Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hyacinth Bean Vine

MANY moons ago, I found my first hyacinth bean vine at a yard sale and it was love at first sight! I love this vine even though it will swallow up an arbor - all it needs is lots of room. I was told the seeds/pods are poisonous and I've heard they can be eaten...educate yourself, though I can't imagine even wanting to eat them!

Once you have a hyacinth bean vine, all that needs to be done is saving the pods from year to year. They're also good at 'saving' themselves and can pop up in unexpected places - they're a wonderful gift to other gardening friends. The sweet pea-like flower is simply beautiful!
 As seen here in these pictures, it will cover where ever it's planted.
 After their bloom, these purple pods are produced and are lovely in an autumn flower arrangement. I let the pods dry on the vine to collect seeds for the next year and let them in the pod until I want to plant them the next year. The seeds are the size of a pea and black with a white stripe on the edge. It grows up to twenty feet tall and is a twinning vine. I generally give it a little help to get it started by tucking it in and around whatever it's growing on. All around, it's a fascinating plant!
 They do need protection from the bunnies - they so love the tender young plants!

If anyone is interested in seeds to plant in your garden, send me a SASE and I'll be happy to share seeds with you!

On another note...
Last week I was honored to receive an invite to Home Talk to share my Back to Eden Gardening post.
 I'll be linking more posts there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Canning Tomato Soup

Last week DIL M sauced tomatoes for me. Years ago she introduced a delicious tomato soup to our family and I decided to make the soup again. It's a quick meal on a cold winter night and is fabulous with toasted cheese sandwiches!

Because we're eating gluten-free, I changed a few ingredients but I'll give the original and add the changes in parenthesis.

Tomato Soup

Saute a bit:
 5 T. finely chopped onions
10 T. butter (or coconut oil)
Stir in and heat till smooth:
3/4 c. flour (or tapioca starch)
1/2 c. sugar (or rice syrup)
5 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
Stir in:
10 c. tomato juice
(I added a cup at a time to avoid lumps several times)
Fill jars to within 1/2 inch and water bathe 1&1/2 hours.
If filled too much, it will cook over and run out of the jars.
Follow the usual rules of canning!

When I serve it, I dilute it with water but milk can be used - either way it's good!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Raised Strawberry Bed

I'm so delighted with our new strawberry bed! The new bed is my second time around for this bed because the one I did last summer was a big disappointment this summer. Plus, I wanted a real raised bed where I didn't have to bend over!
After the greenhouse left, my 'new' garden space looked like this in the spring of 2011.
- 2011 -
Fast forward to the summer of 2012.
Mr D made the box out of scrap cedar wood and is 16 ft L x 26" W x 24" H. He made it sturdy by re-enforcing it with 2x4's inside. I filled it with a two-year supply of compost dirt. This is what I found in the bin as I was emptying it...eek!
I transplanted the five raspberry plants and took the strawberry plants out of the old bed and piled them in a box till the new one was ready. Then came the fun part!

After four hours of transferring the dirt from the compost bin to the new bed, I 'hilled' the dirt in the box.
After adding a fifty-foot soaker hose that was placed on the sides and middle, I used my home-made version of u-hooks to keep it in place.
And ta-da! my new bed! The plants transplanted well, I harvested several gallons of potatoes and onions, and seeded a fall crop of radish and lettuce. Because the straw was left from the little potato patch, I used it to cover the whole bed, giving it shade from the hot sun and protection from the winter cold. Best of all, it was a mostly free project - the biggest expense was the soaker hose and it was on sale.
 The radishes were seeded on Saturday and by Tuesday they were up, having several rains the last few days.
Incidentally, both of these projects were done by Mr D in both of his cancer diagnoses. I'm especially grateful to him and to God that he's given me these gifts. My prayer is he'll be here next spring to enjoy the fruit of his work! If you want to follow along on our cancer journey, 'like' my Fleur Cottage face book page where I post frequently about it.

Link to:
Cottage Garden
Time Travel Thursday
Under $100 Linky
Transformation Thursday
Grace at Home

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to Eden Gardening

I discovered Back To Eden gardening late this winter and was very intrigued by it. I decided to take the plunge and change my method of gardening. It was a fairly big project as it took three layers of mulching in my largest perennial bed, two layers on most of the others in the back and one heavy layer in the front. Another question was where was I going to be getting the wood chips to do it all, which was a lot.

Son L is in the landscaping business and we got an enormous pile of wood chips from him. The rest we found at a vacant lot and after contacting the owner, were able to finish the rest. Wood chips is different than bark mulch in that it's the whole tree rather than just the bark. It also needs to age one year before using it. There are large pieces in the wood chips and I expect to have to do a pick up next spring. According to the Back To Eden gardening method, there are places where townships have huge piles of this stuff. We need to be the early bird next spring for ours!

Prior to this summer, I used compost and cut grass to cover my beds but they always ended up looking dry and cracked like the picture below. And weeds? I was constantly pulling the pesky things and in the heat of summer, missed a lot under the fully grown plants, especially on the south side of the yard. But not this year! I've pulled less weeds this summer than I have in all the years of perennial gardening. Truthfully, I wasn't sure if I'd like the 'wood chip look' but I'm so pleased with the results and have learned to like how it looks!
As you can see, I had a late start but simply worked around the plants. I placed a layer of newspaper/cardboard down first, holding it in place on those windy spring days with mushroom mulch. We live close to large mushroom producers so that's easy to come by. The mushroom mulch was several inches deep. Then came the wood chips and it was exciting to see this happening! I also was blessed with help from the grands.
I missed a few perennials but they just simply pushed up through the three layers. The growth was stunted but I expect better results next summer. Some day lilies liked it and others not as much, though I have a sneaky suspicion that came from unwanted visitors in the form of voles. The geraniums loved it and did very well. The beds did really well protected from the summer heat and the retained moisture. No more cracked ground and pulling an excessive amount of weeds! When the weeds did come through, they pulled very easy, even the dandelions!

A few before and afters.

Geranium love!
The picket bed pictures are different seasons but also got scaled back, partially because I was late getting the mulch done. Would I do it again? I sure would - it was worth all the extra work! In Lancaster County, all the colors available in mulch are used, with lots of pristine flower beds but somehow, the wood chip look grew on me. The earthworms love it and I love knowing what's happening underneath those layers of mulch!

You can find the video and information here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Peach Season

I love fresh peaches and we're right in the middle of the season! Last year DIL M posted a recipe on her blog to freeze peaches and I wanted to do some this year for us. Because we eat sugar-free, I used orange juice and stevia to sweeten mine. It's delicious!

Red Haven is a delicious brand to use and it freezes well. Eating them partially thawed is the best way to eat it (my opinion!). Out of one basket, I froze forty-two cups in individual containers. So easy to pull out of the freezer, set in the frig and several hours later it's perfect to eat!



one basket of peaches
(I spread mine out on newspaper to allow more ripening)
one half gallon of orange juice 
(frozen concentrate, made to directions)
one teaspoon stevia
(yes, ONE teaspoon!)

I did the peaches in three batches, adding one-third teaspoon of stevia to each batch. Not all stevia has the same strength but do add carefully. It will taste bitter if too much is added. Yummy, YUMMY!

 This is a very simple method to preserve peaches and it took me only two and a half hours to do one basket. Clean-up was so easy!

Linking to:
Tuesday Garden Party

Friday, August 3, 2012

For His Glory!

July was a difficult month. The ebb and flow of emotions was constant. The eight-day hospital stay, the doctor visits, hopes raised then dashed, and the waiting, waiting, waiting! Waiting in doctor's offices, on tests, on reports, and doing the cycle over again. Our new normal of the last year was good. But here we are again - that 'new normal' has been disrupted and disruption is hard and painful.

Mr D has a cancerous tumor, located outside the colon in the chest cavity. The doctors tell us it probably seeded through the colon wall fifteen months ago. It's big and is touching the kidney and spleen. The results of the P.E.T. scan show it's contained - we hope it is. Because it's too big to operate on, it needs to be shrunk by chemo. He will have three chemo treatments, two weeks apart, when another scan will be done to see if the tumor is small enough to do surgery. Pray with us for this to happen.

This is a genetic cancer, not curable but can be controlled to a degree. We knew it was genetic, but did not know it was genetic in the way our doctor explained it to us. There was no follow-up in his first episode, as there should have been. We were simply told the cancer was contained and he was released from any medical care. The decisions we made then was based on that information and we chose a nutritionist and changed our diet. Had we known then what we know now, we would have made different choices.

In May of this year, he had a follow-up colonoscopy. At that time he had an occasional pain on the same side and mentioned it to that doctor. His response? 'Oh, it's probably adehesions' and Mr D took him at his word. It's difficult not to go down that 'if only' road. That report came back clear 'with no need to come back for three years.'

Looking back, we had a few 'wondering' symptoms. He was losing unexplained weight and a noticeable energy drop but assumed it was still from the first episode or a busy summer schedule. Right now, there's little pain but diminished energy. In the next six weeks we want to live life as full as we are able. He is at work everyday and spends most of that time in the office. Our grandsons help out as much as is feasible and we appreciate that a lot!

This has made life clearer and sharper for us again. We brush our hands when we pass each other. I run my hand over his shoulders as I pass behind him sitting in his chair. We smile often at each other and give a 'I love you' with a hug frequently. We're putting family first and want to spend time with the grands. We have amazing support from our children as listening posts, concerned for us both and will do anything for us! We extended family, friends, our church and others we don't even know that give us care!

I've adopted a phrase for this journey. GOD IS GOOD - ALL THE TIME! God is bigger than all of this and our hope and trust is in Him. We grieve but in our grief we are comforted - comforted in an unshakable
truth that HE IS GOOD! We are surrounded by prayer warriors and the care of others who lift us up to the Throne of Grace. We want to do this journey well and this experience to bring HIM glory!


The intent of this blog is to share our home, projects and my hobbies. I want it to be a happy place! I've decided not to do much blogging of our journey here but I will be posting frequently on my Fleur Cottage face book page which can be reached through this connection. Follow the connection and click on 'like' to follow.