Wordless Wednesday: Fragrant and Sweet Melon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I have an abundant crop of melons
coming ripe in my garden right now.

  What I can't eat now I plan to freeze for later.


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Stories from the Garden: The Mow and Blow

Friday, September 23, 2011

Advertisement for: «The "INVINCIBLE"...Image via WikipediaOne of my garden pet peeves involves gardeners.  I'm talking about the people you hire to do a weekly lawn and garden service.  In my experience, getting them to do what you want them to do can be a real headache.

If I wasn't a sick chick living with chronic pain and fatigue, I would do much of the garden maintenance myself.  After all, I have many of the tools I would need to get the job done: a push lawn mower, an electric hedge trimmer, a weed whacker, a lawn edger and an assortment of clippers.

Alas, my health problems prevent me from using these tools with any consistency.  Not to mention what a workout garden maintenance would be for me.

So, like many of you, I hire someone to take care of my front and back yards.

Whenever I start with someone new, which has happened a lot recently, I take the time to walk around my small property and point out all the things I'd like them to do.  These things fall into three categories: mow the lawn, trim the hedges and pull the weeds.

Seems pretty simple, right?

So why is it I have to keep pointing out work that isn't getting done?  Or attempt to do these things myself?  The later of course is a really bad idea, by the way.

During my last foray into finding a new gardener, I learned a new term: the mow and blow.  Apparently this is a gardeners' trade term for what some are doing when you pay for their services.  As the name implies, they limit their work to mowing your lawn and then using a leaf blower to sweep all the cut grass into the street.

'Really?' I thought to myself, 'And they charge me $100 a month for this limited service for my small front and back yards?  What a rip-off!'

But it is more than just a rip-off.  It is a huge disservice to me, someone who really does need to hire people to help her.  Having a gardener isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.  It pains me to have to spend my hard-won disability income on a service that doesn't meet my needs.  It peeves me that I have to constantly ask nag to get the work done that I can't do for myself.

So for the second time this year, I hired a new gardener.  This was after giving the last one to many chances to get the job done right.  When he failed yet again, I turned to Angie's List to find someone new.  That's when I saw the on-site reviews and learned I was not alone in my gardener woes: it seems many gardeners start out strong and then fall back to the mow and blow.

I've decided I'm not putting up with bad service any more.  My new gardener has great reviews on Angie's List, but I'm still only giving him three chances.  Three strikes and he's out.

Here's hoping he listens and does what I ask him to do.




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Wordless Wednesday: Japanese Eggplant

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Japanese eggplant: wonderful grilled or in ratatouille



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Harvest Spotlight: Musica Spanish Pole Beans

Monday, September 19, 2011

On the vine
 I love growing green beans.  Growing green beans is really quite easy.  I just plant the seeds, add water and some fertilizer, provide a trellis for them to climb on and watch them grow.

The most challenging part of growing green beans is figuring out how to harvest the ones at the top of the vines.  That's where a Pik-Stik really comes in handy. I have a dedicated one stored in the garage that I only use outside in the garden.

I find that the green bean seeds I buy from Renee's Garden always produce consistent and delicious harvests from my container garden.  I can't always find her amazing seeds at my local nursery, so I often order directly from her website, which is quick and easy.


Now I think these green beans are the kind of beans that are used to make those French green beans you find in cans and frozen packs in the grocery store.  When it comes time to prepare them, I wash them, dry them, trim the ends and then turn them into slivers.

Preparing them for cooking or freezing

I enjoy them steamed or in my Garden Green Bean Medley, a recipe I just discover this year.  When I have more than I can eat at one time, I freeze them in Ziploc vacuum freezer bags so I can use them well into the Fall and Winter.

Try Musica Spanish pole beans next year in your garden.


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Beautiful Crockpot Stewed Tomatoes

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Crockpot stewed tomatoes with onions and green bell pepper
My tomatoes vines are done producing for this season.  It makes me feel kind of sad really.  So for my last tomato hurrah of the season, I tried a new recipe for crockpot stewed tomatoes.

Now my original intention was to can these stewed tomatoes along with the whole raw packed tomatoes and juice my mother-in-law Kay and I created last weekend.  But according to pickyourown.org, stewed tomatoes require pressure canning, a device that Kay does not own.

I've been researching pressure canners, but they can be quite expensive.  Plus I am not convinced that canning is something I can do on my own.  I want to do more canning next year, but I think for now this sick chick will do so with help.

Here is the recipe I used:

Crockpot Stewed Tomatoes

2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
10 large tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
3 TBSP brown sugar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients into a 5 to 7 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or until tomatoes are tender.

I am pleased with the results of my crockpot stewed tomatoes.  I packed them into pint Ziploc containers and froze them for use later. According to the recipe I used, they can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

All packed up and ready for the freezer
My recipe is based on All-American Stewed Tomatoes from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever, which you can find at Barnes & Noble.com.



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Wordless Wednesday: My First Canning Project

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

With copious amounts of help from Kay,
my mother-in-law, I canned for the first time.
On the left: tomato juice  
One the right: raw pack whole tomatoes
 Thank you Kay!


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Gift Ideas to Get a Sick Chick Back Into the Garden

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wind chime close-upImage via WikipediaThis week is Invisible Illness Week.  I'll be writing a lot about it and what it means to me over at my other blog Oh My Aches and Pains!  But I wanted to share this video from Lisa Copen of Rest Ministries because it offers some great gift ideas that can encourage someone who is chronically ill to get back into the garden and in touch with nature once again.

It was an occupational therapist that listened and encouraged me modify my backyard gardening pursuits. She put the bug in my ear about chronic illness friendly container gardening. Today I credit her with starting me on my path to becoming The Seated Gardener. 

Perhaps a thoughtful gift for a sick friend can help you encourage them to see beyond the limitations of their chronic illness and find passion for a new pursuit.


Enjoy!








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Wordless Wednesday: From Vegetables to Ratatouille

Wednesday, September 07, 2011



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A Summertime Treat: Refreshing Orange Jelly

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

orangesImage by WGyuri via FlickrI'm almost embarrassed to admit that I absolutely love orange gelatin.  But my love for orange gelatin dessert has just reached a new high after I made my first recipe of Orange Jelly.

This recipe is best made with Valencia oranges, which are known as juice oranges.  They are available almost all year round, from February through October.  So really, the best time to make Orange Jelly is during the summer months, when a cool, light and refreshing dessert makes for a pleasant end to a hot summer day.

This recipe has got me wondering if the next dwarf fruit tree I buy should be a Valencia orange.

Orange Jelly

2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I used Splenda granular)
the juice of 1 lemon

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water and let soften.  Pour 1 3/4 cups boiling water over the gelatin and mix well to dissolve.  Add the orange juice, sugar or sugar substitute and lemon juice.  Pour into a 1-quart mold or individuals serving cups and chill until firm.

Adapted from the The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Pick up your own copy at BarnesandNoble.com.

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Labor Day Barbecue: Grill Up Some Steak Fries

Friday, September 02, 2011

With the unofficial end of Summer here, it's time to enjoy the three day Labor Day weekend here in the United States with a barbecue.  So this week at the store you'll want to pick up some steaks, burgers and hot dogs to cook on the grill.  

And what goes great with all these favorites?  Steak fries of course!


Did you know that you can make steak fries right on your BBQ grill?  They are so easy and tasty too, especially if you add hardwood chips on top of your charcoal briquets or use water-soaked chips in a smoker box on your gas grill.   


Grilled Steak Fries

2 to 4 large baking potatoes, like russets or white rose
good quality olive oil
sea salt
herbs and spices (optional)


Wash the potatoes under cold running water, brushing the skin all around with a stiff brush to clean off any soil or dirt since the potatoes will be grilled with the skin on. Dry using a clean towel. 

Cut each potatoes into 8 wedges. Depending on the side of the potatoes, you may want to cut the wedges in half.  Take care to cut the potatoes so that they all have approximately the same thickness.

Put the potato wedges into a large bowl and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and any herbs and spices you'd like to add.  Toss the wedges to ensure they are evenly coated with the oil, salt and herbs/spices. 

Try these herbs and spices to spruce up your steak fries.  You'll want to use about 2 to 4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs or 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried herbs.
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Chives
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Garlic Powder or Garlic Paste
  • Black or White Pepper
  • Powdered Chile Pepper (less is more with this ingredient)
  • Smoked Paprika
The secret to these fries is indirect grilling, so place the potato wedges on a grate not directly above the fire.  On the charcoal grill, these means keeping the briquets on one side of the kettle.  On a gas grill, simply turn off the burner under your fries.  Grill with the lid closed, turning once after 15 minutes.  Feel free to use the excess oil from the bowl to baste the fries after you turn them over.  

It only takes about 30 minutes to make these steak fries.  The final product tastes a lot like oven fries, only much, much better.


Garden Trivia:  Did you know that the true end of Summer is at the Autumnal Equinox?  This year it occurs on September 23 at 9:04 am UTC.




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