The Natives Make Me Restless

Forty-five native Oklahoma plants were delivered yesterday! Forty-five!!!!  Guess I lost my head a little. Now to get them in the ground. Feeling just a little overwhelmed and restless to get out there in this gorgeous weather.  It’s an absolutely wonderful day out there – light breeze (okay, so its windy, but after all, this is spring in Oklahoma) sunshine, perfect temps.

Wild bergamot, goldenrod, and friends

Wild bergamot, goldenrod, and friends

Climbing Prairie Rose, Hibiscus, Muhly Grass

Climbing Prairie Rose, Hibiscus, Muhly Grass

Didn’t realize the Prairie Rose was the climbing variety.  Will have to re-think a location for it.  I guess I will have to wait until the irises bloom and wither, then remove some of them and plant the rose to climb up the post of the pergola.  The challenge will be keeping them alive in their plastic pots for a while.

Can’t wait to see the new bed finished.  Got the False Indigo planted last night before it got too dark to see what I was doing.

Okay, back to work.  Have a simple kind of day!

 

On the Bluebonnet Trail

The Great Bluebonnet Expedition of 2014 was a success. The weather kinda sucked, but it was okay. We got some good pics.

I have to admit, in my own mind, part of the motivation for the trip was to recapture the joy of summers spent on the edge of the Hill Country visiting grandparents and cousins.  I remember the enjoyment  of turning off the interstate onto the 2-lane road that took us through the edge of town out to the country, through 14 bucolic miles of corn fields and grazing cows.  Being a city girl, miles and miles of growing corn and the black heavy soil of the farmland was an oddity.  Another strong memory is the sound of gravel crunching under the tires as we pulled into the driveway of my Dad’s parents’ farm and my grandmother being at the screen door on the back porch to welcome us.  She always had Snickers in the freezer and the most delicious pot roast you’ve ever tasted cooking in the oven.  Today, I realize her’s tasted so good, not necessarily because of any great culinary skill on her part, but because the beef was grass-fed on their own land and never treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.

Of course, over the years the landscape has changed.  New stacked highway interchanges, hotels and restaurant chains now line the once serene stretch of road that led to my grandparents’ house.  The cousins I once spent weeks at a time with were all too busy for even a brief visit this time.  Adult children and grandkids take precedence over see-you-every-couple-of-years cousins.

So, putting aside the disappointment of my inner child (admittedly tempered by the purchase of jars of honey and locally made German sausage), we set out on the trek for bluebonnets.  After we finally figured out that we needed to get off the large, fast state highways and onto narrow county and ranch roads, we found an abundance of photo ops. We talked to a waiter at a great burger place in Marble Falls and he told us exactly which roads to take for the best results. He was right.  County Road 200 and Ranch Road 1741 provided a peaceful and colorful afternoon’s entertainment.

ImageI love the limestone architecture of the farmhouses and the huge expanses of pasture studded with mesquite trees, cactus and bluebonnets.

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We spent some time in Burnet at the Bluebonnet Festival.  Love the huge bluebonnet sculpture in front of the Town Hall.

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There was a sweet young family from Sage Creek Farm selling soaps and crocheted baby items made by the mom and beautiful wooden cutting boards and French rolling pins made by the dad.   Wish I had had more cash to spend.  I love to see a new generation of hand-makers, simple-lifers coming of age.  It gives me hope for the future.

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More bluebonnets.

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On the way back to Oklahoma, we drove to downtown Dallas (scary!) to Dealy Plaza, the location of the assassination of JFK.  We’d been wanting to make the trip for a long time, so this was the perfect opportunity.  It was very surreal.  I was 8 when he was killed, and I remember seeing it all on TV.  To see the street with the Xs marking the spots of the bullet strikes, the grassy knoll and fence, the School Book Depository building all right there, made it all so real.  I’m glad we didn’t make a special trip previously, because we only spent about 30 minutes at the site. A place where America’s path was changed forever.

Too gloomy!  Back to the bluebonnets!  Here’s one more pic.  Have a great day everyone and keep it simple!

Patience with an Attitude

Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting – Unknown

I will be the first to admit that patience is not a virture I possess.  Once I make a plan, I want fruition now, thank you very much. My latest test of patience is our new backyard landscaping project.

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I posted this picture a while back.

After hours battling a sod cutter and hauling loads of crumbling clay and grass, resulting in sore muscles, liberal applications of ice packs and downing of multiple Ibuprofen, this was the result.

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You get the general idea of the curves.

Anybody want some free dirt ?

Anybody want some free dirt ?

Last weekend, after riding 33 miles in a bicycle fund raiser, my husband helped me haul 65 concrete edgers to the back yard, load after heavy wheelbarrow load.  We hit it again Sunday afternoon and got the last one in place just as it started to rain.

I'm really pleased with the result.

I’m really pleased with the result.

Don’t know if you can see it, but there is a very young redbud tree planted in the corner.

Bloom wannabe.

Bloom wannabe.

We’re living in redbud heaven right now.  The Oklahoma state trees are in their full glory, blooming in colors ranging from light pink to dark fuchsia.   I think the one we planted will be the light pink variety.  I love the lacy airiness of the mature tree.

Our's should look like this in a few years.

Our’s should look like this in a few years.

The blooms stand out against the bright green new leaves and still bare branches of trees around them. They show up everywhere- in landscaped lawns and the natural wooded areas that line local creeks.

Now comes the patience part.  It will be another two weeks before my young native plants can be weaned from the greenhouse at  Wild Things Nursery.

Since we are at a standstill, we decided to take a trip to the Texas hill country. We’ll go visit my Dad’s grave at the little cemetery in Buckholts, stop in at Green’s Sausage House in Zabcikville (don’t you love that name?) to stock up on the best German sausage and kolaches you’ve ever put in your mouth, and then tool up the road to the Walker Honey Farm in Rogers. My parents grew up in this tiny town (population 1000 as long as I can remember) where my sister and I spents weeks every summer, visiting grandparents and cousins and fighting about who got to sleep on the foldout sofa or the rollaway cot. I think the best part of our trip will be a driving tour of the Marble Falls area where the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush are supposed to be at peak.  I need a good dose of the Hill Country.  What few roots I grew, I grew there.

May have to rethink the retirement-in-the-mountains plan.

 

 

 

Recipe- Savory Pecan Loaf (The Abascal Way)

I’ve been trying to make more meatless meals, so when a friend loaned me her copy of The Abascal Way Cookbook, I was pleasantly surprised at how good many of the recipes sounded.  Or maybe my pallette is changing.  Could it be that I’m getting past my cravings for fries and ice cream?!?  Naaa.

Tonight I prepared the Savory Pecan Loaf.  Being a southern girl who LOVES pecans in any way, shape and form I can ingest them, trying this recipe was a given from the getgo.

Here are the ingredients (I have posted the no-pictures, traditional version on the Recipes page above.)

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I found the quinoa flakes at Sprouts.

This recipe takes quite a bit of chopping. If you have a small electric chopper, it will really come in handy here.  Measure 8 ounces of pecan – not 1 cup- measure by weight.

IMG_1019 And then process them until fine.

IMG_1020Add 2 cups quinoa flakes to the pecans and pulse to mix.

IMG_1022Chop 1 cup each onion and celery and grate 1 cup carrots.

IMG_1023Saute in 2 tablespoons oil until soft and golden.

At this point you’re supposed to add the saute’d vegetables, 1 cup nut butter, 3 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup parsley, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp.pepper to the food processor that holds the nut mixture and pulse it all to mix.  My food processor bowl isn’t big enough to hold it all, so I mixed the veges, nut butter and eggs in the processor with a small portion of the pecans/quinoa to mix all the wet ingredients, dumped it all into a BA mixing bowl and dug in with my hands until is was all mixed.

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Ta-da!!

Put it in your grandmother’s vintage Pyrex loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  It smells heavenly, by the way, while its in the oven.  Roasted pecans- yum!

IMG_1026No, it’s not your imagination, it’s blurry

I baked it for the full 40 minutes which was a little too long in my oven.  It was a little dry on top, but was moist in the middle.  It has a chewy, nutty texture, just a hint of veges and is very filling.  It makes a lot for the two of us, so I’ll be eating it for a few days.  I think I’ll brown a slice in the toaster oven, slather it with butter and have a nice, protein-rich breakfast in the morning.

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Now, who’s coming over to do the dishes?

Nature Around Us

“We can grow closer to a place and the life that inhabits it, by deciding to do so.  To paraphrase an old song: If you can’t be with the land you love, love the land you’re with.”

Richard Louv, The Nature Principle

It’s a cold sunny morning and I’m home because my office has closed due to slick and hazardous driving conditions.  Yee – haa! A three day weekend – I’ll take it, thank you very much.

I’ve been reading Richard Louv’s The Nature Prinicple, and while I’ve skimmed past a lot of the scientific studies – the first seven chapters – it has finally struck a cord.  He encourages those of us in urban settings to learn to observe nature around us. So many people think – and I’ll confess I’ve long been one of them- that natural beauty can only be found at the end of a long drive to the wilderness or a nature preserve.  For us, that would be anywhere from 10 to 16 hours in the car to our beloved New Mexico or Colorado mountains.  But, Louv says, there is wildlife all around us in our URBAN dwelling places, that by merely being more observant of what bird, plant and animal species dwell in close proximity, we might be surprised at what we find.

This is what greeted me when I opened my kitchen curtain this morning.  Lovely little bird tracks in the snow.

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And this is what greeted the birds.

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You can see where one little sparrow tried to find the bird feed under the 2″ of snow in the feeder.  Must be good stewards of the nature around us, so I cleaned out the snow while our cat kept vigil at the back door.  She SO wanted out to play with the birds.

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I’m so glad we bought the mesh-bottomed feeders. Most of the snow just fell through the holes as I stirred it.  Only the largest pieces are left, but the sun will melt those soon enough.  And this is the sound that greeted my ears when I went out.

I even heard a woodpecker hard at work in a nearby tree.  This is my reward.  Birds lining up on the fence to take a run at the feeder, a bright red cardinal on one feeder and a bluejay on the other.

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The good life doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Starting Fresh From a Different Angle

After a three year hiatus, Simple Stewardship is back in the blogosphere.

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For three years I posted diligently about my struggles with vegetable gardening in a back yard with a western exposure during three of the hottest summers in recent history.  I gave up the gardening and I gave up the blog. We took out the raised beds and cultivated a crop of bermuda grass and weeds.

Life has had its ups and downs.  My husband underwent cancer surgery and is now cancer free. Thank you, Lord.  He also had an unexplained heart attack.  Unexplained in the sense that ALL tests came back squeaky clean.  Our son graduated college and is now one of the millions of graduates looking for a job.  A year later, he is renewing his studies to hopefully open some new doors.  I’m three years older, still working at the same job, but generally enjoying life.  My husband and I went through a period of several months of refurbishing our home in the hopes of selling it and moving into something a little newer and in an area with a little more of nature around us.  But, quite honestly, we didn’t find anything for which we were willing to start another 30 year mortgage or add 45 minutes to our daily commute.

So, here we are.  In our old house, hunkered down for the long haul.  As I gaze upon the blank slate that is my back yard, all I see is the faded fence and the chimney of my neighbor’s house.  No life, no color, no natural beauty.

yard feb. 2014

BUT THAT’S ABOUT TO CHANGE!  I found a wonderful landscaper who has produced a long range plan for planting a mix of native grasses, flowering shrubs, a fruit tree and vegetables to bring our back yard to life.

best yard plan

I don’t know about you, but I cannot live happily, contentedly and simply, without some natural color and beauty around me.  I NEED it.  If I can just look at something beautiful in nature, it helps me keep my financial priorities straight and I don’t spend as much money on frivolous things – helps me keep life simple.  Does that sound weird?  If I’m discontented, I spend money.  Natural beauty calms me and keeps me a little more content with my life.  In The Nature Principle author Richard Louv says “…the human organism needs direct experience with nature.”  We all NEED it.  So if we can’t move to nature, I’m bringing it here. I’m tired of being unhappy with my environment, the lack of natural beauty around me.  I’m tired of wishing we lived somewhere else and I’m going to do something about it!  I asked the landscaper specifically for a plan with plants that can go straight into our clay soil with no major amendment, plants that are heat and drought tolerant, but will give me some color and life.  Ms. Susan Mayberry came through with flying colors!!! If any of you in the OKC area need some help with what to plant where, shoot me an email and I will share her contact information.

So while I’ve been working on changing my environment for the better, I’ve also made a few changes to the blog.  I’ve changed the theme, deleted a couple of pages and added some new ones.  I still have a list of my favorite books, but have added a page where I will be sharing favorite recipes, some from family, some from friends and some I’ve just run across and have enjoyed.  I’ll be sharing my quilting hobby here and probably shutting down my other blog, www.dragonflyquilting.wordpress.com.

So stay tuned!  And keep life simple…

De-Plasticize Your Home: Know The Codes

More reading on my part regarding the abundance of chemicals in our lives.  This time the culprit is plastics.  When it was considered the newest miracle product of  the 1950s, our grandmothers still largely bought and cooked fresh food: fresh produce, meat from the butcher, and stored left overs in those cute little glass refrigerator dishes that go for a premium at antique stores these days.  Today, most of our food comes pre-packaged in plastic.  And what we don’t consume at one meal, we store in plastic in our plastic refrigerators.

Plastic has changed.  Different plastics serve different purposes and are made from different chemical resins.  Some are stable, some are not and leach into our food.  It’s also in our shampoo bottles, our flooring and our kids’ toys.  Plastic is pervasive, but you can educate yourself and learn which ones to avoid.

We’re all familiar with the recycling code on plastic containers.  That cute little green triangle with a number in the middle.  That number indicates the kind of resin used to create the plastic. 

PET OR PETE (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE), ALSO KNOWN AS POLYESTER

Typical uses: water and soft drink bottles, prepared salad and spinach containers

Health and environmental impact: intended for single use; plastic can break down and host bacteria; potential to interfere with reproductive hormones

HDPE (HIGH DENSITY POLYETHYLENE)

Typical uses: opaque milk jugs; cereal box liners; liquid detergent bottles; most shampoo bottles

Health & Environmental Impacts: low risk of leaching

PVC (POLYVINYL CHLORIDE)

Typical uses: plastic wrap, cooking oil bottles, toys, plumbing pipes, window and door frames, insulation

Health & Environmental Impact: known as the “toxic plastic”; can cause endocrine disruption, reduced sperm count, testicular atrophy and liver cancer

(Run Forrest, run!!!)

LDPE (LOW DENSITY POLYETHYLENE)

Typical uses: plastic wrap, grocery, garbage and sandwich bags.

Health & Environmental Impacts: not known to leach chemicals

PP (POLYPROPYLENE)

Typical uses: yogurt and margarine tubs, microwavable meal trays,  fiber for carpets, wall coverings, vehicle upholstery

Health & Environmental Impacts: hazardous during manufacture but not known to leach chemicals

PS (POLYSTYRENE)

Typical uses: styrofoam cups, clamshell containers, foam meat trays, plastic cutlery, electronics packaging and insulation

Health & Environmental Impacts: eye, nose and throat irritation; stored in body fat (ooohhhh), can cause cancer to production workers, harmful to marine life (this type of plastic makes up the majority of the huge garbage islands floating in global oceans)

PC (POLYCARBONATE), PLA (POLYACTIDE) AND OTHER PLASTIC NOT INCLUDED IN THE CATEGORIES ABOVE

Typical uses: baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain resistant food storage containers

Health & Environmental Impacts: BPA-containing polycarbonate causes endocrine and reproduction system disruption; impaired neurological functions; cancer; cardiovascular system damage; early puberty (OMG), obesity (crap!); chemotherapy resistance

Well, Forrest, I’m about to catch up with you.  Good grief.  In my disgust, I am looking for ways to relieve my household of the abundance of plastic.  I quit drinking out of plastic cups a long time ago, but still have them around and my husband uses them all the time.  Just about all the food I buy, even the organic potatoes and apples I bought today, came in plastic bags.  The trays our treat-ourselves-once-a-week rib eye steaks come packaged in are absorbing plastics that are then stored in our body fat.  And I’m really going to start checking for #7.  Scary stuff. 

So, in the spirit of less plastic, I splurged and ordered some reuseable produce bags to use at the grocery store instead of wrapping my fresh produce in plastic and then bringing it home.  Here they are, from Amazon.

I bought 2 sets of 5 at $11 each.  Perhaps a little pricey, but washable and should last a very long time.  They were transparent enough so that the checker had no problem identifying the contents.   Now I just need to find some alternative storage solutions for leftovers.

Comments anyone? 

Keep it simple, ya’ll.