I have a framed saying from years ago when Al started fishing.

It says:  Waiting for the fish takes patience but waiting for the fisherman takes more patience

I’m not refuting that statement because I have fished with this man before.   Casting, reeling, trolling, casting, reeling, trolling.  Hour

lake allen

after hour


after hour

allen lake

Sometimes catching a fish

allen lake

sometimes not.

Talk about patience.

Gardeners must also experience patience.


Patience with weather,



coneflower ratibida pinnata?

and unwanted animals.


But nothing has tried my patience more than a group of trees in my yard.

In 2001, our local conservation office offered pecan tree seedlings for fifty cents each.

They were about one foot tall and I bought five.  They didn’t know the variety but did tell me they were seed grown.

I knew they would take a while to produce pecans.  About eight years the experts said.

Eight years went by and nothing happened.  Nine years.  Ten years.


I had resigned to accept the fact I may never get pecans from these trees.

I began to wonder if they really were pecan trees.

If not, fifty cents was pretty cheap for a shade tree.

So imagine my surprise when Al told me to look in the tree last night.

pecan tree

After thirteen years, it looks like my patience has paid off.

Yes, Blonde Gardener, they do exist.



Posted in Arkansas, Farm life, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

B is for Bee

Last weekend, my dad and I suited up to check the bee hives.


I added a super last month (painted seaside green) because my little hives are growing!


When the weather starts to warm, the bees will come out on their “porch” to cool off.  I saw this in mid June.


And this a couple of weeks ago when the temps got in the 90’s.



The other hive hasn’t done this yet although it appears to have more bees inside.


Any time you open a hive to check, you will accidentally kill some bees.  Each bee has a specific job to do in the hive.  Some bees are the housekeepers.  After I closed up the hive, I noticed these bees removing a dead bee from the hive.  It took two bees to get it out.  Once out,  one bee left leaving the remaining bee to finish the job.


The white spots you see in the middle are bee larva.


The top layer of creamy white is honey.  I could tell immediately when I pulled it out because it was heavier than the other frames.


I will not take any honey out this year.  This is typical for a first year hive.  Bees need food for winter so this will be their pantry.

The bee man at the bee meeting looked at my pics and was worried that I won’t have enough honey for winter.  I still have quite a bit blooming though and I also have flowers blooming well into the fall, so I hope they get busy and prepare.






Anyone out there with bee advice, let me know what you think.





Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

From Wild Plums to Jelly

This is the first year my dad was able beat the deer and birds to his wild plums and what a treat they were!    After eating my fill, I decided that some wild plum jelly would be a good way to use up the rest of the fruit.

wild plum jelly canning

My grandmother taught me how to make jelly when I was little.  At her house, summertime meant gardening and canning and never wasting any fruit or vegetable along the way.  She had such a tiny kitchen, and I was probably more in the way rather than helping, but she always made me feel like she couldn’t have made it without me and it was the best jelly ever because I had helped.

Making jelly is not hard, but you do need some basic equipment to get started.  Most of the equipment I have I got from her.  One of my favorite’s is a metal colander (?) juicer (?) with a wooden masher.

wild plum jelly canning

As you can tell from the stained masher, it’s been used once or twice before.

wild plum jelly canning

Another piece of equipment I use are her scales to weigh the fruit.

wild plum jelly canning

A water bath canner is used for jelly as well as high acid foods like tomatoes.  I originally had hers but it was pretty well-worn when I got it and eventually rusted out on the bottom.  It became a flower pot and I bought this one.


Water bath canners have grooves on the bottom


and jar racks to keep jars from sitting flat on the bottom of the cooker.


This is an important feature and allows the boiling water to circulate under the jars.  The handles on the jar rack however are basically useless, to me, as they are too flimsy to pull full, hot jars completely out of the pot without them toppling everywhere.  I use jar grippers instead.

wild plum jelly canning

You will also need canning jars and lids, a canning funnel, sugar, pectin (or Sure Jell) and a variety of bowls and towels because making jelly can be a little messy (or a lot messy if you’re like me)

Wash the jars in the dishwasher.  I usually do this about an hour before I start making jelly or canning anything.  You want your jars hot when you put your jelly in and the dry cycle of the dishwasher works great.  But, since I started my jelly on the spur of the moment, I just put some clean jars in a pan of water and warmed them up.

wild plum jelly canning

Canning jars come in wide mouth and regular mouth sizes.  Wash whichever lids (the flat top) and caps (screws on top of lid) you need.  My recipe says it makes 8 half pints but I always have a couple extra jars and tops standing by just in case.  Place in a small pot and heat.  Everything needs to be kept warm.  Putting hot jelly in a cool jar can cause the jar to break.

wild plum jelly canning

Here’s a handy way to get your lids and caps out of the hot water. It’s magnetic so I don’t have to use a fork like I used to.  Brilliant.



Place your water bath canner on the back burner and begin heating the water.  You will need the water to be to the boiling stage by the time the jelly is ready to be put in.


For wild plum jelly, you will need five pounds of plums

wild plum jelly canning

(I had seven pounds of fruit, so I put aside two pounds to make some freezer jam later.)

Wash plums.

wild plum jelly canning

In a stockpot, squeeze out the pulp and remove the seed.  The skin of the plum is also chock full of flavor, so I also put that in my pot as well.  This is the messy part and takes some time.  Someone told me (after I was done of course) that if you freeze the plums overnight the pulp of the fruit is not quite so mushy and the seeds will pop right out therefore eliminating the messy part.

Add four cups of water to the stockpot and simmer for about thirty minutes.

wild plum jelly canning

As this is simmering, find a big bowl and, if you don’t have a colander/strainer/juicer thingy like mine, line a good size strainer with cheesecloth and place on top of the bowl.

In my case, I used a measuring bowl underneath my contraption.

wild plum jelly canning

Use the masher to gently press the fruit through the strainer

wild plum jelly canning wild plum jelly canning

wild plum jelly canning

Let stand for thirty minutes or until you get 5 1/2 cups of juice.

Return juice to the stockpot.  Add one package (1-3/4 oz) of powdered fruit pectin (SureJell).  Stir and bring to a boil.  Add 7-1/2 cups of sugar.  Bring to a rolling boil and boil for one minute stirring constantly.

wild plum jelly canning

Remove from heat.  There will be a thin layer of foam on top.  Using a spoon, skim off foam.

wild plum jelly canning wild plum jelly canning

Next we put the jelly to the jar!

My grandmother always used a coffee cup to dip the jelly into the jars.  You can use a ladle or measuring cup, but I prefer the coffee cup method.

I do this next step one jar at a time so I can keep my jars hot ’til the last minute.

Place a canning funnel (yes this is hers) on top of the jar and ladle in the jelly.

wild plum jelly canning wild plum jelly canning

Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel or dishcloth.

wild plum jelly canning

Don’t forget this step. It is vital to getting a good seal.

Top with a lid

wild plum jelly canning

and screw on the cap.

wild plum jelly canning

Using a jar gripper, place the jars in a boiling water bath.  The water should cover the jars by about an inch.  (If it doesn’t,  add boiling water until it’s does)

wild plum jelly canning

Process (or boil) for 5 minutes.

wild plum jelly canning

When the time is up, use your jar grippers again and remove the jelly.  Set on a couple of dish towels.  You will begin to hear popping sounds (hopefully).  This means the jar is sealed.

Let set for twenty-four hours before moving.

Then make some biscuits and serve.

Mmm, mmm good!







Posted in Arkansas, Cooking, Garden, Home, recipes | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Who Do I Listen To?

There is a debate happening on my shoulder.

The debate is about some bare land that has appeared in my backyard.

The bare land appeared because a new fence had to be built to keep the baby calves out of the backyard.

empty space

new flower bed  bare ground new flower bed bare ground

On one shoulder, the garden angel is telling me I already have 8 pretty flower beds.

On the other shoulder, the garden devil is saying, “those rocks would make a perfect border.”

Garden angel:  “you have trouble keeping up with what you have.”

Garden devil:  “what’s one more flower bed?”

Garden angel:  “if you leave it as is, Al will weed eat it”

Garden devil:  “you have acres of just plain grass.”

See what I mean?   What is wrong with leaving it as is?  Nothing.  Why can’t I just leave it bare?  That’s not what I do.  Great.  Now my head’s involved in the conversation.

So, here’s what I’m thinkin’.

Several varieties I grow reseed.  As I find these various seeds, I am throwing them in this area.

bee balm monarda

Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) is a good example.  This flower blooms readily all summer and is grand central for bees and butterflies.  It does well in dry, rocky soil which is abundant in this area.

Below is common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) that has popped up in the path of one of the beds.  Last year was the first year this native biennial bloomed.  It can get up to 6 ft. tall and obviously reseeds generously.  The flowers are a bright yellow and bloom for several weeks.


common evening primrose

Other re-seeders include purple coneflower, gray headed coneflower, old fashioned petunias and anise hyssop.

Gray headed coneflower and purple coneflower

Gray headed coneflower and purple coneflower


old fashioned petunia

coneflower hyssop

Hyssop and purple coneflower

Maybe I’ll just start at this end

new flower bed  bare ground

and slowly work my way to the other side.


or maybe I’ll just let Al weed eat it.


(and all the other voices in my head)



Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Flowers, Garden, Home, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Fun at the Lake

We’ve never spent the 4th of July at the lake.  Talk of large crowds, larger boats and crazy people had always kept us at home.

In our little cove though, it was quiet.

sun tea

No boats, no crowds, no cell phone service, no tv, no internet.  Just the family.

It was THE best.

Baby Luke is a year older and loved being on the boat.  He’s not afraid of anything and someone always had a hand on him (and why mama has a hand on her head.)

annie lukeluke annieluke lake

luke allen

What a difference a year can make

luke 6 mo


luke lake


Playing with rocks is his favorite thing to do and we had plenty to accommodate.

luke lake

Hallie was able to get in some fishing time while she was here

hallie lake hallie lake fish

She came ready with her pink net.


Her favorite thing to do was taking a boat ride.

hallie annie hallie

She’s growing up before my eyes.




hallie allen


PawPaw needed lots of help driving the boat.

lake luke hallie allen

I tried not to constantly have a camera in my hand the whole week, but I want to capture every moment with them!   But, someone tires quickly of this.  Can you guess who?

jake kiersten hallie

Annie went with us this year.  She loved the boat and we couldn’t leave without taking her with us.

annie lake

We ventured out on the 4th to the big fireworks display.  Boats from all over the lake (and it’s a big one) arrive at the designated point and claim their spot on the water.


table rock lake 4th of july

Hundreds of boats from every directiontable rock lake 4th of july 4th of july lake

They were right.  It. Was. Crazy.

And even crazier when it was over.  But what a blast.

I hope the kids remember these days.

brenda luke

Because I will never forget them.







Posted in Family, Home, Lake house | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Just Some Purty Flowers

So many things are blooming now, I just couldn’t stop at a couple of pictures.

purple coneflower echinacea

Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower)

purple coneflower echinacea rattlesnake master

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) with Rattlesnake master in background

Anise hyssop

Anise hyssop

Liatris spicata or blazing star

Liatris spicata or blazing star. Starts blooming at the top and then blooms down the stalk

The Mirabilis jalapa or 4 o’clocks are a reseeding annual.  Some years I have more yellows and white, but this year I have more pink. They also like to cross breed and those are always a pretty combination.

4 oclocks, mirabilis4 o clocks

The Asclepias tuberosa or milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly.  It is also a favorite of bees!

asclepias tuberosa milkweed bee asclepias tuberosa milkweed bee

This rogue sunflower came up from the bird seed.

sunflower sunflower

Lots of yellow squash blossoms (also a bee favorite)

yellow squash yellow squash bloom

I’m liking this combo of gerbera daisy and angelonia

gerbera daisy angelonia

Rue-host plant for the swallowtail butterfly

Rue—host plant for the swallowtail butterfly

I also had a good harvest of elephant garlic

elephant garlic elephant garlic

and silverskin garlic

silverskin garlic

My back porch container of impatiens, caladiums and coleus

impatiens, caladium coleus

And last but not least, a couple of cute animal pics

Sweet Annie

Sweet Annie

Lazy Daisy

Lazy Daisy

Everything I plant is butterfly and bee friendly so if you are looking  to attract these pollinators to your garden (and keep your animals safe), it’s very important not to spray with any chemicals.  Sermon over.

Have a great weekend!


p.s.  we are headed to the lake this week for some R and R.  Should be interesting since we don’t have TV, internet or cell phone service!  So if I don’t respond, you know why.  Talk about roughing it!


Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Butterflies, cats, dogs, Flowers, Garden, Garlic, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Summertime Stroll

Last year, I went a little crazy and out of control with all the seeds I grew and (eventually) planted.

greenhouse, plants

Good Lord, what was I thinking

This winter, as I was surrounded by seed and plant catalogs, I gave myself a talking to and vowed not to repeat this behavior again.

Then, we bought the 70’s lake house and spent almost every weekend painting and updating.

upstairs kitchen wallpaper

upstairs kitchen wallpaper

That helped my plant addiction tremendously because I was too stinkin’ tired to even think about gardening.

So, last night, I took Magnum P.I. (the cat) for a garden tour.

My hydrangea are beautiful this year (I think I say that every year)


Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’

I have a several salmon colored impatiens in front of the hydrangea but so far they are just sitting there and not filling in like I told them to do.

The shrubs/small trees behind the hydrangea are spicebush (Lindera benzoin).  I was excited to see the leaves doing this…

spicebush spicebush

because underneath is this!

spicebush caterpillar

Spicebush caterpillar

This little caterpillar will become a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly and I love seeing these guys flitting about the garden.

The Spigelia (indian pinks) are looking good as well.  This was planted last year from seeds I collected the year before on a trip to New Mexico.

Spigelia marilandica indian pink indian pink Spigelia marilandica

One of my back flower beds has become a home for unwanted hostas.  All of these hostas were rescued from a trash can I raided at the local golf course several years ago.  Can you imagine?  Hostas in trash can!  Who throws away good hostas??   So I planted them in front of a spicebush and since then have intermingled impatiens (salmon colored this year) white begonias and creeping jenny (Lysmachia nummularia)

hosta impatiens spice bush

hosta impatiens begonia creeping jenny impatiens begonia creeping jenny

Magnum got bored and decided to rest amongst the Aristolochia tomentosa (upper right)  and prairie lead plant (Amorpha canescens) (lower left).

aristolochia tomentosa  heart leaf magnum

Neither one of these plants have bloomed for me and I have had them for years.  The Aristolochia (Dutchman’s pipe) is a native plant and a host plant for the pipe vine swallowtail butterfly.  The flower looks like a small pipe although it looks as if I will only get to see this in pictures.

The prairie lead plant is also a native plant.  The flowers are long spires of purple and look very similar to Liatris flowers.  It is a host plant to the Dogface Sulfur butterfly and the flowers also attractive to bees as well.  I’m trying butterflies!

Thankfully, Magnum’s personality blooms every day and provides me with endless entertainment.magnum magnum

Magnum's always a hit with the ladies

Magnum’s always a hit with the ladies

Magnum P.I. undercover of okra leaf

Magnum P.I. undercover of okra leaf

Here’s to slowing down and enjoying the garden!







Posted in Arkansas, Butterflies, cats, Flowers, Garden, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments