Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cooler Weather, Prettier Flowers!

The last two weeks have brought us temperatures in the high 80's and low 90's. This week has been a little warmer. .but, as always. .I am amazed at the flower rally that goes on in the late summer garden. .
anyone up for a little garden tour??
This Mexican sunflower was the ONLY seedling out of the whole packet sowed in the memory garden. When I read that germination takes up to 3 weeks, I was already pretty sure that I would NEVER be able to keep a constant moisture to it until they germintated. I was right. .but amazingly. .this one sprouted. .and grew. .and is now one of the most vivid orange colors I have seen. .there is almost a blue undertone to it, and I am TOTALLY in love. .It is supposed to be a good self seeder. .so fingers are crossed!
I have never had good luck with moon flowers. .EVER!
But my good friend Gardener on Sherlock Street shared some seeds with me. .and I tried them for the last time. I kept the spots in the memory garden FAITHFULLY moist. .and nothing!! Until. .one day I noticed a little sprout. .and then 2 little sprouts. .and even a new little sprout just a month ago in a different spot. They must be slow. .but when they DO come alive. .they are stunning.
You can see to the right how large those 2 plants got!! Devin was pretty cute the other morning. We were walking outside to feed the cats and his eyes got HUGE when he spotted the big white flowers. "I swear, those plants were dead yesterday. .I mean, REALLY dead. .how did THAT happen!!" I laughed and told him that they only bloom at night and in the early morning and then they close for the day. .I could tell by his expression that he couldn't even believe that was possible. .but he was impressed!! The purplish plant is a little Russian sage bush that self seeded from my Russian garden. .It likes this spot!
Here's a better picture of the sage in the background, and you can see how well the memory garden is coming along!
The morning glories in the memory garden are finally looking happy!! The blooms haven't been many, and you really have to be up close to notice the purple streaks of this tie dye variety.
These purple ones surprised me. .I didn't realize how much they had grown. .or that they were blooming. The Grandpa Otts variety is my all time fave!! The gardens have been pretty much on Auto-pilot. .so the new blooms were exciting to see!
This purple sedum was a new purchase this year for the little raised rock bed. It is blooming. .The yellow arborivite bit the dust. .not sure if it was too dry or too moist. .It is an arid plant, but I watered him well to make sure he got established. .He didn't!! You win some, and you lose some! The coleus behind it is doing well. .my best experience with coleus ever!
The salvia that GonSS shared with me is STILL blooming it's head off. .with no help from me. I haven't deadheaded or babied it at all. .my kind of plant!
The God-planted melons are continuing to grow and thrive. .and we look forward to eating them soon. I think this must be the black diamond variety, based on the color of its rind. .dark green with no striping!
Here's a larger view of the memory garden. Not the best. .but good enough to show that there is hope. The moonflowers are visible in the background right in front of the distant red chicken coop. The huge patch of Bermuda grass will need to be treated to remove it. .As I said, unfortunately, due to our schedule. .the gardens have been on autopilot for too long. .In fact, mostly for the last 7 weeks, since I pulled something in my back by pulling ONE weed early in the morning before my walk. I think, as of this week, it is finally on the mend!
Speaking of the chicken house. .here's our lovely. .but very opinionated big red rooster. .we have 3 hens left. .after the coon attacks a month ago. .and are due to get some more layers from a friend next week!
And one more view. .The Blue Atlas Cedar (AKA Charlie Brown Christmas tree) in the left is doing very well in this spot. .and I have been tickled with the way it has changed the landscape!! The blue junipers in the back by the moonflower are growing well too. .They will be tall and slender, lending some nice structure to the garden!
Moving over toward the pond, the caryopteris (the purple branch in the lower right) has rebloomed more vibrantly with the cooler temps. The Mexican hats (small reddish blooms) readily self-seeded this year and are still gorgeous. .they could use a haircut for sure, but the gardener has neglected to do so!
Self sown sunflowers and the purple fountain grass make a nice contrast from my front window.
The black eyed susans are finally big and happy looking. .They have such cheery little faces. .and the birds will just love them soon too.
In the same corner garden, the butterfly bushes are thriving too. They have grown well, but the heat stunts their beauty. .they should be a good show until frost.
I'm pretty excited about this little guy. .it is a native yellow coneflower that I started from seed. They germinated well, and I planted about 6 small starts. I was not expecting it to bloom this season. .but he thinks otherwise. .I'll keep you posted!
The purple sweet potato vine starts that I kept in my greenhouse all winter from snippets taken from my mom's garden last year grew well. .and the rubber tree in the corner planter has made a complete recovery this summer in this location. I have kept alive about 3 leaves for the last 10 years. .it would never really grow, nor would it give it up. .and I just couldn't throw it out. It is a stunning little specimen now. .and I can't wait to move it back inside for the winter soon and enjoy it's color up close.
I got some tomatoes, peppers, chives, green onions, greenhouse cukes and some squash germinated for the greenhouse. They are screaming to be moved to bigger cells. .but the time is lacking, maybe the first of next week! I hope I can get it done before they keel over.
On a sad note, the three small crabapple trees I planted in the spring are all dead. They have looked great all summer. After I got back from vacation I noticed the trunks having a dark color, not the normal red that they were. I googled it and felt it was probably an incurable fungus. .and they were all dead within the week. Sniff, sniff!!
On a happier note though, my maple tree that was showing damage from the mole, is now putting out lots of new green growth. .Score!!
Hard to believe that this is the last major weekend of summer. .
Hoping you all have a safe and blessed Labor Day Weekend!
See ya next week. .
God willing!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Deviation from the Plan

It was time for our annual Lake Weekend. .
We usually go south to a large lake in northern Oklahoma. .
but, to make sure we weren't missing out on anything. .
we deviated from our normal path and went north. .to northern Kansas. .
to spend the weekend at Wilson Lake instead.
It was a loooooong way. .
taking us nearly 4 hours by the time we stopped to eat lunch and get the rest of our supplies. .
It was enough car time to develop a profound need to move around. .
in whatever form that took on. .
It was cool and cloudy when we got there Friday. .and breezy, making it seem cooler than it was. So, after getting our camp set up, relaxing in a big camp chair seemed to be the thing to do!
We were glad for a nice paved road for Devin and Cami's scooters. .
but the big bonus was the hill angling down toward our camp. .
that just screamed at everyone. .kids and adults alike. .to try and take it on!
The temperatures couldn't have been better for sitting around enjoying friends and nature. .but they weren't really good for watersports. .although most of the crew engaged in waterplay anyway! Not this old woman. .I deemed it WAY too cold. .besides. .the majority of the weekend was spent with my sweatshirt on. .and there is just something wrong about putting a lifejacket on OVER a sweatshirt. .am I right?
It was cloudy and cool Friday. .rained Friday night. .
remained rainy and cool ALL day Saturday. .
AND Sunday morning. .until late morning Sunday. .
then the sun finally appeared and it got WARM. .
just in time for the folks with kiddos to start the long trip home.
Saturday afternoon between the sprinkles, Jeremy took us on a little boat trip around the gorgeous lake. There are phenomenal outcrops of rock around the perimeter, and into the bordering pasture land.
The land is quite hilly there. .and dry. .so we were glad that they received some much needed rain while we were there! There was so much pasture land that appeared untouched and uninhabited. .not at all like a crazy busy camping place. .
The lake was quiet. .and that was a charming feature.
we weren't sure if the quietness caused by lack of campers was because school has started most places. .
or whether it was the rainy forecast. .
or if it is just a quiet place all of the time. .
but we enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere immensely.
As always. .we had GREAT food!!
But the biggest bummer of the trip resulted in a road trip to a neighboring town to buy a gas grill after our charcoal cooking got us busted. We KNEW there was a burn ban and that no campfires would be allowed. We did NOT know that charcoal was also NOT allowable there. .and at 11:15 (when our coals were half done and we had 15 mouths that would be ready to inhale food shortly) we were requested to pour water over the non-flaming embers before the food had even STARTED to cook. .and as the reality of HOW to feed the troops set in. .so did the panic!! The fact that everything was still wet from the rain, and cold from the moist wind was even more aggravating at that point! Lane and I made the trip to Russell to ALCO, a small department store, for a backup plan.
This was NOT the face I was making when we got back to camp Saturday. .
in fact. .I was still so livid. .
that immediately after returning to camp, I left and took a very brisk walk on one of the trails to reconnect with God and get my attitude corrected.
By the time we got back from Russell over an hour later. .The others had made it back from skiing. .restarted the coals in a dutch oven (so they would be covered while they smoldered) and resumed the process of making D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S dutch oven pizzas. And for the rest of the weekend, we cooked on our new little, rickety gas grill. .Not an easy feat when feeding that many people!
While some of the crew played in the water. .others of us sat, visited, read, napped, and played on the shore! I finished the book I was reading. .Courageous. .an excellent fiction story!! And Cami made some new friends on Sunday. .from across the state. .that happened to know some of Jeremy's extended family!! A small world or WHAT???
It is always a lot of work to load up. .
and even more work to UNLOAD. .wash. .and repack our tubs to be ready for the next trip!!
But it is worth it to enjoy a weekend reconnecting with friends, family, nature, and simplistic living!
Before I go, I wanted to share a new combo that we came up with this weekend for dessert! A couple years ago, I shared how to make a dutch oven cobbler. .here's a link to the specifics to follow for the recipe. This can also be made in a large baking dish and baked in the oven, though I have never tried that, so I can't give you cook times. .but in a dutch oven that bakes LIKE an oven, it takes around 30 minutes. Bake the recipe in the link above. .using strawberry cake mix, 2 cans of strawberry pie filling and a Mountain Dew poured over the top. .DELISH!
So, Bye for now. .
Hope you enjoyed the excursion via photo!!
Blessings for you week. .
and thanks for stopping in!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Frozen Banana Pops

Monday I enjoyed the first. .
afternoon all to myself than I can remember for a long time.
I was home. .no clinics. .
and since Cami has started preschool every afternoon. .
I was ALL ALONE. .
with promises of many more of those occurences to come.
Oh, all the things I could do in 5 uninterrupted hours!!
I'm sure you are dying to know what I chose. .
cleaning. .and cooking goodies for the ones I love. .
a phone call to my mama. .and some more cleaning. .
And ya know what??
Those 5 hours magically disappeared in a snap. .
But. .I tried out a little snackie that I have been intending to fix for quite a while!
And, with school starting for nearly everyone. .I wanted to share it. .
cause it was SOOOOO easy!! And your hungry troops are bound to love them too!
I've never eaten frozen banana pops. .
but I thought they sounded delicious. .
And they were!
I bought some bananas that were already ripe, even starting to get the small dark spots (at which point, I won't eat them because they are too ripe for my green-banana-loving palate) and cut them in half. I inserted a coffee stir in the end. .but only because I didn't have any popsicle sticks. .
which would have been MUCH handier!!
Beggars can't be choosers though, can they!
Freeze them on a foil for about 15-30 minutes.
Take them out and dip 'em in chocolate. .sprinkle with whatever toppings you like. .I used ice cream sprinkles and toasted nut topping (from the can :-) as well as coconut. .Put them back into the freezer for several hours. .
The troops L-O-V-E-D them. .
and so will you!
And they are healthy. .especially if you use that great dark chocolate that is full of antioxidents!!
One more day until the weekend!

Frozen Banana Pops
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup chocolate chips (we used dark)
1 tsp oil
toppings of your choice

Cut the bananas in half and insert a popsicle stick into the cut end. lay them flat on a cookie sheet topped with foil or parchment paper. Freeze for 15 minutes. Melt the chocolate with the oil in a shallow container. Dip the partially frozen bananas in the chocolate, spooning it over to coat if needed. Sprinkle toppings on quickly if using, because within 20 seconds the chocolate will be firming. Return pops to the freezer. May store in an airtight container for up to a week. .if they last that long!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Peach Season Ya'll!!

Well. .we are on our second full week of school.
Everyone survived the two a day football practices, getting back into homework routines, and attempts to be in bed at decent hours!! And by the time I got through 3 clinics, a 2 hour each-way trip to Cami's pediatric dentist for another filling with pulpotomy, and a 1 hour each-way trip to the eye doctor spending the rest of the day in the DMV office there getting Grant's license. .We were ALL ready for the weekend!
BUT. .
while getting fuel Friday morning before the eye appointments. .
we noticed the big Colorado peach truck parked across from the fuel station!
YES!! Two big boxes of peaches from our favorite grower!
They were as good as they looked. .and we are filling up on our favorite peach recipes! Like
peach crisp, butterscotch peach pie courtesy of  my friend Bonnie at What about Pie?. .
and pretty peach freezer jam!
The rest of the weekend news is as follows. .
Cami was SO excited to have a little homework for her preschool class!! They are studying the letter M this week, and had a poster to complete "All About ME." We covered the carpet with scrapbook papers and stickers, pens, scissors, and photos too!!
And she was SOO proud of it all fancy and stickered and glittered up! She had a HARD time deciding what her favorite color is. .but opted for Pink!! Her favorite book is Pinkalicious. .thanks Aunt Tina! and her favorite food is Hot Gogs (dogs) and mac and cheese!!
While we were working on that, the boys were playing cops and robbers with the gun collection!
Kelsey brought his little metal targets, coupled with the targets our guys have. .
They kept score and had a little friendly competition!!
I will NEVER understand the love that boys have for these kind of toys. .
But. .if they aren't careful. .
this little girl will be right there with them!! She was loving every second of that! Who would have thought. .a dress, feathers in her hair and a pellet gun!
The boys are all becoming excellent marksmen like their dad!! And it is a de-stressing hobby for them.
I never see this view of my house as seen from across the pasture to the east. .I was tickled with the appearance of the red door, and how my memory garden and cedar fence (barely visible behind the white pipe fence of the cattle pens) has changed the view! I am anxiously hoping and waiting to change that bedroom window on the far right. .to a double door leading to a small, private sunroom, which will square up the house a little. I have recently visualized a small patio coming off of the sunroom with a cedar arbor/pergola for some vining plants to climb, framing in the new room. .creating a little courtyard if you will, where I can sit and gaze into the memory garden. .and hopefully have a smaller garden within the courtyard that the afternoon heat won't burn up and the wind won't destroy!! I've contemplated the idea for years. .but after Kelsey came and assessed the project thoughts a while back. .I have been planning the details in my mind and on pinterest for over 6 months now. I am amazed at how slowly the details come. .but with each revelation of what it could be, I get a little more excited! I don't look for any construction to begin for a long while yet, but I'm not in a hurry. .because the longer I have to plan it. .the more satisfied I will probably be in the end!
So. .back to the work week realities. .
I thought I would share this super easy freezer jam recipe with ya'll. .
since peaches are seemingly abundant everywhere right now. .
No special equipment needed here. .
and it will take you an hour at the max to fix up some luscious jam for your families. .
you won't regret your decision to do so next February when you are slathering it on those homemade biscuits you made to go with your steaming bowl of soup!!
Have a great week!

Pretty Peach Jam
8 medium peaches, cut into wedges
1 small orange, cut into wedges (leave the peel on)
16-20 oz crushed pineapple, undrained
12 maraschino cherries
3 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
2 pkgs powdered fruit pectin
10 cups sugar

In a blender, cover and process fruits and cherry juice in batches until smooth.  Transfer to large kettle, stir in pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Add sugar, boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into jars or freezer containers.  Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Cover and let stand overnight or until set (no longer than 24 hours) Refrigerate or freeze.