Decorative Garden Journal, Gardener’s First Aid Kit, Testing Old Seeds, Freezer Strawberry Jam & Yummy Heirloom Brushetta

“Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words.” Lydia M. Child

I often talk about my love for journaling and awhile back I talked about a Cookbook Journal I had made for my daughter Taylor.  Well, I also have created several Gardening Journals to show the progress of my gardens as the years go by.  It is fun to put the photo’s in along with magazine articles or pictures that inspired me to my newest creation.  As the years move forward seeing the growth and changes that naturally take place in a garden are both exciting and joyful.  This morning while I should have been busy harvesting, I just couldn’t resist taking a few moments to weed the Pergola garden and walkway… it is so relaxing for me… the cool morning with the light fog across the fields is so inviting as I prepare for the heat of the day.  Yesterday Taylor took the boys swimming and I had some quiet time… in my gardens… Well here we are at the end of June and I haven’t even given you a Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe… shame on me! Well they are still in season so here is my families favorite and if you were fortunate enough to be one of our Winter CSA members you got this in your shares… so here’s the not-so-secret recipe! Enjoy!

Tools and Materials that would be helpful in this endeavor: Ruler
Blank composition book
Scissors
Patterned paper
Glue stick
Bone folder or wallpaper squeegee
Craft knife
2-inch-wide self-adhesive linen tape- be sure the color matches your theme- can purchase at any craft store.

Customized Journal How-To
1. With a ruler, measure the front cover of a blank composition book. Adding 1/2 inch to all sides, measure and cut two pieces of decorative paper to size.

2. Apply a thin layer of glue to the front cover of the composition book including the spine. Lay a piece of decorative paper patterned or a photocopy of one that you have chosen side down on a work surface, and carefully center the book’s glued cover on the paper. Turn the book over, and use a bone folder or squeegee to smooth out any wrinkles; let dry. Carefully trim excess paper using a craft knife. Repeat process with book’s back cover.

3. Cut a piece of adhesive linen tape slightly longer than the book’s spine. Remove the tape backing, and carefully center the tape along the spine. Adhere the tape to the spine; use a bone folder to smooth out any wrinkles. Carefully trim excess tape using craft knife.
   

    As gardener’s we all should have a First Aid Kit handy in the potting shed or at least in the house.  Our garden’s have many hazards all there own and we should take precautions to be safe.  It harbors insects that bite, thorns that scratch, and other potential nuisances that may require simple first aid.
~ A basic kit should include the following: alcohol for cleaning wounds, triple anti-biotic ointment, cotton balls, bandages of all sizes, gauze and tape, Epsom salt for soaking, tweezers for thorns and splinters, organic insect repellent and sunscreen, anti-itch cream for stinging nettles and poison ivy, Benedryl, and of course some wonderful organic hand cream to sooth and soften your dry skin at the end of the day.
*Be sure that if anyone in your home has KNOWN allergies to bee stings you have an epee pen on hand at all times when out of doors.  Be sure to check with your physician for info on this.

Testing Old Seeds
Many of us are still planting and adding things into the garden.  We come across a spot that we are sure could fit one more thing in and decide to plant… what shall it be as we sort through all the leftover seeds? Or we may have some seeds that germinated spotty in the garden so we want to fill in and get a full row. Succession planting keeps us busy seeding and planting right through into late fall. With this in mind you will want to be sure your seeds are viable~ especially if saved over from last year.  I save seeds for up to 3 years, some think that is foolish, but I always do a germination test  and I have not had many disappointments.  This sounds much harder than it is, but anyone with water, paper towel, plastic baggie and seeds can do it~ really!  Seeds saved can be worth sowing — but only if they pass this germination test:

* Fold 10 seeds in moist paper towel, place in resealable bag, mark with date put in and the date germination if viable should take place, as well as the type of seed.
*Be sure to read on the package instructions how many days the seed takes to germinate~ add a couple to be sure.
*After the ‘day’s to germination’ have safely passed by, open the paper towel to see how many of the seeds germinated. *Multiply that number by 10 to calculate the percent of germination. More than 70 percent is passing. If between 40 and 60 percent, sow thickly. Below 40 percent, it’s best to buy fresh seed.
~Be sure to keep any seed you want to save for next year in the freezer in air tight freezer bags or plastic containers.  Also be sure to label any packages that may be tattered or where the labels may be faded. 

 Cute Personalized Herb Pots… make cute gifts or are a wonderful addition clustered together on your window sill or table top.  Personalizing them is so super easy, yet adds such a flare to the simplest pot!   Individually, they’re portable and easy to handle: Bring the basil indoors, for example, when making pesto, instead of stooping in the garden. When you plant the herbs, label the rims with a permanent felt-tip marker, and use these pots year after year!

Strawberries, strawberries… oh yummy strawberries!  Here is our families favorite Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe.  This is one of the few jams I don’t can… Strawberry Jam frozen is like eating them fresh picked~ there is no comparison with canned!
Strawberry Freezer Jam3/4 cup pectin – equivalent to 6oz. (like sure-jel)
1 1/4 cup water
4 cups whole strawberries (1 quart container)
4 cups organic raw sugar
*Following the instructions, especially with the amount of sugar is crucial to have proper set up!  DON’T SKIMP ON THE SUGAR!!!!
1. De-stem berries and then crush berries in a bowl; add sugar and stir for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2.  Boil pectin and water for exactly one minute and 45 seconds!  Start timing when the mixture is at a rolling boil.
3. As soon as the time is up add the pectin mixture to the strawberry mixture slowly pouring in and continually stirring for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar completely!  It will be grainy if it is not stirred long enough.
4. Pour into either freezer containers or canning jars.  Leave 1 inch head space in either container.
5. Let set on your counter for 24 hours before freezing.
Super yummy!

Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh garlic and just picked basil… this all adds up to Brushetta at our home! Here is our families favorite recipe!
Brushetta
1 loaf Persian Bread from Sunflour Bakehaus or a loaf of fresh bread.
7-8 Roma tomatoes or 4 to 5 large ones, diced~from Garden Gate~ multi colored looks best!
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sea salt or earth salt
1/2 cup olive oil from The Olive Oil Store, plus extra for brushing on bread
1/2 cup fresh snipped basil leaves from Garden Gate
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
1. In a 2 quart bowl put chopped tomatoes; sprinkle salt over top. Let set for about 10 minutes.
2. In the mean time snip basil finely; add basil, minced garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil to tomatoes; stir gently as not to mash the tomatoes. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving so flavors blend.
3. Just before serving, cut bread into 2-3 inch wide pieces, then slice diagonally; lay on a cookie sheet and brush olive oil onto one side, flip over and brush oil on other side; place in oven under low broiler and toast until golden, about 1-2 minutes; flip and brown other side.
4. Top bread with brushetta topping; grate fresh Parmesan over top.  Serve immediately.

Happy Day,
Jean

 

Idea Note Books, Remembrance Shadow Boxes, Edible Centerpiece & A Yummy Romaine & Bacon Salad!

I love photographing my gardens, both veggie and flower. I take photos of them at each stage so I know what I need to fill in, get rid of, thin out or re-do.  As I page through my garden journals, it is so interesting to see how the beds have matured, changed and been redone over time.  To be able to go back and see each season and where I need to add, thin out or add an element to hard scapeing an area helps in future planning & budgeting.  I always think that I need more in the spring, for some reason I have never been able to be satisfied with my spring garden’s. Shall I say they are always a work in progress~ slow, steady progress!  I use an Idea Notebook as one way to keep track of all the wonderful idea’s I see as I drive past a lovely yard or see something ‘neatsy’ at a greenhouse/nursery.  I keep this in my purse so I can simply take it out and jot down the idea.  I also like to keep my camera along with me so I can photograph anything of interest. This is how my mailbox came to be.  I had driven past this super cute mailbox that had bird houses hand painted on it. I took some photographs, bought a new mail box, a really big one, and replicated the images onto my own. Now I too have a super cute mailbox! I am too forgetful to remember everything I like and would like to eventually do.  I love my gardening magazines and often find all sorts of neat ideas that I would like to do.  I don’t like ripping pages out of them so I will either photocopy them and then tape them in my idea notebook or journal. Be sure to include magazine name,  page number and date in which the idea/article was in!
Remembrance Shadow Boxes
are a beautiful heirloom for oneself or to give as a gift.  My dear mother in the Lord made one of these in memory of each of her parents after they passed away. She purchased the shadow boxes at a big box hobby store and then created what I believe are heirloom treasures.  They are done very scrapbook’ish with pretty paper on the back, almost looking like wall paper.  Then she incorporated several meaningful items in each that represented each parent.  The memorabilia are tacked onto the ‘wall’ with adhesive tape or small pins. Each contains their reading glasses, a photograph and several other items that.  So easy and yet simply stunning!

No table is quite done without a centerpiece. It creates a finished and homey atmosphere to the room. Whether it is a vase filled with in season flowers, a rooster statue, a candelabra or a bowl filled with fruit, it sets the stage to an inviting feeling. Edible plants are one way to create something very special.  To create a lovely Edible Centerpiece you first will need a container that you can set in the center~ indoor or out.  This can be a large, shallow Terra cotta or clay pot, an old fashioned wooden toolbox, an old drawer lined with plastic or a wicker basket lined with plastic so the dirt won’t flow out- the key is that there is proper drainage and that you have it resting in a container to catch water- especially if inside.  Personally I think these are most special on a patio or picnic table for outdoor enjoyment.
Here are a few choice plant combo’s:
*For a yummy Salad Bowl plant one of each in the corners if square container or an ‘x’ if round:  nasturtium~trailing preferably, a variegated lemon  thyme, Genovese basil and Italian Large leaf parsley; in center plant a romaine lettuce and spinach plant.  Please take into consideration the growth size of each plant and determine the size of your planter if it will accommodate this planting.   A 24″ in diameter pot would be recommended. 
*Herb Lovers~ try Genovese Basil, Lemon Basil, Italian Large Leaf parsley, tarragon and a thyme.  Whenever you are ready to grill you can snip off some to add into a butter for brushing on corn or shish-ka-bob.  Fresh snipped basil & parsley for yummy Brushetta, thyme for grilled squash or chicken and tarragon for fish!
The combo’s are really up to your taste buds, so be creative and let your taste buds soar!

Everyone loves our bacon, for what I believe to be very good reasons~ no nitrates or nitrites, no G.M.O. feed given to our hogs, naturally raised with open fresh air & sunshine.  Here is yet another way to serve up some of our bacon with our yummy heirloom Romaine lettuces!
Romaine & Bacon Salad

2 medium heads romaine lettuce from Garden Gate, chopped
1 red onion from Garden Gate, sliced thinly
1/2 pound bacon from Garden Gate
1 cup raw organic sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds
homemade croutons (see previous blog for recipe)

1. Arrange lettuce in a bowl and top with onions.
2.  Fry bacon in skillet over medium- high heat, cook bacon until crisp; drain.
3. Combine vinegar & sugar; pour over bacon in skillet; bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook and stir until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. 
4.  Pour mixture over lettuce and onion. Toss together to mix evenly; top with cranberries, seeds & croutons.
5. Serve immediately.
Enjoy! 

Happy Day,
Jean

Cookbook Journals, The Gift of Bread, More Garden Tips, Potting Shed Organization & Taylor’s Yummy Beef & 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 10×10 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, cut into 1/2 inch coins
4 ribs of Celery , 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

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