March is mad. It seems to be mad at the world with its destructive tornadoes earlier this week and dive-bombing temperatures this weekend after spring was introduced weeks ago. The below freezing temps continue for 6 days, not just one night. And snow in the forecast!
I had my early spring sprouts emerge from the organic soil of the raised bed at least a week ago. Dean and I went to the farm last night between the spring showers and by lantern light we covered the vegetable bed with a plastic tarp. This bed is inside the screen house, so the baby plants just need an extra layer of protection the next few days. See what happens. Gardening is definitely one science experiment after another.
March is also the month to celebrate a few birthdays. Today, my father was born 81-years ago. He is no longer amongst us on earth, but they must celebrate birthdays in heaven! Happy Birthday, Dad! Hope you are celebrating with Grandpa and Uncle Lee! I miss you dearly! I hope you are proud of your family and what we are in our lives presently. That makes me happy to think you are. You must know about your granddaughter fighting a battle with cancer. I have asked for prayers and for the angels to watch over her. You and God must hear these supplications daily, hourly. Thank you for listening. In God’s hands…
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
“Ice ice baby, too cold. Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri. Freezing drizzle. Freezing rain. Sleet. Ice pellets. Ice. Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick. No need to be out on the roads. Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible. Such a sharp contrast from last Friday. I was in sunny Florida. I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.
Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner. The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.
The weather pretends to be spring one day and another more like winter even though vernal equinox came just a few days ago. The see-saw effect of the air temperature have the flowers and blossoms awaiting their full glory. We were blessed with a few soaking rains this month of March, and this will help the springtime colors on those coming sunny days. Yesterday and today, the day warmed up nicely with full sun by afternoon. This weekend I was able to get my early spring seed sowing completed. Two varieties of peas, leaf lettuce, spinach, and chives seeds went into the cold organic soil of our raised bed. The bed is situated in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse. The irrigation lines are not turned on yet from the winter shut-off to the well, so we make do until then. We watered the soil with water from the little creek on the farm property. We have not tested the water in the creek, but the farm is surrounded by more small farms and rural dwellers in the Daniel Boone country of Missouri. Down-to-earth and sustainable-practicing folks are our neighbors. That’s essential for organic growing.
All of our perennials spent the winter under plant lights and the heat from an oil heater in the garage. Some survived, but will flourish in warmer air and real sunshine. Our geraniums, Kingston ferns, citrus trees, and bird-of-paradise are lush green. Just a few more days until we are frost-free, then we can bring them to their favorite outdoor perching spots. Others did not make it through the long winter. Our peace lilies and arrowheads probably will not resurrect in the warmer outdoors. We inherited many perennials when we purchased the greenhouse structure 3-1/2 years ago. Many were sold or were given away. But the perennials I really care about are our geraniums and herbs. Our annuals of organic garden greens, peas, and beans will freshen up a few meals this summer. Gourds will grow over the long summer months, and harvest late in the autumn.
To the farmer’s market Deanna Greens And Garden Art does not go, as Dean and I have no desire to sell what we grow at this time. I am feeling selfish right now. I want what I grow for myself or family. It is much work to be a farmer, and we are busy enough with our full-time jobs and keeping with our 6 grown children and their families. Restricted time and creativity do not go hand-in-hand. At this time I am in an artist’s slump. Yet I know there will be a time and the creativity for the medium of painting. “Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.”
~ James Russell Lowell. Just maybe next winter I will connect with the Earth through the creative art of carving and painting gourds, rather than preoccupied and depressed by the cold winter I cannot embrace due to my severe allergy to the cold. I hope that through this blog, words will continue to flow. No matter what surrounds, project deadlines, violent urban life, office or family drama, sickness or death, may my words convey God’s love for us and my love for the Earth He has blessed us with. “To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
~ George Kneller
New Year’s Eve dinner and bottle of wine at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, Missouri shared with my sweetie, Dean was slowly, lusciously savored …
~ Opera Prima Moscato, La Mancha, Spain ~
~ Yukon Gold Potato Pancake with Peppered Pecan Wood Smoked Bacon and House Made Pear Chutney ~
~ Grilled Local Heritage Hog Chop (12 oz.) and Annie Gunn’s Pork Belly with Local Apple Golden Raisin Chutney, Garlicky Brussels Sprouts and Whipped Local Sweet Potatoes ~
~ Angus Reserve Aged Filet Mignon, Northern Plains with Cabernet Cracked Pepper Butter served with Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes, Farmer Vegetables and Plugra Butter ~
Thank you, my love. With fond vignettes and memories made in 2014, and a welcome to 2015 and the more to come …
The winds whirl late in October right into November. Such a reminder that autumn is amidst, and the chilly season will blow right into winter before too long. My heart has been so heavy these days. Not felt like writing. My Grandpa passed away on October 20, one day after his 99th birthday. Grandpa was the oldest of five generations in our family for almost 13 years. My oldest granddaughter will be officially a teenager this month of November. And I part of the “club generation”. Where does the time go? Grandpa Earl donated his body to science. We need to figure out how a ornery cuss like him lived so long. In Grandpa’s latter years, as his body was failing him, yet his mind kept him young. “There is a fountain of youth. It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age,” Sophia Loren once said. I will miss my grandfather’s storytelling and sense of adventure. A simple welder and WWII veteran, Grandpa received a military honor at his memorial service on October 30 with “Taps” played with a single trumpet. Very touching.
The winds whirl with a cold rain this November day. Our labrador-flat coat retriever, Midnight has been Grandpa’s dog, my father’s dog, and now ours. Midnight is playful like Grandpa. Today our 9-year old dog sits in the rain amongst the leaves, probably dreaming of his earlier duck hunting days with Grandpa and Dad. I suppose Grandpa and Dad are catching up on hunting and fishing stories now … I rest in my home this weekend. A homemade veggie-herb soup will be simmering soon … maybe cure what ails me, or at least bring comfort.
July brought about Dean and I’s 4th wedding anniversary, and then the first wedding of three family weddings planned for this year. Many family memory-making moments with more to come with the changing seasons. There is a change in the air every year in late July or early August, which tells me autumn is soon to come. Monday evening while watering at the greenhouse I felt that change. Silly to be writing about autumn in July, but growers always watch the weather and plan ahead. What’s the Farmers’ Almanac all about? This last day of July is another unusually mild day as St. Louis stayed below 90 and the humidity is low. And I am loving it! Walks during my office breaks bring refreshment to my soul and clearing of the brain from work stuff. Last year at this time we had the sizzling days of summer, up into triple digits several days in a row. You know, those kind of days where you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Not this summer, thus far anyway.
But we need rain. My green friends love rain water versus faucet water. Thank God, we have access to faucet water at Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse plants live. Otherwise, Dean and I would be hauling it in. Our herb bed built this spring is situated on the screenhouse side of our outbuilding and has been a productive home. Plans to build another bed on the greenhouse side this autumn is underway. I want to make it a cold frame to see if we can grow some vegetables through the winter. The plants will have double protection from the cold weather with the plastic liner of the greenhouse and then a storm door atop their bed. I love green experiments. My biology experiments in high school and college were fun and scary at the same time. Now there are possible delicious, nutrient-dense dinners involved here. So what veggies winter well in Missouri? I am to find out. I remember garlic and spinach from my EarthDance Farms days as an apprentice 3 years ago. And turnips grew in the fields at the Bates Family Farm in Franklin County to attract the deer during many deer seasons. Wonder what the Farmers’ Almanac is saying for this upcoming winter? Planning ahead …
“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?
Friday seems so far away when I return to my Clayton office on Monday mornings. My weekends are full. Never bored. With six grown children and their growing families, a greenhouse, and per diem retail sales at the local herb and spice shop, boredom is never an issue. Herbal tea soothes Monday’s madness. Wish I could be where these herbs grow … Quaintness in the quiet of a countryside garden. Monday’s evening chores include the creation of an Italian bowl with zucchini, yellow squash, fresh basil, Italian sausage and rotini in zesty tomato sauce topped with an Italian cheese blend. After cleaning the kitchen, off to the closets once again. I am lessening the wardrobe, giving away and throwing away. Keep these fashions long enough, they will be considered vintage! Monday night’s sleep rolls into Tuesday so quickly…
Hot herbal cinnamon tea greets my Tuesday afternoon break at the office. The AC is working overtime this humid July day. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s thoughts go to Dean and I’s house hunt. We met some monumental financial goals this year with hopes of a simply charming home to call “our own” before year end. It is interesting to view other people’s homes, thinking of the history lived in them. We desire a home built over 50 years ago, when quality reigned. Large is not necessary. Quaintness is. This quest to turn an antiquated house into a picturesque home is exciting. Old Town St. Charles has been in our thoughts, but open to other neighborhoods in the St. Louis area. We would like a yard large enough to occupy our Labrador retriever, Midnight when he is outdoors. Our green plant friends such as flowers, herbs, and vegetables are quintessential to our life, so space for them is paramount.
What does “quaint” look like to you? So how about this “Escape Cabin” designed by architect/artist Kelly Davis?
This might work when Dean & I are ready to retire!
As a personal chef by nature I wonder if I should name my summer time culinary creations a nosh, dish, bowl, or plate. I improvise when I cook in my kitchen. With the ingredients in hand from the garden or farmer’s market, they make way for creativity. A casual menu on a whim. This summer my herbs climb with the summer humidity. My chicken risotto served in individual bowls one weekend was laced with a leafy green herb Dean brought home from the greenhouse. It had a spicy bite to it unknown to be parsley as I had thought it might be by its look. When returning to the greenhouse mid-week for watering, I discovered on the garden sign it was watercress added to Sunday’s risotto bowl. I had never grown or cooked with this newly discovered herb before, and it paired deliciously with the farm fresh eggs for egg salad on dollar rolls last night. I hear it is the new kale in the farm-to-table culinary world. Just 1 cup of chopped water cress is power-packed with potassium and vitamins A & C. There are only 4 calories in 1 cup of chopped watercress. Calorie breakdown: 8% fat, 42% carbs, 50% protein. Oh, the flavors burst, so it goes a long way!
Fresh sprigs of dill were snipped into the red potato-celery salad. This week a spare bottle of local summer ale went into the crockpot with the turkey breast sprinkled with lemon pepper from the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, slow-cooked for 10 hours. Succulent! Accompanied with farm fresh, roasted yellow beets, red potatoes, and carrots in a bowl! The leftover turkey breast had filled a casserole dish of enchiladas another night. When I cook, I cook for 2 or 3 meals, using one dish to accent another. Rarely does food go to waste in my home. That stock left from the turkey breast is put into the freezer and will make another risotto another rainy night. Tonight it is small plates of Three-Cheese Italian Herb-Veggie Foccocia and Italian Breaded Chicken Tenderloins. What nosh, dish, bowl, or plate are you making tonight with your garden fresh ingredients?