes?

This is my new favorite morning spot, shaded by the large crape myrtle against the bright morning sun

my new favorite morning spot, shaded by the large crape myrtle against the bright morning sun. Cool, dry July mornings are rare in central Virginia. Thanks to the coastal hurricane Arthur, cooler air arrived last night sans humidity. I took full advantage, before the sun rose too high this morning

enjoy your day

enjoy your day and remember to bask in the truest celebration…

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

how to shop your local farmer’s market…

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This title may shock you. How difficult could it be to navigate a farmer’s market, you may ask.

For the next few minutes, please allow me to give you a behind-the-scenes farmer’s market perspective and tips for becoming a well-informed farmer’s market customer.

nothing says spring more than strawberries...are they coated with fungicide?

nothing says spring more than strawberries…are they coated with fungicide? ASK then taste one to see if they are perfect…and NO SPRAY

buy local flowers and reduce the carbon footprint and pesticide use of imported flowers

buy local flowers…reduce the carbon footprint and avoid pesticides from imported flowers. Forget out of season floral arrangements…

local flower power in season

local flower power in season

how was that beef raised? Grass fed locally or from a feedlot?

how was that beef raised? Grass fed locally or from an unsustainable feedlot in the mid-west?

what kind of flower was used in this bread? Bleached or not? Bromated is a carcinogen.

what kind of flour was used in this bread? Bleached/bromated or not? Brominating is a carcinogen.

local, organic free range eggs are my choice

local, organic free range eggs are my choice

Are you  there?

are you there?

A little history: 2014 marks my fourteenth year as a vendor at my local farmer’s market. During that time vendor participation has grown from forty to over one-hundred. This explosion has created a carnivalesque atmosphere (sans live animals and trick ponies) by 9:30 AM. Saturday market reputes to attract over five-thousand shoppers every week from April-December.

The former slogan of this decades-old market was, home-baked, home-made, home-grown. In recent years, this motto has vanished from the marketing campaign (driven by city government who manages the market), thus inviting confusion among new customers. Apparently the city has no problem allowing retail storefronts and franchises into the market. This trend began three years ago and dramatically reduced the sales of tenured vendors who comply with the original slogan.

During a recent conversation with the Director, he stated that the farmer’s market is like a car dealership—the more competition the better. Shocked by this mechanical mentality, I scribe this post. Buyers beware. Know the source of your food and vote with your dollars, please.

fine displays are tempting, yet how are these grown??

fine displays are tempting, yet how are these grown??

Seasoned patrons of the market know who the tenured clean (sustainable) farmers are, which vendor bakes from scratch from their home inspected kitchens using whole ingredients, and who clearly designs/fabricates their crafts from molten metals or carded local wool.

Based on repeated customer comments, I deduce that new attendees presume that all the produce, baked goods, and crafts are indeed grown/baked/made by the vendors and their employees who meet a certain criteria. Ahem. Are you ready for a reality check?

buy fresh, buy local

buy fresh, buy local clean, no chemical produce

This particular farmer’s market is in the heart of an affluent, well-educated, college town of nearly one-hundred-fifty thousand.  Whether you live in a small town OR a large urban center, this blog post strives to educate those who rise early on market day seeking fresh, healthy, local foods and support their local economy. Kudos!

shoulder to shoulder shoppers

shoulder to shoulder shoppers

Reality: Just yesterday, a new customer approached my booth and asked, did you make this? As a one-woman operation since 2000 (clearly displayed on my sign), if I had a dollar for every time this question was asked, I would be basking in the south of France, not rising at 4 AM every Saturday for thirty weeks every year.
Actually, it is the right question, almost. At least this question opens dialogue and an opportunity for education.

So, are you ready to be a Rock Star farmer’s market shopper? Check list follows:

  • If you are looking for produce, ASK the farmer HOW, WHEN, WHERE, and BY WHOM it was grown. This is your only guarantee that you are purchasing the food of your choice and are supporting a local farmer.
  • Does the farmer use organic methods? With the high cost of being “certified organic” many farmers utilize organic/clean methods, yet cannot legally post organic signage. Look for “Organic Methods” produce or ASK the farmer.
  • IF the produce was sprayed (leafy greens, strawberries, stone fruit, apples), when was the last application?
  • When shopping for baked goods or prepared food, ASK the baker/cook about the ingredients. FYI: Last year I asked one food vendor if the chicken in her skewers was locally grown, and she answered “yes” and when I pressed, she followed that response by confessing the chicken was from a local big box store! See what I mean folks???
  • ASK and YE SHALL KNOW…
  • When is comes to crafts/artisans, make sure to support the vendors who truly craft their wares. Many bead-stringers appear in this kind of venue, and often do not reflect the time-honored craft of glass blowing or metal-smithing. Once again, ASK the origin of materials. Then decide if you want to support that crafter.
  • If you tend to eat your way through a farmer’s market, once again, ASK about food origin. Not all food is sourced equally OR sustainably…
  • Is the flour unbleached or bleached (bleached flour is often bromated, a type of carcinogen)
  • Is the meat locally sourced and raised/pastured/butchered humanely?
  • What about those veggies and noodles? Where are they from?
  • Market vendors may appear to chat endlessly, yet customers must remember that all market vendors rise long before dawn to arrive at market, set up their booths, and brace for five hours of intense selling. After all, these venues are businesses and customers must remember to limit their visits to brief questions and purchases.
  • And finally, please do not ask for discounts or samples. Vendors will offer discounts or specials with signage and will present obvious samples—it is their prerogative to do so. Don’t embarrass yourself and downgrade the arduous efforts of vendors by attempting to bargain hunt. Prices may appear higher than a chain store, yet when last did you grow the perfect heirloom tomato—by the bushel?

perfection and all locally grown using organic methods and humane treatment of animals

— perfection and all locally grown using organic methods and humane treatment of animals

great fast food

great fast food

By now you get my point regarding the importance of supporting clean, sustainable, independent farmers, growers and bakers who honor their trade and deliver healthy products to farmer’s markets. If not convinced, kindly check out my other blog post regarding food and other topics at http://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/the-thing-about-documentaries/

I welcome comments and questions. Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

June is garden delights month…

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Below are a few images of my June garden delights here in central Virginia.
Following a hard winter, the garden now rewards with color, texture, and edible feasts.

Sunny rose in first flush, Red Hot Poker, Oakleaf Hydrangea, clematis, all in bloom this week. Nice!

Sunny rose in first flush, Red Hot Poker, Oakleaf Hydrangea, clematis, all in bloom this week. Nice!

Up close and personal with the Red Hot Poker! Yeah! Only its second season in my Virginia gardens.

up close and personal with the Red Hot Poker! Merely its second season in my Virginia gardens.

Sunny Knock Out Rose. She makes me look like a rose guru! This is her second year in my gardens.

Sunny Knock Out Rose makes me look like a rose guru! This is her second year in my gardens.

O'Neil variety of highbush blueberry. Three deliver all the berries I can eat in one season

O’Neil variety of highbush blueberry. Three plants deliver all the berries I can eat (and share) in one season.

Tasty morsels...once the wild birds are fed, my daily ritual is a visit to the blueberry bushes. Can you just taste them?

tasty, plump morsels…once the wild birds are fed, my early, daily ritual includes a visit to the blueberry bushes. Can you just taste them? I cover the plants with row cover to keep the birds away…they can have sunflower seeds and currants!

This is the tiniest florabunda...she is recovering from a transplant last fall. I estimate she is forty years old and struggled for years under the flourishing dogwood. I finally mustered the nerve to move her last fall. Half died during the winter, yet today she shows a bud...and soon, she will flourish in the full sun bed. Yeah!

This is the tiniest floribunda…she is recovering from a transplant last fall. I estimate she is forty years old and struggled for years under the flourishing dogwood. I finally mustered the nerve to move her last fall. Half died during the winter, yet today she shows a bud…and soon, she will flourish in the full sun bed. Yeah! Note she is merely six inches tall today, yet still produces a bud. Go Girl! If you squint, notice the teeny bud near the top. I am so excited! In a few days I will add a photo of the first bloom…

a bit closer to bloom time on this teensy floribunda transplant...I'm like a bird on her nest...

a bit closer to bloom time on this teensy floribunda transplant…I’m like a bird on her nest…too bad a young bunny tasted all these buds just after this photo was taken. Now surrounded with wire screen, I wait for Tiny’s next effort.

the stonecrop sedum is showing her stuff in the herb bed planter. I think she resembles a candelabra, don't you?  Lots of bang for the buck, this plant.

the stonecrop sedum is showing her stuff in the herb bed planter. I think she resembles a candelabra, don’t you? Lots of bang for the buck, this plant.

 a few Siberian Iris were gifted to me two years ago and now flourish anywhere they are planted...a garden thug? Time will tell.

a few Siberian Iris were gifted to me two years ago and now flourish anywhere they are planted…a garden thug? Time will tell.

can you smell the sweet perfume of this Little Gem?

can you smell the sweet perfume of this Little Gem?

I was looking for a vine to replace the Concord Grape on this split rail, and voila! Arctic Kiwi manifested. I cannot wait for this fruit next year!

looking for a vine to replace the Concord Grape on this split rail, voila! Arctic Kiwi manifested. I cannot wait for this fruit next year!

male planted on one side of post, female on the other.

male planted on one side of post, female on the other.

everyone knows Lambs Ear. A classic in any garden; sometimes a thug, yet when that happens, I dig clumps and sell at the farmer's market to willing gardeners...

everyone knows Lambs Ear. A classic in any garden; sometimes a thug, yet when that happens, I dig clumps and sell at the farmer’s market to willing gardeners…and the bumble bees adore the blooms.

this variety of clematis lived on the property when I bought the place in 2001. I was survived years under a tree, and now thrives on a slick tuteur in the deep shrub border.

this variety of clematis lived on the property when I bought the place in 2001. It survived years in deep shade under a tree, and now thrives on a slick tuteur in the deep shrub border with her feet heavily mulched, yet her height in full sun.

I cannot forget to mention the sweet, edible, most popular plant, the viola or Johnny Jump Up. I am convinced this plant parties at night, as thirteen years ago, seed was planted in the front garden and every year since, I find it growing all over the entire half acre...

I cannot forget to mention the sweet, edible, most popular plant, the viola or Johnny Jump Up. I am convinced this plant parties at night, as thirteen years ago, seed was planted in the front garden and every year since, I find it growing all over the entire half-acre…

must not forget to show the beautiful salad greens and edible flowers from the garden this week. The arugula was especially nice.

quite an edible feast:  beautiful salad greens and edible flowers from the garden this week. The arugula was especially nice.

Spring weather of 2014 was spastic. 40F degrees one night and 60F the next.
Daytime highs have swung from 40F to 90F numerous times, and rapidly humidity of summer builds.

Yesterday I rose early to add more mulch, river rock in wash areas, and to tidy the beds for the summer ahead. Finding garden solutions is a never-ending challenge.
Rewards arrive in the hues of spring color, tastes of flavorful edibles, and in the humbling glow of accomplishment.
Striding alongside nature while sharing the garden’s beauty/bounty is a legacy of unnamed bliss.

Gardening in Virginia has its challenges; with humidity comes powdery mildew, which I plan to attack with fresh abandon.
The peonies suffered terribly in the past two years with this fungal disease, thankfully following bloom time.
Since peonies are an important cash crop every May, I want to coddle my twenty-nine plants and avoid the ugliness of mildew.
Stay tuned…

over 400 peony stems went to market last month.

over 400 peony stems went to market last month.

moi selling my garden bounty at the local farmer's market in May...

selling my garden bounty at the local farmer’s market in May…

I hope you enjoyed my June Garden Delights Tour today.

Comments are always appreciated.

Now back to the kitchen to finish that order of Key Lime Pies.

At least views from the workbench allow glimpses of my garden sanctuary and the adored wild birds.

May your June be bountiful and beautiful.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

May’s DIY project ~ the big dig!

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Uncanny, how vistas change in a wee season and projects present themselves abruptly.

This month, the wild bird bath waved its copper flag at me from across the turf…hey lady, this shrub is toast and I need a makeover. How about it, NOW!

Ok, I concurred. This winter was very hard on a few residents of my landscape, and this small feature became an eyesore overnight.

my little ugly duckling in full view from the rear terrace

my little ugly duckling in full view from the rear terrace ~ winky-wonk copper bird bath…

the original circle was topped with pea gravel and river rock, and this holly was a volunteer.

the original circle was topped with pea gravel and river rock, and the holly was a volunteer, seeded by a fly over wild bird

I can do this! One small shrub cannot be that hard to remove...

I can do this! One small shrub cannot be that hard to remove…ha!

after the holly was cut off, I raked the largest stones into the wheel barrow and reused the pile in the lower garden

after the holly was sawed off, I raked the largest stones into the wheelbarrow and reused the pile in the lower garden

once the deck was clear, I pondered on the stump...it could not remain, as the bird bath needed centering, or so I thought...

once the deck was clear of most stones, I pondered on the stump…it could not remain, as the bird bath needed centering, or so I thought…

on both knees, I began to chop, chop, chop with my little Swedish hatchet

on both knees, I began to chop, chop, chop with my little Swedish hatchet

as moments passed, I realized this "small" root was not. The bin began to fill and numerous trips were made to the shed for additional tools...

as moments passed, I realized this “small” root was not. The bin began to fill and numerous trips were made to the shed for additional tools…as I hacked, forked, and picked at tough roots, thoughts of the great pyramids and the tedious excavation of Pompeii trickled through my brain, keeping me on task. I can do this!

This bugger took ages to excavate. I considered calling my digging man, yet this simple DIY and moi wanted this to be completed in ONE morning!

This bugger took ages to excavate; close to an hour. I considered calling my digging man, yet this simple DIY lured me to finish in ONE morning!

I pushed on and somewhat leveled the rich soil. Paver sand was in the shed from another project, and I hope the effort makes a difference. The old aggregate step stone has served me well and once leveled, I discovered a 1994 quarter. Not an arrowhead sometimes found in these parts...

I pushed on and somewhat leveled the rich soil. Paver sand was in the shed from another project, and I hope the effort makes a difference. The old aggregate step stone has served me well and once leveled, I discovered a 1994 quarter. Not a coveted arrowhead sometimes found in these parts…drat!

1994 quarter dollar

1994 quarter-dollar. When I carried it to the shed, it slipped from my gloved hand and is now lost again somewhere in the shed. Guess that coin enjoys being lost…

after a trip to town, twenty pavers completed the circle and mulch top dressed the project.

after a trip to town, twenty pavers completed the circle and mulch top dressed the project. I swear the bird bath is centered…hmm.

This is certainly an improved look, don’t you think? While I contemplate what plant material should go around the bird bath I will heal my wounded self. I admit my body ached from head to toe for two days following this DIY, and I am rapidly succumbing to future assistance from hired labor. No pain, no gain?

You go girl, cooed the garden ornaments…

The following week I added three plants around the stepping-stones…

those tiny plants are Munstead lavender, in honor of Gertrude Jekyll ~ an easy start to a great plant, if they are happy here. Time will tell.

those tiny plants are Munstead lavender, in honor of Gertrude Jekyll ~ an easy start to a great plant, if they are happy here. Time will tell.

Check out my other DIY project at http://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-thing-about-renewal/

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

mower tune~up, from a woman’s perspective…

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Last week I decided it was high time to spend real time with my 2008 Toro lawn mower. It was a splurge back then, as I chose the Personal Pace with electric start. After all, I am a single gal who is not getting any younger…ahem…and mowing commences here in central Virginia by April Fool’s Day. Back in 2000, I reduced my turf size to 3000 SF, and although a small patch, it requires weekly cuts taking about 15 minutes. I-CAN-DO-THIS! It’s about time, Toro moaned!

This year’s mower tune-up began by rolling the machine out of the shed, hooking up the charger and cord to the battery…the oil was drained last fall, and fresh synthetic was added this day.

My little powerhouse with wheels...

my little powerhouse with wheels…

While the mower charged, I decided that the filter and spark plug needed changing too. Simple task, yes? Way overdue grumbled Toro!
Now I am an intuitive gal, and the filter was straight forward; a screwdriver was required to loosen the fastener, which required a trip to the basement for that tool. Easy-peasy. With filter in hand, I drove to the home improvement store where dazzling mowers are proudly on display. I did not have the special tool required to remove the spark plug, yet I thought surely the guys at the store could walk me through this step and sell me the plug I need. Hah!

what is it about spark plugs???

what is it about spark plugs???

Without assistance, I found the filter, yet the spark plug was another story! Once I hunted down a salesperson, we both scoured the shelves of spark plugs. While scratching his head, Mr. Sales Guru headed to the computer for assistance, where hundreds of choices appeared on the screen! Hundreds! Still scratching, the man confessed he could not help me, and without the original plug, I was out of luck. Ahem…
This gal resides in a utopian countryside, and I was not willing to retrace my steps, and add twenty miles to this venture in order to retrieve the plug! Instead, I drove down the by-pass to a great little spot named Charlottesville Power Equipment. Why did I not know about this place years ago??? I drive by it often on the way to the bank, yet this store’s inventory never lured me to it’s entrance…until this day! WOW-ZER!

this place is alive with all kinds of mowers, cutting tools, phew, a man's mecca!

this place is alive with all kinds of mowers, cutting tools, phew, a man’s mecca! They should serve Man-ville Coolers here!

I was the only gal in sight!

I was the only gal in sight!

The day I strolled into this hot spot, I was exasperated, I will admit. Why should a little-old spark plug be so difficult??? Within minutes of entering the store, I had both counter personnel laughing out loud — loudly — as almost falling on the floor laughing. Once composed, the two men decided which plug I should take home. $2.95 please.

Then the topic of fuel came up… “I always use Shell”, I proudly announced. Furrows quickly appeared on both men’s brows… “Ethanol is ruinous to mowers, ma’am” one man offered. “It eats up your engine…mowers are not designed for Ethanol…ma’am…”  OMG! Here we go. My poor little, hardworking Toro! I am slowly killing it! It’s guts surely dissolving before my very eyes! My hard-earned dollars melting away with each electric start! OMG!

After the second set of laughter quieted, these gents handed me a list of five places where I could find NON-ETHANOL fuel within a fifty-mile radius! OK, now field trips are required for filling my little gas can…yippie! I was instructed to pour the old gas into my vehicle, and go find the nearest NON-tank of the good stuff. Another day, another errand added to my full spring schedule.

Once home with my filter and spark plug, my generous, super-human neighbor who-has-every-tool-imaginable, loaned me his super-duper spark plug extracting tool.
I CAN DO THIS! In a flash, filter and plug were installed. Finally, chirped Toro.

By now the battery was charged and all that was left before Toro’s 2014 maiden voyage across the turf, was the trip into the hinterland to find the NON-ETHANOL juice.

not a pretty destination, yet where the good juice can be found...

not a pretty destination, yet where the good juice is found…

By now, you are yawning or laughing. I admit I learned a lot from this exercise — not that I needed to know all this trivia — yet days like this are only the tip of the iceberg where home ownership is concerned. Just like I know more than I ever wanted to know about septic tanks, surface water, and the size of gutters…

Happy Spring chores to you too. ;-)

PS: Today when I fueled the van, I asked the Shell dealer if there is Ethanol in the regular gas (87). So glad I asked, as regular Shell is Ethanol-FREE! So no more trips to the boonies for the other pump. So glad I took the minute to ask! ;-)

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved