Northern Ohio road trip: Schoepfle Gardens

When Matt and I are looking for something to do, we often search for botanical gardens in the area. There’s no better way to get inspiration for my own garden than to check out what the pros do. The other day, I ran across Schoepfle Gardens, a 70 acre park that is part of the Lorain County Metro Parks system.

The founder, Otto Schoepfle, sounds like my kind of guy. He had a passion for continued learning throughout his life and according to the information on the Metro Parks site, he went to Europe several times to learn about new plants and then came home to apply what he had learned in his garden.

I imagine Otto as a great lover of nature and this statue of him conveys that perfectly. Look closely to the left and you can see a butterfly flitting above the flowers. It’s as if his outstretched hand is summoning the butterflies and woodland creatures to him.

Otto Schoepfle

Yellow swallowtail on marigolds

Otto lived and worked on the grounds from 1936 until his death in 1992. That’s 56 years of hard work, sweat and dedication. He set up a trust and donated the acreage to the Lorain County Metro Parks in 1969 but he continued to live in the family home, located on the grounds, until his death.

Schoepfle Gardens - Formal Path

Schoepfle Gardens

One of the most impressive specimens on the property is the Dawn Redwood tree.

Schoepfle Gardens redwood tree

According to the placard, the Dawn Redwood was once thought to be extinct. It was rediscovered in China in the 1940s. Otto went to China and brought back two seeds. This tree is from one of those seeds.

Over the years, Otto received help from volunteers in the community and he loved working with local children. In 2007, a music themed children’s garden was added along with a carousel. The horses and animals were refurbished by local artists and are stunning.

Schoepfle Gardens - Carousel

Restored Carousel

 If you live in Ohio and love nature and gardening, Schoepfle Gardens is a must see. If you don’t live near by, you can take a virtual tour, narrated by legendary Cleveland newscaster Leon Bibb, here.

Want to read more about the history of the Dawn Redwood? There’s a short yet fascinating story here courtesy of the good people at dawnredwood.org.

Know of any must see botanical gardens in your own state? Share the website in the comments below. I’m always looking for new inspiration!

The Loofah Soap Experiment: Update #4

My loofah plant is exceeding all of my expectations for what a plant grown in a shady Ohio yard can achieve. It is the largest plant I have ever grown from seed. I garden for the simple joy of watching plants grow and this plant has been thrilling to watch as it takes over my fire pit, kindling pile and everything else that gets in its way.

Loofah plant

When I planted the seeds earlier this year, I hoped for at least one loofah that would be big enough to dry and use in a soapy creation. At last count, I have nine loofah and the largest currently measures 18 inches!

Loofah

The fruit of the loofah is edible when it is young and tender, before it has developed the exfoliating fibers most people are familiar with. It is similar in texture and taste to zucchini and can be used in any recipe that calls for zucchini. If Bubba had been a loofah farmer instead of a shrimper, he would have said, “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, loofah-kabobs, loofah creole, loofah gumbo.” You get the idea. (And, I may have seen a certain movie a few too many times.)

Bubba may have found a million different ways to prepare loofah but when it comes to home-grown veggies, I prefer a simple preparation with very few ingredients. I want to experience the flavor and character of the vegetables that I grow. When I cook zucchini, I sauté it with olive oil and a pinch of garlic and then season it with salt and pepper.  That preparation seemed like the easiest choice for my first foray into eating loofah.  The first chance I had, I picked a tiny baby loofah, cut it up into chunks and sautéed it just like I would a zucchini.

Tiny loofah

Four ingredients turned this tiny little vegetable into a tasty appetizer. (And I had fun stomping around the house and pretending I was a giant eating a full sized zucchini that I cut with my giant knife and served on my giant plate. I have an active imagination. Don’t judge.)

Loofah

 

My only regret is that I didn’t pick more so that I could try other recipes like this Thai stir fry called Buab Pud Kai.

Have you seen loofah sold in markets where you live? Have you tried it in a recipe? Tell me all about it in the comments and share your recipes!

 

Create a DIY spa day with a cucumber yogurt face mask

This year I’ve had a bumper crop of cucumbers and I’ve used them to make soap and infused water. I still had some cucumber pulp left over from juicing so I decided to give myself a DIY spa day by making a soothing yogurt and cucumber face mask.

I kept this recipe simple because my skin is extremely sensitive and breaks out at the slightest provocation.

Yogurt and cucumber pulp

Fat free greek yogurt and cucumber pulp left over from juicing.

My first batch was a colossal failure. I used equal parts yogurt and cucumber and the result was a messy goo that slide off my face and into the sink. The cucumber pulp was very wet and watered down the yogurt.

My second attempt turned out much creamier. I used 4 tbsp of greek yogurt and 1 tbsp of cucumber pulp. (If you don’t have a juicer, you can add a few chunks of cucumber and the yogurt to a blender and mix until smooth.)

I slathered the mixture on my face and laid on my back to relax for 20 minutes. What a great way to relax!  The cucumber had a wonderful cooling effect on my skin. It felt great!

Facial selfie

 Spa day selfie. It may be the best picture of me ever taken.

After 20 minutes, I rinsed my face and washed with a bar of Emmet Street Creations  Banana Soap to moisturize my skin and give it an extra hit of antioxidants. My pores looked and felt tight and my skin was soft and smooth.

I ended my spa day with a soak in the tub using a bag of Lavender Bath TeaThere’s no better way to escape from the every day grind than a warm soak in the tub surrounded by the soothing scent of lavender. 

Like this facial recipe or know someone who could use a pick-me-up? It’s easy to spread the word! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

A Monday meditation on… ‘Maters!

Heirloom Tomato Collage

Ah, August. Not only is it the time of year those of us in the northern hemisphere experience the dog days of summer, it’s the celebrated time when we get to enjoy tomatoes that were homegrown in the dirt–the way nature intended!

Being a hobbyist gardener allows for a summer-long meditation practice.

First, you contemplate the seeds you’re going to start and gather the proper materials to give the seeds a good start in life. You spend time checking your little seedlings to make sure they have all they need to grow into strong, healthy plants. You take your seedlings for walks, so they can get used to being in the great outdoors (this process is called hardening off, but that sounds so… hard).

When the seedlings are ready to move, you prepare their home mindfully and create the ideal soil conditions for them to dip their rooty little toes into. You take more walks around the tomato housing complex, checking their growth and contemplating their needs: Are they getting enough food and water? Are they sick? Do they need a little support? As you tend to these needs, you focus only on the task at hand and free yourself from the endless to-do lists in your mind.

And then August arrives and get your first ripe tomato!

Since you’ve attained some enlightenment, you complete a calm ritual of slicing the tomato, artfully arranging it on a plate and gently sprinkling salt over the tomato slices. You gently cut a piece of tomato, place it on your fork and bring it to your mouth. You relish every bit of salty, citrusy, tomatoy flavor in that first bite. Every memory that winter exists is purged from your brain.

Then the bite is over. You’re still blissed out, but now you’re ravenous to get every bite of that summery goodness down your gullet as quickly as possible and all your good meditative work is undone.

I guess that’s why it is said there are many paths to enlightenment.

How about you? Are tomatoes your favorite summer treat? How to you like to eat yours? I’d love to hear all about your summer food passions, please share with us in the comments. 

Quench your thirst with water infused with cucumber, lime and mint! Easy infused water DIY

A few weeks ago I told you about a luscious cucumber, avocado and wheatgrass soap that I made with the juice of cucumbers I picked in my garden. An inevitable byproduct of juicing is vegetable pulp. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see wasting perfectly good vegetables just because they are smashed beyond recognition. I usually give the pulp to the McWormerson’s to compost, but this time around I decided to try something different.

I love cucumber-infused water in the summer but just slicing up a cucumber doesn’t flavor the water as strongly as I would like. So I decided to use the cucumber pulp to make a super-infused water. My juicer, and I’m assuming most juicers out there, comes with a handy cup that catches the pulp. The cup has a strainer at the bottom that allows excess juice to run out into a larger cup.

I left the pulp in the cup and poured filtered water over it, allowing the water to drip into a pot.

Making cucumber water

After a few minutes, I was left with delicious, light green cucumbery water. Next, I added slices of lime and a few sprigs of mint and allowed the water to chill for several hours. The result was a light and refreshing beverage to sip while hanging out in my yard.

cucumber lime and mint infused water

Coming up in the next few weeks, I’ll tell you about the soothing cucumber and yogurt face mask I made with the rest of the pulp. It’s an easy way to pamper yourself!

Have you used the pulp from your juicer to make something delicious or useful? Tell us all about it in the comments!