Friday, July 10, 2015

Infusions

I got the idea for infusions from my friend and fellow blogger, Vicki at Playin' Outside when she presented about her vinegar infusions at a garden tour a few years ago.  Vicki said that she uses 'seasoned rice vinegar' which has some sugar in it to cut the acidity of vinegar, but if you're going to use straight vinegar, you should use rice or white wine vinegar (avoid the regular white distilled or cider vinegars because they're just too astringent).  She also said that she doesn't have recipes (which is always the first thing people ask for); her recommendation was to walk around your garden and pluck some herbs, hold them together and sniff - if they smell good together, you're good to go, if they don't, figure out which one is the offending one and toss it out.  Of course, you generally can go off of known good combos - Italian herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, sage), Mexican herbs (oregano, peppers, garlic), French herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay leaf) - generally if you use the herbs together in a recipe, they're probably going to go well together for an infusion, so go find your favorite recipe and add the same ratio of herbs to vinegar and have a go at an infusion.

But why stop at vinegar?  Why stop at herbs?

But first, let's talk about the set up for infusions.  What you'll need:
  • large glass jar with lid (preferably plastic, but you can use a mason jar, you'll just have to protect the metal with a sheet of plastic wrap if you're using vinegar)
  • a plastic lid from a yogurt container cut to slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the jar, with some slits cut in it.
  • vinegar, oil, vodka, bourbon, or tequila - enough to cover your herbs and then some.
  • your herbs, fruit, vegetables, garlic, peppers, etc.  (when using fruit/vegetables, use the ripe ones - it should smell like what you want - if using citrus fruit, you only need the peel, pith removed.)

And now for the photos:

Put your infusers in the jar (in this case, a peeled head of garlic and 4 Thai peppers)
prepare your "hold everything below the surface" yogurt lid

Select your poison (in this case vinegar)

A top view of the infusers (garlic and dried thai peppers)

place the yogurt lid on top of the infusers

Add the liquid.  Let sit for a few weeks before using.  I tend to just let the items sit in the jar until I finally decide that I want to start a new infusion.

I tend to use vinegar infusions as a finisher for sautéed summer squash, roasted Brussels sprouts, and making homemade salad dressing (which consists of herbed vinegar and olive oil).  The one above also gets used on breakfast potatoes when they need a little extra kick.

When using other liquids, choose good quality ones - in the case of liquors, choose ones that you would actually drink - so don't cheap out on the vodka and get the one that burns like paint thinner just to save a few bucks.

I've just recently expanded into trying basil in olive oil:

Lemon peel in Deep Eddy vodka (taken a few days after I started):

And peaches in Deep Eddy vodka (taken a few days after I started):

In the case of vodka infusions, I've had coworkers who have done fennel, corn (surprisingly good), cucumber, raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry.  In all cases, it works best if, after a few days, you taste test the infusion to see if it's got the flavor you were aiming for.  In any case, you probably don't want to leave the items in the vodka indefinitely.  Besides, how are you supposed to eat those delicious vodka-soaked fruit on ice cream if you leave them IN the vodka?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Ferguson and Williams Gardens

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).

The last garden I planned on visiting was the Ferguson Garden.  Ms. Ferguson actually lives down the street from Tina of My Gardener Says.  Tina's yard was supposed to be on the tour, but due to a family emergency she postponed until next year (so don't miss it!).  Ms. Ferguson has SO many plants in her yard - it's very cottage-y, and it's something that I actually really like.  My husband tends to claim that he likes the cottage garden look, but he really doesn't because it's too messy for his tastes.  In any case, I LOVED Ms. Ferguson's garden and I loved talking to her about it (especially with her wonderful British accent)

The agaves hold court

From a different angle

St. Francis?  Not the normal animals I'm used to seeing with St. Francis...

 Ms. Ferguson actually convinced me to head around the corner to the Williams garden (since I still had 10 minutes left in the tour time), it really doesn't take much to convince me to see another garden, though.  In any case, it was at the Williams garden that I met Lacey and Neil - two recent transplants to the Austin Area from Wisconsin.  Lacey is a teacher (speech if I remember correctly), and Neil does computer stuff.  They are one cool couple, and I hope to see them again at other garden tour-y type stuff.







Monday, July 6, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Willis and Hall Gardens

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).


The Willis garden was another (mostly) Art stop - but this one was actually specializing in art FOR the garden.  This is more like what I was expecting for the tour when I thought it was Art in the Garden.  The artists here were Belinda Willis (www.kissedbyfirepottery.com), Jeannette Hargreaves, and Heidi Lowell (Etsy Store)

One of Belinda's pieces of art.  She also has studio rentals and classes on pottery.

The headless fenceman

After the Willis garden, I headed to the Hall garden.  Here, artwork by Rachel Sellars (www.artworkbyrachelsellars.com) was displayed along the fence.  Can I just take a minute to say how much I like artwork shown like this - I don't know what it is, I just like it.



Bench Art

Pond

Balanced Rocks

A garden gnome - I particularly like the key address plate.

Cool rocks

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Herrick Garden

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).

Heather has an agave, named Agnes, who was gifted to her as a house warming present.  Agnes is an Agave Desmatiana.  Agnes is planted in the ground.  For those of you in the Austin area and who are into the spikey plants, you already know that Desmatianas aren't hardy down here.  Heather said that Agnes gets all tucked in whenever it's cold with Christmas lights and the whole shebang just to make sure she's happy through the winter.  I didn't take any photos of Agnes.  I don't really know why.

Heather was the only one I noticed on the tour who had before and after photos of the yard - it's always amazing to me to see the transformations these yards have gone through.

Dry Riverbed

Guara

Butterfly on coneflower (some type of skipper, I think)

Flowers (rudibekias?)

Front walk

Not a desmatiana.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Monnich Garden

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).

Ahhh yeah - back to the tour with an emphasis on the garden.  The Monnich Garden was lovely from the front yard.  It's amazing to me how you can just tell driving up to a house if the yard is going to be awesome or if it's only going to be so-so. But then, one of the other garden bloggers once commented that you can always find the house on the street where we're meeting up for our monthly get together just based on the yard alone.

Front yard

St. Francis

A bottle tree on the bank of agave in a sea of misflower

The artist at this garden was Stuart Wallace - his artwork tends to be more contemporary - I really liked the Captain Picard Face Palm piece and the one below.


Councilmember Gregorio Casar was chillaxing at the garden and I kept looking at him thinking, "Man, that guy really looks a lot like Casar.  I mean, it totally isn't him, but they could really be brothers.  I should tell him that he looks like Councilmember Casar; but then he'd think I'm really weird because who the hell knows what the City council members look like?"  In the long run I didn't talk to him only to find out from his twitter account later that is WAS him.  Sigh.  Totally should have gone out of my comfort zone on that one.

Bottles


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Fulk Garden, Ortega Garden, and Gus Garcia Community Garden

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).

The Fulk garden was a themed container garden - the themes included Mojito and Spaghetti sauce (shown below) there was also a Salsa container as well.  This is a super cute idea and I've told my sister (who just started her own container herb gardens) that she might want to try this next year.  She lives in Colorado, so a lot of her herbs will need to be replanted as opposed to down here where most are perennial.

The main draw of this garden, though, was the artwork of Janet Fulk and Charlotte Barbini.

Mojito Herb Garden Plant list

Spaghetti Sauce herb garden

Janet Fulk Artwork - I really loved the watercolor (I think) of a flapper.  I should have bought one of the prints she had of it, but I had already purchased the bike photo and I figured Shawn wouldn't be happy with another art purchase.

The Ortega Garden is in its infancy, and the main draw here was the photography of John Raymond and the garden artwork of Linda Messier.
Randy must be doing something right since he has a visiting anole.

Garden art.

On my 8th stop of the garden tour, I ended up walking around the YMCA (because apparently I am blind as to where the garden was), but it's okay because they recently finished landscaping the area and it was a very lovely short walk along the Walnut Creek Hike and Bike Trail.

The coolest thing about the Gus Garcia garden was that it included garden tables so the elderly folks didn't have to bend over to garden.  The tables were very sturdy, and they also had actual garden plots for those who wanted to get down on hands and knees to garden.  Unlike the community gardens in some other parts of town, this one had plots that were open and not currently being used.  They also have a huge rain barrel cistern which collects the rain from the YMCA roof - it is gravity fed underground and fills the cistern (like a giant manometer tube - or the newly constructed Waller Creek Tunnel if Waterloo park was the YMCA gutters and the cistern was the outlet)


Entrance sign

The awesome raised tables

The exit from the Senior garden

Raised beds - the tree line behind the fence is where Walnut Creek is located.  I've heard the Hike and Bike trail is awesome, but I wouldn't know because the day I was supposed to bike it, we had a rain storm.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

NxNA Garden Tour 2015: Slattery Garden

At the beginning of May, the NxNA Garden Tour took place and of the 24 gardens, I managed to visit 19 of them.  It was a busy day.

You can read my other NxNA Garden Tour entries (both this year and last year here).

The Slattery garden was the only one (I think) where the artists on hand lived at the residence, and the yard was just as artfully done as the artwork itself - in most cases the yards seemed very heavy on art, or heavy on gardening, but very few covered both equally - the Slattery house was one where they were equal.

Patrick and Joshua's artwork can be seen on his website here: PSArtworks

He also had featured some of his mother's artwork, which you can see here: Pattie C.S. Burke



The front walk

Snail on agave

Dead men tell no tales.

Relaxing in the yard

Artwork - this might actually be art by Karen McGarity - I don't know for sure since I can't find any of her artwork online (or maybe I'm not doing Googlefu right)

From Patrick's website, this piece is called "Black and Blue and Red All Under"