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Have you decorated your home for the fall holidays yet?  I decided to do a little something different for this fall.  Instead of spending a lot of money on fake pumpkins and other decorations that I would later need to find storage space for – I went a more ‘natural’ route with a little help from the produce aisle.


Of course, you can find the expected pumpkins and gourds.  BUT, my goal was to find other types of fruits and vegetables to use as well.



Here are the results of my shopping trip and the display I made.  It is all natural and while there are a few gourds and pumpkins – there are also a few other produce items that are not often found in a fall centerpiece. 


Here are some of what I came home with – acorn squash, artichokes, green apples, red onions, oranges, limes, a Kabocha squash, red pears and miniature pumpkins to go along with my large heirloom pumpkin.

Before creating my main centerpiece, I decided to see how many smaller arrangements I could make from my fruits and vegetables.

So, I pulled out a variety of serving dishes and vases and got started…


I placed a green/orange acorn squash, two gourds, an artichoke, a red pear, a white miniature pumpkin and a single lime in my sweet grass basket that I purchased in South Carolina, earlier this year.  

I really like how all of these colors look like the changing leaves of fall (of which, we have very little in the desert 😉


A combination of red onions, limes and miniature pumpkins look great in the wooden bread bowl that my husband made for me.

The tablecloth was my grandmother’s and has seen countless wedding receptions and dinner parties while she lived.  She gave it to me before she died years ago and sadly, it doesn’t see a lot of action in my house.  


This may look like a smaller green pumpkin, but you would be wrong.  It is actually a Kabocha squash that I found in the produce aisle of my local supermarket.  I just love it’s small size and great color.


Did you know that pumpkins are considered a squash?  It makes sense then, that other types of squash, like the acorn squash, above, would look great in fall displays.

I think red pears are just beautiful, don’t you?


A long bread basket, houses two acorn squash, a artichoke and two limes and red pears.


A fall display doesn’t have to be fancy.  I love the simplicity of this long white serving plate with the miniature pumpkins.  A green dish towel provides great color contrast.


I like this arrangement too.


When my mother-in-law was preparing to move from her house to an apartment, she gave me this large white bowl as well as the long white serving plate.  They make the colors of fruit and vegetables really ‘pop’, like the two acorn squash, red onion, artichoke, small gourd and limes, above.

  
Gather together three pillar candles at differing heights and group fruits and vegetables underneath for a lovely centerpiece.


I used plain glass vases to put miniature pumpkins in.


To create my main fall centerpiece, I grabbed some candles from the mantle over the fireplace to add to the display for a little height.

I placed my heirloom pumpkin onto a cake plate to raise it above the other fruits and vegetables.  

I grabbed a few pinecones that I had picked up over the summer during out trip to the mountains.  


I also used a few dried gourds that I had grown in my garden a few years ago.

As you can see, there is no right or wrong way to arrange the produce.  Just place things where you like them – I prefer larger fruits and vegetables toward the back and smaller ones in front.

Some of the produce will last longer then others.  Switch out the apples, oranges, limes and pears every week.

In addition to creating a beautiful centerpiece, using produce for decorating is natural, you can eat much of it and you don’t have to find room to store it when the fall holidays are over – I can’t tell you how many boxes of Christmas decorations I have stored away, so it is nice to not have to worry about storing my fall decorations.

So what do you think?

Will you be inspired to create your own fall display the next time you push your cart through the produce aisle?

What fruit and/or vegetables would you like to use?

Earlier this week, we were at my mother’s house for our traditional Tuesday night dinner.  I love having one night off a week from making dinner and it is nice to hang out with my siblings and their families, who also come.


However, as I entered the house, I saw my mother’s beautiful fall display on her dining room table…


It is pretty, isn’t it?

Many of the gourds she grew herself and I like how she placed bare branches in mason jars.  

Now, while I was admiring her display, I realized that I haven’t done anything to get ready for fall in my house, not to mention my garden.

So, this weekend, I will add a few bags of manure and compost to my vegetable gardens along with a sprinkling of bone and blood meal.  Hopefully, I will be planting seeds and transplants soon – I promise to let you know what I plant.

In the meantime, I will gather my younger kids together and pull out our Fall / Halloween decorations (if I can just remember where I stored them 😉

When will you plant your fall garden and do you decorate your home for fall?

It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house. 

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.


In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.  

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.


In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.  

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.  

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.


Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.  

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.


A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.


Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread


My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.


One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.


Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden.  These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.


Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?

This past Memorial Day, my mother had the entire family (minus my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy) over for brunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.


As we drove up to the farm, we were greeted by the following sight…



My nephews along with my son, Kai, were selling lemonade made from the lemons from the backyard tree.


They had quite a few people buying a refreshing cup of lemonade, including my son-in-law, Jeff.


Kai and the boys were kept busy filling cups with lemonade.  In addition, they also sold homemade jam made from the peach trees.


My daughter, Brittney and Lily (my granddaughter) came over too and Lily got her first taste of lemonade.


As we entered the house, we were greeted by delicious smells of eggs, sausage, fruit and cinnamon rolls.

I couldn’t wait to finish eating so that I could go outside with my mother to see what was growing in her vegetable garden.

She was most proud of her Russian gourds.


Okay, they really aren’t Russian, but my sister-in-law brought the seeds in Russia for my mother.  You can buy the same gourd seed in the US.  

But, we like calling them Russian gourds because it sounds more fun and exotic.



Her pattypan squash is also growing well, above.  This summer squash is a lot like zucchini.  My mom plans on cutting it into small pieces and adding to salads, much like you would cucumbers.


Her sunflowers provided much appreciated shade for the garden as well as seeds for the birds.  My brother considered trying some of the seeds.


If you want to keep the birds from eating the seeds, you can place a paper grocery bag on top of the flowers.


Lots of zucchini were beginning to form.  If you are relatively new to vegetable gardening, then zucchini is a great vegetable to get started with in the summer.  They are easy to grow and there is something so satisfying when you bring a large one inside.

My 2-year old twin nephews took some time to play in the toy front end loader…


Then it was time to celebrate Kai’s birthday.  He is now 11 years old.


His favorite gift was a ‘Navy’ hat from his big sister, which we bought at the Naval base after we saw our daughter graduate.



His second-favorite gift was a huge squirt gun from his grandma.

Late May is also the time that we pick peaches from the trees.


So my mother and I headed out to pick some peaches for me to take home so that I could make peach jam.



I love making peach jam and enjoying it throughout the year.


The peaches, above, were picked from my own peach tree.  We planted it in January and I was quite surprised when it produced so many peaches.  But, I certainly wasn’t complaining 😉

Of course, I didn’t have enough peaches from my own tree, so I used those that I picked from my mother’s trees to supplement my own.


When you pick peaches, use them the same day if possible because they are so soft and bruise so easily.  I waited only one day and already had some soft spots on my peaches.

My mother taught me how to make peach jam a few summers ago.  I blogged about it back then in “A Harvest Of Peaches and Jam”

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I wanted to thank those of you who left such kind comments regarding my last post about my daughter Rachele’s graduation from Navy basic training.


Spring is my favorite time in the garden.  Is it yours?

Plants are in full bloom and my vegetable garden is filled with both cool-season and a few warm-season crops.

Today, I thought that I would take you to the ‘farm’ to see how my mother’s vegetable garden is growing.


The ‘farm’ is nicknamed “Double S Farms” by the family.  It is just down the road from our house and is a favorite place for all the family to gather.


My mother has two raised vegetable beds and she loves tending her vegetables.

One bed is dedicated to cool-season crops that will soon give way to warm-season vegetables.


She still has lettuce growing, which she uses to make delicious salads when we all gather together for dinner on Tuesday nights.


The broccoli has gone to flower, but it looks so pretty, that she keeps it in the garden.

Do you see the orange flower in the background of the photo, above?  That is a marigold, which is a great ‘companion’ plant for the vegetable garden because it helps to repel bad bugs who might eat her vegetables.


While we spend time looking at the vegetable gardens, the neighbor’s tortoise stops briefly, to see what we are doing from the other side of the fence.


The second vegetable garden was built by the family as a surprise for my mother’s birthday over a year ago.

She has started her warm-season crops in it, including tomatoes, summer squash and gourds.


Sugar snap peas (one of my favorite vegetables) hang from vines growing on a small trellis.


The newest vegetable bed is also home to…


A toad, which is helpful with insect control.

He recently moved from his previous home next to the chicken coop.  My nephew, who is a Star Wars fan, gave him a special name.


While the toad keeps bugs in control around the vegetable gardens – Francie, the resident ‘naked-neck’ chicken, patrols for bugs outside of the garden.

As you can see, spring has sprung at the family farm.  

Soon, summer will be here which heralds another favorite activity…


Picking peaches and making jam!

How about you?
What is growing in your garden this spring?

Will you grow something different this year?

Do you remember my post about my runaway gourd vine?


Well, I planted two birdhouse gourd seeds and a few months later, it was escaping my vegetable garden and was making a good attempt at taking over the lawn.


 In fact, every time my husband mowed our lawn, he had to cut back the gourd vines.

Every few days, I would peek around to see if there were any new gourds…


 By the time we harvested all of the gourds, we had a total of 17.

Now the vine is gone and I am having to let my gourds ‘cure’ in a cool, dry place. 

The experts say that putting them on a wooden pallet is a good place because it allows for air flow.

The problem is, is that I don’t have a pallet and it is against the law to ‘borrow’ one from the back of the store – people even get arrested for that according to a police officer friend of mine.

So, being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I asked my husband if he could make me a pallet.

You see, my husband enjoys woodworking and the entire third-car bay of our garage is his workshop.  So, my husband thought it would be a good project for my son, Kai, to work on.

So they got to work…


 First, they laid out the wood from some scraps we had.


 Then marked where to cut the wood.


 Then it was time for Kai to learn how the band saw worked and how to operate it safely.


Now the fun part….cutting the wood – with dad’s help.


Now it was time to nail the boards in place.

And then my new pallet was finished….



Here are a few of my gourds.  The rest I am using as a centerpiece on my dining room table and I also gave some to my mother.

I don’t who was prouder, me or my son….

Did you travel out of town for the 4th of July?  We normally don’t.  But before you start to feel sorry for us, I would love to share with you what we did this 4th.

We spent it with my sister and her family on their farm, which is located just 5 minutes from our house.  Their farm is a fun place to visit with dogs, chickens, a pet toad who lives with the chickens, fruit trees, nut trees and a vegetable garden.  I love sharing their farm with you all.


So we started out our evening with an all-American meal of hot dogs, chips and watermelon.  I brought Rice Krispy treats with both milk chocolate and white frosting on top.  After we ate, we went outdoors and watched the kids play.

In the distance, we could see a thunderstorm brewing, but it didn’t look like it was going to hit us.
As I usually do each week when we visit, I decided to check out the fruit trees and vegetable garden see what was growing.
The green fruit that you see above are grapefruit that will be ripe this winter.  Other then watering deeply (3 ft. deep), there is nothing to be done for citrus trees this month.


There was a single kumquat hanging in this tree.  Later the tree will be covered with them.


I love growing gourds and have 4 big ones in my own vegetable garden.  But, there are 3 large ones growing in this vegetable garden.


Both the watermelon and gourd plants are growing like crazy.  It is probably not a good idea to plant these plants close to each other.


The chickens, Effie, Lucy and Flo were out enjoying the early evening along with us.


Do you remember the frost-damaged tree that I wrote about a few weeks ago?  Well, look at how quickly it has grown!

My nephew Oliver, my son Kai, my daughter Ruthie, my nephew Finley and my daughter Gracie.

The kids were getting very excited about seeing fireworks.


Gracie may have been born in China, but she is a proud American citizen 🙂
Notice her shirt?  Gracie just loves Sonic the Hedgehog and couldn’t believe it when we saw this t-shirt at the store the other day.  It didn’t matter to her that it was in the boy’s department.  She used her allowance to buy it.  She wears it everyday until I tell her that I have to wash it 😉
Finally, it was dark enough to set off the fireworks in the front yard.



I don’t know who was most excited, the kids or my brother and brother-in-law who were going to set them off.


We started off small, with sparklers.


My daughter, Rachele, and I were happy to just watch.


Some of the fireworks were a bit loud for Gracie.


We had such a fabulous time watching our small firework show that we didn’t even venture into the backyard where our town’s firework display could be seen.

How about you?  
What did you do this 4th of July?