Sunday, August 19, 2012

An Unexpected Garden Find

As many of you know, one of the jobs I tackled on my arrival to Pennsylvania three years ago was creating a flower garden.

As August shimmers away to welcome September, it's time to reflect back on this year's progress.

Soon it will be time to get down and dirty and start the Fall clean up and let me tell you, this year there's lots to do! I'm definitely going to need the help of my garden Angels.

First there's the matter of the menagerie of living creatures to deal with. Although I adore the plethora of butterflies, bees and other insects that have made their home in the garden, I'm deadly afraid of most of them. (Not the bunny who lives under the shed though. I've been watching it grow all summer. It seems he or she has been watching me too:)

Since we don't have any kids rustling about around here, I don't have to worry too much about the plants in the garden that may be harmful to children. Yes, there are a few. The Milkweed for example, which is that Orange plant in the top collage, is very dangerous to both children and adults. Although the Monarch Butterfly calls it home for their little caterpillar eggs, the sap if ingested can make you really sick and if it gets on your hands, and you rub your eyes, it can do some real damage. Note to self, Wear Gloves! Those pods you see standing erect are the seed pods forming. When you open them, silk threads carrying seeds emerge and fly away if you let them. It's very cool to watch:)

It's the bees that really worry me though. I've never been stung by a bee, if and when the time comes, I do dread it. (I was once bitten by a brown recluse spider and I still have the scars both mentally and physically after that horrid experience) Oh I know, bees are of the utmost importance. In reality, they are the cause and yes, the effect for today's post.

However, I must admit...

Then there's the matter of the "Bionic" Tomato plant growing in the compost pile. I've been a very bad composter this year. This tomato plant, yes as far as I can tell it's only one plant, doesn't seem to agree. We haven't actually had any tomatoes from it yet but we're expecting quite a harvest! (we did pick one tomato but it was inedible)

Which leads us to this surprise find!

I'm of the mind set that pretty much agrees with the expression "Live and Let Live." So when I spied a member of the cucumber family planting roots in the flower garden, I didn't bother to pull it, much like I didn't pull the array of tomato plants growing here and about the yard either. Who am I too evict them when they have honored me with their presence. No, I didn't plant a single one. And yes, there are about 5 or 6 tomato plants growing throughout the yard. There are even a couple growing in the newly planted Rose bed! Let's get back to our little friend the cantaloupe however.

Yes, there's also a pretty good sized tomato plant living right next door to the Cantaloupe, which by the way, I'm sure is only one plant too!!!

I know there has been quite a Cantaloupe scare this year in the US. Just in case you haven't heard about it and you are a cantaloupe aficionado, I'm not by the way, leave here right this minute and read this!

We'll just wait here for you to come back while we look around the garden:)

Now where were we? Oh that's right, The Cantaloupe or as they call them here in central PA, the Loupe or Lope I don't know what possessed this cantaloupe plant to take up residence in the flower garden. I didn't plant it or any of the tomato plants for that matter. The only thing I can think of is since we had a pretty mild winter around these parts and since I am such a bad composter, that's composter not composer by the way, it just grew of its own accord. My other theory has to do with losing my beloved Lavender plant early in the Spring. There was a pretty big space there when I dug it out and, I did fill the hole with some dirt from the "compost pile." Now mind you, I did recognize both the tomato plants and the melon plant seedlings here and about but I just didn't figure they would devour the whole garden and then some!!! As they grew larger and larger and began to spread their "wings" pretty much blanketing anything around them, I just figured "ah what the heck" I'll just leave them be. Oh I know flower garden are suppose to look all "purty" and everything. I think it still does and anyway, when I do get around to doing the clean-up, the "unsightly" residents will have filled Marion's tummy, I don't eat Cantaloupe or most melons for that matter, and if we get a few tomatoes from any of the tomato plants, I'll be one happy "fruit" gardener!!!

So far I've counted five good sized cantaloupe tucked under the Phlox, Portulaca (one of my favorites), and the Penstemon. One vine has stretched clear to the center of the mound. If I remember correctly the garden is about 22 feet wide. At the rate it's going, pretty soon it will be able to climb up one of the Tree Lilies planted smack in the middle! (You can see one of them in that picture above with the fountain in it, to the left) Which reminds me, I still have tons of work to do to the fountain And I have to take the truck down to pick up a load of rocks to go around the base of the future rock garden:)

This antique seed catalog card is dated 1887. A treasure I found tucked in an antique Botany book titled Familiar Lectures on Botany by Almira Lincoln Phelps.

So how did Marion enjoy our garden Cantaloupe? She loved it!!! She said it was fragrant, juicy and dee...li...cious! Personally, I think I should have left it on the vine a bit longer. After doing some quick Cantaloupe growing research, I learned that a muskmelon will pretty much release itself from the vine when its just ripe for picking. I did a bit of tugging to get this one off. Hey, I was jubilant!!!

I can't very well leave you today without leaving at least one recipe. I do believe I have found just the "proper" choice for the occasion; Cantaloupe Loup or Loop as I prefer to see it:)

Cantalope Loup
6 medium Cantaloupe scooped out to 1 inch. Put in with 1/4 to 3/4 cups Quantro (Cointreau a must for the perfect Singapore Sling) or Grand Marnier, 1-1/2 cups orange juice, and 3/4 sugar. Let marinade in refrigerator. Float slices of Kiwi or (I can't make that one out) Fill shells just before serving.

It seems like we're going to have an abundance of cantaloupe, Marion and I. And since I don't really like it, I think I will try freezing it and see what happens. I had no idea it was so easy until I stumbled upon the simple steps at Hickory Holler Farm. Marion often requests those frozen melon balls they sell at the supermarket for smoothies and such. Now all I need to do is head out to the garage and they'll be sitting nice and pretty in my new freezer!!! (I knew I bought that thing for a reason besides gallons and gallons of ice cream which I've sworn off of:) For you adventurous souls out there, you may want to take a peek at Steff's Cantaloupe Cupcakes which I just happened to spy in my side bar the other day. I know many of you have posted some mighty fine cantaloupe or muskmelon recipes in the past. If you want to leave the link in the comments, be my guest. As you may have noticed, I am no longer offering my Hospitality Search Engine due to a bit of a discrepancy with its techo owner (we won't mention names) so I can't do a quick search on all of your blogs at the moment.

I'm still working on that deadline that I missed and had to reschedule so chances are I won't be posting until next Sunday or late in the week. I did want to mention that today is National Root Beer Float Day! It is also the day that Charles E. Hires was born. Hires is often credited with "inventing" the Root Beer Float. Question is, did he??? I left the post link I did about him down in the resource section just in case you're curious:) There's also a picture of Elsie too and a very old recipe for making your own Root Beer:)

This Week's Celebrations:

20th-National Lemonade Day Did you know the first lemonade "soft drink" debuted in Paris on August 20th, 1630!

August 22, 1966 Peppermint Patty made her debut in Peanuts. Why not eat a peach while you're reading that comic, it's also Eat a Peach Day!

23rd-National Sponge Cake Day

The first U.S. waffle iron was patented on August 24, 1869, by Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.

25th-National Banana Split Day. It's also Regis Philbin's and Rachel Ray's birthday if you're a fan.

For you cocktail "enthusiasts" it's also National Whiskey Sour Day, August 25th.

1. Almira Lincoln Phelps: Notable American Woman 1607-1950 (A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2 By Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer, @ google books)
2. Cantaloupe Recall Expanded to Include Whole Growing Season, Honeydew
3. Mr. Hires and the Black Cow