“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
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!
“We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” Ruth R. Blodgett.
The week-long sunshine and humidity boosted garden growth. Clean, crisp leaves of arugula and leaf lettuce will make a big bowl of salad for the family crowd this week. My sister is in town from Minnesota, cause for celebration.
Sweat beaded my neckline, and then down my back and chest as I harvest the garden greens. Already 88 at 10 am. Soon salty droplets dribble onto my lips. The greens are almost sweet before the extreme afternoon temps turn them bitter. Are not we all?
The herbs thrive in the summer heat, with plenty of water. More chives need cutting. Snipette of tender dill and cilantro came ready in a couple of days. Next week I will be freezing my surplus herbs for the winter meals. The pea blossoms produced 1-inch pea pods in a matter of a week. Plant scraps are added to the compost. Earthy goodness. Primal to my taste buds. Organic gardening..
This time of year the work day is eased into analyzing aggregate reports, research on other wellness programs, event planning, and networking for the year. I like the slower pace which last about 4 – 6 weeks in December into January. It is when I finally have the employee wellness events booked on the calendar. Yes, forecasting at least 9 months ahead. It is much like a teacher and his/hers curriculum planning during the summer for the next school year. It will be another busy year at St. Louis County, the busyness starting next week with several meetings and a health fair.
Much the same as with the farmer, his/hers planning for the spring and autumn crops is done during the frigid cold months. My father was a tree farmer, and the winter was filled with book work and ordering of a new stock of plant liners. My siblings and I would plant 100’s of plant saplings through the spring; lots of hoeing, weeding, and watering in the summer; and autumn a few more plantings and prepping the pines for the holiday harvest.
I cannot say Deanna Greens And Garden Art has quite the planning of a full-time farmer. The greenhouse is a hobby of Dean and I’s while we work full-time. Our part-time organic herb and vegetable growing is fragrantly and deliciously rewarding while the beautiful geranium blossoms are pleasing to the eyes. During Dean and I’s Nashville mini-vacation in December, we toured the Belle Meade Plantation. Each room in the historic house was festively decorated with period Christmas ware, with the kitchen set in the 20’s. The kitchen is my favorite room. And there set a terra cotta pot of red geraniums in the windowsill, again another favorite of mine. A vintage flower.
The subzero wind chill has me hibernating today. I wanted snow, but not this frigid cold stuff. God forgives my absence in church, and He knows my severe allergy to the cold. Early morn I went outdoors in my pjs, robe, socks, and slippers to let our Labrador into the fenced yard, not realizing just how cold it had gotten over night. It dropped 30 degrees in less than 12 hours. My joints have been screaming about it since 7:00am. The daily antihistamine did not take much of an edge off the symptoms, so I took an extra dosage this afternoon. Drinking lots of hot herbal tea while I watch cooking and gardening shows, write, and read …
Life did not bring me silken gowns,
Nor jewels for my hair,
Nor signs of gabled foreign towns
In distant countries fair,
But I can glimpse, beyond my pane, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
The brambled cares of everyday,
The tiny humdrum things,
May bind my feet when they would stray,
But still my heart has wings
While red geraniums are bloomed against my window glass,
And low above my green-sweet hill the gypsy wind-clouds pass.
And if my dreamings ne’er come true,
The brightest and the best,
But leave me lone my journey through,
I’ll set my heart at rest,
And thank God for home-sweet things, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
by Martha Haskell Clark
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!
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.
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.
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
Dean & I averaged a 2 or 3-day trip (sometimes with our Labrador-flat coat retriever Midnight in tow) every 3rd weekend to the Missouri towns of Farmington, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, and Springfield as well as Leawood, KS to see our kids, grandkids, and Dean’s parents. Engagement parties and showers along with the grand finale celebrations kept us busy. Besides these beautiful weddings, we sought a reprieve of 10 warmer degrees (above freezing!) one extended weekend in February, and drove down to Paducah, KY. A lovely artisan town and my sanity! The coldest winter on record in the Midwest and with my allergy to the cold, I was in a constant swollen state until the thaw in May. This season, I am on a preventive antihistamine,taking it religiously until next May and hoping for a milder winter. No epie pins for me! Other events … Rainer’s master’s studies graduation in May, Dean’s male bonding Ohio trip with AJ & his father in July, this summer’s memorable One Direction concert Dean escorted my granddaughters and daughters to, and another sanity check with an extended weekend in New Harmony, IN in September, and Dean’s 35th high school reunion as well as his niece’s baptism this autumn. My mother and 2 children live nearby. We enjoyed visits with the Fait, Heuertz, and Christenson cousins. The deaths of my Uncle Lee, my cousin Sandra, my 99-year old Grandpa Earl, and Dean’s Aunt Rachel brought sorrow as well as the celebration of their lives. We said goodbye to two beloved grandpets, Jesse and Pixie and welcomed the bundle of energy named Bleu.
In 2014 Dean & I reduced our debts significantly, refinanced the house, and managed to stay above water with all the weddings. Our future plans are for a big family room. We viewed a few area houses this summer, and now entertain the thought of a room addition at present abode. There’s not much left on the mortgage, we like the central location, and know all the little quirks of this house I have lived in for 28 years, Dean the past 5 years. Paring down, repairs, and renovations will be for 2015’s weekends. Last spring we built a huge herb bed of organic marjoram, dill, sage, parsley, and 4 varieties of basil inside the screen house side of our 1400 sq-ft greenhouse. Vines of gourds grew on trellises, and bush beans produced a few green meals over summer. Next autumn we will build another bed for organic root vegetables as well as a cold frame for greens within the double protection of our experimental farm structure during the winter. I write this Word Press blog Deanna Greens And Garden Art, please read if you like to keep abreast. The practice of walking, gardening and eating greener may keep us healthier longer. We are a 3-generation home once again. My Elisabeth and clan (includes 2 more cats) have lived with us since September. They are making plans for the future within this present economy. Hearing Elisabeth sing to the kids every night, and tonight “You Are My Sunshine” warms my heart. Our Midnight and cat, Celine have adjusted to sharing their eating, napping and perching spots as Dean & I have.
Our full-time jobs, Dean with the National Archives and I with St. Louis County, have their perks as well as draw-backs. We love the Monday holidays, PTO banks, and good benefits. The draw-backs are the modest income, the ultimate politics, and security threats. Working in St. Louis County, MO has been a challenge at times since the historical August 9 shooting. By the grace of God despite the presence of protestors, media, FBI, National Guard, and extra police force, I came through with the mindset, “God is in control and I am placed here for such a time as this”. I pray for protection for our police officers and for peace that surpasses all understanding for those who feel victimized. I am taking an online course study towards a CEBS certification. Study, study, more study in 2015!
Blessings and wholeness to you! From this wordie, foodie, and wellness guru in St. Charles County, MO, love always! Anna
The first day of May, May Day was met with the chilly wind and overcast sky in Missouri. Don’t you picture children and women dancing around the maypole of ribbons with flowers on their heads and in baskets? Whatever happen to the old tradition of leaving a May basket of goodies and flowers on your neighbors’ doorstep? The good ole’ days! We could use such gestures to return. Maybe a tradition for me to keep alive. Next year I will gift someone with a May basket. Shhh! It’s suppose to be a secret! It may be you! This celebration has many variations, with the original celebration dating before Christ. Pagan in nature, with Christian influences along the way. The German origins of May Day supposely came when St. Walburga brought Christianity to Germany, and it is referred to as “Mai Day”. The old world picturesque town of Hermann, Missouri still has a MaiFest celebration every year.
May Day was also a day to celebrate for the laborers, as most seeding was completed by May 1. This year of 2014, farmers and gardeners are challenged by this date. Farmer Dave on the 550 AM radio program said this morning that only 45% of the United States corn crop is in the ground already. This cold air lingering around does not help matters, and for others the drenching rains keep the farmers from completing their seeding. A group of farmers gathered for the first Thursday farmers’ market of this season in Clayton, Missouri this afternoon. I am excited to have them just down the street a 1/2 block from the building I work in. I will patronize them every Thursday after I finish my day at the office. Tonight I baked some fresh organic kale sprinkled wth olive oil and kosher salt. My recipe is on the What A Dish page of this WordPress blog. While at the farmers’ market, I picked up some ramps, a wild variety in the allium family. Some refer them to “wild garlic” or “wild leek”. These are an Appalachian delicacy that have made their way into upscale restaurants more recent years. My ex-husband’s family was from West Virginia, where ramps were skillet fried with potatoes and eggs. The house smells like ramps for days afterwards. Veggie season is in! This locavore is so excited!