Designing A Potager

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

I’ve always tried to encourage others to plant something… anything. The thrill that you get from placing the seed or the little seedling into the pleasant earth… then waiting and watching for the first signs of life to come springing up out of the soft ground… then suddenly one morning there it is… a tiny sprout or the first blossom on your tomato plant. As you patiently await the first signs of fruit… then the ripening… then the harvest.

As you stand there holding your pleasant reward, staring at it and re-thinking the whole process and the time and tender care that it took to get this into your hand.

Garlic I just harvested

Garlic I just harvested

…when you eat that first thing you’ve grown… you’ll close your eyes and savor the taste, taking in the flavor and enjoying it like no other thing you’ve ever eaten.

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…a new respect you’ll have for the seed and the dirt… a new passion will be stirred up in you.

I love gardening…

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Some may think that starting a garden is a difficult task, but not so. A garden is like anything else. You’ll need to do a bit of research and planning; you’ll need to think over what you’d like to grow and the amount of space that you have available. I have five acres, and if I could, other than the house and outbuildings, it would all be gardens… just an expanse of gardens.

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Unfortunately my dreams are bigger than my reach…

Potager’s or more commonly known today as Kitchen Gardens were historically a mainstay for many families. My heart and soul are simply thrilled with the resurgence of home gardening and canning over the last decade. I love to hear about all the urban gardens, the thrill in the voices of my market friends as they tell me what they’re harvesting out of their little home gardens… especially when it’s from the plants they purchased from me earlier in the year.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

The definition of this French word, potagère is simply vegetable garden and is properly pronounced: “por-ta-jj”, giving credit to the French who inspired this style of ornamental kitchen garden’s.

The potager is most similar to the traditional English cottage garden but is mainly based on vegetables and other edible plants and herbs, often incorporating some cut flower plants for the household.

Historically plants were chosen for their form, color and taste, with seasonality and continuity of fresh vegetables for the household in mind and were typically low maintenance and closely planted. This is very similar to raised bed gardening (another blog ;-))

herbs

herbs

What you include in your potager is all about you and your family. What you like and love, although I do suggest trying at least one new thing each year…I do!

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Veggies~ This is a matter of personal prefference. We like to include one zuchinni, four hills of potatoes, two pepper plants, several lettuces, spinach, kale and chard, two tomato plants- one Roma and one salad type, short rows of carrots, onions and garlic. I also like to include a cucumber that I typically grow up on a trellis.

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Herbs: We use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking. I wanted to incorporate an herb section in our potager. Herbs have a tendency to ‘get out of hand’, so all my herbs are in containers of sorts.
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Here is a photo of part of my herb section.
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My perennials include- sage, oregano, chives, sorrel, thyme, and biennial parsley. Calendula reseeds itself each year and I plant purple, lemon and Genovese type basil each year.

Flowers- try edibles: I grow nasturtiums and day lilies in my potager, along with marigolds along side the tomatoes. I also have several other perennials incorporated simply for beautification. The potager is beside the pergola which has several sweet autumn clematis and climbing roses along its side. I also have some hosta’s, a white bleeding heart, Astilbe and bee’s balm .
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I believe, as the gardeners of old that all three… vegetables, herbs and flowers all belong balanced together in a potager.

No matter what you decide to grow, make your garden’s a reflection of your soul… a passionate place that you can escape to from all the cares of life… a meditative place to commune with the almighty One…

Happy day,
Jean

Kitchen Gardens

Check out my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life blog… follow this link and please like it!

This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden... follow the link for an easy how-to!

This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden… follow the link for an easy how-to!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/03/28/kitchen-gardens-grow-yummy-veggies-right-outside-your-back-door/

Happy day,
Jean

Creation Of My Potager

I am in love with gardening…and I am in love with writing about and sharing my gardens with others. My desire is to instill this passion in that person that is drifting out there… dreaming of just a tiny little piece of it… yet not knowing where to begin. I want to inspire the lover of dirt and blossoms to create yet something new and different… I want others to indulge in this romance… show how gardening can bring joy to someone that has sorrow. Gardening whether on a small or large scale, on a balcony or in an acre field affords a luxuary that is so pure.  It doesn’t need to cost a fortune or be an emaculate English garden… your garden should be an extension of your heart and soul. I hope that today I can stir that up in you… enjoy friends.

Be sure to check out and ‘Like’ my Facebook page for Dragonfly… and please share it!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?skip_nax_wizard=true

I thought it would be interesting to show you the process of how our Potager came to be.  It’s quite interesting the way I got to give my daughter her ‘kitchen’ garden. You see we raise hogs here at The Garden Gate Farm along with poultry, eggs and produce. Well, one day (although there’s been many others!) the pigs got out! Pigs love to root up the ground and they made quite a mess out of this area. So much that Neil looked at it as ‘too much too repair, go ahead and make another garden!’… don’t need to tell me twice! So I gave the good news to Taylor and what better spot than right outside the back door! Good pigs 😉

So, three years ago we started. It has evolved and grown… quite a bit actually.

Photo #1 2010

Photo’s 1 and 2 are not quite the beginnings of our Potager. Though camera happy I am, I never took any shots of what it looked like after the hogs got through with it! I was too excited to get going on this project to worry about the ‘before’ pics I guess. So we started with black ground cover, then rocks and then added the rich composted pasture dirt of our beef farmer neighbors. In the front, left to right:
Three day lilies, tulip bulbs planted in between.
Back row- several containers which will hold herbs- concrete drain tile, wooden drawer, 4 plastic pots burried half way, antique tool box.
In the far back behind the lilac bush up against the garage there is an elevated garden that holds our Mint Garden Tea.



Photo #2m 2010

In this photo, you can see the raised beds in one of my gardens. This now is where our hoop house sits. You can also see the black ground cover. We have a terrible time with ‘Quack Grass’, (devil weed in my book!). It is necessary to have this or the whole garden would be taken over with very little hope… especially with organic means.

Photo #3 2010

Here we have erected the Pergola and I have started the Rose Garden on the other side.  This is the same year but later in the summer.  I have now planted a ‘Miss. Kim Lilac Bush in front corner, Purple Bell Flowers, some Tulip bulbs. Sage, Thyme, Creeping Phlox, Sweet Autumn Clematis and several climbing Rose bushes along the length of the Pergola.

Photo #4 2010

Here is another shot from a side angle. You can see the step stone path and beside it are two Russian Sage. These are covered with honey bees all summer.  You can also see some tulips blooming. 2010

Photo #5 2011

This photo is year two 2011. The lilies have matured, the sage is blooming and the clematis’ are growing.

Photo #6a  2010

The Rose Garden 2011! At least that’s what it will be along with many other things growing in it.  We soon started getting the ground cover laid, rock’s around and dirt down.  Although the planting didn’t begin until much later…

Photo #6b 2010

The beginnings of The Rose Garden 2011 still… Please note that there is a white climbing rose bush at the center of the pergola. You will see a photo coming up of it last summer when she bloomed for the first time. 

Photo #7 2010

Again black ground cover was laid, rocks and then dirt. Stage 3 will be right beside this.

Photo #8 2010
#8- Summer 2011. Starting to get some plants in the Rose Garden. Front corner has a beautiful David Austin Shrub Rose, Peony type. See below photo for one of it’s blooms from last year. I have sedum, more sages, bee’s balm, creeping phlox, thyme, purple bell flower and lavenders planted in this garden.  The greatest challenge I had with this spot was managing the weeds in between the perennials.  I added straw from our barn as a thick mulch to help.
Photo #9 2012
This is a shot of the rose in the front corner, above photo last summer 2012… She is absolutely stunning!  She will be 3 years old this summer!

 

Photo #10 2011

Here is a shot of the Herb Garden in the Potager. This was taken in 2011. As you can see things are filling in nicely.  I always put Basil in the 4 pots, parsley in the tool box. Oregano is growing in the drawer. I like to use stone word markers with the herb names on them.  Adding structural elements to the garden gives interest to the garden and creates a natural feeling.

Photo #11 2011

Late Spring 2011. The clematis are starting to grow up beautifully and by the end of this summer they had tripled in size. Sweet Autumn is an aggressive climber and quite invasive if left unmanaged.  The rose in the front bottom right corner is growing beautifully.   Compare to photo #3

Photo #11a 2011

Here is the pergola walk way it’s first year with the mulch before I removed and replaced it with the pea gravel. See photo #7.  Didn’t even have our patio yet!  Spring 2011

Photo #12 2012

Here is a photo of The Rose Garden from the back side. This photo was taken last summer (2012) early summer.  The sages are only about a third of the size they will get, sedum’s, shrub rose, iris’s, and a new boxwood in the front right corner. Also in this garden, chives and some new Hydrangea starts that will be big and beautiful in a couple more years. As you can see I have covered the ground in straw as a thick mulch to hold back weeds and retain moisture.

Photo #13 2012

Here is a shot of The Rose Garden from the front about a month after the above one was taken.  The large plant front right beside the wheelbarrow, which BTW is for decoration, is a Comfry plant. You can see her tiny buds ready to open. 
Also, remember that little rose bush in photo #6 & 8? That is her in the middle – the whole thing! She was spanned about 8′ in width. 
Watch for a shot of the garden bike covered with nasturtiums coming.
Also note our NEW hunter green steel roof!

Photo #14 2012

This is a shot from the back side of the Potager last spring. The roses are just starting to leaf out (front left corner), the tea bed is growing lovely. The purple haze in the back left corner is the Russian sage in bloom. I mulch with straw to help with weeds. 

Photo #15 2012

Photo #15 Front of the Potager last early summer.  #16 was spring when the creeping phlox was in bloom. See the patio in the background?



Photo #16 2012

You can see in #15 & 16 the growth of the clematis on the pergola. Also, purple bell flowers & the Russian sage blooming in 15.

Photo #17 2012

This photo was taken at the same time as #15. If you compare to photo’s number 3, you can see it just about 2′ tall, then in #11 jut growing to about 5′. She is a beautiful climber that by the end of last summer had canes that bent right over the top of the pergola- which is 5′ wide.  There are two Sweet Autumn Clenatis’ here. Each section is 8′ wide- just 3 three years old.  You get a lot of bang for your buck really quickly with this beauty. Plus you get the bloom in fall!

Photo #17 2012

By summers end the clematis were grown right over the top of the arch’s. When we originally put down the path, I used mulch. Big mistake! The chickens loved it and continually dug holes and scratched it all over the step stones. I happened to be paging through one of my favorite gardening Mag’s, Country Garden’s and saw a garden path just like this! I shoveled up all the mulch- about 20 wheel barrow full which I used to mulch the beds. I then ordered several tons of pea gravel and wheel barrowed about 20 full to fill in- no more chickens!  The path leads to our back patio which you can see in photo #15 and then also bends to the right leading to the hoop house, greenhouse’s and hog’s.  I used slate for the paths.

Photo #18 2012

Here I used the slates to make images in the path… a sun and a daisy.  You can be as creative as you allow yourself to be.  My motto in decortating both my home and my gardens is to make me & my family happy and comfortable.  Again, your gardens should be an extension of your heart and soul!

Photo #19  2012

This photo shows the empty space that you see in photo #7.  This area now leads through the arbor you can see in photo #7 as well.
I planted nasturtiums on the edge of this side of the garden… it just poured over and climbed all over my garden bike! It was spectacular. See below for the shot of that.  You can actually see the plants right behind the tires.

Photo #20 2012

See the bike seat… truly amazing what these plants will do when given the room to sprawl. I love them for both the beauty they give and the fact that I can add them to my garden salads for a peppery flavor.

Photo #21 2012

Remember that rose bush? here she is from a frontal postition. The white blossoms are hard to see, but they are there.  Unfortuntely we had just had a rain, one of few, and it knocked down the sages, left and right in photo.  For sake of perspective, I am standing right in front of the garden bike taking this photo.

Photo #21a  2012
Here is a close up of the white rose… so simple yet so elegant.



Photo #22 2012

Here is a shot of the Rose Garden and Pergola from the corner back side. The sedums were just beautiful and you can see the purple haze of the sages. The bright color of the nasturtiums is so radiant.  Also note that growing along the rocks are thyme and creeping phlox.  You can also see the pink rose bush beside the sedum. This is a shrub rose. I am standing in front of the hoop house here.

Photo #23 2012

Here is The Potager late summer last year. It is very full and overflowing from this perspective. Tomatoes, kale, onions, lettuces, potatoes and more growing behind the Herb section.  This is a very productive garden and we enjoy being able to slip out the back door and grab those fresh picked yummies just before we are ready to eat them raw or cook with them. There are a few things that I don’t grow here due to the size of the finished product- sweet corn and vining squashes. I do typically include either a yellow squash or zuchinni bush type, but not both because of cross polination.  I will succession plant lettuces, beets, green beans and scallions. I don’t bother with certain crops here because I grow so much of them in my raised beds. For example, chard and spinach.  Along the front of the rocks is not weeds… what you see is creeping phlox, thyme and calendula spilling over onto a narrow piece of grass. As mentioned earlier, the clematis has just about covered the entire Pergola across the top and side. At the far end is yet another one.  This whole mass is only 3 plants that started out with about three 2′ vines only three years ago! At every post, which is set 6′ apart there is a climbing rose bush.

Photo #23 2012

This is a small bed that hold’s a larger quantity of sage and oregano. There are also, a couple day lily, bee’s balm and lavender. In the far right corner growing on the back post is a Chinese Wisteria. My goal is that this will cover the back side and over the side of the pergola eventually running in with the clematis. This will give my spring and fall bloom.  This bed is directly behind the Rose Garden. In photo #18 of the step stones, this would be to the right.  The next photo of it has the Rose Garden to my back.

Photo #24 2012

In this shot you can see the now in place hoop house with raised beds filled with beautifully growing lettuces and cherry tomatoes.  This shot is late spring to early summer. Notice the lavender in the front left corner loaded with buds.  I also have a Blue Fescue in center front. The Bee’s Balm is beuatiful when in full bloom!

I am looking forward to the coming season when I can once again go and have some quiet moments in my gardens… I hope you enjoyed seeing the birth and growth of our Potager, but more importantly, I hope it inspired you!

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

Mountain Pie Suppers, Homemade Napkin Rings, Cute ‘Cookie’ Packaging, Taylor’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Spring is here and how I just love to be outside~ especially where entertaining is concerned.  Nothing is as enjoyable to me as having my friends over for a lovely evening of food & fellowship… listening to the gobs of children running and playing and laughing… Spring and summer come to an end much too quickly for me, so I try to take advantage of my outside time as much as possible.  Our family really enjoys Mountain Pie suppers- in Canada we call them Hobo Pies.  Our children think this is so fun because they get to ‘make’ their pie just as they want with what they want.  Some of you may be saying, “what in the world is a Mountain or Hobo Pie?” Well you can purchase the pie irons at most big box stores and at all the hunting outfitters out there.  The are simply called ‘pie irons’ on the package. 
*How to get started: First build a good camp fire and get a nice hot bed of coals with very little flames- you will need to keep it going though.
*Supplies you will need: Organic non-spray & bread. Have a table set up with all the toppings on where all guests can make their pies; make sure you have a board or something ‘melt’ proof to place the hot irons on when they are ready to come out. 
*Toppings can be anything savory or sweet.  Here are a few ideas
    ~Sweet- Nutella & Banana, PB&J, any kind of fruit pie filling
    ~Savory toppings can include: pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, bacon, ground beef regular or seasoned, ham, sausage, tomatoes, sweet &/or hot peppers, pineapple, olives or onions. 
    ~Use pizza sauce, ranch dressing, mayo or any other dressing/sauce that goes with your combo!
*How to make: Be sure to spray both sides of the pie iron; place a slice of bread in each side; put your sauce on first and then layer on the toppings of your choice; carefully close iron and latch; put on the hot coals turning often, check the bread by opening the latch and carefully lifting to see how things are coming.  When toasted to perfection take iron out of the fire, place on prepared area and carefully open iron and remove the ‘pie’.
Enjoy one after another and watch your guests have one of the most enjoyable meals they’ll ever have!
Charming Homemade Napkin Rings…
When I entertain I love to add special touches. In many of my previous entries I have described table settings, special dinner ware and other little touches.  I often use linen napkins, they are just extra special. Here is a really cute idea to make an already special touch sweeter.  We all have extra buttons and now is the time to round them up and put them to use as charming clasps on napkin rings.  Use several different ones for an eclectic and wistful look. 
*You will need to use ‘shank’ type buttons- buttons with a loop on the back, not holes.
* Choose a theme for your set, such as flowers, mother of pearl types or seashells.
*Decide on how many you want to make- I would say at least eight.
* I would recommend your buttons be at least 1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″ in size.
*Next thread a 12″ length of cording through each shank, and tie its ends in a knot.  Secure knot to shank with a needle and tread so that it will stay hidden behind the button.  Wrap cording around a folded napkin, looping it back over the button to secure.
Giving gifts is so much fun, especially food gifts~ and cookies are always well appreciated!  Here is the cutest and simplest Cookie Packaging idea I have ever heard of, so I wanted to share it will all of you.
*First purchase a package of paper C.D. envelopes with a window- yes you are reading correctly!
* Next create a label- (a good size would be an Avery 5198 or a label about 3.5″ wide by 1.67″ high)- with what ever you want it to say- Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, It’s A Boy/ Girl or whatever the occasion is!  Add a cute graphic to the label and you’re all set. 
*All you need to do is put your cookie inside the envelope and seal- you get to see how yummy it looks through the window!
*Adhere the label so it’s center is on the top of the envelope so half is in front and the other half seals the back down.
These make great party favors as well!

We have growing boys in our house and after school snacks are a must have around here.  One of the favorites around here is Taylor’s chocolate chip cookies.  Some people say to use semi sweet or dark- but forget that, nothing makes a cookie like Milk Chocolate!  Enjoy one of families favorites, 
Taylor’s Best Ever Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies!

1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup mini Milk Chocolate Chips

1.  Preheat over to 375 degrees.
2. Mix shortening, butter, sugars, egg and vanilla will.  Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  For a softer, rounder cookie, add 1/4 cup more flour.)
3. Stir dry ingredients together and blend in; mix in chips and nuts if adding.
5. Drop rounded teaspoons of  dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until delicately browned.
Cookies should still be soft.  Cool slightly before removing from pan!

Happy Day,                                                   
Jean

 

Planting A Spring Garden, Checking your soil, Cold Frames, and yummy Cheddar & Onion Pie!

Planting A Spring Garden, Checking your soil, Cold Frames, and yummy Cheddar & Onion Pie!

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” AristotleIt’s still winter, can you believe it?  We were sitting on the front porch last evening watching the lightning and listening to the thunder claps & rain.  I had been working in my flower beds & cleaning up the yard running around all day bare foot! I can handle this kind of winter any day of the week.  I planted some Rhubarb Chard & Golden Chard today in the raised beds in the front garden.  They will be able to handle a frost and even a bit of snow~ although I will cover them if we get some of the white stuff. About 4 years ago we had a snow storm on Easter, after all we live in Michigan and anything can happen.  But today I was bare foot and that’s all that I care about. 

But on to the topic at hand~ planting.  What can you get away with planting right now you ask. Well there are a few things that will tolerate light frosts and even a light snow. So if you want to live life with some adventure here are a few things you can go ahead and try if you have a garden site that the soil is ‘fit’ to plant in. By fit I mean that it is not too wet. To check your soil, take a hand full of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If it doesn’t hold it’s shape then it is dry enough, if it stays in a wad then it is too wet, wait a bit longer.  
Here are some things you can plant right now:
*Spinach, Chard, Scallions, Peas, Radishes, Lettuces such as May Queen, Butter Crunch, Merriville de’Four Seasons, Green or Red Deer Tongue, Lolla Rosa to give you a few ideas.  
As I mentioned above, if we do happen to get some serious snow, than you might want to cover your seedlings.  Most of these things will tolerate and even taste better with a bit of snow & frost, the worst that will happen is the tips will get burned looking and a bit ugly. That is easy enough to snip off before you cook it though.  Also, please remember I live in the Thumb of Michigan, so these are tips for folks who live in similar climates.

If you are serious about wanting to have early spring garden stuff or even would like to experiment with the cold winter months, than look into building a Cold Frame.  The best book out there for this type of info is Eliot Coleman’s “Four-Season Harvest”. There are many styles to choose from starting with a simple straw bale structure to an elaborate glass pained wooden structure with hinges. The following information is adapted from Four Season Harvest.
*There are two parts to a cold frame- the sides & top.  “The sides can be made of almost any material- boards, concrete blocks, bales of hay, logs….” according to Coleman. He recommends boards, but they all work.
*The tops need to be for the light! You can use old storm windows, wooden frames with plastic sheeting adhered to it or anything that will cover the top and be translucent enough to let the light shine in.
*”Traditional home garden cold frames measure 4 to 6 feet front to back and are 8 to 12 feet long.  They are laid out with the long dimension running east to west. the frame should be just tall enough to clear the crops you plan to grow.  In the standard design, the back walls 12 inches height and the front wall 8 inches high, so that there is a slight slope to the south,” according to Coleman.
*The tops can be hinged or just set on. But either way I would personally recommend putting weights on each of the four corners to prevent them from flying off in high winds. 
These are just a few basic steps in building your own cold frame. Again to get greater detail & design drawings refer to Coleman’s book or Google it!Who says onions are just for salad & burgers?  Try this delicious savory onion & cheddar pie!
Cheddar & Onion Pie
2 Cups crackers crushed, Club crackers are very good
1/2 cup butter, melted
2  each red & yellow onions from Garden Gate, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. Creole Seasoning mix
2 eggs from Garden Gate, beaten
1 cup Cheddar Cheese

A drawing of a kitchen garden, quite elaborate but wonderful.

1.  Combine cracker crumbs with butter; set aside one cup.  Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ deep dish pie plate.
2. Saute onions in oil until transparent and tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Spread drained onions over crust.
4. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and seasoning; without bringing to a boil, cook until heated through.  Turn off heat; stir in eggs and cheese.  Continue to stir until cheese melts.  Spoon over onions; top with reserved crumb mixture.
5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40-45 minutes- until eggs are set. 

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