December Gardens

A beautiful, peaceful, healing garden does not have to be in the dirt.

For dedicated gardeners, earth stewards, and anyone with a true connection to nature….a lovely garden can grow in the mind….and our surroundings…
As the days grow longer and the cold grows stronger….conifers, holly, pine-cones, magnolia gifts and winter-berries bring seasonal cheer that feel as good as shoots of green in the spring beds.
Seed pod-southern magnolia

Merry Christmas, In God We Trust, Peace On Earth…..

Christmas As Seen Through The Eyes Of Dickens~

The Christmas Story…according to the Christmas Bible story, Christ came down to earth from heaven to be born at Christmas, because of his love for all humanity.

Christmas Through the Eyes of Dickens~(1812-1870)
( a cry for social justice )

Christmas in Scrooge’s day…in 1843 Christmas was much less commercial. Many people went to church, and many followed the ancient tradition of making merry. however, nothing was allowed for or geared to the working class or poor classes of people
We all know the heart-tugging story of  “A Christmas Carol” by- Charles Dickens…what many may not know are some of the historical facts that inspired this classic.

The English Christmas was at a low ebb when Dickens was a youngster.
his desire was to make it understood and to change how the working poor lived from day to day. Dickens loved his city and spent his life wandering the streets, by the time he was 15 he know it well…yet never stopped exploring and writing about its restless energy.

Much of today’s London was built in the 19th Century,
it was full of dark alleys and lanes, the streets were crowded, noisy, and very dirty.
Almost anything was bought and sold, the atmosphere was more akin to a modern third-world city than modern London. Many of the vendors were children-there were no child labor laws such as we have today. Many worked as young as 5-sweeping the streets.

The growth of the city exploded in the 1800’s and became know as “the Fever-Patch.” It was the first big industrial city in the world, and it was dirty, extremely polluted and unhealthy. disease spread quickly…there were four cholera epidemics in Dickens’s lifetime. plus regular outbreaks of typhoid, scarlet fever,, and other ills. Two hundred open sewers ran into the Thames River…and more than half of the London population took their water from it for cooking, laundry, bathing and drinking.

“A Christmas Carol” was written in 1843, as was the first printed Christmas cards. However in 1843 many very old traditions were still being celebrated. Some dated from ancient pagan midwinter festivals-which were celebrated long before the first Christmas. The latter part of the 1840’s began to see signs of new customs and ways that brought London out of the disgusting conditions it had become famous for.

The year after ” A Christmas Carol” was published , nine London theaters staged versions of this book…it has been a favorite of stage and screen ever since. The classic being the 1951 version.

After the success of ” A Christmas Carol” Dickens wrote a Christmas story each year for the next several years, including The Chimes,(1844) and The cricket On The Hearth (1845)-none were as popular as A Christmas Carol. It added a new word to the English language (“a Scrooge” is a miser…very few stories have done that.

Today’s Christmas is commercial in a way Dickens could not have dreamed of…but in part and thanks to him, we still feel that Christmas should be a time for family warmth, wholesome fun, kindness to others and especially children…his vision lives on~ RIP Charles Dickens.

Merry Christmas~

The Sage Hill Farms Family~

Memories, Habits, Traditions~

Memories, Habits, Traditions~
Our memories are ours alone and come from all that is life, we can speak about them, write about them and share them through many ways of communication…

Habits are often formed from ones memories….good memories…worthy of doing over and over and over.

Traditions are a collection of all those…ours, and generations before us….

Tradition is at risk…embrace it, talk about it, write about it, share it whenever and wherever the door is opened…

Tis the Season….see it through grateful eyes~
All we are and have is because Tradition was.

Blueberries and the Brain

blueberriesblueberries

We’ve all heard…eat blueberries, blueberries are powerful, blueberries are super-food……

Well, exactly what is it with blueberries anyway?

Simply stated..blueberries enhance the brain…total and complete brain health.

1…Blueberries increase brain activity
2…Improve blood-flow to the grey-matter brain region
3…Improves working memory
4…Enhance cognition

The downside to blueberries are….firstly, they are very expensive and many can’t afford to eat them often enough to make a difference.
They have a short shelf life…often they are already declining before leaving the market shelf.

The Answer to that is….Blueberry Extract…very cost-effective way of getting the benefits of the active components…a supplement you can afford to take daily…

Your brain will thank you…when you do find nice, fat, juicy and fresh ones …scoop them up, take them home and indulge!

We only get one brain…use it!!

Secrets of the Magnolia

southern magnoliaseed pod-southern magnolia

The Southern Magnolia is what we know best…pure beauty and charm from the
bark to the pod….each season has its own special offering….spring and summer, amid the dark glossy leaves one can find tiny firmly packed buds that gracefully open into dinner plate size flowers. Nothing, compares to the fragrance of the Southern Magnolia flower.

However, there are many other species of the Magnolia and many other names for them all….Beaver Tree, Holly Bay, Hou Po, Indian Bark, and others…

Magnolia also has a medicinal side…the flower and bark are used to make medicine. Some of the ills the extract is used to treat are…anxiety, depression, stress, stroke, and asthma…among others.

In skin care products, Magnolia is used as a skin whitener.

The chemical found in the bark is honokiol…this is what makes it medicinal.

While the flowers are exquisite…the seed pods get my attention, and if one looks closely at the bark……seems to be a story written in some far away language.

Magnolia seems to have anxiety-reducing activity in animals.

All research on magnolia has been in laboratories.

Season of the Pumpkin

 

Season of the Pumpkin

Around our house October and November mean lots of pumpkins, big fat orange ones, and dainty, and not so dainty, white ones, fat, skinny, perfect and totally warped ones. I never ever have enough pumpkins to satisfy my never-ending use for them. Of course the pumpkin isn’t the only autumn fruit/vegetable that is worthy of attention in the colorful scheme of this most loved part of the year.
Gourds, corn stalks, and the different array of apples, from green to yellow to red and a combination of all the previous mentioned colors, it really is the most colorful season.

We enjoy using the colorful selection as an inviting grouping on the front porch, a lovely selection of pumpkins on the farm table in the dining room is very fitting.
A few scattered around the gardens provide a little touch of color to a somewhat fading look by this time of year.

And…of course we must not forget the Jack-O-Lantern.

What would October be without that special face sitting by the door greeting everyone who passes by or comes to call.

One of my very favorite uses for the pumpkin is in the kitchen of course.

For the family meal at Thanksgiving I use a medium size “Sugar Pumpkin”…(best for cooking)as a serving bowl for our favorite stew.

Sugar Pumpkins

The options are many, just use your imagination for the stew.

Cut the top from a medium size Sugar Pumpkin, scoop out at least half of the pulp/without leaving the shell too thin. Set aside to use in the stew.

In a large deep pan place the pumpkin in boiling water, about 1/3 of the way up on the pumpkin.
Place in a very hot oven and cook until all the water is gone or until the pumpkin is just starting to get soft.(don’t overcook)

Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper or your favorite spices.

Saute’ the firm parts of the pumpkin pulp, season according to your other ingredients. Stir all together and add to the pumpkin shell. Put it back in the oven and cook about 20 minutes, just enough to blend the flavors.

Makes a lovely centerpiece for the table and delicious too!

Enjoy this season, however you celebrate …it is ever so special.

 

Seasonal Eating~continued

Eating In Season…continued~
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In a research study conducted in 1997 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England, significant differences were found in the nutrient content of cows milk in summer versus winter. Iodine was higher in the winter; beta-carotene was higher in the summer. The Ministry discovered that these differences in milk composition were primarily due to differences in the diets of the cows. With more salt-preserved foods in winter and more fresh plants in the summer, cows ended up producing nutritionally different milks during the two seasons. Similarly, researchers in Japan found three-fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.

We must not forget to add the warming spices to our fall and winter menu…emphasize ginger, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, and turmeric…

In winter, turn even more exclusively toward warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All of the animal foods fall into the warming category including fish, chicken, beef, and lamb. So do most of the root vegetables, including carrot, potato, onions and garlic. Eggs also fit in here, as do corn and nuts.

In all seasons, be creative and listen to your body, it will dictate the foods needed to energize and stabilize for the season. Let the natural backdrop of spring, summer, fall and winter be your guide.
~
A simple stew and bread can be tweaked to the most nourishing meal one could need…to the stew, start with your seasonal vegetables and meat of choice ( if any) add dried herbs such as thyme or basil for flavor, a good shake of cayenne pepper and a bland pot suddenly becomes festive!

The bread can be seasoned with oregano and garlic, black-pepper or your favorite hot pepper, sage also adds great flavor to bread….just enough for a slight bite…don’t over season or you’ll just end up with ‘hot’ and not pleased.

Experiment…enjoy!

Seasonal Eating~

Eating In Season~
~
Eating foods when nature produces them is what people the world over have done naturally throughout most of history, before supermarkets landed on every corner of the landscape and processed foods became ubiquitous. Seasonal eating is also a cornerstone of several ancient and holistic medical traditions, which view it as integral to good health and emotional balance.

Seasonal eating means two things….building meals around foods that have just been harvested at their peak and adjusting your diet to meet the particular health challenges of winter, spring, summer and fall. While it may seem like a luxury to have any food we want, anytime we want it, eating foods in season is directly related to how well our system functions .

( if we dress our body in layers of heavy clothing in August…the body will sweat and actually become sick if not unburdened of the load…the same applies to what we put into our stomach…heavy foods in summer makes extra work for the entire system….leaving it exhausted and in the fight or flight mode…not a good place for it to be!)

(If, we opt for salads in the cold winter months…again the fight or flight mode kicks in and will pull vital nutrients needed for warmth and stability from other places …leaving someone without winter fuel for survival.)

Seasonal eating connects us to the calendar and often to one another, reminding us of simple joys — apple picking on a clear autumn day, slicing a juicy red tomato in the heat of summer, celebrating winter holidays with belly-warming fare. Secondly, produce picked and eaten at its peak has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they’re ripe and then shipped long distances.

**Today’s landscape does not have a farm or a kitchen garden on every corner,
however, with thought and a little planning we can still accomplish the goal and reap the benefits of Seasonal Eating.

I hope this little series has sparked a notion that settles in for the season and dines with you daily! Nothing better than good company over good food!