Friday, June 29, 2012

Decorative Garden Journal, Gardener's First Aid Kit, Testing Old Seeds, Freezer Strawberry Jam & Yummy Heirloom Brushetta

"Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words." Lydia M. Child

I often talk about my love for journaling and awhile back I talked about a Cookbook Journal I had made for my daughter Taylor.  Well, I also have created several Gardening Journals to show the progress of my gardens as the years go by.  It is fun to put the photo's in along with magazine articles or pictures that inspired me to my newest creation.  As the years move forward seeing the growth and changes that naturally take place in a garden are both exciting and joyful.  This morning while I should have been busy harvesting, I just couldn't resist taking a few moments to weed the Pergola garden and walkway... it is so relaxing for me... the cool morning with the light fog across the fields is so inviting as I prepare for the heat of the day.  Yesterday Taylor took the boys swimming and I had some quiet time... in my gardens... Well here we are at the end of June and I haven't even given you a Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe... shame on me! Well they are still in season so here is my families favorite and if you were fortunate enough to be one of our Winter CSA members you got this in your shares... so here's the not-so-secret recipe! Enjoy!



Tools and Materials that would be helpful in this endeavor: Ruler
Blank composition book
Scissors
Patterned paper
Glue stick
Bone folder or wallpaper squeegee
Craft knife
2-inch-wide self-adhesive linen tape- be sure the color matches your theme- can purchase at any craft store.

Customized Journal How-To
1. With a ruler, measure the front cover of a blank composition book. Adding 1/2 inch to all sides, measure and cut two pieces of decorative paper to size.

2. Apply a thin layer of glue to the front cover of the composition book including the spine. Lay a piece of decorative paper patterned or a photocopy of one that you have chosen side down on a work surface, and carefully center the book's glued cover on the paper. Turn the book over, and use a bone folder or squeegee to smooth out any wrinkles; let dry. Carefully trim excess paper using a craft knife. Repeat process with book's back cover.

3. Cut a piece of adhesive linen tape slightly longer than the book's spine. Remove the tape backing, and carefully center the tape along the spine. Adhere the tape to the spine; use a bone folder to smooth out any wrinkles. Carefully trim excess tape using craft knife.
   
    As gardener's we all should have a First Aid Kit handy in the potting shed or at least in the house.  Our garden's have many hazards all there own and we should take precautions to be safe.  It harbors insects that bite, thorns that scratch, and other potential nuisances that may require simple first aid.
~ A basic kit should include the following: alcohol for cleaning wounds, triple anti-biotic ointment, cotton balls, bandages of all sizes, gauze and tape, Epsom salt for soaking, tweezers for thorns and splinters, organic insect repellent and sunscreen, anti-itch cream for stinging nettles and poison ivy, Benedryl, and of course some wonderful organic hand cream to sooth and soften your dry skin at the end of the day.
*Be sure that if anyone in your home has KNOWN allergies to bee stings you have an epee pen on hand at all times when out of doors.  Be sure to check with your physician for info on this.

Testing Old Seeds
Many of us are still planting and adding things into the garden.  We come across a spot that we are sure could fit one more thing in and decide to plant... what shall it be as we sort through all the leftover seeds? Or we may have some seeds that germinated spotty in the garden so we want to fill in and get a full row. Succession planting keeps us busy seeding and planting right through into late fall. With this in mind you will want to be sure your seeds are viable~ especially if saved over from last year.  I save seeds for up to 3 years, some think that is foolish, but I always do a germination test  and I have not had many disappointments.  This sounds much harder than it is, but anyone with water, paper towel, plastic baggie and seeds can do it~ really!  Seeds saved can be worth sowing -- but only if they pass this germination test:
* Fold 10 seeds in moist paper towel, place in resealable bag, mark with date put in and the date germination if viable should take place, as well as the type of seed.
*Be sure to read on the package instructions how many days the seed takes to germinate~ add a couple to be sure.
*After the 'day's to germination' have safely passed by, open the paper towel to see how many of the seeds germinated. *Multiply that number by 10 to calculate the percent of germination. More than 70 percent is passing. If between 40 and 60 percent, sow thickly. Below 40 percent, it's best to buy fresh seed.
~Be sure to keep any seed you want to save for next year in the freezer in air tight freezer bags or plastic containers.  Also be sure to label any packages that may be tattered or where the labels may be faded. 

 Cute Personalized Herb Pots... make cute gifts or are a wonderful addition clustered together on your window sill or table top.  Personalizing them is so super easy, yet adds such a flare to the simplest pot!   Individually, they're portable and easy to handle: Bring the basil indoors, for example, when making pesto, instead of stooping in the garden. When you plant the herbs, label the rims with a permanent felt-tip marker, and use these pots year after year!








Strawberries, strawberries... oh yummy strawberries!  Here is our families favorite Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe.  This is one of the few jams I don't can... Strawberry Jam frozen is like eating them fresh picked~ there is no comparison with canned!
Strawberry Freezer Jam3/4 cup pectin - equivalent to 6oz. (like sure-jel)
1 1/4 cup water
4 cups whole strawberries (1 quart container)
4 cups organic raw sugar
*Following the instructions, especially with the amount of sugar is crucial to have proper set up!  DON'T SKIMP ON THE SUGAR!!!!
1. De-stem berries and then crush berries in a bowl; add sugar and stir for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2.  Boil pectin and water for exactly one minute and 45 seconds!  Start timing when the mixture is at a rolling boil.
3. As soon as the time is up add the pectin mixture to the strawberry mixture slowly pouring in and continually stirring for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar completely!  It will be grainy if it is not stirred long enough.
4. Pour into either freezer containers or canning jars.  Leave 1 inch head space in either container.
5. Let set on your counter for 24 hours before freezing.
Super yummy!

Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh garlic and just picked basil... this all adds up to Brushetta at our home! Here is our families favorite recipe!
Brushetta
1 loaf Persian Bread from Sunflour Bakehaus or a loaf of fresh bread.
7-8 Roma tomatoes or 4 to 5 large ones, diced~from Garden Gate~ multi colored looks best!
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sea salt or earth salt
1/2 cup olive oil from The Olive Oil Store, plus extra for brushing on bread
1/2 cup fresh snipped basil leaves from Garden Gate
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
1. In a 2 quart bowl put chopped tomatoes; sprinkle salt over top. Let set for about 10 minutes.
2. In the mean time snip basil finely; add basil, minced garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil to tomatoes; stir gently as not to mash the tomatoes. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving so flavors blend.
3. Just before serving, cut bread into 2-3 inch wide pieces, then slice diagonally; lay on a cookie sheet and brush olive oil onto one side, flip over and brush oil on other side; place in oven under low broiler and toast until golden, about 1-2 minutes; flip and brown other side.
4. Top bread with brushetta topping; grate fresh Parmesan over top.  Serve immediately.

Happy Day,
Jean





 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Farmers Markets & Foodshed's, Succession Planting & Three Yummy Farmer's Market Recipes!

        What's a Foodshed you ask?  Most people who call themselves Locavore's, Foodies or the like will probably be familiar with this term, but for those of you who are not, here is a brief description and how you can make or find one!  *Though it may be unfamiliar, the term "foodshed" was used almost 80 years ago in a book entitled How Great Cities Are Fed (Hedden, 1929) to describe the flow of food from producer to consumer. Seven decades later, the term was used to describe a food system that connected local producers with local consumers (Kloppenburg et al., 1996). In this project, the general definition of a foodshed is a geographic area that supplies a population center with food. However, the Mapping Local Food Systems Project focused specifically on potential local foodsheds, areas of nearby land that could theoretically provide part or all of a city's food needs (Peters, 2007).
*Used from Cornell University web site, 2012
   


If you search the web go to Foodshed Maps and you will be amazed at how much info is out there. Some of these maps are interactive and can lead you the consumer to sources for organic produce, farmer's markets, orchards, artisan cheese makers, organic meat and egg producers or other specific categories within a 100 mile radius of your home- which happens to be the 'acceptable' radius for which we define things as local! I am currently working on creating one of these for our farm.  With us being a Co-operative farm, I think it would be very interesting for our CSA members as well as our farm market friends, (known to most as customers), to visually see where all the farms that we work with are located.  (see printable attachment Foodshed map for the Mad River Valley coop)

Food anonymity is becoming a thing of the past for some of us... we are tired of buying bread that came off an assembly line in a 'factory'... we want that hand formed sour dough bread from Fostoria Bread Factory or the beautifully imperfect baguette that Matt from Golden Wheat made...  we can hand the green stuff right into the hands that formed them... take them home and tell the family how nice Ed & Julie are and their boys are so sweet, and man they make the best sour dough anywhere around... We can rip up the fresh homegrown Heirloom lettuce that we just picked out of our raised beds, slice some Heirloom tomatoes hand picked off the vine and put some of Micheal's real goat Feta cheese from Hickory Knoll Creamery crumbled on top... oh it's so good!  Then of course pair all this together with Tracina's gourmet ricotta knocci... what more can you want?  All this can and will be had at the Farmers Market...

Most of you know that we are farmers at The Farmington Farmer's & Artisan's Market in Downtown Farmington, Michigan during the regular season where you can find all this great stuff and so much more! The farmers market is the best place for you to create your own Foodshed map... you will be able to share and talk to your market vendors. Building relationships are a natural part of the market atmosphere... I am so happy that I can honestly say that I know most of our market friends names as well as their children's... and they know our family~ they trust our family to provide them with great organic produce, eggs, pork, beef and chicken!  The Downtown Farmington Farmer's & Artisan's Market is the best summer time market anywhere in Michigan... come on out and see us!

**As a CSA farm and market vendor I need to be sure I will have produce all season.  Succession Planting is basically the following of one crop with another and is the most important tool for maximizing a garden's yield. It is a must if you want to have garden fresh produce for the full season we call spring, summer and fall!  Here are a few tips on how to plan your garden's planting:
*Get started by making a list of all the veggies you want to grow. You must have a good understanding of their individual growth habits and preferences.
*You need to take into consideration the days to harvest from planting, whether it be seed or plant; how long a plant will produce.
*Standard succession planting works if you plan to direct seed every two weeks~ although be sure to plan your last seeding according to the harvest date listed on the package.  For example, most radishes are about 40-45 days; therefore you can determine your last available seeding date by going to your calender, deciding on the last day you can harvest- typically your first frost date and then counting backwards 45 days and adding 5 days for safety- there you go, that is when you direct seed your last planting.
*Create a Planting schedule~ simplify this procedure by drawing a spring, summer, and fall diagram of each of your garden beds or raised beds. Plug in early and then late season crops.  Be sure to note the approximate date each crop needs to be sown or transplanted and when the expected harvest date will be.
*Manage same crop successions by sowing small amounts of seed or transplanting a few seedlings at regular intervals, either in the same bed or a different times in various parts of your garden.  Leafy greens can be seeded on a weekly basis.
*Planting varieties that mature at different times, such a early, middle, and late ripening sweet corn is another way to extend the harvest of a single crop.
*Choose the Right Varieties~ climate, weather and growing conditions affect variety choice and succession timing as well.  Sow cool weather varieties of lettuce in early spring and then sow heat tolerant varieties later for summer harvest and then cool weather ones again toward the end of summer for fall harvest. 
*Doubling Up~ When planning successions and selecting veggies varieties, consider how two or more crops might share the same space.  For example, planting scallions beside rows of potatoes... the onions will be mature before the potatoes need the room and they will also help deter pesky potato bugs.  Also, planting lettuce transplants along side tomato plants~ again the lettuces will be ready long before the tomatoes become gigantic and take over the space.
*Planting tricks~ be sure to space your plants accordingly, if they are crowded they will not grow to their potential.  Try planting seeds and transplants of the same veggie along side each other, the transplants will be ready to harvest as the seed's grow and then take over the space. 

Here is a **Three Season Garden Plan~ see attached copy of the plan.
Spring~ plant three rows- one Swiss chard, peas on a trellis down center and then baby beets on other side.  The beets and chard will grow short beside the tall peas. 
Summer~ When the peas are done pull the plants and then plant a row of cucumbers to climb on the trellis.  Leave the chard in place; harvest the beets as babies and then plant lettuce seedling and a  row of dill in their place.
Early Fall~ remove the summer veggies and plant half the row with spinach and the other half with alternating rows of tatsoi and bok choy. 
 
You can get some really great tips in Elliot Coleman's, Four Season Harvest!  Great book!
**Information adapted from Organic Gardening Magazine, "Keep It Coming" By Barbara Damrosch. Feb/Mar 2010, pg.s 42-47

Here are some yummy recipes for all the summertime yummies you can pick up at the market this weekend!
Roasted Basil Tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil from The Olive Oil Store
8-10 tomatoes from Garden Gate, halved
2 Tbsp. fresh basil from Garden Gate, chopped
salt to taste
Fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat; place tomato halves cut side down in saucepan; cook 5-8 minutes.
2. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up in a lightly greased 8"x8" baking pan; pour any liquid in saucepan over tomatoes; Sprinkle with basil and salt.
3. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes; garnish with cheese.

Grilled Market Veggies
2 zucchini from Garden Gate, sliced 3/4 inch thick lengthwise
2 yellow squash from Garden Gate, sliced 3/4 inch thick lengthwise
1 sweet onion, sliced 3/4 inch thick
2 tomatoes from Garden Gate, sliced 1 inch thick
2 cloves fresh garlic from Garden Gate, minced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cup oil from The Olive Oil Store
1 Tbsp. EACH FRESH HERB: rosemary, minced; oregano, chopped; basil, chopped; parsley, minced
1 Tbsp. sugar
salt & pepper to taste

1. Combine veggies in a large bowl; whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over veggies; toss to coat; marinate for one hour.
2. Remove veggies from marinade with a slotted spoon; arrange on a grill over medium hot heat; grill 2 to 5 minutes on each side, basting often with marinade, until tender.

Here's an old time favorite!
Fried Green Tomatoes

You can also use summer squash or okra using this method of preparation!
1 cup all purpose whole wheat or white flour- from Garden Gate
1 cup cornmeal, from Garden Gate
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 green tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup oil for frying, from The Olive Oil Store

1. Whisk together all ingredients except tomatoes and oil.
2. Dip tomatoes into mixture; heat oil in a cast iron skillet; fry tomatoes until golden and crispy on both sides.

Happy Day,
Jean
       


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Companionate Herbal for the Organic Garden, Herbal Therapeutic Concoctions & Yummy Herb Butters Recipe's!

Summer is here and we are in full swing! I am finding it harder and harder to get to this blog with all the responsibilities I have around on the farm.  I am constantly thinking of things to write about and share, but finding the 'thyme', or should I say making the 'thyme' is just taking more effort than I would actually like.  But here I am and of course I love being here.  Lets talk more on herbs shall we? I just can't seem to get enough of herbs, they are so versatile and useful in so many areas in life... the kitchen, bouquet and right into the personal care line! I love to go out to the gardens and pick them... as I brush against their leaves they just welcome me there with their lovely aroma's telling me to pick & enjoy!  I have often touched on companion planting and I recently came across a great list that I thought I would like to share with all of you. Today I am going to focus a bit on the personal care end with of course a few yummy recipes for Herb Butters! Thanks for coming... see you again soon!



A Companionate Herbal for the Organic Garden~  This list was adapted from The Rodale Herb Book; How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature's Miracle Plants; published by Rodale Press, Inc. 1974, pg.s 268-269.

HERB:                          COMPANIONS AND EFFECTS:
Basil                             *Companion to tomatoes; Improves growth and flavor; repels flies and mosquitoes.
Bee Balm                       *Companion to tomatoes; improves growth and flavor
Borage                           *Companion to tomatoes, squash and strawberries; deters tomato worm; improves flavor &
                                      growth.
Caraway                         *Plant here and there; loosens soil.
Camomile                       *Companion to radishes; improves growth & flavor.
Chervil                           *Companion to cabbages & onions; improves growth & flavor.
Chives                            *Companion to carrots; improves growth & flavor.
Dill                                *Companion to cabbage, improves growth & flavor; dislikes carrots  
Fennel                            *Plant away from gardens.  Most plants dislike it.
Garlic                             *Plant near roses and raspberries, improves growth & health; deters Japanese beetle
Horseradish                     *Plant at corners of potato patch to deter potato bug.
Hyssop                            *Deters cabbage moth; companion to cabbage & grapes; Keep away from radishes.
Lovage                            *Improves flavor and health of plants if planted here and there.
Marigold                         *The workhorse of the pest deterrents.  Plant throughout the garden: discourages                                             Mexican bean beetles, nematodes, and other insects.      
Mint                               *companion to cabbage & tomatoes; improves health & flavor; deters white cabbage moth.
Marjoram                        *Here and there in gard3en; improves flavors.
Nasturtium                     *Companion to radishes, cabbage & curcurbits; plant under fruit trees.  Deters aphids,
                                       squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetles.  Improves growth and flavor.    
Pot Marigold                   *companion to tomatoes, but plant elsewhere in garden too.  Deters asparagus beetle,
                                        tomato worm and general garden pests.       
Peppermint                      *Planted among cabbages, it repels the white cabbage butterfly.
Rosemary                       *Companion to cabbage, bean, carrots & sage; deters cabbage moth, bean beetles & carrot fly
Rue                                *Keep it far away from sweet basil; plant near roses and raspberries; deters Japanese beetle.
Sage                              *Plant with rosemary, cabbage & carrots; keep away from cucumbers; deters cabbage moth
                                       & carrot fly.
Summer Savory              *Plant with beans and onions; improves growth and flavor; deters bean beetles.
Tansy                             *Plant under fruit trees; companion to roses & raspberries; deters flying insects,
                                        Japanese beetle, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants.       
Tarragon                         *Good throughout the garden.
Thyme                            *Here and there in garden. It deters cabbage worm.

Of course as usual this is only a small amount of information in a world of endless info!  These are the most commonly used herbs in the kitchen, but doesn't even touch on medicinal ones.                 



 Aromatic herbal baths are one of the most pleasurable ways to cleanse your skin and revitalize your whole body after a hard day at work.  You can add particular herbs to promote relaxation or stimulation.  Therapeutic preparations can be made at home from essential oils and herbal infusions quite easily.  In an earlier blog I gave you the how-to's on Oils and Vinegars for cooking, here are some personal care recipes!  Enjoy!

Antiseptic Wash~ Among oils with antiseptic action are thyme, lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus.  Add 8 drips of one of these to a small bowl of water and apply to minor wounds.

Foot Bath~ You will need: Fresh leaves of bay, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon balm, thyme, marjoram, spearmint.
*Sprinkle 1-2 handfuls of herbs into a large bowl.
*Add 2 tsp. of salt and enough hot water to cover the feet and ankles.
*Soak feet for at least 10- 12 minutes while breathing in the delicious aroma's!

Hand Cream~ You will need: 1 cup rose water, 1/4 cup glycerin, 1/4 cup cornstarch and 3 drops chamomile oil.
*Blend rosewater, cornstarch and glycerin.
*Heat gently in a double boiler to thicken, then cool for about 15- 20 minutes.
*Stir in oil.
*Store in screw top jar for up to 3 months.  




Lavender Spritz~ For a classic skin freshener, fill an spritzer bottle with distilled water and add a couple drops of lavender essential oil.  Shake to blend and before each use.

Lip Balm~ You will need: Oil of eucalyptus, lemon, thyme, jasmine, lavender, geranium, juniper, OR  peppermint.
*Add 2 drops of one of the oil's listed above to 1 tbsp. of warmed cocoa butter.  Put in a small jar and let it cool. 

Stretch Marks Massage Oil~ You will need:  5 drops of EACH~ lavender oil and neroli oil, 6 drops frankincense and 1/4 cup almond oil.
*Add oils to a small stoppered jar and shake to blend.  Massage gently into the skin to firm it up and to combat stretch marks.

Rosewater Toner~ You will need: 2/3 cup rosewater, 2/3 cup witch hazel and 6 drop glycerin.
*Pour all the ingredients into a bottle and shake will before each use.

                         

Herb butters add a lovely finishing touch to cooked veggies, fist or chicken and are so easy to make!  All you need to do is beat your favorite fresh or dried herb9s0 into some softened butter, cover with some plastic wrap and chill until you're ready to serve it up!
Here are some yummy Herb Butter Recipes to try this year!

Lemon & Fennel Butter ~ the flavor of fennel goes very well with fish or grilled corn on the cob!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds
zest of half lemon, grated
1/8 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly blended; pat into a roll about the size of a tangerine, cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When ready to serve, cut into chunks~ very cute!

Cilantro & Scallion Butter
~ Use this on some new potatoes and enjoy the sweet savor of scallions blended with the pungency of cilantro!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 scallion (green onion) finely chopped.
Follow prep method above.



Chive Pepper Butter ~ So yummy on grilled chicken or roasted cod fillets!
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, lighted crushed
Follow prep method above.

Happy Day,
Jean


Monday, June 18, 2012

Raised Bed Gardening, Plant Container Ideas, Yummy Savory Garden Cornmeal Pancakes and more...
         

"We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts."  William Hazlitt
This year I  put in a new raised bed garden over by our barn hill that will be specifically for Neil's sausages!  I am so excited about growing and drying all the herbs. Raised beds are such an easy way to go for anyone, especially if you don't have a large area.   If you want to have a no fuss, no muss garden try raised beds, they require very little maintenance and can grow almost everything! 



Raised Bed tips on how to make & grow!
*The lumber you use should be at least 10" high or higher if you want it. Although for proper root growth this is the minimum. 
*Do NOT use old rail road ties, no matter how many you get for free- they contain a poison called Creosote that will leach out into your soil, be taken up by the roots of your plants, nourish the plant and you get all the by-product in the fruit that it bears when YOU eat it! Yuck!  Stay away from treated lumber for the same reasons.  (this pertains only to those who want to grow organically!)
*Your raised beds can be as long as you want them to be, but the best width is 4' wide.  With this width you can easily 'reach' in from both sides.  You never want to 'step in' your RB, this compacts the soil, which makes proper root growth more difficult.  My farms RB's are either 4'x4' or 4'x8', these work best for me.
*Find a sunny location in your yard and decide how many you would like, or should I say how many would fit!  I would not have a stitch of grass if I didn't have boys that need 'play space'!
*Fill your box with from the bottom up with a mixture of well rotted manure, compost, old grass clippings, hay or straw and top with a rich, loamy soil. 
*After you have your box filled with all the plants you want to grow, put a layer of newspaper (NOT colored print sections) about 3-4 sections thick between your plants, top with a layer of grass clippings or straw to act as a mulch. You will have virtually NO weeding!
*Water thoroughly and enjoy your hard work! 
For a very concise book on Raised Bed gardening I always recommend 'Lasagna Gardening' by Patricia Lanza.  I also recommend companion planting with all your growing ventures. I use Louise Riotte's, 'Carrots Love Tomatoes'.  Both these books will give you a great start to your gardening ventures.
Other nifty ideas for plant containers:
1.  Old galvanized chicken feeder or waterers, tin buckets, watering cans, old metal double burner caners (see picture) enamel ware anything... be sure to put drainage holes on the bottom- unless there it is well rusted and has time worn ones, even better!
2.  Wheel barrow's or old wagons can be found at any flea market or garage sale.  You can either put the plant pots directly in the containers or fill em' with dirt and direct plant.  Either way, totally adorable!
3.  Barrels or metal wash tubs are great as well.  I have a old half barrel at my back door with a bleeding heart in it.  When it is in full bloom it is simply stunning. 
4. Old drawers, crates or even an old wooden trough (yes I have had one).  These work great in your garden's to add depth and interest.  You can plant anything in them. 
The idea's are endless, if it has a hole to put dirt in you can plant it, just depends on your taste!  The key to successful container gardening is proper drainage.
*One more tip- to save on dirt when filling very large containers, recycle packing peanuts, old broken Terra cotta pots, small plastic pots, etc.  Put these in the bottom of your container until about half filled, then pour on the dirt!  They will also be much lighter if you need to move them!
       

Here's a yummy recipe using Taylor's Cornmeal Pancake Mix!
Taylor's Savory Garden Cornmeal Pancakes
1 Pkg. Taylor's Bake Shoppe Cornmeal Pancake Mix - follow instructions and add to batter:
1 cup niblet corn, drained                                                            

1/4 cup diced bell pepper (any color 1/2 cup diced red onion                               
 1 small peeled & shredded carrot, from Willow Ridge Farm
1/2 tsp Taco Seasoning

1/4 oil
       

1. Stir together all ingredients except oil. 
2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Drop batter by 1/3 cupfuls into hot oil.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Garnish with fresh chopped Cilantro, sour cream Salsa !
Happy Day,
Jean

       

Friday, June 15, 2012

Make a Blooming Chair, How To Make Herbed Vinegars & Oils and Recipes!

Beautiful dill can be added not just to dishes
but also in bouquest
 Flowers are bursting open everywhere and the fledglings are leaving the nest... young robins are hopping all over the garden eating creepy crawlies and enjoying being out of the nest... glorious, glorious summer!  The fields are starting to bear and the harvest will soon be coming on heavily... that means 'puttin' up time is just around the corner.  Of course we've been busy with rhubarb and now strawberries are ripe for the pickin' and that means the yummiest jam of all...  Strawberries scare me though... that is growing them. They are really the only 'garden' fruit I don't grow. The runners and weeding they require have never tempted me... until this year! I think I have figured a way to keep them... I will blog more on this next week, so keep watching.  Today we'll stick with more herb stuff and of course some garden junque too! Enjoy and thanks for comin' over!

Blooming chairs you ask... I am all about big & beautiful now with certain things. I am sure you have all seen those cute chairs that have potted flowers growing right out of the seat. I just love them, and of course I have some.  Here is the simple 'how to' to make your own.
Step 1~ If you don't have  an old chair already, you can easily find one at any thrift store, antique shop or flea market.  If you can find one that has a cane seat you are doing great, because this will make your job all the more easy.
Step 2~ remove the caning from the chair seat to make an open hole where your container can be placed.
Step 3~ I would simply go to a nursery and purchase an already big and beautiful hanging basket- be sure it will fit in your seat hole... take it home and put her in! Presto, instant blooming chair...
* to make it cuter if you can by chance see the pot it's in, put it in an old tin bucket!
... of course if you want to plant your own, do just that.
        

Notice the chair in the forground... I purchased
a patunia hanging basket, transfered into an old
tin bucket and then placed in seat hole.  I also
just put pots on top of chairs as you can see the
potted geranium in a tin bucket on the chair on
my front porch.  Have Fun!


Herbed Vinegars & Oils can be made quite easily and inexpensively, especially when you are growing your own herbs. For those who love to grill or roast, or have salads often,  you will find that having these oils & vinegars on hand to be a real treat... and what a way to wow your guests.  Here is the 'how to' and some ideas on different combinations...

**How to make Herbed Vinegars~
You can use the leaves, seeds and flowers, singly or in combinations of freshly picked herbs to make herbed vinegars.  The vinegar should be the best of the cider or wine varieties available, as herbs will not disguise the sharpness of a bad vinegar.
1. Pick the herbs for the vinegar in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of day has driven off some of the essential oils that give herbs their flavor.  Use only perfect leaves and flowers, discarding any that have tuned brown or show signs of having been eaten by garden pests.
2. Bruise the herbs slightly before putting them in a glass bottle or ceramic crock with a tightly fitting top.  Use about 1/2 cup of herbs for each pint (2cups) of vinegar, more if you want a stronger taste.
3. Then follow one of these two traditional methods:
  ~A. Pour the vinegar over the herbs in a clear glass bottle and close tightly.  Set the bottle in a sunny window for two weeks, turning it frequently.
  ~B. Heat the vinegar; then pour the hot vinegar over the herbs in a bottle or crock and close tightly.  Let steep overnight.
  Whichever method you use, you may want to strain and re-bottle the vinegar at the end of the steeping time, adding a fresh, unbruised sprig for decoration.  This is a matter of aesthetics- a choice between one simple spring in the bottle or the generous bunch of herbs used to flavor the vinegar.

**HOW to make Herbed Oils~

Herbed oils can be as simple or as complex as you like.  To make you own, simply add the desired herbs and spices to the oil (olive oil is best, but you can also use a good vegetable oil) and steep in a closed bottle or container in a warm but not hot place for a few weeks before using.  

 Here are some yummy combo's for you try now that you have the 'how to's'....
~Vinegar idea's:
*Tarragon is most common alone~ or add lemon thyme, basil, chive blossoms, burnet work well in salads
*Burnet and borage~ add borage flowers to white vinegar and it will tint it a lovely pale blue while giving it a subtle cucumber flavor...
*Dill with whole seed head intact ~ add a bit of lemon and garlic for delicious variety
*Mint for lamb dishes and fruit salads
*lemon thyme for fish
*Basil for tomatoes ~ add borage and burnet for a yummy twist
*sage for marinating rich meats and fowl
*chive blossoms for a faint oniony flavor
*nasturtium buds, flowers and leaves for a lovely peppery flavor
*oregano, fennel and garlic
*lemon thyme and garlic
*raspberry leaves and lemon balm... yummy for a salad
*and of course garlic... for everything!

~Oil idea's:
*Thyme and rosemary make a quick pasta oil to toss the noodles with
*garlic, chili peppers, rosemary and thyme make for a yummy barbeque oil that is wonderful to marinade and baste your grilled meats
*Peppermint, garlic, cumin, coriander, cloves, mace and fennel adds a taste of the Middle East
*Thyme alone is wonderful to brush on veggies for the grill and chicken
*Fennel and garlic are yummy on fish
*garlic, thyme and a bit of sage go well with grilled veggies

You know what you like... so be daring and try new things with all your wonderful herbs!

**Taken and Adapted from, Herbs, Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publishers, 1985

Here are some yummy recipe's to try... 

Spiced Vinegar
3" cinnamon stick
1 whole cracked nutmeg
4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns

*Follow instructions above; let steep 4 weeks in a cool place; when ready strain the mixture and bottle. Store in a cool, dark space.

Rose Petal Vinegar
3 cup white wine vinegar
1 rose bud to place in bottle
5 cup rose petal, lightly crushed

*Follow instruction above; steep 4 weeks in cool place; when ready strain the mixture and bottle. Store in a cool, dark space.

Cucumber Dill Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup organic raw sugar
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

1. Combine water, sugar, salt and vinegar, stir until thoroughly dissolved; add cucumber.
2. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving; when ready to serve, drain cucumber, fold into sour cream and add dill. 
*use on top of baked potatoes... yummy!

Happy Day,
Jean

        

         

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Window Boxed Herbs, Fabric Lined Baskets and Yummy


Believe it or not but we are already coming to the end of May... soon it will be summer! I love summer but nothing is as special to me as Spring. The rebirth and joy that comes with spring cannot be compared! Gardening is in full swing right now for most of us who garden... the peonies are ready to pop, lilacs are dancing, columbine and iris are swaying in the breeze as softly as the light of the butterfly that settles upon them. Monarchs and yellow Swallow Tails are hovering about now along with my first visit of the happy hummingbirds now flitting about. There is such life right now, such joy... you can see it in the wings of the birds as they glide overhead... they just seem to be playing to us, but really those graceful swallows are swooping about with mouths wide open gobbling up all those pesky bugs... that sure doesn't sound as 'graceful' but that's the facts! Birds eat bugs! It always makes me laugh when I see egg cartons claiming vegetarian diets for the chickens... well hello, if the birds are 'free ranged', there is no such thing as a vegetarian chicken. They are voracious bug hunters that love to catch a grass hopper and snap up a worn and it is absolutely hilarious to watch them eye ball a bug, head cocked to one side and then peck like mad to get the creepy crawly! If you eat eggs from vegetarian raised chickens, then they are living in a very small cage, with absolutely no out door life! Well, that's another story and another day... lets talk about herbs!

Window Box Herbs!
I love to talk about herbs and I love to grow and eat them even more. Herbs are an addition to the family garden that step up the culinary experience of home gardening a notch above the rest! Herbs can be grown in neat tidy rows in the garden, or as I have mentioned before within a kitchen garden. Many herbs love containers and even window boxes. Window boxes are not just for windows! As you will see in the attached photo you can put them on the railing of your deck just handy for grilling or plucking off and throwing in your fresh garden salad. Here are a few ideas for planting your culinary herbs.
*I love this idea of putting the herbs in a window box right along side your grill off a deck or patio. How handy to have fresh culinary herbs right at your finger tips!
*I put my rosemary in large pots... they can even be trimmed into topiary for lovely entry pieces to a patio or deck. They are a tender perennial and can be brought in during the cold winters or left out year round in you live in a climate suitable for that.
*Basil is another herb that doesn't mind the constraints of pots... but give her room to grow in a nice size pot, a 2gal size would be nice. Be sure to pluck the leaves off where a new stem is growing and then it will make two new leave sets, that's the trick with getting a nice bushy plant!
*Thyme is my second favorite culinary herb, right behind beloved basil! Keep a pot close to the grill as well. She also doesn't mind a pot, although it is a perennial and can be transplanted into your herb garden in the early fall. This way it will be able to get a good root hold~ be sure to water!
*Herbs that don't really like to be cooped up in a pot are: parsley, cilantro, dill and sage, to name a few.


Fabric-Lined Baskets
A roll of bakery twine, pinking shears, and hot glue are all that's needed to re-purpose a well-worn-though-cherished quilt into a pretty basket liner.

How to Line a Basket
~ (see photo attached)Step 1: To determine amount of fabric needed for basket interior, measure height (adding extra for the exterior trim) and circumference, adding six inches so fabric will overlap.
Step 2: Cut fabric with pinking shears. If the remnant has a finished edge, leave as is.


Step 3: Line the interior sides with fabric; hot glue along bottom edge. Cut a piece to fit the bottom; hot glue in place
 Step 4: Fold excess fabric over basket edge and secure.


Yummy Strawberries paired with sunflower seeds and yogurt will make them all awe at the first taste!
Sunflower Strawberry Salad

2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 apple, cored and diced
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup yellow raisins
1/2 cup strawberry yogurt
1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds
lettuce leaves~ optional

1. Combine fruit, celery and raisins; stir in yogurt.
2. Cover and chill one hour.
3. Sprinkle sunflower seeds just before serving.
4. Spoon servings over lettuce leaves, if desired.
Fresh & light!

Happy Day,
Jean
     

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Decorating with Herbs, Step Stone Patterns and More Rhubarb & Strawberry Recipes

Here is my sun shining down on my flower.

Here we are just about in the middle of June... how the days fly. The other day Kyle & Ethan were planting another 50 pounds of Yukon potato seeds... I walked down the row punching the holes in the plastic where they were to plant... Suddenly I saw this big, bossy and majestic dragonfly... He lives here at The Garden Gate Farm... he sports an iridescent blue jacket and flits about like he doesn't have a care in the world. I love to watch them fly about... whip over this way and then dart over that way.  They are by far my favorite insect. I quick pointed him out to the boys and we watched awhile as he showed off.  I truly believe that God always sends me one because He knows how special they are too me.  We also had another 'not so majestic' flying critter that day~ this one though was darting through my house and I was screaming running out the door~ A Bat!  Oh how I hate bats... now don't get me wrong, I love bats outside for all the wonderful things they do~ like eating all those pesky mosquitoes and moths~ but not inside.  I have to say it has been awhile since we had one... remember we live in the country and this really is part of life! But awhile later we were all standing in the kitchen when a beautiful Ruby Throated Hummingbird female was hovering right in my big picture window looking right on in... She seemed to be looking in and being thankful she was out... she was in the midst of my red climbing rose bush canes that dance in front of the window.  Yes we live in the county and we get lot's of flyin' things. 

Well here are some ideas on making walk ways and fanciful ways to have your step stones add that special touch! Also enjoy some more ideas on how to incorporate Herbs in your entertaining along with four more yummy recipes for rhubarb and strawberries!  Enjoy friends...

I love Garden Paths... they add such an interesting element to any yard or garden.  Here are a couple photos of two of mine.  You can create any type of design using them. I used slate in my pergola walkway laid in pea stone.  At the entrance I put regular round step stones to keep the pea stone from rolling out.  I used plastic ground cover first, then laid the slate and then added the pea stone and swept it evenly to fill in around the slate.  As you are walking and then turn to go into one of our hoop houses I took some extra pieces of the slate and created two patterns~ one is a flower and the other a sun (photo).  You can do whatever you dream of!


Here is my pergola walkway.  There are Sweet Autumn Clematis along
with climbing roses. 


I have mentioned often how much I enjoy entertaining and decorating for the event.  It is quite easy to incorporate herbs into the affair... here are a few tips on how! 
*Consider using pale natural fabrics such as un-dyed linen.  This allows the herbs to hold center stage rather than having a too busy pattern.
*As with the linens, choose plain or understated china, flatware and glassware that will not upstage the greenery. 
*Of course every table needs a centerpiece- don't make your bouquets with just flowers, add herbs... they add delicate texture, such as with Dill leaves or fennel. Try adding geranium leaves, flowering Cinnamon Basil or any purple basil... so beautiful.  Arrange the herbs loosely; think about how they grow in the garden and let them ramble across the table.  Herbs wilt very easily so be sure to give them lots of water and right away after harvesting! 
*Keep a bowl of freshly torn herbs such as basil, mint, tarragon, cilantro, and flat leaved parsley is an attractive detail- it allows your guests to help themselves to sprinkle on their food and drinks.
*Mix watermelon- red and yellow if you know an Heirloom gardener, a cantaloupe and a honey dew; Using a melon baller, fill individual desert cups with the melon, put a fresh sprig of mint on top of each.
*Adorn each place setting with an herbal napkin ring~ use a long sprig of rosemary or summer savory, fold around the napkin and tie with a piece of ribbon, twine or jute- whichever fits your theme better, place on plate.
*Write the names of your guests on copper or aluminum plant tags and put them in miniature Terra cotta plant pots filled with fresh herbs~ place at each plate~ what a statement!
*Use Lemon balm or another long stemmed herb like lavender to create easily woven lattice pattern place mats.  When a hot plate is placed on the mat, a delicious aroma is released~ not to mention it is just beautiful.
*Make your ice water extra special by putting leaves of borage and mint with cucumber slices  in your water pitchers.
*Coriander flowers impart a delicate flavor to pepper and salt.  Simply add several in your salt & pepper containers~ little salt & pepper bowls make it even prettier.

Rhubarb and now strawberries... now we can really get cooking!  Try these yummy treats for an added spice in life!

Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce

3-4 cups 1 inch rhubarb pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cup halved strawberries, de-stemmed
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Bring rhubarb, sugar, water & salt to a boil; Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.; add strawberries and cook 3-5 more minutes, or until rhubarb is tender.
2. Remove from heat and add butter.
Serve sauce warm or cold over ice cream, angel food cake, pudding or baked custard.

Rhubarb Upside- Down Cake


2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cup diced rhubarb
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp.; baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk

1. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a 9x9 inch cake pan; add brown sugar and rhubarb; cream together butter and sugar; add the eggs and beat.
2. Combine the dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk.
3. Pour over rhubarb and bake at 3765 degrees fro 40-45 minutes.
4. Turn upside- down on plate to serve.

Rhubarb Strawberry Pie


1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca or flour
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 cup diced rhubarb
2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/8 tsp. almond extract
pastry for a double crust pie
1 Tbsp. butter

1. Combine sugar, tapioca and nutmeg; add rhubarb and strawberries; add extract.
2. Mix gently and let stand 10-15 minutes to blend flavors; Pour mixture into an unbaked 9 inch pie shell; dot with butter.
3. Cover with top crust; cut slits into the top crust; seal with flute edges of pie crust.
4. Bake at 350 degree's for 40-45 minutes until fruit bubbles and pie is golden.

Rhubarb Jam


2 1/2 lb.s rhubarb
1 cup water
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
1/2 tsp. butter
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)

1.  Finely chop rhubarb; do not peel.
2. Place in a 4 quart saucepan; add water and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.
3. Measure 4 1/2 cups  into a 6-8 quart saucepan; measure sugar into a separate bowl.
4. Stir pectin into rhubarb; add butter; bring to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat; skim foam; add coloring now if going to.
5. Ladle quickly into six 1 cup prepared jars, leaving 1/8 inch head space.
6. Process in a boiling water caner 10 minutes.

Happy Day,
Jean

        


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tussie Mussies Made Simple, Putting Up Rhubarb, Rhubarb Crisp and Rhubarb Punch!

Yummy Rhubarb Crisp!
Well here we are getting fired up about the garden and all that she will bear for us... spring, summer, fall and winter... each holds a different gift for the individual.  Most people are not aware of the extended growing capabilities that we now have available in more northern climates, such as mine here in the thumb of Michigan.  We have some cold winters but with heated and unheated greenhouses, high tunnels and/ or hoop houses the posibilities are quite amazing.  No we can't grow tomatoes, they need a certain amount of sunlight to bear that vine ripened flavorful tomato.  I don't believe in hydroponics and wouldn't eat anything grown that way on purpose... read the labels friends, you'd be surprised at what you're eating during the winter months.  I believe, but don't totally practice eating 'in season'... my family likes banana's and oranges and we buy them in the winter. I do realize that eating local and in season are wonderful and right things, but, we are a bit spoiled. With all the preserving and root cellaring we do we have pretty much every thing we could want out of the garden all winter long and right on through spring until it all starts coming in fresh again.  With our hoop houses we can have fresh greens and lettuces all winter long... like I said we are spoiled! Which brings me to helping you put up some rhubarb and giving you recipes on how to use it in and out 'of season'... enjoy!

*What are tussie mussies you say... or you are saying quaintly how you haven't heard that term in ages... either way, it is a far cuter word than 'bouquet'... Brief history on them... from reading I have discovered they apparently originated in Elizabethan England and people carried and sniffed them around to help disguise the dreadful stench of London's streets. They are made with aromatic flowers and herbs such as lavender, rosemary, and rue, which were believed to be protection from the plaque and other diseases.  They were also believed to help cleanse the air of a house where sickness was. By the time of the Victorian era they had become 'highly stylized nosegays', (I like that word too), and had 'become a favorite way to send messages to friends and lovers'.  They also were used in bridal bouquets, they were both pretty and practical.  So now that you know how these adorable little things came to be lets get into the fun of making them and learning the meanings behind particular herbs and flowers.
During my discovery on tussie mussies I learned the meanings and sentiments that go behind many herbs and flowers that I as an avid gardener never knew... yes I know red roses mean love but no I didn't know that basil has a double meaning, it can symbolize both love and hate.  I am sure that some of these little gestures or as said 'notes' could have caused some serious 'oop's, that's not what I meant' moments.  So here are some interesting meanings behind those much loved blossoms and herbs...
*Lemon balm is for sympathy
*chervil represents sincerity
*rue conveys disdain
*parsley represents festivity
*rosebuds are of course for love... although different colors mean different things... more on that another day
*violets stand for modesty
*basil can represent as mentioned above both love and hate... be careful on who you send that one to!

A standard bridal tussie mussie was very symbolic... here is what would have typically been included in one...

*rose for love
*rosemary for remembrance
*mint for purity
*thyme for courage
*lily of the valley was for the return of happiness
*lavender gave luck... although it also represents mistrust, ummm..

How to make a tussie mussie...
The American Museum in Bath, England gives instructions in a museum booklet for creating them.
You can make tussie mussies with fresh herbs and flowers with dried materials.  A fresh t.m. can be dried with its charm and fragrance intact if you're careful to use only those fresh ingredients that dry easily; lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, and southerwood, for example.  Use as many sweet smelling herbs as possible, and try to include herbs with contrasting colors and leaf shapes.  These simple guidelines will yield a traditional tussie mussie.
1. Start with a fresh rose, still in bud, or a few sprigs of a flowering herb like sage.  Surround the rose or flowering herb with a circle of green leafed herb, preferably one like southerwood that has rather finely cut leaves.  Tie the stems together with a piece of string or knitting wool.
2. Add another circle of a fragrant herb, and tie again.  Repeat this process- varying the colors and leaf shapes from row or row and using flowering herbs like mint or marjoram if you have them on hand- until the tussie mussie is the size you want.  Make the last circle with a large leaved herb such as lamb's ear or rose geranium.
3.  For a formal effect, create a collar for the nosegay by cutting a small hole in the center of a paper doily and slipping it over the stems.  Tie the finished tussie mussie with a ribbon to hold the doily in place
... now you have the means to make and give adorable messages using your blossoms and herbs! 

  *(information taken and adapted from "Herbs; Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead; Clarkson N. Potter, Ind./Publishers, 1985)

Rhubarb is a spring treat that you either love or hate... there is no gray area with this tangy, mouth puckering fruit.  Asparagus and rhubarb are two of the first home grown things, other than lettuce & greens from the hoop houses that we get to feast on after winters long silence of green stuff.  My family all enjoys rhubarb in any desert, pie or preserves... Mix em' up with yummy strawberries and they are more manageable.  Rhubarb is extremely easy to store for winter and takes no more time then to pick, clean and cut.  We cut the pieces into 1 inch chunks and then toss them either in one gallon ice cream buckets or freezer bags; freeze fir up to 1 year.  Enjoy your favorite treats year round.  One thing many people fail to realize is that you can eat rhubarb all summer as well... just be careful not to harvest after it has gone to seed.  Once the seed heads have dried and died back, simply cut back and then enjoy some fresh stalks, just don't pick it to much... slow and easy during the summer and fall.  Be sure to water it during dry spells to keep the new stalks coming on.  Here are some easy and yummy treats to enjoy this spring time treat! One other thing to remember when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least one third of the plants stalks so it will be strong and can replenish itself.

Here are a couple favorite's around the Smith house...

Rhubarb Crisp


    6 c Rhubarb cut into 1” pieces
1 1/2 c sugar
6 tbsp  flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c oatmeal
3/4 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c melted butter


   1. Combine first 3 ingredients, toss and place in 9x13 pan.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over Rhubarb.

3. Bake @ 375 for 40 –45 minutes.
4. Serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream.



Rhubarb Punch...


4 c diced rhubarb
4 c water
2 c sugar
1/2 c orange juice
1/3 c lemon juice
2 liters clear soda– sprite, ginerale, etc.


Cook rhubarb in water till soft. Strain through a clean cloth lined colander.  Add sugar to the liquid & bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add juices.  Chill.  Add soda just before serving!

Happy Day,
Jean









Monday, June 4, 2012

More Garden Junque Ideas, Window Pane Mini Greenhouse, Seed Packet Calendar Box & Yummy Rhubarb Upside Down Treat

This is my potting shed.  It was a cast off from a friend... they were going to
burn it.  Now you may be thinking how crazy, but it didn't look like this when we got
it.  Neil cut new boards on his sawmill and we resided the outside and inside,
put down a new floor, painted and lovingly adorned it.
This side sports an old window pane, discovered by the curb side, an
antique scale, garden bike and one of my favorite types of pots...
old tin buckets.

Ryan and I were transplanting more tomatoes in the green house yesterday... he enjoys playing in the dirt~ after all he is a boy.  He got 14 flats done and was quite pleased with himself, especially with him earning fifty cents a flat and it didn't even take him an hour!  Work is an ethic that needs to be taught when they are young and being able to earn a little bit on the side isn't all that bad either.  Afterward, I was watering in the hoop house and was just standing there looking at all the neat rows of lettuce and tomatoes and taking in the deep earthy smell... I love to be outside, in the gardens in the fresh air... how much better when it's with my children!  We'll talk on a bit more about how to utilize garden junque and cute-sifying your gardens today!

More Garden Junque Ideas!
As I was talking yesterday about garden junque and other neat items to add interest to your gardens, I got thinking about the outside of our homes and how much better the windows look if 'dressed' up as well!  Once again, flea markets, rummage sales and antique shoppes are probably your best bet to find some neat stuff.  Here are some more junque items to watch for & ideas on how to use them.
*I have a really neat old door that I attached to back of the garage where the kitchen garden is, put a distressed wooden primitive type star with grapevine on it and presto- no more bare wall!  I also have a french door type on the back wall of my potting shed with a neat shelf over top and antique farm tools  on either side it.   
*Window boxes are a must or putting a neat old barn wood shelf to house your pretty pots (see photo) is really cute too! 
*Neat wooden drop leaf table or enamel ware tables to put on your porch and decorate with flower pots.
*Old metal wash tubs make great planters once again adding height and dimension into the garden.  You can also use it for entertaining- just fill it up with ice and then put bottled water, soda or juice in- too cute!
*Double burner caners- now here's a find- I actually found one of mine at a junk-yard.  Now it is a planter in my flower beds.
*Tree stumps make wonderful places to set a pot of flowers on or even to make a cute rustic bench to stop and take a break and enjoy your flower beds- simply get two stumps relatively the same size and place a board- barn wood is best and place across the two stumps- instant bench!
*How many times have you driven past a home getting brand spankin new windows put in and there is a whole pile of the old wooden windows laying a the curb?  Well, I've seen a lot where I live and there is no way I can just leave them sit there, especially if they are paned~ what a find!  I put one of course on the side of my potting shed and then added three old tin pails as planters right under them... pansies look perfect, right beside one of my garden bikes. (see photo)
~ I also have one on the wall on my front porch above a table I decorate up with plants and other stuff!


This is my mini greenhouse that Neil made for me.  We purchased these window panes from an antique dealer
at a flea market for only $5.00 a piece.  I usually have a pot of geraniums in it.
These pots rest on top of an old piece of barn wood.  Who says you have
to use traditional window boxes!
 *Window Pane Mini Greenhouse~  (see photo) I am sure many of you who love to page through magazines like Country Gardens have seen really cute mini green houses made out of... you guessed it~ old window panes!  Of course I had to have one and my dear husband willingly obliged to construct it for me.  Here's a simple how to!
~SUPPLIES:  First you will need to find 6 window panes, preferably paned for the cutest effect.  They should be the same size, unless you or your spouse are very creative!  You will need screws long enough to go through the wood part of the window and into the other window.  One piece of angle iron cut to the length of window- this is what will attach the two roof pieces, drill and metal drill bit.
~Next do any repairs that you think necessary- like re-caulking/glazing any loose panes or re-painting.  I like the chipped paint look- aka as distressed :-) !
~Choose one pane and put down flat, this is the floor of your green house
~Next choose two panes for the roof.  With someone helping and holding the two panes as to make a tee-pee, put angle iron across the two and screw it on to hold the two pieces together.
~Choose the 3 side panes- the front will be open; Attach the back wall by screwing it to the bottom side of the floor window; take one side and screw it to the side of the back wall and the bottom of the floor; repeat for other side wall.
~Once the sides are securely attached to the floor carefully lift the roof onto the base~ you will have to find a spot to carefully screw through to attach the roof to the base- this will depend on the size and type of window you use.
Well now your mini greenhouse is done and all you need is the perfect spot to put it... and I am sure that you won't have a problem doing that! Put a big metal or enamel ware bucket filled with petunias in it and stand back and awe!

Gift giving can be as fun as one makes it.  We all have friends and they all have birthdays and some unfortunately even move away.  Here is a great gift idea for any occasion you want!  This gift is great for a cook or gardener.
Seed Packet Calendar Box
Supplies you will need: 1 pretty 4"x6" or larger recipe/file box, 12 plain subject index cards to fit; Index Cards to fit your box, colored with no lines are cute; seed packs- at least 12. Optional items include cute letter and theme stickers
1. Either write or use letter stickers to put the months of the year on the index cards.
2. Buy seed packets for each month of the year.  Place the packets in the index for suitable planting times.  In colder climates where some months may be inappropriate for planting outside, include seeds that can be started indoors.  for cold climates write instructions for how to start seeds indoors.  In cold climates when even starting seed indoors would be ill advised, give a gift certificate from a local nursery or florist for an indoor flowering herb, plant or perhaps some bulbs like paperwhite or narcissus, to be planted in pots and forced for indoor blooming.
3. Consider in which month you gave herb or veggie seeds and when they would be ready to harvest; write recipes for using those herb or veggies- be sure to file in appropriate month!
4. Include fun ideas and gardening tips or even a 'what to do this month' list in each month.  Martha Stewart has these type of lists on her web site as well as her magazine. 
Here are a few ideas for cold climate areas to give you a head start:
*Lavender seeds would need to be started indoors in cold climates in January, give a Lavender Short Bread Cookie recipe in June when it is in full bloom.
*Peppers and Tomatoes should be started indoors by the end of February- Find a Brushetta and Stuffed Peppers recipes to add in the months of August.
*A gift certificate to any store that sells bulbs could be added in the month of September so they can be planted in October to enjoy next spring.
*A gift certificate for the month of April will give your gardener friend an opportunity to get a grape vine, raspberry or fruit tree started.
*If your friend is a gardener who has a veggie garden, give a gift certificate for the month of September to purchase a blueberry plant.
... Of course there are many other options, so just have fun with it and watch your friend smile! 

We know it's good for us... really it is!  Some of us~ including me, just can't get beyond the stringy sour... well here is a winner that even I like!  Give it a try!
Yummy Rhubarb Upside Down Treat

3 cup rhubarb, diced
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 - 6oz package strawberry jello
1 can pineapple rings, juice reserved
1 box yellow cake mix (18 1/2oz pkg.)

1. Layer the bottom of a slightly greased 9"x13" baking pan with pineapple rings.
2. Combine rhubarb, sugar and jello in bowl and mix; pour over pineapple rings- set aside.
3. Prepare cake batter according to package directions substituting liquid with pineapple juice- if not enough add water to make proper amount; pour batter over mixture.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes; let cool then invert onto a cake plate to serve!

Happy Day,
Jean