Archive for July, 2010


A Tea Luncheon in the Country

July 30, 2010

Earlier this week, a friend invited me to her country home for a tea luncheon—just the two of us. A well-organized woman, every thing was ready when I arrived. We sat in her quaint kitchen of beautiful antiques.

It was easy to see how much forethought went into preparing lunch, even for one guest:  what to make, what ingredients to load up on at the supermarket, scheduling prep and cleanup time, and all the other fussing we do to make guests feel comfortable. 

The shopping, the cooking, and the cleaning are familiar tasks, most done daily in simple terms. As a hostess, we don’t always think about these simple tasks (driving to the store, peeling, chopping, tasting) and the impressive measure they bring to the table through savory flavors and visual presentation. However, the guest does—every step every rhythm—and it makes her (or him) feel downright grand. 

After consuming a second helping of tea sandwiches, and fresh summer salads (so yummy I couldn’t control myself), we took a stroll through her well-loved garden, and then chatted under a beautiful covered patio. 

There’s something reassuring and satisfying about those who share, who take the time to make you feel celebrated.

Thank you, friend, for the delicious meal, the garden stroll, friendly conversation, and more. It made my ordinary week exceptional.


My Friend’s side yard.

A beautiful place to stroll.



Note:  Monday, look for August gardening tasks.


We have a winner

July 29, 2010

DRUM ROLL PLEASE . . . the WINNER of In and Around the Garden’s First Book Give-Away Contest is . . .


Congratulations Valerie. Amy Stewart’s book is packed full of helpful information. I hope you enjoy it.

To those who participated, but didn’t win, a big fat thanks to each of you.

Before I post the next contest, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the first one, and on future contests. Without your suggestions, I’m guessing in the dark how you’d like to compete, what you would like for prizes, deadline timeframe, if the first contest requirements were too steep, or the book undesirable or if it even matters—not everyone cares what the prize is or likes to participant, and that’s okay. If you’re enjoying the read, then I’m happy.

You can leave your thoughts in the comment box or email me at, –Dianne

 NOTE:  Tomorrow, under “Country Buzz,” look for my thoughts on friendship entitled, A Tea Luncheon in the Country. 


Strange Growing Season

July 28, 2010

It’s been a strange season in my vegetable garden. The green beans never developed runners and they are producing a less-than-normal crop. Looper (Trechoplusia ni) caterpillars ate my lettuce crop overnight. Tobacco Streak disease attacked the Mortgage Lift tomato plant. It has one tomato. And remember when I showed you a photo of ants in the zucchini blossoms, and after researching a solution I decided to try corn meal as a pesticide—well as you can see in the photo below, the ants moved out (or died off) and tiny frogs moved in. Okay by me, they’re much cuter and they eat the bad bugs. (Okay-okay, I know ants eat aphids, but my zucchini plant didn’t have aphids. The ants were after the nectar. If you have a large army of ants like my zucchini plant, the blossoms will drop off and as a result, no zucchini.)

That problem solved, my crazy zucchini plant is producing elephant-size leaves (see photo below) which explain why I missed the oversized zucchini (below) at a whopping 20 inches long and 16 inches around. I’m sure there are larger ones in the Guinness World Records, but never in my garden. The zucchini plant is so large (probably too much nitrogen in the soil) it’s producing fewer veggies, and it’s shading the eggplants. They’ve only produced two eggplants. I may as well pull them out. I may as well pull out the Mortgage Lift tomato plant and live off zucchini and beans! They are producing enough to keep one to two people alive.

From what I’ve read, other central and eastern US gardeners are experiencing some of the same issues, like vegetable plants doing nothing or next to nothing. Some suggest the culprit is a late cold snap, heavy rains, and minimum solar. Too much nitrogen or one plant shading another may not be the problem after all. Without having the soil tested, I’ll never know. However, I do know that I’m not alone when I say it’s a strange growing season this year.

(Note:  Remember, entries for the Book Give-Away Contest closes at midnight today,  July 28, 2010 . Good luck!)


Summer Colors

July 27, 2010

Here are a few of my favorite flowers blooming in and around my garden this summer.

The flowers in the photo above include Salvia Blue, yellow Festival Gerbera Daisies, and pink Pentas. They rise from a small rectangle concrete planter outside a floor-to-ceiling window. Every season I fill the planter with colorful annuals, easily seen from inside the house. Normally, I choose flowers with a matching color in the petal or center. I have to say, I like the combination, especially the pop of yellow.

In my back patio, Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) adds a mix of leaf pattern and color. No need for anything else as it would be too busy. A shade-loving annual, mine, however, gets part-afternoon sun. Even on triple digit days, it does well as long as I keep it watered.

Above, in the perennial garden, a volunteer grapevine has popped up between the potato vines and the Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), also a volunteer. It will be interesting to see what type of grapevine this is, and if it will produce.


On the other side of the garden is another Black-Eyed Susan with yellow centers (above). Purchased last year at Lowe’s, I asked the nurseryman for the plant’s name. (I hate it when there’s no label.) He said, “It’s a new Black-Eyed Susan but with a yellow center.” Hoping to find a label, I looked for them this year in several nurseries. No luck. I searched the internet for information. No luck. Maybe it didn’t go over so well. Unlike its sister, the stems aren’t strong enough to hold up the flower heads, so staking is required.

Tomorrow, I’ll share an oversized plant and veggie you won’t want to miss.


Budding Garden Thoughts

July 26, 2010 Registered & Protected


 “Cucumber sandwiches

and lemon iced tea

beckon friends

to sit in the garden with me.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre




Recalling the Bounty of Country Life

July 23, 2010

Written by LaVonna (Vonnie) Bergthold

Having been raised on a farm, we always had fresh raw milk. Dad would bring it home in a gallon jar. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold glass of milk. I would help Grandma Hart (Melita) gather the eggs from the chicken coop. We’d have fresh fruit from the trees. My mom would can apricots, peaches, tomatoes, plums, and applesauce. Grandpa Hart (Elwood) grew watermelons. I remember being with him when he cut a small triangular-shape plug out of a watermelon to see how tasty it was.

My grandparents also grew tomatoes to take to the cannery in Thornton, California. My cousins and I would play in the irrigation ditches in the summer. We’d pick a few ripe tomatoes and floated them down the ditch about fifty feet. By the time they got to us (we’d run ahead) they were icy cold. Yum!

In May, my cousins and I would climb the cherry tree by the school bus stop and have a breakfast of Bing cherries. I remember one fall, trying to make pomegranate jelly. What a mess—juice everywhere. I did that only once.

The men (my grandpa, dad, and, and unless) would have a heifer butchered every so often, so we’d have home-raised beef and chickens too. Country life is the best! Copyright © 2010 Vonnie Bergthold

Below is a favorite family recipe from those days. A quick and easy way to use garden-fresh produce from your own backyard.


Mom’s Tamale Pie

Serves 4 – 6

1 lb. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

A few garlic cloves to taste, chopped

1 – 15 oz canned corn, undrained

1 – 15 oz canned black olives, drained and sliced

1 – 29 oz canned whole stewed tomatoes, drained

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

Cheese, grated

Brown ground beef in large skillet until done, drain, and put back into skillet.

Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cook on medium-low until heated. Stir as needed so food does not burn or stick to bottom of skillet.

When almost cooked and bubbling, spread cheese on top and serve.


Contest Update

July 22, 2010

Things are steaming up with the FIRST EVER, BOOK-GIVEAWAY contest. There’s still time to get in on the fun, or keep going if you’re already participating. 

Here’s a recap of the contest prize and rules: 

THE PRIZE:  My mint-conditioned copy (autographed to me) of The Earth MovedOn the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart. Amy Stewart is a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bird Watcher’s Digest, and Organic Gardening, and the author of From the Ground Up, Flower Confidential, and Wicked Plants

New Announcement:  Amy Stewart has a new book coming out in 2011, Wicked Bugs, so now is a good time to start collecting her ever-popular books for your library. 

Here’s how you can win

  1. You must be a subscriber to play, so be sure to sign up. It’s FREE!
  2. Get 5 or more of your friends, family members, and co-workers to subscribe to To qualify, you must sign up a minimum of 5 new subscribers. Be sure to tell everyone that it’s FREE.
  3. Entries will close July 28, 2010 midnight.
  4. After all of your friends have subscribed, email a list to me at,
  5. After the deadline, I’ll verify that each person is, in fact, a new subscriber.
  6. The person who has signed up the most subscribers is the winner. In the event of a tie, I will draw one name.
  7. The winner will be notified by email. The winner’s name will be announced on

Questions? Email: with Contest in the subject line.


Budding Garden Thoughts

July 21, 2010 Registered & Protected


“When heart and nature

work jointly, the harvest swells.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Summer Dinner

July 20, 2010

Homegrown produce, fresh off the vine, brings magic to the dinner table. Authentic flavors and aromatic scents heighten engaging conversations in ways store-bought food can’t. Serving a meal grown with your own hands is one of the best symbols of hospitality. Recently one of my readers treated friends to such an occasion. Below, with Betty Lee’s permission, I’m happy to share the special event. Here’s what Betty wrote.

“We had our first long-bean dinner last Friday, greeted with great anticipation. Our fresh garden vegetable dinner included baby bok choy, Japanese cucumbers, Mortgage Lifter and Celebrity tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants, bell pepper, and cilantro to complement the crab, pork spareribs, chicken, and won ton soup. Afterwards, my guests went outside to see my 2010-prize bean. It was 32 ½” long, and still growing. I am keeping this one for seed. 

The guests went home with some tomatoes, eggplants, and a variety of basil.”




Photos courtesy of Betty Lee. 


The Project: Day One

July 19, 2010 Registered & Protected


Morning arrived and I woke with “the project” on my mind. As soon as I publicly announced that I decided to commit time to “the project,” I couldn’t get started. There were many distractions, and enough excuses to fill a compost bin. The chickens needed tending too, my pet turkey, Miss Bobo, and Ralphie. Potted plants wanted water, weeds plucked, housecleaning, blogging, and my least-favorite thing—cooking meals.

 Feeling pressured to keep my word, I grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled a to-do list. This usually influences positive action on my part. By the end of the day, or week, I’ll have each task completed. Completion feels good. With faith in my back pocket, I pulled out “the project” and placed it on my desk. The plan was to finish the mundane tasks first, then start on the stack of papers. But I never touched them, not on day one, two, or three.

Eventually, the ball did start rolling. Ideas swelled. Organization for “the project” formulated. With new creativity flowing and a can-do attitude, I felt refreshed. Something I’ve needed as of lately. Here’s why.

Since converting In and Around the Garden from an e-newsletter to a blog, almost daily I’m more concerned with what readers want, frustrated with my poor computer skills, and not enough time to do everything.

Pondering articles that will educate, entertain, and get readers involved with commenting weighs heavily with bloggers. When In and Around the Garden was an   e-newsletter, feedback was excellent. On the web, people are less enthusiastic–shy about leaving their name–to comment or subscribe. However, for the blogger, a long line of subscribers conveys interest and a job well done. Comments express which materials you enjoyed, how the content connected to your life, what moved your spirit, what you need, or simply desire. Subscribing and commenting keep bloggers going. They fuel us in the same way a hard-earned paycheck would.

Then there’s the technical matter where only professionals know how to map a site, add Paypal, code e-books to sell on-line, link a blog to Facebook and Twitter, and activate multiple features—all of which I have yet to learn. Web designers, computer geeks, and like-minded individuals charge a hefty price that many bloggers can’t afford. Therefore, I wait for a kind soul to come along and volunteer his or her expertise. I have faith. My tiny e-newsletter is proof of where one can go, how much one can learn. Just the other day, a couple of techs tried to help me with a Facebook issue. Although the matter isn’t resolved—in the end they wanted payment to fix the problem—I now understand how the trouble came about. That’s more than I knew before. Each positive step, no matter how small, leads to the grand finale, in whatever measure that may be.

Remember the old song, Torn between Two Lovers? I often think it’s referring to country-garden writers. Writing steals time from gardening, educational classes, reading, and tours. Gardening steals time from writing, editing, reading, and attending critique groups. All are essential to provide interesting material, and to satisfy the driving force from within. I am consistently torn.

Whether you’re a country-garden blogger or a movie blogger, you have to get out there. Try new techniques, meet interesting people, and learn new methods. Without focus and prioritizing, all of this would be a mess-mash of tired energy (and sometimes it is), which brings me back to “the project.”

As previously posted, I’m not ready to reveal details. However, I will tell you this; “the project” has been the driving force behind my blog. Completion may take six months to a year. So hang in there with me. If on occasion, I post less often or if I get discouraged and bleat like a lonely goat, know that I am here moving forward—writing, gardening, doing the country thing, and with any luck learning just a tad bit more.

PS:  My first day working on “the project” may not have been on day one, but it was a good session.

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