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Life Lessons In My Garden

 

I have created and tended gardens of one sort or another every year since around 1978 no matter where I lived. I have grown flowers, vegetables, and weeds. I am most successful at growing weeds.

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Despite the some times hard, back-breaking work, gardening is very relaxing for me. It helps me unwind when a day is long or stressful. Physical activity is good for the soul I think. And to make a beautiful corner in my part of the world is worth the work. And hard work never hurt anyone.

Over the years, in good years and not so good, with growing successes and mistakes I have learned a lot about myself and the world I live in by pattering about in the garden

Lesson Number One: The universe is weighted in favor of life.

This is especially true with regard to weeds.

It is true for flowers and vegetables too. But the weeds are more serious and aggressive about it.

If a seed of any plant or weed falls in an itsy-bitsy piece of dirt, even if it is just a crack in the sidewalk, it somehow manages to sprout and grow. The flower will eventually die. However, you will not be able to pry the weed out with a jackhammer. And if you do, you won’t get the entire root and it will be back in a few weeks anyway! 

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Nevertheless, I have learned that even the most delicate of flowers and plants can withstand a lot of abuse, from heat, cold, drought, downpours, and even neglect.

I think people are like that too. We are survivors through it all. When I get low, my garden reminds me of that.

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Lesson Number Two:  Failure is not permanent.

And maybe, just maybe what I think is failure is not failure at all.

For instance, a few years ago I bought a huge planter with gorgeous yellow and pink zinnias. About two weeks later IIMG_1746 noticed that the plant was being eaten alive by a type of bug I had never seen before. I sprayed, but it was too late. The leaves and most of the flowers had been eaten away. If it hadn’t been so hot that year, and if I were not so naturally lazy,  I would have cut them down and thrown them away. But lazy me didn’t. I just sighed and went inside with a heavy heart.

Then lo and behold, one day a week or so later I was sitting at my computer when out of the corner of my eye I noticed some activity in that shriveled up ugly dead plant. I got up and looked out the window to see what it was. I discovered a dozen or so goldfinches flitting from dead flower to dead flower. They were feasting on the seeds in the middle of those dead zinnia flowers. It was absolutely delightful to watch.

What I thought was a dead and ugly failure, these beautiful little birds thought, “WOW!!! A gourmet dinner!!

Who would have ever guessed?  I opened a restaurant for the birds!

Any adversity can be turned in to some thing glorious if we but give it a bit of time and/or look for it.

This year the adversity has been lack of sun and too much rain. What flowers do blossom get water logged and turnIMG_5106 brown. By now the bougainvillea should be bursting with flowers. Nothing. And too much rain has also brought about mushrooms galore. Would be fine if I could eat them. But alas….. I don’t think so.

Lesson Number Three: Nature goes at it’s own pace and timetable.

You cannot hurry Mother Nature.  She does what she wants and she always gets her way.

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Several years ago I bought a scraggly geranium on sale in late fall for $10. You know the kind of plant I mean. A Charlie Brown sort of Christmas tree thingie. The garden store was getting ready to put out their winter holiday items and they had a few left over summer plants they were trying to get rid of. The geranium was bright neon deep pink with pointed petals. I had never seen anything like it. And for only $10 what could I lose?

 

When I got home I cleaned the plant up and cut off some of the scragglier parts. I watered and fed it. Then I placed it in front of my fireplace. It had good east and south light there. I tended it and fed it all winter long. It survived. I could not wait for spring so that I could transplant it into a larger pot and watch it bloom.

But it was a poor, stormy, and cold spring for plants, kinda like this year, except not as bad. I set it outside during the day and brought it in at night. It looked very anemic. The plant did not seem to take to the outdoors. I transplanted it into a larger pot so its roots could stretch out and grow. And for a few days it looked good. But then it started to wither up again. It looked worse than when I bought it. 

It got cold so I brought it back inside for a couple of weeks. Then it got warm again and I put it back outside. It wasIMG_1729 touch and go for several weeks. It looked ugly. All scraggly branches and no green leaves. And then slowly, day by day, it just decided to grow. Soon it had one flower. Within a few days it had 5 or 6 flowers. It is the show piece in my garden every year now.

The Supremes sang, You Can’t Hurry Love.

Well, you can’t hurry a garden or life either for that matter. Sometimes just letting things be is best.

Lesson Number Four: Perfection is not attainable.

No matter how much I plan for my garden some disaster will occur every year. The bugs eat flowers. A strong gust of wind breaks a stem here or heavy rain knocks all the petals off another flower. But you know. A flower doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

And so it is with people and life.

IMG_5098After two beautiful successful years in my garden my prize geranium was ’bout eaten alive last year by a very aggressive squirrel. He just broke off stems for the sheer joy of it. Nothing stopped him including covering it with chicken wire. Again, I thought it was dead. But I tended it all this past winter and it is doing better now so I put it outside again where once again, it decided to grow big.

It is doing very well, again proving Lesson Number One – life is weighted in favor of life.

And I have finally outsmarted that dog-gone squirrel. He cannot climb that plant stand seen in the picture below. He can’t reach it from the window sill to the left either. One day he was on that window sill making lots of loud mad-like noises while stretching and trying to get to that plant. He was mad as hades!  He can’t reach it from the pot to the right either.

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Best of all this year I finally out smarted him after a year of war last year! One for the humans! Small vistories are often the sweetest.

Lesson Number FiveNothing lasts forever. Everything ends.

In late fall and into early winter all of the plants I slaved over, tended to, watered, killed bugs and fungus for all turn brown, wither up and die. Why did I invest so much time, effort, and money for something so transient; for something I know will die before the Winter Solstice?

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Stupidity? Faith? Love? Beauty? I don’t know.

But I believe it is hope. The flowers I tend this year lay the foundation of hope that something new will grow and bloom the following spring and summer. The circle of life. All winter I look at gardening catalogs, I plan, I stare out the window at six inches of snow and visualize my new garden. Now that, mydear friends, is hope.

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From dust to dust says the Bible.

When I die, not that I think that will happen any time soon as I have a good 30 or 40 years left in me, I want my body cremated and my ashes thrown on a rose bed so that every year I come back as a beautiful rose to warm the heart of the happy, to dry the tears of the sad, and to comfort the sick.

The long and short of it all is this: 

Gardening is the subtle art of destroying weeds and bugs, to grow flowers and vegetables, for the birds and animals to eat. If you can enjoy garden beauty in between all of that you have accomplished a lot.

If you can accept and enjoy the growing pains of gardening you can accept and enjoy anything life sends your way.

Happy Gardening. Happy Living.

 

Featured  Recipe   Chocolate Bing Cherry and Hazelnut Tart

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You can slave hours in the kitchen making your own pie or tart crust. Or you can make my version of this heavenly dessert.

You can spend hours making a traditional chocolate and hazelnut filing. Or you can make my 10 minute filling below.

You can work with 14 ingredients. Or you can work with just 6 ingredients.

Take your pick. I am not really lazy…….just efficient.

This is what you will need to make 6 slices:

1 sheet ready made pie crust

10 ounces dark chocolate morsels

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 teaspoon Frangellico*

½ cup fresh Bing Cherries

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Optional: Cocoa powder

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*If you prefer you can substitute any hazelnut liqueur or hazelnut or vanilla extract.

Here is what you do:

Wash and stem the cherries and let dry.

Line a pie plate with the thawed ready made pie crust following package directions.

Bake according to package directions and let cool completely.

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If you do not find chopped nuts at the store, roughly chop them. Lightly toast the nuts in a skillet over low heat. Rule of thumb, when you begin to smell the nuts it is time to take them off the  heat and allow to cool. 

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Put the chocolate and the cream into a small bowl and place over a pot of water that is simmering on low heat.

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Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts and the filling is smooth:

Just starting to melt.

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Getting there.

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Smooth as silk.

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Turn the heat off under the chocolate.

Stir in ¾ cup of the nuts and the Frangellico into the chocolate mixture and pour into the pie crust. It is OK if you go a little overboard with the Frangellico.

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Pour the chocolate mixture into the pie shell.

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Also, don’t forget to lick the spatula after pouring the chocolate into the pie shell. You can also lick the spoon in which you measured the Frangellico. This is called Cook’s Privilege.

Top with the cherries and most, but not all, of the remaining hazelnuts.

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Below: Close up.

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NOTE: When serving remember to warn folks that these cherries still have the pit inside.

I have not figured out how to get the seed out yet, unless I cut them in half to do so……..but then the cherries simply do not look as pretty in the pie.  Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or until the mixture sets.

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When ready to serve decorate the tart with the remaining hazelnuts and using a small strainer dust with the cocoa powder if using.

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Nirvana.

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Place a small piece of pie on a fork and put inside your mouth, chew and swallow. 

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No. You have not died and gone to heaven. You’ll just feel like it.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

1 sheet ready made pie crust             $1.90              

10 ozs dark chocolate morsels           $3.49

1 cup heavy cream                           $2.00

1 cup hazelnuts                                $2.88

1 teaspoon Frangellico                      $0.24             

½ cup fresh Bing Cherries                 $1.54

Optional: Cocoa powder                    $0.06

Total cost = $12.11
Cost per slice = $2.02

Quote of the Day   

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. 

Author Unknown

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8 comments to Life Lessons In My Garden

  • Roberta

    Love your post today! Also, I’m viewing this on my iPad so not sure if it is the device but the font and format look different. I really like it! It’s clean, clear and crisp. That’s the teacher/publisher rep in me to notice the font, huh?

    • Roberta

      Thanks, Roberta. You are a dear friend.

      Must be iPad as I have changed nothing on the blog. I like that teacher/publisher side of you. 🙂

  • What a lovely tart and I agree with everything you said about gardening. I look at it as enjoyment and if something beautiful happens I love it. If not, I’ve been outside, got some exercise and life is good.

  • Oh my gosh – flowers and a chocolate pie! The bestest! Not everything I plant grows. Not everything that grows grows the way I expect it to grow-but there is perfection in that too.

    • Roberta

      You’re home. Good to see you. 🙂 Hope all is well with your son and family.

      Indeed. Indeed! Perfection every where if we but look for it.

  • Carol Sternberg

    I enjoyed the walk in your garden and your inspiring thoughts. I too find great fullfillment messing around in the dirt, fighting off bugs and weeds. Actually, I let one flowering weed grow along my fence (alley side). They looked pretty! I sure the garbage collectors loved them.

    • Roberta

      Few things more satisfying than gardening. I like that you keep a weed. Think I will start doing that too, Carol. Inspired idea. 🙂