Tag Archives: plants

Cut First; Apologize if Needed

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Two of the best days of the year are the first Saturday in December – wreath making day- and the day before – greenery cutting day.

For the past twenty years, my dear friend and I have jumped in a car with an assortment of clippers and bags and headed out of town to the woods.  Since neither of us owns any woods, we borrow other people’s woods.  Vacant lots, abandoned homesteads, old graveyards not “attached” to a church; we spend the year looking for the best spots possible.  We cut first, prepared to apologize to an owner if needed.  And we have had to apologize a couple of times.  At least we haven’t been shot for trespassing, yet.

For the past few years, we’ve hit the jackpot in a 150 acre spot close to my house that’s up for sale.  Road cut thru 1

Pine and overgrown English boxwood are right there for the cutting.  This year we also stopped by a local business that has closed, leaving some very nice cedar and juniper in need of one of our trims.

We cut greenery, pick up pine cones and discuss all the important issues of the day (which could be as deep as what we will eat the next day at lunch).  We jam the car with filled bags until it looks like the Grinch’s sled leaving Whoville.  I love to breathe in the fragrance of cedar and pine as we head back to her house.  Then everything is unloaded and laid out in an unorganized fashion on her patio awaiting Saturday.  Prep on the patio 1

When I arrive the next morning, I unload boxes and bags of “stuff” – forms, wire, clippers and all kinds of things to add to the greenery.  My supply goes next to her supply in the family room. There are natural additions, like dried hydrangea.  Last year I had dried okra pods and cotton I had picked on the way home from the beach.  There are also fake additions, sparkly and colorful items that add a little glitz.  We have a tendency to go over the top.  Maybe that’s a southern thing, like big hair.

Fresh coffee is poured and the creativity begins to flow.  We have two requirements:  share advice and materials freely and praise all efforts.  We are very big on admiring our own work.

My friend is a Pinterest addict, so we now have her Ipad close at hand, in case we need inspiration.  This year, the wreath I made for my office was a “use what I had on hand” version of something she found and emailed to me.  office wreath

Hours later, as the sun begins to go down, we clean up the incredible mess we’ve made.  No matter how hard we try to clean as we go, that approach is usually abandoned early on.  We talk about our fabulous creative skills and praise ourselves for another successful start to the Christmas season.  We split up what’s left to be used in the coming days.

I carry those same bags and boxes back to my car.  Then I carefully load my completed projects and head for home.

The first thing I do when I get there is hang the wreath on the front door.  wreath w bronze and silver

My husband knows to give his full attention to this process and then GUSH about great it looks.  (This is what 20 years of training has accomplished.)  Then he suggests we go out to eat or at least get take out because he knows I am way too tired to cook.

What a great two days!  I can’t imagine starting the holiday season any other way.

What do you do to jump start your holidays and with whom do you do it?

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A Little Respect, Please

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As we transition from summer to fall, vegetable lovers everywhere are mourning the season’s end of some of their favorites.  Perhaps the loss felt most deeply is that of the tomato, the vegetable that comes in more colors than Joseph’s coat.  No true tomato lover will bother with anything other than fresh off the vine.

However, one summer vegetable continues to grow to new heights:  the humble okra.  My plants are just over six feet tall now and will grow at least another two before I take them out for the year.

This stately garden giant is either loved or hated.  Often maligned for being slimy, okra has so much more to offer than the average vegetable.  It is the only one that provides a beautiful flower, evidence of its family relationship with the hibiscus–creamy, pale yellow petals with a deep burgundy center.

The pods can be pickled, canned or frozen.  They can be dried and make a great crunchy snack.  Stir fried with a little olive oil, garlic and salt is a quick fix for supper.  They can be stewed and play well with the above mentioned tomato.  Finally, if you eat nothing else fried, sacrifice your restriction for a little fried okra.  It should be hot, crunchy and not greasy.

You can make gumbo without the roux; you cannot make gumbo without okra.

Our newest neighbors from African countries often leave the pods in favor of cooking with the leaves.  And if you leave the pod long enough, it grows to what I call weapon size.  Oversized pods can be dried and used in a variety of craft projects.

We once had a guy come to the house to give us an estimate on putting in a new deck.  The okra plants were almost as tall as the deck floor.  I knew he was not familiar with okra when he looked at the plants, looked at us, looked at the plants again and then asked me, rather hesitatingly, “Is that hooch?”

Clearly, many among us have no respect for this versatile vegetable.  I hope this exposition on its many fine qualities will help bring some of you over to the sunny side of loving the humble okra.