...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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sabbath Rest: The Evangelist's Garden

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Mystery Knitter

Digging in my tote of homemade hats and scarves, socks and mittens I came across a quaint little paper I'd tucked in the tote, one that I picked up in a cafe on my travels last winter.  I saved it to put this article into the blog. 
Mystery Knitter
In West Cape May, New Jersey, everyone is wondering who the mystery knitter is who keeps putting colorful knit scarves on trees and poles around town.  While the activity is actually illegal because it's being done on public property without permission, everyone in town rather likes the novelty of it all, even the mayor. "It's a nice diversion," says Mayor Pam Kaithern.  The police have visited the local knitting shop to find out if the shopkeepers know who the mystery knitter is who keeps putting this handiwork up in the dark of night.  Diane Flanegan says she doesn't know and doesn't want to know.  She thinks it's just delightful.

Why is now the time for it?  I'm not sure, but I know that I've recently come across evidence of starker suffering and deeper darkness in this world than normally crosses my path.  Seeing these makes me feel like my own version of "giving" is trite, superficial and well frankly...fluff, at best.  Some of us aren't positioned to do much about the most raw pockets of suffering in this world, and maybe we should be more sober-minded about their existence, but maybe it is still "ok" to give the gift of whimsy to a world that is less and less light hearted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Break Snack Idea

Try making this one with a baking pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin if you have the time!

I haven't tried this one.  In fact, I got it from a recipe posted on a facebook friend's page, but everyone was raving about this woman's appetizers, so I thought it was probably safe to share it without trying it myself first. 

Besides, how bad can it be with cream cheese and powdered sugar in it?  (smile)

Pumpkin Dip

16oz cream cheese, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1 15oz can of pumpkin

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Fold in pumpkin. Add spices and mix well. Serve w/ graham crackers, graham sticks, apple slices or whatever else you can think of!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sabbath Rest--to Every Thing There Is a Season

Even kitty knows it is the time when frosty nights prompt warming fires. But on our dining tables, only minimal change appears these days as a result of the season. Exceptional apples might replace the grocery store standard we buy in mesh bags the rest of the year, but if you make an experiment of "eating with the season" as I'm beginning to attempt, you learn so many unexpected and delightful things about the nature of our Creator. For instance, right now I'm meditating on this one: what a gift of hope it is that both a spring garden salad:

...and the fresh-pickings for a fall one:

...have richly parallel ingredients, yet they contain just enough variation to make them unique and interesting. It is hard for me to accept that compassionless beings exist on this planet--although I've seen evidence of their works. Still, when I sink my teeth into these buttery baby lettuce leaves, the crunchy baby carrots and the sharply-spiced baby cayenne pepper, I'm reminded that my Creator is not of one mind with those beings. After a season of bare soil under a blanket of snow, good things--similar things--will spring up anew, and I will taste of their bounty.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Deut. 11:13-15

Friday, October 21, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes--Garden Calendar

the last of summer's growth
The midautumn garden calendar involves major scene-changing activity.  Tonight is the first serious frost advisory in my area, and today is the first day when rain and high winds don't keep me just staring at the garden through the window so I will make major changes to my garden spot.  Actually, I was letting it run rather wild even before the rains and winds invaded...obviously.  But now that frost is threatening, I'm on a timer for retrieving the last of the frost-free fare.

A few things, will remain. Flowers that have run rather dormant in the heat are beginning to flourish again. They'll remain.

Snow peas will abide, although they could use a soap-spritz for the aphids.

Beans peppers, and tomatoes will come in.  The last of the green tomatoes are going to make a small batch of piccalilli relish (had to look up not just the recipe but also the spelling for that one.) 

Then, many of the plants are cut or pulled and added to either the compost heap or the curbside yard trash for the city to collect.  Finally, the bird feeder is filled and the soil is raked.
A few flowers are left on a lark.  More expectantly, the brussel sprouts remain, as well as the snow peas--already mentioned, green onions, kohlrabi, and lettuce--which will go undercover tonight alongside the green pepper plant, hopefully to enjoy at least another week of frost-free productivity after tonight.

Soon I'll plant garlic and--if I can find them--cabbages for a spring harvest. 
Other things on the calendar that go beyond my own garden's reach:
continue to harvest and store apples and pears
cut down asparagus
apply greasebands to fruit trees and prune berry bushes

Happy first frost!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's Not All Desert and Tropical Rainforest

Africa, that is. And while, it is not so surprising to think of making toasty warm hats for fair-haired, blue-eyed boys in Northern climes, I never realized how great was the need for warm wear in parts of Southern Africa.

"Did you know that over 500 children a day are orphaned in South Africa and Zimbabwe from the combined affects of poverty and HIV AIDS.

The temperature in many parts of Southern Africa falls below freezing in winter, especially at night." So says the KAS (Knit-a-square) charity, whose website is:

The group, out of Australia, grew from the frustration of just one family as they visited relatives in South Africa in 2008. If you have 5 minutes, follow the link and read this family's inspiring story as they launched a charity to make a difference many people didn't even realize needed to be made!

I've started knitting squares, along with a group of teens at my local library. But now, I'm also hoping to branch out into hats and socks and vests. Their website includes simple, knit and crochet friendly patterns for free.

Something touches my heart about keeping cold babies warm at night. If my "wares" are only going to sell sporadically on Etsy, then at least they won't sit in a storage tote anymore! And that feels incredibly good!
Happy crafting for a noble cause!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Drag the Dead Carcass to the Road...

...and burn it! Some--myself included--have done that for years every autumn with each leaf body that litters their yards. But, despite the joy of that acrid tang of smoke lifting from burning leaf piles just shy of sunset, there is nevertheless a better way to go! Especially...

...if you don't have a compost tumbler and are trying to get by with the fence-pile, which by this point in the year, can be a bit distasteful during backyard cookouts and campfires. (This may be my only season to try this method.) A second option is to go with a simple leaf mold, the "lazy gardener's compost" as Maureen Gilmer describes it in The Small Budget Gardener.

"...it's easy to make and ready to use far sooner than compost. Plus, you
make it all at once in the fall. Leaf mold does not contain the high
nutrient content of compost, but it's a fine soil improver that can be enhanced
by fertilizer...
Leaf mold is made in a corral, which is simply a loose wire fence set in a
circle that allows you to fill it to the top with leaves. You can make as
many corrals as you wish, depending on how many leaves are available.
Here's how:
Obtain a length of woven wire fence 3 to 4 feet tall and long enough to
make an enclosure about 4 to 8 feet in diameter. If you have very few
leaves, make the circle only a few feet across. Secure it into a corral
ring with wire and stake it to stand up stiffly on its own.
When the leaves start to fall, rake them up and throw them into the
corral. When the first layer is about a foot deep, wet it down. Then
turn on some lively music, don your boots, and hop inside. Stomp the
leaves down into a tight layer.
Top each layer with a thin covering of soil, and scatter any organic
fertilizer you have along with it. If you have chickens or rabbits, their
manure is ideal.
The next time you rake leaves, put another foot-deep layer in the corral
and have another go at it. Get the kids involved, too. Repeat the
process until the corral is as full as you can get it. In warmer climates,
the leaf mold might be ready by late spring, but farther north, you can expect
it to mature by summer's end."

I've heard of stomping grapes, stomping leaves not so much...but the leaf mold cage certainly makes a more esthetically pleasing and aromatically acceptable backyard display than the open compost heap.

Happy raking!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Garden Pilgrimage--the Labyrinth

"Some problems can be solved by walking." St. Augustine

Today I invite you to come with me for a virtual prayer walk. The picture shows a prayer labyrinth, which is technically speaking just a circular pattern laid out with a winding course to a center resting point. Appearing like a maze, it is actually a well-defined path leading to that center where the pilgrim rests and then returns by the same path to places outside.

"The labyrinth is a metaphor for life. The Christian life is often described as a pilgrimage of the faithful who are in but not of the world. We progress down a path that's laid out by God-even though we rarely foresee its twists and turns-toward the eventual goal of unity with Christ." The Sacred Way, Tony Jones

The retreat center where I went this past Friday is in its autumn beauty. We' took a garden pilgrimage there before--in fact, the first garden pilgrimage we made with this blog--when spring had full flush on its cheek; but the change of season made it a completely different place. Now it is a garden whose beauty unashamedly wears signs of a death that haunts so near, a place whose beauty is displayed more by the kiss of light and dark on its face than by any rosy naive blush. This is where I invite you to walk a virtual prayer labyrinth with me.

I'll quote my retreat leaders, Jan and Brian Daily, in leading you through. "Basically, there are four aspects that comprise the journey of the labyrinth. The Threshold allows you to center your thoughts on God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

Pause here, and experience the Threshold.

"The Journey In opens up the space to explore our relationship with God and where He wants to take us."

Make the Journey In.

"The Resting Place is the center, representing the heart of God."

Rest in the center and explore the heart of God.

Find the hidden well-springs and refresh yourself there.

"The Journey Out provides time for thought toward what this experience has taught us about the heart of God and what we want to share with the world."

Make the Journey Out.

"There is no right way to pray a labyrinth. The simple act of setting one foot in front of the other. (or one image after the other) allows the mind the freedom to truly rest in God's presence. All that is necessary is an openness to God and His leading, and a heart that is willing to hear and accept what the Father has to say."

O God of Peace,

You have taught us not to be anxious in our living.

Release us from feeling frenzied about our commitments.

Free us from the burden of our many fears, so that we may place our whole trust in your wise care and be at peace in the sure knowledge of your love.

We offer our anxious hearts to you for the healing of faith. Through Christ, our living Lord. Amen. --Marjorie J. Thompson

Blessed prayer walk!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What's Out There?

This is my first year to try gardening deep into the fall, and here's what I'm finding when I tromp out to the garden--still in my flip flops, but through dew that is awfully chilly now! I find the green peppers still producing beautiful fruit...

...beans looking tired, but still productive enough to be left to grow...

...Second-generation stalks on the Brussel sprouts starting to fruit...

...late summer planting of snow peas rising up alongside the still-flowering tomato plant...

...chives in flower...

...and radishes in their prime.

As for the flower garden, it's still giving enough color to make mini-vase displays to companion the mini-pot winter herb garden, hopefully inspiring seedlings to spring up and grow hardy!

Initially, I'd count this first fall garden as a success.

Happy enduring life!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Global Day of Service

Table prepped for tea and crochet day at Outreach, Inc.

Global Day of Service is today! Here in my city, big companies like Eli Lilly are sending workers out to landscape along interstate highways--an annual tradition for them now. For me, service has become a way of life, and I count myself fortunate to have so much time available for it.

Hobbies make great vehicles for service that not only feel good to your soul but also to your spirit of play. That's why I went out and drummed up interest in knitting and crocheting for a cause. Today's photo essay honors the young people who joined me. The first group meet two mornings a month. They're the homeless teens at Outreach, Inc. We've started with learning to make practical things like hats, scarves and baby afghans. Two staff members joined in for the fun, too.

The second group meet afternoons twice a month. They're making squares for the knit a square charity. These high school students are meeting at the local library's teenzone where they are not only learning a new skill, but also becoming part of the tide of tangible support dealing with the AIDS epidemic in Africa, making blankets pieces for orphan babies there.

Once again, staff get to join the fun...

...and kids got to learn something that would be relevant from day one.

Have box, will travel! It's becoming my motto. But, today I pause long enough to talk about how proud I am of these young people for their hope and enthusiasm as they look to improve their own lives and their world.