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Homemade Pretzels

I haven't made homemade pretzels since we were in Alabama and I had forgotten how easy they are if not a little time consuming. I made these last week for Oscar night. They keep a long time in an airtight container. 1   (.25 ounce) package   active dry yeast 1 tablespoons   brown sugar 1  teaspoons   salt 1 ½   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 3   cups   all-purpose flour 1   cup   bread flour 2   cups   warm water (110 degrees) 2   tablespoons   baking soda 1-2   tablespoons   butter, melted 2   tablespoons  kosher salt Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the yeast, brown sugar and salt in the 1.5 cups of warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the flour. Knead for about 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise for an hour (I place mine in the oven with the light on). Combine the two cups of warm water with the baking soda in a square shallow pan. After the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each section into a

Fall beckons


According to the local weather folks, the hot weather could be out of here! All told, I would guess that we had a total of about 10 days above 90 degrees since July so we are not complaining at all. We love the Pacific NW weather. 

Of course there are a few drawbacks - tomatoes did not begin to ripen until mid-August, the puny canteloupe I planted has fruited but seems to be at a standstill and some of the heat-loving flowers like Hyacinth Bean vine, lantana and marigolds have been small-growing. However, this is not a bad price to pay for a humidity-free climate.

Gardening-wise, the most difficult thing for me to adjust to is the dry summers. We have not had an inch of rain since mid-June! Even though I water faithfully, I honestly do not know how plants are still alive, especially the ones that grow in the wild. It is typical weather in this maritime climate though. Tomorrow we have an 80% chance of rain and we got a good sprinkle yesterday and today.

Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood)
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)
The trees, perhaps due to the lack of water, have begun to turn color. These are the leaves on the Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) tree.

The moisture-loving hydrangeas too have looked a bit sad for some time now.

Hydrangea 'Preziosa'
Hydrangea 'Preziosa'
There are many plants that love the dry weather. It is all a learning experience!

Some of the dry summer lovers -

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima)
Mexican Feather Grass Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Celosia 'Intenz Purple'
Celosia 'Intenz Purple'

Agastache ‘Tutti Frutti’
Agastache 'Tutti Frutti'

Sedum 'Cherry Truffle'
Sedum 'Cherry Truffle'

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop)
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Alcea (Hollyhock)
Hollyhock (Alcea) grown from seed - it is only 2 feet tall

We are in love with Heliotrope, which smells like baby powder.


Dahlia ‘Dahlightful Lively Lavender’ has been covered with blooms all summer. I just keep pinching off the faded blooms and more appear. A definite winner!
Rain is now falling outside the window as I type this. I think I can hear the plants growing!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Such stunning photos Phillip. We are crispy and brown in North Alabama. Been in the 90-100 for the summer. I'm going to make a list of your dry loving plants and see how they do.

  2. Wow. The color really pops on that hollyhock!

    I think it would be quite hard for me to get used to a rain-free summer.

    (Although the lack of humidity would be a blessing...)

    As you say, there are wild plants that survive on the natural rainfall. If you welcome those natives into your garden, presumably they'd be happy even without regular watering?

    PS - Do you have any mahonias in your garden yet? If I lived in the PNW, I think I would love to grow Mahonia aquifolium or M. repens!

    1. No mahonias yet but I plan to add some. There is a native one here that I don't recall the name of - it does not get tall like some of the larger ones.

  3. Lovely. The Celosia looks particularly beckoning.

  4. Adding organic matter to the soil, watering well then mulching, helps it to retain moisture during drought. Pile it on in the Fall or early Spring!

  5. It can be tricky gardening here ! . Not only the lack of rain , but the wind was really drying my garden, I water everything by hand in late summer, but not this week !

  6. I never knew that the Pacific NW had dry summers. I thought it was always rainy and damp! We have dry summers here in Columbus Ohio too, but I expect it. I wander with the garden hose nearly every day. Perhaps you'll need to do the same.

  7. The last couple of summers we were dryer then usual. Many of our evergreen trees suffer because of it and some trees lose there leafs sooner then they should. I good wet winter could help alleviate the problem. Your pictures are gorgeous. I love Mexican feather grass; If I had a meadow I'd fill it with a river of this grass. Be aware that it reseeds heavily. The color of Hydrangea 'Preziosa' booms is wonderful and it also looks good when dry.

  8. Always nice to see these beautiful flowers !!
    Great photos !!

  9. We normally have a rain free August but this year we received almost 9"of rain. Crazy. Of course 7" of that rain came in 4 days. I love dahlias. I should grow some more of them. Yours is quite pretty. Hydrangeas don't like it dry. Even if it is a challenge learning how to garden where you have moved I bet it is fun. Sure looks like fun.

  10. I always try to visit my son in Portland during the summer, because the weather is so wonderful with great temps and very little rain. Despite the lack of summer rain, the perennials in that part of the world seem to be much happier there than here in Alabama! It is still very hot and humid here, although yesterday I felt a cool breeze that gave a promise of more pleasant temps to come. No rain at all the last couple of weeks, and things are beginning to look droughty. I am waiting for fall!

  11. Your photos are so wonderful--the Celosia shot is perfection. Interesting for you gardening in a much different climate. I suppose you miss weeks on end of 90F/90% humidity weather? Probably not.

    The drought has been educational here where it is drier by a factor of 100 than the PNW--plants even here can survive on soil moisture for longer than would be expected--and soil will stay moist for months in some locations--either with shade or shaded with mulch--after several significant rains. Significant rain is what we continue to hope for.


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