Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

A few weeks ago, I was standing in the hallway at school.  My collar was twisted and rumpled underneath my cardigan, which gave me the appearance of a hunched back.  My teacher friend couldn’t let me stand around looking all Igor-like, so she adjusted my collar for me.  Apparently, I was completely oblivious, because I had left the house that way, and had gotten to third period without noticing.

As she fixed my collar, she said, “That’s what I love about you Jenny, you’re so quirky.”


How should I feel about being quirky?  Offended? Complemented?

I took it as a compliment.

I don’t really want to be normal.  I never have.  Except, that I always feel abnormal and out of place.

How can I be different and fit in all at the same time?  Is it possible?

I’m hopeful that it is possible.  Over the years I’ve acquired some quirky and eccentric friends.  They are always my favorite friends.  They are the ones that are fully themselves: fully aware of their strengths, not always aware of their limitations, and ready to charge full steam ahead into areas of new challenges and adventures.

I feel at home with fellow quirkites.

I asked my teacher friend why she thinks I’m quirky.

“Well, you are goofy, random, disheveled, and this time of year you always have dirt under your fingernails.”

People notice stuff like that?


So, this is what spurred this memory for me today.  One of the search engine topics that got a reader to my site was, “show me a picture of a plain manicure.”

Well dear searcher, here you go:

Here are my quirky, gardener hands, and my very plain manicure. I do wash my hands. I even use a fingernail brush, but this is about as good as it gets.

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As my friends well know, and certainly my husband is keenly aware, I am obsessed with flowers.

Each new week of the spring and summer brings a yearly visit from one or more of my blooming buddies. Most years they come back better and more spectacular than the year before.

Sometimes, I get little starts of plants from people, and I forget that I’ve planted them.

One of my many favorites is the peony.

My mom has always called them my birthday flower, because they bloom right around my birthday.  I love their sweet scent and their giant blooms.  I even kind of like the ants that cover the unopened buds.

Last fall at the Mennonite Relief Sale, I bought a bag of peony starts for just a couple of dollars.  For those of you that know about peonies, they can be quite pricey, so this was a good find.

This spring, as my flowers were coming up, I saw peonies coming up everywhere: in the backyard, by the mailbox, in the front yard, in the front flower bed.  There are about 20 peony plants all of which are ready to bloom!

Another plant that makes me lusty is native columbine.

It is tall and willowy with bright orange and yellow heads. I have never found wild columbine in any of the nurseries I frequent. I’ve never had the opportunity to collect seeds. A few weeks ago, as I was garage saling, one of the garages had a back wall full of them. A nearby house had some starts for sale. I bought them and brought them home. When they bloomed, they were pretty, like the kind at the store, but they were no tall, willowy, orange headed beauties.


All of the pining over the columbine has made my heart all the more achey to have it.

Wednesday night, while I was inspecting my flower beds, I was overcome.

As I was showing Jeremy the weigela that I had cut back, I noticed blooms. They weren’t weigela blooms, but  blooms from a native columbine growing up through the roots.

Hot diggity dog! I did a happy flower jig.

It was a lucky gardener moment.

The native columbine that is growing out of my weigela.

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I remember my mom canning when I was a kid.  She had a great big garden until I was in third grade.  My mom is a home economics teacher, did all four years of 4-H, and grew up on a farm.  So home preserves were second nature for her.  But at the beginning of fourth grade we moved from the country and into a subdivision and that was the end of canning.  I haven’t talked to her about it, but I don’t think she missed canning all that much.

About 8 years ago, she gave me all her canning stuff and it sat in my basement.  I’m not even sure why I wanted it at the time, but I had it.  Three summers ago, my mom helped me can salsa.  It was kind of a fiasco, because the power went out after I had heated up the salsa, and we had to do the hot water bath on the propane grill to finish.  I only canned the salsa, but I did make some freezer sauce and chili starter that year too.  Mom showed me how to use the grinder-skin remover thingy, how to put the lids on the jars, and how to cook them long enough to pop.  That was the only year that I canned before my divorce.  The salsa must have been good though, because my ex took several jars with him when he moved out.

This year, in trying to reconnect even further with my food, I decided I was going to can and freeze as much as possible from our garden.  I may have gotten carried away.  

Broccoli started our summer strong.  I blanched and froze broccoli every three or four days and filled a drawer in the deep freeze.  I froze green beans, corn, strawberries, and raspberries. I also froze lots of herbs, which I hope will work okay in dishes through the winter.  As the tomatoes started to get ahead of me I quartered them and threw them in the freezer too until I could deal with them.

Then came the salsa.  I am a darn good salsa chef.  I don’t really have much of a recipe anymore, but I have a feeling for how much of what to throw in. The family all pitched in and we canned nearly four gallons of salsa.  As we were prepping the veggies for the pot, we talked about how great this would be as a chili starter, and who we would want to give them to as presents.  Then, it didn’t really seem like enough.  On the next Saturday, I canned about three more gallons of salsa.  This time, I made some green salsa too.

We pickled hot peppers with garlic and onions.  Jeremy made hot pepper jelly.  We tried making green tomato pickles, and made a ton of them.  It will be a couple of weeks before we know if the sweet and the dill pickles turned out okay.  I canned tomato juice, and some tomato sauce.  The tomato sauce took ALL day to make, and I only ended up with about six quarts, I’m not sure its worth the fuss.

Canning is making a comeback.  A friend of mine posted photos of the applesauce she made, while another friend suggested swapping canned goods over the winter.  Great idea ladies.

I am seeing canning posts all over the internet.  Maybe it’s just because I am an eco-rural-living-local-food-nutjob, but it seems to me like people are taking an interest in it.  In the last two days I’ve seen canning classes on two different sites.  The latest local harvest newsletter describes how to get started in canning.  So does the latest issue of Yes! magazine and even Etsy, which is a website for arts and crafts, not for agriculture.

It’s a ton of work.  The kitchen gets hot.  And it is really, really messy.  The satisfaction is high.  It’s great to crack open a jar of homemade salsa.  I feel like I am eating a decadent dessert when I sprinkle frozen raspberries on my yogurt.  Life is good when the food comes from your own garden.  If you can’t can or don’t know how, freezing is a super simple way to store away the summer yummy.

Canning can be beautiful.  Shelves stocked with home canned goods look neat.  The kids are really excited to give salsa and pickles to their teachers at Christmas this year.  And I’m looking forward to enjoying my hard work from the summer.

For technical information on canning: National Center for Home Preservation and the Ball learn to can site.  I also picked up a great book on freezing from a garage sale, and there are lots of great books check out Betterworld Books to find a used copy.  Be careful about the information you use to can and freeze.  It is possible to botch up canning, so follow recipes carefully to avoid illness.

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