Thursday, October 20, 2016


Some thoughts that probably make sense:

God did not make ugly kittens; He knew cats would be a hard sell.

A plant that self-seeds into a crack the size of a toothpick is a kind of “nature wins” event we will never understand.

From 105 The River: “The fact that jelly fish have survived for 650 million years despite not having brains gives hope to many people.”

It only takes one person to think positive about a community to start a positive movement:  Thanks to all the “City of Go” volunteers who are making a difference throughout Galva.

Finding and visiting a restaurant that uses seasonal local produce is a wonderful thing for:  the farmer, the restaurateur and your little tummy.

For some folks, the speck of human frailty is only in the other person’s eye.    

In this area of the Midwest, we need to stop and realize we aren’t in the middle of California wild fires, Louisiana floods, Middle East religious’ wars, urban crime, West Coast drought, Texas border issues, China’s air pollution nor wars that have left so many children orphans.  You and I are Blessed beyond measure.

If you haven’t heard at least one person say, “That’s the best looking corn I’ve ever seen.” this year, you haven’t been to a coffee shop.

The organizers of the Back Roads Music Fest should be on the cover of Time magazine for being optimistic, intelligent and a huge benefit to our community.

The components are all there to form a Galva Historical Association; To preserve, publicize and enhance.

The laziest thing you can do is think in negative terms.

When we think of economic development, we often dream of bringing in big businesses.  But the backbone of small towns is the privately owned mom and pop stores, factories and enterprises.  Thank your local business owners for making your life better and then support them!

If you’ve ever read a newspaper published in another town, you have to realize we have one of the best weeklies in the US!  We don’t have to like everything they print – we just have to appreciate all it takes to be there for us.

Speaking of the Galva News, take a scroll through the G.N. Facebook page and it soon becomes evident just how many volunteer groups and local businesses are working to better our local communities.

Every time I see a weed has been pulled from a public garden area, I know our communities are thriving in ways we don’t always notice.

If you’ve never seen where bad things can be the stepping stone for good things, then take a look at the work going on in the old furniture store/doctor offices – pretty darn wowzer.

Does anyone but me look at Patrick Sloan volunteering his music and think, “That apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”

Although the whole “competition” thing sometimes gets in the way, supporting all the little towns around us only benefits us as a whole. 

When I see a farmer wear bib overalls it still makes me nostalgic.  Everyone should own at least one pair because they are seriously the most comfortable hard-work attire made.  (Do farmers wear attire??)

For those in the national media who think all of America hangs on to every little political tidbit – they should have seen the reaction of the crowds along the Galva 4th of July parade.  Bring on the many queens and their courts, the tractors, the floats, the kids, the trucks and for anyone under ten, THE CANDY!  But politics in parades – yawn.

The day someone coined, “Enquiring minds want to know.” is the day the national media started that slow slippery slide into a baloney sandwich without the bread.

If you grew up before politically correct, parental hovering, instant gratification, everyone having their own vehicle, phone, computer and your wishes or opinions  trumped those of adults - then you are an old person.  And I mean that in the kindest way.  And our parents meant it in the kindest way.  And it might be kind today.

And in conclusion my friend:  The “Sweet smell of success” is called sweat equity.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Every time I write a story it’s because I’ve been inspired by something I’ve seen or heard.   I was inspired recently by a beautiful “moss garden.”
A little moss garden from Pinterest

First:  Moss is not mildew and doesn’t damage other plants and household surfaces the way mildew does.  Although I’d keep it off cedar roof shingles.

The facts:  Technically moss is a plant although it doesn’t have true leaves, branches or roots.  Since it doesn’t have roots, it must absorb water in other ways.  Also, it has no seeds but spreads by spores or division.  Typically, it grows in colonies.

The needs:  Moisture – just damp not swampy.  Shade – keeps it from drying out as quickly.  Acidic soil – A pH of about 5.5.  Compacted soil – prefers compacted clay soil.

The attitude:  If you have the needs met and you have moss growing – stop trying to get rid of it!  It’s like having the perfect conditions for roses and killing them because you want a sand lot.  Just stop!
Moss rock garden from Pinterest

Developing a moss garden can start with that bit you already have growing.  Keep your new moss garden in that general area since you already know it has the right conditions. 

The warnings:  Moss harvested in deep shade will not grow as well in an open lightly shaded area.  Yes, there are many different moss varieties.  If you harvest your own, try to plant in a similar situation.  If you buy, ask the seller which is right for your spot.

Transplanting:  Best time is spring or fall when there’s the most rainfall to help it quickly establish.  Make sure the area is free of other growth (weeds, grass etc.) and simply lay your moss start onto the damp soil, press gently and water.  For the first year, don’t allow it to dry out.  Once established it will only need water if there’s a drought.
Moss covered cement via Pinterest

I had a little moss garden in the back yard at my Galva house.  I placed a bench, had some old rocks and bricks around for visual depth and it was ever so lovely to walk on with bare feet.  I’d “groom” my little spot by sitting and pulling any weeds (there wasn’t many) and picking off any sticks and leaves.  It’s an amazingly “garden Zen-like” task.

Moss gardens can be tiny, in little pots or logs, or large as in acres if you develop the right conditions.  They may compliment other shade plants such as Hosta, ferns, or impatiens.  Moss gardens look lovely with Japanese gardens or even small raked gravel areas.

If you want to add moss to cement statues or rocks, try adding some moss to buttermilk, mix well and brushing on the area of the statue/cement/rock that’s been soaked in water. Keep it moist by misting until established.  Never hit moss with the hard jet spray or it will be pulled out and destroyed.

Moss will take some gentle foot traffic but will not hold up to hard traffic or tires.  Moss can be used as part of fairy gardens; it lends a mystical look.   It doesn’t work for playgrounds.

Moss is a wild plant so don’t take huge amounts from woodland areas and especially if it’s not your woodland.  National Forests (and some State and local parks) prohibit harvesting any vegetation. 
A small portion of Dale Sievert's moss gardens.

If you’d like inspiration, check out Dale Sievert’s blog:

If you crave – NEED – serenity and calm, consider a moss garden.  It can be a process that enriches you as it enriches your plot of land.  You may find you are embracing natural garden things you hadn’t imagined you’d love:  fog and dew, lack of lawn grasses, an old world vibe and the textures of green. 
Back yard moss garden from Pinterest

If you’re wondering if it a moss garden will hold up to our winters, Mr. Sievert’s gardens are in Wisconsin and do nicely.  Mine was in little Galva Illinois and did nicely.  If you’re new to moss gardening, start small and learn as you go.  A little pot of moss beside your kitchen sink, under the cabinet, in a sweet little saucer could be all you need.  Ten acres, landscaped and groomed, well maybe someday – just maybe someday.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Real Heros Wear Patches

More patches from around the world donated
to the son of the injured Greentown officer.
Real Heroes Wear Patches Quilt for the officer's son.
My little hometown, Greentown Indiana, is experiencing the sadness and agony of having a young local policeman wounded and his partner killed this summer; both with wives and young children.  Our hometown officer’s eight-year-old son goes to the local school and his teacher was wanting to help with the frightening facts this little boy is experiencing.  She came up with “Real Heroes Wear Patches” and it mushroomed into an entire town honoring all men and women who wear a uniform in the service of their communities and country.

I’m partial to those who serve in law enforcement because I know them as more than a uniform but as good people, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, family and friends.  My first cousin as a Deputy Sheriff, a son-in-law as a policeman in Galesburg, a policeman in Geneseo and the Henry County Sheriff who both served with me on the Freedom House Board of Directors and a good friend’s daughter-in-law that’s a deputy.  When I hear negative talk about our military, police, firemen/women and EMTs, it’s personal. 

As with any other job, if someone doesn’t perform it well, they need to be coached or disciplined or released to find other work they’re more suited.  But the large majority are doing a job you and I don’t want to do.  They are doing that job because they love it.  They are doing it without much thanks or affirmation.  They aren’t getting rich.  They are doing it extremely well in a difficult and scary time.  They are doing in spite of the very real dangers.  They are taking care of your family in hopes they return to their family.  Not many of us have that job worry and not many of us understand what they and their family goes through.

Anyone can complain – it only takes a moment during casual conversation at the local coffee shop or among friends and family.  That negative moment has a much longer lasting effect on the spirit of the community.  If we run down the community members serving us, are we helping to destroy the fabric of that community?  If we actually have a suggestion or complaint, isn’t it wiser and more helpful to go to the leader or commander of that department or organization and talk it out?  You see – negative gossip condemns an entire organization and gets very little done to help.  

As we see so much unrest in our nation – in the world – can a little community step out to thank and honor our heroes who wear patches?  I know one that did it in a huge way.  I have to think my adopted little community has the same kind of spirit of thanksgiving.  It doesn’t take a death or serious injury to get behind our local heroes.  It does take a community willing to make it a priority even when things are going great.

Some of our citizens have already taken that public step to thank and honor:  Back Roads Music Festival – American Legion Post 45 – Galva City Council – Bishop Hill Filling Station – Galva High School – Volunteers at the Galva and Bishop Hill Fire Department Fund Raisers – Galva Pharmacy – John H. Best Manufacturing.  I’m sure you know individuals and organizations that could be added to this list. 

Our community (and I include Bishop Hill) has proved over and over they are front runners of kindness and thanksgiving.  Shall we bring this spirit of thankfulness into an organized effort and one of personal commitment?  Are you the one person to take the lead in your organization?  Are you the individual to write a note, send a message/text or stop and shake a hand?  I think you are!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

All Hail the Kale

Kale "Richmonds"
Kale "Red Russian"
Kale "Redbor"
Kale "Songbird"
Kale "Glamour"
Kale "Dinosaur"
Kale "Crane Red"
OK, now that you've seen all the beautiful kale carried by Annie's Annuals and Perennials, how about some thoughts about this vegetable and what it can do for you!

There's no doubt Kale can be super nutritional and a benefit for your little body.  I admit, for me, it's a hard sell.  I have to make myself eat Kale, turnip greens, collards and the like.  They remind me of eating something meant for cows - like hay.  Those that were raised on these beneficial greens have a love that holds no boundaries.  Southern cooking would not be complete without a side of greens.  Southern family restaurants don't even ask if you want any, it's expected.

But I'm going for a different take on Kale.  I'm going for the decorative benefits in your flower gardens.  

Kale comes in a multitude of different shapes, sizes and colors.  They aren't invasive nor do they get out of hand and become ugly.  They simply sit there waiting to be picked or admired.  There's also the benefit that they're still beautiful in the fall when other plants are winding down.

Plant sets aren't all that expensive because most of the plant venders still consider them a vegetable.  Once they realize people are using them for landscaping, I expect the price to raise.  We are seeing it with some of the more decorative Kales shown above.  You can still buy traditional Kale in a six-pack set and put those little babies in between other plants and all for less than you'd pay for traditional annuals.  

They can also be raised from seed - an even cheaper option.

If you like the taste of raw or cooked Kale, it can be pinched all season and will come back looking great.  Kale often takes on a stronger or peppery taste in the fall after a light frost making it the perfect time to pick all of it and cook and/or freeze.  

For those of you that haven't ventured into the new decorative Kale world, check out nurseries this coming spring.  It's the plant that just keeps on giving.    

And for those that need that shot of cooked or salad greens, Kale offers a never ending supply of nutrients, texture and color. 

They are easily transplanted from the garden in late fall into pots or near decorative displays.    

In pots, flower beds or vegetable gardens, they are surprisingly beautiful especially in the fall.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Freezing and Canning

Freezing and canning in a world of fast food and fancy restaurants. 

I’ve been “putting up” food for about fifty years.  It’s something I enjoy. 
My mother and prior generations did it because it was necessity in the winter.  Plus, with a huge garden and fruit trees and bushes we wouldn’t eat it all so “waste not want not” was to preserve.

Prior to having freezers, women used water bath canners and pressure cookers.  And some foods were pickled or dried. 

I joked the other day:  I had made two pints of plum conserve and it had only cost me $400 in electric and gas usage.  An exaggeration for sure but no one preserves food as a means to save much money.  Perhaps if you have a large family, everyone helps and you raise large quantities of food – then maybe.

Young families are starting to acknowledge the benefits of vegetable gardening and preserving their own food.  Organic foods, knowing what is in the foods and flavor are important to them.  In the process, they are realizing they need to preserve the abundance. 

The different groups preparing for end times are stocking up their food banks with preserved food.  Some are using military ration kits for long term storage but those that want good taste are putting up their own.  In the assumption there will be no power grid, they can rather than freeze.

Most community food banks don’t accept home prepared foods as a safety issue.  Some will accept fresh fruits and vegetables – call and ask if you’re interesting in donating.

My go to book on preserving food is the “Ball Blue Book of Preserving” and it’s worth its weight in gold.   (See the additional article “Preservation Highway” 09-20-2012)

I buy most of my canning supplies locally because they have what I want at reasonable prices. Lehman’s non electric catalog is where I go for things I can’t find locally.

I have some old cookbooks and family recipes. Old cookbooks, like the 1963 Farm Journal “Freezing & Canning Cookbook” are gems.  The deal with prior generations is they canned EVERYTHING in a zillion different ways.  They did this so winter meals wouldn’t become boring and as a way to use every single edible thing from their gardens. 

As a side note:  They also preserved all kinds meat according to if they hunted and/or raised and butchered their own animals.

If you’ve never tasted home canned produce, you may not realize it retains much of the original fresh taste; far exceeding commercially produced foods. One thing I like about home canned foods is how quick it is to make a meal because the long prep time has already been completed.

Plum Conserve

5 cups         Chopped & Pitted Plums (do not peel)
3 cups         Sugar
2 large        Oranges – Zested and chopped orange pulp (seeds removed)
1 cup          Raisins (optional)
(Note:  If you leave out raisins, add 1 cup more of plums)

Combine all ingredients in a large heavy saucepot except pecans.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cook rapidly (uncovered) almost to gelling point (220 on your thermometer.)  As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot conserve into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Makes 4 half pints.

I list this recipe without all the little necessary canning instructions assuming you will either know what to do or have someone help you through the first time.   

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

More Recipes!

For those gardeners who don't care two hoots and a haller about recipes, move on and we'll get back together at a later date.  In my searches for interesting recipes to preserve foods this fall, I'll dig through some of the really old books I found when cleaning out my dad's home.  My mom, like other women, would keep those advertising pamphlets, newspaper clippings and handwritten notes on scrapes of most anything IF it had a good recipe.  One pamphlet was called "Yacht Club Manual of Salads" printed in 1914 by the Yacht Club Food Product company of Chicago IL.  

This manual was seriously into making any and everything left over into something.  

Some of the more interesting concoctions - all using Yacht Club Salad Dressing - are:

Prune Salad  (a salad and a regulator all in one)
Baked Bean Salad  (seriously with baked beans)
A variety of Aspics (once so popular and now never seen.)
Sweetbread Salad (umm, no thanks)

Moving on to sandwiches:
The ever popular baked bean sandwich (do they never stop)
Bread and Butter sandwich (who needs a recipe for this?)
I know this was popular in this era but:  Lettuce sandwich.
And a peanut butter sandwich which starts with grinding your own peanuts.  

Two pages of garnishes:
Nasturtiums - they are lovely and I've used them.
Watercress - they used this in everything and now we seldom see.

And because store-bought catsup was also something new, two pages of how to use catsup.  
  Consider that this company was only in business for about twenty years.  It was on the front of packaged food.  No wonder my little pamphlet has survived - it was a new exciting thing in it's day.

Now who's up for some prune salad?

Monday, September 5, 2016

To Feed or Not To Feed

Add caption
Early in March, birds' natural food supply is at its lowest point of the year. Insect populations are still low, and the few remaining wild fruits, berries, seeds and nuts are either hidden or undesirable. Unpredictable weather doesn't make life any easier. Sunny, warm, spring-like days can turn into cold, damp conditions that challenge birds' survival skills. And to make matters worse, this is all happening as some birds prepare for nesting season.
These challenges provide you with the best opportunities of the year to help your birds.
Offer lots of high-energy foods, such as peanuts and suet. Loaded with fat and protein, these are beneficial substitutes for the scarce insects many birds would eat if they could find them.

Male and Female Rose Breasted Grosbecks
In the summer, it's pretty much a matter of feed them if you want to watch them up close.  Otherwise, they find their own food and are busy raising family.

When it gets cold enough there are no longer insects, it's time to seriously consider feeding birds.  

Birds are loyal, in a fashion, to the hand that feeds them.  They learn quickly where there's a good reliable food source.  They're also fickle if you put food out and then forget to replenish it for a few days.  Think of how you wouldn't stick around and wait out several days with no food if it meant starving on a cold winter night.  You'd be off looking for a new diner quickly.
Northern Cardinal eating during a snow storm

Every person who feeds birds has their special just right food and method.  Most have learned this over trial and error.  My grape jelly has never attracted anything but insects but others have entire flocks of Oreoles at their jelly.

Some folks spend a small fortune for specialized foods.  Others throw out bread crumbs or peanuts.  

Here's a few common sense suggestions for feeding birds:

Position your feeders where you can easily keep them filled all winter.  If you have to walk on a mile of ice and six feet of snow, chances are you won't keep them filled. 

Keep your feed in totally sealable plastic tubs.  Insects and rodents will find any little hole in the storage unit and ruin the food.
Goldfinch eating straight from the sunflowers

Put your feeders where you'll be able to watch them during the day.  It's one of the major reasons for feeding birds.

Start the cold weather feeding by totally cleaning out the feeders.  Use a putty knife to scrape them clean then wash with a mild bleach solution, rinse and let dry.  

Make sure your feeders are water proof.  Nothing spoils food faster than getting wet.
House Finch enjoying his treats.

If squirrels raid your feeders more than you want, position another cracked corn feeder away from the bird feeders.  It won't solve the entire problem but it does give them a place they enjoy more.  Cracked corn is also a favorite of several larger birds.

An all around favorite bird food is sunflower seeds.  Get them hulled unless you want to have a huge pile of solid hulls under your feeder.    My birds don't like the cracked sunflower seeds and they go to waste plus make a big mess.

Niger seeds are a favorite of some birds but they are expensive and seldom attract a bigger variety of birds to my feeders.
Bluejay with seed

The pre-mixed bird seed seems to have loads of seeds my birds don't eat.  They scatter them around and they sprout; making a mess.  A waste of good money.

When there's loads of snow and ice, make sure they can get through it to the food.   I've found my feeders totally frozen with wet snow that took a lot of chipping with a screwdriver to expose the seeds.

Birds like a place, close to the feeders, where they can escape or hide easily.  Mine is a tangle of honeysuckle on an arbor and an evergreen bush.  

My birds like homemade suet better than packaged.   One I use:

In the microwave, melt lard, and peanut butter. Add whatever I have at the time: oats, nuts, seeds, dried or fresh fruit, & corn meal. Line sandwich shaped refrigerator containers with plastic wrap, pour in the mix and refrigerate. I make several and keep in the freezer in plastic bags. Unwrap, put in your suet feeder and hang where the dogs can’t reach. 

Yes, birds have been surviving for as long as the earth has been formed.  In spite of this fact, I still like to do my little part, in my little yard, to make their lives a little fuller and to make my enjoyment of them a little nicer on cold winter days.