My Saturday was filled with caring for green life, as so many Saturdays and Sundays in the spring time. Dean and I made an early run to the greenhouse as summer like weather was forecasted for the day. Dean mowed the grass while I attended to weeds and watering. Our peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and dill are sprouting. The chive plants are in full bloom. I cut a bundle, and dropped some off to Jack Mac, executive chef and friend at Chandler Hill Vineyards. He told me how to use the blooms in my cooking this week. For this weekend I put together a red potato salad snipping my chives and young voluntary dill sprigs into the bowl.
As tradition goes green plants and May flowers fill my Mother’s Day weekend. This year is no exception. Maybe it is tradition from my childhood. My mother still enjoys a potted tomato plant and another pot of summer favorites like petunias or geranium. This Mother’s Day I sit on the porch bench surrounded with early morning mist, song birds, and quietness from the world’s busyness. Midnight, our Labrador joins. He, too relishes the weekly early Sunday morning date with nature. My pots of perennials and annuals complete my sensual needs this morn.
“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.
The threat of frost for two nights this weekend kept Dean and I busy moving plants into their seasonal home Friday evening. Deanna Greens And Garden Art geraniums, perennials, succulents, and tomato plants were placed into their cold season home, our semi-heated garage with plant lights on a timer. Our countryside greenhouse situated on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance still does not have electricity running to it; therefore, no heat or fans blowing. Greenhouses are naturally designed for solar source, although not adequate enough for heat in 1300 sq foot during Missouri’s winter. We still want to invest in solar panels for added heat and run fans. The prices for solar keeps declining, so maybe in the next year or so we can justify the expense.
On Saturday I dug up our herbs in the greenhouse bed. Terra cotta pots of chives, parsley, sage, and cilantro set in my kitchen for culinary use. We had two volunteer grape tomato plants thrive in our compost bin late this summer into the autumn. They are loaded with fruit. The bin is huge and sets just outside the screenhouse side of our structure. Overnight Friday the frost nipped the upper branches. While at our greenhouse on Saturday, we dragged the bin into the all plastic side, protected from the crispy cold frost. It is to warm up again this week, so not quite ready to hide under our make-shift tall tent of clear poly. With our gardening experiment, we hope to eat homegrown grape tomatoes all winter. See what happens. If it works, maybe next summer we can build those cold frames in the greenhouse with more homegrown organic veggies to eat throughout the winter. Seasonal homes come in many forms. In a few short days I will share about a seasonal home for Dean and I and our guests … Exciting stuff!
My cup overflows with green leaves and bursting color-filled blooms. The early morning silhouette shows plump pots, planters, and wagons, crowding the gardens and yards. Whatever vessel the spring plantings went into are now filled with branches reaching for the September sun. The daytime heat has been high this first week of the ninth month, but is to cool down a bit by Labor Day Monday. Yesterday’s evening soak from the garden hose did the green life well. This morning our feathered friends thank me for their filled bird bath while the crickets, grasshoppers, and bug life hum their late summer song.
I stay home with cleaning and cooking this Saturday. Garden fresh green beans, herb-red potato salad, and beef patties on the dinner menu with a dessert pie out so to catch up with some family this evening. The herbs will have to wait at the greenhouse another day. I will sing a tune or two and say a few prayers while vacuuming and cleaning the toilet …
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.
Green swatches with flecks of purple and pink will completely cover this bed. Just need a few more sunny days and rain or well water. Our raised bed is a patchwork garden. One month ago seeds of the early spring greens, chives, and sugar snap and large pod peas went into the cold organic soil situated in this raised bed on the screenhouse side of our greenhouse. The lettuce and spinach are sparse. Either bad seeds, but most likely not enough watering and near freezing mornings a few days in April. We will reseed this week. One end are the early spring lettuces, spinach, and chives sowed in patches rather than rows. Then the 2 rows of peas in the middle. On Sunday I sowed a row of bush beans near the pea patch. At the other end of the raised bed are patches of herbs sowed into the soil; cilantro, a blend of basils, thyme, and marjoram. We selected Olds Seed Company organic vegetable and herb seeds bought at the local country store late winter.
The little pea patch is coming along just fine. This weekend we strung twine along the rows for the pea plants to climb. We have about another month until the date of maturity for both varieties. The delicate blossoms should be appearing soon. This legume can be grown just for the bouquet of flowers and fragance. Nutrients are provided for the soil as well. I cherish the fresh, delicious peas with a pinch of kosher salt and dabble of sweet butter. About as many varieties of peas there are, is about how many sweet sayings, poems, and songs referring to the pea. Babies, children and lovers have been called “sweet pea” for centuries. “Two peas in a pod” is a phrase I say when two people act alike. Mostly, sweet pea is a term of endearment such as from Amos Lee’s song…
Sweet pea, apple of my eye
Don’t know when and I don’t know why
You’re the only reason I keep on coming home.
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
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.
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!
My inner farmer tells me that an early frost will be here soon. Beware of the “f word”, Farmer Dave recently warns on his local radio talk show. Only 2 more days and it is offically autumn. Our bush beans have come to the end of their producing. We had some delicious green beans most of the summer months. The final harvest of our herbs will come this next week to 10 days. Last week we harvested buckets of basil, of which I made lemon-Tai pesto and Italian-Genovese pesto. The lemon-Tai pesto will compliment chicken breasts and rice for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. The Italian-Genovese pesto has made a pesto pasta as well as tangy pesto-mayo spread for turkey sandwiches this past week. I had given away basil for others to dabble with in their kitchens. Our summer savory, sage, and marjoram will hang to dry in the garage along side the dill we harvested a month ago. But before the final harvest, I will plant a pot of each herb for the kitchen window to use over the long winter months. Our tropical and house plants will come indoors to their winter home before Jack Frost has a chance to nip their leaves. This frost frenzy comes every year, but comes quickly even after a long summer when cooler air is welcomed. Grower beware.