Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fresh Homemade Yogurt

I have made bread since my grandfather taught me as a youngster. A little over a year ago I started using a sour dough starter gifted to us from a lovely neighbor. Back about three months ago, I put out whole wheat flour mixed with filtered water to created my own "Aunt Debbi's Kitchen Sour Dough Starter" This was colonized completely by the yeast that was already hanging around my kitchen. Several loaves of whole wheat bread have been made with this starter and have been well received.

Last winter, my kitchen was turned into an incubator to allow cabbage to become sauerkraut. The results were yuummy.

About a week ago, I decided to try to make homemade yogurt. This is the easiest kitchen creation ever. Much like sauerkraut, I can't call this cooking. All I did was put about two tablespoons of a higher quality yogurt into about a pint of skim milk, placed it in a warm spot (over the food dehydrator, but any warm place will work) and wait. Eight hours later, I had yogurt. It was not as thick as store bought yogurt, but it tasted amazing.

Most people do not eat plain yogurt. I love it. I have been making dressings for salads and just eating it. Tonight, I bought some frozen fruit (we don't have much fresh fruit around these parts right now) and made the Monkey's some smoothies with the homemade yogurt. Yogurt smoothies turned out to be a big hit around here. I am out of yogurt, but there is a new batch brewing on the food dehydrator.

Friday, January 30, 2009

French Hollyhock


Because I am crazy a really good garden blogger friend. I went out into the dark and took this picture of my French hollyhock for Brenda to compare to her hollyhock. I know, I know, I have linked to her twice today. I am not a blog stalker, seriously. We won't know if we have the same thing until hers blooms. Can't wait to see what it is.

Ignore the orange under the hollyhock. We will remain calm and not question the actions of Monkeys. We do not need to know why there is an orange outside on the ground. There should only be one meltdown a week and I had mine yesterday.

Here is a picture of a French hollyhock from last summer.
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Plant facts - French hollyhock or Malva sylvestris "Zebrina" In my zone (8a) it is a biennial. It grows to about four feet and is covered with those pretty striped flowers. It reseeds like crazy, but is easy to transplant and thin. We will have plenty to share at the spring seminar plant sale.

The Birds are Back

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I was getting really worried. Brenda and Linda both had birds at their places. We live in the same region and no birds were coming to my garden. There was even homemade suet, but nobody showed up for dinner. Today, they came in mass. I don't know what these little birds are, but they are cute, aren't they? I saw a male and female cardinal, but they flew off while I was getting the camera. Forgive the quality of the photo. I have a good excuse this time. The picture was shot through a glass door. If I had opened it, they all would have flown away.

This winter, with your help, I hope to learn what types are birds are visiting my garden. Be encouraged to school me on my birds just like y'all did when the Carolina wren flew into my mother's living room.

What birds do you have visiting?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Socks, Toothpaste, A Mouse, and Ice Cream Wrapers - Only At My House

First, there was a pair of socks in the driveway. It is 26 degrees outside. Who took their socks off and left them in the driveway in 26 degree weather?

I found toothpaste on the toilet seat. Whyyyyyyyy?

There was a mouse on the counter. Nearby, the cats slept soundly. DANGBLASTITALL, this is their only job.

Somehow, Abby found ice cream wrappers and shredded them in the floor. ARRRGGGGHHH.

I want to go back to work. These sort of things do not happen at the library.

Somebody help me. Please help me. Seriously.

Frozen Fog; I Thought Y'all Were Making This Stuff Up


Never, ever, before have I seen such a thing. There is frozen water hanging in the air. It is not falling to the ground. It is just suspended there. I have read about this phenomenon on other blogs, but thought it was something like the boggy creek monster- Somebody was either drunk or making stuff up just to mess with me. I am pretty sure that if I go out there in it, I may never come back. The only appropriate action to take when there is frozen fog outside, is to go back to bed. See y'all later. BRRRR
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hello Lost Fans.

If you don't watch Lost, don't click here.

So Charles Widmore used to be a member of the others, hummm????

Desmond named his baby Charlie. Awwww....

When did the U.S. Military show up, once again, somewhere they are not wanted?

Sawyer needs to take that ratty shirt off. I was wrong before.

I sort of missed the Oceanic Six this week.

Okay, Let's play who is your favorite lost hunk?

I'll start, anybody but Ben.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Look Who Thinks I Worked All Day Just For Her

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The Domestication of Debbi

Tuesday is one of my days off. It is cold and wet. We should begin getting freezing rain and sleet in the next few hours. Needless to say, I stayed in the house and off the roads today.

I have five quilting projects to complete during the next few months. My sewing corner was a disorganized mess. I spent most of the day straightening it up and creating a quilt project storage system. A couple of years ago, I straightened out my craft closet. I sorted my larger scrap fabrics by color, ironed and folded them and used four plastic baskets to hold the fabrics. They are stacked two deep on one of the shelves in the crafts closet. This has stayed organized for two years. For me, this is a minor miracle. I am housekeeping challenged.

I have several boxes that were holding random sewing ingredients sort of like my seed basket. I separated everything out and put each project in its own box and then made a special box for templates an stamps. The fabric that was left over from other projects was ironed, folded and stored in the crafts closet. Hopefully, this new system will keep me organized. Now I just need to find my thimble.

Here is the quilt I need to finish first. It is for baby Clare who is due to arrive in this world on February 7. I better get on with it. We believe these nine patch quilt squares were pieced by a paternal great grandmother. I am going to finish the top and quilt it for the baby.
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We had homemade chicken noodle soup and wheat bread for dinner tonight.

Chicken Noodle Soup
4 Chicken thighs
6 Cups water (to begin with)
1/2 Large onion chopped
1 Stalk celery chopped
1/4 Fresh, finely chopped herbs including parsley, thyme and rosemary
3 Chicken bouillon cubes
8 Ounces wide egg noodles
Ground pepper to taste

Boil the chicken thighs until completely done. Stop before the meat falls off the bone. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Add all of the other ingredients to the chicken stock and simmer all day if you like. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and discard. Chop the chicken meat and return to the pot. Ten minutes before serving, bring the stock to a rolling boil and add noodles. Serve with homemade wheat bread if you've got it.

Stay warm and cozy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dear Weedwacker

Dear Weedwacker,

There is no easy way to say this. It is over. Cutting off the daffodils at ground level was the last straw. They were just getting ready to bloom. We have had this problem for years, and I just can't take it anymore. Remember the double purple moon flower. You chewed it to bits.

Also, I know it was an accident, but the time your string hit my leg, it hurt. I never really learned to trust you after that. Every time we are together I worry it will happen again. This is no way to have a relationship.

I will always admire your handiness. You have given me clean lines along my pathways and quickly trimmed edges. We had many good gardening days together and I will miss you.

Please don't cry. You will find a gardener who is better for you. Out there somewhere is a gardener who does not grow delicate flowers. You need someone with better spatial awareness. You should look for someone who just mows the lawn and will use you to trim up along the fence. Wouldn't that be better than trying to live with a fussy flower gardener? This is best for both of us.

With a heavy heart,


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cease The Grease

If you happen to be driving through Dallas, you will see billboards with a turkey, a water pipe, and the words "Cease the Grease." Do not have any idea what the turkey is all about. Maybe they went up close to Thanksgiving. Anyway, this advertising campaign is meant to educate people against pouring cooking oil and grease down the drain where it clogs the pipes. We had this happen to us, not pretty. I have been composting our cooking oil with nary a problem. Still, most composting information advises against this. So I thought, what else can someone do with grease and oil if they are afraid to compost it. The Internet revealed a few very good ideas.

1. Mix left over animal fat (say from hamburgers or Crisco) with any combination of seeds, uncooked oatmeal, corn meal, and flour. Pour the mixture into a container and place it in the freezer until it firms up. You have made homemade suet for the birds.

2. Use old cooking oil instead of lighter fluid. I think this is an awesome idea. Just poor it over your wood or charcoal and light. Problem oil solved and food doesn't taste like lighter fluid.

3. Wet a newspaper or used paper towel with cooking oil and use this to help start the fire in your fireplace.

4. Find a local restaurant and see if they will let you add your oil and grease to their old oil and grease, which is then recycled into other products like makeup and sometimes bio fuels.

5. My dad pours it over the dog food. Oil gone in a flash. Before you light up my comments to tell me this is bad, I know it can be bad. If your animal is overweight, DO NOT DO THIS. Our animals are kept at a healthy weight and food scraps and occasional oil on food does no harm. Dear Ole Dad is a veterinarian, I trust him. The dog food companies would have you believe that only dog food is healthy for dogs. They are just trying to sell you dog food. Dogs eat anything, they always have.

Any other suggestions for the "green" disposal of oil and grease?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sorting Seeds

This was my seed storing method. Nice, right?

I buy seeds, and save seeds. My friends give me seeds. There are seeds everywhere. I usually put them in that basket, but they are stashed other places as well. They are in the truck, on the window sill, in a cabinet above the drier, on my dresser, in my desk, and between the pages of books. I need a better seed sorting and storage system.

I removed all of the seeds and cleaned out the bottom of the basket. It was full of garlic papers, hum? New seed packages were made by tracing the pattern on old construction paper recycled from Monkey school work then cutting, folding, and glueing them into seed packages. I used these little paper envelopes to replace the big baggies.

I bought some tab dividers at the office supply store and cut them to fit inside of the basked. I decided to sort my seeds by month. I simply filed the seed packets according to the month the seeds should be planted.

Now, Doesn't that look better?
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Crazy Weather

It was a very pretty day today, but I think the plants are confused. My minnow daffodil is beginning to bloom. All of the roses are putting out new leaves. The weather is supposed to turn cold again and all the plants will be shocked back into winter behavior.


Mom did something interesting. She saves food scraps for my worm bin. She puts the scraps in plastic grocery bags and freezes them until I can come pick them up. When she went to take them out of the freezer this afternoon, they had frozen into the shape of the freezer bin and were stuck. We had to pound on them with a big heavy ladle until they came loose.

Here for your enjoyment, another broccoli flower. I'm telling you, our weather is messed up. This thing should not even try to bloom until late February.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Desert Island Challenge

Shirl over at Shirl's Garden Watch has issued a challenge. She wants to know what plants we would take with us to a desert island.

A year or so ago, our family did an email meme. The point of the meme was to answer questions about the person who sent you the email. Several of my sisters said that I would take a bag of compost with me to a desert island. They were right.

After a lot of thought and nashing of teeth, I picked three plants.

First hardy hibiscus.


Second Zinnia

Third Passion Vine
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I picked these three because it just wouldn't be "my" garden without them.

What plants would you pick?

Don't forget to visit Shirl's post.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Forcing Broccoli

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Now, I know you do not grow broccoli to eat. You grow broccoli for the lovely yellow flowers. You did not go out in the garden two days ago and cut broccoli thinking you could bring it inside and wait a few days to eat it. You put it in a glass of water on purpose just so you could have broccoli blooms. You were not attempting to keep the broccoli fresh and ready for stir fry. This was intentional and you will do it again. So will I. Wink-wink

Yeah Lost is Back

Signs you might be a lost nut.

You have a special pillow to sit on to watch Lost.
There is a moratorium on speaking during Lost in your home.
You have converted your family members into Lost fans.
You have all the past seasons of the show on DVD.
People who know you are a Lost fan avoid you Thursday mornings.
You rewatch and freeze parts of the show to read all the text on props in the show (milk cartons) Same thing goes with photos on desks and walls.
You are still trying to figure out what all the numbers mean.
You feel really sorry for Hugo.

Are you a Lost nut?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Day

Okay, I am not a political creature. I don't belong to one party or the other. I have voted in every election since 1982. Well, there was that one where I didn't see any options that I could support. But anyway, wasn't today exciting? Regardless of which "side" each of us may be on, our citizens seem to be invigorated and ready to get down to the work of fixing, yes I said fixing, our mess. I feel hopeful. I hope you do too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Talking In My Sleep

Apparently, the three month long crunch of holidays, parenting issues, volunteer overload, and having a ginormous extended family have finally caused me to crack. According to his report, this morning, Manly Man had to deal with this when he arrived home from work and tried to go to bed.

He found me on his side of the bed being very possessive of "his" pillow.

Him, "Could you give me my pillow?"
Me, "No, I have to take a picture of it for the master gardener website."
Him, "Could you move over a little?"
Me, "NO, can't you see I'm typing?"

He finally got me to roll over, but I would not give up the pillow.

I don't remember anything.
Enjoy this little view into my subconscious.

Do you walk or talk in your sleep? You know you really want to tell me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Imaginary Garden

In my last post, I admitted that I have an imaginary garden. When I am trying to fall asleep, I ponder on it and make plans.

My imaginary garden has no weeds. The flower beds are all in full bloom and are perfectly mulched. There are no lost tools or toys in the imaginary garden. In this garden, I do not trip and fall down.

Here are a few items that are in the imaginary garden.
1. A really comfy beautiful hammock. It is strung between two beautiful deciduous trees. It is in the shade in the summer and in the warm sun during the winter. I read and nap in this hammock.
2. A pond with a fountain. There are healthy plants and wonderful fish swimming around. The sound of the water is charming.
3. There is a boarder of roses and pomegranate trees between our home and the neighbors. Because we are good neighbors, there is an archway we can walk through to visit each other.
4. There is a sweet little ornamental grass plot on the corner of our yard. A very large bolder is the center piece of this little area.
5. In the side yard there is an old wheelbarrow planted up with blooming annuals and flanked by an antique rose bush.
6. Every fence is covered with blooming vines in this make believe landscape.
7. There is a native dry shade border out back. These plants live under my passion vine.
8. A very sweet little garden shed complete with window boxes and flower beds is in the back corner by the vegetable garden.

The birds are singing, the butterflies are floating, the cats are sleeping under the rosebush, and the Monkeys are perfectly behaved.

Tell me about your imaginary garden.

Light Therapy

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Winter is hard on many gardeners. Cold, wet, dreary weather just don't make for a happy Debbi. Add multiple family stresses and a flood, and I am pretty much a basket case. A basket case that cannot break down because, well who would raise the Monkeys if I broke down. It seems my little salt lamp is helpful, but just not enough.

Yesterday, was pretty and I was able to spend about an hour in the garden. Today was just as lovely. I was in and out of the house all day. After a while, the sunshine made me a little sleepy, weird. In my imaginary garden, I have a wonderful hammock strung between two deciduous trees. It is in the shade in the summer and in the sun in the winter. This imaginary hammock would have been perfect for today. As a alternate, I decided to layout on the Monkey's trampoline. I must have been a sight laying out there, but boy did basking in the warm sunshine do wonders for my mood.

Here is a hint. Trampolines and garden clogs can create quite a static charge in a middle aged woman. The shock when I touched the metal frame was painful and LOUD.

The rest of the afternoon in the garden was very enjoyable. There is one thing that is puzzling. Where are all the songbirds? I have put out seed and I actually cooked homemade suet for them, but very few have shown up. I am beginning to get worried. I did see some bees buzzing around some broccoli rhaab blooms and hen bit flowers. Their wing sounds were very pleasant.

Did you notice the picture? Abby got all excited and knocked over my plant stand. Somehow she broke a plastic pot. Goofy beast.

Anybody else missing songbirds?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bottle Tree




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While my coworker and I were looking at pictures of bottle trees on the internet doing really important official library research, I was inspired to do a little garden decorating to liven things up. I rebuilt my pot teeter-totter (obviously don't know what that thing is really called) and made a mini bottle tree out of a dormant hardy hibiscus. There are at least two other hardy hibiscus that I can also use as bottle trees so this one may get taken down. When I was stacking the pots, I noticed that some sedum was growing in the bottom of the lowest container in almost no soil. Now I know for sure that sedum is not only tough, but stays evergreen for me here in north Texas. I am going to get out a bunch of my empty pots and plant sedum in them over the next few days. Maybe I shouldn't, I don't want to have to buy more containers when spring gets here. What the heck, I can never have to many containers.

After work and a birthday party, I was able to do about an hour of gardening today. The temperatures soared back up into the sixties and the wind was finally quiet. My battery feels all recharged and stuff. If it is pretty tomorrow I will spend all day out there.

Hope you have some pretty weather too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Like Christmas Just for Me

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THE SEEDS ARE HERE, THE SEEDS ARE HERE!!!!! Monica over at Garden Faerie's Musings started an snail mail seed exchange and I was first on the list. Thanks Monica. I will spend my free time this cold cloudy weekend researching the seeds you sent me, making my selections from your stash, making cute little seed packets, and raiding my seed stash to add to the exchange. Tuesday, I will mail the package on the Illinois.

This was one very good day. The school finally admitted that Baby Monkey has dyslexia and are going to provide the focused reading class he so terribly needs. After that good new, I went to a master gardener meeting. We planned our trip to the state convention in Marshall, Texas. After that meeting, a group of us stayed and prepared the winter newsletter for the mail. After that, Hilde and I went to help to another volunteer organization with the plans for a new family shelter. Of course, our job was to do what we love the best, talk about plants and plan gardens. To top it all off, Manly Man took me and the Monkeys out to eat dinner at Fat Catz a restaurant in a neighboring town. The menu is Cajun and Creole. Manly Man had fried shrimp and crawdads. Middle Monkey had a shrimp Po boy sandwich. Baby Monkey had mini corn dogs (there is one in every bunch). I had the most incredible Cajun crab cakes served over crawdads in a Creole lemon sauce. I was in heaven.

Hope you had an awesome day as well.

If you are a blogger involved in the seed swap, leave me a commment and I will link you up on my sending the seeds onward post the first of next week. I am pretty sure Tina and Frances are on the list.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


This will be my saddest post for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day yet. Still it is fun to play. Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Garden for hosting.

First is a fuzzy picture of a snap dragon. I waited until after work to take my pictures. Therefore, you can now imagine a crazy lady out in 34 degree weather, after dark trying to take pictures of flowers while the wind blows. I am nothing if not a dedicated garden blogger or maybe I am just cracked.

Second is a shot of my echeveria potted up with hen and chicks. The echeveria is winter sad, but I like the way the hen and chicks look. Their color seems more intense in the winter than in the summer.

Finally, a shot of a very sad amaryllis. It was purchased after Christmas and the stress of being in that box is obvious. I will plant it outside in a few weeks. Hopefully, it will give me a pretty bloom next August.
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Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Stay warm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You Knew it Was Coming

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I have been working at the library for a little while now. I have resisted the urge to post about books. Today I give in. Baby Monkey is getting about two books a week. I brought home one for Teenage Monkey Monday. Monday night Middle Monkey asked if I had brought him a book on science and hamsters. Now how in the world would I know he wanted a book on hamsters. Of all the critters in this house, hamsters are not among them. The Manx would murder them within minutes.

We received some new children's books today. Among them was the book in the picture. It is a book about scientists that work to control invasive species of plants, insects, and animals. South American fire ants have their own chapter. I would get it and give you a little more information, but Teenage Monkey took off with it.

I am reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." It is an incredibly good book. I am actually taking my time and really reading it. The writing is amazing. The only two books I have enjoyed more that this one are "East of Eden" and "The God of Small Things." Baby Monkey is reading a Little Bill book and Teenage Monkey is reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian."

So we may have a few book posts as I now can spend many hours a week looking at, touching, and reading all kinds of books.

I though we would play a few of these mind games. See if you can figure this out.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This is what I was yammering about a week or so ago. The definition of internet friend. I needed help and VP was there for me. We provide for and are served by this internet support system. These friendships are real. We feel each others pains and celebrate each others joys. I am blessed to have each of you in my life. And then Cinj does something sweet, like this.

This is the poem VP suggested to honor the gardener we lost last week. Thank you my internet friend.

What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch,
These are the measures destined for her soul.

Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning, 1915

Monday, January 12, 2009

Help Please

This may seem like an odd, even crass request. We recently lost a fellow gardener. She died suddenly. She had worked for two days as an active volunteer in our group last week. We have known her a little more than a year. She was cheerful and enthusiastic, and now she is gone. Nobody saw it coming. I have been asked to write something in her memory. I am not comfortable writing something original to honor her life and service. I thought a poem would be nice, but I am at a loss to find something suitable. Anyone out there on the interweb know of a poem or quote that would honor a gardener who has passed on?

Here are the Missing Pictures



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New Garden Decorations and Broccoli

Isn't this big cup and saucer planter the cutest thing ever. I planted it with Curly Whirly Juncus to give it the look of steam rising from a cup of coffee.

Baby Sister came to town and brought me this cool garden ornament for my birthday. My favorite color is cobalt blue. I just love it.

This is the second head of broccoli I have harvested this year. I will make a really good soup out of half of it and let the Monkeys eat the rest raw with dip.

Broccoli Lentil Soup
2 red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
One large head broccoli chopped up in the food processor
One large onion chopped up in the food processor
One celery stalk chopped up in the food processor
Six baby carrots chopped up in the food processor
5 ounces lentils
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander (ground fresh)
minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash original
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seed.
Enough chicken broth to cover all the above ingredients.

Slice the potatoes and brown in the olive oil, add all the other ingredients. Cook everything together until the lentils are soft and the potatoes fall apart. All the vegetables need to be very very finely chopped. Serve with a little (really just a little) shredded sharp cheese melted on top.