The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Squash Casserole and Peace on Earth

I wanted to post a recipe, one of my favorite summer eats. It’s easy and healthy and inexpensive. I served it for dinner last night. Prepared it in 10 minutes. I let it cook while I transplanted sunflower seedlings into containers to take to the Farmers Market Saturday.

Yes, I’ve signed on for a season at the Farmer’s Market at the Bluegrass Stock Yards. https://bgregionalmarketplace.com I sell several varieties of micro greens and the extra produce that will come from my garden. Plus a few extras. I’ve made some unique and fun shopping bags. I’ve made some glass flowers. A Pinterest project. No watering required.

And as I work to put all of this together, it all this seems so everyday. Such a “normal” existence when at the border of my country and so many other countries there are hungry, frightened displaced people knocking. Real people with families.

I have no reference to how desperate I’d need to be, how frightened and strong I’d need to be to leave my country and go to a place with a different language with nothing but the clothes on my back.

And then to find no respite? To fall again into more political entanglement and anger and become again the victim of the cruelties of man’s inhumanities? Where do they go? What do they do? Ugly. It’s ugly.

So how do I go on with my daily life? Living in safety, eating local food, grown in abundance with love and kindness while being justifiably appalled at the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers across the globe. I sign petitions and I pray a lot. But how is that enough?

I raise micro greens, super food for a healthier body. Broccoli, radish, sunflowers, a salad mix, peas.

I raise flowers which I sell and gift to delight the yard owners for a season. I send some money to grass roots organizations. I made an effort be as kind and compassionate to others when I am out and about. I call my Congressmen and I leave messages, when the phone lines are available. I find them mostly busy these days.

And I can be truly grateful for my situation in life. I am grateful that I have enough. I am safe and healthy. And I will be more aware of being the best person I can be in my own space in the world wherever I am in the world. And all this sounds very trivial next to the refugee/immigrant chaos but…I don’t know what else to do.

So, here is the recipe. I hope you will try it and enjoy it. And I ask you to bless all of we humans struggling to figure out how to live on the same planet together.

Aunt Janet’s Squash Casserole

Slice yellow squash and/or zucchini, onions, and tomatoes. Layer them in a greased pan. Add banana peppers for some heat as desired. Douse heavily with Parmesan cheese. Cook uncovered for 1 hour at 350.

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My yard is alive!

It’s spring, a warm spring at that and things are growing! The veggies are happy, the weeds are happy. The lawn mower is getting used. The rains come with thunder and leave humidity. Some days feel like August in KY not May! Maybe those few warm weeks in February were our spring.

The oak tree in my front yard was most likely planted around the same time the house was built in the 1020’s. It is tall and shady and scrumptious and at some times really messy. I don’t mind raking leaves but when it dumps the green stuff that hangs from the gutters? It’s messy. The worst this year is the sap that has mandated daily trips to the car wash for a week or so. Annoying. Not the perfect urban tree, yet it protects my house from the afternoon sun, that hot brutal summer afternoon sun. And I don’t have to air condition until the temps get into the high 80’s or the humidity gets as sticky as that sap.

Guess I am about to describe my front yard! Since you readers already know lots about the back yard. I have shade and the challenge of shade gardening and color. Columbines and ferns and hosta and wild local “somethings” I have brought home from the woods grow rather randomly. Amid lots of rocks outlining the beds! Rocks line the gardens in front of the house and encircle the Oak.

My favorite scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy is when the Ents come to the rescue. The giants who are the forest.

I believe the separation from nature has cut us off from centuries of a deeply rooted relationship where we have had a working familiarity with the natural elements to support, feed and cloth ourselves. Now we conquer, bulldoze and concrete and level. And I believe the separation has created much of the issues of poor physical and mental health issues that plague our current culture.

I’m reading The Findhorn Garden. An amazing story about how the founders cultivated growing space where there was only sand and rock. Also a fascinating glimpse into the connection between the farmers and the natural elements. The farmers learn to communicate with the devas of each plant, of the soil, the water. They grow to have a personal relationship with each, believing, respecting, honoring the life force of each plant as it grows in relationship to the other. So, they talk to the plants. They listen to the plants, abide by their wishes and instructions and the garden grows better.

I do feel the life force of my plants and am grateful for the nutrition and the beauty. I do speak to my oak tree. I pray for it to hold on tight when the winds blow crazy. I thank it for the sticks it leaves me for kindling. It is a live protective being that lives with me on this little piece of property I call home.

Where Hobbits meet Treebeard.

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Gardening of all flavors – an update

Hugelkultur. It’s my new gardening method! Adapted to my urban “farm.” Urban farm sounds so much more professional than backyard hobby! Really, urban gardener, sounds more like it.
Am I a farmer? Well, I suppose I kind of am on a very small scale.

What denotes a farmer? One who grows plants? And while I mostly grow to feed myself, I am still growing plants to harvest and eat. The title farmer takes too much from those who work bigger areas. I will keep gardener on my resume.

As my gardening knees get creakier, I wish to raise my already raised beds so there’s not so much bending and moaning when I plant and weed. And there is the issues of dogs and rabbits and other critters…so, rather than buy more boards which are expensive (I have a couple of beds that need replacing after only a few years), I am replacing with an adaptation of Hugelkultur Gardening. https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/many-benefits-hugelkultur

I have adapted the bed that needed replacing by digging it out (ughhhh) and removing the rottening boards. I end up with flat ground, a blank slate.

I then got fencing and chicken wire and posts. The dirt was soft where the boards were removed. I pounded the posts in and engaged the help of two of my grandchildren in to help me pull the fencing and wire around the posts.

And the layering began. I started with green oak logs in the bottom. I layered and built up with leaves, compost, sticks, and the dirt I had just removed! I used a layer of peat and dirt at the top. As I was filling I lined the outsides with straw to keep any dirt from falling out. And I put two old screens along the sides as well. Call me obsessive!

And then I stood and planted! YES, I stood and planted!!

As the boards of my current raised beds rot I will replace them with this layered gardening. I’ve read I can put my composting scraps right on top of the dirt this winter.

The aquaponics system is up and running. Plugged the pump back in and it worked first cycle. As soon as the water is warmed I will add fish. For now, I have planted Black Seeded Simpson and snap pea seeds. I don’t know it it’s too late for the peas but the system is in afternoon shade so I am taking a chance. Worth the half a packet of seed gamble. The peas I planted in Feb in the raised bed were about half successful. I’m blaming the weather, which every gardener can certainly do this weird spring.
Asparagus didn’t do well either. Sigh….

I also placed a basil, some celeric, and broccoli still sprouting from the latest microgreen tray into the rocks of the aquaponics tub.

In the dirt, the old fashioned way (!), I have planted arugula, spinach, broccoli, kale, lettuce, brussel sprouts, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, yellow squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. And strawberries. I have potatoes in barrels.

Here’s to eating so local it’s right from my back yard.

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One Pepper Plant at a Time

I am saving seeds from a Jingle Bell Pepper plant. cute, sweet red peppers. The seeds are easy to save. Eat pepper. You can eat them like candy. You can eat them raw, cook in any recipe or preserve them for later use and have a bit of delicious red in the dark, cold winter.  Dry seeds. Label to plant next year.  Freeze or keep in a dry cool place.

In the spring plant the seeds!  They make a great container plant. Lovely and decorative and etiable!!  Water.  Watch it grow.

Preserving the seed and replanting takes you our of the corporate food chain and lessens the burdens and control of feeding the people.  One pepper plant at a time we can gain some independence, taking a minimal amount of pressure off the system.

Need seeds?  i am honored to send you a few to get started.  One pepper gives 30-50 seeds and the opportunity to share. Abundance is inherent, grown in each fruit.

I challenge you, just like the manager of the Kroger challenged Uncle John with the Impatience in 1956.  Would you like some Jingle Bell pepper seeds?

Uncle John grew impatience from his own seeds until 2006.  And they were happy and healthy plants that held the love of Uncle John, the gardener, that I absorbed every season.  My annual Impatience are beautiful and splash color under the oak tree that shades my front yard, but they don’t have the same gift for me when I look at them.

They are tiny seeds, like a grain of black pepper.  Such a miracle that they grow to produce lively, colorful flowers.  Sadly, I didn’t get my greenhouse together to plant the Mason jar full of seeds we found in his basement.

So, I continue the legacy with red peppers.  They match my hair and feed my body and my beliefs in living with some degree of independence!

If you want some seeds, let me know!

 

 

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Prompt #6 The Perfect View

Certainly Paris from atop the Eiffel tower or from rock wall fortification in Montmarte.

Madrid’s night sky from the 23rd floor.

The Mediterranean from the hill road going into Monaco or from the sandy beach at Cannes.

The Atlantic from San Sebastian or Barritz.

The red roofs surrounding Caracassone.

The chickens outside my bedroom window at the Pension Eirexe.

From the cafe in O Pino the cows marching to be milked.

Or the eucalyptus trees from the room at the Headlands Center for the Arts where I could wander up the hill to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Or the real genius of Wendell Berry’s Window Poems, written from the inside the multipaned window in his studio.

As I look through all the pictures on my phone and am once again startled at the beauty and glory of nature and the creations of humankind, I believe the view I love best is from the futon on my back porch.  Looking into the yard I have, dug, raked, hoed, planted, harvested and maneuvered.  We have hauled dirt and compost to create six raised beds.  I’ve moved a rock walkway to create a 3-circuit labyrinth on  the left side of the yard and then hauled it to the right side so the grow beds and compost bin could be installed.  Now I’ve stacked them for a wall to line the walkway to the greenhouse.

Everchanging.

I have flowers along the garage with old metal window grates as trellising.  Red roses, pink white and purple zennias, orange Gerber daisys, purple phlox and a hearty tomato plant hovering over the thyme ground cover right next to the rain barrel.

It’s my little urban farm from and in which I love to work and play and plan.  And when the grass is cut and the weeding done, the raspberries trimmed back to manageable, the cucumber and squash contained, I sit and admire the plants that feed us food and joy.  And I nap and read and star,e surrounded by the quiet plot that holds the answer to many of my dreams.

Now for the aquaponics inside a bigger greenhouse….

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Prompt #3 – Paint a Word Picture

Today, I am to use all my senses to describe. Paint a word picture. I think I can stick to the instruction today!
Oh, the many things I could write about. Paris. The earth beneath my feet on the Camino. Closer to home, my flowers or my bee stings.

August is a ripe and sensory month. Humidity that drips from the air and is sucked up by the heat. Heat and harvest.

Then there are the trash men who deal with all of the senses all day. God bless those brave strong people who brave the smells and weights and shapes of what we throw away. The grinding truck rolls away and my cans are emptied, ready to refill.

I settle on the green and red fruits hanging from the tall vines, caged for strength, the power of their growth so focused the plant quickly outgrows its core capabilities. Tomatoes are over achievers! Roots suck nutrition and water from the composted soil, fed with worms and minerals with one mission – grow. And grow. And grow. Product fruit, their one specific mission. Until – the cold sets in and the seeds of the unused fruit fall on cold, hard ground, waiting out winter and the return of sun and heat.

The tomato is an ambitious plant. Started from a tiny seed, raising itself to a 6’ vine giant. Green, rich is the unmistakable smell of tomato goodness, even from a touch of the seedling, then the little white flower turns into a globe of red lusciousness, their smell permeates.

A green stem reaches outside the rim of a silver washtub where smooth, red, ripe goodness waits . Abundance, sustenance, summer time, like the magic of seed to fruit, like a pizza parlor, like the kitchens of gardeners in August. Fruit flies catch a whiff, follow the trail and indulge. I will blanche, core and freeze to add summer warmth to winter soups, stews and chili.

I suggest you carry the salt shaker to the garden and capture some of the sun’s warmth as you bite through the skin of this luscious goodness. Let the seeds run down your chin. Let that ummm escape from your throat, past lips reaching for another bite.

Salute to the Goddess of the tomato!

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A most Subversive Act

A sweat bead drips off her nose as she prays for wholeness and health for the peach eaters and providers while canning peaches which are so perfectly formed – 36 each without a single bug – she knows they are perverted with pesticides.  Still they are juicy and sweet and sensuous to the taste buds.  There is an ummm in every bite.

As she dips and peels she considers the mega production of food to bring 100 cans of peaches to every Kroger store every week.  Just how many peaches is that?  She averages 2 per pint jar.  The perfect amount to heat with a little nutmeg and heavy whipping cream in the dead of winter when a peach she had prayed over tastes like hope.

She wonders at the fears circulating among her most respected friends and colleagues that the grid will go down, the system must break in order to be fixed.  So she will eat peaches while the world struggles in chaos.  She won’t say I told you so because she doesn’t want the scenario to play out, but she does preserve  food, has water purification tablets, candles and kerosene, matches and gas for the grill and wood for the stove.

She reflects on the law of attraction and knows that attracting Mason jars and seeds is easier  for her than attracting cash.

She remembers her mother and the ladies at Florence Christian Church gathering in the kitchen basement of the Disciples Church each bringing their harvest to preserve food together.  Lightening their load in a kitchen big enough accommodate the process with a play ground big enough to entertain the kids.  Coffee in the big pot, sandwiches, peanut butter crackers to feed in the present moment.  Corn, beans, tomatoes and networking in loving fellowship to feed in the winter.

She ponders the pioneer woman isolated on the prairie.  Hungry children and no amenities.  Not even a fan, much less air conditioning and running water.  Carrying water to boil from seed to jar to the table.  What if Pioneer woman hated cooking? Or had a headache?

She angers at the thought of big corporations refusing to label honestly and big agriculture putting poison in foods.  And she wonders if, as a progressive society, we have gotten too lazy to even feed ourselves?

Are we lazy?  Spoiled?  A new lifestyle in this progressing world where someone else does it cheaper and more effectively and we aren’t chained to the daily feeding of ourselves.  Yet do the producers have the consumer’s interest as a priority? Or their bottom line?

Canning is no longer a necessity but a choice and, somehow, it’s one of my favorite “chores.”  No matter how much I sweat.  And, I could turn on the air conditioner, but the smell of the rain and hearing the pattering on my roof makes me happy.  Plus, the food growing in my back yard is being fed.

A most subversive act, organic veggies from my own yard.

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