Champagne Chicken and Reisling

imageI really like this wine, Schlink Haus Reisling and Spätlese, both are sweet wines from Germany. They are quite reasonable at $10 per bottle. These are very enjoyable on a hot summer’s day. Oh, I can’t wait!

The chicken was more of an experiment, however  a nice surprise!

We soaked our chicken breasts in cola for a day to tenderize them.

4 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. champagne or dry white wine
1/4 c. shallots
1/4 c. mushrooms
1/2 c. whipping cream

 

 

Heat a large pan and brown the shallots and mushrooms, put in dish. Then brown the chicken breasts. Remove and cover. Pour champagne into pan and deglaze. Put chicken, shallots and shrooms back into pan. Cook until chicken is cooked or 165F. Remove chicken and add cream. Stir and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. I cooked rice to go with this and poured the sauce over both.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

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Trumpet vine growing on a cherry tree.

A fellow blogger, Andrew – All Downhill From Here, posed a question about vines growing on trees.

English ivy and other evergreen vines can cause problems in trees, along with fast growing deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) vines like Kudzu. However, not all vines do harm to trees.

Problem Vines:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata )
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Chinese/Japanese wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)

These are just a few of the bad vines to allow to grow on trees. Evergreen and fast growing vines should be avoided or removed if possible. All vines can cause structural problems – The added weight can break branches along with the vine catching more wind, snow or ice than the tree is used to receiving, possibly causing it to topple. Some vines that start as a groundcover (such as ivy), form a dense mat covering the tree’s buttress or root flare. The vine often causes leaves and debris to pile up against the root collar and traps moisture against the trunk and root flare. This can cause many fungal and bacterial type diseases, as well as potential structural decay at the base of the tree. Deciduous vines aren’t necessarily any better than their evergreen counterparts. They, too have the capability of shading out the tree’s leaves, adding weight and even girdling (strangling) the tree’s limbs and trunk. Some common vines in this category; Chinese/Japanese wisteria, trumpet vine and pipevine. Trumpet vine and pipevine are native to the Midwest and usually confine their growth to trees at the edge of woods or those that are standing alone. Therefore, they don’t represent a threat to the forest overall, but they can take their toll on individual trees. It comes to personal preference if you want to go down this road.

Leave Them Be Vines:

Vines that are smaller and grow more slowly that can usually be allowed to grow on trees.

  • Clematis species
  • Virgin’s bower (native clematis – Clematis virginiana)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincifolia)
  • Carolina moonseed (Cocculus carolinus)
  • Maypop / Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Although Virginia creeper and crossvine can grow quickly and get large, I’ve never seen any tree so overgrown with them as to pose a problem even though crossvine can be evergreen. The clematis vines (including the native), Carolina moonseed and maypop climb by twining, however do not strangle the tree. Crossvine, Virginia creeper and poison ivy climb by using their aerial roots. People often confuse Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Just remember this little ditty:

“Leaves of three, leave it be. Leaves of five, leave it alive (or let it thrive).”

And before anyone jumps down my throat about the poison ivy, I would like to remind everyone that the Audubon Society considers poison ivy to be one of the top food sources for song birds, with about 63 species feeding on the berries. It’s so important, that nature has essential plant foods for birds. However, I digress. … Should you decide to let a smaller, slower-growing vine grow up a living tree, be prepared to manage the vine by cutting it back to keep it confined to the trunk and not allow it to grow on the limbs which could add weight and change the tree’s center of gravity as well as shade the tree’s leaves. Make sure that fallen leaves and other plant debris don’t collect at the bottom of the vine against the host tree or diseases may follow. Should a tree that is hosting a vine show signs of stress, the vine will have to go for the health of the tree. One last thought. Dead trees that are left standing (snags) can be used for vines. Just remember that this arrangement will be temporary, as the snag will eventually decay to the point of falling. Just make sure it won’t hit anything when it comes down.

Border Collie Sundial

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10:00 AM

Breck loves the sun. I mean really loves the sun!! In the winter, my southern window projects a good 8 feet of sunlight on the living room floor. I get very little in the summer. Last Saturday, when I could actually witness the sun pouring in, I watched Breck move as the sun traveled across the floor.

I think we all should enjoy the sun a bit more. Life is so overwhelming at times and it really shouldn’t be. I often wonder what it would like to be a wild animal. There’s only four things that need to be done. Eat, Drink, Sleep and Sex. I think I left the best for last!

Who thought that having material things were a good thing? Now it is to the point where things like a cell phone, computer and cable T.V. are considered things you can’t live without and are even supplied to people on public aid. I tried to give my working projection T.V. away and charities do not want it as it is old technology!

So, here’s to taking some time to relax and lay in the sun. Go be a dog!

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12:00 PM

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2:00 PM

 

©  Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Brown Creeper – Certhia americana

I’ve said this before, I’m no photographer. This tree is only about 10 feet from me, however this is way too far away for my camerone* to focus on such a little guy. I’m no photo editor either. I do have a button I can press that attempts to fix all the ills of my photo however, you can’t spin hay into gold…

Why do I sill post these bad photos? Because I can? ;-) I do feel they still give a bit of perspective to the reader. Now enjoy!

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The Brown Creeper builds a hammock type nest that anchors to a loosened flap of bark on a dead or dying tree. It wasn’t until 1879 that naturalists discovered this unique nesting strategy.

The Brown Creeper spends most of its time circling up tree trunks in search of insects. It holds its short legs on either side of its body, with the long, curved claws hooking into the bark and braces itself with its long, rigid tail. Both feet jump at the same time which makes the bird’s head dip after each hop. Because of this specialized anatomy, the Brown Creeper rarely climbs downward.

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These guys are pretty quick and blend in well with the tree bark.
*Camera phone

©  Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Pot Roast and Rosy Fruit Wine

Pot roast is a winter comfort food of mine. I’ve grown-up making it this way.
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This wine has a nice, light fruit flavor, like adult Kool-ade. I’m not sure where I picked this wine up, it’s not local and I generally don’t go to liqueur stores. I like going to the winery and tasting the wine. I’ve picked-up way too many cooking wines, i.e. wines that I can’t drink, however are fine for cooking.

  • 1 – 3 pound Chuck Roast
  • Flour or potato starch for searing / thickening the gravy.
  • 2-3 tbsn. of Soy Sauce
  • 1 cup of beef broth
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • Potatoes, carrots or any other stew type veggie you have around.

In either a large pot or a pressure cooker (my preferred method) saute the onion, then remove. Flour the meat and brown the sides. I sprinkle a bit of soy sauce on now, return the onions, cup of beef broth, add veggies then enough water to cover. Cook until tender. Add soy sauce to taste & thicken gravy to your liking. 15 minutes per pound in a pressure cooker, nice. They’re not just for bombs anymore. Too soon?

© – Ilex Farrell

Black-capped Chickadee – Poecile atricapillus

As a non-migratory bird, Black-capped Chickadees hide seeds all year, storing up supplies for the cold winters. They have fantastic memories also, unlike Mr. Squirrel, who can’t remember where his nuts are….
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Who was that masked bird?!?!

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Where’s the bird?!?! This post was very frustrating, as most of my chickadee photos looked like this. They are incredibly fast birds. I had to set my camerone to sport!

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Chickadees are one of the easiest birds to attract to feeders, for suet, sunflower, and peanuts.

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It is nearly impossible to tell the male and female apart, physically. However, there are two ways to figure it out if you’re observant. Only male chickadees sing the ‘fee-bee-bee’ warning song. So, if you can actually see the bird that is singing this particular song, that is the male. The other way is to observe the birds during the mating and brooding season, which lasts only about 3 weeks.

If you’re able to get a good view of a chickadee’s underside, you may see the cloacal protuberance (a ‘swelling’ of tissue in the who-ha area) and based on the degree of enlargement, be able to identify it as a male. Females can be identified during this time because of the brood patch (a bare spot on her belly) that helps transfer heat to the eggs. Any other time of the year, you’ll have to settle on calling them he/shes !

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Sometimes it’s hard to get work done, as these guys are so much fun to watch! =-O

© – Ilex Farrell

When Good Dogs Go Bad – The Conclusion

wpid-20150118_100856.jpgAbout a month ago, my boy Breck got chewed on by a neighbors pit-bull, Tino. The bite was bad enough to have to go to the vet… The emergency vet, as these things never happen during normal business hours. wpid-20150118_101053.jpg

He’s healed-up really well and his hair is starting to grow back. He seems no worse for wear after the incident. The day after the attack, we had my brother come over with his Bull Mastiff, Raven. She is such a gentle giant. Breck didn’t seem fearful of her, so we figure he’s not too mentally traumatized by this.

So when we were at the emergency vet, they started to ask us questions about the attack. We didn’t think anything of it, we just thought it was all related to the health of our furchild. They asked if we knew the dog that bit him, I said, “Yes, it was the neighbors, we’re told he has all of his shots, tho.” They then asked for his name, followed by asking for his address. When I asked why, they told me it was for the bite report that will be going to the county. I only thought they reported dog on human bites, not dog on dog. The report taker let me know that the county would be calling me for the information Monday morning.

Monday morning was the first call from Animal Control. I missed it. Then on Tuesday, they called and the message stated that if I didn’t get back to them, they would send an officer over to talk to us! Gesh, some of us work for a living and can’t answer calls at work! Anywho. I called back and gave them the details.

In the end, this is what it will cost Tino’s Dad to save money from not neutering his dog or giving him any vaccinations:

  • Emergency Vet for Breck – $455.00
  • Two vet visits for Tino / Test for Rabies and Rabies shot – $425.00
  • One year county registration for a non-neutered dog – $150.00
  • Fine for not having a registration – $100.00

$1,130.00 that could have gone to many other things.

© – Ilex Farrell

Alocasia longiloba – Kris Plant

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The Kris Plant is a very unique houseplant. I also use other Elephant Ears (it’s other common name) in the summer annual pots.

The Kris Plant is a native of the Philippine Islands. The name comes from a type of dagger from the region, called a Kris or Keris, which has a wavy blade, just like the leaf.

Alocasia will adjust its size according to the amount of sun it receives. The more sun it receives the smaller it will be, the less sun it receives the larger it will become. Why? Because it doesn’t need large leaves if it receives lots of sun and could dry out, larger leaves in the shade help gather more sun. In some cultivars the difference can be staggering.

Alocasia require a soil of equal parts peat moss and loam with some sand and crushed charcoal added. Warm, humid, shady conditions are required throughout the growing season along with an abundance of water when growing. If the leaves fade in fall, less water is required, and when they have died back, the soil is moistened once in a while. So far, mine has not died back.

Care should be taken when planting rhizomes, the top of rhizomes should be planted above the soil line or the leaves could decay at the base. A slow release 12 month balanced fertilizer applied in the spring will provide nutrients throughout the growing season.

If you’re lucky enough to see it bloom, Alocasia produces spathae, much like a Jack-in-the-pulpit.

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The underside of the leaf, so kewl!!

 

© – Ilex Farrell