Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Song of Solomon 1:6
Restoring a neglected garden is serious work. Just look at my face! This past week, I've been involved in community service projects around my fine city, along with a couple hundred others. I've been doing plenty of outdoor work--weeding to the point that my hands looked like claws and I could no longer make a fist--but none of that benefited my own garden. Today was the first day back home, and my faithful garden was still there, but looking rather dry and scruffy. I'd give it a few shots of water here and there through the week, but that was about it.
This is how it looked a couple of weeks ago. I hoped to get back to that. So...what is involved in bringing back a vegetable garden to high production levels? My day included the following:
- Harvest what's ready to be harvested--for me, that meant some broccoli, lettuce, carrots, Brussels sprouts and a lone cucumber.
- Give it a good soaking--laying the hose in the dirt and letting it slowly soak the ground, periodically moving it to a new patch of ground. The roots will grow deeper and the leaves won't scorch in the heat if you use this method of watering in the hot season.
- Weed and prune like an artist--in other words, don't get so involved you don't know when to quit.
- Spray for both bugs and fungus. (Make sure this one happens after you harvest for the day.)
- Take the prunings and apply them to the compost heap--and wet it down if it's gone dry. Make sure you don't accidentally get a stray weed complete with roots in there, or you'll have a healthy crop of weeds in your compost bin.
There now--that's much better!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
To grow in grace is opposed to all self-dependence, all legalism of every kind...It is to be so sure of our divine Gardener, and of His skill and wisdom, that it will never cross our minds to question his plan of cultivation. It is to grow as lilies grow--without a care and without anxiety; to grow by an inner power that cannot help but grow, to grow because He who has planted us has planted a growing thing, and has made us to grow.
[Lilies] don't stretch or strain, or make any sort of effort to grow; they aren't even conscious they that they are growing. They grow by a power contained within, together with the nourishment and care provided by gardener.
All our toiling and spinning to make ourselves beautiful spiritual garments...will accomplish nothing. No spiritual garment of our own making can ever equal the beautiful dress with which God clothes the plants that grow in the soil of His grace.
I am not trying to belittle the importance of growth, but to make you understand that the only effective way to grow is God's way. See that you are planted in grace and then let God cultivate you in His own way only by His own means. Open yourself to the sunshine of His presence, and to the rain and the dew of heaven. Leaves, flowers and fruit must surely come in their season; for the Lord is a skillful Gardener, and His harvest never fails.
But make certain that your life contains no barriers against God's sun and rain. The thinnest covering over a plant may serve to shield it from both, so that the plant withers even in the best soil. Just so, the slightest barrier between your soul and Christ may cause you to dwindle and fade, like a plant kept in a cellar or under a basket. Keep your life clear of every such barrier. Open up your whole being to receive every influence the Lord may bring to bear upon you. Bask in the sunshine of His love. Drink the waters of His goodness. Like a sunflower, keep your face turned toward Him.
Friday, July 22, 2011
This time of year in the garden, so much potential for work jumps readily to mind that play-time seems unwise until either the brain or the hands or both fry under the incessant load...
...and you grow careless, doing things like inadvertently spraying organic bug spray for the home where you meant to spray insecticidal soap for the garden, killing a number of leaves but hopefully no actual plants. Oops...
It's a sign--time to take a few days to enjoy life apart from the work it involves.
Renew the mind and body.
I'll harvest what needs to be harvested...and give away what won't quickly and easily freeze.
Just for a day or two.
In that spirit, I'll share a few pics from a recent trip to a wonderful state park in my area. Mostly known for it's beautiful fall colors, Brown County State Park is nevertheless a beautiful place to visit in the summer as well...
With friends and their mom and grandma, we went to the nature center to get the criteria for earning our state park pin.
But the bees and the butterflies don't mind which plants are available...so long as they are indeed available.
The trail itself, opened other delights. No formal gardens here, but no less the beauty offered.
...where even poison ivy could appear lovely in its proper place.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
For instance, if I want these lovely little sprouts to continue on into the fall, I must help them weather the days of extreme heat. One school of thought says use the lower leaves as they die away and you break them off to serve as a mulch to keep the soil cooler around the plant. Sounds reasonable. On the other hand, ground clutter--even the wood timbers that surround my little garden--invite slugs and snails, which can devastate your garden plants.
Monday, July 18, 2011
But this year, I'm sharing a simpler recipe for dill pickles, one specifically flavored for garnishing that traditional summer favorite: the grilled burger. This recipe is written more for the cook whose canner has a film of lime that needs scrubbing away from time to time.
The recipe comes from the Ball Blue Book, 100th Anniversary Edition. It first calls for 4 pounds of 4-inch cucumbers to be washed and sliced. Then combine the following in a saucepan: 6 tablespoons of canning salt, 4 1/2 C water and 4 C vinegar. Bring this mixture to a boil. As the boil is building, pack the cucumbers into hot jars with 1/4 inch headspace. To each jar add 2 heads of dill, 1/2 tsp mustard seed and 2 peppercorns.
Ladle the hot vinegar water over the cucumbers, still leaving the 1/4 inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles, and adjust the lids and rings. Process 15 minutes in the boiling water canner.
Now for the canning tips...
1) If you need a handy guide for gauging the 1/4 to 1" headspace requirements in various recipes, I have this graphic in my canning book that is quite helpful:
2) If you grew burpless cucumbers instead of "pickling" cucumbers, expect your cucumbers to be limp and mushy as pickles. Better to use them for relish or fresh salads. Crispy pickles start with the "right" cucumbers.
3) Don't neglect removing air bubbles and cleaning the jar rims before applying the two-piece caps. These steps insure bacteria-free food and a good vacuum seal.
4) Finally, if you have trouble estimating 4 pounds worth of your garden's cucumbers and don't own anything but a bathroom scale, then try this trick a local farmer taught me: fill a pint box--those little green fibreboard ones that often hold berries for purchase--with cucumbers and you'll have close to a pound per box.
If you've been reading along for a while, you know my dill this year is prolific! Besides the pickles, I also made a sour cream cucumber onion salad with some of that dill and am getting ready to try a new Greek recipe with a little more of it. But recipes alone don't have to be the only use for my dill. I decided to bring a few of the larger flowerheads to grace the kitchen window. Now that the smells of summer no longer blow in through open windows--it's too hot for that--I have these dill flowers (along with a yellow cone flower for color) to bring that garden fragrance back into my kitchen once again.
As always, happy canning!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I want to make dill pickles. It is large in my mind. And my dill is tall and frothy in the morning dew.
"Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the soil." James 5:7
Maybe it is time to turn my eyes in another direction, focus on a different outcome, where it is possible.
Maybe it is a day for accepting help and embracing that good things are still out there--even if I must plop a different jar into the canner. If not dill pickles, then corn relish. If not my zucchini, at least my homemade zucchini bread.
And maybe, if there is nothing to put in the canner or the oven at all--no insurance that next winter I'll find a jar of summer on the shelf to pop open and savor its aroma;
well then, I'll just thrust my hand into the bean patch where I know of a rogue basil from last year's seed that is battling to hold its ground and keep its head up in the sunlight.
Maybe I'll break off a few of its leaves, hold them up to my face and breathe deeply, and then carry them in my pocket for a while.
One way or another--I'll find something beautiful, something to inspire gratitude...
At least for today.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
See above the humble frozen pizza. The kind of thing the kids would eat all day every day. The kind of thing that makes Mom cringe every time she rips off the plastic wrap and stoops to retrieve the frozen pepperoni that invariably scatter themselves around her feet like a flower girl's petals.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I don't know how it is where you live, but here in Central Indiana at my berry farm of choice, this time of year you can pick your own berries for $1.65 a pound, making the batch of berries shown above cost in the neighborhood of $10.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Cherry Tomato: Chico
Regular Tomato: Big Red
Pepper Plants: Pepper, Patty, and Paul Bell
(FYI...My cucumber plant , Clyde, had his creepy little vines around Patty Bell this morning.)
Banana Pepper: Spicy Joe Johnson
Carrots: I just call them all baby sprouts...hehe
Cucumber : Clyde the Vine
(Look at my garden!!!! Can you believe....??? My cucumber plant, Cucumber Clyde the Vine , is trying to be somewhat aggressive and is causing some havoc in the raised bed...I have been trying to persuade him to wander toward the wood pile....He is a gangster, for sure.)
Watermelon: Melony Sweet
I know I'm weird......I..pretty much....... have no life.
May your garden always be such a fun place, Jane! You absolutely make me interested in the saga of your plants' ongoing lives.