Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Where ever you are and what ever good wishes you have for a prosperous new year, I wish you the very best.  Bundle up tonight, drink responsibly, and have a wonderful time. Give the one you are with a very warm hug and even a kiss.  

Happy New Year!

The photo is snatched from the Internet.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Homemade Sauerkraut

I wasn't going to make any sauerkraut this season, but then I don't know what else to do with those well-formed green heads of cabbage emerging in the garden.  So, here we go again:  I am going to make kraut quick and easy and in small batches (2 Mason jars).

First, I removed the less attractive leaves, cut the one head into eight (8) wedges, and removed the core.  Then I thinly sliced the wedges crosswise, transferred the cabbage into a mixing bowl, and sprinkled with about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt (non-iodine).  For more taste, I added a tablespoon of caraway seeds.

Here comes the hard work:  I squeezed and massaged the cabbage, salt, and seeds with my hands for about 5 minutes.  The work is almost done.  At this point, I packed the cabbage and the liquid into a Mason jar holding two cups.  Try this without spilling!

It is advantageous to hold the cabbage down in the jar.  For this purpose, I filled a slimmer jar/glass with water and put it inside the Mason jar with the cabbage.  Cover the jar with a cloth, if you prefer, and place it on a saucer because liquid may overflow.

It is important that the jar be checked once in a while for the next three days and tamp down on the cabbage if it is above the liquid.

If there is not enough liquid to cover the cabbage, dissolve one (1) teaspoon salt (non-iodine) in one cup of water.  Add to the cabbage as necessary.

After about three days, the sauerkraut may be ready.  It is certainly ready for tasting.  If it tastes good to you, it's "done."  When you do consider your kraut done, remove the jars with water (the weights), screw on a cap, and store in the fridge.

Fermented cabbage may be kept in the fridge for two months or more, but be cautious about moldy parts on the surface which should be removed and discarded.

For more information, check out Sandor Katz's "Wild Fermentation."

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

Here at the Back Forty Garden, we are keeping traditions going and then we are creating a few new ones too.  When I was growing up we had rice porridge on Christmas Eve.  To make this dish more exciting, one blanched almond was added and the one who ended up with the almond would be the first to get married.

It is easy to make the rice porridge:  follow the directions on the package.  To make it richer, I add milk at the end of the simmering period and a dab of margarine.  I serve it in small bowls with cinnamon, sugar and milk.

Of course, I had helpers not only this morning but throughout the year and I do want to thank them.  I also want to thank you for reading my blog.

Wishing you a very Merry and Special Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Green Juice for the Holiday

What to do with all the greenery in the garden?  I decided to treat myself to a juicer in time for the holiday and went to the big box store to explore the possibilities.  I didn't want to spend too much money on it because I may not like the juice.

The lady at the check out said that her son had one just like the Oster "MyBlend" that I got and that he liked it very much.  She said to be sure to chop up the fruit into small pieces before putting them into the blender/juicer.

I asked about green vegetables and she strongly suggested that I chop them up. She said to stay away from carrots because they were hard.  She also said that her son topped off the juice with a shot of gin.

When i got home, I went to the garden to select my green vegetables:  I picked a large leaf of mustard green, several leaves of curly kale, searched for small leaves of arugula, and a green pepper.

I removed the stems from the leafy vegetables, rolled each one up separately and chopped away.  I also added some of the green pepper.  Finally, I chopped up half an apple to sweeten the concoction.

I filled the bottle up, not quite half way, with water, and added the vegetables.  I did not pack or load too tightly, fastened the blade assembly, turned the bottle upside down and placed the bottle in the blender's base.

With a simple touch, pushing the bottle down, the pulsing/blending began.  It was up to me to decide when the juice was drinkable.  I poured the green juice into a glass and handed it to my taster.  After a sip, he gave it back to me and I tasted it.  Hmm!

I replaced the blade assembly with the drinking lid and put it in fridge.  I think the helpful cashier's son was right.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2014

It is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the first day of Winter.  Today I light all four candles in the stillness of the early morning hours. It is time to reflect upon the spirit of Christmas and the real reason for the celebration.

This is also the time for me to reflect on the holidays spent with my family when I was a young girl and the traditions that were passed down to me lighting the four candles.

I think of the traditions that I hope I will pass on to my children and my beloved granddaughter.  What will they remember?  Memories are made to be honored and traditions are made to be followed in the future.

I wish you a Happy Holiday with peace and harmony. 
 Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Christmas Tree

Over the years, we have had different kinds of Christmas trees.  For many years we had fresh cut spruce and then we decided to have real live trees complete with root balls that we could plant when the holiday was done.

The first time we brought in a live tree, our dog Sir Henry thought it was a great treat for him.  He circled it and sniffed it and cocked his leg.  His mission of marking the tree was however avoided in nick of time.

We have had trees from IKEA for a reasonable price and when the holiday was over we could take it back and get the mulch.  It was an easy way to dispose of the tree and recycle it.

When we moved to Florida, we settled for live cedar trees and we had three of them planted in the front yard.  They grew to full grown trees.  One tree was cut down by our tenants but the two remaining grew any way they wanted.

One tree was planted too close to the house and we cut it down because it dropped its needles on the roof that had to be manually removed otherwise it sat there and rotted and could possibly cause damage to the new roof.

We employed insured and bonded tree cutters to remove the tree.  They worked quickly and moved the limbs to the road side for pickup by the Waste Management.

Some of the branches I cut up for mulch and I saved the cut up tree stubs to make a short "fence" at some point in time or use as "seats" in the woods.  It is to be determined

It is less than a week until Christmas and people are rushing about at parking lots with trees for sales.  Choose your trees carefully and enjoy them

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The December Garden

Frost blankets are a must.  We had to leave town and the night temperatures were going to be cool enough for frost, so we covered the tomato plants and a poinsettia by the front door and they seemed to be doing fine when we removed the blankets after several days.  The frost blankets does not heat up during the day as plastic or canvas would.

The other day a friend of ours came by and left with Satsuma oranges, red potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and greens.  He had never seen broccoli grow in a garden and he wanted to know what to do with the mustard greens.  We were most happy to share our bounty with him.

It seems to be popular to juice kale and other greens, even collards.  I prepare the kale pretty much as you would cook spinach--I let it come to a boil, turn the heat down a bit, and let it cook for no longer than five minutes.  I serve it with homemade watermelon pickles.

The other day, I pan fried some pork chops as well as somewhat thinly sliced rutabaga, added a little water and scraped up the goodies in the pan and added chopped kale and let it "cook" for a few minutes while stirring now and then.  I sprinkled the kale with Parmesan cheese.  Next time, I'll try to toss in a few "slices" of goat cheese and let it melt a little before serving.

Next, we have to pick whatever butter beans are still on the vines, remove the wines, and prepare the soil for a ground cover or for seed potatoes that should be available before too long.

The Arugula has gone wild.  It is too large to harvest and too bitter.  I just as soon use the kale mixed with store bought lettuce or leafy lettuce.

I set some onions and they are striving although they have been trampled in places.  I have a tendency to plant the vegetables to close in hopes of keeping the weeds out.

My friend was very kind to me as I was moaning and groaning about the "lawn".  He said that he liked the natural look.  I like it as long as it is green.

Thank you for visiting my blog. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Third Sunday of Advent 204

This is the third Sunday of Advent.  There is one more Sunday until the arrival of Christmas with its Celebration.  This is truly the time for reflection and introspection while we light three white candles in the early morning hour as dawn is breaking and a new day is beginning.

It is so difficult to take a few moments to sit still and question what is important?  What is it that I truly want?  Is there some way I can reduce the stress, the to do list, the obligations at this time of the year?  Is it so important that I give things?  What about my candied fruit, my pickles, and jams?  Would some of those not make a gift?  How about a loaf of homemade bread?

A long long time ago, my mother gave me the copper candlestick holder for the four candles to light for advent.

Each year, I use the copper holder and decorate it with moss and greenery.  I think of my mother.  I think of the traditions that she passed on and the traditions that I am honoring.

Advent is a religious celebration with Catholic and Protestant meanings and interpretations.  It is not for me to impose any of those beliefs onto you.  It is up to you to find them out for yourself and decide what you want, need, and desire.

I wish Peace and Happiness for all
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lucia 2014

This morning is pure magic when you are visited by Lucia and her followers all dressed in white and serving you hot coffee, buns, and gingerbread cookies.  If you live in a city with a large Swedish population, they celebrate Lucia and this is an event not to be missed.  It is celebrated the 13th of December every year.  It's a long standing tradition with deep roots going back to Italy.

My niece in Sweden sent me this link and it is magic.  This young woman loaded a wheelbarrow with candles and went to the woods and lit them.  I would like for you to see the rest for yourself.

Enjoy the day!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent 2014

It is the second Sunday of Advent which means that there are two more Sundays before Christmas.

Oh, how we hurry through the most important season.  We scurry along, driving like crazy to get to the stores that we think have the best sales.

I feel the urge myself to hurry, to clean and scrub, bake and cook in anticipation for the upcoming holiday.  Now is the time to give, give, and give.  Telephones are ringing and the voices on the other end want to know if I will give or they will give free things without leaving numbers to call back.

At this time,  I feel the urge to bake cookies to give to police, firemen, and sanitation workers.  

I feel the urge to send my hard earned dollars to people who supposedly have less than I only to find out that is not so.

It is time to light that candle for the second Sunday in Advent and to sit down and reflect, to sit down and be still, and to reflect what is important.

The morning time is just as beautiful as the evening time when the sun is about to come up or to set.  The sky takes on a pink hue in the east or in the west.  What better time is there than to light your two candles and just be still.  I take a few deep breaths and realize how fortunate am to be able to celebrate this season in peace.

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Calas! Calas! Donuts!

I admire the women of old who sold their hot calas early in the mornings on the streets of New Orleans.  They made a livelihood out of what they knew how to do best:  donuts!  Women have always been in the kitchen stretching their imagination, grains, and vegetables from their gardens to feed their families.

The calas are made of slightly mashed cooked rice (1 and 1/2 cups), 1/2 cup sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 2 and 1/2 tsps baking powder,  cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla extract is optional, and flour to make the batter hold together.  Deep fry by the spoonfuls in hot oil until golden which does not take long.  Roll the hot calais in a sugar and cinnamon mix or sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.  Serve with your morning coffee.

This recipe was inspired by my favorite chef, John Besh in New Orleans, as seen on a PBS station.

 I can't go out on the streets, holler calas, and sell my donuts nor am I able to attend any formal parties to help feed the hungry but I can indulge myself with a good BBQ lunch at Sonny's who will give "Hope for the Holidays" with a $20 donation that will go to the Salvation Army to provide turkeys to families in need this holiday season.

It is of utmost concern and astonishment that there are so many men, women, and children in food lines across my city, the nation, and the world.

It is also important to check out the charities to find out how much their CEOs make per year and how much actually goes to the charities they chair.

Thank you for visiting my blog

Sunday, November 30, 2014

First of Advent 2014

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.and let's us take a moment to light a candle and think about the upcoming season.

May peace and harmony.fill our hearts.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean

I have from time to time written about the marine who started his ride on a horse in Surf City, North Carolina. After 7 months,  he will end his ride tomorrow at Camp Pendleton in California.  The purpose for his ride was to bring attention to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that affects veterans coming home from wars.

In his posts on Facebook, hehas very well documented the plights of the veterans.  He has brought attention to the fact that each day 22 veterans take their own lives because they cannot cope with returning home to civilian life. Mostly there is no support system available for the veterans be it psychological and physical.  Hopefully, this will change.

This marine, Matt Littrell, has posted interesting and beautiful photos from his ride across this country.  He has written about his horses and he has written many time about the kindness of strangers.

Tomorrow his ride will come to an end. His posts have moved me to teas many times and it has been worthwhile and profound reading.

.Please take a look at his Facebook, The Long Trail Home, and find out about the time and place in case you are interested to meet and greet him at Camp Pendleton's South Gate in California.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The subject for today is about gratitude, not only today but throughout the year.  Gratitude is good for your health and it improves your ability to cope with difficult people and every day stress so "they" say..

Every time I work in the garden, tilling the soil and weeding, I feel grateful that I am well enough to do it.  I feel blessed for harvesting various and nutritious vegetables throughout the year.

I feel blessed that I am able to share the abundance from the garden with senior citizens.  I am grateful that they do accept my fresh vegetables. They are doing me a favor:  those vegetables do not end up on the compost.

I am grateful and so blessed to have a wonderful partner of many years to share the gardening with me. I am grateful for family and friends.

I am grateful that I am able to write this blog.  It is good exercise for my mental health.  I am happy that so many are reading my humble blog.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving with friends and family and give those with less a helping hand and a healthy serving of your blessings whatever they may be.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Falling Leaves

People make road trips to see the leaves turning and it is indeed a spectacular display of brilliant colors in red and yellow and hues in between.  It is also very nice and peaceful to walk in the woods on a windy day and the leaves come falling down.

Sara Coleridge writes:

Dull November brings the blast, 
then the leaves are whirling fast.

How true!  I went out in the car yesterday afternoon and the leaves were whirling fast further up the road. 

I am glad that we don't have leaves to rake up in our Park.  If you have leaves falling onto your grass/lawn, rake them up as soon as possible.  Don't let them stay for an extended time.  It is not healthy for the grass because the leaves cut out the natural light and encourage the growth of fungi.

Most of our trees in the Park are evergreen and whatever leaves are falling on the grass is picked up during the last mowing for the season.  Pine needles, and plenty of them, are falling down in our yard but that all right.  They make for wonderful mulch.

It is all right to wait for most of the leaves to fall and then rake them up.  Of course, with all the rain and snow it may be a long wait.  In the meantime, take a listen to Art Pepper's "Autumn Leaves" and enjoy it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Candle Making Made Easy

When I was cleaning up the sun room in time for Thanksgiving so that we could enjoy our meals overlooking the Park, I came across some large and small candles in glass jars that I almost threw out.  So much wax that was going to waste, I thought.  Why not melt it down and make new candles to decorate the table for the holidays?.

Warning:  Melting wax is a dangerous undertaking and I urge you to be cautious and exercise great care.  

To prevent the candle in a large jar from rattling or maybe even breaking, I put a small dish cloth in the bottom of the pot that I had half filled with water.  I put the candle jar onto the cloth in the pot and let it slowly warm up, simmer, and melt. I was keeping a careful watch on this pot!

To remove the hot jar with the melted wax, I simply used two pot holders and carefully emptied the wax into my smaller pot that I use for melting wax to seal my jars for jams.  (I let it stand and harden because I was not ready to make candles.)

To melt the wax, I put the pot with the wax into a larger pot with water and let it come to a slow simmer.

I used plain half pint jars for my new candles.  I bought wicks with fasteners at an arts and crafts store and glued a fastener with the wick to the bottom of each jar.

I am planning to make my own wicks and using a bolt or a nut to fasten to the bottom.  It won't show.

Also, for one of the candles, I broke up a red crayon and added it to the melted wax in my pot to color the wax, stirred it gently with a wooden stick, and made a pink candle that my granddaughter will like, I'm sure.

I used glass jars for my new candles but small cans may be used as well. Make your own borders and labels or paint the cans if you like. Enjoy your own homemade candles..

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mulled Wine

In one of my readings, I came across a reference to Mulled Wine and I wondered if there was more to it than to heat the wine, sugar, and cinnamon.  Perhaps.  For starters, it gave me an opportunity to stock my spice rack and buy a few bottles of red wine.

I found an interesting reading about "fine" sugar.  I read that confectioner's sugar was out because it contains starch and that is not part of the mulled wine.  Another source suggested that you "pulsate" ordinary processed white sugar in a blender but cautioned that the course sugar may scratch the plastic pitcher.  It was suggested that you grind the sugar using a mortar and that worked for me. (Course sugar will melt, too.)

I love spices but I don't use them all the time.  Some say that the spices lose their potency if they sit on the shelf too long.  If that is the case, I use more of the spice, e.g. instead of one teaspoon, I may use two teaspoons.  I don't throw out the spices because some of them are rather expensive.

I have found that I like the herbs and spices in the Hispanic section in the big box stores. There seems to be a better and larger selection at less expensive prices.  They also have the spices that are most appealing to me.  The other day, I bought cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, Star anise, fennel and coriander seeds.

Oh, yes!  The mulled wine:

In a small pot I combined grated orange rind and the juice of two small Satsuma oranges (Clementines, Tangerines),  added about 1/3 cup fine sugar, a cinnamon stick, 8 - 10 whole cloves, and a dry Bay leaf.  I covered this with a little wine and let this come to a boil and then turned it down to simmer for a few minutes.

Discard the spices so that you have a smooth wine syrup.  The alcohol has been burned off and this can be stored for later when you want to add the rest of the one bottle of wine or more to heat and serve.  You do not want to burn off the alcohol, or do you?

I feel that making mulled wine is your personal choice:  use oranges, sugar, herbs, and spices that you like and use the red wine that you like and again let the alcohol cook off or not.  Drink it for the tast it.
e and enjoy.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The First Freeze

We are barely into the middle of November and the weathermen are warning about a freeze, even along the north east Florida coast.  Are they kidding?  The Ocean is supposed to keep us warm.  The national weather forecast warned that Pensacola on the panhandle would dip down to 29 degrees.

It is supposed to be short but cold enough to use the frost blankets.  My husband made a tent over the tomatoes and the pepper plants that are still blooming and producing.  The potatoes have large sprawling vines and we are leaving them uncovered.  We should have potatoes as soon as the vines have wilted naturally in a few weeks.

The mustard and turnip greens are supposed to acquire a sweeter taste after a frost so they will survive this cold spell.  I sowed the Oregon Pea Pods recently but they have not sprouted yet, thank goodness.  The cold would not affect full grown vines but I am concerned about tender plants and blooms.

It is helpful to water the garden thoroughly before frost or freeze is expected.  The moisture in the ground will keep the soil warm especially under a tent.

It is recommended to bundle up hibiscus plants.  They are susceptible to prolonged cold weather.  The same is true for poinsettias.

The oranges are gaining their distinct color and maturing on the trees but we are not covering them up.  The peel is providing protection against this fast freeze.

Mulching flower beds and garden beds will help keep the moisture in the ground and hopefully prevent plants from freezing.

Finally, don't forget to take care of yourself and bundle up in layers of clothing.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Arugula or Garden Rocket

Arugula is also known as Garden Rocket and I have no idea how it got that name.  It is a green leafy vegetable of Mediterranean origin and may be used in many ways, not just in green or tossed salads.

The arugula is a cool-season, fast growing, crop that is best harvested before blooming although the blooms may be eaten too.  It takes 5 to 8 days for the arugula to germinate and about 35 days to harvest time.
The arugula is similar to mustard greens, spinach, and kale.  It looks very much like dandelion leaves.  The young tender leaves are sweet in flavor and less peppery or bitter in contrast to the more mature leaves.

I have used the arugula instead of lettuce in salads and on sandwiches.  It is a great source of vitamin A, C, and K.  I also use the arugula in soups and strews treating it pretty much like spinach.

As with leafy green, the arugula is somewhat difficult to keep fresh for a longer time in the fridge, but I understand that it may be blanched, cooled, and packed for the freezer.  I have to try this myself because I have a good crop that will mature faster than I can eat.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Once again, we raise the flag and participate in parades in honor of the Veterans who fought so fiercely and valiantly for our freedom and our country.  Not only did they keep us safer, they tried to keep each other from harm's way.

On Facebook, The Long Trail Home, I have followed an awesome former Marine Infantry man riding horseback across the country to raise money for wounded veterans.  He is also bringing awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) that veterans may suffer when they return home from various wars.

I have learned so much from this marine about veterans, about horses, this beautiful country, and the kindness of the people.  His posts have brought me to tears many times.  Please, read his posts and find out for yourself about veterans.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Green Garden Salad

At this time, I have various greens growing in the garden.  The leaves are young and tender and ready to be used in a salad with homemade dressing.  These garden greens do well into the late fall or early winter and a slight frost will only improve their taste.  Let me share with you some of the greens that I do have:  kale, turnip, and arugula.

I am really looking forward to my five plants of kale taking off and growing so that I can seriously start using the leaves in salads and for cooking.  I even sowed more kale to supplements the few plants.

Early this fall, I emptied a packet of turnip seeds in a small area and every one of the seeds are producing nice and healthy greens.

I also had a packet of arugula that I sowed in a patch.  Nothing much was happening with them until I gave them a sprinkle of 10-10-10 fertilizer and last evening, I was surprised to find a healthy and dense crop.

As the sun was setting yesterday, I was out in the garden and gently breaking off kale, turnip greens, and arugula for a salad.  Without washing the greens, I rolled them up and sliced them into strips.

Here are two very simple dressing recipes that go very well with salads:

2 tbs canola oil, 2 tbs fresh orange juice, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1/2 tsp (sea) salt.  Stir together and let it stand a few minutes to blend the ingredients.  As an alternative, use lemon juice, paprika, or any other spice that you like.

The other vinaigrette consists of 2 tbs each apple cider vinegar and canola oil, 1 tbs mustard, 1 tsp onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.  As an alternative, use red vie vinegar, Dijon mustard, or finely chopped shallots or onions.

I also pulled a few radishes from the garden, sliced them up, and added to the salad.  I couldn't stop there, I had to grate a carrot to add to the mix.  My green salad is no longer so green.; it grew.  This is a lot of roughage.

When serving the Green Garden Salad, go easy on the dressing.  Do create your own green garden salad as well as dressing and share your recipes and suggestions.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yellow Wax Beans

Yellow Wax Beans is the generic and most common name for a variety of the wax bush beans.  They come in different shades of yellow: some are light greenish and others are pale yellow.

I sowed my wax beans in early September and I have been harvesting them for several weeks. They mature so fast if left alone and I did not pick them when they were young and tender, but the more mature yellow beans are fine, too.

The yellow wax beans do add color to a bean salad mixed with their green relative and red kidney beans.  Otherwise, I treat the yellow beans as I do the greens beans:  cook them in a little bit of salted water and serve.  How is that for imagination?

Yellow Wax Beans

The yellow beans will also freeze well.  I prefer to snap off the ends of the beans, blanch them in water, cool under running cold tap water, pack in plastic bags or containers and put them into the freezer for later.

This year I sowed the seeds in double rows next to the green beans and it turned out all right.

Next year, I believe that I will plant one double row of green beans, two rows of cabbage, and the yellow wax beans. This way the beans should be harvested in time for the cabbage to really start to head up and it will give me room to maneuver on either side of the cabbages.

One sure thing about beans, green or yellow, is that you can't go wrong whether it they are planted in the  spring or fall.  It is more or less a quest of finding the beans that taste good and looks good.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crispy Kale

Because of the chilly weather, we stayed inside the other day and watched a garden/cooking show on a PBS channel and the gardener/chef was making Crispy Kale.  It looked interesting and I was learning something new. So I thought that I would give it a try because it was rather simple to do.

I went out to the garden to check on my kale and they still had some growing to do but I picked a few leaves.  I also picked a few leaves of mustard greens and Japanese red mustard greens.  In addition, I also picked a few broccoli leaves to make a nice bouquet of garden greenery.

I really didn't need very much since the leaves had to be spread out in a single layer on the cookie sheet.

First I washed off the garden soil, drained, and dried the green leaves and then removed the thick stems and veins.  I dried the leaves thoroughly with a dish towel.

At this point, I drizzled the dried green leaves with Canola Oil (use Olive Oil, if you prefer) in a bowl and made sure that I had them all oiled.  I mixed some spices together: garlic salt and onion salt, cayenne, and paprika.  Go easy on the spices and go easy on the oil.  I should have used just salt and not too much of it either.  

On a cookie sheet, I spread out the leaves and made sure they didn't lay on top of each other.  I set the oven on 300 degrees F and let the greens bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp.

The greens came out crispy and brittle.  

My husband tasted some of them and he said that it wasn't the best thing that I had made in the kitchen.  He thought that I had used too much spice.  Hmm!  I have to think about making this again.  If you try it, let me know what you think.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Bread

I couldn't sleep the other morning, so shortly after five o'clock I pulled out my thawed out pumpkin that I pureed this summer.  I was going to make pumpkin bread and surprise the love of my life with irresistible homemade bread for breakfast.

These are the dry ingredients and the spices used for making the pumpkin bread.  In one large bowl, mix:
1 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
1/2 tsp each of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
1 tsp each of baking soda and ground ginger

In another bowl:
beat 2 eggs
add 1 scant cup of sugar and 2 tbs brown sugar
add 1/4 cup water
add 1/2 cup Canola oil

Add 1 cup well mashed/pureed pumpkin to the ingredients in the "wet" bowl and blend well.  Finally, add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the flour and blend well.

Other:  1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts will do fine for pumpkin bread.  Mix with the flour

I didn't have any nuts but I had left over dried and chopped cranberries that I used and it turned out very nice and moist..

I baked in a 350 F degree oven for 50 minutes and checked with a wooden stick for doneness.

This is a rich bread full of calories.  My husband added margarine to his slice of bread and he enjoyed it very much.  I enjoyed my slice too.  Now we have to go out and work it off on the Back Forty.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Only lately have I heard that there are special pumpkins for Halloween and that there are special sugar pumpkins for cooking and baking.  Quite frankly, I didn't know there was a difference.

Sometime during this summer, there was a squash like vine growing by its lonesome in my garden.  I waited to see what would develop and pretty soon one fruit or vegetable emerged.  I nursed it and put a Styrofoam tray under it to keep it from rotting.

Eventually, I had a nice size orange pumpkin to harvest and I proceeded to cut the top off so that I could reach in and pull the seeds out.  I cut up the pumpkin into large chunks and cooked them (with the peel still on) in my big enameled pot.

I cooked the pumpkin until the meat as well as the skin was soft, at least 3 0 - 40 minutes.  I don't remember exactly how long.  When softened, I drained the water out and let the pumpkin cool.  The meat came off so easily and I could mash it, put it into a plastic bag, and store it in the freezer.  My pumpkin yielded about a cup and half of  mashed meat.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Squirrels in the Soffit

Colder weather is definitely on its way because the squirrels built a nest in the soffit above the summer kitchen.  The soffit is the boxed in area under the eaves.  When the builders made the screened in porch (summer kitchen), they failed to seal the area between the soffit and the roof to the porch.

We have had squirrels around the house and the Back Forty for the ten years that we have lived here and they have left the garden alone.  They have plenty of pine cones to eat and they seem to like them very much.

This fall two squirrels decided to make the suffit above the summer kitchen their winter home.  When we came out to make our breakfast, they started to stir around.  When evening came for us to enjoy our summer kitchen, the squirrels did too.  They had no problems running up and down the fence and leaping from nearby trees.

Wait a minute!  We have to have some rules here!  Squirrels do not come into my house is one rule, but how do I make that known to the squirrels?

My husband got the ladder out and removed a couple of small vents in the soffit and you would not believe the nesting material that he pulled down.  It consisted of fine cedar strips and shavings.  My husband said that he respected the squirrels for their selection that would not attract bugs.

We decided to fill a small water bottle with ammonia and insert a rag into the bottle, making sure that the rag was soaked with ammonia.  We then pushed the bottle with the ammonia in through the vent and left it where the squirrels had made their nest.

It seemed to be working because the squirrels did not come back to that area but they were still coming back into the soffit  We tried to plug up the entrance area by using flashing but they pushed it aside and continued to come.  Smart squirrels!

We filled another bottle with ammonia and inserted a rag into the bottle, soaked it with ammonia, and put it at the back of the entrance so that the squirrels couldn't push it out:  they would have to drag it out.

The ammonia is a strong and humane deterrent against squirrels.  It is harmless for vegetation if sprayed.  It dries quickly and leaves no odor.

Guess what?  The squirrels finally got the message and left but they are still in the Back Forty area.  They seem to watch me with great caution when our paths cross.

The picture is downloaded from Free Digital Photos.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Sun Rise over the Garden

Another week and we are going to have to get up earlier in the morning to get out and work in the garden and clean up around the yard for the cold weather is lurking.

It is time for us to close up the Summer Kitchen and move inside for our meals.  It's been so special to sit out on the screened in porch and linger over breakfast before we head out to the Back Forty to pick butter beans and snap beans for lunch.

Beach View

The weather people are predicting a beautiful weekend and a great time to visit the beach for wading in the still warm water, picking up shells, watching the sun rise, and enjoy the morning.

Porch View
The sky is so blue with a few wispy clouds floating away.  They remind me of cotton candy which reminds me that this is the season for all sorts of country fairs to enjoy while the weather is so perfect for outdoor activities.

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Come Monday, we garden.

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Deep Fried Green Tomatoes

Earlier this fall, my husband and I made a short road trip to Steffen's Restaurant in Kingsland, Georgia, for some good ol' fashioned home cooking.  The restaurant is on Route 17 and you know that you have found it because the parking lot is filled with cars and motor bikes.  It's a homey place for town's people to meet and eat as well as for tourists to taste some local fare.  This time Deep Fried Green Tomatoes was on the menu.

My husband set out a row of various tomato plants a while back and they are producing a lot of greenery and a few blooms--wrong season, wrong kind of plants (maybe).  I did pick three (3) cherry tomatoes yesterday and I spotted a few green tomatoes.

I bought the green tomatoes for my recipe at a local grocery store closer to home.  I was surprised to find them this time of the year.  Of course, I couldn't resist getting a couple and trying out for Deep Fried Green Tomatoes.

I have found that to deep fry vegetables, I need a plate of all-purpose flour, a plate of fine bread crumbs with seasoning, and a deep dish to hold a beaten egg with a little milk.

To make the Deep Fried Green Tomatoes, I cut rather thick slices of the tomatoes and doused them with flour, dipped them in the egg concoction, and finally in the seasoned bread crumbs.  For seasoning, I used minced onion, garlic, paprika, and dried crumbled parsley.

I fried the tomatoes in a generous amount of Canola Oil in my frying pan.  I let the tomatoes get golden brown on one side, then turned them, and let them brown on the other side.

The golden brown Deep Fried Green Tomatoes were served with Ranch Dressing.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Deliscious Pear Jam

The other day I went to the local grocery store and when entering, my eye caught beautiful large pears for a reasonable price on display that couldn't be missed.  Pears must be in season.  It is fall.  I couldn't resist buying some for us to eat and some for making jam.  I have a recipe that is so sweet, simple, and versatile.

Five (5) large pears made six (6) cups finely chopped pears (2 cups is 1/2 liter or 5 dl)
Three (3) cups sugar

I like to keep the peel on my pears and in this case the peel was rather delectable; however, I removed the core and finely chopped up the pears and they made about 6 cups.

I added 3 cups of sugar to the chopped pears in my enameled pot, stirring, and let it come to a boil.  Then I turned the heat down to a slow simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Towards the end of the simmering time, I added the spices: about 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon, easy on the nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice.  I prefer cinnamon sticks that I can remove, but I use what I have and what I like.  The jam without the spices is sweet and delicious, too.

I check to see if the jam has jelled by spooning out a dab on a small plate.  If it does not run, it is ready.  How simple is that test?

I poured the pear jam into clean jars (about 4 cups), sealed with hot wax, and put into the cupboard when cooled.  I left some out to spread on toast to enjoy immediately.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The New Owl

I feel compelled to share a recent visit from the new owl to the Back Forty.  He is brazen and  fearless.  He has found himself a school of shimmering goldfish that is within his reach--morning and evening meals.  There is only one problem:  a netting across the pond.  He has bounced on the netting like it was a trampoline.  It should break any time, right?

This owl has had to endure the chase from large noisy crows and a slew of smaller birds that have joined the chase:  not in my backyard, you don't.  The birds in the neighborhood are ganging up on him; they are mobbing him.  They do not want this owl to steal their eggs or their peeps.

When the owl comes without entourage, he makes no noise.  His wings do not make any sounds, no swooshing is heard.  I only notice him when a movement in the trees catches my attention.  He wants to rest and spend the day sleeping, undisturbed, somewhere in a treetop.

This owl may not have a mate; we have never heard him call or his calls have been too low for our ears.  He is different from the owl that have visited before:  he is not quite as hulky, smaller.

It is no doubt in my mind that he knows us.  Good heavens, he has seen us more times than we have seen him.  He has observed us and he knows our habits when we are outside.

The other night, just as dusk was falling, my husband went out to feed the goldfish.  He called me before he reached the small pond.  What?  What?  He told me about the owl sitting on the PVC pipes that holds the netting.

I got my camera and approached the pond.  The owl was watching me and he was watching my husband. I've got you guys in my sight, he seemed to convey.  Most of all, he was keeping an eye on the the pond.

My husband got close enough to throw in a handful of fish food but the owl left silently before the second helping was tossed.  He didn't fly too far, he was still watching our movements,  I was sure.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fighting the Nematodes

Fighting the nematodes is an uphill battle especially in the hot and humid weather in North Florida.  I have ignored these microscopic worms but when I pulled up some of the okra stalks the resulting damage was clearly visible.  The roots were abnormal and knotted which is a sure way of recognizing the damage done by the nematodes.  Other signs of nematodes are yellowing of the foliage, wilted plants, and a poor harvest.

There are no good news about nematodes from the University of Florida IFAS.  They maintain that there are no chemicals that will destroy the nematodes; however, there are a few preventative measures that we can take to minimize the nematodes and some we are already practicing.

  • Solarization where you till the soil and remove debris from the ground, wet down the smooth ground and cover with clear plastic that will remain for at least six weeks.  Our garden is utilized year around so it is not feasible and it will only reduce the presence of nematode. 
  • Ground Cover.  During the summer, we sow legumes in the areas that are fallow.  The legumes enriches the soil, keeps the weed at bay, and makes for additional edible food as well.  After the harvest, the foliage may be turned into green manure in the garden..  I usually remove the roots and the thickest stems.
  • Mulch from the compost pile is a good addition of new soil and it is a deterrent for the nematodes.  It will also keep the weeds at bay and conserve the water.
  • Plant Rotation. simply means that you do not plant the same crop in the same place year after year.  Mix it up so that the nematodes cannot find the food that they have come to expect and like.
  • Nematode Resistant Plants.  When you buy plants or seeds, you may find that some of them are nematode resistant according to the labels.
  • Sunshine is one of the better methods to combat nematodes.  Till the garden several times and let the soil dry in the sunshine.  I have been out on the Back Forty and turning the soil to plant some greens for the fall.  
The nematodes do not do well during the colder months of the growing season.  Keep adding mulch, rotate the crop, and hope for a lot of sunshine.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Plants for Fall in North East Florida

According to my planting schedule from the local seed store September, October, and November are considered the fall months in North East Florida. September is gone and the monsoon season is well over and we are heading into the serious part of planting the vegetable garden.  The following plants are well suited for the fall:

Beets from seeds germinates in 7 days and matures in 50 - 70 days
Broccoli matures in 100 - 130 days
Cabbage matures in 75 -120 days
Carrots from seeds germinates in 6 days and matures in 100 - 120 days
Cauliflower matures in 120 - 150 days
Chinese Cabbage matures in 75 - 80 days
Collards matures in 60 - 80 days
Kohlrabi matures in 60 - 80 days
Mustard matures in 50 - 60 days
Onions matures in 140 - 180 days
Radishes from seeds germinates in 6 days and matures in 28 - 36 days
Spinach matures in 40 - 65 days
Turnips matures in 45 - 60 days

It is recommended that cauliflower, strawberry plants, and turnips (from seed) be planted only in October.  Beets, carrots, and radishes are sowed from seeds.  Lettuce are available in seeds and plants and the same goes for spinach.  I was surprised to find mustard plants and kale (9 in a pack) last year and they did very well.

I use this list for planning purposes only.  The planting, germination, and maturity information are usually available on seed packets and sticks inserted in the vegetable containers.

Of course, seeds are available for most of the above vegetables but I find it much easier to plant established plants and they are also easier to replace if necessary.  Although I have a shopping list for the vegetables I want to plant, I have to go with what is available in the garden centers.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Fall Garden is Planted

The other morning I was working in the garden making a straight row by stinging up a bright blue line between two poles so that I could plant a dozen rutabagas without straying too much and my husband wanted to know what I was doing.  He laughed when I told him.  "It is so not you," he said.  He was right but I thought that I would do it his way.

I had removed most of the debris from the black eyed pea area, turned over the soil, and smoothed it out with a garden rake.  I then dug holes for each of the rutabaga plants and added fertilizer.  My husband likes to add fertilizer at planting time; I like to wait until the plants have established themselves.

I gently informed my husband that I was going to pull up the eggplant stalks as well as the okra stalks to make room for seeds.  He told me not to do it and we agreed to leave the stalks in the ground a while longer. I always honor my husband's wishes and I also walk ten paces behind him.

Rutabaga:  I was pleasantly surprised to find rutabaga plants at the local garden center.  How nice!  Now, I don't have to sow rutabaga; however these rutabagas have red tops and I prefer all yellow rutabagas and I may still look for seeds that will mature in 75 - 100 days.  The rutabagas are drought tolerant and hardy.

Red and Yellow Onions:  I was also surprised to find onion sets at another local garden center.  I planted one row of about 30 onions, red and yellow respectively, in each of the two garden plots.  They will mature in 140 - 180 days which is a long time but we do use the onions before they are fully mature.

Other Plants:
12 red top Rutabagas that will mature in 80 days
18 Broccoli Packman Hybrid that will mature in 45 - 55 days
18 Best Hybrid Cabbage that will mature in 75 days
9  Hybrid Cauliflower (White Cloud) that will mature in 75 days

The above plants require full sunshine (6 hours daily) and like fertile well-drained soil and it would be prudent to keep the soil evenly moist.

My well planned sketch had to be modified.  I planted cabbage in that plot instead of mustard greens and kale which will be planted much later in the season.  Other than that, I have visions of every plant maturing and producing beautiful and nutritious vegetables in the upcoming months.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Black Eyed Peas

We have used various legumes as cover crops during the summers.  We have used Southern peas such as Crowder peas and Zipper peas and we have used Black Beans.  This past summer we used Black Eyed Peas and they turned out to be a delightful surprise.

 It is logical to believe that the black eyed peas were transported from West Africa by the slaves to Virginia in the 17th century.  The black eyed peas are mostly grown in the South and are considered a soul food.  A cup of cooked peas provides me with calcium, folate, protein, vitamin A for reduction of my wrinkles, and fiber to keep me regular.  What else do I need?

Not only are the black eyed peas good for my soul, they are also good for my soil.  These legumes are considered a hot weather crop and should be sown in late spring or early summer.  I happened to sow the peas in rows but my husband says that you may broadcast them too.

The black eyed peas make for wonderful ground cover. They spread quickly as low ramblers and covers the ground and thus hold down the weeds.  They also attract  bees and other pollinators and add nitrogen to the soil.

Unfortunately, the black eyed peas are susceptible to root knot nematodes and that is one of the reasons that crop rotation is important.  I prefer to pull up the plants from the ground as soon as possible after the harvest is completed.

Husband's grandfather mashed up cooked peas with a few slices of fresh tomatoes mixed with a touch of vinegar and sugar to taste.  Some people cook the peas with a piece of smoked pork.  I prefer to cook the peas and enjoy their natural taste which is surprisingly good.

The black eyed peas are easy to pick and easy to shell.  I just put a pound of them into the freezer for later.  I blanched them, cooled them under running water, and packed them into a plastic bag.  They had a delicate green color in at least fifty shades.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Early Morning on the Beach

Early yesterday morning, I left the Back Forty behind and kept walking to the beach and I reached the dunes in time to see a spectacular sunrise.  I sat on the dunes among the sea oats and watched the sun rise and listened to the waves come crashing onto the sand leaving a few shells for me to collect.

Please, come and visit the beach often, take pictures and make memories, and only leave your footprints.  Enjoy the day.  Tomorrow is another day for gardening.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lawn Care for the Fall

A few years ago, we did have our soil tested by the local Cooperative Extension Service and this is their recommendation for the high maintenance of St. Augustine grass for our yard in north east Florida and this is the last fertilization for the year, the fall feeding.

The Extension Office recommendation is to use a "complete fertilizer" at 1.0 lb of nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft. for the September lawn care.  The most important aspect of fertilization is to know how many square feet will be covered and the only way to find that out is by measuring the yard so that we will know how much fertilizer to buy.  We stake out our yard in twelve foot swaths using tent pegs and flags as markers.

We are using a fertilizer consisting of 30% nitrogen, 0% phosphorous, 3% potash, and the rest is filler.  Some recommend that the potash match the nitrogen and it is believed that there is enough phosphorous in the ground already. Putting down additional potash is costly and maybe not worth it.

Now, I have to remember that I only have 33% of actual "fertilizer"--the rest is filler; so, if I had a 100 lb bag, I only have 33 lbs of fertilizer (30-0-3).  Therefore, I have to figure the square footage and then I need 1.0 lb of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft.  (The nitrogen is the first number.)  Go ahead, do the math!  In this case, it means that I need 3.3 lbs of fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft.

We use a hand held spreader that covers a 12 foot wide swath and we walk back and forth in a steady pace to distribute the poundage of fertilizer/nitrogen.  We weigh the fertilizer using a simple household scale.  When one section is done, we continue to the next section that has been measured and staked out.  The tent pegs or flags serve as guide (so that we know where we have been and where we are going).

We strongly recommend that this fertilizer be kept in a dry place, preferably inside, or it will absorb the moisture from the air (believe it or not) and turn rock hard.

When we do use the fertilizer, it is free of herbicides and pesticides.  We do not want to destroy the dollar weed and violets nor kill the bugs, small grasshoppers and white flies.

We take care not to get the fertilizer onto the street to prevent it from being washed away into the drain and the watershed.  We also have the city's right of way between us and the scenic creek that does not get fertilized; it serves as a buffer.

Finally, we check the weather forecast.  We don't want the heavy rain to come and wash it away but we usually water the lawn after fertilization.

A gardener's work is never done.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Banded Sphinx Moth

I was resting on the bench after a hard morning's work in the garden when I noticed a huge moth on the corner of the tented gazebo.  It was shaped in a triangular fashion and not particular colorful.

Not much has been written about this moth other than it belongs to the Sphingidae family and feeds on nectar from flowers.

The larvae is more colorful in green, yellow, and pink bands and stripes.  I have not seen this larvae in my yard.  The moth is at home in warmer climate but has been spotted as far north as South Carolina.

At first sight, this moth may also be mistaken for a butterfly.  Some have said that it reminds them of hummingbirds feeding from flowers or feeders.

Keep your eyes open; you never know what you may find in your own backyard.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Heros

A chaplain, who happened to be assigned to the Pentagon, told of an incident that happened right after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

A daycare facility inside the Pentagon had many children, including infants who were in heavy cribs.  The daycare supervisor, looking at all the children they needed to evacuate, was in a panic over what they could do.

There were many children, mostly toddlers, as well as the infants that would need to be taken out with the cribs.  There was no time to try to bundle them into carriers and strollers.

Just then a young Marine came running into the center and asked what they needed.  After hearing what the center director was trying to do, he ran back out into the hallway and disappeared.  The director thought, "Well, here we are on our own."

About 2 minutes later, that Marine returned with 40 other Marines in tow.  Each of them grabbed a crib with a child and the rest started gathering up toddlers.

Once they got about 3/4 of a mile outside the building, the Marines stopped in the park and then did a fabulous thing:  they formed a circle with the cribs which were sturdy and heavy.

Inside this circle of cribs, they put the toddlers to keep them from wandering off.  Outside this circle were the 40 Marines forming a perimeter around the children and waiting for instructions.

They remained there until the parents could be notified and come and get their children.

The thought of those Marines and what they did and how fast they reacted; could we expect any less from them?  (From an e-mail sent to me.)

Support the wounded Marines and other service men and women by checking out The Long Trail Home on Facebook and donating to the Marine Semper Fi Fund as found on their WEBPage.

God bless.
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