garden friends…the truest celebration

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July 4th is a day of celebration in the United States.
Fireworks no longer appeal to me…too loud, too buggy to watch.
I prefer the quiet sanctuary of my gardens and the miracles that flourish here.
The colors of nature out-dazzle any fireworks display in my book.
Want to see what I found in the garden this morning?
During absolute quiet, this silent winged beauty shared the morning.

Lucky shot this morning. This little hummer decided my zinnia/tomato bed is the perfect place to sun and snack.

lucky shot this morning. This little hummer decided my zinnia/tomato bed is the perfect place to sun and snack. It was here yesterday, and this morning, I had my camera

This little hummer sat for quite some time sunning and napping on my tomato cage.

this little hummer sat for quite some time sunning and napping on a tomato cage

confident to rest in my garden, I think this is the highest compliment a gardener can receive

confident to rest in my garden; I think this is the highest compliment a gardener can receive from wild creatures

Zinnias are one of my favorite annuals, as they dazzle the eye and provide nectar to pollinators

zinnias are my favorite annual, as they dazzle the eye and provide nectar for pollinators. I have them amongst my tomatoes ~ what a pleasant combination and reminiscent of fireworks, yes?

This is my new favorite morning spot, shaded by the large crape myrtle against the bright morning sun

my new favorite morning spot, shaded by the large crape myrtle against the bright morning sun. Cool, dry July mornings are rare in central Virginia. Thanks to the coastal hurricane Arthur, cooler air arrived last night sans humidity. I took full advantage, before the sun rose too high this morning

enjoy your day

enjoy your day and remember to bask in the truest celebration…

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

how to shop your local farmer’s market…

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This title may shock you. How difficult could it be to navigate a farmer’s market, you may ask.

For the next few minutes, please allow me to give you a behind-the-scenes farmer’s market perspective and tips for becoming a well-informed farmer’s market customer.

nothing says spring more than strawberries...are they coated with fungicide?

nothing says spring more than strawberries…are they coated with fungicide? ASK then taste one to see if they are perfect…and NO SPRAY

buy local flowers and reduce the carbon footprint and pesticide use of imported flowers

buy local flowers…reduce the carbon footprint and avoid pesticides from imported flowers. Forget out of season floral arrangements…

local flower power in season

local flower power in season

how was that beef raised? Grass fed locally or from a feedlot?

how was that beef raised? Grass fed locally or from an unsustainable feedlot in the mid-west?

what kind of flower was used in this bread? Bleached or not? Bromated is a carcinogen.

what kind of flour was used in this bread? Bleached/bromated or not? Brominating is a carcinogen.

local, organic free range eggs are my choice

local, organic free range eggs are my choice

Are you  there?

are you there?

A little history: 2014 marks my fourteenth year as a vendor at my local farmer’s market. During that time vendor participation has grown from forty to over one-hundred. This explosion has created a carnivalesque atmosphere (sans live animals and trick ponies) by 9:30 AM. Saturday market reputes to attract over five-thousand shoppers every week from April-December.

The former slogan of this decades-old market was, home-baked, home-made, home-grown. In recent years, this motto has vanished from the marketing campaign (driven by city government who manages the market), thus inviting confusion among new customers. Apparently the city has no problem allowing retail storefronts and franchises into the market. This trend began three years ago and dramatically reduced the sales of tenured vendors who comply with the original slogan.

During a recent conversation with the Director, he stated that the farmer’s market is like a car dealership—the more competition the better. Shocked by this mechanical mentality, I scribe this post. Buyers beware. Know the source of your food and vote with your dollars, please.

fine displays are tempting, yet how are these grown??

fine displays are tempting, yet how are these grown??

Seasoned patrons of the market know who the tenured clean (sustainable) farmers are, which vendor bakes from scratch from their home inspected kitchens using whole ingredients, and who clearly designs/fabricates their crafts from molten metals or carded local wool.

Based on repeated customer comments, I deduce that new attendees presume that all the produce, baked goods, and crafts are indeed grown/baked/made by the vendors and their employees who meet a certain criteria. Ahem. Are you ready for a reality check?

buy fresh, buy local

buy fresh, buy local clean, no chemical produce

This particular farmer’s market is in the heart of an affluent, well-educated, college town of nearly one-hundred-fifty thousand.  Whether you live in a small town OR a large urban center, this blog post strives to educate those who rise early on market day seeking fresh, healthy, local foods and support their local economy. Kudos!

shoulder to shoulder shoppers

shoulder to shoulder shoppers

Reality: Just yesterday, a new customer approached my booth and asked, did you make this? As a one-woman operation since 2000 (clearly displayed on my sign), if I had a dollar for every time this question was asked, I would be basking in the south of France, not rising at 4 AM every Saturday for thirty weeks every year.
Actually, it is the right question, almost. At least this question opens dialogue and an opportunity for education.

So, are you ready to be a Rock Star farmer’s market shopper? Check list follows:

  • If you are looking for produce, ASK the farmer HOW, WHEN, WHERE, and BY WHOM it was grown. This is your only guarantee that you are purchasing the food of your choice and are supporting a local farmer.
  • Does the farmer use organic methods? With the high cost of being “certified organic” many farmers utilize organic/clean methods, yet cannot legally post organic signage. Look for “Organic Methods” produce or ASK the farmer.
  • IF the produce was sprayed (leafy greens, strawberries, stone fruit, apples), when was the last application?
  • When shopping for baked goods or prepared food, ASK the baker/cook about the ingredients. FYI: Last year I asked one food vendor if the chicken in her skewers was locally grown, and she answered “yes” and when I pressed, she followed that response by confessing the chicken was from a local big box store! See what I mean folks???
  • ASK and YE SHALL KNOW…
  • When is comes to crafts/artisans, make sure to support the vendors who truly craft their wares. Many bead-stringers appear in this kind of venue, and often do not reflect the time-honored craft of glass blowing or metal-smithing. Once again, ASK the origin of materials. Then decide if you want to support that crafter.
  • If you tend to eat your way through a farmer’s market, once again, ASK about food origin. Not all food is sourced equally OR sustainably…
  • Is the flour unbleached or bleached (bleached flour is often bromated, a type of carcinogen)
  • Is the meat locally sourced and raised/pastured/butchered humanely?
  • What about those veggies and noodles? Where are they from?
  • Market vendors may appear to chat endlessly, yet customers must remember that all market vendors rise long before dawn to arrive at market, set up their booths, and brace for five hours of intense selling. After all, these venues are businesses and customers must remember to limit their visits to brief questions and purchases.
  • And finally, please do not ask for discounts or samples. Vendors will offer discounts or specials with signage and will present obvious samples—it is their prerogative to do so. Don’t embarrass yourself and downgrade the arduous efforts of vendors by attempting to bargain hunt. Prices may appear higher than a chain store, yet when last did you grow the perfect heirloom tomato—by the bushel?

perfection and all locally grown using organic methods and humane treatment of animals

— perfection and all locally grown using organic methods and humane treatment of animals

great fast food

great fast food

By now you get my point regarding the importance of supporting clean, sustainable, independent growers and bakers who honor their trade and deliver healthy products to farmer’s markets. If not convinced, kindly check out my other blog post regarding food and other topics at http://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/the-thing-about-documentaries/

I welcome comments and questions. Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

June is garden delights month…

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Below are a few images of my June garden delights here in central Virginia.
Following a hard winter, the garden now rewards with color, texture, and edible feasts.

Sunny rose in first flush, Red Hot Poker, Oakleaf Hydrangea, clematis, all in bloom this week. Nice!

Sunny rose in first flush, Red Hot Poker, Oakleaf Hydrangea, clematis, all in bloom this week. Nice!

Up close and personal with the Red Hot Poker! Yeah! Only its second season in my Virginia gardens.

up close and personal with the Red Hot Poker! Merely its second season in my Virginia gardens.

Sunny Knock Out Rose. She makes me look like a rose guru! This is her second year in my gardens.

Sunny Knock Out Rose makes me look like a rose guru! This is her second year in my gardens.

O'Neil variety of highbush blueberry. Three deliver all the berries I can eat in one season

O’Neil variety of highbush blueberry. Three plants deliver all the berries I can eat (and share) in one season.

Tasty morsels...once the wild birds are fed, my daily ritual is a visit to the blueberry bushes. Can you just taste them?

tasty, plump morsels…once the wild birds are fed, my early, daily ritual includes a visit to the blueberry bushes. Can you just taste them? I cover the plants with row cover to keep the birds away…they can have sunflower seeds and currants!

This is the tiniest florabunda...she is recovering from a transplant last fall. I estimate she is forty years old and struggled for years under the flourishing dogwood. I finally mustered the nerve to move her last fall. Half died during the winter, yet today she shows a bud...and soon, she will flourish in the full sun bed. Yeah!

This is the tiniest floribunda…she is recovering from a transplant last fall. I estimate she is forty years old and struggled for years under the flourishing dogwood. I finally mustered the nerve to move her last fall. Half died during the winter, yet today she shows a bud…and soon, she will flourish in the full sun bed. Yeah! Note she is merely six inches tall today, yet still produces a bud. Go Girl! If you squint, notice the teeny bud near the top. I am so excited! In a few days I will add a photo of the first bloom…

a bit closer to bloom time on this teensy floribunda transplant...I'm like a bird on her nest...

a bit closer to bloom time on this teensy floribunda transplant…I’m like a bird on her nest…too bad a young bunny tasted all these buds just after this photo was taken. Now surrounded with wire screen, I wait for Tiny’s next effort.

the stonecrop sedum is showing her stuff in the herb bed planter. I think she resembles a candelabra, don't you?  Lots of bang for the buck, this plant.

the stonecrop sedum is showing her stuff in the herb bed planter. I think she resembles a candelabra, don’t you? Lots of bang for the buck, this plant.

 a few Siberian Iris were gifted to me two years ago and now flourish anywhere they are planted...a garden thug? Time will tell.

a few Siberian Iris were gifted to me two years ago and now flourish anywhere they are planted…a garden thug? Time will tell.

can you smell the sweet perfume of this Little Gem?

can you smell the sweet perfume of this Little Gem?

I was looking for a vine to replace the Concord Grape on this split rail, and voila! Arctic Kiwi manifested. I cannot wait for this fruit next year!

looking for a vine to replace the Concord Grape on this split rail, voila! Arctic Kiwi manifested. I cannot wait for this fruit next year!

male planted on one side of post, female on the other.

male planted on one side of post, female on the other.

everyone knows Lambs Ear. A classic in any garden; sometimes a thug, yet when that happens, I dig clumps and sell at the farmer's market to willing gardeners...

everyone knows Lambs Ear. A classic in any garden; sometimes a thug, yet when that happens, I dig clumps and sell at the farmer’s market to willing gardeners…and the bumble bees adore the blooms.

this variety of clematis lived on the property when I bought the place in 2001. I was survived years under a tree, and now thrives on a slick tuteur in the deep shrub border.

this variety of clematis lived on the property when I bought the place in 2001. It survived years in deep shade under a tree, and now thrives on a slick tuteur in the deep shrub border with her feet heavily mulched, yet her height in full sun.

I cannot forget to mention the sweet, edible, most popular plant, the viola or Johnny Jump Up. I am convinced this plant parties at night, as thirteen years ago, seed was planted in the front garden and every year since, I find it growing all over the entire half acre...

I cannot forget to mention the sweet, edible, most popular plant, the viola or Johnny Jump Up. I am convinced this plant parties at night, as thirteen years ago, seed was planted in the front garden and every year since, I find it growing all over the entire half-acre…

must not forget to show the beautiful salad greens and edible flowers from the garden this week. The arugula was especially nice.

quite an edible feast:  beautiful salad greens and edible flowers from the garden this week. The arugula was especially nice.

Spring weather of 2014 was spastic. 40F degrees one night and 60F the next.
Daytime highs have swung from 40F to 90F numerous times, and rapidly humidity of summer builds.

Yesterday I rose early to add more mulch, river rock in wash areas, and to tidy the beds for the summer ahead. Finding garden solutions is a never-ending challenge.
Rewards arrive in the hues of spring color, tastes of flavorful edibles, and in the humbling glow of accomplishment.
Striding alongside nature while sharing the garden’s beauty/bounty is a legacy of unnamed bliss.

Gardening in Virginia has its challenges; with humidity comes powdery mildew, which I plan to attack with fresh abandon.
The peonies suffered terribly in the past two years with this fungal disease, thankfully following bloom time.
Since peonies are an important cash crop every May, I want to coddle my twenty-nine plants and avoid the ugliness of mildew.
Stay tuned…

over 400 peony stems went to market last month.

over 400 peony stems went to market last month.

moi selling my garden bounty at the local farmer's market in May...

selling my garden bounty at the local farmer’s market in May…

I hope you enjoyed my June Garden Delights Tour today.

Comments are always appreciated.

Now back to the kitchen to finish that order of Key Lime Pies.

At least views from the workbench allow glimpses of my garden sanctuary and the adored wild birds.

May your June be bountiful and beautiful.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

May’s DIY project ~ the big dig!

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Uncanny, how vistas change in a wee season and projects present themselves abruptly.

This month, the wild bird bath waved its copper flag at me from across the turf…hey lady, this shrub is toast and I need a makeover. How about it, NOW!

Ok, I concurred. This winter was very hard on a few residents of my landscape, and this small feature became an eyesore overnight.

my little ugly duckling in full view from the rear terrace

my little ugly duckling in full view from the rear terrace ~ winky-wonk copper bird bath…

the original circle was topped with pea gravel and river rock, and this holly was a volunteer.

the original circle was topped with pea gravel and river rock, and the holly was a volunteer, seeded by a fly over wild bird

I can do this! One small shrub cannot be that hard to remove...

I can do this! One small shrub cannot be that hard to remove…ha!

after the holly was cut off, I raked the largest stones into the wheel barrow and reused the pile in the lower garden

after the holly was sawed off, I raked the largest stones into the wheelbarrow and reused the pile in the lower garden

once the deck was clear, I pondered on the stump...it could not remain, as the bird bath needed centering, or so I thought...

once the deck was clear of most stones, I pondered on the stump…it could not remain, as the bird bath needed centering, or so I thought…

on both knees, I began to chop, chop, chop with my little Swedish hatchet

on both knees, I began to chop, chop, chop with my little Swedish hatchet

as moments passed, I realized this "small" root was not. The bin began to fill and numerous trips were made to the shed for additional tools...

as moments passed, I realized this “small” root was not. The bin began to fill and numerous trips were made to the shed for additional tools…as I hacked, forked, and picked at tough roots, thoughts of the great pyramids and the tedious excavation of Pompeii trickled through my brain, keeping me on task. I can do this!

This bugger took ages to excavate. I considered calling my digging man, yet this simple DIY and moi wanted this to be completed in ONE morning!

This bugger took ages to excavate; close to an hour. I considered calling my digging man, yet this simple DIY lured me to finish in ONE morning!

I pushed on and somewhat leveled the rich soil. Paver sand was in the shed from another project, and I hope the effort makes a difference. The old aggregate step stone has served me well and once leveled, I discovered a 1994 quarter. Not an arrowhead sometimes found in these parts...

I pushed on and somewhat leveled the rich soil. Paver sand was in the shed from another project, and I hope the effort makes a difference. The old aggregate step stone has served me well and once leveled, I discovered a 1994 quarter. Not a coveted arrowhead sometimes found in these parts…drat!

1994 quarter dollar

1994 quarter-dollar. When I carried it to the shed, it slipped from my gloved hand and is now lost again somewhere in the shed. Guess that coin enjoys being lost…

after a trip to town, twenty pavers completed the circle and mulch top dressed the project.

after a trip to town, twenty pavers completed the circle and mulch top dressed the project. I swear the bird bath is centered…hmm.

This is certainly an improved look, don’t you think? While I contemplate what plant material should go around the bird bath I will heal my wounded self. I admit my body ached from head to toe for two days following this DIY, and I am rapidly succumbing to future assistance from hired labor. No pain, no gain?

You go girl, cooed the garden ornaments…

The following week I added three plants around the stepping-stones…

those tiny plants are Munstead lavender, in honor of Gertrude Jekyll ~ an easy start to a great plant, if they are happy here. Time will tell.

those tiny plants are Munstead lavender, in honor of Gertrude Jekyll ~ an easy start to a great plant, if they are happy here. Time will tell.

Check out my other DIY project at http://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/the-thing-about-renewal/

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

mower tune~up, from a woman’s perspective…

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Last week I decided it was high time to spend real time with my 2008 Toro lawn mower. It was a splurge back then, as I chose the Personal Pace with electric start. After all, I am a single gal who is not getting any younger…ahem…and mowing commences here in central Virginia by April Fool’s Day. Back in 2000, I reduced my turf size to 3000 SF, and although a small patch, it requires weekly cuts taking about 15 minutes. I-CAN-DO-THIS! It’s about time, Toro moaned!

This year’s mower tune-up began by rolling the machine out of the shed, hooking up the charger and cord to the battery…the oil was drained last fall, and fresh synthetic was added this day.

My little powerhouse with wheels...

my little powerhouse with wheels…

While the mower charged, I decided that the filter and spark plug needed changing too. Simple task, yes? Way overdue grumbled Toro!
Now I am an intuitive gal, and the filter was straight forward; a screwdriver was required to loosen the fastener, which required a trip to the basement for that tool. Easy-peasy. With filter in hand, I drove to the home improvement store where dazzling mowers are proudly on display. I did not have the special tool required to remove the spark plug, yet I thought surely the guys at the store could walk me through this step and sell me the plug I need. Hah!

what is it about spark plugs???

what is it about spark plugs???

Without assistance, I found the filter, yet the spark plug was another story! Once I hunted down a salesperson, we both scoured the shelves of spark plugs. While scratching his head, Mr. Sales Guru headed to the computer for assistance, where hundreds of choices appeared on the screen! Hundreds! Still scratching, the man confessed he could not help me, and without the original plug, I was out of luck. Ahem…
This gal resides in a utopian countryside, and I was not willing to retrace my steps, and add twenty miles to this venture in order to retrieve the plug! Instead, I drove down the by-pass to a great little spot named Charlottesville Power Equipment. Why did I not know about this place years ago??? I drive by it often on the way to the bank, yet this store’s inventory never lured me to it’s entrance…until this day! WOW-ZER!

this place is alive with all kinds of mowers, cutting tools, phew, a man's mecca!

this place is alive with all kinds of mowers, cutting tools, phew, a man’s mecca! They should serve Man-ville Coolers here!

I was the only gal in sight!

I was the only gal in sight!

The day I strolled into this hot spot, I was exasperated, I will admit. Why should a little-old spark plug be so difficult??? Within minutes of entering the store, I had both counter personnel laughing out loud — loudly — as almost falling on the floor laughing. Once composed, the two men decided which plug I should take home. $2.95 please.

Then the topic of fuel came up… “I always use Shell”, I proudly announced. Furrows quickly appeared on both men’s brows… “Ethanol is ruinous to mowers, ma’am” one man offered. “It eats up your engine…mowers are not designed for Ethanol…ma’am…”  OMG! Here we go. My poor little, hardworking Toro! I am slowly killing it! It’s guts surely dissolving before my very eyes! My hard-earned dollars melting away with each electric start! OMG!

After the second set of laughter quieted, these gents handed me a list of five places where I could find NON-ETHANOL fuel within a fifty-mile radius! OK, now field trips are required for filling my little gas can…yippie! I was instructed to pour the old gas into my vehicle, and go find the nearest NON-tank of the good stuff. Another day, another errand added to my full spring schedule.

Once home with my filter and spark plug, my generous, super-human neighbor who-has-every-tool-imaginable, loaned me his super-duper spark plug extracting tool.
I CAN DO THIS! In a flash, filter and plug were installed. Finally, chirped Toro.

By now the battery was charged and all that was left before Toro’s 2014 maiden voyage across the turf, was the trip into the hinterland to find the NON-ETHANOL juice.

not a pretty destination, yet where the good juice can be found...

not a pretty destination, yet where the good juice is found…

By now, you are yawning or laughing. I admit I learned a lot from this exercise — not that I needed to know all this trivia — yet days like this are only the tip of the iceberg where home ownership is concerned. Just like I know more than I ever wanted to know about septic tanks, surface water, and the size of gutters…

Happy Spring chores to you too. ;-)

PS: Today when I fueled the van, I asked the Shell dealer if there is Ethanol in the regular gas (87). So glad I asked, as regular Shell is Ethanol-FREE! So no more trips to the boonies for the other pump. So glad I took the minute to ask! ;-)

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

in love again…

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It is that time of year, when I am about at my end with winter.
Nearly ready to take a long walk off a short pier. My rescue?
My collection of heirloom daffodils emerge to save the day.
Below is a collection of recent cuttings — please enjoy.
I am in love again…

love is blooming all around me

love is blooming all around me

sweet faces fill my office with delightful scent

sweet faces fill my office with delightful scent

these beauties knock me out

these beauties knock me out

non-stop beauty this week

non-stop beauty this week

this precious wonder is named Minnow

this precious wonder is named Minnow

close up ~ notice the minute tip on the petal. The design department worked overtime on this detail!

close up ~ notice the minute tip on the petal. The design department worked overtime on this detail!

lovelies in my mother's old vase

lovelies in my mother’s old vase

this is the companion vase

this is the companion vase

I hope these images cheer your day.
Freshly inspired to head off into another growing season here in central Virginia,
I daresay, hurrah!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

ode to the American Robin…

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Today was a snow day — again.

embellished teuter

embellished teuter

My heart went out the hundreds of American Robins who are ambling here, eagerly awaiting spring in central Virginia. A few days ago when temps were in the 60′s, I marveled at the hundreds who hunted at dusk in the turf surrounding my home. They roost in the 135 Leyland cypress surrounding my property. 

Turdus migratorius ~ or the American Robin

Turdus migratorius ~ or the American Robin

Today, with five inches of fresh, wet snow covering any hope of turf morsels, numerous Robins scrambled for any scrap when many discovered my feeders. Normally Robins prefer fat, slithering, wet earthworms, yet during conditions such as today, they attempted to choke down Nandina berries and grains from the wild bird feeders. Forced to plan B, they quickly became disgruntled, aggressive, and downright ruffled…only the Red Bellied Woodpecker held his place at the feeders when Robins descended.

a very disgruntled American Robin

a very disgruntled American Robin

I could not resist, as dusk approached, to capture images. Forgive the handheld, through glass photos...

I could not resist, as dusk approached, to capture images. Forgive the handheld, through-glass photos…

 Robust robins await,
the snow, the thaw, the spring.
Today they all scold.

noble feathered display

noble feathered display

rear view of pondering robin

rear view of pondering robin

all plumped up in order to stay warm

all plumped up in order to stay warm

under the snow laden row of cypress
robins flick, flick, flick
their strong beaks,
rearranging the mulch
in search of the illusive earthworms,
who sleep just below the dormant surface.

Days at home with wild birds are very special.
The gift of observation is precious.
Time spent with them feed my creativity and poetic spirit.
I am glad to share my day with you.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

homage to Herbes de Provence

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Today is Friday. A. Cold. Friday. Old man winter refuses to head north, so I decided to create a quick, hot, healthy dish while tipping my chapeau to seven generations of French ancestors and to an underused herb — Herbes de Provence.

an underused herb in American cooking ~

an underused herb in American cooking ~

begin with organic ingredients ~ skinless, boneless chicken thighs ( 1.25 lbs.), 32 oz  Imagine veggie broth, 1/2 pound each ~ baby carrots and red garnet sweet potato, peeled and cubed.

begin with organic ingredients ~ skinless, boneless chicken thighs (1.25 lbs.), 32 oz. Imagine veggie broth, 1/2 pound each ~ baby carrots and red garnet sweet potato, peeled and cubed.

1/2 lb. of pearl onions add a nice touch

1/2 lb. of pearl onions add a nice touch

Empty the quart of veggie broth into a medium stock pot.
Add one heaping tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil.
One piece at a time, add chicken thighs, directly from package.
Reduce heat to medium and gently poach chicken for six minutes.
Off heat, let the chicken continue to poach for another six minutes, covered.

poaching chicken thighs

poaching chicken thighs on stove for six minutes, then off heat, continue to poach another six minutes

Remove chicken from broth, and place on a nearby plate.

poached chicken thighs

poached chicken thighs ~ oh, so tender

Strain broth through a China cap or other straining device and return broth to pot. This step will remove most the herbes, yet some remain on chicken.
Return broth to a boil and add onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and a chunk of fennel (I happened to have one in the fridge). Reduce to a simmer, partially covered, for six minutes.

Simmering veggies

simmering veggies

While the veggies simmer, pull any fat off chicken thighs (there won’t be much) and cut/tear meat into smaller bits. Why thighs, you might wonder? Thigh meat has considerable flavor and it is oh, so tender!

tender bits of thigh

tender bits of thigh

When veggies are tender, using a spider, remove them to a plate.

strained veggies

strained veggies

Return broth to the original pot and bring back to the boil.
Add 2 heaping tablespoons of Arrowroot using a whisk to quickly incorporate into hot broth. Arrowroot is another underused thickener in America, yet its silky texture cannot be matched, and it does not need to be “cooked in” as flour or corn starch do.
When broth is nicely thick, in about one minute, add 1 teaspoon of fine salt and return chicken and all veggies to the pot to just warm.
Serve up into warm bowls.

finished dish ~ silken goodness your entire family will enjoy.

finished dish ~ silken goodness your entire family will enjoy.

This mild recipe will feed four nicely and I suggest serving it with a crusty baguette or lightly toasted Tuscan Pane. I considered making dumplings for this dish, and if I had not been so hungry, I think dumplings would be delightful. Joy of Cooking has many nice, simple dumpling recipes if you feel froggy. Further more, if someone in your home needs TLC, this is the go-to soup, as it is delicately seasoned and subtly sweet.

Let me know how you like this quick-to-prepare, tasty, warming bowl of goodness.

Cooks Note to Readers: purchase herbes and spices in small quantities from your local health-minded grocery. Store all herbes and spices in the freezer, prolonging shelf life. The brands and varieties of veggies mentioned are personal recommendations based on years of tasting experience. Arrowroot may be purchased in the bulk department of any fine health-minded grocery and it has a long shelf life.

Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved
“Respect the Earth; Create Memorable Food”

wild bird buffet recipe ~ LaSauce style

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Those of you who follow my blog realize how I adore hosting wild birds in my central Virginia gardens. With frequent coaching from a local naturalist and a bluebird guru, I confidently care for wild feathered visitors year round.

handsome red-bellied woodpecker at feeder

handsome red-bellied woodpecker at feeder

Being a long-time foodie, I could not resist reinventing a wild bird banquet recipe found in The Bluebird Monitor’s Guide.

I confess, I am suspicious of any food that is genetically modified (GMO) and seek organic foods for me and my food clients, so why not for the birds???
Also an avid label reader, I find most bird foods do not list country of origin, date of production, nor GMO ingredients. Therefore, I avoid all commercially produced mixes.

Suet
(the hard fat surrounding the kidneys and loins of beef and mutton) is another concern, as I strongly suspect that its source comes from beef feedlots in the mid-west US. Again, I do not condone industrial meat production. When I inspect suet block labels, nada. When asked, retailers do not know origins either. Call me fanatic, yet until there is definitive, credible proof that GMO grains and feedlot suet are safe, I will avoid them like the plague.

nestling bluebirds day nine ~ Swallowtail Cottage. Would you feed them GMO food?

nestling bluebirds day nine ~ Swallowtail Cottage. Would you feed them GMO food?

Diane’s Recipe for Winter Wild Bird Buffet ~ Swallowtail Cottage

In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt:

  •  1 cup freshly ground, unsalted peanut butter (I grind this fresh at my local market where they guarantee NO-GMO)
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (Spectrum organic palm oil OR organic coconut oil) NO CRISCO! Recently, I used TJ’s sunflower oil and it works just fine too.
    When just melted remove from heat and add:
  • 4 cups stone ground corn meal (I use a local Indian corn heirloom variety)
  • 1 cup raw rolled oats, ground to a fine powder in a food processor
  • 2 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds, roughly chopped in food processor
  • 2 cup chopped currants
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped in processor
  • 1/2 cup organic egg shells, finely ground in a spice or coffee grinder (save shells from hard-cooked eggs, never raw shells.) Extra ground shells keep well in a glass jar in the pantry for one month. (I dry the peeled shells overnight on the kitchen counter at room temperature before grinding.)
  • Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold all ingredients together. Allow to cool before serving your feathered friends.This recipe yields a gracious plenty.
  • Store unused portions in the refrigerator in a sealed tub.
  • I source all ingredients from my local health-conscious store’s bulk department—where prices are competitive AND I know offerings are non-GMO, and often organic.
  • After a few days, I often add additional chopped currants or sunflower seeds to the mix, depending what the birds consider most popular that batch.
  • NOTE: this is a winter food  recipe for wild birds, as the oil will melt during summer months, and the birds can forage for live insects, which is their preferred food.

Why chop/grind ingredients, you may ask? Considering birds have only one tool (beak) to process edibles, I decided to make their dining experience in my gardens a wee bit less labor intensive.

Wild birds expend tremendous energy simply surviving single-digit temperatures and deep snow during winter months. One simple, human step added to the bird banquet becomes a precious energy-saving step for the birds. Furthermore, serving large, whole seed with husks leads to overall food waste, as many wild birds fly in, grab a morsel, and fly off to a twig where they pound/peck seeds into manageable sizes, often losing bits of goodness during the process. Make sense?

Other favorite bird foods:

The attached recipe is gobbled up by at least eleven over-wintering species of wild birds in my central Virginia gardens. Additionally, I put millet out in a separate platform feeder for those birds who enjoy that seed.

Mealworms are another treat for many birds, yet NEVER feed those freeze-dried worms! They are all from CHINA, and we have no idea what standards apply there. I order insects year-round from a reliable US company at http://www.grubco.com. Live mealworms are essential food for bluebird nestlings and they are simple to care for.

add a small water heater to your birdbath during frozen winter days
add a small water heater to your bird bath during frozen winter days

NOTE: Please keep a source of fresh water available during daylight hours. This is critical during winter months when creeks and streams are frozen solid. Thirsty birds could easily drink from a salt-laden or antifreeze puddle that would cause an agonizing death.  I place a small water heater (designed for this purpose) in the bird bath on days when temps do not rise above freezing.

Virginia bluebirds dine at LaSauce buffet

Virginia bluebirds dine at LaSauce buffet

So there you are fellow bird lovers…consider this winter recipe for your feathered friends. And if you want a refresher course on clean food, view the documentaries,
Food Inc. and King Korn. My case rests…

Disclaimer: thoughts published here and throughout this blog are mine and in no way do I benefit from businesses/publications mentioned within. 

Post Note: My Spring/Warm Weather Wild Bird Buffet Recipe is a combo of shelled sunflower seeds and currents and a dash of corn meal (NON-GMO). I buy all in bulk at my local health food-minded market. Just whirl seeds and berries in a food processor until slightly chopped (remember this saves the birds labor and morsel loss), add the corn meal, ground organic/cooked egg shells (2-3 T), then sprinkle with a bit of sunflower oil to moisten. While the weather remains on the cool side, I add peanut butter (NON-GMO) to the mix. The oil and peanut butter help the egg-shell powder stick to the seed. Portions are approximate and it will work. Birds are not picky! If I notice one ingredient being consumed faster, I add more of that next batch.

a photo of the warm weather mix.

a photo of the warm weather mix. Wild birds flock to the feeders for this nutritious food. Happy feeding!

I also serve plain organic millet in a separate feeder, as plenty of wild birds enjoy this too. Happy birding!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

beagling ~ a fine community

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one of the joint masters calling beagles together in the field

one of the joint masters calling beagles together in the field

The sport of Beagling originates with a well-bred and trained pack of beagle hounds. They are managed and lead by a dedicated Hunt Staff rewarded only by titles corresponding to Master of Beagles, Huntsman, and Whipper-In for their 365 day contribution to the sport. Equally important is a supportive membership who follows the hounds regularly during the hunting season and contributes to their care. Supporting members include a chairman, tea chairman, corresponding secretaries, and a recording secretary—much decorum amongst such spontaneous company here in central Virginia.

young beagle hunt member ~ complete with walking stick

young hunt member ~ complete with walking stick

By chance I was introduced to this sport in 2011 and as a landscape photographer I revel in the outstanding vistas, gracious company, crisp air, and lively chases—all kept on foot. Images in Western Albemarle County never fail to deliver a diverse opus to my lens.

to be out amoungst  these vistas is awe inspiring

to be out amongst these vistas is awe-inspiring

This particular pack was established in 1985 and devotees delight in animated hunts from early October through April. Each week, amongst splendid company, calls of the hounds and horn provide boundless, pleasurable exercise.

even horses enjoy the views

even horses enjoy the views

On scheduled Sunday afternoons, a diverse field gathers round for friendly banter, as the hounds wail from their buggy anticipating the run ahead. These furry faces make for endless photo ops as joyful children and shutter happy adults stroke and photograph the easy-going heads. When the buggy doors open the pack emerges to stretch, gather, and may even visit a bystander. Following a brief welcome from the Master, the pursuit is on.

sweet faces ready to begin an afternoon of hunting!

sweet faces ready to begin an afternoon of hunting!

another beagle posing for photographs while awaiting the hunt

another beagle posing for photographs while awaiting the hunt

beagles released from their travel buggy

beagles released from their travel buggy

Over hill, dale, creek and meadow, hunting requires sturdy footwear, a robust constitution, and a wee knowledge of protocol. The rest is forgiven if a line is crossed—yet only once. A few members follow by car, where terrain permits. This is an all-encompassing sport!

Adrian's notable socks

notable socks

Many a fine conversation is had in passing; all the while one keeps an ear to the echoes of the pack. This day will be memorable as all in attendance are invited to join in a festive tea following the meet. As the sun sets, glasses clink, flavorful food is consumed, personality’s blossom, new friends are made, and frequently animated discussions of the day’s event prevail.

tea time inspires lively conversation

tea time inspires lively conversation

sunset over Foxfield

sunset over Foxfield

Members are encouraged to invite friends to hunt and become supporting members, if the sport seems to be a fit for that person.

surprised by wet snow made for an interesting hunt

surprised by a sudden wet snow made for an interesting hunt

Most individuals enjoy the fall days for chasing, although generally this is the poorest hunting of the season. Rabbits are more difficult to find, scent is weaker, the runs shorter with more checks, and are often with outright loss of a rabbit. Mid-winter toward early spring is when folks get cold, wet, fight wind and lower temperatures, yet the scent improves and pursuits tend to have long, exciting runs.

on the scent...

on the scent…

As spring approaches, rabbits are beginning to think about mating and the males (bucks) travel farther from home seeking company. When hunts jump up a buck, he will frequently head for home on a beeline—and at great speed—providing spectacular excitement and views in open country.

another fabulous vista in Albemarle county

another fabulous vista in Albemarle county

During March, the annual National Beagle Club Field Trials at Aldie, Virginia host packs coming from all over the East coast. Packs are judged over a four-day period while hound-talk, eating, sipping, and a generally good time is had by all. Masters and Huntsmen also watch other hounds work, trade hounds, and concentrate on their breeding programs for the following year.

springtime and bunnies think of love

springtime and bunnies think of love

Not all hounds make the grade in the pack and since beagles are such friendly dogs many are given to families for pets as house or yard dogs. As hounds age there is almost always a waiting list to give them a warm home for life.

happy four-leggers

happy four-leggers

If any reader is fretful about animal welfare, you are preaching to the choir where beagling is concerned. Claiming a rabbit’s life is not the object of the sport. Blood is shed only when a rabbit runs into a hound by accident. Personally, I rejoice when witnessing a rabbit fly, with lightning speed over its well know turf, escaping into a thicket or going to ground. What remains is my individual challenge to actually capture an image of any leaping cottontail, as rabbits are illusive indeed.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved