Thursday, April 30, 2009

Antique Coffee Mugs - Our New Favs

Most all of our dishes are antiques found here and there. A random hodge podge of patterns and colors really. One thing we always keep an eye open for are great coffee mugs. What makes a great coffee mug for us? Heft for one. We have some dainty cups and those just don't quite feel right. We also always require a good handle. One that preferably fits two fingers so you can hold the warm cup close to your hands. And of course a cool pattern - love, love, love the blue inside these mugs! We so lucked out this past weekend at an antique store here in Carlsbad. We found 6 of these mugs...

Sturdy, great handle and such an awesome feel in our hands.

Now one of our friends collects this pattern because her Mema passed her set on. 2 mugs are staying with guess who the extra 4 mugs are going to?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Handspun Blue Faced Leicester & Cria Yarn

With moving and settling in, life has been a bit chaotic and so my (Jennifer) crafting is sort of on the back burner, but I did recently finish spinning the last of my roving - a Blue Faced Leicester & Cria (black & white) blend from my friend Jamie at Wooly Knob Fiber Mill. You can see this yarn in the front left of the photo below. The wool/cria blend is so super soft; it was really wonderful to spin. I finally wound the blue yarn I talked about here into balls and am making a cool little project with some of it...I will show that once finished. I don't have a ball winder and so am just winding by hand for now.

Here's a closeup of my yarn...

I don't have a niddy-noddy either so I am just wrapping the yarn around my arm to prepare for washing...

I need to restock my roving supply very soon. I want to buy some non-dyed roving too so I can try my hand at dyeing using this book as a good reference.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inspiration in Some Moldy 2X4's

In ongoing efforts to beautify and vegetate our little yard, we came across some moldy 2x4's and decided to use them to define a small planting bed.

A cordless reciprocating saw is extremely useful in apartment (and otherwise) living:

Once my boards were cut to length (as defined by my planting bed edges) I simply cut a little groove in which I would set the boards. Always call before you dig.

Here's the idea:

It turned out that a previous tenant had laid some sort of peaty material down and I found it as I worked the soil in the bed (see the big organic-looking chunks):

I worked this peaty material into the underlying mineral soil (so that the peat would break down faster and release nutrients):

Why not add a bag of potting soil if you've got it lying around?:

Work that into the peat/mineral mixture:

And we've got a nice little planting bed. I watered it down, let it soak overnight, watered it again, worked it a bit more, let it drain and then was ready to plant:

Monday, April 27, 2009

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, Part 4

(Here are McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, Part 1Part 2 and Part 3)

So here's a final tribute to our first hike in McKittrick Canyon - a fitting celebration of some of the first wildflowers of the summer:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Asparagus or Agave??

So we were walking down the road the other day and noticed this incredible array of Agave or Century Plant. Click on the pic and see if anything pops into your head - foodwise:

Nothing? Take a close look, the flower stalk that's popping up sure looks a lot like asparagus eh?!

Here's some asparagus:

Well, I did some checking and found out that the agave and asparagus are in the same botanical order: Asparagales!! I bet the big flower stalks on the agave take a bit of steaming to be as tender as our garden asparagus:)

Friday, April 24, 2009

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains, Part 3

(Here are McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

Sometimes on a nature hike you run across some interesting cultural/history stuff. Well, this time, we got to see something very cool - the homestead of Wallace Pratt - a geologist who worked in the area and obviously fell in love with the canyon. In 1957 he GAVE the house and nearly 6,000 acres to the U.S. Government (i.e. - all of us) and this was the beginning of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. What a guy!!!  Here's some pics:

Look at that stonework:

Even the ROOF is stone (don't think I've ever seen such a thing):

Nice porch complete with Adirondack style chairs:

View ain't none to shabby:

Cute little bedroom:

Cute little bathroom:

Great timbers:

I could cook in that kitchen!:

Well, that was our rest stop before we turned around and headed back down the canyon. Maybe there will be some wildflowers/insects to report on in Parts 4 and 5?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vegetable Worth Growing: Spaghetti Squash

A friend shared a spaghetti squash with us from his garden last summer and I just recently made it for dinner.  (It's a great keeper!)  This recipe is very simple, easy to make and tasty.  
Here's a look at the spaghetti squash from the outside cut and ready for baking.

After baking at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, I scooped out the seeds to roast later and let the squash cool a bit.

I then added the squash to the other ingredients listed here.  You can see in those photo why this squash is called a spaghetti squash.

Thanks for sharing Tim!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dry Land Planting

First - Happy Earth Day all! Go hug a tree or plant a tree or take a reuseable bag to the store or walk/bike to your errands instead of drive or give a little money to a local conservation non-profit.  Let us know if you do anything to celebrate!

This past weekend we spent some time planting a few native plants we purchased from the Carlsbad Horticultural Society.  All the plants are perennials and offer nice blooms for arthropods and hummingbirds - if there are any in the neighborhood.  We will see who shows up at our place!

The plants: Lavender Spice (Poliomintha maderensis), Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), Texas Rose Penstemon (Penstemon wrightii), Paper Flower (Psilostrophe cooperii) & Purple Verbena (Verbena gooddingii)

A close up of the purple verbena: 

Steve also salvaged a few cacti and succulents that were laying around town to see if he could get them to root.  Some of them were pretty shriveled up so we will see.  

Prickly pear cacti: 

A mix: cholla, ocotillo, agave and some other sort of barrel cactus.

Note: The remaining McKittrick Canyon photos will be shared over the next day or two.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe National Park, Part 2

read on:

All of nature is magical. The desert regions of the southwestern United States 
are certainly no exception. We love to come across spectacular and 
unexpected places such as McKittrick Canyon amidst the vastness of the 
Chihuahuan desert. Where else could we admire dry-adapted plants such as....



And Sotol:

....growing in the same canyon as deciduous woody plant that we are familiar with from growing up in the midwest:

Honeysuckle (native species):

Ash (velvet ash):

Walnut (Texas Walnut):

Texas Madrone (same family as rhododendron!):

Hophornbean (Knowlton Hophornbeam):

Chinkapin Oak (this same species occurs in our woodlands of Indiana):

Black Cherry (again, same as midwestern species):

Maple (Bigleaf Maple):

Needless to say, we made slow progress on our hike as we had to stop at every corner to marvel
at these incredible associations and at the beauty in general. Stay tuned for a few of the
wildflowers of McKittrick Canyon!

Monday, April 20, 2009

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Part 1

On Saturday with sun-shiny skies, a full tank of gas and lots of energy we headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  This park is just over the border from New Mexico in Texas and is separated by 10 miles of Lincoln National Forest from Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  The 8,000' peaks in the Guadalupe mountains are called the Capitan Reef.  250 million years ago the area comprising Carslbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains was covered by sea complete with reefs.  Over time and due to changes in water supply (being cut off from the main ocean), the reefs died and the sea eventually dried up creating an environment we call the Chihuahan Desert.  A period of uplift later pushed up certain parts of the reef through its burial in sediments and created the Guadalupe Mountains - the world's largest exposed fossil reef and many caves and caverns.   It's a fascinating location!

Here's the first photo tour of our hike.  We took too many photos for one post so this one covers the general area and subsequent posts will cover wildflowers, arthropods and Pratt Cabin.

Jennifer prepares herself for a nice hike into McKittrick Canyon...

It's a bit more wild country here than northeastern Indiana...

Heading away from the visitor center into the canyon...

Ocotillo in bloom!  Look closely for the red flowers on the tips of the wiry shrub in the forefront of the photo.  

McKittrick Canyon is so special for humans and wildlife because there is water.  Some parts of the stream bed are dry where the water runs underground and in other locations, the water surfaces and creates an environment quite unlike the surrounding lands.  People flock to McKittrick Canyon in the fall to see the deciduous hardwood trees growing along the stream in full autumnal color.  

The bark of a Texas Madrone tree...

A bigleaf maple with seeds....

Steve's stop to check out the maple tree proved even more worthwhile when he spotted this little Flammulated Owl hunkered down in the shade of the branches.  We watched this amazing creature for a few minutes and even enjoyed a direct look from her before she flew a bit further away from us.  SUPER COOL!  The flammulated owl is quite small (only 6.75 inches long) with distinctive dark eyes.  

Beautiful country...

A singing vireo....birding friends - any further id? (4/23/09: Most likely a Plumbeous Vireo.  Thanks Ed & Cynthia!)