Friday, October 25, 2013

Banana Bread in Mass

Little loaves of Banana Bread made fresh today for a benefit bake sale.  Showing a benefit bake sale poster to a group of church women is like waving a red flag in front of a herd of bulls (cows in this case.)  We're a small church but we still have many different baked goods ready for tomorrow.

I chose banana bread because I had an abundance of ripe bananas in my freezer.  We never seem to eat at least one banana in the bunch before it turns too ripe.  I have a spot in the freezer to lay them (in the skins with no other preparation.)

Let them thaw or heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds, tear off one end and gently squeeze out banana.  Since banana bread is so simple and I always have at least a couple of frozen bananas, it's perfect for a last minute gift.

For this batch, I used cute little cardboard bread baking pans.  Not endorsing or paid advertising but I purchased at Dollar General, they are cheap, they don't need greased, they don't need returned and they are festive.   Wrap in plastic wrap, tag with the variety of bread and add a pretty ribbon.  

My banana bread recipe is from my mother.  Enjoy!

Betty's Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 325.  Makes one standard loaf or three small loaves.


1/2 Cup         Butter, softened

1 Cup            Sugar
2                    Eggs - Large
2                    Bananas - Ripe - Mashed 
3 Tbs.            Cream    *
1 tsp.             Vinegar  *
1 Cup            Wheat Flour
1 Cup            White Flour
1 1/2 tsp.        Baking powder
1/3 tsp.           Baking soda
1 tsp.              Vanilla
1 Cup             Nuts (broken) or Raisins - optional 

Cream butter.  Add sugar and cream.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Beat in bananas and vanilla until it's an even cream colored.  Mix vinegar and cream to form sour cream and add.  ** May substitute 3 heaping Tablespoons of sour cream.  Mix dry ingredients together and add to mixture.  Beat until combined.  Fold in nuts or raisins.

Bake in a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan that has been greased and floured.  Bake for 50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  

OR bake in three small cardboard loaf pans, not greased.  Bake for 40 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  

Let fully cool on a rack before wrapping.  This is particularly yummy served warm with honey butter.


I'm grateful we were able to keep our little hands off the bread long enough for me to get it to the benefit!  I'm so sure I'll be bringing another woman's baked confection home tomorrow.                 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

And "Boom", it's Over

Next week we can officially say good-bye to all that is summer.  I'm always ready for the season changes although I do whimper a bit over the end of fresh tomatoes.

Since we have forecasts for below freezing night temps next week, we'll spend the afternoon winterizing the yard and gardens.  What does that mean at our house in this neck of the woods?

Bring inside all the "stuff" we drag outside each spring.  This is things that can't take freezing weather such as gazing balls and most anything glass.

Empty planters, wash and store upside down out by the potting bench.

Drain and bring in the hoses, plus winterize the outside faucets.

Take to the garage any plants I hope to over-winter.  This year it will be only a few:  the banana tree and the most healthy of the asparagus ferns.  I'm too slovenly a winter gardener to nurse much else through the cold in our basement.

One of the hardest, emotionally, is taking all the green tomatoes off our plants.  Because of the dry summer and a few late rains, they are just now blooming up a storm.  Too little - too late.  I'll leave the herbs and cabbage a little longer.

I'll also wait for the canna to be nipped by frost before they're dug and stored.

Since Ian was kind enough to spread a thick layer of mulch down this past spring, there is little to do as far as winter plant protection needs.

I'll pick the last of my beautiful Endless Summer Hydrangea blooms.  It's the first year it's really bloomed well and it has put on a whole batch of late flowers.  I hope to dry them and have a beautiful blue bouquet.

The Julia Child's rose is also blooming like crazy.  Seems some plants always put on a late show when insects and hot temps ease up enough for them to bloom without any negative events.

I'll also pick a huge bouquet of nasturtiums.  It's the most beautiful I've ever had in the gardens.  They've bloomed continually and spread down the sides of the raised bed.  The front of this bed is always a color riot.  Red canna, pink cleome, orange nasturtiums, white cosmos and a riot of four-o'clocks.

Some years we've put out the Christmas lights on the fences and etc. about now but I'm not quite ready to go there this year.  Probably wait until we freeze our fingers during the process.

Have a beautiful fall day folks no matter what your temperatures or forecasts.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Things to NOT do Outside - Ever

Wear high heels.  I know brides are just sure all the wedding party can navigate through a vineyard, gravel parking lot, dew, and knee high prairie grass with purple and turquoise platform six-inch satin shoes – but NO!  If it’s an outdoor party, think sprained ankle and trip to the ER. 

Wear perfume.  Here’s a little chemistry lesson:  Most perfume contains ingredients that resemble flowers or sweets.  Insects (biting, stinging, creepy crawly insects) LOVE flowers and sweets.  Get the picture?

Tiptoe through the tulips.  The temptation to wander into the flower gardens of private and public places might be great but just don’t do it – ever.  Paths are there for a good reason – use them.

Smoking.  I’m not going to tell smokers to quit but smoking up a storm in the great outdoors can really be a downer in a public setting or at a party. Ask your hosts where to smoke and where to put your butts.  Literately.

Picking walnuts.  Unless you like the look of an entire hand tattoo, do not handle walnuts without gloves.  Think walnut furniture; it’s that color from the stain.  It will not wash off, scrub off, steel wool off – only wear off over a L=O=N=G time.

Trespass.  There are times when these little tips seem so obvious to most readers.  But, alas, not everyone understands boundaries.  Rule of thumb:  If you don’t own it, you may not be there without permission.  There is no such thing as “nobody owns it”.  Someone is paying the mortgage, rent, taxes, insurance, and if it’s not you – guess what?  It’s trespassing absolutely and period.

Fertilizing/killing weeds before throwing a party.  It will either smell like chemicals or manure and it can irritate skin and some allergies. Yes, that has disaster written all over.

Show a lot of skin at parties.  Unless you’re eighteen and ripped, no one really wants to look at your hairy back or sagging whatever over a hamburger.  I’m not being judgmental - I’m just saying you’ll be cooler in so many ways.

Downing trees.  Do not cut down or trim big trees without the proper equipment and experience.  Ways to get maimed or die in the process = let me count the ways.

Use a goat to cut grass.  Goats are cute, they are a farm product, they keep pasture trimmed, some give milk, they make good meat – I KNOW!  Put a goat in a yard for the purpose of not mowing and you better be ready for the “other side of the story”.  Goats have certain traits and needs – read up before buying one of these little beauties.

Willy Nilly planting.  I tend to go to a nursery and see something so amazing I buy it without thought of what it will be in ten years, where it will fit, and any of the other hundred considerations.   Willy Nilly planting causes extra work!

Skimping on farm safety.  Wishing our farm neighbors a safe and bountiful harvest – enough said.

Hiding behind a tree.  OK guys this one’s for you.  Big party, lots of trees, a little drinking and there you are behind the tree because no one will notice.  Wrong-O.

Burying electric cable too shallow.  Sooner or later someone will cut the line resulting in loss of power at best – loss of life at worst.

Not taking time to smell the roses.  Whether you’re an extreme sport participant or a porch rocking chair kind of person, being outdoors in all seasons can help you physically and emotionally.  The great outdoors is a gift and living in this area of the country is a blessing. 

Note:  All photos are Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford IL - taken earlier this year.  Do you ever double click on these blog photos?  You can easily page through them and see up close all the pretty scenes.  Easy Peasy!  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Pumpkin Who's Got the Pumpkin?

The net is filled with pumpkins carved, painted, decorated, cooked and smashed.  They are orange, white, green, yellow and mixed.  Some are smooth, dimpled, pimpled, round, long and curved.  There are directions for the most avid DYIer and simple enough for little Timmy.  Solutions to preserve, protect and prolong.

The period from Halloween to Thanksgiving 
is a pumpkin lovers dream.  
Shall we begin our little road trip down pumpkin lane?

The nuts and bolts of pumpkin decorating is in the eye of
 the beholder and often reflects their passions.
Most miniature gardens need a little uplifting 
this time of the year and a pumpkin 
garden is guaranteed to compost right about the first frost.
 This pumpkin is obviously a vegan.  
Our grandson at Tanners Orchard; cute little pumpkin!
As the sun sets in the west, I bid you a fond goodnight.

Side Note:  If you want to check out more pumpkin ideas, see the three posts "Decorating Pumpkins" 619-620-621 listed at the right side of the blog.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Time to Plant

Fall is often touted as the perfect time to plant trees, bushes and perennials.  If you’re into watering deeply until the ground is frozen hard, I’d say go for it!  You will need at least a good month of watering to make sure the roots become established.  Another reason to plant in the fall is many nurseries are having really good sales.  If watering isn’t your gig, then I’d advise waiting to plant in the spring and nature will help.

The one thing you can plant this drought waterless autumn is spring flowering bulbs.  Yes, they will need some water but not the quantity live plants require.

First decide what you want to bloom next spring. 

·      Do you want color?  Tulips have the most diverse color range. 

·      Do you want longevity?  Daffodils (Narcissus and Jonquils) not only live a long time, they spread.  Typically, deer won’t eat these.

·      Do you want something really early?  Crocus is the most easily found and they also multiply. 

·      How about cost?  Bulbs prove “bigger is better” and bigger costs more.  But, there’s good news for limited budgets:  The big box store bulbs will come up and will be pretty.  They may not be as pretty, large, or long lasting as the more expensive but they’re a good place to start. 

If you want truly beautiful flowers, check out local nurseries and reputable catalogs.

The trick to planting spring flowering bulbs is to follow directions especially depth.  For you newbies, it’s also important to plant the bulb right side up.  If they aren’t planted to the right depth, they will struggle and most likely die or not produce flowers; A waste of time and money. 

Some directions suggest adding fertilizer and/or bone meal.  Unless your soil is field clay or sand, I’d forget the amendments when planting.  For one thing, dogs love to dig up anything smelling like bones.  Once the bulbs are established, a top dressing of aged manure would be good.

If you have a problem with animals digging up things in your yard, I’d suggest planting your bulbs in chicken wire boxes.  I know it’s a pain but it’s about the only way to protect your bulbs.  You can make your own with a pair of wire snips and gloves.

The reason to plant spring flowering bulbs in the fall is they must have the cold season to produce.

Suggestion:  Don’t plant one at a time in a long line as it’s going to look pretty dorky in the spring (yes dorky is a garden term.)  Drop or gently throw them and plant where they land.  This will look like nature was in charge.  Otherwise, dig a large hole, in width, and plant several in one place, keeping in mind the directions for spacing (can anyone have that many commas in one sentence, yes.)

Do not cut off or mow the foliage from any of these spring flowering plants until they have turned brown and are lying on the ground.  They gain their nutrients for next year’s flowers from these leaves.  It’s a good reason to plant these bulbs where later emerging perennials will soon camouflage the dying leaves.

Here’s some of the more unusual plants I’ve found to be lovely each spring:

·      Hyacinths:  These are the most wonderfully fragrant and long lasting flowers.  Plant up front where they can be highlighted since other perennials will also be competing for their space.

·      Fritillaria:  Most of these have nodding checkered bells.  Mostly purple or white and so very sweet.

·      Snowdrops, Glory-of-the-Snow, and Winter Aconite:  Bloom very early; sometimes through the snow.

·      Squill, Grape Hyacinth and Bluebells:  All spread and bring a beautiful blue to the spring gardens.

If you really like unusual, there are Parrot tulips, Spider tulips, branched tulips and narcissus, peony tulips, and some are highly fragrant.  For the obsessive spring bulb aficionado (and I salute you):  visit to find rare, heirloom, and truly wonderful options. 

You will never NEVER ever EVER regret the time you spent this fall planting spring flowering bulbs. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Walk on the Wild Side

Walking down our country road can get pretty boring this time of the year.  Lots of beans and corn and not many flowers.  Yesterday I decided to take my camera and (no surprise) there are many things worth photographing.  Here are a few:

Corn field and beautiful fall sky.

Neighbor's barn and crib

Harvest sky

Probably the "Small-flowered White Aster.  There are many different kinds/names
and this particular one is "EVERYWHERE" this summer.  

Ivy-leaved Morning Glory (considered a troublesome weed in farm fields)

What we call "Willy worms" - others call them "Wooly worms."

Praying Mantis indignant because I shooed him off the road.  My husband
thought perhaps he had designs on the other side of the road.  

I think this is the caterpillar of the White-lined Sphinx moth although
photos in my reference books and on line have differing descriptions.  At any rate, we've had
several Sphinx moths in the flower beds in early evening and we've enjoyed them greatly.

Soybeans almost ready to combine.

Farmstead with windmills on the horizon

Old well on former township school property;
down the road from our house.