Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Permaculture Gardening

Dear Friends,

We have been gleaning lots of good information about gardening from YouTube lately, and we'd like to share some of our favorites. We love the idea of permaculture, which is a form of gardening in which Nature is observed, then copied as much as possible for growing food. Anything that takes less work sounds good to us!

This man's garden is in Florida, and his enthusiasm and knowledge are something that we can all learn from, no matter where we live~

These videos from England videos are just fun to watch, and inspiring as well~ Perfect to watch while hiding inside on a hot day! Enjoy.



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to Tasha

Dear Friends,

Yet another birthday has been celebrated in the Graham household! Miss Tasha turned a big twelve years old, and we made her promise that she wouldn't get any older (We'll see if she keeps her promise!).

We made her a cake of kiwis, cantaloupe, and in-between "icing" of coconut flakes, dates, and coconut yogurt~ it was light and delicious!

Everyone was excited to see the fun things she received for presents (like this Sculpey to make items for her dollhouse)~

And to top it all off, we had a picnic and went berry-picking to celebrate her special day~

Unfortunately, someone seemed to have made all the berries disappear before we could bring any home. . .

We explored a path in the woods. . .

. . . And found a school of baby catfish in a quickly-drying up river.

As well as some delicious Dryad's Saddle mushrooms, which were perfectly young and tender, and tasted, forgive the cliche, just like white chicken meat.

A grandfather Sycamore tree resides in these woods, and we had to use our bodies to measure how big across he was (next time we'll remember a measuring tape). There is always a special feeling walking through the woods, and we love to go there as much as possible. It was a wonderful way to celebrate another year of life of a wonderful girl.



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer in the Garden

 Dear Friends,

As summer advances, we're spending more and more time out weeding (or grassing, in our case!), watering, and sowing a few things for a fall garden. We're just starting to see a few ripe tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans, and the fava beans and peas have bowed out in the hot weather.

We've had lots of tiny toads around the yard, so we've been rescuing the ones we can catch, hoping to raise them up until they are less vulnerable and release them then. They don't stand a chance against our chickens at this size!

We've also been raising black swallowtail caterpillars, whose eggs were laid on our fennel and dill. We sadly lost 12 of them when we bought a nursery-grown fennel plant to feed them, and realized it too late that it had been sprayed with pesticide. Thankfully more and more eggs are being laid, and we have eight new caterpillars that will hopefully grow to be beautiful butterflies. Butterflies are on the decline with over-use of poison and habitat loss, so we feel that anything we can do to help them is a small sacrifice to make (plus they're quite entertaining!). We have a feeling that eventually we'll have to have a whole room devoted to raising little critters to release in the wild. . .

In addition to harvesting goodies from the garden, we've been taking advantage of as many wild edibles as we can, especially those who would gladly take over our garden if we let them. Lambsquarters and Asiatic day flowers find their way into egg dishes, and we've been adding fresh and dried clover leaves to baked goods (grind them in the blender after drying and before adding) for a boost of extra nutrition. We've even been snacking on the two day lily plants that have been blooming so nicely this year; the petals are very sweet.

We have a nice little hedge of Jerusalem artichokes growing along the fence, from tubers that my mother kindly sent us from our old home in Idaho. These are fantastic, low-maintenance perennial vegetables that are low in sugars and so are wonderful for a diabetic diet. You can grow them from tubers bought at the grocery store, if you can find them in your area, or they can be ordered from seed catalogs.

Here you can see nature's pest control at work~ Assassin bugs are eating a group of aphids on one of the Jerusalem artichoke's leaves. Go get 'em!

I am so excited that my Brandywine tomato growing in a bucket is producing fruit, since I tried growing them in Idaho and they were a mildewy mess. They must like the heat in Missouri!

Here is our messy butterfly garden that is being taken over by Asiatic dayflower and smartweed~ It's a good thing they're both tasty! Our sunflowers , zinnias, and bachelor's buttons should be blooming soon, and the cleome has proven attractive to clearwing moths, if not butterflies.

Our scarlet runner bean plants are huge, but the flowers seem to fall before they form beans. We think it may be because they require insect pollination, and there are few pollinators to be found. All is not lost, however, as the tender leaves make tasty fritters (as do squash leaves, whose prickles soften after cooking)! Someday we'll have to take pictures to share, before they all disappear off the plate. . .

 These beautiful purple-flowered beans are Trionfo Violetto pole beans, and they are finally covering our bean house that looked so bare. There are lots of baby beans hanging down, which should make for a good harvest.

 We're growing sweet potatoes in a tub by the bean house, too, so its vines will eventually climb up and provide cover. Did you know that the leaves are edible, and make a good salad or stir-fry addition?
 We hope that you are enjoying a beautiful day today, no matter what the weather. Although there are many tragedies all around us, there are many more wonderful things that far outweigh the bad; we just have to open our eyes to them, and practice living with gratitude for all the good we see.



Monday, July 8, 2013

"The Book of Joyous Children" by James Whitcomb Riley

Bound and bordered in leaf green.
           Edged with trellis buds and flowers,
And glad Summer-gold, with clean
          White and purple morning-glories
          Such as suit the songs and stories
Of this book of ours,
Unrevised in text or scene, -- 
                    The Book of Joyous Children

Wild and breathless in their glee--
Lawless rangers of all ways
Winding through lush greenery
        Of  Elysian vales--the viny,
             Bowery groves of shady, shiny
Haunts of childish days.
Spread and read again with me
                   The Book of Joyous Children.

What a whir of wings, and what
Sudden drench of dews upon
              The young brows, wreathed, all unsought,
                  With all the aplle-blossom garlands 
          Of the poets of those far lands
When all dreams are drawn
Set herein and soiling not
                  The Book of Joyous Children.

In their blithe companionship,
     Taste again, these pages through,
The hot honey on your lip             
          Of the sun-smit wild strawberry
          Or the chill tart of the cherry;
Kneel, all glowing, to
The cool spring, and with it sip
          The Book of Joyous Children

As their laughter needs no rule,
     So accept their language, pray, --
Touch it not with any tool:
         Surely we may understand it, --
                  As the heart has parsed or scanned is
Is a worthy way,
Though not found in any School
     The Book of Joyous Children

Be a truant---know no place
Of prison under heaven's rim!
    Front the Father's smiling face---
         Smiling, that you may smile the brighter
 For the heavy hearts made lighter,
Since you smile with Him.
      Take--and thank Him for His grace---
The Book of Joyous Children.

--James Whitcomb Riley

Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of what the children have been up to lately~ We had a bang-up Dolls' Independence Day parade, and a few fun rain showers to go out and play in! 

Wishing you a day of making sweet memories with your own loved ones.