Missouri’s summer heats up in August. It started on the cooler side, but it is full-blown dripping hot now. The humidity does it, zaps the energy out of me. I am taking a couple of hours this afternoon in the air-conditioned cottage to reenergize myself. This summer I have managed to get a walk in every day while at work. I found a quiet, shady alley that provides some refuge from the madness in the middle of my day. Then flowers and gardening are my evening and weekend therapy. The blooms are flourishing.
This year Dean and I’s spare summer weekends are focused on repainting the window and door frames of our St. Charles cottage. Of course with a house that is 80 years old, projects are many. There is multiple layers of paint to sand down, so we get a smooth, clean coat of paint. We have found 3 layers with the front door frame and headboard. A coat of primer will go on the frame and headboard this evening, with the final white paint another “free” weekend. Then the front door is next. “Nifty turquoise” is the color of choice. Read The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell to know why I picked this color. Stay tuned for another post to follow with a picture of our finished project.
“Co-exist” is a word that became popular a few years ago. It implies people, critters, and plants living harmoniously on this earth despite our differences. A lofty goal, easier said than done, but is wonderful to experience when it happens. I would rather think “co-thriving”. I want to thrive rather than just exist. I know there are other people in my world who feel the same. Even my Labrador, Midnight thrives when people surround, a social animal. My geraniums thrive in the warm and sunny afternoons and a humid Memorial Day rain storm. Rain finally came after many cloud build-ups this 3-day weekend!
I am hitting the age where more of my colleagues are retiring. Dean and I attended a happy hour this past week for one of my friends. More Cardinal ball games and late mornings are in my friend’s new season. I can be entering that season of life in about 4 years and 4 months. That would be 225 more work weeks. Oh, I forgot I have a few vacation weeks in there as well, but who is counting?! I want to thrive, not merely exist during retirement. Good chance I will do just that because that is what I am doing now. Key is, co-thriving with my Dean, family, and friends. I believe green plants and gardening will fill my days, as well as serving with joy the people God places in my life. Much like today. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted. I hear the music, and I want to dance every season of my life.
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 …
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?
Summertime textures and a palette of colors keep the canvas alive. The humid afternoon storm cleared with a lone sunflower opening as the clouds parted. A seed remnant from bird feed tossed during the past long and cold winter sprouted in our moss basket near the kitchen window and has grown to bring sunshine to my day. In the evening a breeze cuts through the humidity as Dean and I drive down the country highway to the farm where our greenhouse resides. Wispy feather clouds less than an hour before sunset seem to paint a silhouette…
Wispy feathers grace
golden eye with black shadows
hides behind hat brim
Anna Marie Gall
June 17, 2014
Of course you have heard of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. I always added to the end of that saying “and May flowers bring June bugs.” Well, I have refined that saying to “April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring June critters.” Missouri’s humid summer is here to stay for at least the next 3 months. The warmer season attracts the bugs as well as other critters to our plants. My two potted daisy plants were coming along finely near the front porch, watching each day for a week anticipating a blossom to open any day. Dean and I came home from work one evening this week with the two daisy plants knawled down to the roots! The neighborhood rabbits or squirrels must have had a mighty fine lunch of daisy leaves. There was plenty of other green vegetation to eat! The critters tossed the one lone daisy stem with a blossom to the water splash block setting under the front porch gutter. These furry critters must not like the daisy blossom, but I do. Not to eat, but I admire their simple beauty. I snatched the blossom and set it in water to co-exist with some airplane plant shoots. A repurposed medicine bottle found at the Chandler Hill Vineyard grounds while marketing last year now makes a lovely vase. The daisy blossom graces our kitchen and opened this last day of May. Lovely!
Rain water, the necessity of plant and animal life hydrated the Missouri earth on several occasions this past 3-day weekend. Some rains were more like 15-minute storms, others were a steady soaking for an hour or so. “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head” plays in my head, the beginning lyrics from an contemporary song written by Burt Bacharach in 1969 and played in the movie “Butch Cassidy And Sundance Kid”. It was the number one hit in 1970 with BJ Thomas singing it, and the song recently made Grammy Hall Of Fame status. I continued my gardening and farming chores in the rain, until the lightning brighten the cloudy sky and the thunder clapped with warning. Just 30 minutes ago it was blazing hot with the sunrays and humidity while planting my gourd seedlings. Before the lightning Dean managed to get another trellis tepee designed of repurposed metal poles, and placed in the ground for our gourds. We have luffa gourds on the outside, and bi-color pear gourds on the inside of one trellis tepees. On the other trellis teepee built last year, birdhouse gourds are on the outside with the hand dipper kind on the inside. Jude twine is weaved in between the poles for the runners to grab a hold of while the gourd plants grow. Monday afternoon’s storm came with much wind and heavy rain. Hopefully, the freshly planted gourd seedlings made it okay. We go back out to the Defiance farm on Thursday to observe and water the indoor plants. Fifteen miles from our residence, it is hard to say what it did at Boone Hollow Farm.
I repotted several fern planters into moss baskets while at home Monday afternoon. They now rest in the branches of our shade trees in our yard. Baby marigolds were planted to ward off insects. Now nestled inside a huge moss basket with the solar patio lanterns Dean has made near the backyard patio. More marigolds and zinnias await planting at the church rectory. Hail is forecasted with this evening’s storms, so we will continue to let these seedlings get stronger while in shelter on our front porch in their trays. Maybe this line of storms will move away by Thursday evening when time allows for more transplanted flowering plants in their “new home”. There is nothing like a refreshing rain.
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?
Our three bromeliads made it through the long winter in the comforts of our back bedroom, the “plant room”. At different times this room has been a bedroom for all three of my kids as well as grandkids and their parents while in transition. The room has a wonderfully big picture window with a window seat. Many plants were perched on the window seat and shelving for sunlight and shelter from winter’s cold air. The bromeliad, a tropical plant hates cold air as much as I do. We have had humid, summer-like air the past couple of weeks so outdoors our tropical plants went. The tropical have brighten up vivid green. One bromeliad is a showcase with bright fuchsia in the center “cup” or “tank”. It now sets atop a huge upside down terra cotta pot displayed underneath our white dogwood tree. “Whirly birds” I call them or silver maple seed pods have fallen like rain this spring, and the bromeliads have caught a few. I swept up a bucketful of whirly birds yesterday from the front walkway and back patio, enough to start a maple tree farm! We do not want to sprout maple seedlings inside the bromeliads. The bromeliad does not like to be sopping wet, but that “cup” needs to hold water at all times to keep the plant healthy and attractive. Our other two bromeliads are not quite as brightly colored, and even seem a bit neglected with lack of water and humidity over the winter. They must have needed more water than the other as each have a couple of babies growing from it. We will carefully remove the babies later this summer and plant them in their own pots after their mothers have some time in our Missouri humidity. They are already looking refreshed with the rains. I can see why the agriculture world refers to a plant farm as a nursery. The constant care of some plants is like caring for babies. Isn’t she beautiful?!