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Pepper is in the Air ‘Round Here

DIY pepper flakes

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I’m trying to recreate a gift. A friend of my husband’s is an avid pepper aficionado. He grows lots of varieties of peppers from seeds, cross pollinates them, saves seeds, and shares the bounty from his garden. In addition to fresh peppers, last year he gave us a spice shaker full of dehydrated pepper flakes and seeds. It was so good! All through the winter, it was a great addition to chilis, stews, and sauces.

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This year, we’re growing 8 pepper plants of our own in our backyard cedar raised vegetable boxes that we built last year. Our pepper plants are thriving! Yay! (We have red MexiBells, yellow cayenne, jumbo jalapeΓ±o, Serrano, banana peppers, and cowhorn peppers this year.)

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We’ve had short splashes of rain everyday this week, at just the right times, my garden thinks. Just yesterday, the kids spent time in our backyard playing, swinging on the tire, flipping on the monkey bars, jumping on the trampoline in the upper part of the yard out in the hot, humidity all afternoon. The air was so thick, you could almost cut it with a knife. Then, right as they came inside for dinner, we had a wonderful hour long downpour, ending about an hour before sunset. This left us the perfect window of time to pull a few weeds and harvest a basket of tomatoes, peppers, and yellow squash.

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I just LOVE that my middle daughter Abigail wanted to come out there to work in the garden with me, too!

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In addition to eating fresh peppers, using peppers for cooking, and freezing peppers, we’re having such a bumper crop of peppers, we decided to try making our own dehydrated pepper spice, like the one gifted to us last year! This is my first time attempting this project! We’re six hours into dehydrating right now (it takes 2-3 days), and our whole house is filled with the scent of peppers from the dehydrator! It’s not so intense that it burns eyes or noses or anything, but there’s definitely a noticeable pepperiness wafting throughout the house. (pepperiness? Peppery-ness? Idk. You understand… πŸ™‚ )

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The white platter is holding the peppers I’ve picked from our garden the last three days. I also purchased a few little orange colored habenero peppers from the grocery store to make our blend have extra heat for our winter chili! Love.

So far, we’ve simply cut the peppers in half lengthwise and placed in the dehydrator (skin side down.)

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It takes 2-3 days for the peppers to dehydrate fully in the dehydrator we’re using. Then we’ll crush/grind them and store them in a pretty little stainless and glass container! I’ll update/edit THIS post in 2-3 days with our results.

Until then, we’ll be here, at home, totally enveloped in the aroma of fresh peppers being dehydrated!

UPDATE!:

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Our dehydration of my garden peppers into pepper flake shaker form is a success!!! YAY!!
The peppers dehydrated for two days, then I put them into my blender. I then just used a funnel to pour them into their new container! It’s a glass and stainless container that is about the same size as a soda can! I’m soooooo pleased with the results! It has intense, fresh garden pepper flavor plus LOTS of heat! (Two trays of fresh peppers yielded my soda size shaker about 2/3 full.)

Your Friend,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

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DIY pepper flakes

PS
Love linking:
Arkansas Women Bloggers ~ Sunday Link Up
SavvySouthernStyle ~ Wow Us Wednesday
NibblesByNic ~ Wonderfully Creative Wednesdays
AnOregonCottage ~ Tuesday Garden Party
FromMyFrontPorchToYours ~ Treasure Hunt Thursdays
ADelightsomeLife ~ Home Garden Thursday
MizHelensCountryCottage ~ Full Plate Thursday
EverydayEnchanting ~ Inspiration Link Party
SweetBellaRoos ~ Pin it Thursday
RattleBridgeFarms ~ Foodie Friday
my1929charmer ~ Sunday’s Best #63 ParTay

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Rosemary Water

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Click on photo to enlarge it.

Surrounding myself with a favorite scent, such as Rosemary, that brings back fond memories is an excellent way to make myself feel clarity, well, at peace, and carefree.

I heart Rosemary. A Lot. I heart Rosemary so much, in fact, I have planted and been raising quite a hedge of Rosemary about 15′ long along the path to our front door.

We always seem to have sprigs of Rosemary laying about in the kitchen. Every week or so, I just cut more sprigs to keep the scent in the kitchen, and as I pass by them, I run my fingertips across the Rosemary to carry the scent with me as I go.

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(Photo of book, Aromatic Herbs, by Jill Norman. Click on it to enlarge.)

When I read, I’m known to keep a sprig nearby to use as a bookmark. When I take a break from reading to tend a few chores, I’m greeted with a wonderfully invigoratingly fresh scent as I reopen my book. For me, it’s such a fresh, welcoming scent.

On that note, I thought it might also be nice make a bit of Rosemary Water for ironing . . . and freshening up linens . . . and so forth. So, let’s do that, shall we? We shall!

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Click on photo to enlarge it.

I’m using distilled water, Mountain Valley Spring Water from Hot Springs, Arkansas, specifically, of course, since I’m an Arkansas girl. πŸ™‚ I’m also using Rosemary essential oil.

The cost: less than $5.00
The time: less than 2 minutes to “make” this
Directions: just add 5 drops essential oil to every 5 oz of water. Easy! Then, spritz with joy!

Note:
While fresh rosemary sprigs are beautiful in the water, they are organic and will make the water cloudy pretty quickly, so do I did it for myself only because I’m anticipating that I’ll use it all pretty quickly! Otherwise, the distilled water and essential oil lasts longer without becoming cloudy if the fresh Rosemary is omitted.

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Take care to see which things are spritz-able (is that a word?) . . . able to be spritzed . . . and those which are not.

I’m spritz-ing the lining (backside) of my draperies, under couch cushions, all around the middle of the room as I twirl singing a little too loudly, and then race out to my car and mist all around the carpet floor mats, and . . . Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to save some to spritz the ironing! (I spray the inside of garments, then iron the right side. It makes ironing a pleasure!) Then, I also spritz . . . πŸ™‚ Well, I just spritz and spritz . . . πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

I heart Rosemary and its scent so much. You’ve seen (read) me talk about it before as I use rosemary branches as skewers for chicken, too, yes? and I have a whole board dedicated to Rosemary on Pinterest that perhaps you’ve seen?

My next feat may be to try making a Rosemary jelly! It sounds so lovely to me! (Recipe is in book, Medicinal Herbs, by Patricia Turcotte.)

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Click on photo to enlarge it.

Or, I may try extracting my own Rosemary essential oil. I found instructions on eHow.

Or, as an alternative to making Rosemary water in the method described above, I may try boiling it somehow and straining it to create Rosemary Water for my laundry. We’ll see. I’ll be here, just happily playing amongst my rosemary. πŸ™‚

Your Friend,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

PS
It’s raining heavily here, tonight, which makes this spray extra lovely. It seems to just linger in the humid air. Love.

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PPS
Love linking:
Arkansas Women Bloggers ~ Sunday Link Up
SavvySouthernStyle ~ Wow Us Wednesday
FromMyFrontPorchToYours ~ Treasure Hunt Thursdays
ADelightsomeLife ~ Home Garden Thursday
MyRepurposedLife ~ Catch as Catch Can
my1929charmer ~ Sunday’s Best #63 ParTay

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A Story of Roses in Whiskey Barrels

We have exactly 5 rose bushes, all of which are growing in retired whiskey barrel halves.

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My Great, Great Aunt Ruby had the sweetest smelling climbing miniature roses growing beside her carport. It’s been 30 years since I remember seeing them, and they’re probably long gone, but when I close my eyes and think back, I can still smell them, like a faint vanilla with a lot of sweet apricot. Whenever I went with my Gram to visit her, they would sit in the house and talk, and I would check out the roses. My Great, Great Aunt Ruby passed away when I was elementary aged, but I remember three things well about her: her spectacular miniature roses, her long, brightly painted fingernails, and trying a piece of rum cake at her house that I was far too young to appreciate. “Yuck, rum?!” Fond memories of mine are these, even the rum cake. Love.

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My mother in law, Betty, loved her roses and grew several varieties. Sort of. She didn’t follow any sort of those rose pruning rules, feeding or watering schedule, or any such thing. She just planted a rose bush from time to time throughout the years, and if any of them grew a flower, my father in law would cut them and put them in a cup of water on the kitchen table. Upon entering the house during summer months, she never missed a beat, consistently saying two things to every guest, “Do you want a glass of tea? I have Cokes, too! … and … Did you see the roses Bobby picked for me? Aren’t they pretty! Come see!” She passed away a few years ago, and Bobby moved away soon after, so one cold Spring morning a few years ago, Mitch dug up 4 of his mother’s rose bushes and moved them here to our house. Unfortunately, with our house being on top of a hill, sitting in the shadow of Shinall Mountain, our yard is steep, and all rock below the layer of zoysia grass, we couldn’t plant them directly in the ground very well. Needing a solution for how to plant them, we bought retired Jack Daniel brand Whiskey barrel halves at Home Depot to use as planters for the roses!

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The roses had been thriving in their whiskey barrel pots, except for one. It had beautiful foliage for the last three years, but never bloomed. Then, this year… WOW! It suddenly decided to put on quite a show! See the roses from Betty are a miniature pink one that reminds me of Great, Great Aunt Ruby’s, a yellow one, a carnival one that changes from yellow to an orangish-pink, and the fourth was a mystery. Well, mystery solved. It’s a gorgeous deep dark pink that borders on being red. It’s magnificent!

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We have four rose bushes that were Betty’s and a fifth one, a pretty pink florabunda, that Abigail asked to buy at Home Depot, all growing in these beautiful, strong whiskey barrel halves. Abigail loves roses as much or more than I do. Her middle name is Rose. (All three of my girls have flower middle names. Caroline Daisy, named Caroline in honor of my Gram, Abigail Rose, and Veronica Lily.)

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Usually, we just let them live their bloom cycle in the yard and try to take the time to remove spent blooms occasionally. Today, is a new day, though. I think I’m going to start cutting the roses and enjoying the blooms indoors more frequently. Perhaps we’ll let them dry and make pretty rose garlands! We’ll see. Regardless, I can hardly wait for my husband Mitch to come home and see them sitting on the table, again. Love.

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Do you grow roses? Do you have any special rose memories or rose stories? Are there rose books you recommend for us? Please, share in comments!

Your Friend,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

PS
Love Linking! Check out the blog parties:
HowSweetTheSound ~ Pink Saturday
ArkansasWomenBloggers ~ Sunday Link Up
AnOregonCottage ~ Tuesday Garden Party
ElizabethAndCo ~ July Garden Party

Uh, oh! Police got me!

Haha!! Keep reading. Y’all know I love buying and growing Bonnie Plants. I’ve told you before in my Kitchen Herbs and QRcodes post last year, that I am so pleased with the Bonnie plants I buy every year! Basil, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and more. Every year! But did you know that Bonnie Plants is a lot of fun on social media too? They are! I highly suggest following them! There are always lots of great photos, tips, and great projects, too!

Here’s what happened, today:
I posted on Instagram. I usually tag @BonniePlants in my vegetable posts, since my plants are all Bonnie, so they’re pretty used to seeing me and my antics on IG. Well, today, I was having a little fun with an iPhone photo editting app called “Halftone” that allows users to create photos that look like comic strips and BonniePlants caught me slipping from my morning duties! So fun! If I lived in Alabama where they’re headquartered, I’d totally apply for employment with Bonnie. It seems like such a fun group, plus they get to be around all the wonderful plants! Yumm! Love it!

So here are my Halftone comic photos and last is the screenshot of Instagram with @BonniePlants:

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See, BUSTED! Police got me! Hahahahaaaa!
If I go to veggie jail, I’ll just make a salad and be happy to stay!
Love it!

Your Friend and a total Bonnie Plants fan,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

PS
Go follow Bonnie Plants on social media! Love.
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Grow Food Not Lawns

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Spring will be here soon. Pre-ordering of fruit trees and perusing seed catalogs has begun. Are you lucky enough to have neighbors that share plants? Are there seed swaps in your area? If you look, I think there are! You know why I think that? Because more and more, people are realizing that sustainability matters. Growing food matters. Growing lawns . . . Umm, not so much.

As a US citizen, we can be environmentally friendly and grow our food or we can grow lawns and have watermelons from the southern hemisphere of mother Earth in every grocery store during the middle of winter. We can support our celebrity television chefs that recommend eating what is seasonal, locally or we can listen to some of the other irresponsible chatter. What chatter you ask? Well, it has sort of stuck with me that a few months ago, I was watching a celebrity chef’s show, and the chef made a comment about using fresh berries and how great it is that they are available year ’round. The chef then started adding all of these strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries to the dish she was creating for the television audience. I cringed. Here in Arkansas, I know when fresh blackberries should be available. Mid January is NOT that time. In this context, I’m using the term “chef” a bit loosely; as we’re all aware, some of those shows are as much (or more) entertainment than they are about actually creating a meaningful dialogue about food or gardening. Despite our seasonal differences, the recipe looked pleasing and I look forward to trying it, when the season is right for me, here in Arkansas!

The truth is, buying fresh berries in Arkansas this time of year means the berries have travelled a great distance. This is not environmentally friendly. Second, during January, instead of buying these “travelled” berries, the frozen berries are usually going to taste better than the travelled because the frozen berries were picked at peak of ripeness then frozen instead of being picked early in order to accommodate travel time. Regardless, the “chef” was correct; you can, in fact, buy fresh berries in the middle of January that have been trucked in from distant states or shipped from foreign countries.

Times have changed. I’m not that old; I’m only 34, but I’m certain that when I was a kid, we weren’t buying fresh blackberries and watermelons in January. What has caused this dramatic change in our markets? Is because we CAN, we do, despite the inferior quality compared to having local when it is in season? Are they made available to us because a few celebrity chefs tell us these things should be available whenever we want them? Despite living in a farming state, it’s astounding to me how much of the produce isn’t local or regional in our area grocery stores.

I’m aware that if you live in a Northern state and enjoy pineapple or avocados, shipping produce huge distances is the only option to get these items. So, for that, I’m grateful we live in a global economy. Enjoy your pineapples and avocados. I mean that. I enjoy mine. My complaint genuinely is with fact that local seasonality doesn’t seem to receive as much acclaim as it deserves. So, I’m asking of you and me, “When possible, can we all try to eat a bit more of what is actually ‘in season’ for our region?” Let’s be aware of what we’re eating and where it was grown. Our choices are affecting ALL of us that share this planet.

Ok, I’m off my “seed box” for now. Well, sort of. Nevermind, there’s actually quite a bit more of being on my “seed box” to come. . .

If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, are you using any of it for garden space? Is there an edible plant in your yard? If there is even one that was planted by you, I celebrate you and your effort!

I’m not a professional gardener. However, I’m trying to be more responsible than being a “lawn-er.” I’m planting. I’m learning bit by bit, one plant at a time. YOU can do it, too!

Our old house that we sold two years ago had a few impressive garden features, especially given its small lot size. There was a huge pecan tree in the backyard, and in addition to that existing tree, during the 13 years we owned the home, we planted an apple tree, two plum trees, multiple figs, 3 grape vines, blackberries, rosemary, and a decent size vegetable patch in addition to all of the ornamental and fragrant plantings.

This new home we purchased sits atop a hill. Gardening this space has its challenges, but I’m determined. It may take me the next 13 years to transform it, like our last house, or we may move on before it is “full,” but regardless, I know one day if/when we leave it, it i will leave knowing it has become a piece of property much improved by the addition of fruit trees and herbs and garden patches.

I truly, at a very fundamental level, think it is important to grow something you eat. Even if it is just one thing, perhaps start with planting rosemary. You’ll love having it available year ’round. Or chives; they just keep coming back. Grow something.

I’ve found this really motivating Facebook page about sustainability gardening, called Grow Food Not Lawns. I say that I’ve “found” the page, but in actuality, there are over 100,000 other people that have found it before me.
Unfortunately, Pinterest isn’t able to “pin” directly from Facebook, but I would like to share these cute images and spread a message thoroughly support, so I am adding a few of those images to this post!

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As for me and my lawn? Well, there is still more than enough lawn to spare *sigh*, but we’re working on it! πŸ™‚ YaY! To date, in addition to the existing walnut tree, because we believe sustainability matters, I’m proud to say we’ve planted a few edibles: an apple tree, three types of peach trees, two grape vines, rosemary en masse, sage, chives, and roses.

click here to read all about my peach trees:
https://whatamberloves.com/2012/07/12/peaches-peaches-peaches/

click here to see some of my rosemary and one of my uses for it:
https://whatamberloves.com/2012/08/22/herb-infused-olive-oil-roasted-garlic-and-hummus/

I’ll let you know what else I plant this year. I’m thinking figs along the back fence, for sure. Do you have anything that you recommend for me, here in zone 7?

This coming Saturday, I’m attending “Organic Farming & Gardening Seminar” featuring the Nuffers of Armstead Mountain Farm and Sam Hedges, Director of Arkansas Sustainability’s Local Food Club.

Muddy hands cleanse the spirit!
Get out there, dig a hole, and get dirty!

Your Friend,
~Amber Hamilton Henson

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This article is featured in HAT TRICK magazine, beginning on page 72. Click on magazine cover to be redirected: Hat Trick magazine

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NOTE: This article has been revised by me, and may be revised again at a later date without notice. If you commit to grow something edible, you’ll appreciate farmers more. I’m convinced. I’ve found that I’m quite a bit more appreciative of the food on my plate, now that I participate actually growing part of what goes onto the plate. I’ve also been lucky enough to see actual farms, recently, here in Arkansas, that are now growing strawberries year ’round, thanks to protective hoop coverings during winter months! I’ve been following both SEED SAVER trends and GMO/GE crop technology and find both absolutely FASCINATING!