End of summer gardens; lessons in life

I haven’t written much about my gardens this year. It has been a rough, slow start for most of them. My breast cancer slowed me down in the spring when I should have been tending to their new growth, the continual sprummer rain and darkness on beds that were planted for dryness and sun mooshed, damaging hail storms shredded, and, to be honest, my husband and I have been having too much darn fun every Sunday off the property when I normally would be putzing out there.

None the less, nature has its way. Mid August heat and the organic fertilizer I liberally applied—that I normally do in the spring—has given both of us hope. Something a true gardener is never without. But frankly, I don’t mind a bit-messy garden. It is a symbol of other things pressing on one’s time—fun or duty—and I can appreciate that; no judgement here. The mess can also the humbling effects of nature. One weed pulled today is another weed tomorrow. As Michael Pollan so humorously points out in his book Second Nature, man against nature is a philosophical never-ending battle, one I choose to relinquish now and again. Going with the natural flow of things, living in the moment…I learned this a lot in the garden this year.

 

Blue doesn’t always stay blue and fading can be nice…we all fade.

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We planted late.  Sometimes we get a late start in life and big isn’t always better.

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Toby, our natural grass barber.  Never let your hair cut define you.

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Sometimes all one needs is a good sit and the color red.

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…or pink and orange.

 

Herbs are hardy.  Don’t forget that by adding spice in your life you will become more hardy too.

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Next year I will make the brick edging that will keep the dirt in the beds in place; next year, next year.  You do what you can do, “You get what you get and don’t get upset”; Pinkalicious.

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FOR THE LOVE OF PRODUCE: pickled cherries

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I got to Canterbury Farmers Market late last week, but in time enough to grab the last small basket of local sweet cherries: half to eat, and half to pickle.  The season is fleeting—and our own Sour Cherry tree was loaded—so I got busy with all things cherry.  Here is one unusual way I came up with to eat them without baking.  And if you can them, you can keep the cherry season forever on your palette.  Enjoy!

Pickled Cherries  Makes one 16 oz jar.

  • Rinse and dry a heaping 2 cups of cherries.  I used 1/2 sweet cherries and 1/2 Sour cherries.  Immediately pit them and cut them into quarters.  NOTE: once they are rinsed they will begin to deteriorate so work quickly.
  • Measure 2 cups worth and place in refrigerator bowl or 16 oz. jar.  (If you want to preserve them by canning, see alterations below.)

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In a stainless steel sauce pan combine the following:

  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (Note: iodized salt will darken your pickles.)
  • 1 T finely chopped red or orange bell pepper
  • 1 T finely sliced or chopped red onion

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Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour over cherries and refrigerate.  They are good in 12 hours, great in 24 hours and awesome the longer they sit.  They will keep refrigerated four weeks or longer.

Add them to potato salad, dress a hot dog, or serve as a side to grilled meats and vegetables.  Use them any way you would use pickle relish.

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*If you wish to can these to preserve for later, sterilize your jar and canning lids with hot soapy water then pour boiling water over them.  Fill with cherries and liquid into a hot, dry jar.  Wipe jar rim clean then screw on lids tightly.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove to a rack to cool.

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I LOVE produce. And it always amazes me how little people eat of it. But given the tasteless, cardboard varieties many of us grew up with—and is still in the stores—it’s no wonder. Sawing a slice of tomato only to have it stiffly lay on the plate looking back at you with its dead-pink, odorless flesh is unappealing, only worsened by the tree-branch chew of it. Who wants to fill 2/3 of your plate with that?

I have been inspired to create new ways to eat fruits and vegetables all summer long when their favor is at its peak. And because combining with additional flavors enhances the taste even more than its singular ingredients, recipes often help with produce that is less that perfect, a reality we are faced with most of the year here in New England.

It tastes better fresh. It tastes better local. But if you have to buy in the supermarkets, recipes help.

FOR THE LOVE OF PRODUCE: grilled beets with asparagus salad.

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The last of the spring asparagus, the largest wintered-over beets: I just had to grab my final taste before they disappeared at my Canterbury Farmers Market.  As part of my self-imposed summer challenge* of preparing fruits and vegetables in a way I have never done before, I came up with this recipe.  Grilled beets—sugars caramelized, smoky, meaty,, and enough as a main dish—mixed with barely blanched asparagus rounds that pop sweetly like a preview of summer’s first peas.  Something new, something yum.

  • Scrub 2 large beets clean with a plastic scrubber or sponge then peel them.  Using a sharp knife, cut them into 3/8″ rounds.
  • Just for fun, cut a few flower shapes out of the slices using a fine paring knife.  Save the scrapes to add to a smoothie or juice.

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  • In a small dish mix 2 T.  balsamic vinegar with 2 T. olive oil.

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  • Using a pastry or grill brush coat the beets on one side.  Place the coated side down on a pre-heated grill pan or outside grill.  Cook on low heat very slowly.
  • When they are slightly tender when poked with a knife, coat the back side with oil/vinegar and flip them to continue cooking until they are tender.  NOTE: as the sugars in the balsamic and beets caramelize, they will begin to smoke.  This adds an unexpected flavor to the beets making a new way to taste them!

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  • Wash a handful of asparagus.  Bend asparagus stocks near the bottom white part and where they naturally break; it separates the tough end from the tender stock.  Slice the tender stalks into 3/8″ rounds reserving the tips for decoration.
  • Bring a small/medium saucepan full of water to boil.  To it, add the asparagus rounds and tips.  Cook 1 minute, then drain and immediately put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain.
  • To make the salad, arrange beet rounds, pile up with asparagus and decorate with “flowers.”
  • Dress with dab of mayonnaise mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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*I LOVE produce. And it always amazes me how little people eat of it. But given the tasteless, cardboard varieties many of us grew up with—and is still in the stores—it’s no wonder. Sawing a slice of tomato only to have it stiffly lay on the plate looking back at you with its dead-pink, odorless flesh is unappealing, only worsened by the tree-branch chew of it. Who wants to fill 2/3 of your plate with that?

I have been inspired to create new ways to eat fruits and vegetables all summer long when their favor is at its peak. And because combining with additional flavors enhances the taste even more than its singular ingredients, recipes often help with produce that is less that perfect, a reality we are faced with most of the year here in New England.

It tastes better fresh. It tastes better local. But if you have to buy in the supermarkets, recipes help.

16 ways, sixteen days. RECAP: lessons in art and life

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Breast cancer; in case you were afraid to ask. It was sixteen days of radiation after a successful surgery…just in case. During a season when I had little time to be in the art studio, I just had to do something artistically expressive so I turned my daily shoes and accessory choices into an art project. We creatives are like that; express or die.

Shoes are a metaphor for life after all; we “kick up our heels”, we “take things in stride”, we “put one foot in front of the other”…The shoe life lesson here is ALWAYS choose joy first, because I could have led with gloom (dang it).  Joy is the fuel for our existence so the rest can fall into place with grace. Quite literally, the hormones produced when experiencing joy override and numb-out the hormonal feelings of discomfort and fear. Others before have modeled this for me—Mary Ann, Dee, Bonnie, Jules, Joyce… So I offer my own example to you passing it forward.

This choosing is the hardest lesson to learn and even harder to apply. We are all so, so very busy, we all have various struggles and tribulations, our lists are endlessly long. I can’t tell you HOW to do this; you have to figure out how to prioritize it for yourself. An older woman once told a younger me, housework will always be there but your kids will not; in other words, learn to recognize what is important. At the end of our life is it the proverbial tidy that we will remember or those moments of joy and fun? I choose fun— and shoes!

And now for the art lesson…

Assembling color seems to be difficult for many people. Given all the choices it is understandable. When you walk into a paint or fabric store you may be drawn to a certain swatch but then get hung up trying to figure out what other colors to put with it.  Consider these tips:

  1. Use proportion.  Most designers use the rules of proportion when assembling color, expressed as divisions of thirds—1/3 to 2/3’s—or more accurately, expressed by the use of the golden ration 1 to 1.61803.  My daily color charts in 5 parts showed this exactly; 2 square parts to 3 square parts = the golden ratio.
  2. Use neutral. When you mix grayish, brownish, blackish or white/beige colors with colors straight off the color wheel it makes them feel more lively and more balanced.  The most playful color combinations are using the greater proportion of color wheel color and the most subdued combinations are those that favor more neutral.  My daily color charts showed this; 2 squares of color to 3 squares of neutral and vice versa.
  3. Use color theory.  To decide what other color you want to use, find your color on a color wheel then pick a harmony shown there.  I like to use the Gardeners Color wheel because it shows more divisions of color plus pastel.

Below are the color combinations I used in the series.  Feel free to use them…

I am signing off for now.  Back to my garden….

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DAy 3 color grad

day 4 colors

16 ways color grad DAY 5

color grad day 6

16 color grad day 6 best

16 color grad day 8

16 color grad day 9

16 color grad day 10

16 color grad 10b

12 color grad DAY 11

16 color grad DAY 12

16 color grad DAY13b

16 color grad DAY 14b

16 color grad DAY 15

16 color grad DAY 16

The shoes I wore on the first day…because I promised.

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16 ways, sixteen days. DAY 16

16 color grad DAY 16

Confetti falling from the sky, the roar of cheering crowds, bands playing…  Not really but that is what it felt like on my last day of treatment.  All my techs—past and present—were there, the nurses, the office staff and my doctor were there.  And so were my shoes.

Walking in past the clerical station….

Office manager:  Let’s see what shoes you are wearing today!  Do you change your toe nail polish every day?

Me:  No, not in real life.  Just for this game.

Inside…

Techs (hugs and congratulations): Cute shoes.  Do you change your toe nail polish every day?

Me: No, not in real life.  Just for this game.

Emotions exchanged, fondness expressed, gratitude, a certificate…  Out to examination room.

Previous techs flooding in (looking in my eyes then down at  my feet):  We just want to say happy graduation day and how great it was taking care of you.  What are you wearing today?  We are bummed we missed getting to see all the changes!

Me:  Love you too!  Read my blog…

And they did…immediately.  [Hi guys!!!  :)]

Doctor and head nurse entering room: Look at those shoes!  Do you change your toe nail polish every day?

Me: No, not in real life.  Just for this game.

What a fun game this has been!

It’s their job…to make us feel better, to make us feel human, to express compassion.  And they did each and every day.  Despite the highly technical work they executed with great skill, they still took the time to play this game with me and share their lives.  The real stars of this show…

My main techs, Dana and Nicole.IMG_4822

Techs that alternated; Roxanne and SandyIMG_4826

Head nurse Natalie and alternating tech Amanda:IMG_4930

Please read my wrap up post following this one…

16 ways, sixteen days. DAY 15

16 color grad DAY 15

Frisky feet.  Feelin’ a little Italian yesterday, like kicking up some heels.  It was my second to the last treatment.   A friend who had just visited Italy once told me how amazed she was that the women there could manage walking on cobblestone streets in really high-heeled shoes.  I thought I would channel the likes of Sophia.

So I wobbled in.  Concad, New Hampsha.

Receptionists in the lobby (who didn’t know about the game):  Ok, let’s see what shoes you have on today.  Ooooow and the nail polish matches your clothes.  And the earrings and make-up too!

Me:  Why thank you.  It’s part of the game. (Explanation, etc)

Tech one:  I like your nail polish.

Me: Why thank you.

Tech two: Have you worn those before?

Well of COURSE not!  This is the whole point of the game.  But then again she wasn’t there from the beginning.

 

 

16 ways, sixteen days. DAY 14

16 color grad DAY 14b

Bitter-sweet today.  Excited about the 3-day week-end marking my third-to-the-last treatment and also finding out that this was the last time I would see one of my techs.  I hadn’t anticipated the feeling of loss…these gals have become comrades.  Bonds have formed; like being in the trenches together at DSW.

But back to the story….

Techs: Oooooooowww, look at the earrings!

Me: Walmart. [I know, I know…]

Techs: I like the ensemble.

Me:  Thank you.  Today was lots of fun. [Because EVERYone needs red shoes]

Techs in unison, smiling ear to ear: We have been reading your blog.

Panic, angst, exposure, transparency….turns out they like this like you.  My departure gift.  🙂

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