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Surprise Visitor

I began the day gardening, enjoying some of Florida’s first fall weather, and¬†was surprised to come across this little guy while amending my beds with compost.

toad visitor

He popped out of the dirt as I was raking over my row. Not very cute, but friendly enough. And odd, because I didn’t realize toads lived in compost. And when I say “in” compost, I mean “in” as in beneath the leaves and dirt. He had to have been buried fairly deep for me not to have noticed him while transferring the stuff from compost pile to wagon. Huh. I always thought toads lived in dark, wet places–not dark, wet and dirty! Who knew?

But it was an interesting find. As I continued with my business of gardening, he happily hopped away, leaving me to wonder if he’d find his way back to the compost pile. Do toads have a sense of direction like, say, cats? I guess I could have followed him, or helped him along his way–except that I’m not THAT much of a nature girl. Sunny, outdoorsy, yes. Icky, yucky, no.

hornworm beast in action

Doesn’t make me a bad person, does it? I mean, I regularly squash bugs and fat, hungry hornworms (to save the lives of my plants, of course). This little fella should be happy I left him alone! Hopefully, he’ll warn his friends that the compost pile is NOT the place for toads eliminating future such dilemmas.

Oh, well. Just another life in the day of a gardener. How did you spend your morning? Everybody’s life looks a bit different, doesn’t it? ūüėČ




Sweet Spring Onions

My sweet onions are ready for harvest!  Is there a better sign that spring is in the air?

Okay, so spring isn’t in the air everywhere at the moment and I should know–the family and I just flew home from Denver, CO where Old Man Winter is blowing hard and furious.¬† But the cold will make this recipe all the¬†sweeter. ūüôā¬† It’s sweet and savory and the aroma alone will delight your senses.

If you like French Onion Soup, you’re going to LOVE this dish.¬† While a sure-fire hit in the¬†fall,¬†this delicacy is welcome in my home any time of the year.¬†¬† Taken¬†from the magazine, Cuisine at Home, it’s simple and easy to make, much like homemade French Onion Soup.¬†¬† And worth every minute.¬†¬† Sliced onions cooked until they caramelize¬†are a guaranteed winner in any household and when you¬†add cheese,¬†the whole world turns sweeter.¬†¬† Especially when we’re talking¬†Gruy√®re¬†cheese.¬†¬† (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Baked Sweet Onions

Onions au Gratin

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

8 cups sliced sweet onions

1/2 cup dry sherry or chicken broth (I used sherry)

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved (I skipped these)

Preheat oven to 400¬įF

Melt butter in a large cast-iron or other ovenproof¬†skillet over medium heat.¬† Add onions, stirring until¬†slightly softened to make room in the pan (I don’t know what this means‚ÄĒI just saut√©ed the correct amount of onions); cover and cook until completely softened, 10 minutes.

Add sherry, thyme, and bay leaves; increase heat to medium-high.  Sauté, uncovered, until the liquid evaporates and onions are browning, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes (mine may have been 20 minutes, but caramelizing onions is a fairly forgiving process).

Combine cheeses, then stir 1/2 cup of cheese mixture into onion mixture.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake until cheese is bubbly and browned, about 20 minutes.

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves, then sprinkle with olives.  Let stand to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 4 servings.   Total time: approx. 50 minutes.

Cuisine at Home is a great publication.  Not only does it offer phenomenal recipes, but it includes color photographs of the cooking process.  Indispensable for novices like myself!



For the Love of Gardening

Gardening is about more than plants and produce, seeds and weeds.¬† It’s about color and texture, emotional satisfaction and visual pleasure.¬† Visiting my garden this morning, I noticed more than what’s in bloom, what’s ripe, what needs harvested, what needs weeded.¬† I “felt” my plants and greens.

Cloudy overhead, the space felt calm, peaceful as I admired Mother Nature in all her glory.¬†She¬†felt rich and sensual…grounding.¬† It felt good.¬† I felt good.

Gazing at my lush growth, I notice that my eggplant and cinnamon basil share common coloring.  My pumpkin is plump and round as it ripens to a gorgeous orange and it made me smile.

It reminded me of kids and fun and fall–my favorite season of all.¬†

With a nip in the air, a stillness in my heart, I enjoyed the moment.  I went on to check my tomatoes.  Beauties in the making, working their way to luscious red.

And speaking of red, my red cabbage are safe and secure beneath their netting (we have cricket issues), appearing more like flowers than food.  How can a gal not love flowers in her garden?

Impossible, in my book.  And as I gaze out over my garden in its entirety, I crave to linger, immerse myself in the leisure of life. 

But I can’t.¬† Work calls, kids holler, the husband phoned…¬† I’m needed elsewhere at the moment (another lovely feeling!), so I’ll tuck this memory away and return later.

Am I the only one that looks at vegetables differently?  Do you have a garden to live by?


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