Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wait For It! Wait For It!

It’s the current popular tag line for an incoming joke line or statement.  It gets attention by making you stop what you’re doing and wait for it. 

Gardening has a tag line that calls for a “wait for it”.  Few things in nature give immediate results with the exception of laying out large sums of money.  Even then, nature will still hold something back or prove you’re really not quite as in charge as you imagined. 

Planting spring flowering bulbs is one of those long “wait for it” examples.  I’ve often thrown bulbs in the ground so fast and furious because of nasty weather that I’m totally amazed when I see something blooming next spring.

What’s the secret of healthy spring flowering bulbs?  Location!  Location!  Location!  Very few will tolerate sitting in poorly drained soil; they will rot.  Like most plants, they enjoy ideal situations.  To make them grow and bloom to their potential, amend the soil; especially clay.  I mention this because most of us have some clay in our Midwest gardens.  Clay holds moisture and then dries like a hunk of cement – neither beneficial to bulbs.  . 

Another little pesky issue is rodents.  If you plant your bulbs just perfect every year and then have none in the spring, rodents may be your problem.  Dig the hole, line the bottom and sides with chicken wire and then add your bulbs.  If cats and dogs are digging up your bulbs, lay chicken wire about an inch below the ground surface when covering the bulbs.   

If your bulbs bloom like crazy the first year and then nothing, again see if it is too wet where you planted (did they rot?)  Dig down gently and see what happened.  If there are empty shells or they are mushy, chances are they rotted. 

Many bulbs can be coated to discourage insect and disease damage.  If the bulb has little holes drilled in the sides, chances are it was insect damage. 

There are several fertilizers marketed for bulbs.  If you amend your soil properly, you won’t need these. 

A few folk remedies: 

·         Sprinkle bone meal around the planting site.  This usually gets every dog in the area digging up your precious bulbs. 

·         Adding hair, egg shells, and other stuff in the hole with the bulbs.  Essentially they are adding nutrients.  If you think they work, go ahead and use.  They will seldom do any harm.

Cutting flowers from your plants will not harm the plant.

Size of the bulb does matter.  Different species have different sized bulbs.  In each, you may find many different sized bulbs offered.  Basically the larger the bulbs in that species, the bigger and more healthy the plant.  That doesn’t mean you won’t get a lot of satisfaction from a bag of cheapies.

Last, do not trim off or tie in a bunch the dyeing leaves of spring flowering plants.  If they offend your senses, plant spring flowering bulbs where other plants will come up and eventually shield the site of the dying leaves.  These leaves are the way the bulbs get nutrients for the next bloom season.

We’ve been so very fortunate this fall to have ample time to plant spring flowering bulbs.  Hope you managed to throw several in the ground for your - wait for it – wait for it – beautiful spring display.

Fresh Greens and More

Sunnyfield Greenhouse and Nursery, Galva/Kewanee IL  309-852-4172: 

Custom decorating with live greens for Christmas - inside and out.  See their website or follow on facebook. 

Nature's Creations, Galva/Kewanee IL  309-852-3834:

Fresh green wreaths. Call to order custom wreaths or a supply is currently at The Filling Station Restaurant, Bishop Hill IL.

Feathered Nest at Windy Corner Farm, Bishop Hill IL  309-927-3080:

Everlasting wreaths, dried flowers, gifts.  See their website, blog or the products are on etsy.     

Dew Fresh Market, Kewanee IL, 309 852 5100:

Wreaths, trees and other holiday plants, including grave blankets. Seasonal.

Abilities Plus, Kewanee IL, 309-852-4626:

Evergreen wreaths.  Decorated by Abilities Plus clients.  Pick up ends Dec. 14. 
Greenview Nursery, Dunlap IL, 309.243.7761:

Fresh cut greens and trees, gift shop and decorating available.  See web site or follow on facebook.

Hoerr Nursery, Peoria IL, 309-692-4562: 

Tree delivery and set up in your home. Flocked and regular.  See their website and follow on facebook.  

Bishop Hill IL Colony Businesses:

Many have Christmas gift items.  See the web site of shops or visit through Christmas for shopping, eating and events. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Get real!

Your county extension office has good advice for picking, cutting and caring for live Christmas trees.  The only tricks I'll share are:

  • Cut the tree stump off even if it's only an inch to make sure it hasn't sealed.  The sap sometimes seals off the stump preventing water intake.  Immediately put in water.
  • Wash the tree holder with bleach and rinse really well.  It will kill bacteria (which is fatal for water uptake).  Rinsing will keep little bleach spots off your carpet and floors.
  • There are commercial preservatives to add to the tree's water or simply add a squirt of anti bacterial hand soap after you fill the container and gently swish.  Squirt and swish are technical tree terms.
  • Never ever ever let the water get below the end of the tree stump.
  • Direct sun and heat sources close to the tree will dry it out faster than you can fill the water bucket.
  • If a family member has allergies to mold, check to make sure your tree doesn't have mold spores.  You can spray the tree with the hose to help wash off but if allergies are severe, I'd stick to artificial.
  • Fact is if you put up a live tree a month before Christmas, it will be dry as a matchstick come Christmas day.  Have a fire extinguisher in the area, have a plan of emergency exit for the entire family and did I mention:  WATER.

1951 with my brother and I posing in our school
Christmas program costumes.  My mom was into
pin curls...

And now - drum roll - I'm going to post pictures of live trees through the years. 

Since there was small children involved in all of these Christmas scenes, the array of homemade ornaments are pretty obvious.  Seriously, what's a Christmas tree without at least one toilet paper cardboard ornament.  The trees may be less than glam but no child cares when the excitement of putting up the tree signals only a few days until Santa arrives.  As a kid our trees were up a week at the most. 

1952, apparently I was the only one happy this Christmas
 and it may have been because I got a beautiful doll. 
Mom's expression may have been the result of dad getting her a roaster??

1954, at my aunt Edna's home - A cousin photo -  I'm
 top right with the ever so coiffured hair. 
My mom was the pin curl bedazzler!

1960 - Mom and I admiring the tree with a white sheet and the manager scene under.
 I'd spend hours arranging the little figures and now my granddaughter is doing the same thing. 
I think my white bobby socks add to the Christmas theme.

1961 - This was at my Grandma and Grandpa Morris' home.  
I'm in one of my first "store bought" outfits. 
A peach pencil skirt with died to match angora sweater. 
Oh - sorry was this about trees...

1971 - my own home with my daughter Susan. 
I think the paper chains are still one of my favorites.

1982 and apparently I was into tinsel BIG time.

1995 - White sheet and manager under the tree.
 This girl didn't get far from her roots.

2010 - I've had artificial trees for the last many years.  They are sculpted and beautiful. 
This year we're getting a real tree for the bay window.  I'm ready to smell the smell, have the imperfect real tree look and sweep up needles for months.
I'm just sure there's a grandchild willing to make a toilet paper cardboard ornament to complete the look. 
Side note:  Not sure you know but click on a picture and it will take you to an enlarged version slide show.  Should you want to know how to make pin curls or another fashion statement, give me a call.  Happy tree hunting!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Raised From the Ashes Update

Photo from Bruno Torfs e-mail 2012
In my article "Raised From the Ashes"  #125 about Bruno Torfs Sculpture Gardens, I talked of the 2009 Australian brush fire that killed neighbors and distroyed his home and gallery. 

He, his family, friends and strangers have cleaned, landscaped, and rebuilt the beautiful rainforest exhibits.  The gallery is completed and the Torfs' home is in the process of completion.

If you would like to see the progress or if you've never seen his art, go to  His fired clay sculptures look as if they were carved from the forest or dropped there by some mystic force.  The rainforests of Austrialia were beautiful and will be again.  Bruno Torfs' sculptures will continue to merge with nature as long as he can imagine.

His story is one of imagination that must be used and the world is a better place because he chose art as his expression.       

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My family was from Switzerland, migrated to Pennsylvania, on to Ohio and then to Indiana (for the most part.)  This old postcard reminds me of Thanksgiving or more specific "thankfulness."

I'm thankful for my ancesters' journey and my family today.  I'm thankful for friends and my readers.  May your Thanksgiving be peaceful and may you seek the blessings that only a relationship with Christ can provide. 

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Too Old to Rock & Roll?

With the exception of a few stout souls, we seem to be the first generation to push living beyond our prime - thanks to medical and health improvements.
Our parents' generation and those before, worked hard and then died prior to becoming very old.  They didn't have the opportunity to become "retired" nor the leisure to pick up hobbies.
I'm not sure we've made the best use of this huge blessing; this ability and opportunity to pursue our interests beyond our middle age.  But, we've certainly kept our sense of humor about the whole situation and this old Jethro Tull number tongue in cheeks it quite well.
I come from a long line of hardy farm people who lived well into their late 90s in spite of the average life expectancy in the 40s.  Most never "retired" because they were too interested in life to quit doing what they loved:  working.  Most didn't work at their farm or farm wife tasks into late age, but, all took their talents and worked at giving to or teaching others.  Not a one "wanted" to sit and do nothing. 
It's an example our generation (and those to come) need to realize:  retirement isn't about giving up work or your passion; its about pursuing those passions in a different way.
I'm always glad when I see a "person of age" gardening.  WHEN did I become a person of age - certainly not in my mind. 
Gardening may require I scoot instead of bend ~ take breaks instead of full bore all day ~ wear New Balance instead of flip flops ~ slather on sunscreen in hopes of preventing more sun spots ~ stretch before, after and during gardening not in hopes of preventing injury but in hopes of getting the joints moving again ~ wearing the sunglasses that have the bifocals ~ and actually having the time to show our grandchildren how to tend a garden.
Am I too old to rock and roll, too old to wear tight pants, too old be useful or too old to garden?  Not this year babe - not this year!
Ian Anderson in the 1970s and 2000s.
Diane in the 1970s and 2000s.
Now where's my tight pants?  Oh, yeah - they're all tight now days! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is it Wrong to be Right?

What's wrong with this picture taken about 1:00 pm today?



Not very often have I had the doors open and enjoyed putting final Christmas decorating touches on the outside of the house while wearing flip flops.  Positively no excuse for not getting everything winterized, put away and decorated.

Filled my bird feeders and immediately had a flock of gold finches busy filling their little tummies.  Had a White-breasted Nuthatch in the batch.  Hadn't seen one in several years so was quite fun.  He flies in and lands on the roof of the feeder.  Walks to the edge and hangs upside down while scoping out the food and possible predators.

Managed to do a little raking where leaves had piled up and would become a hazard when the weather got bad.  Trying to do other chores but keep staring outside.  Maybe I'll go play with the dog and pretend it's for his sake.  Is there such as thing a "fall fever?" 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Scoop on Soup

Typically I plant cabbage in my garden.  It doesn't take much room, it's pretty easy with no major pests or diseases and I like it...  I tend to make the world's worst slaw so pretty much try to figure out ways to use it in cooking.

This year I planted a green and a red head type cabbage.  I also planted a Chinese leaf cabbage. 

Because of the mid-summer drought conditions, the cabbage heads sort of just sat there and didn't become huge.  In addition to that weather related issue, it produced lots and LOTS of little side heads.  These are great when you cut off the large head, the secondary heads take over.  This year since the main head didn't get large, I didn't cut until about a week ago.  I left a few little heads to see if they would continue growing with cold weather and cut the rest to throw in soup.  Have you heard enough about the trials of my heads of cabbage?

I made a simple cabbage/potato soup this week.  I used both green and red cabbage.  Here's the simple version for crock pot cooking:

Spray the crock pot with Pam or grease. Turn on high for 6 hours.


48 ounces low fat chicken broth  (use veg. broth if you're doing meat free)
6 large red potatoes - cut in small bite sized cubes
1 small sized green head cabbage - slice into bite sized pieces  (do not grate)
1 small sized red head cabbage - slice into bit sized pieces *
1 T Mrs. Dash garlic herb seasoning
1 T fresh rosemary

At the end of 5 hours, add:

8 oz. package low fat cream cheese

Stir occasionally to combine melted cheese.

Adjust seasoning as needed.  This doesn't usually need much salt.

* The more red cabbage you use, the pinker the broth.

This soup is fresh, mild and flavorful.  A little low fat sour cream looks pretty and a sprinkling of bacon pieces adds more flavor but certainly not necessary.

At the end of 6 hours, the potatoes should be soft but still hold their shape, the cabbage cooked through but not mushy, and the cream cheese totally melted.  Plate up with a substantial chewy piece of bread or crackers.

Next year consider planting a few cabbages around your garden or flower beds.

Sorry for the rather sloppy photo of soup.  Or, sloppy soup photo.  I was already into a few mouthfuls before I realized I didn't have the memory chip in my camera when I took the really pretty pictures.  Hate it when that happens.      

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Architect Gil Schafer III's "The Great American House: Tradition for the Way We Live Now" says, "Consider landscape design as part of your project's (new home design) overall budget from the beginning even if it requires you to scale back on other elements.  You're not just creating a dwelling but a true sense of place.  Ideally, the home should feel as though it belongs in its environment and beckens you to dwell there."

If you're into gardening, have you noticed you will be drawn into a landscape design if it fits or compliments the home.  Put two identical new homes side by side and people will be drawn to the one where the house is framed by thoughtful landscaping.

Put these two homes side by side and the potential buyer will notice a hefty increase in the cost of the home that's already landscaped.  Complimentary landscaping does add value to your home.  Landscaping done poorly or with little thought to design and harmony can have the opposite result.

If you're contemplating building a new home, following Mr. Schafer's advice for budgeting the landscaping is a good idea.  Perhaps you can't afford to do it all, but, having the plan done at the same time and perhaps adding a few good bones will prevent costly mistakes.

Putting in foundation shrubs willy nilly just to say you've landscaped is a waste of good money.  If the yard is graded to protect the home from moisture, leave the foundation planting to later.  Put your money in a few good trees placed with future growth in mind.

In a windy part of the country, it's prudent to plant evergreens for wind control.

If summers are hot and sunny, planting deciduous trees on the south and west of the home will eventually provide shade where it's most needed.

Deciding your level of involvement is necessary in picking the right trees.  If your aim is to plant and forget, choose a tree with no long term needs outside of the watering while it gets established.  Don't plant trees that have loads of fruit, fertile seed pods, mega sized or quantity of leaves, susceptible to disease or insects, needs trimming or pruning on a regular basis nor is borderline hardy to your area.

Another landscape budget tip is putting in hardscapes at the time the home is built instead of haphazard through the years.  That includes walks, driveway, and retaining walls.  It's not necessary to lay many thousand of dollars of cement; it is important to have the design.  Any good landscape design considers the hardscape uses for the present and the future. 

Another piece of advice I wish I'd heard long ago, "Don't make more gardens than you can properly take care of when you get older."  I might also add, consider if this home is going to be only a step in a series of homes you will own over a lifetime or is the plan to have this your home for the long term.

If you tend to move often, landscaping should be with resale in mind.  It should enhance the home without adding a personality that might not be to every one's liking.  It shouldn't require a lot of work to maintain or many potential buyers will not even get to the home's qualities before thinking negative.  Hot tubs are not a good landscape selling point contrary to HGTV's hype.

Speaking of HGTV hype, we are flooded with programs showing what the rich and famous have built for homes.  It's hyped to the average masses as what they think we all want - more, bigger, and extravagant.  In truth, most of us live in a world far removed from these excesses.  Build landscaping that's over the top in middle America and you won't have a chance of selling that home to perhaps 1 in 22 zillion people. 

On the other hand if you plan to live in your home for many years and it's an extension of your family's way of life, make the design plan comfortable for those years of living without a lot of constraints in relation to the day it must be sold.  Let the next person either love it or bulldoze it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some Something

Are you doing the cooking Thanksgiving?  Carrying a dish to someones home?  Going to a restaurant?  Sitting in front of the TV by yourself eating a bag of Doritos and a leftover container of salsa from you can't remember when and a jar of Lutfisk? 

Now is the perfect time to incorporate some of your summer's garden produce into Thanksgiving.  After all - garden produce is one of the things we're so thankful for - that and celebrating family and being born in the USA.  Strictly speaking there are several states that may not celebrate being born in the good ol' US of A, but we'll let the political hacks deal with that topic.

Root vegetables are always good with turkey or ham (two meats most popular for Thanksgiving meals in this area.)  Some favorites:

Carrots42Ree Drummond ( has a killer recipe for Whiskey-Glazed Carrots (pictured here.)

My daughter, Susan, roasts vegetables on her grill.  The heat turns the starches to sweetness.

Mashed turnips with cream cheese and bacon might just be "to die for."

Pickled (or Harvard as my mother called them) beats are a nice tart contrast to a heavy dinner.  Also, nice to make ahead of time (a must) and include several hard cooked eggs to take on the lovely color.

Rutabaga cut into bite sized pieces, sprinkled with olive oil, shake on Mrs. Dash (garlic variety) and broil.  So lovely. 

We ALL MUST HAVE mashed potatoes in this family - made the same way - in a huge quantity - every holiday - period and always.

We live in a home where onions SHOULD be included in most every meal.  When I cook with onions, someone will always come into the kitchen and say "Something smells good."  A little different and admittedly heavy is onion pie.  Made with two crusts and a custard over the thin sliced onions. 

I really like baked sweet potatoes.  I really don't like sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  I have a southern sweet potato souffle recipe my husband's family (and the entire South) loves.  I'm sure it's all about what you had growing up.  This photo is of Pat & Gina Neely's twice baked sweet potato.

Radishes are pretty and add zip to a green salad.  In this area, they are underutilized.  In other parts of the world, they are considered a delicacy.  They can be cooked like any other root vegetable.

There are more root vegetable ideas according to your gardening traditions, family heritage, and local availability.  What ideas or dishes are on your "must have" list this Thanksgiving?             

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankfully Yours

Boxelder bug - web photo
I’ve written about “Pestilence of the Moment” several times.  It’s included Japanese Beetles, Asian Beetles and a few more nasty varieties like ticks.  Today’s pestilence is the totally innocent Boxelder bug.

Totally innocent might be a stretch although Boxelder bugs don’t do any real harm to humans.

Since we live in an area where there is both heat and cold most insect populations ebb and flow over time.  Live long enough and nature will provide a natural predator for most insects.  We just hope it comes in time to save what they’re attacking.

Boxelder bugs “Boisea trivittatus” only become a nuisance because they seek the shelter of your home when the weather turns cool.  The best way to keep this from happening is have a home with no insect entry points – good luck if you own an older home.  It’s basically the same method used to keep cold air from entering your home through cracks and holes.

There is a chemical spray for the outside of buildings that may be used but it seems like sending the Marines in to swat a fly.  Some have good luck spraying with a soap solution.  This must come in direct contact with the insect.  (One tablespoon dish washing liquid to one cup water.)  Electronic attraction devices do not work on Boxelder bugs.

Once the Boxelder is inside, the best “control” and I use that word control loosely, is to vacuum or sweep them up.  They don’t reproduce inside.  Spraying insecticides inside the house doesn’t help.  You might try spreading Vaseline on piece of white poster board and putting on a sunny window sill.  Apparently, they get stuck and then you discard the whole mess.

The insects feed in the spring on the seeds of female “Acer” trees and prefer the Boxelder.  Removing these trees from your property doesn’t deter the insects since they can fly miles for food.  The value of maple trees outweighs the benefit of removing.  The insects are not considered an agricultural pest.

I have found no evidence Boxelder insects cause human health hazards. 

Boxelder infestations are not large every year.  2012 was the perfect Boxelder breeding year:  A warm wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer.  On the flip side, it was not a good year for Asian Beetles.

It is predicted the hot dry summer was also not good for Japanese Beetles as they couldn’t get far enough into the earth to reproduce.  I can only hope!

Boxelder leaves - web photo
On an extended information highway, the Boxelder tree is truly an “Acer” and that means it’s a Maple tree.  It’s native to North America.  It’s the only North American tree with compound leaves.  (Remember that one if you’re into trivia!)  The seed heads look like “helicopters” of other maple trees.  They must have a male and female tree to reproduce but those little helicopters are both very prolific and fertile.

Several birds and squirrels eat the seedpods and the Evening Grosbeck eats the seeds exclusively.  (You may thank me now for filling your trivia information gap!)

The only commercial uses outside of the landscape is using in fiberboard and wood turning.  It’s a fast growing weak tree and considered invasive in some parts of the world.  Flutes excavated from what is now Northeastern Arizona dated to 600 AD were made of this tree.

Today I can count my Blessings the Boxelder bug isn’t a big deal.  And, that is just the small when I think what Blessings I have to be thankful for this coming Thanksgiving.  A God who owes me nothing but gives me everything, family and friends, the drought is lessening and the garden is put to sleep for the winter.  Wishing you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving, too.
Thankful for this beautiful sunrise.

Monday, November 12, 2012

At last!

It's no secret, I love a good snow.  Last evening we had our first - kinda - sorta - almost.

It was more a freezing rain event, but, the end result was something white on some surfaces.

One thing it definitely did (besides make my husband grumble as he was trying to get the sheet of ice off the truck windshield) was encourage the birds to visit my feeder. 

An array of singing sparrows, gold finches in their winter drab green coats, a yellow breasted woodpecker and the resident blue jays all decided today was the day to eat sunflower seeds.

I often hear criticism of the big blue jays such as they're bullies and mean to other birds.  Because of their size and sturdy bill, they do "rule the roost" when they want to feed.  Here's something else I've noticed:  They are early morning feeders and sweep their bill across the seeds prior to picking just the right one (or several.)  This breaks up any ice and snow.  It's like sending in the BIG snow blower.  They then proceed to scatter seeds on the ground while doing the sweep.  This allows the ground feeding birds to have their lunch later in the day.  Doves are especially thankful.

The blue jays retreat after their early morning breakfast leaving the feeder to the little birds.  The seed has been shuffled, ice crunched and the perch is cleaned from their big landing gear.  They may insist on being first, but, without their feeding routine, it would be much more difficult for the other birds.

In nature everything has a purpose and most balance with others.  Besides don't you just love the beautiful blue reflection of the jay's feathers in the winter?  A perfect winter contrast.    


Friday, November 9, 2012


Still green hips
Rose hips are the beautiful fruits (*1) formed from the flowers.  We don't see them as often now days because (1) As the flowers die, they are trimmed off to promote more flowers.  (2)  Some new varieties are bred to have no fruit.  (3)  They are food for birds and animals.  (4) Japanese Beetles have eaten the flowers.

Rose hips look beautiful on the plant and in photographs.  They will be bright and lovely after a snow storm.

Rose hips have been used for Vitamin C rich tea, as a sweetener and flavouring, to make preserves, vinegars and wine.  It's good as a flavouring for ice-cream and added to cough mixtures.  (*2)  Herbalist use rose hip seed oil as a skin treatment, boosting tissue regeneration and rejuvenation.  It is claimed to have 8 times the vitamin C, weight for weight, as oranges.

Orange hips
Different rose varieties have different kinds of hips.  They look different by size, shape and color and may have different nutritional values or toxicity.  Rose hip seed hairs irritate the digestion.  Stew and sieve fruits before use.  And KNOW if your plant is actually a rose hip/fruit or from another hip producing plant.  It's the whole poisoning issue folks.

And to get totally off track, sort of, my maiden name "Shenk" was originally "Schenck" in the old country of Switzerland.  A rather large pharmaceutical firm in the 1800s was the Schenck Chemical Co., New York City.  Most famous for their Schenck's Mandrake Pills and compound, they are now termed hucksters.  I've collected some of their advertising and pill containers and it was guaranteed to cure most any disease known to man. 

I mention this to caution the reader, gardener, and herbalist to research suggested natural cures before ingesting.  Some work, some don't and some can be dangerous when used in certain circumstances.  Natural does not always mean harmless. 

There are several recipes for rose hip foods.  They'll have their own specific taste.  The taste is most often referred to as delicate and the same as the rose smell.

Rose oil and rose water are made from either crushed/boiled hips, buds, leaves or petals.  As in history, it is used in perfumes, cooking, and medicinal treatments.

And some place in my external drive I have some lovely snow covered rose hip photos - somewhere.  You know that somewhere you put something so you'd be able to find it - never to be seen again?     

(*1)  John Gerard's "Herbal - the History of Plants" was written in the late 1800s and the word "hips" was not mentioned.  They were only called fruits.  Love this book for it's old English poetic rhythm and for a look at how people lived and used plant life.

(*2)  "The healing garden - nature's remedies and cures"  by Helen Farmer-Knowles.

I'm just sure there are rose hips somewhere under this snow!

Patsy Cline Sings Again

CRAZY, crazy for lovin' you!  Yep, we've got some crazy going on in the gardens.  It's the second week in November; what we call winter in these parts partner and I have roses blooming!

It was a tough summer for roses because of the drought and the Japanese Beetles.  Beetles are gone and we've had some really nice rain falls.  A few nights of below freezing but not a hard freeze. 

This week:  four rose bushes are blooming.  Not a huge amount and not especially perfect flowers BUT BLOOMING!  A beautiful sight for sure BUT - and there it is again, CRAZY, crazy for lovin' you!  But, I'm ready for a Midwest Nor'easter. 

I would have gladly been the target of the recent Eastern snow storm (I know - I know) BUT retirees can sit at home and enjoy big snows.

I no longer have to fight my way to work emergency outages (electric utility), I no longer have to drive on nasty roads,  I no longer have to wear fourteen layers of clothes in case I get stuck, I no longer have to look like a stuffed dork in insulated utility boots.  I don't have to scrape windows or let the car warm up for fifteen minutes just to see out the front.  I no longer have to shovel to get a path out the drive or even to the drive.   

I can stay at home, look out my picture window, start the generator if the need arises, light a lamp and snuggle up to the beauty we call winter.  Take some pictures, walk outside, play with the dog, come in and have hot chocolate and buttered toast.  Yeah, I'm so ready.  How about you?  You can be CRAZY, crazy for lovin' it too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

All In Favor Say "Yeah"

When the church ladies are asking, "What are you going to bring to the dinner on the grounds?", I tend to hedge.  I hate food commitments.  Seriously really do hate food commitments.

It's not all that hard to visualize my little commitment issue.  My day may change, I may run out of ingredients and not want to drive to town, I may be "in a mood", it may rain, I could break a leg.  You see how it goes; I'm the master of excuses and whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

I have the same problem when a friend asks, "What are you going to wear?"  Well, beats me all to heck and back. 

I'm a last minute cook and fashion decision maker (or lack there of.) It's kinda like painting a picture: I need that immediate inspiration not some last Thursday bright idea.

Today was "dinner on the grounds."  I knew it was going to loosely be a Thanksgiving type meal and for those who plan, I knew what a few others were bringing.  Those that actually go to the grocery to buy ingredients for specific recipes in certain amounts for certain events. 

Yesterday I did my "what can I make with my canned tomatos?"  Then I remembered my mom's scalloped tomatoes recipe.  It's a dish I love and every one of my kids hated.  I was needing some home cooking and this was an opportunity to indulge in it while feeding the flock.

I had bread in the freezer.  I freeze bread slices, biscuits and all in large zip lock bags.  It's the end of a loaf, one final roll that no one wants, rye cocktail bread pieces left over from a party and etc.  Then when I want dressing, croutons, or a scallop dish, it's waiting.

I tore the bread into pieces and left out over night to dry.

I buttered a 9 x 12 pan - generously.  It would take a jack hammer to get it off an ungreased pan.

2 quarts of my home canned tomato-vegetable chunky sauce.  Add enough salt to bring out the flavors.

Grate 4 cups of  cheddar cheese and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Mix & reserve 1 cup.

Melt half a cup (1 stick) of butter in the microwave.  Pour over the bread and toss.  (You can leave this out if you're trying to cut back on fat, but, face it with all the cheese it's a losing battle if you're going to eat a very big portion of this dish.)

In a large bowl, gently toss the tomatoes with the bread.  The bread should still keep it's shape.  Spoon into pan.  Add enough vegetable tomato juice to come half way up the sides of the pan.  This shouldn't be soggy or soupy.  I'm picturing this in my mind and hope that picture is coming through for you. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake another 30 minutes.  It will puff up and the cheese will get a bit crunchy on the edges.  It will probably make a huge mess out of your oven and smoke - I'm sorry it's just one of those dishes. 

If you don't preserve your own vegetable tomato sauces and juices, you can used store bought canned tomatoes and tomato vegetable juice.  To get the best flavor, saute onions, celery and green bell peppers and add to the mix along with sugar and Kosher salt to taste.

This dish is excellent when served with the more plain meats and starches.  Chicken, turkey, and rice are a few that stand down to let this rich dish take center stage.

Hope you enjoy another way to use the garden produce all winter. 

Photos have nothing to do with anything other than they are pretty views of the past week.     


Saturday, November 3, 2012


You may not be quite done with the shovel even though it's November. 

Many years, we've already had freezing temperatures on a regular basis; often sleet and snow.  This year the growing season has been slow to kill or stop the growing process.  This makes for some really pretty late season displays and it also makes for some late season digging.

The canna, daliaha, elephant ear and gladiola bulbs are finally ready for digging and storing.  They must be nipped by cold weather for the foliage to turn brown and the intake of nutrients stopped.  Sometimes I get the digging done and other years I simply can't make myself go out in nasty weather.  It's the reason I don't buy expensive bulbs or tubers of the above.  Once the ground freezes, you've pretty much sealed the fate and it's too late to dwell on what might have been.

Should you want to dig this gray but decent November Saturday, here's a few hints:

If the area is full of plants, it's best to use a garden fork so you won't cut into any bulbs.  (I know some are called tubers but for the ease of writing I'm going to call them all bulbs.)  A fork keeps more soil in the ground because it breaks up when digging.

Once you have all the bulbs out of the ground, gently knock or push off most of the soil.  It's better to leave some than to damage the bulb by pulling off soil.  With a sharp pair of clippers, cut off the foliage about one inch above the bulb.  Put the foliage on the recycle pile.

Never wash the bulbs unless you're using a liquid antibacterial nursery solution for this specific purpose.  Don't dig them when the ground is wet (if possible.)  Throw away any dried, rotted or damaged bulbs. 

Now, you have choices:

  1. You can simply put the bulbs on layers of newspapers in a basement or garage that doesn't freeze. Do not layer.  Do not put in sunlight 
  2. You can wash in an anti bacterial/fungus solution made for this purpose.  Lay to dry.
  3. You can layer between newspaper in a large trash container. 
  4. You can put in mesh (such as onions come in) bags and hang from the ceiling. 

If you have the room, I've had the most success with #1.  My basement has the old fashioned canning ledges that are perfect for this.  Inexpensive plastic shelving would work.  Check occasionally during the winter and spritz with water if they are drying out (mostly the smaller ones).  Toss any that have started to get mold or rot.  Lay another layer of newspaper over them if you have cats that might want to eat or play with them.  (Obviously, don't do this if your cats are paper trained instead of litter trained.)  Eeeeoooowwww. 

One fun thing about digging up bulbs is finding all the newly formed babies (bulbs.)  Canna are especially prolific meaning unless you have a "bad year", you will always have an ever growing number for next year's garden or to give away. 

My current batch came in a couple of zip lock baggies from a Salvation Army store.  Aw, the joy of cheap!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Political Gardening


Do you have a left wing or right wing garden?  Is it in a red or blue state of composition?  Does it lean westward Republican or is it an eastern Democrat?  Is it showing signs of tea parties?  Is it in a bed with the conservative drummer or the liberal trumpet?  Are the weeds winning over the perennials?

As the political rhetoric bounces between facts and the far side of the moon, it begs to be compared to gardening.  How so you ask?  Ok, Ok, it was me who asked, but, if you’re still reading then you’re marginally interested in this very important election year topic.

The conservatives are holding their own well into election month.  Coreopsis “Moonbeam”, bachelor buttons, and the late Senator Everett Dirksen’s favorite, marigolds, are still blooming in spite of low night temperatures and poll results.

Liberals are busy self seeding hither and yon such as Toad Lilies, Red Bud trees, and Shasta daisies.

Last survey showed the Knock Out Rose, Burning Bush, and ornamental pear heavily situated in the state of red.  Blue has been pretty much knocked out of the race except for the stately Blue Spruce.

The left side of my garden is towards the West and is hunkering down for the first frigid winds of winter: forming a snow fence of representative pines.  The right side is forever into new things and must be protected from winter’s blast as they get established.

We had several tea (or wine) parties this summer and at our age most were moderate to conservative. 

It’ll soon be time to reflect on what campaign methods were winners and which ones contributed to the loss.  I’m sure watering my garden was a campaign call that was both successful and expensive.  Campaign donations were lacking considerably during the hot dry summer.

Some aggressive campaigning worked against the weeds but we found out early in this project, “You may think you have won the voters but as soon as you turn your back a new weed has made itself home.”

Right winged insects were in abundance and left wings did their best to match the rhetoric.

As we soon lay this election to rest, we may want to take a moment to compare our voting in the local, state and national elections to how we manage our gardens.  Get the facts, pull out the weeds, encourage the righteous, and decide what will actually improve our space over the coming years.  Don’t shovel so much manure that the flowers can’t get through. 

With all that, take this one cautionary note:  If you do nothing in your garden for fear of doing something wrong, it will guarantee something goes wrong.  Good advice for voting, too.
(Photos are taken of this morning's early sunrise.)