Coming Soon: Free Book

Coming Soon: Free Book
Planning to give away a book or two!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Being a blessing

My front garden is full of all kinds of flowers right now.  My neighbor is getting out less and less.  I called her this evening on the way home and asked her if she'd like some flowers.  She never turns down flowers.  
Garden Fresh Bouquet
It is a simple and easy way for me to be a blessing to her.  Many of my flowers make good cut flowers.  I also planted some of her favorite flowers along the fence.  I can't wait until they get tall enough to start blooming.  She is going to be so excited. 
Garden Fresh Bouquet

Learning means accepting mistakes

I turned over my first ten stepping stones this evening and started the process of removing the leaves.  The thick kohlrabi leaves came off very easily.  In fact, I thought that I could almost use the again.
My first 10 stepping stones
The large rhubarb leaf just didn't want to give up the veins.  I'm not going to worry about it.  I know that in time, the veins will come out.  I'm not sure if you can tell.  But the surface if wavy.  I thought that I had it on a flat piece of ground.  But I guess that doesn't exist at my place.  The edges are the best on this one.  I must have rolled it up enough.  Something I didn't do well enough on all of them.  I need to pay more attention to the edges.  I need to leave more leaf so that I can curve the edge of the stone.
Large and Small rhubarb leaf stepping stones
These two pictures (above and below) are the three rhubarb leaves.  I love the way that the veins are so prominent.  I think that I might pick up a small can of dark stain.  Mix it with water and pour it on the top allowing the darkest colors to settle in the depth of the veins.
Medium rhubarb leaf stepping stone
The one thing that I must do is conquer the zucchini leaf!  I think this one would be so cool!! I thought that it looked like the leaf was crossing over itself.  But instead, the concrete filled in the openings.  That in itself would not be bad if I had been able roll the edges over.  
Zucchini leaf stepping stone
I need to look at this closer in the daylight.  In the dusk, it looks okay.  But I definitely will try this one again with a slightly different technique.
Zucchini leaf stepping stone
The odd shape of the kohlrabi leaf leaves a nice impact.  This was one that the edges poured over a bit too much and made them very rough in a couple of spots.  I figure that by the time that I set these in gravel, a rough edge isn't going to matter that much.
kohlrabi leaf stepping stone
The buttercup squash and the pumpkin both gave heart-shape leaves.  The challenge with both of those leaves is that they are flimsy and pulling them around to make a pretty edge is going to be a challenge.  But I have four more bags of concrete to perfect my techniques.  
Buttercup Squash stepping stone
I promise that I will put all of the steps in a future post.  I just wanted to make sure that I shared the initial trial of the stepping stones with you as soon as possible.  More to come!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cotton update

I am learning a lot about cotton this summer.  One interesting fact is that cotton is naturally a perennial even though it is grown in the US as an annual in order to keep the bugs under control.
Cotton plant 79 days
An important thing to look for are the tiny growth that appears in the crooks of the branches. When those appear,  the cotton has reached the next stage.  I started my cotton inside.  It is unusual to grow cotton in Minnesota.  Our cooler temperatures have the cotton growing slower.
Close up of cotton plant
My cotton is about two weeks behind.  It will be interesting to see if it catches up. It was supposed to be blooming last week and it is only at the "true leaf" stage.  I enjoy learning new things!  It is so fascinating.  :^)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stepping stones

A friend of mine shared the following post on my Facebook page as a challenge:

I will write more details later since today was my first try.  Learning a craft similar to cooking a new recipe for the first time.  You need to try it and see if your interpretation of the instructions was correct.  If what you did works, then it is okay to share. 
Making a Large Rhubarb leaf walking stone
I've made stepping stones before using an 18" form and it takes one 60 pound bag of mix.  So I tried to guess how much leaf space the bag would make.  That is difficult to judge. I did the large leaf and small leaf then I switched to a different leaf.
3 sizes of rhubarb leaves
As I walked through the garden to get to the rhubarb patch, I noticed that the kohlrabi leaves were HUGE!  They were 10-12 inches long and about 5-6 inches wide.  I wondered how they would work for stepping stones.  
Kohlrabi leaves
Then I spotted the pumpkin plants and buttercup squash.  Interesting.  Their leaves are also fairly large and have good veins.  I might need to try them too.
Pumpkin and Buttercup Squash leaves
The zucchini leaves have a natural ruffle to them.  And they are pretty good size too.  Well, what can you say?  Today is a learning day.  I might as well try the zucchini leaves too.  
Zucchini leaves
The cucumber leaves were getting large, but I decided to let those grow for another week or two.  After all, I bought 6 bags of concrete.  In my mind, one bag would do 2-3 stones.  But it didn't say the dimensions of the leaves.  My rhubarb leaves are pretty large.  In my mind 12 stones sounded like a good number.  I made it through two bags of concrete mix and I made the three rhubarb leaves, four kohlrabi leaves, a zucchini leaf, pumpkin leaf and a buttercup squash leaf.  That adds up to 10 stepping stones with just two bags.  I can't wait to see how these all turn out.
Cucumber leaves

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Happy Golden Anniversary

It isn't very often that you hear of a couple celebrating their Golden Anniversary.  Today we helped a couple celebrate being married 50 years.  The weather was perfect for their celebration and they had a wonderful turnout.  I didn't take any crowd pictures.  But I did take a picture of her table display that showed a cake similar to the one they had at their wedding with the original cake topper.  
1965 Cake topper
When I was young my mother used to say after the kids were gone that the parents should have a party to replenish everything that the kids used up or took with them when they moved out.  It was almost like they needed to re-fill the hope chest.  For those young people who haven't heard of a hope chest, it is a chest that often sits at the foot of the bed for a young girl to put embroidered dish clothes and quilts in hoping to marry some day.
New Hope Chest
I stopped by Michael's craft store and purchased a miniature chest that was unfinished.  Dale and I quickly stained the chest.  He had a stain there that was a combination stain and varnish.  It was darker than I liked so I used a dry brush technique to apply it.  (That means wiping the brush on a piece of newspaper off to the side.)  As a result, not much of the varnish applied.  That wasn't a problem for me.  This was really only a box sturdy enough to deliver the present.  It isn't intended to be a keepsake.
50 coins for 50 years
Why don't I think of the cute catch phrases until it is too late?  Oh well, I am sure when they got home this evening and opened the presents that this one made them smile.  I was temped to wrap the coins individually in the gold wrapping paper.  But instead I took some gold construction paper and ran it through the paper shredder.  I love confetti!  
Anniversary Present
These friends of ours have completed a wonderful achievement despite the highs and lows of life.  They made it 50 years together as husband and wife.  Together they created and raised four boys.  I guess you could say that today we celebrated heterosexual pride.

Friday, June 26, 2015

... only in Watkins

Dale asked me to drop a garbage can off at the place where he was going to mow the lawn. I  waited for him to come.  I wanted to make sure that I was at the right spot.

I had to chuckle when I got out of my car to see one man zooming up the hill on his scooter and another one half a block behind on the lawn mower. At first glance it looked like they were in the midst of a race.  In case you were wondering, both of these vehicles are legal to drive on the side streets in this town.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

The toads arrived today!

I was so excited when I received a call today that my friends had caught some toads for me.  I built the toad house two weeks ago.  Dale has a couple of lawns that he mows that usually have a lot of toads.  But since I've wanted some, he hasn't seen any.  
Toad travel house
The larger toad was a female toad.  When she was put down, she went strait across the garden.  She needed to be picked up and put into the house so that she would see it as a safe place.
She toad
  With more than one toad, I added another section of bricks onto the house.  I wanted to make sure that they had room inside.  I've also noticed a cat hanging around the garden lately.  With the longer house, the toads can now hide safely out of paw reach.
Extended toad house
When the toads were dropped off, I noticed that the water in the "pond" was low.  So I walked back out to add more water.  I almost stepped on him.  He was in the lawn between the dog yard fence and the garden.  She was in the grass behind the house hopping away from the house.  I got in front of her and she high-hopped it to the house door.  I stopped and allowed them to feel safety when they got near the house.  
He takes a dip in the pond while she heads to the house.
The lawn and garden is full of bugs.  So I hope that there is enough around to keep the toads nearby.  Today is day 76 of 160 for the cotton plants.  They are growing well outside.  We've been getting rain a couple of times a week which is perfect for the plants.  It looks like I've lost two so far.  They had started out as the smaller plants when I planted them outside.  It didn't surprise me when they didn't make it.  When people hear that I'm growing cotton they all have the same reaction.  "Isn't that normally grown down South in the heat?"  That doesn't mean impossible in Minnesota.  It just means challenging.
The cotton plants are growing!

An alternate for potato salad

I made kohlrabi salad!  I have been looking at low carb alternatives.  I cup of kohlrabi cubed and boiled is 48 calories and 11 g carbs.  In comparison 1 cup of potato cubed and boiled is 134 calories and 31.2 g carbs.  
The first batch of kohlrabi was getting to a point where it was almost too large.  It needed to be picked and eaten.  I will try anything once.  There are days like this that I would like to be on chopped because I come up with some creative recipes.
I had in my pantry or refrigerator:
3 baseball size kohlrabi
cream cheese mixed with onion and garlic
horseradish mustard
3 eggs
3 baseball size kohlrabi
If you've never worked with kohlrabi, the outer skin and root needs to be cut off with a paring knife.  If the kohlrabi is too large the toughness from the root would extend up into a greater portion of the vegetable.
cubed kohlrabi
I put the cubes of kohlrabi in a pot of water and boiled it until it was tender.  Then I drained it.  When kohlrabi becomes tender it still keeps it's unique flavor.  And unlike potatoes, it isn't quite as mushy.
Boiling kohlrabi
A few days ago, I took whipped cream cheese and added a garden fresh onion and garlic including greens.  I used part of it and the onion and garlic was still very strong, so I added more regular cream cheese.  While the kohlrabi was hot, I added the cream cheese so that it would melt and coat the kohlrabi.  I also added about a teaspoon of the horseradish mustard that I mixed the other day.
Add flavored cream cheese.
I had to do a taste test.  So while the eggs were boiling, I sampled the kohlrabi salad.  I was excited.  This was showing great hope.  You might be wondering how much cream cheese mixture did I use?  About half of the whipped cream cheese container 2/3 to 3/4 cup.  Enough to coat the pieces of kohlrabi.
kohlrabi salad without eggs

It looks like potato salad but it is really kohlrabi salad.  There was a different texture and slightly different taste but it was good.  There is a fact about potatoes that does not apply to kohlrabi.  Potatoes absorb the dressing and salt overnight which means the longer it sits the better it tastes.  Kohlrabi does not seem to be as absorbent.  If you are planning to make it, don't put too much dressing in it.
Finished Kohlrabi salad

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Northern Lights

June 22nd and 23rd the Northern lights have been visible.  On Monday night, the skies were clear and they were reported to be visible all the way to Kansas.  My nephews girlfriend noticed them outside her place and quickly grabbed the camera.  She got several very good shots.  She agreed to let me share two of them with you.

Northern Lights
If you look closely you can see the purples, whites and greens glittering through the skies!  I have seen the Northern lights in person once when I lived in Wisconsin.  I was driving and they were shining so brilliantly that I pulled off to the side of the road and watched them.  Sadly, I didn't have my camera with that day.

Northern Lights
Tuesday night the news anchors all seemed to be saying that the lights would be best between 11:30 PM and 1 AM.  So I stayed up late and drove out to the country.  All that I got to see was the clouds filtering back and forth over the half moon and a bank of clouds across the Northern sky.  Oh well, maybe another day.  Thanks Kelsey for sharing the photos with us!

Half moon in the cloudy sky

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Horseradish Mustard

I saw horseradish mustard in the grocery store. That sounded perfect for the top of a hamburger. I looked at the ingredients they all had bell peppers.  Why?! I don't get it. Why did they have to ruin something so good with bell peppers?  (I know. Just because I am allergic to them doesn't mean others don't like them.)

I decided that I was going to buy horseradish and mustard and make my own.

Tonight I put them both in a bowl and mixed them together. I left a little on my fork to put on the top of the burger. Delicious!

I was planning on putting the mixture into a quart size bag and cutting a whole in the bottom. But the edge close to the zipper ripped. So I  flipped the bag upside-down and filled both containers. I  needed a third hand to take the pictures while I filled the containers. Instead, I spilled a bit. Ooops!

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Wonderful Monday

Sometimes it is just nice to have some "normal" time.  Sonjia came to us with this habit of laying down like a tiger that is going to pounce and watching the other girls have their "stare down".  The problem is that she is such a big dog that the grass doesn't hide her.  Especially today when the high winds are blowing all of the crops flat.
Sonjia hides in the weeds
After an early morning of storms that went through the area, the clouds broke up and the sun streamed through.  They are saying that it is around 80 degrees outside.  I guess that I'm going to need to say that the wind must be causing a "wind chill" because it feels like it's about 70 degrees out.  Other than being windy, it is a perfectly wonderful and beautiful evening.
Sunshine crowns the cloud
Not only did the sunshine make me smile today.  But to see the girls run and chase each other across the hay field, always makes me smile.  They have so much energy and they love to run and play with every little bit of energy.
Misty Blue and Sonjia race!
Misty Blue is learning from Sonjia.  While the other two were at the edge of the swamp playing with their backs turned she took the position of pouncing tiger.  I was surprised how patiently she waited.  She didn't pounce from her position until they were almost on top of her.
Misty Blue ready to pounce
I know you hear me all summer long saying, "I love fresh garden veggies!"  I need to move to the country where I can have a few beef cattle too.  Supper tonight was fresh picked kohlrabi fried in coconut oil, mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese (garden fresh garlic and onion) with a hamburger topped with the same cream cheese that I stuffed the mushrooms with.  Who needs salt when you have fresh herbs. 
Supper: Hamburger, kohlrabi and stuffed mushrooms
I have realized that some of my favorite meals are visually bland.  They say that you eat with your eyes.  I don't think that fits me.  It's all about the taste and my tongue is still tingling.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Finished Socks

Finished and Fun! Hand knit socks
Today I finished the pair of socks that I made from the sock blank that I recently dyed.  This is the first pair of socks that I have knit. It was fun and a little bit addicting.
Dyed Sock blank - 2 ply
I wasn't sure what to expect from my circles and lines.  I like the outcome.  The "black" lifted in the rinse to a dark green.  I am feeling the need to go through the process several more times in order to understand the cause and effect. I also had two small balls of thread left from the process.  I am wondering if it might make a small head band.  ....just thinking at this point.  :^)
First pair of hand knit socks Hurrah!
But I  think that will need to hold off with further knitting projects for another month.  It is outside project time and I  have a few inside painting jobs that I want to finish while I can still open the windows.