Monday, October 30, 2017

Hunt and Gather

Awhile back we heard author Sam Thayer  speak on foraging. Up until then we had no idea that many, maybe even most, of the plants, nuts, and berries that we see every time we go out in our Northern woods and waters are edible. We bought one of Sam's books and have checked out his website, Forager's Harvest. Now we are starting to see nature as one big pantry. 

Look at these:

They are American Hazelnuts
After realizing that the odd shaped clusters hanging on the ubiquitous, previously not even noticed shrubs are not mutant plant deformations one can recognize them as food. This is the kind of opportunity that hunter gathers like NDL delight in.

The nuts require husking, which can be a rather pleasant, even addicting activity that draws others in. It is a perfect pastime for chatting on a sunny screen porch or at the kitchen table.

Once husked the nuts are cracked and the nutmeats extracted. Taking a hammer to a handful of nuts is a surprisingly satisfying part of the process. 

Toasting brings out the flavor. 
Pretty, eh?

And now we can make our own Nutella, top a dish of ice cream, roll a cheese ball in them, use them in baked goods, or pop a fistful into our mouths as a snack if we are willing to give up an hour's work for one delicious moment.

From our first batch we made these previously featured Hazelnut Krinkle cookies.

Never did we think we would be making them some day with our very own harvest of hazelnuts.

So gratifying! So good!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Chlorociboria aeruginascens

Chlorociboria aeruginascens (say that five times fast) AKA Green Elf Cups.

Spotted by a keen-eyed nature lover while on a blackberry picking foray.

The rainy summer has brought out some amazing fungi, but this one is particularly charming. 

 9 out of 10 elves agree.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Titan Sphinx

Whose heinie is sticking out of the nasturtium?

Why, it's the Titan Sphinx moth of course. 

Aelepos titan is far from home. The most southern edge of his or her range is Uruguay. Wisconsin is about as far north as titan sightings are reported and their brooding area is the Florida Keys. Seems like someone heeded hurricane evacuation orders and hightailed it to safe space. Good call!

I guess if your favorite tropical hibiscus lunch has been blown out to sea, a northern narcissus will do. Any port in a storm, eh?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Underfoot

We sat on the porch under the big overhanging roof so we wouldn't be tempted to stare at the sun.

We could still see the partial eclipse.

And then many mini eclipses. 

And some teeny tiny eclipses.  

And even more on the sidewalk under our big shade trees on Columbia Street. 

In the end we think we had more fun seeing hundreds of eclipses than if we had seen only one  

big, full, real one. 

And our retinas are completely unscathed. 

Seedy Art

Got a tip on artful seed packets full of lovely heirloom seed varieties from 

How could we not order and share some?

Brilliant red, butterfly attracting, blooms for gifting? Grumpy, but fragrant gnomes? Gleaming edible flowers and foliage?

All right in our wheelhouse.

The true gift was that of a young gardener in the family starting some of them for us while we were gallivanting around Europe right during prime seed sprouting season.

She did a great job!

We have nasturtium, zinnia, 

and a bumper crop of lovely, lemon cucumbers.

So gifted!

Now to think of something clever to do with the beautiful artist-designed packets. 

Anyone? Anyone?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Portable Poutine

Poutine potato chips. No knife, fork, or napkin required, and perhaps minus a few hundred calories and the ensuing stomach ache one might receive from eating real poutine

 Hope the relatives leave room in their luggage for a bag or two of these when they come to WI this week for Christmas in July.

Warning: Santa has been sited in a red, Princecraft fishing boat powered by a 50 horsepower outboard motor named Rudolph. Last chance to make sure your name is on the "Nice" list.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

One Fina Day

For a a garden club field trip. And we really did go to a field this time.

Fina Gardens, right in our own backyard in Hillsdale, WI, sells cut peonies to the floral industry during bloom season and rootstock by mail to any old body in the fall.

Some of these are headed for Hawaii where they will bloom beautifully for some bride who wants bouquet blooms just like in her granny's garden back in the Midwest. The ants have to stay behind.

This is Bartzella, an intersectional peony, and friendly model Earl's beard.

The garden club ladies had sooooo many questions.

NDL mostly looked and oohed and aahed and wished she had a big old yard with full sun.

Partial photo credit: M. Blue, garden club guest (and her amazing iPhone 7)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Look Who's Talking

NDL was asked to do a gardening Q & A for Volume One Magazine.

It turned out quite nicely. You can read it here if you wish.

Thank you to the kind neighbor lady who recommended NDL for the article and to our young neighbor lady-in-training for making NDL look good in print.

It was a pleasure and a privilege and fun to do.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

To Dream the Possible Dream

Little girls can grow up to work for NASA. They cannot grow up to be mermaids.

C'mon Target! Get with it!

We copied another civilly disobedient shopper and moved a few NASA logo-ed items from the boys to the girls clothing section in hopes of being not provocative, but just a bit thought provoking. They are surely already put back where they came from and will not cause a stir, but one woman's similar action certainly did.

Perhaps Target and other retailers will now be getting a clue.

Go girls! 

And while we are at it, how about some changes in the boys section too? 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sheeple Baaaand Together for Good

Our new, favorite UK sheep, Herdwick of the Lake District
are known for their smiling faces.

These lucky sheep even have their own sheep shop called Herdy.

You can read the Herdy story here.

It's possible we came home with a little bit of Herdy. Just a tiny purchase of something flat, unbreakable, transportable, and very cute.

And look where part of the proceeds go:

Did you see the part about the knitted bench where experienced knitters can sit to teach novice knitters?

This is one situation where following the herd is a good thing.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Nonna Was Here

Spotted in Tivoli, Italy.

Guerrilla grannies at work?

We would love to have seen them surrounding the tree on ladders of various heights, 
with crochet hooks flying. Probably under cover of night.

The nonno soundly snoozing in a completely upright position on the park bench below did not move a muscle as we carefully maneuvered around the tree to edit him out of these shots.

He must have been exhausted just thinking about how hard someone worked to create this lovely bit of street art.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spring Beauty

Oh My!


Thank you soooo much to the mystery May Day gift giver. 

Did you know May Day is one of NDL's very favorite days of the year?

We started the day with snow in Cable, WI and came home to this beautiful burst of spring.

And that is why it is a wonderfully, whimsical (we are at the whim of Mother Nature) day to celebrate spring in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Smokey Sez

Remember. Only you can prevent wildfires.

He's got a hip new look and a cool website.

Yesterday fire danger was "very high" today it is raining and snowing up North.  
Tomorrow? Who knows? Keep an eye on DNR signs for moment to moment status.

Camping and campfire season is almost here. Let's be careful out there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Little Anne

Coming soon to West Columbia Street. 

Little Anne magnolia.

Buds are bulging. Keep your eyes open (while keeping them mostly on the road) for the flower show.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Space Invaders

We are so sorry to have to break this to you all, but there is a new creepy, crawly, wriggling, thrashing invasive species that you should know about.

It is an unpleasant message to share, but we just don't want anyone freaking out if they happen to encounter these crazy worms in the garden unexpectedly. Be careful so you don't inadvertently introduce jumping worms to your garden from purchased or shared plants and be especially watchful for hidden hitchhikers if you are tempted to take plants up north to the cabin.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

St. Croix Crossing

Last summer the garden club went on an aquatic adventure. A three hour tour, if you will. And we even got lunch! No coconut was on the menu. 

We boarded a paddleboat on the St. Croix River for an educational cruise around and under the construction of the to-be-completed in 2017 St. Croix Crossing that will replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Speakers from the DOT and DNR were on board to narrate what we were seeing. 

For starters we learned that the bridge is an extradosed design which is a hybrid design of a box girder and a stay cable bridge (just as we suspected, but it was good to have that confirmed).

This is not usually the kind of thing NDL gets excited about, but this is a truly amazing project with some very impressive stats and a cool end product. And it was a good excuse to be on a boat on the river on a beautiful day.

The biggest red crane you see here (which certainly has some kind of official name that we don't know) is one of only three this big in the U.S. and it is on loan (I suspect there is a little rental fee) for this project.

Each of these bridge sections that the crane is lifting in this photo weighs 180 tons and there are 988 of them. Total concrete in the bridge will be 563.8 million pounds.

For bit of perspective see the concrete mixer on the barge. The lineup of Porta-Johns up on the bridge deck was impressively large, but tiny compared to the bridge too.

The length of the visible stay cables totals 5.2 miles (about 400 miles of cable strand). 
Within the bridge is 1,969 miles of cable strands.

The length of the bridge is nearly one mile. The width about 100 feet.

Segments between piers is 600 feet. That is the length of two football fields.

Part of the St. Croix Crossing plan that was of interest to the garden club and other outdoor and nature enthusiasts is the planned 4.7 mile Loop Trail.

The trail will connect to existing trails in MN and WI and uses both the new St. Croix Crossing and the existing Stillwater Lift Bridge, which will be converted to a bicycle/pedestrian bridge in 2018-19.

The new bridge will have a designated bicycle/pedestrian lane.

Of particular interest to the Garden Club cruisers were the well thought out plans for sustainable plantings in the many, some very large, areas around the long lead up to the bridge on either side of the river. These spaces include paths, parking lots, roundabouts, restrooms, informational kiosks, and viewing areas. It seems the crossing will be both a bridge to a destination and a destination itself.

If you want to know more check out the MN DOT website for Loop Trail and Design and Construction details