Autumn has been lovely. Another late harvest brought in the last of the volunteer arugula and tomatoes early in November. I was able to capture the sun from the growing season in jars of green tomato marmalade. Writing took a back door while gathering and prepping the fruits of our labor. The words continued to be gathered in my heart and eventually journaled. Now winter whispers this crispy morn. I am ready for more steeping hot teas and whipped cream lathered over hot cocoa while writing and reading.
I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us. My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship. I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like. A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today. Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law. This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes. But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart. So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are. Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.
Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days. We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing. Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with. Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life, I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week. And those delectable garden peas! I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn. The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring. The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon. Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots. I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!
Household and yard projects ruled the weekend. Dean and I managed to get a couple of walks in with Midnight between chores. On Saturday Dean cleaned and prepped the concrete slab for the laminate flooring to be installed this coming week in our house addition. While he did that I raked twigs and leaves, remnants of autumn and winter. The winds seem to blow the gum balls and pine needles from the neighbor’s trees our way. Cannot complain too much as these neighbor’s trees attract an owl that lives in the neighborhood. All the brown rubbish filled the compost bin, and then some. So that is just the front yard.
The back yard is one huge mess with the room addition project. The yard needs to be leveled and new grass seeded. Dean and I picked up huge tree roots and rocks unearthed from the foundation dig up. We continued discussion on making a small retaining wall, a rock swale, and small patio area. Piles of gray and brown sit curbside for the city’s bulky trash pickup this week; twigs, limbs, scrap lumber and old pipes. Seasons. Making way for spring colors. Greener grass; purple, pink, and white blooms; and the perennials being brought outside from the semi-heated garage one warm weekend before Easter. See what the March winds bring until April. Welcome Spring! So happy you came Today!
A sprout, green shoots of hope appeared in the garden bed today. My chives have surfaced from its winter hibernation. It had been 10 weeks when we left the Deanna Greens greenhouse in Defiance, just before Thanksgiving. By lantern light we harvested all the herbs and greens we had left that evening. There had not been need to get to the farm since snow has been close to null, no need to check on the 3-season structure. Dean, Midnight, and I observed signs of where an animal had laid on the other side of the bed. Our labrador sniffed the area thoroughly “who has been sleeping in my bed?!”
This mild sunny afternoon in early February called my name to the countryside. Perusing our 3-season structure, and then for a long walk around Boone Hollow Farm with Dean and Midnight. Midnight lead the way up the hill, passed the farm neighbor’s sprouting garlic field we help plant in November. Then a stroll along the cedar ridge, down another neighbor’s gravel driveway, back near our greenhouse, then over to the barn, and circling the brush piles before our return to the greenhouse. Our landlord must have set the one brush pile on fire as there were a few lasting embers and a small trail of smoke surrounded by ashes. Present moment, mindful observations of nature. The walk and fresh air revived my soul after this weary week.
Hope is like those February sprouts of chives and garlic. Perennial faith believes a flourishing crop and bountiful harvest in the not too far future. Lasting embers will once again ablaze a fire to light up the darkness and give warm comfort. The ashes of cancer lie on the ground while my daughter lights the world with her strength, faith, and love.
After the main water line burst under our foundation and flooded the floors throughout our home in November of 2015, Dean and I stopped in our tracks for another look into our future. We lived in a rental home for almost 3 months while our floors, doors, and walls were upgraded. Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Where thou are – that – is Home”. Home for me is where Dean is. We refocused on our future, and we dreamed new dreams those few days beginning 2016. We entered this year with different eyes for our near and farther future. “Different” has many meanings, and it is a word used interchangeable with words such as eccentric, strange, or unfamiliar and the opposite of alike, same, similar, or akin. Unfamiliar grounds were walked with the unexpected renovations of our home, working with our home owner’s insurance company and a contractor. Our insurance agent said she saw nothing quite like what we experienced. Living in a slab home has its disadvantages. “This ability to reinvent oneself, to sail confidently into unknown waters, seem to be even more needed today, ” writes author Ferenc Mate. Resilience.
On March 1 we made it back into our St. Peters house. No better opportunity to lessen and reorganize our belongings than when our plethora of boxes are delivered from storage back to our home. Dean built another storage shelf for the garage. Redecorating our quaint, beautifully refurbished dwelling allowed for artistic expression. In our future is a red front door, maybe not quite as eccentric as the purple door seen in the photo but I definitely wear purple. Soothing green walls, warm pine doors, and neutral beige laminate floors bring a more natural feel to our home. A room addition came to our minds as we explored ways to invest in what we could afford, yet not as risky as a rental property we had considered in 2015. Late this spring we signed a contract and hired the same local contractor who did our remodel for our 500-square foot house addition project. A delay with city permits and the rerouting of electric lines in our rocky back yard, the roof and windows were installed today. Trendy “barn doors” will be placed for the entry into a small bedroom, and the rest of the space will be a great room to include bargain-finds such as a hide-a-bed sofa, comfy recliner, dining table with chairs, more cabinets extending from our current kitchen, and a nook near one of the windows for a day bed and night lamp. We have friends and family stop in from time to time, and hope to have a homemade dinner made as well as accommodate any overnight visits. Will you be one of them? I hope.
Like previous years gardening, books, writing, foods, and hospitality continue to joyfully fill my spare moments in between my job and family. More herbs and greens will fill our pantry and plates in 2017. I will attempt to grow lavender for some aroma therapy and culinary use in baked goods and fresh tea and lemonade. I learn from authors, artists, and eccentrics. “Blessed are the weird people – the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, troubadours- for they teach us to see the world in different eyes,” author Jacob Nordby is quoted. On quieter days at work or at home in the evening I read books in preparation for work-life balance presentations and personal enrichment. “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense” says Harold Kushner. These three books: The Wisdom of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, Money Secrets Of the Amish by Lorilee Craker, and Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley touched on the essence of my year. Take small steps with purpose, and be simple, creative, and make-do. And give grace to yourself and others. I highly recommend these readings.
Below I share the blog of another blogger I follow on Word Press. This was written on More Herbs, Less Salt Day, which was yesterday on my birthday. I never heard of such a day, a good cause for another celebration besides a birthday! Apparently More Herbs, Less Salt Day originated by a eccentric couple who own Wellcat Herbs. They grow their own herbs and sell herbal products from their Pennsylvania home and gardens. I share these herbalists’ love of herbs on a part-time basis.
Enjoy this blog …
Here we are, all the way into the August of another year. The garden is exploding. I think that a vegetable garden shouldn’t just be functional…it should be pretty to look at. So come see how my garden grows…and shows. And, yes, I’m here to suggest you put that salt grinder down. Herbs. I love. Here’s […]
Simplicity. “In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity,” Price Pritchett is quoted. The simplicity of a garden is one place I find peace in this troubled world. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific one. I love creating an ambiance with green life. The fragrances of fresh herbs after a soaking rain or while harvesting feed my culinary imagination for Dean and I’s next meal, cucumber salad with snippets of cilantro to cool the heat of the summer day. The beauty of August’s blooms set in a simple vase uplifts the day no matter the bad news. “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” Audrey Hepburn once said. It takes faith. “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step,” artist Joni Eareckson Tada tells us. So I take one step at a time, one seed at a time. “Faith as a mustard seed can move mountains” as the Bible encourages us. I believe one simple step of love leads to another and then another. Those mountains of hatred will move. Make one simple step towards peace this very evening.
In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three. Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado. He is a visionary for this town. Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years. And we loved it. In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens. Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks. We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics. Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake. I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
“We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” Ruth R. Blodgett.
The week-long sunshine and humidity boosted garden growth. Clean, crisp leaves of arugula and leaf lettuce will make a big bowl of salad for the family crowd this week. My sister is in town from Minnesota, cause for celebration.
Sweat beaded my neckline, and then down my back and chest as I harvest the garden greens. Already 88 at 10 am. Soon salty droplets dribble onto my lips. The greens are almost sweet before the extreme afternoon temps turn them bitter. Are not we all?
The herbs thrive in the summer heat, with plenty of water. More chives need cutting. Snipette of tender dill and cilantro came ready in a couple of days. Next week I will be freezing my surplus herbs for the winter meals. The pea blossoms produced 1-inch pea pods in a matter of a week. Plant scraps are added to the compost. Earthy goodness. Primal to my taste buds. Organic gardening..