Adieu, au revoir…

To all who have followed me along the way and who might have enjoyed reading my blog posts…I can no longer continue using the WORDPRESS platform for my blog. If you would like to continue following me, you can find me on facebook…An Organic Gardeners Home. I will be posting more there beginning in a week or so.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog…it is a joy for me to write.

My French sister, Jeanine on the left, and I will continue to tend our gardens, cook great food, enjoy fabulous wines together and have many more adventures to write about!
Holly says WOO, WOO, WOOF, too!

Reflections of the season…


Home of my heart and haven for my spirit…Early morning, sitting on the back porch wrapped in a wool shawl, out in the country, the aroma of fresh brewed cafe’ drifts out through the open window. The oven timer for my French Press brewing beeps so into the kitchen to pour a mug…hummmm, smells so rich…add a dollop of fresh cream. Back outside and wandering through the potager, as I do most mornings while sipping from my mug of steaming coffee, I look at what there is left to use for dinner. Surprised to see a new crop of salad greens big enough to pick…plenty of rain and just enough sun, nights are cool…perfect weather for fall greens to thrive! I find a few grape tomatoes hiding under the foliage from our wandering deer, a big red pepper and some squash that gets added to my basket filled with salad greens.

There is unspoiled quiet but for the comforting sounds of my chickens contentedly pecking and clucking their way through the garden…I have surrounded myself with things that make me happy. My home and garden feel like a big hug.

I simply adore the masses of lovely old roses in their fall flush of bloom covering the trellis as I walk through and around to the front of the house. Holly follows, looking back and hoping it’s time to take off for a walk down the lane. “Okay, give me a moment to get a sweater and more coffee and then we’ll go…” I tell her. She waits patiently on the gravel driveway for me to come out the door. Seeing me, she starts off towards the road, turning to see if I’m following her. Since she can’t bark, she does her woooowooo sounds, tosses her head towards her goal and runs ahead. Hearing the school bus heading down the road, I holler, “CAR!” and she immediately sits, waiting for the bus to leave and me to tell her it’s okay to go.

The glowing gold of an autumn morning and varied hues of the season’s palette await, a mug of fresh coffee, my comfy warm sweater, Holly trotting ahead sniffing every weed and bush…what could be better this morning, I think!

In a busy world, being able to hear the rustle and crunch of crisp leaves in the morning, the chirping of birds as a cool autumn breeze gently stirs through the trees is so perfectly imperfect.

Back to the house, having walked two miles this morning, we’ll do it again before dinner, before dark and putting the chickens to roost…time to do some garden work. There’s always raking leaves and gathering firewood to be done.


Autumn opens as we finally see the departure of summer...this lively vibrant season of change is a prelude to winter. The air has a freshness that can only exist on a crisp October or November morning and is in harmony with the rich reds and golds of the countryside. The passion and fever of summer is spent and a sense of gathering and nesting before the garden slides into the dormancy of winter takes hold. Ever the optimist, I’m hoping fall will be the season to compensate for the weeks and weeks of rain, gray skies, heat and 90% humidity we’ve had during the summer.

By now the potager has an air of melancholy as tired vines yellow and wither with each cold night. Sunflowers have finally turned their browned heads to the soil in hopes that a few of their seeds will avoid detection by the birds and stay in the soil for reseeding in  the next spring season. Once everything has been harvested, I open the gate and let the chickens roam into the potager to scratch and peck. Once they abandon the potager for more exciting pursuits, I empty one of my compost bins and spread the nutritious material on the whole area…I close the gate to let the compost work without chicken help. By next spring all will be ready for me to begin feeding the soil and planting again.

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Flights of fancy…I never tire of watching the variety of birds fly into and flit about my garden exploring for tasty treats and enjoying the seeds from their feeders. Since earliest times, birds have captured the attention of humans offering inspiration and information for flight and sounds and weather. There is a great deal of weather “reading” from birds that can be found in books and almanacs. Farmers have always looked to birds and squirrels for a hint of the fierceness of the coming winter. Their  mysterious allure has been pondered by some of the greatest thinkers…DaVinci used his observations to sketch future flying machines, an ornithopter! In every season, every garden has its own excitement, a multitude of wondrous possibilities to watch and feed our feathered friends. NOTE: Remember to clean out nest boxes so small birds can roost in them over winter.


Days are shorter, nights grow longer and temperatures drop…wrap yourself in the aromas of comforting soups, freshly baked breads, and roasting chicken. One of my favorite fall meals, aside from soup, is roast chicken with apples and pears. Simple to make: just cut 2 onions lengthwise and place in bottom of roasting pan; add a cup of Sauvigon Blanc and 1/2 cup apple cider or for a stronger jus, use Calvados. Rub the chicken with butter and slide more butter under the skin of breast meat. Sprinkle with salt. Place in 425′ oven and roast for an hour. Remove from oven, add 2 apples and 2 pears sliced and pitted to the pan around the chicken. Roast for at least 45 minutes till fruit is tender. Add more wine and Calvados as needed to keep moist.

Serve chicken on a platter with fruits and onions and some lemons to squeeze…pour pan drippings on platter. You’ll need fresh baguettes to sop up the juices. Add a fresh green salad of kale, spinach and walnuts to end the meal. Delightful food prepared in the heart of your home…


One of the pleasures of growing older is the luxury of time spent wandering through the garden that often changes daily. I sit on a bench and let my mind appreciate all that I have accomplished…

From Holly, the Border Collie and me…enjoy your time!







Welcome Autumn…soon!

Autumn, from my back porch…the perfect spot for sipping afternoon tea, or more!

Sunshine, clear blue skies and crisp morning air signals the celebration of fall…and the last days of summer…the burnished beauty of autumn officially begins September 22nd.


September and October are months of dramatic change…Summer draws lazily to a close. The arrival of even slightly cooler weather heralds a flurry of activity…harvest in the fields, gathering in the orchard and garden…and planning for the next. School is back in session and time has shifted from “carefree” long summer days to a more structured time with shorter daylight hours.

Leaf drop is prodigious! Trees burst into an impressive riot of russet, scarlet and gold and autumn breezes mingle enticingly with the rich, unforgettable scent of fall mums.


A sudden shaft of sunlight filters through the autumn canopy…

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A harvest of flavors and colors…I hope you have your seeds for cool season salad greens in the garden…they will sprout and provide weeks of crispy greens till first frost. If not, plant now as they still have time to sprout. Also, edible flowers, like pansies shown above, are a colorful addition to salads.

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Along with those fresh salad greens…use rainbow carrots peeled into ribbons, slices of radishes and fennel, garnished with pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta cheese. Toss with a nice Dijon vinaigrette…perfect salad along with sweet corn fritters and bacon for an autumn evening…IMG_0888

Sweet Corn Fritters: Cook 3 ears of corn in salted water, then remove kernels. Sift together 3/4 c. flour and 1 tsp baking powder…Whisk 1 egg and mix into dry ingredients…and 3/4 cup [or enough to just make a tight batter] of milk, chopped green onions or chives, S&P and a pinch of cayenne [optional]. Stir in corn. Drop spoonfuls of batter into iron skillet with oil  and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crisp.


For us…organic gardeners…we know that early fall is the best time of the year to plant.  Sunlight is less intense, evenings are cooler and typically rainfall is more plentiful. Plant roots grow quickly and have an easier time establishing before winter arrives. A great time for top dressing the garden, roses, shrubs and perennial flower beds with your own rich compost…a nice warm blanket for winter.


Along the east coast of America, life on the farms and in villages from Maine to the Carolinas, runs through the seasons in a timeless rhythm. Each year as autumn sets the leaves alight with brilliant color…traditional orange pumpkins, golden maize and splendid blooms of potted chrysanthemums decorate the front porches of simple farm houses to large custom homes. In the soft autumn sunlight and cool evening, there is no more tranquil place than watching sunset from the porch…HOME, that place of comfort, warmth and solace.

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From Holly and me…enjoy the changing season, stay safe if you’re in the path of Hurricane Florence…we seem to be having lots of rain and wind here in Virginia and hope for the best as she approaches the coast.

Til next time…


Gathering Places…porches, patios and decks!

For many years, when life was slower paced, the front porch was where family and friends gathered to sit and watch spring arrive…it was a place to enjoy morning coffee or afternoon iced tea…it was a place to simply relax and cool off in a summer evening breeze…it was a place to enjoy the antics of hummingbirds amongst the flowers…and a place to enjoy the beauty of trees changing to their autumn colors. Often, the front porch gave a panoramic view of the garden and countryside beyond. On the porch there was shade and cooler air created by the slow whirring of an old blade fan hanging from the blue porch ceiling…this was our refuge from summer heat. During a rain shower it was the perfect place to sit on the old wooden porch swing while reading a book and listening to the pouring rain beat down on the tin roof…and later see the rainbow appear over the fields beyond the yard.


In late afternoon, after picking peas and beans from the garden, Grandmother and I would sit in the old white painted rocking chairs, blue and white enamel pans in our laps, shelling and snapping the vegetables. We watched the hummingbirds flitting about, the chickens scratching the dirt for bugs, and butterflies floating from bloom to bloom.

All summer long the porch was the gathering space after supper. Dishes washed, dried and put away, we played checkers or card games while watching the cows find their way from the pasture back to the barn. Grandfather would sit in his little mule-ear chair, sharpening his pocketknife on a whetstone. Later, as we told ghost stories the sultry, unforgettable fragrance of Oriental lilies floated on the breeze as the evening sun began to set. That sudden whiff of a plant loved in childhood will transport me back in an instant…

Today with urban living many homes no longer have a front porch…gathering areas have moved to the backyard. A patio or deck offers a quiet retreat and often forms a transitional space between house and garden. A paved or stone area next to the house provides the perfect spot for alfresco dining and entertaining…and a small patio or gravel spot tucked away in a corner offers a quiet retreat in which to read , observe or just daydream. On a patio that catches the early morning sun is wonderful place to eat breakfast absorbing the freshness of a new day as you linger over coffee.  If you prefer, a wooden deck makes a nice alternative where the ground is uneven or poorly drained…although I would correct the drainage problem first before construction.

Serve a taste of summer on the porch or patio…As shadows lengthen over the garden and a slight breeze cools the air, it is a lovely time of day to enjoy a chilled and refreshing drink………….“Le cocktail de fruits au Champagne” is perfect on a late summer evening. Mix strawberries and blueberries or blackberries and raspberries, add some chopped mint or lemon thyme…put a spoonful of fruit in the bottom of a flute or coupe. Pour well-chilled Champagne over the fruit and serve right away while still bubbly.

Do the White Thing…or channeling VITA…Created by the magnificently creative Vita Sackville-West, one of the most famous gardens in the world is the White Garden at her home, Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent England. Vita had many great ideas for creating gardens and one of my favorites is her White Garden. It is an area planted entirely with white-flowering and silver-leaved plants…she actually called it…”my gray, green and white garden”. She created a remarkable legacy and was an inspiration for a whole new generation of English gardeners. Her romantic garden set the standard for what I refer to often as a “Moon Garden” as the light of a full moon highlights and reflects the white and silver plants such as Iceberg roses and Annabelle hydrangeas…La dolce Vita! 

If you’re interested in reading more about Vita and seeing photos of her gardens, there is a great deal of info on the internet. Of course I prefer to thumb through her books and have several that I’ve studied for years.



Southern Pate or Pimento Cheese…the delicious versatility of this truly Southern treat is diverse. Whether it’s spread on crackers as an hors d’oeuvres, stuffed into stalks of celery, used as a condiment on a hamburger or simply my favorite…a pimento cheese sandwich, this mixture is easy to make and a necessity for any Southern kitchen. I actually researched the history of Pimento Cheese and was surprised to find a version originated in the North over a 100 years ago…but the Yankees used cream cheese as a base. Southerners embraced the concept but used sharp cheddar cheese instead…

To make: start with 16 oz of grated sharp cheddar cheese, one 4oz jar of diced pimentos and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of Duke’s mayonnaise. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add S&P as needed. The texture should be rough. Chill to let flavors blend. NOTE: If you do not like Duke’s, use a good quality mayo such as Hellman’s…it makes a huge difference in the taste. Pimento Cheese sandwiches are a true Southern culinary treasure!




“As rosemary is to the spirit, so lavender is to the soul…”

Sending love and good wishes from Patricia and Holly…IMG_0871

Summer is served…warm & bright with long days of sunshine!

This quaint vignette, from a garden in France, can be found on a blog I follow by Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day. She placed this vintage kitchen chair in her yard and Voila’… cherry tomatoes quickly began to scramble over it!  Just the bit of whimsy I love to find in a cottage garden. For years I have placed many different types of chairs in both my gardens and landscape designs for clients…some for vines, some for roses and some in the potager for little cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and small French melons…and even some for just a bit of rest. I tend to use whatever I can find to add that tiny bit of unexpected delight to my garden…So, be creative, find that special something that makes you smile and put it in just the right spot in your garden.


A vintage teak deck chair here is a  nice spot to rest, relax and enjoy the fragrance of old garden roses…


Below, this old red “motel” chair adds some color contrast to the yellow Black-eyed Susans blooming throughout the garden..while offering a spot to set a few garden essentials, clippers and a weed/trim bucket.IMG_3047

Along with chairs…


Through a garden gate…especially one that lures you in…offering a hint of what you might find once you enter…just another bit of whimsy to add to your summer garden. A gate is what you typically see when you approach a garden, and it instantly makes a statement. Framing a gate with an arch makes a gate even more distinctive…



Are you among those who can remember…the smell of fresh cut grass and the whirring sound of an old rotary mower…the churning, cranking sound of a wood slatted ice cream maker packed with ice and cream and fruit from the garden…the twinkling of fireflies in the yard at just about dark…the feel of a gentle breeze just before a gentle cooling rain shower…the taste of juicy watermelons, peaches and ripe blackberries just picked fresh from the vine and warmed by the sun…thankfully, if so, those wonderful old summer memories offer timeless values in a world often moving too fast.

1952 Red Ford Truck-S 

Ah, those summer memories…as a kid spending my summers on the family farm, work was hard, the days filled with lessons learned and exciting adventures! After a full week of working the fields of cotton and tobacco, alongside all the folks who were PAID, my hands were stained from picking tobacco leaves and my legs wobbly from dragging heavy burlap bags filled with just-picked cotton boles to the mule sleds. Cotton can get heavy, a pound is a pound and most of the bags held about 30-40 pounds depending on the picker.

I was also responsible for helping my grandmother with the vegetable garden and the chickens and the cows. All this daily activity made me greatly appreciate the once a month reward for, “not paid help”, of a trip to the beach. Nags Head, North Carolina was our favorite destination! Early Saturday morning we put hay bales in the back of  the old pickup…looking very much like the above picture…and laid quilts over the bales to keep the hay from making us itch. In the kitchen, while chicken was frying in an iron skillet, we laid out fresh sliced bread on the table, slathered mayonnaise on each slice, sprinkled pepper & salt and then added huge, thick slices of tomatoes I had picked from the garden. Along with the chicken, tomato sandwiches, bowls of potato salad and deviled eggs, jars of sweet tea and a chocolate cake were packed into large metal “coolers”  layered with hunks of ice from the chest freezer in the wash house. About 6:00AM, we all…my cousins and I… climbed in the back of the truck and the adults in the front cab, and grandpa headed down the long dirt drive that led to the highway traveling east for a day at the beach. All the way there we sang and told stories and laughed, read the Burma Shave signs and watched the farms and fields of corn and peanuts and all the other crops roll by. Our excitement grew as we passed all the road signs telling us we were almost there! We spotted the giant sand dunes and screamed…”Finally we’re here”, even though it only took 2 hours to get there. Grandpa parked the truck along the “beach” road, we all scrambled out of the back, unloaded the quilts, coolers and beach chairs and walked onto the warm sand. All day we would swim and ride the waves and run with the dogs and build sand castles, and bury each other under buckets of wet sand. Finally, happily exhausted our stomachs grumbling and anticipation high, we sat down on the quilts to enjoy our beach feast…Later, on the road headed home, we all fell asleep…our hearts filled with joy over such a simple day of fun at the beach.

Our picnic spot did not look quite so lovely as the picture below, but NOW as I remember the days, I imagine how a vintage spot might have been in anther place, far away…


A taste of the good life…Years ago, Grandmother would say, “If you go find and pick a quart or two of blackberries and a basket of peaches, I’ll make my special cobbler…” Well, I took off running down the path to where I knew there were loads of berries and picked and ate until I had enough. The peaches were more of a challenge, I had to climb up the tree, ignoring the bees, and fill a basket with ripe sweet fruit. Back in the kitchen, I helped grandmother prepare the fruit mixture and watched as she made the special cobbler crust. Many years later [the 80’s] while living in California, I would make this special cobbler for friends and clients…They loved it and I even had one celebrity client make an offer of marriage if I would make the cobbler for him every week…’course he was joking!! But it’s that GOOD!


Blackberry and Peach Cobbler…Ingredients for the filling: Mix together  2 quarts of blackberries, 2 quarts of peeled peaches, 2 cups of raw sugar, 1/2 cup of flour, some cinnamon and a pinch of salt…I do squeeze juice from a fresh lemon juice over the mixture, but it is optional. Let it sit while you make crust.

For the crust: Mix/cream together 2 sticks of soft butter, 1/2 cup raw sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. In a seperate bowl, sift together 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, pinch of salt…Add butter mixture to dry ingredients and then add 1 cup chopped pecans…mixture will look a bit like cookie dough. Put the fruit in a 4 quart baking dish and then drop spoons of dough on top of the mixture to make a cover. Bake at 350′ for about an hour…check several times to be sure the crust doesn’t get too brown. Filling should be bubbly around the edges. [I put foil under the rack to catch any possible spills.] Serve with FRESH whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


From Holly, after a cooling bath, and me…make some great summer memories!

Suddenly it’s mid-summer…


I woke up very early this morning, made my coffee and poured a cup, put a pan of biscuits in the oven, went to the back door and pulled on my flowered boots and out I went with Holly to wander through the garden while throwing out feed for the chickens in their favorite spot under the trees. I turned on the hose and set the whirling sprinkler  on the roses and then decided I would pick a few blackberries to go with my cantaloupe. Amazingly I found a handful of ripe and juicy and deep purpley-blackberries that the birds and deer hadn’t absconded with…but, my real treat this morning will be the biscuits and homemade jam. I really don’t do this biscuit baking very often for obvious reasons but having just looked through my BOUCHON BAKERY book last night and, well, THOMAS KELLER’S biscuit recipe was right there, I just couldn’t resist…Justifying with the thought that Holly would get one, I would have two, save some for dinner and then the chicks would get the rest…or maybe I’ll freeze a few for later in the week! And after all, I did have some buttermilk in the fridge…dscn4435.jpg

Summer’s perfect moments and memories…Now that mid-summer is here, I find myself thinking back to all the summers I spent on my grandparents’ farm during July and August. What joy I had with grandmother when she would put a pound cake in the oven of the old wood stove and say …”We’ve got plenty of time while it’s baking, let’s go pick some berries and make a pie later….”SO, we would go berry picking after chores were done. Whether it was strawberries, blackberries or blueberries in season, I always managed to fill my little straw basket that I had decorated with scraps of ribbon Grandmother had saved from birthday gifts and sewing projects. Back in the kitchen she would have me gather all the ingredients, put them on the huge wooden table covered in blue and white checked oilcloth. We used this table, made from an old walnut tree that had fallen after a violent rain and wind storm years earlier, to prepare foods, roll biscuits, mix batter and eat meals on together…she even used it to set a big wash tub on and bathe my new baby brother… She would show me how to blend the cold, fresh-churned butter into the flour with my fingers and then how to roll it out gently…”You can’t overwork the dough…” she would caution. Oh, the aroma of a fresh fruit pie baking in the oven…

Later in the season, she would always let me climb up into the peach trees to pick enough for a fresh peach pie. This was such a wonderful time which led to many precious memories…the adventure of seeking and picking fresh fruits of the season and the rewards of learning how to make jams, preserves, pies and cobblers…and time spent with my precious white-haired Grandmother.

A favorite find…I always loved cooking on Grandmother’s huge black iron wood stove and years ago when I told Carl how I would love to put one in the kitchen he looked at me and wandered off to the workbench to tie some flies, all the while shaking his head and muttering. So I soon found a beautiful substitute…a French make…Le Cornue!

d28abc6b9baa86231753d6aa80a222b8One of the best stoves in the world…and a bargain at close to $16,000…luxury doesn’t come cheap! The cream de la crème of cooking! No need to describe his reaction and comment on my stove choice, needless to say I settled on a new gas drop-in with a much more acceptable price tag.

SUMMER is SERVED…As to cooking, here are a few summer ideas...Crab filled lettuce eaves, baby spinach salad with cucumber spirals and coconut shrimp, and a new favorite…chunks of grilled chicken and vegetables served in pita bread with a creamy lemon dressing…oh, I could eat these several times a week!!

Well, it wouldn’t be summer without home-made ice cream…On those long summer days on the farm, we often made ice cream. After a trip into town, sitting in the old International Harvester pick up truck, to get ice from the ICE HOUSE, we gathered under the shade of huge pecan and walnut trees where we would pack the old wood ice cream maker with ice and rock salt and watch excitedly as grandmother poured the cream and egg and fruit mixture into the metal cylinder…then came the work! Taking turns, we would turn the crank for what seemed like hours but in reality about a half hour total was spent churning. Nothing can compare to opening the top of the freezing container and pulling out the paddle for the first licks of the lucious mixture inside. Nothing artificial, just cream from our cows, eggs from our chickens and fruit from the garden!   For good health sake try an alternative, fresh made FROZEN YOGURT. A refreshing lime yogurt is simple: I mix a 32 ounce container of organic plain Greek yogurt, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice, and for more lime flavor add zest from 2 organic limes. Pour into the churn container that sits in the freezer just waiting to be used and follow directions on your model. I have a simple Cuisinart ice cream maker that takes a little less than 20 minutes to churn this mixture into frozen yogurt. Refreshing as a summer rain shower!


Great Garden Idea…This canvas cover, simple to make, can provide a bit of shelter from the hot afternoon sun…get creative!


Take a break! We all need a break from our daily routines…not necessarily a full-blown holiday…but a day or a place for settling thoughts and calming mind & heart. Of course, my friends, you all know my heart’s desire would be to sit in the lavender fields in Provence…a scented scent of purple!

861096cdd183bc5a7f5186cf67b2df03…but since that won’t be happening any time soon, I’ll just have to be creative here at home in my own heavenly hideaway! I can spend an afternoon in my own garden relaxing under a canvas shelter or beach umbrella…or on terribly hot days, spend time inside working on creative projects. It just becomes a matter of choice at the moment!

Watching dusk fall over the garden, I smell the honeysuckle’s evening scent as I walk out to close up the chicken pen and coop for the evening. Time for brushing Holly and another glass of wine…

The Flowers and the Glory…

Creating their own canvas…every gardener is an artist with plant choices instead of brushes and paint…years ago I carved out the flower beds and pathways, enlarging and improving each every year, creating my own tiny seclusion.

As summer arrives, the garden is bursting with blooms…an explosion of color. Hydrangeas, phlox, coneflowers, roses, hollyhocks, daylillies, Black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush and such take center stage. All plants that offer a good mix of textures, shapes and sizes…many hydrangeas help to form the backbone of my cottage-style garden. They create enduring leafy green beauty and a delightful color range…and, their striking,  showy, billowy blooms epitomize the carefree summer season.

Hollyhocks, Batchelor-buttons and cosmos add structure and height to the mixed border…

Fragrance is a key ingredient of any garden…pinks, with their delicious clove scent, butterfly-bush, lavender and one of the greatest of all…roses in abundance…provide a variety of scents as the sun warms each blossom.

Mother Nature provides a variety of fragrant herbs to use for cooking as well as offering great medicinal uses…While walking through my garden I have the habit of brushing against and rubbing my hand over the herbs planted along the paths. I can never resist stopping to break off a few stems of lavender and as I rub my fingers together over the stems of and breathe in the aroma, it is happiness itself and I slow down and relax for a moment.

The sweet, hay-like fragrance of Chamomile smells like summer. The tiny daisy flowers and lacy foliage have been used to make teas and poultices for centuries. The tea settles an upset tummy and if you’re stressed or anxious…a warm cup of chamomile tea is calming, especially before bedtime. The anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile are also very helpful with relief from headaches.

Comfrey is a great herb that medicinally can used for treating sprains, broken bones and bruises and it works. As an inflammatory, I’ve used it to help heal an ankle sprain and treat serious bruising after a recent bad fall. Aside from being magical in my garden, the foliage is pecked and loved by my chickens and helps provide them with additional protein and nutrients. Mulching with comfrey around the base of plants will help retain moisture and protect beneficial organisms while acting as a slow-release fertilizer. I also toss comfrey leaves into the compost pile to boost nutrients. This great herb has a deep root system and as a dynamic accumulator plant, provides nutrients to surrounding plants.

Wooly Lamb’s Ear has been used for centuries as a wound dressing on battlefields. The soft, fuzzy leaves absorb blood and help it to clot more quickly. They also contain antibacterial and antiseptic properties…I always reach for a leaf when I get a rose thorn scratch or knife cut while working in the garden. For landscaping, I have used this plant as an edging along the entrance to my driveway…at night it offers a silvery brightness in the dark.

Lavender plants and oils are the most versatile of all herbs…they have medicinal, cosmetic, and culinary uses. Most commonly known for its relaxing and calming effects on the body, a good lavender lotion is very therapeutic for your skin. Lavender encourages a good night’s sleep and relieves severe tension headaches when the oil is rubbed into your temples and neck. The oil may also be used to cleanse cuts as well as soothe bruises, burns and skin irritations…and so much more! There are also a multitude of culinary uses.

images-12  A bucket of MY rich compost…I am vigorously in control of my garden…except when the chickens are scratching and pecking at the dirt…not the other way round…and, I’m not so good sitting about and contemplating my garden for very long. However, when I do ever so briefly, I always spot something that needs doing…a bit of extra compost spread around the roses, a trim here or there, missing mulch…I love it and the joy it brings me. As I work the soil, I feel the possibilities in my hands.

Last time I wrote about making tea lights using mason jars…Now, I have found this lovely idea in an old magazine from the ’90s…TEACUP candle holders for the patio. Using fine flexible garden wire, simply make a wire cage similar to those that surround a champagne cork and add hangers on each side to balance the cup. Put a tea light in each cup and hang from low tree branches or clothes line strung around the porch.

452292d4307aaec9cd21e582618bd955Make the most of summer’s simple pleasures…Outside, beneath the spreading trees, on patios, and porchestake a moment to celebrate the season. Enjoy a ritual common throughout the Mediterranean region, woven into everyday life, is a time set aside to share a refreshing drink and socialize before the evening meal. While sipping an iced tea or glass of wine, a few salty snacks such as nuts, olives, saucisse son, cheese, and crispy gougeres …this wonderful time will pique your appetite and help you take time to take time.

Summer in a glass…img_4688.jpg

Awaken your senses on sunny days or sultry nights with Lillet and a bit of lemon squeeze and rind in the glass…or fresh peach slice. Delightful.



Holly suggests a cold shower on the porch to cool off after a long walk…

Ground rules…connected to the land.

Summer arrives in full force…June is a wonderfully colorful month with flowers blooming everywhere in the garden…a medley of old-fashioned flowers in shades of pink, blue, lavender and white here is punctuated by plantings of flamboyant foliage and a blast of bright yellow accent. Flowers always bring a smile!



Growing with the season…sunshine, blue skies, and a few rain storms bring out the tastes and blossoms of early summer!

Sweet, tiny Alpine strawberries ready for picking daily…stately garden phlox offer a fragrant welcome to visitors and beneficial insects. In their own order, many other fruits and vegetables and flowers make their appearance creating an abundance once again to be picked, tasted and enjoyed.

Companions and Easy Edibles…Planted together, herbs and flowers are great companions in a vegetable garden and help to yield a greater harvest. Organic gardeners are much more willing to use time-honored, environmentally safe methods of growing. We all know that companion planting principles help protect and produce greater crops.

As good organic gardeners we must try to understand as much as possible how plants can effectively improve and help each other thrive. All those old-fashioned cottage gardens that were and are a riotous quilt of flowers, herbs and vegetables, jumbled together prove what we now know about companion planting…it works!

If you don’t have enough space for a large garden…create a mix of crops and herbs with a few flowers in containers. The large galvanized troughs are perfect for many food crops, especially tomatoes, peppers, basil and such. The 3-tiered hanging garden is a great idea for herbs and salad greens for a limited space area. Be creative and remember almost anything can hold plants and almost any vegetable can be grown in a container. Be sure to provide blooming marigolds and sweet alyssum to attract pollinators…a must for tomatoes…IMG_1427

Tomatoes, essential for summer home gardens. I only grow heirloom varieties. A few of my favorites are…Brandywine, Black Cherry, Yellow Pear, Rose Gold and Green Zebra.

Some simple things to try: Heirloom Tomato Salad with herb vinaigrette…

1/4 c. avocado oil, 3 Tblsp red wine vinegar, 1Tblsp. Dijon mustard, 1 Tblsp. lemon juice, 1 Tblsp honey…fresh thyme, chopped basil leaves, parsley and salt & ground pepper. Whisk or make in a jar and shake. Makes enough for just a small salad…increase amounts as needed. I will add feta or goat cheese to salad depending on what I have on hand.

Heirloom Tomato Tart, an elegant and delicious showstopper for a summertime meal.

You’ll need a tart crust so make your own or buy prepared pie crust. PREBAKE the crust. For the filling: Combine 2 cups ricotta cheese, 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes sliced for top of tart, salt and pepper for seasoning and fresh basil leaves for finishing. Spread cheese mixture on cooled tart crust, Top with plenty of sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!!

Create a magical atmosphere on summer evenings…


Create tea lights using recycled jam jars, or…buy new Mason/ Ball canning jars, wrap wire around the top to hang them from tree branches or an arbor.


Bonne idée…I love Bonne Maman jams and always save the empty jars. Once the delicious jam is eaten, the jars can be re-used for a variety of purposes. I use for herb bouquets, storing dried rose petals and lavender buds and garden seeds, making salad dressings and much more. I especially love their distinctive gingham tops.



A walk on the “wild side” needs a path…a collection of scrambling, tumbling plants fill the areas along these garden paths. I typically use stones set in gravel for a path when designing a landscape but the grass path shown above is a delightful change!


Til next time AND…a look at FOOD, the culture of the South.

Wear a hat and protect your skin from the summer sun!


Finally, I’m back…

Friends, I’ve been away for several months, unable to really concentrate and write very much, maybe just thinking a bit, reading, planning and dreaming. Well, we all need some of that time but mine was more related to a continuing need to deal with vertigo that hit me last summer after two bad falls and…okay, hitting my head on the concrete floor in the garage! At my age you’d think I’d be able to walk and climb steps! So anyway, I’m trying to get back in gear, put all in perspective and just move ahead sharing my words and thoughts with you!

Cottage in the woods charm…or, the little house with a big heart! At first sight, the tiny white clapboard house and surrounding garden seems quite unremarkable tucked away beneath a shady canopy of huge oak, poplar and pine trees. The secluded home and gardens are rarely discovered except by family and friends. It’s casual and warm, friendly and cozy with vintage finds here and there…


After several weeks of clouds and occasional showers, suddenly my garden has burst into growth and greenery and finally the hummingbirds are showing up…it’s May, a very busy time in the garden…a time to get ready for summer.

IMG_0597Romancing the rose…scrambling up and over the fencing around the chicken pen is “Felicia” a hybrid musk old garden rose…entwined with purple Clematis jackmanii. She is a charming little rose full of character, masses of early blooms, and a delightfully sweet fragrance I enjoy every time I get near! Beautiful “Felicia” is such an easy rose to grow, she only gets a few hours of direct sunlight but still produces clusters of blooms from early spring to mid-summer and then another huge burst of bloom with cool fall weather. Lots of sweetly fragrant pink phlox planted along the base of the pen also provides fragrance all summer into autumn. Note the blue umbrella!

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Mixing foliage and flowers and textures is one of the secrets of good garden design…shown above is a favorite butterfly herb, bronze fennel, mixed with blooming purple salvia and soon to be blooming, pink phlox and rudbeckia…somewhere in the mix is “Iceberg”, a white very fragrant rose.

images-14 Plant a potager and reap the rewards for your kitchen…here, shown in late April, is my informal potager and herb garden I planted in mid-March. This year I had to put simple fencing around the 25’x25′ space to keep the chickens from attacking my crop of salad greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, parsley, snow peas, beans, cucumbers, French melons [seeds from Jeanine], peppers, potatoes, garlic, sage, lemon thyme, oregano, and much more…The teepee in center allows yellow pear heirloom tomatoes to grow vertically, taking up much less space. I start my vegetables with organic seeds and use mostly heirloom varieties. A compost pile in the left corner provides needed nutrients along with compost tea with every rain shower. Blueberry bushes and lilacs protect the back of the garden and act as a wind break outside the fence. Sunflowers will offer trellising for pole beans.  A border of lavender and onion chives planted around the front of the fence attracts beneficials early in the growing season. Blackberries on growing wires stand just outside the potager. This densely planted area is always buzzing with bees, butterflies, Ladybugs and hummers all summer. OH, and always a beautiful rose in bloom in the corner of the potager. It may not be pretty but this tiny space…in just the right spot…always provides a great deal of vegetables and fruits for my kitchen!

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Rose honey will sweeten up your life! NOTE:  I use ONLY deeply fragrant rose petals from my organically grown rose bushes. Shown here are just picked petals from an old Damask rose bloom sitting on tissue while drying…the tiny dried rose buds came from Jeanine’s rose bush in Texas. I use 3-4 complete rose blooms to 2 cups of organic honey. Pour a small amount of honey into a sterilized jar, then add rose petals…pour more honey into the jar and gently stir the petals and honey together so that petals are equally distributed throughout the honey. Make sure the rose petals are covered completely in honey. Remove any air bubbles by tapping the jar on the table. Screw on cap tightly and store in a dark place for 2 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally. After 2 weeks, or so, strain the honey to remove the petals and pour into a clean jar. Perfect in hot tea, lovely on toast, drizzled on vanilla ice cream or whatever you wish!!



Watching my chickens roam about the back yard and garden is pure pleasure…oh sure, they do scratch and eat insects and throughly make a mess but I just rake the paths and beds every day, if I can, and take on an attitude that perfection is not a part of my garden! They are such a hoot running behind me as I walk around the yard just waiting for me to toss them a treat. With the increased daylight, more chores are getting done and the “girls” have more time to roam! As the days grow warmer I make sure to provide plenty of fresh water bowls around the yard as well as spray water in the dimples of the wine bottles lining the paths. Chickens can become dehydrated rather quickly in the heat and can possibly die. I always make sure to provide extra shade and food cover with a few small beach umbrellas standing in the larger pen area. They do tend to eat less in hot weather but become excited about the fresh kale, chard and greens I share with them in the afternoon…these terrific greens give added nutrients to their diet along with needed moisture. I also add a teaspoon of baking soda to their water supply to aid in absorption of calcium…thus helping maintain strong egg shells.


Now, as the setting sun casts a warm light on the garden…I see masses of dark clouds gathering far beyond the woods…rain and thunder storms will soon arrive from the southwest to pelt the area with rain, wind and lightening. Time to quickly pick some herbs, maybe a few flowers, and head inside after I call in the chicks to their pen. Wine time and dinner!     [Photo taken at Jeanine’s]


I’d like to share a special moment spent in my French sister’s garden a few weeks ago in TEXAS…we had prepared several special dishes for lunch with friends and just being there in her fabulous garden was like being in Provence with all the blooms and fragrance and whimsical details. Thank you, dear sister for a delightful visit!


Love from Holly and me…jusqu’ a la procaine fois…




It’s SUNDAY, time for soup & traditions!

Today is Sunday and I’m making SOUP...even though it is sunny and considerably warmer outside…a ‘balmy’ 54 degrees! The soup can actually simmer slowly on the gas stove while I poke around a bit outside in the sun gathering vitamin D. The sky has been overcast, gray and dreary for the past week so today is very welcome…and gives me a moment to gather a few fresh herbs! On the stove is late winter soup…chicken and vegetables…cooking in my favorite Le Creuset pot, a parting gift from friends when I left Texas over 12 years ago.

IMG_0219Soup has been a tradition of mine for many years…the gathering of ingredients, the preparation, the simmering pot on the stove, the aroma when coming inside from the garden and finally the enjoyment of a nice bowl of warm goodness after a day of chill and sometimes very hard work! What could be better?!

Of course, SOUP has historically been traditional fare for hundreds of years…and served as main meals in many countries. Cooked over a campfire, wood stove or gas range…most soups are simple to make from just about any collection of ingredients!  I especially like the soups one finds around the south of France and areas of the Mediterranean. Gee, surprise.


There are so many kinds of soup that you can enjoy just about anywhere…shown above is a nice Provencal fall vegetable hearty soup being served family style on the patio.  Along with the soup is Pistou, typically added just before serving at the table,  a seasoning paste of pounded [in a mortar & pestle] garlic, basil, and olive oil. Often added to this mixture, is Parmesan cheese, dried bread and pine nuts or almonds…showing a bit of Italian influence.


Here, shown in the garden…is spring garden soup with new potatoes served alongside a fresh egg omelet. Another great companion for the humble soup would be Rillettes de Poisson, or creamy fish spread of finely shredded fish, chives and mustard spread on toasted baguette.


For villagers in the south of France, Provence, traditions are also strongly important…the families work long hours tending to their land, gardens, farm animals, vines and orchards, while making cheese and often doing stone work. Early morning would start with cafe’ and bread, usually left over from the the night before…unless fresh croissants were available in the village bakery. Their mid-day break for a meal [dejeuner] is typically the main meal of the day. Except for special occasions, their supper or evening meal is very light….typically soup, bread cheese and seasonal fruit or preserved jam/fruit as a little sweet with their bread.

Most Provencal cooking is considered “home cooking” with traditional food preparation methods or recipes passed from one generation to the next. This has been considered the inspiration for professional cooks/chefs…calling their food…”in the Provencal style “!

In most villages, the Provencal cook or housewife prepares meals from whatever is available seasonally from the garden or sometimes the bounty found at the village market…soup being the mainstay of the farm kitchen.

Many years ago, one of the most fabulous things I learned from my French sister, Jeanine, is to look in the refrigerator/freezer, find chicken stock, a few fresh or often “leftover” ingredients, collect some herbs and greens and such from the garden and within an hour or two have a fabulous meal of magical soup, cheese and bread as well as a simple dessert of freshly made sorbet.  I’ve seen her do this from some of the most unlikely ingredients that quickly become a 3 Michelin star repast. After arriving home from the office, she does this several times a week and WE do it every time we are together. It soon becomes an art to see what we can create!

FRENCH ideology is…Take what you have and make it something better!


Reigning Violets…Tiny violets, fragrant violets, candied violets, violets on a salad, a nosegay of violets…the fragrance and beauty of Viola odorata flowers is elusive and unique. In the language of flowers, the violet celebrates modesty, virtue, faithfulness, humility and happiness.

Violets were used medicinally [ often a cough remedy] throughout the known world since before Christ, Romans made sweet wine from them, and they were used as a component of strewing herbs in Medieval homes to sweeten the air.  Much later, violets became very popular with the Victorians for their fragrance when blossoms were used in eau de toilette and for tiny flower posies ladies carried to hide their noses from street smells. In fact, it was reported that in 1874 six tons of violet flowers were harvested in the south of France to then be shipped to England.

Violets won the hearts of the French long before Napoleon but they became a favorite of the Emperor and his wife Josephine. At her home, Malmaison, the Empress grew violets along with her favorite roses. The Emperor was so obsessed with violets that he chose them as his emblem and would often send Josephine tiny bouquets. While in exile in Elba, Napoleon told his supporters that he would return to France when violets were in bloom. After Josephine’s death, tiny bunches of violets were regularly placed on her grave.

Violets are a quaint, romantic little flower…used for soaps, medicinal preparations, candles and perfumes. Candied violets have been a favorite sweet treat throughout the centuries…I’ll never forget buying some of these quaint treats in a Paris sweet shop…I still have the jar and wrapping.

Gardeners can grow the true hardy Viola as well as some of the newer hybridized  varieties that were bred with longer stems. Usually available in garden centers, or wooded areas, these dainty beauties are lovely in a strawberry bed, an herb garden or as a rose companion. Violets are virtuous, vivacious, valuable and oh, so powerful!  Soon they will herald the arrival of early spring…



NOW, I’m going to take a moment to whine a bit…having VERTIGO really does suck!!

Here’s hoping I can work through all this and get on with my garden, my home and my writing…

From Holly and me…love & hugs till next time!