Turkey Creek Lavender

Turkey Creek Lavender

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making a Lavender Wreath

I guess you've heard...the summer of 2011 will go down in history as one of the hottest on record for the state of Oklahoma. Despite that, the sweet little lavender plants here at Turkey Creek Lavender have rallied for a repeat September bloom. Thanks in part, I'm sure, to the installation of the drip irrigation in June.

It's a different type of blooming. Not nearly as many stalks, and not all over the plants. More random. And the colors seem a little more subdued. The stalks are short and the leaves extend further up towards the head. But it's enough to make wreath or two.

I've tried several different methods for making wreaths, and this is the one that works best for me. (Probably because I'm all thumbs, and not a very talented wreath maker!) But it also allows me to use the shorter stalks and prepare little bundles ahead of time until I have enough. I just keep them in the refrigerator in water until I'm ready to put the wreath together.

For this project you will need a wreath base. Here I used a grapevine wreath. (I have used a straw wreath wrapped with strips of burlap, and a wire wreath form covered with sheet moss. Both are pretty but the grapevine is the easiest.) You will also need a paddle of floral wire to wire everything together. And, of course, fresh lavender, because it's so much easier to work with when it's pliable. (Some companies use dried lavender but I find it way too brittle and I lose most of the buds in the process.)

Begin by wiring your lavender into little bundles.

Next, attach your wire to the wreath by looping it around a piece of grapevine and twisting it until it's securely attached.

Starting on the outside of the wreath, lay a bundle against the grapevine and wrap the wire around the stems several times.

Next, lay a bundle beside the first, and wrap the wire several times. Follow with a third bundle until you have worked your way across the wreath. Then just repeat the process as you work your way around the wreath, covering the stems of each previous row as you go. 

When you get to the end you will probably have to work a bundle under the very first bundle you wired on to finish it off. This wreath was made with several varieties of lavender since I didn't have enough of just one color blooming.

After the wreath dried, this is what it looked like. It could stand to be trimmed up a little so it doesn't look quite so shaggy. In this wreath there is some dark lavender, some light, some grey. If you have sage, bay leaves, thyme, or other herbs or flowers that dry well you could also make a beautiful mixed wreath. Even wheat looks good worked into a lavender wreath.

This wreath is not quite as full and is made with all fat spike grosso. It dries more of a lavender-grey color.

Dried lavender wreaths last for a very long time. You can extend their life by spraying with dried flower fixative, or hair spray. Hang them in a protected area, preferably inside. They will fade in direct sunlight. You can hang them directly on a nail, or add a beautiful bow, as we did here.

Just be patient when making a lavender wreath. The first time I tried making a lavender wreath several years ago I tried way too hard to get it perfect. I repeatedly took it apart and started over. I do get better each time I make one. The great thing is they're all beautiful once they dry!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Green Chile Lovin'!

We love green chiles around here. And I mean looooove! Chile Relleno, Chile Verde, Salsa Verde, green chiles and eggs, green chile mac and cheese, added to soups, stews, and sauces, nachos, or green chile cheeseburgers, ...well, I could go on and on!

Each year on Labor Day weekend they have a wonderful celebration in Hatch, New Mexico, the Hatch Valley Chile Festival. And despite the drought conditions, this year was no exception. One of these years I am going to go, but until then, I'll just have to be satisfied with roasting fresh Hatch green chiles here at home. (And this method works well for other varieties of chiles, too.)

Now you might think, given the intense heat here in southwest Oklahoma last week, that I could just lay them on the patio and they'd burn to a crisp. Alas, not so. And it was too hot to roast them on the grill. And I'm not lucky enough to have a handy, dandy chile roaster. So I did the next best thing and roasted them in the oven. It works just as well but I do sorta miss the smoky charcoal flavor.

First, wash and dry your green chiles. Move your oven rack to the top and preheat your broiler. Line a sheet cake pan with foil. Lay your chiles on the foil and place under the broiler. Shut the door and let them broil, checking periodically for browning and charring. While I don't time this process it takes about 10 minutes or so under my broiler, then I just turn them and do the other sides until they are charred all around.

Once they are nicely charred, remove from the oven and place in a zip-loc bag and seal. Let them steam about 20 minutes. This softens the outside and allows the charred skin to loosen and peel right off. Discard the skins.

Now split them and scrape out the seeds. You can leave the seeds if you want, but unless they are pureed I find them to be hard little things to chew! Naturally you can't get all of them anyway, so a few won't hurt anything.

At this point you can use them, or freeze them for future use. I generally do both. The day I roasted these I made chicken and green chile enchiladas. The next morning I added chopped green chiles and monterey jack cheese to an egg dish. So good!

Luckily, we're close enough to New Mexico to get fresh Hatch Green Chiles at some of our local grocery stores. You can also order them online from various growers. Our lucky friends in El Paso and Las Cruces take advantage of the locally roasted green chiles. Apparently you can purchase them just about anywhere, from street vendors, to road side stands, to grocery store parking lots! So jealous!

You can find a few yummy recipes here and here. And here's how the Blue Mesa Grill in Texas dishes it up...Hatch Cheese Bites anyone? Steak Relleno Tacos? Green Chile Potato Tart? Oh yeah! Good stuff!

A few years ago my eldest son and I took a road trip which took us to Santa Fe and northern New Mexico.

Perhaps next year we'll make it to Hatch. I'll let you know in time to place your order! How do you use green chiles? If you have any great green chile recipes I'd love to have them!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What is Surviving the Blistering Heat of Summer?

The record heat wave continues here in southwest Oklahoma! I've given up wishing for rain. Not even my rain dance works anymore!

Despite the heat, there are a few plants that just keep going. Thankfully. Otherwise everything would just be different shades of dead! It's about this time of year that I take stock of what survived in the garden so that next year I won't waste time and money on things that aren't suitable for our climate.

As usual, my zinnias are a solid and proven survivor, year after year.

Happy yellow sunflowers...
...the bottle tree ...
...okay, just a little joke!...but I do love my bottle tree, and it adds alot of color and is the only thing that doesn't take water!...
...pots filled with mexican heather, pentas and asparagus fern...

...the herbs, especially the basil and chives...

...vinca, aka periwinkle, more penta's and some variegated sweet potato vine...
...moss rose, aka portulaca grandiflora, and, naturally, lavender!

As you can see, I like to use the common names and not the latin names. Sorry, my memory is just not good enough to remember too much latin! And, as you can see, I have a fondness for lavender and pink flowers in the garden. I just sort of gravitate to all things lavender!

Now that it is September it won't be long until I start pruning back the lavender. Thanks to the drip irrigation the lavender is looking pretty good, although I did lose alot of plants. I gave in and planted six Munstead. I don't know why I keep trying to get this to grow. They all died yet again. I won't be planting it again. Ever.

I'm going to try seeding the field with wildflowers this fall, and poppies. Lots of poppies. Wouldn't that be gorgeous against the blooming lavender?

Here's hoping September brings an end to this brutal drought and we can enjoy a lovely fall!


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