March 15, 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Ides of March...

Instead of being wary of this day, I rejoice that this l-o-n-g-e-s-t month is half over. Well, okay, with 31 days, I suppose it really isn't technically half over...

I've been on a cooking binge lately as I'm working on a booklet of honey-based recipes. One I've really liked uses all kinds of cubed root vegetables coated with a mixture of 1/4 c honey and 1 TBSP olive oil, then cooked for 35-40 minutes at 450, giving the veggies a nice carmelized glaze. I even added brussel sprouts to the white and sweet potato, squash, turnip, carrot, parsnip and onion chunks. Excellent!

A couple of weeks ago I made several citrus flavored honey butters, one was lemon-lime, another orange-lemon and one orange-grapefruit. Each was outstanding. We used them on biscuits, pancakes, popovers and anything baked, but I've tried them this past weeks on green beans, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and even mashed sweet potato, all with very tasty results. (Hmmm, I wonder how one of these would be on hot popcorn...)

Finally, I made honey-orange-almond scones, glazed with a mixture of honey and orange juice then sprinkled with sliced almonds. Needless to say, they were way wicked good too. NOW, just don't ask me how the old diet's coming along...

If you'd like this scone recipe, just email me and I'll send it along...


March 12, 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Life Lessons: Listening Through the Layers

Last week we talked about starting the day with five-senses centering, a way to anchor yourself, at least for a moment, in the here and the now. When I walk out to get the paper first thing in the morning, I listen to the sounds of the world waking up.

On weekdays the first sound I register is one both distant and insistent: traffic on a somewhat nearby highway. It's high-speed, low rumble, much like the background noise of life itself. Next I often hear birds, maybe just a crow, maybe an early flight of geese passing overhead from their nightime nesting spots to their daytime gathering place, a wonderful open field that may host several hundred geese on any given day. As we get toward spring, I hear more small-bird chirps, the black-capped chickdees now mixing with a cardinal's call.

I may hear the sussuration of wind in the trees, soft if in the evergreens, harder if rustling through the dry deciduous leaves left over from last fall. (I just love the word "surration," don't you!) Rain makes for a positve cachophony of sounds, while snow often blankets the world in an incredible hush.

As the sounds get smaller, closer, I hear the slight metallic tinkle of a dog tag against a collar as the neighbor's dog makes its morning rounds. The next layer of listening brings me quiet, close-by little noises, the small scratch of a branch against one edge of the house, a soft flutter as the breeze ruffles a corner of the paper I'm carrying, and the tiny rolling of a pebble I've just dislodged. And, then... finally... I can hear my own quiet breathing and peaceful thoughts.

AND, f I listen very, very closely I just may hear that still small voice of my heart and know that this IS the day that the Lord hath made!

So take the time to listen through the clatter and clutter of daily life, and truly hear with the ear of your heart!


March 8, 2006

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Planning the Garden: Hay Bale Planting

Have we talked yet about hay bale planting? It's an unusual and practical method of growing some flowers and certain vegetables in a small space, especially as the bales can be used to define an area, be placed casually around a patio, or be set out to get a new ground ready for the following year. Let's take a look at what's involved...

Of course you start with a bale of hay, and it does need to be hay, not straw. It can be at any stage from freshly baled to partially decomposed. Taking a trowel, hollow out holes in the top and even the sides if you want. I usually do anywhere from seven to ten holes in the top, each hole trowel-wide and trowel-deep. Fill with rich compost, plant either seeds or seedlings, keep well watered and stand back!

As the roots develop they spread out throughout the bale, decomposing the hay in the process and that of course generates heat for those roots. The plants grow to a self-mulching size very quickly, but I do water them with a grow solution once a week.

I've grown the tiny pumpkins, terrific peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant and several other veggies this way, always with good results. Wave petunias or mound nasturiums make a positive mountain of color! Geraniums interspersed with dusy miller, coleus, and/or low ageratums will do well. And, you can also use this method in shady areas, filling the bales with begonias, impatiens and again, coleus. The possibilities are just endless and experimentation is half the fun!

Of course I've assumed here that you know where to come by bales of hay for trying this!


March 5, 2006

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Life Lessons: Five Senses Centering

Have you ever woken up in the morning and even before your feet hit the floor, your mind is racing with all that you have to get done that day? You're behind before you begin!

For several years, I've been using five senses centering throughout the day to remind myself that "I am here, I am now." By stopping, coming to a complete stop!, for just a few seconds and truly registering the here and now through the five senses of hearing, looking, tasting, smelling, and feeling, I can stop the merry-go-'round, take a deep breath, feel refreshed, and keep going with a new/renewed calm. This is truly invaluable for me.

And so I found myself facing another frenetic morning, mentally ordering the tasks of the day, the appointments, the errands, the mundane, all starting to loom monumental - at least that's how everything began to seem at some point between deep sleep and hot shower.

Every morning after 20 minutes on the treadmill, I walk out to the mailbox to get the newspaper, no great distance, just to the foot of our driveway, maybe 100-125 feet. But now, as I step out the door, I clear my mind by saying out loud one of several things. Some mornings I quote Kahlil Gibran to the rising sun, "Awake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving." Or perhaps I remind myself that "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Whatever I say, and it does need to be said aloud, the words never fail to re-focus the entire day, opening my five senses to the re-centering of my thinking, energies, and most of all, hopes for the coming day. It's such a gift.

Next week, we'll look at the first of our five senses for centering, looking, truly seeing... See you next week!


March 1, 2006

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Many Purposes of Planting Flowers

Last week we talked about choosing varieties of vegetables for your garden beginning with a look at the purpose for which you're growing each veggie. For example, you'd grow different potatoes for winter-keeping than you might for new potatoes to enjoy fresh out of the garden.

It's the same with flowers; with so, so many possibilities you might want to consider your purposes in growing them too. I'm a strong believer in inter-mxing veggies and flowers, both for the bnefits of companion planting and for the sweet scent and visual beauty of such a garden. Companion planting, growing different plants near each other to benefit one or both of them, can be very useful for certain veggies. We've always inter-planted marigolds with tomatoes and nasturiums amongst the vine crops for pest control. There are many, many other mutally beneficial combinations that you may want to explore too.

Other reasons for growing specific flowers may include attracting bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife, for hanging pots and patio planters, for cut flowers of course, and for craft uses such as dried or pressed flowers, potpourri, papermaking, soapmaking and more. Many flowers are grown as screening, some as supports for other plants, some to define an area or pathways, and of course many are grown just for their showy display.

Let me give you a few examples. Buddleias, which are fairly fragile in Maine winters, are a must for the bees and butterflies. I buy these plants as transplants, treating them really as annuals, although I do mulch them heavily and have been rewarded with multiple seasons for some of them.

Sunflowers at the back of a bed may support morning glories or even the miniature pumpkins. They can also be planted to support pole beans very nicely. Because I grow most of my flowers for cutting, I need a variety of textures, shapes, and shades of the usual colors. I've found flowers I loved and thought would be wonderful for bouquets only to discover that they are too dainty to hold their own in a bouquet, they are too delicate, or sometimes that their vase life is too limited. On the other hand, dahlias, asters and zinnias are old reliables.

So, just as with the vegetables, before you become absoltuely overwhelmed with those gorgeous pictures in the seed catalogs, think about your planting purposes, make a list, then fit the best varieties into your garden this summer. AND, with both veggies and flowers, keeping a notebook from year to year is essential, an invaluable aid for remembering those specific plants you loved and those you loathed.