A Kansas Country Garden in 2013

I have spent a delightful end-of-the-year afternoon reviewing and reflecting on my 2013 garden. How easily both the highs and lows of a gardening season are forgotten! I am thankful for this little blog which has become a great way to record happenings. Would you like to join me and we look back over a very blessed year? If you would like to see more photos or read additional information, the caption under each photo is a link back the to original post. Here's a toast to gardening! Every year brings surprises and delights!

Crocus are always the first to bloom bringing hope of winter's end.
The crocus were soon covered by a foot of snow!
The daffodil season began in March
Due to a cooler spring, the daffodils had a much longer bloom time.
Spring finally settles in
Nothing says "Kansas" like our glorious sunflowers.
Autumn Joy Sedum is one of my favorite plants. It looks good in all seasons, even winter, but it really shines in the fall.
Brilliant berries on the pyracantha bush help bid a fond farewell to the gardening season. 

Top Ten Recipes of 2013

Here's a look back at some of the recipes featured on my blog in 2013. They have been ranked by the number of views that they had. I loved them all, but readers loved some more than others. (Click on the title or caption for the origional post and recipe.)

#10 Skillet Cookies
My mother made Skillet Cookies and I hadn't had them in years. The secret ingredient is dates. As the name suggests they are not baked, but a syrup is cooked in a skillet and poured over crisp rice cereal.
#9 Prize-Winning Brownies
Moist and delicious, they go together quickly for a tasty snack. This recipe was one used to win purple ribbons at the 4-H Fair. But there is a little more to the story. . . 
Packed full of cheeses and accented with roasted peppers, this recipe works great for a week-night supper or a special breakfast. I often bring it to our monthly card parties.
I made this recipe for the first time this year and it was a definite keeper.  I don't think you can buy this at the grocery store.
#5 Sourdough Rhubarb Coffeecake
Yes, it was a year for sourdough recipes. We have this in the spring during the brief rhubarb harvest.
Most homemade banana bread is good, but sourdough banana bread is superb!
#3 Sourdough Chocolate Zucchini Cake
The chocolate chip topping is better than frosting--a perfect summertime treat!
#2 Vereneke with Ham Gravy
This traditional Low German dish is always on our menu at Christmastime. 

Sing a Thanksgiving Song (all year long)

Who says there are no Thanksgiving songs? I actually heard someone on the radio say this. Well, they are wrong! There are beautiful Thanksgiving songs, but you might have to look in the hymnbook to find them. One of my favorites is "For the Beauty of the Earth."  I cannot limit this hymn only to the Thanksgiving season for I often find it drifting through my mind as I survey the world I live in and gawk at the amazing Kansas skies. Here then are the words to this beautiful hymn supplemented by photos from my garden and my childhood.

Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!

 Lord of all, to thee we raise
 this our hymn of grateful praise.

He Prayed for Me: Jacob B. Becker

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16

My great-grandfather, Jacob B. Becker was a praying man. Even though he never met me, he prayed for me. He prayed for my sons, too.
Jacob B. Becker

Jacob B. Becker began his life April 3, 1868 in Karlswalde, a small Mennonite colony in the Russian province of Volhynia.

It's Time: Baked Potato Soup with Sausage and Roasted Peppers

When the dusky autumn skies become a steely grey. . . 

When the nip in the air becomes a definite chill. . . 
When there are more leaves on the ground than on the trees. . 

When the moisture in the air assaults your skin with tiny pellets. . . 

Then it's time. It's time for soup.

A Kansas Country Garden: Bad Plant Momma!

Ah, autumn! Who doesn't love this season? The cooler days, the colorful leaves and dusky skies along with the musty scent of fallen leaves make it very pleasant. But autumn is a season of endings as well. In the back of every gardener's mind is a poignant question. When will the killing frost arrive? You know its coming, but you don't when. 

Jamming: Red Pepper Honey Jam

This year many of the peppers have already turned a brilliant red.
Peppers do very well in our Kansas garden. Unfazed by summer's heat, they soldier on week after week while other garden plants bite the dust and finish their shorter seasons. As fall arrives, peppers are in their prime. Branches bend under the weight of ripening peppers and sometimes break. The culmination of an optimistic spring when a few too many small plants were tucked into the ground is fulfilled with a bountiful and beautiful harvest. What to do with them all? I roast a few (click here for more information on that). I make salsa, both fresh and canned (more about another time). And this year, I am making Red Pepper Honey Jam.

The combination of Anaheim, Poblano and JalapeƱo peppers makes a tasty jam.
Sparkling jars of brilliant red are lovely to behold, but it's the taste--sweet and tangy while packing a bit of heat--that make this jam simply outstanding.

A Kansas Country Garden: September Zips By

Morning Glories are in the glory in the autumn.
What happened to September? It just arrived and suddenly we're waving good-bye. In the flower gardens the demands of summer have lessened, or perhaps they're just being ignored. Many plants are past their prime, but there are still islands of color. 

Make a Date with Skillet Cookies

Bet you haven't had a date lately. No, I'm not talking about the kind where a guy nervously calls a girl he likes and asks her to accompany him on an outing. I'm talking about the fruit. Dates are an ancient fruit grown on the palm tree in temperate climates. You can find them mentioned in the Bible. Wonderfully sweet, they are actually quite nutritious. An excellent source of fiber, iron and potassium, they are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper and magnesium (Source).
Why don't we often find them used in modern recipes? After thousands of years culinary use, they seem to have fallen out of favor. I'm afraid a whole generation can only offer a blank stare when asked about them. 

Governor's Cookie Jar: The Recipes

This year I entered the Governor's Cookie Jar contest at the state fair. I did not win. Frankly, the judges were not all that impressed with my cookies. I know! I was surprised, too. They labeled several of my cookies as "not done in the middle." This is probably more than just a difference of opinion on the tenderness of cookies. I imagine there is a precise crumb standard in the cookie that they were looking for. I don't know. I do know, however, that I really like these cookies and I am glad to share the recipes with you if they are online.

Governor's Cookie Jar: Fair Contest

I have not ridden on any of the carnival rides at the state fair for many years, but entering the Governor's Cookie Jar competition felt at little like a roller coaster ride. I sent off the cookie jar on Friday morning with high hopes. I felt like I had given it my best shot and there were some really good cookies in there. Surely I had as good a chance as anybody. 

Governor's Cookie Jar: Bake and Take

Just how do you get at least nine different kinds of cookies baked, wrapped and at the peak of their tastiness to the fair by 9 a.m. on a Friday morning? That was my quest when I entered the Governor's Cookie Jar contest at the state fair. 

Governor's Cookie Jar: Gonna Do It!

In our town September means the state fair. Traffic picks up, an air of excitement invades our sleepy town and we almost always have rain (none this year yet, however). A visit to the fair is almost mandatory. For some its the carnival games and rides that compels attendance. Others are drawn to the buildings with rows upon rows of booths with vendors handing out freebies. Some love to visit the barns with fine farm animals of every kind. Many people come from around the state to attend the shows at the grandstand. My favorites are the the Domestic Arts Building with its displays of fabric and food entries and the Pride of Kansas building with garden, agriculture and floriculture displays.

In the Domestic Arts Building there are shelves full of baked goods; cookies, breads and cakes.

A Kansas Country Garden: Is This A Good Thing?

Martha, our lone guinea fowl has laid some eggs under the rose bush right next to our home and is now setting on them. Is this a good thing? 

It's a good thing because. . . .

Sourdough Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake Makes Me Smile

Feeling a little blue? A bite or two of blueberries might just cheer you up. Why not? They're good for almost everything else. Full of antioxidants and flavor, not to mention vitamin C, fiber and manganese they are often listed among the most healthy foods to eat. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, they may play a role in cardiovascular health, brain health, insulin response and cancer risk reduction.

A Kansas Country Garden: Surprise! It's a Wet August

Beautiful "surprise" lilies make an unexpected appearance.
Too much rain? In Kansas? In August? Surprise! That's just what we have experienced. After two years of drought and excessive heat, it has been wonderful to have adequate rain and milder temperatures this summer. The gardens have thrived.

A Kansas Country Garden: July Swelters

Hibiscus bloom in the heat of summer.
Each bloom lasts just one day.
If I were a plant, I wouldn't pick July to bloom. No, in July I would waver limp and wilting in the brutal heat yearning for air conditioning and cooler days. Wait a minute. That's what I really do on hot July days.