Sunday, April 23, 2017

Blog Request and At the Ditch!

Spring has arrived at the Ditch!  And Harry the Heron is back! I've been walking around in the chartreuse mist of early spring, loving all the sights and sounds of nature coming back to life!

But before our walk, a quick request. I love your comments and try to reply personally whenever I can and don't reply on the blog. If you have a recipe request (or another question) and are a no-reply blogger, I can't reply, except on your blog. And if you are no-reply and do not have a blog link in your comment, I can't reply at all!

So, Diane in Wisconsin, I'd love to share the salad info but I don't know how to reach you! And others who have asked a question, sorry if I reply or converse in your comments but it's all I can do! Just so y'all know!

Now, back to the Ditch. Old timers to Marmelade Gypsy know the Ditch is a walking area down about eight blocks from my house. It has a nice paved path and it seems as though there are always people there walking and enjoying the wildlife. Which, of course, I name!

Harry the Heron is a regular. Ditch walkers say he's been back for a bit but I hadn't had a sighting till this past week. And then I was rewarded!

Now only was Harry there but a second heron, Harriet, was also present! It's not often I can verify that it isn't the same bird in a different spot, but this time I was sure (although I couldn't get them in the same picture!)


Don't ask how I know Harry is a he and Harriet is a she. I don't. But you have to name them something -- even though I'm not sure I could tell them apart!

They aren't the only mates on the pond. Gus and Gabrielle Goose have settled in too. (In the photo below, Gaby is at the right, Gus, in the water, on the left.)


Here's a better look at Gus, that little dot that looks more like a lily pad than a goose!


Gaby's been busy nesting and she has quite the stack build up in the water but off the edge of the pond. And she doesn't seem to leave that nest for anything!

However, yesterday I was able to catch her stretching and then feathering her nest. She must get stiff sitting all day!

And look at that! There are two very big eggs!

And she did the most interesting thing -- probably standard operating procedure for geese but new to me. She dug a little hole in her nest and tucked the larger of the eggs in it, and partially tucked the other.

Probably just getting comfy or keeping it warm. Fascinating!

It's pretty down there, too. And will be even more so in a couple of weeks. I call it the Chartreuse Cloud or Chartreuse Mist, when all the green leaves are beginning to sprout.

A few flowering trees. A duck or two or ten. Loads of birds. A little woodland in the city!

Gus and Gaby aren't the only geese. This one was keeping an eye on a critter who was checking out the banks of the pond.

And watching! Eventually this badger or muskrat went back to the water! No harm done. Meanwhile, another turn around the Ditch and here's Harry again!


Of course, sometimes the best thing about going anyplace is heading home. Past the random Ditch tulip (no doubt generously planted by a ditch walker)...


...the dazzling forsythia, nearly having run its course of beauty...


...and the flowering trees.


Home Sweet Home to my Sweet Girl, waiting!

(More likely, waiting for dinner!) I hope you're enjoying the beauty of spring (or fall, if you are Down Under!) and lapping it up no matter where you are!

Sharing today at Monday Social!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Soap, Vinegar, Oil and Sachets at Southern Exposure

If there is any one thing I look forward to more than others when spring begins to smile, it's that first trip to Southern Exposure for a garden walk, fabulous dinner and a creative experience.

For those new to the Gypsy, Southern Exposure is an herb farm and garden near Battle Creek, Michigan. It includes several buildings in which dinners are served to guests and decorating crafts are taught. Numerous weddings are held here as well.

In addition are loads of gardens that travel with the seasons from daffodils in the spring to pumpkins in the fall.

It is my happy place.

And the first visit of the season is always filled with anticipation. Will we hit early flowers at peak?

Will the weather be nice? Anything new in the chicken coop?

My friend Kate and I arrived on a somewhat dreary late afternoon, but the earlier rain had dried and we enjoyed a wonderful walk in the gardens before coming in for dinner.

There is thought put into everything they do, whether it is a series of stone towers that appear...

... a drawer filled with ivy...

 ... or a simple, yet elegant table setting.

One of my favorite spots is the greenhouse. It's very small and yet they create the most beautiful vignettes.

Here's a closer look.

Now, isn't that the prettiest thing? Oh, so many more lovelies here!

We couldn't resist a gazebo selfie, either!

And the setting was so very pastoral. Literally!

After we walk the gardens (we always arrive in time to walk the garden!)   we enjoyed a beautiful dinner in "The Milking Parlour."

Our Easter springtime feast included ham, new potatoes, a wonderful salad and home baked bread, asparagus and strawberry rhubarb pie by Chef Elsie. (The pie went home to Rick. Alas...)

After dinner the group of about 60 divided into four and we rotated to various sites. Our group first went to the Main House where Scott invited us into his kitchen and dining room to make herbed vinegar.

Everything was perfectly organized for us. We stuffed our wine bottles with spring onions, a dianthus bloom, a sweet red pepper slice (skewered) and some dill.

Then we went to the kitchen and filled the bottles, being sure our herbs were below the vinegar line. (Otherwise, they may mold quickly.)

The finished product, with a bit of cloth and raffia to finish it off!

Then it was off to the Corn Crib where Micah taught us how to make soap! Our supplies were set out for us on parchment so we could easily wrap them to take home.

We kneaded the mozzerella-like grated goats milk soap block and added hefty doses of oatmeal, lavender and a bit of lavender oil and molded them into bars.

The soap could be used immediately but he advised us curing them in a cool, dry place for two weeks to harden and they'll last longer. No room has ever smelled as good as the Corn Crib!

Or, for that matter, looked so charming with sweet holiday vignettes everywhere you looked!

It was back to the greenhouse, where Angie was in charge of talking about sachets.

Ours used lemon verbena and dried roses (she said San Francisco Herb Company was her supplier), stuffed into organza bags.

That room smelled pretty amazing, too!

Then it was off to Chef Elsie's Kitchen where Josh guided us through infused vinegars.

All the supplies were waiting for us! We were each given a pretty bottle to which we added a clove or two of garlic and a hefty sprig of rosemary.

Then again, we filled the bottle to above the herb line.

Our instructions included letting the vinegar and oil cure for about two weeks, tipping the bottles now and then, to fully develop the flavors.

I left behind beautiful areas of just blooming flowers...

...loads of dried rose petals...

...and memories of sweet, bright pansies.

But I brought home with me many treats!

(And a plan to return in a few weeks for another project and a garden update! Stay tuned!)

Join me in checking out fun links at Share Your Cup, Share Your Style, Sweet and Simple Saturdays, Monday Social and Pink Saturday!

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