For Dragonflies And Me

  (Snover, Michigan)
Enjoy the everyday life I love to live!
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Creating Thanksgiving Traditions, Decorating Tips For That Special Table and Some Yummy Fix'ns!

Autumn is my husband Neil’s favorite time of year… he is an October baby. The leaves changing into their majestic colors of rust, scarlet and turmeric… that lovely crunching sound they make under foot… the smell of the wood stove burning… home made chicken noodle soup slowly cooking and filling the house with all those wonderful scents of the harvest we have reaped from the summer’s bounty. I love the honking that all of a sudden appears above us as the Canada honkers head south to warmer days. I love the feel of crisp air as it surrounds my face as I take my morning jaunt to the chicken coop… What it boils down to is I just really love my life on our farm. I love the freedom it has given us to be able to raise our own food…to watch our children play pond hockey on the neighbors pond…to hear their laughter ring through the barn as they play cowboys and Indians… to see the night sky lit up… to hear the crickets chirp and the Spring peepers come to life. Although I am all about summer, (I’m an August baby) I love this time of year as well.   [Read More]
 
 

Organizational Tips and Recipes for Herb Salts and Dry Mixes!

I love reading anything on organization! I am a firm believer of everything has a place and everything in it's place.  In my home I up against seven other individuals. Now when I say 'up against' I don't mean that in necessarily a bad way for the most part... I just mean not all members of my household have the same instinct as I do... so I work hard at trying to instill this quality, especially in my children... unfortunately it's too late for my other half(can't teach an old dog new tricks, LOL)!  He was not taught this art in anyway shape or form... he does try to some degree, but it's not his nature. Anyway, some of my children have grabbed hold onto it and some, shall I say are a work in progress! A few things that drive me crazy are when the kitchen cupboard doors are left open... I just cannot understand why they don't close as easily as they opened... sigh! ... or why the dirty clothes land beside the hamper, but not in... sigh!  Well, as my one dear friend always tells me... 'Line upon line... precept upon precept!' So I trudge on!  Really I don't mind it all too much because I do love to get things organized and re-do stuff. Anytime I am in the check out line and there appears a new organizing or storage magazine, they just seem to find there way into my cart! Praise the Lord for constant inspiration!  Last week I spent the morning 'gutting' out and cleaning the boys room... unbelievable is all I can say!   [Read More]
 
 

A Companionate Herbal for the Organic Garden and Yummy Herb Butters Recipe's!

Summer is here and we are in full swing! I am finding it harder and harder to get to this blog with all the responsibilities I have around on the farm.  I am constantly thinking of things to write about and share, but finding the 'thyme', or should I say making the 'thyme' is just taking more effort than I would actually like.  But here I am and of course I love being here.  Lets talk more on herbs shall we? I just can't seem to get enough of herbs, they are so versatile and useful in so many areas in life... the kitchen, bouquet and right into the personal care line! I love to go out to the gardens and pick them... as I brush against their leaves they just welcome me there with their lovely aroma's telling me to pick & enjoy!  I have often touched on companion planting and I recently came across a great list that I thought I would like to share with all of you. Today I am going to focus a bit on the personal care end with of course a few yummy recipes for Herb Butters! Thanks for coming... see you again soon!   [Read More]
 
 

Cooking & Baking with Herbs, Herbs for Pets, Lovely Lavender and Yummy Lavender Recipes

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs; although I don't use it as a culinary herb even though you can, I am partial to it as a lovely hedge about my flower beds.  Evan loves lavender, he will often bring me a bouquet of the sprigs he has picked... so sweet. 

Cooking with Herbs is such a special treat... once you start using fresh herbs and taste the difference from the dried, it will be hard to enjoy them as much in the winter.  Fresh herbs are a culinary delight to the senses and add a flavor that is hard to beat. Many people skip herbs when baking, so here are some yummy 'Herb Additions' to your everyday meals along with some baked good recipe's!
  [Read More]
 
 

'Guinea Pig' Meals, Seed Packet Magnets, Sheets for Tablecloths and Springtime Salad, Salad Dressings and Homemade Croutons!

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; They are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul."
Luther Burbank

Meals are important at our house~ they are a time where we all sit together and talk about the days events, big news, mishaps or anything else that happens to pop up.  Meal times can get a bit on the noisy side, but they are special together times that everyone gets to give their two cents worth.  Last night at the supper table, Taylor said she wanted to do 'Guinea Pig' Suppers every night next week~ Neil said, 'no way'; Kyle said, 'yeah, cool'; Ethan said, 'uh-uh'; I said, 'OK, but I have to say yes first before anything is approved'; Neil said, 'That sounds better'; and then my sweet little 10 year old Ryan said, 'Where are we going to get the guinea pig meat?', quite seriously.  So you may be saying, what is a guinea pig meal?  Well they are fun & easy. All you do is try a new recipe that you think looks good that you have never tried, really not that scary.  Anyway, I thought that this was cute!

*The other day I was at a friends house and they gave me a tour of their new 'little' greenhouse. It was cute- her daughter had saved several of her seed packets to keep for a handy reference.  I saw them as something much different- cute Fridge Magnets for home & gifts of course! I am sure most of us gardeners are guilty of buying that 'extra' pack of seed just because of the package, the photo of the flower, herb or veggie- "Oh," we say, "I have to have that ....." .  We all love a pretty picture- as they say, 'a picture says a thousands words'...  So often I purchase a seed packet just because of the package.  Seed companies would be smart if they all put more energy into the packaging!  I have already used them as name cards at a tea party, pasted on the front of a homemade card and to make Fridge Magnets.  It is so easy and they are the cutest gift to quick throw into a card you are going to send someone! Here's how~ You will need a laminator or self laminating sheets, a roll of self sticking magnet and of course your empty seed packets.  Simply laminate the pack and then stick on the magnet! So cute, so simple and so fast!

*Some people collect shoes, purses, books, I collect table clothes.  No matter what thrift shop I go to, the first place I hit is the linens department; I stand back and look down the rack so I can pick out the fabrics that catch my eyes~ plaids and floral's are always first on my list.  After I find a few things it's off to the sheets~ yes the sheets!  Sheets make wonderful outdoor entertaining table clothes; they cover picnic tables beautifully!  I also have used quilts for a unique touch on a special occasion! Be creative, it's your table!

Everyone loves the first yummy things out of the garden in spring, lettuces, greens, spinach, radishes, scallions and the list can go on & on.  Here is a variation to the everyday salad using some of Garden Gates awesome Bacon, lettuces, greens and radishes!

Garden Gate Farms Special Springtime Salad

1 bag mixed Greens from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1 bag baby lettuces from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried Cranberries or cherries or mix of both
1 bunch Radishes from Garden Gate, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound Garden Gate Bacon, crisply cooked & crumbled
1/ pound blue cheese or feta cheese (without juice), crumbled
Poppy Seed Salad Dressing- see recipe below
Homemade Croutons- see recipe below

1. Wash & snip greens & lettuces into bite size pieces; arrange in a large salad bowl or on a large serving platter.
2. Layer each of the remaining ingredients, except dressing, on top of  lettuce/greens.
3. Serve with dressing on side.
This is a large batch and will feed 12 to 15 hungry folks! 

Yummy Poppy Seed Dressing

1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard
1/3 cup real lemon juice
1 tsp. grated red onion
3.4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seed
1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Homemade Croutons

1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. each salt & pepper
1/3 cup grated Fresh Parmesan cheese
6 slices french or sour dough bread, day old is fine,  crusts trimmed* (don't throw away)

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until butter foams;  Add garlic and cook about 1 minute; add bread cubes and toss to coat with butter. 
2. Season with salt & pepper.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees fro about 15 minutes, tossing once in between, until lightly golden.
3.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese and toss until cheese melts. 
Makes about 4-6 cups.
*Don't throw away those crusts- put them in a freezer zip lock bag or freezer plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Use them for your next batch of homemade dressing!

Happy Day,

Jean



 

     

 
 

Nifty Birdfeeders, Homemade Hummingbird Nectar, A Lovely Garden Path & Taylor's Yummy Oatmeal Pancakes

March 26th, 2012

Nifty Bird Feeders, Homemade Hummingbird Nectar, A Lovely Garden Path & Taylor's Yummy Oatmeal Pancakes!

I was in the kitchen the other day leaning on the counter looking out one of the windows when a male & female Purple Finch landed on the feeder.  I quick called over baby Aaron and picked him up to watch them.  We were actually only about seven feet away so the view was quite charming.  Aaron got big eyed of course and started pointing and oohing over them.  The birds were quite relaxed due to the 'usual' noise coming out of the house- this was no big deal and continued to eat and enjoy the sunny day.  Soon another pair settled in and things were even more splendid. As I have mentioned in several of my entries, we are big bird watchers and we enjoy feeding them very much.   Although all the bird feed can get a bit expensive I do believe it is well worth the efforts and the rewards of being able to see one of Gods most intricate & beautiful creatures so closely. I have large climbing Sweet Autumn Clematis' growing on both my front arbor and my pergola and the birds just love them. They gather for shelter as well as nesting! Last week I put a bird house in the inside corner of my front arbor well in the vines and I am pleased to say I already have a pair of sparrows nesting in there! 

If you enjoy feeding the birds, here is a really easy bird feeder recipe that you and the children can make to stretch the seed out a 'little' bit longer .
*Nifty Bird Feeders~ General Recipe: Mix about a tablespoon of white corn syrup with approximately 1 cup of bird seed~  Make as much as you want and then using a rolling pin, roll out onto counter or table until about 1/2 inch think or so.  Using cookie cutters have the children cut out shapes; re-roll any remaining seed mix until you have used it all.  Using a thin dowel, no larger than a pencil make a hole about 3/4 of an inch below the top edge of the bird treat; using yarn, thin wire or twine make a loop about 12 inches or so long to hang it out with.  You can also form into suet size to put into your suet holders.
*To make suet cakes use smooth Peanut Butter mixed with a couple tablespoons flour and mix in bird seed of choice, form into cakes and fill your holders.  Keep these in shady areas because they will melt in the heat of August. You can store these in the freezer for up to 3 months, so have fun and make ahead when the peanut butter is on sale and you have time! 
*If you do purchase pre-made suet cakes, save a few of the plastic holders they come in so you have a form handy and they will be the right size.
*Hummingbird nectar is super easy to make without buying the expensive mixes.  Simply add to four cups hot water 1 cup of sugar; stir until sugar is completely dissolved then add  2 drops of red food coloring if you want to, but it is not necessary. Put in fridge to cool down and then fill your feeders- hang out and enjoy the flock that will come. 
*Be sure to plant a row of Mammoth or Giant Grey Striped Sunflowers in your veggie garden or some in your gardens, you will be entertained in the fall by many birds looking for food!
*If you don't have room for a large bird bath somewhere, you can use large Terra cotta or plastic plant saucers for them.  Put down on the ground next to a large shrub so they have somewhere to fly and be sure to keep clean water in it.

*A Pretty Cobblestone Walk ~ see attached photo
One of the first things I did when we purchased our home was plan all the 'future' gardens and then some. There was nothing here when we came except on overgrown apple tree, an ugly shrub next to the front porch steps, two lilac bushes, a hydrangea bush  and one big beautiful Maple in the back yard. Some might be saying, "Well that's not too bad."  Well maybe it's not to some and the ease of that would be just fine & dandy~ not so for me.  I want gardens that surround and abound, both veggie and flower.  In my opinion they go hand in hand~ you can't not have flowers in your veggie garden anymore than you can't have herbs and a few pretty chard or potato plants mixed in the flower beds.  So the planning started.  One thing I had to have was a cobble stone walk.  A good friend of mine, also a gardener, had a form, soooo I put Neil to work, of course I helped, after all someone had to tell him what to do :-) ! He is my muscles when I need certain hard scapeing done, so we got the neighbors cement mixer, bought several bags of  concrete and went to work.  First I dug up the sod from the planned walkway; next I put down black plastic ground cover to hold back the nasty grass that would surly want to rear it's ugly head up into my path; next we put down about four inches of sand. Now we have a gravel/sand pit right across the road from us, so this is free for the taking for township residents.  If you don't have access to free, then you need to buy enough to lay at least 4 to 6 inches of sand down for the stones to mold into. Now I needed my 'muscles' and as usual he came through beautifully. He mixed the concrete and filled the form on and on until the walk was complete.  I wanted it to be more special though so I had each of our children press their little patties (hands) gently into a stone, then I carefully printed their name and the date in another stone beside it.  I added marbles and made smiley faces with them in neighboring stones as well.  I also had Neil & I do the same and put our wedding date and a heart made with marbles in ours (see photo attached).  I wanted a bit more so I took some maple, fern and hosta leaves and pressed them into several of the other stones.  Now after several years they are all still perfectly visible and are a happy reminder of a hard days work. 

Pancakes can have so many variations, it's simply to the cooks imagination as what to add or not. Here is a yummy variation that goes over well at our house!
Taylor's Yummy Oatmeal Pancakes

1 Package of Taylor's Bake Shoppe 'Buttermilk Pancake Mix'~ follow package directions and then add to one batch recipe:
1/2 cup whole oats
1/4 cup more buttermilk
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup

Fry as you would and serve hot with Garden Gates Breakfast Sausage patties or links and a jug of Kapnick Orchards yummy Apple Cider! 

Happy Day,
Jean,
www.thegardengatefarm.com
gardengate@emypeople.net
 
 
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