Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Food for New Year's Day

It is said that during the Civil War and the march from Atlanta to Savannah, General Sherman told his troops to burn and destroy everything and anything in sight.  The troops obeyed the orders and did so with the exception of the black eyed peas, or field peas, that weren't even worthy a second look, much less the first.  It was planted in the South to feed pigs and cows, but in most cases they wouldn't even touch the fodder.

Black eyed peas came from Africa with the slaves who planted, cared for, and cooked the black eyed peas along with pork fat as their own food.  The black eyed peas are legumes full of vitamins, potassium, calcium, and iron.

The black eyed peas have become the symbol for good luck and prosperity and as such are the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day in the Southern part of this country.

The peas must be eaten with collard greens (or cabbage) that represents green money and cornbread that represents gold.   To take this a step further to ensure good health and wealth, these foods are to be eaten with stewed tomatoes.

To Cook Black Eyed Peas:  I planted black eyed peas as a cover crop a summer ago, harvested and shelled the peas, blanched them and put them into the freezer.  For this New Year's Day, I cooked two (2) cups of peas in slightly salted water for two hours.

To dress up the black eyed peas, I stir fried a few slices of bacon, half an onion (diced), a stalk of celery (diced), and for added color I also tossed in some green pepper (diced).  Finally, I added stewed tomatoes to the rest of the stir fried vegetables and added the black eyed peas to the mix.

To Cook Collard Greens:  From the garden, I picked the collard greens, de-veined them, and chopped them up.  For flavoring, I cooked the greens with smoked hog jowls that I bought from the country store up the road.  I cooked the greens for a good two hours:  this is roughage!  I served the collard greens with the water melon rind pickles that I made last summer.

To Make Cornbread:  I followed the recipe for Southern Cornbread on the Martha White's package for Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix.  It came out with a nice golden color.

Sweet Iced Tea:  To continue in the Southern tradition, I served Iced Tea with the peas, the greens, and the cornbread.  (Still waiting for the pork chops).  I boiled a quart of cool water and then poured it over five (5) tea bags to steep for five (5) minutes.

 I filled up my tea jar with two trays of ice, poured a cup of sugar over the ice, and then added the freshly hot brewed tea.  (Some Southerners add a pinch of baking soda into the tea that supposedly will take away bitterness in the tea if steeped too long.)

Sheridan Alexander has written a delightful article about the New Year's tradition. I Goggled Black Eye Peas for New Years.  Thanks, Sheridan, for the information.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Planting Potatoes

I did a little bit of gardening between the holidays by planting potatoes.  It might be a tad too early but the potatoes were ready.  The time for planting potatoes on the Back Forty in NE Florida is towards the end of next month, but what are a few weeks between potatoes?

I had covered the garden plot with leaves that I had raked up earlier.  I turned the soil to mix in the leaves and the mulch from the compost pile.  They grow best in loose and well-drained soil.  After turning and blending the soil, I made a trench for planting the potatoes.  I actually needed two trenches to plant what I had in the basket.  I also raked up pine straw to blend with the soil to loosely cover the potatoes

The potatoes like a slightly acidic soil and are heavy feeders; meaning they need food to grow, mostly a good dose of garden fertilizer with nitrogen and potassium.  I usually wait until I see greenery before I fertilize letting the potatoes have a chance to establish themselves without the shock of food.

Usually I wait for garden centers to have the potatoes that are specific to the north east Florida.  I don't remember names only that the white and red potatoes are thin skinned.  The potatoes I planted were raised in the Lakeland, Florida, area.

This time, I had bought potatoes from the Farmer's Market on Beaver Street in Jacksonville.  I stored them n newspaper in a basket in the kitchen and they sprouted.  They resemble Russet potatoes but are much smaller and the taste is different, too.

These potatoes did not lend themselves to be cut before planting:  the sprouts were most apparent at one end of the potatoes.

I also bought Kennebec (Maine) potatoes from Orr's Farm in West Virginia and left three (3)
potatoes to sprout.  They sported good sets of eyes all around the potatoes and I also planted them whole.

It is not recommended to use store brought potatoes in the home garden because they may carry diseases and they are also sprayed with "growth inhibitors".  You may have noticed that these potatoes do not sprout, no matter how long they are kept in the crisper in the fridge?

Potatoes in the Trench
Don't hold me to this but I read that one 100-foot row of seed potatoes may produce 150 - 300 pounds of mature potatoes depending on variety, weather condition, and soil condition.  Elsewhere I read that a one square yard may yield 20 pounds of potatoes under the best of growing conditions.

Depending on the variety and growing conditions, it will take 14 days for Irish Potatoes to germinate and 60 to 90 to maturity.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Second Day of Christmas

The Second Day of Christmas is also called Boxing Day.  The house is still neat and tidy and the fridge is full of left-over food.  It is a quiet morning the the mouse is still not stirring.  The tractor cat, aka Marmalade, has checked out the Christmas tree and she finally got her reward and her fill of catnip.  The weather is not exactly sunny today and venturing out is not an option.  Who wants to go out in those returning gifts and those still on hunts for bargains.

So, I am waiting to go out into the garden and start to dig and weed again.  I am a bit bored today so let me liven this page up and ask you:

What is the difference between a snow man and a snow woman?

With a joke like that, I deserve to be pelted with a big snow ball.  Believe me, this one is aimed at me.  But apparently it is not yet big enough.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


This song was written by the Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen who struggled with it for many years.  It achieved little success and less recognition; however, it later found its acclaim through John Cale and Jeff Buckley.  Many cover versions have been performed by various singers such as Bon Jovi and k.d. lang to name a few.  The song has been used in numerous recordings and concerts.  How about over 300 (!) versions?  The song is also the subject of the book The Holy and The Broken.

The CBS Morning News talked about Hallelujah this morning and it inspired me to check it out and share it with you.

Take a listen:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today, the fourth and last candle of Advent is lit.  All four candles are burning bright as the long winter begins.  Again I take a moment to reflect on the upcoming Season, a moment to pause.  Whatever meaning you attach to Advent, I wish you peace and happiness.  This is also a time to rejoice and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  He is the reason for the season.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Peace on Earth and Good Will to All


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fancy Pumpkin Bread

This fancy pumpkin bread is full of fruit cake mix and pecans which make it an excellent treat to go along with eggnog, hot chocolate, and the morning coffee.  It is a hearty bread made from this year's pumpkin that I put in the freezer not so long ago.

This pumpkin bread is based on the Appalachian people's baking in the the Carolinas as written by students in The Foxfire Books back in the 1970's.

Preparation:  Combine a cup each of shelled pecans and fruit cake mix with 1/2 cup of flour.  Grease two loaf pans and dust with flour.

Wet ingredients:  Beat four (4) eggs, add 2 cups of sugar, 1 and 1/2 cups of canola oil, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Add two (2) cups of pumpkin.

Dry ingredients:  In another bowl, combine three (3) cups of all-purpose white flour, 2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, 2 tsp of pumpkin mix (or cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves--whatever is available).  Also add 1 tsp of salt.

All together now:  Add the wet ingredients and the flour mixture together, stir and fold.  What did I forget?  Oh, yes.  Add the fruit cake mix and the pecans, too.

Finally, pour the batter into the two greased loaf pans and bake in a 400 degree F oven for one (1) hour.  To check to see if the bread is ready, insert a wooden pick, and if it is clean when pulled out the bread is done.  Let cool before removing the loafs out of the pans.  Enjoy!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Full Moon in December

The December moon has been full the last few days.  It has been so bright and beautiful and I wanted to share this picture with you.  The moon is in the west and before too long the sun will come up over the ocean.  A new day is dawning.

This is the season, such a special time, to enjoy the holidays.  It is the last day of autumn.  The winter solstice is early in the morning.  Floridians may wear flip flops and shorts while picking out the Christmas tree.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Oregon Sugar Pods in NE Florida

The Oregon Sugar Pods are the most popular peas and highly productive even after several pickings.  These peas perform best in cool weather which to us northern Floridians is a temperature hovering around 60 to 75 degrees F during the winter months.  In Florida, there are the bigger pods available known as "Mammoth Melting Sugar" with 4 to 5 inches long pods.  I have not seen them and I don't know if they are edible when raw.

In my leaflet from the Standard Feed it states that peas in general will germinate in about 8 days and mature in 60 to 120 days, keeping in mind the four months of temperature below 75 degrees F.  I bought a bag of Oregon Sugar Pods from the very helpful gardener at the Standard Feed store down town in Jacksonville.

I planted the seeds a few inches apart and a few inches deep in well-drained soil with black gold from the compost pile added.  The location for the peas is in full sun for most of the day.  The peas have come up and doing nicely.  They don't grow very tall; however, I have provided four conduit poles with strings/cords running horizontally from pole to pole and up and down for climbing.  The poles measure three feet tall from the surface.  Letting the peas climb makes for easier harvesting.

The mature Oregon Sugar Pods retain their color after a quick blanching, dunking in cold water, put in bags and in the freezer, pods and all.  I may skip the blanching this year and put the peas directly into bags and into the freezer.  I feel that I loose the vitamins and other nutrients when blanching and pouring the water into the drain.

The peas do well stirred fried and cooked with other vegetables as in a medley.  They are also very attractive in salads.  In prior years, I have not found any powdery mildew on the pods or leaves nor have they been eaten by insects.  They are a hardy lot, delicious, and nutritious.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, December 16, 2013

O, Christmas Tree

Over the years we have had many different kinds of trees for the Holidays:  fresh cut, live, and plastic.  We started out with freshly cut trees and ended up with plastic mainly for the convenience that was not necessary
an ecologically sound decision.

Once we found out about live trees, we bought five spruces in five years and planted them in our front yard to shield the house from the afternoon sun.  The house was eventually sold and the trees cut down.  

With our first live tree, I remember that we had a difficult time finding a suitable container for the tree.  When we brought the tree inside, Sir Henry, our stubborn wire haired terrier, found the tree to good use; cocked his leg and marked it.  (See more about Sir Henry in my blog on May 7.)

In Florida, we used cedar trees and we planted them in front of the house to protect it from the blazing sun. While Christmas trees grow, they also absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.  While our house was rented out, one cedar tree was cut down and removed while the other two were severely trimmed.  Some people were afraid that ghosts and goblins might hide amid the cedar trees' lovely branches.  

Now we have an artificial Christmas tree with plastic and lots of metal parts that require valuable resources and energy to produce. The Montreal-based consulting firm Elipsos with expertise on sustainable developments maintains that an artificial tree would have to be re-used for twenty (!) years before it becomes the better environmental choice between live and plastic.

Whatever kind of Christmas tree you have, 
enjoy its lovely branches covered with small bright lights. 
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent

For this Third Sunday of Advent, I am lighting yet another white candle.  Now there are three out of four candles lit in the traditional copper candle stick holder decorated with cedar greens and red berries from the Park on the Back Forty.

The afternoon is dark and cloudy but warm and humid.  It is quiet around the house--not even a mouse is stirring.

However, this is the Christmas season, a time for the celebration of the coming of Christ and His redemption. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given," Isaiah 9:6.  'O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!'

Take a listen to the joyous movement in Handel's majestic Messiah appropriate for the King.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am ahead of schedule.  I will not be in the garden tomorrow.
Still your heart and light your own special candles.
Enjoy the Season.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Food for the Birds

The wild birds are always visiting the Back Forty Garden and Park although we have never made an effort to feed them but we try very hard to provide a safe place for them.

I don't wish for the birds to become dependent on our feeding them because we are not always going to be here and feed them on a regular basis.

The birds seem to have enough natural foods available for them with a variety of seeds, fruit, insects, and grub.  They don't bother the garden, not even the sunflowers.

The cardinals are my favorite birds because they mate for life.  What a commitment!  The bright red male is so protective of his mate.  He seems to be scanning the area to check if it is safe for her to join him.

If you live in a cold climate and want to feed the birds, here are a couple of recipes that kids may even want to create:

Melt two (2) cups of Crisco or any other fat such as bacon grease and add three (3) cups each of cornmeal, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds.  Place in a container and when cool, remove from the container and place in your bird feeder.

The following is another recipe that does not involve any heating of fat.  Here it goes:

Collect a few pine cones and fill them with peanut butter and roll them in oats, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds.  At this time of the year, tie bright red ribbons around the pine cones and hang them up in the trees.

It is easy to make your own suet balls or squares by using Crisco or any other fat from your cooking.  Rolled oats, cornmeal, dried and crumbled bead will adhere nicely to the fat.  Furthermore, chopped nuts (crush them with your rolling pin or a hammer but use a towel to catch the bits and pieces) and chopped raisins fill out the making of the suet balls or squares.  Sometimes food is hard to find in real cold weather so our winged messengers will love the extra food for them.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The New Lawn Mower

We were off to the home improvement centers to find out about manual lawn mowers at the end of October and the assistants were skeptically looking at us.  They told us that the grass mowing season was over in NE Florida.  We agreed.   But what are you supposed to do when you are in the middle of a project that had to be finished before company arrived and the winter, too?

We use a 20-inch manual lawn mower to cut the path in the Labyrinth.  My husband was in the middle of cutting it when the old lawn mower conked out.  The motor was still running but the chassis came apart into bits and pieces.  We have had the mower a long time and made minor repairs to it over the years, but this time it was beyond repairing.

At one of the home improvement centers, I was ready to carry off a reconstructed lawn mower.  The price was very attractive and I was assured that it was in excellent condition; however, my husband wanted to continue the search.

At the next center, my husband found a mower that he liked.  It had tall wheels in the back for easy maneuvering and it does not have to be primed before starting.  A willing assistant was ready to help him put the boxed up mower into a cart.  Before I knew it, my husband was on his way to the cashier while I was still thinking about the reconstructed mower.

The cashier told my husband that there were less expensive mowers available and that some were reconstructed.  "I know.  I know."  "Think of the money you could save," the cashier continued.  "Yes," I chimed in, "we could have a scrumptious dinner at a fancy restaurant.  We could even have a nice bottle of wine."  The cashier knew what I was talking about but we were both ignored by my husband who apparently did not mind spending money on a new lawn mower.

It is time consuming and labor intensive to cut the Labyrinth.  The Labyrinth is the reason for wanting only`a 20-inch lawn mower because that is the width of the path in the Labyrinth.  The path is constantly turning and it is kind of tight in the middle and once the center is reached, we have to go back the same way.

One good thing about the new lawn mower is that I have yet to use it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Festival of Lights--Saint Lucia's Day

The Saint Lucia Celebration symbolizes the return of light and hope in the coming birth of Christ, the Light of the World.  Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated on the 13th of December in the Scandinavian countries, predominantly in Sweden.  Saint Lucia, or St Lucy as she is also known as, was born in Syracuse, Sicily, around 283 AD.

Sankta Lucia

The legend has it that Saint Lucy secretly brought food to the persecuted Christians in Rome who were forced underground into the catacombs.  Lucy would carry a crown of candles in her hair so that she could have both hands free to carry food items.

Lucy came to Sweden on the darkest night of the year to bring light to the darkness and serve coffee, saffron buns, and gingersnap cookies to everyone she met.  She is now known as Saint Lucia or Sankta Lucia in Swedish.  On this day she still brings coffee and goodies to sick people in hospitals and to children in schools. in churches and various organization.

Sankta Lucia still carries a crown of seven white candles in her hair.  She is dressed in a long white gown with a red sash.  Sankta Lucia is followed by young girls also dressed in white and carrying a candle in their hands.  Most often there are also young boys in the procession.  They are also dressed in white and wear a conical hat.

There is Lucia Celebrations going on in the Nation's capital as listed on the Internet and I am sure other places with a large population of Swedes.

There is also a Lucia Celebration in Winters Chapel United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December at 7.30 pm followed by coffee and goodies.  There are also other Swedish celebrations in Atlanta.  Check it out on the Internet.

Often Lucia will make an appearance in the home while it is still dark.  It is usually the mother in the household or the young girl(s).  Lucia will carry a pot of coffee and sweet buns on a tray and serve it in bed. My husband would be shocked if I should appear in the bedroom dressed in a white gown and serve him coffee and sweets in bed while it is still dark.

Thank you for visiting my blog. 
Please visit a Festival of Lights with Saint Lucia in attendance.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Fall Garden

For the fall garden, I had the most difficult time with the broccoli.  After eagerly waiting for the plants to appear in garden centers, I must have blinked one time.  There was no broccoli to be found.  I asked how come there was no broccoli and was told that it had been too wet, too dry, or too hot and so on for the supplier to grow and bring broccoli to the centers.

Eventually I was able to obtain some broccoli plants but I also decided to sow seeds in small containers.  It took a long time for the seeds to germinate and when they finally appeared, the plants were stringy.  I planted them out into the garden any way and they are struggling.    Needless to say, there will be no broccoli to put in the freezer this season.
Red Cabbage

I did not have any better results with the cabbage.  Worms, bugs, and insects feasted on the cabbage plants.  I am glad to oblige although I twice replaced the plants.  The last cabbage plants looked like small rosettes.  The are doing well so far and I am curious to see what they will look like when they become fully headed up into large round balls.

Last year, my red cabbage did poorly but this year the red cabbage is doing much better. It may be because we planted them in the wooden box.  Maybe they could have done just as well outside the box.

We did get a good crop of green beans.  Roughly, I brought seeds for about $1.50 and if I had bought the mature snap beans in the grocery store, I would have paid almost $25 for the crop.  I consider that a sound investment; however, this does not include compost and fertilizer, and the cost of material  for making the wooden box where they grew.

We sowed radishes and they matured to the largest radishes I've ever seen.  The green tops grew dark, thick, and tall.  I was surprised that size of radishes were rather mild.  We also sowed red and green lettuce near the radishes.  The green lettuce is still doing well but the red lettuce was stumped in its growth.  Next time, we'll sow them in the box.

So far this year, we have been able to harvest some vegetables from the garden and I am looking forward to close out the fall season and start a winter garden.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent

This is such a busy time for all of us but it is also a time for reflection.  It is a time to still our hearts.  As we light the Second Candle of Advent, let us remember the world's loss of a great leader and a principled man.  Let us also remember Pearl Harbor and its aftermath that still linger with us.

Second Sunday of Advent

In the hustle and bustle, I try to make the Advent special by lighting white candles.  I think they bring serenity to the Season--a little on the somber side, perhaps.

I hope that you will have a chance to listen to "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" as sung by Renee Fleming with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  It is just beautiful and so appropriate for the Season.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Magical Morning

I woke up late thisyesterday morning, got dressed, and looked out the window.  Ahh!  What I saw was magical.  The scenic creek was still.  It was quiet and peaceful.  The birds held their twitter and the squirrels behaved.

The dew was heavy on the ground and the sun was breaking through the fog.  It was a beautiful morning.  It filled me with joy and anticipation.  What will the day bring?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Satsuma Orange Marmalade

The other afternoon, I made marmalade from the sweetest and juiciest Satsuma oranges that I had picked from the trees in the Park on the Back Forty.  They were so easy to peel, slice and dice, and simmer with sugar. It filled my kitchen with such a wonderful aroma.

I made a batch of marmalade last week and used too much sugar, much too much.  I also cut the orange rinds into strips and simmered them in two cups of water for ten minutes.  This proved to be unnecessary.

In my second batch, I cooked/simmered the chopped up Satsuma oranges and julienned rinds in six cups of water.  The cut up rinds will come back in the finished marmalade; hence, I cut them accordingly.

Altogether now:

2 and 1/2 lbs peeled Satsuma oranges, sliced and diced
2 cups loosely packed orange peel, thinly sliced (julienned)
2 cinnamon sticks (2 and 1/2 in each)
2 and 1/2 hefty cups of sugar
6 cups of water
(In my book, 1 cup = 2 dl and 2 lbs ~ 2 kg)

Cook/simmer the oranges, peels, and cinnamon in six (6) cups of water.  When the concoction has reached a boil, remove foam. and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 40 minutes, bring to a boil and add the sugar.  Bring the marmalade to a boil again and then let it simmer for at least one (1) hour, remembering to stir.  Note that this marmalade is made without commercial pectin.

For additional flavoring at the end of the simmering cycle, I added a generous teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  For extra sizzle, I added 1/2 cup of Black Velvet whisky.

When is the marmalade ready?  That is a good question.  To test, spoon a little marmalade on a cold plate.  If it does not run all over the plate, it is ready.  Or dip a cold spoon into the simmering marmalade to see if it will stick to spoon as opposed to running off like water.  The marmalade will also change its consistency in the simmering pot: it will become a bit thicker.

I like to pour the marmalade, using the measuring cup, into clean jars and seal them with hot wax that has been melted in double pots--one pot filled with water with the pot with the wax immersed in the pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil to melt the wax.  Use extreme caution.  The wax will be hot.

The marmalade goes very well on a toasted muffin.  A jar of homemade makes a very nice gift when dressed up with a small cloth showing from under the lid, pretty ribbon, card or fancy label.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Protecting Garden Plants during the Cold Months

The cold weather came early to Northern Florida this year and the prediction is for a cold winter.  The other night, we were carefully watching the temperature fall but the weathermen assured us that there would be neither frost nor freeze at the beaches.  At one o'clock, my husband woke me up and invited me to go outside with him to cover his two tomato plants and my newly planted broccoli.

With flashlights in hand, we stumbled our way to the shed to retrieve the frost blankets that we bought last year.  (See my blog on The Big Frost posted in March.)  We had done too much work in the garden to let the tender plants succumb to frost.  We didn't think there was going to be any frost because there was a breeze.  Still, we covered the plants.

A frost occurs when the temperature falls between 31 - 33 degrees F.  A freeze will occur when the temperature reaches 26 - 31 degrees F.  The freeze is especially damaging if the temperature remains at those degrees for a prolonged period of time.  The frost may also put a hurt on tender plants.

The difference between the temperatures, frost and freeze, depends on where the temperature is taken. If the temperature is taken 5 to 6 feet above the surface and thus it may be colder at the surface.  This means that if the temperature reads 37 - 38 degrees F, you may see frost on the ground.

The most rudimentary type of prevention is to put pine straw or leaves around the plants as mulch.  We are fortunate to have large pine trees in our Park and the needles needs to be raked up from the grass.  A gardeners's work is never done.

The plants do not retain any heat; however, the soil retains the heat, especially after a sunny day.  It helps to give the garden a deep water soak before frost or freeze.  Many times I have put plastic flower pots over the smaller plant to prevent damage from the cold.  I avoid covering plants with plastic and tarps because they will get cold and thus transfer the cold.  Bed sheets are a better choice.

Earlier this fall, I planted broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, and radish.  The cold may "burn" the leaves of these plants but they will survive.  I also sowed carrots, beets, and planted collards they should do fine in colder weather.  The lettuce may survive a cold spell, but I would cover them as well.

We didn't have frost the other night but it is better to play it safe, listen to the weathermen, and when in doubt, cover up.

Thank you for visiting my blog

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First of Advent

Advent is the season to spiritually prepare for the coming of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The Advent begins on the first Sunday of four before Christmas Day.  On this Sunday, the first of Advent, we light a white candle out of four to signify the Christmas season.  Many people also begin a long fast during the wait for the Nativity of Jesus, in time for the celebration of His birth.

First of Advent
At the home on the Back Forty Garden and Park, I have decorated a copper candle stick holder that was given to me by my mother a long, long time ago.

Today, I filled the holder with sprigs of fresh cedar, rose buds, and a few sea shells.  To celebrate and spiritually prepare and in anticipation of the coming of Christmas, I lit one candle and let it burn for a short time.

During this the darkest time of the season, we fill the home with lights in the windows and lights outside the home to chase the darkness away.  When we have our meals, we light a candle.  It is especially meaningful and solemn to light a candle at dawn before the hustle and bustle begins.

Some people chose to fast during this time for their preparation for the upcoming Holiday.  In Washington DC, there is a group of immigrants who have put up a tent, the Capitol Tent, and they are inviting us to join in the fast and prayer for immigration reform (Washington Post, 29 November).

This may not be the right time to go on a fast with all the party invitations from work places, organizations that we support and frequent, friends and family.

This is also a commercial time with newspapers filled with enticing advertisements and flyers from establishments wanting our time and hard earned money.  Often, we give in and join the crowds in pulling and shuffling for gifts for the special people in our lives.  We hardly have time to give much thought to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.


Thursday, November 28, 2013


I am giving thanks for having a wonderful husband, children with their spouses, grandchildren, family and friends.  I am blessed to have all of you in my life although we are not able to be together for this holiday.  You are in my thoughts.

I am blessed and give thanks that my husband and I are able to celebrate another holiday together.  I am blessed and give thanks that we are able to work and enjoy our Back Forty Garden and Park.

To all you readers, I am utterly surprised and delighted that so many of you from all over the world are reading my humble blog.  I do appreciate you visiting.  I give thanks.

To all you bloggers, I am impressed with your blogs, your pictures, and your ideas.  Your blogs are enriching my life.  Such a variety!  Awesome!   I give thanks.

Enjoy this holiday with friends and family.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Once upon a time, when my husband and I cooked our first turkey . . .  All we had to do was put the turkey in a pan large enough to hold the bird and put it in the oven.  The turkey came out looking pretty good; however, it had a large visible discoloration on its breast.  It was a dark protruding spot.  What went wrong?  We poked at it, but nothing happened?

Oh, my gosh!  It's going to explode!  We carefully poked some more and found out that we had cooked the innards packed in a paper bag stuffed in the turkey.  We didn't know about innards and such things back then.  You don't want me to tell you how to cook a turkey, do you?

Homemade Stuffing
Since it is going to be my husband and myself for this holiday, we bought a small turkey.  I stuffed the large cavity with Satsuma oranges and tops of celery and put cut up onions in its neck.  I finally sprinkled the turkey with paprika so that it wouldn't look so sickly coming out of the crock pot.

I like to keep the meal simple for our Thanksgiving.  We bought sweet potatoes from the Farmer's Market and I plan to cook them in their skins.  When cooked and if need be, we'll add some margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon to the the potatoes and mash them up on our plates.

In time for the holiday, I cut one fresh broccoli from the garden and it will be cooked for a few minutes and served with the turkey and sweet potatoes.  I made the cranberry sauce the other day and the homemade stuffing is also ready to heat and serve.

My husband feels that it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert and that's what he'll dish out for us after a meal fit for pilgrims.  The holiday will be celebrated with a bottle of chilled Wildflower Wine from Hinnant's Vineyard.  I am already looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving with my Pilgrim.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Clara White Mission Friday Lunches

At a time when we are in the midst of preparing the best meals for important family holidays, the head lines in Sunday's paper printed in bold letters about the hunger in Jacksonville, Florida.  The face of hunger looks like us, the paper proclaimed.  Hunger hurts.  Ouch!  It makes me uncomfortable to blog about the abundance of food for the holiday when there are so many hungry men, women, and children in the nearby city.

I was browsing through the "Share what's New" with you bloggers when I came across posts about writing about hunger and how to help those less fortunate than us.  I was so inspired.  Here is my contribution:

The Clara White Mission was founded more than 100 years ago by a former slave whose compassion for humanity moved her into action:  Clara White helped feed hungry neighbors from her home and the Clara White Mission with help from volunteers now feeds 400 - 500 people daily at breakfast and lunch.

The Clara White Mission has a 20-week Culinary and Janitorial curricula that will give students an opportunity to practice their skills and prepare them for a career.  There is a training cafe featuring an upscale menu providing students with extensive hands-on training serving lunch  to the public (for a price) every Friday at St. John's Cathedral on Church Street downtown in Jacksonville FL.  For more information, check out the Clara White Mission on the Internet.

If you have surplus vegetables from your garden or fruit from your orchards, call a city rescue mission to find out if they will accept your donation.  Also, senior citizens at activity centers in your neighborhood will also be happy to receive fresh fruit and vegetables.

What really gets me is that I cannot share a sandwich or two or ten with hungry people downtown.  It's against the law to hand out bread to my hungry fellowmen but I may feed the pigeons.  Let me go look for worms in my garden before I get too carried away.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberries or Lingonberries

Is there a difference between the cranberries and lingonberries?  Yes, they are one ocean apart; they grow in different environments: the size is different; and the taste is different.  Cranberries are grown in the northern part of the United States and Canada, too, I am sure.  Lingonberries are grown in the northern part of Europe, e.g. in Sweden.

The cranberries in this country are grown in bogs whereas the lingonberries are grown in a rocky, dry, and sunny climate. The cranberries are much larger than the lingonberries but they are both tart; however, I do believe that the lingonberries may be a tad sweeter:  they have been kissed by the sun.

During my years in Sweden, my friends and I filled a thermos with coffee, packed sandwiches and cookies in a rucksack, grabbed the berry picker, and headed for the sunny and rocky areas to pick lingonberries.

With the lingonberry picker, we scooped up the berries from the small evergreen shrubs.  The berries fell on through to the back of the picker while the debris was caught in the front and was easily discarded.

Most often I like to serve lingonberry jam or sauce with Swedish meatballs and I also like to have them with fried beef liver.  Actually, lingonberries go with just about any meat dish and potatoes.

The lingonberries are served at IKEA restaurants with their meatballs, and, of course, you may be able to purchase the berries at their food store.  You may also be able to purchase lingonberries at gourmet food stores.  Otherwise, cranberries will do fine.

In time for Thanksgiving, I made cranberry sauce (jam) from fresh cranberries purchased at the grocery store.  I followed the recipe on the package with some changes:  Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup cup sugar, and the cranberries to a boil.  I added another 1/2 cup of sugar and 3 Satsuma oranges (they are small) that I peeled and cut up.  I simmered this concoction for about 20 minutes.  It gave me almost 2 cups of sauce or jam.

Whatever you have with your turkey and all its trimmings, enjoy with family and friends.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Green Leafy Collards

When planting a garden, I try to plant super foods that fight diseases such as diabetes.  The vegetables in the garden are free from pesticides and fresh with nutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Preparing and caring for a garden also gives me a full body exercise several times a week.  This is a great time to plant leafy green vegetables in Northeast Florida.

The powerhouse among the leafy greens is the Georgia Collard.  It is low in calories and carbohydrates.  It is said that in the South, you may be able to purchase collards throughout the year with the exception of July, August, and September.  I planted my collards in early October this year and I have started the harvesting by cutting off a leaf here and there for using in soups and vegetable medleys.

It is important to give these plants plenty of room to grow, at least three (3) feet to spread.  I put nine plants in the ground and they are all doing well.  The collards are rich in vitamins C and K, and calcium.  It also contains beta carotene; the darker the leaves, the more carotene.

I have come to appreciate the collard green so much that I am going to let them be my main leafy green.  I do plan to sow mustard greens and let them flower.  They have such large and bight flower heads and the bees seem to come back again and again to receive their nectar.  Hopefully, they will make the Back Forty Garden and Park their favorite spot.

There is no need to wait for the collard greens to become fully grown:  cut off the bottom leaves and cook them.  Remove the large veins from the leaf and feed the compost.  I do not have a time frame for cooking the collard greens.  Some cook them for hours and others until somewhat tender.  I cook the collards as little as possible and save the cooking juice/broth/water to use in soups, stews, and gravies.  This will save the nutrients.

I prefer to eat my cooked collards with the homemade watermelon rind pickles that I made early this summer.  Other pickle and its juice will also do fine.  Some people like to add pork hocks to the collards when cooking.  I did that one year and found not much of a distinction in taste,  maybe added calories.  Other people like to add some sauteed onions and garlic to the collards.

The Georgia Collards have been plentiful at garden centers this year and they are still available in NE Florida.

Go Green!
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Red Poinsettia

The leaves were dense and dark green and the bracts were a deep red color.  The fruit in the middle of the bracts were yellow, healthy looking, and the price was affordable.  I simply could not resist getting a luscious red poinsettia for the upcoming holidays.  The poinsettias were lined up in rows and tiers at the big box store in time for Veteran's Day and they really caught my attention.

The poinsettias come in pinks and off whites and a few colors in between, but the red is so seasonal and at this time of the year, I need some color in my house.  The poinsettias are easy to care for and they keep their color for a long time, hopefully through the holidays.  It is recommended that the plants receive indirect sunlight away from both cold and warm drafts.

At the end of the season, some people cut down the stems and supposedly let the plant regrow its green.  It is too much fuss for me.  Instead, I set the plant out and mulch around it to keep the plant from frost and the roots from freezing.

The poinsettias are rather pest free with the exception of white flies in the warmer weather.  This is easily taken care of by spraying with horticultural oils found in garden centers.

One year I forgot that I had put a few poinsettias outside.  They came back in the summer, stayed green, and changed their colors in time for the holidays.  It is too difficult for me to make sure that the plants get the required daylight and the timely feedings to regenerate growth.

It is much easier for Mother Nature to take care of the light and watering.  When the soil around the poinsettia feels dry to the touch, it needs watering when inside.

During  this holiday season, the weather is usually cool but the poinsettia will do fine when used for decorations in the the landscape.  If it does get too cold, I bring in the plants.  The poinsettia will also do fine inside regardless of temperatures but they do prefer a cooler temperature.

Finally, it is most important to enjoy the poinsettia.  The main purpose for the plant is to be visible and bring joy.  Because of the affordability, purchase several and in different colors.  A poinsettia is also a welcome gift.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Satsuma Orange Trees

Now that the holidays are upon us, have you considered giving a fruit tree as a Christmas gift?  We have two Satsuma orange trees, received as gifts many years ago, and they are heavy producers with the oranges ripening at about the same.  The Satsuma orange trees are small and will do very well in containers.  They are cascading trees and the branches, laden with fruit, touches the ground.

The Satsuma oranges are also known as tangerines or mandarins and a mix between the two.  They are also known as Christmas oranges, better make that Thanksgiving oranges.  These oranges don't last very long and therefore don't ship well.  That is one reason people outside of the growing regions such as Florida have not heard about this sweet and juicy fruit.  I know that our oranges many times hardly make it from the tree to the kitchen.

Some growers recommend that the citrus trees be planted in the spring time.  This is the time for growth and blooms.  Others believe that the late fall/early winter is the preferable season for planting because the trees are dormant and the shock of moving may not be so severe.  The trees will have a chance to grow into the much warmer season.  As long as the trees are initially grown in containers, the planting season doesn't matter.  We have planted citrus trees in winter time as well as in summer time.

As with all trees, a wide hole needs to be dug deep enough to cover roots but shallow enough to leave the graft area above the soil.  The roots grow very close to the surface and it is important to keep the area free from weeds and mulch.  The area will eventually be as round as the tree with all the branches within the circle (the drip line).

The citrus trees do require much care, watering, and fertilization several times a year.  The fertilizer must be specifically for the citrus and containing trace elements such as magnesium, boron, copper, iron, zinc and many more.  We used common garden fertilizer one time and the harvest was poor, next to none.  To find out how much fertilizer to use, the instruction is printed on the fertilizer bag.

It is also important that the trees be watered on a regular base.  A deep soak is preferable about two times a week.  We have trimmed our trees after the fruit has been harvested.  We trim away the dead branches, branches crossing each other, and branches touching the ground.  The citrus trees, including the Satsuma oranges, are susceptible to some disease which is taken care of by spraying the trees with horticultural oil.

This time of the year, oranges are so readily available at a farmer's market near you.  Check any market  out.  Also check out your garden centers for fruit trees for yourself and as a gift.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Meal in a Pumpkin

We had company and for a late lunch, I served steaks cooked in a crock pot with a medley of potatoes, carrots, and string beans cooked separately.  I ended up with so much left overs to last for a long time.  I also had my granddaughter's small pumpkin sitting on the front porch as a greeter.  What to do?  I checked on my blog and checked to see synopsis of blogs and pictures of other bloggers' work as well as Margareta's.

There was a picture of two small pumpkins in a baking dish in the oven and the blog contained one heck of a yummy recipe for cooking dinner in a pumpkin, actually to cook the pumpkin with dinner in it.  Who created that blog?  I meant to respond to it but.... Today, I can't find it.

Any way, I thought I give it a try with my left overs.  I remember reading that you had to cook the meat and the vegetables before putting the dinner into the pumpkin.  The pumpkin adds another colorful vegetable to the dinner and to add more flavor to the pumpkin, dash some cinnamon on the yellow parts.

 With a sharp knife, I cut of the top of the pumpkin, removed the seeds and the slimy innards, and set the pumpkin in a glass dish with water for baking in the oven.  I filled the pumpkin with cut up steaks, onions, mushroom, and green peppers that was already cooked along with the vegetable medley and put the cap back on.

I filled the baking dish half full with water and I should have rubbed some canola oil on the outside of the pumpkin, but forgot.  Occasionally, I checked to make sure that the dish had water in it.

I guessed at the oven temperature and thought that 400 degrees F was too high.  I compromised and set the oven at 380 degrees F and baked it for an hour.  To check to see if the pumpkin was soft, I inserted a toothpick in its side.

Source:  Another blogger who is in Margareta's circle or who has me in her circle.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Last month we celebrated my husband's birthday with lunch at an Italian restaurant that served a take home entree in addition to the one you ordered and ate at the table.  It was a drizzly and dreary day, a good day for a hearty vegetable soup.  The waiter thought that was an excellent selection, too.

The soup was delicious.  There were so many vegetables in the soup.  I jokingly told Stephen, our waiter, that I would like to have the recipe.  In a few minutes, he came back with a listing of ingredients!  The following vegetables were included on his list:  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, cabbage, green beans, basil, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, kidney beans, and Northern beans.  Pasta was also added to the soup.

I modified the recipe based on my harvest from the garden and what I had available:  I chopped sweet onions and a clove of garlic.  I chopped carrots and celery.

From the garden, I chopped string beans, a medium sized leaf of Georgia collard and a leaf of red cabbage.  I had one lonely sweet potato that I brought in some time ago and didn't know what to do with until now.  Chop, chop.  I still have green peppers coming in--chop, chop.

I cooked the vegetables in chicken broth, a mix of home made and from cubes.  I also opened a can of Northern beans and added them to the pot.   I had dried Chinese seaweed that I also added. I picked some sweet basil, oregano, and rosemary from my herb garden and tossed them into the pot, too.

After I served my husband this soup with toast and cheese, I still had soup left over.  I could add cooked pasta and kidney beans to this soup.  This is a nutritious soup with many possibilities.  For your information, the kitchen sink is still in place and free of dirty dishes.

Thank you for visiting my blog. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

Another holiday is upon us to honor our war heroes and veterans.  If you, like me, is unable to attend wreath laying ceremonies, parades, and other memorials for those who served this country, there is something that you can do:  donate your gently used clothing and household items.

When I am cleaning the house (it happens), I try to recycle items that I no longer need.  I save these items for the Vietnam Veterans of America.  They need gently used clothing. They need bedding, drapes and curtains, housewares and glassware, jewelry and cosmetics, toys and games, books, small appliances in working order, and so much more.

The Vietnam Veterans of America have truck drivers that come and pick up your clearly marked items that you leave on your porch or drive way. They are sending out flyers with a date for the pick up but you have to call to confirm this day.  The Vietnam Veterans will also call you to let you know when they will be in your neighborhood.

Your donation is tax deductible.  Keep this worthwhile organization in mind and check them out on line:  WWW.VVA.ORG and schedule a pick up for your items.

Another worthwhile organization to aid veterans and those still serving in the armed forces is USO.  Please, check them out on line to find their locations and what you can do.

Also, the Parade Magazine, an insert in many Sunday newspapers, listed www.booksforsoldiers.com.  Among other things this organization encourage is sending care packages to soldiers.  This may include books, toiletries, and sundries.  You will have to register to participate.

Bless our Veterans and those still serving.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Atrial Fibrillation - Heart Health

I was sitting with my husband in the cardiologist's office last Thursday morning.  My husband, the most valuable gardener to me, has suffered from Atrial Fibrillation many times.  I am not an expert on heart ailments; I have no medical training, but I want to share with you the following information from a St. Jude's Hospital leaflet.

A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute.  If there are disorganized beats, it is called arrhythmia.  Any arrhythmia where the upper chambers of the heart beat 300 to 600 times per minute is called Atrial Fibrillation (AF).  This makes it very difficult for the chambers of the heart to pump blood properly.  The cardiologist said that often patients were not aware of their dangerous predicament.

Some symptoms of AF are dizziness, palpitations, a racing heart, and lack of energy. Many times a patient may become exhausted by walking from one room to another in the house or the patient becomes fatigued by going a short distance to the mailbox.  Why am I so tired?

The risk of stroke increases 5X with atrial fibrillation.  The risk of stroke increases for both men and women as they age.  There are 2.3 million AF patients in the US and approximately 160,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Timely detection and invention decrease the stroke risk.

The cardiologist said that for a normal person, diet did not much matter BUT that obesity did.  He said that what might trigger Atrial Fibrillation are obesity, caffeine, sleep apnea, and alcohol to name a few.  He also said that AF could occur regardless of a seemingly healthy life.

If you are concerned about your heart, the first defense is to know your blood pressure.  There are several blood pressure machines available and tested by Consumer Report.  I have checked our machines with the various doctors we have seen and they have given me the nod.  Otherwise, many drugstores and the big box stores have blood pressure machines available for public use and they do provide an indication of your heart's well being.

An Electrocardiogram (EKG) is a "test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart" (NIH).  An EKG is performed in the doctor's office and serves as an accurate monitoring system to see what is going on with your heart.  It is quick and painless.

Atrial Fibrillation may be treated by using medication therapy.  It may also require shock treatment that is done in a hospital but requires no overnight stay.

The very best you can do is listen to your cardiologist and follow his advice.  We are blessed to have excellent and caring heart doctors and I trust them with my husband's life.

A healthy gardener is a happy gardener.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gone are the Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer

The hazy, lazy days of summer are beginning to fade rather quickly.  We are already into November with major holidays fast approaching.  The garden with its fall crop is growing, the citrus are maturing, and the Nor'easter is whipping up the ocean.  The Daylight Savings Time is over:  fall is in full swing.

It is time to close the summer kitchen and bring the coffeepot inside to our screened in sun porch.  It has vinyl windows and a small air conditioner is tucked into one of the north windows and that made it a Florida Room according to the taxman.

During the early summer mornings, I often glanced out through those windows and noticed the haze rising from the pond and the scenic creek.  On occasion, there was a fine mist from the ocean.  Hmm!  It must be the humidity, I thought.  By the time I went outside to the garden on the Back Forty, the mist was gone.  It was usually so clear and crisp, especially after a rain shower.

Company is coming and we'll have lunch out on the sun porch where we can enjoy the greenery and the Cassia's yellow bloom outside.  If that is what we're going to do, I have better clean those vinyl windows.

I have looked for liquid cleaner specifically for vinyl windows but the helpful people couldn't help and the assistants at the home improvement centers had no idea what I was talking about.  Never mind!  I'll let Dawn help.  After all, she gets oil removed from ducks.

The windows are removable and I cleaned two at a time.  I used the liquid washing detergent and water.  I didn't bother to rinse.  I washed the windows using soft rags and dried them off with kitchen towels.  Even if I only removed two windows at a time, the trick was to put them back in order.

I used a soft brush to remove dust and dirt from the screens.  This time I decided to wash the screen with water and Dawn.  Wow!  I have never seen anything like it.  The fog has lifted and I can see clearly now.  (Isn't that a song?)  But the hazy, lazy days of summer are gone.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The very Yellow Cassia

I thought that I had a rather common Cassia bush growing on the Back Forty and Park.  Of course, that is not the case.  It is known by many names and has as many descriptions.  One of the names is Butterfly Bush.  That did not surprise me.  I found it quite fitting because small yellow butterflies are often visiting the Cassia; however, the description and the color do not fit my tall bush.

I also found out that the Cassia has been renamed to Senna.  Some refer to the Cassia as a Cinnamon Tree and others as a legume.  I tasted the flowers of my Cassia and they did not taste anywhere near cinnamon.  They are tasteless.

I can't recall seeing any pods developing and growing on my very tall Cassia bush either.
The Cassia on the Back Forty and Park blooms profusely in the fall.  It really brightens up the area.  The blooms are sunny bright yellow and they last a long time.  Eventually they die down and the Cassia drops its leaves.

Pruning is the key to abundant bright blooms.  The Cassia wood is weak and therefore breaks very easily, so handle with care during the growing season.  When the bush is in a dormant stage, I prune back the branches rather severely.  The Cassia is a fast grower and comes back vigorously in the spring.

My Cassia requires little care, seems to be pest resistant, and thrives in poor but acidic soil.  I mulch around the Cassia but let it grow as it pleases.  An interesting observation about the Cassia is that when evening comes, it folds its leaves.  The blooms remain the same.  I will now fold by blog for today.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Contender Snap Beans

I had a very nice surprise when I went out to the garden at Halloween:  some of the snap beans were ready for picking.  The seed company stated on the package that the beans would be ready in 40 - 60 days and they were right on the nose.  I have picked almost two pounds in the last few days.

The beans were grown in the raised box, 8x4 feet, that we built earlier this fall.  I sowed two rows of beans along either long side of the box.  It was a little bit crowded but this could also be called intensive gardening.  I am pleased that every seed sprouted, grew, bloomed, and provided me with a good crop of beans.

I gather that the name, snap beans, refers to the beans being snapped into bite size pieces before cooking.  Another name for these beans is string beans referring to the "string" running from top to bottom and is pulled before cooking.  A third name for the common snap beans is 'Haricot Verts'.  Huh?  I believe its French.  The name for the snap beans that we use is "Contender."  It's a true and tried cultivar in our family.

Once upon a time when we had our first garden, there was a church supper and I decided to bring snap beans as my covered dish.  I know I rinsed the beans and snapped them, put them in a pot of salted water and let them come to a boil.  After a few minutes, I removed them from the stove and put them in a serving bowl.  It was fine until a lady at the church demanded to know who the heck had brought those beans.  They were more raw than cooked.

Nowadays I let the beans with the ends off cook for no longer than five minutes and then I rinse them off under running cool water to stop the cooking..  Some say that the beans should be immersed in ice water.  To make my dish, I pour a little canola oil in a frying pan and when hot stir in the drained beans with a little bit of Hoisin sauce.  The beans need no further cooking and may be served warm with the rest of the meal.

The beans are also very good when cooked until tender in salted water.  I don't think that I am the right person to tell you how long you should cook your beans.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Freezing Pumpkin

Halloween is over; ghosts and goblins have been treated, and that left me to face the big pumpkin this morning.  How do I cut this pumpkin?  Maybe I should just smash it?  The serrated knife was of no help but a sharp filet knife did the trick.  The easiest way is probably to cut the pumpkin in half, put the skin side up on a cookie sheet, ant roast it in the oven.

I prefer to cut the pumpkin up in manageable pieces after the seeds and slime are removed.  I also trimmed the pieces of what was the inside of the pumpkin to make it look neat.

I filled a large pot with the pumpkin pieces, added lots of water, and put it on the stove to cook for about 45 minutes.  I checked with a wooden stick to see if the pumpkin was soft.

When the pumpkin was soft, I removed it from the heat, and poured out as much water as possible.  After a while, the pieces were cool enough to handle and it was so easy to cut the pumpkin meat away from its rind.  I put the meat in a bowl and smashed it down with a potato masher.

I filled three quart size plastic zip lock bags with smashed up pumpkin and put them in the freezer for baking pumpkin bread at a later time.  We do have the holidays coming up soon.  I didn't use all of the pumpkin:  enough is enough.  It was a large pumpkin and it will be a good addition to the compost pile in the garden.   It is now time to move away from the pumpkin and enjoy the weekend.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

As you are carving your pumpkin for tonight's trick or treating, save the seeds for roasting.  It is a gooey mess to scoop them out of the pumpkin, I agree.  Any way, scoop the seeds out and put them in a large bowl, rinse the goo out with a hose before bringing them into your kitchen.

You may have to wash them again to free them from the pumpkin's web.  All you have to do is to immerse the pumpkin seeds in cool water and rub the seeds between your hands and then let them dry off on a kitchen towel.

For roasting, mix 1 and 1/2 cups of pumpkin seeds in 2 tbs melted butter (or margarine or canola oil) and a pinch of salt.  Spread the coated seeds on a cookie sheet and roast in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes turning the seeds once in a while.

You may also be a bit more creative and use spices of your choice e.g. garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and even cajun seasoning.

For tonight, be careful and look out for the ghosts and goblins.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Preparing for Halloween

We don't plan to make any elaborate decorations for Halloween.  We have the large pumpkin plus a smaller one that we'll put out under a cedar tree in the front yard.  My husband promised to carve the little one and we'll put a flashlight in it.  It should be visible from the street.  The little ghosts and goblins, supermen and princesses, come at dusk so that the lit pumpkin will signal that treats will be given.  No tricks.

The first year that we lived here, there were no Halloween visitors.  I remember walking down the street to see if I could find any children, not even a ghost.  There are very few children on our street and they don't live down at our end.

I asked my son if ghosts and goblins did not go out to trick or treat any longer.  He said that kids got together at their schools and at churches for Fall Fests and Halloween parties.  He also said that in some communities there were "trunk parties."  Parents stuffed their kids in their cars;candy in their trunks, and met up at a designated area.

When carving the pumping, I will make sure to save the seeds for roasting and planting.  I also am in dire need of a new broom.  As you can see from the picture, I have a black coffee pot.  The tractor cat is missing--I doubt that she'll have anything to do with tomorrow's adventure.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Southern Wood Ferns

I never know what I'll do when I go outside to the Back Forty and Park.  Most often I end up weeding in the garden, or trimming bushes, or cutting the grass.  Today, I went around the corner of the north end of the house and started to pull up ferns that have grown freely and abundantly for a long time.

I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of ferns until I looked up "ferns" on the Internet.  I found references to ferns in Southern and Central Florida but not much in the northern part of the state.  Aha!  They haven't gotten here yet I thought initially.  How wrong!  Come to find out:  ferns are everywhere.

Clemson University (SC) gave the ferns a generic name:  "Hardy Ferns."   I wholeheartedly agree with that description.  There are Southern Shield Ferns, Southern Maiden Hair Ferns, and Widespread Maiden Ferns to mention a few.  I guess the Maidens did not stay that way for too long.  I settled for Southern Wood Fern which I believe best describes the ferns growing against the northern side of my house.

The ferns prefer a well-drained soil high in organic matter and require little care, if any at all, and are relatively pest free.  I have read that the ferns make an attractive focal point in shaded area and that they are fast growing.  Fast growing and fast spreading, that they are.  Without interruption from me, they would soon take over the side yard.

How do they multiply and spread?  Some say that they spread from rhizome and that may very well be the case.  Others say that they grow from fibrous roots.  Hmm?  I would not say that the ferns growing by the side of my house multiply from rhizomes.  I consider rhizomes to be rather hefty in size.  I am not sure what "fibrous roots" mean but that description seems to suit my ferns.

The ferns stay green year around but some of them turn brown and die down but new sprouts grow from the root system.  The brown ferns come off easy when pulled and the roots also come up easy. The roots have spikes that could put a hurt on a bare hand.  The picture shows the root system.  (It has been cut to show.)   The roots can travel and become rather large.

I feel sure that the ferns will eventually grow back but I will keep a tab on their growth.  The ferns are attractive but will I let them grow happily in the woods along-side Back Forty where I am not totally responsible for their care.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Wild Things

At this time of the year, when the days are getting shorter, and the goblins, ghosts, and other scary creatures are lurking in cobwebs and bushes to get you.  They even come knocking on your door and who knows what they will do if not treated well.

We worry.  We pray.  We look for the silver lining in the darkest sky.  We look for the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.  We search for peace and harmony.

We worry about our children.  We worry about our grandchildren.  We worry about those near and dear to us.  We worry about our health and well being.  What will the future bring?

I would like to share with you a poem by Wendell Berry that may give you some comfort, for a while at least. If you do your own research on Mr. Berry, I think that you will find him interesting, intellectual, and a stimulating activist.  Here is his poem about the real wild things called "The Peace of Wild Things":

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Credit:  Copyright @ 2012 by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems.
Used by permission of Counterpoint

Peace be with you.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Festival

Last Friday there was a Fall Festival at the Green Ridge Mountain School and although the Great Pumpkin did not turn into a carriage, we delivered our princess early so that we could check out the activities from the beginning.  The flyer promised delicious food, treats and drinks to purchase.  There was going to be tons of games and prizes (candy), cake walks, and raffle tickets for chances to win Gift Baskets.  Are we having fun yet?

I have never seen so many goblins, ghouls, and reapers among Hello Kitties, supermen, and one lone angel.  There were also many tall witches with green faces and pointy hats.  I went as myself and that was scary.

The most imaginative costume was on a little girl dressed in blue and with peacock feathers.  When she pulled on some strings, the feathers fanned out behind her.  They were as pretty as those on a real peacock.  She won the costume contest.  Congratulations!

There were many games and the object was to toss balls through hoops and holes and be rewarded with candy.  Many of the costume clad attendants could also get their faces painted if they were tired of tossing balls.

The most exciting and most popular activity took place at the dunk tank where the principal and teachers took many baths.  The children threw balls with gusto and when a teacher hit the water, the crowd cheered.

Needless to say, a good time was had by all and like all good things in life, it had to come to an end.  But that is not to say that there aren't any scary creatures out there--still.

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