Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter Gardening Tip

"When leaving on vacation, keep potted plants healthy by watering well and covering them with a clear dry-cleaning bag. The plants will stay watered for up to three weeks."—Darlene Lorenz, Independence Garden Club

page 120, Gardening in Iowa and Surrounding Areas by Veronica Lorson Fowler

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The World Beneath Your Feet: Soil

Dirt is something you wash off or vacuum up; you want it to go away. Dirt is inert, it's lifeless. Soil, on the other hand, you hope stays in place; it is teeming with life. Soils are complex, fascinating ecosystems. Soil scientists have identified over 100,000 different soil types around the world. One trait all soils share is that they are the primary source of the food that sustains life on Earth: plants. An Iowa Beef Council bumper sticker reads, "The West Wasn't Won On A Salad." One might argue whether the West was actually "won" or not, but for sure the steaks that early settlers were eating came from cows that ate salad: plants that grew in the soil. Most life on Earth would not be possible without soil. It is as important to life as air and water.

From Mark Muller's "The World Beneath Your Feet: A Closer Look at Soil and Roots," Funded by the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund

Monday, December 3, 2012

Always Put in a Recipe

Raymonds' Chocolate Drop Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter (or part shortening)
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup nutmeats
Cream brown sugar and butter. Add egg. Dissolve cocoa in hot water (this amount may be increased if your family likes lots of chocolate flavor, or 1 to 2 squares of melted chocolate may be used instead). Add cocoa to the above mixture. Measure flour into the sifter (do not sift before measuring). Add baking powder.
Sift together and add to mixture alternately with nutmeats. Chill and drop by teaspoons on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
These are good frosted with any kind of frosting. The Raymonds use the following easy frosting.
½ cup cream or half-and-half
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa
½ cup brown sugar, packed
Mix together: cream or half-and-half, cocoa, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the stove and sift in confectioner’s sugar until it is of the right consistency to spread. Flavoring may be added if desired.

Evelyn Birkby is the author of Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa's Best-Known Homemaker, as well as Up a Country Lane Cookbook and Neighboring on the Air.