Gotta Love Michigan Weather!

Last week we had some gorgeous early spring teaser weather with temperatures in the low 70’s and mid-60’s. Even earlier this week it was still in the upper 50’s, close to 60. Still, I knew it wouldn’t last — thus my first garden projects of 2017 (check out my latest posts at Simply Grateful Gardener):

Lean-To Greenhouse

Free-Standing Greenhouse Frame

This morning as I was making breakfast I could hear the rain pelting against the windows and yet thought it was a bit too loud for just rain. Sure enough, it was snow mixed with ice. Nice! The pictures of it falling don’t show the snow very well, but the accumulating slush on my garden gloves, our fire pit cover, and my greenhouse lean-to are testament to the fact that Michigan weather is definitely fickle.

Blurred snow coming down with a vengeance.

Good thing I remembered to put my garden gloves away! At least maybe the snow will help wash some of the dirt off them.

Snow collecting on the greenhouse lean-to.

No worries — With my first two garden projects behind me, the early planting in the gardens is safe and warm. There was a good amount of humidity in both enclosures yesterday and the temps are supposed to rise into the 60’s again this weekend, so things are looking up. Just in time for another garden project, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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It’s Not Too Hot To Cook

I cannot believe the weather we are having. It has been so hot and dry this spring/summer that even the lowest parts of our property are cracking from lack of moisture. This has never happened before, not in the 23 years we have lived here.

My mornings and/or evenings are spent watering the gardens so they don’t shrivel up and die, and my afternoons are spent hiding out in the house out of the heat and humidity. My rain barrels have been empty for over a month, which goes to show how dry it’s been. I think we’ve had one day rain when I didn’t have to actually water. Otherwise there’s been a shower or two, but beyond that — nothing!

The only good thing about being in the house is that I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen working on new recipes, organizing recipes I’ve photographed for blog posts, and trying very hard to actually sit down and write a blog post. Where does the time go? I’ve given up trying to answer that.

Anyway, I finally figured out that since January I have photographed more than 70 new recipes I’ve worked on and HAVE NOT done blog posts on them! Playing catch-up is so out of the question that I don’t know what I’m going to do. Still, I refuse to admit defeat, so today I posted on Simply Grateful Cooking yet another new recipe I made, Bacon Cheeseburger Egg Rolls With Daly Sauce. Of course it was on a recipe I made today, but it also included a sauce that I’ve wanted to share since August of last year. A little old with the new, progress at any rate.

Strawberry season opened up a few weeks ago and I did get out and pick about 20 pounds, so hopefully recipes will soon follow.

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For now, I’m waiting for the sun to go down enough for me to brave the heat and check on the gardens, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Gardening Gods Have Blessed Me With — Clouds!

Clouds. Think of the cooling shadows of summer which benevolent Nature spreads over her darling forests and gardens – summer shadows of wonderful depth and brilliancy like the wings of a mother bird over her young.

~ John Muir

Clouds! Yes there are finally clouds in the sky and judging from horizon there are many more are on the way.

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Free! Free I say. I can finally step outside and breathe in the hot, fresh air of an early taste of summer. Let no more the confines of these four walls hold me captive.

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Reprieve! My garden was given a reprieve from the scorching rays of the sun, granting my plants a fighting chance at surviving the elements in what can be a hard, cold world (hard, hot world in this case).

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I will never again take for granted the luxury of a shadow stretching across the afternoon sky or the cool breeze that always seems to follow.

Thank you dear Gardening Gods, I am grateful for your gift, and as always — Simply Grateful.

A Winter Harvest

The weather here in Michigan has been crazy this winter. In fact, beginning in November of 2015, it’s been unlike ever before.

Mild temperatures and very little snow is not really characteristic of Michigan, but definitely not something I’m going to complain about. At least as long as we don’t pay for this with a cold and snowy spring/summer.

One wonderful thing that we have been able to enjoy because of this change in the weather is an extended harvest from the garden. For one I was able to harvest peppers all the way through November and second, yesterday I was able to pick some kale which is still growing strong.

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Kale — the plant that just keeps giving. Thanks to the wonderfully hearty nature of this plant, I was able to make a batch of Italian wedding soup (check out my recipe at Simply Grateful Cooking – https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/deluxe-italian-wedding-soup/.

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What a gift, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Fourth Day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas an ice storm came to town,

Pass some steaming mugs of cocoa all around.

There is nothing better than a bubbling cup of hot cocoa on a cold, blustery winter night. Last night freezing rain pounded our house from around 3 p.m. till nearly midnight, leaving us with a slick coat of ice on the ground. It was the perfect night to stay in, wrap yourself up in a warm blanket, and sip homemade cocoa around the fire.

Hot cocoa is one of those drinks that if made right can be addicting, but if made wrong, can be terribly disappointing. For years I have sampled every hot cocoa mix I could find on the grocery store shelves and taste-tested tons from coffee houses and restaurants. Although there have been some real winners among the many cups I’ve drunk, I decided the time has come to find the perfect hot cocoa recipe to make at home.

First on my list of ones to try was the traditional Hershey hot cocoa (find the recipe at Simply Grateful Cooking Hershey’s Traditional Hot Cocoa). The results? It was good. I can’t say it was the absolute best I’ve ever had, but it was very good, something I would make again — if there weren’t a stack of recipes printed off and waiting to be tested on the kitchen counter.

For now, I’m content we were able to enjoy some homemade cocoa together and begin our journey on the road to the perfect hot cocoa, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Welcome Back Harvest!

Before we left for our vacation about a week and a half ago I weeded all the gardens, fed all the plants, staked what needed staking, and hoped for rain while we were gone. You know the saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for?”  Well, when we got back, I couldn’t believe what I found.

The turnips were bursting from the ground, begging to be pulled.

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The scallions were practically uprooting themselves, ready for eating.

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And the peas!  Well, before we left the plants were doing pretty good, with just a few flowers.

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When we got back, the plants were double if not triple the size, toppled over on the ground from the weight of all the peas, and spreading everywhere.

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This is after I tied the pea pods to the make-shift trellis.

This is after I tied the pea pods to the make-shift trellis.

So far we’ve enjoyed eating the turnips raw and using some pea pods and scallions in a stir fry.

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By the end of the week I’ll have to pick more pea pods, freeze them and start preparing the snow peas and others for canning or freezing.

I’ve only pulled five turnips so far, but the entire row is ready for harvest. Anybody want some fresh turnips? They’re super tasty.

While we were gone my neighbors told me it rained every afternoon, was humid, and the sun came out every chance it could between showers.  Since our return we’ve had one day of rain and the rest have been humid and sunny. Perfect for the garden and perfect timing so I can water when needed and pull out all the weeds that seem to be outgrowing the plants 3 to 1.

Coming home to a garden full of fresh vegetables waiting to be picked is a great way to end a vacation, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.