A Dreamy Garden, Rhubarb Harvest Tips, Rhubarb Pie Recipe

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Gardening stirs up a passion in me like no other. I often find myself thinking about a new project or a dream I have in the middle of doing something not garden related at all.

It seems that we gardener’s tend to do that…

I live in my mind’s garden dreaming of what I imagine will be.

Projects.

Projects seem to line my mind’s eye… and now Facebook page!

I imagine my entire property a sprawling garden…
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I imagine our beautiful old barn a sought after B&B… a retreat for the weary and heavy laden
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I imagine beautiful garden’s abounding…
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I imagine our back field filled with raised beds overflowing with veggies, herbs and flowers…
…that will feed our guests… and my family
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I imagine gardeners and gardener-wanna-be’s coming to take classes where I and other’s teach…
…teaching how to love your gardens… how to let them be for you… how to live in them…

I imagine my life with nothing to do but garden… and of course writing about and sharing it… with all of you.
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I imagine a place where people will want to come for farm to table dinner events…
I imagine harvesting the good food right from the gardens…preparing… and serving to those guests.
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Do you have a dreamy garden? What will it take to get there?

Well, some of my dreams are unreachable… at this point, but I have them… I cherish them and I won’t let them go, no matter what. My gardens are my souls sincerest desire…

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I’ve been able to create some of my dream gardens here at The Garden Gate Farm.
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Most recently we are working on a fish pond that will be connected to the rose garden. Don’t stop dreaming… no matter what you do, don’t stop.

So lets talk about springs first fruit here in Michigan, rhubarb. Yes, I said rhubarb. Yes you can still harvest and enjoy it.

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Here are a few do’s and don’ts for a full season of enjoying springs gardens first love!
*After you’re regular spring harvest, let your plants go to seed. This is when the plant shoots up the flower stalks.

*Once all the flower stalks have fully seeded out, you can harvest lightly again.
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*The most important thing to keep in mind when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least 1/3 of the stalks on the plant. NEVER fully strip the plants stalks- at anytime of year.

…and now… drum roll please…
Taylor’s Homemade Rhubarb Pie (of course all my ingredients are Organic 🙂

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

1 9″ unbaked pie crust
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. white flour
1 cup sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until rhubarb is completely coated.
2. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.

Serve with some homemade vanilla ice cream… enjoy friends!

I recently posted my first video on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page. I gave a short demonstration on how to properly harvest rhubarb. Stop by and check it out! Hope to see you there!
Here’s the direct link to the video. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=184040798434306

Happy Day,
Jean

Decorating with Herbs, Step Stone Patterns and More Rhubarb & Strawberry Recipes

Here is my sun shining down on my flower.

Here we are just about in the middle of June… how the days fly. The other day Kyle & Ethan were planting another 50 pounds of Yukon potato seeds… I walked down the row punching the holes in the plastic where they were to plant… Suddenly I saw this big, bossy and majestic dragonfly… He lives here at The Garden Gate Farm… he sports an iridescent blue jacket and flits about like he doesn’t have a care in the world. I love to watch them fly about… whip over this way and then dart over that way.  They are by far my favorite insect. I quick pointed him out to the boys and we watched awhile as he showed off.  I truly believe that God always sends me one because He knows how special they are too me.  We also had another ‘not so majestic’ flying critter that day~ this one though was darting through my house and I was screaming running out the door~ A Bat!  Oh how I hate bats… now don’t get me wrong, I love bats outside for all the wonderful things they do~ like eating all those pesky mosquitoes and moths~ but not inside.  I have to say it has been awhile since we had one… remember we live in the country and this really is part of life! But awhile later we were all standing in the kitchen when a beautiful Ruby Throated Hummingbird female was hovering right in my big picture window looking right on in… She seemed to be looking in and being thankful she was out… she was in the midst of my red climbing rose bush canes that dance in front of the window.  Yes we live in the county and we get lot’s of flyin’ things. 

Well here are some ideas on making walk ways and fanciful ways to have your step stones add that special touch! Also enjoy some more ideas on how to incorporate Herbs in your entertaining along with four more yummy recipes for rhubarb and strawberries!  Enjoy friends…

I love Garden Paths… they add such an interesting element to any yard or garden.  Here are a couple photos of two of mine.  You can create any type of design using them. I used slate in my pergola walkway laid in pea stone.  At the entrance I put regular round step stones to keep the pea stone from rolling out.  I used plastic ground cover first, then laid the slate and then added the pea stone and swept it evenly to fill in around the slate.  As you are walking and then turn to go into one of our hoop houses I took some extra pieces of the slate and created two patterns~ one is a flower and the other a sun (photo).  You can do whatever you dream of!

Here is my pergola walkway.  There are Sweet Autumn Clematis along
with climbing roses. 
I have mentioned often how much I enjoy entertaining and decorating for the event.  It is quite easy to incorporate herbs into the affair… here are a few tips on how! 
*Consider using pale natural fabrics such as un-dyed linen.  This allows the herbs to hold center stage rather than having a too busy pattern.
*As with the linens, choose plain or understated china, flatware and glassware that will not upstage the greenery. 
*Of course every table needs a centerpiece- don’t make your bouquets with just flowers, add herbs… they add delicate texture, such as with Dill leaves or fennel. Try adding geranium leaves, flowering Cinnamon Basil or any purple basil… so beautiful.  Arrange the herbs loosely; think about how they grow in the garden and let them ramble across the table.  Herbs wilt very easily so be sure to give them lots of water and right away after harvesting! 
*Keep a bowl of freshly torn herbs such as basil, mint, tarragon, cilantro, and flat leaved parsley is an attractive detail- it allows your guests to help themselves to sprinkle on their food and drinks.
*Mix watermelon- red and yellow if you know an Heirloom gardener, a cantaloupe and a honey dew; Using a melon baller, fill individual desert cups with the melon, put a fresh sprig of mint on top of each.
*Adorn each place setting with an herbal napkin ring~ use a long sprig of rosemary or summer savory, fold around the napkin and tie with a piece of ribbon, twine or jute- whichever fits your theme better, place on plate.
*Write the names of your guests on copper or aluminum plant tags and put them in miniature Terra cotta plant pots filled with fresh herbs~ place at each plate~ what a statement!
*Use Lemon balm or another long stemmed herb like lavender to create easily woven lattice pattern place mats.  When a hot plate is placed on the mat, a delicious aroma is released~ not to mention it is just beautiful.
*Make your ice water extra special by putting leaves of borage and mint with cucumber slices  in your water pitchers.
*Coriander flowers impart a delicate flavor to pepper and salt.  Simply add several in your salt & pepper containers~ little salt & pepper bowls make it even prettier.

Rhubarb and now strawberries… now we can really get cooking!  Try these yummy treats for an added spice in life!

Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce

3-4 cups 1 inch rhubarb pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cup halved strawberries, de-stemmed
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Bring rhubarb, sugar, water & salt to a boil; Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.; add strawberries and cook 3-5 more minutes, or until rhubarb is tender.
2. Remove from heat and add butter.
Serve sauce warm or cold over ice cream, angel food cake, pudding or baked custard.

Rhubarb Upside- Down Cake


2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cup diced rhubarb
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp.; baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk

1. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a 9×9 inch cake pan; add brown sugar and rhubarb; cream together butter and sugar; add the eggs and beat.
2. Combine the dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk.
3. Pour over rhubarb and bake at 3765 degrees fro 40-45 minutes.
4. Turn upside- down on plate to serve.

Rhubarb Strawberry Pie


1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca or flour
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 cup diced rhubarb
2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/8 tsp. almond extract
pastry for a double crust pie
1 Tbsp. butter

1. Combine sugar, tapioca and nutmeg; add rhubarb and strawberries; add extract.
2. Mix gently and let stand 10-15 minutes to blend flavors; Pour mixture into an unbaked 9 inch pie shell; dot with butter.
3. Cover with top crust; cut slits into the top crust; seal with flute edges of pie crust.
4. Bake at 350 degree’s for 40-45 minutes until fruit bubbles and pie is golden.

Rhubarb Jam


2 1/2 lb.s rhubarb
1 cup water
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
1/2 tsp. butter
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)

1.  Finely chop rhubarb; do not peel.
2. Place in a 4 quart saucepan; add water and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 minutes or until rhubarb is soft.
3. Measure 4 1/2 cups  into a 6-8 quart saucepan; measure sugar into a separate bowl.
4. Stir pectin into rhubarb; add butter; bring to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat; skim foam; add coloring now if going to.
5. Ladle quickly into six 1 cup prepared jars, leaving 1/8 inch head space.
6. Process in a boiling water caner 10 minutes.

Happy Day,
Jean

         

Tussie Mussies Made Simple, Putting Up Rhubarb, Rhubarb Crisp and Rhubarb Punch!

Yummy Rhubarb Crisp!
Well here we are getting fired up about the garden and all that she will bear for us… spring, summer, fall and winter… each holds a different gift for the individual.  Most people are not aware of the extended growing capabilities that we now have available in more northern climates, such as mine here in the thumb of Michigan.  We have some cold winters but with heated and unheated greenhouses, high tunnels and/ or hoop houses the posibilities are quite amazing.  No we can’t grow tomatoes, they need a certain amount of sunlight to bear that vine ripened flavorful tomato.  I don’t believe in hydroponics and wouldn’t eat anything grown that way on purpose… read the labels friends, you’d be surprised at what you’re eating during the winter months.  I believe, but don’t totally practice eating ‘in season’… my family likes banana’s and oranges and we buy them in the winter. I do realize that eating local and in season are wonderful and right things, but, we are a bit spoiled. With all the preserving and root cellaring we do we have pretty much every thing we could want out of the garden all winter long and right on through spring until it all starts coming in fresh again.  With our hoop houses we can have fresh greens and lettuces all winter long… like I said we are spoiled! Which brings me to helping you put up some rhubarb and giving you recipes on how to use it in and out ‘of season’… enjoy!

*What are tussie mussies you say… or you are saying quaintly how you haven’t heard that term in ages… either way, it is a far cuter word than ‘bouquet’… Brief history on them… from reading I have discovered they apparently originated in Elizabethan England and people carried and sniffed them around to help disguise the dreadful stench of London’s streets. They are made with aromatic flowers and herbs such as lavender, rosemary, and rue, which were believed to be protection from the plaque and other diseases.  They were also believed to help cleanse the air of a house where sickness was. By the time of the Victorian era they had become ‘highly stylized nosegays’, (I like that word too), and had ‘become a favorite way to send messages to friends and lovers’.  They also were used in bridal bouquets, they were both pretty and practical.  So now that you know how these adorable little things came to be lets get into the fun of making them and learning the meanings behind particular herbs and flowers.
During my discovery on tussie mussies I learned the meanings and sentiments that go behind many herbs and flowers that I as an avid gardener never knew… yes I know red roses mean love but no I didn’t know that basil has a double meaning, it can symbolize both love and hate.  I am sure that some of these little gestures or as said ‘notes’ could have caused some serious ‘oop’s, that’s not what I meant’ moments.  So here are some interesting meanings behind those much loved blossoms and herbs…
*Lemon balm is for sympathy
*chervil represents sincerity
*rue conveys disdain
*parsley represents festivity
*rosebuds are of course for love… although different colors mean different things… more on that another day
*violets stand for modesty
*basil can represent as mentioned above both love and hate… be careful on who you send that one to!

A standard bridal tussie mussie was very symbolic… here is what would have typically been included in one…

*rose for love
*rosemary for remembrance
*mint for purity
*thyme for courage
*lily of the valley was for the return of happiness
*lavender gave luck… although it also represents mistrust, ummm..

How to make a tussie mussie…
The American Museum in Bath, England gives instructions in a museum booklet for creating them.
You can make tussie mussies with fresh herbs and flowers with dried materials.  A fresh t.m. can be dried with its charm and fragrance intact if you’re careful to use only those fresh ingredients that dry easily; lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, and southerwood, for example.  Use as many sweet smelling herbs as possible, and try to include herbs with contrasting colors and leaf shapes.  These simple guidelines will yield a traditional tussie mussie.
1. Start with a fresh rose, still in bud, or a few sprigs of a flowering herb like sage.  Surround the rose or flowering herb with a circle of green leafed herb, preferably one like southerwood that has rather finely cut leaves.  Tie the stems together with a piece of string or knitting wool.
2. Add another circle of a fragrant herb, and tie again.  Repeat this process- varying the colors and leaf shapes from row or row and using flowering herbs like mint or marjoram if you have them on hand- until the tussie mussie is the size you want.  Make the last circle with a large leaved herb such as lamb’s ear or rose geranium.
3.  For a formal effect, create a collar for the nosegay by cutting a small hole in the center of a paper doily and slipping it over the stems.  Tie the finished tussie mussie with a ribbon to hold the doily in place
… now you have the means to make and give adorable messages using your blossoms and herbs! 

  *(information taken and adapted from “Herbs; Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead; Clarkson N. Potter, Ind./Publishers, 1985)

Rhubarb is a spring treat that you either love or hate… there is no gray area with this tangy, mouth puckering fruit.  Asparagus and rhubarb are two of the first home grown things, other than lettuce & greens from the hoop houses that we get to feast on after winters long silence of green stuff.  My family all enjoys rhubarb in any desert, pie or preserves… Mix em’ up with yummy strawberries and they are more manageable.  Rhubarb is extremely easy to store for winter and takes no more time then to pick, clean and cut.  We cut the pieces into 1 inch chunks and then toss them either in one gallon ice cream buckets or freezer bags; freeze fir up to 1 year.  Enjoy your favorite treats year round.  One thing many people fail to realize is that you can eat rhubarb all summer as well… just be careful not to harvest after it has gone to seed.  Once the seed heads have dried and died back, simply cut back and then enjoy some fresh stalks, just don’t pick it to much… slow and easy during the summer and fall.  Be sure to water it during dry spells to keep the new stalks coming on.  Here are some easy and yummy treats to enjoy this spring time treat! One other thing to remember when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least one third of the plants stalks so it will be strong and can replenish itself.

Here are a couple favorite’s around the Smith house…

Rhubarb Crisp

    6 c Rhubarb cut into 1” pieces
1 1/2 c sugar
6 tbsp  flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c oatmeal
3/4 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c melted butter

   1. Combine first 3 ingredients, toss and place in 9×13 pan.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over Rhubarb.

3. Bake @ 375 for 40 –45 minutes.
4. Serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Rhubarb Punch…

4 c diced rhubarb
4 c water
2 c sugar
1/2 c orange juice
1/3 c lemon juice
2 liters clear soda– sprite, ginerale, etc.

Cook rhubarb in water till soft. Strain through a clean cloth lined colander.  Add sugar to the liquid & bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add juices.  Chill.  Add soda just before serving!

Happy Day,
Jean

More Garden Junque Ideas, Window Pane Mini Greenhouse, Seed Packet Calendar Box & Yummy Rhubarb Upside Down Treat

This is my potting shed.  It was a cast off from a friend… they were going to
burn it.  Now you may be thinking how crazy, but it didn’t look like this when we got
it.  Neil cut new boards on his sawmill and we resided the outside and inside,
put down a new floor, painted and lovingly adorned it.
This side sports an old window pane, discovered by the curb side, an
antique scale, garden bike and one of my favorite types of pots…
old tin buckets.

Ryan and I were transplanting more tomatoes in the green house yesterday… he enjoys playing in the dirt~ after all he is a boy.  He got 14 flats done and was quite pleased with himself, especially with him earning fifty cents a flat and it didn’t even take him an hour!  Work is an ethic that needs to be taught when they are young and being able to earn a little bit on the side isn’t all that bad either.  Afterward, I was watering in the hoop house and was just standing there looking at all the neat rows of lettuce and tomatoes and taking in the deep earthy smell… I love to be outside, in the gardens in the fresh air… how much better when it’s with my children!  We’ll talk on a bit more about how to utilize garden junque and cute-sifying your gardens today!

More Garden Junque Ideas!
As I was talking yesterday about garden junque and other neat items to add interest to your gardens, I got thinking about the outside of our homes and how much better the windows look if ‘dressed’ up as well!  Once again, flea markets, rummage sales and antique shoppes are probably your best bet to find some neat stuff.  Here are some more junque items to watch for & ideas on how to use them.
*I have a really neat old door that I attached to back of the garage where the kitchen garden is, put a distressed wooden primitive type star with grapevine on it and presto- no more bare wall!  I also have a french door type on the back wall of my potting shed with a neat shelf over top and antique farm tools  on either side it.   
*Window boxes are a must or putting a neat old barn wood shelf to house your pretty pots (see photo) is really cute too! 
*Neat wooden drop leaf table or enamel ware tables to put on your porch and decorate with flower pots.
*Old metal wash tubs make great planters once again adding height and dimension into the garden.  You can also use it for entertaining- just fill it up with ice and then put bottled water, soda or juice in- too cute!
*Double burner caners- now here’s a find- I actually found one of mine at a junk-yard.  Now it is a planter in my flower beds.
*Tree stumps make wonderful places to set a pot of flowers on or even to make a cute rustic bench to stop and take a break and enjoy your flower beds- simply get two stumps relatively the same size and place a board- barn wood is best and place across the two stumps- instant bench!
*How many times have you driven past a home getting brand spankin new windows put in and there is a whole pile of the old wooden windows laying a the curb?  Well, I’ve seen a lot where I live and there is no way I can just leave them sit there, especially if they are paned~ what a find!  I put one of course on the side of my potting shed and then added three old tin pails as planters right under them… pansies look perfect, right beside one of my garden bikes. (see photo)
~ I also have one on the wall on my front porch above a table I decorate up with plants and other stuff!

This is my mini greenhouse that Neil made for me.  We purchased these window panes from an antique dealer
at a flea market for only $5.00 a piece.  I usually have a pot of geraniums in it.
These pots rest on top of an old piece of barn wood.  Who says you have
to use traditional window boxes!

 *Window Pane Mini Greenhouse~  (see photo) I am sure many of you who love to page through magazines like Country Gardens have seen really cute mini green houses made out of… you guessed it~ old window panes!  Of course I had to have one and my dear husband willingly obliged to construct it for me.  Here’s a simple how to!
~SUPPLIES:  First you will need to find 6 window panes, preferably paned for the cutest effect.  They should be the same size, unless you or your spouse are very creative!  You will need screws long enough to go through the wood part of the window and into the other window.  One piece of angle iron cut to the length of window- this is what will attach the two roof pieces, drill and metal drill bit.
~Next do any repairs that you think necessary- like re-caulking/glazing any loose panes or re-painting.  I like the chipped paint look- aka as distressed 🙂 !
~Choose one pane and put down flat, this is the floor of your green house
~Next choose two panes for the roof.  With someone helping and holding the two panes as to make a tee-pee, put angle iron across the two and screw it on to hold the two pieces together.
~Choose the 3 side panes- the front will be open; Attach the back wall by screwing it to the bottom side of the floor window; take one side and screw it to the side of the back wall and the bottom of the floor; repeat for other side wall.
~Once the sides are securely attached to the floor carefully lift the roof onto the base~ you will have to find a spot to carefully screw through to attach the roof to the base- this will depend on the size and type of window you use.
Well now your mini greenhouse is done and all you need is the perfect spot to put it… and I am sure that you won’t have a problem doing that! Put a big metal or enamel ware bucket filled with petunias in it and stand back and awe!

Gift giving can be as fun as one makes it.  We all have friends and they all have birthdays and some unfortunately even move away.  Here is a great gift idea for any occasion you want!  This gift is great for a cook or gardener.
Seed Packet Calendar Box
Supplies you will need: 1 pretty 4″x6″ or larger recipe/file box, 12 plain subject index cards to fit; Index Cards to fit your box, colored with no lines are cute; seed packs- at least 12. Optional items include cute letter and theme stickers
1. Either write or use letter stickers to put the months of the year on the index cards.
2. Buy seed packets for each month of the year.  Place the packets in the index for suitable planting times.  In colder climates where some months may be inappropriate for planting outside, include seeds that can be started indoors.  for cold climates write instructions for how to start seeds indoors.  In cold climates when even starting seed indoors would be ill advised, give a gift certificate from a local nursery or florist for an indoor flowering herb, plant or perhaps some bulbs like paperwhite or narcissus, to be planted in pots and forced for indoor blooming.
3. Consider in which month you gave herb or veggie seeds and when they would be ready to harvest; write recipes for using those herb or veggies- be sure to file in appropriate month!
4. Include fun ideas and gardening tips or even a ‘what to do this month’ list in each month.  Martha Stewart has these type of lists on her web site as well as her magazine. 
Here are a few ideas for cold climate areas to give you a head start:
*Lavender seeds would need to be started indoors in cold climates in January, give a Lavender Short Bread Cookie recipe in June when it is in full bloom.
*Peppers and Tomatoes should be started indoors by the end of February- Find a Brushetta and Stuffed Peppers recipes to add in the months of August.
*A gift certificate to any store that sells bulbs could be added in the month of September so they can be planted in October to enjoy next spring.
*A gift certificate for the month of April will give your gardener friend an opportunity to get a grape vine, raspberry or fruit tree started.
*If your friend is a gardener who has a veggie garden, give a gift certificate for the month of September to purchase a blueberry plant.
… Of course there are many other options, so just have fun with it and watch your friend smile! 
We know it’s good for us… really it is!  Some of us~ including me, just can’t get beyond the stringy sour… well here is a winner that even I like!  Give it a try!
Yummy Rhubarb Upside Down Treat

3 cup rhubarb, diced
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 – 6oz package strawberry jello
1 can pineapple rings, juice reserved
1 box yellow cake mix (18 1/2oz pkg.)

1. Layer the bottom of a slightly greased 9″x13″ baking pan with pineapple rings.
2. Combine rhubarb, sugar and jello in bowl and mix; pour over pineapple rings- set aside.
3. Prepare cake batter according to package directions substituting liquid with pineapple juice- if not enough add water to make proper amount; pour batter over mixture.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes; let cool then invert onto a cake plate to serve!

Happy Day,
Jean