"To truly be a happy gardener through all the seasons,

one must not take it all too seriously!" ~MP50

What a Gardener Truly Needs... A Sense of Humor!

   So east coast it has been a rough summer. Record number of heat waves, little to no rain. A real struggle for gardeners and our furry outdoor friends too. Every part of the yard has been ripped & eaten by deer & critters like I've never seen before. I in turn am trying to keep my sense of humor about it all. I mean they are all just trying to feed the youngins & stay alive, right?!
   For a week or so I was noticing a change in my extraordinary hibiscus plant. Lovingly planted in a large ceramic pot & carefully placed in the right sun exposure on my patio, there was a big difference. Day by day, from bottom to top it was losing its healthy, glossy green leaves and along with them, the spectacular deep coral-pink blooms. Was it bugs? Nope.  OMG this sucks, WHAT is doing this?? Then the culprit revealed himself. It was a squirrel, using the plant to practice for his kinds version of America Ninja Warriors. I never saw him eat or chew, just scale to the top, over & over, every day so eventually every single leaf was knocked off. So, what's a gardener do?? Laugh because a great photo-op comes to mind. (see below) Yes, my little Charlie Brown tree form hibiscus is now making the big time with his picture on the internet! 
"I never thought it was a bad little tree."
     I also have a beloved tree form Rose of Sharon 'tree', happily rescued one fall from Lowe's clearance. It is now about 10 feet tall but needs some help. Parts of branches have not leafed out the past two years and in odd placements. This has been frustrating on how or not to prune it. A few weeks ago I was mesmerized by the number of chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, woodpeckers, hummingbirds & cardinals using the twig-like dead branches as their perches going to and from a close by for birds only 'food court'. (see pic, 'twigs' in background) 

I laughed and smiled as I watched & it came to me, to do the minimal because isn't that why we plant flowers & shrubs & trees in the first place - they give the bees, butterflies, birds (and now ninja squirrels) a place to hang out? That's why this gardener plants anyway. And there is the joy. Coneflowers that went to seed way early because of drought are now tiny seed heads home to those goldfinches. To truly be a happy gardener through all the seasons, one must take it all in stride and not take it all too seriously!

Salsa & Bruschetta Recipes Made Easy; The Power Trio!

    It's Harvest Time!! For all you growing tomatoes, peppers, basil (or are partaking of the incredible locally grown veggies at your farmer's markets & stores), here are two delicious recipes to use them up! I like to make my fresh salsa & bruschetta simultaneously because the first steps & first three ingredients are common to both. Delish & easy, guaranteed.
    First take a handful of ripe tomatoes & chop into small chunks. Place in container & salt. Salting now will draw some of the water from the tomatoes . (Your seasonings added later takes on a truer flavor if there is less water.) So… chop, salt, sit & drain. Repeat this step a couple of times. While the chopped tomatoes sit, chop sweet onion & garlic finely. Add to drained tomatoes. This is your basic power trio!

Then for Salsa: Take your garden peppers, some without heat & a few with. I think jalapenos work best for a controllable heat for your salsa and they are easy to grow. (Tip #1 ~ the most heat from peppers comes from the whitish membrane & not just the seeds!) (Tip #2 ~ put a sandwich baggie on your hand holding the peppers. This way the hot oils don't get on your fingers.)  Now add fresh squeezed lime juice, ground pepper, a bit of sugar (to cut the acidity)  & cilantro flakes. (Fresh cilantro is fine; it is a taste preference) How much of the above ingredients are up to your taste buds & harvest! Start with 5 medium tomatoes, ½ sweet onion, 2 cloves garlic (the power trio!), 1 bell pepper, 2 jalapeno peppers, 1-2 limes, 1/2 teaspoon cilantro flakes, salt & pepper. Serve with your favorite foods & chips.

Then for Bruschetta: Add a bit of sugar, a bit of ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon evoo (extra virgin olive oil), 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Mix together well & then add 2 T. roughly chopped fresh basil. (fresh works best but flakes will do). Now adjust for your taste buds! The easiest way to serve is on the round toasts they sell now. I like to serve cold with a small slice of fresh mozzarella on top drizzled with balsamic reduction (Rachel Ray makes a wonderful one), top with your fresh made bruschetta. For a warm recipe you can easily slice your own baguette bread, drizzle with evoo & grill in a pan. When you flip add some fresh mozzarella to the grilled side, a basil leaf & the bruschetta. Cover until the cheese melts & the second side of your bread is grilled. If using the toasts, just follow the same steps but place on tin foil under a broiler, or toaster oven until the fresh cheese melts. Soooo good!