...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, May 30, 2011

To weed or not to weed...

...an easy choice when a weed is a weed. A harder one when it is a useful but wildly producing herb. Lemon balm is the first case in point.

Some herbs in the garden come back without invitation year after year, almost to the point of being a nuisance. Obviously, this bushy herb, shown below in the left corner, is prolific early in the season and continues to offer its foliage through early autumn. Already, I'm pulling it as it spreads like a weed, trying to appropriate areas for itself that are designated for broccoli, snow peas and onions. (Its neighbors.)

Rather than tossing aside large handfuls of this herb, I'm looking for ways to incorporate it better into our family menu. Here is a link to a website that has ample recipes for using this aromatic that is "lemony with a hint of mint."

Another repeat offender that is being rather invasive this year? Dill.

Here you see a batch of dill seedlings I pulled because they, too, are attempting to make a home in the "wrong" part of the garden. I have allowed an "herbal hedge" of dill to start growing in back of the flower garden corner of of my little cottage garden, so any other dill I ruthlessly pull before it flowers and drops seeds. Fortunately, fresh dill is also a versatile herb, and ample recipes offer a wide variety of ways to use even these frothy seedlings.


Following the recipe links above brought me here:

So my first venture may be this creamy mustard dill sauce poured over grilled chicken or eggplant with a side of pasta tossed in a fresh lemon balm pesto. Pretty delightful use for "garden waste" in my opinion!

Happy eating!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sabbath Rest...Speaking God's First Language

Upon visiting a botanical garden, author Brian McLaren observed: "This isn't just about botany and ecology - this is also about theology. These trees are part of God's first language."

It takes a special sort of person to truthfully echo Paul's words when he admits he is "debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise." (Romans 1:14) But right alongside that jester muse comes the mime--the one who inspires us to again echo Paul as he observes "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse;"(Romans 1:20) a truth poetically restated by McLaren.

From such a world and its imagery, we learn things like this: that "bleeding hearts" can nonetheless be lovely--this flower and the tradition behind its naming serve to remind us of that deep truth. And this can be to us a point of hope and encouragement, both from the tender side of our Creator's heart and from the grace-filled wisdom gifts of our ancestors. (Someone in heaven surely has a crown jewel ever-sparkling for having named this sweet plant.) May we learn to still our tongues long enough to hear Him speak that first language...the language of His Creation.

Happy listening!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

31 Days of Drawing Near to God...a review

Time is precious in the planting season, making it far easier to maintain a morning quiet time via a one-month daily devotional than through a deeply theological chapter book. This one even comes complete with built-in prayers and related Bible readings. But don't think 31 Days of Drawing Near to God by Ruth Myers is a light-weight book just because it is offered in manageable chunks. Right away, she details the book's theme as being a record of her finding the truth of her soul's beauty to God, despite the "plowing time" in life "when the steel of the plow was cutting deep into my soul."

She begins by exploring basic human needs for love but quickly goes to softly touch the more delightful aspects of human relationship with a loving God, bringing the two into harmony with sections like: Everything About Him Says Something About Me.

Indirectly, she reminds that the joy of the Lord is a strength to His children. "Isn't it refreshing to be in the company of a glad person?" She reminds that God IS that glad person. More in tone than in any specific words, she affirms her assertion that "The secret of a satisfied heart is not the pursuit of satisfaction or happiness. Satisfaction and happiness are by-products of the pursuit of God."

Without glossing over life's challenges, griefs or contradictions--even sharing such plowing in her personal life--her spirit of hope hovers nevertheless over the text, affirming an ever-present lifting of the likes of Psalm 36:

How priceless is your unfailing love!

Both high and low among men

find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life. (vs. 7-9)

I imagine a seed, carved from the mother plant and thrust deep into the ground. What if it, in the strangeness of the change, should prove to hopeless to break open and allow life to spring upward into the bright sun. Seeds are not so aware that they would fail to thrive in such a way; but not so, humankind. Ruth Myers offers that bit of hope that leads us to grope upward, knowing the sun does shine above and our sweet transformation will be a garden of treasured growth to the Master Gardener!

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mushroom Hunting Pilgrimage

Remember my pal, Cindy Bee, from my winter pilgrimage to the wool festival? Well, today I'm featuring her again--this time as a 'shroomer--a skill I've never learned but often wish I had. Leapfrog on over to her blog to see some delightful pics of hunting mushrooms on the expanses of her land (not quite the square suburban backyard small enough to spit a watermelon seed across that I have!)


Happy 'shrooming!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Garden Pilgrimage: from the streets of New Orleans

I know...it's too soon for another garden pilgrimage post, but ride along with me anyway. I had the opportunity to spend a few days on the road with my traveling salesman husband and got some lovely shots of the city of New Orleans. I thought I'd share some observations of how the garden-life tells the city's larger story. May our own gardens do the same.

Statuary, both old and new, is sprinkled throughout the city. But whether modern or classic, all have a story to raise in the viewer.

Just about everywhere, music is a part of the landscape...

...as are heady flowers...
and food.

Some places seek to incorporate multiple of these elements.

Some places, though lush with foliage, might only sport a single bloom;

still...that one bloom stands tall with grace and elegance.

Some places though cramped are nonetheless hopeful, offering havens of solitude in unlikely places.

Finally, some places in the city's garden texture do not require that flowers be alive, or even bright. Simply to be there...for a remembrance.

Happy traveling!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sabbath Rest: a Mother's Garden

Last weekend was Mother's Day, but this week was when it occurred to me that anyone who gardens--and certainly during the Seedling Season--mothers a little patch of earth. The thought brought to mind a poem written by a friend of mine, a pastor's wife who shared this with the members of her church family in the form of a book mark.

A Mother's Garden

A tired young mother knelt down by her bed

at the end of a stress-filled day,

"Dear God, I need help and direction from You

to bring up my children Your way."

She took her dusty Bible down from the shelf

and wearily started to read,

but she drifted to sleep and started to dream

of a garden ready for seed.

She heard a sweet voice speaking loud and clear:

"My grace is sufficient for you.

Just listen to the words I am saying;

whatever I say to you-do.

The heart of each child is a garden,

and it needs to be tended with care.

I will give you all that your require

if you water your own heart with prayer.

Warm nurture and firm admonition

are both needed to balance the soil.

Come often to me for instruction and strength

as in their hearts' garden your toil."

The next day she started preparing the ground:

she planned it with tender care.

She wanted only the finest of plants

to grow in her garden there.

She quickly planted some seeds of kindness

next to her rows of sweet peace;

then gentleness and goodness side by side,

she planted down on her knees.

Slow-growing patience, self-control and joy

were all dropped in one by one.

When she added true faithfulness and love,

she thought all her hard work was done.

Suddenly weeds appeared in the garden,

just when her seeds began to sprout,

so she carefully wielded the tool of faith

and dug the harmful weeds out.

Then she nurtured and watered the seedlings

with the thirst-quenching Word of God.

She staked her young plants with hand-woven cords

as they struggled to break through the sod.

Just as her Lord had promised that night,

she never was left all alone;

He showed her the way and He guided her hand

as each tiny seed was sown.

At last it was time for the harvest;

the mother had given her best.

The hearts of her children were fruitful for God,

and she was eternally blessed.
Written by Kim Smith, Genesis Church, 2008

Whether you're mothering children in your home, a dear animal in your care, or even a larger world through the bounty of your garden: may you, too, be eternally blessed in the fruits of your labor!

Happy Mothers' Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Garden Pilgrimage: Where Does Your Garden Grow?

While we had something of a history lesson with our visit to Clara's Depression Era Kitchen, in this post we'll have a geography lesson, contrasting early May gardens in Texas and Indiana.

Most seed packs--when you flip them over--come with a colorful little map on the back. That map tells you a lot about when to rip open the pack and plant those seeds. Here are both packages for two different veggies whose growing seasons have different frost tolerances.

Here in the central Midwest, the rule of thumb is to wait until after Mother's Day to plant those things that can not tolerate frost. A few things can take a light frost, but others require soil nudging up toward the 70 degree mark before they'll really produce.

Some plants are no-worry ones, as they self-seeded from the previous year. Here, marigolds, dill, asters and zinnias are popping through the soil--all from last years naturally fallen seeds.

Others I planted myself--like these peas. Peas are one of the hardiest spring vegetables. Mine are already well along in the growing season.
Nearby, Vidalia onions I planted from sets about a month ago are doing well.

More of that dill is making a return appearance.I'll probably have to thin out quite a bit of it.

And the garlic planted last fall is doing beautifully! Nearby, a few tender little sprouts of lettuce have appeared from where bolted lettuce lay last year. I planted a little extra alongside it this spring.

Now, travel cross-country and take a look at what's in season in the Dallas, TX area. My friend, Paula, the one who taught us how to make meringue last winter, shared some pictures from her garden. You can see the contrast right away.

Her corn is already tasseling.

Her summer squash are already forming on the vine, something I don't look for until well into June up here.

And her strawberries look luscious!

The Texas garden is already well into the produce we Midwesterners consider high summer crops. But if you were to go further north, you'd find people only just starting to plant what we here consider early spring producers.

While seed packets come with those colorful maps, many seedlings do not come with such specific instructions about planting times, so if you're not sure when to move things outdoors, check out this website for a state-by-state listing of "last frost/first frost" dates.


Happy planting!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Great Depression Cooking

Come in and sit with me today! We'll do a little viewing of a link I just had to share with you, one a fellow food blogger led me to find. No gardening--it's too soggy out there anyway.

So, if you haven't ever taken a seat at Clara's kitchen table, you really should spend five or six minutes there via youtube.

I'm giving her full billing today!

Happy viewing!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sabbath Rest and First Miracles

What shall we take from today's box of blessings? Thoughts of weddings.

Many a garden finds itself festooned to house a wedding this time of year, which is quite fitting, as much of the life of spring in the garden rests on hope--hope that after all the soil preparation and seed planting, that just then--the "magic" will happen, the part of the garden tale in which the gardener lets the story have its head and become whatever it will be.

And so, beautifully, the gospel story of a wedding fits this season's devotions. Beautiful because we relate so easily to the downside of this story, a tale in which something--poor planning, an unexpected booming attendance, even inadvertent spillage--we never are told, but some unknown reason of chance or human frailty turns the most blessed event to a thing fraught with stress and gloomy expectations. They have no more wine.

This is not, however, the end of the story. Dark meets dawn when human compassion finds a voice and makes secret plea to the one who could solve the problem, solve it before the horror goes public, solve it while the need is not quite yet an embarrassment. They have no more wine.

And so the poorly-esteemed servants received the honor of carrying the cup of faith (a thing necessary to all miracles) and those most blessed never knew all that came to pass under that particular soil, when the seed broke its casing and began to grow. The first miracle.

So if you are tempted to look out life's window and wonder when anything might break through that spring-muddy soil--that place where you've spent every accommodating day preparing a bed conducive to life, do not grow anxious. There is even now a season for happy meditation on what is yet to be.

John 2:
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Happy miracles!