Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

The children have had their Easter egg hunts and hayrides and today we can all get dressed up in fancy dresses and bonnets and attend a church service and partake in communion.  After church, we are going to settle down for a short and precious time with family and friends and have a simple meal with lots of vegetables from the garden.  

I do want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to visitors to my humble blog:  Thank You.
Feel free to leave a comment.

Come again.  I am going to take part in a blog fest starting tomorrow.  It's a challenge from A to Z.

Happy Easter

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Today is a somber day.  This is a time for solitude and reflection; a time to think about redemption; a time to think about salvation; and wonder about our Savior.  Let us still our minds and our hearts as we say The Lord's Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom, 
and the power,
and the glory,
for ever and ever.

The Largest Cross, Groom, Texas

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Love and Daffodils

It is spring time and love is in the air.  All sorts of trees are putting out their delicate greenery, azaleas are in full bloom, and roses are budding.  Birds are building nests and four legged critters are pairing up.  It is getting warmer and heavy winter coats are dropped.  The evenings are getting longer too and couples are walking arm in arm, laughing together.  Love is in the air.

But on a rainy Palm Sunday like today when severe thunderstorm warnings are announced over the radio and the sky is dark and heavy, my thoughts wander to a field of daffodils with bright yellow blooms bobbing in the sunshine.  They prefer full sun or light afternoon shade.  So do I, don't you?

At this time, ministers and clergy all around the world preach eloquently from their pulpits about Easter and its traditions, happy and serious.  Churches are decorated with fresh spring flowers and new greenery.  It is spring time, a time for renewal and new beginnings.

Today, on this Palm Sunday, I celebrate and honor my marriage because a long long time ago, I carried a bouquet of bright yellow daffodils as I walked down the aisle in my hometown church to say I do to the man I had fallen in love with and have loved ever since.

Monday, March 18, 2013

One Bag at a Time

My pet peeve is plastic bags that grocery stores, home improvement and hardware stores, and everybody in between so generously give and we accept (most of the time).  How many times have we not picked up plastic bags along road sides and even in our own yards?  The plastic bags blow away, or are tossed out, and they are so easily blown off the garbage trucks.

Where do some of the plastic bags end up if not in ditches and waterways where all sorts of fish, water animals, and birds get tangled up in them?  Have you noticed how similar a plastic bag looks to a jelly fish?  Some fish, fowl, and animals eat the bags mistaking them for food and have no way to escape but through a horrible death.

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers hosted a program on PBS the other night where an artist showed his work using plastic to make a statement of the beauty and the ugliness of plastic bags.  I was curious about how many bags consumers use and I looked it up on the Internet.  Here are some of the staggering statistics:

Total number of plastic bags used worldwide annually--1 trillion
Total number of plastic bags used every minute--1 million
Average amount of plastic bags consumed per family in 4 trips to the grocery store--60
Total amount of plastic bags used by US citizens every year--100 billion
Percent of household waste that is plastic--11%

Check out the plastic bag statistics on the Internet and you'll find out how long it will take for a plastic bag to decompose.  Here are a few simple and easy ways to reduce the plastic bag consumption:

1.  Instead of bagging the garden and yard debris, put it in a reusable container for the sanitation workers to empty and return to you.

2,  Handsome reusable (cloth, nylon) bags are readily available in the stores that have your business.  They are washable and last a long time.

3.  When you have too many plastic bags, take them to just about any store to be recycled.

Remember, we are saving the environment one bag at a time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Colorectal Cancer and the Healing Garden

Colon and rectum are parts of the body that we really don't want to talk about, not even during the Month for Colorectal Cancer Awareness.  Colon cancer is the most common and second deadliest cancer; however, if detected early and treated, the mortality rate will definitely drop.  It is our well being at stake; it is our bodies, and it is time that we do talk, act, and take care of ourselves.

The colon is approximately four to five feet long and its purpose is to absorb water, salt and nutrients, store waste, and eliminate waste.  The peculiar thing about colon cancer is that you may not have any symptoms and you have never felt better.   Any way, talk to your doctor about a screening.  There are many options available.  It is especially important if other family members have been diagnosed with cancer and you have reached the magical age of fifty.

You may be the first one to detect cancer symptoms by glancing at your stools before flushing the toilet looking for either bright red blood in the stools or even dark red.  Check the toilet paper tissue, for heaven's sake!  No need to be shy about your daily routines and body parts.  Call your doctor and tell him if you have  discovered blood in your stools and that you want it checked out.  Your are the first line of defense.

Fast forward to the tranquility of my Back Forty garden that smooth booboos on my soul, calms my shattered nerves, and restores my spirit as well as my physical well being.  After two years of being seduced by a recliner under a love blanket and the chair's warm arms embracing me, I finally got the gumption to get up and leave to go out to my overgrown garden.  I am a colorectal cancer survivor.

When I saw the tall weeds in the garden, I groaned.  I started pulling the weeds with one hand while holding my stomach with the other.  It was one weed, one clump, after another.  It was slow going.  At the end of this garden therapy, my butt ached, my legs and arms ached; however after a while, my muscles were shaping up a little bit at a time.  I was feeling better.  I looked better.  Morning after morning, I went out for more punishment, therapy, or yoga in the garden.  Eventually the garden got weeded and my muscles ceased  aching.  Thank you, God!  I feel blessed.

So, what did my husband do while I was snuggling up under the blanket in the recliner?  He cared for me and cooked for me.  He made sure that I always had a huge bucket to puke into and that I was comfortable.  Many many nights he inserted needles into my drip lines attached to my arm and made sure the pump was running to allow for the dripping.  He was a wonderful nurse and he still takes good care of me.  I am blessed to have him in my life.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daylight Savings Time

I feel compelled to write a few words about this awkward event.  I don't know if I sprang forward or backwards this morning.  Most of the time I have a difficult time springing out of bed regardless if the sun is up an hour before or after me.  Some mornings, I get out of bed on the wrong side.

I was going to write that daylight savings time doesn't matter to be, but it does have its merits.  Of course, as time moves on so does the earth and outside gets brighter and brighter.  Now, I can get up earlier in the morning and walk to the beach and take pictures of a blazing sunrise.  I can also make a trip during spring break to see my granddaughter and travel longer at night while daylight.

The more I think about this daylight savings time, the more confused I get.  Let's see what is happening in the garden.  Did the vegetables notice?  Did they receive more sunshine?  Nah!  They are going to germinate and mature on their schedule.  What about the birds?  Do they start their twitter earlier or later in the day?

To add more to my confusion and lack of humor, my husband asserts "that he understands daylight savings time."  To explain, he says that "it's like taking a ruler and cutting off the last inch and then you take that inch and glue it onto the other end of the ruler."  Go figure!

There is one important thing to do when the time changes:  check the batteries in your fire alarm systems. If for some reasons, you are unable to afford the alarms, talk to the good people at the fire stations.  I understand that the alarms may be given to you and even installed.

The most obvious task to do today is to set your clocks.  Spring forward!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fermented Carrots

The carrots in my garden take a long time to mature.  Some of them are long and slender while others are short and stubby; however, they have fabulous green tops.  Now that I do have the carrots, what do I do?  They have been grated into slaws and salads along with the cabbage, they've been boiled with potatoes and green beans, and they have been served on fancy glass plates at an occasional cocktail hour.

I am so blessed to have my granddaughter help in the garden.  While she visited some time ago, we made early morning rounds to see what was happening on the Back Forty.  We both had to get our hands into the soil to touch and pull some weeds.  Of course, we couldn't go back empty handed.  With a little help, my granddaughter came up with a handsome bunch of carrots.  They certainly made a colorful and nutritious snack.

I recently read in the Florida Times-Union that some chefs at a few local restaurants around town are placing vacuum-sealed plastic bags filled with carrots into hot water to cook!  They call it "sous vide."  The carrots are supposed to better retain their flavor and color when cooked this way.

I had about 2 lbs of fresh carrots that we could not possibly eat at this time when another family member came to the rescue and suggested that I ferment the carrots.  Why not?  That's one way of preserving the garden harvest.  He said that after cleaning them up, I should cut them up into thin strips or rounds and then pack them tightly into a one gallon container (bought at a big box store).  For brine, he said to heat 4 cups of water with 4 tbs of table salt.  Let the brine cool and then pour it over the carrots in the container to cover them.

To seal the container, pour water into a plastic bag to put on top of the carrots to hold them down.  This works very well because the water bag is formfitting.  If you don't have a lid for your container, cover it with a tea towel and tie it down with a pretty ribbon, string, or rubber band.  Let the container with the carrots stand at room temperature for about two weeks, then spoon the carrots with the liquid into clean jars and store in the fridge.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ladybugs in the Garden

Release!  Release!  Off you go, pretty Ladybugs!  These beautiful and beneficial predators feed on Aphids found on many plants including roses and Crepe Myrtles.  They also feed on slow moving garden pests.  It is not recommended to use herbicides, pesticides, and other poisons along with these bugs.  They are a must for organic gardening.

When I was working, my office mates talked about their yards, apple orchards, and flower beds.  They used mail order ladybugs to control unwelcome pests.  So when my husband and I retired and moved back to our home in Florida, we went to the local seed store and asked if they had ladybugs for sale.  They wanted to know where we came from.

Consequently, I got in touch with Hirt's Garden and they sent me 1500 live ladybugs with explicit instructions for release.  The ladybugs were sent by mail and the package fit the mailbox just fine.  1500 bugs sound like a lot and it is plenty for a home garden or a small green house.  When I received the package, I gently opened the box and the ladybugs.  I left the ladybugs in their cloth pouch and stored them in the fridge over the night for release early the following morning at sun rise.

The azaleas were in bloom for the ladybugs, the citrus trees were beginning to put out their blooms, and the wind created pollen clouds from the cedar trees--good food for the ladies.  The ladybugs thus had plenty of nectar for a scrumptious feast upon their release in the early morning.  To wash it all down, there was plenty of water available on the azaleas and roses to quench their thirst after their long journey and being cooped up in the fridge.

I later read that the evening might be a better time to release the ladybugs so that they could make themselves comfortable during the night, find food and shelter.

To make sure that the ladybugs stayed in the garden, the good people at Hirt's Garden suggested to spray their wings with sugar water, or cola diluted with water to prevent them from flying away.  Initially, I thought this might be cruel, but the solution will wear away in a week.

The ladybugs were released under the best circumstances but a few days later, we had heavy rain at the beach, followed by windy conditions, and finally a cold snap with frost.  Guess what?  The ladybugs must have flown to warmer climes.  Say, have you seen them?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Put some Color in Your Kraut

How much green and red cabbage can you eat?  You've cooked it, you've sauteed it, and you've used it in salads and slaws.  You've got cabbage coming out of your ears and there are still cabbage heads in the garden.  How about making some colorful sauerkraut for hot dogs and hamburgers at your picnic on upcoming warm summer days?

Fermentation is a method that has been with us for a long time to preserve the garden harvest.  Some say that sauerkraut aids in your digestion.  Cabbage in any form and shape will at least keep you regular.

My brother in Sweden told me about a recipe that called for whey obtained from buttermilk to be used in the sauerkraut.  It sounded too complicated for me but I did it anyway.  The kraut turned out crisp and tasty. But there has got to be an easier way.

I searched the Internet and found Sandor Katz's  He is a New York native now living in Tennessee and has written many books on fermentation.  He made sauerkraut without whey and added many other colorful vegetables.

Instead of a crock pot, I used a plastic pitcher bought at the big box store that nobody wants in their neighborhood.  It holds almost one gallon and comes with a lid.  To hold the kraut down under the liquid, I simply filled a plastic zip lock bag with enough water to fit into the pitcher. .

For starters, thinly slice 2 medium sized golden green cabbage heads and another red cabbage for color and toss into a large bowl.  Grate a few carrots for more color and throw in finely chopped broccoli, too.  A Granny Smith apple will go well with this mix.  Don't stop now!  Does chopped parsley fit in?  If you think it does; use it.  Raid the spice rack for fennel, cardamon, and dill seed.  Crush them slightly in a mortar or wrap them in a tea towel and use a hammer.  Easy does it.

Now the most important ingredient is salt.  To this colorful slaw, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ordinary iodized table salt and use elbow grease to grind it in.  Come on!  Give it some hearty squeezes, turn it, and knead it.  The salt will draw out the water from the vegetables and provide liquid needed for filling the pitcher and later the jars.  If you don't have enough liquid, make a brine of 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of water, heat to make it dissolve, and let cool.

Finally, transfer the finely sliced vegetables into pitcher, pack it down, cover with brine, add the plastic bag with water, put the lit on it, and let it stand for 3 - 4 weeks in a place where you can keep an eye on it.

When the kraut is fermented, spoon it into some pretty jars that have been rinsed on high heat for cleanliness and sterilization.  I recommend that the sauerkraut be stored in the fridge.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Big Frost

Until now we've had a real Florida winter with temperatures fit for short sleeves, bare legs, and flip flops.  But today, the weathermen are predicting frost for the beaches community.  The potato farmers inland have covered up their crops.  They have buried the potatoes, tops and all, with soil and covered them with frost blankets.  Yesterday, I hilled up my row of potatoes but as soon as it warms up this morning, I will go out and cover them up, too.  The last time we had cold weather, we ignored the warnings and the tender greenery was kissed by the frost but most recovered.

The snap beans were hit by the frost, too.  Some are doing well and others have wilted.  The rows are spotty.  The best to do with the beans is to start all over and grow another crop.  The seeds germinate in about 6 days and the time to mature crop is 40 - 60 days which is rather fast.

The citrus trees are blooming.  The aroma is heavy and sultry.  It just knocks your socks off.  Some people like it and others don't.  The anti-freeze for the trees is to water the roots well in the afternoon and while it is still daylight, throw a bed sheet over them.  The trees on our Back 40 are not tall, so this should work well.  We are staying away from plastic that will harm them more than protect them.  We are concerned about the tender white blossoms getting bit by frost, falling off, and there goes the fruit for next season.

My husband has checked around at our local haunts for Frost Blankets and the folks at the helpful place had some for about $15.  The size of the blanket is 10'x12' and also available in "Bulk Sizes."  It's made of "permeable fabric" and the medium weight is only 1.5 oz.  What?  Yes, that's what it said.  Come dusk, my husband and I will have so much fun under a blanket over a citrus tree.

It seems that the local garden centers carry herb and vegetable plants year around making it difficult to resist buying and planting in hopes for an early harvest.  Of course, it is wonderful to be out in the sunshine and flex some muscles while the temperature is mild.  Who is thinking about frost?  But late February and early March usually come with a frost.  One time is enough to destroy the hard work and set you back.  All you can do is keep on gardening.