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August 1, 2014

This Moment

I have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment ...

{this moment}

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see."

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July 31, 2014

Herbs










I have grown herbs in the past, but I have always used them fresh and have never attempted to dry them with much determination.  I would go as far as hanging them in pretty little bundles from the beams in my kitchen, only to leave them so long that the dust settled on them, making them unusable.  Well, this year, in my attempt to preserve everything I possibly can from my gardens, I am drying herbs with determination and purpose.  As much as I love those pretty bunches of herbs hanging artfully in my kitchen, this traditional way of drying herbs, which I do love so much, unfortunately, was not working for me.  The bunches always went to waste, so I decided to pull out my food dehydrator, and my first harvest has already resulted in two cups of freshly dried, oh-so-fragrant, oregano.  I'm waiting now for the rest of the oregano to come into blossom (I have read that is the best time to cut for drying because it will be the most favorable); in the meantime, sprigs of parsley, mint, and lemon balm are drying, hopefully ready for jars this afternoon. The lemon balm and mint will be used mostly for a calming, nighttime tea, but I recently came across this fun list of other things to do with lemon balm.  It feels so good to actually be doing something with my herbs this year and not letting them go to waste; in fact, I am already making a list of more herbs that I am going to plant next year, basil, cilantro, dill, more varieties of mint...oh, the possibilities!

July 29, 2014

Sanctuary
















I fell in love with flowers as a very young girl, tagging along with my grandmother as she worked in her flower gardens. I would lie on the grass in the shade of the phlox, finding shapes and animals in the clouds overhead, waiting for Grandma to find a worm. I collected them in my hand, for what reason I have no idea, then returned them to the garden when Grandma was finished weeding.  Grandma's garden was a sanctuary for both her and me and a fascinating sight for anyone passing by. I spent hours entertaining myself by looking into the face of each lovely blossom and studying the intricate patterns of the petals. The vivid colors, the intoxicating fragrance, even the buzzing bees created in me a fondness that grew stronger with each passing summer. My passion for flowers followed me into adulthood, and now, following in my dear grandmother's footsteps, I have created my own sanctuary, a place filled with the same scents, the same colors, the same sweet faces that I loved as a child.  Sweet Williams, roses, tiger lilies, violets, daffodils, evening primroses, and, of course, phlox were amongst my favorites in Grandma's garden, and I have all but the tiger lilies in my gardens now.  Every time I walk by the phlox I am brought back to the carefree days of my childhood, when I ran barefoot amongst the flowers and lay in the shade of that glorious hedge of purple and white phlox.  I am reminded of my Grandmother and the passion we share of what, I believe, to be one of the most wonderful gifts of summer.

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July 25, 2014

This Moment

I have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment ...

{this moment}

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see."

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July 24, 2014

July Garden



The garden is so lush right now; it has seemingly caught up after its late, slow start.  Many people are starting to say goodbye to their peas by now, but ours are just beginning.  The beans are ready for their first picking; the corn is starting to grow tassels; the cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and I found baby squash on the vines just yesterday. We enjoyed our first cucumbers the other night and are excitedly awaiting more.  The Brussels sprouts have set their babies, and the cabbages have lovely little heads. The blueberries are ripening and require daily picking, and the grapes have set an abundance of darling little clusters of grapes.  I am still holding my breath, but this year may be are very first harvest of grapes.  The area beneath my bird feeder is crowded with sunflowers that have self-seeded from the seeds that have dropped from the feeder.  I'm looking forward to the very first blossoms.

Along with enjoying the abundance of our garden, we are also battling the pests.  The weeds are growing just as fast as the vegetables, if not faster, and an army of Japanese beetles has arrived, attacking the grapes, roses and pole beans. They have figured out if they target the plants up high, they are out of reach of the guinea hens that faithfully do their job battling the bugs every day. I have been paying the Littles to hand pick the beetles, putting them into a jar of soap and water, but it seems the more we pick, the more we see. I'm also on watch for a late blight that I have heard has hit the area. My tomatoes are doing well so far, but my mom has just noticed signs of it in her plants. The spinach was doing wonderfully, in spite of the heat we have been having, and only a few plants were starting to bolt. We had been having it in salads almost every day and enjoyed one meal of it steamed. I recently went to the greens garden to collect some only to find that it was completely gone...withered up, brown, dead on the ground. I have no idea what happened.  My only thought is that it didn't like being flooded by a torrential downpour we had during a thunderstorm last week. I have always had a difficult time with spinach, I don't know why. It never really produces very well for us, and I thought that changing its location was going to be the ticket for us this year.  Not so.  I may consider planting much less next year, just enough for salads and try planting Swiss chard instead.  I remember eating Swiss chard at my grandparents long after the spinach had stopped producing and helping Grandma freeze bags and bags of it for winter use.  I think it tends to be a bit hardier in warm weather and continues to produce tender leaves through-out the season without bolting.

Oh, the flowers...they are beautiful right now too, but I must save them for another post.  I simply love this time of year when everything seems to be so lush and verdant. Yes, this is definitely my favorite time of year. I hope you are all having a wonderful summer, and I would love to hear how your garden is growing.

July 22, 2014

Sambucus canadensis L. (The American Elder)

"So repugnant to insects is the odor of the American elder that an eighteenth century gardener recommends that cabbages, turnips, etc., be whipped with young elder twigs to preserve them from insect ravages.  An infusion of elder leaves is often used to-day to keep bugs from the vines.
The clustered flowers of the elder remind one of mellow old lace. They give off a heavy, sweetish, and. to many people, a rather sickening odor...Elder flower water is much used by the confectioner...The young buds are sometimes pickled like capers...
The specific name is supposed to be derived from sambuke, an ancient musical reed instrument -- the prototype  of the crude hollow-stem elder whistle of the barefoot country boy.
The same hollow stalks of the elder play an important role in every maple-sugar camp.  Cut into appropriate lengths and inserted in the incisions of the tapped trees, they serve to conduct the rising sap into the waiting pail or sugar trough.
Other crops may fail, but this plant always produces a full harvest, never yielding to the caprices of the season, be it wet or dry, hot or cold."      ~The Book of Wild Flowers, 1924~





After being so inspired by my favorite British blogger and their elderberry cordials (here and here), I have become obsessed with finding elder bushes in order to harvest the flowers.  I spotted a few bushes in my travels, and last week I harvested enough blossoms to make my very first batch of elderberry cordial. I felt like a little kid that had just come home from the candy store with a bag full of treats. Making sure I had identified the flowers correctly, I pulled out one of my new favorite books, recently acquired from a library sale, Book of Wild Flowers, put together by the National Geographic Society in 1924.  I read the portion written about the American Elder and found it interesting and quite entertaining. I was aware of the medicinal properties of the berries and have made elderberry syrup in the past to help with cold and flu season, but I had not known that the older branches were hollow and used in early maple sugaring, nor that the plants were used by gardeners to ward off harmful insects. I was very  happy to learn of the other uses of this bush, and Hubby and I are already making plans for planting our own hedge of elderberry bushes next spring, ideally somewhere close to the gardens so as to preserve them from insect ravages.
I have since found more bushes in bloom and have plans of making another batch of cordial, hoping to return later in the year to pick the berries.  Many thanks to our British friends for introducing me to the lovely elderberry bush and the delightful cordial made from its blossoms.

July 18, 2014

This Moment

I have been inspired by SouleMama to take a moment ...

{this moment}

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see."

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