FarmGirls are in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. †

Donelle has had the canner fired up almost every day.† She has amazed me cranking out jar after jar of fresh preserves and not just the same old recipes she has really incorporated many new recipes. †

For example, bruschetta in a jar, pickled red onions, pickled garlic, carrot salsa, and many jams and jellies. †

Freshly preserved fruits and vegetables in canning jars have filled our pantry shelves and are simply beautiful!† †

The December Master Gardenerís meeting was a gardenersí show and tell of gift suggestions from the garden. †

Susan Clark, program director, suggested gardeners take advantage of the ripening tomatoes that many have harvested before the freeze.

She shared a wonderful fresh bruschetta recipe and suggested we store remaining tomatoes by cooking roasted tomato sauce. †

Other wonderful garden hand- crafted gifts ideas were shared also, beautiful pine cone and nut wreaths, pear preserves, peach jam, and a beautiful framed specimen moth.† †

As the holiday season points to pears, we planted a pear tree several years ago. †

This year as I looked at the pear tree loaded and heavy with fruit I remembered my grandmother making pear preserves. †

She chuckled that sometimes as the pears were overcooked, but the grandchildren did not seem to mind and they would just eat the delicious preserves with a spoon from the jar. †

Judy Shelton laughed as she reminisced of her journey to recreate her grandmotherís pear preserves. When she mastered the recipe she had beautiful golden amber pear preserves to share with her friends and family.

Have you gathered, cracked, and shelled pecans this season these will be wonderful gifts to give. †

George and Ginger Cole strolled down memory lane and they laughed as they shared that many years ago they had gathered leaves for their composting from a dear auntís yard and pecan seedlings would come up in their compost bin. †

George would transplant those trees onto their property and now so many years later the pecans are gathered and considered family heirlooms. †

Arlene Hamilton who has been sharing her gift of craftsmanship for the past 12 years portrayed the part of ďAnna, the Dyer and Spinner of the ClothĒ in the annual production of Bethlehem Revisited, a reenactment of the small town of Bethlehem as it may have been on Christmas Eve over 2000 years ago. †

She brought wool from a locally sheered wool in natural dyes and prepared the wool to be spun later. †

One of her favorite dye materials is the cochineal (Dacttlopius coccus) which is the crushed bodies of an insect which feeds on prickly pear cacti. †

The dye makes a wonderful range of colors, including the brightest reds, pinks, purples, maroons, corals and fuchsias. †

She shared tips for acquiring many colors from the garden including black walnuts for shades of brown, osage orange or bois dí arc (Maclura pomifera) for bright golden yellow and clear yellow dyes.

I do want to include Master Gardener Intern, Robin Smith and† a student and intern of Garden Inspirations,† brought her show and tell. †

She loves to garden and has some lovely herbs growing in her back yard.† She prepared a tasty herbed butter on a a beautiful tray garnished with sprigs of fresh picked herbs. †

This was served alongside tiny golden loaves of Southern Cornbread. Below, she has shared her recipe from The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden, by David Hirsch, 2008.

Basil-Garlic Butter

ľ pound (1 stick) softened butter

2 T. finely chopped fresh basil

1 t. finely chopped fresh oregano

ľ t. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed

Use softened butter for ease of preparation.† Cream in the remaining ingredients.† Put in a dish or form a ball.†† †

For full flavor, before serving let the butter sit for at least an hour for the herbs to impart their essence.

Donelle and I hope that you too are reaping benefits from your garden and enjoy the blessing of this joyous season. †

From our garden gates to yours, Happy Holiday Season.

FarmGirls of Garden Inspirations, a garden education company based in Waxahachie, are Marilyn Simmons and daughter, Donelle Simmons. You can email us at and join our weekly email by signing up through our website:, like us on Facebook!† Tune in every Friday at 1 p.m. to the FarmGirls Organic Radio Show on KAAM 770 AM.