For Dragonflies And Me

Harvesting Herbs: Tips to Get the Most Yield From Your Herbs, Yummy Herb Butter Recipes

Jean SmithMy soul belongs in the garden… it seems the only place that I can truly find the peace that I’m longing for is there in the rich, soothing soil. All my cares seem to fade away as I stroll through and become absorbed with the beauty that surrounds me.

The colors. The patterns. The shapes. The intricacies. No human could recreate these miracles that His mighty hand has designed. Perfection.

The sound of bees buzzing in the Potager… a low hummmmmmm. They’re busily doing their work, faithfully pollinating the blossoms that will all too soon be peppers, tomatoes, eggplants that we’ll finally feast on after a long winter… we’ll again eat of the bounty our gardens provide from our tender nurturing.

The aromas… those of musk and sweetness mingled together in a moment inhaled that only a rose can exude. The herbs. My legs gently brush their delicate leaves. The intense licorice of basil… Lemon grass’ eloquent citrus scent… Chives don’t want to be forgotten; her oniony promise while we wait for the real thing. Parsley, marjoram, ohhh and thyme… I love to stop and strip a few of her leaves off, roll them between my fingers feeling the precious oils soften my fingertips… then bringing the bruised herb up to my noes… inhale. Richness. The wise men of old knew the value of these garden treasures.

Perfectness… It’s a feast for the senses. My garden, my faithful friend...

I was relaxing in the patio today reading a new garden memoir and there and behold a tiny tree frog nestled on the patio chair across from me. Some of you may be thinking, “ewhhhh”, but not me… I named him Norman and greeted my fellow garden friend and went on reading. Before long he hopped down over beside my leg… well, I had to get my camera- it’s not usually too far from my grasp, but I for some reason left it in the house. So I dashed in and grabbed it. Norman was waiting. I picked him up… to his dismay, yet he patiently let me take his photo.

The birds are so chattery right now…and I am loving this moment… Peace. In my gardens.

I’m passionate about herbs as most of my dragonfly readers know. Recently I posted info on preserving them… well today lets discuss harvesting your herbs.

Here’s a few tips to help you in your harvesting!

*The leaves of herbs are most flavorful when harvested before the plant begins to flower. If you aren’t able to get to your herbs and you notice they are beginning to form flower buds, simply cut the buds back. This will provide you with a bit more time to get them harvested.

*You can pick individual leaves or whole stems or branches. Small leafed herbs are easier to pick by the stem or branch such as thyme, marjoram, tarragon, fennel, rosemary and oregano. Basil, cilantro, dill, parsley and sage are larger leafed, but can be done in stems as well. I personally harvest all by cutting branches.

*Chives should be cut as close to the ground as possible.

*Pick most herbs, with the exception of basil, in the morning after the morning dew has dried. Basil, seems to keep longer and fresher when picked in the late afternoon.

*Harvest annual herbs right until they are killed by frost or bolt (flower and set seed). To prevent bolting, keep them trimmed back.

*Stop heavy harvesting of perennial herbs about six weeks before your fall frost date. This will allow the plants a chance to harden up before the cold weather sets in. Mulching them will help protect more tender perennials in cold climate areas.

Herb butters add a lovely finishing touch to cooked veggies, fish or chicken and are so easy to make!  All you need to do is beat your favorite fresh or dried herbs into some softened butter, cover with some plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve it up!
Here are some yummy Herb Butter Recipes to try this year!

Lemon & Fennel Butter ~ the flavor of fennel goes very well with fish or grilled corn on the cob!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds
zest of half lemon, grated
1/8 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly blended; pat into a roll about the size of a tangerine, cover with plastic wrap and chill.  When ready to serve, cut into chunks~ very cute!


Cilantro & Scallion Butter ~ Use this on some new potatoes and enjoy the sweet savor of scallions blended with the pungency of cilantro!
1 Stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 scallion (green onion) finely chopped.
Follow prep method above.

Chive Pepper Butter ~ So yummy on grilled chicken or roasted cod fillets!
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
1 tbsp. mixed peppercorns, lighted crushed
Follow prep method above.

To see all the great photo's that go along with this post follow this link http://fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/harvesting-herbs-tips-to-get-the-most-yield-from-your-herbs-yummy-herb-butter-recipes/

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Happy Day,
Jean 

Spring Jobs, Using old ladders in your gardens and yummy Eggs in a Nest

Jean SmithSpring is a time of new birth and rejuvenation. It's when we look around and simply stand in awe at the beauty surrounding us... forsythias vibrant yellow... the sweet aroma of apple and cherry blossoms... lavender lilac bouncing in the breeze carrying the scents through the open windows...  searching out the first tips of rhubarb and asparagus. 

Spring... there isn't quite anything as perfect in my mind.

Yesterday I was walking to the greenhouse when my feet went 'squishhhh' in the mud... I loved it, especially wearing flip-flops. Yes, I know it was cold, but it was almost 85 degrees in the greenhouse when the sun was shining! Neil was helping me and his feelings were a tad bit different... more of exasperation from the heat- he likes the cold.  I'll take the heat and a sweaty brow any day of the week over bundling up to keep warm.

Spring is also a time 'to-do' lots of stuff! As most of my dragonfly readers can testify, I strongly encourage lists- for everything! Garden and yard projects are no exception.  I love the feeling of making the list and scratching off each item as it's accomplished. I'm a visual person and I think that's why lists make so much sense to me... plus they keep me on track. 

Scanning through my yard and gardens I'm seeing the multitude of things I need and want to get accomplished this season.  I have a couple windows of opportunity before and after my 'busy' times, so I must utilize that time wisely.  I thought it would be interesting to share this years list with all my dragonfly friends... now don't be alarmed when you see it... I have lots of helping hands around our farm!

My list of outside jobs to do this year...
 

  1. Painting:
  • back of garage
  • potting shed
  • front of greenhouse
  • back of hoop house
  • repaint back door where dog scratched

   2. Fix arbor in front of hoop house- put new lattice on sides and top
   3. Put post up at small herb bed for wisteria
   4. Move raised beds from beside hoop house to cut flower raised bed garden
   5. New flower bed around potting shed
  
   6. Plant:

  • Pink climbing roses at back corners of potting shed
  • Rose of Sharron at back corner of house in back yard- (see photo)
  • Rose trellis on front of house at living room window

  7. Finish Patio:

  • planters
  • floor and sides

   8. Ladder trellis on side of garage over tea bed in Potager

Number eight is one of the topics of this post. I often talk about my love for garden junque, it's one of my favorite things about cottage gardening. I love being able to artfully incorporate what I absolutely adore, even though some people consider it trash. There are oodles of items that can be used, but lets look at old wooden ladders today.

A few posts ago I mentioned this ladder trellis- well I stopped the other day and took a photo of it... not the greatest, but you get the idea.  I plan on doing this on the side of my garage over the tea bed in our Potager and planting... you guessed it, a climbing rose... but first I have to find them! So if you read my guest post at Flea Market Gardening  ( http://www.fleamarketgardening.org/2013/04/04/flea-market-windows-how-to-make-a-decorative-mini-greenhouse/ ) you'll understand how patient I can be!

Uses for ladders...

 

  • Ladders can also be used in your flower beds to put potted plants on (see photo).
     
  •  I also have a ladder on one of the columns on our front porch that a climbing rose uses. 
     
  • Lattice/ trellis- I have a few ladders that go across the top of my pergola for the vines.
     

To many they are just something to climb up, but on my list, they have a much higher calling ;-)

Spring is here and greens are coming in abundantly... and so are the eggs! Here's a yummy recipe to use what you have- Enjoy friends!
Soft Boiled Eggs in a 'Green' Nest

1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach, stems & ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Eggs

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Chop your greens into bite size pieces and toss in the oil and seasoning to coat evenly. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 10"x10" glass baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, till crisp.  Remove from oven and divide into 2 bowls and create a 'nest' with a hole in the center.
2. While greens are baking, bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil and gently lower eggs into water, turn off heat and cover.  Let eggs sit in water for 6 1/2 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
3. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for about 1/2 minute.  Working carefully and quickly, peel eggs, and place in center of nests.  Season and serve immediately.

To see all the great photos that go along with this post take a trip over to my blog at www.fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com
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Happy Day,
Jean

Dreaming of my Potting Shed

Jean Smith"All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar."   ~Helen Hayes

If ever a quote expressed my hearts deepest yearning, this would be as close to perfect as I can imagine.  The days are promising to grow warmer, so my heart languishes and pines more earnestly for them... Yes, all to soon.... all too soon there will be that earthy smell I love... the trees will begin to bud and then finally burst forth into heavenly blooms and wispy leaves.  Spring... come and fill this dead winter world with awe and inspire me.

I've got big plans this year that include repainting my potting shed along with a new bed to wrap around it.  A lovely, cheerful aqua blue with white trim will give her an all new look... a more cottage look.  Currently the back has several antique garden tools, a shelf and a french door on it (see photo). I am planning on making a bed around one side wrapping around the back. My cut flower raised bed garden is on the other side... so excited to finish that up this year. I'm going to plant two different pink climbing roses at each corner around back.  The beds will be planted up primarily with perennials from what I split off my other plants this spring.  I'm dreaming of my antique white hydrangea, purple cone flowers, Shasta daisies and pink peonies with several purple bell flowers dancing around them. Of course there will be lavenders, creeping phlox and thyme cascading over the rock border.  Dreams... oh waiting for them to come to fruition is such a lesson in patience for me. I will share lots of 'in progress' photo's with all of you, along with all the other projects that are on my list this year! Next post: making your spring garden 'to-do' list!

Today's post is going to be a little bit different... I'm going to tell you the story of how my potting shed came to be along with some decorating tips. 

Today's post is going to be a little bit different... I'm going to tell you the story of how my potting shed came to be along with some decorating tips. 

The story of my potting shed is quite interesting... at least to me. About six years ago a lady I knew was getting rid of there mini-barn because they were planning on purchasing a larger new one.  She went on to explain that they were going to tear it down and burn it.  I couldn't believe it... I thought, "What's wrong with it?"... so then I asked. Well, they wanted something bigger, there wasn't really anything wrong with it.  "Why?", she asked, "You want it?"  DO I WANT IT! Of course I wanted it!  Soooo, as I was driving home elated as a purring cat, I started thinking about how we'd get this 8'x10' mini-barn home.... hmm, well surely Neil would figure it out, after all, it was free! Dreaming all the way home, I just couldn't believe it... I was finally going to have a potting shed!

When Neil got home that evening I told him the exciting news and of course, he wasn't quite as excited and he was thinking more along the lines of a 'mini-barn' to store the yard tools, mower and tillers.... and hey, it was free. Neil figured out what we needed to get it home and made arrangements with a friend to help and borrow their skid steer and trailer.  Overjoyed is an understatement as to how I felt.

Once the 'building' arrived, they put it over on a concrete slab that's located beside our vegetable garden... perfect 'temporary' spot I told him... he didn't get what I meant, but shrugged it off.  I'm sure he was thinking, "Temporary nothing, I'm never moving that beast again." 

Two years later with tow straps and chains wrapped around it,  my potting shed was being dragged across and down the driveway to her 'permanent' location... so I thought.  Neil stopped for a moment to check something and the strap fell off. He told our daughter, then just thirteen, to get in the truck and when he said to go, lightly give it a bit of gas to tighten it up and move forward s-l-o-w-l-y.  There wasn't much further to go, and it 'should' have been fine. Well, Taylor being a bit nervous accidentally put the truck into reverse... In the meantime, Neil was standing between the truck and shed... he later told me he thought for some reason it would be smarter to move out from between and then suddenly... Rrrummmmm! SMASH!!!! right into the front corner of the potting shed.  She knocked the frame right off its skid! I was inside... not watching, but I heard the smash and went to the window and looked... oh to my dismay! Neil was ready to burn it in the driveway (remember, we live in the country).  Of course I wasn't about to allow that to happen! Being the optimist I am, I said it would be fine, lets finish taking it to the spot and access the damages and what repairs would need to be made.  So, Neil calmed down and took care of it....

After some tucks and band-aids, we resided the outside, put a new floor and walls on the inside- all with boards that Neil milled on our sawmill- it was a whole new building... my Potting Shed! Now it was time to paint the inside and out and then decorate it...

And today, I have a beautiful potting shed that adorns my yard.  The sad part to this story is I didn't take any photos of it before we fixed it up! I had recently been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and had been quite sick before they found out what was wrong with me... shortly after I had a baby... so no photos.  This is a perfect example of why I always encourage my readers to take photos and document your projects. I am so disappointed that I don't have before and after photos. 

Please be sure to visit my blog for all the great photo's of my potting shed to go along with this post...
Happy Day,
Jean
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Creating Garden Rooms With Trellis', Arbors and Pergolas

Jean SmithThere is something evocative about walking through a rose covered arbor or dreamily strolling through the length of a blossom covered pergola... the air fresh with the scents of sweet mingling with musk... the gentle chirps of tiny birds safely nestled within the confines of the leaf covered shelter.  My arbors and pergola are grand statements, and when friends and strangers alike come into my yard, they are what say, "Welcome to my garden's, won't you stay an visit awhile..." 

There are a multitude of structures to choose from in every shape and size to fit in with any garden style you choose.  What is the difference between the three and how do you incorporate them correctly to create the illusion of having many separate garden rooms? All three have one thing in common: they are structures incorporated into gardens to provide a growing place for vining plants. Here are some tips and idea's to get you started.

*Trellis' are typically attached to a wall on a building. The goal in using a trellis is to create a semblance of living art on a wall, giving a feeling of comfortable enclosure. Varieties range between elegant wrought iron works to charming wooden arches to rustic old ladders situated in whatever shape you desire. I recently noticed a trellis on a neighboring home that was constructed of three old wooded rung type ladders. They were attached to the side of the house like this- TT - with a climbing rose growing up it. I fell in love as soon as I saw it and am now looking for either one very long or 3 shorter ladders that I can create this on the back of our garage in the Pottage over the tea bed. We just painted it an aqua blue last summer and I can already imagine a pink, old fashioned climbing rose scaling up it... always dreaming!

I have several trellis' in my gardens. Along the side of the front porch we have two 4x8 sections of lattice attached to one pillar and the side of the house that my Chinese Wisteria grows on.  I currently have an old split rail type fence on the back of the garage (what I am going to replace with the rung ladders) that again have lattice attached to give the plants something to grow on.  Along my pergola are trellis' that the roses and clematis grow up and over the top. 
Trellis' can be created by using anything... here are a few ideas to get you dreaming...
~As mentioned above, old ladders hung in any shape or form you desire.
~An antique metal head or foot board... imagine that in a lovely English Cottage garden.
~Purchased lattice from a lumber store are an easy, inexpensive and attractive trellis.
~Pre-formed trellis' can be purchased in many lovely designs.
~Create an intricate design using old metal or wooden wagon wheels.
~If you want an invisible trellis, use green baler twine. This can be purchased at most lawn and garden stores. Any type of string will work, but remember you'll have to replace each year.  Don't use natural fibers like jute because they will break down before the season is over.
~Picket or privacy fences also work as a trellis, whether affixed to a building or an arbor.
Like I always say, the only limitation is your own imagination!

*Arbors
can range from two or four post structures and are typically constructed of wood or metal.
You want an arbor to create a feeling of entering into someplace very special and magical. They work wonderfully in connecting two separate garden rooms, similar to a door in a house.  Gates added to your arbor provide mystery for the guest as they travel through.

Both of my arbors are four wooden posts with lattice attached on the sides and across the top. There is a wide range of variety for you to choose from here as well.  Once again, your garden style will determine what kind of structure you will choose.
*Pergolas are best described as several attached lengths of arbors. Imagine your pergola as a hallway through your home, possibly with door's, or in this case, arbors leading in different directions to different rooms. Enshrouded by vines and blossoms, it will give your guests a feeling of warmth and comfort.

There are a few other things to consider when designing your pergola: The length, determine if it will be straight or curving, the structure material, your 'floor', if you'll have step stones on the floor and what you will use on the sides and across the top for your plants to grow up and over. My pergola is about 40' long and about six feet wide with 4x4 wooden posts set every eight feet. We put 2x4's across the top and bottom and then used pre-made wooden trellis' that I purchased at a lumber yard for the sides. These are attached to the 2x4's every four feet. I have a hodge podge of wooden ladders across the top. The side facing the south is one length but the side to the north has an eight foot opening, or arbor, that allows you to go off to the right toward the green houses. If you keep going straight you enter into the back yard leading you to the patio. My pergola runs between the Potager and the rose garden.  I primarily have Sweet Autumn clematis', a few early blooming clematis' and several varieties of  climbing roses growing on it.  I planted a Chinese wisteria on one of the posts in the back yard. I will have one more post set to the right of it in the corner of the small herb bed that will then be a privacy wall for the back yard.

The key to adding these hard scape elements successfully into your gardens where they become free forms is to plant species that will create walls and barriers eluding to garden rooms.

Life is good, then you enter a garden,
Happy Day,
Jean
Please take a trip over to my blog to see all the beautiful photos that go along with this post...enjoy friends.  Also, please take a trip over to my Facebook pages, LIKE & SHARE with your friends to recieve daily inspriations, quotes and lots of beautiful photos... hope to see you there!
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Creating Garden Rooms Using Trellis', Arbors and Pergolas

There is something evocative about walking through a rose covered arbor or dreamily strolling through the length of a blossom covered pergola... the air fresh with the scents of sweet mingling with musk... the gentle chirps of tiny birds safely nestled within the confines of the leaf covered shelter.  My arbors and pergola are grand statements, and when friends and strangers alike come into my yard, they are what say, "Welcome to my garden's, won't you stay an visit awhile..." 

There are a multitude of structures to choose from in every shape and size to fit in with any garden style you choose.  What is the difference between the three and how do you incorporate them correctly to create the illusion of having many separate garden rooms? All three have one thing in common: they are structures incorporated into gardens to provide a growing place for vining plants. Here are some tips and idea's to get you started.


*Trellis' are typically attached to a wall on a building. The goal in using a trellis is to create a semblance of living art on a wall, giving a feeling of comfortable enclosure. Varieties range between elegant wrought iron works to charming wooden arches to rustic old ladders situated in whatever shape you desire. I recently noticed a trellis on a neighboring home that was constructed of three old wooded rung type ladders. They were attached to the side of the house like this- TT - with a climbing rose growing up it. I fell in love as soon as I saw it and am now looking for either one very long or 3 shorter ladders that I can create this on the back of our garage in the Pottage over the tea bed. We just painted it an aqua blue last summer and I can already imagine a pink, old fashioned climbing rose scaling up it... always dreaming!

I have several trellis' in my gardens. Along the side of the front porch we have two 4x8 sections of lattice attached to one pillar and the side of the house that my Chinese Wisteria grows on.  I currently have an old split rail type fence on the back of the garage (what I am going to replace with the rung ladders) that again have lattice attached to give the plants something to grow on.  Along my pergola are trellis' that the roses and clematis grow up and over the top. 
Trellis' can be created by using anything... here are a few ideas to get you dreaming...
~As mentioned above, old ladders hung in any shape or form you desire.
~An antique metal head or foot board... imagine that in a lovely English Cottage garden.
~Purchased lattice from a lumber store are an easy, inexpensive and attractive trellis.
~Pre-formed trellis' can be purchased in many lovely designs.
~Create an intricate design using old metal or wooden wagon wheels.
~If you want an invisible trellis, use green baler twine. This can be purchased at most lawn and garden stores. Any type of string will work, but remember you'll have to replace each year.  Don't use natural fibers like jute because they will break down before the season is over.
~Picket or privacy fences also work as a trellis, whether affixed to a building or an arbor.
Like I always say, the only limitation is your own imagination!

*Arbors
can range from two or four post structures and are typically constructed of wood or metal.
You want an arbor to create a feeling of entering into someplace very special and magical. They work wonderfully in connecting two separate garden rooms, similar to a door in a house.  Gates added to your arbor provide mystery for the guest as they travel through.

Both of my arbors are four wooden posts with lattice attached on the sides and across the top. There is a wide range of variety for you to choose from here as well.  Once again, your garden style will determine what kind of structure you will choose.

*Pergolas are best described as several attached lengths of arbors. Imagine your pergola as a hallway through your home, possibly with door's, or in this case, arbors leading in different directions to different rooms. Enshrouded by vines and blossoms, it will give your guests a feeling of warmth and comfort.

There are a few other things to consider when designing your pergola: The length, determine if it will be straight or curving, the structure material, your 'floor', if you'll have step stones on the floor and what you will use on the sides and across the top for your plants to grow up and over. My pergola is about 40' long and about six feet wide with 4x4 wooden posts set every eight feet. We put 2x4's across the top and bottom and then used pre-made wooden trellis' that I purchased at a lumber yard for the sides. These are attached to the 2x4's every four feet. I have a hodge podge of wooden ladders across the top. The side facing the south is one length but the side to the north has an eight foot opening, or arbor, that allows you to go off to the right toward the green houses. If you keep going straight you enter into the back yard leading you to the patio. My pergola runs between the Potager and the rose garden.  I primarily have Sweet Autumn clematis', a few early blooming clematis' and several varieties of  climbing roses growing on it.  I planted a Chinese wisteria on one of the posts in the back yard. I will have one more post set to the right of it in the corner of the small herb bed that will then be a privacy wall for the back yard.

The key to adding these hard scape elements successfully into your gardens where they become free forms is to plant species that will create walls and barriers eluding to garden rooms.

Life is good, then you enter a garden,
Happy Day,
Jean
Please take a trip over to my blog to see all the beautiful photos that go along with this post...enjoy friends and LIKE & SHARE my Facebook pages for both blogs to recieve daily inpirations, quotes and see many more beautiful photo's
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My Front Porch Garden and Yummy Tuscan Soup

Jean SmithAs you drive into my lane my garden's begin to envelope you .... although it wasn't so when we moved here. As I've mentioned in previous posts, there weren't any gardens when we purchased our old farmhouse.  We gardeners often have lofty aspirations... dreamily perusing our favorite gardening magazines and making notes on things we want to incorporate. Longingly waiting until we can create a new bed, stumbling upon a new rose bush and making the season's first bouquet of sweetly scented jonquils.  Spring is only a few days away and although there is snow covering the ground on our farm, I know my tulips and daffodils will soon be peaking up and sending me warm greetings of love...  

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My front porch garden started out like most projects... lay some stones, fill with dirt and plant some flowers- presto, new bed. Well, to say the least she was the beginning of my 'lofty aspirations'... she has been the inspiration for the multitude of gardens now surrounding our home.  Here is the story of the dawn of my front porch garden... and beyond.This garden has been a challenge with several 'make-overs' for her to boast. It was the first bed I attempted to create... it started as a simple four foot deep, straight lined bed off the porch, wrapping around the side of the house and leading to the back door. If you remember in my previous post on the bistro garden, this bed went right up and around to the back door where the bird cage is. I laid rocks around as a border and then filled in with soil, planted several perennials and lots of annuals the first year. That year we also laid a cobble stone walk around this bed and the side of the house.  The banister garden came along shortly after. We've made gobs of changes since then... as you'll see.

The next year we discovered a sidewalk completely grown over with sod.  It was only by accident that Neil ever thought to check what that 'stone' was (and was probably wishing he'd left well enough alone)... lo and behold he kept finding more and more 'stones'. He spent an entire Memorial day unearthing, by hand with a shovel I might add, over thirty 2x2 concrete step stones! What a find- at least I thought so ;-). So began another project- we needed to choose the new walks location. This is when we decided to build the front arbor... so after some figuring was done on its location, we had a plan for the walk. It would be laid on a slight and natural angle widening off to about six feet from the original bed. Now there was going to be this triangle shaped section of sod between the walk and the flower bed... 'extend the bed' I said! So we did.

Now for more work. We removed all the rocks,the cobble stones only in the front, dug all the plants that we could, raked out the soil, and then dug the sod by hand. We then laid black plastic where the bed and the walk would be, replaced the edging rocks and brought dirt in building it up about a foot deep. We put sand down where the step stones would be laid so we could get them fairly level, not perfect by any means, but very cute none-the-less.  We took the cobble stones from the front and placed them beside the others in between the banister garden and first cobble walk, thereby doubling it in width.  Extending that four foot deep bed out to reach the new walk led into the creation of the breakfast patio and front arbor with picket fences. As you can see from the photo's, the porch itself has had several face lifts and continues to change each year!

Well, after all that I thought this bed was set... I planted several perennials that fall and had some big dreams of how things would look next year... the next year we had a drain issue! Neil and a friend had to bust a hole in our porch, replace a main drain pipe and dig right through the garden (killing a newly established clematis and my lupines), through the sidewalk and across the lawn (killing two of my precious Miss. Kim lilacs in a new hedge planted by the road!) I was devastated, but I had to keep a positive perspective... a new climbing rose would replace the clematis and I'd try lupines again. 

This bed is yet to my perfectionist 'cottage garden' standards- yes I realize that is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean if you're a cottage gardener.  Dreaming of new gardens and spring on the horizon keeps me pining away until at last I'll be sitting on my porch waiting for a friend to come up the lane.

To see all the great photos that go along with the post, please take a trip over to my blog's NEW HOME at
http://fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/my-front-porch-garden-and-yummy-tuscan-soup/  

Here's a yummy soup for the last of these cold, winter days...
Tuscan Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 medium potatoes
1 lb. Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped kale

Brown Sausage; cool.
Combine the broth and cream in a sauce pan; slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 inch slices; add the browned sausage; add the kale.
Add the spices and let soup simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Happy Day,
Jean
www.fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com
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The Breakfast Patio, Photographing Your Garden and Rosemary-Cornmeal Foot Exfoliate

Jean SmithThe scent can only be described as Heavenly... as you pass by when it's in full bloom the scene is simply breath taking.  A gentle breeze carries it's perfume wafting pass your face, you close your eyes... your olfactory senses take over...such a pleasant and peaceful experience. Her name is Sweet Autumn Clematis and she is one of my favorite vines. I have a weakness not only for climbing roses but also for this beauty.  I've planted several though the garden's and each year I fall in love a little bit more. My oldest vine climbs on the front arbor beside my breakfast patio. She has two David Austin 'Fairy' shrub roses planted at her base. Their delicate frames hold the tiny blossoms that grow in clusters covering the greenery in an airy coat of pastel pink. I love to sit at the table taking in the sensory overload that surrounds me while having my quiet time early in the morning... listening to the birds flutter about in the depths of her vines until they relax and realize it's only me... keeper of the gardens.

The Breakfast Patio has lent me many hours of relaxation and was one of the easier projects that we've tackled. We laid the black ground cover and then had five yards of pea gravel brought in for our floor. It is nicely sheltered from wind and passing cars by the front arbor, a picket fence, the house and the Banister Garden. The area affords much relaxation and is a pleasant place to visit with family and friends or to be all alone.
To see the photo's of my patio and arbor during different stages, please go to my NEW blog site at www.fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com  

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Photographing your gardens....
I've been asked if the photos in my blogs were my own and I can happily say that the majority of them are. I've photographed everything from barns and mailboxes to horses, sheep and my favorite subject... yes you guessed it, flora! When I started photographing flowers my eye was always captivated by the intricacies of the petals, the lines and indentations of the foliage... I love my macro lens for intensely close shots. My favorite photo is of a Gerbera Daisy I took several years ago (see photo attached)... you can see the pollen on the stamens and every crinkle in the petals... it simply whispers perfection. I've tried to encourage all of my readers to take before and after shots of the garden spaces that they are creating. You will be very thankful later when you go back and see the progress that you've made. It is also great fun to share with other garden loving friends over a cup of tea... think garden journal!

Today I thought I would give a few tips on capturing that perfect shot.
 
*Walk the area you want to capture and look around for the perfect angle. I've already knelt or laid down to get it.
*Experiment with different angels, I've got some great shots from a second story window looking into the branches of a tree as well as down a tree trunk.  Likewise stand directly under a tree almost touching the trunk and shoot upward.
*If taking a shot to get a distance shot, stand on the one side of the road and shoot with the angle aiming on the other side of the road; or stand dead center and watch the road turn into a point... great effect!
*Be sure to look behind the subject you want to capture- make sure there are no distractions in the background or on either side.
*Don't center the subject- divide your screen into 3 imaginary column's  |_|_|_| . Put your subject in the right or left column. Try it both ways to see what will be added within the scope of the landscape. If you are doing a close up, look to see which looks more balanced. See my Gerbera Daisy photo for an example of this. (Attached) The nice thing with this is you can use the mirror option in a graphic's program to change it is you may need to.
*Take multiple photo's to be sure you have options.
Like I always say... have fun and be creative, that's how you'll get the best results!

After a long day on your feet what could feel better than a foot rub... here is a great and super easy home made foot scrub recipe! Enjoy friends!
 

Rosemary-Cornmeal Foot Exfoliate

1/4 cup rosemary infusion (tea)
2 Tbsp. ground organic rolled oats
1/3 cup organic cornmeal
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 nonmetal bowl

1. Brew a strong tea by pouring 1/4 cup of boiling water over 1 cup of fresh rosemary; cover and let steep for 15-20 minutes.
2. Using a food processor or blender, grind the oats until very fine and powdery.
3. combine cornmeal, powdered oats and the oil in a nonmetal bowl; add rosemary tea, 1 tbsp. at a time, until a smooth paste forms.

Massage each foot with the paste, scrubbing rough areas. Rinse using the remainder of the rosemary tea in the rinse water, if you like) and pat dry.
Finish by applying a moisturizing cream mixed with a few drops of rosemary essential oil.

Happy Day,
Jean
www.fordragonfliesandme.wordpress.com
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www.wreninthewillow.wordpress.com
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