The vivid beauty of this spring season is present at Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance, Missouri. In our attempt to get away from the urban or should I say “world” troubles, this farm became our mid-week oasis. It is almost magical at the farm where Dean and I’s greenhouse seats. The lowering sun illuminated the purples and greens in the fields and groves of trees, the grass plush. Birds singing their evening tunes, frogs peeping in unison, sheep in the neighbor farmyard baaing. A serene symphony of countryside calm. My country garden is a dwelling place for me, a bed to lay my cares aside. Our sowed seedlings in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse are coming up well. We are hopeful the leafy greens will be ready to provide the base for our salads by the end of April or early May. In the mist of viral chaos there is a dwelling place for each of us, even if it is just in the mind.
Ahhh, a breath of the evening’s fresh air. No stars or moon to be seen as clouds blanketed their light. The silence of the countryside, silence from urban noises was calming this dark evening. Crickets replaced the buzzing traffic and voices of people. It was just Dean and I and our labrador, Midnight at Boone Hollow Farm . The pink and orange sunset came and went by the time we pulled up next to the greenhouse. I harvested the last of our basil and cilantro by the lantern light. Next weekend I will transplant our organic chives, thyme, and sage plants into terra cotta pots for the kitchen. My indoor herb garden will flavor many a soups and casseroles this autumn and winter.
Sometimes the silence of nature is like that blanket of clouds. The audible or written word is insignificant. The silence speaks on its own. Mindful of the surroundings, green and bug life, my heartbeat, my breath. Autumn is here. I am at peace. Golden indeed. And mighty indeed. I thank You God that the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in me. I can accomplish the tasks which You have called me to do one day at a time.
Life gets stagnant from time to time. Satiety, boredom, ennui sets in. Another time the demands of this person and that project adds up to a multitude of “have to” rather than “want to” chores. So what do you do to get out of that funk, evolve into a better mood for the day or status in your life? You spontaneously take a 24-hour breather, an overnight retreat somewhere neutral. Dean and I did just that. On Saturday into Sunday we drove the Missouri country highways in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson, and St. Louis Counties. Saturday afternoon we stopped at a local winery. By evening we found a state park to eat and finally lay our heads down.
Sunday morning, another overcast start to the new day. But silence resignated instead of the buzz of street traffic and urban noises. I gathered my sundress, dressed quietly to not wake my sweetheart. Stepped out the back door, leaving just a screen door between me and the quaint hideaway I slept in. I sat in a lawn chair situated on the deck overlooking the slopes of huge trees leading to the river valley. The cardinals and finches sang. Then a hush before the dark cloud rolled over with a hum of pitter-patter on the dense leaves. I heard the raindrops approach before they where atop the trees in front of me. A steady rain, gently watering the earth.
Queen Anne’s lace, orange day lilies, and pink coneflower swayed with the breeze and occasional rain shower. Darker clouds rolled in with sheets of rain coming down as we dined at the state park cafe. We waited out the sudden outburst, and then made it to the jeep for a drive to the motel seated on a high ridge over the Meramec River. “Where do the butterflies go when it rains”, I thought aloud. Butterflies hide when it rains, like they do at night. They hide under the shelter of large leaves or a pile of leaves. Sometimes butterflies go under rocks or structures. But other butterflies just put their head down on the grass or bushes closing their wings tightly. If the rains are heavy, their wings are damaged and they never make another flight. Where do you hide when the weather gets rough?
Surprisingly, these October days have been fairly mild. The first weekend of October we had 2 nights of cold air, but stayed frost-free in Missouri. Dean and I were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that weekend, where frost covered the corn fields and pumpkins. Snow came down in the northern part of the state. In Missouri rain and more rain last week and through the weekend, but still no frost in our neck of the woods.
My herb bed still produces lush greenery. I have delayed potting the herb plants for the kitchen window. They do so much better in natural light, warm air, and a bed of organic soil. Tonight I needed to get away from the madness of the local urban troubles to my green sanctuary. Dean and I headed to our greenhouse situated in the countryside ar Boone Hollow Farm. Mild evening, still in the 60’s and the rain had passed for the time being. The creek had a steady flow over the rocks in the road next to the barn, which evenually leads to the greenhouse. Bugs sang their soothing tunes while we watered our geranium starters, hanging moss baskets, and the herb bed inside the screenhouse side of our structure. Despite the early sunset, I needed more green therapy. So I repotted some basil, sage, summer savory, wild parsley, and marjoram under the light of our gas lantern. Mid-June two misly sprigs of marjoram sprouted from a old packet of seeds. But look what produced, this huge herb plant. This October evening I pulled the marjoram jungle from its organic bed and potted it into a 14″ terra cotta pot. My pot overflows! Good organic soil, regular watering from the well or our rain barrel late summer into early autumn, and mother nature takes over. Oh how green friends can bring joy in life once again!
I sat in our small SUV waiting on Dean to come out with a bagful of groceries needed for the next day or two’s menu. A late Saturday evening after the comical “Always Patsy Cline” play at the Westport Playhouse, I caught 10 minutes of shut-eye with the cool night air blowing away the heat of the day. I awoke to a noise in the local grocery store parking lot, and saw in the corner of my eye a quick movement. I turned, and there stood a deer! Misplaced or in starled my presence, we froze for a second or two. Co-existence? Suddenly, off across the parking lot and into the neighboring field he ran. Strangest encounter for a late night Saturday.
Well that deer sighting didn’t stop there. On following Sunday afternoon we arrived home from the church picnic, tidying up the house before taking a nap, and Dean hollers, ” I just saw a deer run down the street”. I ask Dean which direction was the critter headed, and he pointed west. I go out the front door to investigate, and there was the deer grazing in the neighbor’s front yard, 3 doors down and across the street. I don’t believe we have ever encountered a deer on our street the whole 28 years I have lived there. When I was a child, we would see a deer or two at my childhood home and tree farm about 2 miles from where I live now. A much more rural area 40 years ago. But not on our street, and our neighborhood in a city of this size, over 50,000 people! I am not sure if this was the same deer I saw the night before, only 1 mile away from Dean and I’s home. But co-existence came again for another 30 seconds before the deer saw me staring at him. He ran off once again.
Monday morning’s traffic report: “A herd of deer are causing traffic jams in St. Peters…”. I have not seen a deer in St. Peters since. I suppose the authorities took care of matters … I enjoyed the deer while they were amongst us. But then, maybe that is what has been chewing on my daisy and mum plants? I have been blaming the rabbits and squirrels. Cannot we co-exist? I know it is not easy, but I continue to dream.
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?
What do all these have in common? M’waw! In any given 15-hour period I can be all four places: historical small town main street, bustling city streets, tree-deprived urban avenue, or a country dirt road. The brick road, Main Street Missouri’s first state capitol of St. Charles, global skyscrapers towering over financial hub Clayton, urban neighborhoods sprinkled throughout St. Charles and St. Louis Counties, and the countryside near Defiance’s howling coyotes and wildlife; each culture is within 15 miles from my home. Today, the contrasting changes were apparent to me. Sunday, I spent 8 hours on Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri selling herbs, spices, and other food items at a niche market with literally hundreds of people during the Festival of the Little Hills, shopping at leisure and a slower pace. Early Monday morning I entered into a landscape of skyscrapers after bumper to bumper traffic at the fast pace of a city freeway. Suburbia is entered on several occasions as I get off the freeway as soon as I am able, finding quieter routes through residential areas and strip malls. And then to the greenhouse, winding down as I go out of the city, then suburbia, onto a state highway, county highway, and finally taking the dirt road near the weathered barn up the hill to our greenhouse. Most evenings we hear the owl’s hoot and the coyotes howl. Currently, I co-exist in these four cultures. Though two of them I am most at home with. Guess which two? Adaptability and flexibility have been engrained into my character these past five years while working for St. Louis County Government. Will I thrive for another 11 – 12 years in the city and its commute? Or is small town main street calling us home? More words on that subject at another time. Praying to see what God has in mind for Dean and I these last years before retirement.
Our Texas mini vacation included a jeep, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, cattle, big houses, a larger family, and a huge menu of local dishes. More on the Texas tea as promised … Dean & I made time for an early afternoon tea on Friday. We found a tea place in the northern suburb area of Dallas/Forth Worth inside an antique mall. The weather was a mild 70 degrees, warmer than it had been in St. Louis. I was hot after touring the Fort Worth stockyards and happen upon a livestock auction. A cup of hot tea wouldn’t do, though iced tea was served at this establishment with raspberry as the flavor of the day. Simplicitea had all the charm of a small tea house, minus an excellent glass of iced tea. Not homemade, as I did not experience plump flavorful berries in the taste or texture. Disappointed there. Though where their iced tea falls short, their quiche of the day, bacon asparagus and an elegant dessert, orange dream cake ranked high with us! The quiche had a smokey flavor with crisp asparagus tips. And the cake burst with citrus! There were actual bits of orange in the cake, whipping cream between and atop the cake layers, and swirls of orange zest garnished the delicious dessert.
Yes, the quote from “Texas Tea (Part One)” post is a rather bold statement, yet mostly true. The people of Texas love to brag, “the bigger the better”. And Texans love to eat! Therefore, they believe “Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them…” Many are foodies, and not just foodies, but locavores. They savor local foods and are proud of their creations.
Two of the three dinners we had this vacation weekend included some type of corn dish. At the BBQ on Friday night, a cold corn salad was served as a side dish to beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Other sides accompanied, but the corn salad scored #1! I did not see any green at this meal, other than the green chilis in a dip. Beer, wine, and spirits flowed endlessly amongst the family in the home of one of Dean’s cousins. On Saturday the 80th birthday party for Dean’s aunt was held at her youngest son’s well-decorated home. Hors d’oeuvres were catered as the main entree. Thinly sliced roast beef wrapping a blanched asparagus tip & red sweet bell pepper strip was my favorite followed by another fruity cake, strawberry. Flecks of berries dazzled the birthday girl and 100+ guests. Very luscious! And then there is Babes in downtown Arlington, a famous fried chicken eatery with all the fine fixins including a warm corn dish. Sunday’s dinner was mounds of crispy chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, milk gravy, bacon-smothered fava beans, and herb biscuits with sorghum and honey … no dessert necessary! The ambiance took us away from urban Texas, back 80 years in a small, simple town with a porch light and swing. I am sharing a photo of the warm Grandma’s Corn dish from Babes found on their website. Let me know if you find a recipe that mimics this dish. I, too will do likewise.
So much of our thinking and planning seems to align to conventional practices. This is in every area of our lives, relationships, career paths, foods we eat, medicines we take, what we spend time with or on, the house we live in, so on and so on. Break throughs in sciences seem to tell us that some old practices have been the best practices all along. For instance, the present interstate highway system we have has caused major traffic congestion in the cities, and kept local commerce from growing. The lecture I attended at Washington University last week where John Norquist gave the alternative. Tear down some of those interstates in the city. Allow secondary arteries, the urban streets to be available for travelers to slow down and visit the city, create more jobs, circulate more commerce, allow pride in the citizens to show off their cultures. Maybe more walking and biking will be encouraged with sidewalk systems. Hooray for out-of-the box thinkers! St. Louis City and County are looking into this option. What do Milwaukee citizens think about the similar project that took place in their city?
Then there is the Slow Food movement. (There is that word “slow” again.) This started in Europe, Rome, Italy to be exact as a direct statement to the fast food construction plans for a McDonald’s back in 1986. According to founder and president Carlo Petrini, “everyone has the right to good, clean, and fair food”. That means quality, flavorful food, it is natural form, and produced and tranported in an ethical manner at a fair price. A person who eats locally, is called a locavore. Slow Food includes local food. (There is that word “local” once again.) Foods grown, produced, and consumed on a local level will support local folks, right? So this is where Deanna Greens And Garden Art resides. Local!!! I cannot wait to get those beds raised and plant some organic seeds for herbs and veggies. We hope to sell more seedlings to local farmers, and herbs to local farmer’s market folks next spring. And Dean & I will consume lots of our own homegrown veggies. Veggies are the alternative to pre-packaged, processed grain products. Herbs are the alternative to salt and synthetic chemicals the food label lists. Check out the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis from your local library and see what today’s wheat and corn are doing to our bodies. Or Dr. Davis has his own blog: www.wheatbellyblog.com. An eye opener. Yes, an alternative diet, yet what we ate like before WWII. Old practices return.
Dean and I personally shop local as well. 95% of our Christmas gifts are bought locally. Wine from Chandler Hill Vineyards and foods & crafts from local artisans. I hope you supported Local Saturday in your community a couple of weeks ago. Last weekend we slowed our pace down, savored a local beer and satisfied our palettes while listening to local music at our neighborhood joint, the St. Charles Coffee House. www.saintcharlescoffeehouse.com. What is your favorite local eatery? In our travels, Dean & I look for those local joints, and we may visit yours!
EarthDance Farms is a non-profit organization that grows farmers as well as organic veggies and herbs. I participated in their freshman program last growing season. This program is what spurred my husband and I to purchase a greenhouse and created Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The farm is in the heart of the urban culture of Ferguson, Missouri. But while farming in the middle of a field, you feel like you are miles from the next neighbor. The female staff at EarthDance Farms are featured in a recent article “Organic Farming Attracts Women”. Please read about their adventures. http://magissues.farmprogress.com/MOR/MR07Jul12/mor008.pdf magissues.farmprogress.com. Here is a EarthDance Farms photo taken at the Ferguson Farmers’ Market, as urban and farmer you can get at one time. Visit there one Saturday morning! http://fergmarket.com/