...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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kitchen Pilgrimage: from Strawberry Fields to Lisa's Kitchen

This month's kitchen pilgrimage is lead by an inner longing for a renowned strawberry pie recipe. But how do we know this is a worthy recipe? Here's how: it travels in the hands of the recipe apostles. I first heard of it from a facebook friend who enthusiastically made it after receiving it from its author. Inquiry led me to another facebook-cook who had posted pics of the actual recipe cards, ones she'd received from their author. Lisa herself added comments to those pictures, ones that added further refinements to the recipe framework, but you had to at least take an interest in opening the pictures to see these enhancements--and is anyone else feeling some kind of spiritual resonance in all this? (grin)

Anyway, here is Lisa's snapshot of life in her kitchen to set the tone for us, immediately thereafter you'll find the recipe under discussion:

Our kitchen is a busy place. My husband and I both cook. If it happens on the grill, it's his domain. If it happens in the oven, it's mine. If it happens on the stove top, well, either one of us could be at the helm! My husband grew up with a mother who took cooking lessons from Japanese nuns while the family was stationed in Japan with the Air Force, and she loved to cook delicious gourmet-style meals. He loved to be at her elbow when she did it, too. I grew up with a mom who was a fabulous country cook, transforming the family garden and a freezer full of meat shared from the fall's butchering on the family farm into hearty Midwestern-style meals. I didn't love to be at her elbow, but country cooks need a lot of help to shell peas, snap beans, shuck corn, and prepare to can or freeze all the garden excess (plus extra from local farmers), so I spent time in the kitchen whether I wanted to or not! Our four children are now teenagers and young adults and they are quickly realizing that the fresh, well-prepared food that graces our table isn't the norm in a culture that tends to be too rushed to sit down to eat a home cooked meal, let alone actually learn cooking skills. Good food doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. But freshness, fearlessness with spices and herbs, and a bit of culinary science go a long way towards making restaurant-quality meals on a weeknight basis!

For those who want to cook well but aren't sure how to improve their skills, I highly recommend Cook's Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com ) and Cook's Country (www.cookscountry.com ) cooking magazines. Anyone can learn, even if they didn't grow up tied to the elbow of a Chef Mom!
Cooks Illustrated: Home

By the way, Lisa keeps a blog that is just as engaging as her kitchen life sounds. You can find her musings at:

Happy recipe-sharing!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sabbath Rest

Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline says:

" 'He who sows to his own flesh will from flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit from the Spirit reap eternal life' (Gal. 6:8).

A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He puts the seed in the ground where the natural forces take over and up comes the grain. That is the way with the Spiritual Disciplines--they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines are God's way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work within us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God's means of grace. The inner righteousness we seek is not something that is poured on our heads. God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we are placed where He can bless us."

May we learn from the example in our own gardening deeper truths about the balance between our part and God's part in our spiritual growth.

What the Snow Peas Taught Me

The garden...such an illustration of life lessons if we but allow it to be!

I walked out to the pea patch today, a place now aged to a strange mix of wild growth and initial dying away. In its fullness, this plant is quite different from others in the garden. Unlike tomatoes and zucchinis this plant hides its fruit. Even Garden Helper took note of it--saying that harvesting snow peas is much like a game he plays where he hunts for objects hidden in pictures. Who would have guessed all these snow peas were nestled in those creeping vines?

And if I pause and meditate on this one, I find an even larger truth ripe to learn, for when I first go to harvest, I pick all I see and tell myself I am finished. But just a couple of steps around the plant grants me a new perspective on bounty always there but strangely unseen, hidden from my eye. Suddenly another cluster of peas comes into view, soI pick them, too. Furthermore, after I step away to inspect the cucumbers, pick some late lettuce and spot-weed the carrots, I wander back across the garden passing those pea plants only to discover even MORE sweet pods that I somehow missed while intentionally harvesting only moments before.

Yes, I could meditate long on the lessons offered through just one hour spent somewhere near the pea patch!

Happy thinking!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sabbath Rest: Going Forth

Plant begets plant, and so we have much we could learn if we would but pay attention.

There are trees and shrubs whose branches grow down low to touch the ground.
Where they touch they send down roots to start a new plant in that place. In
this way, one little tree can someday be a field of trees. In this way, there
are plants that live for centuries, new parts coming to life before the older
parts have died. --One Small Garden, by Barbara Nichol

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen."
(Matthew 28:18-20)

May we learn to fulfill our commission according to the gentle example of God's creation.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flavored Vinegars

Black raspberries are ripe at the berry farm, prompting me to write a post about making raspberry vinegar. This recipe is an easy one that I adapted from one in a book called The Country Store. Even if you're not really gardening, this is an easy recipe to make with a simple visit to the farmer's market.

To make this raspberry vinegar (or blueberry for that matter) you need about 5 minutes to "gently" heat 2 1/2 cups of red wine vinegar with 1 tbsp. of pickling spice. Put the heated mixture in a bowl and add fresh herbs of your choice. I used lemon balm, thyme, and sweet basil simply because that's what is plentiful in the garden right now.

After mixing these, gently fold in 1 lb. of raspberries.

Cover the bowl and put it in a cool, dark place to infuse for a couple of days, taking it out to stir occasionally.

Finally, remove the fruit and herbs, strain the liquid and store it in a clean dry bottle.

Bonus recipe: while you're making vinegars, and if you're growing rosemary or can get some fresh at the market, you can make a rosemary vinegar the same way using 2 1/2 cps of white wine vinegar and 6 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary. Bring the vinegar to a boil, then pour over the rosemary in a bowl. Again, cover and infuse for 3 days in a dark place, then strain, and bottle. If you like, store it in a clear bottle and add a sprig of rosemary, then tie some raffia around the bottle and you have either decorative addition to your own kitchen or a useful and pretty homemade gift to offer a friend.

Happy infusing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

DIgging for Buried Treasure

As treasures go in the gardening world, that is. It's time to harvest garlic and onions in my garden. If you were reading along then, I blogged about the planting of the garlic back in October. http://suburbansettler.blogspot.com/2010/10/last-round-of-planting-for-season.html

Now, that garlic is ready to harvest; but first I harvested the Vidalia onions planted early this spring. I could have left them in the ground longer--in fact I did leave one row, but this sweet tender crop is already pulled, hosed down and drying on the back mat in the sun. When the tips of the onion leaves turn yellow, they are ready for harvesting. At that point, gently push the leaves over, down near the head of the onion, to make them die off quickly. A day or two later, lift them out of the ground and let them dry naturally. (Mine are in the sun, but will come inside at the first sign of rain.)

Like the onions, the garlic patch has yellowing, leaves, signalling they, too, are ready for harvest. Garlic is best harvested without delay as the bulbs will shrivel if left in the ground after the leaves begin to die away.

It is good to harvest soon enough after a rain that the ground is still soft, but not soggy. You'll have to lift the bulbs gently to avoid bruising them.

One bulb of elephant garlic last year produced all these bulbsfor harvest! What a bounty! I'll save one of the bulbs--the biggest one--to plant again this October, but the rest are dedicated to human consumption.

Because we would like to keep the garlic and onions into the winter, I used this stringing technique to keep them dry and and "tidy" as the gardening book says. (This article, by the way, is found in Country Living Gardener's Gardening Basics.)

I tried that technique and found it preferable to the simple braiding I've done in the past. The garlic is now hanging in my kitchen window that it might continue drying in the breeze. Later, I'll move it to a cool, dry storage place--if I can find one. I don't exactly have a barn.

And for supper tonight, a tasty mix of fresh-picked snow peas and sweet, chopped onion--a great side for almost any entree!

Happy digging!

Monday, June 20, 2011

That's a Vegetable?

Sure, the basket with tomatoes and onions in the background, that's what we mean by vegetable--but surely not the thing that looks like chocolate cake? Actually, to be botanically correct, I should call it a fruit. But whatever it is, it isn't regular chocolate cake, that's certain.

It's zucchini chocolate cake.

What better way to commemorate the first zucchini harvest of the season than to make a great dessert with it, I always say. While it's a scratch recipe, it's not too complicated to make (no sifting or clarifying or other action-verb directions obscure to the box-cake aficionado.) Nevertheless, it gives you the aura of a kitchen folklore wizard. I adapted the recipe from one I found in a cookbook exclusively dedicated to zucchini recipes, and the frosting simply came from the back of a cocoa tin. Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cocoa
3 eggs
2 C sugar
1/2 C oil
3/4 C milk
1 1/2 C shredded zucchini
1/2 C applesauce
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together first 8 ingredients, and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture is fluffy. Slowly beat in oil. Stir in flour mixture, milk and zucchini-applesauce mix one third at a time alternating each. Add vanilla and blend lightly but thoroughly. Put in greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Chocolate Frosting
Mix 1/2 C softened butter with 1/3 C milk and 2/3 C unsweetened cocoa. Add 3 C powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until well blended. Frost cooled cake.

Happy baking!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What's Your Sign, Baby?

While at the front of my garden--up toward the house--are lovely little scene like the one shown above, in the back, along the fence and hidden behind a tree is my small-scale attempt at composting. I composted one year at a former residence and was rather successful, but hadn't tried it here until now. So far, we have a nice layering of grass clippings and shredded paper to which we have added some kitchen and garden scraps. I need another layer of grass and maybe a bag of potting soil for a "starter" before turning it all. I've read that water and air are two key factors to turning these elements in to compost so I'll water it (unless it rains aplenty, as it has been here) and turn it with a pitchfork (which I still need to get.) In time, I'll have compost without having to make a run to Home Depot to get it.

In the course of my research on merely adequate composting methods (I admit it, I'm not motivated to be an excellent composter just yet) I came across the following article that is a fun but informative look at composting. I'm considering myself a Novice, but got the link from an Evangelist. What's your sign? (You'll know what I mean when you read the article.)

Happy heaping!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sabbath Rest: the Garden on Pentecost

One gift of keeping a garden is its unceasing need for attention.

At times, this may not seem such a gift.

At times, it seems a burden.

But, that way it has of

perpetually drawing us in--

it keeps us grounded;

gives us an overall linear purpose

despite the changes in its life and seasons.

This day in the liturgical calendar is marked as Pentecost.

Whitsunday, it was once called.

Not so much anymore...still...

the day itself is commemorated.

Historic, yet very current, ever present.

So if you have them in your growing place

walk among the red and white flowers...
the living paraments and vestments

of this place you know as your garden.

Consider how it was

in March

and how it will be in October.

Add something stone but also

Plant something new.

Worship without words

the One who reconciled all the things that were

and are

and are to be

to Himself.

Happy Pentecost.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One Small Garden

It rained a soaking rain last night, so the work--like the air--is lighter in the garden today. Let's take a holiday. Children may play dress-up with their play time, but we grown-ups put away such childishness. We approach that nook of play-longing in our souls more subtly. We may shop, or go to a ballgame. We may settle for a "real" tea party complete with an impossibly dainty tea service--one that was handed down to us from that very grandma who once let us play dress-up in her closet, loading ourselves with her costume jewelry and flowing robes.

So while we drink our tea, I'll read to you from a delightful children's book by Barbara Nichol called One Small Garden. Her introduction bears witness that this--while billed a children's book--nevertheless inspires all who find themselves willing to make the sacrifice to create garden space despite its being crowded into city-space. Her words remind that children do more than dress up and play tea party. They play outside and watch the things we do...even in our tiniest gardens.

To my dear readers:

In the heart of a city, downtown, there is a small garden.

The truth is, there are many gardens here--thousands of gardens--adjoining thousands of houses in this place that used to be a forest.

This garden, though, is hidden from the street. It's been here for a hundred years, nestled close beside a house--a house built long ago behind another house. This is a garden you would not suspect is there.

This garden--or little piece of land--it has a history, of course. It has a story--a story that's as ancient as the world. Most of it's a history we'll never know about. Most things that happen in the world are never written down. Most things that happen in the world take place when no one's looking.

Perhaps this little patch of ground had other buildings on it once: a little shed perhaps--some little place of shelter. It might have been a farm. Perhaps there was an inn nearby. Perhaps a road went through, a road made out of logs to keep the carts from sinking.

Whatever thing this little piece of land has been--forest or pasture or homestead or road--there came a day when it was stitched into the huge patchwork of the city. There came a day when someone decided this piece of land would be a garden.

That is the role this patch of ground will play for now--a garden in a neighborhood called Cabbagetown. The garden's in a city that used to be Fort York, and then it was called York, and now is called Toronto. It's possible it will one day have another name, or just be known as somewhere where a city used to be.

I have visited this garden for the past ten years or so.

In this book are some of the things I've learned about the plants, some of the plants and animals that caught my eye and the stories that they brought to mind--stories I've been told. The stories in this book are little stories--parts of stories--the kinds of things that usually aren't written down...

Little stories that aren't usually written down.

Such stories might be born even in a little patch of flowers surrounding one large stone, especially if a young bunny decides to reside there. Stories of smells and sounds and adventures had by creatures too small to matter to most--but not all. Take a child outside and explore. Throw a ball or have a tea party. Sit in the shade and read a book together. Do all this so you'll make a garden worth more than a season of healthier meals.

You'll make a garden worth remembering...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What to Do with Six Quarts of Strawberries

Strawberry season brings an aroma to the kitchen that catches the children's attention as they march through sweaty from baseball or mowing or bike riding and seeking cold water by the quart.

"It smells wonderful in here!" they say as the berries cook into jam or a pie. I love that one of the things I've "taught" them about life is that early summer should smell GOOD, and six quarts of strawberries go a long way toward achieving that goal.

Six quarts is what I started with this week. I made a pie along the recipe guidelines given http://suburbansettler.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-more-time.html recently, allowed some grazing by those young hands that cleaned the strawberries for me, and still had the bowlful you see above. Had the berries been bigger, I'd have taught the boys to hull them; but these were the small, sweet variety, and we savored every bit of them!

The pectin box recipe I had gave me two recipe options. I could make no-cook jam from this one package of pectin, in which case I'd use 2 cups of crushed berries with 4 cups of sugar and get 6 cups of jam. Or, I could make cooked jam using 5 cups of crushed berries, 7 cups of sugar to yield 8 cups of jam. I chose more jam!

If you have a food processor, crushing berries is easy. Without one, the process requires a potato masher and a little more elbow grease, but is still quite doable. Generally, you'll need two quarts of berries to get 5 cups crushed. (You can even use 3 10-oz packages of frozen berries if you must, but add two tablespoons of water if you do.) When the berries are crushed, measure the 7 cups of sugar into a bowl and set aside. I included a pic of the sugar bowl so you don't faint at the idea of putting 7 CUPS of sugar into anything! Remember, you don't eat the jam by the jarful. It's not quite the risk of sugar coma that it appears to be.

If you started canning with me last year, you likely have jars ready for recycling. That means sterilization of those empty stored jars is very important! Since I won't be using the canner at all today, I chose to sterilize in the oven. It is a simple process of "cooking" clean jars and rings at 225 degrees from 10 to 25 minutes. (Lids really should still be put in boiling water for sterilization.) Tips on oven-sterilization: put the jars in the oven before heating it. Putting cold jars in a hot oven can cause the jars to explode--not a part of any recipe! Keep the jars in the oven until ready to fill so you have hot jars for hot food. Again, averting explosion problems. Finally, take care in handling the jars. Even at this low temperature, the jars will be HOT to the touch.

While the jars are in the oven and the lids are in the boiling hot water, you cook the jam, mixing the fruit with one box of pectin and 1/2 tsp of butter or margarine, which cuts down on the foam. Stirring constantly, bring the jam to a full, rolling boil--the most tedious part of the process. When the rolling boil is established, add the sugar all at once (hence the need to pre-measure) and continue constant stirring as the boil is re-established. When the boil is rolling again, boil for one minute exactly, stirring constantly. Stirring, stirring, stirring...

After that one minute of boiling and stirring (and thinking: this smells heavenly!), remove the jam from the heat and begin to skim as you continue stirring. Skimming removes the top layer of foam so your jam isn't covered in a layer of tiny bubbles. The jam is just about ready to go into the jars at this point, so remove them from the oven and have the lids and rings handy.

Now here's a neat new trick I just learned. After you've filled the jars to within an 1/8 inch of the top, wiped the rims and applied lids and rings, invert the jars for five minutes. After five minutes on their tops, set them upright again. Check them after about an hour. You'll find most of them have sealed beautifully! I was amazed at what a slick trick this was for sealing jam jars! Of course, if the jam is heading straight to the freezer and was of the no-cook variety, no such sealing is attempted. Just as a reminder--a jar is "sealed" if its lid has no "give" when you press it in the center but is flat and unmoving. Dont' check the seal, though until the jar is cool. Generally, 24 hours is a safe time frame before checking the seal. If it is not well sealed, the food should be frozen, re-canned, or refrigerated and eaten quickly.

Want to see a candid? A photo that hasn't been "arranged" but shows the reality of my kitchen stage's "green room" life? Well here it is:

After making the jelly, we had left overs: that skimmed-foam for one, and a cup or so of crushed berries that didn't go into the jam, so we celebrated our efforts in that hot kitchen with some strawberry smoothies. Ice cream, crushed strawberries, a little flax seed to make it feel healthy all got dumped into the blender...and voila!

A tasty smoothie for an afternoon break, complete with a book of happy little poems in the cool of the living room.

Jam-making day came none to soon! We'd just opened this last jar of last summer's jam.

Now, for the last jam-making tip of the day:

If you notice, I rushed a bit last year and failed to stir and skim for the recommended 5 full minutes after boiling. When you just give a quick skimming but don't stir and let it cool a bit before putting it in the jars, you end with floating fruit like you see here.

So...unless you like a 1/2 jam and 1/2 jelly mix, it's worth the extra 5 minutes.

Happy stirring!

...With Cockle Shells and Silver Bells...

(not that these are cockle shells or silver bells, but they ARE from my wildflower garden!)

Today's quite contrary Mary is less likely to create a fuss with her garden and more likely to with her three full carts and an accordian file of coupons, as she waits in line at the grocery store. Many suburban households are jumping on the current trend: extreme couponing. Some form clubs for coupon exchange much like their ancestresses gathered for quilting bees! While I'm not wired for that sort of neighborhood club, I AM interested in trying another sort of neighborhood club. A cut-flower exchange club.

I am only just developing this concept, and really it came up quite randomly, as many of the best ideas do. One of my neighbors stopped by to invite us to a backyard cookout, and as we chatted we wandered amongst the flowers. (One of the delights of a summer evening!) I pointed out my drooping Iris population.

"They're lovely, but I can't afford to stake them all!" I lamented.

A bit of research since then has taught me that I don't have "good" Iris plants anyway, for a good Iris has a strong stalk and can support multiple blooms without falling. In fact, one forum commentator said: "Apparently there was quite a scandal in the iris community when an iris with only 5 flowers that needed to be staked was given an award." I'm learning a bit about how and when to fertilize them for better standing power.
(Read more of that conversation on: Iris question Bulbs and Tubers http://my.gardenguides.com/forums/topic/11967#ixzz1ObU8l0i1)

But for now, my friend's best recommendation was: cut them and stick them in a vase. So I did. In fact, I took that vase of flowers to be a centerpiece on her barbecue buffet table at that cookout.

No more lazy Iris flowers looking pitiful and weak!

A couple of days later, I returned from shopping to find that same vase sitting in my driveway, filled with roses from her own garden. And so the club was born. Now I'm considering filling that vase with a fresh display of Bachelor's Buttons and walking across to another neighbor who also raises perennials and offering a similar exchange.

But all this implies a core knowledge of good cutting practices in the flower garden. I could be better informed, and so I did a little info-surfing on this topic. I considered giving a synopsis of the following link as I learned quite a bit there; but it contains such a useful chart I thought you might want the link for yourself. http://www.gardenguides.com/122-cutting-flowers.html
The chart specifies "when to cut" various types of popular garden flowers. As the article's author states: "When flowers are cut at the optimum stage, bouquets and arrangements will last longer and look better."

If I could, I'd trade that vase of Bachelor's Buttons with a cyber-neighbor, but unfortunately she lives several states away, so I'll have to settle for sending her a few photos.

While on the subject of photos, here's a beautiful blog written by a talented garden photographer. If you have any interest in the hobby of floral photography, or if you find that floral photography soothes your soul, you'll really enjoy adding David Perry to your blog roll!http://web.mac.com/davidperryphoto1/GardenBlog/A_Fresh_Bouquet.html

Happy cutting!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Late Spring/Early Summer Calendar Review

Summer has so greatly crowded the end of spring that I'm overlapping the Country Living Gardener's "Gardening Basics" to-do calendars for late spring and early summer. Obviously, my own garden is well along. Some of the designated garden plot is knowing a season of rest this year, covered by a tarp; but the chipmunks haven't lost any time finding the part that is still growing. Minnie does her part, running them off when she's outside, but she's an old enough gal that she spends the heat of the day napping. Not to mention the fact that she's hardly any help against other sorts of pests. Such pests begin to be a factor in garden care this time of year. I've already begun spraying my broccoli and Brussels sprouts, peas, cucumber seedlings and tomatoes with an organic insecticidal soap--a little more expensive but safer for the environment--and particularly better for the future health of the surrounding soil. The snap beans need a few more mature leaves before they receive a spritz.

Now on to the topic of the day...

To-do list for late spring/early summer's vegetable garden is as follows:

plant out greenhouse seedlings or recently purchased ones like tomatoes and cucumbers
plant potatoes
apply manures and fertilizers
start sowing or do next succession sowing of salad vegetables
protect plants from birds
sow snap beans, sweet corn and other tender vegetables
watch for activity from aphids and root flies

For the ornamental side of the garden, do the following:

fertilize and mulch flower beds and borders and fertilize the lawn
plant hanging baskets and window boxes
sow seeds of hardy annuals
prune spring flowering shrubs and stake herbaceous perennials
deadhead flowers regularly
continue container planting
plant out dahlias
sow seeds of biennials
fertilize roses as the first flush of flowers ends
watch for signs of mildew, blackspot and aphids and treat accordingly
mow the lawn on a high setting in dry weather

Here's to enjoying a busy time in the yard and garden!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sabbath Rest and the Inspiration of Lettuce

Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept [it] always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Acts 24:2-3

Consistent thankfulness, such a challenge for mankind.
We embrace it enthusiastically on those rare moments when Beauty reveals herself suddenly and unexpectedly to us. But this is only momentary.
We just as easily and lustily embrace our complaining--leaving ourselves completely uninformed regarding timely thankfulness. But at least these are honest.
We can get much worse.

We can be greasy with gratitude, as the verse above bears witness, using it as this orator did: to coerce a politician we consider too dull to perceive our manipulations.
Rarely do we pause to steep in the inspiration that colors the hottest waters of our lives, steep toward a state of genuine thankfulness.

I prowled about my garden yesterday. As I deal with some health issues that have lessened my strength and capacity for work this year, I am easily tempted to pout while I'm there. My first thought as I looked at the half that is enjoying a year of rest under a tarp was one of kinship with my garden in its limitations: I too feel like half my soil is on involuntary rest under a tarp, and shall remain so for a long season. At such times, I am tempted by feelings leaning toward gloom, but my will raises up a standard against such pouting, and actively searches for the things of gratitude.

I still have a garden after all--a smaller one, but a garden nonetheless. Might not gratitude still find its inspiration here? I began to assess.

Strong young hands are willing to help me with this garden on days I don't feel well. "Just sit on the step, Mom, and tell me what to do." There's that.

And, there is the fact that my snow peas grew quickly from this:

to this:

with very little intervention on my part. A most easy crop to harvest, clean, serve or freeze.

There is the lettuce that simply grows, without raising self-absorbed complaint. It quietly trusts that if I felt well enough, I'd surely keep its bed properly weeded. What's more, not only is lettuce growing from this year's seeding, but a couple of these chose life on their own initiative, born of last year's plants gone to seed and left littered on the ground as an experiment with in-garden composting.

Flowers, too, fit in this miraculous resurrection category, for while some were expected to return:
...and others were hoped-for returners that did indeed come again:

...a few were great surprises:

"Hmmm, those are annuals. They aren't supposed to return on their own."This observation was given by neighbor when I casually pointed out how a great many plants were making a repeat appearance all on their own initiative.

Even that little bit of meditation is enough to bring me around again. Despite how my body betrays me, I can all the more comprehensively--for a day anyway--embrace the "whatsoever" of this command:
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Col 3:17

The Lord Jesus. Is He not the one who said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30)

Certainly my garden bursts forth with that message to me!
If I need further inspiration toward gratitude, I have faith that I'll surely find it.

Happy heart songs!