Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A robust small black skinned wine grape grown in the Napa Valley region is most often used to make Zinfandel.  The higher elevations tend to have grapes with a more savory intensity and richness.  It is thought that the Zinfandel grape originated in Croatia and was introduced to the United States in the mid-19th century.  The Zinfandel is grown in over 10% of California but is found in many other states, too.

Boy, oh Boy!  I have surely had some misconceptions about Zinfandel.  I thought is was made mainly from strawberries; however, in my research I found that berry not mentioned at all.  Zinfandel does exhibit a variety of fruit flavors as well as black pepper (!), and spicy characteristics.

Interestingly, it is suggested that the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) be checked:  a lighter Zinfandel will have a 13.5% ABV whereas a bolder and spicier Zinfandel will have an ABV of 16%.

In my research, the Zinfandel was paired with just about any hearty meat and pasta dish and heavy cheeses.  In other words, Zinfandel is suited for any robust and flavorful meal.

I went to the knowledgeable people at the Wine Warehouse in Atlantic Beach, Florida, and I was surprised at the array of Zinfandels and their price ranges.  I was surprised to find the Old Soul so darkly red, so soulful.

I would fail this wine taste miserably.  I thought Zinfandel was a pretty mild sipping wine that went well with Brie Cheese, crusty French bread, and sweet Florida strawberries.  I have only one criterion for fine wine:  if it tastes delicate and don't upset my sensibilities--it is good for me.  In addition, I sure do like that this Blog Challenge has come to an end.  Cheers!

Before I have another glass of red Zinfandel, I want to thank each and every one for participating in this Blog Challenge.  Thank you for your heartfelt support and your comments.  Thank you for visiting my blog. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Yoga in the Garden

When people ask me what I do for exercise, I tell them that I do Yoga in the Garden.  It is serene and peaceful in a green and growing setting.  It clears my mind yet leaves me tired and refreshed at the same time.

I usually enter my sanctuary in an opening between old and bent cedar trees and give pause for an abbreviated Sun Salutation.  After passing the cedar trees, I immediately look up at a large evergreen tree with majestic branches.  On a hazy day like today, the sun's rays broke through and I folded my hands together over my chest to give thanks for another beautiful day on the Back Forty Garden and Park.

I proceed to the garden to find a suitable place where I can stretch my arms up above my head, breath in. As  I lower my arms to reach weeds by my ankles, I let out an audible sigh.  This procedure is repeated several times until my back cries out for relief.

Slowly, I raise myself up to a standing position with my legs slightly apart and my hands by my sides.  I inhale as I lift my arms above my head, palms out until my fingers touch.  I hold the position for a few seconds.  I let my arms return to my sides as I let my breath out.  I repeat this a few times, stretching and breathing.  Ahh, my back feels so much better.

Did I tell a fib?  Not really.  Many positions in yoga are so much like that of weeding the garden.  Why not incorporate some of those moves as well as being mindful about the breathing, slowly inhale and slowly exhale?.  When I do weed the garden, it does clear my mind.  For a short time, there are no worries.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Xeriscaping (continues)

Xeriscaping is an interesting concept for conserving water.  It doesn't necessary mean that you change the landscape from green lawns, lush trees, and shrubbery that requires watering to boulders, rocks, and pebbles in various sizes and colors.  I doubt that would work in Florida where there is no shortage of rainfall.  Let me narrow that down and say that it would not work well in the Back Forty Garden and Park.

In my garden and park, I have dollar weed with deep running roots and as far as I am concerned they grow with or without water.  To eradicate the dollar weed, I would have to use a lot of weed killer and that is out of the question.  Too many birds and four legged friends plant their own greenery in my park.

Another method would be to cover the area with black heavy duty plastic a
nd fill in with rocks.  Do you know how much rocks cost?

The best way to conserve water would probably be to mix rocks, pebbles, and sand with greenery that is draught resistant as well as salt resistant in a beach setting.

This brings to may way of thinking that shade trees and bushes are indeed needed to protect against the sun, cool down my living areas outside and inside, and fight air, light, and noise pollution.

If the purpose for xeriscaping is to conserve water, it would be prudent for me to rethink the current way I am maintaining the lawn and the garden as well.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wood Stork

On occasion, the wood stork comes and visits the creek along the Back Forty Garden and Park.  It rests on the bank of the creek and preens himself.  The almost all white wood stork is a large wading bird with blackish gray legs which make for a good camouflage when hunting for minnows and other small delicacies at the bottom of the creek.  His feet are pink.

The wood stork has a peculiar way of hunting.  He keeps his mouth open under water, waiting for his prey to come to him and then he snaps it up.  in other words, a minnow swims right into his open mouth.

The head is dark brown with a bald, black face and the long thick down curved bill is very dark yellowish.

The wood storks may be seen around marshes and shallow lakes.  They may be roosting on the ground or resting in trees.  They may also be found in parks where they are fed by children; therefore, they are not particular afraid of human beings.

The number of wood storks has diminished drastically due to drainage of wetlands, streams, and rivers and people are building, expanding and encroaching along the water.  It left the wood stork with a limited natural habitat.  In August 2013, this magnificent but awkward wading bird was classified as an endangered species.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Valencia Oranges

The Valencia orange is named for the city of Valencia in Spain, but the oranges originated in India.  These oranges are among the sweetest and are grown primarily for juice production.  It accounts for 50% of the Florida crop.  It is commonly called "the juice orange" partly because of its distinctive bright colored juice.

Valencia Oranges
The peel is thin and tight around the fruit which I find difficult to peel and eat.  I usually quarter the orange and eat it over the kitchen sink.  It is so juicy.  The Valencia orange does have a few seeds, perhaps a handful at the most.

In our small grove, the Valencia oranges are the last to mature.  With the cool weather this year, the oranges kept well into late March.  The skin turns yellow but it may stay greenish, too.  It is still mature; however, it keeps well on the tree.

Have yourself a well deserved Florida Sunshine Shake by mixing the following ingredients in a blender:

1 cup Florida orange juice
1/2 cup Florida Grapefruit juice
1 ripe banana, peeled
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

Blend and serve immediately.  It makes two servings.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

At this time, I would like to write or create something colorful and happy to uplift my spirit as well as yours.  I'd like to surround myself with happy and squealing children full of curiosity and a zest for life unblemished and untouched by unpleasant encounters.

As you may have rightly surmised, I really don't have anything to write that has any meaning or is uplifting to anyone, least to me.

I wish that I could go up, up and away in a beautiful balloon, but I still have more letters to do.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Three Bean Salad

As if on cue, the green beans, the yellow beans, and the purple beans were ready for harvesting in time for the "T" portion of the Blog Challenge.  Only the young and tender green and yellow beans were used for the salad.  The purple beans are pretty (if you can say that about beans) but when cooked, they turn green.

I blanched the snapped green and yellow beans together for no longer than 5 minutes (you have to check for crispness) and then dipped them in cold water to stop the boiling.  I was delighted with the color of the beans, so forest green and so yellow.

From a can, I used red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.  Mixed with the snapped green and yellow beans, it really made for a colorful combination.  I also used thinly sliced onions, any color, from my garden.

Julienned celery and pepper (any color) are optional.

I mixed about 2/3 of a cup of cider vinegar, but white will also do, with 3/4 cup of sugar that I put in a pot and on the stove to warm and let the sugar melt well with the vinegar.

 I also added 1/3 of a cup of canola oil to this mix when sugar was melted.

All right here we go:  One healthy handful each of snapped green and yellow blanched beans with almost a can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed, to be mixed with vinegar, sugar, and oil.  Celery and pepper are are optional.  I added dill seeds to the mix but celery seeds may be a better choice  Salt and pepper to taste.  Let stand covered in the fridge for 12 hours to let all of the ingredients blend.

The three bean salad may be served with any meat, chicken, and fish dish.  Since it does not have to be eaten when warm or hot, it compliments any dish at any time as a healthy side dish.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spiderwort--flower or weed

Is the spiderwort a beautiful flower or is it an obnoxious weed?  It depends on where it grows.  If it is in my yard, it's a weed.  Believe me:  I have manually tried to get rid of the spiderwort.  For the last two or three years, I have been out there in the yard with a shovel digging up this lily like plant with roots and all.  It is a perennial and I will most likely see it again next spring.

The spiderwort is native from Southern Canada to Northern Argentina and it is abundant in Houston Texas area.  It has bright blue flowers lasting only one day but the bees seem to find them.  

There are plenty of wooded areas outside my yard for the spiderwort to grow individually or in clumps, differing in height from knee high and to shorter plant.

The root has lots of tentacles like that of a large spider with many many legs.  It is important that the entire root be dug up or it will come back the following year.  I thought it was a formidable task to rid the yard of the spider wort but it is pretty well under control.

The sap from the spiderwort is similar to okra and aloe and when rubbed on minor burns will bring some relief.  Because it is commonly named "spiderwort", the sap may also bring relief to spider bites.  But in either case, it may be most prudent to see a nurse or a doctor.

I am a little bit too citified for foraging but the spiderwort may be cut up and used in stews as a vegetable and a thickener.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rubs for Steaks, Chicken and Fish

Eventually, the season for cooking and grilling outdoors will come but it is never too early to stock up on meat and fish.  I have been kind of lazy when it comes to grilling:  I have just soaked the meat in already prepared BBQ sauces.  Most refer to this as marinating the meat.   I have shelves full of spices and some of the dried herbs are still in plastic bags from last summer.

These are basic ingredients that may be doubled or tripled and stored in airtight containers.  The following recipe is for a hefty steak:

 Blend 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp (smoked) paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 and 1/2 tsp each of dried minced onion and garlic, 1/2 tsp ground cumin and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

Rub on either side of the steak and grill as desired.  I prefer, when available in my garden, to use fresh ingredients and I would also toss in a sprig of rosemary (if I remember) in this mix..

These are basic ingredients for chicken or fish:

Blend 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp minced garlic and 2 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp each of dried thyme and tarragon. I would add some lemon or orange zest to this mix.  Actually, I usually blend whatever I have available on my spice shelf, but I prefer the fresh herbs snipped in my garden.

Do you know why some recipes call for kosher salt and not iodized table salt?

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quick Cooking Grits

Dixie Lily declares that their Quick Cooking Grits are a taste of the Old South.  I say that eating grits is an acquired taste and there are many ways to eat grits.  Some folks eat grits with just about anything from meat and fish to a sweet or sour blend for any meal.  Is 5 minutes quick enough for cooking grits?

For their Quick Grits, Dixie Lily provides the chef with a chart for measuring out water, grits, and salt.  This is their Quick Cooking directions:  Stir grits and salt into boiling water; return to boil and cover.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.

I usually don't cook grits at home, slow or quick, but I eat grits for breakfast at my favorite Beach Hut on a morning out.  I order eggs over easy, bacon, grits, and a biscuit served with a bottomless cup of coffee.

The order usually comes quickly and I pour the grits over my eggs and blend the two together quickly while still hot.  I may mix in some jam or I may dash a bit of salt on my grits.  Bon Appetite.

Caution:  Should you decide on eggs and Quick Grits, be sure to select the right kind of eggs.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Pittosporum is a popular Southern bush, especially in Florida.  It is a dense bush which makes it a good choice for screens and hedges.  It prefers full shade or partial shade.  This is a bush for sandy soil condition but does well in clay soil, too.

It is a popular bush at the beaches area because it tolerates salt rather well.  It is a perfect bush for weather and soil conditions in the South.  Not enough good things can be said about the Pittosporum.

For my front yard, along the side of the house, I choose variegated Pittosporum bushes with white and gray/green foliage.  With the heat and the water restriction in my area, this is also a draught resistant.

I do like the potential for informality of the Pittospurum.  This is the first year that I have seen the bushes really green up and putting out new growth.  Maybe, they have finally matured.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.
Are we there yet?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Old Indian Chief's Wise Words

These words have been passed down through many generations.  They are words  from a wise old Indian Chief.  They are wise words to live by in today's world of strife and struggles of one kind or another.

An old wise Indian Chief told his young grandson:

"My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is Evil.  It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego.  

The other is Good.  It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth."

The young boy thought about it and asked:
"Oh, Great Grandfather, which wolf wins?"

The wise old Indian Chief quietly replied:
"The one you feed."

author unknown

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nandina Bush

The Nandina Bush is commonly known as the 'heavenly bamboo' or 'sacred bamboo':  however, it is not a bamboo but an erect evergreen shrub with unbranched stems growing from the ground level.

In a colder climate, the nandina is considered a deciduous bush.  In the spring, the young leaves are brightly pink to red colored before turning green.  My nandina bushes have survived the North Florida winters without dropping all their leaves.

I have not paid too much attention to the flowers but I understand that they are white in conical clusters.  My nandinas are still carrying their bright red  berries that ripened in the fall.

A strong word of caution:  All parts of the nandina bush are poisonous and could be potentially fatal if ingested.  The berries are considered toxic to cats and grazing animals.

Another strong word of caution:  Nandina is considered to be an invasive plant in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  It was placed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's invasive list as a Category I species, the highest listing.

Needless to say that the purchase or continued cultivation of this species is discourage.  My nandinas are in containers.  They are in a controlled environment.

Source:  Wikipedia

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I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Marines, Mustangs, and Manure

Recently there was a news report on television that caught my attention. There were snippets of information that I needed to investigate and this had nothing to do with gardening.  It was a story about a soldier, a marine, who came home from the war, a young man who had trouble returning back into the main stream of society.  His salvation was wild horses--the mustangs that he broke and tamed.

As often, there is a special bond between an animal and a human being, may it be dogs or horses.  There is a kinship, a loyalty, a need that is met.  In this case, it is the mustangs, wild and handsome, and spirited that helped this marine.

I couldn't help but notice how in tuned, how in step, the marine and the mustang are in this picture.

As we all know there is also a special bond between the men who serve this country that is never broken:  they become brothers.  So, this one marine wanted to help his brothers adjust in their communities after returning from the war.

This marine decided to ride his horse (plus a companion horse) across the country, starting in Surf City NC and ending in Camp Pendleton CA.  He is doing this to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund.  He plans to start his quest the first of May.  Information about his journey may be found on Facebook under the title "The Long Trail Home."

I wouldn't mind riding along with this marine and mustang in my Jeep Wrangler to pick up the horse manure and bring it home to use in my garden.  It would be so refreshing to use real manure; however, fresh manure from cows, horses, and chickens should not be used directly on plants and vegetables in the garden.  The manure has to be composted first.  I would love to have some real manure.

God's speed with this marine and his travel companions.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Library--take one, leave one

I have seen many short stories in various magazines about a Free Library where you take a book and leave a book.  There is no signing up necessary and if you don't have a book to leave, take a book anyway and bring one back later.  This is such a neat way of a book exchange and to circulate your books, adding a book or two that you may want to read.

In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room school house in honor of his mother who was a teacher and loved books and reading.  He painted it and put it up on a post in his front yard with a sign on it to encourage young and old to take a book and leave a book.  It was a huge success.

This is also a great way for neighbors to come together and talk over a useful and fun conversation piece--a free library.  It is especially important for small children to learn to read and to learn to share their books.  It is also of interest to gardeners to find informational garden books and share.

It is also interesting to find that hardly any books were "borrowed" and most books were returned and books were added for circulation.

Take a look at for much more information and inspiration on starting your own Free Library.  It might be something worthwhile to pursue if you live on a busy street with a lot of foot traffic.  Of course, in most areas there may be some restrictions on putting up this type of "building" in your neighborhood.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Knock-Out Roses

I have come to appreciate the Knock-Out Roses more and more because they are so easy to take care of and they bloom profusely from spring through fall.  The more I cut the more they bloom.  Snipping off the dead blooms will also promote more blooms.  It also makes the rose bushes look more attractive.

I don't really need long stemmed roses when I can get so many bouquets of bright red roses to perk up the dining room table or the summer kitchen.

I have two Knock-Out roses, one red and the other orange.  For most of he day, they are exposed to full sunshine. In other words, they do tolerate heat well and they are draught resistant, too.

The only problem I have had with the Knock-Out roses  is the black leaf disease but I quickly remove the leaves and discard them so as to not spread this disease.  It seems to work rather well.  On occasion, I have sprayed the roses with a fungicide.

Early this spring, I cut back the roses rather heavily but they came back green and beautiful--just in time for the Easter holiday.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.
Are we there yet?

Friday, April 11, 2014


Jambalaya is rather easy to make with the main meat consisting of chicken, sausage, and shrimp.  I made my Jambalaya without shrimp but with lots of browned chicken strips and sausage cut into bite size pieces.  After browning the meat, I put it on a platter for later use while I stirred fried lots of onions, celery, bell peppers, and minced garlic.

When these ingredients have been stir fried in canola oil, I transferred them into a large cooking pot.  My frying pan would not hold the finished Jambalaya.

Into this large pot with the vegetables, I added a can (16 oz.) of diced tomatoes and almost 2 cups of chicken broth and brought it to a boil.

At this point, I turned the heat down and stirred in a cup of long grain rice, put the lid on, and let it simmer for 13 minutes.

Now it is time to add some spices:  salt and pepper to taste, Cajun seasoning, dashes of Tabasco sauce, and fresh chopped parsley (if available).  What else would you like?

Finally, gently stir in the chicken and sausage and let it heat.  If I had had shrimp, I would have folded that in and let it boil for about five minutes.

I was surprised how well this dish turned out.  My, oh my!  Now let's go and have some fun down on the Bayou!

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Indian Hawthorn

I have seriously been thinking about changing the present bushes in front of the house to Indian Hawthorns.  This is a common bush that is often used in landscapes around many businesses and shopping malls in hot weather areas which is an indication that it requires little maintenance once it has taken root and started to grow in its new environment.

The Indian Hawthorn has either white small flowers or reddish/pink small flowers and blooms over a long period of time attracting bees and other pollinating helpers.  To make the bush even more attractive, it is suggested that you snip off the spent flowers but leave pruning until the plant has stopped blooming.

Pink Indian Hawthorn
The Indian Hawthorn may grow to five feet tall. It is called a "mounding" bush which it may reach on its own if left alone but it does not hurt to help it along.  It is a dense bush and I think it will look rather attractive around the front of the house.  I like the potential informality of this bush.

It may be bought at any home improvement center at a reasonable price. Since the plants come in a container, it does not have to be planted as soon as it is brought home as long as it is watered on a regular base.

Another nice thing about the Indian Hawthorn is the berries that it produces for the winter.  This insures that birds will find their way to my front yard and have food for the winter.

Finally, by planting this low growing bush along the front of the house with windows, it provides protection against intruders and many insurance companies recommend planting bushes for that purpose.  It is a deterrent.  Of course, we don't have to worry about such things because we live in a nice neighborhood and we have a cat that lets us know when something is amiss around the outside of the house.

(The picture is from "Free Indian Hawthorn pictures".)

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I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hang Time in the Hammock

Long before I retired, I planned and dreamed about what I wanted to have in my backyard.  What would be better than to relax in a hammock?  What would be better than to gently rock and sway in the shade?  What better place could there be for reading a book or a magazine while zipping cool tea from a tall glass?

I didn't want to put nails or hooks in any of the trees for hanging the hammock so I ordered a stand for it.  It's a little bit awkward to move around but it's quite doable.

By having a stand, the hammock may be moved anywhere.  I try not to put it under pine trees because I'm concerned about branches falling down.

I have not had too much time to enjoy the hammock over the years but many of our guests have.  But for the letter "H" in the blog challenge, I thought I pull it out from the storage box by the pond to find out what condition it might be in.  For all I know, it might be dry rotted.

Yikes!  After moving some cushions for the swing set, one frog after another made itself visible.  There were several green tree frogs and some regular huge bull frogs.  Good Grief!  I screamed!  Of course, I screamed.

My husband came running and we finally dug out the hammock and it needed washing.

We are going to leave the storage box alone for a while and let the frogs have a chance to move.  The brown frogs can jump into the pond and find themselves pretty water lilies and the green frogs can go and find tree leaves somewhere.  The frogs are of more help to us than they are harmful.  Just leave the box; the winter is over.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Green Garden Soup

The green leafy vegetables and the Oregon Sugar Pods are maturing faster than I can harvest.  I picked the last of the pea pods today, shelled some of them, and also kept the pods which I broke into pieces.  I was going to make a Green Garden Soup that could be served hot or cold.

This is a recipe that it easy to make up, to eye ball (measure) the food that is available.  For the soup, I used about 2 - 4 pints of the shelled and cut up pods that I cooked with chicken stock just to add a little more flavor and nutrition.

I also added two chopped small white spring onions, chopped celery, chopped up a few large leaves of kale, and fresh parsley.  What else is green that I can use?  I let this simmer for about 10 minutes.

I poured the cooked vegetable greens into a blender, a little at a time, and pureed the concoction with its liquid.

When all of it was pureed, I poured it back into the pot and added garlic salt, salt and pepper to taste, and cumin (less than a tsp).  I stirred the soup to blend.

After I spooned the soup into a bowl and added a heaping tablespoon of sour cream, I served it to my husband.  He liked it.  I did too.  A glass of sherry would go very well with this soup. We settled for a slice of whole wheat toast to go with the soup.

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I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Focus is on the Fence

When I am weeding in the woodsy area on the Back Forty Garden and Park, not wearing gloves, and I suddenly come upon dog feces, it makes me say things not fit for printing.  Neither does it make me happy to have mowers from Public Works turning around in my Park and mowing in areas that do not belong to the City, and it absolutely does not make me happy to have people walking their dogs along the scenic creek and the dogs lift their legs on my bushes and their owners do not carry scoopers of any kind.

I don't want to fence me in nor blocking people from overlooking my garden and admiring my flowers, bushes, and trees.  I don't want to fence out the small animals that visit our Park but something had to be done, so my husband and I decided that we wanted to mark our property.

We started to research fencing and went to visit a few places, including home improvement centers, to get some ideas of what is available and that may be suitable for our needs.  At the first fence outlet, we were shown fences in a booklet and settled on a two tier Ranch Rail Fence and received a quote.  When we came home, we checked out the company in Better Business Bureau and found that they had too many issues.

We made a trip to the west side of Jacksonville in Florida and looked in on Superior Fence & Rail.  The staff was most helpful, made suggestions, and gave us a quote for an off white Vinyl Fence.  On the way out, we talked to the ware house attendant and he showed us the kind of fence that we had ordered and gave us some idea of how it would be installed.

The Superior Fence & Rail representative came out to measure and survey the area that we wanted fenced in, told us how much fence we needed, and what to expect of the installers.

Three very polite and nicely dressed guys came out to install the fence, confirmed the information, and suggested how the two gates should swing out and it was different from what we wanted but made more sense.  They talked it over with us how high the railings and the complete fence would be from the ground.  When the foreman started to talk about symmetry, I was sold.  I knew we got the right fence from the right company and the right people installing it.

There was something else that impressed me about the installers:  although it was in the late winter and the grass was brown and overgrown in most places, they did not cut across my Labyrinth.  I pointed this out to the foreman and he told me that they wanted to respect what the customers had in their yard.

The installers worked diligently under our supervision.  They knew what they were doing and didn't mind us being out there with them and talking to them.  They did not need any supervision:  we just enjoyed seeing them work and doing such an excellent job.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
I am participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2014.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Evelyn Rose

Evelyn Rose is one of connoisseur David Austin's beautiful creations.  Evelyn Rose is a great mixture of opposites:  she is fragile and sweet smelling; strong and tenacious.  Some say she is difficult to grow while others find her climbing up trellises in giant steps.  She does produce a abundance of apricot pinkish blooms with a myriad of tight small petals.

Evelyn Rose is a diva:  she is picky and prickly, even demanding.  The climate must be just right for her; not too cold and not too hot; however, she does best if she has a chance for a beauty nap during the winter.

Evelyn Rose is a complicated little lady.  She may like to climb or remain a bush.  She will reach out  and grab you, hold on to you , and sink her many small thorns into your skin to let you know she is there and she wants your attention.

I had three Evelyn Roses that I had planted near the pond.  It was in an area with plenty of morning sun and shade during the hottest time of the day.  Heaven help, should this little diva get sunburned!  However, the roses were planted too close to the runoff water from the pond and I lost one.

I moved the other two to the opposite area away from the pond.  I mixed the soil with commercial compost and mulched with pine straw.  In mid-February, I cut away dead branches and gave the roses a good trim.  I wasn't shy about it either and I rewarded them with a healthy helping of fertilizer especially made with roses in mind.

I pamper my Evelyn Roses.  Every day I check for black spots on the leaves and remove them immediately.  I spray the roses with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial oils and soaps.  I make sure that the roses are well watered and well mulched and free of weeds.

Why bother with such a diva?  Evelyn Rose rewards me generously with the beautiful and fragrant pink/apricot orange blooms.  The more I cut the more I get.  For a diva, she is pretty divine.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Deep Fried Dill Pickles

When our friends came to visit last fall, my husband and I treated them to lunch at Singleton's Shrimp Shack in Mayport, Florida.  This restaurant serves the best steamed shrimp on the East Coast.  It is a rustic shack on the St. John's River with view over shrimp boats, the ferry, and recreational boats and with pelicans and seagulls keeping watch from their pilings on the piers.

In addition to a seafood platter, my friend Wilma ordered a serving of Deep Fried Dill Pickles.  What?  We were served a healthy helping for the four of us.

 Wilma asked in surprise if I had never heard of fried dill pickles.  I told her it would be a new experience.  "You can make this at home," she said.  "You do know how to make a batter, don't you?"

At some later date, I bought a 16 oz jar of sliced (round) dill pickles and when I came home, I dried them off with paper towels on a plate.  I also bought a 12 oz. can of beer (actually, a six-pack).

I checked my spice rack and found more than enough of 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, a pinch of seasoned salt, and 1 tsp of black pepper.  I mixed the spices with 1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and mixed in the can of beer minus a sip.

Somewhere, I should have another dish of all-purpose flour.

I used my regular frying pan with enough heart friendly canola oil to cover the pickles.

After dipping the pickles in the batter, I coated them with plain all-purpose flour and gently put them in the hot oil to deep fry for about five minutes, turning once.  When golden brown, I transferred the deep fried dill pickles to a plate covered with paper towels to soak up the oil,

The deep fried pickles are best served with cold beer.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chiminea--an Outdoor Fireplace

The most important aspect of owning a chiminea is to only use it outdoors away from buildings, furniture, and overhanging tree branches.  It is not to be used on a screened in porch or in a canvas or in a wooden gazebo. Extreme caution should be used to prevent sparks from escaping and causing a fire.

For me, the rustic clay chiminea is a romantic addition to my backyard.  It provides me with time to poke in a small fire while enjoying the wilderness of My Back Forty Garden and Park.  It is not supposed to warm me on a chilly night, only to spread a golden glow.

The most common clay chimineas are manufactured in two parts:  the base or the "bowl" and the neck.  The pieces are dried separately and then fused together into a single unit. This makes the chiminea rather delicate to handle although it looks bulky. They are heavy to lift and it is best to put one hand in its mouth and the other arm around its neck for moving.

To transport the chiminea from any retail chain store or home improvement center, put the chiminea in the back seat of your car and strap it in with the seat belt.  Some padding may be necessary.  Don't forget the three legged stand for your new fire place.  Also, be sure that the chiminea comes with a lid to put on the top (the smoke stack).

Before you start a fire, it is imperative to insulate the bowl against direct heat that may cause it to crack. Add sand and small pebbles into the bowl until it is 3 - 4 inches below the lower lip of its mouth.  It is also recommended that two bricks be placed on either side about 6 inches apart to act as a grate to keep the the wood elevated.

The manufacturers strongly advise against using treated wood, pellets, and charcoal in your chiminea.  I have enough branches from various tree that I cut up.  I have on occasion bought a small bundle of wood that I have cut in half or whatever size the chiminea will take.

Finally, it is also recommended that when storing the chiminea it should be sheltered in the garage or in the shed, or at least wrap it up in a tarp for storing outside.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bean Poles, New and Improved Description

This is a more explicit description to last year's bean poles made of 2 inch diameter PVC pipes instead of wood.  Wood is more attractive; however, wood rots quickly.  My husband put four PVC poles into four holes, about two feet deep, in the ground covering about twenty feet, OK, twenty one feet, seven feet apart.  He dug the holes with post hole diggers.

He braced each end pole at the top with another pole at a 45 degree angle.  They were connected with what is known as a Y.  (The Y connectors are commonly used for sewer pipes.)  He drilled holes through each pole in three different places with the same distance from ground up on each pole e.g. one foot from the ground; the next 3 feet from the ground; and the third, 6 feet from the ground.

To reduce a long pull of a stiff wire through many holes, he started the wire by threading through one of the poles in the middle and through to the end pole.  He repeated the procedure from the middle to the other end and finished out one line of a horizontal wire.  He repeated this two more times, so that there are now three horizontal wires.

He left enough wire at the ends to secure it by running the wire around the pole and twisting the wire around itself several times.  The wire should be in a taut line for the beans to weigh down.

Finally, he had to give the poles vertical strings for the beans to climb up on and he used cotton cords, not synthetic.  Cotton cords will eventually rot.  He fastened the strings from the lower wire, gave it a twist over the second wire, and tied the string off on the third wire at the bottom.  He repeated this about every six inches or so.

He now has three wires running horizontally from end to end and numerous string running vertically.  (Also see post on May 5 of last year.)

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Apples for Pectin

This is not the season for apples but it is rather easy to make homemade pectin from apples in time for making jams and jellies from the upcoming harvest of summer fruit and berries.  Sure, it is much easier and faster to use commercial pectin but I thought homemade all the way would be interesting.  The art of homemade!

I bought a five pound bag of New York State Fuji apples for making pectin.  Green Granny Smith apples are even better for this purpose, if available.  The enzymes in apples cause oxidation that turns the apples brown after cutting or slicing which causes the loss of vitamins.  Browning may be halted by placing the peeled and cut apples in a bowl of salted water.

Working as fast as I could, I peeled 3 pounds of apples, quartered them, removed the core and seeds, and put the quarters into a bowl of salted water.  The rest went into a cooking pot to actually make the pectin.  I cut up the rest of the apples too, reserving the peels and cores by lumping them into the pectin batch.

After rinsing the apples from the salted water, I spread out all the quartered apples on a cookie sheet and put them into the freezer.  When the apple wedges were frozen, I transferred them into plastic bags and put them back into the freezer for later use.

To make the pectin, I added four cups of water and 2 tbs lemon juice (if available) to the apple peels and cores.  I let the apples simmer for about 30 minutes.  Some recommend 20 minutes while others say 40 minutes should do it.  You be the judge.

I poured all of the batch, liquid and all, into a colander that I had placed over a bowl to let it drain. With a wooden spatula, I pressed out as much liquid as possible and poured it into a plastic bottle and put it into the freezer.  The rest of the mush went into the compost pile.

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