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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

A look back at the 2019 garden

Since I no longer keep a paper gardening journal, blogging provides the best means of keeping up with what has happened in the garden. The visual references along is most rewarding as well as the ability to search quickly for a specific topic. Taking a glance through my entries over the past year, I can get a quick look at what worked and what did not.

I always like to start January off with a project and last year was no exception. After removing the vegetable garden from the central portion of the back garden, I cleared out the grass and marked off the area. I wanted a strong visual focal point in this area and finally decided that a deck covered with a pergola would provide us with a striking visual element, a place to grow vines and would also be a nice place to entertain (although I must confess that we do very little entertaining and have dined there with company ONE time since building it). 

The "before" shot -

At first I thought I would build the structure myself but knowing myself and my lack of abilities in that department, I finally convinced myself that the logical thing to do was to hire a professional. I called the guy who built our front fence and gates and he started work in mid-January. In less than one week, he had it finished -

We would finish the project - staining it and spreading gravel over the area around it but that would take several months. The cold, wet weather during the winter months lingers here and I have to really motivate myself to get outdoors.

Late February also brought a substantial snowfall -

The weather improved in March and I started spreading pea gravel over the courtyard -

 Early flowering beauties began to appear, like this cheery crocus -

 and new roses arrived in the mail. I can't remember the last time I've ordered plants though the mail but it has been a long, long time.

 By late April, we finally finished staining the pergola. This was a job that I wished I has asked the builder to do. I dread the day when it will need to be touched up again. It was not a fun job.

In the Alabama garden, April was the "wow" month when the garden really transforms itself but here, it is a bit slower and May is the time when everything wakes up. Here is a view from the front garden, taken from the street, showing the spectacular Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps'. This is the second week in May -

June is even better with the roses and clematis reaching their peak. 

The moon arch that we installed early last year looked great with the rambler rose 'Phyllis Bide' on one side. 'Eden' on the other side should catch up this year. I sent a photo of it to the Kinsman Company, where I purchased it, and they want to use it in their catalog next year!

Some plants bloomed for the first time, like Callistemon 'Woodlander's Red' - 

By June, I had the courtyard planted. The water basin came from Little Baja in Portland. The Orange Sedge grass planted around it has already gotten much higher than I envisioned so I am planning to raise it a bit this year.

Other areas of the garden during the summer months -

Time to apply some fresh mulch. A chip drop during the first week of August -

I also did some work on the terrace steps. I added an additional step at each level because the tread was too steep. During the last week of August, Michael embellished the top landing area -

The fall season was long and leisurely. It seemed to take a long time for the fall colors to arrive. By late October, things began to brighten up -

A number of firsts -

Making applesauce with apples from our tree

and making some grape jelly from grapes given to me by a friend

and a happy Christmas -

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I must say, you have done an incredible, creating a magnificent garden in no time at all! You make it look so easy. A job well done.

  2. Beautiful views of your garden ! I've enjoyed every post and look forward to more drama in 2020.

  3. What a beautiful garden year. Thanks for letting us see it. And oh, the glory of that Ceanothus!


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