A Couple of Crock Pot Recipes for Thanksgiving

The Blonde Gardener

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and everyone rushing around trying to come up with the perfect Thanksgiving menu, I have to share a couple of very easy recipes I make in the crock pot.

The first is a never fail recipe for Dressing.  The first time I made dressing, it was so dry there was not enough gravy in the county to make it good.  After that disaster, I vowed to never make dressing again.  Until now.

Crock Pot Dressing

8″ pan of baked cornbread

1/2 of a small loaf of white bread

4 large eggs

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 c. celery, chopped

2 cans cream of chicken soup, undiluted

2 cans chicken broth (15 oz. each)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sage to taste

1/4 c. butter

Mix all ingredients together (except butter) and put in crock pot.  Layer small pieces of butter over the top of mixture.  Cook on…

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Harvesting and Storing Green Tomatoes

I’m going to let you in on a little gardening secret.

You can have tomatoes from your garden well after a frost or freeze.

I understand nothing beats a fresh, vine-ripened tomato.  I couldn’t agree more.  I am still picking tomatoes every day and couldn’t be happier.

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

Heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato

Unfortunately, the end of just picked, still warm, juicy, red tomatoes is coming to a close.  Tomatoes do best with warm temperatures both day and night.  Our days are still warm enough, but the nights are getting much cooler.  More than likely, by the end of the month, we will have our first frost and the season of tomatoes will be over.

Or will it?

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

The key is knowing when your average first frost date is.  In my area, that date ranges from October 17th-26th.  A couple of years we have gone into November, but for the most part it usually happens towards the end of October.

Just as I do at the beginning of spring, I begin to watch the weather in October.  If the night-time temps start to drop in the low 40’s, I go ahead and remove all the tomatoes left on the vine and bring them in the house.

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

At this point, I can do a couple of different things.  I can leave them on the table and let them ripen (which takes about a week), I can make fried green tomatoes or green tomato relish, or I can do what my grandmother did and have tomatoes for several more weeks.

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

After she brought her tomatoes in from the garden, she would take off the top stem and clean off any dirt.  She would wrap each tomato in a piece of newspaper and put them in a cardboard box.  Not just any box, mind you, but the same tomato box she saved from year to year.  She put the biggest ones on the bottom, the medium ones in the middle, and the smaller ones on top.  The box was just the right size to fit under her bed and that’s where they were stored.  I can remember giving her the “are you crazy?” look when she first asked me to get her a tomato from underneath the bed.  Looking back, it was quite the hidden treasure.

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

Under her bed provided the ideal conditions for storage- a cool, dark place.  Left under the bed, they would still continue to ripen but at a slower pace than if they were out on the counter.   This method worked great for her as she was always on top of anything garden inside or outside her house.   I, on the other hand, am an out of sight, out of mind person and probably wouldn’t remember until I noticed a puddle of goo oozing from underneath.

Instead, I wrap them in newspaper and layer them in a large, brown paper sack.  I try to put the really green ones on the bottom and the ones that have started turning closer to the top.  I have one closet that I store canning jars and miscellaneous paper goods and, since I’m in there often, I am continually reminded they are there.  Here it’s easy to pull out a tomato and check on its progress or get a couple out to ripen quickly on the counter.  Depending on their state of ‘greenness’, I might have garden tomatoes until December.  What a treat!

Cherokee purple is an heirloom tomato that is easy to grow and one of my favorites! https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/15/storing-green-tomatoes/

Heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato

Brenda sunflower emoji

 

 

Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Farm life, Garden, tomatoes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Seed Saving and Cuttings

Every gardener has their weakness.  For some, it’s roses.  For others, tomatoes.  For me, a flower or vegetable moves to the top of my list if I can save the seeds or take a cutting for next year.

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

Fall is the time for most seed saving but, once you learn how easy it is, no flower is off-limits at any given time of year.  I did a video of this for Hometalk last year if you want to take a look.  I will warn you it’s about forty minutes long but I do cover how to save a lot of different seeds.  Once I realized how much money I could save by saving seeds and doing cuttings, I became obsessed with it.

Some of my favorite seeds I like to save are sunflowers, zinnias, and marigolds,  Oh, wait! I can’t forget about dill, basil, celosia, and Allium.  Oops!  There’s also coneflower, black-eyed susan, tomatoes, fennel, and milkweed.  Seriously, the list is very, very long.  When I tell you I’m obsessed, I am not joking!

As for cuttings, the past couple of years I have added an area of sweet potato vines to my back flower bed.  (p.s. I also do cuttings of coleus and that can be seen here)

Sweet potato vines spread very quickly and fill in bare areas very well. They don’t mind full sun but I noticed they needed extra watering during our extreme summer heat.  Last year, I put them in a bed that gets afternoon shade and they really surprised me how well they did.

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

Here is an easy way to make these cuttings.

First, cut off a good section of the vine.

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

Then cut this into individual sections about five-six inches long.

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

Remove all the leaves except the top

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

As you are  doing this, put the cuttings in a container of water.  After the container is full, take them inside and let them sit, or leave outside in a shady, protected place.  After about a week, tiny roots will form and this is the signal they are ready to be potted.  If the weather’s still nice, keep them outside and let the roots get established.  When the forecast starts showing temps close to the 40’s at night, bring them inside and put in a sunny area until spring.

By spring, the root system will be well established and, after all signs of frost are gone, they can be planted.

https://theblondegardener.com/2017/10/01/seed-saving-and-cuttings/

I hope you will try taking some cuttings this year.  I need other people to be as hooked as I am!

Brenda sunflower emoji

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Passionflower-It’s Not What You Think

The other evening I was walking through the butterfly garden in search of monarch caterpillars, when my foot managed to get tangled in a vine.  Looking down, I noticed the beautiful passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) sneaking its way into the garden path.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Before I go any further, be advised this particular passionflower can be invasive.  It can take over a field in no time if not kept in check.  There are many species of Passiflora but I can only give you insight on this one.   The thing is, I knew this going in and still planted it and thought I could contain it.  Silly me.

As with a host of other plants, passionflower has been used medicinally for years.  It is said that Native Americans used the leaves of this plant to make a tea to treat insomnia.  Being an insomniac for years, I thought I should research this more.  After seeing terms like possibly unsafe in large amounts (what’s a large amount??), possibly safe taken short-term (how long??), and likely safe when taken with normal amounts of food (define normal), and could cause short-term paralysis (ok, I’ve heard enough.)  I decided to skip the experimentation of passionflower and stick with my regular non-sleep habits.

One might also think, with the name of passionflower, the plant might have mystical powers making one irresistible, alluring, and charming.  Dating back to the 15th century, the word ‘passion’ in passionflower actually had a religious meaning that referred to the crucifixion of Jesus. Spanish missionaries used the passionflower to represent the last days of Jesus as follows:

* The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance.
* The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
* The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (less St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer).
* The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
* The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
* The 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).
* The blue and white colors of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/passion flower

True or not, I found it an interesting twist on such a pretty flower!

I almost forgot about the fruit!  After it flowers, a small fruit called a maypop will form.  These are also edible but when I cut one open, it was hollow.  Then I ran and washed my hands fearing deep sleep and short-term paralysis would set in before I could make it to the house.  Not really but once you learn these things, you begin to question the motives and intentions of every plant.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. The fruit of the passionflower is called a maypop. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

The main reason I wanted this in my butterfly garden is because it’s the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary is small and spiky and you know they are there when you see holes in the leaves.

When you see holes in your passionflower leaf, the gulf fritillary caterpillars have arrived. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on passionflower vine. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

Since I had never tried to raise one of these to the butterfly stage, I put this guy in a critter cage and began to feed it.  I was unsure what stage of development it was in and it must have been close to pupating.  A few days later it made this pretty chrysalis

This is gulf fritillary chrysalis. It's host plant is passionflower. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

and about 10 days later we came home to this.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a native vine that has a spiritual meaning and is also a host plant for the gulf fritillary butterfly. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/08/27/passionflower-its-not-what-you-think/

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Passionflower will grow in full sun to part shade in zones 5-9.  It can vine up to eight feet long and (for me) rarely comes back in the same spot.  My plan was to plant it on my fence and let it twine and twirl to its heart’s content.   It’s plan was to be footloose and fancy free in my garden path.

Consider yourself forewarned and informed if you decide to give this vine a chance.  So far, it hasn’t been too bad to keep in check but I definitely don’t want to turn my back on it.

Brenda sunflower emoji

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It’s Four O’Clock Somewhere

One of the most talked about flower on my Instagram and Facebook page is Mirabilis jalapa or the old-fashioned four o’clock flower.

pink and white four o clock

Four o’clocks were one of the first flowers I grew when we bought our first home.  I had mentioned to a coworker that I wanted to find a flower that grew quickly from seed and the next day, she brought me a handful of four o’clock seeds.   Thirty-five years later, they are still in my gardens.

white four o clock

One of the unique traits of this flower is it blooms in the late afternoon or evening, hence the name.  I have these flowers in a full sun garden and some in a bed that gets afternoon shade.  During the summer heat of the day, the blooms remain closed up tight.

four o clock closed up

But, when it cools off in the evening, the blooms open up and release a very pleasant fragrance enticing all kinds of nighttime pollinators.

four o clock open

Another unique feature about this plant is the way cross pollination can occur.  This year, I have plants with pink, white, and yellow flowers.  Some plants have two colors on the same plant

four o clocks different colors

or both colors on one flower.

pink and yellow four o clock

Saving the seeds are easy because they are big and very easy to see.

Four o'clock seeds

Four o’clock seeds

What I don’t collect, will fall to the ground and sprout next spring.  These flowers are pretty tough and will even grow in concrete.  Just keep in mind, they might be a different color when they bloom next year.

Four o'clock

four o clock in concrete

Four o’clocks are not bothered by too many pests, but do seem to attract Japanese beetles (like so many plants do.)

japanese beetle on four o clock

Years ago, I remember reading a gardening book written by Ruth Stout.  I don’t recall which book it was, but I remember her making an observation that Japanese beetles loved the foliage of four o’clocks.  She somehow made a hypothysis that the foliage was also poisonous to the beetle and would kill it after they consumed it.

japanese beetles on four o clock

This theory has been a controversy ever since.  For me, in my garden, the beetles go for the roses first.  After reading about this , I began planting four o’clocks around my roses, not only to try this theory, but to hide the base of a somewhat gangly rose variety I had.  I figure I’m going to grow them anyway, might as well put them to the test.  I don’t really have any concrete proof that the foliage kills the beetles, but I have observed that after I see them on my four o’clocks, I don’t see them anymore.  Maybe it’s wishful thinking, maybe their lifecycle was complete, or maybe we are on to something.   Regardless, they will always be in my garden.

What are your thoughts or observations about this?

 

 

 

Posted in Arkansas, Flowers, Garden, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Minding My Own Beeswax

Making honey is no small feat for a bee.  Foraging bees must first visit many flowers to collect nectar.  Then, it is brought to the hive where a worker bee takes the nectar and places it in one of the openings in the specially prepared comb.   Bees then fan the nectar with their wings to remove as much liquid as possible.  Somehow they know when the honey is ready and then secrete a substance which covers the honey.  This substance will harden and become beeswax.

Bees instictively know when to cap honey with beeswax. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

beeswax

To harvest honey, the beeswax must be removed

Removing beeswax capping is the first step to harvesting honey. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

which opens the chambers and allows the honey to flow out.

These beeswax cappings are placed on a screen, in a tub, and strained for the honey it contains.  What’s left is this

Cappings from honey supers will be melted down to make beeswax. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

Cappings off honey supers.

At this point, these cappings can be given back to the bees for food (which I usually do)or heated and strained (rendered) to make the pretty, yellow beeswax used in candles and cosmetics.

This year I decided to try my hand at rendering wax.   Instead of buying an expensive melter, I opted for a home-made version after I found this large styrofoam container and glass window at my local recycling center.

I found this styrofoam cooler at my recycling center and made it a beeswax melter. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

I dug through my cabinet and found some old, plastic bowls.  I placed an inch of water in the bottom, rubber banded a paper towel over the top, and placed the cappings on top.

beeswax4

I placed the containers in the cooler and covered it with the glass window and left for work.  The outdoor temps need to be at least eighty degrees for this to work which is no problem this time of year in Arkansas.

I found this styrofoam cooler and glass lid at my recycling center and made it a beeswax melter. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

When  I got home, my pile of cappings had melted down to this.

Slum gum is what's left after the wax has melted through the filter. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

As you can see, the paper towel acts as a filter as the wax melts down (you can use cheesecloth, too but I didn’t have any) and the water in the bowl helps separate the wax from residual honey and other impurities.  When the process is complete, rendered beeswax will be floating on top.

Making beeswax from recycled materials. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

As you can imagine, these containers were super hot when I removed them from the cooler and everything inside was liquid.  I left the bowls on the counter overnight to completely cool off.   The next morning, the wax had hardened on top and I was able to loosen the plastic bowl and remove it.  Making beeswax from recycled materials. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

There still seemed to be some debris in the wax, so I repeated the entire process again and am much happier with the second rendering.

Making beeswax from recycled materials. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/23/minding-my-own-beeswax/

I’m not sure what will become of this beautiful wax,  but the process was simple enough to do and only required a few items rescued from the trash.  Just goes to show that one man’s trash is another woman’s wax melter!

 

 

Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Bees, do it yourself, Farm life, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Pollinator-Friendly Garden

This time of year, the gardens are filling in nicely with a mixture of annuals and perennials.  When the summer heat begins to build, I usually devote my garden walks to the early morning or late evening (late evening being my favorite.)  During the day though, these plants provide several species of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies and place to eat.

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa or also listed as Cimicifuga racemosa) is a native plant in my area.

Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh

I planted this years ago and it grew but never bloomed.  I moved it out of the deep shade to the edge of the woods and I guess it likes the new neighborhood.  It is said to have a ‘fetid’ odor which attracts a variety of pollinators.  If it does have an odor, I can’t smell it and I have been up close and personal to it while in full bloom.   Maybe it’s one of those odors only bugs can smell.

Bee Balm or Wild Bergamont or Horse Mint (Monarda fistulosa)

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

is also a native plant.  I mainly grow it for the butterflies and bees but have noticed the hummingbirds checking it out.  It does spread, though, but not too aggressively, and I noticed quite a bit growing along the smaller highways in Arkansas.

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) is another native Arkansas plant.

Rattlesnake Master is an interesting native Arkansas plant for the garden. It likes full sun, is a perennial, and grows to about 4-5 feet tall. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Rattlesnake Master

This is such a cool plant to grow.  The flowers look prickly but are actually very soft.  The pointy leaves at the base resemble a yucca plant and look ominous but aren’t too “stickery”.   It grows to about 4-5 feet tall so it’s best to plant it with something that can support it.  I have it growing with my Grey-Headed Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata).  During the heat of the day, the flowers have a sweet smell similar to honey.

Lavender Hyssop or Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is another great flower for our pollinators.  In the heat of the day, this plant is covered with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  The leaves smell like licorice which may explain why deer won’t touch it.  It does come back every year but sometimes not in the place you planted it.  I usually let the flowers go to seed, remove them, and then sprinkle them where I would like them to grow.  Yes, they grow that easily.

Probably the most popular plant in the butterfly garden is my Lavender Hyssop. Pollinators of all kinds flock to this plant. It is a native Arkansas plant, a perennial, and grows to about 2 feet tall. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Lavender Hyssop

Probably the most popular plant in the butterfly garden is my Lavender Hyssop. Pollinators of all kinds flock to this plant. It is a native Arkansas plant, a perennial, and grows to about 2 feet tall. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Lavender Hyssop

The butterfly garden is in full bloom right now.  The back of the bed has bronze fennel which is a host plant for swallowtails.  In front of that is bee balm, hyssop, coneflowers and milkweed which is a host plant for the monarchs.  Annual petunias and marigolds complete the bed with summertime blooms.

The butterfly garden is in full bloom. Host and nectar plants provide much needed food for hungry pollinators. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Butterfly Garden

Good job, marigold farmer.

Marigold farmer

And, last but not least, are the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)  For me, a summer garden is not complete without these flowers.

Summertime is not complete without Purple Coneflowers. Butterflies love these nectar-rich flowers. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Purple Coneflowers

Coneflowers are also great plants for pollinators.  Newly hatched swallowtails and monarchs are instantly attracted to these nectar-rich plants.

Summertime is not complete without Purple Coneflowers. Butterflies love these nectar-rich flowers. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/07/07/a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Purple Coneflower

Enticing pollinators to your garden is easy if you remember some key ingredients.  For butterflies, they need both nectar plants for food and host plants to lay eggs on.  But, most important, is a healthy environment to live in.  Pollinators are bugs and many people have a problem with them living in the garden.   If your plan is to raise butterflies, pesticides of any kind (even some organics) will wipe out your caterpillars.  In nature,  bugs usually work things out amongst themselves and that’s the approach I choose to take.

If you decide to add some pollinator plants to you garden, it’s good to look up or visit a local nursery to see what native plants grow well in your area.  Native plants are very hardy and nature friendly which make your gardening experience very rewarding.

 

Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Butterflies, Garden, Native Plants, summer flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments