Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reward garden work with chicken and rice meal

Aah, the glory of fall. The air is crisp, the sun is bright and the humidity has flown away on the fall breeze that’s just beginning to carry the tulip-shaped leaves from our trees. It’s a refreshing time of the year to be outside putting this year’s garden to bed.

Working in the garden is one of my greatest joys. As someone who spends so many of my work hours in front of the computer, I revel in the contrast of the hard, physical work that draws out perspiration and stretches my muscles here and there so they’re sore the next day. I pulled weeds, dug plants that needed a new home, harvested sweet potatoes and tomatoes, and made mental notes of what to do or not do next year. A definite must is to make myself take a break from my desk to do that body-challenging, mind-freeing garden work. It always increases my energy and peace of my mind.

Encountering this year’s planting failures as I clean up doesn’t feel as good, but I’m not too hard on myself. I  learn from my mistakes. My lasagna garden was too damp for anything to grow well there. I’m unsure if it’s my inexpert layering or lack of sun due to young trees and tall weeds in the fence line that we didn’t get eliminate. I definitely have to rethink that next year.

One thing I will try again is the straw-bale planting. Although my first planting didn’t succeed, I harvested two butternut squashes from a bale on Saturday. Three others are still growing. I have hope that they’ll make it to maturity.

I continue to enjoy putting some vegetables in pots in late spring or early summer. If they’re healthy, pots can give them a longer life since it’s easier for me to control their water intake than those vegetables in the garden. I can also move them as the sun shifts throughout the season. I still have tomatoes and eggplants in pots that are ripening.

My fall and winter experiment will be trying to raise more tomatoes. A number of babies popped up unexpectedly in a large pot so I re-potted them individually. I’ll try some in my greenhouse and more under a grow light.

As I work in the garden, I also work up an appetite. It’s a good time to have everything I need for supper in the slow cooker. I developed this recipe using our home-canned tomato juice and salsa. Of course if you don’t have your own, you can use your favorite store-bought brand.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

Chop 2 carrots and 1 onion. Put them into slow cooker with four chicken thighs, ¾ cup rice (your favorite kind), 1 quart tomato juice, 1½ pints of salsa. Cook on high for three hours then relax and recover from your gardening while you enjoy tender chicken and flavorful rice.

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