Yeah, I admit it. I went glamping and I had a wonderful time.

Glamping. It’s apparently the new trend.

Don’t know what glamping is? Not trendy yourself?

Neither am I.

But a couple weeks ago the local paper included two stories about a place nearby that just opened and that is offering “glamping” or “glorious camping”.

“Ha ha,” I thought to myself. “Camping in a tent with electricity and an air mattress. That’s kind of ridiculous…and yet maybe a little fun.”

I read on. Good food inspired by California wine country?

John and I like good food!

Wine pairings with the food?

John and I like wine pairings!

Eaten outside on a deck overlooking an expanse of green?

Sounds lovely!

And all the samplings spread out over the course of a day as you walk around the estate nibbling here and there?

Sold!

It sounded like a perfectly John and Amy kind of place, so we decided to book a glamping package. Looking at our calendars, the approaching weekend was the only time soon that we could both get away. Feeling a little wild and crazy, we made a reservation.

It was an absolutely perfect 24 hour getaway. Even better: the weather couldn’t have been nicer–cool and sunny.

The place is called Blueberry Hill Estate and Day Spa and it’s near Paoli, Indiana. We checked into our tent on Saturday evening then headed to the restaurant for dinner. Of course we had to grab a few photos of our glorious campsite:

the "tent"

John in thought

glamping style

It’s a big Coleman tent on a platform with an extra roof and electricity, furniture inside and out, a refrigerator and snacks, and a big air mattress with fancy pillows and bedding and an electric blanket to take off the chill. Yeah. It was awesome. There was a port-o-potty nearby and a little cabin with a real bathroom up the hill.

Dinner was very good. Things weren’t rushed, so we were there eating for a couple hours, savoring a bottle of wine and enjoying each other’s company. When we got back to our campsite at the top of the hill, they’d started a bonfire for us. We sat and watched the stars for a little before bed. The temperature dipped into the 50’s overnight, so it was perfect for sleeping all cozy under the covers and electric blanket. I heard barred owls in the night and lots of birdcalls in the morning. We slept late and had a light breakfast from the snack sampler in the cabin while sitting at the scenic overlook.

the view

Then our wine pairings began! We mosied down to the main building/bed and breakfast, stopping by the pool for a moment before finding a seat in one of the little outdoor seating areas. The server brought us one little tidbit of food and a splash of wine to match it (Hmm, tasty!), then another (also nice) and another (interesting) and another (yum!). It was fun to try all the flavors. This was a nice prosciutto, cantaloupe, and mozzarella bite paired with a nice German Riesling:

pairing

After the first four pairings, we got some boxed lunches and hiked back to the top of the hill to eat them. We played a few lawn games, went on another little walk, played pool in the English pub room, then got a little picnic basket with the next two pairings in it. After those, there were three more to be eaten in the outdoor seating area. At that point, a whole day had passed and we were pleasantly full of good food.

Corny as “glamping” is, the whole thing was perfect for us and we had a lot of fun.

Bugs and Basil Roundup

Wow! What a beautiful weekend! Cool fall weather has arrived!

I continue to get bowlfuls of tomatoes–so many I’ve had to freeze several gallons because I can’t use them fast enough. They should be wonderful mid-winter. This week, I added a few tomatillos to my bowl. Unfortunately, there isn’t an overabundance of them because the tomatillo plant hasn’t looked too healthy all summer and I haven’t had time to look up what the cause might be.

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I’ve noticed lots of bugs around the garden this summer including particularly large clouds of mosquitos. I was also surprised at how many unusual little guys I started to see when I looked more closely.

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There have also been a bumper crop of spiders including an adventurous orb weaver whose web stretched from the peak of our roof to a high branch of the magnolia tree. I spotted it one night when I was out with a flashlight checking for raccoons. Then there are these guys who make picking tomatoes a challenge. I don’t want to disturb them!

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I have one final hosta blooming and it’s an interesting one at that. I like the extra little flares under each flower bud. The variety is called “Rockets Red Glare” and it has fairly erect leaves with red stems. It’s a nice one!

rockets red glare

And finally, a round up of basil varieties. Basil is one thing that grows well in my garden, so I grow a lot of it and turn it into mass quantities of pesto. I’ve had fun trying different varieties over the years. I’ve discovered that I don’t like the super licorice-y, super spicy varieties like cinnamon basil or Thai spice basil, though a little bit of it is great and a whole bunch of different flavors together make really good pesto. Like the tomatoes, these seeds came from Baker Creek. They are:

Persian

My new favorite. It’s got a little spice and solid flavor, but isn’t overpowering.

From the catalog: New! Really interesting and flavorful! Known as Reyhan throughout the varied nations of southwestern Asia. Has a distinctive aroma, both lemony and spice like.

Persian

Lime

I’ve done lemon basil in the past and this is very similar, but I think I like it better. John also liked it a lot with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It’s very citrusy and adds some nice flavor variety if I mix it in with leaves from other basils. I think it tastes more lemony than limey. The small leaves means it takes longer to get a nice pile.

lime basil

Corsican

This one has pretty green and purple leaves and a nice flavor. I tried growing a purple basil a couple years ago and the dark color seemed to mean that it got fried in the sun before it amounted to much. With this basil, I can get a little color variation. It’s spicier than the Persian, but pleasantly so.

From the catalog: New! Mediterranean heirloom type from Napoleon’s island birthplace off the French and Italian coasts. This versatile type comes in varying degrees of green to purple, often spectacularly mottled in both. A competent culinary type that makes a scintillating contribution in the border as well. Recommended!

Corsican

Lettuce Leaf

Genovese

Both of these have been staples in my garden for several years now. Lettuce leaf has bold, sweet, citrusy, mildly spicy flavor while Genovese is smoother, flatter, and blends well with others. They’re not this summer’s absolute favorites, but they’re good to have as part of the mix.

lettuce leaf

Genovese

Blue Spice

This is the one variety that I definitely won’t do again. The flavor is a sweet, fruity (but not completely citrusy), spicy (but not completely licorice-y) blend that’s wonderfully complex but I just don’t like it. The leaves are thick and fuzzy. It looks like the same type of basil that my friend Jane brought to work last week saying that if you eat the leaves it’s supposed to improve your mood.

From the catalog: New! (Ocimum basilicum) Vigorous plant with dense spikes of light purple flowers enclosed in showy deep purple bracts, making for an especially fine appearance in pots or in the garden. Heavy fragrance with spicy vanilla overtones that makes a pleasant contribution to both fruit salads and savory dishes.

blue spice

 

Raccoons on the Roof with Lightning Rods

Saturday night, an extremely electric storm blew through. The unusually stroboscopic lightning woke me up way before the storm was upon us, but I’d drifted back asleep when a massive explosion registered through my unconsciousness.

John and I were immediately awake, realizing that it had been a huge lightning strike very close by. We’d just managed to get our brains running fully in order to make this realization when BAM. There was a second sizzling explosion the likes of which I don’t remember hearing ever. It was a solid, compact, penetrating crack that defies description and that sounded like the lightning hit not just nearby but on top of us.

The next morning I walked up and down the alley to see if I could figure out where the lightning had hit, but there was no clear damage. I joked to John that some crazed raccoon must have been on our roof with a lightning rod trying to activate some new evil plot.

Several people have asked for updates on the raccoon situation. Here’s the latest:

Earlier this summer we had some work done on our porch and I told the guy doing the work to look for raccoon entryways because we were pretty sure that’s how they’ve been getting in. Sure enough, there was an odd little space above the foundation where a board was missing. He blocked it, so I felt better. But we’ve kept the “Raccoon Detector” activated (it’s a piece of newspaper stretched across the open space under the steps). It tells us that the raccoons occasionally stop by. Every so often the Raccoon Detector will be ripped down where a raccoon briefly ducked under the protection of our porch. There have also been other things around the back yard will be disturbed in a way that says, “Raccoons!” And then there was the time I may have heard one climbing up a downspout.

So, while there are raccoons all around us, I hope they will continue to decide to live elsewhere. Too bad that a house nearby that is probably the happy home for a whole colony of raccoons has been marked for demolition.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d do a little review of this summer’s tomatoes. They’re all varieties that are new to me. I’ve had several favorites that I’ve planted year after year, but this spring I decided to jump into unknown tastiness and adventure. After reading through all the exciting descriptions in the Baker Creek seed catalog, I picked a few to try. Most are cherry tomato sized. The larger varieties (Red Boar and Gypsy) would be lucky if they grew to be baseball sized.

Red Boar
Red Boar

The catalog description says:

A mid-season tomato that is a top notch performer in the looks, taste, and production departments. Tomato grower Brad Gates discovered this red colored mutation from his Green Zebra, and it is not related to other red striped tomatoes on the market. This 2-4 ounce gem has amazing yellow red stripes, is a great producer and is a definite winner if you want a smaller, juicy, sweet tomato.

Me:

These started really producing only recently, so I haven’t had too many, but they’ve tasted good. I may have more of an opinion after I’ve eaten a couple more ripe ones. They’re on the bigger side for me and they’re really, really pretty.

Orange and Green Zebra

orange and green zebra

Catalog:

Plants are covered in 2-inch cherry/salad type fruits, spectacularly striped in orange and green! Spicy interior is a lime green. High yields and very flavorful. A new favorite!

Me:

The description doesn’t do justice to the flavor. These are my favorite of the summer and are definitely on my best ever list. The first one that I pulled off the vine was so warm and bright that I bit into it right there. I never do that! The flavor was wonderful. It was the perfect mix of sweet and acidic and rawness.

Violet Jasper

Violet Jasper

Catalog:

When these little Oriental jewels ripen, your eyes will be stunned with color. They have pretty violet-purple fruit with iridescent green streaks! Fruit weigh 1-3 ounces, are smooth and have good tasting, dark purplish-red flesh. This variety will also amaze you with its yield: it’s not only high, but incredibly high, being one of the most productive tomatoes we have grown.

Me:

Extremely beautiful. They really are iridescent. I wasn’t that fond of the flavor, but it’s grown on me–I think the best ones have been super ripe. The problem was that I inadvertently planted them right next to the Orange and Green Zebras and the vines intertwined. The ripe Zebras look just like the unripe Violet Jasper, so it’s been difficult to catch each variety at its peak. They also haven’t been super high yield, but they’re in a tougher spot in my garden.

Pearly Pink

pearly pink

Catalog:

Crisp, incredibly flavorful cherry tomatoes that are bright pink, perfect for snacking. The vines produce very well, making them great for marketing. One of the prettiest tomatoes we carry. Mmmm, so good!

Me:

These are small and the vines have been productive. I agree with the catalog that they are nicely crunchy and I like the flavor. They’re also beautiful in a way that contrasts with the stripy, iridescent ones. They are very pearly with kind of a creamy, inner light and they start a light pink and darken unevenly as they ripen so the light seems to move across the skins. I’d definitely grow them again.

Yellow Vernissage

Yellow Vernissage

Catalog:

These beauties are yellow cherries to about 2 oz., with pale cream stripes. Fetching companion to Pink Vernissage when paired in salads or on relish trays! A tasty little tomato that comes to us from Ukraine.

Me:

These are the one variety that I didn’t like. They’re absolutely beautiful growing on the vine and have starred in a couple of my other blog posts, but I haven’t liked their flavor at all and they seem to go bad the minute you pick them off the plant.

Weissbehaarte

weissbehaarte

Catalog:

We are proud to introduce this rare, old German heirloom that produces lovely, little 2 oz. cream to pale yellow jewels that are very juicy and sweet. Large vines set high yields, and tender fruit are globe shaped; skin is shiny and silky smooth.

Me:

These are nice. They have good flavor–a little citrusy–and they’re interestingly lumpy and fuzzy (I’m not sure where the catalog gets “globe shaped” and “silky smooth”). They’ve been productive and have been happy in my garden, though they are a little small. I’d grow them again.

Gypsy

gypsy

Catalog:

Named for the Gypsies who live in Russia, this is one of the deepest, purplest, maroon tomatoes we have ever grown. It has a gorgeous color and good taste. Perfect, medium-sized globe fruit make this one of the nicest dark varieties. A lovely and colorful introduction from the great Soviet plant breeders.

Me:

Wow! I wasn’t supposed to have this one in my garden, but I love it. It was my free gift with my Baker Creek order and I was annoyed to have gotten it because I had already ordered one more tomato than I really had space for in my garden. But I couldn’t not plant it. I’m glad I did. It’s the second variety of the summer that I think goes on my list of top tomato varieties. It has the fullest flavor of all of them this summer. It’s a little sweet and spicy but also solid “tomato”. It was also nicely productive.