Saturday, May 31, 2008

Trying Different Breads

With the wealth of excellent blogs and other websites out here, I've run across so many recipes I want to try. I'm always interested in recipes that are tried-and-true and are a "backbone" recipe of the family table. There are just so many good ones out here, I often get overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities, and procrastinate long enough that come dinner time we're back at square one again.

I'm overweight and don't need to be eating a lot of bread. Nevertheless, our approach to eating is never going to be all-or-nothing. I've found that we've needed to purchase a loaf or two of bread for this and that lately, and every time I put a storebought loaf into the shopping cart these days, I think to myself how I could have just as easily used ingredients I already have in the pantry to make a far more satisfying sort.

This always reminds me of my paternal grandmother, who home-made EVERYthing on her table, and fed her family a full meal three times a day...in a manner rarely seen in any family I've ever met. I cannot aspire to that amount of committment because our days share far more demands than that would accomodate...and we simply don't need to eat those sorts of quantities. In the words of Mary Poppins, and in the spirit of eating wholesome home-grown foods in season, "enough is as good as a feast." It's a lesson I'm still striving to learn.

Reducing quantity and keeping quality is part of our goal of simplifying our meals, but I do aim to have them be overall much more satisfying, as we phase out the eating out and all processed foods. We're not there yet, but we're farther there now than we've ever been before. Awareness has been the first step, necessity is the taskmaster, and the satisfaction of it being better nutritionally and budget-wise is the motivation.

Presently, we're eating down our pantry goods, and this includes the white flour. The eventual goals is to incorporate more non-gluten flours, and when using the gluten sort, to learn to ferment them (sourdoughs, etc) and sprouting some of them...but for sure to grind the flours fresh at home. Like I said, it's a series of goals to shoot for, and we're not set up for it just yet, but are headed that direction.

The recipe I chose this weekend, because it looks delicious and basic and would incorporate ingredients I have on hand, is from Susan at Farmgirl Fare. I had seen pictures on her site, but the recipe was not available until the Year In Bread collaborative series was posted. Here it is...it's her delicious Farmhouse White. It looks very much like the homemade bread my grandmother had on hand in some form every time the table was set. There was nothing as good as her food!

I'm a novice bread baker, and this was very easy recipe to attempt. The one mistake I made was in not adding the full amount of salt, and so mine turned out not nearly like it would have had I not forgotten this important ingredient. But it's still so good, it's not lasting long!

There are countless other recipes floating around out here in the blog-o-sphere that look very basic and delicious. I'm glad I tried this one, and I'd love to know some other of the most trusty and cherished bread recipes that are the backbone of YOUR family's meals...anyone care to share? I'm going to slowly try different ones so that some day I'll never go to the store again for bread at all...and it's so much more fun knowing recipes come from like-minded friends :)

What's your favorite bread recipe? You may have already written about it...if so, I'd love if you'd share the link! If you do, I'll to post it for everyone to try :)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Debt Is Shrinking!

Today is a HUGE DAY!!!

We Paid Off The Car!!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are thanking God for unexpected blessings that allowed us to reach this goal MUCH sooner than we'd anticipated...thank You thank You thank You, GOD!!!!

Whoosh, what a great feeling :)

We are grateful for so many things, and this is the icing on the cake. It's not been easy, but it IS happening. Little steps seem so slow and tedious and seem like they take forever sometimes, but they add up to bigger steps, and then Bang goes the debt! Next to pay...the student loan. The list grows shorter...

Did I mention Yaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy??? :) :) :)

For all our likeminded friends out here in the blog-o-sphere who're working hard to retire that debt, it IS SO worth it. Thank you for keeping us encouraged, and we hope you're encouraged each step of the way, too.

On that happy note, I sign off to finish up things before our shabbat rest. I hope everyone's weekend is lovely and restful and rejuvenating! I love and appreciate my friend here so much...thank YOU :)

Blog is closed until tomorrow sundown...

Shabbat shalom!

Tamarind Drink with Zing!

What do you do when you're in the store and you see these?


Actually, they still had their shells on before this picture was taken. The photo shows the interior, and if you look closely you'll see there are long stringy fibers and lumps, which are the seeds, surrounded by a sweet and slightly sticky pulp. If you pull the strings off, you can pop bits of the fruit into your mouth and suck on them like candy...very tart candy! The seeds separate easily from the pulp...and they germinate here in Florida quickly, too.

These are tamarind pods, and they're found in that part of the produce section where I'm not really sure WHAT anything is, but where my husband lights up and exclaims, "oh, look! it's a (fill in the blank with a fruit I've never heard of)"

These are actually "local" to us, meaning they probably didn't come from just down the street, but are native sub-tropical fruits we can grow. And of course, in the name of experimentation with potential fruits we might grow, we taste! I found out tamarind is a favorite around the world, in proximity of the equatorial belt.

The pulp can be hand-squeezed into blocks or lumps from which segments are cut or pinched and formed into candies simply by compressing it somewhat and dusting it with powdered sugar, or a sprinkle of salt. It is delicious without either...nature's own Sweet Tart. It is also featured in local cuisines of nearly every subtropical country, in chutnies, sauces, condiments, and drinks. It's a distinctive ingredient in familiar-to-me condiments like Worchestershire sauce, Heinz 57, and Britain's HP sauce (my favorite being the HP Curry Sauce). When I heard it could be made into a drink much in the way lemons are made into lemonade, I wanted to try it!

And that's how we ended up with a bagful of pods, which have stayed in a glass jar ever since, until last night when I ran across a very simple recipe for a Tamarind drink. Essentially, you boil the peeled pods and remove as many of the strings as possible. You add some sugar to the liquid as a sweetener, and then strain the mixture a time or two to allow the fruity pulp through but removing the seeds and other bits.

Here's what mine looked like while boiling...I was only working with a handful of pods to begin with. Here are the pulp and seeds and you can see they are separating.




I strained it, and the pulp that was left behind I saved a bit of and added it back to the liquid, because it was the consistency of applesauce and tasted wonderful. The taste reminded me of a very complex, rich apple, very tart like a lemon's tartnes, but deliciously sweet. It reminded me of a tarter version of spiced cider...but different...but not "weird different." Yum!



This is how the liquid looked strained...I might not use as much water next time, but I have a feeling either way, it's really good. This was supposed to be set into the fridge and chilled to serve over ice, but frankly it was SO good that Jack and I divided it and drank it quite warm. He'd worked outside yesterday and was worn out, and he found it rejuvenating.



He pronounced it exactly as he'd remembered tasting in his childhood, and drank it straight down with gusto! Well, alright, it's a keeper :)

The even more delightful aspect of incorporating tamarind into drinks and meals is that it really packs a nutritional punch, which would account for its popularity in hot climates reaching from Africa across the Middle East, India and Eastern Spice Trails, the Far East, Central and South America, and all the Islands along the tropical belt worldwide.

We put a few seeds from one pod into some potting soil only a couple weeks or so ago. Looky what's coming up!



We now have about six baby tamarinds! If these are fertile and produce good fruits, they'll do so in about 6 to 8 years, and boy will the harvest be a whopper...a single, good, producing tree can average up to 350 pounds of pods a year! The fruits can be stored in the pod or hulled and seeded to store just the pulp.

And if there weren't already enough culinary uses for the tamarind, they are also traditionally used in some cultures to polish brass...

On the Wish List, we'll keep the tamarinds if they do well as they get bigger. What can you say for a fruit that's easy to store, adds a lot of flavor to life, is packed with vitamins and iron, and can be used to make a natural "soft drink" that rivals anything artificial out there? I love the fact that the seeds come up readily with no fuss and seem to thrive in the blistering heat. What's not to love? When the time comes that we can offer seeds we've saved, tamarind seeds are so plentiful I'm guessing they'll be among the first.

I'm so glad we tried this!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Whey to Fertilize

Because of our experimentation with fermentation, namely making kefir and Caspian Sea Yogurt frequently in the last couple of months, we've had a lot of whey collecting.

I've not yet ventured further into lacto-fermentation, and so have not yet begun making pickles and sauerkraut using whey as an agent. I've been meaning to toy around with whey in breads as well, but haven't gotten that far along my To Do list.

So what to do with it? I wasn't sure.

And when I'm not sure, I experiment a bit.

I'm not sure what the PH needs of my plants are(remember, the ones in all the buckets? ..Bucketville?), but I do remember hearing that whey might be good diluted with water and used on some kinds of plants. Which sorts of plants? It is there my science abruptly ends...I really don't know.

But I knew our two fig trees in pots were looking a little peaked, and I decided to begin emptying the whey from the yogurts/kefir on one of them, and to compare the two plants after some time passed.

I don't know if mine are deficient in nutrients, since we don't have a regular source of compost or rotted manure as soil amendments for Bucketville, so I figured as long as it was well watered-in, it probably wouldn't be doing anything but adding micronutrients and healthy bacteria to the soil much as the yogurt it had come from boosts our own human nutrition. If anything, I hoped it would feed and promote microbial growth and give a gentle boost to the rather plain potting soil.

Again, pardon the picture quality...it's my fault, not my camera's. For some reason, I'm putting it on a setting that blurs the foreground and highlights the background...argggh :) But do notice the colors of these photos... They were taken on the same day, at the same time and in the same lighting.

Here is the fig tree (in a pot) that regularly was fed the kefir and Caspian Sea Yogurt whey, and even leftover bits of the actual kefir and yogurt. I watered it in each time I applied it. It was often applied a quart at a time, a few days apart.

Notice the color...



Below is the second fig tree -- the one that received regular watering without any whey. Hey look! It's a cute little baby fig! Obviously it's a healthy tree...but notice the difference in the color compared to the first tree. It's particularly noticeable when looking at them side-by-side. The one fed the whey regularly is a much deeper, richer green, and the leaves are sturdier and more robust.


I don't know much more than this, and it's simply an experiment with these two plants...so don't go throwing kefir whey, etc., on your plants just because I did...I don't want to be responsible for killing off any of your little green friends! :) But I did want to show that for some reason, the whey seems to be agreeing with the fig tree, and as long as it does, I'll keep applying it...and watering it in each time. I figure it's natural and I know exactly where it comes from, unlike store-bought fertilizers. It's said to be healthy for humans to consume, so I believe it will likely be healthy for animals, when we get some someday, too.

If you have whey from cheese or yogurt-making, how do you use yours? I'd love to expand on my limited knowledge and get the lowdown from many of you kitchen veterans out there!

Trying Moroccan Part 2: Tagine of Moroccan Chicken

If only you could smell this cooking...

If only you could sit in my kitchen and taste it!!

Think spice markets, perfumed gardens, peacocks and nightingales, honeyed dates, hot mint tea, lattices and glowing tilework...and then inhale! Taste this recipe and you're THERE...

This was my second experiment cooking in what I think of loosely as "Moroccan Style." This recipe was found at this site, and promised a dish fusing flavors both savory and sweet.

The only problem is that I usually don't enjoy sweet flavors in conjunction with meats...probably just evidence of my upbringing. I'm open to change, as long as it's not a recipe asking me to dump a jar of marmalade over a perfect chicken breast and shout Bon Appetit...though I may be there someday, I'm not there yet :)

I chose this recipe because the spices were ones I have, though the list is longer than the last recipe's list. This one was also a chicken recipe, and the real hook was the word "Tagine" in the recipe title.

A tagine is a cooking vessel with a removable cone-shaped top and shallow-lipped round bottom dish that combines the benefits of clay cookery with a design that allows for slow-cooking, the conical top acting as a trap for the steam to return as condesation back to the stew. It's essentially part casserole and part stew pot, and is kept on a low heat to simmer for hours, which helps the flavors meld and mellow together into something quite wonderful. Or at least that's what I've read :)

Here's what my fantasy tagine looks like...and I've come so close to purchasing one, and yet...money's tight and I have a perfectly good pan with lid till I'm really sure that's where I want my money to go. Here's the one I saw on Amazon that captured my fancy...

Here is the recipe I made a couple of adaptations to, and cooked tonight:

Tagine of Moroccan Chicken

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
2 medium onions, sliced into thin wedges
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Saffron, crushed (optional) -- I substituted Ground Turmeric
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup raisins
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Slivered almonds, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add chicken; cook 10 minutes, or until browned, turning once.
Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm.
Cook onion in same skillet 7 minutes.
Add garlic salt, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and saffron, if desired. (I omitted saffron and substituted turmeric.)
Stir in tomatoes and honey.
Return chicken to skillet; cover and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir in raisins.
Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done.
Serve chicken stew garnished with toasted, slivered almonds and chopped fresh cilantro on a bed of couscous, if desired.

Here are the 6 chicken thighs. After having made this, I believe any combination of chicken parts would taste great if it uses at least some dark meat. Mine were not thawed completely, so I added a few minutes to this browning stage. It doesn't really say whether to put a lid on them, but since they were on medium-high heat, I kept a lid on most of the browning time, removing it only toward the end when a lot of liquid started collecting. The recipe's directions aren't clear on this stage of the cooking.

While it browned, I collected the spices...

This is the point at which I continued on and removed the thighs to a plate and covered them to keep them warm. Next step was adding the thinly-sliced onion wedges.

Cook for 7 minutes...the dark stuff at the bottotm of the pan is the remains of the chicken browning liquid and the bits that stuck to the pan. They add flavor...these weren't charred, so I left the browned stuck-on bits right in there.

Into the softened onions and their fragrant liquid are added the spices, tomatoes, and honey, to simmer a few minutes. It is at this point I believe those who have actual tagines would move this from the pan to the tagine. The fragrance of the spices is incredible! Just one whiff of this is enough to make you hear camel bells, sand dunes and far away oases... You just want to put your nose right into the steam and inhale deeply...mmmmm!!!!

Ok, it felt strange putting cinnamon and honey into this...my southern girl cinnamon roll training revolted against the very idea of swirling it among the other savory spices bubbling around the meat. But OH MY, what a MAGICAL combination of fragrance and flavor...!!


According to the directions, there is very little simmer time left till this is done. I added to it a little, because I had started out with semi-thawed chicken, and I like it nearly falling off the bone when fully cooked. Here, the raisins have been added. Just ignore that cinnamon-roll training, if it seems too strange that you're once again adding sweetness to a meat dish. Honest...this is awesome. I know...I've already eaten it! I have eaten and lived to tell the story...it's...oh hang on, I'll go into raptures in a second...

Anyway, this is the step where you could leave it on to simmer very very low, covered, all day if you like, and then finish things off with a 5 minute cous cous. You can simmer it and then add the raisins, if you don't want them to disintegrate in the liquid too much. I used cous cous straight out of the box, one with natural ingredients in the herb packet. I like cous cous cooked in chicken broth or herbed liquid. Cous cous cooks up literally in 5 minutes, and is the perfect companion for this tagine/stew. It tends to absorb the savory liquid, and is very moist.

We enjoyed ours tonight served on a bed of herbed cous cous (out of the box!), with some torn spinach on the side.

Here's the last important note about this recipe. The garnish adds A LOT. I don't think it would have been the same without the finish of fresh chopped cilantro and almond slivers generously gracing each individual serving. There is just something PERFECT about the taste of the whole combination, so DO DO use these and consider them ingredients rather than just garnishes for visual appreciation. I also (as is our family habit) included lemon wedges to squeeze over the salad...and anything else you like, which means for us, everything on the plate :)

All in all, this recipe was a complete winner, and my husband was completely silent while eating it, he was that intent....heehee...

One single chicken thigh in this awesome tagine recipe made a whole meal when paired with savory cous cous and some torn greens.

If you're burned out on tomato-ey things, such as spaghetti and marinara sauces, don't look at this and think it's a re-hash of any tomato 'n onion duet you likely usually taste. No way...it's...sublime!

It's not hot. It IS a flavor party! The "unusual" factor is not the sort you really have to try to develop an acquired taste for...it's good straight from the first hesitant taste test.

In fact, there probably won't be leftovers, unless, like us, there are only two of you. If that's the case, you might be like me...looking forward to the next meal when you'll have an excuse to eat some more :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Three Cheers for the Family Garden!

I was SO delighted to follow Carolyn's recent link to the new blog her family started together...detailing their joint inter-generational collaboration of a family garden. You can find their first blog entries, along with pictures of their great project here at McGatha Garden Co Op.

Yes, it IS possible to have good, inexpensive organic food AND bring family together in the best sort of way...congratulations to Carolyn and her family for creating this long-dreamed-of family gardening plot!

Trying Moroccan: Lemon and Green Olive Chicken


This is how the first experiment turned out. It was not difficult, though I'm unfamiliar with how it's supposed to look or taste and have no basis on comparison. It was an easy and delicious first try, though!

I found the recipe at http://www.moroccan-recipes.com/Moroccan-Chicken-With-Olives.html

I started with this recipe for the simple reason that it was so very simple, and the only spices it called for were all ready in my spice cabinet...salt, pepper, ginger, and paprika.

Here's the recipe:

Moroccan Chicken With Olives

Ingredients:
4 Pounds Chicken
2 1/2 Tablespoons Oil
2 Onions -- sliced
Salt And Pepper -- to taste
1/4 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Onion -- finely chopped
1/2 Pound Green Olives
1 Lemon/ Lemon Juice

Preparation:
Heat the oil in large sauce pan. Add 3/4 cup water gradually. Add onion slices, sprinkle with spices. Lay chicken on top. Cook over low heat, covered, one hour. Add finely chopped onion. Cook for another 1/2 hour. Place pitted olives in pan of cold water, bring to boil for 1 minute. Drain water. Add olives to pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Just before serving squeeze on lemon.

Serving Ideas : Serve with rice or couscous

Since this recipe includes green olives, I used olive oil for the first step of cooking the onion and spices. Can you see what I forgot?

Yup! The paprika! You'll see when it dawns on me something doesn't look right. One of the unknowns with this recipe is that it calls for 4 lbs. of chicken, but it never mentions whether to include the skin. Usually, I like to brown the skin before continuing. I read some other recipes, however, that included the skins and did not call for browning so, still feeling a bit insecure about whether I was doing it right or not, I just tucked em on the top of the onion and spices and let 'em slow cook as is, per the recipe. I confess the spice amounts seemed scant, so I added more.

At the same time, I sauteed some mushrooms to be incorporated later into the cous cous. Because you can never have too many sauteed mushrooms...and if nothing else turned out to be edible, I knew they would!

Here's a pic of the second step, after the chicken and spices cooked for an hour. My onions don't qualify for "finely chopped." Ah ha! You can see I now had reviewed the recipe and had added the missing paprika! (more than the recipe calls for, of course!)
I'm still insecure about how it's going to taste. At this point, the chicken is still pale and bland looking and knowing that the spice list called for NO GARLIC makes me pace about the kitchen, wondering if it will, indeed, be edible ;-) I deliberately force myself NOT to touch the garlic powder shaker. HOWEVER, my insecurity gets the best of me and I DO go ahead and add a few bits of fresh lemon to the bubbling dish. I keep having to shoo Jack away from the green olives till it's time to add them.
The recipe called for boiling the green olives for one minute, which also seemed sort of like a crime, since I had those wonderful olives I can only find at the deli...I didn't used the canned sort. But boiling and draining them before incorporating them into the dish did mellow them and make their mouth texture smoother and more buttery than crunchy...mmm.
Ahhh! They're added, and so is the juice of fresh lemons...and ah yes, well I did throw those clean lemon skins in, roughly chopped, for some more color and zing! (Told you I can't stick to a recipe) But I've still not added any garlic. Something genetically-programmed in me is battling against this recipe and URGING me to add garlic at this point...but....I resist. How will I ever know what it's supposed to taste like if I keep changing the recipe??

I serve it up, with rice pilaf and sauteed mushrooms on the side. Why rice pilaf?? Because I am short on time, I decided to make the boxed sort of cous cous and instead opened the boxed sort of rice pilaf. I have no idea if these things "go together," but we ate them...we feasted! I had some pizza dough in the fridge and decided to try making a skillet bread with some of it. I flattened a few balls of dough and cooked them on a flat oiled cast iron skillet set on a low setting. When they were done on both sides, I drizzled a small amount of olive oil over them, sprinkled GARLIC powder (ahhh, relief!), and a brief grind of sea salt...then chopped cilantro. Ohhhh, yeahhhh...this'll do me till I learn how to cook the more authentic middle eastern skillet breads.
And here is the final leftover...sorry for no pics of the main feast! We've now eaten on it for three days, and it's been good every time. Today's final plate was cous cous mixed with spinach leaves sauteed in a drop of olive oil and sea salt and folded all together when done, topped with chopped cilantro and a half lemon squeezed over the chicken and all. This last little thigh is all that's left, and the olive was lucky to have survived this long....mmm, supper!


Would I make this again?? Yes! I'll look to see what spices other similar green olive and lemon chicken recipes use, and might get all sassy with 'em. But even with these, it's delicious!
I still don't know about browning the chicken, or using skinless. I simply removed the meat from the dish when done and served it like that using some liquid as sauce, and overnight I refrigerated the remaining liquid (there's a lot) and skimmed the fat off the top the next day...that's the part it doesnt say to do, but there was a lot of fat at the top of the liquid.
The flavors are both subtle and distinct. The lemon and olives MAKE this dish, and adding a fresh squeeze of lemon when serving ramps up the taste for lemon lovers like my family.
Now that I've tried this, I'll move on to the next "Moroccan" experiment...I don't know how authentically Moroccan this is, but it's at least remotely North African/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern.
And whatever else it was or wasn't, it tasted great!

My Favorite Nightlight

...besides the stars, or the moon...





...our Betta tank. These two fellows joined us a couple years ago, after I succumbed to my Animal Rescue urges on a small scale.

( I apologize for the picture quality...it's my fault, not my camera's)

Never, no never take me to the pet store. Or the pet section of any store. Especially where you see little plastic bottles lined up...the Siamese fighting fish, or Bettas, occupying their tiny jails, limply biding their many hours of boredom broken only by occasional surges of male showmanship in which they flare their gills and go into defense mode, veils extended in full glory...and then back to limp and nearly lifeless.





I don't care what anyone says, fish have personalities.



The blue one is my daughter's and the red one is mine. Some things in this world are for beauty, and these are what our two rescue fish bring to our days. At times, we'll leave the tank light on at night in the dark...such a beautiful sight.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Moroccan Experiment


I've worked myself into a rut with my cooking. There are buckets (literally! ha) of fresh herbs growing just outside my back door, and yet...ummm...I don't know how to use them.

...Yet!

This has got to change!

So, the exciting, exotic creature that I am (she says, pulling out the bellydance workout video she never used, for background music), I decided to try some Moroccan recipes. I'm drawn to them because for the most part, there are a few that require only basic ingredients with which I'm familiar. Those, plus about a bazillion spices, but not as daunting a list as, oh, say, Indian food.

If you have any Moroccan or Indian entree recipes that are first of all EASY, and secondly EASY, not to mention EASY, please forward them here for my experimentation. I don't have fancy or expensive cookware or a food processor, and must venture beyond the boundaries of Southern American Soul Food and the trusty PBJ. My oversize stockpile bag of Basmati rice is sulking in the pantry and begs for some stove time, and a worthy sauce or meat for companionship.


I have a childlike fancy for open air markets of any sort, and have always wanted to visit the North African souks if for not other reason than to absorb the riot of colors, fragrances, sounds, sights, and to people-watch. Oh, and very much to taste! With chicken, lamb, and beef as well as the array of vegetables in this cuisine, there is much in the way of kosher ingredients for me to want to recreate. I've indulged these fancies vicariously through such folks as the Not Eating Out in New York City blog, as the blog owner took her own trip to North Africa and wrote from a foodie perspective...you'll love poring over her journal archives of her trip last summer :)

I've indulged in a couple hours' online search for Moroccan recipes, each new find leading to other new finds, further taxing my amended grocery list...and sucking me deep into the swirling vortex of online-inspired kitchen possibilities. And now I'm feeling overwhelmed in that way that makes me take a deep breath and proclaim it'll be mashed potatoes and baked chicken again tonight. That's what I get for not planning a bit better! :)

That said, there are enough recognizable ingredients in some of the recipes I found that I think some unfamiliar combinations of things hiding in my spice cabinet might render some sort of new dish from things I already have. What'll it hurt to try?? I'm drawn to the unfamiliar, and looking into a pot of the same chicken thighs mixed with some unlikely (to me) companion ingredients becomes a leap to a land of spices and mystery simply by changing its description from "chicken thighs in sauce" to "Chicken Marrakesh."

I've never combined lamb or chicken with green olives and lemon slow cooked in a savory sauce...nor in a totally different sauce with prunes...nor in a less savory and more sweet presentation with fresh peaches and honey. The nice thing about many of these stews and sauces is that they are slow-cooked (most of the time), and that they are flexible to the incorporation of changing the vegetable portion of ingredients around a bit to include what's in season. I'm after decoding the mystery of specific flavors, namely spice combinations...something unfamiliar to my Southern cooking background, which relies more heavily on heartiness and straightforward-ness, strong sweet tea, and gravy on or with everything. Southern cooking elevates basic "peasant foods" to a feast. It's shy on fragrant spices, though, and for some reason, my body is craving those a lot more lately.

So, let's see! Can the Southern gal detach from her wedge of cornbread and plate of purple hull peas and sliced tomatoes long enough to go wild with the spice cabinet? Can she have the patience to wait as those spices perfume the house for hours while something exotic gurgles and sighs in the slow cooker...and stomachs growl at the prolonged suspense??

I'll experiment this weekend, and shall report back with some of the initial triumphs or goofs. Jack shall be my co-guinea pig and "partner in dine"...ha!

In the meantime, it's nearly shabbat and I'm off to spice something up and get it into the CrockPot so I dont have to cook tonight or tomorrow, and we can leisurely have crockpot Moroccan, with some basmati. At the best, it'll be mysterious and transporting. At worst, it'll be a nice hot dish of chicken and rice :)

I'm off to cook things up, and dance with scarves in the kitchen, and maybe we'll watch some Bogey and Bacall tonight...

Have a lovely night and day tomorrow! The blog is now closed till after shabbat....


Shabbat Shalom!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RoundUp Ready Sugar Beets

One thing that is appalling is how those who are genetically altering our food plants (or any plant, for that matter) are currently NOT held to those same Truth-in-Labeling standards that have been hard-fought and hard-won on other fronts.

Do I smell a Monsanto...???

They fight to protect their "right" to NOT label products that include their genetically modified substances right there in our supermarkets. So honestly, there's really no way of knowing if that can of veg is GM or not.....or the taco shells....or nearly anything, truly.

Why would there be such a vested interest on GM corporations (such as...oh, Monsanto...) to keep from labeling these things?

Easy...so the effects cannot be tracked and there would be no liability. Why should liability and tracking be any concern?? BECAUSE THE HEALTH EFFECTS ON HUMANS HAVE NEVER BEEN THOROUGHLY TESTED. What you don't label, you don't know is there...

Now Monsanto is trying to corner the market by genetically modifying another vegetable of world-wide consumption...sugar beets. The European market is more vulnerable to this development, since they traditionally utilize sugar beets on a greater scale than Americans.

Please read Pat and Steph's post at Bifurcated Carrots on this development, as they note that potential contamination could be imminent on a world-wide scale.

Another excellent post is at the Seven Trees blog post, where you can read about this in depth. Here is a brief quote from the article:

"The sugar produced will be mixed in with other types of sugar, unlabeled and untraceable. You couldn't avoid sugar from Roundup Ready beets even if you tried.But David Berg, president of American Crystal Sugar Co., the country’s largest beet sugar manufacturer, is confident that food processors will accept GM sugar. “We have not run into resistance...”


There must be a way to get the laws changed SOON to make EVERYONE subject to the SAME truth-in-labeling laws, ESPECIALLY in the experimental and un-tested field of Genetically-Modified Foods and Feeds.

There MUST.....

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Thank you to Path to Freedom for the shout out on "Modern Eco Pioneers" post! So many folks thinking alike :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our Little Green Babies

Here is the latest update on Bucketville...the mints and thymes like it better for now in partial shade. The Yerba Buena is trying to escape The Wall to the next door bucket...

The citrus seem to be doing well, except for the Key Lime. Shown here in one of the Meyer Lemons, with its little green lemons, even on so small a plant!


We didn't have much success so far with the grape starts, except for this one. You go, grape!


Cinnamon Basil...mmmm...


Here's the stevia...we'll be experimenting with it as a natural sugarless sweetener in some things, yay! We won't be giving up honey, though...but we'll see what recipes stevia tastes best in.



Pineapple sage...mmmmm, again! Can't wait to try utilizing these new flavors!




Here's the Feverfew, said to be good for headaches. Might be just the thing to have as a tea when paying the bills! :)



And here is Jack's new toy! He came home with it the other day, having found an unbelievably incredible price on it when he least expected. It is now home to our precious stash of decomposing microbe buffet. The first night we put it outside, we awoke the next morning to find muddy paw prints of...something...maybe a raccoon? They haven't figured out how to turn the handle yet to unlock it.



Most of the plants in Bucketville (our backyard full of plant starts in innumberable 5 gallon buckets) are doing well. Those that aren't are the raspberries and gooseberries, which are straggly and looking haggard on the best of days, no matter what location we move the bucket to. Maybe they don't like being in pots, or maybe Florida is not their favorite vacation spot. I'm very surprised at how well the other plants are doing, though, especially the baby trees and the herbs. Hopefully, by the time we're relocated to land, we'll have a garden-full of transplants, if the present bucket/plant count is any indication!
Till then, I experiment with herbs.
I found an unlikely taste combination I loved the other day.... the Yerba Buena is a strongly-flavored mint, with a taste similar to Spearmint. I had some Yerba Buena leaves that accidentally got mixed in with some spinach leaves I had torn and was quickly sauteeing in a dab of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a dash of onion powder. I have to say the mint took on an entirely different flavor when sauteed, and I'm going to be trying a few experiments with it in sautees...the sort where the veggie is cooked till a bit softer than al dente, but not till completely limp and lifeless.
That's the update for today...so nice that the skies are clear again, and no fire on the horizon!!





Clear Skies!! And Many Thanks!!

Whew, fire...SO HAPPY it never made it all the way to our house!!

THANK YOU for your prayers and wonderful well-wishes!! I love you online friends!

I stayed up through the night to keep watch, and thankfully the wind turned, the fires decreased and turned away from us.

I don't know if there were any residences involved at all, because we don't have local news, but I think in this area it was finally contained.
We're still rooting for the rest of the state, as fires always threaten when it's dry and hot like this...

Rain came for a bit this morning about 6 AM, and the air looks pretty clear in this neck of the woods. Rain, rain, come again!!

Again, THANK YOU for your wonderful support...what a terrific community!!
And very, very grateful to God...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fire (Updated 7:47 PM)


A wildfire has been burning now for about 24 hours or more, east of here. When Jack left for work not long ago, he called to let me know it looks like it's still uncontrolled and that traffic had been re-routed from its path.

And that it's very possible we're in its path, depending on how many miles it'll burn. With the dry and very hot conditions here, it's a hard combination for firemen to combat effectively.

I was instructed to watch till I saw smoke, and if I saw it on the horizon, to begin watering down the roof, and stay near the phone for evacuation instructions, if things progressed that far.

There has been no smoke on the horizon for the past hour since he called...until now. Now I step things up somewhat, getting our vital papers transferred to totes and put into the car, and some photograph albums. I'll check to see the smoke factor then and start with the hose.

All prayers are appreciated...this may blow away, or be stopped by the firefighting efforts. But so far, it's still burning, and we're putting our emergency plans into the first stages of action.

Thank you for those of you who'll pray this won't harm our home or anyone else's...!

Shall keep you posted as I can :)





Update: 7:47 P.M.





We've moved all our vital records and meds to our vehicles, but are holding off on hosing down the structure and packing a suitcase since we called 911 and were told the wind appeared to be shifting and the number of responding units are fewer. It looks like the turn of the wind has taken us out of the path, but we'll need to follow its progress closely throughout the night. I'll be here by myself in the night, so will have to ply myself with some good DVDs to help stay awake enough...to say I could sleep through a fire is probably fairly accurate, and it's not the time to put that theory to the test ;-) I haven't had time to be here to respond to this weekend's comments, but shall be back soon as possible. Thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers :) So far, 100+ acres have been burned, but no residences. They think it was all started by driver on the highway tossing a lit cigarette out the window...





Here's what it looks like now from the front of our house...




Friday, May 16, 2008

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Settling in for the Weekend

I need some sunshine today, and to make headway with the cleaning.

Recent news reports have sat like a lead stone on my heart, and moreso the news that never made the headlines.

I'm not depressed, nor am I hopeless. I am less naive and idealistic, but I know myself enough to realize my place in this world will be defined by trying to work to make it better.

Now and then I look into the future, and it seems like an increasingly chaotic darkness is looming. I have to resist giving in to a feeling that what I do here matters very little.

I believe it's ok to mourn the things that are injustices, and the things that tear away innocence. I am angered at the negligence and irresponsibility that's being wielded by large corporations that manipulate the public and market their products under the label of "The American Dream," yet are more dangerous to the future of our food supply, our health, our children, and our freedoms than any present-day terrorist. I see them as "the Enemy Within," and I don't see many folks even aware of what's being lost. Core fundamental freedoms that determine not only our present, but our futures, are being signed away without public awareness, public vote, and are being embraced under the blanket rationale "national security." I've never trusted politicians to be the answer to our problems, but am so disappointed at how blatantly the past few decades' leaders (and present) are selling us out in ways most people don't understand the breadth of.

I don't mean this to be a downer of a post.

I feel like crying...and crying. I think we HAVE to see what's happening to try to fix it. No matter how content we are changing things in the few square feet we inhabit in our lives and homes, we cannot be silent bystanders and watch the powerful eat their own children. WE are those children, in many cases.

I sincerely believe that to walk uprightly (which is my definition of having integrity that begins inside ourselves) is the core of where any change takes place...and so we try to do right, in our own family's life. We document the fun and the bumps of that journey, many times here on the blog. We find joy in the everyday, when we stop to SEE...

I'm not going to shrink from the ugliness while embracing the happy things...it takes backbone to look to the future without resignation or despair.

But I'm so worried.

I'm very, very worried. I'm not of a belief that we can let this world go to hell in a handbasket and then be swooped on high with a Get of Jail Free card just when it all goes bust. Nor do I believe we're our own gods, creating our own universe as we go. I do believe God knows these times, but I believe He knew who'd be suited for being born into "such a time as this." Maybe we're living now because we have the stuff it takes to not give up, not lose hope?

Shabbat will be here in a few hours. I'll rest my head...and my mind, and get some renewed verve during that time, I hope :)

I just can't be blithe about what's happening, especially with genetic tampering. Now I look at every item at the store and wonder which of it is genetically modified, yet just not labeled. I wonder what it's doing to not just my body, but my daughter's and if she'll be able to have children, and if they'll carry defects because of what we're eating, breathing, drinking...or if they'll be allowed to be born at all if they test positive to certain genetic traits.

I'm living in a science fiction world.

I need the weekend to get over some of this grief and find the courageous Robbyn again...



I'll have some much-needed time to read the scriptures and have quiet time.
I'm grateful for that time, and for my loved ones...and I know no matter what, we'll find much to smile over and laugh about. We have so much for which to be grateful.

Hug your loved ones tight! That's my plan... :)


Shabbat shalom :)

Legal Defense Fund Moves to Stop Animal ID Program

Found this in my email inbox, from our local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legal Defense Fund Moves to Stop Animal ID Program; Files Intent to Sue Letter with USDA and Michigan Department of Agriculture

Falls Church, Virginia, (May 15, 2008)

-- Attorneys for the Farm-to-ConsumerLegal Defense Fund today sent a Notice of Intent to Sue letter to the UnitedStates Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Michigan Department ofAgriculture (MDA) over implementation of the National Animal IdentificationSystem (NAIS), a plan to electronically track every livestock animal in thecountry.

The Notice asks the USDA and MDA to "immediately suspend the funding andimplementation of NAIS," and "fully and fairly examine" whether there is even aneed for such a program.

Taaron Meikle, Fund president, said that contrary to USDA's claim, NAIS will do nothing to protect the health of livestock and poultry. "At a time when food safety and costs are a concern, the USDA has spent over $118 million to promote a program that will burden everyone from pleasure horse owners to ranchers andsmall farmers to individuals who raise a few chickens or steers on their ownland for their own use."Once fully implemented, the NAIS program would require every person who owns even one livestock or poultry animal (a single chicken or a pet pony) to register their property with the state and federal government, to tag each animal, and to report "events" to a database within 24 hours. Reportable events would include such things as a private sale, a state fair, or a horse show.

The Notice charges that USDA has never published rules regarding NAIS, inviolation of the Federal Administrative Procedures Act; has never performed an
Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment as required by theNational Environmental Policy Act; is in violation of the Regulatory Flexibility Act that requires them to analyze proposed rules for their impact on small entities and local governments; and violates religious freedoms guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. "We also think there are constitutional issues at stake here," Meikle noted. "The requirement to use electronic ear tags or RFID chips violates the religiousbeliefs of some farmers, such as the Amish, and provisions in a memorandum of understanding between the USDA and the MDA could violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution by requiring the state to stop and inspectvehicles carrying livestock without a warrant or probable cause."

The MDA has implemented the first two stages of NAIS -property registration and animal identification - for all cattle and farmers across the state as part of its mandatory bovine tuberculosis disease control program, which is mandated by a grant from the USDA.

"While touted as a disease control program, the NAIS will drive many small farmers out of business" Meikle noted, "and burden every person who owns even one horse, chicken, cow, goat, sheep, pig, llama, alpaca, or other livestock animal with expensive and intrusive government regulations.

"Joe Golimbieski, a farmer from Standish, Michigan and Fund member, explains: "The cost of the tags is just the start. We're at the mercy of whatever price the stockyards charge to do the tagging. And our farm doesn't have extra employees to deal with paperwork. NAIS is likely to put us out of business.

"Gary Cox, General Counsel for the Fund, states that "USDA and MDA have exceededtheir authority and they have completely failed to follow the proper procedures. We are calling on the agencies to immediately halt implementation of the programor face appropriate action. "The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights of farmers to produceand sell the products of their farms and gardens directly to consumers, and the rights of consumers to obtain food directly from farmers engaged in nontoxic,environmentally friendly agriculture.

Concerned citizens can support the Fund byjoining at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by contacting the Fund at 703-208-FARM.

The Fund's sister organization, the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation(www.farmtoconsumerfoundation.org), works to support farmers engaged insustainable farm stewardship and to promote consumer access to local,nutrient-dense food.

Editor's Note: The Notice of Intent to Sue the (USDA) and (MDA) is available atwww.farmtoconsumer.org

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Do Not Take Away My Freedoms to "Protect" Me

Please read the post at Monica's Small Meadow Farm blog in response to a comment left questioning if the furor on the part of some very few folks who're aware of law S. 1858 (just signed into being by our president) is justified.

Please understand these issues will shape our world whether we are aware of them, or not!

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Kind Words Appreciated

The people who find each other via homestead blogs are so diverse, and our goals and lives are as well. But we are a real community even if our connection is from a distance.

I just learned about a tragedy when reading Danni's Blog here. If you'd like to stop in and offer a kind word, Kayte at A Journey In Your Dreams is a blogging homesteader whose losses just now seem paralyzing. Nothing can hit at the heart of a farmer more than the pain and loss of his/her animals.

Please keep Kayte in your thoughts and prayers...

Blogroll Update

Here are some more great ones :)

CoffeeCoffeeCoffee blog...guess what the beverage of choice is?? Another wonderful sustainability blog and kindred spirit!

Sengdroma Farm Estate is located in Canada, and they have (guess what??)....Yaks!!

Dina's Hip Chick Chronicles...a great title for a great blog about a backyard full of chickens :)

Rose's Recipes has a delicious, tantalizing collection of recipes on this blog that'll make you hungry...

I'm sure I've left some other greats out...as I usually (unintentionally!) do. Of course, there'll be more in the future :) It'll take me a day or two to get these linked on my sidebar (again, as usual!) so thank you in advance for your patience!

Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Take Time to Eat the Flowers


In perusing companion plants and beneficial flowers for the homestead, cutting garden, scent garden, veggie garden, children's garden, beneficial insect/pollinator planting, mixed wildflower meadow, green manure patch, cottage garden, herb garden, and potager/French Kitchen garden, my eye scanned familiar lists of favorites, and then some of them rang a bit of a bell in my memory. As stunningly, or sometimes modestly, beautiful as these flowers are when intermingled with the more utilitarian veg in our gardens (and I say "our gardens" in the community sense this year, since all our plants currently are in homely 5 gallon plastic buckets, ha!), there are many of them that can elevate the dinner plate to a riot of color and celebration.

I'm talking about edible flowers.

No, I'm not a gourmand, and I don't serve fluffy truffle-infused bits of mousse on white china to a family on Grandma's china...not that I wouldn't sample it if the opportunity arose! :) I'm a cook who's still learning, and my kitchen repertoire is pretty basic while expanding.

I do remember last year, though, and my dianthus plants. They did not survive the hot Florida summer, but the next time I try them, I'll situate them in a more comfy spot and give them a lot more nurture. The one thing I remember the most about them, besides their wonderful clove-like scent, was that I ventured to try washing and separating the flower petals, and using them in our salads. The salads went from lovely to stunning! There was very little flavor addition by using the dianthus petals, but the magenta, burgundy, hot pink, baby pink, blush, and snow white petals separated into tiny frilled triangles, and when tossed with fresh salad greens, that salad was a show stopper! It's amazing how much more appealing that salad become just by tossing in some flower magic!

Taking such a salad to a public gathering made for a lot of comments...what is it? what does it taste like? is it safe to eat??

Some people were just put off by the thought of consuming something otherwise thought to be for "looks only." I admit, I was in that category before engaging in some reading and perusing the lists of edible flowers and the notes on each.

It's worthwhile to look over some lists like that, if you're incorporating flowers into your garden this year, especially those herbs and companion plants. Many flower petals are edible!

There are things to note, such as the best time to harvest them (what time of day, etc), and particularly anything to be cautious about. With most flowers, it's best to remove all the bits except the petals, as the pollen on the stames can aggravate allergy sufferers or those who are pre-disposed to asthma (such as myself). Some can be used as freely as you like, others, more as a garnish but not consumed in large quantities.

When trying flowers as additions to recipes, it's best to sample a tiny bit and wait for a while, to be sure you have no sensitivity. In fact, it's like most new foods...see if your body is happy, and adjust accordingly.

That said, you also have to make sure you have the right plant...there are some plants that look similar but are entirely different. Don't eat anything you're not sure of!

Those are the precautions. The good news is that there are so many, many wonderful blooms and petals to choose from, there's sure to be a basketful your family can enjoy. Some can be stuffed, battered, frittered and fried. Some are delicious tucked into pitchers of iced tea, or a hot "cuppa." Some are beautiful candied, sugared, or preserved. Some can be pickled or used as garnishes. Some are wonderful for layering into a salad, sandwich, or slaw. Some can be made into wines.

There were some surprises to me as I looked over the lists: Tulips, Lilacs, Chrysanthemums, Gardenias, Okra blooms, Bee Balm, to name a few. I knew violets and Johnny-Jump-ups were edible, but I didn't know to limit the Johnny-Jump-Ups to mostly garnishes. It helps to compare lists, to see what one source cautions or expands upon.

There are lists available of poisonous flowers, too. They are worth looking over just to know.

Here are some great links to explore, as we re-assess those garden flowers and herbs with a new eye to the dinner plate:










Wouldn't some of these be a terrific addition to the homestead, and even the farmer's market or road-side stand salad mix or veggies, not to mention value-added handcrafted items such as homemade soaps, bath salts, handmade papers?

I hope you enjoy this experimentation as much as I'm beginning to...it's so much fun to play with our food!





Monday, May 12, 2008

Government-Mandated Nationwide Infant DNA Collection and Database

The State of Minnesota had been illegally collecting and storing blood samples of infants born since 1997 in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Health. The samples were collected against a statute stating it must be done with parental consent. A further bill was passed legalizing infant DNA to be routinely collected without being subject to any privacy law, without parental consent. The children's DNA is being warehoused without the awareness of most parents, and can be accessed by the state and researchers without informed consent.

More than 40,000 Minnesota children's DNA has already been used without informed consent.

The recent law S. 1858 signed by President Bush was styled after this system. It is now slated to be implemented nationwide within the next 6 months.

This video is worth a watch...

From Youtube -- This video's description states:
This video from the April 1, 2008 Minnesota Senate floor session features a valiant effort by Sen. Betsy Wergin (R, Princeton) to amend SF3138 in order to protect newborn genetic privacy. Sen. Wergin's amendments were unfortunately defeated by the DFL-controlled Senate.

Unbeknownst to parents, the Minnesota Department of Health has been collecting and storing infant DNA since 1997. Last year, a judge ordered the Department to cease this practice and comply with Minnesota law that requires informed written parental consent. But instead of complying, the Department of Health has worked to change the law, thereby allowing the Department to continue their practice of collecting DNA without a parent's expressed permission. Bill number SF3138 is the result of these efforts.




Here's a video from the CCHC Press Conference on Infant Genetic Privacy.



Our DNA is ours. It belongs to the individual.

Does any law have the right to take away this inalienable right??

Little Conversations on the Prairie


Protest newly-passed law S. 1858. It's a giant leap for Eugenics.

Beethoven's Fit


Protest S. 1858. It's a giant leap for Eugenics.

S. 1858: Establishment of National Newborn DNA Database

My blood pressure is beyond the roof!!!!

UN believable!!!!!!!!!

A quote from the article I just read:

According to congressional records, S.1858, sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., was approved in the Senate Dec. 13, in the House April 8 and signed by Bush April 24.
"Soon, under this bill, the DNA of all citizens will be housed in government genomic biobanks and considered governmental property for government research," said Twila Brase, president of the Citizens' Council on Health Care. "The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored
genetic research."

Read the article at Monica's Small Meadow Farm blog...

DOESN'T ANYONE REALIZE THIS IS A EUGENICS AGENDA RE-PACKAGED UNDER A MODERN "NATIONAL SECURITY AND HEALTH" LABEL???? HELLO, HOW LONG BEFORE IT'S MANDATORY THAT WE ARE TOLD WE CANNOT REPRODUCE BEYOND CERTAIN GUIDELINES OF GENETICS???

THE MASTER RACE AGENDA HAS JUST BEEN JUSTIFIED BY "NATIONAL HEALTH CONCERNS" AND.......COST!!!

I don't usually shout here.

This is worth shouting about, and even more worth doing something about. Is it too late????

How long is it going to be before people have to have their babies in secret at home to keep their DNA from being public record, or worse yet, screened to pre-determine the unborn babies that are the "best health prospects," in order to weed out the less-desirables?

It sounds like I've gone off the deep end here...this sounds like one of those bizarre futuristic movies about genetic profiling, etc.

But it just got signed into law.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Companionable Companion Plants

I'm a born book-a-holic, yet I'm tryingggg to control my urge to spend money right now, and this primarily applies to the purchase of garden-related books.

Some of the books I've most enjoyed from the library include lists of plants that are beneficial when planted near each other, otherwise known as companion plants. I need a list I can mark with notations in ink and highlight with markers, so back to the computer I came, to find some resources from which to glean...and print.

I found, of course, myriad links! Thankfully, the concept of companion planting is not new and is being implemented by many gardeners. In encouraging diversity in a garden environment, flowers, herbs, and vegetables can populate a shared space with many benefits to each, not to mention the boost they provide in attracting beneficial insects and pollinators.

A related concept is the potager, or French Kitchen garden concept, which also features the advantageous and beautiful combining of edible plants and flowers. The subject of potager garden is what first led me to the discovery of one of the blogs on my blogroll...a favorite, of course...La Ferme de Sourrou. It's a treasure trove of potager discovery! If you love potagers, or if you're curious about them, you'll also not want to miss a site I just discovered today, called Everything French Gardening. What a beautiful article about companion planting and the role it's played in European gardens for such a long time now. You'll have SUCH a hard time leaving that page.... :)

The more we grow things, the more I anticipate the garden as an living community, humming with every sort of insect and pollinator, birds, butterflies, toads, turtles, lizards. I love to while away time working or observing growing things and the worlds that are around, beneath, and within them. It seems like each plant is the backbone of a robust parade of living creatures seen and unseen, and I love being a private audience as ants build civilizations, lizards court, and flying insects explore. (I'll pass on romanticizing about the poisionous snakes, though :))

I've had my fill of sterile landscaping and uneaten lawns tightly clipped and preserved with applications of chemicals and weeded with Roundup. We don't do that ourselves, but it's prevalent in our community. I suppose the older I've become, the more child-like my preferences have become...sort of a coming full circle to the wonder of childhood and its penchant for messy woodlands and riotous gardens rather than perfectly spherical boxwoods in wood mulch with nary a creature found hiding.

There are many things I look so forward to when we can plant next year, and one of those is exploring the lists of companion plants, especially since we hope to have bees by then, both mason bees and honeybees. I want pollinators to see our plants, and hum with glee at the banquet before them! Perusing these lists fills in my wish list of the necessities with unexpected possibilities of additional herbs and flowers and bee-loving plants. It gives me ideas for new pairings of ingredients in recipes, seasonings to play with, bouquets to fill Mason jars on the window ledge, flavorings for vinegars and pickles, bold and playful salad amendments.

Anyway, without further ado, here's only one of many, many lists to be found on a most basic of internet searches: Alphabetical List of Companion Plants

In our experiments creating our own backyard grocery store (for that's what a garden should be, right?), it's made all the more fun by learning to "play with our food." The addition of companion plants are not only beneficial to plant health, but can include so many combinations that any simple plot can become a diverse Wonderland...

:)

Call Your Mom!


Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers of children, grandchildren, neighbors' children, animals and plants, and friends drawn to the warmth of food and a welcoming home.