Grateful

Thankful…we hear that a lot this time of year. I think the spirit of thankfulness we feel now, should happen every other day of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for a day set aside to reflect on it all, but feel a bit swirled under by all the black Friday stuff. Thursday is just a speed bump to Friday. How did this happen? I remember as a kid when every store was closed and it was truly a holiday where time was spent with family (a bit Norman Rockwell-esque).  Forgot the whipped cream? Too bad because the Winn Dixie was buttoned up tight and there wasn’t a store open…anywhere!  I recently asked a cashier at a grocery store if she had plans for the holiday and she said she had to work. I told her what a bummer to have to work on a holiday and she brightened up and said she volunteered so she could have the time-and-a-half pay. Somehow,  it still made me sad.

So if Thursday is just another day on the calendar that happens to be a big day for turkey farmers, then grateful should be a part of every day. Find a quiet time in each day to reflect, even for just a few minutes. There are many mornings when I am simply grateful that I can put my cold toes over a warm heater vent.  Lord, I am grateful for: a warm house, a summer morning in the garden with the discovery of a bloom that wasn’t there yesterday. The range of brilliant colors of fall leaves.  The first daffodil to brighten the grey skies in the spring, a phone call from a far-away friend,  the giggle of a four-year old, all my girls home at the same time.  The list could go on and on, but the message is to be grateful for the simple things and seek thanksgiving in every day.

Pumpkins from garden to table

pile-o-pumpkins

I love this time of year and all the piles  of pumpkins in stores and the u-pick farms.

It’s time for fall harvests and pumpkins are everywhere.  In the garden, nothing delights kids more than to see bright orange fruits peeking out from under a vine.  Growing pumpkins is not for every garden. The sprawling vines take over, under and all around a garden space. In my small Potager, (kitchen garden) in the midst of everything else I want to grow, I always make room for a pumpkin plant or two. This year, I had one vine dangle over the top of the fence with a small pumpkin hanging on for dear life!

grow where I may

 

 

Even though it is out of season to talk about growing them, here are some tips to consider when planning your next growing season.  To help reign in the long pumpkin vines here are a few tricks I use to conserve space. As soon as I see a softball sized fruits forming, I cut off any new growth beyond that fruit. This allows it to grow bigger and ripen, rather than have the plant continue to put energy into forming more. I also gently move the vines as they are growing and start to form a large spiral (without breaking them) rather than allow the vines to take off in all directions. Turn growing pumpkins occasionally to avoid them being lopsided. Leave them on the vine as long as possible if they are still green to promote ripening. Harvest pumpkins when the vine begins to die out and the pumpkin is showing its full, rich color.

Pumpkin varieties vary from good carving to the sweet varieties for eating. Carving pumpkins are typically grown for size and not for baking. Carvers to grow include “Howden”, “Racer” and “Connecticut Field”. For baking choose, the Cinderella pumpkin “Rouge VIF D’Etampes”, “Small Sugar” and “SnackJack”. Unique novelties to grow are “Lumina” (white skinned, yellow flesh), “Baby Boo”, “Jack-B-Little” and “Jarrahdale”

Harvest and enjoy!

Recipes to try:

Pumpkin Mush

Pick the sweet varieties for baking. The pulp can be used in pies, soups, cakes and cookies.

Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and fibers. Place the cut halves on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 60 minutes (depending on the size). The pumpkin is done when the skin is brown and you can easily push a fork through it. Allow to cool and scoop the flesh out of the skin. Puree or mash it. It should have a consistency of pudding. To preserve, pack into freezer bags in 2 cup quantities. Two cups of mash will equal about a 16 ounce can. Use in pies, soups, and cookies.

Pumpkin Soup

This brings back memories when I was little girl in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We once had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Salem Inn. As a kid the thought of pumpkin soup sounded weird, but the taste was good!

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin

3 cups half and half milk

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

½ teaspoon pepper

1/8th teaspoon powdered allspice

1/8th teaspoon ginger

Salt to taste

In a saucepan, melt the butter, and then add the pumpkin. Stir well and add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in bowls or mugs. If desired,  top with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, croutons, a dollop of sour cream,  fresh parsley or small snips of chives.

Teeny, sweet bouquets!

 There are captured flowers in vases as the lavender dries upright beside the Moonshine yarrow and the hop vines. Memories of the summer garden on the buffet in the dining room.

But there is more  about this that makes me smile.  Tucked in front of the large vases of dried flowers are teeny, tiny glass bottles with sweet bouquets of  fresh flowers in them. A gift from my granddaughter last week. One of her favorite things to do is to pick flowers from the garden and leave them for me. She likes to help arrange fresh flowers in the big vases , but it isn’t always easy for her to do her own thing. As is typical for a 4-year-old, she wants to do them herself.

One day, I decided to let her use some small glass bottles as flower vases. I have a collection of old bottles that in the past, just sat on the shelf collecting dust , now they are perfect for my budding garden helper. Every time she visits I get fresh, teeny bouquets in my dining room.

2011 Northwest Flower and Garden show designer

It has been interesting…the questions about the Northwest Flower and Garden show. Who is Courtney Goetz, garden designer?

Here is your introduction

She is my 17-year-old daughter. She has two older sisters who had already started school when she was born, so she was my sidekick when I had a small garden business in Idaho. She became a child of the garden by osmosis. She simply absorbed her environment. She learned botanical names and rattled them off to customers as if they were her natural language as she puttered in the greenhouse with an oversized watering can.

Fast forward to 2004

In 2004, I built my first display garden at the show and Courtney was too young to help us build, but when the show opened, she came and handed out brochures. As I watched her work the crowds she was a natural, answering questions about plants, not intimidated at all by the massive crowds.  I wondered if she were to design a garden for the show, what it would look like.  

2005

A child of the Garden Grows

a bit of a blur...Courtney working the crowd in 2005

This was the garden I produced in 2005 based on Courtney’s ideas.   The centerpiece of the garden was a beautiful wood greenhouse made to look like a tree house resting on purple painted Madrona tree branches.  Courtney was once again too young to help us build, but I still remember the look in her eyes when she saw the completed garden for the first time. Magical!  She handed out brochures during the show again and she was an absolute pro. I had a woman pull me aside with a smile and say, “who is that child?” she is spouting off botanical names and telling great information. She was impressed and I was proud.

As time went on, Courtney helped build for the 2007 and 2009 shows. She finally was able to experience the creative hum of how the show really is built.  Show garden building has always been a family affair with my two oldest daughters  and husband pitching in. After the show in 2009, we were having a discussion around the dinner table and it came up that my rotation to do the show next would be her senior year in high school.  That crazy light bulb went off over her head, as we began to chatter about how fun it would be to make it her senior project.

Checking out plants for the 2011 show garden

Follow along as Courtney and I blog about the final countdown to the show in February.

 

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