Final Asparagus Patch Post

As I was preparing this post I discovered that I do a lot of whining about our asparagus patch. In 2010 I thought for sure that our then 30 year old patch was done, finished, kapoot! Then 3 years later I was amazed at how much asparagus I was picking even though the thistles and weeds had pretty much won the fight for supremacy.

But this year the almost 40 year old patch is really all but dead. There are not just mystery weeds, dandelions, and thistles but trees, invading raspberry canes, grass and lots of Queen Anne’s Lace.

The original patch began at the bottom of the above picture and extended to the edge just before the back field. Grass and dandelions are now the main crop. Curt has been mowing the front area but further back trees and raspberry canes have taken over and we will need a saw before we can mow that part.But as the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.”  Last week I noticed in the front area a few green stalks that looked different from the other stalks. Sure enough, a few asparagus roots were valiantly trying to survive. So I kept looking, even in the back section. Here are the Magic Eye pictures of asparagus hunting. In each pair, the top picture is of a spear, the 2nd picture has an arrow so you can see the spear. Scroll slowing.Or try this one.

So with enough patience and a little bit of foraging across the road (where some volunteers from somewhere are coming up) we came up with enough for our dinner salad with a few left over for omelets in the morning. Nothing like the 20-25 pounds we used to get when the patch was young but still interesting.

Top bunch was from the old patch, bottom bunch from across the road.

Thanks for sticking with me all these years but enough about asparagus, I hear the garlic crop is doing well.

Advertisements

Busy Birdy Afternoons

We have two very large windows that face out into a garden that has a wide variety of bird feeders. We have seed, suet, oranges and jelly plus a Hummingbird feeder with sugar nectar. We get a pretty good variety of birds. I was working at the table by these windows yesterday afternoon when I got the idea of documenting just who was visiting our little buffet. So I spent about two hours with my camera at the ready. Some pictures turned out very well, others ..eh. Because this was the afternoon, lighting wasn’t ideal and some birds that visited were too fast for my camera. But here are the ones I managed to catch, mostly regulars and one surprise. Click on pictures to see them larger.

Female & male Rose Breasted Grosbeaks

A variety of sparrows.

Starting upper left clockwise: Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, Song Sparrow

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I’ve put in three pictures because on the left is the male but only when he dipped his head could you see the ruby throat. If he faced into the sun it would have been brighter. The female is on the right.

A shy Red-bellied Woodpecker.

male and female American Goldfinches

The male Cardinal wouldn’t stay long enough for a picture but his lady friend did.

Starting Upper left clockwise: Red Winged Blackbird, Robin, Mourning Dove, Common Grackle

White-breasted Nuthatch

Male and female Downy Woodpeckers

A Pine Siskin who would only give me his backside.

Pine Siskin

Female and male Baltimore Orioles being photo-bombed by a House Finch.

And finally the surprise visitor of the day, a Catbird. These guys do not visit feeders but I guess he was wondering what all the excitement was about.So this is the variety of birds we saw in about a two hour time frame. And these are only the ones I actually was able to photograph. Those who wouldn’t pose: Male Cardinal, Blue Jay, Black Capped Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker and an Orchard Oriole. Not in the yard but flying by were Canadian Geese and calling from the field across the road, Sandhill Cranes. So check your yard, your life list could easily get much longer.

Nature Notebook Moment with Chickadees

On Wednesday and Thursday this week we went on a birding trip up to Door County which is the long thin peninsula that sticks out on the Ne side of Wisconsin. We had planned this trip about a month ago thinking Spring would have sprung and the birds would have begun their migration. Not strongly but enough that we would see some new birds for the year. Then on April 14th and 15th, Wisconsin got hit with a Spring blizzard. Many birds who were already in town were struggling. Food sources were buried in snow and the wind and cold for that long of a period just didn’t help. We have had late snows in the past but even in March we say, Ah, it will all melt by tomorrow. Not this one. We had huge drifts that made it difficult even to get out the back door much less try to get to the bird feeders. In the days after, many reports of dead birds came in to the bird reporting sites, a lot of them robins. So when we headed north two days ago, we didn’t know what we would find.

We mostly birded from the car or stayed on main paths. Trails in the parks were really muddy or still had snow packed on them. Some of our best finds were in flooded fields. The farmer probably wasn’t happy but the birds were enjoying the new lakes. One high note on the trip was in Peninsula Park. Further into the park from the main entrance is a Nature Center. It is a small building where you can talk to a staff person about recent sightings or ask questions about other flora and fauna. That is, when it is staffed. Park funding being constantly cut, doesn’t allow for someone there most times. But there are feeders and a white board where people can record what they have seen in the park.

When we pulled in on Thursday there was no human on site but instead we were greeted by a gang of chickadees. There was a pair of cardinals in the tree and a red breasted nuthatch swooped through. But the chickadees seemed quite friendly and seemed to be hoping we had handouts. Curt found a large can of sunflower seeds around the back of the building and was going to try to call them in. ( We sort of had this idea planted by the Park staffer at the entrance who wanted to know if we were interested in feeding chickadees but we declined). Now it seemed like a good idea. So Curt put seed on his hat and in both his hands and sat on a bench. I went for the camera, just in case.Well it didn’t take very long and in came the chickadees.

Curt waiting for the Chickadees while a Cardinal curiously looks on.

I tried really hard to get shots but those little guys were fast. I managed to get them in each of his hands but even though they also landed on his hat my only shot was one taking off.

Left hand feeder

Right hand feeder

Chickadee taking off from his hat

Then it was my turn. Please ignore the dumb look on my face. I was trying to be as still as possible but still get to see the birds on my hand.

Perched on my thumb.

So cute!

Their little toes tickled, and every time they came in and out there was a little flutter sound. It was so great. The cardinal was also hovering nearby when I sat down but they don’t feed like the chickadees so I put some seed on the bench right next to me and waited. Sure enough, Mr. Cardinal saw this was for him. It was marvelous to see him up close. He stayed for a bit taking in 4-5 seeds unlike the chickadees who grab one and fly off. Curt watched him when he flew and said he was feeding seeds to the female. He came back again. So cool!

Me and my Cardinal friend

It was a great experience. We were so glad the park wasn’t crowded or that a family with 4 kids didn’t come storming up. We might have called in the chickadees, they seemed pretty conditioned. But I don’t think the cardinal would have come in. Hope your encounters with nature are as fun as this.

When in Door County, WI, act like a Bier Zot

A what?

from B.C., Johnny Hart

No, not that Zot.

Translated from the Flemish: Bier = Beer   Zot = Idiot or Crazy :  To be a Beer Idiot or someone Crazy for Beer who goes to the Bier Zot Beer Cafe in Sister Bay, Door County, Wisconsin.

Bier Zot front door ( that space in the right side of picture is Wild Tomato 2 Restaurant) , Menu pic

We discovered this fun place last Friday but it has been there since 2014. We’re a bit slow sometimes. The Bier Zot is a Belgian style Beer Cafe that serves 11 drafts, one cask and 100 bottles of craft and Belgian beers. Couple this with a “European inspired” menu and you’ve got a tasty combination. The restaurant has casual pub style decor with outdoor seating as well.

Now the only way we found this place was through another restaurant, Wild Tomato, owned by the same people, Britt & Sara Unkefer. That restaurant in Fish Creek (further down on the peninsula) serves really great wood fired pizza. We did a short post on it in 2010. Last year the owners decided to open Wild Tomato 2 alongside their Bier Zot so while stopping for pizza at the new location we discovered it (the entrances share a hallway.) On this latest trip our destination was definitely Bier Zot, no pizza distraction.

Once seated the Beer Board offered an interesting selection. The waitress helped us navigate through it. There were full descriptions of the beers in the menu as well.

Curt went with the Ommegang Rosetta, a sour beer that I find hard to take by itself but it goes very well with food. I wanted something in the pale ale range and she suggested Boulevard Tropical Pale (half pour please). On both of these we were allowed a sample before committing to a glass. Our friend Carol was with us and she went with the Ommegang as well.

Ommegang Rosetta and Boulevard Tropical Pale

Next up, food. Now Bier Zot describes itself as a European inspired cafe and for the most part that is true. I saw a lot of German influence ( Thursday night was actually German Night) but there was French influence and some just creative cuisine as well. Find their menu here.

I went with the Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich. Schnitzel is just a pounded, seasoned and breaded meat that is fried. I am sure you are familiar with Wiener Schnitzel which is a breaded veal cutlet. My Chicken Schnitzel was served on a pretzel bun with greens, a yellow heirloom tomato and Dijon horseradish sauce. I liked it.Carol chose the Bier Zot Bratwurst. This was their house recipe brat on pretzel bun accompanied by sauerkraut and Dijon mustard. We can only assume they make these on the premises because it was extra long and it fit the bun, sort of. It had a taste and found it milder than many Wisconsin brats, more like a veal sausage.  I am ordering that next time. Finally Curt started out with a half-dozen Washington State oysters, which seems to be a new addition to the menu, pending availability. He followed that with the Aubergine Zacusca. This was grilled eggplant with tomato, greens, shallots, basil chevré and ground cumin on Naan. Our server told us this was concocted by a former staff member who is Muslim and had a hard time finding anything Halal in the kitchen.  It was a success and  found a permanent home on the menu.  It was excellent.

You can tell we passed our dishes around so everyone could get a taste. Hmm, maybe I’ll have this one next time.All in all it was a very enjoyable lunch and we will return.

One more thing. It took us a minute to figure out what the wooden tables were constructed from…..can you see it? Bleachers. Sturdy and a good reuse. In case you don’t feel like an idiot, Zot can also be translated from Albanian as “god”.  Beer idiot?  Beer god?  Maybe there’s not much difference between the two.

Spring?

It’s April. It snowed yesterday. My daffodils that are trying to bud have quickly tucked their heads in. Today the sky was gray and it rained  because luckily the temperature got up to 34, barely. Tonight it is expected to go down to 23. Can this be Spring?

Well the goldfinch guys think it is. They are quickly changing into their Spring plumage in order to woo the ladies. I will trust them and hope for the best.finches

It must be working, that Lady Cardinal looks interested.

We are Going to get Gas

Natural Gas. Not the natural gas from legumes and cruciferous vegetables but the kind that heats your house and cooks your food.

Ever since we moved out to the country, away from our local urban area, we have heated our home with propane. Well, to be honest, we heated with oil for a short time but quickly had that removed and contracted with the local propane company. A tank was installed in our yard and every 6 weeks or so the propane guy would show up and top off the tank. Prices varied from year to year but we didn’t have much choice. Natural gas didn’t come down our road because we didn’t have enough residents along our mile. And we weren’t interested in cutting and splitting wood and stoking a stove. We did have a small wood stove for a while but it super heated our living room while the rest of the house froze. Creosote build-up and chimney fires were always a worry.

Last year we had a super cold winter. Our locked in price on propane ran out and we had a few pretty high bills. So this year we prepaid at a locked in price for the full season to get a good price.  A month after we paid the money Wisconsin Public Service ( the local natural gas company) sent us a letter inquiring about our interest in natural gas. I guess we finally had enough people living on our road. Great timing!

Sure we were interested but what were the details? Were we going to take a big loss on the already purchased propane? When is this happening? Once we got the details it wasn’t as dire as we might have imagined. Still on propane this year, natural gas next spring. Whew! That saves some trouble and money.

Breaking ground

Breaking ground

But the pipe was getting laid this fall and two weeks ago it began. Pretty slick. Dig a hole, dig another hole further down the road feet (up to a 1/4 mile away), force a bore through the ground until you get to the next hole – attach the gas line to the bore and then pull the gas line back through the hole.  Not as much digging as I thought until – the bore is steerable and can maneuver around underground obstacles.…until they got to our house. Lots of rocks made it harder to just force the pipe through. So they dug a big hole and moved on down the road to lay the rest of the pipe on the other side of our neighbors house. Plan was to force the pipe from the other direction. Great idea until they hit the mother of all rocks. As the pipe went 6,7,8 feet down rather than forward, they gave up. So an actual trench had to be dug.

Conference: "Sheet! That's a big effing rock"

Conference: “Sheet! That’s a big effing rock”

Digging the trench.

Digging the trench.

 

Some of the "smaller" rocks

Some of the “smaller” rocks the size of watermelons, microwave ovens and ottomans

 

Trench and pipe

Trench and pipe

Well whatever they planned must have worked because yesterday they hauled away the big rocks, back-filled the trench leaving a hole open in the front of our house. Next week they’re supposed to dig another trench up to our house to make the service connection. Wonder if there is another big rock waiting for them?

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

We were left with a smaller hole and attractive orange tubs.

Tomatoes, finally!

longtomAll summer we waited for the tomatoes. Once they were planted in the spring, we worried there was too much rain, then not enough rain, then would the bugs get them or would critters bite them off (deer try anything, then “ack! ptooey!”, spit out the nasty tasting bits, leaving your plants just little stumps in the ground). As the summer rolled on, we hoped the blossoms would set and of course that it would rain. Into August we had a lot of set fruit but naturally it was green. So we worried about blossom end rot. We read in the news about tomato blight. I’m hoping, end of August, red ripe tomatoes, it won’t be long now. So we waited, and waited and waited.  Early September and they are still green, except for an occasional cherry tomato. Hardly what I wanted for my BLT sandwich.

But then they started getting red (finally!!!) and we went from famine to feast. In the beginning it was joyous. Fresh tomatoes from the garden are ruby-red treasures. We had them with our scrambled eggs at breakfast, on our sandwiches at lunch and sliced fresh on the table at dinner.  Curt would just grab cherry tomatoes out of the bowl on the counter and eat them like candy. He made tomato soup and roasted tomatoes to freeze. He even smoked some. (getting them lit is the challenge, ha-ha).

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

As I write this, October is only 4 days away. Not only have we eaten a lot of tomatoes, I have given them to family, friends (who now run when they see me) and even strangers (I have a table with tomatoes at the road and a “free, take them” sign). They are in baskets everywhere in my kitchen.

Free! Free! Free!

Free! Free! Free!

I love fresh tomatoes and nothing I buy at the grocery can compare and I hate it when the season is done but can there be too much of a good thing? There are still quite a few on the plants and they will continue to ripen till the first frost, which may be late this year, so the end is not in sight, yet. Eventually Curt will finally say, ‘forget about them,’ but after waiting sooo long, it just seems a shame not to pick and use every one. And so it goes…

basketI wonder, can you get tired of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches?

Quite Apropos

Just a day after posting about the chimney swifts I was checking for the dates of the Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. As the page popped up I was surprised to see this picture listed in the exhibit information.

Andrew Wyeth, 'Swifts', 1991, watercolor on paper, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum

Andrew Wyeth, ‘Swifts’, 1991, watercolor on paper

It was as if Andrew Wyeth had been looking through the same lens I was looking through the other night. This piece will be part of an upcoming exhibit, Audubon to Wyeth: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. To make it even more special, it is owned by this little gem of a museum, right here in central Wisconsin. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

What a Difference a Day (or two) Makes

Winter. Snow. Bitter cold.

We were tired of it. Just when you got a normal temp day (for us that was the upper 20’s) Bam! the next day it was high of 10 with a wind chill of -20. End of February, early March might produce snow but the bitter cold was just tiring. We even had a frozen water pipe this year. Then, just when we were at the end of our patience, the trend broke. We were promised normal March temps, 30’s, which turned into 40’s, which almost got to 50 today. When these “warm” days were announced I decided to take some pictures to record the change. It didn’t take long. Below is the change from Friday to Sunday. I took my pictures at 5:15 pm each day, with Daylight Saving Time intervening.The first sequence is the large field across the road from our house. The second sequence is the front of our house.

Friday,March 6, 5:15 pm, CDT

Friday, March 6, 5:15 pm, CDT

Saturday, March 7, 5:15 pm, CDT

Saturday, March 7, 5:15 pm, CDT

Sunday, March 8, 5:15pm, Central DST

Sunday, March 8, 5:15pm, Central DST

 

Mar. 6,7,8 - 5:15 pm

Mar. 6,7,8 – 5:15 pm

Granted we haven’t had snow like Boston, which is pretty weird since this is Wisconsin, so the snow melt has gently seeped into the ground. No floods. One year though we did have huge amounts of snow and that field across the way became a pond. It was a little later into Spring and that water attracted migrating birds. We had our own viewing station from the comfort of our home. This year it looks like a hike in the woods will be required.

So cheer up points east of us, the warmer weather is on its way.

The New Monday Morning View Out My Window

Everything got finished up on Saturday. The workmen are gone. I could sleep in without someone banging on my walls at 7AM.  Ah heaven. And now the view I have been sharing with you, lo these many weeks, has changed. Well the view technically is the same its the glass and the frame around the picture that’s different. Remember the first view I showed you? bedrm windIt was a pretty gray day, made more gray because the seal on this window was gone and pockets of moisture inside made everything a bit fuzzier. Well we ditched the casement window in favor of an awning style ( better ventilation) and now…ta da! This is the new view.

New window

New window

Yes there is that bar across the lower part but in normal light it is a warm brown and looks great. The view is clear. Really clear. I love it. And of course the lush greens of summer don’t hurt either. So thanks for taking this little journey with me, I’m going to go look out my window.