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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Prepping the Corn for Winter

    Instead of a recipe, here's a seasonal how-to post. This is exactly how I prepped the corn to freeze for winter. We'll keep buying sweet corn at the market as long as it's in season and it'll be the theme ingredient for meals. Meanwhile, I approached the guys in the worn-out brown van and asked for five dozen ears of corn. Here's the bag, sitting outside on the deck making friends with the potted herbs.

    Then we went to Milwaukee to visit La Petite on Sunday. On Monday, Amigo and I got up early for an appointment and the day just flew by. Tuesday, I had training all morning and an appointment in the afternoon. Wednesday, I had another appointment, one that dilated my pupils for the remainder of the morning. All this time, the big burlap bag sat on the deck. I really should have prepped it immediately, but it just didn't happen. Thursday it rained. Friday afternoon I finally got the corn out of the bag, let it dry in the sun, and then husked the entire batch.

    Below you'll see about half of the result.

    Then I used my nifty gadget to cut the corn kernels off the cob. This is potentially a messy job, but I learned a trick from Kristin at Blackrock. Standing up the corncob in the center of a Bundt pan keeps the corn steady and directs the kernels to an awaiting bowl.

    Next step: blanch. A few minutes in hot water followed by a few minutes in cold water stops the ripening process so the corn will taste fresh when I pull it from the freezer in January. I spread the kernels as evenly as possible on a wax-paper lined pan and insert the pans in the freezer. What you see beside the sink is about one third of the entire batch.

    I was too worn out to take pictures of the final bags. Rest assured, there are plenty of freezer bags full of corn (the vacuum kind with the air pumped out) in the freezer along with the beans, peas, and asparagus.

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    Monday, August 29, 2011

    The Daisy Reality Show Returns!

    Director: What's on the agenda today?
    Daisy: Farmers' Market. That's always on the schedule for Saturdays. grabs the big bag on wheels, full of other smaller cloth bags
    Assistant: You have a garden. Why do you need the Market?
    Daisy: Quantity. I have quality, but I need more to fill the freezer and feed my family. Wow, and I'm alliterative, too.
    Director: laughs
    Assistant: huh? looks confused

    At downtown market
    Daisy: Sweet corn. I'll take a dozen.
    Director: Do you always buy a lot of whatever is in season?
    Daisy: Absolutely. Part of the locavore philosophy is eating what's in season so it doesn't have to travel a long way to reach the table. The theme ingredient on my table right now is (drumroll) tomatoes.
    They continue down the street, taking in the booths, while Daisy picks out fresh peaches, zucchini, green peppers, sweet corn, butternut squash, blueberries, fresh honey oat bread, and a luxury, kettle corn. Oh, heck, just see the picture below.
    Assistant: (sniffing the air near kettle corn booth.) Wow, that smells good.
    Daisy: Try some.
    Assistant: Oh, oh, this is good. Oh, oh!
    Director sotto voce: Let's leave him here to enjoy his kettle corn.
    Assistant: OH, THIS IS WONDERFUL!!
    Woman at kettle corn booth: I'll have what he's having.

    Back at Daisy's house unpacking the goods.
    Assistant: I know I asked you this. Why did you buy zucchini and butternut squash? You planted both.
    Daisy: Look at what I bought. Then go out to the garden and look at the squash plants.
    Director: Let's get a good shot of the produce we just bought.

    Assistant, back from garden: Daisy, what do you call that kind of squash? Butter-chini? Zuchnut?

    Daisy: Hybrid. Turns to director. Let's take a break and watch a movie while the soaker hose does its work on the tomatoes. How about When Harry Met Sally?

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    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Twitter on the road

    Can you read this?
    "AJ Bombers: Where everyone knows your name. Well, at least your Twitter name."
    We had lunch there last week. I still don't follow them on Twitter. I'll admit, though, the food was delicious. Amigo certainly enjoyed the peanuts.

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    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    The eyes have it

    Paperwork. I felt like I was signing as many documents as I did when we refinanced the mortgage. This time it isn't the house at stake; it's my vision. There was so much to browse that they gave me a tote bag to carry it all home! Sneaky advertising for the clinic, I guess; tote bag, sunglasses, and coffee mug.

    Why all the paperwork? I'm getting cataracts removed in October. I'm also opting for the most expensive (read: not covered by insurance) replacement lenses. I rationalized it this way:
    • The cost will pay for itself. No more glasses, contacts, or related expenses.
    • I'm considered "young" for this surgery. I have many years ahead in which to enjoy good vision. I did laugh that 50 is considered young; I was the oldest in the waiting room at the OB/GYN, well past my prime baby years.
    • My hearing loss is progressive; it will get worse. I need my vision at its best.
    Good enough? I hope so. It's going to be painful paying for this -- much more than the surgery itself. Deep breath, tighten the belt, harvest fresh food from garden....

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    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Beer Bottle, er, Barrel Polka?

    We were leaving a beer sampling event at the Railroad Museum - Rails and Ales Brewfest. I'd had a few samples and a bit to eat; Chuck had tasted a bit more. We were relaxed, not buzzed, and felt safe getting into the Subaru to go home.

    Then we saw this in the distance.

    Chuck burst out laughing. I reached for my camera. He said, "Do you see that, too? Maybe I had more than I thought! Beer bottles are appearing everywhere!"

    I reassured him that I did, indeed, see the large bottle emerging from the trees. As passed the county fairgrounds, we realized it was a hot air balloon.

    Whew. That was a relief. Life is good, but I really don't want to wear my beer goggles while we're on the road.


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    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Tomatoes + Peppers = Salsa

    My dear readers;

    I'm in my final session of training for my new job, and I've been using most of my online time to learn the new software for presenting live lessons to my online students and their learning coaches. I must beg off from presenting a new recipe today. I posted this one last fall and made it again last week. Since I have tomatoes and peppers ripening like crazy, some of you must have those around, too. Feel free to adapt the peppers to include whatever you're harvesting! A hot red chili pepper instead of the dried kind... a sweet yellow banana pepper instead of the yellow bell... you know how these things work.

    Tomato Salsa Dip

    1 small to medium onion, diced
    1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    4 ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, and diced (mine were small, so I used 7)
    1 cup tomato juice
    2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
    5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
    2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    4 Tablespoons water

    1. Warm the onion, peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, hot pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar in a saucepan.
    2. Mix the cornstarch and the water and add to the simmering salsa.
    3. Stir until thickened. Then remove from heat and allow to cool.

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    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    The Big Orange Barricades

    Wisconsinites like to say that there are two seasons: winter and road construction. We're currently in the latter season. The evidence is everywhere. In fact, road construction barricades have their own names in this part of the country.

    See these? We call them Schneider Eggs.

    Without Schneider eggs, where would the big orange trucks come from?

    Last week I heard a bus driver refer to the orange markers as "Wisconsin's State Flower." Ooh, ooh, here's a bouquet growing in -- gravel?

    I see these flowers spread out when they're allowed to grow in grass.

    If the big orange cones are Wisconsin's State Flower, what are these?



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    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Pantry Raids and Planned-Overs and Booyah

    Recipe Lion's August Blog Hop features budget recipes. I think of budget many times as I'm cooking and baking and canning, so I couldn't really zero in on one recipe to contribute. Then I started making supper for tonight.

    Let's back up. Yesterday Amigo and I were in Green Bay for an appointment around noon, so we went out for lunch at a family restaurant across from Lambeau Field. I ordered a Northern Wisconsin favorite, chicken booyah. No, that's not misspelled. Booyah is a thick soup of chicken and vegetables. Legend has it that booyah originated in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with the trappers and fur trappers. It's a mangled version of a French term (you recognized it, right?) and the dish was originally made with fresh turtle meat.

    My booyah is a little like my minestrone soup (a little of every vegetable in the house, a soup stock from the freezer, and a can of beans). Today's booyah started with vegetable stock from the freezer, several vegetables, and a shredded chicken thigh left over from earlier this week. Vegetables included leftover corn sliced off the cob, frozen peas, a few shallots from the garden, green pepper, two diced potatoes, and... did I forget anything? Two cloves of garlic. This soup looks thick and savory. I added a small chicken breast because I didn't think the one thigh was enough, and topped it off with a can of diced tomatoes to add flavor to the broth.

    That wonderful mix simmers in the kitchen right now. It won't even need noodles or rice or crackers by the time it's done. Tasty? Oh, yes, it'll be tasty. In fact, I should go add a few herbs right now. Rosemary, maybe. Or thyme. If I throw some thyme in the pot, does that mean I've made thyme fly? Uh-huh. I thought not.

    There you have it, readers. Planned overs: chicken thighs, sweet corn, a little extra made with the intention of adding to another dish later. Pantry raid: every vegetable in the house, including a few from the garden. No shopping required! If I make booyah or minestrone later this month, it'll contain zucchini.

    Visit Recipe Lion's August Blog Hop by clicking on their badge below. enjoy!!


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    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Moving to Milwaukee in a Big Truck

    Due to last minute planning, the rental truck was quite a bit bigger than we needed.
    Did I say big? How big was it?

    It filled the driveway. We barely had room for La Petite's Saturn.

    Did I say it filled the driveway? Look out for the trees!!

    Did I say it Filled the Driveway?
    Hold your breath and suck in your stomach while you squeeze past.

    Did I mention the truck was Much Bigger Than We Needed? Here is the load. That's all of it.

    Big or small, truck or trailer, they headed out to the highway and got the move done.
    Meanwhile, I stayed home and made pickles.

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    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Apple Butter Experiments

    I made an apple butter last night and I wasn't fully satisfied with the results. I looked up my old crock pot recipe and decided to combine the two. If I use the right proportion of lemon juice to apples to keep the acidity high, I should be able to can these, right? I'm using Dutch because it's early in the season and because I made great freezer apple butter with Dutch apples last summer.

    Here's the original; I'll post the combined recipe later if it's successful.

    part I:


    Apples, 12-14 medium or 10-12 large (fill crockpot about 3/4 full)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla


    Peel, core, and quarter apples. The option exists to take out the peels later, after cooking, but I had a hard time doing that because the finished product was so thick.
    Place apples and vanilla in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until apples are very soft.

    After cooking, mash apples with fork or potato masher.

    Part II:

    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cloves
    1 Tablespoon molasses (optional)

    Cover again and cook on low for 4-6 hours. If you like your apple butter smooth (I do), blend with an immersion blender.

    This was very thick and flavorful. Serve on bread, graham crackers, or in place of the jelly on a PBJ. More ideas? Add comments, please! I'd love to hear them.


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    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Bread and Butter Pickles, reprise

    Here you go, a quick look at the result of Tuesday's recipe. Let's see: one jar is open and in the refrigerator, one jar went to my brother's house, one jar is on its way to my mom's...

    I think I need to make a second batch. Works for me! Tastier than store-bought, and less expensive, too.

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    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Gatekeepers. I hate them.

    "Good news, Daisy! You're off the wait list for our clinic. We have an opening on August 31 at 7 AM."
    Me: I'm sorry, I can't make that date and time. What else is available?
    Gatekeeper: We have an opening Monday, August 1st, at 8:00 AM.
    Me: I'll take that one.
    Gatekeeper: We'll send out paperwork for your initial appointment.

    Scene: Daisy getting mail on Friday.
    Me: Oh, no! This date is wrong! It says August 31 at 7! I said no to that date!
    (calls clinic, connects with new gatekeeper, explains problem)
    Gatekeeper: Okay, we'll cancel the 7:00 appointment on August 31st.
    Me: I have 8:00 on the 1st on my calendar.
    Gatekeeper: With which doctor?
    Me: (reads name off paperwork)
    Gatekeeper: He's not even here on the 1st. Your appointment is on the 31st.
    Me: No, I refused that date. It doesn't work for me.
    Gatekeeper: Okay, we'll cancel the 7:00 appointment on August 31st and put you back on the wait list.
    Me: But... but... I've been waiting since March.
    Gatekeeper: Is this okay?
    Me: No, it's not okay. (pause) It doesn't sound like there's any other option.
    Gatekeeper: (pause) Thank you. Goodbye.

    Now what? Another five months' wait? The local health care system certainly doesn't take depression very seriously. I guess I'm on my own - again. Still.

    Note to self: it's a marathon, not a sprint. Take time, and look at the big picture. Family doc is doing a good job so far; all will (eventually) be well.

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    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Kitchen Before and After

    I do enjoy my summer and fall Saturdays. The Farmers' Market downtown, my own garden yield, pulling it all together in the kitchen to feed my family nutritious and delicious and locally-grown foods... Saturdays are inspiring and motivating and very satisfying days.

    Then come Sunday mornings. Last weekend I was preparing and canning dill pickles until just after ten at night. I cleaned up what had to be done immediately, and I left the rest for morning.

    If you doubt me, let me assure you: my kitchen really is that small. Most of the time it's a great kitchen for cooking and baking. Once in a while, like weekends in August and September, I find it feels a little bit cramped. I'm not sure the pictures really show how much of a chore I faced when I got up Sunday morning. My three goals for the day: clean the kitchen, clean the kitchen, and then watch the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Houston Astros (I'm a positive thinker that way).

    Well, I did it. I not only cleaned the kitchen, washed the large pots and pans and mixing bowls, I also reused the water from the hot water bath canner, moved the canner to the deck to dry, put away all the now-clean dishes, labeled all the pickles jars, and more.

    I took inspiration from the now-visible refrigerator magnet of the racing sausages, pushed the on button for the dishwasher, and relaxed in the den with Amigo to watch some baseball.

    Final scores: Daisy 1, Kitchen 0. Brewers 7, Astros 3. All in all, a good weekend.

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    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    Bread and Butter Pickles

    Pickles! Pickles are my new project. I don't grow cucumbers of any kind, so I bought the cukes at a bargain price from the Farmers' Market. I bought fresh dill, too, for later. Sweet bread & butter pickles were first on my list.

    The recipe comes from one of my go-to books for canning: Yes, you Can! And freeze and dry it, too by Daniel Gasteiger (a.k.a. City Slipper).

    Bread and Butter Pickles

    4 quarts cucumbers (about 20 four to five inch cucumbers)
    4 medium sized onions (or 1-2 large onions)
    5 Tablespoons pickling or sea salt (I used sea salt)
    5 or more pounds of ice
    5 cups white or cider vinegar (I used cider vinegar, and I think it made a difference)
    5 cups sugar

    for prepping jars:
    2 teaspoons turmeric
    2 teaspoons mustard seed
    2 teaspoons celery seed

    1. Rinse cucumbers. Clean with vegetable brush if needed. Cut into the appropriate shapes for pickles. Bread and butter pickles are usually 1/8 to 1/4 inch disks. I used the food processor, and I felt it cut the pieces slightly smaller than I wanted. I'm not sure if I'll really want to take the time to slice them by hand next time; maybe. Discard the end pieces.
    2. Peel the onions and cut them into 1/2 inch wedges. Separate the layers and put the onions with the cucumbers into a large container. I do mean large. Daniel suggests finding a container that will hold twice the volume of pickles & onions. I used a large stock pot.
    3. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables. Mix with your hands until the salt is well distributed. Cover the vegetables with water and dump the ice on top. If the cukes and onions float, set a weight on top such as an inverted plate with something heavy on top. Mine didn't float; this wasn't a problem. Let vegetables steep for three (yes, 3) hours.
    4. Some time during that three hours, make coffee. I mean, some time during those three hours, prepare jars: eight pints or four quarts.
    5. In a large stainless steel cooking pot, combine vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir to help the sugar dissolve.
    6. While the vinegar and sugar boil, pour the ice and water off the cucumbers and onions. Drain well.
    7. When the vinegar and sugar mixture boils, add the cucumbers and onions all at once. Take care not to splash; this will burn! Stir the cucumbers into the vinegar/sugar brine and keep heating & stirring until the brine just starts to boil. Immediately remove brine from heat.
    8. It's time to fill the jars! First, place spices in each jar. For pints: 1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, mustard seed, and celery seed. For quart jars, double the amounts. Then pack the cucumbers and onions tightly inside and ladle brine to cover them. Leave the customary 1/2 inch head space at the top of the jar.
    9. Put the lids and bands on the jars. Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes (pints) to 15 minutes (quarts). Remove jars from hot water bath and let cool.

    These pickles are ready to eat immediately and will improve with age. I've already served them to my family and given a jar to my brother's household. The verdict: delicious!

    Next project: dill pickles!! I must use up the bunch of dill sitting on the deck.

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    Monday, August 08, 2011

    Farmers' Market Days

    Saturdays are Market Days - Farmers' Market, that is. I reserve Saturday mornings for going to the market and buying whatever is in season. I reserve the afternoons for prepping and freezing or even canning. Here's a taste.

    Berries! From left to right: sweet Bing cherries, blueberries & raspberries. The blue and red mixed when I dropped the bag as I tried to fit one more purchase in my big blue bag on wheels.

    The first chore of Market Day this week: sort the mixed up berries. I nibbled quite a few. After this, I rinsed all three kinds of fruit and pitted the cherries. The blueberries are now in the freezer; the cherries and raspberries will be eaten by Tuesday.

    Here's the rest! From left to right, again: sweet corn, asparagus (the last of the season!), garlic, onions, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and lots of pickling cucumbers. You can tell I had a goal - pickles. The batch of fresh dill was on the deck; I bought it at the mid-week market on Wednesday.

    I offered before and after for the berries: here's the After shot of the dill pickle spears. It was a busy night, but totally worthwhile. Some time in the winter, we'll appreciate the spoils of the summer. We won't have to buy store pickles, a money savings. These will taste so much richer, too -- being made from locally grown ingredients and made in my own kitchen.

    Now that's a Market Day I can enjoy from start to finish.

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    Wednesday, August 03, 2011

    Notes to self

    Note to Self;
    Never leave gardening gloves on top of the rain barrel. You're just asking for them to get soaked. Then again, maybe it's like a rain dance; put the gloves on the rain barrel, and the rain will come. Try it during the next dry spell.

    Note to Self;
    Don't get too excited about the fact that Amigo likes asparagus. Remember when Chuck complained we had it too often? Amigo responded, "I like asparagus; it makes my pee smell funny." Gah.

    Note to Self;
    The weekly visit to the Farmers' Market is uplifting. Make the effort to go no matter what the weather or mood.

    Note to Self;
    One discouraging experience does not have to make a serious setback. One meltdown is okay; then move on. Remember, depression recovery is more like the tortoise than the hare.

    Note to Self;
    Now that La Petite is moving out, start planning the conversion of her bedroom to office & guest room. Yes, Amigo's bean bag chairs may live there for now.

    Note to Self;
    Now that Chuck has a new car, find a reusable shopping bag and "hide" it in his glove box. Then train him to use it. Snicker. Tee-hee.

    Note to Self;
    With three word games on the Kindle, hide Kindle from Chuck if you ever want to read on it again!

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    Tuesday, August 02, 2011

    Canning Rhubarb

    It was time. Despite the heat of the day, I donned my Pike Place Market apron and headed to the kitchen. I opened the book to the rhubarb page and got started.

    Earlier this spring, I made stewed rhubarb. It was a hit with three out of four family members. I had in mind using City Slipper's advice for canning rhubarb, a high-acid fruit, with my own stewed rhubarb recipe, and canning the results. His recipe suggests 11 lb. of rhubarb, 1 1/2 pounds for each quart jar, for a full batch. I made half that.

    4 quarts diced rhubarb
    2-3 cups sugar
    Combine rhubarb and sugar in large saucepan. When juice accumulates in the bottom of the pan, cover it, turn the heat on low, and let the rhubarb and sugar mixture come to a boil, then simmer until mixture resembles chunky applesauce. Mash with a potato masher if the pieces are too big.

    Can: Fill canning jars with the boiling rhubarb sauce, leaving the standard 1/2 inch of headspace. Slide a chopstick down the insides of the jars to release the air bubbles if necessary. Add lids and bands, and process the jars in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes.

    The shelves are starting to get stocked! Three kinds of jam, stewed rhubarb, and we're off and rolling. It will be so much fun to take a jar off the shelf instead of writing these items on the grocery list; and it'll taste so much better, too!

    I used instructions from Daniel Gasteiger's Yes, You Can! and freeze and dry it, too to create this recipe. Any errors, however, are mine. I recommend his book to anyone interested in preserving food. You can follow Daniel on Twitter at @CitySlipper or read his blogs.

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    Monday, August 01, 2011

    Signs of a True Gardener

    You may be a gardener at heart if:
    • There's dirt under your nails.
    Dirt? Is that all? I either have dirt under my nails or fingers stained with cherries, strawberries, or thumbs that are green from shelling peas or - you get the picture.
    • You think of soil as a foundation, the stable ingredient in creating a garden space.
    After ten years of composting - okay, twelve - the soil in my first garden bed is rich and dark and drains well. The new garden needs a little more compost. It's still heavy with clay, but improving a little every year.
    • You have a specific pair of shoes for the garden.
    I have a pair of crocs. I can get them wet or muddy and I don't care.
    • Watering is relaxing, not stressful.
    Filling a watering can from a rain barrel or setting up a soaker hose takes time. It's a good use of time. My mind wanders, my shoulders relax, and any stress headache goes away.
    • You welcome rain or sunshine.
    Rain provides a good soaking to the plants and fills the rain barrels for later. Sunshine invites stems and branches to reach for the sky and grow to their full potential.
    • You talk to the plants.
    "Geez, beans, I gave you a nice set of climbing equipment. Why do you insist on attaching to the fencing? It'll just put you within range of the bunnies and other furry critters who might nibble, and then... here. I'll show you." Meanwhile, I'm wrapping the bean vines around the supports I just put in and hoping they get the idea. And maybe hoping the neighbors didn't hear me.
    • You talk to critters who might turn up near your precious plants.
    Hey, rabbit, how did you get in there? What do you think you're doing, relaxing in my lettuce?

    I only came up with seven. Can you make this a top ten list, readers? Add your signs of a true gardener by commenting.

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    Copyright, 2003-2008 by OkayByMe. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval without written permission from Daisy, the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. In other words, stealing is bad, and if you take what doesn't belong to you, it's YOUR karma and my lawyers you might deal with.