November 23, 2010

Long Winter's Nap

We are finished with outdoor work for the year! Good and bad. We'll miss the pleasure of watching everything grow and change, and we'll certainly miss harvesting vegetables and flowers. These pansies were living in pots on the porch with our other fall decorations, and now they're planted in our front beds where the marigolds once stood. Our understanding is that they will winter over and come back in the spring.

With the mulch and hay applied to some of the more tender plants in the front, we're officially leaving behind the watering, weeding, pruning, transplanting, and deer repelling for the season...nice to take a little break. However, the deer repelling might have to continue. They tend to sleep in our yard in the winter and occasionally wander up to have snack of Euonymous bush. But I won't rant on the deer issue around here while I'm enjoying watching the 6 point buck strolling through the back yard.

I took this photo from a much greater distance than what my camera could handle, and then when I applied the "saturation" effect to the picture, it ended up looking more like a water color. This happened last summer as well with a blue heron on our pond. I like it!

While out pruning and raking this weekend, we came across dozens of these little wonders. They're curled up and trying to nap under any dark, damp area for the winter. These are Wooly Bear caterpillars and they turn into Isabella Tiger moths in the spring. Wouldn't it be fun to be the one who names these critters?! These are the caterpillars that folklore hails as the predictors of the coming winter weather. Here's a fun video link that talks about the history of this tradition.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I can't help but think about the celebrations that have come before our time. Below is the first portion of George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation. This link is a place to read Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation. Our wonderful country is in a sticky place right now, and looking to the wisdom of our forefathers is a natural path to take. May God truly bless you and your family in the coming year, and may He bless our nation with the courage to stand for what we once held more dear.
"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me `to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving 2005

This is a picture of a dear friend, her mother, and one of her brothers on Thanksgiving morning 2005. That was the last time we spent the holiday with them, since we moved to Iowa 9 months later. We're so blessed to be going back there this year to have another wonderful time of fellowship and celebration with them! In 2005, I took pictures that I then processed through a photo program that turned the photos into cartoon-type pictures. Here is the above photo in cartoon form...
I just love this affect and honestly I'm not sure which program I used back then, but I plan on picking my hubby's brain later on today, and if you want to know, just contact me. These pictures remind me of something you'd see in a child's book about a New England Thanksgiving.

A celebration full of food...

family and friends...

true fellowship...

fun and childhood memories.

Dear friends, Lord willing, we'll be there soon. Making more memories!

November 12, 2010

Berry Patch Dreams

Look what came in the mail this week! In these spindly looking plants lie dreams of raspberries and blackberries pouring out of our garden next year - maybe? They arrived from a very pleasant grower in Indiana named Keith. His business is called Backyard Berry Plants and he specializes in organic berry plants. It's a very old fashioned business without online ordering or credit card options. You print out your own order form, calculate your own shipping charges, and send your check. And the lack of modern purchasing practices is more than balanced by very personal and efficient customer service.

This is the fall bearing raspberry plant called Himbo Top. The fall bearing aspect might be obvious since it arrived with these beautiful berries attached! I never realized until this year that there were fall bearing raspberries, but through our food co-op we had some that were out of this world.

We purchased two Royalty Purple Raspberry plants and they will ripen in early summer. These are said to be quite prolific and quite large berries, a cross between a red raspberry and a blackberry. I love the fall foliage colors in these plants! You'll notice my hardworking hubbie in the background there, digging holes to plant these beauties while I'm snapping photos of them! Let's see now, I'll justify this by saying that I'll be the one freezing and processing the berries when they appear - yep that's a good balance I think!

The last plant we bought is a blackberry called Triple Crown. It's a prolific producer and thorn-free - ahh! It typically is ready to harvest from July to August. If we've chosen well and providence is on our side, we could have a nice long berry season.

This tangle is part of our developing asparagus bed. We cut it all back this week and really hope that it will produce next year. An asparagus bed takes a few years to get it's act together, but oh my the payoff. It would be so lovely to have fresh asparagus that didn't cost 5.99 a pound!

The garden is put to bed now. The last of the lettuce and greens were harvested - aren't you relieved that I won't post about those anymore!! And as my DH said on the way into the house just before sunset, "It's almost time to start ordering seeds for next year." For now I'll enjoy the beautiful season upon us."The exuberance of spring is over, and the rich ripeness of summer is gone. The extravagant beauty of October fades into the sober hue of November, and once more the trees will lift intricate patterns of dark branches against a soft pale sky."
Gladys Taber - Country Chronicle, 1974

November 8, 2010

Let us Give Thanks for Lettuce!

I know I'm being a total dork for being so excited about the fact that we still have lettuce growing in November, but I can't help myself! If you've had the disappointment of bringing home a plastic tub of organic lettuce that didn't stay fresh more than two days after you laid out too much money for it - then maybe you get excited about this idea too!

To go out and peel back the translucent plastic, that has been protecting it from 24 degree nights and CONSTANT cold winds, and harvest it for dinner, is just a thrill. Not the thrill up the leg that certain reporters who are now under investigation get - not that kind. But instead a deep satisfaction at the way a garden works and the amazing ways that God provides for our needs.

This weekend we enjoyed a Thanksgiving fellowship meal at our church and I took a lettuce salad that was harvest themed. I didn't snap a photo of it because that seemed a little over the top in the church kitchen - though I already know that my church family would not have minded in the least! The salad consisted of a layer of lettuce...

topped with sliced, fresh pearssectioned, fresh orange slicessliced almonds

and this cranberry salad dressing...

This was a really nice dressing, which starts like a fresh cranberry-orange sauce, and gets pushed through a sieve. I added walnut oil too. The recipe is here.

One more thing to be thankful for - TRADER JOE'S OPENED IN WEST DES MOINES - yeah, yeah, yeah! We went there this weekend and it was a mob scene, but an orderly one I must admit. Shelves were literally bare in some parts of the store. You think maybe people here were ready for this store to open??!!

November 2, 2010

Two Fine Sundays

This little peanut was part of a fine Sunday about a week and a half ago. She is the precious newborn daughter of some sweet friends of ours. Isn't she perfect? Isn't it amazing what God does?! We enjoyed our lunch with the family and I had the thrill of holding this lovely baby for several hours. Bliss!

The next fine Sunday included a party at our house to celebrate Reformation Day with our church. About 50 people came to enjoy some wonderful fellowship!

Reformation Day fell on Halloween this year, but in Iowa, the trick-or-treating usually happens on the night of the 30th, so no children were denied candy!

Set up started the day before when some hearty souls came down with a load of wood and built this classic bonfire structure. I must confess I did have a moment of fear when I saw this monster, but these guys were experienced bonfire builders, and we knew the garden hose and a fire extinguisher were going to be nearby!

The first annual soup/chili cook-off took place at this gathering. And yep, we did indeed blow a circuit a couple of times due to the line up of crock-pots and the coffee and hot water urns! We eventually got it figured out and no one ate cold soup!

This soup ladle was awarded to the first prize winner who made a delicious Bacon-Cheese Potato Soup. We had a great variety of fantastic soups, including Pumpkin Soup, Black Bean Chili, and Chicken Posole with lime wedges on the side. Good cooks!

Also on the menu were hot dogs and hamburgers, expertly cooked by my DH. Even with the pesky wind playing with the grill, he did a valiant job!

And of course every good gathering needs a few desserts!
This is a flat apple pie - yummy! - and here's the link to the recipe from The Splendid Table. Add to this a little chocolate and a little cupcake and you have a happy mix.

At the end...4 brownies left, and nothing else. Perfect for me since I love to bake these goodies and don't want to have them left in the house - ha!

It was really interesting to stand out in the yard and take pictures back toward the house. I have to admit that in the 4 years we've been here, we haven't utilized our home for this kind of gathering as much as we would have liked. My DH has done lots of sprucing up in our outdoor spaces and it was very satisfying to be able to enjoy it so much.

And now back to the bonfire - it was the main attraction after all!

It was a chilly day and the warmth from the fire was even a comfort all the way up on the deck!

It kept our pastor warm as he led us in a few minutes of devotion and song.

And kept the listeners warm too.

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12:28-29