A blender is a must when cooking for children. Violet’s friend, Cesca Robinson, joined us for supper recently. I served a pork, potato, and leek dish. Both girls loved it but each painstakingly picked out the leeks and left them in a tidy pile at the edge of the plate. I always puree vegetables I know Violet dislikes into sauces and soups. It obviously is a texture thing as opposed to taste. This past summer I blended several containers of zucchini, garlic, and onions. No one is the wiser when they are slipped into a spaghetti sauce.

I have found that zucchini, especially, does not come out of the freezer in midwinter with an altogether pleasing texture so the hand-held blender is the way to go.

The great weather has persisted. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s wonderful, but I simply cannot stay indoors to tackle those long-neglected inside chores. I look forward to some down-time about now. Instead, I have been turning over some beds by hand and actually weeding.

Marie read that aphids will winter over on the stalks of the cole crops. I can’t tell you how irritating I found that information. Don’t we want collards and kale standing through the winter? I tore up a row of dinosaur kale in a snit. They were covered with the pests.

I have started organizing myself to start some seedlings on the propagating mat. It’s not too easy to seed onions, sage, thyme, lavender or any hardy perennials. These are all plants that can survive in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. They take quite a while and I like to get a start on them before the serious propagating begins. If I were using a sunny window inside I would wait another month or so to start. Otherwise, the baby plants tend to get too leggy and weak. If I had a basement (I covet one) I would set up grow lights like a crazy person.

Ellie Keohane is becoming my new research assistant. She found another interesting article and snipped it for me. This time it was a how-to about globe artichokes. I have grown them for years with questionable results. They do not reliably winter-over without plenty of mulch. Then the mice get under the mulch and gnaw at the roots. I’ve had the seed package mislabeled and grown cardoon instead. The few chokes I have harvested are no bigger than tennis balls and there have been very few of them. I, however, am like a little pit bull and refuse to give up.

Back to the article; Artichokes, the Queen of Edible Flowers from a 1992 publication of Fine Gardening. Author David Hill says that artichokes need to be vernalized, aka cold-treated. This will trick them into flowering the first year from seed. The soaked seeds need to spend a month in the refrigerator on some sphagnum moss. The now-germinated seedlings can be potted and placed in a cold frame.

The great news about artichokes is if you neglect to harvest the unopened bud for the table, it will open into a spectacular purple thistle-like flower. An arrangement of them will draw some oohs and ahs. Trust me.

I cannot figure out why mail-order businesses send along two identical catalogs. I go to recycling with a tremendous amount of them with plenty to spare. I have yet to enjoy a cold, snowy day of perusing seed catalogs and making an order. I’m too busy still caring for some of last season’s plants.

Since I order over the phone, I always enjoy conversations with the company representatives. There are some whom I remember from last year. We tend to discuss the weather and which plants are adaptable. I do like a personal exchange, not that I need another reason to avoid a computer.

I was interested in the article in this paper last week about the winter moth. Recently, I saw so many over near Camp Jabberwocky that I thought it was snowing. This is not a good sign for our trees this summer. In fact, the wonderful mild winter we have been experiencing probably will give us record numbers of all sorts of bugs this coming summer.

The results of the New Hampshire primary will be in by the time this paper comes out. I hope Jon Huntsman gets a bump. He’s the only candidate this year that I can even tolerate. I was happy to hear his remarks defending his working for the Obama administration as Ambassador to China. He rightly said that serving his country should not be a partisan choice. Too bad the obstructionists in Congress couldn’t have followed that moral principle. Perhaps something would actually have been done for the country.

I find it amusing that all the candidates say they will do this or that. We all know it won’t happen.