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!
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.
Some Saturdays can be activity-filled and complicated with household chores, shopping, and cleaning, “get up and get going” like a weekday. This crisp November Saturday morning I slept in. The sunny autumn day Dean and I began with chive & cheese scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls knowing we needed a substantial breakfast to get the autumn leaf and brush cleaning completed. Dean captured some lovely photos while in the yard. And my thoughts drift to a subject at hand to facilitate at an employee enrichment class in a couple of weeks. Simplicity. Some refer to a simple lifestyle as minimalism. Whatever you call it, it is living in the present moment, and enjoying life, love, family, and friends. There are only a few basics to possess … and everything else is just stuff. It is up to you to figure out what you can live with and what you can live without. So what can you give away from that pantry, garden, closet, or garage? What do you need to cling to for substance for your day today? I have confidence you will make a wise choice.
“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..
My Saturday was filled with caring for green life, as so many Saturdays and Sundays in the spring time. Dean and I made an early run to the greenhouse as summer like weather was forecasted for the day. Dean mowed the grass while I attended to weeds and watering. Our peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and dill are sprouting. The chive plants are in full bloom. I cut a bundle, and dropped some off to Jack Mac, executive chef and friend at Chandler Hill Vineyards. He told me how to use the blooms in my cooking this week. For this weekend I put together a red potato salad snipping my chives and young voluntary dill sprigs into the bowl.
As tradition goes green plants and May flowers fill my Mother’s Day weekend. This year is no exception. Maybe it is tradition from my childhood. My mother still enjoys a potted tomato plant and another pot of summer favorites like petunias or geranium. This Mother’s Day I sit on the porch bench surrounded with early morning mist, song birds, and quietness from the world’s busyness. Midnight, our Labrador joins. He, too relishes the weekly early Sunday morning date with nature. My pots of perennials and annuals complete my sensual needs this morn.
Green swatches with flecks of purple and pink will completely cover this bed. Just need a few more sunny days and rain or well water. Our raised bed is a patchwork garden. One month ago seeds of the early spring greens, chives, and sugar snap and large pod peas went into the cold organic soil situated in this raised bed on the screenhouse side of our greenhouse. The lettuce and spinach are sparse. Either bad seeds, but most likely not enough watering and near freezing mornings a few days in April. We will reseed this week. One end are the early spring lettuces, spinach, and chives sowed in patches rather than rows. Then the 2 rows of peas in the middle. On Sunday I sowed a row of bush beans near the pea patch. At the other end of the raised bed are patches of herbs sowed into the soil; cilantro, a blend of basils, thyme, and marjoram. We selected Olds Seed Company organic vegetable and herb seeds bought at the local country store late winter.
The little pea patch is coming along just fine. This weekend we strung twine along the rows for the pea plants to climb. We have about another month until the date of maturity for both varieties. The delicate blossoms should be appearing soon. This legume can be grown just for the bouquet of flowers and fragance. Nutrients are provided for the soil as well. I cherish the fresh, delicious peas with a pinch of kosher salt and dabble of sweet butter. About as many varieties of peas there are, is about how many sweet sayings, poems, and songs referring to the pea. Babies, children and lovers have been called “sweet pea” for centuries. “Two peas in a pod” is a phrase I say when two people act alike. Mostly, sweet pea is a term of endearment such as from Amos Lee’s song…
Sweet pea, apple of my eye
Don’t know when and I don’t know why
You’re the only reason I keep on coming home.
“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?
Dean and I delivered a trailer load mixture of compost and top soil to our greenhouse site at Boone Hollow Farm a few days ago. I inquired from a local farmer who I know from my childhood as this farmer uses sustainable practices at his top soil farm less than a mile from our home. Last weekend herb seeds were sown, and in less than a week we have garden cress seedlings sprouted. This warm, humid air has made the ideal conditions for my herbal bed. From what I read garden cress is very prolific. I seeded many culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, basil, chives, marjoram, dill. Garden cress is one herb I have not used in my dishes before, though I inherited a packet of seeds somewhere in my farmy networking. I do not discard gifts no matter how small or big, so I will come up with some uses for garden cress. I understand it makes flavorful tangy sprouts for salads and sandwiches. In England it is added to egg & mayo tea sandwiches. Sounds like a country tea party with my green garden tea plates & tea cups in a couple of weeks at the greenhouse.
I have found photos of such darling herb gardens these past few weeks. We have a retailer’s greeting card holder we bought for $5 from the local library moving sale. I want to repurpose it to a herb garden, particularly for my daughter who lives in an apartment with a balcony. Vertical gardens are trendy now, and very practical for urban dwellers. I will work with this idea later this summer into autumn. We went semi-traditional, a 12 x 6-foot bed raised 6-inches from the floor of our greenhouse on the screenhouse side. There is some protection from the sunrays with the black cover now. I need this for skin protection. I have battled basal cell cancer 2 years ago. The semi-indoor herbal bed will be protected somewhat from weeds as we have a landscape fabric under the gravel floor. We cleared most of the gravel before shoveling the compost-top soil mixture in the bed. We will see what happens in regards to pests and bugs. We found a 3-foot snake skin in our greenhouse last week. Critters can still get inside. Let’s hope Chuck, the groundhog who lives under the barn down the hill stays out! As well as his skunk, mole, and rat friends!
How do you grow your herbs? Containers? Raised beds? Vertical beds? Are your herbs for culinary or ornamental purposes?
The tax year of 2012 Dean and I both did not claim one of our six children as a tax dependent. It has been years for either of us since this has occurred. They are all grown up! According to our accountant, our tax deductions came from our greenhouse business this year, not our children. We took a loss this tax year, as last year. Greenhouse rebuilds are costly and timely. An expensive hobby rather than a business, maybe? I’d rather be playing in the dirt and planting green things for my eye palette or taste palette than gambling at the casino, perusing the neighborhood bars, or loafing on the couch. We have a hefty tax return coming which will in turn be reinvested into Deanna Greens And Garden Art. Electric for our structure is around the corner, with propane and solar heat as the next big investments.
I never viewed our Deanna Greens And Garden Art plants as dependents, but that is what they are. And they depend on us to thrive in this world. Water, food, and light on a regular basis, and Mother Nature does her part. I am so anxious for the weather to warm up enough to get our plants under the shelter of our unheated greenhouse. The plant lights in the garages have done good, but the natural sunlight is what the plants need to get greener, fuller, and growing with such vigor. Rain water (or snow in our case!) catching in the rain barrels will provide more minerals for our plants. After a few weeks in the greenhouse, the plants will be moved to the screenhouse to avoid scorching this summer. That scenario seems so far away. We are still under normal temperatures for March. Come on Spring, we need you!
Planning out the growing and market season, Dean and I will have some annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, and wildflower mixes. Marigolds are a great natural insect repellant for your vegetable garden and patio area. Zinnias and wildflowers make beautiful summer bouquets. Organic herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, and nastrium will be sold live in pots of various sizes. We will make some potted herb gardens. Garden spoon signs and homemade lavendar soap will be brought to the farmers’ markets. I will design some relic stepping stones and have them ready for market on Mother’s Day weekend. And then there are houseplants, with succulents as our specialty plant. Currently, we are in search for unique pots to divide and transplant our huge succulents into. We hope to plant some vegetables for our consumption. Any leftovers will be frozen or stored for next winter’s pastas, stews, and soups. The circle of life … Parents provide and care for, grown children provide and care for …
Tune in for local farmers’ market information in my next post or two.
“Much Virtue in Herbs, little in Men.”
Benjamin Franklin,Poor Richard Almanac (1706 – 1790)
Deanna Greens and Garden Art will be at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ and Artists’ Market tomorrow morning bright and early. We are having an Herb Sale. Kitchen herbs such as sweet basil, chives, marjoram, common and pineapple sage, lemon and winter thyme growing in 3-1/2 ” terra cotta pots will go for 4 pots for the price of 3. $15. Pesticide-free. Great for your favorite autumn and winter dishes. Come buy, cook, and savor.