A Snake Sighting And Then A House For Sale

This was my surprise waiting for me in the garden.  Every time I screamed, it would slither off into the woods.  I would then run into the house, gather my courage and slowly go back outdoors.  There it would be–back in the same place in the garden.  We completed the same screaming, running, returning cycle about three times.  Remember, I don’t really like critters.  Remember the beaver, the chipmunks, the birds?  Why is God doing this to me?

I finally decided to be a man and go out and garden and pretend it wasn’t there.  I would even take pictures of the garter snake (see, I knew what kind of snake it was).  I would name it.  Lenny, that’s a good name.  I’ve read that if something has a name and a face, it is less threatening.  I decided I would even do some research to find out more about my reptile friend.  Here is some of my research:

The Garter snake is a Colubrid snake genus (Thamnophis) common across North America, ranging from Alaska and Canada to Central America.  It is the single most widely distributed genus of reptile in North America.  The garter snake is also the Massachusetts state reptile (I no longer like Boston).  Garter snakes are widespread throughout North America.  The common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is the only species of snake to be found in Alaska and is believed to be one of the northernmost species of snake in the worldThe genus is so far ranging due to its unparticular diet and adaptability to different biomes and landforms, with varying proximity to water.  Garter snakes, like all snakes, are carnivorous. Their diet consists of almost any creature that they are capable of overpowering:  slugs, earthworms, leeches, lizards, amphibians, birds, fish, toads and rodents (thank God that Yorkies weren’t on the list!). When living near the water, they will eat other aquatic animals.  Food is swallowed whole (similar to how several of my friends eat).  Garter snakes often adapt to eat whatever they can find, and whenever, because food can be scarce or abundant.

By the end of the day, Lenny had slithered off and I didn’t see him again.  I know he is out there, but I haven’t seen him.  As long as he is out there eating mice and bad bugs, I’ll get used to knowing that a garter snake slithers among us here at Glen Road.  I don’t like it, but I’ll get used to it.  I mean, it’s not like Mother Nature issues restraining orders.  I’m calm now.  I’m going outside to pull the ‘For Sale’ sign out of the front lawn.  Do you have any ideas on how to keep snakes as far away as possible from you, your house and your garden?

A Not So Ordinary Hamburger

This is a hamburger recipe with a little punch.  For so many years, a hamburger on the grill was just that.  Hamburger from the supermarket pressed into patties with a little salt and pepper.  While they were good, they weren’t great.  There had to be a way to punch the flavor up just a little.  So here is the recipe we use here on Glen Road that combines several ingredients that make the patty taste great.  It may not have been posted for use over Memorial Day, but we have the rest of the Summer.  We call this recipe our ‘Not So Ordinary’ hamburger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1/2 cup seasoned dry seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup steak sauce (use your favorite)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 10 hamburger buns
  • Your favorite fixings, for serving

Directions:

Carefully mix the meats, bread crumbs, steak sauce, mustard, eggs, salt and pepper with the tines of a fork, but do not mash them.  Combine them so that the meats and ingredients mix together well, but the meat is light and not packed together.  Lightly form hamburger patties and press lightly into shape.

Prepare a charcoal grill.

Cook the hamburgers for 4 minutes on 1 side, then turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Allow the hamburgers to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill the buns, cut side down, for 1 minute, until toasted.  Place a hamburger in each bun, plus your favorite fixings, if desired, and serve.

The addition of the steak sauce and Dijon mustard give the hamburger the kick we were looking for in the burger.  Bread crumbs and the eggs help keep the meat moist.  So why go for ordinary hamburgers when you can go for extraordinary?  Give our ‘Not So Ordinary’ hamburgers a shot.  What did you cook this Memorial Day weekend?

Memorial Day History

This is a little history about Memorial Day.  On Monday, Americans will be celebrating Memorial Day.  Considered by many to be the opener to the summer season, the holiday actually has roots that stretch back through the nation’s history to the Civil War.

That history, shared by the  Department of Veterans Affairs, started when the head of an organization of union veterans, called the Grand Army of the Republic, established Decoration Day on May 5, 1868.  The day was meant to be a time for citizens to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.  Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that it should be observed on May 30, possibly about the right time so that flowers would be blooming all over the country.

Congress declared Memorial Day to be a national holiday in 1971 that would be celebrated on the last Monday in May and would honor all soldiers who had died in the nation’s wars.  In addition to that, the National Moment of Remembrance Act passed in 2000 suggests that people pause wherever they are at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day to remember those who have died in service.  What will you be doing this Memorial Day weekend?

Friday Dance Party – Price Tag With Jessie J

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week of living and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  United in our love of life through music.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

We’ve been doing Friday Dance Party every Friday since Acorns On Glen was born on February 13th.  This is our 15th dance party.  Some weeks, FDP gets a lot of hits and other weeks, not so many.  OK, we will attribute that to the music we selected for the weeks with low hits.  Since the beginning, FDP’s intent was to celebrate our lives through music and dance.  We know of very few people who actually stop once a week and give thanks for being alive and on this planet.  There were so many times here on Glen Road where our day was all about complaining about our lives.  Too much work, too many bills, this person didn’t call us back, this person calls too much.  These examples were  just the tip of the iceberg.  So when we started Acorns On Glen and wanted to try to get back to what is real and great about our lives, we decided to make it a ritual every Friday for us to stop and take a moment to think about how lucky we are in our lives and to give thanks…and then dance to celebrate another week of living.  Our idea seems to be catching on.  ‘Price Tag’ by Jessie J asks us to simply realize it’s not about the money, the bling or the ching.  It’s about life and how we just want to make the world dance.  A great idea!  So enjoy the song (if you get a pop up ad just close it by hitting the x — sorry) and enjoy the fact that for 15 weeks you’ve joined us here on Acorns On Glen to think about your life and how lucky you truly are to be alive and well and then you’ve shaked it to celebrate.  Remember, we just want to make the world dance (and live life to the fullest).  Have a great Memorial Day weekend!  Have you spent more time giving thanks for your life and all your friends and family that make it up?

Espalier Haircut Event

This is another story about our espalier apple grove…all two of our trees.  Earlier this week, we wrote that we noticed that our Malus ‘Liberty’ was looking a little overgrown compared to its new cousin Malus ‘Gravenstein’.  In other words, we noticed that ‘Liberty’ needed a little haircut.  So a good pruning was in order.  Our research had said that the espaliers should be pruned when dormant.  However, since we are new to the pruning process, we decided to wait to see what was growing in a crazy manner and then cut it off.  We just didn’t want to take a risk of cutting something out and realizing later that we had made a bad mistake.  You can see the finished job in the picture above….haircut complete.

When we started our pruning job, we paid close attention to ‘Gravenstein’, which was pruned already, and compared it to ‘Liberty’, which was not.  Notice in these pictures below that ‘Gravenstein’ has leaves that are close to the branch and spurs on the branch and there are no long vertical growths coming out.  If you are asking what a spur is, the best way to describe it is a very short piece of branch where the apple tree flowers and sets fruit.  Pruning encourages the tree to grow more of these fruiting spurs by removing competing suckers and unproductive wood.  A sign of  a well-trimmed espalier is the close-growing leaves without any vertical growth.  ‘Gravenstein’ looked like this.  However, ‘Liberty’ was not in such good shape.  You can see it better in these pictures.

See the growth coming out of the ‘Gravenstein’ spur and main branch?  The leaves are close to the spur and branch and never more than about two inches long.

Here’s crazy cousin ‘Liberty’.  See the vertical growth coming out of the branch.  We pruned all of these vertical baby branches out and only kept close growing leaves near the spurs and branches to promote fruit growing.

Another close up of the foliage on ‘Gravenstein’.  See how tight and close the leaves are?

Another shot of ‘Liberty’.  It doesn’t take much of an expert to see the long growth that needs to be cut off.  Fortunately, none of the growth that needed to be cut off had any baby apples attached.

After pruning all the vertical growth off of ‘Liberty’, both espaliers looked pretty much the same with some beautiful leaves growing not more than two inches off of the main branch or growing spurs.  All it took was some patience, some pruning shears and a barber-like mentality.  No blow dry was necessary.  Are you in the process of pruning any trees in your yard? 

News From The Garden

This is the progress in the vegetable garden this weekend.  Not much went on, but with all the rain we have been experiencing, a little bit of work is a lot.  We had laid a tray of vegetable plants out last week that were grown under our grow light in the basement, but the rain stopped us from putting them in the ground.  This was probably a good thing as it gave the young plants some time to get used to the weather outside and begin to adapt to the new environment.  Little did the young plants know that they were acclimating to a monsoon-type environment given all the precipitation that occurred last week.  Finally, there was a small break in the weather and we rushed out to put the plants into the soil.  Here is a little taste of what went into the ground.

First, a little cabbage.  We love cabbage and have a great soup recipe that is simple and delicious.

Let’s not forget our cauliflower.  Lots of cauliflower macaroni for our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother to cook.

Are we the only ones that like brussels sprouts?  Boiled and then mixed with salt, pepper and butter.  Simple heaven!

Last, but not least, a spindly looking eggplant.  Hope it makes it!!  We have so many eggplant recipes it is crazy.

The rest of the garden is doing well.  We couldn’t believe that some seeds that we planted last week were already sprouting.  Here are the turnips peeking their heads out of the dirt.

Here are some beets that shot up too.  These are the golden variety.  Does this mean they are tougher than their dark red cousins?

Our lettuce is almost ready for some picking.  If we get a little hot weather, it should grow quickly and be in a salad bowl in no time.  Doesn’t it look good with the raindrops stuck on the leaves?  A little vinegar, some oil and a fork….that’s all we need when the lettuce is ready.

So not a great week for gardening-flowers or vegetables, but we guess Spring is known for lots of wet weather, right?  The only thing that really benefited from all this rain was our newly seeded front lawn.  So there you have it…we’ve found at least one benefit from all this crazy weather.  For all of you gardeners out there, isn’t it a great feeling to see all your hard work finally grow into something edible?  To see our seeds sprout or our grow light plants get put into dirt is a very proud and satisfying feeling.  It makes all the hard work seem worth it.  How is your garden growing and did you have crazy weather that set you back a bit? 

Espalier Support Group

This is the new support system for the espalier apple trees.  Remember the first time you met the espalier apple trees?  A lot has happened since that time.  First off, we noticed that one of the apple trees, Malus ‘Spartan’, did not fully come back this year from the hard winter we experienced.  Although one side of the tree grew leaves, the other side had died.  We then made the painful decision to take the tree out and replace it with a new one.  However, when we went back to the nursery to buy a replacement, the nursery said the tree was guaranteed for a year and we received a free replacement.  How cool!!  So meet our new tree, Malus ‘Gravenstein’.

Gravenstein is a variety of apple native to Gråsten in South Jutland, Denmark.  The variety was discovered in 1669 as a chance seedling, although there is some evidence that the variety originated in Italy and traveled north.  The Gravenstein was introduced to western North America in the early 19th century, perhaps by Russian fur traders, who are said to have planted a tree at Fort Ross in 1811.  The Gravenstein apple has a sweet, tart flavor.  It is picked in July and August and is heavily used as a cooking apple, especially for apple sauce and apple cider.  It does not keep well, so it is available only in season.  In addition, their short stems and variable ripening times make harvesting and selling difficult.  The skin is a delicately waxy yellow-green with crimson spots and reddish lines, but the apple may also occur in a classically red variation.  Our older tree, Malus ‘Liberty’, is proud to meet its younger cousin.

The other change in the espalier apple tree grove is that we began to realize that Malus ‘Liberty’ had branches that were beginning to bend.  If you look at the picture above, you will see the bottom limb is bent or crooked.  In order to fix this, we worked with a landscaper to embed two granite posts on either side of the trees.  Although not completed yet, we will be running wire from one post to the other in three separate rows and tie each of the limbs to the wires for support.  During the summer, we will tighten the ties that will move the limbs closer and closer to the wire and therefore making each limb straighter and straighter.  The granite posts also give the area quite an architectural look and feel.

So a lot has been happening in the espalier apple tree grove….if you can call two trees a grove.  We noticed that Malus ‘Liberty’ needed a little leaf trim so that will need to be done.  After that, we will wait it out and hopefully get a few apples from the trees later in the Fall.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.  Do you have any fruit trees in your garden and how do you care for them? 

Luna Moth Or Not – You Be The Judge

This is what we saw out of the upstairs window.  Stuck to a piece of the house facing North.  It appears to be a Luna Moth.  Does it look like a Luna Moth to you?  It was also one of those full circle moments as well.  First a little about luna moths.  Actias luna, commonly known as the Luna Moth, is a lime-green moth in the subfamily Saturniinae.  It has a wingspan of up to four and a half inches,  making it one of the largest moths in North America.

Based on the climate in which they live, the Luna Moths produce differing numbers of generations.  In Canada and northern regions, they can live up to 7 days and will produce only one generation per year. These reach adulthood from early June to early July.  In the northeastern United States around Connecticut, the moths produce two generations each year.  The first of these appear in April and May and the second group can be seen approximately nine to eleven weeks later.  In the southern United States, there can be as many as three generations.  These are spaced every eight to ten weeks beginning in March.

When my brother and I were little boys in Iowa, my parents used to take us camping every weekend.  We had a nice fold-down camper and used to rent a space at a place called Roberts Creek.  Lots of families in their campers meant lots of fun for us over the weekend.  There was boating, there were bonfires, there was fishing and then there were the Mason boys.  The Mason boys were older and obsessed with butterfly and moth collecting.  My brother and I helped them catch butterflies and moths so they could mount them in shadow boxes.  They had quite a collection.  To this day, I remember my parents letting us stay up late so that we could rub sugar water all over walnut trees and return the next morning hoping that the area would be infested by Luna Moths.  To our dismay, there wasn’t a Luna Moth in site, but I never forgot the Mason brothers stories and pictures of these magnificent moths.  In fact, their stories made the moths sound so big that we were a little afraid of what we might see if they had come that sugary and cold morning.  I never saw one then or ever…until today.  It’s taken 40 years for one to show itself to me.

This is another example of when Nature does something that you never saw coming.  You have to really be in the moment to catch something so spectacular sitting on your house siding.  The Mason brothers would be proud.  I’m glad I can finally say I have seen such a magnificent moth.  Do you think this is a Luna Moth and, if not, what is it? 

New Additions In The Garden

This has been a terrible week for gardening.  We have had a solid week’s worth of rain.  Sometimes, we feel the best time to plant and garden is on days when there is no direct sun and a little drizzle.  This wasn’t the case the entire week.  Most times, the rain came down in a torrential downpour.  Crazy rain is tough for a gardener here in Connecticut at the end of May.  The end of May is when it is time to get most things planted in the soil.  We were getting nervous.  Finally, there was a small break and so it was time to run out and plant.

There are two new plants that we added into our garden that we would like to introduce.  The first is Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ seen above in its new home on the far left.

The old-fashioned bleeding heart has been one of our garden favorites for years.  They are substantial plants that bear long, arching racemes of pink flowers.  ‘Gold Heart’ is the same classic beauty, but with one marvelous variation:  it has metallic gold leaves and peach-colored stems instead of the usual green.  Blooms start here in Connecticut in May and last several weeks, finally subsiding with the arrival of the summer heat.  They are long-lived, reliable and they will self sow.  We planted ‘Gold Heart’ beside its cousins.  Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ is in the middle.  ‘Alba’ produces white versus the more common pink flowers.  A regular Dicentra spectabilis finishes out the row to the right and is already giving us a show of beautiful pink flowers.

The next new member of the garden is Uvularia grandiflora.

Also known as large-flowered bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora is a plant in the family Colchicaceae, native to eastern North America.  It blooms in May, producing large yellow flowers.  The top parts of the plant tend to bend downward due to the weight of the leaves and flowers.  The light green stems are round and the leaves are perfoliate, meaning the stem appears to come through the leaves at the base.

We love planting new plants into our garden.  We especially like plants that are more on the rare and unique side, like the plants we just added.  There wasn’t much time for us to plant more than these two new additions into our garden.  Unfortunately, the rain returned.  We are going back to building our ark in the meantime.  Do you have any rare or unique plants that you like that you could share with us on Acorns On Glen?