Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Going Bananas Over Fall

When Todd and I went for our daily walk this morning, it was 65 degrees. At last, fall is getting closer. Ironically, it's now, at the end of the season, that I'm finally starting to get a few tomatoes on my vines!

The bees are busy in the flowers, getting as much pollen and nectar as they can.

They're so busy in their work that they don't notice me watching, and I can get quite close. This bee uses his front legs to grasp the flower...

...and later, uses those same legs to clean his face after a successful meal!

The grasshopper I found last week has been reduced to a frail, dried-out husk. This is the work of a mantis, make no mistake!

Other creatures are stirring. This green lacewing (Chrysopidae), with distinctive ruby eyes, is looking for aphids near my marigolds.

Also nearby is this mosquito, resting after a night of bloodsucking. She's the reason I haven't been outside very much lately. I develop quarter-sized welts when bitten by a mosquito, and they itch for over a week. Sometimes they scar. I had to laugh...I was going through some old pictures this weekend and found a photo taken this week last year of my red-speckled ankles. It seems that I always look like a plague victim this time of year.

This Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea) is resting, too. They feed primarily on Ailanthus altissima, the tree made famous in Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Conveniently for the webworm, this tree has spread vigorously and is an easy-to-find source of food and shelter for it.

A shield bug is having a nibble in this ornamental wheat plant. I've heard that these have gotten quite bad in the east and are spreading westward rapidly, but I haven't seen too many around.

Another sign of fall...so many things are going to seed! This cosmos plant is still beautiful as it awaits its final transformation to brown, spiky seeds.

My rose of sharon bush is covered with brown seed pods.

My goldfinches and other little seed-eating birds have stripped many of the seeds from my dessicated zinnia plants.

The delicate Queen Anne's Lace, too, is ready to drop its seeds at the slightest puff of wind. I love their spindly little seeds!

Not everything is dying, though. Some plants are too tenacious to die, like this plant, which gets a stranglehold on everything near it as it grows.

Then, it develops a long, conical shape...

...before opening up every morning in a lovely display of color. It is, of course, the morning glory, which I planted once, eight years ago, and have been pulling up yearly ever since. Lesson learned!

My blackberry lilies are in bloom. I like to call them my 'tiger lilies', even though they aren't really tiger lilies, because of their spotted petals.

I love the way they roll up at night !

My lettuce plants have sent up long, spiky shoots covered in these yellow flowers.

My autumn sedum isn't showing any pink yet, but it's definitely coming.

Even my slow-as-turtles tomato plants are still sending up blossoms! I'd say that we still have a few weeks of summer left, after all.

I've been working on THREE top-secret knitting projects recently. Look at all the stitch markers in this one!

My desire to cook normal meals and experiment with interesting desserts ebbs and flows as my attention focuses on other areas and interests in my life. However, every once in a while, no matter what I'm working on, I get a hankering for a good muffin. Usually I make my favorite lemon blueberry crumb-topped muffins, but this one is a close second, and only because I'm not a huge banana fan. These muffins are sweet, tender, and definitely the best I've ever tasted.

The secret is the cinnamon sugar crumb topping that forms a light, crispy crust over the top of the muffin.

Crumb-Topped Banana Muffins
From food.com
Makes 12 big muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed - the riper the better!
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cold

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the first four ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together the bananas, sugar, egg, and butter. Combine with dry mixture and stir until just moistened. Add to greased muffin tins. In a separate bowl, combine first 3 topping ingredients, and then cut in butter and mix until crumbly. Top muffins with mixture and bake for 15 - 18 minutes.

They're so tender and flavorful. I hope you give them a try.

Have a great week!


  1. Your pictures of your garden are always amazing! I like the picture of the grasshopper, even though it is pretty morbid... And those muffins! I'll certainly be trying that recipe out at some point...

    Sian x

  2. Thanks! Oh, I'm interested in everything about grasshoppers/insects...even the shells they leave behind! :) Hope you like the recipe!

  3. Wow! The pictures of the bees are so detailed and lovely. Keep up the pollinating Bees!

  4. Yum. I am a banana fan so maybe I'll try this one :) thanks for sharing.