Category Archives: herbs

The Gift of One Year, One Day

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The COVID pandemic life continues another year with social distancing, masks, vaccines, remote work, and political debates. Dean and I felt more at ease once we received our vaccines early spring. This year became new, uncharted territory when I retired from full-time government administration work in June. Several years without regular pay raises due to tax issues and corruption had something to do with my decision. My inheritance allowed me to make this life change now rather than later. Subsequently, my mental and physical health improved while focusing on different work. God’s new purposes are being revealed to me one day at a time.

I am in full swing to my loves of writing, gardening, cooking, & antiques. I now teach per diem adult & children’s culinary classes at the local community college in their continuing education program. I opened a booth in an antique store & flea market near my daughter’s town and taken other items to resale stores repurposing items once belonging to myself, my mother, & others who donate. I dubbed it “Flock Together Mercantile”, as it is a “birds of a feather” endeavor. Monies earned go towards my daughter’s medical bills to treat her rare nerve disorder. Mom would have approved. A non-profit may be in the future? My life-long passion of writing includes recipes & poems found in eMerge, an online publication as well as my WordPress blogs, & more recently six-word stories on gratitude with Flapper Press. My Seashells poem is included in the book Dairy Hollow Echo that came out in August. This collection of poems & short stories on love, joy, & hope has already made Amazon’s best seller’s list for the anthology category. Since August we once again opened our St. Charles cottage one weekend a month to Airbnb guests. A detached garage with a studio is in the expansion plans for 2023, but maybe sooner. We will be able to offer many more weekends to guests. This year we had installed new roofs for both houses & gutters as well as a new HVAC system for the St. Charles cottage.

Dean & I road tripped several times, keeping off airplanes during the pandemic. Besides, it’s the journey getting there as well as the destination. Late March into April, we visited family & friends in Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri. We searched, finally found the Texas bluebonnets blooming in the fields as we visited during their early season. We enjoyed a family weekend in Branson in early June. During the summer I spent a week in Eureka Springs at The Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in their culinary suite. What a lovely experience, a week to just write, make culinary creations, & meet other writers. A September week included cranberry bogs & festival in Wisconsin, & a millinery boutique in Galena, Illinois where we purchased Edwardian-style hats for a costume party. Dean’s cousin, Leigh passed away in October, traveled to Arkansas for her memorial services. Mid-November was another weekend in Branson & where we will finish the year there with family all wearing our red buffalo check attire. In 2021 Missouri celebrates her 200th year as a state in the Union. Dean & I saw so many places & towns taking the country state & county highways this year. We discovered the quaint Missouri River town of Glasgow while staying at Dean’s classmate’s charming inn, The Orchard House Inn. A few Friday nights were enjoyed at the DeSoto CIA Hall where my childhood friend serves an elaborate menu to the local community while her partner plays old country-western, gospel tunes. Our Saturday nights we still watch the Opry show on the Circle Network with country radio personality, Bobby Bones. Hope to be in Nashville in 2022 to see a live Opry show.

A spring tea party, birthday celebrations, memorial services, a nephew’s wedding, long weekends, & holidays brought us together with family. Dean & I’s eight grandchildren continue to grow, ages now range from 20 years old to 14 months. Our six grown children work hard at their occupations & homes. A stray puppy found on the streets near my daughter’s came home with me for a week until we found a home for Peanut Butter. Dean’s brother & family adopted & renamed him Scout PB. My twin sister, older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, & I cleaned out my mother’s villa this summer. We made some minor repairs, put it on the market, & the home sold at a price higher than we asked for. Dean’s parents have had a difficult year. His mother fell, requiring hip surgery with a slow, but sure recovery. I spent a week & Dean most of November in KC helping his parents, making their house more safely accessible.

Dean hopes to retire in about four years. I picture him in free-lance research & consulting after his work with the National Archives, as his love for history is broad. He returned to the federal building two days a week this autumn, works remotely the other three days. My 61-years old hubby remains in good health; tall, dark, & handsome as ever in his salt & pepper hair. Dean tinkers with his plane models or the bird feeders where he tries to make them squirrel-proof. Key word is “tries”. A December tornado just missed our greenhouse/screenhouse in Defiance. Spring greens from the screenhouse still fill our salad bowls during the warm weather months. Harvested herbs spice up our dishes during the winter months. Our hydrangea blooms provide texture and color the year round inside & out. We revel over the maroon pansies blooming on the porch planter late into December, the longest growing season that I recall. No white Christmas here. In 2022 I hope to complete my first book of short stories with a culinary theme as well as a poetry chapbook. Meantime, I write & will submit to more literary magazines & websites. Our feathered derby & cloche hats wait on the chaise for our next outing on the town. Established routines such as quiet time, prayers, & journaling are interwoven with such spontaneity. The days do not have to be same old, same old. Revere each day & moment like a gift. Then it becomes just that, a gift even on the difficult days. Sometimes it’s a simple red apple from the fruit basket, or a fancy wrapped package. Untie the bow, unwrap the paper. There is something wonderful inside for you. God-given.

Autumn’s Gatherings

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Every autumn comes the day to gather the perennials indoors for their winter home, the basement. Dean and I know it is coming, and make room in the basement under the plant lights. Some years it is sooner rather than later. For 2021, it is much later. The cool mid-40’s mornings warm up quickly to warmer, mild afternoons. The weather forecast shows a probable frost in the 3-day forecast. I pluck falling gold, orange, and red leaves from the plants’ foliage and take cuttings while the perennials are outdoors. The cuttings we propagate for next spring’s pots. I gather a variety of these cuttings in water-filled recycled mayo and jelly jars. Both of my daughters have a love for our green friends so some jars of cuttings will get passed on.

Our perennials grew lusciously this summer, such a long summer season with rain. Our showiest pot is a Kingston fern with a philodendron planted together in April. I trimmed that thing three times already! Now gathered greenery fills our basement under the plant light tonight, their home for the next 5 months. I need to harvest the lasting herbs of mint, thyme, basil. oregano, and parsley, so the pots gather on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s project. Our last single ketchup and mustard rose gets snipped and put into a bud vase to treasure just a few more days indoors. My northern friend shares her last rose in an amber vignette saved before Minnesota’s killing frost.

A nephew’s wedding brought us to a few family gatherings this weekend. Dean and I found some Edwardian era reproduction hats while on vacation in September to wear to the costume rehearsal dinner party. I found a suitable dress on sale from Victorian Trading, and Dean wore a dark suit with a vest and skinny tie, and both wore feathers in our caps! A fun gathering to distract from my sprained ankle, caring for aging parents, and work schedules. This evening our front porch awaits a gathering of Halloween trick-or-treaters.

The Plant Life

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The Plant Life

This has been an odd Spring thus far. It came and went and came back for just a few days, and now feels like Summer. Lately, I have not written much about the plant life. Believe me, Deanna Greens still exist, alive and ticking. My busyness is crash training my full-time job before retirement while starting another job working just part-time as a culinary instructor. Just one more week of this. My health requires me to go at things with a slower pace. The weekend warrior stuff is over. I was diagnosed with PVCs a month ago, and probably had them for awhile. I am still tending to my green friends, but not with such vigor as the recent years past. Winter wanted to stay longer, so we took an early spring vacation to the southern states of Arkansas and Texas. My lettuce and greens garden was sown about 4 weeks later than my usual. This week Dean and I finally picked our first greens of the season and had a scrumptious salad for lunch.

The blooms have been magnificent this Spring. Vivid shades of blues, purples, pinks, and reds. And so many of them on each bush or stem. Red bud, white dogwood, German bearded and blue flag irises, “Granny’s bonnet” columbines, Chinese peonies, and mustard & ketchup roses. Our green perennials of ferns, philodendrons, arrowheads, and purple heart went outdoors to join the beauty of the bright colors. I potted some red begonias and purple lobelias. The neighbors, too have a rainbow of colors in their yards. A long Winter seems to bring out the colors come Spring. It is this plant life that calms me.

Pots and Sprouts

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Pots and Sprouts

Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.

I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.

A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

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A Green Thumb With No Frozen Fingers

The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.

Garden Envy

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I can be a little green with envy about gardens.  Pun intended.  Garden envy.  Any gardener out there can relate.  When I walk the streets of my town or thumb through a magazine I love looking at neighborhood gardens, the trees, flowers, veggies, and pots.  Our neighbors are creative with their plant, container, and cute garden art selections.  The most impressive are these moss baskets placed atop tall wooden posts.  Baby’s breath, impatiens, possibly geraniums cascade from holes inside the moss lining as well overflow from the top.  Dean and I plan to put in three of these planter poles and baskets in the new mulched terrace in the side yard next spring.  The flowers can be admired from our living room and bedroom windows as well as from the front and back yards.

While on vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia Dean and I visited the site of the oldest governor’s mansion.  Of course, the mansion, grounds buildings, and gardens are replicas.  We came across a colonial garden that captured my gaze for a few minutes.  I took this photo before we moved on with the tour.  The garden was not big, but big enough to yield a family a good share of food supply through the winter months.  All the rows neat and tidy.  Herbs in one patch; corn, vining beans or peas, squash and pumpkins create the 3-sisters in another patch; tomatoes and pepper plants caged, with flowering zinnias and marigolds surround.  So I am impressed to recreate a colonial-style garden for the next growing year.  I need to gather some books on colonial gardens to read over the winter months.  So what have you seen in a yard or garden that you would like to try for next year?  Or are you up to your eyeballs in zucchini and tomatoes right now to even think about next year’s garden like my friends Elizabeth and Gary in Festus, Missouri?  Take pride and you have grower’s bragging rights!  Happy gardening everyone!!!

Summer Labors of Love

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This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage.  Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door.  Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me.  But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass.  We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend.  There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight.  So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.

The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche.  Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture.  I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love.  Similarly,  the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk.  Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough.  Oh, so lemony!  A luscious summer bread for breakfast.  I made cake muffins with this batch.  If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert.  What are you making with your garden goodies?

 

Bolted Greens and Heighten Senses

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We have had such a wonderful spring for the garden greens, a full 3 months worth of mild temperatures and salads for at least 3 families.  The summer heat cranked up this past 2 weeks, and the arugula bolted.  Last week I pinched a few of the flowering buds, but as the temperatures increased so did the flowers on arugula.  We finally cut the longer stemmed arugula and gathered enough stems for two vases.  The fragrance was pleasantly earthy in the cottage for a couple days.   The arugula gets bitter after bolting, so we say goodbye to our spring crop, and hope for a mild autumn to plant more.  The lettuces loved the shade of the arugula, but will soon cease to produce due to the hot summer heat.  That, too, will be an autumn crop if the weather permits.

This week the tropical storm brought Missouri cooler air.  The windows are open for a welcoming breeze inside the cottage.  The mustard & ketchup roses and yellow lilies grace our table and kitchen window.  The herbs flourish to my delight, flavor enhancements and more nutrients to my dishes and drinks.  What tops a glass of iced mint tea on a summer evening on the patio?  The pleasures of gardening are many.  And there is the more cynical view of gardening I had to laugh at.  The other day I found this on a t-shirt online ad, “I garden so I don’t choke people.  Save a life, send mulch.”  With today’s societal woos, no wonder more people are picking up the hobby, rather I should say “the therapy of gardening”.  The climates, weather and society, change from day to day, as author Madeliene L’Engle has been quoted, “If there is to be any peace or reason, we have create it in our own hearts and homes.”  Have your heart and mind at peace and it will protect you and those around you.

Then There Is Gardening

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This COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates have everyone’s routines turned upside down.  Offices, schools, businesses, and now restaurant closings.  Remote work and make-shift offices and classrooms at home.  Priorities change, refocus on what is paramount, safety.  As we as a world make improvising arrangements with our employment, schooling, medical care, dental care, traveling, vacationing, shopping, dining, banking, faith-based activities, entertainment, and list goes on.  Cyberhackers take advantage, and magic potion con artists try their tactics.  But such heart-warming people and their actions shine brighter.  Did you see the California choir and their remote, online rendition of Over the Rainbow?   How about those Christmas lights and décor shining bright, and the Christmas carols over the radio?  The celebrities’ videos that keep us singing, laughing and smiling.  Hotels opening their empty rooms to paramedics and medical staff for COVID-19 testing and quarantine stations.  Neighbors helping each other with meals and errands.  Have you sat quietly and prayed?  I hope so. The world could use your prayers.

So after all the readjustments and new routines established, what are you doing with all the free time with no commutes or engagements?  Cannot go out to the movies, ball game, concert, winery, coffee shop, or vacation destination.  Please don’t turn to binge eating, drinking, or drugs. Keep yourself healthy and safe.  Projects like deep cleaning, decluttering, home repairs, and yardwork are suggestions, maybe not so appealing to some.  Indoor hobbies like scrapbooking, journaling, reading, painting, building a model, cooking, baking, making a music video, and blogging might be of interests. FaceTime, telephone, or do the old-fashion writing a letter to your friend or loved ones.  How about going outdoors, while keeping your distance from others?  Long walks on the paved sidewalk or trail in the woods, bird watch, shoot some hoops in your driveway court, or paint your front door a fresh color.  Then there is gardening!  I purchased my organic greens and herbs seeds, and will sow them in the warming organic soil at the screenhouse this week.  My office plants came home with me, and I will attend to them under the plant lights of our basement.  The Spring Equinox came yesterday evening, so perennial plants are closer to going outdoors each day.  This season we will always remember.  Make it a lemonade-out-of-lemons season.  Just sweeten it up with your love, God’s love.

 

 

Garden Remedies

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I love the life and sustainability that an organic garden brings.  Health, wellness, goodness, and beauty prevail!  As the autumn mornings get crisper,  my herbs and tomatoes still produce.  My garden plants will thrive until old man frost appears.  Deanna Greens and Garden Art has been existence for over 7 years now.  Some of Dean and I’s dreams have come true.  The love of the earth and gardening came alive in me.  “It takes some presumption to cut into the earth and to reshape and redefine – to alter the natural course of things, to commit to having planted a seed, to start a path with no idea, really, where it will lead,” writes Dominique Browning.  More dreams opened up.  This author continues “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling.  Mental toiling, perhaps…turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.”  Gardening has brought a peace to my heart.  And “It dawned on me:  I had tended that garden in great, lavish, loving strokes. It had given me quiet, steady, demanding, and undemanding seasons of pleasure.  I took care of the garden, then the garden took care of me.” ~ Dominique Browning. 

My garden has taken care of heart matters as well as health matters.  I received the most interesting report from my eye physician this week.  He said he could tell I eat lots of green, leafy veggies by the photo taken of the inside of my eyes.  Doc says my peepers are in excellent health, just the lens are getting older with age.  A stronger lens for my glasses are ordered.  According to https://yoursightmatters.com/greens-such-as-kale-good-for-eyesight/ Greenleafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are good for eyesight and preventing age-related eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Greens contain cartenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote vision and the health of the retina.”  Whatever I do not grow, I buy organic wherever able.  Just eating as much leafy greens and veggies as possible, which means adding to the smoothies and omelets, using veggie-based pasta and riced cauliflower, and spooning fresh and dried herbs into my recipes.  Yes, my garden sustains me.