Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The River of Life



The bounty and beauty of autumn.


Celebrate nature by doing this simple daily ritual: collect natural things you love and arrange them on a saucer. This seasonal saucer has lichens, haws, acorns, oak leaves, a sprig of thyme, and an oak gall, which is also know as an oak apple.

The river of life swept me away the past few weeks. I have a dear friend who is ill and in an assisted living home, friends passing through town and stopping for dinner, family (grands) who are with me all day a few days a week, and when night comes, I collapse. But, I am filled with joy to have so much life around us.


The kitchen has overflowed into the dining room where I am storing the bounty until it is cooked. Gosh, I love some of these so much I don't even want to cook them.


Who wouldn't love the beauty of this Blue of Hungaria...

...or...


the gorgeous Berentina Piacentina?

And personally, although I usually want heirloom varieties...


This beauty, called "One more Time," has become one of my beloveds.


I've been working, trying to catch up with my garden, taking care of my grands, traveling, and writing and rewriting two manuscripts. Now it is time to get ready for my twice a year get together with dear friends, some of whom have been in my life since fourth grade and Brownies. Also, there is the push of the holidays now. Aren't you feeling it? I am trying to do small chores every morning so that I am not slammed to the ground when Thanksgiving arrives.

I'll keep this posting short and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup (Maine Grade B, of course). Here is a wonderful, stuffed, baked pumpkin recipe that you must try. Our friend Jane Taylor of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, served it up to a bunch of foodies in October, and it was the hit of the day. I'm doing it for my friends. Now, I just have to decide which pumpkin/squash will be the one?

Stuffed Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1 pumpkin (about three pounds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese (try Gruyere, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 to 4 garlic cloves (I go for the 4)
4 strips bacon (I like pancetta)
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

These are Jane's words and thoughts:

"Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkins in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you'll have to serve it from the pot–which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkins with a softened shell isn't so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I've always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet-method, and so far, I've been lucky)."

"Using a very sturdy knife–and caution–cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o'-lantern. It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkins generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper–you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure–and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkins should be well filled–you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little–you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it's hard to go wrong here.)"

"Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours–check after 90 minutes–or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little."

Ok friends, there you have it...one of the most delicious baked pumpkin recipes ever. I hope you'll try it and that you are the hit of the Thanksgiving circuit.

Sending love across the miles to you (Ok, Chris, is this posting what you've been checking for?). Sorry to take so long.

Sharon

P.S. The winner (chosen by the random number generator) of the fabulous Hales book of gardens is Grace Peterson of Gardening With Grace. Hey honey, we'll mail it out to you this week. It weighs a ton, better work on those biceps some more.

I love these books (Earth From Above and others) because every day you turn the page to a new discovery.


P.P.S.

Oh, and if you haven't had the chance, please visit my new Lowe's blog posting about attracting birds to your garden. Don't just read my posting; the others are filled with information that you can harvest and use in your own gardens.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Don't Blame Me

Don't Blame Me!


Don't blame me...I must pick the hips of my California wild roses and scrape out the seeds for planting...


California wild rose


Don't blame me for being away so long...it's the garden! The garden entices me outside every morning and I don't come inside until my nightgown is caked with mud and my body is permanently kinked over in a weeder's crouch.


Don't blame me...the 'Painted Lady' runner beans need to be harvested...


Plants need trimming and feeding...


and blossoms gathered...


Edible flowers must be dried...


Bronze fennel seed heads must be capped with paper bags and processed into herbs de Provence...


The Feijoas (aka pineapple guava) must be made into jelly...


Straw must be spread on the beds of artichokes and herbs (and soon chard)...


My crop of sunflowers must be bundled for the birds...


Tiny clumps of "faerie berries" must be separated and planted...


I'll be pressing the borage flowers for cards and Midsummer Night's blend...


and potting up the Calandrinia...


Harvesting the last of the apples...


and pomegranates (did you know that you can cut them underwater and remove the seeds? Much cleaner and simpler than staining everything)...


and a bumper crop of figs...These are so great cut in half and topped with a triple cream brie...




 Oh, and did I mention that whenever I climb into my car I am lured up the canyons to hunt for chanterelles and to pick up yet another variety of apple?



picking apples at a friend's home (isn't the apple ladder great?)...


and foraging for Chanterelles in hidden spots among the hills...


and cooking for friends and family...

Here is a simple recipe that will use some of your supply of sage leaves.

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and roll a cold block of cream cheese until a thin layer.





Top cream cheese with leaves. Use the plastic wrap to tightly roll the cream cheese. Store in the fridge for a few house till thoroughly chilled. Cut the roll into thin pinwheels. These are great on crostini or crackers.

So there you have it. I have been trying to catch up with life. 

Sending love across the miles,

Sharon

P.S. Please leave a comment to be eligible for a give-away of this fabulous big book. You'll open a page every day of the year and become acquainted with a new and wonderful garden.



I'll do a random drawing next Sunday (November 6th). Good luck!