Tuesday, May 8, 2012

a fish out of water

I've been feverishly working in the yard this spring.  It's such a comforting and familiar place, but not without surprises.  The grackles that nest in our big pine tree are now used to me and come quite close.

I stumbled upon this mourning dove last week, nesting in pine needle mulch.  She was so still that I thought she might be injured, but she flew off when I reached out to touch her.

The usual squirrels are hanging around.  They've decimated my sunflower bed, one sunflower at a time, so we are currently not on speaking terms.

There's a young french bulldog who lives across the street.  Many times, when I go through our gate to turn on the hose, I can see his little black and white face pop up in the screen door.  He watches me carefully for as long as he's able to stand, and then his face disappears.  It's utterly charming.

Of course, Bosewichte insists on being let out every single day now, so he can sleep under a lilac bush instead of on our couch.  What a life!  :) 

Pardon the pun, but it hasn't been all roses in the garden.  I spent a day weeding, plowing, and prepping two long beds by our walkway, and then carefully sowing seeds in them.  That night, we received a torrential downpour.  My careful beds looked like this:

When you have puddles like this, your seeds are mixed up in them and will either be washed away or settled into clumps where the water drains.  I had to go back the next day and re-seed both beds.  Thankfully, the seedlings are coming up nicely now.

The beautiful ranuculus that I bought last week...

...are dying off one by one, too.  I don't know if it's been too hot, or they were doomed when I bought them, or I've been overwatering them, but I'm going to shear off their tops and hope they bounce back.

For the most part, though, I'm really pleased with how things are going in the garden!

This past week I was at a garden center, and of course I made a beeline to the clearance section.  There you will find many plants that seem beyond hope:  yellow leaves, completely limp and wilted flowers, desert-dry soil.  Have no fear!  Most of the time, these plants can be brought back to life with very little work.

I bought a few containers of pansies for .50 each.  Yellow leaves...

...wilted flowers.

I left them in their containers overnight, but gave them a good drenching.  I deadheaded a few of the spent flowers, too.  By the next morning, they'd already started to perk up.

I checked the plug bottoms and saw that they were hopelessly rootbound. 

When a plant looks like this, you have to break open the bottoms...

...so the roots will grow down, like they're supposed to.  I broke open their bottoms and lined the outside ring of a hanging basket with purple flowers.

The inside, with white.  I deadheaded even more and gave it a good watering.  In a week or so, this will be absolutely covered in blooms.  Cost?  $1!

I also bought a clematis vine.  I've tried them many times but always killed them, mainly because I was in such a hurry for nice flowers that I didn't read the instructions on what they needed.  I did this time, though.

Of course, dig a hole.

The crown of the clematis needs to be 2 inches beneath the soil line, so put your still-potted plant in the hole to see if you've reached that level.

Put some potting soil in the bottom of the hole and fill it in, sans pot.  Twine your clematis vines around a support to give it a good start.

They like full sun but "cool feet", so it's best to put shallow-rooted plants over its base, like hostas or groundcover.  Or, just mulch heavily.

Hope it blooms soon!

A friend of mine recently had a baby, and Martha Stewart conveniently had a spread of great kids' cakes that were supposed to be easy for home cooks to make.  Here's the cake I chose:

It sounds simple.  You bake two sheet cakes and spread your fish part-templates out over the top, and use a knife to saw off fins, eyes, etc.  The templates are available for free on Martha Stewart's website.  I was skeptical, but decided to give it a go.

I baked my cakes and laid out the templates...

It was surprisingly easy to saw out the parts and I was feeling like a decorating superstar when I had all the pieces cut out and the fish assembled, pre-icing.

The icing part is where I, well, felt like a fish out of water.  You'll notice that the edges of the fish body, eyes, and fins are cut cake...exposed crumb.  What happens when you try to ice exposed cake?  The icing sticks to your knife and tears away chunks of crumbs.  I thought about freezing the cake first, but it was so big.  There's no way it would fit in the freezer.

I finally managed to get the whole thing iced.

The edges looked chewed and the color was suspiciously bright, but there was nothing I could do.  By this point, I was committed to this fish.  I knew I had to "fin"ish it (okay, no more fish puns!).

By some miracle I had the correct icing tip to make the scales, but the color was off and the scales themselves were droopy and uneven.  I'll make the excuse that I'd never even seen this tip before that day.  Here's my fish:

Here's Martha's fish again:

Sob!  How does she do it?  How can we mere mortals compete?

Anyway, the cake was delicious (it was my no-fail white cake) and the recipient was happy.  All in a day's work!

I hope you try something new in the kitchen soon.   Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. It's a wild, wild world: doves, squirrels, fish and all sorts of living things :D okay maybe not the fish...