Pumpkins, Jack-o-lanterns

Jack-o-lantern at KC Ren-Fest.
Once upon a time, Jack-o-lanterns had only a few faces. They either were traditionally carved smiling, or frowning, but not much beyond that. I think pumpkins are being treated with more respect today, and are given a wider range of faces than when I grew up. The one, above, was beginning to soften and the flattening of the face gave it even more character. Think what you could do, carving faces on all these pumpkins on the gazebo, below.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It's a time for creativity, imagination and turning pumpkins into fanciful personalities. It's a reason to have a party, cook, enjoy being indoors.
Punkin in a cage, now that's a great face!
Exotic, odd yet lovable Jack-o-lantern.

An Osage orange even wears a face at Halloween.
A warty pumpkin with gourd horns, still looks lovable.

Halloween provides an excuse to wear these.
Whether you carve them, or make pies, pumpkins are a versatile vegetable, native to the Americas and one of those good-for-you foods. Happy pumpkin carving and happy Halloween!


Fall Leaf Colors

Goats in distance with afternoon light.
In spite of the heat and drought of summer, we're enjoying outstanding fall leaf colors. Late afternoon light gives a nice background to our garden here at Long Creek Herb Farm.
The Herb Shop and guest house glows in the afternoon reflected light.
We have a variety of oaks, hickories, elms, ash and maple trees on the distant hill, all showing off brilliant colors in afternoon light.

Even the reds and yellows of the fall marigolds seem to reflect the colors of the distant trees.
The far hill to the east makes a nice backdrop to the barn and gazebo.
Our garden is still producing lots of produce but soon frost will stop everything and the garden will be put to bed. I'll miss growing things but will be glad to see the difficult season be put to rest with hope for a much better garden year next season.
Visit our website for my books and other products. Check our Seasonal Specials page, too, for the best buys this month. Thanks for stopping by!
Our own blend of Chili Powder, 8 ounce container, just $6.95 this month.
If you make chili, we think you will enjoy our special blend. It's not hot, but very tasty. If you're buying the little packets at the grocery store, you're paying about $3.50 for 1 ounce. Our half pound container, 8 ounces, is only $6.95 plus shipping. Order some, winter's coming!


New Plants and Products for 2013

Nursery planting pots made of recycled plastic water bottles.
Going to Garden Writers Association conference each year is exciting because we get a sneak preview of a lot of the fun new stuff that will be on the market to gardeners next year. Probably the most exciting new product I saw was a line of nursery pots, trays and containers, made from recycled plastic drink bottles, from the McConkey Co. You may not realize it, but plastic nursery pots are not, nor have ever been able to be recycled because of the kind of plastic. That means billions of pots and trays go into landfills or burn piles each year. Finally, these new pots are comparable in price to the disposables, and can be completely recycled! Reach them at mcconkeyco.com.
Dwarf, thornless raspberries!
These are amazing. Two new dwarf blueberries bred especially for patio planting. I brought home one to try, you'll love the name - 'Jelly Bean.' Both are long-producing and perfect for the patio. Their new thornless - yes, actually thorn-less, raspberry is also dwarf and perfect for growing on the patio or deck. Fantastic flavor and good producer, too. For info: inquiries@brazelberries.com

The Ultimate Plant Cage comes with little plant clips to hold your plant in place.
This great little product from Global Garden Friends, Inc., is one you'll want if you grow in containers. It unhooks into 2 or 3 pieces, pull it around your patio plant and lock in place. Those little pegs sticking up? Those hold the telescoping stakes. Great little clips come with the Ultimate Plant Cage kit, to train your plant to the stakes.
The whole thing comes in this one package.

I was glad to know what had happened to the Hidden Pot Holder.

Made of metal, adjustable, these last for years and hold saucer and pot firmly in place.
Maybe 30 years ago I bought 3 or 4 Clinger Clips. They work great for holding pots with saucers onto walls, decks, etc. Then I never saw the product again. I had just found one of my old pot holders a few days before heading the the conference, so it was a pleasure to meet the man, Stratton Pritchard,  who had made and sold them. He'd lost interest and quit making the product. Now, retired, he has commenced manufacturing of this nifty plant holder again. I'm glad, because it's the best pot holder I've ever found. You can find information at clingerclip.com. Say hello to Stratton, he's quite a nice fellow.
Octopus-inspired planter.
Notice the twisted "tentacles" at the bottom of the hanging pot.
 And speaking of pots, we ran into these one of a kind pots at a cactus nursery in Tucson. Pretty cool designs.

The trade show contained 87 companies, all with new and exciting products for the garden.
There's more to come, more new plants, gadgets and gizmos for the gardener, to be found for 2012


Arizona Gardens Saguaro Cactus

The winner of the contest still hasn't come forward. We're searching for Tephyr. When she contacts me, her books are ready.
Hillside of Saguaro cactus.
Last week I attended the annual conference of the Garden Writers Association, held this year in Tucson, AZ. I've always wanted to see saguaro (pronounced sa-warr-o) cactus in its natural setting. The cactus only grows in a small region of the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cactus grow as seedlings underneath small trees, called "nurse-trees." Dropped as a seed by a bird, the cactus spends decades growing under the tree, eventually overtaking it. Saguaros don't begin to grow "arms" until they reach about 75 years old. So if you see one like this to the left, you can be assured it's older than 75.

Sometimes you even see one waving at you, like the one in the middle of the photo, below. These may not look especially large, but many of these cactus are 16-20 feet high and weigh upwards of a ton or more. They have extensive root systems just beneath the soil, sometimes reaching out 30 feet or more in all directions to help keep them from toppling over.

Saguaro cactus, waving.

A home landscape.
Landscaping in Tucson must be a challenge. Rainfall averages about 10 inches a year. Soil is mostly sand and gravel, very difficult to dig a hole with a regular shove. There was very little grass anywhere, in fact, all I saw over 5 days was a little strip of green in front of our hotel.
Beautiful golden cactus.
Yucca flower top.
Plants have to be tough to grow in this climate. It can reach 120 degrees F. in the summer and doesn't freeze in the winter (except in the mountains where it snows).
Barrel cactus group, larger ones are about 50 years old.
Looking south into Nogales, Mexico. the saguaro only live at the elevation around Tucson. You may notice the valley in the distance is lower and flattens out, where crops are grown.
Prairie dogs live in the deep burrows of the ground.
When plants in this climate bloom, they are spectacular.
This isn't the kind of landscape you can touch and feel or snuggle up with. In fact, you have to be cautious about getting stuck from the many spiky, spiny plants. But the landscape is beautiful for viewing, and a very different kind of climate for growing things than I'm used to.


Garden Book Contest

And the winner from all who commented on the post, chosen by a Random Number Selector, is Tephyr. As soon as she emails me her mailing address, the books will be on their way to her.
Thank you all for entering. I'll be posting details of gardening in Arizona tonight. 

If you're not a follower, sign up today (see the button on the right that says, "Join this Blog"? Click it and you'll be entered in the contest as soon as you leave a comment). You must be a follower, and you must leave a comment in the comments section to enter the contest. Details for leaving a comment are also on the right side of the page. Again, the contest is open to everyone who shows up as a follower on the right side of this blog page, and who leaves a comment about today's post. The contest will run for a week and the winner will be chosen at random from the number of comments posted. I will announce the winner in about a week, here, and that person will have to contact me by email to give me their address so I can send the prizes. (If you aren't aware, I have no way of contacting those who are listed as followers, there is no email address or other information posted anywhere that I or anyone else has access to). Here are the books that will go to the lucky winner:

248 pages, this is a wonderful gardening guide.
The Non-Stop Garden, a Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four-Season Designs, is a comprehensive guide to year around color using perennials, shrubs and blooming plants. I've known Stephanie Cohen for many years and she's a columnist for Fine Gardening magazine. Co-author Jennifer Benner is a former editor of Fine Gardening and an experienced nursery designer. Both of these folks know plants and design very well. $14.95, available from most bookstores and on-line.
224 pages of great landscape ideas.
Stone Landscaping guides you step by step through creating stone pathways, walls, patios and other projects made of stone. The photographs are from Rosalind Creasy (author of Edible Landscaping) so you know it's beautifully illustrated. This is a wonderful guide to creating a stunning landscape using stone and creative design ideas. $19.95, from Better Homes & Gardens, and available at bookstores nationwide.
Home Remedies That Work, $6.95.
And last but not least, the winner of this contest also receives a copy of my newest book, My Favorite Home Remedies That Work. You'll find many of my own home remedies formulas as well as lots more from trusted sources and research. It's 40 pages of valuable, useful information for saving money and healthy living with natural remedies. My book is available from my website, as well as from herb shops nationwide.

So become a follower, Join the blog, and leave a contest and you will be entered to win these 3 books!


Political Watch Party

Ginger-Beet Cake, aka, Beat the Candidate of Your Candidate of Your Choice Cake

Regardless of the direction of your political bent, much of America is gathering around the t.v. in greater numbers than anytime in recent memory. It reminds me of the popularity of All in the Family, the t.v. show with Archie Bunker, that racist, bigoted, narrow-minded icon of television in the 1970s. I'm not saying politics is like Archie Bunker, all I'm saying is Americans used to snuggle up to the television in large numbers to watch events, like in these weeks leading up to the 2012 Elections.
Our friend Betty with another beet cake.

So why not have a party? Tonight I've made a big pot of chili, using the late Elizabeth Taylor's recipe, as printed in Life Magazine in the 1960s. Cheese, crackers, breads, celery sticks, round out the watch party. And for dessert? I've made Beat Cake. You may remember it from one of my postings from last year, then titled as Ginger-Beet Cake.

It's made with canned beets. Yes. Really. And fresh ginger, pecans, coconut and the regular cake ingredients. It's really good. But since we all have our favorite candidates and are rooting for them in the debates, then I've dubbed this cake - Beat Cake. You can add icing words on top, "Beat ......." (you fill in the blank. Here's the recipe.

Beat the Other Candidate Cake

1 15 ounce can of sliced beets (not pickled, just canned beets)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour (or you can use 1 1/2 cups regular flour)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar (I substitute 1 1/2 cups Truvia (stevia) and 1/2 cup sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons freshly-grated ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts, chopped (you can use walnuts, pecans, almonds, your choice)
3/4 cup grated coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare 2 round cake pans by spraying with oil and dusting with flour and set aside.

Empty the can of beets into a food processor, juice and all, and process until fairly smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except the nuts and process briefly until blended. Add the nuts and pulse-process briefly to mix. Pour half into each of the 2 cake pans and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on racks then remove from pans.

Cover the first layer with the filling, below.

Filling for between the layers:
1 4 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Truvia or sugar
Blend well, then spread on one layer of the cake on a plate. Position second layer on top. Top with dusting of powdered sugar, if desired. Serve with real whipped cream.

And if you're not registered to vote? Go, register, vote, regardless of your affiliation. And have a piece of Beat Cake for dessert.


Fall Garden Improvement Over Summer

Crepe myrtle in early morning light by bell tower.
After the long drought, when even the crepe myrtles didn't bloom, life is coming back to the garden. Our 20 ft. tall pink crepe myrtle finally burst into bloom.
One year old cabbage from the refrigerator.
This cabbage was one we grew last fall and harvested it in November, 2011. It's been in the refrigerator and so finally last night, I cut it up and cooked it. Amazing that cabbage will keep so long! A pan of corn bread and some ham, what a fall supper!
Just as good on the inside!
Achocha flower and baby achocha fruit.
I've written about achocha several times over the past years. You'll find it in the Lost Crops of the Incas book. This one is from a friend in Bhutan. Nichols Garden Nursery sells the seed from my start (you'll find a link to them on my website under "Looking for Plants?") It's another crop that doesn't like heat and this has survived but not fruited until now. It likes the 55 degree nights and 80 degree days and I'm hoping to have a small crop before frost.
Achocha vine, not nearly full size because of the drought.
Bitter melon fruit.
Bitter melon flowers.
Bitter melon is another vegetable that evidently doesn't like hot and dry. It's from Southeast Asia, a staple of many Asian dishes, but this one has stalled all summer until about 2 weeks ago when it also burst into bloom and started producing fruit.
Hoja (pronounced Oh-ha) plant just beginning to bloom.
Hoja Santa, from Mexico, which should love heat, has also just begun to grow and flower. The leaves smell like root beer and are used for wrapping chicken or pork in the leaves and grilling on the barbecue, as well as in soups, wrapping tamales and Oaxacan Mole Verde. That little white streak in the center of the photo, is the flower.

Hibiscus 'Maple Leaf' has tasty leaves for salads.
The Maple Leaf Hibiscus won't bloom, our seasoning isn't long enough, but the young leaves are great in salads (like French sorrel). One of the red leafed hibiscus lived over the winter last year but that's unusual.
Mexican salvia, don't know the variety.
Even the various salvia varieties I grow, have been stalled for months and just now coming into bloom.
Butterfly on orange zinnia.
The butterflies have survived, so have the zinnias. The fall garden is looking much better than most of the summer garden. With shorter days and cooler evenings, the herbs and flowers are playing catch up. It's good to see life still goes on after such an awful summer.

Visit my website for my books and Herbal Nail Fungus Soak, and other products. Thanks for stopping by!