Monday, December 31, 2012

Glaming Barley

It's no longer fashionable to count just calories.  Calories do count in the whole scheme of things but they don't count as much as nutrition.  An example:

Alright raise your hand if you have purposely cooked or have ate barley.  Here are some nutritional facts about barley.  I know - b-o-r-i-n-g.  I'll be brief and to the point - info from USDA and the ADA (American Diabetes Assoc.)
  • The glycemic index (GI) is low.
  • It contains 5-8% gluten.
  • High in dietary soluble fiber; particularly beta-gluten soluble fiber. Research shows that barley beta-gluten soluble fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption. 
  • High in insoluble fiber helping with bowel function.
  • Cholesterol free.
  • Low fat.  (1/2 gram of fat and only 100 calories per half cup serving.) 
  • Vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E & K.  Minerals include niacin (Vitamin B3), thiamine (Vitamin B1), selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and copper.
  • Contains protein.
  • Contains antioxidants.
  • Contains phytochemicals.
  • Low in sodium. 
Barley, Hordeum vulgare, is an annual grass like plant grown world wide.  It may be the oldest known food grain.  Currently it is number five most grown cereal crop.

If I tell you it is grown as a base for brewing beer or other fermented beverages you may have an "ah ha" moment.  It's also used for breakfast cereal, in soups, casseroles, breads and cakes.  Both the straw and grain are fed as fodder to animals.

For getting maximum nutrients, always opt for whole barley (or hulled barley). No doubt, it takes longer time for preparation. But, you can consider soaking whole barley grain overnight in order to minimize cooking time.
Nutritional supplements do not contain the important fiber - one of the major keys to it's benefits.
Barley is an important ingredient in vegan and vegetarian diets.  It's a nutty flavored grain when used as a hot cereal. 
Barley can be the headliner or a supporting actor.  It does well at both.  It absorbs flavors easily.  The nutritional value is above rice, potatoes, pasta and other grains.
For additional health facts and look up barley.  Seriously, this little grain has so many exceptional health benefits we all should be eating it at least once a day!
Today I'm making a crock pot of healthiness.  A ham bone, chicken broth, broccoli, onions, barley, kasha, Ouenoa, dried cranberries and lentils.  The trick with using a variety of ingredients is they each have their best attribute.  Combine and the benefits as well as the taste is enhanced.
Barley can be grown from seed.  It doesn't like temperatures above 55 degrees.  I've seen plant starts of barley used as an ornamental and they are beautiful with the nodding seed heads.  Plant winter barley in October and Spring barley in January.  It's similar to raising wheat.  Hand weed and don't water too much.      
How to Grow Barley | Guide to Growing Barley
From the Heirloom Organics web site.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Beginnings?

Sitting around doing garden dreaming.  It's a hazard spurred on by new catalogs and cold winter nights.  I've included a few photos of some pretty interesting stuff.

This LARGE limestone three-tier fountain is on my garden bucket list.  If I had bought this in my garden beginning instead of the multitude of cheap substitutes no longer in my gardens, the cost would have been a wash.  Why! Oh! Why! did I let myself believe the $99 plastic fountain will be a good substitute?  WHY?  Obviously the why is the cost of the pieces, the hauling, setting and plumbing but then in the middle of winter I'm a little less tuned in to practical.

Terra Sculpture's Kismet, an oxidized steel sculpture, is such a graceful piece and enduring with one inch steel bands.

8ft  White Organza Curtain w/ LED 200 Lights  46" wide  $70
I have this sheer curtain with LED lights on my screened porch.  It provides gentle light on warm summer nights and since the lights aren't warm, it doesn't attract insects. 
Botanist Albero Aluminum Picnic BenchThis aluminum outdoor bench from Orange22 comes in various colors but I favor the cool turquoise.  I like a mix of modern and antique although not jumbled right next to each other.  It's the advantage of having acres and trees; private venues can accommodate different styles without looking wrong. 

This Longshadow 690 lb. bench can be a focal point or tucked among plants to offer a private resting place.  A smaller and cheaper cement bench is easier to handle although not quite as sturdy or enduring.  Both do well if the ends braces are sitting on something stable and level such as cement.

This kinetic copper wind sculpture is from Stanwood Imports.  It needs to be in the sun where it catches the rays and out of the way of traffic so it isn't damaged.  Watching can be hypnotizing and restful.

Enjoy your cold evening cataloging - it's what a gardener does in January and February.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nothing to Do But...

Daylily "Donnie's Delight"
Busy mothers will often fantasize about a day with “absolutely nothing to do” except what they want.  It flashes through the brain somewhere between picking cheerios out of the refrigerator vent grate and handling a fifty minute instructional meeting for two hundred employees. 

If you’re a gardener, that absolutely “nothing to do day” can be a really wonderful fantasy until you flick that last cheerio into your eye and have to drag two kids under the age of five to the ER with you, but, I digress. 

Dreaming about that moment when we can leave work behind, children are raised and gone and the day is yours – yes that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

It’s looking at photos in magazines of gardeners stretching their legs out on the $2,000 custom lawn chair while gazing into the 1,000 gallon koi pond while holding a glass of 100 year old wine from the wine cellar built into the custom pergola and knowing someday that will be you.

Daylily "Fly Catcher"
Its hybridizing daylilies (Yes, my own special daylily vacation dream.) and introducing the very first all blue daylily the size of a Texas dinner plate that stays open for a week.

 It’s having the hoity-toity snooty-patooty garden publication call and ask if they can take pictures of my gardens to use at their seminar because no other garden is so perfect.

Its walking through my gardens in July and not one insect bothers me or my plants.  AND, it rains just enough and only at night between midnight and 4 am.

It’s when you’re in labor for the fourth time in six years and your husband shouts, “I love a big family!”  This is when you take that little mental break (because you can’t reach anything to throw) and dream about a garden where there are no weeds and every plant thrives upon your touch. 

Yes, these are the things a gardener can dream about when the going gets tough and life never seems to hit the highs of our expectations.

Daylily "Megan's Love"
It’s that family picture with everyone is strategically placed among your flowers and it doesn’t rain, no child gets stung by a bee, and no one has to potty until it’s done. 

It’s when you realize you will have the Griswold family cookout and you have “nothing to do but” visualize a Martha Stewart magazine article of the outdoor cookout with real cloth napkins and granddaughters wearing custom made silk shifts and running barefoot around the yard with butterfly nets and ribbons in their hair.  Grandsons with little blue knee pants and starched white shirts and striped ties blowing in the wind.  Seriously have you ever seen Martha’s parties???

Flower beds are magically and perfectly edged in my dream get away.  The cat doesn’t leave bird heads and feathers where little kids will be warped and the dog doesn’t poop where someone steps in it and then walks through the house.  I know but it’s my dream, OK?

And if you think the dream “nothing to do but” are only for the employed, Oh silly silly you.  Retirement is billed as the perfect time to go all laid back and enjoy the fruits of your labors.  Right?  Those are the words that keep everyone working like crazy until they retire.  And then by golly not one of us retirees has any more time for “nothing to do but” and we’re still all taking a dream get away while living life. 

Dreaming about “nothing to do but” is good for the brain and the spirit.  It’s a refreshing vacation and costs nothing.  Actually having nothing to do is a mental and physical killer.  Even a baby somehow knows waving its hands and feet is better than simply laying there.

Enjoy your little “nothing to do but” moments but come back to the garden of real and enjoy life as its happening.  Your life – my life – weeds and all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

All A Flutter

A few photos of our snow birds over the past few days - looking much like Christmas cards.

Downy Woodpecker

Yellow Breasted Woodpecker

Female American Cardinal

Gold Finch and House Finch

Male American Cardinal
Wishing you a Merry Christmas from my garden to yours.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Perfect Snowman

We had the perfect snow for making snowmen and I expect to see them once people stop shoveling and the kids get bored enough.  Here are some good ones I've borrowed from pinterest and other places.  Enjoy! And inspire?

Tired out from all the snowman making.
Everybody gets in the act.
I think I know this guy.
This sculpture might be more than my yard will ever hold.
This BIG snowman has red painted tires for lips and skies for eyelashes.
Cute little puppy.
Wow a family of super energetic kids.

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstace

The Winter Solstice today at our house is more like winter stuff and such.

Starting yesterday, we had our first major snow storm of the winter.  Started with rain, freezing rain, sleet, large wet snow flakes and then a blizzard with 40 mph winds.  It was beautiful and today it is still beautiful. 

The other side of the coin is the roads are really awful since the temperature dropped from 45 yesterday to 10 this morning.  Right now it's 22 and dropping again.  The ice melt isn't working because it's so cold.  The plows are having a tough go of it because the snow is so heavy and the drifts so deep.

It's been awhile since I've seen one lane roads banked with packed snow.  Some roads were closed because there were so many stuck, stalled or wreaked vehicles blocking the path. 

Lots of power outages from the heavy stuff on lines and trees coupled with the strong winds.  Our linemen and road crews have been busy in pretty awful conditions.  Ten of the Ameren folks were trapped in Monmouth last night because all roads leading back to Galesburg were closed and impassable.  The Monmouth Fire Department was kind enough to host them for the night. And another reason to love a fireman!

The garden side of the coin is most evergreens are laboring under a frozen layer of ice and snow.  Branches touch the ground and tops bent over.  It's impossible to dislodge this mess because it is frozen to the tree and beating it would damage it more.  It'll be a wait and see situation.

The birds are loving the sunflower seeds and I'm loving seeing them.  Each with their own habits and personalities.  Right now I'm looking at a female cardinal, Morning Dove, House Finch, Goldfinch and various sparrows.  Busy Busy Busy.

I've used this stay at home time to bake Christmas goodies.  Some tried and true and a few new.  One new will now become bird feed as they are so hard a three day dunk in hot coffee doesn't soften them.  Hate it when that happens.

As you or your family travel this Christmas season, we pray for safe trips and joyous reunions. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Old Friends

It's been so many years since we've had a real live tree (why do we call them "real live" as opposed to unreal live or real dead???).  I'd forgotten how much fun it is to work around crooked stems, bare spots, watering and all.  And I mean fun not in the least bit sarcastic because it was like a walk down memory lane.

With an artificial tree, everything is in perfect proportion and conditions.  That's why we buy them.  They offer the perfect solution to all things tree.  Except perfect doesn't always have a personality.

Aren't the most beautiful people the ones that have a physical imperfect something.  It's what makes them unique. 

I realized as I was decorating my real live tree, there were many ornaments I hadn't used in years because they were essentially fillers for those bare spots.  When my oldest son, Trent, was a baby I made most of our tree decorations because I didn't have the money for much else.  Not that I didn't enjoy making them, it was fun to have a tree with the brightly colored paper and glitter ornaments.

Sooo, it's probably been twenty years since I hauled those paper and glitter ornaments out and they were mostly wrinkled and flat.  Amazingly, I was able to tug them into acceptable hole fillers. 

All the grandkids ornaments I've received over the years went on the tree in spite of the glue loosening essential elements.  Handmade ornaments from grandparents, my mother, a work friend and others. 

I smiled and remembered each person and each instance of why an ornament was created or received.  What a great time with Christmas memories.  I figured it was my own little special time.  I was wrong. 

Gracie, five year old granddaughter, came out and spent hours sitting beside the tree, looking at ornaments and asking about them.  Where did they come from, can I touch this one, "Look Grandma, this one spins!", why do lights get hot and more.  My special time became our special time and that folks was a Christmas memory to beat all.  It wouldn't have happened had we not put up a real tree this year.  I'm thinking it's a habit which may totally replace my perfectly elegant artificial tree.  Perfect isn't all it's cracked up to be. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Accidently on Purpose

Harley with daylilies.
Are you the kind of person whose dogs and cats are yours because someone dumped them, or someone had to move away and couldn't take it, or a friend's pet had a litter and they couldn't take care of them all?

You’re the person whose every animal was an accident waiting to happen; or more likely an accident waiting for you. You're never going to have a purebred anything because you’re full up with surprise packages.

Gardening can be like that, too. When a gardener offers you a start of their favorite whatever, you thank them and then plop it someplace because you hadn't really planned on their favorite whatever. Admit it: You cannot turn down a free whatever plant.

I'm certainly in that category. A plant from someone else is like they've given me a part of their heart! The practical side is: It's free!

As I tend my garden, I'm often drawn to the plants given to me. They are not only a lovely plant; they are tied to the memory of that someone. 

I’ve always maintained a plant from another gardener yard is hardier than commercial plants.  Probably because they come from like circumstances.  

Comphrey in bloom.
On the flip side, I've regretted a few plants and the spots where they were plopped. The one that comes to mind first is Comphrey. It has so many things about it that works in my yard and it has been a plant that took yeoman’s work to keep in check.

I was truly blessed with several pick-up loads of plants when we first got this house. Most of my hosta came from that donor. Both a wonderful landscaping opportunity and mega monetary gift.

Because the donation came a day before the work, I simply plopped them all into two plots - one shade and one full sun. Over the years, I've moved, divided, treasured and destroyed.

My gardens will never look organized, sculpted, landscaped or orderly. It simply can't when I add interesting and donated plants willy nilly. Willy nilly being tucking a donated plant into any little space not already filled.

Tucking into spots often means a beautiful companion in the way of colors, size and bloom season. It will surprise with how something works without my making a plan. The flip side is some plants get moved several times before I find the right place.

Bee Balm "Red" with daylilies
I can admire the disciplined gardener and their disciplined gardens. I can absorb the serenity of balanced composition. It's just not me and my gardens.

Take a few examples:  We had dog named “Harley” because my husband had wanted a black Harley Davidson motorcycle for years.  Upon visiting the Kewanee Humane Society’s facility, a little black lab named Harley won the day. 

A small cardboard box was on my desk one morning at work.  In it was a sad little injured yellow kitten with a note that read “I was hit by a semi this morning, someone saw and picked me up from the roadside.  They can’t keep me but know you will take care of me.”  Enter our lives:  Paul the cat.

The garden examples are so many it would be hard to list and downright wrong to not list them all.  Suffice it to say, “Thanks for the memories!” 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Me Go Camp

Halloween:  Susan, Trent and Tim Hawkins
When my two oldest children were young we lived in a housing addition where kids could run to their heart's content.  There were many kids their age, most had stay-at-home moms and the world was much safer place to play. 

Across the street lived Timmy Hawkins, one of the gang of many neighborhood kids.  In those days, Tim was termed retarded.  As terminology changed, Tim was disabled or challenged.  Through all the name descriptions, Tim didn't change.  He wrestled, he ran, he played and he laughed.

Tim was closer to my age than that of the kids he played with and physically the biggest kid on the block.  It was a delight to see the kids rolling down hills and Tim in their middle absolutely flattening anyone in his way.  The result was kids yelling, laughing and flailing.

Our basement had a few small windows that looked out towards the street.  They were shielded from the street by evergreen bushes.  As I was working in our basement family room, I would often feel watched only to look up and see Tim relaxing under the bushes watching me do whatever I was doing.  Catching my eye, he would wave and shout a greeting.  Disconcerted at first, it became the normal as time went on because Tim was all innocence.

In his innocence he would pick up the best of any swear word he chanced to overhear.  He would string everyone of them together in the most interesting description of someone he was upset with.  In a world where kids weren't allowed to swear, Tim was the delight of the neighborhood boys - an alter extension of what they secretly envied.

We all found it wasn't good to tell Tim he was going to be doing something fun too far in advance.  And this is where the term, "Me go camp!" came from.  In case you hadn't heard his good fortune, he would repeat the good news often and with gusto.  To this day, when our family hears someone repeat a story more than once someone will casually drop, "Me go camp!" 

The neighborhood kids grew up and Tim didn't.  They moved away and got families of their own.  Tim didn't.  He was blessed with a family who cared for and loved him.  He was blessed with many friends.  In his forever innocence, he kept what his neighbors, friends and family could not:  the fountain of youth.

Tim died this week and the world will be a little less sweet.  "Me go camp!" one last time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Packin' Pinecones

Red pine cones in gift basket
After a visit (can Christmas shopping really be called a visit?) to Target this past week, I couldn't stop thinking (well occasionally) about the wonderful fragrant bags of Cinnamon coated pine cones. 

Then, yesterday, I wrote about shopping for gardeners and "viola" (don't call me Viola), all things pine cone came to mind. 

Pine cone prep: 
  • Bend over and pick pine cones off the ground and put in a sack.  (Don't you love instructions that tell you the obvious?  It's for those folks where obvious isn't in their genetic make-up.)
  • Put in a plastic bag, tie and put in the freezer over night.  (Kills insects)
  • Lay waxed paper on a cookie sheet, preheat oven to 150 (or low), lay pine cones in a single layer, not touching and heat until they open (check every 15 minutes.)  Take out and let them return to room temperature.  If you're not in a hurry, simply let them sit in the house a few days without heating in the oven.  

1.  I spray painted a bunch of pine cones the other day.  Granted it's not an Eco friendly craft.  I used bright red, hunter green, chartreuse green, pink, teal, silver, gold, yellow, black and blue.  I've been using them in my daughter's wine gift baskets.  They would also look pretty tied to packages or heaped in a basket.

Easy way to do this is wrap a wire around the stem end.  Put on a plastic glove, hold by wire and spray paint, hang by wire and let dry.  I recommend wearing a mask so you won't breath fumes.

I received a bag of these from my Granddaughter,
Katherine, many years ago.   
2.  Mix Elmer's clear glue with a little water and roll or paint on pine cone.  Roll in cinnamon.  Buy cheap cinnamon since it's the smell not the quality your after.  Lay on waxed paper to dry.  Once dry gently tap to shake off excess dust.  Hang on the Christmas tree, pile in a bowl, burn in the fireplace or fill an old woven vegetable bag or nylon sock and hang in the closet.  Don't let this touch fabric and table tops or it could stain.

3.  Do the Elmer's thing and roll in glitter.  Add a wire and hang on the Christmas tree.

4.  Kids love to take pine cones, pipe cleaners, construction paper, glue and glitter and make snowmen, Santa, elves and odd indistinguishable objects only a 5 years old can imagine.  And those objects will be dutifully hung on Christmas trees for years.

Some pine cones have a fragrance of pine once they've been warmed.  A bowl full may fragrance up your home. 

Remember almost every pine cone will have sap and the sap will always be sticky and be impossible to remove from fabric.  My advice is cover your table with an old plastic tablecloth before crafting.  Fingernail polish remover takes it off your hands. 

Have fun pine cone collecting and crafting!            

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Let the Shopping Begin!

It's time for my annual "What do I get the gardener for Christmas" list.  Let the shopping begin!

Christmas is perhaps the most inexpensive time to shop for gardeners because it's essentially out of season in most parts of the country.  On the flip side, it can be hard to find garden items in local stores. 

Try your local hardware store for tools, birding stuff, outdoor furniture and accessories.  Our own Hathaways Hardware and Gift Shop has enough stuff on the floor to gift the world.  Quality things at good prices. 

Winter is a great time to read books on garden instruction, beauty, and history.  Most libraries have sale items all the time as do thrift stores.  Although big book stores are getting fewer, I do love to touch and browse a book before I buy.  For electronic users, a gift certificate (G.C.) works.

Every gardener would take a new high quality:  Shovel, pruner and gloves.

There's the whole pamper thing:  Hand cream, sunscreen, exfoliate, massage G.C., lip balm, nail brush, and pedicure G.C.

A prescription pair of sunglasses with frames so large they do keep out the sun from the sides as well as the front.  Light weight and sturdy.

G.C. from any local greenhouse (call if they are closed for the winter).  Aside from locals, there are some speciality mail order greenhouses that may cater to your gardeners particular LOVE. 

Conservation materials such as the rain collection barrels the local NAGS are selling through the country soil and conservation district.

Slinky & coat hanger peanut feeder
Birding items from farm stores, S&C Disticts., Scouts, local crafts person, or whip up one in your shop for a custom gift that is sure to please.  Make sure you have the right sized & placed entry and a drop down door to make cleaning easy.  Seed, suet blocks, and bird books are winners.

Landscapers will issue gift certificates for services.  Your gardener been wanting help with some garden improvements?  Walk redone, a patio layed/built, a tool shed, lawn de thatched, lighting, sod, raised garden bed, topsoil, mulch - the list is endless.

For gardeners that are also into the grill scene:  a grill connected to you home gas line, a new grill, a smoker, deep fryer, utensils, a sturdy place to set it up, and if you want to go HG TV:  an outside kitchen. 

If your gardener has a good sized vegetable garden and preserves the produce:  Pressure cooker/canner, canning jars & lids, dehydrator, food mill, straw, manure (I'm not kidding most gardeners would kill for good aged manure), netting, tomato cages, and a G.C. for rotor tilling.

A G.C. or promise for a trip to public gardens.  In this area:  Anderson Japanese Garden,  Chicago Botanical Gardens, St. Louis Botanical Gardens, Home and Garden Shows, State parks.  A search on line will give up many MANY more than I've listed.

A quality camera.  That has different meaning to different people.  I like one that zooms in close without blurring, instant focus, and a memory card with LOTS of capacity.  Although I'm not professional, I like mine to be light weight and not have to add a large and heavy lens to get good photos in my garden.  A comfortable neck strap and it's at least semi able to handle rain and cold without getting all gummed up or fail.  It has to take some hard knocks and clean off when I forget I've pulled a weed right before I see a photo that must be taken right now.  A bright color means I never sit it down and can't find it; mine is red.  I also have an external drive where I can load zillions of photos without bogging down my computer.  I have a program that lets me edit them.  Not just any program.  If you get into this whole photos of your garden thing, you will want one that lets you play with your pictures.

Don't forget the handmade items from your hand to the gardeners.  Stepping stones, plant markers, bird houses, baths and feeders, fence, and picnic tables.

The only caution on this one is garden art.  Unless you know your gardener's taste really well, I'd steer clear of making or giving garden art.  What's perfect for you may be less perfect for me.

I'm sure I've left your favorites out and feel free to list some in the comment section.  Yes, there's just no excuse for not knowing what to buy your gardener family or friend.  It's simply endless.  And gardeners are almost always the most appreciative of folks. 

Kane setting records rather than gardening.
Seriously:  An hour with one of my teenage grandchildren helping me in the yard is priceless!  Many times this summer grandson, Kane, helped in my gardens.  He's sure he never wants to put out mulch again as long as he lives, but then aren't all things a learning experience.  I certainly learned to much appreciate his being here - not only for helping with the work but it helps to know him better.  Twofer!  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Art of Your Situation

Find it difficult to figure out your garden style?  An easy way to figure it out is to visit an art museum.  If you figure out what style of painting automatically appeals to you, it's a huge inspiration on your garden style.

The painting, drawing, or sculpture causing you to smile or stand and absorb is the same style that will produce that feeling in your garden.

Most large cities have excellent art museums.  One of my favorites is the Chicago Art Institute.  So close and so packed full of wonderful inspiration. 

I'll put a few examples of visual art in this article and see if any draws you to the style.  You really must go to a gallery to open yourself to the vast array of styles and color.  The old masters and the new can be just what you need to inspire and transform.

Vincent Van Gogh "Flowering Garden with Path"

Rembrandt Van Rijn
Pablo Picasso "Woman Flower"
Henry Matisse "Composition Fond Bleu"
Claude Monet "Garden Path at Giverny"
S. OKADA "Japan Garden"
Wassily Kandinsky "Farbstudie Quadrate"
Betty I. Shenk "Birch Trees"
Have some fun at an art show or museum and do a visual garden take away.