Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Maple Hill Hop 131

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Grab the button above to link back to Maple Hill 101.*

We're taking a look today at how our garden has changed.
Since moving to Central Florida in 2005,
the gardening bug has really hit.
Here is how our yard transformed through the years.  


One of the first changes we made 
was to incorporate rain barrels into our backyard landscape.
Since this picture was taken, 
we've added another barrel here,
as well as moving our front yard barrel 
to the other side of this screened porch in the backyard.
Our HOA does not permit them in the front of the house.
These wonderful vessels keep much of the garden sustained,
especially between all-too-infrequent rainstorms.


Plants were added a little at a time.
Classes through the local Extension Center were attended regularly.
Learning about natives and Florida-friendly plants
has been so helpful.
Our garden is drought-tolerant, needs no fertilizing,
and requires no covering up when winter freezes hit.

native grass


At one point, we added this pathway with stones I found on Craig's List.
The curves really grew on me.
It made it so much easier to push a cart or wheelbarrow
from the backyard to the front.


A few walkways were added through the back bed.
Looking at this picture, 
I can't believe how big the pine to the right
and the avocado tree to the left have grown!

This was originally our square-foot veggie bed.
Sitting right outside the screen porch,
it gave us good access from the kitchen.
It's been transformed many times
and we continue to maintain it now as a butterfly attractor.
We host several types of caterpillars and butterflies,
and are a certified monarch waystation
We have also begun to entice more birds into our yard
by providing plants that serve as food and shelter.


Here's how our garden looks today.
It's still a work in progress,
but it's filled out nicely.

The part I like best is that it's easy to enjoy
without a lot of care.
Most plants are cut back at least once a year,
more, if we are blessed with abundant rains.

 This is one of the areas being tweaked now.
More butterfly and bee-friendly plants are being added.
You can see that the plumbego next to the rain barrels
has done a good job of disguising them from neighbors.
It's a favorite hiding spot for birds, lizards, frogs
and the black snake that frequents our yard (totally harmless!).
This window allows us to study birds
that come to eat at the homemade feeder,
including sandhill cranes.
We get a close-up view of many bird species.

This shady area is next on the project list.
The majority of ferns have already been removed
and the pineapple plants will be redistributed.
We have a maple tree that I would love to transplant to this location,
as it would provide us ample privacy from neighbors.

It would go about here.
We don't have many mature trees
and I think it would be very happy with lots of room to grow.
I'm hoping to pick up some mammoth sunflower seeds soon,
and disperse them all through this bed.
It's just not summer without 'em!

This beautiful pine was given to us in a small pot
by neighbors who didn't want it in their yard.
Isn't it glorious?
It is so grand and rugged.
I'd be happy to have a yard full of them!

With each season, 
a new chance to learn and grow is available.
It's been a wonderful opportunity
for this nature-lover to get acquainted with her inner green thumb.
I still have miles to go in my learning,
but as long as the desire continues,
this gardener will keep workin' toward my personal Eden.

That's what's happening here.
What do you have goin' on?
HOP to it!



Friday, April 29, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Cake (gf,df,sf,ef)

Earth Day required something special.
We decided to make a "no-bake" chocolate cake
to honor our dear Mother Earth.
The bonus is that it's allergy-friendly!
Any excuse for something made with cocoa!

These are dates,
and they are the only sweetener used in this recipe.
Love that!
When C and I were shopping for the ingredients,
we said out loud,
"We're looking for dates" and laughed at how silly that sounded.
Good times...

Along with pecans, walnuts, cocoa and vanilla,
this cake comes together with ease.
I've grown to appreciate recipes with only a few ingredients.
This one fills the bill.

It was so rich and so full of chocolate flavor, but not too sweet.
I wasn't sure if the ganache would work using olive oil
(C is sensitive to coconut), so it was omitted.
I was also thinking it might make it too sweet.
It is a bit dry without the ganache, so I think I'd add a strawberry topping next time.
The other idea I had was to make the cake mixture
and roll it into balls to keep in the freezer.
Any time the chocolate cravings hit,
you could just pop one into your mouth.

I love that there is no processed sugar in this recipe,
and yet there's no mistaking that it's dessert!
I will have to look into baking more with dates, 
as we try to keep our sugar intake low.
I hope you'll give this one a go,
and add your own twist to it.

Taverna Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Tina L. Singleton

3 C shelled pecans
3 C shelled walnuts
32 medjool dates, pitted and cut into quarters
1 1/2 C cocoa powder
3 t vanilla

1 1/2 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 C maple syrup
2/3 C coconut oil, melted
1/4 plus pinch salt

Process pecans and walnuts in food processor until finely ground.
Add dates and process until mixture comes together.
(We did this in 2 batches because it wouldn't all fit in our bowl at once.)
Add cocoa and vanilla and process to combine.
Add 4 t water and process to combine.
Transfer mixutre to 8" springform pan
(we used a round Corningware baking dish)
and distribute evenly, pressing into pan.
Place all ingredients in blender, blend until smooth.
Frost top and sides of cake with ganache and chill 30 minutes before serving.

Gluten Free Fridays @vegetarianmamma.com Sharing glutenfree recipes for all

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Seed Bombs

Earth Day was a great excuse for me to try something new.
Seed Bombs!
The idea originally was to beautify abandoned lots in the urban landscape
by anonymously tossing these into vacant lots.
The rain helps them to randomly bloom.
Of course, they can be used elsewhere,
but the idea is the same.
Fashion the bombs and let Mother Nature work Her magic.
It sounded too fun to pass up,
so we made ourselves some.

Here's all you need:
potting soil

Our soil mix already contained compost,
so we didn't need to add it separately.
It was also fairly moist, so we didn't need to add water.

The air-dry clay can be found almost anywhere.
It's a bit soft to the touch right out of the container.

Golfball-sized spheres were formed and placed aside.
It was easy to do a dozen at a time.
The container of clay we bought
made a little over 50 seed bombs.

An indentation was made in the center of the clay.

Time for the seeds!
You can use any type of seed,
although easily-germinating seeds or wildflowers do best.
We used 4 types:  
beach sunflower, cosmos, marigold and zinnia.

A few seeds were added to the soil mixture.

The open end was closed.

The bombs were left outside to dry during the day.
It took about 2 days for them to become fully dried out.

I ended up marking the bombs 
with the first letter of the seed type,
in case they got separated from their containers.
This was a fun project 
and I can't wait to see them come up!
Magic, I tell ya!

If you don't want to make your own seed bombs,
you can order some here.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Maple Hill Hop 130

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods,
no matter the season.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)
*Grab the button above to link back to Maple Hill 101.*

This week we have a bits-n-pieces post.
 A bit o' this, and a bit o' that.

But first, let me convey to you the most exciting thing that happened on Sunday morning!
Before heading over to Faye & Lynn's for Farm School,
I was checking on a couple of plants that had been recently transplanted in the back bed.
I saw a blur out of the corner of my eye.
Right there in front of me,
hovering in mid-air mind you,
was a hummingbird!
Not 2 feet away from me!
It stopped for about 3 seconds there
and then soared off for parts unknown.
My heart was racing and I was absolutely gobsmacked!
You see, I have never witnessed one in person,
and it was totally humbling and I truly felt that
It Was a God Thing.
I am trying to be more congizant of these events.
Miracles are always around us.   
What a rush!       

In the last week or so,
I've watched this mystery plant change before my eyes.
(It's only a mystery because I forgot what I bought.
Does that happen to anyone else?)
It's always had interesting leaf structure,
but the branches carry thorns.
I found that out the hard way!

The buds started forming for the first time since I've had it.

It has bloomed into beautiful cylindrical red blossoms.
I'm thinking it must be a hummingbird attractor.
Maybe that's what our visitor was after.
I'll have to research and see if I can identify this beauty.
Any ideas out there?

Our sweet potatoes have been cured
and some will be readily consumed this week.

Over at Faye & Lynn's, this cutie greeted us as we began our work
transplanting some odds and ends.
Funny how it doesn't go for the lettuce that's a few feet away.

In this picture, can you see the nest to the left of the white board?
It's the home of two Carolina wrens and their four hatchlings.
Faye & Lynn have been monitoring them for the past 2 weeks.
It seems that they return every year and construct a nest
right inside their garage door.
The constant cheeping is priceless.

Back at our place, these two have been frequenting our garden.
They have made themselves at home
and we are fortunate to be able to study them daily.

One day, the female (we think) came by herself
and we were concerned that something had happened to her mate.
She sat in the shade and looked kind of lost or out of sorts.
Thankfully, the next day, her better half was with her again.
What a blessing to be witness to such graceful creatures.

We still have quite a bit of caterpillar action going on.
So far, our milkweed has stood up,
and we relish the monarchs floating through the garden with ease.

That's some of what's happening around our Central Florida garden.
What's going on outside where you are?
HOP on!