Spring To-do List, Using Old Ladders In Our Gardens, Yummy Soft Boiled Eggs in a ‘Green’ Nest

Spring is a time of new birth and rejuvenation. It’s when we look around and simply stand in awe at the beauty surrounding us… forsythias vibrant yellow… the sweet aroma of apple and cherry blossoms… lavender lilac bouncing in the breeze carrying the scents through the open windows… searching out the first tips of rhubarb and asparagus.

This is a hedge of 'Miss. Kim' lilacs we planted in our front yard three years ago.

This is a hedge of ‘Miss. Kim’ lilacs we planted in our front yard three years ago.

Spring… there isn’t quite anything as perfect in my mind.

Yesterday I was walking to the greenhouse when my feet went ‘squishhhh’ in the mud… I loved it, especially wearing flip-flops. Yes, I know it was cold, but it was almost 85 degrees in the greenhouse when the sun was shining! Neil was helping me and his feelings were a tad bit different… more of exasperation from the heat- he likes the cold. I’ll take the heat and a sweaty brow any day of the week over bundling up to keep warm.

Spring is also a time ‘to-do’ lots of stuff! As most of my dragonfly readers can testify, I strongly encourage lists- for everything! Garden and yard projects are no exception. I love the feeling of making the list and scratching off each item as it’s accomplished. I’m a visual person and I think that’s why lists make so much sense to me… plus they keep me on track.

This photo is of my chalkboard in my office where I keep my 'daily' lists.  I add sticky notes below as things need to be done.

This photo is of my chalkboard in my office where I keep my ‘daily’ lists. I add sticky notes below as things need to be done.

Scanning through my yard and gardens I’m seeing the multitude of things I need and want to get accomplished this season. I have a couple windows of opportunity before and after my ‘busy’ times, so I must utilize that time wisely. I thought it would be interesting to share this years list with all my dragonfly friends… now don’t be alarmed when you see it… I have lots of helping hands around our farm!

My list of outside jobs to do this year…
Painting:

back of garage
potting shed
front of greenhouse
back of hoop house
repaint back door where dog scratched

2. Fix arbor in front of hoop house- put new lattice on sides and top
3. Put post up at small herb bed for wisteria
4. Move raised beds from beside hoop house to cut flower raised bed garden
5. New flower bed around potting shed

6. Plant:

Pink climbing roses at back corners of potting shed
Rose of Sharon at back corner of house in back yard
Rose trellis on front of house at living room window

7. Finish Patio:

planters
floor and sides

8. Ladder trellis on side of garage over tea bed in Potager

Here is the photo I mentioned a few blog posts back. I got a photo of it the other day.  I'm so excited to do this on my garage this summer!  Can't you just see it covered with pink roses!

Here is the photo I mentioned a few blog posts back. I got a photo of it the other day. I’m so excited to do this on my garage this summer! Can’t you just see it covered with pink roses!

Number eight is one of the topics of this post. I often talk about my love for garden junque, it’s one of my favorite things about cottage gardening. I love being able to artfully incorporate what I absolutely adore, even though some people consider it trash. There are oodles of items that can be used, but lets look at old wooden ladders today.

A few posts ago I mentioned this ladder trellis- well I stopped the other day and took a photo of it… not the greatest, but you get the idea. I plan on doing this on the side of my garage over the tea bed in our Potager and planting… you guessed it, a climbing rose… but first I have to find them! So if you read my guest post at Flea Market Gardening ( http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/2013/04/04/flea-market-windows-how-to-make-a-decorative-mini-greenhouse/ ) you’ll understand how patient I can be!

Uses for ladders…
*Ladders can also be used in your flower beds to put potted plants on (see photo).

This is a really cool old ladder that I picked up at a garage sale for a couple bucks... so cut with pots!

This is a really cool old ladder that I picked up at a garage sale for a couple bucks… so cut with pots!

*I also have a ladder on one of the columns on our front porch that a climbing rose uses.
*Lattice/ trellis- I have a few ladders that go across the top of my pergola for the vines.

To many they are just something to climb up, but on my list, they have a much higher calling 😉

Spring is here and greens are coming in abundantly… and so are the eggs! Here’s a yummy recipe to use what you have- Enjoy friends!
Soft Boiled Eggs in a ‘Green’ Nest

Farm fresh eggs just laid in one of our farms many nesting boxes!

Farm fresh eggs just laid in one of our farms many nesting boxes!

1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach, stems and ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Eggs

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 and serve immediately.

Be sure to come on over to Dragonflies Facebook for lots more photo’s and extra info plus tons of great links to other interesting sites. Hope to see you there…
https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?ref=stream
Happy Day,
Jean

Supporting Local: How Can I Do This?, 3/50 Project and Yummy Tuscan Soup & Onion Recipes!

Local is an important thing to many people, not just to the businesses but also to the consumer.  I remember when I was a young girl growing up in Windsor, Ontario and going to ‘town’ with my grandma… the little downtown and the “five & dime” shops. I remember the ‘big’ store downtown where grandma use to do a lot of the domestic shopping… it had a little cafe in there that we would always get a bite to eat… my favorite- french fries and gravy, yeah that’s a Canadian thing!  Well anyway, I use to love to go to the little hardware store that she would by her canning jars and lids at, the Chinese food restaurant that we would patronize on grandpa’s pay day… memories of a small town… a lot of children in today’s society won’t know that as a regular experience.  It will more likely be a ‘vacation’ memory. So many of us want to know who grew those tomatoes, or who raised that sheep to produce the fiber that made those lovely mittens, or shake the hand with the farmer that milked that cow that you now can get fresh raw milk from.  It is a good feeling to ‘know your farmer’… it is good feeling to talk to Mary when you purchase that jar of cherry preserves she made… it is rewarding to hand your hard earned money over to a person that worked hard to provide you with something essential.  It is a win-win situation for all involved.

Many small towns of today have the big bad ‘W’ store along with others that have killed the mom & pop shops. It’s so sad really, but we can help keep things local by just doing a few small things: Shop in town, close to town and at least within your own state.  Local by most definitions allows a 100 mile radius from your home- that gives you a lot of options if you think about it!  Many of us are going to make New Years resolutions tomorrow… let at least one be to make a conscious effort to support your local community this year!

I thought it would be interesting to put some tips on how to buy local, support local and live local!
~Buy direct from the producer as often as possible. By doing this you can recompense them fairly for their work.  The best way to do this is to shop as locally as you can!  Find locally owned businesses in your area, go to the Farmers Market, check sites like Local Harvest, Local Dirt and Slow Food for producers around you! 
~Join a CSA.  Shares of seasonally grown vegetables, fruit, meat & eggs, dairy can be sent directly to your door or picked up at local Farmers Markets or area businesses.  Emphasis is always on local & fresh.
~Shop your local Farmers Markets. There are gobs of Summer and Winter farmers markets all around.  They not only provide you with a great selection of local products, you get to meet the producers first hand. 
~Shop small specialty shops.  These independent shops provide a more pleasurable shopping experience than the big box stores or super markets could ever offer.  They will even want to learn your first name!
~When you dine out, eat at a local restaurant that buys at least some of their menu ingredients from local producers/resources.  You’ll be surprised at how many restaurants are doing this. 
    
There are ton’s of great Local minded groups out there that are great resources for all of us- again both producer and consumer.  One that has a really good mission is the 3/50 Project   http://www.the350project.net

They encourage us to think of three businesses you’d hate to see disappear, pop in and say hello once a month; the goal is to spend $50 between those three businesses.  That really is not a lot when you look at where you spend your money in a month.

Their Mission:
• To promote and strengthen independent brick and mortar businesses owned by people in the community

• To thank consumers for their patronage

• To expand local revenue streams by showing how a small dollar amount can translate into enormous financial stability

• To shine a light on the stark contrast between what an independent, locally owned brick and mortar business contributes to the local economy versus the significantly lower amount big boxes, franchises, chains, and internet purchases return

• To save the local economy…three businesses at a time
Be sure to check out their Facebook and website for lots more details I don’t have time to put here.

 
Other great Local Resources:~Edible WOW Magazine: This is one of the best resources out there for Southwest Michigan www.ediblewow.com
~Edible Communities: web site to direct you to an Edible publication in your area
www.ediblecommunities.com

~Local Harvest: list of producers in every state www.localharvest.org
~Google Farmers Markets to find local ones in your area
~Local Dirt: listing for producers
www.localdirt.com
There are gobs more out there and thanks to the internet you can find just about anything you want LOCALLY!

What to do with onions? There are lots of great things other than just throwing them on top of a salad. Here are a couple yummy recipes to expand your horizons. I threw in a yummy Tuscan Soup recipe for all the fresh Kale you are enjoying right now…Enjoy friends!

Sweet Onion and Sausage Spaghetti

6 oz uncooked Spaghetti
3/4 pound Italian Sausage Links, casings removed
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c half & half cream
Shaved Parmesan cheese, optional

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over med. Heat, cook sausage in oil for 5 minutes.   Add onion; cook 8-10 min.s longer or until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender.
Stir in tomatoes & basil; heat through.  Add ream; bring to a boil.  Drain spaghetti; toss with sausage mix.  Garnish with cheese if desired.

 
Baked Onion Cheese Dip
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c shredded pepper Jack cheese
1/4 c cream cheese, cubed
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
2 c chopped sweet onions, divided
Assorted crackers

1.  in a food processor, combine the cheeses, mayo, thyme & 1 c onions; cover 7 process until blended.  Stir in remaining onions.
Transfer to a greased 3 c baking dish.  Baked, uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 –25 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with crackers.

Tuscan Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 medium potatoes
1 ob. Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped kale

Brown Sausage; cool.
Combine the broth and cream in a sauce pan; slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 inch slices; add the browned sausage; add the kale.
Add the spices and let soup simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Happy Day,
Jean

 
 
 


 



 
 

 

Eating Locally ‘In Season’ In Michigan Year Round, Some Meat Recipes for a change~ Rabbit In Sour Cream and Chicken Tagin

Eating locally is a way of life... a mind set… a position in the community… a thought process… You either believe it is better for you and your family or you don’t.  For Localvors and Foodies…  you get it… that is the best way I can describe you…  We are not grocery store shoppers loading our carts with packages filled with chemical processes that ‘they’ call food! This is a subject that is continually attracting more and more attention from the media and concerned people who are being daily poisoned by the garbage on the grocery store shelves… pink slime anyone?  People are trying to take back their natural right to eat ‘real food’! I often refer in my blogs on how to grow and raise your own food, but I realize and am utterly aware that this is just not a possibility for all of you reading this… my heart aches because of that. I also realize that not everyone really wants to do it themselves but loves the sheer fact they can support some of us who do… and with that I say ‘thanks’.  Over the next few blog posts I am going to touch base on how to practice, support and incorporate this into your life from both perspectives… thanks for joining me!
     



Happy Galvanting Chickens at our farm!

So what does it mean to eat seasonally you may be wondering. You get the locally part… even though we still eat banana’s~ yes I do too… but seasonally, now that can be a challenge.  Many simply don’t have the ability to grow & raise their own. So what do you do then? Well again, support your local farmers markets. In most major cities there are year round farmers market. Our farm started The Old Winery Farmers Market two years ago in Farmington, Michigan. Farmington already had a wonderful and vibrant May through November market, which we have been vendors at for the last five years. Yet it  lacked the much desired Winter Market… so was born The Old Winery (see our web site). We are not the only winter market in the metro Detroit area, not at all. Michigan can boast of two of the oldest markets, Eastern Market, Detroit and Royal Oak Farmers Market, Royal Oak and ours of course, The Old Winery Farmer’s Market to name just a few!  Although TOWFM is not as old, our building is, we are located in Farmington’s Historic Old Winery building.

Lettuces and Tomatoes growing in one of
our hoop houses.

With so much study on Season Extension growing methods, much done by Michigan State University, including heated and unheated high tunnels (green houses) we here in Michigan and in other Northern climates can grow fresh salad greens, spinach, lettuces along with carrots & beets to name a few. We have the ability to store Root Storage crops like apples, onions, cabbage, winter squash, rutabaga, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, even tomatoes for a certain amount of time… (lots more on this in a couple months).  We have the ability to store grains, make home made pasta and bread from those grains. Seriously, this is such a huge topic, I couldn’t do it justice in the small amount of time I have here. Personal research is key to any type of learning process… so research!

With all this we should take into consideration that there is no reason why we can’t eat seasonally to some degree.
So, what to do then…
*If it’s an option grow and raise as much as you can on your own and then what you can’t, find local farmers/producers who can.
*Shop local at the Farmer’s Market in your community.
*Find a Winter Farmer’s Market near you and shop there.
*Join a CSA~ many have summer and winter share options.
*Find a Co-op~ they will have access to seasonally produced goods.
*Know your farmer/ producer… shake their hands and talk awhile.
*Search the web for farmers/ producers in your area if you don’t know any, and then, get to know them. Let them be your farmers.
…so that tells you who to go to, but what about what to eat… next time we will discuss that! Keep posted for more!


A regular market friend gave me these two recipes… she is an incredible cook I believe… enjoy from me & Mary Margaret!

(Rabbit Russian style)  Rabbit in Sour Cream adapted from RusCuisine.com

Time: approx. 1 1/2 hours

1 3-5 lb rabbit, cut into 10-12 pieces
1 medium onion, coarse chopped
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 TBS brandy
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
2 bay leaves
pinch nutmeg
salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)

1. Brown the rabbit. Either saute in the butter or bush pieces with butter and
broil until light brown.
2. Place pieces in bottom of a warm Dutch oven or heavy casserole.
3. Saute onion in remaining butter until golden, about 10 minutes.
4. Drain the onions then add to the rabbit.
5. Whisk together sour cream, wine and brandy. Pour over the rabbit and onion.
6. Bring to simmer, add nutmeg, salt (can omit), pepper and bay leaf.
7. Cover and simmer over low heat, or if broiled, place in 350-degree oven for
45 minutes.
 

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon, Green Olives and Thyme from Tagines &
Couscous by Ghillie Bashan


Time: 2 hours plus 2 hours marinating

1 7-lb chicken or 8-10 thighs
2 TBS olive oil plus pat of unsalted butter
2 preserved lemons (NOT fresh lemons)*
6-7 oz cracked green Greek olives (NOT pimento-stuffed cocktail olives)
1-2 tsp dried thyme

FOR THE MARINADE:
1 large onion, grated or minced fine
3-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated leaves from 1 small bunch
cilantro, minced pinch of saffron threads
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1 tsp coarse sea salt
3-4 TBS olive oil
black pepper

1. Make the marinade by mixing ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Cut up the chicken into serving pieces if not using thighs, remove skin and place in shallow flat-bottom pan.
3. Coat pieces with the marinade, loosely cover with foil and refrigerate at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4.Heat the olive oil with butter, remove chicken from marinade (reserve marinade) and either

(1) saute chicken in a heavy casserole or tagine or (2) place pieces in a jelly roll or shallow metal pan, brush pieces then broil till lightly brown.
1. If broiled, place chicken in heavy casserole, dutch oven or tagine** with reserved marinade. Add just enough water or stock to come halfway up the chicken.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Turn pieces from time to time.
3. Slice the preserved lemons into strips. Rinse and drain the olives if packed in liquid. Add to the tagine with half the thyme.
4. Recover and simmer 20 minutes more, then salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining thyme on top before serving.
Serve with plain couscous.

*Preserved lemons are available in Zingerman's of Ann Arbor and many Middle Eastern groceries. They are better homemade, but only if you use them frequently enough to be worthwhile.

**Tagines (ta-ZHEENs) are conical North African pots, either earthenware or heavy metal. While a cast iron Dutch oven works fine, presentation is more authentic with a tagine. Many cookware shops carry them or can order one for you.
Notes: I prefer to brown meats under the broiler to reduce fat and
spatter/mess. I also either eliminate salt or use next to none. Herbs and
spices taste better anyway. If you don't know how to butcher a chicken (for
2d recipe), Mark Bittman's method on the New York Times website is very
quick and easy to do.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/magazine/mag-13eat-t-000.html?_r=4&emc=tnt
&tntemail1=y



Happy Day,
Jean


     

More on Organization: Working on Menu Planning & Grocery Lists, The Organized Home Makers 10 Commandments (adapted from the FlyLady!) & More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes!

I don’t mind cooking, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but we gotta eat right?  Taylor is the one who is in love with being in the kitchen. It’s funny though… she firsts loves to bake~ that is my least favorite; she likes to cook and I don’t mind, especially with garden fresh goodies; she doesn’t mind canning, but I love it and we are both OK with yeast baking stuff~ although I will say, I like that a bit more than her… but neither one of us can make a pie crust to save our lives~ honestly… we just have never been able to master that! Taylor would be happy to sit in a rocking chair with a pile of cookbooks and cooking mag’s where I would be there with my gardening ones!  We balance each other out I guess…
Anyway lets head into the last of this series on Organization with Menu Planning and Grocery Lists… be sure to check out my blog spots & web site for lots of great photo’s to go along with the post!

NEXT SERIES of blog posts will focus on Eating In Season. It will be based on some great ideas from another one of my favorite books, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L Hopp and Camille Kingsolver.  this book gives a journal of this families life when they made a decision to eat locally and seasonally. We have tried to incorporate this into our families life… 
   
*Menu Planning~
(see a sample of a weekly menu attached!) I love to make my life simpler in the way of the everyday stuff that needs to be done… like preparing meals for my family.  I would rather take a day and sit down with a few of my favorite cookbooks and make a couple months worth of menus so I don’t have to think about what to make!  Taylor & I do run out of ideas and our meals can quickly fall into a rut of the same stuff over and over again!  “What’s for supper tonight?” can quick become spaghetti all too often without menus!  I am sure many of us can relate to that!  Here are a few tips in menu planning:
*First take 1-3 of your favorite cookbooks and 2 blank monthly calenders and a PENCIL! Don’t take more than this… you will get side tracked!
*Be sure when you start you take into consideration what days off children might have from school, regular extra curricular activities happening, each family members day’s off for whoever may work outside the home. (Don’t plan a favorite meal for someone when they won’t even be home for it!)
*Before you even go into the cookbooks, fill in a few of the day’s with some meals that you know each family member enjoys… think about the groceries each meal will take beforehand.  Fill in one breakfast, lunch and supper for each family member with their favorite thing over the two weeks of menus- don’t duplicate any meal and don’t include any deserts… YET.
*Now that you have several of the days & meals filled in decide if your family wants to have a ‘night out’ meal… jot in in the appropriate box. 
*Next, decide how often you want to have desert with meals… fill in accordingly.
*Now go to the cookbooks… I encourage you to try at least one new recipe each day that you have an opening.  This will be fun and will help you & your family make new favorites.  It will also help you from getting in a rut of the same old thing.

~Some extra tips when planning your menu: *Do you have a garden? Do you shop primarily at the Farmers Market during the season?  Do you have any of your own live stock that you raise? Do you have your own chickens for eggs? These should all play a factor in your menu planning.
*Take into consideration what season you are in… spring will hold more salads if you have a garden; summer will be the mother load of produce and will eliminate much grocery shopping for fresh produce, so incorporate meals that save you from buying ‘stuff’; fall will give you more root crops and squashes as well as it being butcher time- plan accordingly.  
*Once your menus are done, you will see how easy it is. 
*Have your family members help when doing the menu.  This can be a fun family activity and sharing time of who liked and didn’t like what!
*You now have two whole months planned out, and it was so much fun and so easy. If you feel adventurous try doing another month and plan it out seasonally. 
*Include this job in your control journal in one of your desk day jobs.
~Grocery Lists: … are really not that complicated and won’t take up too much time here.  Here are some tips from The Flylady and me!
*First thing I recommend is keeping a magnetic note pad or grocery list right on the front or at least the side of your fridge! Each time you run out of something jot it down or tick it off the pre-made list.
… Google ‘grocery list’ and you will be able to download anything you want!  Keep a master in your control journal and make a copy for each week, unless you have a pre-printed note pad.  Here are a few sites to try…

http://www.workingmom.com/grocerylist.htm 

www.practicalspreadsheets.com/GroceryList-Template.html

*You will need to go over your menu for the next week and shop accordingly.
*As I mentioned you can save a lot of money when you grow your own or at least eat seasonally. But if that is not an option for you shop the farmers market, which is the next best thing.  There are many winter farmers market as well that you can shop & support and still eat seasonally with root crops, storage crops and fresh greens. I will go into that more this fall!
*Stick to the list when you go to the grocery store.  I am sure most of you shop at several stores for different items. As I mentioned earlier I do the majority of grocery shopping at two stores, one being a local bulk food store.  I do some of the house hold shopping for toiletries at yet another.  Have a list for each store and coupons/ ad’s to go with each.
*
I always make sure I have my grocery list, coupons and shopper bags ready to go.
*If you have empties to return, be sure they are ready to go and in the trunk.
*Don’t go shopping when you are hungry… you WILL buy things you normally don’t because ‘they look good’ at the time!

~To end our organization series I would like to incorporate my version of  The Organized Homemakers 10 Commandments adapted by me from the FlyLady’s!
1. Thou shalt start your day with meditation and prayer-fulness to get it off on the right foot.
2. Thou shalt keep your sink clean and shiny and your counters free of dirty and clean dishes.

3. Thou shalt get fully dressed and wear shoes… this I agree with the FlyLady wholeheartedly!
4. Thou shalt stick to your daily routines by using your control journal faithfully.
5. Thou shalt not get side tracked by the computer or anything else… stay focused.
6. Thou shalt pick up after yourself… put everything in its place as soon as you are done with it… set the example!
7. Thou Shalt stick to one project at a time and use the P.M.S. guild faithfully!
8. Thou shalt do something everyday for someone else as well as your self!
9. Thou shalt smile when you don’t feel like it because it is contagious and remember to be happy!
10. Thou shalt end your day the way you started it… or at least the way you should have started it (see #1).

~Here are some easy recipe’s to use up all that great garden produce that is piling in right now… or that you picked up at the Farmers Market! Enjoy friends!

 Italian Garden Frittata
6 egg whites
4 eggs
1/2 c grated Romano cheese, divided
1 tsp minced fresh sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tomato thinly sliced

1. in a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, eggs, 1/4 c Romano cheese, sage salt & pepper; set aside.
2. In a 10 inch over proof skillet coated with cooking spray, sauté zucchini and onions in oil for 2 minutes.  Add egg mixture, cover & cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.
Uncover; top with tomato slices & remaining cheese.  Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until eggs are completely set.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Cut into wedges.

Veggie Stuffed Eggplant
1 medium eggplant
1/2 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c each chopped fresh mushrooms, chopped zucchini & chopped sweet bell pepper
3/4 c chopped tomatoes
1/4 c toasted wheat germ
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp each salt 7 pepper
Dash crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. cut eggplant in half lengthwise; remove pulp, leaving a 1/4 in. thick shell.  Cube pulp; set shells & pulp aside.
2. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, sauté onion & garlic until onion is tender.  Add the mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper & eggplant pulp;  sauté for 4-6 minutes or until vegetable are crisp tender.  Stir in the tomatoes, wheat germ, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper & pepper flakes; cool for 1 minute.
3. Divide mixture evenly between the eggplant shells; sprinkle with cheese,  place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25minutes or until shells are tender.

Happy Day,
Jean
www.fordragonfliesandme.blogspot.com
www.wreninthewillow.blogspot.com
www.farmgirlwisdom.blogspot.com
     

Market Day At The Garden Gate Farm, Plant Tags, Plant Growing File & more yummy Market Fresh Recipe’s!

We have been busy… I thought today along with the normal fun stuff I like to share I would give a journal entry of “A Day In The Life…” at our farm on Friday while we get ready for market… so here it is… enjoy!

Here was our day last Friday…  it was 97 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees…
“We take so much care in what we do because we do it for you!” Jean Smith

Friday is market morning… everyone gets out of bed starting around 6am through till about 9am~ those sleepy heads are typically the little guys!  We have a simple breakfast of cereal and fruit, clean up… I can’t stand dirty dishes on the counter~ especially when I know I will be working in there later!  Do a simple walk through the house, throw a load of laundry in and do everyone’s lists for the day… get the CSA list done…
~ Taylor is our runner on Fridays… off she goes to the butcher shop to pick up the animals that need to be processed for Saturday if they were not done on Thursday… later she will go and get all the produce and eggs that we purchase from our co-op of farmers… 
~ Our farmer friends the Bechtels have been in their field for some time already I am sure… one of their 20 acres of produce is dedicated to green beans… they are busily picking for us and their markets right now, as we are getting our day started…
~ Ryan is typically our ‘greens’ man… he does a really good job at diligently cutting the chard that he planted earlier this spring… with knife in one hand and crate in other he heads out in the already 85 degree day… as he brings me the crates of chard with sweat dripping off his young brow, I work at sorting baby leaves from large, purging any yucky ones and then rinsing & finish by bagging… about 2 hours later off to the cooler! 
~Kyle is our go to man and he is busy harvesting scallions (green onions), he very carefully looks at each stem so as not to pick them too young.  After he harvests about 200 or so… off to hose them done with cold water so they don’t wilt… as he rinses them he carefully gets all the dirt out of the roots that he will hand trim with a pair of scissors shortly… then take off the outer leaves so they look white and clean… bunching and bagging time… about 2 hours later he is off into the cooler to put his wares in a safe place. 
~Our Amish friends, the Millers are busy in their field picking those beautiful heads of cauliflower that will adorn your shares tomorrow along with our market tables… Broccoli is another story though… over 5000 heads and because of the very unusual heat that June has given, close to half the heads have bolted… what a lose! Yet they are diligently out there harvesting what they can and breaking off the bolts hoping for side shoots…
~Ethan is probably tilling in the dry, hot field with dust blowing up into his face as he walks behind the tiller where the tractor laid the plastic rows too close and now the tractor with pull behind tiller doesn’t fit… luckily there are only a half dozen or so… but it must be done.
~ In the mean time our hired girl Eva has arrived and she starts picking the beets that are on the list next… off goes Eva to pick, wash and sort… she needs about 300 or so to fill all the needs of our CSA and market friends… carefully going through and picking she carries each crate over to the wash & pack station and gives the beets to Kyle who will lay them all out and wash them with fresh, cold water to make sure they stay hard and beautiful for tomorrow… next he sorts them out by size and puts in the crates accordingly for Eva… who when done harvesting will take any yucky leaves off, bunch for the market tables and CSA… about 2 1/2 hours later then move on…

~The tomatoes were harvested on Thursday by the Yoder family and packed and ready for pick up… absolutely perfect in size and shape… all to please our CSA members and market friends…
~ next the herbs are cut and bagged… kale and any other greens… they must be first because the heat cannot get into the leaves…
~Kyle moves onto the potatoes… he needs to dig at least 3 bushels full to fill all the CSA shares and have enough to sell… down the hot rows he goes with potato fork in hand… digging away.  After he is done, about hour or so, off to the wash station… potatoes are fairly simple to clean… hose off in the crates and let air dry in the shade… package and off for lunch and then produce pick up…
~The heat is on and the cucumbers and squash must be picked before the heat gets into them… off go the Kempf’s, soft gloves on to be sure no scratches happen to the delicate squash… going into the prickly leaves, arms being scratched they pick bushels upon bushels in their fields…. cucumbers are beautiful…
~Lunch time… sandwiches and cold refreshing fruit and lots of cold, cold water, lemonade or garden tea…


~ Back at it… We need to get any other produce picked, washed and packed before Taylor & Kyle get back with the rest of the produce…
~ After they arrive we sort through all the beautiful produce our dear farmer friends have been spending the morning doing as we were. Eva works on all the produce that we will sell at market while I work at all the CSA stuff…
Kyle is cleaning out and loading everything we need for market and carrying all the heavy crates and boxes down to the cooler…Several hours later it is finally supper time and if everything is done we can go take cold showers and go to bed… oh but wait… I still need to do the inventory lists for the two CSA groups and email them… check the email… OK… 10:30 or so I can hit the sack
2am… Neil is up with the boys and loading all the meat into the freezer… there they go into the basement cooler and are going to haul up all the produce up and load into the trailer…
3am… Jean & Taylor’s alarms go off… up we go… check the email just in case before we are out… get my coffee…
4am… crank the engine and off we go to market on the wings of prayer!
… see you there!

Plant Tags... A market friend of mine taught me this nifty trick some years ago and I loved the idea as soon as I heard it.  We all have those old plastic vertical blind’s that have been bent and just jammed into the closet.  Well drag em’ out and put them to work!  Simply cut them to the length you need according to the height of the pot you wish to mark; next use a permanent marker and write the plant name on it!  Now there’s recycling at it’s best.

Plant Growing File’s
are nifty and quite handy.  To create an indispensable reference guide to your garden, staple seed packets to index cards and organize them in a recipe box. Staple only one edge of a packet, so you can flip it over to see instructions for growing. On the lined side, note when the seeds were sown, when they sprouted, and any other dates you might need for future seasons.  After the harvest be sure to add if you like the variety, any tips for a better harvest next year or any other pertinent info that you will want to remember for next year!

BBQ Station… A lattice panel is more than just a pretty backdrop. When hung near your grill on a section of your fencing or railing, it provides square upon square from which to hang your basic BBQ supplies: brushes, pot holders, and more. Use metal ‘S’ hooks to hang anything with a built-in loop, as well as bins, racks, and grill baskets. Corral small tools, such as basting brushes and meat thermometers, in stainless steel perforated bins and wire racks, which resist rust and won’t collect rainwater… go to the web site to see photo!

Some More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes…

Creamy Cucumber Crunch Salad

Yummy dressing and the crunch of garden fresh cucumbers, this salad will be hit with both family & friends!

8 cucumbers
1 tsp. salt
6 scallions, thinly sliced
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh dill,chopped and loosely packed
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Peel cucumbers; cut lengthwise & scoop seeds out with the small end of a melon baller; slice into 1/4 inch slices.
2. Toss cucumbers with salt in a large bowl, then cover with cold water; set aside in fridge for half hour; drain all but about 2 tbsp. of the water.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, mix well; add to the drained cucumbers.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill fro at least one hour and up to overnight before serving.

Herb Roasted New Potatoes

… we had this for supper tonight… so yummy!

2 quarts new red skin baby potatoes
1 cup sweet onion, halved then sliced
1/2 cup thyme infused olive oil OR 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp.s fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese plus all juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Put potatoes and onions in a deep dish 9″x13″ baker; pour oil over; toss to coat evenly. 
2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; dollop with butter; sprinkle crumbled feta cheese evenly over top
; pour the juice over top.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes; stir potatoes to mix cheese in and coat  all potatoes with oil; bake for 15 to 20 more minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Happy Day,
Jean

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






Yummy & refreshing Herb Garden Spritzer… see recipe below!



Really cute curtain tie back… see how to below!

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!

Handy Kitchen Tips…
“Food should be prepared with butter and love.” Swedish Proverb
*If you are in need of a Cake Stand simply use an inverted bowl and a pretty plate set on top! Presto- cake plate!
*To make colored sugar for decorating cupcakes or whatever simply start with 1 cup of sugar in a zip lock bag, add 2-3 drops of food coloring, knead the bag of sugar until completely blended; lay out evenly on cookie sheet and let air dry before putting in air tight container.
*Chocolate Cut Outs are easy to make and add an elegance to your desserts.  Simply spread melted chocolate thinly on a sheet of wax paper and chill until nearly set.  Cut out whatever shapes you would like using cookie cutters, chill again, then gently peel off.  Store flat in plastic freezer containers if you have extra!
*If you soak your wooden kabob skewers in water for about 20-30 minutes before you are ready to grill they won’t burn and your goodies won’t stick!
*Don’t open your oven door when baking especially, it drops the temp down almost 25 degrees every time- not good for those cakes & brownies!
*When you make hard boiled eggs, have a bowl with ice cubes in water ready to put them in; leave set for 1 minutes and watch the peals come right off!
*Don’t have an icing piper- no problem, use a one gallon plastic bag, put icing in bag, twist top as to push down towards one corner of bag; snip off a tiny bit of corner and there ya go- pipe away!
*Use a muffin pan to put your baked potatoes in- stand them up and bake as normal!
*Need to soften butter fast and don’t want to use a microwave~ shred the butter with a cheese grater, it will thaw faster!
*Your lettuce won’t brown if you tear it with your hands instead of cutting with a knife.
*Cut your bacon into 1 inch bites before frying if you are going to add it to a salad or other dish that calls for crumbled bacon- no more burnt fingers because of impatience 🙂 !
*Use a veggie peeler to make chocolate or cheese curls- so slick and fast!
*Use cookie cutters to cut cheese into fun shapes for your appetizer tray!
*Cut the center out of mini melons or even pineapple halves to serve your yummy fruit dips; use hollowed out bread rounds to serve veggie dips in- place in center of serving plate and put veggies all around.
*Need a lot of ice for a punch bowl~ use a muffin tin to make jumbo size ice cubes that won’t melt as quick. To make them extra special, boil water first and then add viola blossoms and freeze.  Boiled water freezes clear. 
*Use blue Mason can jars, small vases or pitchers to stand pretzels for dipping in, cuter & clever!
*When making muffins use an old fashioned ice cream scoop, they will all be the same size. To ensure they have nice round tops, only grease the tin half way up where the batter will stop.
*When getting ready to start a kitchen project, make sure you have all ingredients before you start!
*For faster, easier clean up start your project with a clean sink of hot soapy water, and wash as you go! No big mess at the end!
*Substitute apple, orange or pineapple juice for the water in cake mixes- adds a nice flavor!
 
Cute Curtain Tie Back & Napkin Rings
See attached photo’s!
Here is a super cute idea for your kitchen or dining room curtains.  To make this nifty tie back, simply drill a small hole approximately one inch in from the end of the fork’s handle.  Hold the utensil face up, then use pliers to bend the prongs back toward the handle, making sure to form a rounded C shape rather than a V.  Finish by screwing the tie back into your window molding.

Brighten up your table for entertaining with these floral napkin rings. Buy faux roses in your favorite hues at a crafts store, then sew them, singly or in pairs, onto regular hair elastics with a few stitches.

To fit standard dinner napkins, cut a bandanna into 6- by 9-inch strips. Fold each strip in thirds lengthwise, then fold in thirds width wise. Sew a button on one end, about 1 inch from the edge. (Choose any colorful loose buttons you may have on hand; they don’t need to match.) Then cut a corresponding buttonhole on the opposite end of the strip.

Here are samples of the home made napkin rings described above!  Be creative and change them up to suit your decor and taste!

Here are a couple recipes for refreshing drinks… a nice change from the usual!
Citrus Raspberry TeaMy two favorite flavors of teas are raspberry and any citrus… When Taylor threw this concoction together it was an instant hit for the whole family… a bite of citrus with the earthy goodness of raspberry.

4 cups water
6 Raspberry Tea Bags
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 12oz can each frozen Orange Juice AND Lemonade concentrate, thawed
10 cups cold water
ice

1. Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil in pot; remove from heat and add the teabags; steep overnight or for at least 8-10 hours; discard the teabags.
2 Pour into a large pitcher; add remaining ingredients.
Serve cold and be refreshed!

Herb Garden Spritzer
A refreshing drink for those hot summer days that are on the way.

1 bottle (750-ml)of Sparkling White Grape Juice
1 cup Real Lemon juice
2 cups Lemon Lime soda
1 1/2 cup raw organic sugar, divided
5 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 cups lemon thyme leaves (2 bunches)
Ice
1 1/2 liters tonic water

1. In a large pot, bring first 3 ingredients and 1 cup of sugar to a boil; add lemon zest; reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 5 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Remove the pot from heat; add 1 cup/bunch of thyme leaves and steep for 15 minutes (let set).
3. While mixture is still hot, add a few more thyme sprigs plus 1/2 cup sugar.
4. Set a 2 quart container in a bowl and fell bowl halfway with the ice.  Strain the mixture into a container; place bowl in freezer and add water to cover ice; chill until cold and mixture is slushy, about 8-9 hours.
5. Divide among glasses, then top off with the tonic water, add ice if desired; garnish with thyme sprigs.

Happy Day,
Jean

Bringing Children In The Garden & Yummy Veggies On The Grill!

“Any garden demands as much of its maker as he has to give.  but I do not need to tell you, if you are a gardener, that no other undertaking will give as great a return for the amount of effort put into it.”  Elizabeth Lawrence, 1904-1985, Gardening For Love.
I absolutely cherish the moments that I get to be in the garden with our children.  It is quality time that I feel will make a lasting impression on their lives and hopefully create memories for them of special moments with mom teaching them about how God makes all this great stuff happen!  I love to see them planting seeds, transplanting a tomato plant in the garden, tilling up the good earth and feeling that soft, rich soil squish between their toes!  My children love to feel that they have their own little space in the garden, to grow the things that interest them, to experiment and to harvest what they tended.  It can be a challenge sometimes to include them.  It is often just easier to do it ourselves and just getting it done.  It will usually add on some minutes, well maybe even hours, with the little helpers involved! But what memories you will make, what happiness will beam in their eyes when they pull out that carrot from the seed ‘they’ planted. That smile, that gleam in the eye is worth more than all the saved minutes of just doing it our self.  I love everything about gardening… yes even the back wrenching weeding & hoeing, the sun burnt back of my neck and the stiff arms… I love gardening!  
Here are some fun ideas to incorporate your children into your gardening ‘thyme’ 🙂 !
Gardening With Your Children~ 

*Be sure to have child size tools for the little folks. You can purchase such items at just about any store that sells gardening supplies.  Make them responsible for their tools- to put them back, keep them clean, and be careful when using. Add a name plaque where their tools belong in the potting shed or garage, make them feel special.
*Keeping them interested is another challenge, especially with the ones that aren’t that interested.  Allow them to choose what they would like to grow.  Some suggestions would be giant sunflowers, pumpkins, decorative gourds or root crops. Radishes and lettuce are quick growers and can be ‘encouraging’ to the one that needs a little boost in interest. They are also available in multiple colors and sizes and can really encourage interest.   If you choose a root crop I would suggest using some fun Heirloom things.  Carrots for instance offer a multitude of shapes and colors, from Cosmic Purple to Lunar White and every shade of orange in between.  Potatoes are also a fun crop.  You can purchase red, white and even blue potatoes.  Watch their eyes light up when they dig those potatoes. 
*If you don’t have a spot for a garden, let them Container Garden.  You can use anything~ some fun things for the little people would be a wagon planted with some pansies, an old shoe with some Hen’s & Chicks or any type of pot. They can plant herbs, flowers or veggies.  Go back to my blog on Container Gardens in the archives to get more great ideas.
*Also in the archives you will find the blog with the Sunflower House so your child/ren can create a secret room or play house. 
*Plant a cucumber plant; once the plant starts to form flowers it will not take long for it to start changing into a cucumber; once the cucumber is still small enough to fit into the hole of a 20oz. or so plastic bottle, carefully insert the cucumber into the hole.  Make sure the bottle is clear; once the cucumber ‘fills’ the bottle, pluck it off the plant and carefully cut the bottle off! Presto, a bottle shaped cucumber.  This would work with many types of veggies, try out a few and use different containers to make multiple shapes.
*If you grow a pumpkin plant, once the pumpkin is about 6 inches across, carefully scratch the child’s name and a silly face into the skin being careful not to puncture.  Over time as it grows, the drawing will grow right along with it!
*With a stick, trace the child’s name into the soil in a planting area; sprinkle lettuce, radish or carrot seed in the name. Watch it grow! 
*Be sure to take tons of pictures of your child in the garden and even photograph the planting, growing and harvesting process so those precious memories will not be forgotten.

Veggies On The Grill

As I have mentioned often, we love to grill and it is grilling season.  I will probably be giving lots of grill time recipe’s so if you don’t have a grill, now’s the time to get one!

4-6 large red skin potatoes from The Garden Gate Farm, washed & cut into chunks with skins on
1 yellow onion from Garden Gate, cut into slivers
1 clove of garlic from Garden Gate, minced
1 cup spinach leaves from Garden Gate, washed & trimmed into bite size pieces
1 cup of Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Garden Gate
1 medium yellow squash from Garden Gate, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tsp. Matt’s Mix Seasoning Salt
1/4 cup fresh Thyme from The Garden Gate
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. butter, diced
piece of foil wrap large enough to hold all ingredients and be folded over and sealed on top and sides.

1. In foil place all veggies; sprinkle evenly over top with seasoning and herb; drizzle Olive oil over top; put dobs of butter evenly dispersed over all.
2. Fold over the foil across the top and sides so it doesn’t leak.
3. Place on top rack of grill and let cook about 45minutes to an hour. 

This goes great with any type of meat, so grill some awesome T-bones from Garden Gate to go along with it, and let your taste buds be taken to an all new level!

Happy Day,
Jean
 

‘Guinea Pig’ Meals, Seed Packet Magnets, Sheets for Tablecloths & 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 

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- 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