Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Oh! You Little Naughty Thing!

Oh! You little naughty thing,
How I adore you!
But you are so naughty…

Look at you yelling at the door.
Now you are up on the counter top.
Now you are dashing between my ginger steps…

I will squish you if you aren’t careful!

But you are careful aren’t you?
You are agile.
You are swift.

Come here you little naughty thing.
Let me cuddle you.
Let me run my fingers along your silky back.
Your purr, against my lap, is all I need.

Oh! You little naughty thing,
Come back here!
Don’t tease me with your fickle affection…

Look at you lazing in the sun.
Now you are hunting bugs,
Now you are darting between the low branched bushes.

I will love you if you aren’t careful.

But you are careful aren’t you?
You are distant.
You are indifferent.

Come here you little naughty thing.
Let me cuddle you.
Let me run my fingers along your silky back.
Your purr, against my lap, is all I really need.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fear of Flying.

I have been waiting for you.
And now, with one week left, you arrive.
I want to scoop you up. Show you off.
Marvel in your intricate beauty.

But you will have none of it. You are afraid of me. You cower. You threaten. You are fragile.
You intimidate because you know that you are beaten.
You must resign yourself to my whims.
To my wishes.

But I cannot seem to communicate with you today.
I only want the best for you.
You are beautiful.
I like you for what you are.
My whims, My wishes, are that you can be what you want to be.

I wish that you felt free to take to wing, and fly.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A lovely lawn.

When we first moved into our house, six years ago, the yards were disasters. Heavy clay soils, no yard management for years and Foxtail Grasses as high as our elbows. The yards were quite large and the back yard was peppered with huge, tall, untrimmed trees.

Three years later the front yard began to look nice. Another year later we decided to seed the front with grass. As of this year I am pretty pleased with how it looks. But that means it is time to deal with the back yard.

Knowing this was coming someday I had tried a few varieties of grasses in out front yard planter, where it is shady and I often forget to water. This would be quite similar to the environment in our backyard. I finally found success with a Fine Tall Fescue. It is nearly feathery and seems to grow happily no matter how much I abuse it and how much my kitten loves to sleep in it.

Fescues are great for those who want to use less water, mow only a few times a year, have clay soil, have shade and don't want to have to mess with it very much. And, personally, I think they are lovely. Downside is that if you have lots of traffic on your lawn, it won't be a good choice for you.

Because the backyard is going to be such a challenge to overcome a decade of neglect I figured I had better get knowledgeable about how to really put down a lawn. It turns out that I am really fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, as many of the grasses grow quite abundantly here. There are a few things to know to do to have the best results, and here they are:

For Fine Fescues:

Begin in late summer with a starter fertilizer raked throughout your ground.

Choose rhizome type fescue seed.

In early Fall broadcast 5 pounds of seed for every 1000 square feet.

Once each Spring, Summer and Fall broadcast 3 pounds nitrogen for every 1000 square feet.

Each early Summer apply weed and feed if weeds are a problem for you.

Keep mowed around 2-3 inches.

Give a firm raking once a year to break up thatch.

Now, if you would like to find some Fescue seed for your yard, I would recommend going to Prairie Nursery. I looked through a lot of sites and found their pricing to be excellent. They work specifically with natural and regional seeds, so you know your money is doing more than just getting you some great grass seed. For Fall seeding they begin shipping on September 17th. Check them out here: Look for their No Mow Lawn Mixes.

Cheers to a lovely lawn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Who doesn't love a butterfly?

I feel so fortunate to live in an area so abundant with wildlife yet somehow I see too few Butterflies. They occasionally grace my garden, but fleetingly. I think I tend to see far more shadows of butterflies, than butterflies, as I take a walk on a summer's day.

What is so precious about the butterfly that inspires so many people in so many ways? Is it their beauty? Birds are beautiful, but you don't hear people gasp and point at them like they do with butterflies. Is it that they are so delicate? Lots of bugs are. Crane Flies, Walking Sticks, Moths...but those don't send us breathless and transfixed.

Perhaps it is their rarity. I do feel like a wealthy woman when I see the same butterflies come to my garden and cool themselves in the shower of my sprinkler a few days a week. Were they common and easily found I don't think I would find them any less magical. A window screen covered in blue and green houseflies could never compete with a houseful of butterflies.

I have decided that I will put a butterfly garden beside my fenceline in the backyard. It is sunny there, not too breezy and because our neighbors driveway is next to it, I couldn't safely grow vegetables there. I will plant Joe Pye Weed against the fence, to create its own sort of fence and from there I foresee an abundant mix of goldenrod, vetch, everlastings, daisies, plantain, milkweed, dill, grape hyacinth, marigold, clover, mustard, violet, black-eyed susans, asters, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, phlox, marigolds and boneset. I will put a terracotta pot in the center, equally filled with sand and water, for the butterflies to drink from.

As long as it is all grown tightly together, and well watered, it should be a stunning place to enjoy watching the butterflies and bumblebees. Across from that fence is our largest tree, where I am currently trying to get a lawn to grow. I can imagine next Spring, with the lovely grass, me sitting lazily upon a willow bench covered in cushions and enjoying a refreshing mint tea while watching the beautiful bugs do what they do best. Ahhhh.

If you would like to learn more about butterflies in your area, and even identify them, then please take a look at these great resources:

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Economics of our Food.

With so many recalls in the news this last year I have been curious about how much food is successfully banned from import into the United States. Through the Food and Drug Administration website it didn't take me long to find out.

It was shocking.

A years worth of refusals is listed on their site and you can find it here:

It isn't just China, although they do constitute a great many of them, and it isn't just companies that you have never heard of before, quite a few of those found on the list are common brands and some are premium brands. What is apparent is that in our global economy, with regular international trade, the opportunities to be exposed to dangers in our food supply is of deeper concern than some rogue businessman in China putting plasticized pesticide particulate fillers in dog food.

A company's inclusion on the FDA OASIS list doesn't mean they did something terrible, sometimes it just means that they didn't put nutritional labels on the package, or incomplete labels, or no English. Other times it could be undeclared colors or nuts or other allergens that they wouldn't normally have to declare in their own country.

But, too often it is because the food is Filthy or has Salmonella or is Poisonous or contains Pesticides (or worse, or all of the above plus some). And it isn't just the canned jams or fish, nor is it just the wet foods--there is a recall of every type of food, every staple...and these are the ones that were caught through the net of a Food Inspector whose entire field is understaffed, under qualified and financially maintained through the very industry that it is meant to regulate.

It is a shame.

Free global commerce seemed like a good idea once, and I was a great proponent of it, but I see so many negative ramifications from it that I think it is time for us consumers to consider reigning in our purchases from outside of our regional area as much as possible. While it isn't feasible to buy everything within your town, from people you know, it is feasible to buy a greater portion of your food locally, grow a small garden (or for some people a large one) and to let our local stores know that we would be willing to pay more in order to trust what we buy.

It seems likely that everyone in the U.S. is starting to figure out that the $10 shovel isn't worth buying since you'll have to buy two every year in order to get through your chores. People all over are starting to decide that it is better to bite the bullet and pay $50 once and have it last ten years or more. Because it took us so long to come to that realization, we now find that the $50 shovel is quite hard to come by and when we do find it it costs $80, due to lower volumes of sales and broader competition on the raw materials. The freedom of a global economy has actually succinctly limited our choice.

Now is the time to realize the same problem with our food. Lets all make the decision to buy from our local supply before we find that our stores no longer give us that option. Lets also take some time to put some of our own food on our plates so that we are not beholden to the food manufacturers and grocer store buyers whims. Who's with me?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Easy Greens

Including a healthy amount of greens into your family's diet can prove challenging, but I may have a solution that will help.

First, start off with a baseline dish that allows your kids to figure out what greens taste acceptable all by themselves. I recommend using the recipe attached below because it is quite simple and, at least with bok choy, I haven't met a kid who didn't like it when it was prepared this way.

After bok choy, I would recommend going to collards, then kale, then our new favorite, molokia, then spinach. While I haven't been successful in converting kids to fans of mustard greens nor chard, you may have better luck. Every kid is different.

Once you know which greens are acceptable to your kids, you can then start adding the greens to a multitude of dishes. A handful in their spaghetti, in burger patties, casseroles, meatloaf, lasagna, soups, stews and even breads. If done slowly, your kids aren't likely to rebel against it and in no time at all you will have them eating a serving of cooked greens a day. And they may not even know it. My kids expect that their boxed mac n' cheese will have green specks, and maybe a tomato or green peas to boot.

So, here is the basic recipe. Let me know how it turns out for your family.

Kid Friendly Greens

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Start to finish: 2-15 minutes (depending on the green)

4 large bok choy, Cut into 1" pieces (or four cups other greens such as collards, molokhia, spinach, kale, etc.)
1 cup Low sodium broth. Any type will do. (Add slightly more for collards, slightly less for spinach)

1. Heat your largest skillet to 300 degrees or medium.
2. When hot, toss in the Bok Choy. Let it wilt a bit and brown lightly.
3. Pour in the broth and allow to simmer until the broth is mostly evaporated.
4. Beware to not let your pan go dry. If the simmer is too fast you can either
turn it down or add a bit of water or broth to the pan.

Nutrition Facts

If using bok choy it gets good marks for the 13 Calories per serving with Zero grams Fat, Sat Fat and Cholesterol, 63 mg Sodium and 6% Potassium with 53% of your Vitamin C, 42% of your Vitamin A and 13% Folic Acid. Other greens will have different nutritional breakouts, but all are very good for you.

Cheers to your health!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Prunes are Plums; All Plums aren't Prunes.

Who knew that plums could be so interesting? Those cloying globs of sticky laxative and those over-hard, under-sweet purple and red ones at your local grocer show little of what plums are capable of.

There are a few thousand types of plums in the world with nearly 150 cultivated in the US, while only 20 are regularly grown. With just a little bit of information a novice can separate the different varieties into their basic categories.

There is the globular, maroon and purple skinned, red fleshed Japanese Plum.

There is the slightly oblong, somewhat slender, purple skinned and fleshed European Plum.

There is the smaller, round, blue black Damson plum with its only semi-sweet green to golden yellow flesh, tart skin, and technical classification as a different species.

There is the Green Gage and Yellow Gage, that are named by the color of their skin and flesh.

And then there is another kind. One I wouldn't have even realized unless I happened to move into this house. In our yard are two Wild Plum trees. One produces lovely golden plums that are the same size as cherries and another that produces beautiful rose colored drupes that are closer to the diameter of an American quarter. These have delicate skins, juicy, sweet flesh and are about 1/3rd stone. We get two small harvests each year. The first comes early in July, when the golden fruit is ripe. The next is in mid to late August, when the rose fruit is ripe.

While the fruit isn't viable for a commercial product, because of its low yield and small fruits, it could be easy to grow for the home gardener. I haven't done a thing to mine and they are apparently disease free and healthy. The trees grow wild throughout most of the United States (not in the Panhandle and deserts, generally) and many of the trees have been creating their own groves. All you would need are two trees from the same genus (European plus European, Damson plus Damson, etc...) in order to have a few bucketfuls of fruit per year. European plums are the most prolific of all types and the wild ones are the least prolific.

Plums are amazing little powerhouses of nutrition too. They have a particularly potent super-oxide antioxidant that clobbers free-radicals, they help your body increase its absorption of iron and they are a good source of several nutrients. On average, two medium plums will provide you with 60 Calories, Zero Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium, 16 grams of Carbohydrates (6%), 2 grams of Fiber (8%), 228 IU of Vitamin A (10%), 6mg Vitamin C (20%) and 4 mcg Vitamin K (10%). (You can increase the fiber rating by choosing the European plums or prunes.)

And, lastly, you should know that all prunes are dried European plums and have a high sugar content. A dried plum is a plum that is cut in half and dried without the pit. The fruit called prunes are simply the slender European type.

I hope you get a chance to try some tree ripened plums from your local Farmers Market this week. Look out for the different sizes and colors available and find out what is so interesting about them for yourself as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Uncommon Etymology

There is a booth I always go to first at our local Farmers Market. It is run by Tom and Glenda Ponder from Gold Hill, here in Southern Oregon. They have a small farm, named Abbie Lane Farm, which specializes in uncommon fruits and vegetables. It was from them that I first tasted fresh jujubes, gooseberries, stevia leaves and bitter melons, all of which are a regular part of my family’s diet now.

Before I had chanced to taste any of the new foods, I had long been aware of them. From childhood I recalled hearing of jujubes and gooseberries and as an adult I had even tried gooseberry jam, but it was nothing like their fresh gooseberries. I had read of bitter melon in many Chinese dishes and I had seen powdered stevia on the shelves of my local grocer, but this time, there was something different. Something I had not heard of before, nor read of, nor seen, nor tasted. And that is why I love their farmstand.

They call it Moloukhia. It is a tender, dark green, medium sized, thin leafed vegetable that has a mild spinach taste and an okra mucilage. As a frequent consumer of both okra and spinach, I was an instant fan! I nibbled the leaves happily as I sat down to find a million recipes to use it in. Right away my glee turned into frustration as I started to notice the many different spellings and names of this delicate plant. I couldn’t, at first, find a balance of recipes to get a sense of how it is traditionally used. Just one, over and over again: Braised Chicken over white rice, with a ladle full of the Moloukhia on top.

With a plant that had such potential versatility, I knew there had to be more out there if I just knew how to look. I put on my researchers hat and began to seek it all out.

I started at Wikipedia, but found no matches.

I then Googled the word and found that the second result was for Chumley & Stella’s & Companies, run by Renee Aun. It is a business dedicated to encouraging people to utilize fresh herbs and spices in their everyday meals in order to obtain excellent health. (
Here she listed some dishes that sounded delicious and listed alternative names for Moloukhia. Her description of the plant was much like mine, but referred to it as an herb, rather than as a vegetable.

Jew’s Mallow…
A Dish to Kings…

Now I had a start. I put in Melokhia into Wikipedia and Bingo…I got a match.

It took me directly to Corchorus, the genus, and it listed other alternate names too. Which lead me to google more and more names until I ultimately ended up with twelve names, regularly used, that represent the one word I started with.

Jute Mallow…
Nalta Jute…
Egyptian Spinach…
Bush Okra…

With these new keywords I could now find thousands upon thousands of recipes and ideas for using the vegetable.

Then it was on to finding out the nutritional composition of the vegetable. Many references were made to how the vegetable is a nutritional powerhouse, but few specifics were given. I went to my favorite nutrition database,, and began the pursuit of their common name for this vegetable. Halfway through the list of names I found my match:

Jute, potherb, cooked, boiled without salt.

Aha, now that is a word I had heard of before. And man, is it nutritious! For a half cup serving of cooked jute you get an amazing 16 Calories, Zero Fat, Zero Cholesterol and Zero Sodium, 45% of your daily Vitamin A, 24% of your Vitamin C, 58% of your Vitamin K, 12% Vitamin B6, 11% of your Folate, 9% of your Calcium, 7% of your Iron and 7% of your Potassium.

Perhaps the reason for so many names for one special food is because it is so nutritious and so delicious that everyone wants to claim them as their own. I hope you too will get a chance to try something so good and maybe you too can create something wonderful to call your own.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To Love and To Nurture.

As an adolescent, I would frequently exclaim that I was not going to have children when I grew up. I appreciated that other people wanted them, needed them, and looked forward to devoting their every living moment to them, but that wasn’t going to be me.

A decade later, I was living an urban life with my husband when I suddenly got the overwhelming desire to have a child. After a lifetime of convincing myself that I would never be a mother, I now had to convince myself that I would not ruin this poor kid. Nurturing seemed to be so alien a concept to me, but it was going to have to become my focus.

Now I am a mother of two, and am often told that I am very good at mothering. I recently began to question where the desire to nurture was developed in my childhood. It now occurs to me where my tendency to dote and nurture had grown.

My first garden was put together with my father and sister in the desert, when I was six years old. My next one was near a neighborhood swimming hole in Louisiana. That was soon followed by a small garden in our trailer park there. Back in the desert, a year later, I didn’t have a garden so I found an empty wash and planted rows of corn. I carried buckets of water to the wash daily. By that August I had tall stalks in which to sit and daydream.

Many gardens followed those first attempts. By the time my first daughter was two years old I had my first large and successful garden. Hours were spent helping each plant reach its fullest potential. Patience, awareness, care, passion, advocacy and consistency were skills that I certainly learned among these plants.

My garden has been neglected this year because of so many conflicting family obligations. Here it is, late July, and I am only now ready to pick up where I left off last April. As I walk in and out of the now undefined rows I start to recognize the many baby sprouts, the many adolescent plants and the few mature plants all growing amongst a bevy of weeds. I suddenly have terrible pangs of regret, remorse and disdain.

All of the nurturing, the doting, the pride and the serenity that a mother feels was readily available to me with each passing gardening cycle. Starting with that first garden, and following through every year, I honed my parenting skills without being aware of it. I still have much to learn and to strive to be a better parent every day.

Now I recognize that my pastime is not a waste of time, but a necessity for the growth of my ability to love and to nurture. I look forward to repairing my garden today and perhaps learn a little more about my self and my children.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Have you ever...
snapped a crisp branch of purslane, directly from your garden?
plucked each delicate tiny leaf and nibbled away?
followed by the sensual bite of its branches luscious tang?

picked an heirloom tomato, directly from your garden?
sliced it thin, reavealing all its beautiful marble?
followed by the inevitable slurp of its luscious goodness?

tasted goat cheese, directly from the farmers market?
sneaked a pinch, a crumb, a chunk, on the long mosey home?
followed by the spread of it, across freshly made bread, in all its luscious comfort?

sliced slow roasted chicken breast insanely thin, directly from your oven?
sprinkled it generously with freshly ground pepper and freshly squeezed lemon?
followed by the construction of your sandwich, piled high, in all its luscious perfection?


Monday, July 16, 2007

The First Recipe for Critique

Thank you for taking a look at this recipe. It is a strong favorite of ours and good one to begin this critique process with.

Please get back to me as soon as you are able. I am eager to read about your experiences with this recipe.

Please remember that these dishes are meant to appeal to young children and small families on a budget so there will be few expensive items and no complicated gourmet dishes. Just good, reliable recipes that everyone can enjoy.

Chili to Fight a Cold
Tummy warming, sinus clearing, immunity boosting comfort food at its finest.

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes

Notes: This exceptionally nutritious chili improves each day, and depending on the cayenne you use, it may develop a more pronounced heat as well.

This recipe is easily quadrupled, could last several meals and can also be frozen for up to four months.

I recommend making it once and freezing three 4 cup batches for an easy meal once a month.

Serving Ideas: I like mine to have a topping of fat free sharp cheddar shreds and a dollop of fat free sour cream, but if you are congested you should wait until you feel better to enjoy it that way.


8 ounces Low sodium Kidney beans, canned, Drained (or whichever bean you have on hand)
14 fluid ounces Low sodium Tomatoes, canned
1 3/4 ounces Green Chiles
1 1/2 fluid ounces Tomato paste, Low sodium
6 fluid ounces Beer, light (If only being consumed by adults, otherwise use broth)
1/2 Sweet Potato, Diced, skin on
4 ounces Tempeh, Crumbled
1/2 tablespoon Browning sauce
1/2 Onions, Diced
1/2 Sweet Red Peppers, Diced
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, The hottest you can handle
1/2 teaspoon Paprika, Sweet, not hot
1/2 teaspoon Oregano, Dried
1/4 tablespoon Cocoa powder, Unsweetened
4 Lime Wedges
4 ounces Fat-free cheddar cheese, Shredded
4 teaspoons Fat-free sour cream


1. Stir together the beans, canned tomatoes, green chiles, tomato paste and 6 ounces of fluid in a large cooking pot.

2. Heat to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to simmer when it does boil.

3. Spray a large non-stick skillet with a thin coat of oil and lightly sear the sweet potatoes. Add to cooking pot.

4. Stir together the crumbled tempeh with the browning sauce. Saute on medium high for about five minutes.

5. Saute the onion and sweet peppers until semi-soft, with browned edges. Add to the cooking pot.

6. In a mortar and pestle combine the cumin and peeled garlic. Mash and add to cooking pot.

7. Simmer 20 minutes before adding all of the remaining spices.

8. Serve with an ounce of cheese and a teaspoon of sour cream. Place a wedge of lime on each bowl.

Nutritional Profile per serving:
232 Calories, 3g of Fat (4%), Trace of Saturated Fat, 6mg Cholesterol (2%), 333mg Sodium (14%), 802mg Potassium (23%), Total Carbs 33g (11%), Fiber 7g (27%), Protein 20g (41%), Calcium 362mg (36%), Iron 3mg (17%), Vitamin C 81mg (136%), Vitamin A 5960IU (119%), Vitamin B6 .4mg (19%), Thiamin B12 .2mcg (13%), Riboflavin B2 .3 (17%), Folicin 69mcg (17%) and Niacin 3mg (17%)