A new pal and I were discussing Phalenopsis orchids last weekend, and she was frustrated at her inability to encourage those little suckers to rebloom after bringing them home from the grocery store. 

This is a common frustration.  After years of trial and error and asking fellow orchid fanciers, this is what I figured out about growing Phalenopsis:Image

1)  Come September, put them outside in a filtered-sun place, and let them chill (literally and figuratively) for several weeks.  Once you have a hint that the weather is going to fall below about 40, bring them inside again.

2)  Make sure not to overwater Phals.  Kiss of Death.

3)  They are happiest in filtered light.  East or south exposures seem to work for me.

4)  Mealy bug = Satan.  I don’t know how or why the darn things invade my Phals and African violets, but they do.  I’ve tried every solution known to man.  The most practical solution is the one offered by the grower of the largest orchid farm in our area:  Throw them out.  They’re inexpensive.  Start over. Yes, he and I shared a chuckle over his self-serving advice, but he’s right.  My years of orchid hospice are over.  Unless the plant is one that I really adore and want to spend tons of time fretting over, it hits the recycle bin.

5)  What do you do about those old bloomstalks?  I’ve read that you’re supposed to cut them all the way down to the bottom; down to a node; or leave them alone.  I’ve done all three.  I don’t recommend the first option.

 6)  Don’t let your dog get to the orchids.  Bailey destroyed about a third of them until we found a solution.Image

This is for my pal, V from Aromas


Music To Bake Bread By

Santana.  You should do everything to Santana. Dance and knead the dough.  By the time you’ve danced and kneaded through three or four tracks, the dough is perfectly kneaded. 

This is what is good about baking bread:

1)  You have to plan.  I am over-extended by Life.  I “don’t have time.”  Baking bread makes me Take Time.  There are steps.  The process can take an entire day.  I generally start the night before.  I have to plan the feeding of the starter.  The making of whatever you call the stuff that has to sit there overnight (sponge?  smooshy stuff?).  The first knead.  The first rise.  The second knead.  The second rise.  Baking.  It all takes time.  And it makes you Take The Time.

2)  You have to Follow Someone Else’s Directions.  Doing what someone else tells me to do has been a life-long, chafing challenge for me.  I want to do it my way, thank you very much.  You really can’t do that when you make bread.  Making bread is all about chemistry.  For liberal artsy folks, this is a new way of thinking.

3)  You can meet new people.  Bakers LOVE to talk about baking.  If you’re not afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger, you can learn a lot, and the person isn’t a stranger anymore.

4) You can spread your wings.  I love making sourdough bread.  I learned how to bake sourdough from my friend, Val, on her Art of Sourdough Facebook page.  I went there on a lark last year.  I like Val.  And I hate winter.  By March, I was itching for Spring and something new, and there it was.  Val is a good teacher and I am a good student.  I found a couple of great books and tried new bread recipes.  I had a thought about chocolate and sourdough (it works) and accidentally stumbled on a chocolate stout cake recipe as I was looking for chocolate sourdough recipes online, and I’m now baking cakes.  More on that another time.

5)  The results taste good.  They may not always be beautiful, but they generally taste good.  And, if you don’t want temptation in your house, you can share.

6) Sharing makes everyone happy.

No downside.Image

This is for Linde, who wanted me to tell her all about baking, books, and orchids.