The September List – 2017

Fall weather has finally kicked in, after a four-day heatwave with temps in the high 80s. I loved it. What I usually do to get these lists started is look at the photos I’ve taken for the month. Basically this month I’ve taken photos of flowers, which I’ve already shared with you. Soooo….I’m fresh out of ideas. This should be interesting.

1)  I told you about my new camera, but let’s go into detail. It’s a Sony a6000 with an E 50mm/1.8 oss lens, whatever that means. I trusted my friend’s photographer friend’s recommendation and just went with it. At first, it was very frustrating, not knowing all of the hundreds of different options. And I still don’t know them, but I’ve figured out how to at least take a decent photo with some tweaking of shutter speeds and aperture and all of that.

2)  I also bought the Adobe Elements photo editing program that I’ve been playing around with. It’s definitely more intuitive than Photoshop, but is going to take some figuring out, but I am hopeful.

3)  My dahlia garden is in full bloom, having loved the burst of sunshine we got last week. The best light is early evening, which is when this photo was taken.

4)  One of my last great summer homemade meals was this fettucine dish with peas, spinach, parmesan cheese and cream. The only thing that would have made it better is more cream and bacon.

5)  So now I am in charge of my work’s Instagram account. So I feel like I’m constantly taking and editing photos, which is great but also not great, because it leaves me with less time to take the photos I want to take. Thankfully, the other staff and teachers take loads of photos, so I need to rely on them more for images and just edit them.

6)  Over the summer I made some tweaks to my office, since I was going to be spending a lot more time there due to my increased hours. I took out two of the three desks and replaced one with a standing table. I keep forgetting to take an “After” photo, but here’s the before.

I did a LOT of spraying and wiping and vacuuming, you’d think there was a homeless person was living behind that desk. I managed to get some of the dust out, but since it’s an old building, some of it just will not budge.

7)  I still have a few vegetables in my little raised bed in our backyard. The chard is still looking good and there’s a little bit of kale. And a few carrots are hanging around, but no one cares to pick them because we all know they are super small and somewhat bitter, although very carrot-y tasting.

8)  I planted some of the nasturtium seeds from Shirley’s visitation. One in my stone bunny planter and the others near my vegetables. I’ve never planted them before and they grew easily, even with my neglected care.

9)  I replanted the hydrangea Shirley gifted me and I was SO nervous that it wouldn’t take well to its new and shadier surroundings. But I remember her telling me that one of the ways to learn about plants is to just try it. And if they die, then you try again, so I knew it wouldn’t upset her if moving it turned out to be a mistake.

It dropped a lot of leaves in the first month and for a while I thought I was going go lose the plant, and then in the last month or so, it decided to live, and even blossom. It still looks sparse, and this photo was taken when it was really cold outside, so the leaves are tight and look shriveled, but I’m hoping next year it will come back strong.

10)  My girlfriend hosted her annual mom’s back to school night, complete with champagne, donuts, craft cocktails and other fancy treats. I loved summer so much, but there is a giddy feeling that comes over me when the kids go back to school. Not as giddy as in past years, because this year it also means me heading into work vs. staying in my pjs and working from home, but exciting nonetheless.

11)  Our youngest turned six this month. It was the first birthday where I didn’t make the cake or cupcakes. I didn’t feel in the least bit bad about buying a store-bought cake, but I did sort of like the bragging rights of always making my kids’ cakes. Ah well. Local restaurant Marais did a really nice job on the two cakes (couldn’t decide between coconut and chocolate, so of course had to get both). They were a pretty penny, but so much tastier than another bakery would have done.

12) I can’t believe I made it to number 12! Just finished my third Tana French book, Broken Harbor. It was sooooo good. The ending got a little drawn out, but since the rest of the book was so great, I’m only taking off a half star for that. If you love crime fiction, you must give her a try.

I will close by saying that being a working mom with three jobs (I’m not even kidding, I am still doing payroll for my husband, freelance writing on my day off and on the weekends, and working for the school) is completely nuts. Nevermind that we don’t have a cleaning lady like everyone else in town so add that to the list of thing to do on my “off” hours, which is so dumb b/c I’m never off the clock, really.

However, I remain insanely grateful, even guilty, for being able to do all these great things like buy cakes and drink champagne and work in an office with million-dollar views and complain about cleaning my five bathrooms in my beautiful house that is still standing. Have been thinking a lot about all the tragedy around the world, and it’s even making its way into my dreams. Sending good wishes to all of you this crisp fall day. Happy October!

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Dahlias and Then Some

The dahlias at Detroit Abloom and also my house (yippee!) are exploding with blooms.

I was concerned that the one sunny spot in my backyard wasn’t sunny enough for them, but most of the tubers I planted have survived and are going to produce flowers.

Some, however, got nibbled on by bunnies or aren’t getting enough sun and aren’t going to make it. I haven’t cut the plants down on these because you aren’t supposed to take the tubers out of the ground until late fall, early winter, and if I cut the plant down, I won’t know exactly where to dig, even with a marker.

However, this morning I noticed several evil beetles eating the leaves of my precious Cafe au Lait variety and my heart sank. I killed it of course, but I’m sure another one took its place soon afterwards. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s pretty eaten up. Still so lovely.

I’m obsessed with this variety, because of its pale pink, creamy color. In all their stages, they are stunning. And you never know what you’re going to get color-wise until the bud opens, which is always exciting.

The most perfect Cafe I got was this one (also the close-up first photo). No bugs, beautiful blush color and crazy huge.

Just this week I’ve had five Cafe buds open and I spent a zillion hours photographing them with my new camera. Speaking of new camera, some of these flower photos are slightly out of focus and no, this isn’t on purpose. I’m determined to shoot in manual mode (vs auto), so it’s going to take me a while to figure it all out.

I have at least two purple varieties, one in the front and one in the back. A bunch of the ones I planted were unknowns, as in most cases, when they were digging up tubers at the end of last season, weren’t sure what was what. This year they have a much better labeling system in place, but it IS kind of fun not knowing what you’re going to get.

I can’t remember the variety of the flower in the first photo (Lavender Ruffles?) but the second one is a Vassio Meggos.

I visited Detroit Abloom and the Hoop House (also Detroit Abloom, but a different property) last week with the intention of volunteering, but ended up mostly admiring and taking photos of the flowers.

Their dahlia garden is insane, as you can imagine.

These two are seed dahlias, the bottom photo called Black Beauty.

Aside from the Cafe au Lait, one of my favorites is the cosmos. I love the white ones, and am also a fan of the cupcake cosmos (last photo above).

Other flowers in bloom are Morning Glory,

Japanese anemone,

Zinnias, celosia and a bunch more. There are a few weeks left in our CSA bouquet program. I’m surely going to miss getting mine every week.

The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom is having our annual fundraiser next weekend on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm to 7pm, so if you are in the area, please come by! For details Click Here. And if you can’t come, you can still make a donation online.

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Flowers of Detroit Abloom – Part II

The busier I get, the more I want to get done, even if it has nothing to do with why I’m busy in the first place, if that makes any sense. Clearing my plate, clearing my mind, doing things that I’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten around to yet, like this post.

Detroit Abloom has had such an exciting season this year, its second year. I’ve only been able to volunteer about once a week, compared to 2-3 times a week last year, but I am grateful for the time I do get to spend at the garden.

Some of the new varieties growing this year are lisianthus (upper pic), pink and yellow and straw flowers (just above), whose petals literally feel like straw.

And pink and white calla lilies. Beautiful pops of color in a bed of deep green leaves.

I think we may have had sweet pea flowers last year, but certainly not in the quantities we had this year. This bouquet was made from the last harvest. I was sad to see them go.

The sunflowers are exploding this year.

The prettiest, fluffiest gladiolas in town.

The lavender plants are just stunning in full bloom. And their scent is magnificent.

Butterflies love the liatris.

And the zinnias are always happy and bright.

The most spectacular bloom I’ve seen so far this year has to be this chocolate sunflower. Pretty in a picture, but in person it was just wow.

If I’m at the farm on harvest day, I waste so much time taking photos. It’s hard not to.

And the result of harvest day, beautiful bouquets.

I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying the flowers around your city, town, neighborhood and your own backyard. If you’re curious about flower farming, there may be a farm nearby that you aren’t even aware of. Some online digging will help unearth these hidden gems, where you can volunteer your time, purchase local flowers (or produce) and get to know some wonderful people. Be well, friends!

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The Flowers of Detroit Abloom

If you’re new to the blog, I work with a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization called The Garden Detroit. Last year we had a beautiful garden on several vacant lots, and a seasonal CSA vegetable program. This year we have less manpower and our wooden arbor fell during a winter storm, which really set us back in terms of being able to grow vegetables for a bunch of people.

Harvesting Stock

Because our flower farm project, Detroit Abloom gained a lot of popularity in its first year, coupled with the fact that the lots that project is housed in are actually owned by our organization (no fear of the city taking the land away), we decided to concentrate on that project this season.

One of the CSA bouquets.

Detroit Abloom has CSA bouquet shares, special events, farmers markets and also sells their bouquets at The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. I believe we still have a couple slots left on our second CSA season, so go to www.detroitabloom.com for more information and to sign up if you live in the area!

Julia watering Larkspur and other flowers in the hoop house.

We held a fundraiser last winter and made just enough to install our new hoop house, which the plants are thriving  in.

Cut flowers for CSA bouquets

It’s been amazing to work more with flowers this year. I’m learning so much about cultivation and the different names and features of the flowers from Nancy and Julia, who run the program. It’s difficult to work without stopping to take photos. I have taken hundreds already this season and here are some of my favorites.

Purple stocks – doubles and singles

Doubles, with some singles hiding in back.

Doubles.

Before this year, I didn’t even realize Stock was the name of a flower. If you told me to guess what a Stock flower looked like, I would have zero idea. The gals planted doubles and singles in the same bed (the seeds came all mixed together, if I’m remembering correctly) and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the iris, but our varieties are unusual and stunning. Still not in my top ten, but I have much respect for these elegant flowers.

Sunflowers are just so….sunny and fun and happy.

While sweet peas are wispy and wild and delicate.

Nutmeg the cat roams the hoop house during the day, often taking a rest in the Larkspur.

Chantilly snaps are also lovely, and abundant at our Manistique property.

We’re only a few weeks into our first season and I’ve already seen so much beauty. Can’t wait to see what unfolds over the course of the summer into early fall!

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Lost and Found – Schoolhouse Chair

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A couple months ago while surveying Detroit Abloom (a nonprofit project where I volunteer in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood), I spotted a curious sight.

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Upon closer inspection, a schoolhouse chair had become woven into a tree trunk, becoming one with it. So many metaphors and juxtapositions I could go into but I am lazy, so you can come up with your own.

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I did think it was interesting that I’d been next to that tree so many times before, but never noticed the chair. Maybe because it was the beginning of winter and things were so bare that without all the greenery it was easier to spot. Nature is pretty crazy cool.

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Tomatoes!

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The Garden Detroit (the nonprofit where I volunteer) had a stellar tomato season. Most of Michigan, I imagine, had a great tomato season, as it was a hot, hot summer.

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Planting seedlings at the Newport garden.

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Young plants at The Garden.

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Mature plants (though not at full height).

We did get some wonky fruit due to the drought and over-watering (some done by us but also mother nature, the few times that it did pour), but overall, our plants were happy and lush.

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We grow only heirloom tomatoes at The Garden and we had thirty (? I can’t remember, but it sounds right) different varieties. Red, orange, yellow, striped. All so lovely.

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Tomatoes are fun to pick, as they are relatively easy to find and when ripe and the girls enjoyed helping me harvest them on a couple of occasions.

Once while they were with me, I spotted a humongous tomato, which I ate (no one else in the family likes raw tomatoes) over the course of several days. Best BLT ever.

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I have tons of tomato sauce and soup in the freezer. Of all my batches, only one tomato soup batch was thrown out, mainly due to my frustration. I probably could have saved it, but it would have taken some effort (too watery and flavor lacking).

I also made several jars of tomato compote, which is my favorite way to eat them. Slow roasted with garlic and swimming in olive oil.

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My own tomato plants (which were gifted to me by The Garden and planted as seedlings) didn’t do as well as those at the Garden, I’m guessing due to lack of sun.

Also, the squirrel population in our yard is ridiculous and most of the time, if I waited until the tomatoes were ripe, they would disappear. I found many a tomato in random parts of the backyard, half eaten (if you’re going to steal them, could you at least eat the whole thing!?).

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Using green tomatoes was a first for me. I have yet to try them fried, which I may do as I still have a handful of green tomatoes on the counter. I did make a green tomato sauce with bacon and onions and garlic, which turned out surprisingly good.

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Tomatillos are also something I have never cooked with before. Their husks look like lace when they are dried out – so beautiful. I asked around and went online and meshed two separate salsa verde / chicken enchilada recipes.

I roasted the tomatillos with onion, garlic and jalapenos and then blended. Baked with chicken, onions and cheese. They were divine. My husband and I both were wowed by the simplicity and goodness of this dish. So glad I have a jar in the freezer! Yum!

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We began taking the plants down last week. I went through and pulled off any salvageable tomato – the above photo is our very last harvest at our Newport location.

I am already excited to start planting for next year!

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