Little Green Tomatoes

Tiny Seeds of Goodness


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Sunday Coffee with Morning Glory and Hitch Hikin’ Herb

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I enjoy a good cup of coffee, with cream, please.  Not milk.  Cream.  Well, actually, my go-to choice is half & half.  I am my father’s daughter.

Funny, the things I associate with coffee….

My father always paired his “heavy on the half & half” coffee with the morning newspaper, a pencil & pad of notepaper (for crafting his daily to-do list), and, sadly, a slew of chain-smoked cigarettes.  The latter of which was largely responsible for his death.

My mother preferred to consume three cups of strong, black coffee while reading the morning newspaper from front to back.  Earlier in her life she, too, paired her coffee with a slew of chain-smoked cigarettes.  Later in life, still missing a “good cigarette” with her coffee, she busied herself with crossword puzzles and sudoku after she was finished browsing through the newspaper.

My grandma’s way of enjoying her coffee was a source of entertainment and happy giggles for me as a child.  A pretty cup and saucer were required implements for her morning routine.  She would transfer the piping hot, rather weak liquid into her cup from the percolator on the stove.  From there, the cup would be re-united with the saucer at the kitchen table, where it would sit until she had prepared her bowl of Bran Buds with sliced bananas or strawberries and milk from a glass milk bottle.  Always glass, and always delivered by the local dairy.  The bowl of cereal and grandma would proceed to the kitchen table and then the fun would begin! Once she was seated and had adjusted her pretty apron in her lap, she would pour a little bit of the hot coffee into the saucer.  She would gently swirl that weak, brown liquid in that pretty saucer for a few seconds, raise it to her lips and slurp it – tentatively at first – until the temperature was tested – and then with gusto! And, so, the cup and subsequent cups would be drained – pouring, swirling, slurping.  I loved spending the night or the weekend or an entire week in the summer at Grandma’s house.  And it was worth getting up early to enjoy her morning routine with her.

My first husband loved coffee and drank it all day long.  My second husband won’t drink the stuff, but loves the smell of it – fresh ground and brewed.

As for my dear old friends – I couldn’t tell you how they best like their coffee, but we have drained many a cup accompanied by wonderful conversation and soul-fulfilling time spent together!

And that leads me to the three cups I enjoyed this September Sunday morning.

I have some new friends to hang out with.  Their names are Morning Glory and Hitch Hikin’ Herb.  It’s so rude of me, but I really haven’t even thought of asking them if they would like to enjoy a cup while we hang out.  Where are my manners? Their cousins Rosemary, Basil, Tater, and Pea Pod seem to enjoy a good sprinkling of coffee grounds occasionally – maybe Morning Glory and Hitch Hikin’ Herb would enjoy some as well?

These new friends of mine let me do all of the talking.  After the initial “Good Morning” greeting and some small talk about the weather and how lovely they are and other celebrities who may be hanging out in the neighborhood at the moment, I run out of things to say and we just hang out, listening to the morning sounds of birds chirping, late summer bugs, and the crows chasing the red shouldered hawks above the tree tops.  I slurp my coffee while Morning Glory and Hitch Hikin’ Herb drink in the fresh morning air and the first rays of sunshine.

Morning Glory – sowed by my hand, from a package of old seeds – sprung up to embrace the light outside of the sunporch a few months ago.  She gracefully wrapped herself around the teepee I had crafted for her from Redbud branches. From there, she worked her way over to the stout Sunflower stalk who shared her space in my Can of Surprises.   Sunflower, spent and leaning at a 45 degree angle, finally succumbed to wind, rain, and the pull of gravity, leaving Morning Glory flapping in the breeze.  I pulled up the rickety old rocking chair and gently laid Morning Glory’s vines and leaves across the back of it.  She’s been busy enveloping that chair and testing new territory on the weathered bench on the other side of her can.  On September 1st she shared her first bloom and so I shared on my very first Twitter post on my new Twitter journal.

https://twitter.com/twigandposy/status/1168353511500931076  

And it has been a grand morning performance every since.

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Hitch Hikin’ Herb (given name, Desmodium), on the other hand, well, his seeds were no-doubt sowed by several of Mother Nature’s accomplices – birds, furry critters, and The Breeze, to name a few.  He is very happily hanging out in the dappled sunlight along the wild edge of wooded creek buffer.  His tiny orchid-like flowers and gracefully arching foliage are absolutely lovely to behold and seem to attract the tiniest of nectar-sipping insects.  He is a native to this part of the world, and his triangular shaped seeds will provide fall and winter food for wildlife. The pods of those seeds are responsible for his endearing nickname, as they grab and hold on to anything that brushes up against them. No doubt Herb and I will be continuing our conversations throughout Autumn and Winter and early Spring, as I walk and work amongst the trees. There will be time spent tediously removing Herb’s clinging pods from socks, shoes, trousers, and jackets. At that point I’ll need to remember the beauty of his tiny flowers and the nourishment he provides for the insects and the birds and the furry ones.

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And, I’ll SMILE as I remember the pleasure of time spent, over coffee, on a September Sunday morning.  😊

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Sadness & Healing

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Yesterday evening, nearing twilight, thinking that the hot pavement would have cooled down, I decided to walk with our dogs to the end of the road – just a short walk after a late dinner.

I could glimpse a few patches of a vivid pink glow of sunset through the trees. The end of the road would afford an unobstructed view.

As we neared a neighbor’s wooded out-lot the distinctive aroma of pine welcomed us – perfuming the still air.  Lovely. Such a pleasant, fresh gift to the senses.

Arriving at the end of the road, darkness approaching, quiet rustling and chirping coming from the woods to the south and to the east, a deep pink and salmon colored glow lay across the western horizon.  Mesmerizing shades of periwinkle, sapphire, and indigo hung above. I stood watching as the colors blended and changed – my hands full of dog leashes and without my camera or my phone – I let the feel of it soak into my vision and into my mind.  Even the dogs seemed content to just stand there.

After some minutes, the silhouettes of a neighbor and her two large protective dogs appeared at the top of a little rise in the road, and so we turned and headed back for home, feeling full of awe and contentment.

As we headed north, a mockingbird began her twilight soundtrack amidst the trees back along the creek.  As the dogs went to sniff along the ditch-line another odor appeared – an unpleasant one – the acrid chemical smell of brush killer.  As I tugged the dogs back from the ditch, in the fading light I could just barely make out the color of dead, brown, undergrowth among the trees separating two neighboring properties.

“How sad”, I thought.

Sad for all the Life there in that life-sustaining and sheltering undergrowth.

Sad for the beneficial insects & their eggs, larvae, & pupa that they work all of their short lives to create – for the next cycle of life.

Sad for the toads, lizards, turtles & snakes who depend on the undergrowth for food, shelter, dewdrops, and life-sustaining moisture to keep their bodies hydrated.

Sad for the birds who depend on the undergrowth for their nesting and for food for them and their babies.

Sad for the soil and the trees, for now there is nothing to hold the top soil in place.

Sad for the creek at the bottom of the property – for the rain that came last night surely washed chemical residue into that beautiful little source of life-sustaining water. And, with the heavy rains of autumn and winter, the loose topsoil will wash down that slope, and sediment will clog and slow the flow.

Sad for our property – adjacent and downstream.

Sad for the municipal drinking water reservoir, also downstream, for without a doubt, there are many other lots & woods & fields awash in the same chemicals between here and there.

Sad for all the wildlife who may have come into contact with, or eaten something that had been doused with those chemicals, for who knows what the effects truly are.

And, least important of all, sad for myself, because I cannot understand the need for all of the chemicals that our species spreads upon the Earth.

About 10:00 p.m. I filled up my mason jar with 24 oz. of ice water and headed out to the porch.  It was very warm there, even at that late hour, for the heat of the day had not dissipated.  The late summer night air was thick, humid, full of the songs of the summer chorus – crickets, toads, the occasional rasp of a katydid.  I rested my head back against the sofa cushions and I must have dozed off.  I suppose I might have snoozed for about 45 minutes when I became aware of being uncomfortably warm – HOT! I opened my eyes and reached for the mason jar, thinking I would retreat back in to the air-conditioned house.

Just then, a gentle puff of breeze floated through the windows, followed by a stronger rush of cooler air.  With it, the sweet, delicate scent of some summer bloom.  And then, that indescribably lovely aroma of freshly mown high grasses and wild plants – plants that I used to call weeds.  The gentle ping of raindrops on metal roofs floated in through the south windows.  And then, with the next rush of cooler air – the smell of rain.

The porch door opened and my husband, peeking out into the darkness, reported “The weatherman says it’s supposed to rain tonight”.  Replying back, out of the darkness, “I know. And it is”.

This morning, a little walk-about, down near the creek that winds through our property,  revealed the source of that sweet, delicate scent traveling on last night’s breeze. Festoons of gorgeous, fragrant white flowers have burst into bloom, attracting a whole host of bees, wasps, and butterflies (none of which wanted to pose for my photos)!

Apparently, the vine is happily thriving with additional sunlight in places previously occupied by old trees that were lost in last year’s hurricanes. It is trailing along the old chicken yard fence and blanketing understory growth in sunnier spots at the top of the streambank.

A web search for “late summer blooming vine with white flowers” produced photos identical to the images in this post.  I learned that this stunning late summer beauty is named Clematis virginiana.  It is a native plant here in the southeastern United States.  And I can see that the timing of its blooming is providing late summer food to many insects.  How lovely would it be if I can encourage it to grow up and over a rustic pergola along with native Trumpet Creeper?!

Seems this beautiful Clematis virginiana is also known by nicknames such as Devil’s Darning Needles, Virgin’s Bower, and Old Man’s Beard. Whatever its nicknames, I’ll call it a Healing Balm from Mother Nature, for its scent came to me last night and helped to sooth my profound sadness.  This morning, after seeking out the source of that soothing scent, and becoming acquainted, my mood has improved and I am, once again, amazed by Nature’s amazing Superpower!

I’ll do all that I can to help, on my little patch of land, in my no-spray zone, where the life-sustaining undergrowth is living and growing and blooming……..and healing.

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I have come to terms  with the future. 

From this day onward I will walk

easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill 

no living things.  Live in harmony with 

all creatures. I will restore the earth

where I am. Use no more of its resources

than I need. And listen, listen to what

it is telling me. 

~ M.J. Slim Hooey ~


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A Bevy of Butterflies!

 

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This time of year, when the sun comes up in the morning it’s like the “OPEN” sign at the local diner just got switched on. The butterflies begin to flutter in to the flower beds, and it’s a feast for the eyes of this beholder.  Such lovely company to have while I’m going about my early morning watering.

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Amazingly, I only planted 4 packages of Zinnia seeds and 4 packages of Cosmos seeds!  Some packets were 3 to 5 years old, so I’m sure the germination rate was reduced.  Some of the Lantana from last year returned, and it appears that some new plants sprung up from the Lantana self seeding.  So, with very little expense & effort, these small patches of flowers are providing a good amount of food for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and goldfinches.  And a tremendous amount of enjoyment for the humans who are amazed by all of the busy, buzzing, humming, fluttering life surrounding us!

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The Light Changed Today

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The light changed today.

The morning air was cool and moist.

The birdsong was noticeably more quiet than usual – only the soulful call of the mourning doves on the wire and the soft chirping of female cardinals roosting in the big azaleas and privets.  And then, the beautiful melody of a wood thrush came echoing through the trees, just beyond the creek.

A low-slung mist hung heavy over the tasseled corn in the field across the road.

As the morning sky began to lighten and the first rays of the sunrise began to twinkle through the trees, the word “burnished” came in to my mind.

Dewdrops caught on the remnants of last night’s spider webs sparkled like iridescent glass in those first rays of sunlight.

I just stood there, drinking in the sights, the sounds, the feel of that first hint of Autumn – letting it seep into me.

We have plenty of hot sticky summer days to get through before Autumn truly arrives.  But change is in the air and in the light.


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Cast Iron Cooking – Chicken Enchilada Pie

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This is a delicious, simple dinner pie that can easily be cooked on a propane, charcoal, or wood burning grill, or in a conventional oven. Leftovers taste just as good warmed up the next day!

It’s a hot July day here in North Carolina, and I like the fact that I can keep the heat out of my kitchen by using a rotisserie chicken from the grocer’s deli & baking this dinner pie outdoors in our propane grill!

Chicken Enchilada Pie 

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (10 ½ oz.)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 1 envelope reduced sodium taco seasoning mix (1 oz.)
  • 14 oz. frozen or canned corn (drained)
  • 14 oz. canned black beans, drained & rinsed (optional)
  • 6 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken from the grocer’s deli works great)
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) shredded pepper jack or Italian blend cheese (your preference)
  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts, brought to room temperature
  1. Bring the refrigerated pie crusts to room temperature, per the instructions on the manufacturer’s packaging.
  2. Lightly grease a 10.5-inch cast iron skillet with Crisco or a small amount of canola oil. Set aside.  If you will be baking the pie in a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic. Shred the chicken and set aside.
  4. Prepare the pie filling on the stovetop. In a separate large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of canola oil and sauté the onion over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chicken stock or broth, taco seasoning, corn, black beans, and shredded chicken. Remove from heat.
  5. Unroll and press one room-temperature pie crust into the bottom and sides of the greased cast iron skillet. Spread one half of the pie filling onto the crust. Sprinkle ½ cup of each of the shredded cheeses on top of the filling.  Unroll and place the #2 pie crust on top of the mixture.  Layer on the remaining filling, and sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheeses.
  6. Bake at 400 – 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 – 45 minutes, or until pie crust edge is golden brown and cheese is bubbly and lightly browned on top.
  7. Remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Note: When I bake in our propane grill, I place the cast iron skillet on top of a pizza baking stone that is made specifically for grilling. The stone absorbs & diffuses the direct heat from the grill flames, preventing the contents of the skillet from scorching on the bottom, while giving an even heat to the cast iron.

Serve with a side salad of baby greens, slivered radish & slivered sweet onion, drizzled with a light citrusy vinaigrette for a deliciously simple summer evening meal.  My favorite beverage to bring it all together? A fresh-mixed margarita on the rocks!

Makes 6 to 8 servings.  Approximately 1.5 hours to prepare – 30 minutes to prep, about an hour cooking & cooling time.


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Giving. Giving Up. Surrender.

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Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

~  Martin Luther ~

An old friend gave a sigh of surrender and gave up Thursday afternoon – on the eve of Summer Solstice.  Gravity, a deep wound, and a hollowing heart proved to be more than she could bear.  She laid herself down in a swirling storm of wind and torrential rain.

Our neighbor often tells the story of how the tree leaned over, many years ago, in a severe storm.  The man who had planted and cared for her enlisted the help of the neighbor’s husband.  Together, they lifted her up and placed her roots back in to the earth.  We would have done the same for her.  However, that is not an option this time.

We will miss her…….

The pollinators will miss the profusion of food her blossoms offered up each Spring.  The sparrows and the nuthatches and the tufted titmice will miss the protection of her densely interwoven branches.  A whole host of wildlife, and our family dogs, will miss her imperfect, pocked, and wormy apples. The dogwood, the pecans, the crape myrtle, and the holly – her neighbors for 40-some years – will no doubt miss her presence.

I will miss her for all of the above and more……

But I will never forget the night, in late summer, about 5 or 6 years ago, looking out of the bedroom window and seeing a group of white-tailed deer, silhouetted against the silvery moonlit grass, dining upon her apples.  I don’t know what it was that awakened me that night, and compelled me to rise and look out of the window.  Maybe it was her, saying “Look!  I have something to show you! Please don’t gather up my fallen apples and put them in the trash.  For I have worked hard to produce them, and they are a bountiful feast for the deer and the opossum and the squirrel and the coyote.” I never raked up and disposed of a single fallen apple after that night.

Nor will I forget the sight of Ricky, a rescued German Shepherd Dog whom we had recently adopted, thoroughly enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures – snacking.  I smile when I remember the sight of that sweet old arthritic German Shepherd – with worn down teeth – quietly sashaying through the dappled shade of the pecan tree, making his way to the apple tree, browsing through the fallen apples, selecting the perfect one, trotting back up into the shady front yard, and lying down to enjoy his selection – core, seeds, stem and all.  A heartwarming simple pleasure for a sweet gentle boy who, a year earlier, had been left to starve by cruel stupid people who left him chained to the mobile home they had been evicted from – out in the middle of nowhere – without food or water.

And there is this…..

Thursday morning, hours before the storm arrived, I stood in the shade of the apple tree’s branches, somewhat reluctantly obliging our youngest dog while he rolled around and tossed and played with two small green apples he found lying in the grass.  As I stood there, the words “Tell my story” presented themselves very clearly to me.  And I thought “Yes, I should………I will.” Standing in that same spot on Friday morning, next to her snapped and broken trunk, I felt sad – my heart was heavy – and I felt like I too gave up, gave in, surrendered a little bit.  I gave in to some things that have been weighing heavy on my mind and in my heart.  And I gave up trying to figure it all out – fix it – see the positive – find the best solution.  I reached out and rested my hand on her fine cool bark and told her, “We will miss you.  And I surrendered a little bit today too.”

A little over a year ago, during a writing retreat, I wrote about my friend and our connection.  I’ll locate that notebook and post  the story here….soon.  For, it seems, now is the time to tell the story of The Apple Tree and Me.

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