Simple To Make Birdbath, Say I Love You with Herbs, Recycled Cloth Shopper Bags & Taylor’s Ready To Go French Toast!

Spring is a time of love and rejuvenation! The awakening all around us stimulates a desire to give and share~ everything just seems happy!   The birds start returning, buds start popping, the first Snow Drops and Crocus’s start peeking out giving us a foretaste of the Daffodils & Tulips not far behind.  This Spring has brought some things earlier than usual and with it that energy has sprung forth for me as well.  I love to be in the greenhouses and gardens working in the dirt… watching seeds sprout and develop into the plants we will take to market and plant in our gardens, beds and fields.  As mentioned in the previous blog post birding is one of our favorite things to do~ here is a really simple & cool bird bath along with some gifty ideas and of course a yummy recipe from Taylor, enjoy!
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Here is a super Simple Birdbath that even the most ‘un-handy’ minded person can make using just a few simple tools! First you will need:
~a really cool old banister or porch post, which if you don’t have go to any antique or salvage yard and they will abound.  If you want newer than simply go and buy what you would like.  It should be at least 4 feet tall.
~an old granite dishpan for the bath.
~a bag of concrete, a Tap-con screw (for metal) and some clear acrylic caulk.
Dig a hole about a foot deep, place the post in and pour enough concrete to fill hole to just about ground level.
Cover with dirt and let set about an hour.
Take the dish pan and center on top of banister/post; screw to banister/post. Put a dab of caulk over screw to prevent leaking and rusting.
Plant flowers like Shasta Daisies, Black Eyed Susan’s or Purple Cone Flowers around and enjoy the birdie frolic!

*I love to give gifts especially those that say I love you with flowers or plants… or really any type of garden type stuff.  Here is a gift that will keep on giving the recipient!  Many plants have meanings, even the color of roses have specific meanings to them.  Here are some herb’s that you can give to express your admiration or love to them. 
Here are some ways to arrange the Herbs for gift giving:
~Plant them in a lovely window box or two.
~Pot each herb up in separate pots- choose Terra cotta, painted pottery or some old galvanized pails~ you will know what they will like best!
~Plant in one or two large patio pots if they have a patio or porch.
Here are the Herbs and their meanings:
Dill~ cheer and survival in the face of difficulties\
Sage~ wisdom
Marjoram~ joy
Bay~ achievement and success
Rosemary~ remembrance and friendship
Scented ‘Attar of Rose’ Geranium~ happiness
Choose one, some or all… you know what you want to say!

Recycled Clothe Shopper Bags have been a really big thing the last couple years and being a market vendor I notice more and more of our customers going to them. This in turn saves us from having to buy as many plastic bags!  So of course I thought we could make and in turn sell them at market. Taylor & I decided to go pattern shopping and find a practical pattern to make.   We decided to use old denim pants, scraps from our dress fabrics, old sheets, shirts and any other ‘scraps’ of fabric we could acquire.  This was a lot of fun and if you enjoy sewing this is a really simple project to make a few ‘one of a kind’ shopper bags for yourself and even for gifts!  We added buttons, pockets, ribbons and other little charms that we had.  Be as creative as you like and before you know it , you might have a little business in bag making!

Taylor’s Ready To Go French Toast
French toast can be way more exciting that just some bread dipped in egg & fried.  We have eight hungry people to feed, six of them in the male category, so we need to keep things interesting around our house.  This is a great make ahead breakfast great for Sunday breakfast or Brunch, or for any day of the week.

1/2 Stick of Butter
2 Apples cored, peeled and sliced
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. apple pie spice
8 slices bread- your choice- thicker the better in my opinion
4 eggs from Garden Gate Farm, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tsp. Maple Syrup Extract*

1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to med-low; add apples and cook until tender.
2. Stir in sugar and spice and cook until dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour apple mixture into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish. 
3. Lay the slices of bread on top of apple mixture.
4. In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients; pour over bread slices.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
6. Remove plastic and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until eggs are cooked & set, until firm and browned slightly. 
*Don’t use regular maple syrup because the flavor with cook off!
Serve nice and warm and if you for brunch add some yummy vanilla ice cream with it!

Happy Day,
Jean





Robins & Geese, Kitchen Gardens & Yummy Potatoes, oh my…

Several weeks ago our friends Kevin & wife Hilda spotted twenty-one Robins in their front yard! Kevin is the music teacher at our childrens school and he told the children how he and his wife gazed out their living room window in awe counting.  Back in the beginning of February when Neil & I were in Saugatuck we watched about seven fairly large flocks of Canadian Geese heading North.  Well, many an old timer would say, ‘The birds know…”  I believe it.  
This weather sure puts me in the mood for gardening even more!  I have several herbs planted in the green house right now; Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram and several others.  A few years back my daughter Taylor was reading through one of my Country Garden mag’s and came across an article on Kitchen Gardens.  That was all it took for her and then, ‘Mom, could we make a kitchen garden?’  Well I never say no to creating another garden, so we went right for it and now we have a lovely garden right off the side of our garage that is easily accessible from the back door and adds beauty to our yard.  We incorporated a Tea bed and several perennials along with the veggies we plant each spring.  My favorite spot in it is the Herb Garden.  I used several old drawers and other containers to put the herb’s ‘in’.  There are all the perennial herbs that come back year after year and then we try a few new ones each year as well. We always incorporate the annual have to’s – primarily Basil! Oh how we love our fresh Heirloom tomato Brushetta with fresh picked basil and garlic.

Here are are a few tips for making your own Kitchen Garden:
*First, make sure your new garden is near an entry door to the house where you can easily go out and gather the bounty for your meals.
*Make sure there is a water source nearby that a sprinkler can be used.
*Do a ‘map’ of the area and what you would like to incorporate before you start.  Get the proper info on each plant and know how much space you will need for it’s growth habits.  I have made the mistake of not giving enough room too often in the past and end up climbing over and through a mass of plants.
*Use container’s of all sorts to add an eclectic look. This will also help keep things where you want a bit easier.
*Use flowers to add beauty & charm- you can choose edible ones as well!
I like to take before & after pictures so I can see the progress and see growth over the years.  Have fun in the garden, it is a happy place to be.
Cute Herb Tag Idea:  Take small pieces of broken old slate, painting the name of the herb on it, and spraying it with an acrylic sealer.  Place the marker at the base of each herb.  Then the next year when cleaning up the garden spot there won’t be any problem with identification. 
Here is a yummy Winter Thyme Potato Casserole
Of course you can get your potatoes, bacon and thyme all from The Garden Gate Farms booth at the market…

20 Redskin Potatoes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded & divided
1 tsp  Seasoning Salt                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 tsp. dried Thyme
1/2 lb. Garden Gate Bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled & divided                                                                                                                                                 1/2 cup Butter, melted

1. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; drain.  cool and slice about 1/4 inch thick.
2.  Arrange half the potatoes in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish.  Season with Matt’s Mix & Thyme.
3.  Top with half the bacon and half the cheese.  Layer on remaining potatoes; repeat with other half of bacon & cheese.  Drizzle butter over top.
4.  Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees until cheese melts and casserole is heated through, about 30 minutes.
Serve with yummy Fostoria Sour Dough Bread with Bellwether Farms butter and Enjoy!
Happy Day,
Jean

This is part of the Herb Container Garden in our Kitchen Garden

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  photo at our website 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