Friday, December 31, 2010
So did mine. And this year, I might actually order from it.
You see, I've spent many years in the place where I advise all novice gardeners to begin: at a local nursery. This is a very safe place to do your garden plant shopping. If you go to the nursery, you see plants that are timely--in season and appropriate to your growing climate--available to you. You also see the bare minimum of necessities in garden tools and soil treatments, not to mention the guy who looks like Santa in suspenders, ready to answer all your gardening questions. And if you really want to get "out there" you might go to an herb festival, but that's the limit.
Nevertheless...as you "grow" in the hobby (I know, the pun is atrocious) you might find you want to "branch out" (did I not learn my lesson?) into some things that aren't of the most common fare. For instance, I wanted to re-grow broccoli as a fall crop last year, but found no local nursery offering it. One nursery told me they'd tried stocking it the previous year, but so few people bought it that the store had taken a loss on it and decided not to stock it that year I wanted it. I'm sure over someone's dinner table that night the conversation came up: "Danged, if someone didn't call today wantin' broccoli now, Myrtle!"
In any case, my resolution to wade through the confusion of a gardening catalog was confirmed by that desire for broccoli seedlings.
My next couple of posts will surely be related to this upcoming adventure.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The following prayer is attributed to General Douglas MacArthur. As I read it, I can't help but wonder: if an earthly father can have such a magnificent vision for his fallible son, how much beyond human comprehension the vision of the Creator of all fathers. May His bright land expanding before our sons be ever the subject of their gaze!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
For me, ornamental gardening equates to this: a fake fern stashed atop the book-shelf. Or maybe, the other: a stylized photo of the snow-covered, generic bushes alongside the front porch.
But, many other gardeners are just as enthused about their ornamental gardens as I am about my edible one; so, ornamental gardeners, the following to-do list is especially crafted for you:
Sunday, December 19, 2010
|Act 27:35||And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken [it], he began to eat.|
|Act 27:36||Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took [some] meat.|
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Ever get tired of fighting the crowds for those gift-purchasing outings? It's fun for a while, but when it comes time to find gifts for those outer circles of acquaintances, it can grow tiresome, not to mention expensive. One option to remember is that personally made items make great gifts! All you need to do is find a jar of homemade relish, jelly or maybe even create a "soup mix" jar with beans and rice and seasoning. Top the jar with a hand-made jar topper, add a matching crocheted pot holder and put it in a basket with a little ribbon. You might even line the basket with a bed of your homemade potpourri to make it even more elegant. And, if you don't know how to crochet, don't be dissuaded from trying this gift-option. Crochet lessons are easy to find online, and for most people, the video lessons make it more than easy enough to pick up the hobby. Here is a link for basic crochet stitches followed by one on how to crochet in a circle:
I simply crochet a circle, then make a trim by chaining three stitches and single crocheting into every other stitch of the circle around once. Then I go around a second time, chaining three and single crocheting into each loop I made on the previous round. A chain in a contrasting color makes a tie that I thread through these loops and I have a country-kitchen jar topper ready to use.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Every last sputter of life has gone to sleep for the winter--no more work in the garden other than to pour a bucket of wood ash from the fireplace now and then on its bare soil. I look at that ground, and I think about all the hours I knelt there fostering this kind of life over that kind, nurturing, babying, tending, then later pruning when life became so robust it would destroy its own promised future, finally pulling up by the roots when life became too much effort for its feeble stem to carry, especially as environmental conditions became dire. I think of how often my hands grew raw pulling weeds, or my feet wet and cold as I inadvertently splashed them in a morning watering. But all that is finished for a long season, and now and then I gaze through my window out at the flat soil and I remember other mornings, early summer ones when I'd peek out at the earliest light to see whether the summer squash were appearing on the vine, or whether a tomato had taken on even the slightest tinge of pink yet. Now all that is left are the here-and-there reminders of those days gone by: decaying stems and leaves, a pinkish pepper, washed out and long-faded from the blood red of its days on the vine, a few shoots of garlic that tried to grow too soon but gave up when a deeper cold took up residence. I look out and wonder what the next garden will look like.
It is not quite time to plan yet...not quite, but it is certainly time to take the long view.
Why do all the work? Oh, the benefits to my family's bodies, to my neighbors' pantries, to holiday tables--these are all quite valid, and I've categorized them here in this garden journal. But why the strange swell of tender joy in my heart at the sight of a little three-leafed cucumber plant bobbing about in even the slightest breeze? Why does putting my hands into the earth touch that deep place in me? Why do the butterflies and the birds, yes and even the thieving chipmunk make me smile?
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk born nearly to a century ago, wrote strong spiritual words that describe my heart's song about this. He described a small French town where he briefly lived, described it in terms that very much fit my own feeling about this life of "cooperation" with the rest of creation. I thought I'd share those words with you, garden reader.
The whole landscape, unified by the church and its heavenward spire, seemed to say: this is the meaning of all created things: we have been made for no other purpose than that men may use us in raising themselves to God, and in proclaiming the glory of God. We have been fashioned, in all our perfection, each according to his own nature, and all our natures ordered and harmonized together, that man's reason and his love might fit in this one last element, this God-given key to the meaning of the whole. Oh what a thing it is to live in a place that is so constructed that you are forced, in spite of yourself, to be at least a virtual contemplative!
So there it is, my deep heart reason for loving what I do enough to remake it new every year. When spring says "Wake up!" the bare little garden has almost no power within itself to be a thing of beauty and health to mankind--not after what civilization-building has done to the landscape.
To be a nice level lawn where a dog can chase a Frisbee or a child can pitch a ball with his father--this is a noble enough purpose for a back yard to exist, but to enhance that purpose with a plot of life-sustaining produce...well...all I can say is: no wonder my garden makes me smile.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Our recipe for Pain Perdue needs its modern interpretation, so here is "page 2" of that recipe listing:
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This cookbook takes the modern chef back to the Tudor kitchen of the 1500's. Not only does it contain historic "kitchen" artwork and descriptions of life in that Old World hub of activity, it also has the novelty of recipes listed in their original language...back when neither spelling nor measurement were standardized.
So, just for the fun of it, I thought I'd offer you this breakfast recipe puzzle. Today you'll get the recipe for Payn Purdeuz (French Toast) in the original language from Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books. Try your hand at the translation; then tomorrow I'll give the "modernized" companion recipe and you can see how closely your translation matches!
Take faire yolkes of eyren, and try hem from the white, and drawe hem thorgh a streynour; and then take salte, and caste thereto; and then take manged brede or paynman, and kutte hit in leches; and then take faire buttur, and clarefy hit or elles take fressh grece and put hit yn a faire pan and make hit hote; And then wete the brede well there in the yolkes of eyren, and then ley hit on the batur in the pan, whan the buttur is al hote; and then whan it is fried ynowe, take sugur ynowe, and caste there-to whan hit is in the dissh. And so serve hit forth.
payn man: bread loaf
manged brede: manchet bread
Monday, December 6, 2010
If we never had winter, we'd hardly be able to see how consistent our tested hopes might be for a coming summer. It snowed in my city this most recent weekend of the Advent season, prompting me to remember an old carol that makes a lovely sabbath rest, all by itself:
...give him my heart.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Prep for long term storage of these spicy veggies is surely easy if you have a food processor. Simply cut off the stems and toss the remaining peppers into the processor. Chop them down until they look like what you find in the condiments rack at your local pizza parlor, and you're good to go.
In just minutes, a jar of chopped red pepper joined my other seasonings near the stove top. But now the kitchen window was quite bare, so I took advantage of the season and added a little holiday flare. Where for months now my garden produce has found a way station, now happy little knick-knacks cushion against the loneliness of a bare view of an equally barren backyard.
Besides chili, the red pepper has found its way into seasoning for olive oil bread dip and into Spicy South of the Border Chex Mix, which leads to my gratuitous recipe of the day:
SPICY SOUTH OF THE BORDER CHEX MIX
In a preheated 250 degree oven, melt 6 tbs. butter in an open roasting pan. To this, add a package of dry taco seasoning mix, one tbs. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper. Mix well before adding 8 cups of various dry cereal options--chex mixes, cheerios. Other stir-in options include 1 cup each of mini pretzels, peanuts, cheese bits crackers, dried-rye bites, bagel chips--up to three more cups for a total of 11 cups of munchies. Stir well to coat evenly and bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
I highly recommend this mix for teenage parties or to send--in gallon-sized bags--back to school with college students who have come home for the holidays!