Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cellar Bread Variation

Times have been slow around the oven due to my efforts at clearing out the freezer of odds and ends that I put away, out of sight and out of mind until lately. This week has marked an increase in projects and the gas bill starting with these two efforts.

The first picture is of my initial attempt at making scones. I used the Cream Scone recipe from the KAF Baker's Companion. Let me say that the process turned out messier than I expected but nothing that didn't respond to soap and water and some elbow grease. Being positive, I can say it was a learning experience.

I followed the recipe as well as I could for a first timer, even to the point of weighing ingredients when I had that information. The end result is a essentially a tasty buttermilk biscuit. You can add some kind of dried fruits pieces or nuts, which I forgot to do. The KAF Baker's Companion has several other scone recipes, one of which includes chocolate chips, so I think I'll dabble in scones for a while as a side venture since the dough can be frozen for baking at a later date.

Winter's arrival has meant the average temperature in our cellar sits around 60-62F, almost ideal temperatures for a slow bulk ferment or proofing and coaxing a little bit more flavor out of the dough. For this loaf, the dough had three stretch folds over two hours then almost seven hours in the 60F cellar, at which time it had more than doubled in size.

Since I was fooling around with time and temperature for this loaf, I changed my percentage of starter by an admittedly small amount that actually worked out. The crumb isn't wildly open but on the other hand, I threw in some wheat germ along with the white whole wheat flour so I'm happy for now and can take this recipe for the wintertime a little bit further in the next six weeks or so.

 Starter
140 g, at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
290 g bread flour
60 g white whole wheat flour
20 g wheat germ
230 g water at 85F
7 g kosher salt
I've got admit that this winter hasn't turned out to be as bad as I expected. I have had to shovel the driveway a few times but that was more indicative of the paucity of snowfall rather than any ambition on my part. I have my little snow blower in the garage but so far it has only gathered dust.

We're getting to the time of year where freezing rain becomes more likely than snow and that is a most unpleasant prospect to consider. In order to combat that dread, lawn and garden shows look very attractive and they should start up in a couple more weeks. I don't need more seeds but I will be looking for the yard toys that that spin and make noise. They annoy the neighbors more than they do any critters or vermin that may cross the yard but their bright colors do bring a smile to my face. They'll have to do until the daffodils start to show up and the dandelions rise up to risk my wrath with a tools of destruction and possible injury.

Lately, this obscure corner of the internet has gotten a lot of visits from Asia. Among the countries represented are S Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, and Viet Nam.Whether accidental or deliberate, I'm always happy to see where my visitors come from.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Sourdough Bloomers and another Bran Crust Sourdough

"The Bread and Bread Machine Bible" by Ingram and Shapter was one of my first bread baking books. By no means is it the best ever, but it's usefulness is evidenced the spin off books that use portions to create different titles. One of the breads included is an English loaf called Poppy Seeded Bloomer. According to the book, the loaf is an English answer to a batard. The recipe didn't attract me but the slashing pattern caught my eye and I finally gave it try.

While the original recipe called for a lean dough of about 64% hydration and an extended bulk fermentation due to using a small amount of yeast, my loaves are sourdough with about 70% hydration.

I have been proofing larger loaves in my banneton but these are smaller by 30 g of flour so the banneton was lined with a towel. While none of these loaves are picture perfect, the slashing pattern worked out well in that the loaves didn't widen out. That was a small accomplishment to be sure but since it worked, I don't regret it.


This last loaf is another 1-2-3 sourdough pain de campagne, boosted with a Tbs of honey due to slower yeast action in my somewhat cool, winter environment, 68-70F, in the kitchen. The bran was added to the outside of the loaf by rolling the shaped, somewhat sticky dough onto some bran. Just to be sure I got the desired result, I also dusted the banneton liner with bran.

Outside, the first measurable snowfall we've had is slowly melting as the temperatures flirt with rising above freezing temperatures. I'm located just a few miles from the Missouri River but there are no flooding concerns here, unlike downriver in the St Louis area. The ground is saturated due to rainfall and snow melt so occasionally I'll be surprised by the sound of the sump running. Fortunately for us and the US Postal Service, the 2016 seed catalogs are arriving daily to start us daydreaming about Springtime and getting our hands in the dirt again.

The usual suspects are visiting my bird feeders with occasional visits from starlings, who will eat everything, and flickers. While the sparrows still don't exhibit good table manners at the feeders, the juncos, who are primarily ground feeders, are once again the beneficiaries.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mediterranean Style Table Bread

The oven in my stove went out, requiring the replacement of the circuit board that controls the the starting mechanism for the oven. Since its repair, I've baked some very familiar breads for the most part to get a feel for any changes that might have occurred.

This particular loaf, a sort of horiatiko psomi or Greek table bread, has been the best of the bunch. It could be just as easily described as an Italian bread with the addition of some dry milk in the mix or by substituting some milk for the water. Any way would be good just as long as you put out some extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with balsamic vinegar for dipping.
Starter
100 g starter at 100% hydration

Main Dough
240 g bread flour
45 g extra fine semolina flour
15 g white whole wheat flour
195 g water at 85F
1/2 Tbs or 7.5 ml olive oil
7 g kosher salt



We got our first hard freeze yesterday morning, more than four weeks later than usual. The sure sign of winter's approach, the arrival of a junco or snowbird, happened yesterday as well. I happy to say that I did put in a round sixty cloves of garlic for next year but I'll have to hurry to get the daffodil bulbs in before the ground freezes up.

Besides the juncos, the rest of the usual characters have returned to the bird seed buffet outside my window. That includes the goldfinches which have lost their coloring for the moment. The crows and hawks have moved back into town as well. Deer season has started in limited areas so travel at dawn and dusk will require more attention for a while as hunters move through the fields and woods.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ten Hour Mock Italian Loaf Variation


Rather than posting about breads that I've baked and posted at least once or
twice, I've been on a kind bloggers vacation waiting for some kind innovation or inspiration. Our recent trip to New England to visit my parents, the OPG and my Sainted Mother, revived the curiosity, especially after tasting a couple of breads from the Crust Bakery in Worcester, MA. They have a different kind of baguette, produced with an incredible, envy inducing, tangy flavor and using flour that might be European in style since it's not a snow white crumb. Whether I'm right or wrong about the details for that baguette, it's worth stopping by to try their breads.

My ten hour mock Italian loaf is something that I improvised to serve with a pasta dinner for Mrs PG and I.

I started with a sponge using all the water, one third of the flour, and 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast. The sponge took about four hours in a 70F room temperature environment.

Sponge:800 AM
210 g water at 85F
70 g bread flour
30 g white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast

1200PM
Once the sponge was bubbling, I mixed in the remaining bread flour, salt, and olive oil. I kneaded the dough for about three or four minutes and started the bulk fermentation. Three stretch and folds at 1/2 half hour intervals worked out so I just let the dough rest for another hour as it doubled up in size.


230 PM
I preshaped the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, seam side down while I located my couche and dusted it with wheat bran. Then I shaped the dough into a kind of ficelle, misted it water and rolled the clean side in some bran. The dough was placed seam side up in the couche for its proof while I went about preparing my industrial red sauce for the evening meal's pasta.

330 PM
Preheated the oven and baking stone at 425F for 30 minutes.

400PM
I placed the dough on parchment paper before loading, slashed, and misted the slashes. Into the oven for 15 minutes, then removing the parchment paper and turning the loaf around. Eighteen minutes more in the oven before turning off the heat, cracking the door open for a few minutes, then cooling the finished loaf on a wire rack at or about 440 PM.

600PM
The loaf was cooled and ready for its glamour shots. It had a moist, soft crumb, thanks to the olive oil, and a sweet, almost nutty flavor.

The next picture is a crumb shot of one my 20% WWW sourdough loaves. The oatmeal coated exterior isn't much to brag about but what is interesting, for myself only, is the open crumb. I used a one step build  for the starter with the seed coming from my stored over the vacation stock. Don't expect this at home kids, it probably won't happen for me again until the next blue moon.

The leaves on our trees are started to fall but they're nowhere near as colorful as what we saw in New England. Many of them have been mulched by the mower and more will join them over the next few weeks. I still have some tomatoes on the rather scraggly looking grape tomato plant so our salads aren't quite void of homegrown goodies. The sage and rosemary plantings are still around and capable of contributions. The rest of the plants are being cleaned up to make way for another year of garlic festivities in a couple weeks. Only an occasional chickadee finds the bird feeders outside my window and very few birds are heard in the neighborhood right now.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.




Monday, August 24, 2015

An Improvised Bulgur Loaf

I was just exercising my prerogative to improvise a formula the other day when I baked this loaf. I had a batch of 70% hydration starter reaching its peak in mid morning and I needed to bake something for the pasta supper that I had planned for Mrs PG and I. The dough lost much of its initial stickiness during the bulk fermentation. While I suspect that some of the moisture was soaked up by the bulgur, I don't have a firm evidence for that but as long as it worked, I wasn't complaining.

Not quite a ficelle and not quite a batard but it possessed the sweetness derived from the bulgur and some tenderness from the olive oil. The bread is better for dipping into olive oil or sopping up leftover sauce than as a sandwich bread, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's worth baking again.


Proofing the loaf was done in a couche. For baking this smaller than usual loaf, I used 425F for the initial 14 minutes and continued with it for another 18 minutes to finish.

Soaker
40 g bulgur
40 g water

Starter
130 g at 70% hydration

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
24 g white whole wheat
147 g water at 80F
All of starter
                                                                    All of soaker
                                                                    1/2 Tbs olive oil
                                                                    6 g kosher salt
                                                                    1/8 tsp Active dry yeast

















This second loaf will soon be finished , justifying the dough that's presently undergoing its bulk fermentation. I revisited an old recipe for this one, adding a little honey and some 9 grain cereal from Montana Milling.











The garden continues to be a disappointment in the production level this summer. I've gotten to the point where I'm planning on taking out what's left of the San Marzano tomato plant and the Park's Whopper beefsteak tomato plant is living on borrowed time right now. The grape tomato plant is long and scraggly looking, having spread over quite a bit of square footage but it is the reliable source of fresh tomatoes so it has a reprieve for now.  On the other hand, I have more basil than I need for cooking or pesto. Lets not discuss the chile peppers today.

Hummingbirds have started to return to my yard as the weather has cooled off in an unusual but very welcome manner.We have our windows open for the breeze which means we hear the birds and traffic noises. That's still much better than the repetitious hum of the A/C. I like having A/C but I prefer the open windows.

Visitors from Bangladesh and Ireland have recently found their way to my obscure corner of the internet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.







Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Resurrected Starter Sourdough

I was rummaging through the freezer, looking for stuff that could be put out with the trash when I ran across a bag containing some dried sourdough starter. This was some really old starter, about six years old, my first and only attempt at drying some starter as a Plan B effort. It had its roots in a sample of "Overland Trail" starter from Stan at New York Bakers. It certainly was the right sample to set aside.

I took five grams of this dried starter and let it soak in thirty grams of bottled spring water. After thirty minutes, I broke up as much of the remaining bits as I could and added thirty grams of DM Bread Flour. The room temperature was around 80F so it didn't take long to show signs of life. I added some more flour and water to adjust it to 75% hydration and the starter continued to roll. In about twelve hours, I had a surprisingly active sample that looked ready for a life (albeit a short life) in dough.

If I were truly hard core, I'd have waited through another stage of building up the starter but I couldn't resist the temptation to start the flour flying.

Let me interject a note about how I've changed my starting procedure. In my large mixing bowl, I add my starter, water, and my flavor flour, the whole wheat flour in this case. After mixing those ingredients to a loose, soup like consistency, I let them rest a few minutes with the idea that the WW flour will be quickly soaked and then I go about my business as usual. It seems to work well enough in that my dough is usually quite sticky at the time of autolyze and remains sticky through the stretch and fold stages.

The end result was a good loaf with a very "clean" flavor and moist crumb. There's another fifteen or so grams of this dried starter left in the freezer so I think it's time to find an excuse to build a bigger than necessary batch  and dry some more for storage over the next five years.

Starter
108 g at 75% hydration

Main Dough
288 g DM Bread Flour
72 g home milled whole wheat flour
240 g water at 80F
8 g kosher salt.
olive oil for greasing the bulk fermentation container

Outside, the garden is in fair to middling condition and I don't expect to see much production of tomatoes by the end of the month. The persistent rains have ceased and the ground is hardening. I just got a bale of straw for a mulch over the bare spots to help keep the moisture in the soil. Even the peppers are reluctant to produce which means I may not be able to freeze enough to get through the winter. Store bought peppers just aren't the same as something from my garden.

The usual bird suspects- cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, sparrows, and woodpeckers, are still around but I haven't seen hummingbirds in the yard for at least six weeks. We still have the plants that they're attracted to but they must be dining somewhere else.

Visitors from Egypt and Sri Lanka have found their way to my obscure corner of the internet in the past two weeks.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.









Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mock Italian Bread and a Rye starter experimental loaf

Something that started out as an almost throwaway effort to make some bread for a meal with pasta earned approval from my most devoted critic, Mrs PG. Technically, it's not a true Italian loaf since my preferment isn't in the right hydration range for a biga and I can't really call it a Pain Italien because my ingredients aren't true to style. But, as long as it tastes good, it is good indeed.

I started out with a 68% hydration preferment that included some fresh white whole wheat from Jenni at Family, Grace, and Grains. The flour is sweet and as thirsty as most WWW flours that have been through the kitchen. With just 1/8 tsp of IDY, the twelve hour development fit into my schedule. 

Preferment                                                                       
70 g KAF AP
30 g white whole wheat flour
68 g room temperature water, about 80F
1/8 tsp IDY

Had I been in search of the classic Italian bread, I would have found room for some milk or used some dry milk powder and more olive oil than I did here. The new olive oil that I found at Costco was Greek. I didn't know what to expect so I lightened up on the quantity in the bread. The oil seems to be lighter in body than the Italian EVOO but I don't expect that to be much of a factor in most of my breads. The dough was mixed by hand, with three stretch and folds during the first 90 minutes of bulk fermentation, shaped and proofed in a couche for about one hour.

Main Dough
200 g Dakota Maid bread flour
140 g room temperature water, about 80F
All of preferment
3/4 tsp olive oil
6 g kosher salt
1/2 tsp IDY

The loaf was first baked in an oven preheated to 425F for thirteen minutes using parchment paper on a stone, then rotated after pulling the parchment paper. After another twenty minutes of baking, the bread was a golden color coming out of the oven, giving off a fine, wheaty aroma, and singing quite loud. Once on the table, it was excellent company to a garden salad (hats off to Lucy) and some pasta with my industrial red sauce. The crumb was moist, sweet, and tender.

This second loaf is part of my experiments using a rye starter. The idea came from reading A. Whitley's "Bread Matters".  At the time he wrote the book, Mr Whitley was using a rye starter that had seeded his loaves for more than a few seasons. He advocated using a rye seed and adapting it to use in other breads through a three step build process. I'm keeping my starter in the fridge, taking a 10 g seed out and from there, proceeding through two stages, trying to include a little extra in the build for a new 40-60 g piece to maintain he source when needed.

My first observations have been that the initial build is faster than an AP or AP/WWW fed build, about 6-8 hours at summertime room temperatures. The second stage requires close observation because it has been faster than the initial build. It was active enough that managing its growth with a short stint in the fridge didn't hurt it at all.  Just in case my fascination with this experiment fades, I do have a sample of the KAF AP fed starter, sometimes called Nelson, in the freezer.

Bulk fermentation for this loaf was about 45-60 minutes shorter. Since I used an overnight retarded proofing, I can't supply any substantial comments on the proofing but I do expect that the rye starter would have imbued the dough with the same kind of  vigor. The slashes need more work or practice since I've started using a double edged blade on a coffee stirrer stick as a lame once again.

The actual mixing and baking was a repeat of my usual procedures when mixing the dough by hand. Cleaning up my mixer takes longer and for the weight of dough that I'm mixing, it's just easier to leave the mixer alone and get my hands into the dough.

Starter
120 g rye starter at 100% hydration

Main Dough
288 g Dakota Maid bread flour
72 g home milled whole wheat flour
240 g water at room temperature, 78-80F
All of starter
8 g kosher salt

   The rye starter didn't make a "slap you in the face" difference in the flavor. I've often referred to rye as my subtle flavor advantage ingredient so I can't say that it was a distraction in this loaf. Mrs PG has asked for some rye hamburger rolls and rye bread for   sandwiches so there's more work to be done for this pleasant investigation.

Tomatoes are slowly coming out of the garden now, some twelve days later in the season than years past. The plants aren't as bushy and really don't look very healthy. There has been a great deal of rain in the area and the six inches of rainfall in the past ten days or so is already more than our average July rainfall. The cucumber plants, OTOH, are near jungle in appearance but not terribly productive either. I'm not seeing very many bees in the yard this year so that may be a part of my problem. The garlic has finished drying and I've been sampling this year's production. It's a very good but not great vintage if there is such a thing for garlic. I've got enough to give away to my in laws and friends. 

Someone from Albania happened to visit this odd little corner of the internet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome,  no Donald Trump jokes please.

















Thursday, July 09, 2015

City Limits Sourdough with a touch of maple syrup

I had another fit of "clean out the bins" when I started this loaf. There was some Wheat Montana Prairie Gold and some Dakota Maid Bread Flour that I had to use. I was getting anxious to open up some new bread flour.

Mrs PG and I went to Chapel Hill, NC for my niece's wedding and while on the way, I purchased some flour milled at the Weissenberger Mill in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. I took a chance the local area work ethic that also makes Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve bourbons would be reflected in this purchase. There was so much confidence and curiosity that I also bought some AP flour and a few muffin mixes. My road trips usually mean I have to make space in the cabinets and hutch for the latest purchases. We don't collect spoons or plates or other kitsch, we just try to find some local food specialties. When they're gone, they're gone.

Anyways, I've pretty much reached the end of my KAF AP experiments. The flour is just as good as touted, I just think that I'm hindered by not baking more often. It's not easy to justify a freezer full of bread for two people.So now, I'll just blend the AP with my usual bread flour until I get fired up with enthusiasm after the next new book or startling insight.

What has been working for me is the use of some bottled spring water during the building of my starters. It has shown itself to be helpful in getting a more vigorous starter. My next experiment with starters will be to try building a rye starter, using the spring water, in about three stages for a "country loaf". The discard from the first and second stages can be used to build a pizza crust. No sense in letting good starter go to waste.

Starter
120 g at 100% hydration, with KAF AP

Main Dough
185 g Dakota Maid bread flour
90 g KAF AP
85 g home milled whole wheat
240 g spring water at 78F
All of starter
1 Tbs Quebec maple syrup
8 g kosher salt
instant oatmeal flakes for the banneton

The persistent rainfall of Spring has continued into our Summer here. It seems like everything is green with a vengeance and taller than in previous seasons. The tomato plants and chile pepper plants are an exception, not growing with their normal enthusiasm due to the lack of heat and sunshine. I wish I could say the same about the weeds. I've picked five grape tomatoes but none of the full sized tomatoes are near ripe yet. Usually, I'm bragging on my tomatoes by the 4th of July.

However, the cucumber plants are finally at work and producing better than anything I can find at the supermarket. I'm also in the process of drying my hard neck garlic which turned out satisfactorily. There's enough to plant in late October, enough to keep for eating, and plenty to give away to family and friends.

A hard drive crash in late May demonstrated the wisdom of having a back up drive so I'll be sure to have one soon. The drive crashed in less than twenty four hours and I lost a lot of recipes, most of which I had never baked. But it's not too big a problem since most of them were found through links posted on The Fresh Loaf. I may run across a recipe I lost and I'm sure I'll find something new. It will also give me an excuse to create some more "freestyle" recipes as well.

As of yesterday, this obscure corner of internet has had over 15,000 hits, a statistic that I find both amazing and amusing. I extend my thanks to all my visitors.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.










Monday, May 18, 2015

An Experimental AP Loaf

My baking over the last five weeks  or so has been on the pedestrian side with some experimentation that hasn't been really productive until this weekend. The experiments in using Great River AP flour have been somewhat disappointing in that I haven't figured out how to deal with its enormous thirst for water. I tried to work on a couple loaves with about 74% hydration and ended up with a door stop twice in a row. I'm guessing 76-78% is my next stop with that flour.

I also decided to buy a gallon of spring water at the supermarket for feeding my starters. Having read the local water department's analysis reports on their water I noticed they were using a chemical that won't dissipate into the air as chlorine will. Even though I was using  Brita filtered water, I thought that a dollar and change for tax would prove or disprove the suspicions I harbored about the local water. It did help when starting the elaboration or first stage of my starter. The second stage and bulk ferment of my dough wasn't affected as much, probably because I was dealing with larger numbers of yeast spores that hadn't been refrigerated.

So I went down to Walmart last week in order to buy some KAF AP to use in baking and to feed my starter. Since many books have their recipes developed with KAF AP in mind, I wanted to try that out again and see if I had learned enough to make it work out for me. After getting the flour, I decided to reduce the amount of overall flour by 30g for a slightly smaller batch of dough. My earliest experiments with KAF AP had sticky dough after the bulk fermentation which meant I couldn't take any detail for granted. I also threw in another variable, admittedly bad procedure, which was to overnight the starter build in the fridge. Anyways, that did result in a flavor with more tang for the finished loaf.


When the loaf was finally done and sliced, it did work out. The dough didn't collapse while I was slashing. The end color of the crust wasn't bad and the crumb, as noted, had a nice, mild sour flavor and tender texture. Not a perfect loaf by any stretch but one with potential as long as I keep working on the procedure. Practice, practice, practice!

Starter
110g at 100% hydration, fed with 75% KAF AP,
25% white whole wheat flour

Main Dough 
264g KAF AP
66g WWW flour
220g water at 85F
All of starter
7g kosher salt

Baked at 450F for 15 minutes, then turned around and baked at 425F for 18 minutes.

We haven't experienced the severe weather locally that has afflicted much of the Middle Coast. There has been a lot of rain that resulted in vigorous growth by the lawn. The peonies which grew to almost 4 1/2 feet tall, have bloomed prolifically and drooped to the ground as the rains passed through. The garlic is quite tall and the stalks are fat and bright green. The rest of the garden seems a little slow but that will change as the soil warms up. I've identified a new visitor to the bird feeders outside my window as a gray catbird. The bird was almost drab looking due to its, you guessed it, gray plumage but its song is quite similar to that of a cat. Hummingbirds haven't arrived yet.

Over the last four weeks or so, my obscure corner of the internet has gotten a large number of visits from the Ukraine.  I have no explanation for that other than either there are people who enjoy my excruciating and meandering scribbles or they have too much time on their hands. If these visits aren't just some computer driven hits and are real people, I'd like to hear from you and perhaps get some of your recipes.



Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.












Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Light Rye with Caraway

As I gain momentum to do the yard work around Casa PG, my starter seems to be doing the same for a similar reason, warmer weather. I admit to using a bit of IDY in my loaves that include bulgur, one of which is baking while I hunt and peck upon the keyboard, but for the most part my anxiety about my starter is diminishing.


This first loaf is a sample of the sourdough with bulgur loafs. They still have a taste that appeals to Mrs PG and I. They're also good for day to day use with some peanut butter or in a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich.




My most recent foray into the wonderful world of rye breads worked out well in terms of texture and taste. The crumb was soft and the caraway seeds, which I found at a Penzey's store, were just bright enough to stand up to bratwurst and some hot horseradish. This wasn't a loaf for a smear of peanut butter in the morning, it's meant for sandwiches and stews. Be sure to use an overnight retarded proofing.

Starter
150 g at 100% hydration, fed with
75% AP/25% whole rye

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g whole rye flour
230 g water at 85F
12 g or 1/2 Tbs honey
9 g kosher salt
9 g caraway seeds


The leafs are starting to fill in on more trees. Tomorrow, 15 April, is our area's average lost frost date with no forecast for frost in the next ten days. Our daffodils are quickly fading away but our tulips are emerging as the color in the flower beds. All but one of my peony plantings have stems reaching twenty inches or more and I haven't been outside since yesterday so that planting may have caught up.

The juncos appear to have left the yard for their migration northward and have been replaced by more  regular visiting red winged blackbirds. It's still too early for the return of the hummingbirds in our area.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.