Late October rain kept the cockscomb and zinnias colorful. It was too wet to gather seeds. Now, November cold air has dried the spent, faded blooms, making it easy to separate seeds from chaff. The chore is just part of an ordinary day.
Later, we move to the garden where some fall radishes (French Breakfast variety) have been allowed to grow to maximum circumference, really just to see how big they could get. Surprisingly huge, red, tubular growths had to be dug from the ground. Pulling radishes is an ordinary task, but in this case a real eye opener.
Another garden crop ready for gathering is peas. We planted Oregon Sugar Snap in the spring and realized a wonderful, two-month crop from them. For fall, we planted Laxton’s Progress. Short, bushy, and compact, the plants have produced since the third week of October. It is an heirloom introduced way back in 1898 by Thomas Laxton’s sons in honor of the horticultural and plant breeding work their father did. Sadly, Thomas died five years before the new variety was released.
Individual peas remind us of the pea shooting we used to do as kids. (Yes, it was a wasteful playtime, but when you are left to your own inventions even a straw and a handful of peas can have significant imaginative power.) These Laxton peas are too large to ever fit into a straw, so they all go into a pot of boiling water for a dish of buttered peas that will go well with the small turkey roast simmering away in the Crock Pot.
Although kids today have much more sophisticated toys, there are still places that engage in pea shooting. Peasenhall, Suffolk, an English village, holds an annual Pea Festival, where among other things pea shooting contests are held. World Pea Podding (shelling peas) championships are held, along with National Pea-eating contests. Peasenhall is also famous for free-range peafowl. Peacocks and hens roam freely throughout the village. In June, baby peas or chicks can be seen trailing after parents among the many English gardens.
While we don’t have peacocks strolling on the grounds, we do have lively, loud blue jays staying amongst the junipers. These blue jays appear to take a keen delight in teasing other birds and especially the squirrels, who have found the scattered remains of a tribe of sparrows’ messy table manners under the feeder. Blue and white flashes alert all that jays are nipping squirrels in the derriere; squirrels are jumping straight up and turning midair to face their assailants; sparrows are flipping seeds from on high in feigned terror, and seeds are raining down on the jays — just what they had hoped for.
It’s an ordinary day, yes. But nothing really is ordinary as we look at nature, at living creatures pursuing their own goals, at all things big and small on our little piece of earth called backyard home.
• 2 cups shelled peas
• 2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
• 2 tablespoons butter
• salt and pepper
1. Place peas, onion, and water to cover them in a saucepan. Bring to s boil. Cook 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain well and place back in pan.
2. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally.
Browning the butter will add a nutty flavor to the peas. Favorite herbs can be added if desired. Frozen peas may be used in place of fresh.
• 4 cups turkey stock
• 1/4 cup diced onion
• 1/4 cup diced celery
• 1/2 cup diced carrots
• 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
• 1/4 cup washed, drained raw rice
• 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked diced turkey (dark and light meat)
• salt and pepper
1. Heat stock to boiling, adding in vegetables and rice. Simmer with lid on until vegetables are tender and rice cooked.
2. Add turkey, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve hot with a sprinkling of chopped, fresh parsley, if desired.
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