Lavender PinocchioWell, it does seem that in late August and September all the little rodents of this place begin to take over. We invested in some more Black Box gopher traps last weekend, which I am highly in favor of, and now I’m checking five traps daily with seven gophers and a handful of voles notched into my belt. They’ve got their own tally going too. While we were both quite busy in June and July we lost more than a couple of plants to those critters and are learning there are fewer and fewer plant roots that they won’t eat. I even have a yarrow potted up struggling for survival with a few roots rescued from their gorging two nights ago.

Last spring I almost posted about my Lavender Pinocchio that a gopher killed. It was an own-root rose that Tracy didn’t want to carry anymore and I have always loved the different colors it performs in our climate throughout the blooming season.   I hadn’t been able to walk past it in more than a week, so when I found it, the roots were totally gone and the young plant was dry and definitely dead. I took a photo of the dead plant, the gaping hole, and the “thing” that did the damage which I caught a few days later. My photo has it laying so peacefully in the garbage can on a pile of rose petals. A nice send off, considering, but Tracy intervened with that post, calling it a might distasteful. I guess I’m an educator and wanted to share what we suffer with here. Besides, some people have told me that they’ve never seen a gopher. I suppose those Californians have cats that are good hunters.  Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw a baby Lavender Pinocchio starting out of the ground a few months ago.  I couldn’t be sure until it bloomed, but yep, there is a remnant left.   I guess that gopher didn’t quite get it all (hurray for own-root plants!).   Now let’s hope this one survives, with regular surveying of the area for new gophers.

While I waited for our various  traps to snap I had a little time on my hands. To commemorate a friend’s birthday and as an ode to the Julia Child movie out right now, I made Child’s Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) chocolate cake.  I doubled the recipe to make a large cake for a  crowd of 8 adults and 4 children. Wow it was good, and even though you can only see the photos and not taste them, they’re much better than any look at a dead gopher, for sure. Here are the steps:

1.  Get the recipe.  With the movie out, there is not a single copy for sale of Julia’s French cookbook in the entire county, so to the internet I turned.  I found out later that there are at least two versions of this cake, as Julia tweaked things now and then.

2.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

3. Prepare the 8″ baking pans.  I like to dust with cocoa powder when making a dark cake.

4.  Cream the butter and sugar.

5. Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

6.  Add the yolks.

7.  Fold in the melted chocolate.

8.  Fold in the almond meal and the almond extract.

9.  Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.

10.   Sift the flour, then alternately fold it in with the egg whites.

11.  Divide evenly in the pans and bake.  Cool upright for 10 minutes.

12.  Watch out for cake spies!

13.  Invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

14.  Melt more chocolate in a glass bowl for the frosting.

15.  Once cool, add butter to melted chocolate one tablespoon at a time while the bowl is over another bowl full of ice water.

16.  Start frosting.  Even after doubling the frosting ingredients I found I wasn’t going to have enough to do the whole cake, so I opted to use the frosting as a filling and on the sides, and just dust with powdered sugar on the top.  Others have omitted the frosting altogether for such a naturally rich, dense and moist cake.

17.  Decorate as you please with almond pieces.

18.  Don’t forget to take a photo of the last piece before it gets eaten!

Until I learn this new blogging program I guess all the photos will have to be in one group like this: