A Good Sign from the Mailbox

Even though I no longer have a garden beyond my balcony, I still love receiving that first seed & plant catalog of the new year in the mail. Spring will return…it’s just around the corner! And I like that the pages appear to hold even more selections marked as “container friendly,” which works out well for me. Time to start planning!

And speaking of planning, if you’ve been thinking about including more plant-based foods in your meals, you might want to check out the Meatless Monday Challenge. It’s a free 12-week program that’s set up to assist you in meeting that goal, while you help the environment at the same time!

I look forward to reading all of your blogs in the coming months and wish each of you a healthy and happy 2022!

My Little Corner of the World

My Balcony in October

The daytime temperatures have finally downgraded from hot to warm, and the nights are so pleasantly cool! Flowers are still blooming but beginning to look a bit spent. I did NOT grow those little pumpkins set on the table but couldn’t resist. Back in the shadows, those are miniature yellow sweet peppers still ripening. I recently planted some garlic (thanks Alanna!) and also some late-season bush beans. I’ll soon take out most of the annuals and plant a variety of small bulb flowers, like grape hyacinths and crocus.

Halloween is almost upon us, and the other holidays follow closely behind. They’ve already started putting the holiday lights up in the Square, in fact. Seems like they just took them down from last season! Time moves much too quickly these days.

Wherever you live and whatever season you are now enjoying, I hope you’re finding pleasant times!

5 Ways to Eat a Rose

roses

I’ve seen the beautiful photos and know many of you have roses in your gardens or areas nearby! If they aren’t sprayed with any chemicals, then they’re healthy and safe to use in salads, butters, beverages, honey, and vinegars. Check out the following article from Yes! A Better World Today for the details!

Source: 5 Ways to Eat a Rose

Wearing My Editor’s Hat!

As many writers have found, just having more time to work during the pandemic doesn’t necessarily make one more productive. That’s the case for me. So, in efforts to stay busy and earn some money while I’m at it, I’ve taken on many editing projects. In fact, I’ve completed around 100 manuscript edits since March.

Many of my projects have been children’s picture book edits, while others have involved middle-grade fiction and short stories for adults. I found most of these opportunities through online platforms that match freelancers up with clients. The feedback I’ve received from my clients has been very positive, which I find to be quite rewarding. I’m also excited to say that several of the books I edited are now published, such as the following:

                                             

I haven’t given up on personal writing and still attend my critique groups online. I’ve also completed several writing projects through these freelance platforms, as well, such as non-fiction articles, blog posts, and children’s leveled readers. All of this has given me something to work toward each day, which you all know can be a struggle right now!

In addition to communication with family and friends, my balcony gardening (and the challenge of the intense Texas sun!) also keeps me grounded. I finally took the plunge and purchased a fountain for my small outdoor space, which I love dearly. It’s no replacement for the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, or St. Mary’s River, but it’s my little piece of heaven.

Lovely Sounds of Water

It’s Four-O’Clock Somewhere!

Evolving Balcony Garden

In the afternoon sun on my Texas balcony, the four-o’clocks on the left in the red pot are mainly closed against the strong light. In fact, they bloom in their riot of jeweled tones the most profusely after sunset!

My balcony garden has gotten off to a slow start with the pandemic restrictions, mainly limited to seeds through the mail and plants purchased at a greenhouse that takes part in curbside pickup on a limited amount of offerings. It’s slowly evolving.

Those are two pots of various herbs and leaf lettuce on the left and two pots on the right of spinach and mini sweet peppers I’ve started from seeds. Peeking out at the corner on the left, front, is a sweet potato vine. Since this photo, I’ve added nasturtium seeds in various pots, which are growing well but not yet in bloom.

Sweet Potato Vine in Bloom

Finally having a home, again, with my own personal outdoor space has been a life-saver. That has served as much more than just a pleasant diversion during this pandemic time of isolation. In addition to gardening, I enjoy reading out there, watching the birds, or just sitting for a while to view the sunset.

Not sure when I’ll actually venture out to the shops for more plants. For now, I plan to stay away from the crowds returning to the stores, since the virus numbers in my area are climbing.

Yes, I still miss my Michigan gardens of the past and always will. But, I am finding ways to take part in the magical experience of growing beautiful and nutritious plants. Having been raised by parents who maintained lovely yards and gardens, that’s a strong part of who I am!

Becky and Dad in Yard

I’m no Juliet but sure enjoying my new balcony!

Cool breeze, dappled sunlight, rustling leaves, cooing doves, and the aroma of popcorn from across the Square. Evening brings a view of the sunset and appearance of white lights tucked away in the trees. Most importantly, I now have my own outdoor space in which to exercise my hopefully still green thumb!

My sister surprised me by sending the great book, pictured below, as an “apartment warming” gift. Several of you offered helpful suggestions for gardening in a small space, as well, when I wrote about my impending move. With these resources and a few other books I have about container gardening, I’m making plans here in Texas!

Watching and waiting more than 3 years for “the right apartment,” my time has finally come. I’m all moved in and mainly have just books left to unpack (which is about half my possessions:) Even though I only moved to a different apartment in the same building, it was still a lot of work, of course. Happily, I managed to keep up with my editing for pay work (motivated by that pesky budget) AND managed to write a new section for a chapter book in progress (motivated by my wonderful critique groups).

Now, if I just could get these boxes of books unpacked and placed on the shelves…

 

 

 

In My Blood

A Spring Favorite: Pulmonaria (Lungwort)

Gardening can be a pleasant diversion, economic necessity, motivating challenge, or even somewhat of an addiction. As mentioned in a previous post, my childhood was surrounded by lovely gardens that produced both beauty and bounty. In adulthood, I slowly grew into my own on the gardening front.

My Small Vegetable Garden in Michigan

All of this stopped short when I moved from my home in Michigan and chose a “temporary” Texas apartment with no personal outdoor space. I hoped to get more creative with indoor gardening and had no idea to what extent I would miss having a garden area beyond my windows. After about three years, my plans and hopes to change all of this have finally come together!

Indoor Plants in Current Place

A move just one floor down in my apartment building offers me the balcony of my dreams. I’ll miss the direct view of sunrise and many moons rising, as well, but by moving to the other side, I’ll have sunsets and a lovely view of the Square. On the second floor, I’ll also be closer to tree level and sounds of birdsong. What will I grow in my balcony garden?

View of Square from Balcony

My gardening experience in Texas is limited, so research is in order. To further complicate matters, I move in mid-November, which isn’t peak season. As we all know, climate is quite unpredictable these days, but I’m gathering resources about year ’round container gardening in Texas. I’d like to have something that flowers (pansies?) and herbs or other types of plants that might come in handy for cooking. I’d love to try leaf lettuce in the spring! Covering plants during the winter for protection during frost or even bringing pots inside shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I’m excited! Looks like my hardiness zone is listed as 8a. I’d love to read ideas in comments if you live in a similar area and have container planting ideas to share!

Pansies

This new activity will certainly be a pleasant diversion to get me away from the computer on occasion. This could even save me money that might otherwise be spent on fresh herbs, which can be pricey. I’m definitely motivated and intrigued by this new challenge. As for the addictive part, only time will tell. Gardening is, after all, in my blood. That phrase reminds me of a  song I love, “You’re in My Veins,” by Andrew Belle. Hope you like it, too, and will give it a listen!

Don’t Eat the…Daisies?

 

daisies
Daisies

Southern Living says that some of the best edible flowers are borage (taste like cucumbers), marigold (cheaper version of saffron), hibiscus (cranberries), pansies (grassy/minty), roses (fruity), violets (sweet), and nasturtiums (peppery). I’ve also read that many daisies are sweet to eat. In addition, not only are the blooms of nasturtiums edible, but the leaves also have a peppery flavor, and the buds may be marinated to make something like a caper! I’ve tried nasturtium leaves and like the flavor. I may have snuck a few of them into our salads that last summer I lived in Michigan. Shhhhhh…don’t tell!

nasturtium
Nasturtiums

For as long as I can remember, gardening has been important in my life. From childhood, central memories of my father feature him either gone to work or outside tending our grass and gardens. The lawn was lush, flowers gorgeous, and vegetables abundant. His mother was also an avid gardener, so he started young by helping her at home. As a teen, he cared for the yard of a local general practitioner and his wife, and Dad learned a great deal from them. Carrying his knowledge and love of things that grow into the future, he did his best to make sure that our own yard always looked pretty, even on a tight budget. As the years passed, my mother had more time and helped him a great deal, as well. It was a passion they shared.

 

baby Becky with flower fixed
Baby Becky ponders whether to sample a flower

When their three children were still young, they wanted to be sure we understood that all parts of growing things aren’t always edible. Yes, our giant rhubarb was amazing, but those leaves are poisonous! Toadstools in the yard were NOT mushrooms, and berries growing on bushes were best left for the birds. Occasionally, we helped with some of the weeding or harvesting and were told never to eat anything out of the garden without permission. This concept caused a bit of family friction at one time, I remember. My paternal grandparents lived a few blocks away and grew tall sumac bushes in their back yard.

sumac
Staghorn Sumac

One time we were at their house and Grandpa took us kids for a walk outside. While in back, he urged us to try some sumac berries. I hesitated, but was too shy to say no. Besides, he was an adult, so should know if it was safe. I remember the red berries tasted quite sour and not at all what I expected. When we showed up back indoors with red stuff around our lips, Mom was first worried and then started fuming. Dad tried to smooth things over and assured her the red variety of sumac was safe. Turns out, my father was right and had learned about the safety of that plant the hard way, through a humorous childhood experience of his own. That’s a story for another day!       ~Becky

Becky and Dad wheelbarrow fixed
Me and Dad

Only Sweaters Required: a Thanksgiving Story

autumn joy green shows full plant more                                                                                                                Unknown to the woman and man, it was to be their last good Thanksgiving. While she sifted through cookbooks for new side dish and dessert recipes, he planned the main course. Menu was written, shopping list compiled, and ingredients purchased.

Fall weather in their northern location was typical. Rain and winds had brought down most of the yellow and orange leaves. Halloween delivered a few lazy flurries. Beyond the French doors, the Autumn Joy plants in the garden provided a natural tracking device for the unyielding progression of the season. Summer buds of green turned to pink flower heads, which every day bled into a darker tone of red. Seeing the perennials had already turned a deep shade of crimson, the couple regretted that hope of a warm day had surely passed.

autumn joy red

Thanksgiving dawn was hopeful. Temperatures outside continued to rise, and the baking oven warmed their home from within. Eat outdoors on Thanksgiving? Unheard of for that location! In smiling agreement, they readied the terrace: swept leaves from the table and chairs, added a tablecloth, lit the chiminea. Only sweaters required.

Dinner was savory and dessert was sweet. Red wine matched  the Autumn Joy’s blooms. Reflecting on a few remaining leaves, the sun began its descent beyond the tops of trees. Slight breeze, crackling fire, and easy conversation. Sundown lowered the temperature, moving them closer to the fire, while shrugging into jackets. When the addition of a new log was insufficient, they finally relinquished their claim on that remarkable Thanksgiving dinner.

The view from frosty French doors the following morning offered a scene of white. A weather front had produced heavy snows, and autumn changed to winter overnight. The world had turned cold and stark, with sharp edges of ice. Shrouded in a pale cloak, the Autumn Joy had given in to the ravages of the seasons. Winter would remain, and wishes otherwise would go unanswered.

Sedum Autumn Joy Herbstfreude in winter snow with grasses & Rudbeckia seed-heads

Magic from that day is gone, but not forgotten. The warmth of their world is remembered. No longer sharing that kitchen, that terrace, that garden, the memory still connects them.

~ Becky ~ 2018

Memory Won’t Fail if You Eat Your Kale!

 

The weekend has just begun, and I’m already thinking about Meatless Monday! Temperatures here in Texas have climbed way too high for the beginning of June, so I definitely won’t want to use the oven. Simmering a covered pot on top of the stove seems like a good option.

Did you eat kale as a kid? I never did, even though my father was a prolific vegetable gardener. Maybe it doesn’t grow well in Michigan? Not sure. After buying a bag of the green stuff a while back, I then had to figure out what to do with it. I settled on a vegetable gumbo that worked with other ingredients I had on hand, and it turned out quite tasty! My kale was the curly type, but I’m sure that tender baby kale would also work well and cook even more quickly. The texture of the end result would just be a bit different.

If you don’t know much about kale or haven’t tried it lately, you might want to consider some important health implications. This NPR  article (also available on the site as a podcast) tells us that people who eat leafy green vegetables every day (like spinach, kale and collard greens) appear to have slower cognitive decline rates. That’s good news, and now we just need to come up with more interesting ways to eat them! Try the following recipe, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Make it as spicy or mild as you like:

INGREDIENTS (amounts are up to the cook:)

  • Kale (chopped)
  • Red bell peppers and/or tomatoes (diced)
  • Okra (sliced)
  • Celery, onions and/or garlic (chopped/diced)
  • Bean choices – black, red, or even garbanzo
  • Corn, if desired
  • Vegetable bouillon cube or stock
  • Spice choices – pepper (black and/or cayenne), celery salt, paprika, thyme, oregano
  • Water and/or stock to cover veggies
  • Rice (optional)

Cook on high until the mixture starts to bubble, and then turn to low and simmer until the kale is tender. Add more water or stock during cooking if needed.

Serve over cooked rice…or not!

 

If you’re cooking for kids and haven’t yet convinced them about the wonders of kale, you might also try making roasted kale chips as a fun family activity. There are many recipes to choose from on the Internet!