For Dragonflies And Me

  (Snover, Michigan)
Enjoy the everyday life I love to live!
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Decorating The Porch, Dreaming of Summer and My Favorite Popover Recipe and Yummy Herb Roasted Potatoes

I love to decorate for the seasons... inside and outside in all the seasons. There is true beauty in all, yes even Winter (stay sitting, I really do think so!) I'm not talking about all the Christmas lights and plastic yard ornaments, I'm talking about using nature to beautify along with some cool 'junque'... creative decorating shall we say! Your porch is a reflection of your home and what you adorn it with says a lot about you... That's why when the dog carries a deer leg from one of the boys prizes, I get a bit cranky! Some of 'them' just don't seem to get it. There's no reason that you can't keep it cute till we can once again adorn our porches with live, beautiful flowers. Each season holds some beauty, yes I do admit that with even winter... Evergreen boughs strewn with red berries and there really is nothing like a hoar frost glistening in the bright early morning. Let your neighbors and those that pass by have a treat for their senses with the beauty of your front porch!
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Homemade "Flower Fresh" Recipe, More Garden Tips & Simple Cuttings & yummy Mini Farmers Market Pizza's

The daffodils, forsythias & magnolias are all in full bloom~ it is absolutely magnificent! It is about 9Pm right now and the rain just started coming down~ it sounds like a calm and steady straight down rain.  Evan, Ryan & I got several things planted in the raised beds & the kitchen garden today and this rain is such a blessing for all those little seeds and soon to be us :-) ! Ryan wanted to pick his teacher a bouquet with the daffodils for tomorrow, he is so sweet.  He loves to make bouquets and plant things.  We were planting beets in a few of the raised beds after school today and all of a sudden he was gone.  I called after him and he was getting ready to till up the spot he had worked in last summer.  "Too wet yet" I told him.  Raised beds are different then regular gardens, they dry out quite a bit quicker and you can get lots more stuff in them faster. One more reason why I am all about raised beds!  We all love those first spring bouquets and they never seem to last long enough.  You can add some vase life to them with a really simple homemade 'Flower Fresh' fresh recipe~ all ingredients you are sure to have right in your own home!

*Homemade "Flower Fresh"
Put 1/2 tsp. of regular household bleach and 1 tsp. sugar to every 1 cup of room temperature water.  Change water every 5-7 days.
If you snip just a 1/4 inch off the bottom of the stems each day, this will also help.
You will be able to keep your bouquets looking nice for about 2-3 weeks.  


*More Garden Tips
There are so many things that I have read & picked up over the years that it seems I could write on & on about this stuff forever... so here are a few more tried & true tips! Have fun...
*If you have trouble with flies coming in the house, try putting a potted Basil on the step or porch by each of your doors and if you have a window ledge outside you kitchen window or any other put a few there. Not are they only helpful here, just think how easy it will be to make Brushetta or Pesto now.... oh now that is sooo yummy!
*If you have shrubs or trees that need pruned in the spring, lay a tarp under the area to be pruned; then when you are done, simply fold up the tarp and dispose of in your compost or burn pile... easy as pie!
*It is seed planting time and some of those seeds are soo tiny! Lettuce & carrot to mention just a couple.  Try using a large holed salt or sugar shaker~ simply put your seed in it and then shake them out in your prepared row!  So easy!
*Weeding can be a trying experience even for the gardener who loves to garden. If at all possible, weed after a rain, everything comes out easier.
*Mulching is a time & back saver!  If you know a farmer that has cows, horses or sheep they will have hay & straw.  Bales often pop open and there is always loose straw around.  Ask if you clean up the loose straw & hay if you can have it.  I lay newspaper down my isles in the garden and even in the raised beds between the rows, and then cover with straw.  Some people will say then you will be planting the seeds~ it's green manure!  Plus I rather deal with the very minimal seeding as opposed to the hours of hoeing, tilling and hand weeding!   I will be touching more on mulching & it's importance in coming posts!

*Simple Cuttings are very easy to do. Here are instructions on how to start your own Rose & Forsythia. 
~ For a new rose bush all you need to do is cut a stem with a full bloom rose on it.  Stick the stem into the ground.  Leave a few of the leaves at the top with the bloom.  Water the ground thoroughly and put a clear glass jar over it- like a mason jar- if you have a 2 quart jar that would be best, but a 1 quart works well too- and anchor it into the ground by twisting it until the jar is in the ground up to its shoulder; place a rock on it.  Keep the soil watered around jar every day until frost.  don't remove the jar until next spring.  You will then have a new rose bush growing!  I have tried this and it worked~ I got 2 out of 6 new roses.
~ Forsythia is super easy too!  If you have a friend with a bush you are all set~ I am sure she/he will let you have a start.  Forsythia branches will tend to 'bend' down and when the tips meet the ground they root on their own!  Go to the shrub and you will see gobs of branches that appear to be separate bushes, but in actuality they are branches rooted down.  All you need to do is cut the branch from the actual mother plant and carefully dig up the 'rooted branch'.  Put in a bucket of water with the flower fresh in it and transplant into the location you have for it at home! Presto~ your own forsythia!

Mini Farmers Market Pizza's

These nifty little pizza's are so much fun for the children because you can let each one of them create their very own masterpiece!  Not to mention they can put whatever toppings they like best. Here is one way, but be creative and have a yummy fun time!

6 Pita Rounds
1 1/2 cups pizza sauce
1 cup fresh Spinach from Garden Gate Farm, washed & snipped into bite size pieces
1 medium Red Onion from Garden Gate Farm, chopped 
2 Roma Tomatoes from Willowridge farm, sliced thinly with seeds removed
2 cups mixed shredded cheese from Grassfields Organic cheese- choose two types for a more interesting flavor
Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 cup fresh Parsley from Garden Gate Farm, snipped

1.  Place pita rounds on an ungreased baking sheet and spread each with 1/4 cup of pizza sauce.
2. Top with cheese; put tomato, spinach & onions on top.
3. Drizzle 1/2 tsp. oil over each pizza; sprinkle 1 tsp. parsley over each;
4. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese over each.
5. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly!

Happy Day,
Jean

 
 

More Garden Themes, Living Wreaths, Yummy Nested Eggs Using in season Green's from the Farmers Market!

*Old Fashioned Cottage Garden are my favorite. All of my gardens are Cottage type simply because I love the natural way they feel and look, not all fuss & pomp, just calm and relaxing.  I think that is why I love them, most often life is not any of these and I can escape to the garden's and simply be there.  There are certain flowers that speak specifically in a cottage garden~ Hollyhocks, Delphiniums, Foxglove, Bleeding Heart, Climbing Roses, Peony, Phlox, and of course one of my personal favorites, Lupine's.  We use to have a childrens story book called, The Lupine Lady. I don't know the author any longer, but I use to love to read it to the children, it was just a happy book!  My garden's incorporate picket fences, old wooden posts, arbors and a pergola.  This picture is of my front arbor and fence with a Sweet Autumn Clematis growing on it just starting to bloom.  These are one of my favorite climbers.  They are breathtaking and car stopping when in full bloom, around the end of August.  Country Garden's magazine is jammed  packed with beautiful garden idea's for creating Cottage Gardens.  If you haven't picked up a copy yet, be forewarned, once you start you'll be a life long subscriber!

*Here is a fun project if you are a Bible reader or even if you are not.  Plant a Bible Garden- the following plants can be found at the listed verses in the King James Version.  Try having a trivia game using the following plants & see who knows where these plants can be found. See who the Bible scholars are!
Rose of Sharon-  Song of Solomon 2.1            Roots- Job 30.4
Rue- Luke 11.42                                                 Saffron- Song of Solomon 4.14
Hyssop- Hebrews 9.19                                     Mint- Mathew 23.23
Anise- Mathew 23.23
 

*Living Wreaths~
As most of you know we are Farmer's Market vendors.  At a market I use to participate in there was a vendor that created the most beautiful Living Wreaths.  I gathered the following tips from Country Gardens magazine, Early Spring Issue 2009, Vol. 18, No.1 on how to market them.  They are fairly simple and inexpensive to make on your own, and if properly cared for will last you all summer long.  You will need a few supplies- here is a brief outline of material's & how to!
*First gather your supplies~ At least a 16" metal wreath form or Grape Vine wreath with pocket, 16oz. bag of Sphagnum moss, small bag organic potting mix,  about 12-18 plants- choose one or two varieties; when choosing your plants decide if this wreath is going to be in the sun or shade- this will make a big difference on your selections, green florist wire.
*Choose your plants:
~Shady plants that work well are impatiens, ivy, button ferns or tuberous begonias.
~Sunny plants that work well are pansies, petunias or herbs.  A mixture of Thyme's, viola's and a variegated spearmint is just stunning, not to mention smells scrumptious.
*Step 1:  Soak moss well in bucket (about 10 minutes) of water and then drain.  It should be damp & pliable.  Attach a short length of doubled wire to the back of the wreath form, so it will be easy to hang.  Place three or four such lengths, evenly spaced, on the back of the wreath so that it can be turned to keep it growing evenly.
*Step 2:  Line the form with the moss, with the green mossy side facing out, like fitting rolled out dough in a pie pan.  Overlap pieces of moss and patch as you go.
Step 3:  Make sure the moss overlaps both upper edges of the form or grape vine basket by a couple of inches.  Fill the form about 3/4 full with the potting mix.
Step 4:  Arrange the plants on top of the soil. When you are happy with your design, take the plants out of their pots and plant them.
Step 5:  Give the wreath a full look by planting the sides as well.  Poke holes through the moss in three or four places around the sides of the form, and carefully insert a plant in each hole. 
Step 6:  Tuck the overlapping edges of the moss over the top, around the crowns of the plants.  The moss holds the plants in place until their roots have taken grip.  It also helps keep the soil from drying out and falling out when watered.
Step 7:  Secure on end of the florists wire to the back of the wreath form.  Wrap wire around the front and back, moving in a spiral all the way around.  Cut the wire and twist the end onto the form.
This is a beautiful gift as well, and homemade with love can't be more special!

Some people are afraid of Greens simply because they have never been exposed to them, they sound too different or they are just not a real 'go getter' with new foods.  Then there are those that dive at the market table when the greens are spread before them.  What constitutes the name 'greens' other than the obvious~ lettuces the curious one asks.  Well greens include kale, chard, spinach, mustard's, arugula, endive to name the most common.  Usually a 'salad mix' of greens includes many of the above combined together to make a yummy salad.  Most often when cooked alone these things are steamed or wilted.  But there are so many other options!  Here is a really yummy recipe, remember that you can interchange any of the above for the 'green' in the ingredients!

Soft Boiled Eggs in a 'Green' Nest

1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach from Garden Gate, stems & ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper flakes
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
4 Eggs from Garden Gate

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Chop your greens into bite size pieces and toss in the oil and seasoning to coat evenly. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 10"x10" glass baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, till crisp.  Remove from oven and divide into 2 bowls and create a 'nest' with a hole in the center.
2. While greens are baking, bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil and gently lower eggs into water, turn off heat and cover.  Let eggs sit in water for 6 1/2 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
3. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for about 1/2 minute.  Working carefully and quickly, peel eggs, and place in center of nests.  Season with Matt's Mix and serve immediately.

Happy Day,
Jean
 
 

Birthday Parties Garden Style with Pretty Posy Favors & Pepper Steak Made Great!

I don't think it is any big surprise when I say that being in the garden is very special for me.  All my life we had a garden and it just is part of who I am.  The wonders of nature in the garden are by far too many to number.  I often say how special it is for me to be in the garden with my children, the experiences that I am able to share with them is priceless.  When they see their first woolly bear caterpillar, or pill bug or even better the first Praying Mantis, now that is a wonder for sure!  The garden is a special place for so many things, so what about hosting a birthday party~ not just for an adult but also a child.  Here are some 'Child' Friendly Garden Birthday Party idea's & tips...
*Help your child make home made garden themed Invitations.  How about a standard 4 x 5 1/2 piece of card stock.  Pick up those wonderful 10 for $1 seed packs and put the seed pack on the front for the 'picture'. 
*The Menu!  Let your child have fun! Depending on the age of the child let them help create the menu!  A very cute 'Sandwich' idea is to start with sub buns for your sandwich.  Cut each section about 4" and make as you want.  Set the sandwiches up down the center of the table in a wiggly way to look like a caterpillar. Even cuter, put chocholate cookie crumbs under it to make it appear as though it is crawling through the dirt~ too cute! You can use any color licorice to lay on the table slightly under the sections to represent the 'many' legs; using toothpicks, put round gummies or black olives for two eyes. Two stick pretzels can be the antenna's; use any other soft candies on toothpicks to poke along the tops of the sandwiches to represent 'polka-dot' backs.  The ideas are endless, use your imagination.
*Watermelons aren't just yummy, they can be beautiful centerpieces as well.  Most of us have seen how melons can be cut to represent a handled basket, hollowed out and then filled with a beautiful & delicious fruit salad.   The long oval shaped melons work best.
*Punch is the funnest drink for a party! Try making 'real' lemonade!  It is very simple- use 3 parts water to 1 part lemon juice, add 1 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of liquid! Cut lemon's & limes in slices and let them swirl around to make it extra special.  If you have a 'color' theme to your party, add a few drops of food coloring to make your lemonade your color!  You can use any large container to hold your punch!  Use jelly jars for your glasses with umbrella straws!
*Of course the Cake, or how about Cupcakes!  How much more fun, then these can actually turn into a Game!  Have a cupcake decorating activity!  Let each guest decorate their own cupcakes- so much more special!
*Party Games~ how about 'Pin the Bumblebee on the Daisy', play a game of bingo with flower pictures~ use small rubber stamps or stickers that would fit on a 1" square and use for your Bingo instead of letters!  How about a Scavenger hunt looking for all Garden stuff! 
*Posy Pots!  here is a great favor!  Here is what you will need!
Organic Potting mix, 1 Quart Zip Lock baggies, Sunflower or Marigold seeds, pretty card stock , tulle, raffia, and a small clay pot.  Fill the baggie with enough potting mix to fill the pot then place filled bag inside the pot. Take the card stock and make a small packet to put 2-3 seeds in, seal. Place seed packet on top of dirt bag in pot.  Gather tulle around the outside of the pot, and tie with raffia.  Cut out a 4" x 4" piece of card stock for a gift tag and using a rubber stamp or sticker of the type of flower seed you chose, place it on the square, punch a hole in the corner, write planting instructions on back and attach to raffia bow. Such fun for everyone!

Many people often wonder what they can do with Round Stead other than stew meat, here is a great way to make a typically tough piece of meat great!

Pepper Steak

2 lbs. beef round steak sliced into 1/2 inch strips from Garden Gate
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 garlic gloves, pressed and divided
2 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large Portabello mushroom                                                                                          
2 medium onions coarsely chopped from Garden Gate
2 tsp Seasoning Salt
1 cup beef broth
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp curry powder                                                                                     Chicken broth as needed

1.  In a skillet over medium heat, brown steak strips with oil and half the garlic.
2. Add peppers and onions; cook until tender.  Stir in mushrooms, Matt's Mix and remaining garlic.  Stir in beef broth.  Reduce heat to low an simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Sprinkle with curry powder and continue simmering one hour.
4. Add chicken broth as needed to prevent sticking and over browning.

Happy Day,
Jean

 
 

Remembrance Trees, Wedding Shower & Gift Idea's and yummy Three Cheese Herb Pasta Bake

When we purchased our farm the home had been abandoned for over a year and to say the least it was a 'fixer' upper.  Although as we walked through it I could imagine what I could make it to be, and so the long road of fixing is still in progress.  That's o.k. though because I enjoy making things look like 'me'. We moved in the first of March almost five years ago and I had the garden's to be on paper before you could bat an eye.  The veggie garden and flower beds would be first priority and then planning some hard scaping. Each year we have added new elements and I can always envision more beds and dreams. 

Remembrance Trees
or plants are a beautiful and potentially long lasting treasured gift.  Neil's mom had purchased for each of the six children a 'remembrance' tree in memory of their father after he passed away.  Unfortunately our beautiful Emerald Luster Maple tree was left at our previous home.  She had wanted something for our new home and got us several much needed shrubs.  This is such a wonderful idea that can be remembered for generations.  

Wedding Showers
can be so fun and especially with the right theme.  If you are planning on hosting one, even in the dreary months of winter, make it a Garden Theme.  Here are a few cute ideas to get you started!
*Invitations- You can create the cutest invitations with all the graphics, rubber stamps and stickers out there today.  Especially if you have one of those nifty die cutting machines! 
*Have everyone bring their favorite Recipe on a card that you send them with the invitation (then they are all the same size & coordinate).  Put them in a cute Terra cotta pot as each guest arrives; have the bride-to-be pull 2 or 3 of the cards and whoever's name is on them, they win a door prize- give them a potted plant.  The recipes then can be put in a book or box for the bride-to-be and will be a long lasting treasured memory. 
*Place Setting Name Tags- use 10 for $1.00 seed packets- simply use address labels with a cute font and garden graphic to print each guests name on and then put on the front of seed packet to cover the company name, but not flower.  Have just one of a certain seed and use that for another door prize winner.
*Door Prizes- pairs of garden gloves, hand tools- trowels, shovels, scratcher's; garden stationary, seed packets, potted flowers or any other garden themed gift you can come up with.  
*Menu- You can change names of recipe's to feature the theme.  For example, 'Berry Blossom Salad'- use edible flowers (if available) like pansies & nasturtiums. Rhubarb Punch or Garden Spiral Pasta Salad are a few more.  Use your imagination!
 
A wonderful Wedding Gift for the happy couple to be is a Picnic Basket.  Be sure to fill it with two of everything- linen napkins, place mats, plates, cups, flatware and pretty glasses.  Don't forget to include a table cloth, candles & candle sticks and some of the couples favorite treats.  
Another special gift is a small Planter of Cooking Herbs such as Basil, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Oregano and Rosemary.  Make it even more special by including a book on Herb Gardening and an Herb Cookbook. 

Try this yummy meal using Garden Gates Italian Sausage and let your tastes soar....
Three Cheese Herb Pasta Bake

3 Tbsp. butter                                                                                                                        1 tsp each- basil, dill & oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                       2 Tbsp. fresh parsley from Garden Gate    
1/4 cup Whole Wheat flour, from Garden Gate                                                           1/2 tsp. Pink Himalayan Salt
1 tsp. mustard from                                                                                                           1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
3 cup milk                                                                                                                        16oz. package ofRigatoni, cooked
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese from                                                                             
1 pound Italian Sausage from Garden Gate
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic; saute one minute.  Whisk in flour & mustard.  Pour in milk; continue to whisk until smooth.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer one minute. 
2.  Combine cheeses;  reserve 3/4 cup and set aside.  Add remaining cheese to sauce, a little at a time, stirring until cheese melts.  Add herbs and seasonings. 
3.  Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Spoon into a lightly greased 13"x9" baking pan.  Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Uncover and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Happy Day,
Jean
 
 

Seed Gift's, Secret Pal's and a Yummy Quiche

I love to give gifts, especially gifts for or from the garden!  There is something special in a wild flower bouquet just because.... or a small start from a perennial plant for a special friend.  I have several perennials in my gardens that are from friends and each time I venture through I think of them, and I do believe this is the point. Each Spring most local stores have the 10 for $1.00 seed packs, I like to stock up on them and include in gift baskets, birthday cards or any other little garden type gift.  Store them in an air tight container and keep in the freezer, it will add to their longevity.

Have you ever had or been a Secret Pal?  I have been on both the receiving and giving end, it is so much fun!  Here are a few tips on how to be one!
*First pick someone who you think could really use some cheering up or someone you think it would just be really fun to surprise.
*Decide how long you want to do it- 3months, 6 months, the longest should be a year.
*Decide on a theme- this makes it easier when deciding on gifts. Once you decide on the person, that should make the theme easier because you will more than likely know what they like. Make a list with the twelve gifts you want to give fitting each one to the month.  
*Premake your monthly cards- I used the pictures out of one of those mini calenders you can get for a buck or two, cut the pictures down to fit on a piece of card stock- 4"x6" works really well- also they are already themed to the months!  I glue the picture down for the front of the card and then write or stamp what I want in each one, put it with the envelope and you're ready to roll every month.  
*Watch at thrift stores for gifts- you would be shocked what you can find.  Typically most of the bigger thrift shops have a section that is jam packed with Brand New items, still in the wrappers with price tags!  
*You can even preplan you gift 'container'. Choose if you want to go with simple yet cute gift bags- which can also be picked up at thrift stores- or cute baskets or even nesting boxes.  The options are endless.
.... so choose that special person and gift away, after all, 'it is better to give then to receive'...

Here is a really yummy Quiche for a special brunch you may be planning or just a really special breakfast...
"Michigan Winter Farmer's Market Quiche"

1 deep dish pie shell                                                                                                               
2 cups  Organic Monterrey Cheese (or similar), shredded
1 pound Garden Gate Hot Italian Sausage                                                                         1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
3 Garden Gate eggs, slightly  
                                                                                              1/2 tsp each Pink Himalayan Salt and Black Pepper
1 3/4 cup Milk                                                    

1/2 cup sour cream
                                                                                                        Lettuce, shredded          

1.  Prebake unpricked pie crust on a preheated cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.  
2.  Remove casing from sausage, brown in skillet, breaking up the meat until crumbly and cook thoroughly.  Drain well.
3. In a bowl combine eggs, milk, cooked sausage, cheese and peppers.  Turn into partially baked pastry shell. Bake at 325 degrees on the preheated cookie sheet for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from center.  Let stand about 10 minutes to set before serving.
Serve topped with sour cream, salsa and shredded lettuce for a super yummy treat!  Enjoy
Happy Day,
Jean

to see more about us go to our farms website at

www.thegardengatefarm.com

 
 
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