Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipes for Today - Chicken Dishes

My customers at a recent Garden Show asked me how to use some of the mixes they previously purchased.  So I decided that I should share a recipe or two a week using the mixes I make and sell. 

Chicken is my favorite protein to cook with, so I thought I would share a couple unique recipes with you today.

Chicken N’Orleans (serves 4 to 7)
This recipe uses N’Orleans Seasoning Herb Mix which I developed after reading a cookbook written by Emeril.  It of course has garlic but several other Creole style seasonings as well.

3 to 4 large chicken breast pieces, cut into 3 smaller pieces
1 cup oil
1 cup flour
1 (7 oz.) can Rotel Tomatoes (they are seasoned, if you like plain just use regular diced)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup green onion tops chopped (or a ½ cup fresh chopped chives)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced

Make a roux by heating the oil in a heavy pot or Dutch over, add flour gradually and stir until well mixed.  Lower heat and continue to watch and stir until it is the color of chocolate brown.  This step will take a while, but you don’t have to stand there with it the whole time.  I use the time to get the other items all chopped.

Remove the pot from heat.  Slowly stir in hot water until contents of the pot are about half-way up the side.  Place back on the burner and bring to a boil.  Put remainder of ingredients into the pot of roux, lower fire to a simmer and cover pot making sure it does not boil.  Put remainder of ingredients into the roux, lower the heat to a simmer and cover pot making sure it does not boil over. 

Simmer 1 hour adding water, adding water as needed.  You want to end up with the roux being the thickness of gravy.  If chicken is not tender, continue to simmer on low heat until it is fork tender.

Check seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.  Serve hot, over cooked rice.

Caesar Deviled Eggs (makes 6 servings)
Perfect for picnics and potlucks and you just use prepared Backyard Patch Caesar Dressing Herb Mix

7 hard boiled eggs
1 Tbls. half & Half
2 Tbls. shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbls. finely minced fresh basil leaves
Parm for garnish

Peel eggs and cut 6 of them in halt lengthwise.  Carefully remove the yolk to a small mixing bowl and mash.  Finely grate the seventh egg into the yolks (I learned this from Paula Dean.) 

Stir in the Caesar Dressing, half & half, and Parmesan Cheese until smooth.  Add salt and pepper.

I like to pipe the mixture into the egg whites using a zip seal sandwich bag with the corner cut off.  It is much less messy.  Cover and chill.

Happy Cooking!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recipe Today - Marinated Chicken Kabobs

I am traveling by bicycle to a special teacher meeting today which means I will be hot and tired by the time I return at the end of the day.  They are predicting some extreme temps for us today.  As a result I will not want to do much when I get home, so in planning ahead I decided to make Kabobs. 

They are quick and easy.  I did all the cutting and I threadied everything onto skewers ahead of time and placed them in a container of marinade.  When I get home I will pop them onto my table top terra cotta "Pig Grill" and have dinner ready in 30 minutes.  We've made this dish before this summer and it is flavorful and easy.  The pictures make you huingry don't they?

Mediterranean Marinated Kabobs

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 to 4 chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1 handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
wooden skewers

Mix together BYP Italian Dressing?Marinade Herb Mix with vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and lemon peel.  Place in a non-reactive container with a tight fitting lid and enough space to hold cut up chicken.  Place cut up chicken in marinade and marinade in refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.  Once chicken is marinated, cut up onion, peppers and wash tomatoes, while soaking skewers in water.  Then thread meat and vegetables, alternating chicken pieces with each vegetable.   Once skewers are filled grill them until chicken is golden brown and juices run clear.  Serve hot over cooked rice.

Variation:  You can also thread the skewers and then cover with marinade and leave overnight.  They will be ready to grill the next day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Tuesday - Making Peppered Rosemary Crackers

My Brother and Sister-in-Law stopped by for a visit in June and I made these crackers while we were watching Gettysburg (the 2 CD movie).  I am not much for war movies, so I needed to do something else while watching this epic.  The good part is we have a pass through into the livingroom so i could still watch.I
The crackers were finished just in time for the disc change so we stopped and enjoyed the crackers with cheese and wine before the second disc.  I served the crackers with Pinot Grigio and several cheeses from the Eau Galle Wisconsin Cheese factory that my family had brought with them.  The Asiago (an Eau Galle specialty) and Italian Cheeses were the best with the crackers.

This is a quick mix and you need only a few things.  A food processor, a rolling pin and a baking sheet.  With them you can create a unique addition to your snack or a dinner or even a wine and cheese party.  This has been such a hit with friends that we have decided to package the ingredients as a mix, so if you want to make it even simpler, pick up your Peppered Oat & Rosemary Crackers from the Backyard Patch.

Peppered Rosemary Oat Crackers

2 cups old-fashioned oats, pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped (makes about 1 2/3 cups when finished)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbls. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
3/4 tsp. baking powder


Place the oats in a blender and pulse until you create a fine meal.

Add 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter (1/4 cup), cut into bits.  I cut the butter into the oats with two knives as my grandmother taught me to make pie crust.  You can also add the butter to the food processor instead.

Add the pepper, salt, rosemary and baking powder and continue until well blended. then add the milk and stir until a dough forms. (Again you can add milk to items in blender and pulse until dough forms, which takes only 15 seconds or so.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

Using a rolling pin roll the dough to cracker thinness, about 1/8 inch thick and about 13 to 15 inches around.

Cut the dough into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches square.  Then place those squares on a ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake the crackers in the middle of the oven (only 1 tray at a time) for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  They should be lightly brown on the bottom.  Transfer them to a rack and allow them to cool completely before eating or storing.  Store in an air-tight container.  The recipe makes 60 or more crackers. I think I got closer to 100, but mine were nearer 1 inch in size.  Serve with cheese or cheese spreads.

Crackers just out of the oven smell wonderfully savory with rich rosemary and a hint of pepper.  they are perfect served with any cheese!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe for Today - Cold Pasta

My customers at a recent Garden Show asked me how to use some of the mixes they previously purchased.  So I decided that I should share a recipe or two a week using the mixes I make and sell. 

Between my husband and I experimenting with the mixes and recipes is something we actually do all the time, but what I realized is that cooking is our hobby and it may not be everyone’s so to make it easier, I will do all the work and experimentation and you can make the recipes and take all the credit!

In the summer something quick and simple is always called for.  I like to turn to pasta for something flavorful that will mix with both vegetables and proteins for a quick and tasty one dish meal.

Today I am sharing some of our favorite recipes for hot and cold pasta dishes that you can whip up in no time.  In fact a couple are great to take on a picnic, so dig in and enjoy!

Pasta Confetti

1 ½ to 2 cups small shaped pasta (wagon wheel or orzo, acini di pepe, ditalini, falafel (bow tie), etc cooked according to package directions
2 – 3 red, green or yellow bell papers, seeded and finely dices
1 medium cucumber, seeded and finely dices (peeled if not organic)
1 medium carrot, finely dices
2 -3 scallions (green and white parts) finely sliced
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley

For Dressing
½ cup extra- virgin olive oil
3 Tbls. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Combine cooked pasta with vegetables in a large bowl.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over pasta mixture.  Toss to combine well.  Serve warm, chilled or at room temperature.  This is a great picnic pleaser.  It is light, fresh tasting and packed with vegetable flavors.

Pasta with Garlic & Basil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped prosciutto or other salt-cured ham
6 to 8 plum tomatoes
3 Tbls Garlic & Herb Combination, separated.
salt & pepper to taste
1 - 1 ½ lbs. cut pasta (like penne, ziti, or rigatoni) cooked according to package directions

Heat oil over medium heat in pot large enough to hold cooked pasta later.  Sauté the ham until the warmed through.  Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Add 2 Tbls of Garlic & Herb Combination and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta when tender but firm (al dente) and add to the sauce.  Add the remaining Tbls of Garlic and Herbs and toss the pasta, adding a little pasta water if the sauce is too dry.  Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  Serves 4 to 6.

Italian Pasta Salad

1 cup spiral pasta, cooked according to package directions
¼ stick pepperoni, sliced thin
1 can black olives, sliced
1 cup crisp cooked broccoli, chilled

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse in cold water.  Place in a large bowl and toss with prepared Backyard Patch Italian Dressing and Marinade (acc. to dressing recipe.)  Slice olives and pepperoni and toss into pasta.  Cut broccoli into bite size pieces and toss gently into pasta.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.  Serves 4 to 6.  This one travels well and I use it for quick spur of the moment picnics.

Happy picnicking!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cantigny Garden Ideas (two)

When Hubby and I traveled to Wheaton to enjoy the gardens at Cantigny (see yesterday's post for more pics) we had time to view the Idea Garden and the Rose Garden.  I will have to make another trip to see the woodland plants and the formal gardens.

One of the things I like about Cantigny is that they share gardening ideas and have garden programs, etc.  I actually lectured in the Idea Garden some years ago.

This time in addition to the plants I paid attention to the other things shared like Composting.

This is bin one of the three bin system

The final two bins

This compost system uses three bins where you put items in, don't really do much turning, and let them move through decomposition to create new soil.  This is the method I use, but my bins are not as nicely made as i use just chicken wire.  then I pull the wire away when it has broken down and can be used, using the wire to create another "fresh" bin.

I like these rolling composters as you can make compost in record time and it is kind fun to roll it.

While I was there I also looked at their rain barrel.  It was liked up with a diverter board on the potting shed.  I liked this because I do not intend to have down spouts on my shade either.

I was also fascinated with trellises.  They had a premade one of metal with a tea cup vine.

And a natural one made out of branches that I thought would be perfect for growing hops.  Hops being such a fast grower would turn something like this into a shading reading nook in just a few weeks.

Always on the look out for a new way to mark my plants and create paths I latched onto these concrete ideas.  Since I recently learned how to make tuffa and concrete I was fascinated with the idea of making a weather resistant marker I could put plants around.

There was also a leaf shape marker that caught my eye too!

Then we spent some time with the roses.

My mother-in-law loves yellow roses, so I took these.

As I leave you with a final picture of the roses and the trellis that lines the garden, I think perhaps you might like a rose tea as I did when I got home.  the backyard Patch makes two wonderful rose based herb teas (Rose Blush and Rosy Bite) and two black teas with rose petals in them -- Garden Gait and Elmhurst Garden Walk.  All four are available on the website.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cantigny Garden Ideas

Recently the Hubby and I were out enjoying the weather.  Our weather this summer has consisted of monsoon rains, hotter than comfortable humid days or colder than seasonable weather just about all summer, so when a day presents itself as warm, but not hot and sunny we head out to enjoy the out of doors.  Our travels took us to Cantigny Park (that's Can-tea-knee) in Wheaton, Illinois.  I like to stop there to look at the roses, formal gardens and herbs and my husband likes to enjoy the Tank Garden.  This place has something for men and women!

The Idea Garden was where I spent most of my visit this time.  I've been feeling uncreative about gardens recently.  Since moving to an apartment, my 3/4 acre herb garden has become a production garden with everything in rows for best abundance and accessibility, I have not designed a "pretty" garden space in several years.  Missing this, I decided to take a look at their ideas and see if that might cause me to drag out the garden design book once again.

I liked both the ideas presented here in this space.  The Wheelbarrow "dumping" the flowering plants and the Trellis.  See the teacups.  They are growing Teacup Vine on this trellis. 

I think in my own space I would use more cascading plants in the wheelbarrow so it looked like plants were falling out of the sides as well as the front.  Maybe a nasturtium or a prostrate rosemary or even a low growing mint like Cuban Mint or Pennyroyal.

The possibility of making a walkway with thyme or chamomile as the main plant has always been part of my design.  I liked the idea here of using lattice brick laid on its side in the ground because you could put in just a single plant.  It would make winter kill so much easier to fix in the spring rather than having to fill in a square of plants where some are mature and others are young.

I have always been a purist and a perfectionist, so this little garden plot they created with Yarrow and some red foliage plant I did not recognize (a little help here?) is hard for me to design on my own, but seeing the combination of yellow and red here I was captivated.

 I love all things thyme and at first I thought this was a thyme bed from a distance, but then I realized it was Corsican Mint surrounded by a variegated grass.  I liked it so much I got out the sketch pad to jot down the dimensions.  It was a bed of a perfect square 4 feet on each side.  There are slabs of stone that are well hidden too.

They also had some general ideas for groupings.  They had a scent garden with spaces for each of the five senses.  I might have chosen different plants and in fact I started to sketch out my own senses garden in the car on the drive home.  They also had a Children's garden filled with colorful and playful plants as well as those that encourage touching.

I also found a couple amusing ideas for edging and plant patterns.

This one is wine bottles pressed into the ground

A salvia tic tac toe board!

Farm implement filled with Hen & Chicks

Now I also obtained ideas for water features, markers, composting and water conservation too, but I will share those with you tomorrow.

We could not leave without looking at the roses which were just at peak in most cases.  This is a water fountain with slate edging surrounded by different shades of red roses.  The gray slate was a stunning backdrop for the reds and yellow foliage plants.  I guess they were on a yellow and red kick this year!

And no trip to Cantigny would be complete without a stroll through the tank garden!  The promise of this was what made him linger long enough for me to take all these pictures.

I shared more ideas from Cantigny here.

If you want to learn more about the gardens, mansion and military museum which are all part of the 500 Cantigny Park (former estate of Robert McCormick), check out this link

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Herb of the Week - Ornamental Poppy

Poppy Seed is a wonderful item to cook with, however, you cannot grow Poppy Seed poppies in the United States, they are prohibited by both state and federal law since early in the 20th century.  However, in my bike riding these past few weeks I came across this field of Ornamental Poppies.

Poppies belong to the plant family Papaveraceae which consists of about 700 annual and perennial species found growing wild in temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere. They are herbaceous plants which produce a sticky milky juice (latex).

The so called 'corn poppy' is an annual of a brilliant scarlet color and grows wild in meadows and on hillsides in Europe. When I saw this field filled with naturalized poppies, it stopped me in my tracks.  I went back the next day to take these pictures.  A few days latter we had some terrible rain and many of the blooms were damaged.  I believe these are an annual variety that seeded itself in this park.  If left unattended, they will return again and again with other wild flowers.
Poppies have been extensively hybridized to produce sturdy plants for your garden in a rainbow of available colors ranging from white to dark red as well as yellow to orange shades.

With few exceptions, both annual and perennial types have bluish-green hairy foliage and stems. The flowers emerge in the spring from plump furry buds, one on top of each stem. Some flowers are double and ruffled, most all have a black 'eye'. Poppies are mostly raised from seed, but you may find some established plants available during the blooming season at your local garden center.

Poppies are among the easiest plants to grow. Most like it on the cool side. Ideal temperature zones for optimum growing conditions are Zones 4 through 8, which makes my area in Zone 5 a perfect place to grow them.  Although you will be able to find some more cold tolerant as well as those that can withstand the heat of summer in the more southerly zones.

If you have a bed of poppies and want to propagate, leave the bloom to produce pods. These will ripen and eventually turn dry. You can tell when the seed is ready to be harvested by shaking the pod. There will be a distinctive rattle, indicating that the seed is there. Pop open the pods and collect/store the tiny seed in a dry location until ready to plant.

Sow seed of both the perennial and annual type (including California Poppy with its fern like foliage) either in autumn or very early in the spring in full or partial sun. Select a well drained area. Cover with a thin layer of soil, tamp down and water. If you are sowing in spring, keep reasonably moist until seedlings with two permanent leaves arise.

They all thrive in poor, rather than enriched soil and require little care once established. Do not fertilize if you expect flowers. If conditions are right, you may see a second blooming in the fall. Leave annual plants in place until late fall to ensure that seed capsules have dried and opened. You should have new seedlings the following spring and hopefully every spring thereafter.

If grown for strictly ornamental use, you should deadhead the flowers and a second blooming may occur later in the season. Otherwise, you can leave the dead flower heads and harvest the seed once the capsules are dry in late summer.

If you want to cook with Poppy, you need the imported seed from the Netherlands or Australia.  Called blue Dutch Poppy, they are the seed you use to make muffins, scones and dressing.  the Backyard patch makes a great Poppy Seed Dressing which is available through our new dressing listing on Etsy, and of course on the Website-

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Echinacea - Herb of the Week

I was over at the garden and realized that my Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower) escaped!  I had the plants in nice bunches at the end of a couple of rows near the back of the garden - somewhat close the the fence.  When I was out viewing the garden last week I found the plants had moved to the other side of the fence.  I am assuming they had help masterminding this escape in the form of birds or squirrels, but whoever helped the entire hillside is now dotted with Echinacea and wild bergamot (Bee Balm) which I have not even planted here in this garden, but did have in my former garden.

Here is the hillside:

Echinacea is a lovely plant which I grow for the root as it is the most potent part of the plant medicinally speaking.  I am kinda excited that I have a few extra.  It is a native prairie plant in Illinois, so it is not impossible for it to easily reseed here.

Therefore I thought I would focus on this wonderful plant as Herb of the week -- Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

The variety that I grow is Echinacea purpurea although the more popular version is Rudbeckia purpurea.  There are several other versions as well all of which have the same medicinal properties in the roots, leave and flowers.  Echinacea requires well-drained soil and a sunny location, which is why it is doing so well on the hillside.  the plants are deep rooted, so if your soil is shallow place them in a raised bed.  They are great in erosion prone areas as once established they are even draught resistant.

Echinaceas are a perennial and can be divided in both fall and spring.  You can propagate them from root cuttings as well.  They grow easily from seed (as evidence by my hill).  They germinate easier however if the seeds are stratified.


Stratification is using cold to crack or break the seed surface to ease germination.  If you scatter seed outside and it winters over, as mine did you get natural stratification.  However if you buy seeds you may need to stratify them.  This is simple to do.  Mix the seed with some sterile sand and place in a zip lock bag.  Place the bag int he crisper drawer of the refrigerator for 4 weeks.  then you can plant the seed outside or in pots depending on the season.  If you plant them in pots, do not transplant until the roots have filled the pots.

Medicinal uses

Echinacea is a popular medicinal plant.  traditionally it has been used an an herbal remedy for the treatment of contagious illnesses and skin infections.  It has a significant immune-stimulating effect, enhancing the boy's ability to fight off bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.  It is used commonly (as a tea) int hr treatment of common cold, flu and upper respiratory infections.  Recent clinical studies seem to uphold that it will reduce the symptoms and duration of these illnesses.


I love Echinacea in tea.  the flavor is savory and earthy and not at all medicinal.  here is a blend I use in winter whenever the cold symptoms arise.

Lemon Ginger Echinacea Tea

  • 2 cups boiling water

  • 1 teaspoon dried echinacea flowers (or roots)

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 teaspoon honey (or more to taste)

  • Add herbs to a mug or pot and pour boiling water over them.  Allow to steep 10 to 15 minutes.  Strain and add lemon juice and honey to taste.  (I have also been known to add whiskey!)

    Echinacea Tincture

    A tincture is a concentrated alcohol extraction of the herbal essence that can be take kinda like a cough syrup for its medicinal properties.

    Here are the simple steps for making a tincture using echinacea.  All you need are glass jars, some 80 proof alcohol (vodka, everclear, Brandy or rum will all work) and fresh or dried echinacea, roots, flowers, stems and leaves are all appropriate.  (Since I save the roots for tea I use the leaves and stems for this!)

    1. Fill a quart jar 2/3 full of echinacea flowers.
    2. Pour 80 proof alcohol over flowers, filling jar.
    3. Cover jar tightly and label.
    4. Steep herb for at least 2 weeks, shaking jar every day.
    5. After 2 weeks, tincture can be strained if desired. The finished tincture will keep indefinitely.
    6. Repeat process using Echinacea roots. Combine these two finished tinctures to create a more powerful synergistic blend.


    1. Store tincture in a darkened area. Store in colored glass if possible.
    2. Strain tincture through fine cheesecloth, if desired.
    3. Do not use anything but glass to make your tinctures.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    July Gardening to do

    JULY garden TO DO
    Summer comes and I get caught up in weeding and harvesting and I sometimes forget that there are a few other items I should be taking care of as well, so I found this garden to do that I wanted to share with you.  I have items from the zones above and below mine because depending on the weather these things may apply for a Zone 5 gardener like myself.
    Zone 4
    • Add one last planting of gladioli bulbs for flowers into fall
    • Harvest veggies as soon as they're ripe to encourage further production
    • Avoid the sight of a weed-infested garden: weed first before you leave on vacation
    • Harvest sweet corn when silks are brown and punctured kernels produce a milky juice
    • Prevent blossom-end rot on tomatoes by providing plants with at least an inch of water each week
    • Let melons ripen on the vine--this is where they will develop their best flavor
    • Start fall garden transplants from seed
    • Pinch off the blooms on herbs to encourage more production of flavorful leaves
    • Petunias, coleus and other summer annuals might be leggy by now. Pinch them back just above a leaf to encourage bushy growth and more flowers
    • Leave faded flowers on those plants that form ornamental seed heads, pods, or berries
    • Provide water in a shallow pan or birdbath for your feathered and fluttering friends
    Zone 5 (northern Illinois)
    • Remove annuals with stunted or unusual color; these are usually virus infected and the disease can spread to neighboring healthy plants
    • To control disease on fruit trees, maintain a summer spray schedule
    • Clean hummingbird feeders filled with nectar solution regularly to ward off mold and bacteria
    • Consider drip irrigation and/or soaker hoses for watering in the flowerbed and vegetable garden
    • Bats help control mosquitoes; attract these friendly mammals with bat houses
    • Muskmelons and cantaloupes are ready for picking when the stem "slips" easily from the fruit with gentle pressure
    • Harvest your flowers for pressing and drying just as they reach perfect bloom so you get the best from them for later use.
    • Cilantro will bolt in July heat so be prepared to harvest quickly if you see one plant turn to fern-like leaves as they will all quickly follow.  Sow a new crop for harvest in August.
    • Pinch off the blooms on herbs to encourage more production of flavorful leaves
    • Pinch your basil just above a node where two leaves (either side) are forming, this will make the plant more bushy and give you more leaves for a later harvest.
    • Harvest veggies as soon as they're ripe to encourage additional production
    • Sharp mower blades prevent leaf blade damage and lawn stress
    • Prevent diseases on susceptible rose varieties: apply fungicide every 7-10 days
    • Remove rose pedals from spent blooms, but be careful not to snip off the hips which will ripen in the remainder of summer.
    • Watch for pests hiding on the underside of leaves, white fly, aphids and similar bugs are very active in the warmer months.
    • Lanky annuals need your help! Pinch them back now to encourage bushy growth and more flowers
    Zone 6
    • Deadhead blooming annuals and perennials for repeat flowering
    • Harvest veggies immediately when ripe; rotting produce attracts insects
    • Avoid weed-infested gardens: weed before you leave on vacation
    • Water hanging baskets and patio pots daily during warm weather
    • Fertilize annual flowerbeds with an all-purpose fertilizer to encourage more blooms
    • Harvest lavender stems for use in bath sachets or drying
    • Sharp shears make quick work of herb and flower harvests
    • Mow cool season grasses at 3 inches during the summer to shade and insulate the soil
    • Enjoy a glass of tea flavored with mint, pineapple sage, or lemon balm from the garden
    • Provide birds and butterflies with a shallow water source

    Not sure of your zone?  I found this awesome list from the Arbor Day Foundation, where you can put in your zip code and it will tell you the zone you live in and it is updated with the new climate info:

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Caring for your hands while Gardening

    Working in the garden, gloved or not, is hard on the hands.  I have red hair and fair skin, in addition to sunscreen of the highest SPF I always where a hat and gloves, but still my hands get that rough flaky texture from the drying effects of dirt and sun.  Before and after I work outside I use a nice rich lotion on my hands.  This is one of the recipes I have made for several years.  It includes lavender which is a natural insect repellant and a darker oil which gives it some sun screening ability (about SPF 6.)
    In addition to keeping my skin soft I like to protect my nails.  I don’t keep them very long, but anything short of a nubbin will still collect dirt when you garden, so to protect the nails from breaking and cracking while making them easier to clean after a day of gardening or potting, I scratch a bar of soap getting the soap under my nails so the dirt cannot get there.

    Lavender Hand Cream
    3 tablespoons grated beeswax
    ½ cup dark sesame oil
    1 tablespoon coconut oil
    1 teaspoon honey
    2 tablespoons spring water
    2 to 3 drops lavender essential oil
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    Combine all ingredients in a heat-resistant container or double boiler.  Gently heat (do not boil) the mixture in a microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring often, until wax and oils melt completely.  Pour the mixture into a container or jar and allow it to cool.  After it has cooled completely, give it a final stir before capping.  To use, massage the cream into clean hands.
    Always make this in small batches as it has no preservatives and you do not want it to go bad before you use it.  I think a 6 to 12 month shelf life is about all you can hope for.

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