Our spring was a very pleasant one, picturesque in its temperatures, rainfall, the length of the season, and beautiful blooms. Spring continued right through May and into early June. But since the week of the summer solstice, it’s been hotter than the dickens. A scorcher, hotter than I remember in a long while. All through July up until the 26th, we had very little rain to water these parts of the earth. And then the flood gates opened literally just before midnight on the 25th and all day on the 26th. Rains watered our parts of the earth, 8 – 12 inches! Thunderstorms off and on for two more days afterwards. Again, last night almost 4 inches of rain coming down by bucketsful. The meteorologists call these storms “microbursts”. It as if we are reliving that biblical story, Noah’s flood. In some regards we are. The aftermath is devastating to many folks in certain communities, my hometown of St. Peters, Missouri to name one. All Old Town was in 4-feet of water with no warning!
I pause to think about my summer. It started with Gall family photos at the local wildlife area the first weekend in June. Then, I made preparations for two missionaries to stay with us for a week while they ministered to the children in the neighborhood parish. These young ladies were delighted to be so close to the church. I joined in prayers every morning at 7 am Mass that week to keep their evangelizing efforts as well as my loved ones in collective prayers. Late June I trained for a new job working 1 or 2 days a week at a counseling office. So many people still deal with anxiety and the aftermath of COVID. I subbed for a couple of kids’ culinary camps. And I have helped a couple of senior ladies through the organization called Papa. We have rented our cottage home on Airbnb one weekend a month and continue with “super host” status. Dean and I took a day trip to Hermann for our anniversary, spent a fun evening with friends for the 4th of July, another day trip to St. Louis south city, and a couple of trips to visit family in the western parts of the state. We’ve had some quality summertime fun with the older grandkids with a matinee that no longer includes a PG movie because they are getting older. Thor: Love and Thunder it was. The Union Station aquarium and local Lewis & Clark history museum were with the younger grandkids. A short trip for a Vince Gill concert comes very soon for Dean and I as well as family visits in Chicagoland. But our longer vacation away is reserved for late September to see the Colorado aspens in their autumn colors.
My potted perennials, herbs, and flowering annuals receive early morning waterings during these hot days of summer, most still flourishing with their bright green, yellow, pinks, purples, and blues. My philodendrons and ivies received a trimming last week as they were taking over and rooting on their own in the mulch. The spider plants are quite prolific themselves, baby shoots and tiny white blooms. More greenery for future planters. The newest pottery planter in our backyard is my mother’s blue ceramic. I sowed zinnias and wildflowers for the pollinators, but the squirrels used the fresh potting soil as a playground. So, one lone zinnia made its way to full bloom. Our surprise lilies surprise us every year. The tender stalks rapidly grew 2-ft in a week, and now the showy beautiful pink flowers bloom. I have mixed a medley of my herbs for several dishes this summer. I still aim to create a blackberry-sage medley for tea. We started greens at the screenhouse, but it was a bad batch of seeds. The severe heat kept us from trying again this growing season. So fresh veggies and fruits are bought at the grocery stores and farmer’s markets this year. The songbirds and hummingbirds continue to thrill us and bring peaceful songs to our days. It is the critters and people we meet along the way that make this life worth living.
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?
We were unable to get to our greenhouse last week due to weekend travels and heavy rain storms, including a tornado touchdown just 3 miles from Boone Hollow Farm where our greenhouse sets. Dean and I finally were able to get out there this mild late spring evening. Gorgeous green and peace surrounded us while we worked for an hour before sundown. Dean mowed the grass of our 1/4-acre plot. I cut flowers and picked the greens.
The seeds sowed late March have been very prolific. Greens, greens, and more greens. Arugula, soft leaf lettuce, and mizuna mustard greens. Dean and I cannot personally consume it all, so we are sharing the abundance with family, friends, and co-workers this growing season. The greens bolted with all the sunshine and warmer days, so I pinched those new buds off. A couple of weeks ago voluntary cherry tomato plants came close to being plucked and pitched into the weed pile outside of the greenhouse. I decided to have mercy on them and transplanted them into the huge tub of compost that sets on the edge of our 1/4-acre plot. Look, a whole nursery of them! All the rain and sunshine has done wonders. I will cage them anticipating a fruitful season for them as well.
“What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?” author David Whyte writes. So much hope from a seed. And the size of the seed does not matter according to Jesus’ parable. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (The Message Bible).
Just how complex God has made each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Holy words to behold … From seed to a tree … providing beauty to delight in, cooling shade to the weary, whispered wisdom from the leaves in the breeze, wood for a warm fire, roots as a foundation, fruit for the hungry, and sweet sap for those special moments. Is not that a mother to her child? A grandchild to a grandparent? A man to his kin?
From seed to a tree, we each grow to be. Taking care of self and our brother. Each can learn from the other. Growing branches at different directions, new skies to explore, yet rooted in the love of family and friends. Faith in self and who our God is, our Perfect Father.
After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same. The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s. Plants are resilient, as new growth is coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.
An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.
I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.
“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout
As most weekend mornings go, I cannot sleep in long. Weekday awakening before 5:00am makes it difficult to sleep much past 7:00 am on the weekends. The weekend to-do-list is long, so Saturdays are packed. On Sundays, I start at a slower place making meditation and prayer a part of my morning. The front porch welcomes a cup of hot honey chamomile tea an inspirational gardening book, and me. The sights, sounds, and smells of a rain storm bring freshness to the morning. I became one with the springtime outdoors, crisp breeze and tender green plants and white dogwood blossoms. A bit shabby from winter life, my potted plants are waiting for a play date with their gardener. I withheld that Sunday knowing next Saturday will be a better time for gardening. This time was set aside to rest rather than produce.
Besides my green passion needs to get fluffed up like a flatten feather pillow. For months my focus has been our house, all those details with a major insurance claim … the funds, renovation, inspections, and the move back in. There is a good-size pile of paperwork still needs sorting through, but it can just wait. This gardener needs to get her green thumb out again, play in the dirt, sow some herb and vegetable seeds, design some pots of virid green life. We had no time to sow in trays, so direct sowing it will be this year. Better late than never.
Ambitious thoughts for another Saturday, Dean and I spent a good part of the day cleaning gumballs and rocks out of the front yard. The neighbor’s gumball tree scattered its fruit all over the neighborhood with the help of the spring winds. The rocks surfaced during the water and sewer line repairs. Perennials were brought out from the garage. The babies are seated in the cart while the large potted birds-of-paradise, lemon tree, asparagus ferns, geraniums, and arrowhead plant are now situated in the newly mulched landscape. Our succulents have been outdoors on the front porch for about a month. We placed a covering over them with a frost-forecast. Fortunately March and early April have been mild like much of the winter. The herbs and green leafy vegetables will be sowed next weekend as well as annuals planted in a couple of moss baskets. Only so much time during one day. The journey is a part of gardening, not just the end result … one day at time …one season at a time.
I relax on the porch another Sunday. This particular morning is special as my two oldest granddaughters join me. Talking and soaking in the morning sunshine, it is a tender moment indeed like the fresh spring foliage…and more porch Sundays to look forward to.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.
“Talking, talking, pancakes” is what Dean describes our first morning together. We loves our pancakes! This Saturday morning is no exception. This improvising personal chef had one over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl and one bottle of Wells Banana Bread beer left in the refrigerator from the holidays. This combination created some delicious pancakes. Is it Hermann’s German culture or my German heritage from my deceased grandmothers influencing the weekend menu in this home? Probably a little bit of each. Here it is folks … Banana Beer Pancakes with Caramelized Banana Beer Sauce.
This morning Dean and I talk weekend topics over our pancake breakfast. Errands to run … purchase and install new window blinds in our rejuvenated home, and a tile floor selection for the bathroom. Then dog food and possible organic vegetable and herb seeds to purchase at the local farmers’ co-op with an afternoon run out to our 7-month greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance, Missouri. I will get the organic soil turned up today while Dean looks over the structure for winter wear. February brings us closer to spring. Besides the Groundhog tells us it will be an early spring this year. Spring-like today, but winter returns with frigid cold weather after the weekend. Deanna Greens And Garden Art will start our 4th growing season. In another 4 or 5 weeks, seeds will be planted in our beds for an early crop of lettuces, spinach, and peas. The garage is too crowded with our extra storage during the house renovations to get the gourd and herb seedlings started on the heating pads. All direct sowing this year. Flexibility and improvisations once again. Life requires it.
“Look around for a place to sow a few seeds.” Henry Van Dyke
Our bromeliads need to be divided as they had been quite busy this past year producing babies. A bay window in shallow terra-cotta pots had been their home. Showy fuchsia edges contrast with the fresh green, these babies needed new homes as they were crowding their parents. Dean and I carted two plants with us to our July Minnesota destination. The bromeliads stayed outside near the cabin and lake for a few days. When the storms brewed up, we brought them onto the screened porch. We hoped these showy plants were accumulated to their new surroundings, when we spent an afternoon dividing and repotting them. Five planters were made and given to our northern friends. We hope these tropical plants enjoy their new homes. We brought to our Missouri home gifts of heirloom tomato plants and streptacarpella, which have thrived well this past month. These tomato plants should produce fruit well into the winter months in the comforts of our semi-heated garage. And maybe the purple-flowering streptacarpella will find their home in window planters in the spring.
We are cleaning out that garage this month, finding new homes for bikes, toys, old furniture, and throwing away those “why did we keep this?” stuff. Our lawnmower and garden tools will go into their new home, a shed built in our back yard this week. We are making room for our beloved plants as the air changed this week. In about 6 – 8 weeks, our planters landscaping the yard this summer will be in their winter home, inside the heated garage under plant lights before the first frost of the autumn season.
Dean and I dream of a new home for just the two of us. The place we call ours, some where between St. Charles and Hermann along the Missouri River and the wine valley. If I chose, retirement from my office job is only 5 years away. But not retirement from living. So much more to experience. See what adventures come as we seek and find God’s will in this approaching season. Wherever we go, green things, art, and hospitality come with.
A half plate of veggies, a quarter plate of protein, and the last quarter plate are the carbs at lunch and dinner every day should not be an issue. It can be if the time and food budget is tight. So what is a person to do if the doctor or dietician advises this? So, I am that person and I have begun watching my carbs and protein counts and having that 1/2 plate of veggies at every lunch and every dinner. BTW ~ Everyone’s plate should look like the illustrated. ~ And my 2 snacks a day need to be a carb with a protein every time. My recent blood work shows I am no longer in the pre-diabetes category, but diabetes category. I have 3 months to take off some weight and have my glucose levels below that 100 threshold or I am placed on oral meds. I have to be a good girl for my sake, take care of myself! So my creative juices begin to flow and a practical plan begins. I am a wellness coordinator, look after employee wellness programs at my full-time job. I will be a wellness guru when it is all over. Singer Dale Watson says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.” So here are the 5 major changes I have made …
First, I have had my ah-ha moment, reality check, whatever you want to call it. I am a diabetic! If I keep on this same road I have been on, I will be diabetic the rest of my life. Who wants that? Not me! I started back to Weight Watchers before the holidays and have that support group. Though Weight Watchers is a great weight management program, the Points Plus system treats fruits equally with vegetables. Fruit has a high sugar content, so I need to treat it as a carbohydrate with the diabetic exchange program. Now that the half plate of veggies illustration is stuck in my head, that visual is what I live by today and everyday the rest of my life. 2nd change, I am daily using a booklet my doctor gave me as well as go online to http://www.calorieking.com for my carb counts. Those winter time pick-me ups like hot cocoa, chai latte, or a pumpkin muffie brought me over the threshold from pre-diabetic to diabetic, I am sure. One hot chocolate from your friendly neighborhood Panera Bread or Quik Trip is over 50 grams of carbs, more than I am to have at one meal setting! I have to “weigh” the immediate gratification to the overall outcome. Believe me, the sweet hot drink is not worth it!
3rd change, herbal tea is my everyday fall to beverage when water is not satisfying my thirst. Soda, diet or sugar-loaded are not good for anyone. Beer and wine are reserved for special occasions like the cocoa and latte. This week Stash coconut mango oolong tea is awesome hot or iced. There are so many other teas to try, of course unsweetened. Many have medicinal purposes as well.
4th change, the dollars I am saving each week from no hot or cold beverage runs I apply to my gardening habit, with this year’s focus on more vegetables and herbs. If I can freeze or dehydrate a supply of vegetables and herbs for the next winter, I will be that much more ahead budget wise. I will literally reap what I sow.
I have upped the ante from my 10-minute 4-3-2-1 fitness routine I started in January as my New Year’s resolution. So the 5th change is if I do not get a 30-minute walk in during the day or gardening is not part of my weekday evening, I will exercise with a swim at the Center of Clayton indoor pool or a DVD exercise tape at home before the day is over. I cannot afford any more excuses for lack of exercise.
I will share recipes for my half plate of veggies in the What A Dish page on this blog. Please share yours!