Scout 1

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Somehow, Scout has a marshmellow on his ear.

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The markings, the color, it should have been obvious…Scout is a Norwegian Elkhound.

The DNA results are in. Scout is MOSTLY a Norwegian Elkhound . His DNA also shows Scout is part Staffordshire Bull Terrior.

I was so sure Scout was mostly  German Shepherd. Nope. There is not a trace of German Shepherd in our boy. Despite Scout’s size and mean bark, Scout has to be the worst guard dog ever. We have to pull Scout off of guests the same way the officers on “Cops” pull their dogs off of felons. But, it is to protect people from muddy paws and kisses, not bites.

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It took me almost 40 years to master the technique, but I finally got it right.

According to my grandmother, a good sugar cream pie has two layers. The top should be a light custard. The second layer needs to be rich and even a little syrupy.The result is a totally decadent blend of flavor and texture.

When my grandparents owned the Wawasee Restaurant during the ’40s (which is before I was born), my grandmother’s “old-fashioned cream” pie was the signature dessert. She also served it at family gatherings; as did my mother. When I was a new bride, this was the first recipe I copied into the blank pages of my brand-new cookbook.

It was and always will be my favorite pie.

Although sugar cream pie is associated with the Amish, the recipe has been traced back to 1816, the year Indiana became a state and long before the Amish came to this area.  Virtually unheard of outside of  Indiana, Sugar Cream pie officially became Indiana’s State Pie on January 23, 2009.

I definitely believe Sugar Cream pie is more than worthy of the honor.  

But, I think there is an over-abundance of gloppy (where you can really taste the flour) custard pies being passed off as Hoosier Sugar Creams. Basically,they are custard pies–only with a LOT of flour substituted for the eggs. They don’t do the dessert justice.

If the recipe sounds a bit artery-clogging, my mother makes her pie with 2% milk instead of cream. It is still wonderful.

Enjoy!

REAL HOOSIER CREAM SUGAR PIE

¼ Cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 generous tablespoon butter

1 egg yolk

2 heaping tablespoons flour

1 pinch salt”

Milk or Cream (1-1 ½ cups…enough to fill pie shell) Preheat oven to 410 degrees. Mix brown and white sugar with flour. Sprinkle flour/sugar mixture over pie crust. Beat egg yolk with milk. Fill pie shell. Take a spoon and swirl it through the milk mixture a couple of times. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Bake at 410 degrees for 10 minutes.Then bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The filling should be bubbling. The center should still jiggle. Be careful not to overcook or the filling will not set.

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No, I’m not mad at my daughter. (Although I was “mentioned” in her Clutter Club Blog article.)

 Yes, she told the truth. I do rent a storage building for my books and other “treasures”.

But, in case anybody is wondering, my house doesn’t look like the crazy eBay mom‘s. I have proof.

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My living room.

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Dining room at Christmas.

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Another view of the dining room.

To give credit where credit is due, last summer my daughter did talk me into changing the color of my walls. Here is a before picture of my dining room.

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My dining room, Christmas 2007.

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Scout at 11 weeks.

 We did the DNA cheek swab.

 We’re anxiously awaiting the results.

Since adopting the abandoned puppy, we’ve been wondering what he is. We are pretty sure one of Scout’s parents is a german shepherd. But, what about the other parent?

At first we thought Scout was all german shepherd despite his droopy ears. Every german shepherd puppy has droopy ears for 8 weeks. But, by 4 to 7 months the ears should be erect. Scout’s ears never quite came up.

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Ears coming up? Scout at 4 months.

Not that Scout didn’t tease. When Scout was approximately 12-weeks-old one ear starting going up. Then the other. They got 3/4 of the way. Then at five months the ears headed south.

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Scout, 70 lbs. and 7-months

Scout is now a 7-month-old. And he has changed even more. He weighs 70-lbs. His tail curls over his back like a pug. He seems to be getting jowels.

Is he part mastiff? Pit bull? Bulldog? Pug?

 It takes 6 to 8 weeks for test results. We are on pins and needles. How can Maury handle the suspense 5 days a week?

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Scout’s doggy DNA kit

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“In the beginning, our plant exchange was really small,” says Elkhart County Park Department Chief Naturalist, Jerry Good. “But, it’s been growing. This will be our fifth year.”

Yesterday, DH and I traded plants with more than 60 friends and neighbors. The sun was out. We met new people. We took home a Rose of Sharon, a tea plant and yellow irises. I petted a baby raccoon.

It was a perfect day.

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One man’s excess might be another man’s garden centerpiece.

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Queen patiently waits while her family trades plants and tours the gardens.

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Steve Ganglo, DeFries Garden Park Caretaker, with orphan, Coonie.

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Who could resist that face? Coonie is being raised on half ‘n half and baby formula.

THE CALENDAR GARDEN

Designed by Jon Curtell, DeFries Calendar Garden has a section for each season. It is further divided by months. Every month features  grasses, bushes, plants and flowers at their peak. Native Indiana plants are on the outside of the garden. Horicultural displays are toward the inside.

 
Pathways representing four lunar equinoxes, form a compass leading to a pond in the middle of the Calendar Garden.

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The pond with it’s water lilies is the garden focal point. There are goldfish and bluegill, too. The bluegill were added because the park department wanted native Indiana fish. Nobody considered size. As a result, the number of goldfish is dropping.

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A patch of green amidst pink lily pads.

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Every month has a lunar marker featuring a distinct moon phase.

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One of the seasonal sections.

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May is in full bloom.

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The back entrance to the house Beth DeFries built and donated to the Elkhart County Park Department. Steve Ganglo, park caretaker and his wife Linda live here now.

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Benefactor Beth DeFries, an amateur botanist interested in preserving Northern Indiana’s native plants, donated her land and house to Elkhart County’s Park Department.

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This was from my children. It is beautiful and I love it!

Sending all moms a big bouquet of wishes for a happy day!

FINALLY, it’s time to plant. I have spring fever. I want to dig in the dirt. And fill baskets with color and fragrance. But, I need to do research. I’ve used the same arrangements too long.

Baskets and beds are serious business.

In my neck of the woods, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. Dresses don’t come off of racks, let alone from a designer. But, that doesn’t mean women here lead lives that are stark and without creative expression. 

Take a drive down Indiana country roads. You’ll see.

You can’t miss the pure joy expressed by chubby hand-raised calves and lambs romping together in fields. Or that of  the smiling, sparkley eyed, rosy-cheeked children outside trying to catch their pony. Or through their mother’s arrangement of pink tulips, purple phlox and blue silva intemingled with silver rocks.

It is a life I am privileged to be a part of.

I’ve been reading about new flower varieties too. Imagine petunias that don’t need deadheading or water. Or petunias that will trail for 3 feet and not be bothered by wind. I want to incorporate them in every basket.

Fortunately,  Country Garden Greenhouse’s Mennonite design team has been helpfully coming up with ideas for my arrangements.

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One of my favorite places to hang out.

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Hanging basket 1 is a spike, white lanai verbena, red calibrachoa superbells, lanai blue verbena, yellow calibrachoa (million bells).

Lanai Verbena: Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun. Plants in baskets and containers also hold up very well in windy conditions.

Superbells: This new line of hybrid Calibrachoa takes an old favorite to a new level. Developed and selected for their large flowers, their resistance to Thielaviopsis, and their strong summer performance, these Calibrachoa are truly Superbells. Deadheading is not necessary. The plants are heat tolerant. They attract hummingbirds.

Millon Bells: A Calibrachoa, these plants are prolific bloomers that produce hundreds of 1” wide flowers from spring to frost. Flower colors include shades of violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, yellow, bronze, and white.

dsc02107.JPG Hanging basket 2: has a double rose begonia, a tri colored sweet potato vine, a geranium and opal innocence nemesia.

Opal Innocence Nemesia:  Abundant opalescent tri-colored flowers with a strong scent! (They smell heavenly…think lily-of-the-valley or lilac) Nemesia, the mauve pink plant shown, requires no deadheading and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It will bloom all season if fed and watered regularly.

Double Rose Begonia: Take care not to overwater. Water early in the day, water deep and water less frequently. 

Tri colored sweet potato vine: This ornamental plant provides color and interest like no other plant. They are grown for their distinctive foliage and vigorous growth habit.

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Ornamental container 3 has failproof plants, a spike, pink geraniums, asparagus fern, and vinca vines. These are perfect for my climate and will survive the care of someone like me, who waits for wilting to watering.

Vinca: Vinca or Periwinkle is a prolific heat and drought tolerant annual, perfect for hot, dry areas. It’s easy to grow, and requires little or no attention. A grower once reported that he has grown Vinca in the same location for 30 years. (I can vouch for vinca’s ability to come back on it’s own. I have some that came up unwanted and it prolifically reproduces and reproduces. It’s like a weed it is so prolific and sturdy.)

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Purple fountain grass are in the center. Around the edge are white and purple velvet nemesias. The red flowers in front are red lanai verbena.

Purple Fountain Grass: The flower heads progress from dark ruby red, through shades of pink, to buff as they mature. They are produced in constant succession so all stages are present throughout the flowering season. It makes a great center piece in a container. It is a vigorous grower that will quickly fill in any bed or container. The foxtail like plumes will appear mid summer and last until first frost.

Red Lanai Verbena:  The Verbena Lanai series is free flowering from tip to crown with flowers that are clustered in a ball providing a carpet of color. Lanai verbena is simply the best trailing verbena on the market today. This improved series exhibits dark green, large broad leaves, with a trailing habit of up to 3 feet! Lanai verbena is drought and heat tolerant, and thrives in full, hot sun.

White and Purple Velvet Nemesias have an appealing fragrance and make an excellent choice for early spring color and sales. Ideal for small pots and color accents.Upright and compact. Use in 4-6” pots and combos.

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One of many greenhouses.

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Waiting for mom.

Sigh….I’m only getting started. There is so much more to do… But the work is such a pleasure. To be continued…

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Spring plowing.

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We have wild ducks living in our woods. I hope that means baby ducks!!!

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We’re going to have to take our walks in other directions. I want the ducks to stay.

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Why did the ducks cross the road?

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To get to the pond on the other side.

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Tadpoles. I hope they eat EVERY single mosquito larvae.

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Mama, baby and LOTS of spring grass.

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Spring violets.

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I am not sure what kind of flower this is. We have a lot of them.

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There is a possum has living in the old graundhog hole. Buster and Abby are thrilled.

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Kitty is as happy for sunshine as I am.

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The owl is waiting. He has his prey in sight.

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The raccoon dares not move.

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He cowers…motionless between the branches.

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There’s a life and death drama going on in our treetops. Do you see it?

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I’ve circled the owl and raccoon to make them easier to find.

I know owls eat mice. I didn’t know they hunted raccoons. But, there’s no mistaking the owl’s intentions.

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His eyes are glued on the raccoon.

I’m hoping this owl has overreached and that his eyes are bigger than his hunting ability.

He’s a Barred Owl. Only, I probably should have said she. According to this Barred Owl site, the females are larger. Of all of the North American owls, the Barred Owl is the species most likely to be active during the day, especially when raising chicks. The chicks leave their nests at 4 weeks, before they are able to fly. They crawl out of the nest using their beak and talons to sit on branches. These owls are called branchers.

Parents care for the young for at least 4 months, much longer than most other owls. Young tend to disperse very short distances, usually less than 6 miles, before settling. Pairs mate for life and territories and nest sites are maintained for many years.

UPDATE: Today we walked the trails and looked everywhere. NO RACCOON FUR.

 More about Barred Owls:Barred Owls (Strix Varia)

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We use a lot of flowers in the summer. Geraniums are a good choice for us. They’re hardy and will  survive mild neglect.

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There are too many lovely geraniums to throw away. We decided to try to overwinter them.

We overwintered our geraniums dormant in our dark basement.

Here’s how: Storing your geraniums dormant. 

When we brought the geraniums up this spring, we didn’t take them outside right away. We were afraid too much sun, too soon, might harm them. We kept them in our garage for 2 days to acclimate to the sun that came through those windows. Then we brought the geraniums outside and sheltered them next to the wooden fence.

One of the 12 geraniums we brought inside for the winter was overwatered during our acclimation process. It turned mushy. But even so, 11 geraniums is a good start on summer flowers.

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This is what they look like after being in the dark for months. Notice the little leaves starting to sprout on the thin white stalks..

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The leaves are more developed on this plant.

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We brought this one up over a week ago to see how it did. It looks good.

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