Category Archives: Gardening

Cooking for the birds

We are expecting two big cold fronts to roll through Texas this weekend.  The air is already cold even though the thermometer says it’s 50 degrees outside.  As I’m writing this, my bird feeder sits empty.  You already know this hasn’t been my favorite year, and one of the things that has happened in the midst of the stress is that little things have slipped by me.  Little things like feeding the birds.

We keep a good portion of our property wild.  This invites wildlife into the area, providing natural food and shelter for the creatures who actually own this place.  We also like to put bird feeders out to attract the songbirds and provide hours of entertainment.  I don’t have cable TV, I have bird TV!

With the temperatures falling, it’s time to fill the feeders.  I’ll put out black oil sunflower seed, wild bird seed, and some wonderful gourmet Zick Dough for the birdies.  I think I wrote about Zick Dough once before but it might have been on the food blog.  anyway, here is Julie’s good blog post and her recipe.

Chill then cut into squares.  Freezes well.

Chill then cut into squares. Freezes well.

Julie’s Zick Dough is loose and meant for a platform feeder.   I add a bit extra lard and peanut butter so it will hold it’s shape and fit in the suet feeders.  I cut it in squares and freeze the extra

Come & Get It!

Come & Get It!

If you don’t follow Julie’s blog, I highly recommend it.  She has so much to offer and of course, there’s Chet Baker…

I’m off to fill the feeders.

Letting go

I’ve been watching the garden die a slow death.  The plants are in a state of constant stress from the heat and unrelenting drought.  I was just outside looking at my purple beans, a climbing or pole bean with beautiful reddish-purple blossoms.  It’s been covered with blossoms  all summer and the bees love it.  Bean pollen dies if it gets too hot, and it has been too hot.  There aren’t any beans this summer.

Blossoms on purple pole beans from Cynthia McKenna's garden

Purple bean blossoms, but no beans

Last summer, my tomato plants produced about 100 lbs of tomatoes each week.  That’s a lot of tomatoes and I’d hoped to sell some of my produce this summer.  Tomato pollen dies at about 96 degrees, we’ve been over 100 for weeks and weeks.  This summer I gather a small handful of tomatoes weekly; weakly.  It’s been such a hard year to garden.

As I walk around the property, I mostly walk on dead grasses and powdery dirt.  It looks like a winter landscape, except it’s August.  I find I am wishing for winter.

There are times in life when things get difficult and we are called to put every ounce of energy we have into making things better.  If this were one of those times, I’d be pouring compost on the plants and watering several times a day.  If this were an important relationship that was struggling, I’d be focusing my efforts on communicating, and getting therapy, and spending time reflecting on what I could improve.

There are also times in life when what is healthy is to say, “Enough.”  That could be, “I’ve done enough,” or, “I’ve had enough,” or, “Enough already!”  With the drought, I’m now concentrating my watering efforts on keeping the foundation of the house watered, and probably not doing that enough.  I catch myself thinking, as I water the struggling tomato plants, “What if it doesn’t rain?  I’m going to wish I had this water to drink instead of having spent it on struggling tomato plants.”   Sometimes relationships chip away at the soul, making us less of ourselves rather than nudging us to be more fully ourselves.

Sometimes, you’ve given all you have to give and it is time to stop.

It’s hard to let go of the garden.  I started most of these plants from seeds in January.  I watered them by hand, and carried the flats of seedlings out into the springtime sunlight and tucked them back in their warm storeroom every night.  It’s challenging to let go of things that hold a lot of emotional energy for us whether it’s a tomato plant, an argument with a spouse, a failure at work.  It can be really tough to stop trying to make something happen, or to let go of our fantasy of how things should be, or could be if only they’d change.

Here’s a little wisdom from the Buddhist tradition:

Two Buddhist monks were walking along a path when they came to a shallow, muddy river. A woman in a beautiful dress waited there, not wishing to cross for fear of ruining her beautiful dress. One of the monks lifted her onto his shoulders – something that he was absolutely not supposed to do – and carried her to the other side, where he set her down (dress intact) and proceeded along the path with his fellow monk. After a few hours, the second monk, unable to continue keeping quiet about what he understood as a violation of the code by which they lived, asked his companion, “Why did you pick that woman up and carry her across the river?” The first monk replied, “Are you still carrying her? I put her down hours ago.”

What are you holding onto?  What things are you trying to change or control?  Is it time to let go?

Cynthia McKenna's tomato plants struggle in the heat and drought

Dead strawberry patch with dead and dying tomatoes in the background

Change is in the air

My food posts are moving to:

Lotsa Yum: eating, writing, and thinking about food.  I hope you’ll take a minute and check out Lotsa Yum!

Garden Gate Blog is staying with insight into the search for joy and meaning in everyday life.

Watch for a new Garden Gate post on Monday…I’m taking on Glee.

Photos in NY Times

The New York Times asked for photos in response to "What are you eating right now?""  I submitted a photo and was so happy to see it included. 

Here is my photo of the season's first Albion strawberries:


And here is a link to see all the photos – the variety is amazing.

Have a great Monday!



Cynthia McKenna is a therapist specializing in anxiety, depression, and healthy living.  To learn more about her work, check out her website

Nip – no, Chomp!


Pippin has strong feelings about his catnip…


Cynthia McKenna is a therapist in private practice in the Texas Hill Country.  She's passionate about helping clients find peace in their lives.  She can often be found in the garden, kitchen, or hanging out with the dogs and cats.  You can learn more about her work here.

A Great Food Blog from the Folks at Yale

As part of the Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food class I'm taking, I came across this great blog, Rudd Sound Bites from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

The blog features brief, informative posts that have quite a bit of information, They've even got a podcast on iTunes. 

I hope you'll get a chance to check out Rudd Sound Bites:  Where Food Policy Meets Real Life.

There is a lot happening in the garden this week and I look forward to showing you what I've been up to!  Stay tuned.



Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist in private practice in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  She loves helping people create the happy, healthy lives they long for.  You can learn more about her therapy practice at her website.

Psychology, Biology, and the Politics of Food

Yale University offers Open Yale Courses on a variety of topics and I was thrilled when my friend Lorrie sent me the link to this course

The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food

The course is taught by

Kelly D. Brownell is Professor of Psychology, Epidemiology, and Public Health, and Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, where he also served as Chair of the Department of Psychology and Master of Silliman College….Time magazine listed Kelly Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “…whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.” Taken from the Open Yale Courses website

The 23 class sessions are each about an hour long and available in audio and video formats.

And they’re free.

I’ve done extensive continuing education in the field of  Mind-Body Medicine and often talk about health, food, and wellness issues as a therapist.  I think this course will be enlightening and I hope you join me in learning more about The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food.

A big Thank You to Yale University for its commitment to expand access to education.

Take care,



Cynthia McKenna is a therapist in private practice in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  She is committed to helping her clients achieve health and wellness in their lives.  To learn more about her psychotherapy practice, please visit her website.


Compost Tea is ready to go into the garden

I am surprised to learn that probably 1/2 gallon or more of the compost tea has evaporated…I don't think Pippin drank that much.  It might be wise to use a lid next time I make compost tea.

My plan was to foliar feed my garden with the compost tea, but the winds are howling today as our first cold front of the year moves in.  So I'm heading out to the garden to harvest all the tomatoes, peppers and those strawberries that decided to fruit in November, then I'll pour my compost tea on the young seedlings.

I will also probably start a second batch of tea, it won't be cold  and windy on Wednesday and that would be a great time to foliar feed after we come out of the little cold snap.  

BTW – if I had been able to use the pump sprayer to apply the compost tea, I would have poured it through one of the paint strainer bags to catch any large particles that escaped when I initially immersed the tea bag int he water.  I did not have the bag tied closed and some debris definitely escaped.  

Happy compost Tea brewing everyone.  I hope you'll try it, its easy and your plants will love you for it.



Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist in private practice.  She helps clients heal anxiety and depression and find peace through living healthier lives.  You can learn more about her work here.

Compost Tea – continued

Eight hours have passed – already!  Time to take out the tea bag.  Squeeze out the excess compost tea and then put the contents back into your compost bin.  Rinse out the bag and hung it to dry…ready for the next batch.

I used an old spoon to stir the compost tea and repositioned the air stones so they were distributed evenly (sort of)  Now we wait 18-24 hours and the tea will be ready.  My compost tea mostly smells like the fish emulsion that I added – but it's a pleasant smell. 



Cynthia McKenna Counseling

Checking in on the Compost Tea


The technical name for compost tea is, "actively aerated compost tea"  That is what the air pump and air stones are all about – putting as much oxygen into the water as possible.  This makes a healthy environment for the bacteria and fungai to grow, and multiply like crazy.

Compost tea should smell earthy.  It might smell sweet like molasses if you added molasses.  It might smell yeasty.  If your compost tea is really stinky, it's gone anaerobic and that's a bad thing.  That means you are growing bad or dangerous bacteria and you don't want to put them into your garden or onto your plants.  Dump it out and start a fresh batch.


Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Texas Hill Country.  You can learn more about her at

Making Compost Tea – the process

The compost tea is brewing and I want to share the process I used.  I referenced both Bruce Deuley and Bob Webster for my tea bucket and the method.  Thanks to their generous spirits, the plants should be benefiting in about 24 hours

You'll need:

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • air pump for 50 gallon fish tank
  • air stones
  • plastic tubing
  • T splitter or other splitter to get additional lines in bucket
  • paint strainer bag
  • water:  de-chlorinate your water or use rainwater (I used pond water)
  • 1 quart of good organic compost


This is the splitter I used.  Also my pump has two lines so I can get even more air lines into the bucket


Air stones which create lots of bubbles in the bucket of water

Because the bacteria and fungi will need something to eat while they grow and multiply, I added 1T molasses and 1 T fish emulsion, and about 1/3 cup oatmeal to the water. 

Next -fill the paint strainer bag about 1/3 full of compost, tie the bag shut and add your bag of compost to the bucket of water..


Tie bag with a string and if you are using multiple lines & air stones, put one line down in the bag.  Here is my final set up:


Special thanks to Mr. Pippin for making sure I did everything correctly.


Now we wait 6-8 hours then remove the bag and let bubble for another 18-24 hours.



Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Texas Hill Country.  You can learn more about her at

Compost Tea

I am getting ready to make compost tea tomorrow.  I have been watching videos on the internet, and I ran to local stores today to get the supplies.  I am planning on blogging the process so if you are interested, check back over the next two days & watch the progress.

Here is a great set of very informative videos featuring my favorite organic gardening expert, Bob Webster, from Shades of Green in San Antonio, TX.

Compost Tea


Cynthia McKenna

Therapy for women

Halloween Pie


The home-made pumpkin pie is finished.

Happy Halloween!



Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety, depression and healthy living.  You can learn more about her work here.

Got crust?


The pumpkin pulp is mixed with cream, eggs, and spices and now is ready to go into the crust.


Cynthia McKenna is a psychotherapist
specializing in anxiety, depression and healthy living.  You can learn
more about her work