I put on my rain boots anticipating a muddy walk to the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm. Sure enough the storms we received earlier in the week produced quite a bit of rain, and the creek beds were full. Dean and I parked near the barn, gathered our gardening gear, jumped across the rain-filled ditch, and walked up the hill to our 9-month greenhouse/screenhouse. We had not been there all winter season as it was too frigid cold for 3 solid months, a true Missouri winter like I remember years past. And unlike last year where it drug on for 5 months!
Spring has arrived in Missouri! The frogs croak and birds tweet in harmony making an evening song of peace! What a welcome greeting to Dean and I! I love gardening. Not the exact science-type gardening. Care-free and whimsical like. There is work involved, but less so with a bed of organic soil inside the screenhouse side of our structure. We pulled old tomato vines and prepped the soil. It turned up nicely, loose but a little dry. We had enough snow and winter rains to keep the soil moist even without being in direct exposure. We watered the soil with the rain/snow water from our barrel just outside the structure. And then the first sowing. We made 11 rows altogether. I sowed 8 rows of greens seeds. My favorite, arugula, and then various lettuces. We are trying a oriental variety this year. The other 3 rows are beets. My first stab at growing these, too. As an apprentice with EarthDance Farms, I learned to love this root vegetable, greens and all.
Next weekend the herbs will be sown as well as zinnias, forget-me-nots, black-eye susans, and wildflowers at the farm along with the cottage gardens. The evening drive back from the greenhouse was lovely, a longer drive to the cottage than our other house. We will make every trip to the countryside count. Savoring the frog and bird chorus, smelling the blossoms along the strolls at Boone Hollow Farm, and harvesting delicious organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers for our dinner table. And we trust our God and Mother Nature for plenty to share!
I love celebrating autumn! At Boone Hollow today Dean and I gave a helping hand to our farming neighbors with planting a field of garlic, over 2,000 cloves. Can you imagine 2,000 bulbs of garlic next June? With this extended autumn season, I picked an abundance of arugula, lettuce, and herbs to share as I am still using what I picked mid-week. We finished this lovely Halloween Eve with a wiener and marshmallow roast with our farming friends. Ghouls and goblins have
visited the house. Halloween is creepy, but the Presidential Election is scarier! Gratitude for the right to vote instead of dread is what I pray for. I am reminding myself this as I write, to practice thankfulness today and everyday… not just reserved for Thanksgiving Day.
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
I picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.
Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire
Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.
The plump blossoms are excuberant this spring. Must be the extra cold winter days that cause the colors to be so full and vibrant. Or maybe its the perspective of this blogger, who just relishes these spring days. My more-than-a-spring-fling lover, my hubby Dean captured some photos of our white dogwood contrasted with the Japanese maple. Easter Day was about an adorable puppy name Beatrice or “B”, our newest granddog. That digital camera came in handy to capture the moment when Beatrice greets for the first time my great-nephew, Felix. Another day last week while on a day outing with Dean and our grandkids Hannah, Ella, and Eli, we discovered one of the biggest American Beech trees while at a park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. At our nephew’s springtime wedding last weekend, love and celebration was in the air. And today, this lovely spring day brought me to a dairy farm near Marshfield, Missouri while meeting with dairy inspectors employed with St. Louis County. We were graced with a Holstein calf, born just hours before. The newborn breathed life afresh, just as I am this spring season. Blossoms, babies, puppies, new life and love, is this not what spring is all about? I am thankful to God.
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
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!
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 …
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