Books for 2021

Some people have one genre or a couple of authors that they love and that is all they read. Some folks only read non-fiction, others have certain genres that they will NOT read- never ever under any circumstances. Not me, I love reading and will read just about anything. Of course, I do have favorites in both genre and authors. I have read quite a few books this year- these are a few worth owning:

Non-fiction:

Beautiful Outlaw, Fathered by God, and Moving Mountains by John Eldredge

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

Fiction

Naked in Death, here, by J.D. Robb

AND, of course,

Out of the Shadows and Compliments to the Chef by Holly K. Ross

Out of the Shadows and Compliments to the Chef book cover photo

How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
, ga

What To Do With A Critic?

I have known for a good many years that you had to have thick skin when raising children. You know the saying, “Three things don’t lie: drunks, children, and yoga pants.” Kids will speak out the truth as painful as the listener may find it.

Then I became a writer and published my first book. I KNEW I would not be everybody’s cup of tea. I like strong southern women who love Jesus but cuss a little. I also believe that sex is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated. I do not write about premarital sex or glamorize sleeping around. And I knew, having spent my entire life in the Bible Belt, that plenty of people believe that even mentioning sex or sexual attraction makes your book smut. I would like to point out that by this definition the Bible is smut. But, I digress- that is another post.

By and large, the reviews I have had have been very favorable. But a few, have stung! Its funny how the one bad review sticks in my head so much faster and securely than the ten good reviews I read before it. I talk to myself a lot. I have had many conversations explaining how I can’t believe my own press, good or bad. Those bad reviews should be taken, improvements made on parts I can, and then flushed. I am not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay. As a matter of fact, my peeps probably don’t drink cups of tea. They, more than likely, drink sweet tea by the gallon or Jack and Coke.

Then I ran across this quote:

“The only just literary critic,” he concluded, “is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

http://www.goodreads.com

This man wrote the book that has defined the world of fantasy ever since. I should hope to write something so spectacular and deep in my life time. And, by the way, it did take him a life time to write Lord of the Rings. And even he dealt with critics.

So, on this day I remind myself of what Tolkien said and let Christ be the only critic that matters.

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It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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Herbs: An Overview

When thinking of gardening, cooking, eating healthy, one cannot get away from the beauty and necessity of herbs.  Regardless of your goal- to grow healthy food for you and your family, to attract butterflies, to make your gardens beautiful or to simply delight your senses- herbs fit the bill.

For the most part, herbs are perennials and hardy.  Even in our erratic weather patterns in Texas, herbs have performed very well for me and have brought me much satisfaction and joy.  As with most fresh food, when you have tasted the flavors of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and more- you can never go back to the herb dust you can purchase off the shelves in the supermarkets.  The taste is just so amazing.  And by fresh, I also mean the herbs harvested and dried by your own hands.

And just to clarify a few terms:

Herbaceous– means that a plant dies back to the ground in winter, but comes back each spring.  You can have plants that are not herbs but are herbaceous and Herbs that are not herbaceous!

Perennial– a plant that returns year after year, can be evergreen or herbaceous.

Below is a tip sheet that will help you get stated in the wonderful world of herbs.

Many more articles on particular herbs and gardening are located in the Herb Category and in the Organic Gardening Category.

basil in the crate

Herbs- From Garden to Table

What To Plant Where

A large majority of herbs are perennials and biennials, so they will be with you for quite a while when choosing herbs:

  1. Consider their origin- did they come from wooded areas, desert areas, wet areas etc. and group like plants together.
  2. Consider water requirements of each plant
  3. Consider growth habits: height, cold hardy, heat tolerant, upright or rambler, etc.
  4. Consider their function:
  • For culinary use- what and how do you cook
  • Attract pollinators or repel insects
  • Or just for looks
  • Medicinal

Each of these points will help you determine where in your garden to locate the plants.  Obviously, a water loving herb does not need to be planted with Rosemary and Lavender as these herbs prefer a very dry climate.  If you consider these aspects before you plant everyone will benefit.

What Herbs are good for our area of Texas

  • Thyme- creeping lemon*
  • Sage- Salvia Officinalis*
  • Italian Oregano*
  • Lavender- English and Fern Leaf*
  • Parsley
  • Citronella
  • Basil- all kinds
  • Aloe Vera
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mints*
  • Salad Burnett *
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Grass
  • Catnip
  • Stevia
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Garlic (plant in September)
  • Roses

The list goes on as there are so many, but these will get you off to a good start!

*- good for planting in fall as they grow all year long

 Now To Table

  1. Use Fresh- simply snip and use- sprinkle chopped herbs in your dishes while cooking or on top as a garnish.
  2. Dried
  • Cut and tie in bundle (rubber bands work great!)
  • Hang to dry or dry in oven on low or a hot car
  • Grind and store- chop in blender, store in jars in a cool dark place like a pantry.

Herbed Oils or Vinegars-  place herbs in clean jar and cover with oil or vinegar and let steep for 3 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark place.

Island Life & Ice Cream

One of the BEST things about living on the island is that we can pick up the grandkids and head to the water.

We don’t have to stay long, but it always refreshes my soul.

Did you know that ice cream trucks come to the beach? When this one heard that music, she got right up in my face and said ” Do you hear that?!”

My G is still waters but she runs deep.

No worries, we’ll just wash off in the gulf.

Leo’s Cajun Corner

If you are looking for local eats with a Cajun flair- Leo’s Cajun Corner is the place!  You know you are in the right kind of place when you pull up and you can see the smoker going and wood piled all around.

This shop is small but packs big flavor.  They offer ribs, brisket, sausage, and more by the pound, but have great choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I picked up a shrimp po’boy for lunch and it was the best I have ever had.  And I have eaten a LOT of po’boys.  The slaw on the sandwich paired with the spicy, lightly breaded shrimp was scrumptious.  I ate it all.

If you’ve never had boudin balls, you are missing out.  I had never had one until I moved to Galveston- now my life is changed.  Those deep-fried, spicy nuggets are the things I dream of when I want food I am not supposed to eat- which is often. 

We’ve also eaten there for breakfast and had a breakfast bowl and a toaster.  Just simple, basic food that tasted fabulous.  One of the best things about eating at Leo’s is that the food is, well- cheap.  Not in the way it’s made or the portion sizes, but the price.  On an island that can be a bit pricey because of the tourism, Leo’s is a nice surprise.

You’ll find Leo’s Cajun Corner at 3201 Broadway Avenue J, Galveston, TX 77550.  Next time you crave a little kick in your belly but want to keep some green in your wallet- give them a try!

Making Medicine At Home

herbal tincture

For a live video go to Hollyberry Herb Farm on Facebook

An Herbal Tincture is a method of preserving the medicinal attributes of an herb in such a way will allow you to use the herbs long after their season is gone.  As I have said before, the more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be.  However, at certain times of the year, certain herbs are not available.  So, by making tinctures you can use herbs all year round.  Typically, to make a tincture you steep the herb of choice in vodka or brandy for four to six weeks.  Once the herb matter is strained out and the liquid re-bottled, the tincture will keep indefinitely.

The essential oils and herbal essences are soluble in alcohol making alcohol a better solvent than vinegar for making tinctures.  Once the menstruum (plant material and solvent) has steeped, all the herbal goodness and health benefits of the herbs will be suspended and concentrated in the alcohol.  This concentration is why so little of the tincture is needed in an individual dose.

There are many combinations of herbs that can be used- select the herbs based on your needs.  Dandelion is an all around great herb with so many medicinal qualities.  I use this herb alone to make a tincture that is taken by anyone feeling “under the weather” to boost the immune system and ward off the colds and flues that tend to go around in the winter.

A small amount- 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day is all that is taken by adults around our house.  When the children were toddlers a few drops in their sippy cups helped battle the snotty noses and colds that came with childhood.

There are many resources on the internet for recipes and several good herbal books that give instruction as to preparation of tinctures.  I like to use Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.

A basic recipe is:

1 clean 1 pint glass jar with a fitting lid

Approx. 1 cup chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup dried herb, coarsely chopped.

1 pint of brandy or vodka.

Place the chopped herb matter into the jar.

Creating an herbal tincture

Pour in Vodka or Brandi, let steep for 4-6 weeks, shake weekly, then strain.

herbal tinctures

Herbal tincture steeping and waiting to be strained.  Be certain to label with contents and date- the only way to be certain you will remember what is in the jar.

Once strained, pour liquid into a bottle and cap

There you go, it is that easy!

You can see me make a tincture on Facebook @ Hollyberry Herb Farm

This is what I use for my family.  Research for yourself and decide what is best for your family and yourself.  This is not meant as medical advice or to diagnose illness.