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.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Searching for the Great Pumpkin

After I cleaned out last year's pumpkin, I tossed the seeds along the far end of the Back Forty in hopes that I would have a few pumpkins for this fall.  I had beautiful rambling vines with large blooms overtaking the far end of the garden and like Charlie Brown, I patiently waited for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.  Need I say more?

The great pumpkin never came to my garden so my husband and I loaded up the car with blankets and sweatshirts, good food and water, and headed north on Interstate 95.  The further north we got, the more colorful the leaves on the trees.  They were mostly yellow and brown, nothing spectacular, nothing with blazing red and flaming orange.

The main reason for this journey was to visit the granddaughter for a few days.  Saturday morning came with gray clouds in the sky and a chill in the air.  But we had to go and look for the Great Pumpkin.

The blankets kept us warm in the car and the sweatshirts kept us warm at Orr's Farm Market off Interstate 81 and a few miles of winding local roads in Martinsburg, West Virginia.  We past a huge field with various sizes of pumpkins and we were delighted and impressed.  Charlie Brown would have jumped with joy.

We continued to the Market to find out what we had to do. The granddaughter couldn't care less:  she had found her pumpkin and she would not let go of it.  We tried to explain that we could hitch a hay ride to the pumpkin patch but she wouldn't hear of it.

Orr's Farm Market isn't a particularly large place but it is well stocked with fruit, berries, vegetables, and sundries too numerous to mention.  We even picked Steuben grapes.  After we had loaded up the pumpkin in a cart, we added apples, potatoes, zucchini, and cider.

We had to go to wonderful West Virginia in search of the Great Pumpkin only to bring it to balmy and rainy Northern Florida; however, it brought us joy to be with the granddaughter and to find the Great Pumpkin with her.

Have a Great Day!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Margareta's Most Delicious Gumbo

During another sleepless night, I tiptoed into the den and turned the TV on to the Create Channel.  I ended up watching a chef from New Orleans making a scrumptious looking gumbo.  He said that everybody has their own way of making gumbo: so, this is my Louisiana inspired recipe for gumbo complete with roux and okra.

First, I made a trip to the Fish Market in Mayport Fl for fresh shrimp with their heads still intact.  I told the fish monger that I was going to make a Louisiana gumbo and asked if they had any spices for it.  No, they didn't, but he told me that they served gumbo in the restaurant and offered me to taste.  It was very good.  We talked about the ingredients used and among them was the okra.  I was anxious to get home and start cooking.

Meat:  For my gumbo, I used shrimp cooked in a seafood spice mixture.  I beheaded and shelled the shrimp, cooked the shells one more time and reserved the broth, about one cup.  I stir fried three small chicken breasts cut into strips and also stir fried chopped up smoked sausage.  I combined the shrimp, chicken, and sausage and set it aside.

Vegetables:  I chopped, diced, and sauteed onions, celery, green and red peppers.  I removed okra from the freezer, let it thaw a little and chopped/sliced it up.  I also opened a large can of diced tomatoes.

Seasoning:  Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, splash of white vinegar, paprika, and Cajun mix.  I also made two cups of chicken broth from bouillon cubes plus the shrimp broth that I had made earlier.

The meat, the vegetables, and the seasoning are now ready for the gumbo.  In Louisiana, they start with the roux.  I was slightly intimidated by the prospect of making roux.  Fear not!  Here it goes:

I used equal parts of fat (canola oil and margarine) with white flour, one cup of each.  I heated the fat.  I mean, I heated the fat and then slowly added the cup of flour, STIRRING constantly.  I reduced the heat but still kept the fire going and kept stirring, careful to not let it burn.

"They" say that if the roux burns ever so slightly, black specks showing up in the roux, throw it out and start over.  "They" also say that it will take a long time to make the roux.  Some say an hour and a half!  I was surprised when my roux thickened up and turned almost dark chocolate brown and it took less than 15 minutes.

Here comes the fun:  Use a large pot to combine the roux, the meats, the vegetables, and the seasonings.  Also, add the shrimp broth and most, if not all, of the chicken broth.  Heat it up and let it simmer to let the okra cook and all the ingredients blend.  I ended up with a yummy gumbo, tweaked it a bit more with paprika, salt and pepper, and served it over rice.

My husband gave me the nod on this gumbo and so did my son who also selected the music.

Bon Appetit!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, October 11, 2013


As I was cultivating the garden to loosen the soil around the newly planted cabbage and broccoli, I noticed that the purslane was also pushing through the soil.  I was wondering if I was cultivating the garden soil, the plants, the weeds, or me.  The plants and the weeds are already set in their ways and there is little I can do about them; so, that leaves the soil and me.  Whoa!  I am digging deep here!

Let me get back to the purslane that self-seeds and keeps coming up every so often.  It's a low spreading plant with rather small meaty green leaves.  Some of the stems take on a delicate purple hue.  The flowers are small and yellow and bloom profusely.

The purslane was first cultivated in India and the Middle East.  It eventually found its way to Europe and became very popular in the 16th century.  But like so many Europeans, it immigrated to America and settled its roots in many gardens.  It is still popular.

I have known that the purslane is edible but I have never tried it.  It may be eaten raw or mixed in salads. Most often it is cooked like spinach.

I read in the Southern Herb Growing that in the American South, the purslane was used as a "vermifuge".  To make a vermifuge, the ladies (Hill, Barclay, and Hardy) recommend that you cook down the leaves in honey and drop in "dollops" as one would make pralines.  Mr. Webster states that a vermifuge "serves to destroy or expel parasitic worms."

In another favorite herbal book of mine, The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness claims that the purslane was once thought to provide "protection from evil spirits."

As long as the purslane grows in my garden without interfering with the other vegetables, I leave it alone, especially when it is blooming.  It keeps the other weeds down and I am hoping that it will attract bees and butterflies.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
May the good spirit be with you.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Updates and Corrections

While planting the garden, there is very little you can do when you realize that you got the incorrect seeds.  That is what happened with our butter beans early this summer.  We thought that we bought pole beans and we actually received bush beans.  The poles looked a bit out of place for the bush beans.  It would have been silly to pull up the bush beans and try again with pole beans.  Who knows, we still could have gotten bush beans.  We are strongly considering another source for seeds next season.

Early this spring, we freed 1,500 lady bugs into our the Back Forty Garden and Park in hopes that they would attack the aphids.  Azaleas, evergreen trees and bushes were blooming so that there was plenty of nectar for the lady bugs.  Guess what?  We have not seen one single lady bug!  When we let them loose, the weather was a tad chilly; it was windy; and it was raining.  I would like to try again next spring.

Don't believe everything that you read.  You have heard that before, right?  I recently wrote about an electric pole saw and gave the dimensions directly from the manual.  Today, my engineering husband decided to measure the saw and it came out to be considerably shorter than I stated, only 8 feet.  It also extends only four (4) feet and not the six (6).  It is still a rather long pole.

Early this year, I made sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) and it turned out very well.  I was on a roll and made fermented carrots, too.  I threw them out onto the compost pile the other day.  I don't know what happened but I deemed them not safe for consumption.

Then there is the compost pile.  I add anything organic, even kitchen debris, to the pile except for sticks, corn stalks, and other large stems that will take a long time to decompose.  The compost pile has a tendency to mat when only grass clippings are added.  I avoid the matting by turning the compost often with a how fork.  It also strengthens my muscles.  Beautiful.

In one of my earliest blogs, I promised to take better care of my roses.  The roses that I planted for Valentine's Day are still living and they bloomed, too.  So far, so good; however, I lost one other rose due to unknown causes.

Then there is the name:  Back Forty Garden and Park.  Back 40, or some derivation of the name, is popular.  Do I have a Back 40?  Well, that is up for debate and discussion.  My husband kept referring to the Back 40 and I liked his explanation.  It may not be exactly 40 of any kind, but gee! as many times as we walk to the shed, to the garden, back to shed, to the house, to the pond etc., etc., we have surpassed whatever Back 40 is supposed to measure.  I should have named it Back & Forth Garden and Park.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, October 7, 2013

An Electric Pole Saw

Ah!  Tree trimmers and their tools!  The other day, we received a flyer in the mail from a company selling tools and equipment for house and home, cars and trailer, and everything in between.  Page after page were filled with tantalizing tool sales.

"This is what we need!" exclaimed my husband.  "We need a pole saw," he proceeded to tell me.  "A what" I asked.  "A pole saw to cut down the overhanging tree limbs and branches over the garden," he explained.

We did indeed need an electric pole saw.  I had been swinging from a tree limb, holding it down, while my husband tried to cut it down with a puny bow saw.

Electric Pole Saw
The pole saw is electric and we were able to use the electrical extension cords we already had--no additional purchases necessary.

We did have oil that we used for the chain saw and we could use that for the chain on the pole saw that required oil.  We carefully followed the instructions in the manual when adding the oil and there is a gauge on the saw indication the level of oil when full or remaining.  It does have an automatic chain oiler.

The pole saw has a 7 amp motor and a reach of 8 feet and 10 inches.  It may be extended another 6 feet.

Assembly is required but the saw came with a special screwdriver for this purpose--the only tool needed.  The saw comes with explicit instructions for assembly, care, and safety.  A page in the manual is designated for the assembly and it did not take long for my husband to put it together.

It also depicts how to properly cut down a large limb to avoid pinching the saw blade.  Another page have a lay out of all the parts, label, and shows how it is put together.

The saw comes with a 90 day warranty and an additional warranty may be purchased at the tools center that is valid for two years.  "If anything breaks, bring it back, and we'll replace the saw," the clerk assured us.

We bought the pole for less than $100 and I am pleased with the purchase.  Do you have any idea how much it costs to have a professional tree cutter come and trim your trees?

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mashed Potatoes and Pears

While waiting with my husband at the doctor's office, I scanned through magazines for gardening suggestions, home improvement and decoration ideas, and simple but interesting food recipes.  I came across this recipe for combining potatoes and pears to make a soup.  What a combination!

When I made the recipe, I halved it, and made a mash instead of a soup.  It depends of how much liquid is used.  It is a sweet mash/soup and it goes very well with any meat or as a stand-alone dish with cheese on a crusty bread.  My husband ate it with a fork and he liked it.   Here is goes, a recipe for eight servings:

Peel two (2) lbs (1 kg) of white potatoes, or russet potatoes, and cut into one inch cubes.  Cut two (2) lbs (1 kg) of Bartlett pears, core, and cut into one inch cubes.  I left the peel on the pears.

In the cooking pot, melt 2 tbs unsalted margarine and cook a small diced onion until somewhat soft.
Add four (4) cups of chicken broth, homemade or from cubes.  (One cup is 2 dl).  Add the potatoes and the pears.

Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.  I mashed the mixture in the pot with a potato masher and then pureed it in a blender.  While still hot, I added a scant table spoon of brown sugar which is optional.

For decoration, I snipped and scattered some fresh oregano over the mash/soup and topped it off with a generous helping of plain yogurt.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mexican Petunia

The Mexican Petunia is another example of a highly invasive but beautiful plant sold in most garden centers.  Home owners buy this petunia because it grows quickly, blooms for a long time, and will survive draught and frost.  One reason that I bought this plant was for the color of the blooms.  It turned out to be a colorful and long lasting addition to the Back Forty Park.

The Mexican Petunia is listed as a Category 1 by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.  Now, what exactly does that mean?  I checked it out and to quote from the Council, a plant is put on this list when it is "altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structure or ecological functions or hybridizing with natives."  This is serious business.

Mexican Petunia

The Mexican Petunia thrives in any soil condition and climate from the the prairie and pastures to the woods and the river banks.  It requires little care.  The trumpet shaped flowers are deep purple growing solitary or in clusters at the tips of the stems.

The petunia re-sprouts from its root stock and it is easy to pull them up to keep them from spreading.  It does not have massive rhizomes and it is not a climber.  It does need careful monitoring.  From time to time, I hand pull the entire plants to remove them and control the spread of his handsome plant.

There is, however, a specific area where I don't mind having this plant grow to prevent entry to the Back Forty.  It makes a better looking deterrent than a fence.

Thank you for visiting my blog.