Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seeds For Christmas

Christmas came early to this gardener

Christmas came early in my mailbox this year along with proof of that old saying, "You can't win if you don't play".  Oh but this post is not about my winning, but to say thanks to my friend, author Renea Winchester for hosting the drawing for the gift certificate on her blog, "Bloggin' Billy's" and to let you all know about the company it's for, Botanical Interests high quality seeds.

I have been using their seeds for several years and have had great success with them.  They have signed the "Safe Seed Pledge"  so they sell non-GMO seeds which is important to so many of us and the future of our food.  And besides that, I love their commitment to teach and inspire and all the info they have included on the packets which are quite pretty too by the way.  They carry a nice variety of heirloom and organic seeds, some American native varieties and other products for gardeners as well.   So be sure to poke around the entire site, I bet you'll find something you can't live without...or at least cannot resist.

While you are at it check out Renea's blog too.  It is a wonderful and inspiring blog with lots of great information on gardening and more.  I'll just leave it at that as it's time I go spend that certificate before it burns a hole in my garden glove.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, December 14, 2012

There Is No Making Sense of Violence

This was a difficult day.
My mind trying to make sense of violence
Violence that makes no sense
My heart bruised from Tuesday's shooting in my town,
Shoppers in Clackamas Town Center, friends, family, neighbors gunned down in cold blood...
Our community rocked...it made no sense
Violence never does

Today's violence eclipses even the fresh emotions of Tuesday's tragedy here.
So many dead, so many children dead,
So many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers suddenly, violently robbed of hugging their loved one again. 
This was a most difficult day.

Those shot are all strangers to me
Yet it is as if they are all my family
As my heart wraps itself up in mourning for the loss of ones loved
As I see the shattered heart on the face of the mother screaming in pain into her cell phone...
The children..a sister with a comforting hand on the shoulder of her frightened younger brother

I sit alone in my living room and cannot stop thinking of their pain
And wanting it to make sense, praying God will make it make sense
So it won't hurt so bad!
The loss, the horror, the torn lives
This is a most difficult day...
Because there is no making sense of violence.

This morning after my husband left for work and I had eaten my breakfast I opened up my laptop to Facebook and was greeted with horrific news. It was 7am Pacific Standard Time. It is now 4pm and I found it nearly impossible to leave this place of deep sorrow for the sudden and violent loss of loved ones those Newton Connecticut are feeling today.  I am sure others of you may be feeling much the same as I am, but my grief has been magnified by the violent taking of lives earlier this week in my town of Portland Oregon at the Clackamas Town Center shooting.  It made this a most difficult day. 

I am a person who is strongly empathetic and these events have left me unable to set it aside so much of the day has been filled with prayer for it is all I know to do when my heart is so burdened and I understand so little.  I know God saw everything and for reasons known only to Himself He allowed this horrific violence to occur.  I do not understand...God knows this.  Many will ask how a loving God could allow such a thing to happen.  I do not have the answer.

Bad things, really bad things happen to good people and have from the beginning of time.  I can only pray that some good, actually I am praying for some great good to be born out of the horrific events of this week in our nation.  I pray that bitterness won't win in the hearts of those who have lost loved ones.  I pray that we will not turn to anger ourselves to try and solve what we believe to be the problem in our society that brought these things about.  We don't understand, maybe we will never understand why either of these young men took to deadly force to satisfy the completely selfish evil desire that was inside of them.  I pray we might rise above arguments that pit one against another until we all want to vomit from hearing so much of it from our friends, neighbors and strangers.  I pray that somehow God will bring wisdom to our leaders that will provide better safety for all of us...but most of all I pray for God to change hearts. 

Today was a most difficult day, I pray that tomorrow will bring hope and healing and comfort to those who need it most.

For the people of Newton Connecticut and surrounding communities and the people here in my city affected by unthinkable tragedy, you are in my thoughts and prayers.  May God have mercy.

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks

All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Memories of Mom and Honey Bread Careen

Honey Bread Careen Cinnamon Loaf

This time of year evokes so many memories around food and all of us have them no matter how simple or elegant our celebrations were and are today.  This year I decided it was about time to pass along one of these traditional foods I love to my son and granddaughters, Honey Bread Careen.

During the holidays my mom would bake up a huge batch Honey Bread Careen dinner rolls and at least one pan full of sticky buns.  They were so delicious we all had at least two dinner rolls if not more for dinner.   They were soft and little sweet, made even more irresistible with a pat of butter that would melt into the warm bread and honey drizzled on top.

Cinnamon bread toast and eggs for busy mornings

When I mixed up the batch for today's Thanksgiving dinner it made such a huge amount it gave me opportunity to make the rolls and two large loaves of cinnamon bread, one for us and one to gift my son and his family with.  The cinnamon loaf makes the most wonderful toast in the world, perfect for the busy holiday season.  And now that I have you all drooling I suppose I better get busy and share the recipe.

Bake at 400F ten minutes, then 350F for twenty minutes
5 cups water (divided)
3 cakes yeast
1 tsp sugar
1.25 cups powdered milk
1.25 cups peanut oil
1.25 cups raw honey
2 Tbsp kosher salt
15 cups all purpose flour
Additional flour for dusting work surface and to add to dough as needed

Heat 3/4 cup water to between 100 and 110 degrees F, add yeast and sugar and stir to dissolve.  Let rest for about 5 minutes until yeast mixture nears double in size. 
NOTE:If the water is over 110F it will kill the yeast and if under 100F the yeast will not activate properly so temperature is key.

In a very large bowl dump the remaining 4.25 cups water (I used 90F water to speed things up a bit), powdered milk, honey, peanut oil (also warmed a bit) and salt, stirring well to blend.  Next stir in the yeast mixture and then add the flour.  I added the flour 5 cups at a time, mixing as I went which seems to work best.  Once the last 5 cups are in you'll need to get both hands in there and start working the dough to incorporate it well.  This is a lot of dough and will take some strength.

Once everything is incorporated sprinkle your work surface with some flour, place the dough on it, sprinkle a bit more flour on top of the dough and begin kneading it.  The added flour keeps the dough from sticking to things too much.  Reapply flour as needed during the kneading process.  I think I used between 1/2 and 1 full cup extra flour for dusting.  The kneading takes some muscle due to the weight and volume of the dough so be prepared. 

As you begin to knead the dough it will stick to your hands some until enough flour has been worked into the dough.   Keep kneading it for 10 to 15 minutes.  You will feel the dough will become less lumpy feeling and more silky when the kneading is near done.

Grandma, what a big bowl you have!

Place the kneaded dough in a very large clean bowl that has been oiled so the dough won't stick to the side.  (I just washed and used the bowl I mixed everything up in.)  Lightly oil some plastic wrap and place it over top and drape with a towel.  Place the bowl in a warm spot (not hot) or over a large container of very warm water.  I used my Dutch oven with very warm tap water.  Let the dough raise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.  Punch it down and repeat.  Now you can shape into rolls of loaves, let raise to double in size and bake.  I also should note here that you can keep this dough refrigerated for a week.  It takes longer to rise that final time before baking but all good things are worth the waiting for.

The dough, doubled and silky to the touch

A note here...I find preheating the oven for 30 minutes really does help breads to bake best.  The rolls took the recommended amount of time the recipe above states.  I did have to cover them with foil for the last 10 minutes to avoid the tops getting too brown.

Eighteen large dinner rolls

I made the rolls in disposable aluminum casserole pans which work really great for heating them up in the oven the next day like we are having to do.  Make the dough balls about the size of a small apple and leave space between each row.  A 9x13 baking pan would work well for the rolls.

Cinnamon bread loaves are rolled with ends folded under

The remainder of the dough I worked into a flat, semi regular rectangle shape about 1/2" thick.  Sprinkled a healthy amount of cinnamon and about 1/2 cup of sugar and melted 1/2 cup of butter which I drizzled over top and spread around with my hands like a 5 year old...FUN!   Next I carefully rolled it up, cut the roll in half and transferred the loaves onto a sprayed backing sheet, folded the ends under and left them to rise beneath the oiled plastic wrap I had used previously on the dough bowl.  They were ready to go in the oven by the time the rolls were finished baking.

Bake the bread at 400 for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350F to finish baking.  You will need to cover the top of the loaves with foil about 20 minutes into the baking time to keep them from getting too dark so have some ready.  This bread took about 20 minutes longer at 350F to finish baking.

So there you have it.  A family tradition that I hope will bless your family too. 
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone.  And may God bless you as you gather, be it with family, friends or with strangers.

Final note...I am sharing this recipe in remembrance of my mother, Betty Fitch, who died suddenly at the age of 58, thirty one years ago.  She was the kindest, most patient woman I know and a beautiful Christian woman who taught me by how she lived, how to hold fast to God in life, no matter what the circumstances.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)

European Wool Carder Bee is now here in Oregon

Let me introduce you to the European Wool Carder Bee AKA Anthidium manicatum.  This little guy (that is a male in the photo) gets it's name from gathering hairs from leaves, particularly Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) that it uses to line it's nest with.  Related to the Mason Bee, this leaf cutter bee seems to have found a good home here in my Portland Oregon garden and elsewhere in the United States and Canada.  Other than being rather protective of its foraging area and the leaf cutting habit that helps it build it's nest, it seems it is not a huge pest so I can relax.  (I have been a little on edge about new insects lately after the battle I've been fighting with Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs the past couple of years.)

Our world is much smaller place these days and insects are finding it easier than ever to stow away to other parts of the world.  Hey, migration happens!  My rule of thumb is to not get too excited when I spot an unidentified insect species and avoid become an insectaphobe.  Here is what I recommend you do should you have an insect show up that seems out of place in your garden:

TAKE CLEAR PHOTOS - You may need these to send to the experts or to refer to yourself.  It is nearly impossible to ID something from a fuzzy photograph so the sharper the picture the better

NOTE APPROXIMATE SIZE, COLOR AND MARKINGS - be sure to include exoskeleton and what the wings (if present), legs, head, abdomen and thorax look like with lengths if you can get them.  Also mouthparts etc., as this information helps when the identifying gets tough.   But again...that sharp photo is priceless for someone else looking at what you have found.  (I use the macro setting on my ancient Sony Mavica camera to get the shots I do.)

- Aggressive or gentle behavior, plants it is feeding on, movement patterns (slow or flitting), did you find it hatching from eggs (get a photo of those please) or did it just emerge from the ground or a whole in a tree...all of this helps.  In the case of my bee here it's aggressiveness was a dead giveaway to helping ID it.  It not only let the honey bees know those plants were its foraging territory but let me know as well.  That comes in handy to know when children are around so they can be taught to respect these bees and avoid possible stings.

- I use Google Images, BugGuide.net, Wikipedia and my local county extension office and find them to be some of the best resources in identifying insects I know.  I rarely ask friends online and when I do am always searching myself in the background.

ASK THE EXPERTS - Reporting unusual insects in the garden is always a must before coming to a final conclusion on what the insect is, especially if you believe it is a trouble maker.  There are millions of insects in the world and some are really difficult to discern between but have very different lifestyles in the garden.  Less than one percent of them do real damage by the way.  However, an insect that is native to a different region can be devastating when it migrates to a new region where it is not in danger of being eaten by something or weather does not keep down the numbers.  Though it is an invasive species, I don't think this Wool Carder Bee is one of those that will cause real damage and am glad I now know who it is and that I don't have to be worried about it too much.

So there you have it.  Have fun looking for insects and happy gardening!

P.S.  I noticed while editing this post that there is another bug on the leaf this bee is sitting on.  Can you see it?  Do you know what it is?  (I already know but am interested to see if you can find out too.)

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fire In The Hole! Potting Soil Flammability Test

Can it really start a fire in a dry plant pot?

It's summer and fire season, a time when most of us are watching for dry brush, trees and grasses that might pose a hazard around our homes and businesses.   But there is something else flammable that we might have not even considered...potting soil, dry crusty potting soil.

Dry potting soil is not easily re-hydrated and floats on water

Who would have thought such a thing possible, I mean the whole fire issue seems so far removed from growing plants in containers that why would it cross our minds?  But it is true...potting soil is flammable, actually very flammable when dry.

I got to thinking about this a couple weeks ago as I was listening to a local news story on bark mulch fires being a real problem in our area, the fellow they were interviewing showed how these types of fires often migrate up through the soil to the base of a home and can end up causing the structure to catch fire.  Now I have seen first hand a bark mulch fire caused by someone's carelessly discarded cigarette butt, and how it was migrating up toward a building just as the expert had shown.  That is what got me going on dry potting soil possibly being a danger as well since it is mostly organic matter like bark which burns readily and how we NEVER hear about it.

Then today another blogger sort of beat me to the punch when he blogged about a reported an incident of a fire that destroyed a dozen apartments where a 56 year old man lost his life and that fire began in someone's planter.   Shocking I know but it's true.  And in case you are wondering, no, dry potting soil does not self ignite, it needs a spark to set it to smoldering before it becomes a fire hazard.

With that said I got all fired up (pun intended) and decided to do a little experiment of my own just to see for myself how flammable this stuff really is and hopefully have something to show you too.  So here goes!

Safety first...water to put out the fire

I placed a handful of dry potting soil in a cast iron skillet.  Since I don't have lit cigarette butts at my disposal I used a lighter which took only a few seconds to make the potting soil smolder.

Potting soil smoldering with a little glowing spark

It is important to note that it does not matter which brand of potting soil you have, they are all equally flammable.

Five minutes into the test this is how much burned

If there would have been a good breeze blowing my little pile would have actually flamed up into a real fire. Unfortunately we had no breeze so I was stuck blowing on the smoking pile of potting soil and this is what I got.

Oh woopie

The flammability of potting soils is due to the nature of the material potting soil is made up of...and all recipes are pretty much the same with each company adding their own variations to the basic mix. These products are really not soil at all and in the industry are called "soil-less mixes".  In fact potting soil is mostly peat, bark (cedar which is very flammable when dry) and perlite.

After fifteen minutes, one third or more is burnt up

Companies also often add bits of other ingredients to make each  recipe uniquely their own but the main ingredients...bark and peat or coconut coir (husk) are always present and all are always quite flammable when dry.

So what is the take away from all this?  Two things....FIRST: Keep those containers moist so they will not be able to catch fire.  (This second one is like spitting in the wind to me because those who do it just don't seem to get how dangerous it is or if the do they just don't care.)

One of many I find at the sidewalk in front of our house
SECOND: Stop putting cigarette butts where they do not belong folks!  If wishes were fishes as my momma used to say...and I sure wish there was a way to stop people from doing this but smokers, not all but some, just don't seem to get it that those butts are dangerous.

Oh well...
Need more proof?  Here is a video showing just how fast it can happen.

Safe gardening everyone and keep those hoses handy!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tomatoes Have Worms?; Or What I Discovered Was Eating My Tomatoes

Who is that eating MY tomato?
Garden fresh tomatoes, we all wait with great anticipation for these luscious gems of the summer garden. We love them so much that when something spoils them we cry with the heart of a five year old “He stole my candy!”  At least that's what I did last night.

The spot that made me shudder with disgust.

There it was all red and luscious looking just calling my name.  But when I went to pluck it from the vine my finger landed on something that was just not right…a large soft spot.  EEEWWW!  “That’s not supposed to be there!  That was when I went into panic mode  “WHAT?  No, no, no…not my tomato!”  Next came disgust and that sinking disheartening feeling of being stripped of enjoying the fruits of my labor.  “What is it this time? Please God, not another new invader, some strange disease!”  I went into praying it wasn’t true mode.
That explains the soft rotten spot...there is an invader afoot!

I took the fruit inside to do my geek thing, dissecting it to see if I could find was going on.  Investigative research is important in fighting battles in the garden as we cannot fight our enemy with any hope of winning until we know who or what the enemy is.

Early pupal stage of the tomato fruitworm.

My research unveiled something I had never seen before.  I didn’t even know tomatoes had things like this.  The pest from what I can tell is Tomato Fruitworm, Helicoverpa zea, which by the way is the same pest as the cotton bollworm and corn earworm, an insidious little moth larvae that can be a real troublemaker if left undetected.  I am not looking forward to another battle but here we go again.

At first I was Googling tomatoes that eat worms to get some idea of what I was dealing with but had to stop.  The pictures were really creeped me out.  Maybe it was just too much to see worms eating garden fresh tomatoes but my stomach started feeling all icky.  By the time it got too uncomfortable to continue I had want I needed and knew I had my enemy by the tail.  I could plan my defense and get into the battlefield and hopefully save some of my tomatoes from this pest. And I will be watching and waiting for them next year now too.  The jigs up, these nasty little worms won’t stand a chance in my garden.

The information here at UCDavis on tomato fruitworm great for starters.  They include life cycle info, a list mechanical ways to control it from physically destroying eggs and monitoring plants, pheromone traps, preditory insects (our garden soldiers), and at the bottom of the page is a list of pesticides that may be used to control this pest..  If you should choose to use pesticides please contact your County Extension Office, Master Gardeners for what is listed for use in your area just to be safe and within the laws of your state.

I hope this helps if you have found a little worm ruining your garden plans.  Here's to winning the battle and future successes in your garden!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What I Discovered At Viscaya: Social Plant Addiction

Stepped out of my car and into delight....

Do you live close to a nursery?  Do you just go to walk around and chill?  Have you ever considered that you may be addicted to plants?  Why do I ask that?  Because I love to go chill at the nursery.  For me it takes me to my "zone" where the rest of the world is allowed to evaporate for a while.  But I don't just do this sort of thing by myself all the time, I am probably more of a social plant addict myself, people are a big part of why I enjoy gardening so much.  Sort of like a social drinker only instead of the booze it's plants I share in the company of others.  Just ask my friend William if I'm right.  He is owner of Viscaya, a great little nursery near my home that I go visit probably once a week at least.

Yummy...I must get one for my garden too!

William and I seem to share this common bond of being social plant addicts.  Not just regular plant addicts but those who seem to enjoy sharing about what we love publicly.  He is even lucky enough to be a host of a garden show, Garden Time, that is broadcast locally here on television.  So he is sharing on a level I can only dream of and drool over.  (Oh dear, I think I may be a little jealous.)

Like all plant addicts we use Latin nomenclature more than common names, comment on plant anomalies as if it was a yummy dessert, swoon over the latest new thing, gushing as we share any new discoveries and enjoy trying to figure out plant related puzzles that we come across and often are asking questions about issues with plants we are growing. 

The human quotient is as large if not larger in our addiction though.  We could never be solitary plant addicts like some gardeners I have heard of. People make it even more fun for us.  We laugh about ourselves often too.  If we ever stop being able to laugh at ourselves please plan an intervention, we will be needing one.  But we laugh mostly because it is who we are and besides...being a social plant addict can be quite entertaining.  What a great way to have good time.  So how about you?  Social or solitary?

Speaking of laughing, today it was my turn to make William laugh.  But I want to take to peek at the nursery first. I'll you what made him laugh in a minute.  (See, I really am pathetically addicted.)

This is so unfair.  It's too gorgeous I want it all!
Chocolate cosmos and those leaves...fabulous!
What could be more perfect than a garden with a nursery sprinkled along the pathways?  Delightful and very approachable is what I have decided it is.  It is a very friendly place with spots to sit in the shade and even a table to sit at too.  In spite of the number of times I have visited Viscaya I always manage to come away inspired, either by new plants, new garden art ideas or by a lively conversation with William and his mom Roberta.  She's a peach too by the way and as friendly as the day is long.

Sweet nest and things hanging about.

Fountains and creative art pieces seem to be around every corner. Many William has created in homage to his heritage and others are just plain fun, but all of them are great examples of things we could replicate for our own gardens and that is something I really appreciate about his place.  The whole place is just friendly...just like William is.

Dicentra scandens in the serenity of the shade

With that being said I want to say William has become one of my favorite people and his momma Roberta is becoming a good friend too.  The thing I love most is that they really are my neighbors and though having Viscaya so close to my home may not be such a good thing for my pocket book, it is a great thing for my garden and our community which needs good friendly businesses like Viscaya to help infuse our area with new life.  But enough about all that...you have got to see what I spotted along the drive in.  You drive right past it so I lets going back along the driveway to see what's there. You'll miss some things around here if you don't look at what is at your feet too.

Velvety Stachys (Lamb's Ear) and Euphorbia
A beautiful pairing of textures

Like I need more inspiring me to buy plants, here at my feet was this Stachys and Euphorbia that made me coo.  I think I should take a video camera along sometime...I have no pride when it comes to adoring plants.  Oh just like when I spotted this pillar planter William put together.  I mean isn't it fabulous?!  This one is going on my list to reproduce for my garden.  Oh and like the planter below...I didn't even see it until I was walking back in from the driveway, walked right by it on the way out too.  See what I mean.

I absolutely love this one and see how simple!

Now back to that story I was going to tell you.  I was checking out the brick pillar planters that flank the entrance to one area just off the parking lot and saw these big fat luscious Nasturtium seeds and was considering making a snack of some of them. William had been doing some edging and stopped to answer a question I had about something.

Nice seeds ya got there!

"Nice Nasturtium seeds you got there." I say.  He burst out laughing, doubling over, and I almost blushed in my confusion.  I think I said something like, "What's so funny." and when he finally caught his breath and he explained through his laughter that my statement reminded him of how an addict sounds when they are talking about crack and isn't that funny how my comment sounded like that.  Really, it's that obvious? Well at least it's a delightful addiction, that's all I can say.

Unusual and beautiful Monk's Hood Vine (Aconite)

If  you are ever in Portland I recommend you take the time to pop in to visit Viscay and meet William and his momma and prepare to be tempted by the plants.  You may even get in a good laugh.

Happy Gardening!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unexpected Beauty In Letting Go

Hollyhocks, self sown, are among my favorites this year.
They help welcome everyone to the garden.

I have been looking out my window at the summer flowers in my garden and thinking about how much I have enjoyed them this year.  This is in spite of the fact that most of them were planted where they are without any help from me and grow in places I would have never wanted to plant them.

The wanderers
Jacob Cline Monarda and Cooley's Hedge Nettle

Between the mole moving bits of roots and bulbs around to things self sowing, it has become a surprise every year as to what will come up where and the garden has become less and less of what I planned it to be and more of a wild child.  In spite this the flowers are still performing beautifully...maybe more so than when I wielding control of it.

Adenaflora...Under the Quince tree?
I never planted it there!

I have spent many days in angst over what I have defined as the crying child who I am unable to console.  By that I mean I can no longer keep it weeded and keep plants in their places.  But as I think about what I have witnessed this year I have to say, in spite of this anxiety there has been a blessing  born in every new batch of flowers that open up...fantastic, beautiful, sweet and bold flowers!

This garden is a far cry from the well groomed, regularly mulched garden with trimmed chamomile pathways and plants kept within bounds that I used to maintain.  And as I consider what I am witnessing I think I have a huge lesson God is teaching me...I need to relax a lot more.  He has shown me that control does not give me what I think it will.  It only serves to make me feel I need to always be in control.  And if my efforts are all spent on control, how much do I miss out on when I am so focused on needing to be in control?  I think I have missed out on a lot of opportunities to see His beauty in my life because of this. But am hopeful for the future as I let go and let Him have His way as I remember that nothing is loss in God's economy.

Astrantia major doing a major job of self sowing
where Iris siberica 'David' also grows.

If you can relate to what I am saying then I encourage you to take today and try to enjoy the blooms you find in your life, especially those that pop up in unexpected and seemingly unwanted places.  And don't be afraid of let go of those plans for your life.  Let them go and hit the ground and let God raise them up like an emerging plant from a seed buried in the soil emerges in the right time.  Letting God direct and design the plan for our lives will bring about His best for us.

Bronze fennel self sowed amid the tulips
and I loved it!

Make room for what God wants to grow in your life, surrender to the Master Gardener.  Lay down the shovel of self-will, the wheel barrow of pride, the hoe of anxiety and the rake of rebellion and the tiller of selfish ambition and let His eternal beauty will begin to bloom in the garden of your life.  Ask Him for help if you are struggling with this.  I had to, my entire identity used to be tied to this garden back in the day.  I prayed to God that if it was not a place where He would be glorified and where people would be able to experience His love that He would take it from me.  He hasn't taken it from me but He has changed the garden and at the same time has changed my hearts desire for it.

Designed by my team of moles
Garden Phlox behind Nectaroscordum
Not bad, Not bad at all.

God's will is for our good; a good that is more often defined differently than we define it but in the end will bring forth such amazing beauty where only the weeds of sin once grew. May His beauty be born out in your life today as you start trusting Him for your future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Corn Shucking Magic...Really it is!

Magic about to happen

Doesn't fresh corn on the cob just give you warm fuzzy memories of shucking corn for Mom to cook up on a summer's day?  My own corn memories also include "Corn Day".  Corn Day was annual gathering together with house mates around a pull behind trailer filled with fresh picked corn.  Then there were the corn shucking races, batting at yellow jackets, corn jokes, corn with lots of butter for lunch and more corn jokes and those wonderful bags of fresh frozen corn that were worth every minute of the day long labor that we feasted on all winter long  (Yum.) 

There is one memory though that I am am pretty sure is not a favorite for anyone...fighting to get the silks off the ears.  Oh how I used to wish there was some magic way make them disappear during "Corn day".  Actually my wish came true this year through a pin I saw on Pinterest and since I am trying to actually use at least part of what I pin so I gave it a try.  Well actually that's a lie.  The real reason I tried it was because I could not believe it was going to be that easy.  Boy was I in for a surprise.

The original post said to cook one ear for 5 minutes and then cut one inch off the bottom of the cob after the corn is cooked.  Just so you know, trying to cut a corn cob before it is cooked is like trying to cut a tree branch with a table knife. I decided to pre-cut my corn where the bottom end of the cob would be cut off only going in as far as I could without hurting my hand and before I had a major accident with my chef's knife and then removed a few of the outer husks.  Then the corn was microwaved 7 minutes for 2 ears, turning them over half way through.  (Not all microwaves are made alike and mine is a commercial unit that is high powered so your corn may need more time.)

Husks are scored through before cooking

One tip...be sure to use hot pads when handling the cooked ears, they'll be steaming and very hot.

Slices nice as pie

With the bottom end cut off it was time to watch the magic so I grabbed the silk end of the corn and shook it releasing my beautiful corn-on-the-cob onto the plate.

This really can't be that easy or can it?
TA DAAA!  Isn't that just amazing?  No I'm not fibbing this time...it really does work like magic.

Wowwie zowwie, would you look at that!

So now you can wow your friends and neighbors at your next barbeque.  Have fun! 

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Falling in Public and Other Summer Fun

Yes I am having fun, can't you tell?

Lets just say this has been one of the most interesting few weeks I have had in a very long time.  First off I have been trying for weeks to write but was taking a medicine for chronic pain that left me feeling mentally dead and unable to write or even come up with things to write about.  That was like losing my soul so when it stopped working for the pain I was happy to stop taking it.  I have always thought that stuff was brain poison anyway and you should have seen the doc's face when I called it that.  Let's just say he didn't find funny but oh well.

Anyhow, the day after my last dose of the brain poison I decided to go to the local farmer's market and while stepping up on to the curb, I caught my toe and fell in front of EVERYONE full force onto my right hand. (Uhg...why is this kind of thing always in front of a crowd?)  As I layed there unable to get up I looked at my poor hand.  Yup...this was not good.  There was what looked like a bone out of joint or something sticking up on the right side of my hand above the wrist joint and I could not turn or bend it.  I waiting wondering if anyone was coming to help and felt like people had just evacuated the sidewalk when I fell...that was a really weird feeling.

It took onlookers what seemed like forever to figure out I could not get up on my own and those who helped were so sweet. I was laying there on my back and they were all trying to help me up not knowing I could not get up from a sitting position.  It was a circus of kindness but they finally got me on my feet. (Thank you to all of you who helped...whoever you are.)

I was in shock for about 15 minutes and given a comfortable chair and some ice for my wrist and then I drove myself back home and wrapped it up and tried to not use it.  That was interesting.  Try not using your favorite hand for an evening and see how you do.

The boat cast the doc first put on my hand that lasted 24 hours

By Monday I was at the Urgent Care clinic, x-rays showed it was indeed broken and my paw was set in a boat cast (a type of splint that is made up of the lower half of a fiberglass cast).  I got to stand along side the doc and read the book on how to treat this type of injury.  I now know the names of th bones in my hand...well some of them and in my arm too. (I'm a nerdy girl and eat this stuff up).  My doc was not very up on how to treat my injury and I knew it but gave her the benefit of the doubt.

By Tuesday morning I was ready tear the boat cast off my hand and throw it through our front window after a night of constant readjustments and rewrapping the darn thing.  It just wasn't staying where it needed too and the nerve pain it was causing was ridiculous.  The first thing I called the doc who told me I definitely didn't need a cast (yippee I think) and I could use a store bought splint but it needed to be a firm one and that I needed to be able to move my fingers "a lot".  I am a notoriously bad patient when it comes to not using my hand as I have discovered too.

So here I am...it will be 2 to 4 weeks stuck in a splint before I am back to being able to using my hand freely again and typing with a single finger is honestly a drag.  No gardening, no crafting, I can sort of cook but can't chop veggies so what fun is that?  I should get a video of me trying to dish up food...that is laugh.

At this point I am painfully aware of every curb or step I cross and am getting board out of my mind.  So how's your summer going?  I hope you are all staying safe, remember to pick up those feet when you step up on curbs and thanks for listening.  If you have a funny story you wanna share here, feel free.  I could always use another reason to laugh.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Seperating Seedlings safely

Have you ever bought a container just because it had extra seedlings in it only to have trouble getting them apart?  Yesterday I was out looking for, oh anything that struck my fancy in the way of plants and guess what I found?  Tomatoes starts...three in a pot!  My brain immediately went into thrifty shopper mode and all I saw were two pots with six plants in them!

Oh, a bonus buy, six for the price of two!

So here's the deal.  You have been lied to...well sort of.  You know those pots with more than one seedling in them?  Unless they are squash or cucumbers you don't have to cut the heads off of them.  Yup...that's right!  I had the good fortune of working as a plant propagator for a couple of years and one thing I learned very early on was that plants will take a lot more messing with than we have been taught, at least most plants. 

To get the seedlings apart safely you need to take some care though as just tearing them apart tears off valuable roots so let me share a secret I learned from my propagator job...use water.  That's right, water.  Here's how it's done.

Roots at the sides of the pot but not matted

Pop the plants out of the container.  The roots should look about like the ones in the photo above.  By the way I always check the roots at the nursery, the plants won't be bothered by you carefully popping them out of the container to look at them unless they were just planted which I see once in a while and honestly, they shouldn't be out for sale until the roots hit the side of the pot.

Water is great for removing soil from roots
Fill a large bowl about half way up with water, enough to cover the roots with room to swish around in it without spilling it everywhere.  Gently swish the root ball around in the water to wash away the soil.

A gentle pressing of the wet root ball helps release more soil

After a little swishing around in the water you may find it helpful to gently press the root ball to get the soil to release from the roots.

Almost clean of soil particles...yippee!

Be sure to get as much of the soil off as possible or those roots will not want to come apart without tearing.

About as good as it gets, time to start unraveling things

 Once the soil is washed off the roots you can begin to untangle them without tearing them.  Be careful not to tug on them too hard or they will break off.  It is a lot like untangling twine or that necklace.

Don't let a minor root mat get you down

Watch for matted roots and be patient working them apart.  They will come apart, just don't rush it.

It's working!

Hey, will you look at that!  It's working, they are coming apart pretty well.  It is literally like trying to untie a knot in string or a chain.  Its best to not yank on them but keep the tension loose and relaxed and it works a whole lot better.

Three now set free

Once they are separated you can pot them up in their own little pots or plant them in the ground if its time to.

Pinching leaves

Pinch off the lower leaves (cotelydon or embryonic first leaves) leaving the top leaves (true leaves).  This will let you plant the tomatoes a little deeper and allow them to form roots all along their stem. 

NOTE: There are very few plants that can do this so don't try it with others unless you know they can form leaves along their stems too.

Just enough soil to cover the bottom

Place a layer of potting soil in the bottom of each pot and set the plants in them with the roots spread out a bit.

Spread roots a bit

Fill the containers with soil and water in well.  Set them in a warm sunny location and when the roots can be seen kind of like the top photo of them go ahead and plant them into even larger pots or in the garden.  Six tomato starts for the price of two for a buck and a half...not a bad deal at all I'd say.

A little extra effort will reap a greater harvest of tomatoes

Happy Gardening!

Copyright © 2012 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.