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Archive for the ‘My gardens’ Category

Garden Bounty

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on December 12, 2010

I’ve been cooking for quite a while today; my garden just didn’t know when to quit. Before the last freeze a week or so ago, we harvested over 100 green tomatoes and several pumpkins. Today, I cleaned and canned 3 quarts of tomatoes, made ghoulash, made soup, banana nut muffins, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie. And I still have dozens of green tomatoes that will get used as they ripen and 6 more pumpkins to go! I served our ‘garden bounty’ dinner to my in-laws and sent them enough food home for two more meals. No w that’s cooking!


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Pumpkins & Ponderings

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on October 28, 2010

These are a couple of pumpkins from my [late] pumpkin patch. Although not quite all the way ripe, we are picking a couple of them to use; one pie pumpkin of 13 pounds and one Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin of 17 pounds. Tonight I cleaned out the pie pumpkin and made a pie and a loaf of pumpkin bread. The pie is heavenly, and my hubby said it was possibly the best one he’s ever had. Yum! The bread will wait until the AM for tasting.

I’ve been ‘pond’ering my Koi pond lately and all of the visits from nature I’ve had. It has been a strange year following behind two terrible years of drought. I often sit on my porch and just watch the beautiful Gold & White fish swirl in the waters while the small waterfall plashes it’s noise to me. A Mockingbird loves to come sit on the rock falls and lean into the spray for his drink of water. Often, I’ll be reading a book and won’t know he’s there until the water flow is interrupted.
Other visitors are not quite so welcome to my peaceful refuge, such as the largest Tarantula I’ve ever seen, the largest Scorpion I’ve seen in Texas, and of course, my famous visitor that took up residence for a couple of months – the rattlesnake. Yes, I have pictures of them all, but I usually limit them to two pics per post, so you won’t see them this time.

My Koi pond draws other things as well, those not quite so welcome. My chickens have been attacked repeatedly and then my fish in the pond. Finally, an Oppossum came onto my porch and wasn’t going to leave. Who knew the things were so stubborn and nasty? Once he was dispatched, I thought my problems were temporarily solved, but the problems continued with missing eggs, pannicked chickens and finally, my largest, prettiest fish was killed while I was gone this weekend. Wasn’t it nice of my husband to retrieve the mangled body and put it in the freezer for when I got home? The night before last, I was sitting on the porch reading and enjoying the night air, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow move by. Thinking it was one of the feral cats, I kept my eyes glued to the book until I was drawn to look up at the pond. There was a huge raccoon sticking his nose in the pond. THEN he turned, came over to my lap warmer and brushed it aside so he could sniff my fuzzy pick house shopes. I said ‘Hey!’ and he jumped up and quickly waddled away. He’ll be back, I’m sure and I’ll have to start the war of trapping & somehow removing this coon.

I work out in nature all the time, especially lately, and I expect to see nature going about it’s business out there, but for the past 3-4 months, nature has been sending some nasty pests to my resting area on the front porch of my house. Maybe if I move my spot and make it less appealing then nature will take it’s course elsewhere? Nah…..

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 15, 2010

Just wanting to wish all my family and friends a wonderful Valentine’s Day. How did you celebrate this day? Mine was very low-key – so low, in fact, I spent most of it reclining on the couch snacking on cough drops, cold pills and medicinal teas. Oh, yes – I did get a really funny card and a surprise box of dark chocolate truffles from my hubby. How sweet! We go more for funny in our house than romance and gushy stuff – so my son was surprised with a funny T-shirt [chocolate colored], a homemade card, some sugar-free candy and all wrapped up in a little girl’s ‘my pretty pets’ poster. Got a chuckle out of his response. Hubby got a handwritten card from me and a box of cookies that he likes and we don’t – so he knows he gets them all to himself.

What Valentine’s Day means to me is that we are celebrating St. Valentine – the patron saint I believe of little birds and animals. I eagerly get out my hummingbird feeders as the first ones generally appear this month, while close at hand I lay our Audubon bird book so we can identify the birds as they visit throughout the year. It’s generally on or about this day that wildlife starts bursting forth with new babies. Soon, we’ll hear the squeaks of baby birds wanting to be fed, see multitudes of baby deer, bunnies, coyote pups, birds and of course, our reptile ‘friends’. With baited [bated?] breath we wait to see what nature is going to spring on us – after two years of severe heat and drought followed by the coldest, wettest winter we’ve had so far, it will be interesting to see how the plants and animals spring back. Hmm….maybe I am using the word ‘spring’ too much – but it’s ever on my mind.

A week ago at this time I was just getting home and unpacking from a weekend conference of women writers; aptly called Stories of the Heart [V].  I’ll write more on this later this week but I want everyone [female] to mark their calendars now for the year 2012 when the next conference will be presented. The skills you learn here, the boost to your inner muse and the euphoria of sharing with hundreds of women cannot be perfectly described. You will come away changed, I know I did and it was definitely for the better.

Meanwhile, I bury myself in tax work as I try to catch up to the busy tax season that started out slow and somehow overtook me when I wasn’t looking. This sinus infection is also fuddling my brain cells and I’m losing track of days. If I lose my voice, I am in big trouble as I am teaching another outdoors Instructor course next weekend. Which hat am I wearing today? One of my ‘students’ in the weekend class said, “You Better be well by Sunday, or else!” What’s he gonna do – shoot me? Well…..

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Amazing Aloe

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 19, 2010

I’ve been painting these little clay pots so that they can become the home to several Aloe Vera pups I’ve been harvesting the last three months. The painting is simple and relaxing, although with more time, anybody could get quite exotic with the patterns they can paint on the pots. This makes a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift, a Mother’s Day gift – or just something for someone you care about  A few years back in the Awanas program at my church, I had the kids paint these pots to take home [with flowers we had bought] to their moms. I had a fantastic time with the kids and the paint washes so easily from your [their] hands!

This particular batch of pots is getting Aloe transplants. Besides being a pretty plant that is easy to grow – even if you ignore it for a couple of months! – Aloe is a very helpful plant to have. Nick yourself on a tin can in the kitchen? Got an itchy insect bite? How about the yucky pimple on your son’s back….or the one on your face! Aloe Vera is not just another pretty face – but a tool you should have in your garden, along your porch, in your kitchen, even in your bathroom. For a rapid use, you just snap off a blade, cut it lengthwise and slap it on whatever ails you.  With a little preparation, you can make rubs, lotions, gels, masks, foot scrubs and more to help you with anything on your skin that itches, burns, stings or blisters as well as small cuts and dry skin. Do not take this plant internally without proper guidance as it can be harmful to you if ingested without proper preparation. But topically, on the skin, this is one of the easiest plants to grow and use. Try one at your home today!

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Pretty Hibiscus & Bargain shopping

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on November 29, 2009

Just wanted to share another flower with you. This past week, our yard has been full of flowers – some I can’t even name. This particular beauty is my peach colored Hibiscus. It often has several blossoms at a time but took a severe hit this past summer. We nursed it along, repotted and got it out of the sun, now it is back to bloom. Soon, I will have to move this inside. This is a night shot picture next to my small Koi pond in what I call my ‘tropical’ garden. You may have to click on the image & enlarge to appreciate some of the beauty of the blooms.

A funny thing I heard today. One of the few things I shop for in the after Holiday sales [Easter, Valentines, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc] are the candles. I can’t resist them and I usually get them for pennies on the dollar in the clearance sales. I burn them on the porch, the patio, and, if they have lead free wicks, in my home in nearly every room. Another thing I do is to get several different sizes and colors. Then, when the Autumn/Winter holidays roll in, I will make centerpieces with the greens from the yard [Holly, Rosemary, Juniper, etc] and the berries of several plants [Holly, Mistletoe & more]. Then I will stick a candle in the middle [from my last year’s gleanings] and voila! Pretty centerpieces and nice house gifts to share during holiday parties for pennies.

Last year, I mentioned to a friend of mine that she should take advantage of this – buy the candles at the sales, store or use them during the year, and reserve a few for the holiday centerpieces. And she faithfully went out and bought many candles. And burned a few, but stored away many of them. I get this frantic call – “What do I do now? I stored all the candles like you said, but they have all melted and stuck together.” She stored them in her attic. In Texas. Record heat summer. Basically, I told her to never store them in the attic [you never said anything about that!] in the future, but for now, she could probably melt some of them down or chip them up to put in white candle wax, get some wicks and make her own candles. I imagine she will just throw them all away. Just a reminder that candles don’t do well stored in your attic. Or rubber fishing worms in an outside shed or the attic. But you all knew that, right?

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Hope = Flowers

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on November 8, 2009

There is so much to write about this week; but I am going to start with the flowers in one of my gardens. 100_0435This summer, here in Central Texas we experienced one of the most severe droughts in recorded history for this area. Here at my home, we try to grow and eat as much vegetables from the garden as we can. Unfortunately, we had to make the decision to save a few grand old trees with our septic watering field and water hoses or to water the garden. We elected to save the trees and the garden mostly died. Towards the end of summer, with over 60 days of 100 plus temps and no rain, we dug up the dead garden and added to the compost pile. Then the rain came. Soon, we discovered that some of the few flowers we had scattered about had thrown their seeds wide towards the end of the drought and sown a beautiful patch of truly, wild flowers. 100_0437Here are some of the flowers that are now blooming in various patches throughout my yard. The majority of them are Zinnias, one of my own and my grandmother’s favorites.100_0436

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Zuchinni Pasta & Rainy days

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on October 3, 2009

Finally, we are getting a series of rainy days and storms here and there. The good news – we really need the rain. The bad news – cooped up inside all day with bored people, so it’s hard to get anything done. Also, if there is a hint of thunder, my ‘brave’ dogs are almost always in my lap. It’s not so bad when Ruby sits under my desk [where she always is] – but when both dogs, at about 65 pounds each, get under there, it gets a bit crowded and the computer and phone wires get nudged, pulled and sometimes, disconnected. DeskdogAs you can see by the picture [this is Ruby], my feet are usually covered too. That’s actually a good thing – they are soft and warm!

Now, what’s this about Zuchinni Pasta? As a low carb eater, I had to find a substitute for pasta and experimented with several things. Surprisingly, I discovered several veggies that substitute quite well, but the most abundant veggie in my garden these past couple of years have been yellow squash and zuchinni. Here is how I prepare the zuchinni:

Clean zuchinni and pare off any bad spots. Usuing a vegetable peeler, cut thin strips of zuchinni – similar to if you were peeling a cucumber – except you are going to eat this! If you don’t like to look at the green stuff – some people, especially children, are green-aphobes – then peel and toss the green part. [Just don’t tell me you did that!] Keep slicing off long peels, plan on 1 medium zuchinni per person if you are serving this as a meal in place of pasta. If the veggie peeler doesn’t work for you – you can also slice the zuke lengthways about 1/4 inch thick, then turn it on it’s side and slice thin slices off of that – it will look more like fettucine this way. Boil the ‘noodles’ in salted water for about one minute, then immediately rinse with cold water. When you are ready, add the sauce [it will heat up your noodles]. As an alternative, you can simmer the noodles in garlic butter or steam them and toss with your favorite cream sauce or add them to your regular pasta.

And I may as well add – yes, I tried MANY veggies this way. A particulary beautiful combination was zuchinni, celery, carrot and red pepper pasta. But each cooks at a different rate! The red peppers need about 7 minutes, the carots & celery about 4-5. You will have to experiment.

For REAL noodles, of course, you can cook the veggies to mush, let them cool and mix with flour, eggs and salt and make just like grandma used to make! While zuchinni is good like this, when making these noodles I prefer using spinach or sweet potatoes. WHAT??? You haven’t had sweet potato noodles? How about Sweet potato soup? Oh, my gosh are you missing out on some treats! But those are for another story time, boys and girls. Today is just about Zuke pasta and rainy days – hope you enjoy it!

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God-Zuka [aka BIG zuchinni]

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on October 2, 2009

Thought I would share with you a few Zuchinni recipes as well as a picture of some of the veggies that came from my garden this year. Please note my standard disclaimer that the date on the picture is wrong, but after I downloaded these pictures, I actually fixed the problem; at least until hubby replaces the batteries without telling me. I could photo shop the pics, but too lazy to do it.

These zuke’s grew in approx. one week from the time we spotted them on the vine at approx. 2 inches in size. They are monsters – and we had many of them. As you can see in the picture, I have a 10 inch dinner plate to kind of give you an idea; the smallest one is about 16 inches long while the larger one is over 2 feet! God-zukasOne of these on the counter is still good enough to eat [it’s fresh] while the other two have gotten a little old and are starting to dry inside. We are saving these seeds for next year.

Easy Zuchinni Dip

First, take one small fresh zuchinni, peel all skin and slice length-ways into 4 spears. Remove all the seeds. Grate with a vegetable grater or use a food processor. Turn onto a layer of paper towels and drain; I use another couple paper towels on top to squeeze as much moisture from them as I can.

Combine all the following in a bowl, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. This makes a great dip for bread, veggies or as a sandwich spread.

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 minced zuchinni
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Fresh mint to garnish if you like

Bradley’s Zuchinni Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 muffin tins. Gather:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter [or cup of oil]
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated zuchinni
  • 1 teasoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmet
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ginger & ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter & sugars together. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and spices. Sift or mix well with a fork. Slowly add wet ingredients and mix well. After well mixed, add zuchinni & nuts, mix well. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting knife in center to be sure it comes out clean. Baking times vary by oven. Makes 2 dozen.

Side note: this recipe can be adapted to low fat or low sugar/low carb diets by experimenting with substitutes such as egg substitute, olive oil, Splenda, sugar free vanilla and flour substitutes such as sesame flour or  almond meal. I use almond meal for 2/3 of the flour and Splenda in my recipes.

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Tropical Garden Snow

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on September 23, 2009

The first day of Autumn, on Sept 21st, brought cooler temperatures, gentle breezes – and a true ‘fall’. As you can see by this picture of my tiny pond/garden, all day the Crepe Myrtles have been gently dropping their blossoms, like a delicate pink snow, onto the pond and garden. I sat there enjoying the fall, quite, pink [in compliment to my pink outfit for the day!] and covering the ground with a gentle swirl of pink, looking for all purposes like a pink snow covering the tropical plants that thrive in the moist heat around my pond.Tropicalsnow0909[2] By the way, igonore the date, once again on the picture. It seems whenever my husband changes the batteries, he doesn’t change the date; while I on the otherhand, always make sure the date is current so as not to confuse me when I take a picture.

Some people think that Crepe Myrtles create an unholly mess and don’t like them in the garden, but I don’t mind scooping the gentle blossoms from the pond or sweeping them from the porch as this may be one of the few colors that can sustain it’s presence in our severe drought the past two summers. In fact, the trees thrive so well we often have to cut them back, remove the suckers and dig out the creepers that want to snake through and appear within the Sago, Holly and Boxwoods. Shortly after this picture was taken, a well appreciated rain came along and did make the soggy blossoms much less appealing than the gentle, blowing color I was enjoying earlier in the day.sagoPalm0909 This Sago Palm is daintily displaying some of the Myrtle blossoms on it. This is the home of several Anoles, which cavort all over the plant, catch the sun, or on a warm night, they glow as they sleep spread out on one of these branches. They also enjoy a great game of chase in the branches of the Crepe Myrtle and they change colors from the light tan bark of the tree to the green Sago – always perfectly displaying their colors proudly. I wonder if the color of the blossums on the leaves disturbs them, or if they try to immitate that color as well? So far, the only color I have seen even close to matching the blossoms is when the males thrust out their ruby throats in challenge, or mating displays.

I’ll end with one last picture [three in one post!]. This is a weed that climbs all over everything, but in the fall, it adds a nice bit of color to the hanging basket pole where I have a complimentary  colored Ice plant. There is a Mockingbird that particularly loves this plant and this pole; often he joins me on a piece of driftwood next to the porch to stare up at the vine and basket, or he will delight me with his antics as he perches on the head of the stone frog that spews water in the pond, then dips his head into the flow of water to get a drink. Often, I don’t even know he is there until I hear the stop, then splash of the water as it resumes.Gardenweed

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Garden to freezer – to Table

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on September 5, 2009

I was cleaning out my freezer this evening and decided there were some good meals to be had in those little zip-lock baggies. First, the pineapple, coconut concoction – a Pina Colada.

Next, the peppers, tomatos, celery, onion, venison sausage & shrimp – voila! Jambalaya.

And finally, the peaches and bread crumbs – for a bread pudding dish.

So, we started out dinner with the best Pina Colada smoothies I have had – ever. While the boys snacked on Brussel Sprouts (ewww) and Broccoli – I whipped up one of the best Jambalaya dishes, complete with wild rice & herbs from my garden. Yum!

We’ll top it off with the peach bread pudding; I may even make a rum sauce to top it, although I like it fine just the way it is.

Want recipes? Earlier in my blog, I know I have listed the method for creating one of my Bread Pudding & Jambalaya dishes. Here is how I created the Bread Pudding tonite:

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with nonstick spray & preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup Splenda. Beat in 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 1/2 cup cream. Break in approx. 8 pieces of crumbled, dried bread or hot dog buns (I throw the ends and pieces in the freezer just for this). Stir in 3-4 coups of sliced, peeled peaches. Mix all thoroughly, then spread into the greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until knife comes out clean when inserted into middle. Serve warm or cold, with or without a topping sauce. For a fancy desert to serve company, reserve a few sliced peaches & some fresh mint leaves for garnish. Heat up some peach preserves, then swirl a pattern on a plate. Place the warm cake slice off to one side, add a dip of vanilla ice cream, then place a peach slice & mint leaf to decorate. Top this all off with another swirl of the peach sauce. A rum sauce or caramel works well too; but it”s easier to reach in the pantry for preserves and warm them up!

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