Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red Flowers to Cheer Me

Two weeks ago I was grumbling about how the cold, rainy, grey weather was adversely affecting my mood and that my pretty red petunias had died after living through 2 summers and last winter. I wrote that I really missed their colorful red faces that greeted me when I went out to my front porch.

Well right after I published that post, Bob visited our nearest big city and brought back a beautiful red flowering plant for me. It is a cyclamen. I've never had one of those before. Look how beautiful and bright red it is!

Bright Red Cyclamen

Since receiving this cyclamen it has really blossomed out. It has 3 times as many flowers on it right now than it had when it first got here.

Then, a few days later, I was over at Jack's and was admiring his potted rose bush by the front door. So he gave me a full deep pink bloom to take home with me. It is so deep pink that it's almost red. See it there next to my pink wine:

Beautiful Rose Bloom

This cut rose bloom still looks just like this and it is almost 1 week old today. It's really lasted a long time for a rose.

Both of these flower gifts have made my life and my home a little cheerier. I am grateful to have such wonderful partners who love me and give me little reminders of their love all the time.

I love flowers. I love to receive them, and I love to grow them, but I have been so busy growing vegetables & fruit for the past 10 years, that I really haven't grown many flowers. Sure my red petunias lasted in a pot on my porch for awhile, until they died recently. My roses struggle along never quite blooming enough to suit me. Something ate my daisies. The gophers eat my tulip bulbs and the deer scarf down the blooms. My irises grow, but don't bloom that much anymore. I guess my lavender plants flower pretty well all year. They have sort of taken over my herb garden. And the amaryllis bulbs that my Mom gave me years and years ago, called Naked Ladies, a light pink showy blossom, do pretty well each summer, although I think the gophers may get to them too. The only flowers that do really well each year are my spring daffodils. Nothing eats them and they poke their bright yellow heads up to face the warm spring sun only to get rained and snowed on for their bravery. I love how brave they are. I want to be like them. Sunny, bright, delicate, yet strong and brave.

Be a flower. Brighten someone's day.

Thanks Bob and Jack for my beautiful red flowers. I love them, and I love you.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harvest Dinner 2008

Harvest Dinner 2008

For the past decade or so, at least since my Mom passed away, Jack and I usually travel to the LA area to attend Thanksgiving dinner at the home of one his relatives, usually one of his sisters. This means that for several years I did not have the pleasure of preparing and hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner celebration in my own home with my family and friends. It also meant that I did not get to make the traditional foods for Thanksgiving the way my own family did or the foods that I had learned to make as a young woman when I was married (both long ago).

So a few years ago I started the tradition of having what I call our annual Harvest Dinner celebration in the comfort and relaxation of my own home, with my friends and family, with my traditional foods, served on my favorite plates, with my festive tablecloth, using my serving dishes, my decorations etc etc. In other words, Harvest Dinner is Thanksgiving my way.

Here is our Harvest Dinner invitation that we gave to our family and friends:

The 3 of us invite you to share in our annual Harvest Dinner. It’s our way of celebrating our abundance and to give thanks to the earth, our loved ones and our universe (spirit). Sort of like traditional Thanksgiving, but not on Thanksgiving Day.

I like to include a moment or two before we begin eating the feast of food to express our thankfulness for all of the abundance that we have. Some would call this moment of thanks a prayer or the traditonal grace that is said to give thanks for our meal, but I mean it to be much more than mere gratitude for the food. This moment of acknowledgement for our great abundance, is meant to bring into our consciousness how fortunate we are to have not only an abundance of food on our table, but also our great abundance in many other areas of lives. We have homes, health, safety, freedom, friends, family, and most of all we have love. So as we raised our wine glasses to toast a Happy Harvest, we thanked each other for being being here, Mother Earth for our abundant harvest, and Spirit for guiding us each day. Then we dug into the mounds of food on our plates.

Some years I have printed out this grace that I found in one of my Mom's books long ago, and we have made it a part of our Harvest Dinner thankfulness moment. I do not know who the author is:

This is a time for giving thanks
This is a time for remembrance

Let us remember our past and
Give thanks for what we have become

Let us be present in the present and
Give thanks for the here and now

Let us remember our future and
Give thanks for all that is to happen to us

Let us give thanks for the whole universe
Especially for our creation
And the life that is in us

Let us give thanks for that consummation of all things
Which Spirit is working out in us

May light and love surround us
And guide us to right action

I think it is a lovely, although lengthy sentiment.

Anyway, I wanted to share our most recent Harvest Dinner with you. We usually have it on a Sunday afternoon about two weeks before Thanksgiving. We had our 2008 dinner last Sunday, November 16th.

Here's the menu:

2008 Harvest Dinner Menu

Baby Carrots & Celery
Mixed Nuts
Goat Cheese & Crackers

Main Course
Free Range Turkey
Greek Stuffing
Bread Stuffing Casserole
Cornbread Pudding
Mashed Potatoes
Turkey Gravy
Pineapple-Orange Sweet Potatoes
Fresh Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
Jellied Cranberry Sauce

Apple Pie & Sugarless Apple Pie– both by Bob
Pecan Pie – by Jen
Pumpkin Pie – by Jack
Whipped Cream

I got lots of photos of the food, but absolutely none of us or our guests! We invited Bob's parents and a close friend of the family to make us 6 for dinner. Just the right amount of people to fit around my dining table.

So what follows here are the photos of our food feast with no pictures of any people or pets! Oh well, I guess I was totally focused on getting the food prepared and on the table for everyone.

Harvest Dinner Dining Table

That tablecloth was made by me 15 years ago for a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted in my little condo in Southern California, long before I moved to the mountains and my rural life. I still love the tablecloth and its rich colors.

Buffet Table set up in my kitchen

We served the food buffet style on a portable table set up in my kitchen. Everyone filled their own plate with whatever they desired from the buffet setup. I find this is the easiest way to serve the food because all of that food would never fit on my dining room table. This also eliminates the need for everyone passing heavy hot serving dishes around the table. It limits spillage and other dining "disasters".

The roasted turkey before being carved

I try to buy naturally raised hormone and antibiotic free turkeys when I cook turkey. I find that I like the way they taste better, and I feel better about buying a turkey that was raised without chemicals. This one was a Diestel Farms brand turkey. That's the brand I usually buy.

On our buffet table there was:

Roasted Turkey ~ light and dark meat

Pineapple Orange Fresh Sweet Potatoes

Bob's Famous Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Gravy ~ photo taken while gravy was cooking

My Mom's Greek Chestnut Stuffing

Cornbread Pudding ~ made this year by Jack

Bread Stuffing ~ Mrs. Cubbison's with my "doctoring up"

Fresh Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Bob's parents brought some flaky dinner biscuits that were wonderful, but I failed to get a picture of them. Trust me, they were good.

And then after dinner we had pie! Errr...make that pies. Plural.

Jack's creamy Pumpkin Pie

Jack tried a new filling recipe this year that used real cream instead of evaporated milk. It was a richer pumpkin than I have had before.

Bob's Sugarless Apple on the left, and regular Apple on the right

Both apple pies were great. I couldn't even tell the difference between the sugarless and the one with sugar in it.

My Pecan Pie ~ tasted great even if the crust is ugly

Well, that's it for this year. The turkey and all the leftovers are long gone by the time I am writing this post. Maybe next year I'll get a photo or two of the people as well as the food!

Happy Harvest everyone! And Happy Thanksgiving!

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Planted Garlic Today

Prepared Garlic Planting Bed

Yup, I am leading off with a picture of dirt. That's not just any dirt. It's carefully prepared planting soil in my raised bed veggie garden. First I loosened the soil down about 4 inches or so with my special hand tool called a Korean Weeder/Cultivator. It was a gift from a friend several years ago. I didn't take a photo of the one I used today, but did find this one on the web to show you:

Korean Weeder/Cultivator

It's great for loosening the soil and digging up the weeds to prepare a bed for planting.

After loosening and weeding, I spread about two buckets full of aged homemade compost across the bed and mixed it in and smoothed it with the weeder. Then I used a standard cultivator tool to make 5 long rows across the garlic planting bed. I know from previous planting experience that I can get 5 rows of 7 or 8 garlic plants in this little square section of my raised bed garden. The square section is 1/8 of the total raised bed space, and I use a different section each year to rotate my crops and avoid diseases and soil burn out.

I chose this section of my garden today because I haven't planted garlic there for a few years and I intend to plant my lettuces and leafy greens there in the spring. I will plant them in between the rows of garlic that I planted today. The garlic tends to keep the bugs away from my greens, and that's a good thing. Garlic takes up very little garden space, so there is plenty of room for the greens to grow in between.

After soil preparation and row making, I went to fetch my garlic cloves. I usually only plant Calfornia white garlic (the kind they grow in Gilroy, CA the "Garlic Capitol of the World") because that is what I started planting years ago and have had great success with it. It is a medium hot garlic that is quite juicy, and I like it's flavor very well. I find that if I save a few heads of each harvest to plant the next year, the garlic flavor keeps getting better and better.

Well, this year I planted 5 different kinds of garlic, for two reasons:

One, I neglected to plant any garlic last year, so I did not have any garlic heads saved out to plant this year. All I had were a few cloves that were part of the 2 or 3 heads of white garlic that "volunteered" themselves in my garden this year. I must have missed them and left them in the ground when I harvested my summer 2007 garlic.


Two, I was influenced by both Farmgirl_dk's great post about garlic on her Critter Farm Blog last month where she talked about several kinds of garlic, and also by visiting my local organic farmer's store and finding many different kinds of organic garlic available for me to try.

I don't remember all the fancy names of the garlic varieties that I purchased and brought home to eat and plant, but here is a photo of the cloves I chose for planting today:

Garlic Cloves for planting

Clockwise from the upper left corner of the picture are purple cloves that came from a purple colored garlic head, tan or red cloves that came from a white head, my few homegrown California white garlic cloves that I saved from the volunteer garlic this year, purple cloves that came from a white colored garlic head, and lastly at the bottom of the frame we have white cloves that came from a white headed garlic that I bought in the organic farm store.

My guess is that the purchased white garlic cloves are the same CA white garlic variety that I have been planting for years. They look the same and felt the same when I broke the head apart. The shape of the cloves was sort of rounded as opposed to elongated like the "red" variety.

The rest of the purchased organic garlic that I planted today is a mixture of hard and softnecks, reds and purples, most likely all grown from seed garlic purchased at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. Our local organic farmer and I both buy seeds and some supplies from Peaceful Valley. Actually though, my first CA white garlic that I planted years ago, was conventionally grown garlic that I bought in the local supermarket for mere pennies.

Garlic is easy and fun to grow. I am excited this year to see how the new varieties of garlic will grow and produce.

So I finally got around to planting my fall garlic. Probably took me longer to tell you about it than it did to prepare and plant it!

Plant your own garlic. You will enjoy it.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weather & Mood

Fire in the Morning Sky

These very early morning photos were taken by me a little over a week ago. I couldn't sleep so I got up before dawn. Rising early is a rare occurance for me since I usually don't sleep very well these days. That morning we had some clouds in the sky and the sunrise was so beautiful that I ran to get my camera. My front porch faces east, so these were all taken standing on the porch looking eastward toward the nearby mountain ridges.

I love the beauty in all of these photos, but I really adore that bright fiery look of the first one above.

This next one was taken a few minutes later when the dawn light was more mellow and pale:

Yellow Dawn

Then the lovely pink hues of the next photo made me say "ahh" as I took the shot.

Pink Sunrise

I wondered to myself as I enjoyed nature's beautiful sunrise display, why I don't make the effort to get up earlier and enjoy this peaceful time of day more often.

Since these photos were taken, we have had a couple of rainstorms pass through our mountain area here, dumping loads of heavy wet rain on us pretty early in the season. We went from very dry cooling weather, to very wet chilling weather very quickly. Everyone and everything here is trying hard to adjust to the rapid change.

It gets chilly in my house mid-afternoon now. I started building fires in my woodstove about a week ago. That stove really warms my home with steady even heat that penetrates the whole house. The ground outside is more than damp. It is muddy! Everywhere is drenched. Wet leaves on the ground. Mud and debris stick to my shoes causing me to brush them off before entering the house.

The weather has been kind of grey lately with the abrupt change, and so has my mood. I have been grumpier than I'd like to be more often than I'd like. I guess my body is trying to adjust to the weather changes and so is my mind. I am disgruntled over my pretty red petunias that were so nice a couple of weeks ago. They have died with the cold weather. They made it all the way through last winter and choose now to die, before we even had snow yet. I miss their colorful red faces that greeted me every time I went out on my front porch.

My garden is going dormant. I've been pulling out the dead veggies. All the tomatoes, squash and even the spring broccoli plants are gone to the compost pile now. I still have some carrots and even a couple of bell pepper plants still out there freezing their leaves off. Probably should bring them in now.

I did harvest my late planted canteloupes. See the baby-sized melons in the picture below:

Baby Canteloupes ~ baseball size and smaller

Next year I will start them earlier and feed them some nutritious compost to grow them bigger and faster. The one I cut (see photo) was very tasty. I enjoyed the orange fruit and the chickens enjoyed pecking at the green part on the peels.

As I mentioned in my last post, well over a week ago, I did clean and roast the Halloween field pumpkin seeds.

Clean Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds ready to Roast

I salted and seasoned them with some spicy stuff and gave them to Jack and Bob to enjoy.

This afternoon Bob brought me a bouquet of roses to brighten my spirits. So not all is grey around here. Some things are still bright and red:

Beautiful Red Roses

I am lucky to have good friends, partners and my loving pet companions in my life. I really never lose sight of that even when I am grumpy. I guess I just need to make my own sunshine when it's raining and cold outside.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket