Monday, July 23, 2012

Hot Temperatures, Canning and Selflessness!

Hot Temperatures, Canning and Selflessness!

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~ Lewis Grizzard

Paul's Amazing Tomatoes!

As we approach another record setting day with temperatures that are well above 90 degrees, it becomes rather difficult to go outside to work in the garden. At best, I will hand water the back in the morning, and go back outside and tackle the front during the early evening. This is definitely summertime, without a doubt. The realization of why I do not have much of a fall vegetable garden is very clear. One cannot breathe when it is this hot. As an incomplete quadriplegic, I am thankful that I can sweat below the level of my spinal cord injury (SCI), otherwise I’d probably have more dead plants. My advice to anyone is to get out early, or wait and go out much later in the day. It is not worth having a heat stroke.

Ideally, I would have every garden equipped with soaker hoses and every container with drip irrigation. It would be a lot easier if I only had to turn the water on, and turn the water off on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this is not the case and I have to be smart about what my body can safely handle with the intense heat. As I have emphasized before, we all have to stay hydrated and keep cool. Surprisingly, everything is still alive, including myself and my husband. We both did some much needed garden clean-up over the weekend. I only did what I knew I could safely handle. We get a second bloom from our perennials, although not nearly as nice as the first bloom and it was time to cut them back. Some we let set seed and we leave for the birds to enjoy.

In spite of the heat, I am thinking about a fall garden. I have my elevated beds and several containers on the back porch. This location is ideal for me. In the fall we will be adding some raised vegetable beds to the very back portion of our property. We will also be installing soaker hoses in them that will be connected to our irrigation system. Because of the more distant location, irrigation is a must.

High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us? ~Annita Manning

In spite of the sweat, I have been totally inspired to eat healthier and to grow more of our own food. My awareness of more and more vegetables becoming genetically modified with GMO’s or heavily ladened with pesticides has increased my own desire to become more sustainable through organic backyard and front yard farming. (A fairly new phrase to me, ‘yarden’ refers to this practice of growing more vegetables within the yard instead of lawn.)

I will continue with my organic practices, and I will continue to learn more about good companion plants. I have a totally new appreciation for anything grown for one to consume. I also have more plants growing in my yarden that are edible than I ever realized. Hopefully, as long as I maintain a small useless patch of lawn, my neighborhood association will be okay with this.

I’m inspired by the numerous photos I see daily showing off the amazing amounts of fresh produce that my friends on Facebook are growing and sharing with others. The delicious recipes and cupboards full of canned goods are a definite indication of the amazing results of their efforts. The photos all bring back happy memories for me growing up too. We always had canned tomatoes and green beans available to eat throughout the year. There is truly something wonderful to be said about going out unto your back porch and coming back in with a shirt full of tomatoes! My eggplants, tomatoes, okra, and peppers are all still going strong. My purple beans may be ready to go soon, but have been wonderful too. I just need a better strategy next year for my squash and cucumbers. I will happily support our local farmer’s market too!

Rita's Amazing Canning!

By now, many of you realize that I’m into this gardening thing for the flowers too. If you look at my pictures as simply being pretty, I appreciate that. To me, my photos are a little more than that. My photos are usually taken up-close for everyone to enjoy the uniqueness and the amazing detail of every flower. I am intrigued by this to say the least. I prefer to take my photos out in the garden. I believe that life is more visible and evident this way. It’s also more of a challenge for me when it comes to having the right light, and, hopefully, not too much wind jiggling the flowers around. (Yes, I like challenges too.)

My dexterity isn’t completely intact, but I’ve learned to use what I have. Occasionally, I come close to dropping my camera. (I have a strap on it though, but not always around my neck.) I use my thumb to push down the shutter button to take my pictures. It works better. Sometimes I trigger a spasm if I hit my elbow just right on my wheel, and God only knows what I’ll take a picture of. Oh well, that’s life! I have my own file of not so perfect pictures too. To me some of them look more like nice water colors.

Gardening in itself may pose a few challenges here and there, but overall it makes me incredibly happy. Whether it’s the challenge of cultivating something new, or learning a new technique, there is always something to do or learn. I really don’t need any measurable statistics to tell me that mentally I’m more at ease surrounded by beautiful flowers. Although, it may be hard for me to realize, not everyone is into gardening quite as much as I am. (They should be!) Biting into something that I have grown myself is truly what it is all about for me. Waking up to that beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on the counter is the nicest expression of “I love you” that I can think of. Even if it does contain the one flower you were planning to photograph later that morning in the garden.

I simply refuse to dwell on negativity no matter how much I must contend with on a daily basis, and within life in general. I can’t understand the psychology behind any acts of violence or vandalism, nor do I try to justify or rationalize these needless acts of aggression. Selfish, cruel acts are not excusable by me. Higher powers offer that kind of forgiveness. Random acts of kindness and selflessness (‘melessness’) are what I favor in life. These ever growing senseless acts of violence shock and sadden me, but make me look for and appreciate the real beauty in life even more.

Sometimes I think that if we all could simply appreciate the abilities that we do have, and focus less on what we don’t have, we would all be better off. I can push the button on my camera with my thumb, and for that I am grateful. I’ve had to use my nose before on my phone to take a picture. That worked too! I use what I have, and try not to dwell on what I don’t have. That too is life!

Sharon's Delicious Tomato Pie!

More of Rita's Wonderful canning!

Her is a delicious recipe on how to make a tomato pie by Cottage at the Crossroads. Looks Delicious! Thanks Jane!

Fresh Tomato Pie

I frozen deep-dish pie crust
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 pounds tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly and sauteed slightly
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper


1. Wash, peel, and slice the tomatoes. Lay the slices on 2 sheets of paper towel. Sprinkle the slices with salt and allow them to drain for at least 15 minutes. Take another sheet of paper towel and dab any moisture from the top of the slices. This step is very important because you will end up with a soggy pie if you don't!
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke a few holes in the bottom and sides of the pie crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pie crust from the oven.
3. Spread 1 tablespoon of mustard in the bottom of the pie crust.
4. Layer the tomato slices in the pie crust and season with salt, pepper, fresh basil, and dried oregano.
5. Place the onion slices on top of the tomato slices.
6. Mix together the cheese, the mayonnaise, and the dried dill weed.
7. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and onions.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly golden.
9. Let the pie rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.


  1. Brenda, I echo all the sentiments that you expressed in this post. Negativity is poisonous!

  2. I've come to realize that growing and tending to one's own garden is as good as it gets-sure, you have to deal with 'unpleasantries' like heat and humidity and the occasional gnat. But I couldn't help a slight grin of satisfaction while eating the tomatoes I had just finished picking. It felt so...simple. And one thing this world needs right now is simple.