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]
 
 

Canning Tips, To-Do List Tags & How to Can Yummy Sweet and Sour pickles and Mexican Style Salsa!

Heirloom Tomatoes... basil, garlic... oh my! Summer goodness just keeps flowing into our kitchens from the gardens. We are busy starting to put our food up for the coming cold months and how wonderful it is to watch those can shelves fill up with all that good stuff. Today we are going to busy making salsa and sweet & sour pickles. Every time we add to the shelves, I just stand back and cannot help but be so thankful for all we have. Life is good! Today I am going to give some helpful canning tips that I compiled several years back for my cookbook, "Lovingly Seasoned Eats & Treats" along with my salsa & pickle recipe... and of course a cute crafty idea too! Have a wonderful day!  [Read More]
 
 

Herbs: Planting, Tips and Varieties and a few Herb Recipe's!

The end of the month... we are already through one third of this year... I certainly cannot believe how fast time keeps moving on.  Our farms winter market is over ~ 21 weeks have flown by and now the regular season farmers market which will consume the next 29 weeks our lives begins... Gardening and farming will soon take up much of each day.  I love this time of year and the feeling of exhilaration that comes along with it.  In the next few entries here at Dragonflies, I will be focusing on Herbs. We will be able to start putting out all those goodies in the gardens, decorating our porches and patios and adorning our flower beds with boundless blossoms... my favorite time of year!  [Read More]
 
 

Kitchen Tips and Tricks, Cute Curtain Tie Back, Herb Garden Spritzer and Citrus Raspberry Tea


I spend a lot of time in the kitchen especially in the summer when we are busy with all the canning & freezing we do around our home.  I love to can as you will learn more this summer through my blogs I am sure!  Right now I am excited with spring and all the bounty she holds... rhubarb, asparagus, fresh greens, spinach, fresh garden tea... oh spring is delicious.  But I think all the seasons can be, especially with the season extensions that we have now with hoop houses and heated green houses at our farm.  With our Winter CSA they allow for fresh stuff all year!  Today I am kitchen mode so here are some fun ideas, tips, decorating ideas and yummy drinks to read about! Have a great day and wonderful weekend!
     
  [Read More]
 
 

Canning Tips, To-Do List Tags & How to Can Yummy Sweet and Sour pickles and Mexican Style Salsa!


Heirloom Tomatoes... basil, garlic... oh my!  Summer goodness just keeps flowing into our kitchens from the gardens.  We are busy starting to put our food up for the coming cold months and how wonderful it is to watch those can shelves fill up with all that good stuff. Today we are going to busy making salsa and sweet & sour pickles.  Every time we add to the shelves, I just stand back and cannot help but be so thankful for all we have.  Life is good!  Today I am going to give some helpful canning tips that I compiled several years back for my cookbook, "Lovingly Seasoned Eats & Treats" along with my salsa & pickle recipe... and of course  [Read More]
 
 

Landscape Design Tips, The Importance of Soil and Yummy Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes!

I am a Cottage Gardener through and through~ I love the free form it allows me to have... the natural flow that occurs with time... the feel that everything has been there forever. Cottage gardens just seem happy and inviting to me~ they seem to say, 'go ahead & pick a bouquet.. take it in the house, smell it... gaze upon it's beauty and wonder...' Daisies, lupines, delphiniums and roses are just a few of the Cottage Gardens blooms that abound. I wouldn't even know where to begin to explain how to do other garden types. I believe your heart becomes a part of your garden over time, it calls out to you each time you pass by and invites you in like an old friend. Landscaping can be fun and exciting, filled with anticipation of what each year will bring, what news plants will be added, new walkways, arbors... Enjoy your gardens and be one with it, it will bring you years of peaceful abundance. There are several aspects to consider when considering your Landscape Design. These elements will effect the outcome quite drastically and need to be planned well in advance. *First make your Plan~ Walk through your yard and break it into three basic areas~1. Public Spaces- your front yard and driveway; these should be neat and organized; 2. Private Spaces- patios, pools areas and children's play areas; these spaces allow for your personal creativity; 3. Utility Spaces- garbage cans, propane tanks, central air units, firewood piles and such- be practical when planning these areas. For instance, you don't want to walk across your entire yard in the winter when you want to get some firewood. *Decide what your Personal Taste is~ this is probably going to be the easiest step in my opinion, unless of course you are not a gardener at heart and simply want a yard that is esthetically appealing to the eye and don't really care about personal expression. If this is the case, I would recommend going to a book store that has gobs of magazines; look at the covers of all the gardening magazine and see what catches your eye; decide what you like and then purchase several in that category of gardening; what is your budget? what is your time limit to maintenance? *Take into consideration the Style of your home when choosing your garden style. You wouldn't want to put a formal English garden with an old Victorian home. *Blueprint your yard~ you don't have to be an architect to do this. You can actually purchase kits at garden centers to aid you, or do as I do, just take a pad of paper and rough draw your entire property or just the area in which you want to do the landscaping. Take into consideration where all shade, all sun and partial shade/sun areas are located. This will make a big difference in the plants that you finally choose. Jot down where trees, fences, ditches, buildings, sidewalks, driveways, etc. are located. * Make a Plan of Action~ take time to develop your blueprint and plan. Most well done gardens are a work in progress that require time and patience, not to mention funds! Decide on all the elements that you want to incorporate into the landscape and then decide what is the most practical thing to start with. You will more than likely be incorporating hard scape elements into the design with the plants and maybe some garden art. These would include walkways, pergola's, patios, pools, arbors and trellises. Also bird baths, sun dials, statues and any other 'art' you want. *Choosing the plants will be another big decision. You will need to decide on trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. This will need to be decided upon once you choose your style. *When deciding on the Layout, if you choose to incorporate paths, make them winding if at all possible; this adds interest and creates a feeling of anticipation as to what is coming up around the bend. This obviously is not possible in all yards, so a way to create that feel is in your flower beds. Instead of making a straight line edge for your beds, put curves in them to create interest. It is amazing how this creates a natural flow that is appealing to the on lookers eye. Different things to consider when planning: ~ do you want a veggie & herb garden? ~ do you want shrubs and trees that require little pruning ~ do you want flowering or evergreen shrubs & trees? or a mixture of both. ~ take into consideration all four seasons when choosing your plants. ~ be sure to look at growth patterns- maturity height & width, shade or sun, dry or wet, etc. Designing and planning your garden is the fun part of gardening, but there is another very important element that is the Key to Success~ your Soil. The following information was found and adapted from "Michigan Gardener" magazine, April 2012 issue on page 9. "Soil is comprised of three materials: sand, clay, and loam. The best soil has equal parts of all three. Problems arise when there is too much of one material. Sandy soil is too loose and drains too quickly... Clay soil is too hard when dry, repelling water and making it difficult for roots to grow. When wet, it holds too much water, leading to root rot.... Spending a little time becoming familiar with the soil type in your backyard will greatly improve your gardening success. If you need help, bring a sample into your local garden center and an expert will help you determine your soil type.... You're not necessarily stuck with the soil you're given. Adding amendments will help create a rich, loamy composition that's a great environment for plants to thrive. For sandy soil, add organic matter, such a peat moss or compost, to give it more texture add water holding properties. To break up clay soil, add gypsum, pine bark fines or ceramic pellets. It is also important to know your soil's pH as well as nutrient composition before applying fertilizers.... Tests are available for about $20...." There is much information to be had on this topic that I wouldn't have time to get into here. I would advise you to get a soil sample done and get your soil prepped for maximum benefits. Yummy Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes! Here is yet anther way to use Taylor's awesome pancake mixes! Be sure to pick one up at the market! 1 Package of Taylor's Bake Shoppe Regular Pancake Mix. Follow package instructions for 1 recipe. 1 tsp. cinnamon 1 apple, cored, peeled, quartered, grated and divided sugar for sprinkling butter for melting to fry in 1. Make batter according to package instructions adding the cinnamon. 2. On a heated skillet melt 1 Tbsp. butter; sprinkle 1/2 tsp. sugar on top of melted butter; add 1 Tbsp. grated apple on top of this. 3. Immediately pour 1/4 cup of batter over top of apple, sugar & butter; cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes; turn and continue to fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until golden. Serve warm with maple syrup , butter and whipped cream. Happy Day, Jean
 
 

Houseplant Tips, Season Planting Guild, Name Bookmarks and Yummy Spinach Pie!

'Tis planting time! How joyous this time is for all us gardener's!  Gardening is a relief to my soul from the hum drum of life and all the expectations that surround me.  I love to care for all these little plants... nurture them... watch them grow and flourish... and then eventually harvest delicious food that feeds my family... use all the flavorful fresh herbs as well as dry some for winters use...  make lovely bouquets through the season that adorn our home!  Life is good, then you garden!  This month I am going to focus on giving some planting tips, harvesting advise, dividing and transplanting guild lines along with all the fun entertaining & gift ideas and of course lot's more yummy recipes! So sit back and enjoy from my home to yours!

I am probably not the most likely person to be giving Houseplant Tips, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.  Taylor likes them and I have had great success with my Jade Trees- they require very little care.  Recently Taylor & I were at a house warming party and I noticed the hostesses giant African Violets! I didn't even know they got that big!  Anyway, I asked if they were some new hybrid variety or something. No she said, they were not.  I marveled and said I have only ever killed them no matter what I tried- by the way, I have never read anything on them prior to this, so I probably didn't care that much anyway, but these enormous plants amazed & intrigued me.  This sparked a lively conversation on the plants & what tips several of the others had. So here are some Do's & Dont's to African Violet Care, I hope they help!
*Do:
~ water them from the bottom by using a deep set plant saucer, using hot water.                                        ~ crush washed eggs shells and put in a bowl with hot water and set the pot in it until all water is      absorbed- this gives them needed calcium.
~ Let them totally dry out and then water deeply.
~ Put them in a window where they will have indirect light.
*Don't:
~ever water the leaves.
~water with cold water- they are tropical plants.
~dead head- remove spent flowers.
These are just a few of the tips that I thought were most prosperous!

As I mentioned above I have had great success with Jade Trees.  They do not require a lot of care and grow to size according to the pot you put them in. My tree is about 3 feet tall and the trunk is about 6 inches in diameter.  It is quite beautiful and it gets a lot of ooooh's and ahhh's when friends come over. Although I will say, mine is small compared to some that I have seen.  Jade Trees are very easy to propagate- make new plants from. You can use one of three very easy methods, here they are-
1. Simply take a branch that is about 5-6 inches long and put it in a glass of warm water.  Give it clean water every 4-5 days and watch for little root hairs to start.  After it gets several root hairs plant in a pot with potting mix and watch it grow!
2. Take a branch as described above, but go ahead and bury about half of it directly in a pot with potting mix; Be sure to strip leaves off of the buried part; keep watered and moist to stimulate root growth.  Within about two to three weeks you will notice new leaves coming out of the stem.  In the meantime some of the original leaves may wither and fall off- don't give up it will live!
3. If you only have a small plant and want to grow more but there aren't any 'branches' to speak of, you can still propagate.  Take a leaf and lay on top of a pot of potting mix with the stem tip slightly in the dirt; keep moist, do not let it dry out- but don't soak; a slight misting regularly will be good in between watering's.  You will be amazed at fast it will take root and start growing.
      
It is time to start thinking about planting garden with all the early spring things that are readily available to you.  Here is a basic Planting Guild that will help you get the basics in your veggie garden through planting season.
Early Spring- that means now! Peas, onions, potatoes, lettuce, radish, spinach and chard.
Mid- Spring- around the end of April to mid May- Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, fennel. You can also do a reseeding of lettuces and radishes to keep a steady supply.
Late Spring- after the last predicted frost- end of May, typically- Beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins.  Some things you need to grow as plants at this time, not seeds- eggplant
, peppers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Plant your herb plants now too.

If a light frost does touch your late Spring crops you can save them by taking a watering can and sprinkle all the plants BEFORE the sun touches them.  Once the sun touches the plants they are burned and will more than likely die.  Certain things will only get tip burned- lettuce, chard, radishes, spinach and potatoes. These things will grow out of it if they had their true leaves.  Seedlings will need to be sprinkled.
Another easy way to prevent frost damage is to cover with light sheets, or if you want to be fancy, you can purchase 'fabric row cover' from green house supply companies.  Most seed catalogs even offer it now, but sheets work just fine for the small home gardener.  Do not cover with plastic though unless you have a way to prevent it from touching the plants.  The plastic on the plants will cause them to be tip burned as well.

A friend of mine makes these charming Bookmarks for all her family members and friends.  They are really special yet simple and easy to make.  She takes the persons name and puts a Bible verse next to each letter as it pertains to it.  I have attached a photo of it for you to get the idea. She laminates them so they will have a longer life and this adds a professional look to them. 

Yummy Spinach Pie
The spinach is in abundance right now and what else do you do with it except add into salads or steam you might be asking.  Well spinach is loaded with iron and is very tasty in many recipes including Italian Wedding Soup, quiches and lasagna.  Here's one more to add to your spinach recipe folder!

6 cups  baby spinach from The Garden Gate
, trimmed
1/4 cup sweet onion from Garden Gate, chopped
2 eggs from Garden Gate, beaten
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Colby jack cheese
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. salad dressing
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. celery salt

1.  Rinse spinach; chop and place in a large saucepan over medium- high heat; Cook covered for about 3-5 minutes, or until wilted; Drain, pressing out as much of the liquid as possible.
2.  Combine remaining ingredients; fold into spinach.
3. Spoon mixture in a well greased 9" pie plate; bake at 375 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Happy Day,
Jean

   



                                                         
 
 

Preserving Herbs, Grilling Tips, Yummy Grilled Pizza

Our family loves to grill and it doesn't matter the season. Neil as well as the boys get the grill fired up winter, spring, summer and fall~ it is respecter of no season! The only difference is the location; in the warm days it's on the patio, in the winter it's in the garage. When the warm days of spring roll around it is our daily companion for cooking! Neil won't let me touch the grill~ we, the grill & I go back a long way. You see when Neil & I were dating there were two incidents that banished me from the grill side. They now are quite funny. The first episode was when we were very newly dating. We went to a park and Neil wanted to grill some steaks. It was a beautiful day and we were having a very nice afternoon. Neil had to use the restroom so asked me to take care of the grill. Well, I had never grilled before, but I wanted to help where I could, so of course I said yes. I don't really know what happened but suddenly one of the steaks was on the ground. Horrified I quickly picked it up and put it back on the grill, dirt side down of course- Neil would never notice, surely it would cook off. There comes Neil leisurely strolling back with all trust in his eyes having faith I had taken care of his steaks that he was quite hungry for. Well, it didn't take him long to realize once he flipped the steak that something went awry while he was gone. I looked at him innocently and said it was a mistake and I was sure that it would cook off. He was not so sure, so I said I would wash it off. It was quite windy that day, and while I took it to the ladies room and diligently washed it, the coals had died out... so in the end, the sea gulls got the steak. I will tell the next story some other time... *Preserving Spring Herbs... We use herbs a lot in our cooking and I am fortunate enough to have greenhouse's and hoop houses to grow in year round. I do realize that not everyone has this luxury so here are some tips on preserving herbs starting right in the spring when many of the perennial ones are popping up right now~ chives, oregano, sage and parsley would be the main ones right now for us living in Michigan and similar climates. *The easiest way is to simply dry your herbs using a dehydrator; baking on a cookie sheet in a 150 degree oven until dry- length of time depends on herb- don't pile on the pan- just put in a single layer; you can also bunch and tie with rubber bands and hang upside down from drying racks, or rafters in the basement. Direct sunlight should be avoided. Parsley is the only one I don't like to do this type of drying to- although I am not sure why, but it looses it's color! To store, keep in air tight glass jars or plastic containers. *Freezing is also easy & fast- chives and parsley work best with this method. *We love Pesto- make your recipe in big batch quantity and freeze in plastic containers, baby food jars or jelly jars. Remember to leave at least an inch head space when freezing! *You can also pack 2 cups of any fresh culinary herb with 1/2 cup oil~ I would use safflower or canola- olive oil will leave a strong flavor- fill baby food jars, small plastic containers or jelly jars and freeze this way as well. This works great when you want to baste on any meat, saute veggies or meat in, or brush on bread for brushetta, pizza crust or bread sticks. Here are some grilling tips from Neil: *If you love garlic like we do, try throwing a few fresh garlic cloves on the hot coals to add extra flavor to your goodies. *Neil loves to smoke stuff~ if you want to wow your guests, try adding some hickory, apple wood or cherry wood chips or sawdust on the coals for an extra special treat. Make sure you soak the chips in water for about hour before you are ready to put them on the coals; if using sawdust just get wet. *If you are using charcoal, then keep a spray bottle with water to spray on the coals to keep temperature down so it doesn't get too hot. *Neil likes to brush the grill with some olive oil before putting the food on, this helps it to not stick. Yummy Grilled Pizza! Last summer we fell in love with grilling pizza! The children enjoyed it both in the way of having fun because they created their own masterpieces and it was absolutely delicious. Here is my pizza crust recipe and some of our favorite toppings! Crust: 2 cups warm water 1 Tbsp. yeast 1 tsp. raw organic sugar 1 tsp. sea salt 1 Tbsp. olive oil 3-4 cups flour, plus some for dusting Toppings: shredded cheese fresh Portobella mushrooms sweet peppers onions bacon, ham, sausage, ground beef or chicken pizza sauce, ranch dressing tomatoes ... these are just some ideas, use your favorite toppings 1. In a large, mixing bowl add yeast to water and stir gently; add sugar, salt and olive oil, stir in gently until dissolved. 2. Add 2 cups of flour, mix in until well blended; add 1 more cup flour, mix in well; and the rest of flour in 1/4 cups at a time until the dough is soft and doesn't stick to hands. Add a bit more flour in until the dough feels right; Knead dough for about 2-3 minutes until all flour is mixed in well. Form into a ball and place in bowl, cover with kitchen towel and leave on the top of stove to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. 3. While dough is rising get your toppings prepared. Sauteing the veggies is best and making sure any raw meats are cooked. 4.When dough has risen, punch it down using your hands and knead a bit more into a ball again. On a floured surface, cut the dough into 4 even sized pieces and roll out to about and 1/2 inch thick. The dough should be thicker so it doesn't fall apart on the grill. 5. Brush the dough with Olive Oil and put on heated grill; grill on one side for about 2-3 minutes, checking to be sure it doesn't burn; when the one side is done, remove from grill onto a cookie sheet, cooked side up; put your toppings on the cooked side; sauce, cheese, meat & veggies and add a bit more cheese; return to the grill to finish grilling- about 2-3 more minutes; put lid on for about the last minute to help melt the cheese. Remove from grill and have your feast! Happy Day, Jean
 
 

Cookbook Journals, The Gift of Bread, More Garden Tips, Potting Shed Organization and Taylor's Yummy Beef and Veggie Soup

As I have mentioned so many times, I love to journal!  Taylor was looking through the cookbook journal I had made her several years back and I thought that would be something interesting to talk about.  After all I always add some recipes so why not.  Journaling through my blogs has been such a delight for me and a way to share my thoughts and ideas with all of you.  So often I get asked questions about a lot of the things that I have been blogging about and now I can direct the folks to this blog.  Thanks for staying turned and if anyone has any question please don't hesitate to ask through our Facebook page and I will try to address each question as best I can!

*Several years ago I was going through one of my Scrapbook magazines and they had a whole section on Cookbook Scrapbook Journal's.  Well that's all it took for me and I was right into it.  I called my mom, Neil's mom & sisters and got all the families 'favorites'.  One stipulation was that each had to send the recipes in their own handwriting- not typed.  I had several of my Grandmas, her sisters, my aunts & my moms as well as some of my own from when I was a teenager.  I also included some of Neils own concoctions along with his brothers. But I needed more than just the recipes- I needed photographs.  I wanted photographs preferably of each person in the kitchen or doing something in the line of cooking- even camping & grilling.  I got more than I dreamed of, this was going to be fun.  One more key ingredient to the book was to be the story telling aspect of it- journaling!  This comes easy for me, so with each recipe and photo is a short story about the cook and why the recipe is special.  Being the avid scrap booker I am I of course had the perfect 10x10 inch Creative Memories scrapbook and all the supplies any one could dream of, so it was just getting it organized and decide on the format I wanted.  Once I had all the recipes I made copies of all on Scrapbook paper so they would not deteriorate over time. I put the appropriate photos with the right recipes; I decided on my title pages and the order they would go in; knowing that this couldn't be an encyclopedia I had to decide on what recipes to use and which to scrap- (get rid of) -no pun intended- this was the hard job.  In the end Taylor now has a beautiful Scrap-Cookbook that she truly enjoys and uses quite often. 

*Everybody loves bread, and if they don't they should! Bread makes a lovely gift~ weather it be a yeast, sweet or flat bread, they are all yummy.  To make your gifts of bread even more special, pick up inexpensive yet cute Tea Towels at discount stores and tie your loaf up into one, tie with raffia, jute or cute ribbon and add a special tag.  The recipient will be so tickled. 

*More Garden Tips....
*
If you have a fireplace that needs cleaned out, right about now, don't just throw those ashes away- they have great garden value!  If you have blueberry bushes or an asparagus patch put those ashes around the base of them.  They will give the plants much needed potash for the growing season.  Also, if you plan on planting peas in your garden this spring and know where the patch will go, sprinkle the ashes over that area and the day before you want to plant, till them into the ground! Beware- my pea vines got over 8 feet tall!
*Keep a five gallon bucket filled 3/4 way with oily sand to put your shovels, pitch & potato forks & spades in. It will keep them from getting rusty.
*If you are like me you will find yourself standing around the garden asking yourself, "Now where did I lay those clippers?" I don't quite understand why some of these garden companies don't think to make the handles on the tools bright colors so they are more easily found. Or maybe that is why they don't, because they get lost so easily and then we have to buy more~ now there's an "A-ha" moment. Anyway, until they do design them with them, pick up some bright color spray paint and spray the handles- no more 'lost' tools!
*This spring be sure to plan certain flowers into your garden plan- Marigolds, basil, nasturtiums should all be planted along with your tomatoes to keep bad bugs away and attract the beneficial's.  They are not only pretty, but practical.

Potting Shed or Garage Organization is a key for a content & happy gardener.  I am very blessed to have a very lovely Potting Shed and as I mentioned in a previous blog, it is a mess each spring that I need to clean out.  This mess is never my doing, I will not take the blame for it.  I have several wonderful helpers that just have not acquired my love of organization~ YET!  Kyle is the closest yet with Evan not far behind.  Everyone else is 'a work in process, or should I say progress?'  Anyway, I have a spot for everything in my shed and I am much happier when I can find what I want when I want it.  As I always say in & out of doors, "Everything has it's place so put everything back in its place.... please!"  On that note, here are a few tips on organizing your potting shed, garage or where ever you store your tools.
*I put 2 sections of peg board in my shed, on which I use hooks to hang all my shovels, rakes, loppers and several other tools.  I also hang small buckets and even a wire utensil basket in which I keep my hand tools in along with other small things.  I used one of those plastic shoe organizers that hang on the back of doors to store nuts, screws, garden gloves, markers, hooks, ground staples and any other small things that I want to be able to see at a quick glance.  I have several shelves where I keep planters, bird feeders,watering cans, etc.  I also have an old kitchen counter with cupboards below where I store plastic containers, dirt, bird seed and any other extra stuff. I also keep five gallon buckets to use for putting my weeding garbage in. In the rafters I keep fold up chairs, my push seeders, shutters and other large items I don't have room for on the walls or floors.  The outside of my shed is decorated to my liking- an old window with three old buckets for planters, an antique scale and of course an old fashioned bike leans on it.  On the back I have an old french door surrounded by antique tools and a shelf above which showcases empty pots and bird houses. On the other side is the window with a planter under it which I plant with pansies each year. The front has two wash tubs, one on either side of the door that I plant with petunias, a "The Potting Shed" sigh I hand painted and of course a Welcome sign.  You can use any of these ideas in your garage as well, simply pick a corner and deck it out with whatever you have.  Watch at garage sales & flea markets for old counters or even an old table. Shelves are easy to come by; peg board can be got at any hardware store.  The ideas are only limited by your space and creativity- so have fun and make it say it belongs to you! 


Taylor's Yummy Beef & Veggie Soup
I know most of us think of soup in the cooler months, and with the way the weather has been the last couple weeks I wouldn't feel like soup either. The next week though is supposed to be on the cooler side so pick up a Garden Gate Chuck Roast tomorrow to make this super yummy soup next week! Enjoy...

3# or so, Beef Chuck Roast from Garden Gate farm (of course :-) )
enough water to cover roast and over about 4 inches
1 small red onion from Garden Gate, chopped fine
1 bunch Swiss Chard from Garden Gate, ribs & stemmed removed and then leaves washed and cut into bite size pieces
1 cup of Carrots from Willowridge Farm, cut into 1/2 inch coins
4 ribs of Celery from Willowridge Farm, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups Cocktail Vegetable juice, like V-8
1 tsp fresh Rosemary from Garden Gate
1 tsp. each salt & pepper from James Creek Sutlery

1.  In a large crock pot add water, meat, onion, salt & pepper and rosemary.  Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours. 
2.  Stir in carrots, chard, celery and cook until almost tender, about 1/2 hour.  Transfer meat & veggies to a large stock pot; add juice.  If not enough juice, add enough water to cover.
3. Cook on low for about another hour or until veggies are tender.
So good.

Happy Day,
Jean

 
 

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

 
 

Plan a Sisters Day's, Helpful Garden Tips & a yummy Cucumber 'Herb Garden' Sandwich!

"Gardening is a joy when one's time is managed to enjoy it!" Jean Smith.

Well it is finally Spring, I can hardly believe the calendar.  I am so excited with this weather and all that we've got accomplished outdoors the last two weeks. I am getting ready to transplant some scallions, lettuces, chard and spinach seedlings into the raised beds; I am also going to get radishes and more greens seeded this week. For the next few weeks I will focus on giving some practical Garden Tips to help you get your growing season started~ and of course I will continue to give you loads of other fun ideas to do and lot's of yummy recipes! I hope you are all enjoying my blog as much as I am!

Tomorrow I am having a Sisters Day at my house.  What is a Sisters Day you wonder~ well in brief it is when you and a group of friends or relatives decide to have a special day of being together & doing something you all enjoy .  The ideas and group of people to include are both endless!  Here are some Sisters Day themes as well as groups!
*Themes or activities can include but are certainly not limited to~ Card making, scrap booking, canning & preserving, dinner/meal swap, crafty day, sewing or quilting day.  You can even just have your group over and let everyone do what they want.  Tomorrow when all my 'sister's' come we are going to do yard work & finish cleaning up the rest of the flower beds, do some transplanting and one of my 'mother in the Lord' is coming to do the mending that I just cannot bear to do! The other one is too far away to be here, and my heart aches that she won't be with us. We will have one every month and each 'sister' whose turn it is gets to choose what we all do at her house.  If you are thinking that seems pretty good, it gets better. They are all going to bring a dish to pass for lunch that we will all share and to top it off they will each bring in a dish for my families supper! Yeah, isn't that great?
*Groups you may be involved with: Obviously if you have sister's &/or cousins you are especially fond of :-) ~ and of course you can include your mom, mother & sister in laws, grandma & special aunts too.  If there is a lively group in your work place that you enjoy spending time with have one with your co-workers.  Do you belong to a M.O.P.'s, homeschooling, Brownies or Girl Scouts, Master Gardeners or any other group? I am sure you could think of several of the other group members you may have fun with!
Whatever theme or group of friends you decide on you will surely have a great time so let your imaginations soar!

Helpful Garden Tips!
*
If you are like me you just can't bear to wear gardening gloves.  I love the way the dirt feels on my fingers and it's warmth is to good to pass up. Besides who can get a good hold on those nasty roots with gloves on.  So before you go outside to work in the dirt, push your finger nails into a bar of soap.  Then when you get back in just wash up and no dirt in the nails!
*If you have earwigs, place several sheets of rolled up newspaper secured with rubber bands where you are seeing infestations.  Leave it there over night and then in the morning, simply pick up the rolled newspaper and put in a garbage bag, tie tightly.  They love to hide in cool, dark & damp places.
*To control slugs and snails simply spread bran around the bases of the plants where you are noticing them. They do not like bran and this will be a natural way to be rid of the slimy suckers!
*I am a list maker!  What I like to do is to walk around the yard and any other areas that I know there is work to be done and make a list of what needs to be done~ these work well for 'Honey-do' lists as well!  Then you can visually look at each thing to do and as it gets accomplished you have the thrill of scratching that job off and it is one less thing to do!  It also helps for folks like me who forget it as quickly as I think of it ;-) !
*Timing is everything!  I for one have many gardens and they take time to work in and get the job done, especially in the spring when all the weeds are trying to take a strong hold before the perennials can get a fair chance!  Spread your work out~ give yourself fifteen to thirty minutes in the morning and then again in the evening to work at weeding.  This way you can easily stay on top of the work instead of trying to do the whole lot in a day once a week.  
 

If you are fortunate enough to have a kitchen garden you can easily throw together these yummy & quick sandwiches for a little picnic, special luncheon or a leisurely lunch that is sure to become a family favorite! 

Cucumber 'Herb Garden' Sandwiches

1- 8 oz. package of Cream Cheese, softened
2 tsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh* herbs, finely chopped such as: chives, thyme, parsley and basil
8 slices Old World bread, sliced
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin

1.  Combine first 4 ingredients and blend until thoroughly mixed. 
2.  Spread on bread; then layer cucumbers on bread about 2 slices thick.  Close sandwiches and serve cool.
This is so refreshing on a hot summer day!
*To interchange dry herbs for fresh cut the amount to 1/4 cup scant~ but I recommend using fresh!

Happy Day,
Jean

 
 
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