Knock off Planter

Knock off Planter

I found this outdoor hanging planter online and thought it was cute.

I wondered if maybe I could DIY one with the items I had on hand for my Sunday Funday after yesterday’s rain activity. Some twine, wooden balls and a pot is all that is needed. Make sure your pot has drainage holes as so many planters don’t and most plants don’t like their roots sitting in water.

I punched three holes in the plastic rim of the pot using RM’s awl. If you don’t have one, I bet a sharp metal skewer would work or better yet, a drill. I strung three wooden balls on each piece of twine and then threaded one of the pieces of twine through each of the three holes and knotted them securely below the rim and again above the balls so they don’t slide around on the twine. Then, I tied the three pieces together equal length at the top for the pot to hang straight.

Then, just fill the planter with potting soil and tuck in your plant. It’s always better to place a free rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot before adding soil just to ensure proper drainage. Water and find a cozy place in your garden for them to adjust to their new home. Water and fertilize regularly.

How did I do?

Spiking agave

I had two pots so I doubled my Sunday Funday activity.

Food Waste Composting with Red Dirt Girl

Food Waste Composting with Red Dirt Girl

Since C3 moved back to Texas, we are now practicing regular food waste composting. She attended a science sustainability conference when she was teaching and learned quite a bit about ways to support our environment. She encouraged me to do my part. With more time since my retirement, we added a compost bin at both my house and her casita on Locke.

Colander of food waste

I prepare at least two meals everyday during the pandemic, so we generate a lot of food waste. This colander is just one day’s collection of the remains of onions, skins off fruit and sourdough bread scraps. We dump the colander after dinner each night in the compost bin that we placed at the back of our yard.

See the remains of egg shells at my feet?

It is important to add to your food waste, other organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, brown paper, and most importantly, water, to help break down the organic matter and keep down noxious smells and too many flies.

C3 and I were a bit squeamish at first but with the addition of black plastic gloves to protect our hands, we are able to open the compost bin lid quickly, dump the food waste in, give it a little push in, close the door tightly, and then give the compost bin a couple of turns to mix the new addition in.

We take the water hose to the bin a couple of times a week and wet down all the contents so they decompose. I try to catch the compost tea, as we call it, to water the pots and smaller beds.

Our way of catching the compost tea

We’ve added the compost to our garden patches a couple of times this spring and it seems to help support healthy, early growth in the garden. We also add fish fertilizer to water and feed our plants this poopy mixture every four weeks. So far, the garden is looking good and already giving us potatoes, garlic, romaine lettuce and very soon, onions, as I can see the yellow bulbs beginning to pop out of the surface of garden soil. And hopefully, tomatoes and a few blackberries this year on the new canes.

Blackberries are flowering

Happy gardening, food waste composting, and surviving these weird times by focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t. Stay safe in the neighborhood.

Purple Dragon Tea

Purple Dragon Tea

A riff on the popular red dragon tea, this refreshing drink features blueberries and pomegranate to boost your antioxidants.

Ingredients: 2 green tea bags, 1 cup of blueberries, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 cups of pomegranate cherry juice (Pom makes one) and five cups of water.

Direction: steep the tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water. Remove bags. In a separate pan over low heat, add sugar, 2 cup of water and simmer until sugar dissolves. Add a cup of blueberries and heat until the berries soften. Allow to cool. Pulse this mixture in a food processor or with an emulsion blender and then strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the skin of the berries.

Add the brewed green tea, pomegranate cherry juice, blueberry syrup and one additional cup of water to a pitcher and put in refrigerator to chill.

Go work in the garden pulling weeds for two hours and then come inside for a break. Enjoy an icy glass of purple dragon tea as a reward for your toil and trouble. So refreshing, lightly sweet and tangy. I added a sprig of mint to guild the lily.

I hope I can make this brew with blackberries from our garden this summer. The vines are covered in flowers this week.

Until we meet again or hasta mañana baby.

Until we meet again or hasta mañana baby.

I am leaving my role at Fort Worth Independent School District at the end of the month. This was planned for over two years as I exit on my 59th birthday (the same age my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer) and 10 years after myself surviving breast cancer, twice.

RM, my husband for nearly four decades, had a major medical event this last year, which propelled me even further toward this decision. And then the pandemic hit and after returning from Spain rather chaotically, through O’Hare, god forbid, over Spring Break, I was like, how many more signs must be aligned before you decide you must allow the running of a major industrial compound to others?

These are just some of the amazing FWISD grant leaders

I love to work, I love to roll up my sleeves and give it my all. I love the writing process and learning about new ideas, thoughts and ways of making things better. I love trying to figure out how to make things work. Really work. For real people. For us.

Now.

I want to write for myself. Maybe a novel? I want to grow gigantic crops of tomatoes, beans and herbs. I want to feed my loved ones including my family, friends and community. I will volunteer to read with children and other important nonprofit work. My mother was a social worker, my father an educator. I was programmed from an early age to give back.

I hope to travel to see my immediate family to reconnect to my roots and understand the person I am now, growing more from the experiences we shared together. From family dinners, to play, to artistic expression to love of nature – they encapsulate us.

To my work family, you are precious to me but it is time to open up the gate and let you run as I know you are so ready, like race horses at the gate for the opportunity to lead and to take the CARE funds coming to our area and schools to support our families to grow and become even more vital citizens to our community. We know many of you are without food and necessities and need support.

Here we are, every day working to make dreams come true.

Lead with compassion and patience but also with your eyes looking out for the underdog. We were once them. Grant writers love the underdog, we love something attainable but also a bit scruffy and we love winning when the odds are stacked against us. So get to work, let’s score some grants for the Fort Worth community.

You will find me in the garden behind our little adobe on Ashland. Thanks for so many great friendships and wonderful memories. You are sincerely…All The Best.

LOVE

Love,

T.

A Better Banana Bread

A Better Banana Bread

As Mini-Mixer Baker C3 states, “it’s hard to mess up banana bread” and there are tons of excellent recipes readily available at online resources like King Arthur or America’s Test Kitchen. Below is the master formula used for quick breads at the Marshall house. Recently uncovered during our travel quarantine while reading again the Crust and Crumb James Beard award-winning cookbook by Californian, Peter Reinhart, this banana bread is superior hitting all the right notes of moist, tender, even and flavor blending.

The secret to the recipe is using the creaming method. This recipe makes two large loaves – one for your family to devour and one for a porch drop:

3.5 cups of AP flour or 16 ounces

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon baking soda

1 tsp. salt

20 ounces, or about 2.5 cups brown sugar

1 cup, or 8 ounces of butter, shortening or oil at room temperature

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla

3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed. We store ours in the freezer and use as needed.

1 cup of buttermilk or plant based milk with a tsp. of vinegar added.

9 ounces of your favorite add-in like pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips

Creaming method: add your dry ingredients and set them aside for later use.

Using an electric mixer, cream the fat choice with brown sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrap sides of bowl with spatula and mix another minute. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Then add vanilla. Scrape bowl again. Continue beating for 3 minutes. Mixture is super light and fluffy.

Mix in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/3 buttermilk and 1/3 bananas. Repeat until all is incorporated. Pour in your add-in now and mix a bit. Our house loves vegan chocolate chips!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease two 4 x 8.5 loaf pans (the ones your mom made meat loaf in) and fill 2/3 full with batter.

Bake for 45 minutes then reduce to 325 degrees for about 15 minutes checking for an internal temp. of 185 degrees in center. The skewer poked in center should come out clean.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes but then get them turned out on a cooling rack so they don’t stick.

This recipe is super versatile as you can substitute the banana with shredded zucchini or carrots, add raisins, blueberries and other nuts for an infinity and beyond number of options.

Happy social distancing and please share.

Spring Gardens Inspire Hope

Spring Gardens Inspire Hope

Both my parents were avid gardeners. They grew vegetables and lovely spring flowers including tulips, daffodils and irises. They both loved roses especially the kind that climbs over trellises and hung above emoting their sweet scent on anyone passing by below.

My mother treasured peonies that grow like wild clumps of weeds in Kansas. She loved herbs too which are some of the plants I first learned to grow as a beginning gardener. If you have never grown a plant outdoors, I recommend starting with herbs. They are forgiving compared to flowers and vegetables. If the soil is not right or if their owner forgets to water for a day or two or puts them in the wrong location in the garden, they usually find a way to limp forward. You can learn from herbs what not to do in the planting and growing process without busting your wallet. Rosemary, lemon thyme and basil are good varieties to begin.

Herbs like to be together so group them in organic shapes in a bed or in containers that nudge up to one another. Plants get to touch now, humans please keep your distance during Covid times.

Here is a sweet black and white picture of my mother and me in her Spring garden before Easter service in 1970. I resemble Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, with my pixie cut and the dress that only went on for church. Look behind us at the climbing roses. And breathe deep, we got this!

Happy Easter, family and friends and to sweet memories which is what sustains us during adverse times. Be well.

Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-Bye Baby

My husband’s family is distantly related to the composer of the iconic song, Rock-a-Bye Baby. Effie Carlton penned the song back in the 1870’s as a teenager while babysitting. Ironically, she never married or had children of her own.

This family history came to our attention several years ago when an attorney from New Mexico reached out to RM’s dad and his aunt informing them of their rights to the patent fees for the song. While the amount they collect is nominal, the legacy is what is important to appreciate.

C1 tracked this history through online searches, reviews of databases and dogged determination.

Below is the obituary notice she unearthed in her research for us to read and learn more about our musical family legacy. Effie died at 81 during the winter of 1940 soon after attending a movie featuring her song. What a sweet ending.