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My chard (also known as swiss chard and silverbeet) is growing great right now. I planted it last fall, and it did ok throughout the winter months, but it seems to really have taken off in the past months. I have known that I need some shade for my garden in the spring and summer months. That South Texas sun is just too darn hot for most things all day long. While I have a nice line of juniper trees on the east side of the garden I have nothing shading things from the West side and as the hours go by the plants really take a beating. I have tried to come up with some ideas (in my head!) to help shade things, but my limitations over the past few years I haven’t been able to physically get things done like that. This year I had some ideas that I thought would work and I have more stamina to get them done.

Chard stalks

Chard stalks

I’m getting off track here. This post started out about chard and the stems and I have gotten sidetracked with my new shade system….. so I will break this up into two posts and post about the shade that I created in my next post here.

I think my chard is really benefiting from the shade and when I arrived back home after being gone for 3 weeks I was amazed at how tall and full the chard plants where. It is really almost impossible to grow most greens here in the spring and summer months. For two years I did keep a few chard plants going. It wasn’t pretty throughout the summer months, nor were they huge producers, but it was interesting to see them stay alive and keep growing.  I am excited at the prospect of these fall planted chard plants along with the new shade to see what happens throughout the rest of the summer. We are already hot, and it will just get more hot and I hope the plants will do better.

chopping chard stalks

chopping chard stalks

So, I am happily picking chard and adding into most of our meals in one way or another. Last night as I was chopping the chard and I wondered if others out there also ate the stalks/stems.

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

I grew up eating the stalks. Mom or Gram would chop them separately and get them sauteing or steaming for a few minutes. The stalks can be a bit bitter and that bitterness will disappear if you give them extra time to cook. they also need additional cooking time because they are a lot thicker and firmer than the leaf and need that extra time to soften up more.

When I am going to add the chard to pasta, I just throw the chopped stalks in along with the pasta for the last 3 minutes of its cooking time. Once the pasta is drained I add the chopped leaves and let the heat of the pasta soften and cook the delicate chard leaves (the smaller you chop them up, the easier it is to incorporate them into the hot pasta.)

Do you eat the chard stalks? How do you incorporate them into your meals?

Sincerely, Emily

It was time to cut my hair and send it off to Locks of Love.

Time to cut my hair

Time to cut my hair

One of my nieces cut it two years ago, so I asked her if she wanted to cut it again. She made a scrunched up face and said, “No, I don’t like the sound it makes when I cut through the thick ponytail!”

A week later, when I friend came up to help us pack at my parents house, I asked her if she would do the honors…. and off we went outside to get it done.

I put my hair in two pony tails, we got out the tape measure to make sure we would get the 10″ or more they needed and it was done in less than a minute. This time it was over 13″ cut off to send away. The last time it was cut was back in September of 2011 (I thought it had only been 2 years…. time flies, and hair grows I guess!)

All that was left was a little trimming to even it up and we were back inside packing boxes again.

Hair cut for Locks of Love

Hair cut for Locks of Love

Each of the five times (this might have been the 6th time, I have lost count) that I have cut my hair for Locks of Love I go through a thought process of “should I cut it now, or wait” then a day later I am tired of brushing through the length of the hair and also tired of finding long hair on everything that I know it is time. I used to cut it every 18 months, but I cut it in the beginning of summer and will be much cooler for me.

My hair tends to grow fast and I wish I would have started cutting in many years ago for Locks of Love. I can’t turn back the clock on the cutting part, or even the gray in my hair, but I know as long as my hair keeps growing, I will cut it and send it off. Even though my hair has gray in it, they will still take it. They will sell it and use the money to help keep their organization going.

GUIDELINES FOR ACCEPTABLE DONATIONS

  • Hair that is colored or permed is acceptable.
  • Hair cut years ago is usable if it has been stored in a ponytail or braid.
  • Hair that has been bleached (usually this refers to highlighted hair) is not usable.  If unsure, ask your stylist. We are not able to accept bleached hair due to a chemical reaction that occurs during the manufacturing process. **If the hair was bleached years ago and has completely grown out it is fine to donate.
  • Hair that is swept off of the floor is not usable because it is not bundled in a ponytail or braid.
  • Hair that is shaved off and not in a ponytail or braid is not usable. If shaving your head, first divide hair into multiple ponytails to cut off.
  • We cannot accept dreadlocks. Our manufacturer is not able to use them in our children’s hairpieces. We also cannot accept wigs, falls, hair extensions or synthetic hair.
  • Layered hair is acceptable if the longest layer is 10 inches.
  • Layered hair may be divided into multiple ponytails.
  • Curly hair may be pulled straight to measure the minimum 10 inches.
  • 10 inches measured tip to tip is the minimum length needed for a hairpiece.
  • Printable Guidelines (PDF)Please Note:
  • Shorter hair will be separated from the ponytails and sold to offset the manufacturing costs. Although the shorter hair cannot be used in the hairpieces, it still greatly helps to reduce costs.
  • Gray hair will be accepted and sold to offset the manufacturing costs.
  • Colored hair is not usable if it is colored over bleached hair.
  • Because Locks of Love creates custom hairpieces for each child, we are unable to accept donations of wigs, falls, hair extensions or synthetic hair.

Have you cut and donated your hair in the past? Are you inspired to do it now?

Sincerely, Emily

We have had an interesting spring in South Texas with the weather and the rain. Ranging everywhere from HOT to cool, HUMID to dry, and quite the range in-between. After living in Palm Springs, CA in the dry desert heat for many years, I find that I am more intolerant to any type of humidity. In the desert, our humidity was something like 7%, maybe 14%, so when we moved to the San Antonio area in July 6 years ago I was blasted with 102F and a lot of humidity (the 102F was a “normal” temp in summer in Palm Springs, it was still blinkin’ hot, but it was dry.)  People form Houston just laugh and say that we don’t know what humidity is like, and while I agree and completely understand, I still need to explain where I came from and what a shock to my system it was coming from 7% humidity to something higher.iceNow, I add menopause to the equation and I am miserable when the thermometer climbs about 70F it seems.

Enter cold drinks with ice cubes, cold washcloths and fans everywhere around the house.

We have an old-fashioned refrigerator. I say “old-fashioned” because there is no water or ice cube maker in it, and that is not a complaint. I am our built-in ice-cube machine! It is part of my daily routine.

I am thankful for days without much humidity, and electricity to run the fans and the refrigerator so that I can make more ice!

What are the summer temps like where you live (you southern hemisphere readers can tell me about your winter temps – the cooler temps might make some of us feel better)?

How do you combat the heat?

Sincerely, Emily

 

I was out in Palm Springs a few weeks ago to do what I could to help a friend. I was able to run a lot of errands, cook meals, and just be there when she needed me.

Popcorn popper

Popcorn popper

We have a lot of great memories together, one of them being popcorn. We used to work together and every now and then, on a Friday, we would alternate bringing some sort of food into the office to share. I would bring sun dried tomato and chive cream cheese with bagels, and would bring it in on a Friday morning so the service guys could grab one before heading out for the day. A few Friday’s later, usually a payday, and she would make a huge batch of popcorn and bring it in after lunch so the service guys could grab some when they stopped in to pick up their paychecks.

One afternoon I made popcorn when when I was out there a few weeks ago, another one of our friends (we also worked together) was stopping by. I didn’t make just one batch of popcorn, but 5 batches! The air is so dry there, that it stays nice and crispy, crunchy for several days.

We all munched on popcorn through our tears and laughter. And we munched on it for the next few days along with other family members.

I am used to using a pan on the stove-top for making popcorn at home, but she had this nifty popcorn making pan. After a batch of instruction, I was on my way! Batch after Batch!

Are you a popcorn eater? How do you pop yours?

Sincerely, Emily

Yesterday was the first day I harvested something from our garden this season.image

Zucchini!!!

Peppers!! Serranos, anaheims, and banana. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of those.

I also picked three peaches in hopes that they will ripen off the tree. The squirrels are already competing for those. Grrrrr.

What is growing in you garden??

Sincerely, Emily

My German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been growing very well this year. I had a few plants come up form last years seeds and I planted a few more to increase my harvest.Chamomile 2 (Matricaria recutita)

The flowers really make me smile. The plant is so delicate looking with pinnately divided leaf – almost feather-like and small white disc flowers. I love seeing them bloom. I harvest the flower and enjoy a cup of tea using the fresh flowers, but most of them I dry to use later. When I am picking the flower heads I can’t resist giving them a sniff because they give off a nice light apple fragrance.

Chamomile, a member of the aster family (asteraceae), is native to Europe and western Asia and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is one of the most popular herbs used in the Western world.  I grow and use German chamomile. I dry the flowers to store and use when I need them.

Growing German Chamomile:

  • German Chamomile is a cool-season annual. In my area S. Texas, it will reseed itself. I usually help it along by crumbling up a few dry flowers in the late fall when I scatter seeds for larkspur and poppy. Be frugal, be sure to save a few extra for more seeds later, or share with a friend. The information I find on it says to “sow the seeds outside 4-6 weeks before your last frost, or as soon as the soil can be worked” or “late fall when the soil is too cold for seeds to germinate.” You can also start with a plant from your local nursery or start your seeds inside 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area.
  • You can grow German Chamomile in the ground or in container. Whatever works for best you.
  • Can get very bushy and stand about 3′ tall. Mine is about 2′ tall
  • I likes full sun. Since we get so hot here I have planted mine where it will get afternoon shade. The plants will get very leggy if there is too much shade.
  • They don’t need a lot of water, but will benefit from it during dry conditions, and when they start to flower.Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

My plants are done for the season already. they are not putting on anymore fresh blooms and the bottom foliage is starting to turn yellow. We are well into some summer-like temps and have already hit 98F this season. I will leave the rest of the blooms on the plant to help re-seed the area, but like I mentioned above, I will save some seed head for sowing later. the reason I do both is that I will still be putting a layer of horse manure and/or other compost on all the herb gardens and then a thick layer of mulch and a lot of those seeds will get buried too deep, so I will need to sprinkle those seeds later in the fall to ensure that I have plants popping up next spring.

So, what can chamomile be used for?  Anxiety, insomnia, canker sores (mouthwash), irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and heartburn, acid reflux, gastrointestinal complaints, treat skin conditions and mild infections. What do I use it for? Mainly to relax in the evening to help with sleep and stress, but also for an aid with digestion. How do I use it? As a tea.

Whether you grow German chamomile to harvest the blooms or not, it is a very pretty plant and adds a nice bloom to your spring garden.

Do you have German Chamomile growing in your garden? What do you use it for?

Sincerely, Emily

 

Spring, in term of nice Spring temperatures, seem to be a thing of the past in my area. We hit 100F a few days ago. UGH! Spring, in terms of things blooming and growing , is still happening.

There are so many things blooming and emerging out there. Some things are absent since we are so, so dry, but others seem to be thriving.

I never seem to be lucky enough to have Mullein (verbascum thapsus) growing in our yard. I seem them in our neighborhood and even have been known to pluck a few dried stalks to spreads those tiny, tiny, tiny mullein seeds in my yard, but still now have emerged. So, I get to enjoy them elsewhere. There is a beautiful one growing at my neighbors. Big and beautiful. You can also see Dakota Vervain (glandularia bipinnatifida) in the forefront of the photos (purple bloom) and some very young Mexican Hat (ratibida columnifera.) I have one that has flowered in our yard, and they will be the next spring flower around here.

mullein (verbascum thapsus)

mullein (verbascum thapsus)

This spring Antler Horn (asclepias asperula – in the milk weed family) seems to be particularly abundant. I seem to see its beautiful, showy flowers all around right now.

antler horn (asclepias asperula)

antler horn (asclepias asperula)

What do you see emerging and blooming this time of year in your area?

Sincerely, Emily

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