Category Archives: Gardening

Herb Gardens and Succulent Cornish Hens with Rice

Sometimes when March hits, the weather seems like a fickle teenager…not sure whether to grow up and become Summer, or head back to the childhood of Winter. This dinner perfectly reflects that mood: Cornish hens, rice, and blueberry bran muffins hot from the oven, steamed broccolli in the middle, and a fresh veggie salad with strawberries and blueberries edged by honey dew melon. Winter to spring to summer, all on one plate. Are you in?One of the things I’ve done to keep up my spirits in the winter is tend a little herb garden on our (only) sunny window ledge. We have rosemary in an old tea pot (a great way to re-purpose a pot after the lid’s been broken too many times to mend any more), basil, parsley, rosemary, and sometimes chives or other herbs (depending on what I can find at the market), interspersed with various flowers and other greenery. This little kitchen garden also comes in handy when I’m cooking!

Succulent Cornish Hens with Jasmine Rice
(Feeds 4±)

Defrost 2 Cornish hens overnight or in the refrigerator until completely thawed. Pour 1.5  cups of water into the bottom of a roasting pan, and add:
1.25 cups of jasmine rice, making sure the rice is completely wet
Sprinkle over the hens and rice:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
2 springs rosemary, somewhat chopped
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning salt (or your favorite brand)
1 teaspoon chives
If you have it, cut up several sprigs of fresh thyme and add them on top   Bake covered for 1.75 hours in an oven preheated to 350°F. Check to see if the chicken is completely cooked through. If it’s done but not golden, take off the lid and let it bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.   Meanwhile, prepare whatever sides you want, and then serve it all up. This rice is softer than it would be if it were made in a cooker, but it absorbs all the juice from the hens, and I think the savory flavor makes up for the less than perfect consistency. You could also try adding the rice halfway through the roasting if you want it firmer (although I usually pop the whole thing in the oven on occasions when I’m going to be gone for several hours and can’t tend it too closely). Another variation is to add just one cup of water and a can of chunked pineapple with its juice…and/or hot peppers or one cup of salsa. There are lots of variations on this “Sunday dinner” roast, so experiment!

Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.” (Psalm 65:10)

Late Bloomers

Do you ever find it hard to throw out a perfectly good plant that has finished blooming but still looks hardy? I  have this “thing” about letting anything die, and it sears my soul to throw out even diseased plants that I can’t seem to rehabilitate, although I eventually do get rid of them lest they infect the rest of the plants in our little garden room.  What I’ve noticed is that, unless they are annuals, most flowering plants will bloom again the following year if I wait patiently enough. In particular, we have three Christmas cacti and two poinsettias, all of which were in full bloom during December when we first got them (more than a year ago), but all of which bloom more in January and February now that they are not being “forced.” I don’t know when they would bloom in their native soil, but I’ve grown to appreciate that our garden room is dotted with bright flashes of reds and pinks during the otherwise dreary, dark days of winter in January, February, and early March!

Do you ever think of yourself as a late bloomer? Or, maybe you think you’ll never bloom again. If you’ve got the Holy Spirit inside, then you’re a perennial, not an annual! Even if you look back and lament that you’ve lost the beauty and bloom of young faith, take heart. Be patient. If you want to, you can bloom again, and when you do, you’ll find unexpected joy that blesses not only you but everyone around you!You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again” (Psalm 71:20).

(Photo with verse compliments of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)

 

The Beauty of Little Flower Girls

One of the things I love about country living is there are always wildflowers free for the picking pretty much spring through fall, and I have two little grand daughters who have been keeping me in flowers!Almost every day they bring me flowers…even enough to adorn such things as cupcakes that we baked to take to our new neighbors! A couple of days ago the baby slept so poorly that we sent Mama back to bed for a tiny rest while the baby had her morning nap, and while she was sleeping, the girls and I decided to make some bouquets for Mama! We walked up and down the lane, and even past our garden down to the lake, and picked some of all the different flowers we could find, and then the girls took turns choosing flowers to put in the vases. I think it was one of the happiest morning activities we did all month, and after we finished arranging the flowers, the girls worked very hard at writing cards just to tell their mother how much they loved her! (No prompting; this was all their own idea!)Parenting is such hard work, but it’s also one of the world’s most rewarding occupations! After all, where else can you get a zillion enthusiastic hugs and “I love you!”s  every day? Praise God for children…and flowers!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God
‘” (Luke 18:16).

 

Rise Up, My Love (209): Where are You Twining your Vine?

The Sea of GalileeSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” First, the bride looked to see if she could see any fruit in the valley. Next, she looked to see “whether the vine flourished.” Notice that it is not “vines” as in many vines in a vineyard, but just one vine.   secret-garden-mackinac-island-9-18-05From John 15 we know that Christ is the true vine and we are the branches. How quickly reading about the vine flourishing brings to mind thoughts of believers abiding in Christ! The bride concerns herself not only with seeking new fruits for her Lord, but with the growth of the vine already established in the garden…the growth of the Church, the body of Christ. Indeed, the bride is the body of Christ here on earth. To go into the garden to examine the vine makes me think of going into a quiet place alone before God and prayerfully examining my own life. Am I flourishing? Am I abiding in Christ? Am I receiving an unobstructed flow of his Spirit, or is there any crushing weight of sin that has partially broken off my attachment to the vine? As I put forth delicate new tendrils, are they attaching firmly to the sturdy supports provided by the husbandman, or are the young shoots of my new growth waving free in the breeze…aimlessly waiting for any handy support?  garden-in-bunratty-folk-park-irelandDo you know much about vines? I still don’t know much, but I learned a little from planting a grape arbor along the fence around our swimming pool. The branches of the grape vines aren’t very smart! They don’t naturally seem to attach themselves to the sturdy fence provided. After returning from a vacation and inspecting my vines that June, I noticed that many of the young shoots were growing straight up into the air toward the sun, and one had wound its way tightly around a young nectarine tree that was planted nearby.  twining-vines-and-a-frogHow like humans, I thought! How often—particularly in our youthful ignorance— we tend to wave about in the breeze of life like the tendrils of young plants, just looking for someone or some group to shower us with sunny approval. Too often we go to the “highest bidder”…whoever pays the most attention or makes us feel most important, rather than bending down in humility and attaching ourselves to the sturdy fence “beneath” us (usually parents and other God-given guides). And yet, to be truly productive, we must learn to lean on our supports and abide in the Vine.  climbing-roses-on-a-brownstone-cottage-cotswold-englandEven after we’ve matured somewhat, we’re in still greater need of support, or we’ll never be able to “bear the weight of glory” so to speak…including the horrific pressures of bringing up children. Beyond that, think of all the people who’ve become prominent in society and then failed miserably. Even many extremely gifted Christians come apart at the seams when given lime light. Like fruit trees heavy with promise, their branches literally break under the load, and they lose much of the precious crop that was ripening within them. Trees that have lost branches are more open to infections. Sometimes the damage is so great that the entire tree becomes diseased and dies, or has to be pruned out of the orchard lest the infection spreads.

Isn’t that the way life is? Tenderly, I took the new shoots, carefully weaving them in and out of the fence. The ones that had grown straight up for too long were inflexible and commonly, despite my best efforts, would break off or require tying to retrain them. The shoot that had wound its way tightly around the nectarine had to be broken off completely, lest it choke the young nectarine. Ah, how our like our human tendency to reach up for glory or attach ourselves to someone or something else beside the one true God. Brokenness, retraining, wasted time, and sometimes a severe loss of life or limb. Such is our lot when we are wayward, for the Lord does promise to prune and chasten all whom he loves  (Revelation 3:19). He works with us so that we’ll become fruitful!peaches-in-the-sun

Rise Up, My Love (207): Searching in the Garden

beatrix-potters-home-hill-top-lake-district-englandSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden to see…” The first thing that strikes me about her plan is that she is not taking responsibility for making any of these things happen; she is simply checking to see if they are happening. As believers, we cannot force springtime in the souls of men; we cannot make fruit; we can only attend the fruit as it develops.   apple-blossomsThis is of utmost importance as we begin seeking to work in our Lord’s vineyard. How often Christians, in their enthusiasm to serve Christ, begin recklessly trying to force the manufacture of fruit by their own efforts. We can’t make believers any more than the bride could have made the pomegranates bud. We must understand that God is the husbandman, and the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts life and growth.   applesOne of the most striking lessons I learned as a new Christian (and many times since) was my own helplessness to produce spiritual fruit in my life. My pastor used to say that too many young Christians, like clumsy little children, try to color paper fruits, cut them out, and paste them on in an unsuccessful attempt to hide their spiritual immaturity and barrenness. These are the babes in Christ who want to appear as strong warriors for the sake of impressing others, or worse yet, these are sometimes the hypocrites who smile on the outside while spitting on the inside…insincere people with no true hunger for God, just a desire to curry man’s favor. Better to wait humbly for the true budding of the vine that results from feeding on the Bible. Trying to look spiritual for pride’s sake never works!   gathering-fruitHowever, God does promise that he will give grace to the humble (James 4:6) and that He will fill those who sincerely hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). This is not to say that we are not responsible for preparing the soil of our hearts, watering it with his word, planting the seeds of truth within our hearts, and vigorously pulling out the weeds of sin as they appear. Yes, we have many responsibilities, and as St. Augustine said: “Strive manfully; habit is overcome by habit.”   apple-tree-loaded-with-apples-in-fallWe are indeed accountable to God for our behavior, but spiritual fruit is something different. Let’s consider again for a minute the fruits of the Spirit that we studied in detail earlier (Galatians 5:22-23). Spiritual fruit is earmarked by characteristics that are totally the opposite of the natural inclinations of the flesh…attitudes of true love, joy, peace, patience, faith, humility, self-control, gentleness, and goodness.   ripe-apples-on-tree-after-rainWe are accountable to God for doing the right things, and by acts of our will, we can do the right things, but how often we wrestle with our hearts! It is only God who can purify our hearts and make our attitudes right! We may water and tearfully sow, but it is God who gives the increase (I Corinthians 3:6-9).   child-picking-raspberries“I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” Strengthened and inspired by the communion and praise of her husband, the bride—for the first time—takes the initiative…not in seeking her beloved, but in seeking fruit from their orchards.   picking-applesPreviously, the bridegroom called his beloved out to “rise up and come away.” He had entreated her to come with him in seeking fruit, but now—a full circle of seasons later—the bride chooses on her own to seek fruit. It is again springtime, but this time her love is mature. She is not just a tender, flowering tree but a fruitful tree. Just as the fragrant apple tree produces no fruit for the first years after it’s planted, so the bride had no fruit until she matured. Now she is mature. She is no longer a tender-eyed bride that must be coaxed along; she is a blazing tower of strength and purpose, “terrible as an army with banners.” And so, she chooses to do something to please her Lord.

This is a profound contrast to the last series of choices she made. Think back to chapter five. What does she say of herself there? “I sleep; I have put off my coat; I have washed my feet…” and finally, after tarrying until it was too late: “I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone.” And then, the terrible search, “I sought him; I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” From this attitude of lethargy and self-centeredness …through the life-or-death struggle that ensued, the bride emerged as gold tried by the fire, refined and proclaiming: “The Lord is my God.” (Zechariah 13:9).” This seasoned, tempered vessel was the one who now says, “I went down into the garden of nuts.”

A Hidden Garden in Grand Rapids

Grandpa's GardenNot everyone has the brilliance and budget to develop a Giverny Aquilegia (Columbine)(or maybe no one), but just a few days after we’d returned home from Europe, Alan, Daniel, and IDaniel and Brianna had us over for dinner, and then
—knowing how much I love gardens—Hostas Galore!+they took us to see a beautiful garden in their neighborhood. Hostaholic Lives Here SignThis amazing garden has over 1,000 hostas growing, Hosta Garden. 2plus dozens of flowering perennials that can tolerate shade.  Statue in Hosta GardenI was totally surprised (but delighted), Clematisbecause we’ve walked through the neighborhood many a time, Alan with Samuel in Hosta Gardenstrolling Baby Samuel after dinner, Hosta Garden. 5and none of us had never noticed this hidden treasure before!Bug on a bench(Of course, it is in their neighbors’ back yard.) Dan and Brianna in Hosta GardenApparently our kids’ next-door-neighbors knew about it and invited Dan and Brianna to view the gardens…who in turn invited us, because—as it turns out— Hosta Garden. 9the couple who owns the gardenRhododendronsare very willing to share all the beauty they’ve created! Hosta Garden. 6It was like visiting a lovingly tended botanical garden! Pooh Bear HostaEach type of hosta was neatly labeled, and everywhere we turned Native hydrengeathere was something to delight our eyes. Decorative bugs on tableIt was obviously designed with their grandchildren in mind too, Face on a treebecause there were lots of playful touches. Grandma's Garden of HostasThe lady of the home toured us around Hosta Careand was super gracious about discussing the plants, Columbinehappily dispensing tips on how to care for shade-loving species Hummingbird Feederand even answering questions about how to attract and care for hummingbirds! Hosta Garden. 7I stood in awe of her willingness to share the fruit of all her hard work Solomon's Sealand wisdom with total strangers! Hosta Garden. 10To keep the garden free of weeds,Hosta garden 17they literally go through on their hands and knees weeding! Hosta Garden. 8When we returned home, Dan and Brianna’s next-door-neighbor was up on a ladder repairing something, and he filled in the details. Pink AzaleasApparently the owners of the hidden hosta garden started their work
20 years ago when their daughter was graduating from high school. Hosta Garden. 4The family had tall trees in their big backyard, and between the children
and the trees, the grass just couldn’t thrive in the shade, Primroses and Columbine in Springleaving the area pretty bleak and muddy (which is obviously no longer true!).Hosta Garden 13In order to have a beautiful setting for their daughter’s graduation party, Hosta Garden. 12they planted some hostas…and one thing led to another. Peonies“Quite the love story!” the neighbor reflected. Indeed! Hosta Garden. 11And, one that I’ve thought a lot about this past week. Hosta GardenImagine if every believer cleaned up the mud and mess in the backyards of our lives so that our kids would be glad to have their friends over. Hosta Garden 16Imagine searching through our lives as couples on our knees, rooting out sins!Hosta Garden. 3Imagine having such beautiful lives Statue of a lady with waterthat neighbors notice and tell other neighbors and bring them over to visit!Ceramic Toadstools in a gardenImagine being that open to having people just drop in out of the blue, Azaleas. Orangeand being willing to share the fruit of our spiritual lives…of being willing to take time to explain what we’ve learned and “how to” grow in grace. Chipmunks. Ceramic statuesWow. Have I ever got a long way to go!   Listening to gardenerBut in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Monet’s Glorious Giverny in Spring

Gorgeous colors at Giverny. France. 05.09.16Kathy asked yesterday which site in France was our favorite. Kaleidoscope of Colors at Giverny. France. 05.09.16Wow! That’s a hard one! Mt. Saint Michel 05.13.16Alan said Mont St. Michel, and there’s definitely something to that!Monet's Home at Giverny. France. 05.09.16 I feel like we came home with a lifetime of unforgettable memories, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and that narrowing it down to one favorite is nigh unto impossible Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 1given the uniqueness of the various scenic places. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 20However, for an over-the-top sensory experience in color, texture, fragrance— Bird at Giverny. France. 05.09.16even sound…Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 9in fact, pure, unmitigated beauty everywhere I turned, Kathi at GivernyI would vote for Giverny, Artful Abandon at Giverny. France. 05.09.16 the sublimely riotous gardens so artistically designed by Claude Monet.Claude Monet. Wiki public domainMonet (1840-1926) was the great father of Monet. Painting of his lily pond—and most prolific contributor to—French impressionistic painting.  Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 7Ten years ago, Alan and I visited the fantastic gardens of GivernySpring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 14 with two of our kids (Kathy and Jonathan), Givernyand we were enthralled. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 21Five years ago, I reflected on those visions of glorySpring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 17 while visiting Manito Park in Spokane, Washington with Jon’s family  Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 19(https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2011/09/10/monets-giverny-reflections-of-glory/).Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 24This May, Alan and I visited again, this time with our two youngest, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 13Stephen and Joel, and I have to say that if anything, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 23Giverny is even more than ever an unforgettable kaleidoscope of color Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 8and perfumes! Japanese Bridge lush with wisteria at Giverny. France. 05.09.16The Japanese bridge over Monet’s lily pond Lily pond by Claude Monet at Giverny. France. 05.09.16(basis for his most famous paintings) Wisteria at Giverny. France. 05.09.16was bursting with exuberant wisteria, Tulips and Forget-me-nots at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and cheerful beds of tulips interlaced with forget-me-nots Columbine and forget-me-nots at Giverny. France. 05.09.16and a profusion of other spring-blooming plants Paths beside the lily pong at Giverny. France. 05.09.16were joyfully overflowing their bounds along every path. Sitting on bench at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 14We could have sat transfixed for hours at any resting place Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 2without ever taking in all the intricacies right before my eyes. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 5Even if I possessed all the money in the world, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 29I couldn’t imagine or produce such a magnificent display of brilliant color. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 11The impact was so overwhelming that I just found myself laughing Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 27and blinking my eyes, Kathi on bridge at Giverny. France. 05.09.16like I’d walked into a Thomas Kinkade painting of heaven! Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 12In fact, it did make me think of heaven, Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 6which will be more glorious Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 26and exotic Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 10and dazzlingly beautiful Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 4than we can imagine. Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 16Are you ready? Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16. 30Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Giverny. France. 05.09.16Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:1-16)Tulips Spring flowers blooming at Giverny. France. 05.09.16.(Yes, all these photos are from Giverny, taken a couple of weeks ago [except for the photo of Claude Monet from Wiki, and Mont St. Michel, taken a few days later]. May is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit!)