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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

Pruning 'Mutabalis' and 'The Lady of Shalott'

A beautiful sunny day today before the big snow storm we are supposed to get tomorrow. Who knows what will happen - I've learned to not pay too much attention to the weather forecasters. There are so many different regions around us that it is understandable that the weather is hard to predict. So, judging from various reports and what people are saying on social media, it could be anything from 2 - 10 inches. A prolonged period of below freezing temperatures is why most gardeners in the area are biting their nails. Fortunately, they have upped those temps some so hopefully the freeze will not be too bad.

I've started pruning the roses and decided to tackle the largest ones first. In the front garden, that would be the David Austin rose 'The Lady of Shalott'. It has taken me all these years to come to the realization that roses need a strong pruning and they should bounce back no matter what you do. Even after moving here, I have been going light on pruning and I could tell that when I started to work on this rose. My intention was to cut it back by about 1/3 and I did that but I also did a lot of thinning.

'The Lady of Shalott' is a shrub-type rose. It was about 6 ft. tall last season with an equal spread. After examining the interior, I found a number of dead canes and several that were crossing each other. The growth on this rose has been very dense. After clearing out the dead and crossing canes, I started reducing the height and kept going lower and lower. This is the final result -

One of the rules that one always reads about pruning roses is to make the cuts right above an outward-facing bud. I find this maddening as most of the buds seem to always be on the inside. Is this just me or does anyone else encounter such? In the case of no obvious bud, I just wing it and cut above a crease or line on the canes.

On to the back garden where 'Mutabalis' grows alongside the deck. This rose grows like wildfire and stands between 5 and 6 feet tall. One of the most healthy roses in the garden and very forgiving. It is also evergreen or at least it is here. I try to get as many leaves removed as possible but in the case of this rose, that is not feasible. There were not as many dead canes here but some that were crossing and so large that I did not cut them out. 

I had thrown a bucket of rotted manure over the rose last fall and was concerned that it was too deep around the base. In colder climates, it is advisable to cover the bud union, but in our mild climate and especially with so much rain this time of year, it doesn't seem like a healthy thing to do. I scraped it back with a garden fork. I thought about removing the lower canes entirely, that is the ones that spread out close to the ground. I ruled against that though for now.

After pruning -

There are still many to prune but it may be a while before I can get back outside. It is time to prepare for a snowstorm!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Your efforts made these roses look quite good. I agree about the buds always seem to point inward where you want to cut. You just have to so your best.
    Good luck with the cold and snow. Snow would at least protect some things from the cold...but 10 inches is excessive. Hopefully it will be the lower side of the prediction.

  2. You're off to a great start! I hope the new storm isn't as bad as feared.

  3. Good job on both shrubs. They look tidy and airy, ready for spring. So you don't expect those roses to be more vulnerable to the cold now that have been pruned?
    Not knowing much about roses, it surprised me to read you have an evergreen variety... who knew...

    1. I am worried about the cold weather so I've covered them. I don't know if that will be good either, especially if there is a lot of snow. It will probably just weight them down. I will have to keep a check. I probably should not call 'Mutabalis' "evergreen" but it has been covered in leaves all winter (so far!).

  4. Good job. They look ready for spring, not snow. Hope your weather will not be as cold as predicted.

    I'm working on' Golden Celebration'. It's taken hours so far.


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