Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Urban Forest Food?

Getzendaner park

Remember me mentioning the local park?
33 acres, corralled by the interstate to the west, a hospital to the north,
the ancient cemetery to the east and the Waxahachie Creek at the southern end.
Lots of playground equipment, picnic tables, grills and
6 miles of a concreted hiking, biking trail, dotted with exercise equipment.
Plenty of trees, birds and squirrels.
The trail is always crowded with walkers, joggers and bikers.

Funny that the walkers, joggers and bikers all have ear buds in.

Sounds great to most people, clean comfortable nature.

If you dare to venture off the concrete path
you're transported into another world......

The mini forest.

 Full of snakes, chiggers, poison ivy, bees, birds, butterflies and
 believe it or not.....Food

I speak of the alternate bike trail.
It's littered with downed tree limbs and no bike could possibly get through.
I've been on this trail before, but not in my present state of mind.
It was just a whim to even be there, no planning, it just happened.
We had no walking sticks, I was in a skirt, no hats, no insect repellant....

Nathan's always up for an adventure,
We walked the trail, climbing over and around the limbs and downed trees.

Along the way we stopped to photo all of the interesting trees, flowers, lizards....
and the food!
The vegetation was so lush and thick,
 birds were singing, butterflies were happily kissing the flowers
and the bees were busy collecting pollen.

If it wasn't for the distant sound of the interstate
you would never have known you were in an urban setting.
We found several patches of blackberries nestled under the giant trees,
walking onions hiding in plain sight alongside the grasses
and honeysuckle happily twining itself up and around the fallen limbs.
Pecan and Walnut trees were everywhere
and we even found a Mulberry tree.

Not quite ripe blackberry...


Wild onions
There's no telling what other edible plants might be hiding
in this little piece of nature, and perhaps I should look for a field guide
and educate myself.
You never know what the future might bring,
being able to identify food in nature might come in handy.

The creek was beautiful and judging by the high banks
there's been more than one heavy rainstorm that's found it's way through there.
Maybe it even has fish at times? I don't know, it was pretty shallow but
our rainfall is down so maybe at other times it's deeper.

I've found some of these same plants on our property
and probably have missed a whole lot more than I've found.

What's in your urban forest?

By the way, we didn't get chiggers, bitten by a snake or poison ivy.

Till next time,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday's Thrifted Hat


April in Texas.
 High winds, tornadoes and thunder showers,
but the only thing we're getting are the high winds!
Needless to say the high winds affect my internet connection.
Meaning no internet...
My window of internet opportunity at work is slim with no picture uploading,

We have internet this evening so I shall try to post
before I get kicked off.

I found this hat at my local thrifty shop
a few weeks ago for $2.50

Plain Jane...
With a little ribbon, a button, some beads, a slide and cording...

It's now fab! 
I applied the ribbon, attached the button,
then realized, it's windy here in the spring ... 
You're gonna need something to keep it on your head....

I unattached the button so I could add  the cording and slide to keep it on my head, 
then reattached the button. 
A couple of beads knotted at the end of the cording and I was good to go! 
Live And Learn...

Just perfect for our Easter Sunday picnic at the park...

Grandson Nathan, Grandaughter Lauren

I'll find those candy eggs!

Abby isn't telling.

Where's the crabby patties!!!

What's that in your pocket Lauren?

Ginger counting the loot!

Happy Easter!!!!
Till next time,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Windy, Wildfires And Normal Texas Weather

DALLAS - State officials said Tuesday that wildfire burning about 70 miles west from the Dallas-Fort Worth area has blackened an area twice as big as previously estimated, and that strong wind gusts prompted the evacuation of the entire town of Palo Pinto.
The fire at Possum Kingdom Lake has grown to nearly
150,000 acres from estimates a day earlier of about 63,000 acres,
according to the Texas Forest Service.

About 150 homes and one church have been confirmed destroyed in the area.
Tuesday afternoon the entire town of Palo Pinto was evacuated after wind gusts helped the massive wildfire jump the river. Residents were told the fire was possibly an hour away and they were ordered to leave.

Deputies hooked up garden hoses to wet down the roof of the sheriff's office and Department of Public Safety, troopers armed with rifles surrounded the sally port as prisoners were evacuated from the jail.
Only members of volunteer fire department stayed behind to defend as much of their town as they could. They were joined by other firefighters who, with the help of dying winds, were able to keep the fire at bay.

The fire is the fifth in Texas to have burned at least 100,000 acres in the past two weeks. Most of the state is in extreme drought, and wildfires in the past week alone have burned more than 1,000 square miles of parched Texas ranchland -- an area that combined would be the size of Rhode Island.
The Texas Forest Service has ordered additional aerial support to help battle the wildfires. In addition to what is already being used on the ground and in the air, four MAFFs (Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems) and a DC-10 airtanker will join the fight.

From what I've heard this wildfire was caused by a camper who went to get beer
and left his campfire unattended.

Today, Nathan and I went to survey what the 100 MPH plus winds
did to the local park in our area of Ellis County.

Massive old growth trees downed, but you have to realize.....

It's like the Native American  Chestnuts,
once the disease from the imported Oriental Chestnuts arrived here
and killed the Native Chestnut Trees, that left room for other species of trees to flourish.

Mother Nature will always have her way.

And this little squirrel apparently likes french fries

Thanks to Brendie for getting me to think about Chestnuts.

Till next time,

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails


My town is the Bluebonnet Capitol of Texas.
For the whole month of April everywhere you look you'll see bluebonnets.
On the side of the highway, in open fields, in my yard,
acres upon acres of bluebonnets.
Mixed in with the bluebonnets are indian paint brushes and
a host of other wildflowers
that I should know the names of but, sadly I don't.

You can go to the Ennis Visitor's Bureau and pick up a map
that lists over 40 miles of drivable trails
for viewing this bluebonnet phenomenon.  
I live on one of these trails.
There's even a sign at the top of the hill that says so!
On the weekends there's a steady stream of visitors
out viewing and taking pictures of the wildflowers.

When I first came to Texas, and this little town, I did the same,
 had my picture taken sitting in a patch of wildflowers......
Sounds sweet, doesn't it?

Know what I got?
A bad case of chiggers!!!!
What the heck is a chigger, I had never heard of a chigger!

(Any of various small, six-legged larvae of mites of the family Trombiculidae, parasitic on insects, humans, and other vertebrates. The chigger's bite produces a wheal that is usually accompanied by severe itching. Also called chigoe, harvest bug, harvest mite, jigger2, red bug.)

Gnawing, biting, itchy little critters is what they are!
I was miserable for weeks.
 (Well maybe not for weeks, I am a bit of a drama queen).
Don't even know what happened to that picture.

Every time I see a family, with their cute little girl, dressed in her Sunday best,
out taking her picture in the wildflowers, I think to myself,


So, keep my story in mind if you have a hankering 
to have your picture taken in a field of wild flowers!!!

 this weekend is,
 "The Bluebonnet Arts & Craft Festival"
where tens of thousands of people (said so on the visitor bureau's website)
come to pick up maps of the trails and purchase bluebonnet related stuff.

I have bluebonnet related stuff....
I carry a bluebonnet soap.
I guess you know where I'll be spending the next two days.
(Booth # 9 if you want to come visit me).

We always do well at this show
 there really are a lot of visitors
 since it's in my home town,
it's a no brainer!
Soap Display
Time to label some soap and pack the totes.
(Oh no, the rhyming thing again).

See you'all Monday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Natures Bounty

Common Sage

The New-ish Berggarten Sage

The Yellow Irises

The Irises At The Dead Tree Garden

Wild Garlic

Lemon Balm And Chocolate Mint

Wild Blackberries

The Harvest

Sage leaves and flowers, dill, lavender flowers, thyme, yellow roses and rosemary in the back.

What say ye?
Till next time,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Gathering Apron

I told myself, self, you've been cooking every weekend for weeks,
poor Nathan has had enough of making fried pies,
it's time for a break.....

Time to sew something,

time to tend to the herbs,

time to view the sun rise,

 in other words,
me time!
This last weekend I did all of that and them some.
(Still baked some sweet breads and made a pan of enchiladas though).
Oh well....

I took Nathan to his other grandma's this weekend
leaving me with plenty of uninterrupted sewing time.
(I did send along one of the sweet breads though).

There have been pictures and talk posted of sewing aprons,
cute aprons.
Brendie made the cutest apron for Sue
 and she posted links to apron projects.

I want a new apron!
Mine is really looking ratty so I had an excuse for a new one.
After much searching and clicking back and forth,
 I found the apron I wanted to make,

The purpose of this apron is to be able gather your veggies, eggs, fruit, herbs...
whatever in the front.
You thread the waist ribbons through buttonholes in the hem,
 gathering it all up into a pouch that you tie at the waist.
Very cleaver!!!

The main fabrics and ribbon I purchased  about three weeks ago
especially for this project and the accent fabrics are from my stash.
I mostly followed the instructions,
I don't do button holes!!!
I know, I'll make belt loop thingies, that should work.
Yep, it did!
(I made the belt loop thingies out of the blue ribbon).
And I could make it reversible.
Yep, I did!
I still need to finish the other side with the ribbon and the belt loop thingies.

I like it, but....
 what's up with the blue again?
Am I changing from a green person to a blue person?

I feel better now that I've done some sewing
I'm a little concerned about the color shift....
I'll have to do a little research in my color book to figure it all out.

Almost forgot to tell you....
After our cooking marathon last weekend,
 Nathan and I went to rest on the front porch.
He wandered off and came back with this plate
of freshly picked strawberries and lemon balm leaves for me to snack on.
He did the arrangement himself.
I'm so impressed, he knows the rule of three!!!
He's so sweet, I'm glad he puts up with me!!!!
(When you start rhyming it's time to quit).

I hope you're having good times too.
Till next time,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Repurposing An Old BBQ Grill

This photo was sent to me via E-mail from my stepdaughter Amber.
She pens the blog
filled with useful links, projects and info related to teaching lower grade students.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have thought of this and
I think it's truly a unique way to repurpose an old bbq grill.
She planted coconut thyme and spicy oregano in it, and since
both plants are creepers the space should fill in quite nicely.
Unfortunately her dogs have a tendency to pee on her plants
 so, this was her solution to the problem.
I say well done!!
What do you think?

If you have a repurposing idea, sewing project or recipe that you would
like featured here, just email me a picture and info 

Till next time,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How We Grow Lavender


Let me just start by saying, lavender doesn't grow well in North Texas!
If I lived about 3 hours south down interstate 35 I would have fields of it.
Down around Austin there are real lavender farms, acres upon acres of lavender.
It's the new cash crop!
Austin is hilly... read.... loose, drainable soil.
We have tight, not so drainable soil.
What grows well here are cotton and maize, useful crops I'm sure,
 cotton and maize don't make for a good soap or bath tea....


What to do, what to do?
We've tried and failed with the elusive lavender
until we talked with a master gardener.
She was one of the speakers at the lawn and garden expo a few years ago.
Her advice was....
Dig a large hole, add about one gallon of pea gravel, 
insert the lavender plant,
backfill halfway with pea gravel,
backfill remainder of hole with your native soil,
ring your lavender from the stem out, about two feet,
with a layer of white marble chips.

 The dynamics are...
the pea gravel mimics the rocky soil, aiding in drainage,
the ring of white marble chips reflect the sun into the plant center
aiding in faster dry time of the foliage during wet weather.

Seems to be working, we have eight lavender plants all doing great.

As to the type of lavender,
we have one spike, huge plant but the flowers are very elongated,
the other seven are Spanish,
it's more compact, with bushier (fatter) flowers.
I prefer the Spanish.
Lavender it seems, likes loose, rocky, well drained soil.
Don't over water.

I hope you give lavender a try, it's a lovely plant and our bees love it,
 they also love the buford holly and the rosemary.
Let me know if you have success with this method.

And, as usual, it's way past my bed time.
Till next time,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mock Fried Meat Pies

Let me tell you....
Texas is starting to warm right on up, which means no turning on the oven.

My husband Steve AKA  the fruit tree guy, has been selling fruit trees like crazy.
Not just your normal ones either,
customers are looking for things like Quince, Mulberry, Persimmon, Pomogranate....
He's been doing a lot of Goggling and phone calling to find these unusual
(at least around here) types of trees.
He's a very busy guy in the spring.

Did I forget to mention he works at a nursery?

What does this have to do with ovens and meat pies you might ask?

There's no time for him to eat....

I'm not kidding, no sitting down with a plate or fork.

He needs portable food, something he can eat on the go.
So on my days off I've been making him big batches of meat pies, fruit pies and fajita rolls.
I package them up into meal size portions and freeze them.
They need to be done now because in a few weeks there will be no turning the oven on.
I can do the fajitas on the grill but not the meat or fruit pies.
Anyway, that's what I've been doing instead of blogging, (oh yeah, I've been making soap too).


 I call them mock fried pies because I bake them instead of frying them.
I lightly oil the cookie sheet, lay down the pies,
brush the tops with oil, bake for 10 minutes,
flip and bake for another 10 minutes.
They come out nicely browned on both sides.
All they consist of is meat mixed with veggies and gravy in a pie crust round.

 I do a double pie crust recipe times 4, roll it out, cut it into rounds,
then fill, fold in half, seal. and bake.
Basically I'm doing  hand held pot pies.
(I add chopped herbs to my pie dough for added zing)

The fruit ones are made from canned fruit preserves that are heated
and thickened with corn starch.
This last batch of fruit pies was made with papaya/cantaloupe preserves.

The fajita rolls are cheese, sautéed meat and veggies rolled up
in a flour tortilla and packaged the same as the meat pies.
(Forgot to photo those).
About 45 sec. in the microwave and he's good to go.
A lot of work but worth it.

Nathan helped me make these,
he's learning how to stay away from the fast food places.

After we finished our baking,
Nathan and I took a walk down to the creek for a little R&R.
The scenery was nice as was the quiet.
 (As much quiet you can  get with a 12 year old anyway)!




We found shells and some cool rocks at the creek.
Nathan and I are big rock collectors.
We stayed for about an hour or so at the creek then it was back to the Casa
to fry up some fish and hush puppies.
I'm telling you, we are some food cooking fools here.

It was a lovely day spent working and playing with my grandson.
Hopefully he will know something other than fast food and video games!!!

It's way past my bed time, so......
Till next time,