Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lo, How a Rose is Ever Blooming

May the Peace and Quietness of the Season be with you as we all ponder on the Birth of Jesus Christ.
May our hearts be still.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  It is the last Sunday before Christmas and we have lit all four candles.  The white candles are burning bright in the morning dusk, in the evening twilight, and any time in between.  In this busy time of the year it gives pause to ponder on the real meaning of Christmas.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.--Hamilton Wright Mabie

Peace and Harmony

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Saint Lucia 2015 Celebration

The legend that originated in Syracuse on the island of Cicily has it that Saint Lucia secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome a long, long time ago.  She would wear a crown of candles in her hair to leave her hands free to carry the food items and distribute them.

Today in Sweden in particular; in Atlanta Georgia; in the Panhandle of Florida; and throughout the world, Saint Lucia lights up the halls and corridors in hospitals, jails, and churches spreading light and hope as well as coffee and cookies.  Saint Lucia is also celebrated in homes with the eldest daughter serving as the bearer of light surprising her parents with coffee and saffron buns served in bed in the early morning hours.

The annual celebration of Saint Lucia falls on the 13th of December, on one of the longest and darkest days of the year.

It is the Swedish custom for girls and boys to dress in full length white gowns and singing songs together.  There is only one Lucia in the procession with candles in her hair and red sash holding her white gown in place.   It is awesome to hear the children sing the Lucia song as they slowly enter a darkened room,

I hope that everyone will find their own light and hope this Holiday Season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Winter Squash Soup

The other day, I was watching a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) show featuring The Little Inn of Washington in the foothills of the Virginia mountains.  I liked that the chef utilized the local farmers' seasonal harvest and my interest really perked up when the chef talked about the rutabaga that he used in a soup made of winter squash and Granny Smith apples.

Assorted Winter Squash, Sweet Potato, and Rutabaga

 I was inspired to venture down to the Farmer's Market to find out what kind of squash they had to offer and found a pale pie pumpkin, butternut squash, and an acorn squash.  In addition, I also bought a rutabaga and some Granny Smith apples.

The pumpkins and the squash are nice to look at but how the heck do you halve them and/or peel them?  May I recommend an ax?

The butternut squash was the easiest to cut and peel.  I halved the rest sideways, scooped out the seeds, and placed them on a cookie sheet and baked them in a 375 degree F oven for 40 minutes.

To make the soup based on a recipe from The Little Inn in Washington, I used the following:  along with the squash, I also used carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow onions, and half a diced rutabaga. I peeled and cut and diced them and put them all in my stock pot.

I added 3-4 cups of homemade chicken broth and to sweeten the mix I added 1/4 cup of pancake syrup,  I let the mix come to a boil, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

When the vegetables were soft, I pureed them in a blender.  Some people like their soups pureed finely and even put through a sieve while others don't mind being able to recognize some of the vegetables.

After pureeing, I returned the soup to the pot to heat up again and added a chunk of margarine and a grated half of a Granny Smith apple.  (Add more broth, if desired.)  Finally, I added half a cup of heavy cream.

The beauty with this soup is that you may cook it any way you want and use as much or as little of the squash and the broth.  It is so naturally sweet and no spices are necessary.

This makes for a smooth and sweet soup served in demitasse cups as done at The Little Inn of Washington.  I couldn't find my cups so I used mugs.

At the Little Inn of Washington
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Second Advent 2015

It is the Second Sunday of Advent and we have lit the two candles in waiting, waiting for the arrival of Christmas.  The Advent consist of four Sundays before Christmas and on these Sundays, we light the first candle on the first Sunday and on the second Sunday, we have two candles lit and so on.    It is a Swedish tradition that I have carried with me.

White candles are most often used in religious ceremonies and meditation.  They give peace and comfort and enhances spirituality.

During the Advent season, a Star is also hung in the window.  The Star is hung in my living room facing the Back Forty.  This particular Star is made of patterned paper. An electrical cord with a small bulb is inserted in the Star and when lit, it shows up very nicely inside and outside.  ( I bought my Star at IKEA.)

During this very busy time, I hope that we can take a few moments to be still and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
Happy Holidays.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 904 Farm to Table Concept

After a visit to the doctor, my husband and I stopped in at the 904 Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that they adhere to the concept "from farm to table."  We had a very interesting talk with a most delightful waitress about this concept that I will share with you with her permission.

A home gardener knows the value of fresh vegetables from the garden directly to the table; but, there is a very exciting movement among restaurants known as "from farm to table" that refers to the different stages of the production of food, especially food grown locally and delivered to local consumers.

This movement has recently risen with changes in attitude about food safety, freshness, seasonality, and small-farm economics (904).  David Griffis on the Cognito Farm in Starke, Florida, called it "The Real Food Movement" in a recent Times Union article.

The motivation for these restaurant practitioners is the scarcity of fresh, local ingredients; the poor flavor of food shipped from afar; the poor nutritional value; the encroachment of genetically modified foods; the disappearance of small farms; heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables; and the danger of highly centralized food growing and distribution systems (904).  Are these not our concerns?

As a home gardener, the above mentioned areas are of great concerns for us, too.  We are concerned about the seeds we sow and the food we eat.

A gardener knows about the seeds and knows what went into the soil and knows what pesticides and herbicides were used (if any).  We know what sanitary practices we use when we prepare our freshly picked harvest to be put on our tables, or freezers, or jars.

The waitress at 904 recommended tomato soup but I frowned on that idea but relented.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop in and try it.  Check out 904 on Facebook, Internet, and other media.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent 2015

The Holiday Season begins with the First Sunday of Advent which is four Sundays before Christmas Day, a time for anticipating the celebration of the birth of the Child so long ago.
It is also a time for reflection, to slow down in this the most hectic time of the year.
You celebrate the Holiday Season your way and share with the rest of us.
What is your tradition?

We are wishing you Peace on Earth as we have lit the first candle.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

French Onion Soup

This post is in honor of Michel, my French connection.  It grieved me to hear about the attack in Paris; however, life goes on and I want to share with you this oh! so sweet French Onion Soup.

I recently enjoyed going to the Farmer's Market and couldn't resist four large and firm yellow onions of which I only used two for my soup.  I have never made Onion Soup before so I had to look up a recipe to see what I needed to do and I found the French Onion Recipe/Simple

I peeled and sliced the two large onions and tossed them into a large pot with canola oil and kept stirring frequently to let the onions caramelize.  That means for the onions to turn blond/brown and soft and to aid in this process, I added a couple of table spoons of sugar.  Do you think that is what made the finished soup so sweet?

I added minced garlic from a jar to the onions and kept stirring.  I made stock from already cooked chicken legs.  We use what we've got.  I also went out into the garden to snip off a small bouquet of thyme and added it to the soup along with black pepper.

At the end of the cooking of this soup which takes a little while, I added a serving of Brandy (after having a taste of it first).

To complete this meal, I turned the oven on to about 450 degrees F, cut some hefty slices of French bread and topped the slices with grated cheese.

I served this sweet and filling French Onion Soup in a large bowl with the piece of bread with the melted cheese in the bowl on top of the soup.  Now, do I served it with a fork or a spoon?  Maybe both.

Later on in the evening, we lit a white candle, filled small glasses with the Brandy and thought about our French friend(s).

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Condolences to People in France

My heartfelt condolences to the people in France.
It affects us all.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Salute to Veterans

Due to medical reasons we had decided that travel in the near future was out of the question; but, the call came from the long haired girl inviting her grandfather to attend a program at her school to honor the Veterans.

The follow up appointment with the doctor was cancelled and at three o'clock in the morning I found myself making hamburgers and baking corn muffins to take along on our trip heeding our granddaughter's invitation.

At nine o'clock on Monday morning, we attended a program in an intermediate school in the Pensacola area to honor the Veterans.  The children sang songs and read poems and a US Congressman made a speech about celebrating the Veterans who had so valiantly served and protected this country.

Our granddaughter had decided to do something special to honor her grandfather who is a Veteran.  She made a poster and it was pinned up on the wall in the cafeteria in the school for all to see.

Her grandfather along with many, many Veterans in and out of uniform from all the branches in the Armed Forces were well represented and seated prominently on stage.

It touched me to see such a sea of young children dressed in red, white, and blue seated on the floor in front of the stage forming the flag and saluting the Veterans.

In addition, the children waving flags and giving out home made Thank You notes lined the corridor leading to the Media Center for punch and cake.

The young children as well as all in attendance had an opportunity to learn about people serving and defending this country.  It was a learning experience with much thought and effort.

Hopefully, the children conveyed a feeling to the Veterans who served this country to protect our freedom that they will never be forgotten and they will always be honored.

Thank You for Your Service, Veterans!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What to Plant in November

It is somewhat of a stretch to think about a winter garden when it is sunny and the temperature is in the 80's; however, next week may be different in Northern Florida.

I have finished picking the Contender snap beans, pulled the vines and will add them to the compost pile..  Then I will old compost and nutrients to that row, spade it in, and make it smooth for the small seeds of mustard, kale, and turnip that I have mixed together.  The germination for these greens is about 7 - 10 days and the maturity time is 45 - 70 days.

A light frost will enhance the taste of these nutritional and healthy greens.  I usually cook the greens and eat them with pickles and pickle juice.  Some people use the tender greens in salads and others use them in smoothies.

Another reason for the greens is to create a border.  We also use them as a cover crop for the winter months.  We cannot possibly eat all the greens but they will keep in the garden for a long time.

We just returned from Standard Feed and they had good looking cabbage plants and collard plants on display.  Some claim that the collards are the "new" kale.

It is not too late to sow beets and carrots.  They are cold weather vegetables.  The beets that I sowed gave up their ghosts for Halloween but I have sowed more and I am waiting for a positive result.

If onions are available, get some and plant them.  I use some of them early on because 100 days make for a long growing period.

Along with the Scarlet Globe Radishes, I also bought White Icicle Radish.  These radishes will germinate in less than a week and will be ready for your salad in about 35 days.

Happy gardening!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


The All Hallows Eve came with a cool morning and a brilliant sunrise and we are taking it easy and enjoying the day preparing for ghosts and goblins.  We set out the pumpkin on a small table in the front yard where it gets a ghouly sheen from the flood light that is shining on our flag from dusk to dawn.

We began our day by having Pumpkin Waffles out in the summer kitchen.  I made the batter from a basic recipe with the most common ingredients such as three (3) eggs, milk, canola oil, and all kinds of sugars.  I used a tsp baking powder and half a tsp of baking soda to get a rise out of the waffles.

The aromatic fun is mixing the pumpkin spices of cinnamon, ground ginger, all spice, and nutmeg along with a tad of salt.

Finally, I used one (1) cup of store bought, canned, pumpkin.  Mix it all together and make waffles or pancakes.  We drizzled maple syrup over the waffles.  Yum!  Yum!  Our treat.

Our treat is also to enjoy the Cassia that is in full bloom along the fence on the Back Forty.  It seems that one day it was only greenery and then it exploded in sunny yellows.  The fall is here.

Actually, we have not had any tricksters visiting us for the last ten years.  The street have been empty and there have been no signs of children anxiously running around knocking on doors and asking for treats.  I miss them.

Schools and churches are organizing Halloween Events for the children to keep them off the street and away from harm's way.  Parents in communities are also having treat and trunk parties. All this in an effort to keep the goblins safe.

Have a Safe and Fun Halloween
Look out for the Goblins and treat them well
Thank you for visiting my blog

Monday, October 26, 2015

Soaring with the Blue Angels

I was sitting in a lawn chair in my backyard waiting for the Blue Angels when I heard this deep rumbling thunder above my head.  When I turned my head, I saw the under belly of Fat Albert.  Whoa!  Then he narrowly missed the tree tops across the scenic creek.

Girl, that's too close for my comfort.  Or should I say Captain?  The Fat Albert may have been piloted by Captain Higgens.

Then the Blue Angels came roaring in skimming the waves, looping around and up and about.  Many times, they made turns and fly overs across the Back Forty.

Back in 1946, the original team selected the name after the famous Blue Angel night club in New York City and the first air show was t Craig Field in Jacksonville Florida in June of the same year.

(The Fat Albert picture is borrowed but the others are my own pictures taken at an earlier show in Jacksonville.)

It was somewhat difficult to follow the Angels.  Your hear the screeching and screaming and the thunderous sound and vibrations are left in the pit of your stomach.

The Blue Angels may fly as close as 18 inches within each other.  They are truly awesome!

The mission of the Squadron is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to the country.  So they did!

It is rather awesome to read the name and numbers of the planes as they fly over the Back Forty.  Saturday was a beautiful day for the air show.  Sunday was cloudy and rain was also in the air.  The Blue Angels have two shows:  one for good weather when they soar and leave contrails; the other one is during cloudy conditions when they fly low and skim the surface.

At the end of the day, my husband and I went to Mayport for pizza and drinks by the river and we had a chance to see Fat Albert take off and head home to the west coast of Florida.  See you in two years!

Thank you for visiting my blog.  
Leave comments below, if you like.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Citrus Greening

I had a disturbing conversation with a neighbor this morning.  He was riding his bike on the other side of the "scenic creek" and I was picking butter beans.  He asked me if we had citrus trees and I told him that we did.  He then asked me if I had "greening of the citrus."  No, I told him, we only use fertilizer specifically for the citrus.

After recovering from my blunder, I went inside to confer with my "wise one" and he showed me a pamphlet that we got from UF IFAS Extension titled "Citrus Problems in the Home Landscape" when we attended a seminar at the local library conducted by the County Extension which I had totally forgotten.

I learned that citrus greening is a destructive disease that since August 2005 has reached every county in Florida.  One of the early symptoms is the vein yellowing.  Another symptom is the "blotchy mottle" where the leaves are small and upright showing a variety of "chlorotic patterns."  The problem with the greening of the citrus is that it resembles so many deficiencies e.g. lacking of zinc and iron.

The large citrus growing companies also have to deal with these problems and they are costly for them.  Once the citrus trees have been infected, the leaves will drop off and whatever fruit is produced will have a bitter taste.

The most disturbing fact is that there is no cure for this disease; however, good irrigation, weed control, and proper fertilizer may keep the trees productive.  My neighbor on the bike indicated that it was a lost cause.

I had to go out and inspect our citrus trees and to my surprise, I found that they were doing pretty good.  At this time, we are preparing the ground, weeding, around the trees and watering so that we can fertilize the trees according to instructions on the bag.

Satsuma Orange Tree

We consider ourselves blessed to have this wonderful plot to take care of and in return, it takes care of us. We are able to grow healthy vegetables and herbs as well as citrus and some berries.  We are surrounded by green trees and bushes. All kinds of birds visit us and small four legged animals also make an appearance once in a while and so does those without legs, the snakes.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Garden Shed

When we moved to the Back Forty, we most certainly needed a shed for the tractor, the lawn mower, tools, and fertilizers for the garden, trees, grass, and bushes.  The shed filled up pretty quickly.

The shed had windows with flower boxes and shutters.   I made curtains with John Deere tractor motifs.

The flower boxes are covered with dollar weeds as they lay scattered on the ground in wait of a wash and a paint job.

Now, I want my own garden shed, a small bungalow, a retreat where I can go and enjoy afternoon teas or a glass of wine while listening to my music or hear the birds twittering.

Some call this kind of a shed a "she shed" and they are trendy and seem to be here to stay.  Of course, men may also have their own sheds and fix it up the way they like to have it.

I would like to put up lacy curtains in the windows, hang a small but fancy chandelier from the ceiling, and show off my jams and relishes on a shelf.

At some home improvement centers, a basic shell of a shed may be purchased and be delivered and installed to your garden area.  You may also be able to select windows and doors.  Then it is up to you how you want to decorate it.  A day bed may be desirable as well as a small table and a comfortable chair. Who knows what you may come up with.

John Muir wrote that "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."  

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three Plants in the Brassica Family

Brassica is only a fancy name for cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, and many other similar cold weather plants.  The vegetables in the Brassica family are also referred to as "crucifers" or cruciferous vegetables.  The cruciferous vegetables do best when the day time temperature stays around 75 degrees F.

Here at the Back Forty Garden, we buy the seedlings:  it is more convenient for us, keeping in mind that we have a rather small home garden.  These cold weather plants may also be planted from seeds, of course.

The germination time is about 10 days for the three plants that I have selected.  The cauliflowers will mature in 120 - 150 days; 75 - 120 days for cabbage; and 100 -130 days for broccoli.

In preparation for these cold weather vegetables, my husband mowed down the field peas after picking them.  I turned the soil and removed the largest roots.  (The field pea cover crop did a good job of keeping the garden relatively free of weeds.)  I added many shovelfuls of mulch from the compost pile and worked into the soil.

All of the cruciferous vegetables need full sunshine and plenty of room to spread their leaves, grow, and develop.  I put about a foot and a half between the plants and dug holes that I added garden fertilizer and Ironite.  I mixed it around in the hole before I planted the seedlings.

Of the three cruciferous vegetables, the cauliflower requires most attention.  It is so exciting to see the snowy curds deep within the plants.  Although the cauliflower need full sunshine, it is important to provide the curds with shade when fully exposed to the sun.  I simply drape the curd with one of the plants' own leaves.  This keeps the vegetable from losing its color and flavor.

The broccoli and the cauliflower freeze well when cut into bite size pieces, blanched, cooled quickly, and bagged.  I use the cabbage as needed from the garden and it always fun to make slaw and saurkraut.

Don't forget that the earth would want to feel your bare feet;
the wind would like to play in your hair;
and the sun would like to kiss you ever so gently.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sustainable Gardening

I believe that every gardener is using sound ecological and organical practices that cause little or no harm to the environment. The gardener improves the environment beginning with his or her garden plot no matter how small or large.  There seems to be no specific way to define "sustainable gardening."  One could say that it is a way of life.

There are a few things that a sustainable gardener does to improve the soil.  One of the most important practices is to create and use compost made from garden, yard, and kitchen waste.  I have a designated area for my compost pile sectioned off by logs from trees that had to be taken down.  A fancy bin or barrel is not necessary nor is boards or plywood that is only an added expense.

At the Back Forty Garden, we seldom use pesticides or herbicides for our lawn/grass so we cause no harm to drainage and water sheds by collecting the grass in bags and empty them into the compost pile. This grass is also used as mulch.  I am surprised that animal and birds have left my pile alone.

Another important sustainable practice is to rotate the crop.  We avoid planting the same type of vegetables in the same areas year after year.  Some crop such as potatoes, tomatoes, and corn has a tendency to deplete the soil and need to be replenished by compost.  Some of the insects and pests are creatures of habit and the rotation will confuse them.  They have to tackle new items on the same ground.

Water conservation is another method of carefully sustaining the garden and a way of life.  If I don't have enough mulch from the compost pile, I use the fresh grass collected in the lawn mower bags.  I simply put them close to either side of the vegetables to retain the water and keep the weeds down.

Having a garden, sustains our bodies and souls.  It provides us with exercise, fresh air, and healthy foods.  It keeps us from using our vehicles to travel to the grocery stores and buy vegetables and fruits shipped from faraway places and stored for a long time before shipping.  I supplement my vegetables by buying at the Farmers' Markets.

To enjoy gardening and reaping its benefits while improving the environment is a sustainable way of life.  We live it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Planting Tomatoes for the Fall

There is a variety of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available in nurseries and home improvement stores for planting in September for the fall/winter season.  Heirloom tomatoes are those that have been around for a long time, true and tried, and they have never been cross pollinated or otherwise modified to grow better and larger and at the same time resist diseases as have the hybrid tomatoes.

There are other terms that may be of interest when selecting tomatoes and the labels usually let you know if they are indeterminate or determinate.  Those tomato plants labeled as indeterminate will mature in no special order; meaning, some will mature one day and others the following week and continue to produce until frost.  Those tomato plants labeled as determinate mature pretty much at the same time which may be an advantage for a fall harvest.

During the Labor Day weekend, we prepared the soil where we had planted okra, unsuccessfully.  We turned the soil and removed the weeds.  This patch came out to be a 20 foot long row and about 3 feet wide.  Here at the Back Forty, we planted the following tomatoes:

Big Beef that should be ready in about 75 days with large and beefy fruit.  The "shoulder" color of the tomato is apple green prior to ripening and turning red. The Big Beef is the indeterminate kind ripening now and then and should be harvested before frost.

Big Boy takes about 80 days to mature and the fruit is large, red, and meaty.  It is high yielding and wilt resistant.  It is indeterminate.

Celebrity is one of my husband's favorite tomatos.  It should be ready for harvest in about 70 days and it is of the determinate kind, meaning that the tomatoes ripen all at the same time.  The Celebrity is a medium sized globe shaped fruit.

Roma is one of my favorite cooking tomato and it stores well.  It is compact and bright red. It is a determinate kind that will ripen about the same time.

Moby Grape is new to me.  It is a determinate tomato.  This is similar to cherry tomatoes.  It is recommended that they be eaten directly in the garden.  It is so safe and so good in our garden because we do not use pesticides or herbicides.

I plan to keep better track of the determinate and indeterminate tomato plants.  When the determinate plants are done, it is time to pull them out of the ground as far as I am concerned.  It is no need to keep them in the ground any longer than necessary.  It will only serve as a good feeding place for bugs and insects and the ever present aphids that will munch on the root system.

We have sometimes selected tomato plants that are tall and spindly but we plant them as deep as feasible.  If that is not possible, we grow the plants somewhat deep but horizontally.

Hurry and get your tomatoes planted for the fall.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget 9/11

It was a beautiful morning with clear blue sky and a hint of autumn in the air.  
It was September 11.  

Never Forget.

Always Remember

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Three Root Vegetables

The holidays are behind us, the children are back in school, and the tourists have gone home, and it is time for me to get out, turn the soil in the garden, and plant some cold weather root vegetables.  Carrots, beets, and rutabaga are easy to grow and delicious and nourishing.

There are two different kinds of Carrots that we do like:  The long and slender Imperator and the short and stubby Danvers, both from Ferry-Morse.  The germination time is 8 - 12 days and about 75 days to harvest.  There are plenty of seeds in a package to cover a 10 foot row.  1/2 ounce of seeds will cover a 100 foot row.  The carrots need to be carefully thinned out when the tops reach about two inches.

Plant the seeds in separate beds and mark them well (in case of the planter's memory loss).  They prefer full sun, well-drained soil, deep enough to grow in, loamy and fertile.  Isn't that the kind of soil we all have?

This year, I am planting most of the vegetables in blocks as opposed to linear rows.  Since there are a lot of seeds in the packages, I am also going to stagger the planting schedule keeping in mind that we are able to gardening year round in northern Florida.   Seed companies suggest to stop planting about 75 days before frost.  In my case, it's before the heat sets in.

Another interesting root vegetable is the old-time heirloom Rutabaga  with purple shouldered tops and I was delighted to find that it has yellow flesh.  It is also a cold weather root and light frost may even improve its taste.  It stores very well. As you may have seen in stores, it has been waxed where the tops have been cut.

The germination time is 3 - 10 days and the harvest time is in 90 days.  It is recommended that two (2) seeds be planted every two inches and when the seedlings measure about two inches, it's time to thin the plants and leave one plant every two inches.

The third important cold weather root is the Beet called Ruby Queen to brighten the fall/winter garden.  Like most vegetables, it prefers full sun and well-drained soil.  Ferry-Morse suggests that the seeds be scattered but I prefer to plant the seeds in a row and not to crowd them too much but to give them plenty of room to grow.

The seeds germinate in 10 - 12 days and the beets are ready to harvest after 55 days.  Thin the plants to about two inches apart when the seedlings reach two inches tall.  If you like, add a very small amount of Nitrate of Soda when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall.

I have gleaned information from Ferry-Morse and Wyatt-Quarles Seed Companies as well as information from the local Standard Feed Company, plus my own trials and errors.  Dr. Earth maintains that "gardening is based on science not magic."  See, I need all the help I can get from different sources.

I am sure that the seeds are sowed under the best conditions at the seed companies and the days to germination and harvest are approximate.

Special thanks to my dear husband for so many years of gardening with me.

Thank you for visiting my blog where cookies are used.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Summer Salad

This Summer Salad is quick and easy to make with few ingredients and perfect to take along for a Labor Day picnic.  It's a basic Peach and Tomato Salad.  Peaches and tomatoes do present an unusual combination but they are surprisingly tasty mixed together.

Fresh summer peaches are still available at grocery stores and Farmers Markets.  At my last visit to the market, I picked up juicy freestone peaches, plump tomatoes, and firm cucumbers.

To make the salad, I washed and cut two tomatoes and two peaches into wedges which came out to be equal parts of each fruit.

To add a third ingredient and a little bit of greenery, I peeled and seeded a cucumber and cut it up into half moons and added them into the fruity mix.

If European or Canadian cucumbers are used, leave the skin and seeds--just cut 'em any way you want.

For a dressing, I mixed oil and vinegar together and added a little sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Have a Great Labor Day!
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Waiting for Erika

Erika took her sweet time to come across the ocean to play havoc in the Carribean Islands only to loose strength as she climbed the Hispaniola mountains.  She was disorganized and busy trying to get herself together before she hit Florida.  Now, it looks like we are going to experience a lot of wind and rain.

Years ago, I made an emergency package in case we would have to evacuate.  In a large zippered bag, I had packed sheets, blankets, pillows and towels along with toiletries and some kitchen wares. I had to repack it to find out what I did have and this time I made a note of the content.

Yesterday, we went to our regular grocery store and stocked up on canned vegetables, tuna fish, pasta and soups.  We added peanut butter, cereal, dry milk, tea, and hot chocolate.  This is also in case that we have to evacuate or for staying at home but losing water and electricity.  It will see us through a few days.

This picture shows how far a water surge will reach during a Hurricane 1 and so on. Not a comforting pole to look at, but helpful.  During a Hurricane 2, we are evacuating.

Then there is the water:  we stocked up on small bottles and large bottles of water.  In addition, I plan to fill my pitchers and food grade buckets with water for cooking and cleaning.  I also plan to fill up the bath tub with water for flushing the toilet.  It is more than possible that the city water will be contaminated and some say to turn it off immediately should that be the case.  FEMA recommends two quarts of day per person for drinking water but about one gallon per person per day is more likely.

It is important that pets are taken care of at a time of evacuation and to make sure shelters are taking them in along with you.  Pets should be in a comfortable cage large enough for the pet to turn around in.

We use a carrier for our cat when we travel and stay in motels and that is served as her safe house and she is doing very well with her shelter.  We also have a picture of her and her updated vaccination records tucked away in an airtight bag tucked away in her carrier.

When we returned to Florida about ten years ago, we were concerned (and still are) about severe storms so my husband and I cut out plywood to cover our windows.  We needed special screws and bolts to fasten the plywood to the bricks.  The home improvement centers were most helpful.

We put up all the plywood to cover our windows to make sure that the plywood fit and that we were able to do it.

I must confess that I am not ready for a major disaster.  A most important factor for insurance purposes is to make an inventory listing of your possessions--to document everything that you own, no matter how inexpensive the items.  The ideal thing would be to make a video, to go from room to room and make a sweep of what you have.

At the time of this writing, Erika has diminished.  It is no longer a tropical storm or hurricane, but there may be others to follow.

Stay safe.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Umbrella Tree Revisited

There has been much interest in the Umbrella Tree or Bush.  Maybe it is because of the somewhat unusual and intriguing name.  The Umbrella Tree is also known as Schefflera.

This plant is often seen in a doctor's office or a dentist's office.  You may have seen this large and glossy plant in office buildings.  It does fill out empty spaces providing attractive greenery.

The only reason I figure the name "umbrella" is the whorl of slender leaves, the cluster that is formed like an umbrella.

Some of the Scheffleras grow rather tall with thick and shiny clusters, umbrellas, while others have rather delicate leaves.

The Schefflera does well outside in the summer time.  It is pest resistant and it is also draught resistant.

The Schefflera is fast growing and if you don't like its shape:  cut it.  I use the cut greenery in simple flower arrangements and it may even take root.

To root the Schefflera and other woody plants, I would make a snip on the selected piece, still attached to the plant, wrap it in plastic that holds moist moss and carefully tie off the ends including the stem of the host plant.

Another method would be to take a "branch" near the ground when the plant is outside, lay it on the top of the soil and cover it up with more soil. It is still attached to the host plant.  Hopefully, it will root at some point.  Do you have any suggestions?

Taking Care of Business:  "To provide you with the best experience, cookies are used on this site," according to Google.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gardening in August

Colossus Peas
It is tempting to get out there, turn the soil, and start gardening.  If you live in North Florida or where the weather is hot and humid, wait a little longer and do your garden a favor and let it rest until the end of the month, at least.

I am anxious to start the fall garden and I have cleared off one garden plot, a 12 x 12 sq ft area.  I pulled up the rambling tomato vines as well as the egg plants but left the peppers standing.  I turned the soil but did not add any compost or other nutrients.

I know it's somewhat late to plant a cover crop but I sowed Black Eyed Peas in the newly tilled plot.  My intention is to use the peas as a cover crop and to fix nitrogen.  The peas germinates in 6 days and matures in 60 - 70 days.

When the time comes to plant the fall crop, I will mow down the rows of beans and use as a green mature.  If the peas are mature, then that will be a bonus.

Black Eyed Pea Seeds

My mathematician on the Back Forty informed me that the other garden plot is 204 sq ft.  The Sieva Pole Beans have their fixed place, still producing, near the fence.

My granddaughter sowed a row of Colossus Peas as a cover crop and every seed germinated and they are making nice greenery.  They are next to the butter beans.

The Colossus Peas are a legume much closer associated with beans.  Consider their germination 6 - 7 days and they mature in 55 - 75 days.  The peas are ready for harvesting when the pods turn brown and show sign of splitting.  Chuck 'em and store 'em.

Colossus Pea Seeds
In addition to the peas, I plan to clear off the weeds in the large plot and sow a row of Bush Straight Neck Squash, germination 6 days and 60 - 70 days to maturity.

Finally, at the end of the month when more space is cleared off, I plan to sow another row of Contender Snap Beans, germination 6 days and 60 -  70 days to maturity.

The green beans are a true and tried crop with excellent results and we are once again ready to eat snap beans.

Earlier this summer, the Plant Ranch gave me a book Home Grown Food by Milo Shammas also known as Dr. Earth and he writes that "gardening gives you more than the activity and the harvest.  You become a steward of the earth."

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Saving Tomato Seeds

It is rather easy to save your own tomato seeds for the next growing season; however, it is strongly recommended that only heirloom (not hybrid) tomatoes are used.  They are proven good producers and naturally resistant against pests and diseases.  .

The other morning, my husband came into the kitchen and he wanted to know what was smelling so badly.  I told him that it was tomatoes fermenting.  What?

A few days earlier, I had halved red cherry tomatoes and yellow sweet million cherry tomatoes and put them in separate glass jars with enough water to cover them.  I put a lid on the jars, not too tight, and set them in the darkest corner of the drain board and forgot about them.

The tomatoes fermented for a few days a scummy goo was formed on top of the water.  Oh, boy!

It was kind of smelly when the jars were fully opened but I persevered and removed the goo and gently washed the tomatoes in a sieve under running water making sure none of the seeds fell down the drain.

I squeezed out the seeds onto a paper towel and put them away making sure I labeled the seeds that should be dried within the week.  Then I'll put them in a small container, label, and store in the cup board for next spring.

Seeds from large heirloom tomatoes may also be saved in a similar method.  I cut one tomato in half through the middle, equator, and carefully scooped out the seeds, washed off the membrane, and put the seeds on a porcelain plate to prevent the seeds from sticking.  I skipped the fermentation phase. The seeds are still drying.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Peach and Carrot Bread

I cannot resist colorful and ripe freestone peaches from South Carolina so I bought another box at the Farmer's Market. I couldn't wait to take large savoring bites of a large peach and yet another peach only to finally wipe the juice off my chin with a huge paper towel.

This is the end of the season for peaches and the end of the summer is near as well.

But I want to taste the peaches later on the season, so I peeled them and cut them up and put them in the last few jars available, poured a sugar/water solution over them, added some spice, and gave them a water bath.

I still had peaches left over and I checked out some recipes on line and this is one for a Carrot and Peach Bread using 1 and 1/2 cup peeled and chopped peaches, 3/4 chopped pecans, and 3/4 cups grated carrots.

Mix the dry ingredients together:
2 and 1/2 cups flour (and more, maybe)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Slightly beat 2 or 3 eggs together (use 3 if the eggs are small)
Add 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup canola oil, and 1/2 cup low fat milk

Stir it all together and pour into two greased glass oven proof glass containers and bake for, at least, 1 hour at 350 F degrees.  Let cool, cover with a towel, and enjoy for breakfast the following morning.  I served a generous slice of bread with cream cheese and my husband nodded his approval.

This is the best bread I've made.  It seems like a lot of ingredients but  I happened to have them available.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Beach

There is a beautiful small house not too far from the beach that has been converted into a boutique and several tea rooms.  The boutique carries all cute things in white and the tea rooms are decorated in about fifty shades of whites.

The tea rooms are elegant with linen table clothes and napkins with lace.  It is sophisticated according my granddaughter, yet it is "beachy".

It it is a place where ladies and matrons in flip flops may have their afternoon teas, soup and sandwiches.  My granddaughter and I got all gussied up for this outing.  We had matching open toed wedges with silvery tops that showed off our painted toe nails.

We had a large pot of tea and the waitperson poured us the first cups to prevent us from spilling on the beautiful old linen.  Soon thereafter, she brought us crackers with a cranberry cream brulee.

The main course consisted of various sandwiches such as cucumber sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches, and chicken salad sandwiches.  Strawberries, slices of cucumbers, and oranges quarters were also served.

In addition, we also had dessert with the sweetest layered cake and the best warm scones with Devonshire Cream.

To make a Mock Devonshire Cream, use the following ingredients:

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup of sour cream

Beat together the cream, sugar, and extract until stiff.  Fold in the sour cream. Refrigerate.  Served with warm scones, fresh fruit, and enjoy it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Surf Fest Summer 2015

Summer time and it is time to go dip my toes in the surf and forget about gardening.  The weeds are doing very well without my help.

The other week, there was a Super Grom Surf Fest in Jacksonville Beach with a lot of young kids who wanted to build sand castles, fly kites, and ride a surf.

It was a great introduction for youngsters.  They learned how to keep the balance on a surf board and how to safely fall off it.

The kids lined up with their instructors waiting for the perfect wave and mothers and grandmothers lined up on shore to take the perfect pictures.

Today's Tip:  When at the beach and your feet are covered with sand, sprinkle a generous amount of baby powder and gently brush it off with your hands.

Thank you for visiting my blog.
Stay hydrated.
Use sun screen.
Have a nice summer.