Thnx for the Little Things

When all of the big things in life seem a bit overwhelming, focusing on the little wonders of life is perfect.


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Thanks for funny, beautiful little Acorn Woodpeckers.¹


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Thanks for the colorful little fall blooms of asters.²


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And thanks for the last few little heads of garlic left from the past winter’s home-grown crop.³

¹Acorn Woodpeckers: Today’s Andy’s Corner is an absolute must-see/must-read; Andy’s humorous-nature-filmmaking skills have been reinvigorated!  This article and the photos about the acorn woodpeckers – from KQED, our local NPR station – is fabulous.  These little feathered charmers are coming in groups every day to our birdbath; it’s impossible not to laugh at their vocalizations and antics.  Plus, how can you not love a group of birds where the fathers help incubate the eggs – and males and females, young and old, all line up as a family to help feed the babies.

Here’s their range, should you be looking for them:

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²Asters: Who would have thought that you could plant a New England aster (novae-angliae) in Glen Ellen, CA, and have it thrive – especially in a drought-tolerant garden!  I love them.  Just when the flower beds are all “meh” at the end of the summer, the asters start to open.  Now – in late September – just as the asters ‘Winston Churchills’ and ‘Mönch’ (which are aster frikartii) are finishing up, the ‘Purple Dome’ asters are beginning to bloom in our partly-shaded garden.  Just be sure to plant lots – so you get the full color impact throughout your fall garden.

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Aster ‘Purple Dome’ and echinacea “Supreme Canteloupe’ blooming in our September garden

³Garlic: We’ve planted a garden almost every year of our 52 years together.  Yet we’d never planted garlic until last year, after Sandy and Stacey, our “egg lady” friends and neighbors, recommended it.  We planted a Creole hardneck variety (you know if it’s Creole, it’s got to be good!) in October, during the first week of a waning moon, as Sandy suggested.  And we worried all winter that they weren’t doing well.  The leaves seemed weak and limp and pale.  When April came and we wanted to begin to get our summer crops in, it was difficult to not just pull them all out and chalk it up to a bad experience.  But good sense prevailed and we left them until almost June.  Then – when about half of the leaves had started to turn brown, we pulled them, hung them to dry, and have had THE most special garlic to use in our cooking all summer long.

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Garlic leaves showing just enough brown to consider pulling them out to begin the drying process

Even if you don’t have home-grown garlic, buy a few heads at your market (organic, if you can find them) and try this garlic-loaded, delicious riff on a James Beard recipe.

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20 Clove Garlic Chicken


20 Clove Garlic Chicken

Use this as a base recipe and vary it according to what you’ve got on hand and how much time you’ve got.  You might brown some chopped onion and celery before adding the chicken.  You can add a teaspoon or so of dried tarragon or dried thyme – or a tablespoon of minced fresh herbs.

  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 6 small chicken thighs (around 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 20 cloves of garlic (I rinse them – just because)
  • 1/2 -1 c white wine – or dry vermouth or chicken stock (you may need to add a bit more; check after about 1/2 hour in the oven; you want just enough moisture left to add a little garlicky juice to your rice)
  • Rice for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil  and butter in a large Dutch oven (I used my Staub 7 qt so I could brown all 6 thighs at once – but you can you a smaller one and brown in two batches) over medium high heat.  Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and brown for about 4 minutes – or until the skin is golden brown.  Turn off the heat; turn the thighs over; tuck the garlic in among the thighs, then pour the white wine over it all.

Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 1 hour.

Serve the chicken with the juices and the garlic over rice.  You can squeeze the garlic out of its skin and eat it with the rice and chicken – or just ignore it, since it already done its job flavoring the chicken.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.




  1. Pingback: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Did Your Garden Grow? | Big Little Meals

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