...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 26, 2012

Garden Bouquet-Making

 Getting something that goes into a vase well and lasts is not that difficult to accomplish.  But, a little education on the topic helps.  I found a nice article in the September, 2011 issue of Birds and Blooms that offer some good reminders for how to build a nice, well-lasting bouquet.

Some of their tips for going from field to vase include the following:
  • pick in the cooler hours of the day
  • choose blooms that aren't yet fully open
  • don't just break the stems, but cut with a knife or scissors
  • don't submerge leaves in the vase water, remove them
  • add a couple of drops of bleach and a pinch of sugar to lukewarm water for the vase
  • don't display the bouquet in direct sunlight
  • don't forget to change the water every few days

Happy flower arranging!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sabbath Rest: When God Chuckles

Remember this? My sunflower? 

I spoke of it in a spring post. I waited too long to plant it out, and so it valiantly bloomed in its little black plastic container. Then I did put it out, ashamedly; and its final days were glorious, although brief and lived in miniature.

I didn't like being God of the Garden at that moment. I felt my failure in the stewardship of those things that have no power to tend themselves.
 But then, God remembered my heart--the one I bear before Him in one way or another every day; and He chuckled
and gave me a surprise:

Now, I can offer a lot of scenarios that explain how an upward-straining sunflower is growing brashly in the middle of my squash patch, but none of these scenarios involve me consciously planting the thing. I have no idea how it got here.
Yet here it is.
 And I am reminded of my position as steward, and not as God of the Garden, after all.  But my time of humbling failure finds its redemption, even its glory as the real God of the Garden slips in.  Where the evil one might plant tares, or where the ignorant one fails to plant at all, God sneaks in and plants the good that was lost.  And with a cosmic intimacy, He demonstrates that He enjoys my work there--in that place where He walks with me and teaches me to wear joy even in the shreds of failure.
Best of all, I am sweetly reminded to rejoice in thankfulness over the mysterious goodness that comes bounding over my broken stumbles in more ways than just the planting of flowers.

"Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered, let those who hate him flee before him. 
Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away; as the wax melts at the fire,
 so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. 
But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
let them also be merry and joyful."  Psalm 68:1-3

Merry Sabbath to you!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flashback Cookbook: the Crockpot

The idea of "slow cooking" has been around since ancient times, but ages ago, the slow-cook recipe went something like this:  "...wrap the roots and meat in leaves and leave beside the fire on a rock..."  Today's version of slow cooking is accomplished in a "crock pot" and while many of the younger folks may think this device has been with us for generations; the truth is that the original electric slow cooker didn't come on the scene until 1971.  That's when the Naxon Corp. put out the first bean pot, a device that was later redesigned by Rival and renamed from bean pot to crock pot.

So this installment of the Flashback Cookbook offers an early recipe for that new-fangled contraption called the crock pot. 

Slow-Cook Pepper Steak

1 to 2 pounds beef round or sirloin steak
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 med. onion, cut up
garlic powder or 1 small clove chopped
1 or 2 large green pepper, seeded and cut into strips or chunks
2 C beef broth
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Layer steaks and veggies in the bottom of the crock.  Pour on the broth and vinegar.  Add seasonings, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 to 5.
If you want a thick gravy, add a paste made of 3 tbsp. of flour and 3 of water to the both after removing the meat and veggies.  Cook gravy on high until thickened.

For retro:  serve over white rice, all sticky and fluffy!  After all, back in the 1970's, we didn't know it was bad for us. 

Happy slow-cooking!

Bonus blog linkhttp://www.ehow.com/about_5081557_crockpot-history.html

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sabbath Rest: What I Learned About Prayer While Raspberry-Picking

"When God's promise has grown in the fertile ground of a faith-filled heart and reached the time of maturation, it will come to pass. It will be a direct result of the presence of God and not of human power." I got that quote right when I needed its reminder and right when I could see the analogy in my recent berry adventure. Black raspberry season is full blown right now, and the Berry Man on his four-wheeler tootling around the You-Pick farm explained how to get the biggest, ripest ones: "You'll see black ones on top, but those will be dry and not too tasty even if they are ripe. If you lift and pull back the canes, you'll see fat juicy berries hidden underneath. These are the ones you want." "But the canes do have thorns, right?" He looked askance at me. "Oh, yes. But be careful, and if you get stuck it won't really hurt you." So I put my little green quart box on the ground and reached to lift the canes. I'm one of those who will endure a little risk for the sake of fat, juicy berries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Knit, Part II

It's summer, for heaven's sake, why knit when I could do this:
 Or this:
 Or this:
We started this conversation yesterday, and I promised I'd give you the balance of Sally Melville's article on why knitting is so good for you. 
Here it is:

How Knitting Can Change Your Life!

...The human brain has two hemispheres, and they serve very different purposes.  The left brain works to familiar patterns, rules, regulations, and in ways we have been taught to work.  The right brain is the place where new ideas form, where entities that don't belong together come together, where intuition rules, where time has no meaning.

We are a left-brain-dominant society.  But as life offers problems for us to solve--where the old rules and regs don't apply--we need  to get out of the dominant, full-of-rules left brain and into the more innovative, solution-advancing right brain.  And we get into the right brain by engaging in activities that are:
  • physically repetitive,
  • intellectually undemanding,
  • visually stimulating.
Well!  This explains the wonderful place to which the mind goes when I'm knitting.  It also explains why I need time each day devoted to this kind of activity and away from the regions on our left-brain-dominant culture.

Of course, there are all sorts of activities that put us into the right brain:  running, painting, potting, skiing, crocheting, walking, weaving.  Isn't it interesting that these activities are what we think of as things we do when we aren't working?

In fact, we might get some of our best thinking done when we are engaged in these activities.  Imagine a world in which we are all expected to have hobbies--and to spend time at them regularly!
--The Knitting Experience, Book I

So, to all of you who needed that legitimacy:
Happy guilt-free, right-brain living!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I Knit, Part I

It's hot outside!  I come in from hanging towels on the clothesline and grab a glass of lemonade, feeling the frosty glass stick to my fingers as I lift it to my lips.

Hardly the time most of us Settlers think of knitting, eh?

Summer's quiet time is best used in other hobbies, like reading or small-hoop embroidery, making butterflies on tea towels, right?  To everything there is a season, and this is NOT the one for working with rivers of wool sprawling out into toasty afghans.

But what if, like me, you love to knit or crochet?  What if the feel-good physical act of it has nothing to do with the season?  You might try what I've done:  switch to work with small hooks and needles and use crochet thread instead of bulky yarns.  Make delicate, lacy dresser scarves and head bands and summer knit tank tops.  Use tin-can sized skeins of cotton thread and make dishcloths.

Whatever you choose for a project, summer is the surest time for the realization to hit you: it's not really about what you're making after all.

Sally Melville understands.  She explains it in her book, The Knitting Experience, Book I.  Her reasoning validates my addiction to knitting and crocheting:

How Knitting Can Change Your Life!
Knitting is being called "the new yoga."  It's a catchy phrase, and it speaks well of what we love about knitting:  the beauty of its physical rhythm, the meditative state it induces, the community it fosters.  But when asked why we knit, most will say something as inarticulate as "It feels good!"  What a concept!  Doing something merely because it feels good!
If you think about it, this IS a pretty powerful concept: doing something just because it feels good.  In a world dedicated  to productivity, it's pretty wonderful to give ourselves permission to do something just because it feels good.
And if this 'feel good' activity is something we can carry with us, wherever we go, that's pretty wonderful, too!  We'll never mind waiting.  We won't struggle against time.  We'll be more patient because we can always pick up our knitting and be happily engaged, wherever we are!

Tomorrow, I'll give you part two of Ms. Melville's thoughts on why knitting--along with many other activities involving the same brain-place--feels so good.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Flashback Cookbook

New cookbooks with their richly colored photos, exotic ingredients and famous authors are fascinating, but I still drift back to the shelf of old cookbooks pretty regularly.  Ones I inherited or got at rummage sales. Ones that are full of faded out photos.  Ones published in bulky three-ring binders.  These are the ones offering dishes chock full of ingredients like Velveeta and cream soups, cracker crumbs by the boxful and lard.  
These are the ones I enjoy like old friends.

I'm hoping to run a series of vintage recipes and menus during the blog this summer, and tonight's supper serves as a kick-off.  Enjoy!

Sunday Night Garden Fresh Barbecue

grillin' sausages, grilled and served with buns and condiments or plain
fresh garden veggie mix with sour cream dip
fried garden greens

Stir Fried Garden Greens Recipe
fresh picked greens like spinach, collard greens, and lettuce, and whatever else is ready for picking: broccoli, yellow squash, onions, garlic, bell pepper...
3 tbsp bacon grease with bacon crumbles
hard-boiled egg chopped
pinch of salt
tsp mustard
tbsp white or cider vinegar

Heat the oil, and brown the larger chunk veggies (onion, peppers, squash, broccoli, etc.) if using any.  When these veggies are near to desired softness, add the vinegar and cider, then toss in the still-damp fresh picked and washed greens, bacon, egg and seasoning. 
Cook until greens "wilt" (which won't take long at all) sprinkle with shredded parmesan if desired, and then serve immediately.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sabbath Rest: A Pentecost Garden Pilgrimage

The greatest of illusions is the illusion of familiarity  --G.K. Chesterton

I'd say Chesterton's words are all the more tragic if that familiarity puts one lock-step with suffering and desolation.  This is Pentecost Sunday.  A day that commemorates that moment when all that was familiar--wondrous and more nearly tragic--got flipped, and a whole new realm of possibilities opened to the Children of God.

A contemplative person recognizes that every experience offers more than meets the eye.  Contemplatives are open to seeing the unseen world.  They sift the days for symbols and scan the sunsets for meaning.  They enter into the being of life, alert to transcendences in ordinary things.  They believe God may be found and reverenced if one is prepared to notice how marvelously mysterious and personal life in this world is.  So contemplatives invite us into the moment and tell us to be.  --Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

This weekend, I visited Our Lady Fatima House.  I've taken you there with me before.  I can now say I've been there enough times for the trails and the statuary, the chapels and the labyrinth to risk greeting me with the dullness of familiarity.  It is not so. The day very much prefaced Pentecost.  As I walked, I heard the following "poem" as my eyes made a soul journal, as I sought to notice with the eyes of a contemplative:

When the path winds, and the man-carved signs of the faith stand overgrown,
 When cherubs sleep

and promised buds bloom slow;

 When that designed to take you on instead is filled weighted
to hedge your way

It is then you'll find these words are being weaned.

 When you hike the land full out
to its iron fence-line,
 When the path makes you choose between the rectory and the games;
 When the stream bed is most dry

and one misstep proves treacherous,

It is then you'll find these words are being weaned.

 When beauty variegated cries how close hangs death to life,
 When bare feet on holy ground instead need boots;
 When the well of life is hid
 ...in dark, well off the scripted path
 and one fragile tree remains in the razed glen,
It is then you'll know these words are being weaned.

 So give thanks that on the hill still stands the chapel
 that vines still choose to climb
 and flowers to bloom;
 though pruning scars hang near
 along the prayer walk,
 and chapel window pose dark solitude,
Yet sheep still raise their eyes to find their shepherd,

...then these Words come fully weaned to comfort you.

I am a hunter of beauty. and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment.
I hunger to taste life.
--Ann VosKamp

Be a hunter.  Receive a Pentecost blessing!