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Monday, September 26, 2011

To do's, Oopsies, Arghhhhs and a Man after my own Heart!

Madame Flamingo
and the Pink Zinnias
What a blessing the weather has been these last couple weeks!  Cooler temperatures and a little rain.  Very little rain, but we still got some. Sandra and I have decided that we just barely kept the gardens this side of alive all summer. 

The herb garden has gotten a second wind and the plants are growing and blooming their little hearts out.  I am always amazed when the herbs and flowers are so generous and  have received so little moisture. 

We are lucky here in Texas because we have another month to enjoy our gardens and we can even have a very successful fall/winter garden.   

There are some general maintenance projects we can get busy and get done now that the weather is so pleasant.  Our gardens thrive and grow all year long and because of that fact they still need our attention.  These ideas come from About.com Gardening:

I'm watching you!
Just a miscellaneous list of to dos:

Stop pruning and fertilizing.
Start fall clean-up in the flowerbeds, cutting back anything that has finished blooming.
Take cuttings of tender perennials, so you have some new baby plants next year.
Photograph your gardens and containers for a record of the year's triumphs and frustrations.
Give the compost a last turn

Our Iris will need to be
divided next year

Divide and move perennials
Divide 3 year old stands of Iris, Day lilies, etc. (I am going to have to remember to throw buckets in the car and head on down to Ann's to help her thin out her Day lilies!)
Start planting spring flowering bulbs
I was really excited when I came across the list of veggies that we can still plant in the garden.  Now I am sure if you can find some of these already started, you will be way ahead of the game, but  planting seeds for many of these veggies is still an option.  Then again, I call my gardening method "by the seat of my pants" because I have no formal training, I love to experiment and my garden has absolutely no structure or rules.  Apologies to all my Master Gardener friends, I know you are shuddering in your gardening boots.
Anyway, try planting:
beets, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, chives, collards, celery, parsley, parsnips, peas, radish, spinach, lettuce, turnips, Swiss chard
Lettuce, Cilantro, Baby Bokchoy,
Swiss Chard seedlings
Clumps of Garlic Chives
If we have an early frost, just put an old sheet over the rows and they should be fine.
Keep on harvesting veggies if you have them.
Start cutting your herbs back and drying or freezing your harvest

You can lay your herbs on racks to dry, hang them from the rafters or put them in the freezer.  Microwave drying has become popular.  I've tried, I either burn the herbs or just don't like the way they taste.  I recommend drying them the old fashioned way.
I have started cutting my herb plants back til they are about 6 inches tall.
Plant trees.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is always a great help on suggesting Native trees that will grow in Northeast Texas.  Here is the web address:


Oh, and if anyone is interested, I do have Garlic Chives to share.  Just drop me an email and I will bring them to the October 1, Winnsboro Farmers Market.

Oops!  I thought today (Sept. 26) was National Butterscotch Day!

But, alas, Butterscotch Day was last Monday.  Today is National Pancake Day.

"Oh, Sandra, slight mix up in the blog recipe of the day....which would you prefer Butterscotch pudding or Pancakes?"  She would rather have pancakes....go figure.

John Chapman aka
Johnny Appleseed
 Or there is another option.....today is also, Johnny Appleseed's birthday.

Arghhhh!  I wrote a  story about Johnny and his adventures and some how Blogger and I got sideways on the issue!  Well, when I went to save my material I got an error on saving my material!  Everything then disappeared!  When I was finally able to find my blog again, of course, the tale of Johnny Appleseed was gone, disappeared into cyber space!

Sorry, I'm just not up to a rewrite so here is the tale from the site Enchanted Learning:

Johnny Appleseed was a legendary American who planted and supplied apple trees to much of the United States of America. Many people think that Johnny Appleseed was a fictional character, but he was a real person.
Johnny was a skilled nurseryman who grew trees and supplied apple seeds to the pioneers in the mid-western USA. Appleseed gave away and sold many trees. He owned many nurseries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana, where he grew his beloved apple trees. Although he was a very successful man, Appleseed lived a simple life. It is said that as Johnny traveled, he wore his cooking pot on his head as a hat!
Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26, 1774. His real name was John Chapman, but he was called Johnny Appleseed because of his love for growing apple trees.
Johnny died at the age of 70; he is buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He had spent 50 years growing apple trees and traveling to spread his precious trees around his country.
When I was in elementary school, I would always daydream about being Johnny's faithful sidekick, walking through the woods, planting seeds, talking to all those interesting people and animals.  No school, no rules, no shoes and I betcha I could have learned to make Applesauce or Apple Crisp in that pot he wore on his head.  After giving that thing a good scrubbing first!

Let me tell you about Applesauce, the stuff is so easy to make!  Cut up a couple apples (even the ones that are beginning to look like an apple head doll's face) Peel or not to peel, it's up to you.  Add a little lemon juice and water,  add sugar or not, and definitely add Cinnamon.  The last batch I made, I even added Cranberries and grated Ginger root.  Simmer on low til you can take your old-fashioned Potato Masher (you know that squiggly looking thing in the back of the junk drawer) and smash those apples up really good (or well, whatever).  Then taste.....need more sugar or not, more cinnamon?  I guarantee your homemade Applesauce doesn't taste anything like that store bought stuff!  Oh, and for a special treat.....if you stop at Farmer's Market, get some of Sister Susan's Homemade Granola and sprinkle some of it on top your Applesauce.  Oh my gosh good!  We would make Johnny proud!

"Why not upset the apple cart? If you don't the apples will rot anyway." -- Frank A. Clark

Time to get busy, need to get some lunch ready, walk the Netflix movie down to the mailbox, pet the critters, maybe a nap is even order!  All is well in the Universe at StarDragonfly Herbals.  Hope your Universe is just as blissful!   Susan
Purple Coneflower

Monday, September 19, 2011

September is Potato month!

Now who is on the bottom of the
food chain!  Huh, Mr. H, huh?

Good morning!  September is National Potato Month.  The potato is a vegetable.  Okay, I will agree to that but it is not a substitute for the green leafy vegetables.  But it is full of good nutrition.  This is what the website:  potatogoodness.com has to say about the potato. 

"This darling of the dinner table is one of the greatest nutritional values in the produce department.  At just 25 cents per serving, a medium potato (5.3 oz) eaten with it's skin on:
  • Has just 110 calories.
  • Has nearly half your Daily Value of vitamin C (45%)
  • Is one of the best sources of potassium (614 mg) and fiber 2 g) in the produce section  (Did you know potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure?)
  • Is naturally fat-free and sodium-free
  • Contains many of the nutrients the Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans increase in their diet
According to USDA MyPyramid, 1 medium skin-on potato=1 c. starchy vegetables."

Well, that sure sounds good to me!  Let's go make some Chili Cheese Fries! 

That doesn't sound very "healthy"?  Hmmm, maybe not, but they sure are delicious!

Quick & Healthy Fries (Basic Recipe)  Chili Fries (Variation)


Use 2 medium and 1 small
of these beauties!
cooking oil spray
1/1/2 lbs. Russet potatoes, baked but still a little hard
1 Tbls. olive oil
2 Tbls. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:  Preheat oven to 425 and spray a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. 

  • Okay, there are two schools of thought on using the Microwave Oven.  For those of you who don't mind microwaving....microwave about 2 medium and 1 small potato in a covered dish for 3-4 minutes.
  • For those of you who do mind microwaving, well, bake the potatoes about 30 minutes.
For the next part, skip the rosemary, salt and pepper.

Spice mix:
                                                       1 1/2 tsps. Chili Powder
1 tsp. each:  dried cilantro, onion powder, garlic powder and ground cumin

Put these in a small bowl and mix.

Then....cut each potato into 8 wedges. I put the potatoes, oil and seasoning in a large Ziploc bag and mix it all around very gently.  Now spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Spray with olive oil cooking spray, turn wedges and spray again. Bake for 10 minutes more or until fries are golden brown.   (If you are using the Rosemary mixture, you will need to spray the potatoes again then add the Rosemary, salt and pepper.)

Sprinkle 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese over cooked potatoes and bake for a minute or 2 more to melt cheese. 

Well, that is what the recipe said but I probably used a heaping cup of good old fashioned cheddar.  And left the fries in the oven until the cheese was just about to turn brown.

I like to eat mine with Ranch Dressing and Sandra just likes Ketchup.  And if by any possible chance you have left overs.  Do Not Throw Them Away.  The next morning or when you have a chance,  heat them up, fry yourself a couple eggs and some bacon, make some toast and jelly and a pot of coffee.  Now that's a real Farmer's breakfast!

I will confess.  These are a treat around here. Most of the time we are really good and have baked Sweet Potato fries. 

Word to the wise, pajamas are fine to wear outside when you live in the country, but make sure you always where your cowboy boots! 

For the past 2 weeks I have been house sitting at a home between Winnsboro and Quitman.  I love spending time over there because they are actually in the Pineywoods, unlike our farm which is a bit of Blackland, Post Oak, and maybe a hint of Pineywoods.  In other words, we are diverse, but do not have much of anything. 

So the story begins.....One morning I got up early and decided to go for a walk.  I meandered down the fence line looking at plants.  Crossed the pasture and wondered into the Pineywoods.  I love pine trees.  They remind me of being a kid in my family's Houston backyard. 

I gathered some pine needles, and was heading back to the house.  I stopped at a pretty little clearing and had ventured in about 5 feet, when I felt the need just to stop and commune with Nature.  As I was standing there quietly, I began to hear what I thought were raindrops, and low and behold, those raindrops were coming right at me!   Being so excited that we might actually get some rain, I began to give Thanks for the wonderful rain that was coming my way. 

Yellow Bellied Water Snake
Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
Mother Nature definitely has a sense of humor because that rustling sound was not raindrops but a large brown snake!  Or MN was having a tremendous laugh at me standing there in my pajamas and cowboy boots.  (In my defense, I was washing clothes!) Well, I stood there a few minutes,  just to see how brave I was and how close I would let it come to me.  The snake decided she wasn't going to have anything to do with me (good snake!) and made a quick lefty and headed back into the brush.

Well, I hate to admit this, but a snake any place but in the water is a COPPERHEAD, and if it is in the water, around the water or wrapped around my toilet, it is a WATER MOCCASIN!

Now that I am  home from the housesitting project, I thought I would like to tell the story of the raindrops that weren't.  So I thought I should do some research on the kind of snake that was lurking on my path.  This water snake is named for it's yellow belly and is a medium sized snake. It is non-poisonous.   And like other water snakes it gives birth to live young.  It eats fish, amphibians and crayfish.  There is no known record of the Yellow Bellied Water Snake ever eating unsuspecting female hikers in their pajamas.  Good, very good! 


Slender Snakecotton
Froelichia gracilis
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Slender Snakecotton

Last Thursday, September 15, we had a meeting of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Winnsboro chapter.  Our speaker unfortunately was unable to attend, so we identified some plants and talked about what just might be blooming now.

Well, one of our members brought this plant to the meeting.  Slender Snakecotton.  Having a real heartfelt interest in the plants growing around me, I took a big sniff of a leaf to see how it smelled, felt the leaves, gently pulled apart the flowers.  If I know what a plant is and it isn't poisonous a little taste helps in identification.  All in the name of herbology, you know!

I noticed a headache coming on towards the end of the meeting.  And by the time I got home I was in full blown allergy attack!  This plant is seriously bad for people with allergies.  Give it a wide berth!  In fact, one of the members was reading off the Internet about this plant and that was one of the descriptions.  High allergen.

It is considered an invasive weed, and as far as my research, there is no known medicinal or food value to this plant. It does look similar to Wooly Croton, but the flowers are on a long stem.

Well, friends, time fies by when you are having fun.  Sandra went to Austin for a wedding this weekend.  She called this morning to let me know she is bringing home lots of plants for the fall/winter garden.  I am so excited.  Maybe, we will have better luck growing veggies now that cooler weather is setting in!

Til next time, Mr. Potato Head recommends you eat your squashes and carrots, oh, and those other leafy green veggies!     Susan

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.
Jerry Chin

Monday, September 12, 2011

Full moon, herbal jelly, good friends and shearing cats?

September is the month of the Harvest Moon.
This weekend low in the southeastern sky, oh since about Friday, the Harvest Moon has been making her appearance.  Historically, September's moon is called the Harvest Moon because it happens closest to the autumnal (or fall) equinox.  This year  the autumnal equinox will fall on September 23.  Before electricity, or I suppose those super tractors with spotlights, the September moon gave farmers extra time for harvesting crops after sundown.  

The Native Americans called this moon the Full Corn Moon.  It marked when corn was supposed to be harvested.

                                                      Good Friends

Lynn in the Pine Nursery
Last week, I was privileged to spend a couple hours with a dear friend at her lovely home in the Pineywoods.  Her name is Lynn and she spends time when she can, teaching and coaching me on how to sing.  That's right, I am sure a lot of you have recognized her!  That's our Lynn, of the great Pineywoods singing duet "Adler & Hearne!"  

Lynn took me for a walk around the Goolsby's Pool, telling me the history of the Mill that used to operate there.  We walked on and beside the old road where the farmers drove their wagons, and even stood on the spot where the Mill was located. 

When you are back in the woods, and the mind is quiet and a soft wind just might be blowin on a cool Autumn afternoon, I just wonder if one could hear, you know, if they listened real careful like, the soft jingling of harnesses, the wagon driver humming "Amazing Grace" and the sweet gentle flavors of a simpler time?                     

Goolsby's Pool

Hmmmmm, maybe. 

I will let you go to YouTube to listen about old man Goolsby and the history of the Pool.

You can hear the song Goolsby's Pool at
"YouTube Adler & Hearne "Goolsby's Pool". 

                              Lemon Basil Jelly

All right now, let me go put some water on to boil.  I will grab the camera and let's go get some Lemon Basil out of the garden. Then we will get started on the herbal jelly recipe I promised.  This time we will be making Lemon Basil Jelly!  Now, don't you go turning your nose up at my jelly!  You are going to be so surprised when you realize this jelly tastes just like an old-fashioned lemon drop candy!

Lemon Basil (Ocimum × citriodorum)
Basil is one of the plants that volunteers
to come up in the garden year
after year!
Scented Basil Jelly (from website:  Renee's Garden)

2 c. packed fresh anise, cinnamon, opal or lemon basil (choose one)
2 c. water
2 T rice vinegar (or plain white vinegar)
pinch of salt
3 1/2 c. sugar
3 oz liquid pectin
1) Wash and dry basil in paper towels (Give me a break,  just wash the dust of the leaves and get them chopped! Give them a good shake over the sink and don't waste paper towels!). Then finely chop or process it in food processor.
2) Put basil in large saucepan and crush the leaves, using the bottom a glass. (I used the potato masher.)
3) Add vinegar, salt and sugar and bring to hard boil while stirring. When the boil can't be stirred down, add pectin.  Return to hard boil that can't be stirred down, and boil for exactly 1 minute, then remove saucepan from heat.
4) Skim off foam and pour hot jelly into hot sterilized, 8-oz. jelly jars. Leave 1/2" head space and seal at once with sterilized lids or melted paraffin.  Makes four 8-oz jars. (I was able to get 10 4oz. jars!)
5)  I add another step and process the little jelly jars in simmering water for 5 minutes.  Then place on a rack to cool.....I love the sound of the little jars going "ping" when they seal.  Making jelly is so much fun!

I use the cute little 4oz. jelly jars because we like to give our homemade jellies as gifts.  I have a lot of Texas Tarragon growing in the garden this year.  Texas Tarragon tastes like licorice, so that should make an interesting jelly.

We have found that the Lemon Basil jelly is not only good on toast, but is really awesome with cream cheese on crackers.  I have also used it to glaze baked chicken.

                                                       Shearing Jack the Cat
Groomingdale's Pet Salon
Sulphur Springs, Texas
Let me tell you about one other thing that happened this week.  Our friend and neighbor, Ann, from down the road and around the bend (literally) asked me to help her hold a cat she needed to shear. 

Well, okay.

Despite my visions of hissing, spitting, lashing claws, bite marks clear up to my elbows which actually happened to me when I was a pet-sitter in Arkansas. That time, I tried to give a diabetic cat an insulin shot....it is not something I would recommend doing without rose pruning gloves. 

Anyway, Ann owns Groomingdale's in Sulphur Springs.  Yes, a pet beauty parlor, and to make a long story short, Amanda, her daughter, now mother of twin boys and a 4 year old girl, could not make it into town to hold one cat.  Amanda lives over by Quitman.  Understandable.  So, now Ann, where are the rose pruning gloves?  Oh, I won't need them?  Well, okay....

I didn't do very much, just patted Jack, and occasionally scraped cat fur off into the trash.  I guess Jack has been through this procedure several times.  He was an absolute champ.  No scratching, biting or hissing!
Jack the Cat

Today, Sandra is down with a miserable stomach virus.  Which reminds me, to remind you, if you have purchased Elderberry Syrup from me at Farmer's Market, you really need to be taking the 2 Tbls. maintenance dose daily!  If you do get to feeling badly, take 2 Tbls. every 4 hours.  Oh, and for those of you that I have not told about Elderberry Syrup's awesome flu fighting capabilities, well, we will just have to Blog about that won't we! ? !  Or stop by my booth at the Winnsboro's Farmer's Market on Saturdays.

In case of nausea, a good thing to keep in the freezer is ice cubes made from ginger tea or simmered ginger slices.  (About a 1" piece ginger in 2 c. water, simmered for 20 minutes.)  The ice cubes should be crushed so that they can be sucked on.  When the patient is feeling up to eating, and don't rush eating, chicken broth, watery jello, soda crackers are good choices.  If they have had diarrhea, unspiced rice pudding and smashed banana are good bets. Remember the acronym, BRAT which stands for for bananas, applesauce, rice and toast.  BRATT, all the above plus tea (very weak), BRATTY, all the above plus the tea and yogurt.

Stay healthy.  Until next time, remember Life is a journey not a destination.


P.S. The Native Plant Society of Texas Winnsboro Chapter will be meeting this Thursday, September 16 at 6:30 pm.  Our meeting place is still Art & Espresso on Market St.  There should be a speaker and the talk should be very informative and interesting.  Please come join us and learn more about the native plants of Texas!
Sun setting through smoke

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall temperatures, a surprise visit, babies and more weeds

RedMan and Beauty
Good morning on this fine Labor Day morning.  Well, actually, morning has slipped away and as I write this the time is approaching noon.  Morning got taken up with weeding the garden and an unexpected appearance by our farrier (you know the guy or gal who trims and/or shoes horses hooves.).  Due to a miscommunication, I thought he was coming on Wednesday and Sandra thought he was coming next Monday.  Anyway, he showed up just as I had finished chores and was in process of pouring myself a cup of coffee.  The point is......the horses and donkeys where out in the pasture enjoying the lovely, cool morning, not in the corral where they should have been awaiting their manicures.  I have never had a manicure....but my horses get one every 6 weeks.  Go figure!  Well, that all got taken care of, and as I was pouring my morning coffee at 11:30 (which turned into Iced Coffee), it dawned on me that I missed a great photo opportunity by not getting a photo series of the farrieer trimming the horses hooves.   Oh, well, he will be back in 6 weeks.

Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings.  I have been reading passages of the book Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, who now lives in exile in France, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and helps refugees worldwide.  Misunderstandings cause so much heartache in our lives.....so let me share with you what this great master has to say about misunderstandings:

"Perceiving includes our ideas or concepts about reality.  When you  look at a pencil, you perceive it, but the pencil itself may be different from the pencil in your mind.  If you look at me, the me in myself may be different from the me you perceive.  In order to have a correct perception, we need to have a direct encounter.

When you look at the night sky, you might see a very beautiful star, and smile at it.  But  a scientist may tell you that the star is no longer there, that it was extinct ten million years ago.  So our perception is not correct.  When we see a very beautiful sunset, we are very happy, perceiving that the sun is there with us.  In fact it was already behind the mountain eight minutes ago.  It takes eight minutes for the sunshine to reach our planet.  The hard fact is that we never see the sun in the present, we only see the sun of the past.  Suppose while walking in the twilight, you see a snake, and you scream, but when you shine your flashlight on it, it turns out to be a rope.  This is an error of  perception.  During our daily lives we have many misperceptions.  If I don't understand you, I may be angry at you, all the time.  We are not capable of understanding each other, and that is the main source of human suffering."
Being Peace Thich Nhat Hanh

 Now come quietly with me to the garden and I will show you the new babies!

Eastern Cottontail
Sylvilagus floridanus

I found these adorable babies last week when I was pulling weeds.  The photo on the left is my attempt to give them some protection from the scorching Texas sunshine.

NO, Sandra you may not hold the babies!
 "The most common rabbit species in Texas is the Eastern cottontail, identifiable by its two- to three-pound body, brown or gray coat, white belly, and distinctive white tail.

These guys are now 2 days older than above photo.
 The cottontail is an essential element of the food chain, serving as prime prey for many predators. As a result, cottontail life expectancy is extremely short -- one year or less -- requiring the prolific reproduction so often attributed to rabbit species. In addition to their reproductive strategy, cottontails thrive because they are swift-moving and can jump distances of up to eight feet at a time when pursued, making split-second changes in direction to frustrate and elude predators. "

Well, obviously Momma rabbit figured my garden would be an extremely safe haven for her little ones.  And she was right.  I know these little buggers will reek havoc on my plantings.  But, sometimes we just have to share what we have sown.

 Next week, stop by here, and we will make some kind of herbal Jelly.

Until next time, remember, what we think is real isn't always reality.  Be patient and kind to all critters, two-legged, four-legged, many-legged and feathered.


"Me and My Shadow!