Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 - Water Conservation and You

The 2018 Long Range Weather Forecast for Peoria IL from the Old Farmer's Almanac:

"April and May will be warmer and slightly drier than normal. Summer will be hotter and drier than normal. The hottest periods will be July and mid-August. September and October will be warmer than normal. Rainfall will be below normal."

The last frost is predicted for May 2 and the first frost October 3 or translated to a growing season of 153 days.  Any of the long range predictions from the OFA has a 30% chance of being correct.  Gardeners play the odds more than gamblers in LasVegas.  

The Weather Network is predicting normal amounts of precipitation for spring and a dryer than normal summer.  The north/west edge of the severe drought plaguing the Plains and southwest is around the Mississippi River.  For the last several years, the drought conditions have worsened and edged East.

Here's what you might take into consideration:

If you plant water demanding annuals, you will probably have to water at least once a week - probably daily in the fall.

If you're planting trees, bushes and other perennials, plant early so they can get natural moisture from spring rains.  Expect to have to water them throughout summer and fall and possibly the next three years.

If the perennial plants you're choosing demand lots of moisture all their life, will you be able or do you desire to give them that much attention - forever.

If you're considering a pond, make sure it's deep.  Shallow ponds of any size can go dry or get boggy when they don't get ample rainfall.

Consider water features that recycle water such as fountains or recirculating water falls.  
Ballerina fountain by Malgorzata Chodakowska

Now might be the perfect time to consider replacing the water hogs in your yard.  Turf grass being a BIG hog.  You don't have to give up green lawns, but there are now drought tolerant grasses that don't take as much care.  Here's a clue:  If you're using irrigation of any kind on your grass lawn just to keep it green, you need to replace it with something more drought tolerant.  Nature is telling you it's not the right plant for your yard and you're wasting water.

As a side note, golf courses use more water and chemicals than any other entity.  If you're a member of one of these, consider suggesting they start adapting a more drought tolerant landscape.  Look at the old European golf courses and note how they're landscaped.  It might make the course more of a challenge but isn't that the point - overcoming challenges on the course?   

Consider replacing some water hogs with an area just for specific drought tolerant plants.  
Drought resistant Sedum "Autumn Joy"

If you're able, use rain barrels to catch water from your downspouts.  This is an old method and why most old homes had cisterns.  Then don't forget to use the water in the rain barrels.  Many local extension offices or our local NAGS, have rain barrels for sale.    

Cement (drives - patios - walks) cause large quantities of rain to flow away from your plants.  In town, it goes into the storm sewer and serves no drought relief purpose.  Consider using other surfaces for these hardscapes:  Stepping stones instead of walks.  Wood or poly decks and patios allow water to seep through the cracks.  Gravel, if used right, causes water to percolate slowly into the soil.    

Check out the internet or call your favorite landscaping firm to learn all the methods to redirect rain into your garden beds.  

None of the drought relief measures for your gardens/yard need be expensive or all encompassing.  It's all about the little things that adds up to big things.  Oddly enough, most drought relief measures need to have water in it's initial stages to get a plant's roots established.  Now is the time to begin.

Consider using plants that are native to your area - they survive much better than introduced varieties.  A native plant area can be a wonderful habitat for native insects, birds and animals.  AND, it can be beautiful and more drought tolerant.
Drought resistant Native Coneflower "Great Yellow"

Do not put any plant that become highly flammable in the fall close to buildings.  Native or ornamental grasses should always be well away from buildings.  Evergreens with high sap content (such as yews) are highly flammable any time of the year.
"Big Bluestem" Native Grass
Don't use stationary spray waterers.  Instead water only at the base where it touches the roots.  Spray waterers put water on soil where there are no roots, much of it evaporates before it hits the ground and it must run longer/using more water.  Drip irrigation devices also conserve more water but it does take buying equipment and landscaping to do it right.

Soooo: how about starting with one thing in your yard that makes it less of a water hog and less work for you.  You may find you absolutely love the look.    

Friday, April 27, 2018

Garden Rationalizations at Their Best

“Only fools view their gardens in monetary terms…. 
The real point of a garden is to increase the value of our lives.”
Anna Pavord, British garden writer,
The Curious Gardener, 2010

Aw yes, every gardener can use rationalization and they come aplenty!

Rationalization:  Many perennials cost about the same as a nice geranium, an annual ornamental grass or many other annuals we lavishly put in pots and borders and mostly dump in the fall.  We are surely being frugal by spending that amount on a plant that will come up yearly.  

Rationalization:  A bag (or thirty) of daffodils bulbs planted in the fall is like free plants in the spring.  

Rationalization: Planting a tree (or hundreds) is planting for future generations.   The money we spend on trees is actually philanthropy.  Shouldn't it be tax deductible?   

Rationalization:  Is one enough - is a thousand too many?  Never!    

Rationalization:  Everyone loves my yard and gardens!  

Rationalization:  I'll only buy a few plants for my pots.

Rationalization:  These nurseries are locally owned; I need to support each one.

Rationalization:  I'll just change out the color on a few of my pots.

Rationalization:  I'll only pull one weed.

Rationalization:  I can control that ground cover.

Rationalization:  It's suppose to be a wet summer, I'll plant lots of impatiens.

Rationalization:  It's suppose to be a dry summer, I'll plant lots of succulents.

Rationalization:  Wouldn't a little gold fish pond be serene!

Rationalization:  I don't think the water pump needs any extra wiring.

Rationalization:  Those two-year old seeds are still viable.

Rationalization:  My soil can wait another year before it's amended.  

Rationalization:  I'll dig out that weed tomorrow.

Rationalization:  I'm sure "spreads freely" doesn't mean invasive.

Rationalization:  Cold Zone classifications aren't really all that important.

Rationalization:  If you build it - they will come.

Rationalization:  I'll dump the soil out of that pot before it freezes and breaks.

Rationalization:  My unheated garage is perfect for wintering annuals.

Rationalization:  My spouse/kids will want to work along side me in the garden.

Rationalization:  Oh look there's a cute little rabbit.  

Rationalization:  The tag said "deer resistant".

Rationalization:  My cat is always fed and full, it won't bother birds.

Rationalization:  If I get this done today - I'll never have to do it again.

Rationalization:  Spraying insecticide on a few plants won't really hurt the bees.

Rationalization:  The wind isn't blowing that hard/I'll put down Round-up.

Rationalization:  I can control a controlled burn.

Rationalization:  We can do that ourselves.

Rationalization:  Discount items/services are always a better buy.

Rationalization:  Isn't that tree with three different varieties of flowers perfect.

Rationalization:  I know it was grown in Florida but I'm sure it will still grow here.

Rationalization:  The sun isn't that hot, I'll go without my shirt, sunglasses, hat.

Rationalization:  I love sitting outside and watching the crop dusters.

Rationalization:  My dog/cat never eats outside plants.

Rationalization:  A suntan makes my skin look so much better.

Rationalization:  This article won't be all that long.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Garden or Bought Goodness

I'm not doing much actual gardening:

  • In Illinois
  • In February
  • Inside

That doesn't keep me from making garden-goodness recipes.

Sometimes recipes are developed because we just happen to have ingredients on hand and have no desire to go to the grocery in the snow, freezing rain or cold.  I could have made cookies, candy or cakes, but, I really do occasionally try to make something healthy and this recipe is that in a bowlful.

This is not traditional hummus nor traditional guacamole.  I had to call it something so there ya go.

Avocado Hummus


1 - Avocado - medium ripe (still firm), peeled and seeded
15 oz. - can of Garbanzo beans - drained
4 oz. - Low fat sour cream
2 - Garlic buds - peeled
1/2 - Lemon - washed - zested and juiced
1 tsp. - Kosher salt (to taste)
1/8 C - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. - Paprika

I used my Ninja smoothy maker but it would work in a food processor or blender.  I suppose you could even do it in a mixer or by hand but it would be difficult to get the smooth fluffy consistency.

Put everything but the paprika in the blender.  Pulse until blended, scraping the sides down until it's all the same consistency.  Then whip on high until light and fluffy - this doesn't take long.

Put in bowl, top with paprika, seal very thoroughly (it's very garlicky) and refrigerate until cold.  Will keep in the refrigerator about a week.

Side conversations: 

This isn't as dense as traditional hummus or guacamole and is better served in a bowl as a dip.   It will get runny and sloppy if used on top of other foods, especially if they're warm.

If you want a more pronounced lemon flavor, add more zest but not more juice.  More juice makes it too runny.

If you want less garlic, then don't make the recipe - I mean really folks, garlic breath for two days just shows you eat well!!!!!

This recipe is healthy, rich tasting, has layered flavors and is easy.

You can add other ingredients.  (a)  I tried one-half a red onion but it ended up the only flavor I could taste - good but not what I was wanting.  (b) I added black olives on top and it caused the recipe to get watery.  It looked bad although the flavor was still good.  (c) I tried smoked paprika but again it dominated the other flavors.  

This recipe is fluffy and light.

Carrots, bell peppers, zucchini and celery sticks are yummy dippers.  They need to be dried with a paper towel or the dip slips off.

This makes an excellent snack while looking at all the garden catalogs, dreaming of all things possible next spring in the garden or between naps.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Prayer for 2018

I pray for the people who lack a sense of humor.

I pray for the people who must suck the joy out of every occasion.

I pray for the people who hang on to their grievances as if they were gold.

I pray for the people who read something negative into every thing.

I pray for the people who are still rehashing the election.

I pray for the people who haven't learned the difference between fiction and facts.

I pray for the people who would rather loose a friend than tolerate differences.

I pray for the people who have filed lawsuits simply because they're mad.

I pray for the people who enjoy and encourage violence.

I pray for the people who hurt children and animals.

I pray for the people who don't respect their elders.

I pray for the people who haven't the fortitude or desire to give up an addiction.

I pray for the people who have been hurt but can't forgive.

I pray for the people who haven't donated and helped those in need.

I pray for the people who don't think gossip always hurts someone.  

I pray for the people who have deliberately undermined family bonds.

I pray for the people who become teachers but don't like children.

I pray for the people who spend time and money making things that steal from others.

I pray for the people who open a business but don't respect their clients or customers.

I pray for the people who don't want to work for their pay/benefits/livelihood.

I pray for the children in communities where there are no honorable father figures.

I pray for the children whose mothers don't know how or don't want to be a mother.

I pray for rulers of countries who choose to let their citizens suffer hunger, disease, torture and death only to enhance their own personal life.

I pray for the people who disrespect the very people who protect them (police & armed forces.)

I pray for the people who use their positional & physical power to take advantage of others.

I pray for the people who enter the medical professions but don't like people.

I pray for the parents who don't love their children enough to teach them right from wrong.

I pray for the people who don't know how to love.

I pray for the people who don't know how or don't want to pray.

I pray that if I've been or am or will be any of the above people, I will change and rectify any harm I've done. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Leftover Ham - Oh Yum!

Most of us are tuckered out after all the fun and family of the Christmas holidays.  We grab whatever's in the refrigerator and make due for the next few meals.  If you had ham, here's one easy and great soup that is filling and flavorful.

Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup

Spray a large crockpot with PAM to keep the soup from sticking.  Turn to high cook.

Boil until tender:
5 pounds washed/unpeeled golden Yukon potatoes
Drain/let sit in cold water until cooled - with your fingers/peel off skin.  Add skin to your composter. 

Add to crockpot:
2 Cups Ham (Dice or pull into small bite sized pieces)
32 ozs. Chicken stock/broth

Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Melt in fry pan:
1 heaping Tablespoon Bacon Grease
1 heaping Tablespoon Butter
And add:
1 Cup Finely Diced Carrots
1 Cup Finely Diced Celery
1 Cup Finely Diced Onions
Simmer until onions are translucent but not browned.

Add to crockpot:
Onion mixture and potatoes.  Lightly mash with hand masher/leaving bite sized potato hunks.  Cook until mixture begins to bubble at the sides.  Scrape down.

1 Cup Milk (Add more if it becomes too thick)
1 Pound Vevetta cheese - cut into squares
Stir and when cheese has melted, turn crock pot temperature to Low.

If this begins to bubble, turn it down to warm.  Cooking too hot will cause the cheese to stick to the sides and flavor won't be as good.  Everything in this soup has been cooked prior to the crockpot so it's just a matter of letting flavors blend and holding warn until you're read to eat.  

This makes a large crockpot full.  It can be made in a soup pan but you must stir more often to keep it from burning/sticking.  And when it's all warm and ready, it needs to be served rather than held.

This also freezes well.  Simply stir to blend ingredients while reheating.  Also, microwaveable but be sure to cover because it splatters.   

As they used to say on the farm, this soup will "stick to your ribs" these cold winter days.  It's good with a simple salad or fruit.  It's almost too rich and thick for crackers or bread.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Jam

I just finished two batches of Cranberry JalapeƱo Jam - they look good - they taste good - they set up:  All is well in Santa's workshop.

I had bought a little jar of commercially produced CJJ and loved it on toast, eggs, crackers, cheese - many things.  The cranberries give it zing and color - the peppers a little bit of heat.  Then, I couldn't find it anywhere and decided I'd make my own.  The following recipe is easy and worked exactly right (love it when that happens.)

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam

2 cups     Whole fresh cranberries - washed/drained
3               Jalapeno peppers **
2 Tbs.      Water
1 cup        White vinegar
5 cups      White granulated sugar
3 oz.         Liquid pectin

** You can use any type of hot pepper or more than three BUT you don't want to make it so hot that it loses it's subtle flavors and is just another hot sauce.

Wash & sterilize 5 half-pint jars, lids and rings.  It will make five jars but you will have about 1/2 cup left over to use/store in refrigerator.  

Wearing latex gloves, wash peppers, cut off stem ends, slice in half lengthwise and remove all seeds and inner membranes.  Chop finely in the food processor.  

Add cranberries and water to peppers.  Pulse until finely chopped.

Spoon pulp into a 4-quart stainless steel pan.  Add vinegar.  Cook over low heat 10 minutes to blend flavors.  Stir to keep from burning/sticking.

Add sugar all at once and raise heat.  Stir constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a rolling boil.  When mixture bubbles and the top foams significantly - add pectin.  Boil hard one minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir.  If there's extra foam, skim off and discard.  

Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/2 inch at top.  Clean rim, add caps and rings; gently tighten.  

Process jam in water bath canner 10 minutes.  Remove to towel covered surface.  When the jars have sealed and cooled, tighten rings.  The jars need to be completely cooled for the jam to set.  Wipe clean with damp rag and polish with dry towel.  Date and store at room temperature.

Refrigerate after opening or anything not processed in canner.   

Since I'm giving some as Christmas presents, I added a label and twine bow.  This recipe isn't terribly time consuming and the end result is a beautiful jewel-toned jam.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tropical Beauties

Sunset off our patio
We were fortunate to spend some time in Maui last month.  The awesomeness (yes awesomeness) of the ocean is one of the great features.  The other was the vegetation.  Vegetation seems so generic for Maui plants and flowers.  They are anything but generic.

The background:  I won the ten days in a beautiful condo on the beach through an on-line auction held by the National Hemerocallis Association.  The condo time was donated by one of the NHA officers - the owners.  What a gift!

Not only did we have wonderful accommodations but a view of the Pacific from our patio.  Although it was a bit early for whale watching, one of those big girls showed herself to us not far off the coast of our beach.  This ramped up the awesomeness to a bucket list level.  

We visited the privately owned Kula Botanical Garden.  It poured down the entire time we walked the garden which gave it an ethereal feel.  And so, under our umbrellas, we saw these beauties.

As always, you can click on the first picture and then page thru them in a larger format.  Vacations are great and this one especially beautiful - but - there's no place like home.