Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Most of what we grow gets eaten straight away. Our garden is not large enough for old time canning and freezing-which is good. Who's got time for that? Lord preserve us,  and protect us, not me! There is the fig clause, however, stating that there will be no wastin' of the figs. Our's is most prolific. Big. Huge. Gigantic. A tree. 15 feet tall, 15 feet wide in circumference. Every, single, year it is loaded with fruit. I could start a small jam operation off that thing. Scott uses a step ladder to harvest his reach. We ceed the top fruit to the birds. I make fig jam, so does neighbor Ann, and we keep a list of fig friends. But hold up! I have found a new preservation technique! Alcohol! Brilliant! Currently soaking are peaches, blackberries, next, I'll throw in figs. Did I invent this thing of beauty? Nope. Germans call it rumtopf. No secret that it includes rum, right? A measure of sugar, add any summer fruit, glug in the rum, and you're off. This is not instant gratification food. It takes months. Is it good? Let's think for a minute of fruity, alcoholic drinks...
Bonus: if the polar vortexes strike again, we be ready, mates.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Out with the old, in with the new.

     The life cycle of summer vegetables is mere weeks down South. Heat, iffy rain, stifling humidity settle in. Productivity stalls. Then something has to happen. In military speak (I learned a lot working in Fayetteville, NC) it is euphemistically called "Doing the hard, right, thing." In plain American it is, "You will now die." Continuing, military-style, I chopped off green beans at ground level leaving the nitrogen bearing roots in the ground to fertilize the next round of plantings. Dig, compost, dig, plant. In went more Mountain Magic tomatoes. Repeat but with different plants. Sweet potatoes and squash replaced the potatoes. Okra went in where garlic had grown. More beans went in the carrots patch. Waltham's butternut squash is where the kale grew and lima beans are about to bloom where the early peas were.
     Thomas Jefferson, gardening books, blogs, how-to shows and know-it-alls,  all recommend planning rotations and sequential plantings but I am so not there, yet. I have just worked up the courage to snuff out the sad-looking things taking up space, time and water. Knowing when to let go, then doing it. I learning and growing with the garden.

...becomes this. And a cobbler. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

They're ba-ack...

Squash borers. If you see one, there are hoards. I won a battle, it's true. I, Fearless Gardener,  prevented them from invading the stem directly, but revenge is sweet. Here's how it went down, literally:

 Thwarted at the ground level the soft, oozy caterpillars gathered at dusk in the canopy of the defenseless, fruiting Zucca Maxima, in the prime of her bloom. There, they hatched a plan to invade from the air. Oooo, this would be fun! They would bore holes at the junction of the leaf and leaf stem on the underside knowing that I, Fearless Gardener, their opponent, would be watching down on the garden floor below.
The point of entry.
     In a stunning, mass assault they each chose their individual leaves for cover, waited until dark of night, signaled silently using pheromones and started chewing. It was hard work for a time, but they had time, and darkness of night, on their side for the Fearless Gardener would need respite. 
Fearless Gardner, weapon at hand. 

     Simultaneously,  they began their chewing through the fibrous stem they found waiting undefended a cool, wet, natural waterside. All together, with elation at their victory, they slid down their curvy, watery stem-slides. Ity-bity voices cheering joyously, "Weeee!" and "Waaa-hoo!" Exhausted but victorious, and just a tad hungry, they snacked their way into the luscious, mother-stem bringing Zucca Maxima down much as a dragon brought down by arrows.
Now you will die! I will squash you!

     It is a sad day, gentle gardeners, in Grande Oak Garden. A sad, sad, day. Really. I am in mourning.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The large and small of it...

Ta-da! I was right. Again. Elephant garlic is a biennial.

Here's how it works:
Year one: Plant the hard brown pips that are attached to the mother garlic in late September/early October. It will sprout green leaves that look remarkably like leeks. Wait about 10 months. It will not flower and you, dear gardener will leave it in the ground. 
Year two: Wait some more. It will sprout again and grow all winter but...this spring it will send up a flower shoot which you, gentle gardener, as soon as you notice,  will pinch off as soon as you notice. This will allow your Elephant garlic to get bigger. Wait for the leaves to turn brown, pull it from the ground and you will have a milder version of the garlic we all know and love.

Does it kill vampires? Haven't tried it yet but I know they are out there. The new millennium term is Republican.
Elephant garlic with clove and pips and the regular stuff

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Harvest Time

Potatoes, cabbage, beets (yep, I did it) turnips and green beans galore are all coming out this week. It is deadly hot and dry, dry, dry-so out they come. No point in going on, or as Freakonomics my favorite drive-to-work podcast would suggest, failure can be a good. Give a listen and, if you have ever failed, you may feel better about conceding to your opponent(s).

In the winner's corner: I have given cabbage to neighbors, hope to have potatoes for a fall harvest, and have been eating steamed green beans with my fingers, like french fries, for weeks.  Grill roasted potatoes, turnips and beets have graced my dinner plate. Okra is up and looking pretty darned good. Field peas are thriving and by some miracle of fate the squash borers haven't attacked before I got some squash. Now that's something to talk about!  Life is good when the garden is giving. Food foraging for blueberries and blackberries at River Lumber, I am reminded of my place in food history. Dudes. It's hours of picking to come up with enough ity, bity blueberries for a cobbler. I do not exaggerate.
Red okra. A Christmas gift. 

Monday, April 28, 2014


I did cover the tomatoes and even managed to remember to uncover before work so they did not boil under glass. They are Mountain Magic, recommended by Bill Lord of Almanac Gardener. Aren't they sweet?

It did get cold at night. The beans looked sad until the warm days and nights perked them up. I thought I was going to have a redo for about a week there.

I am now covering the lettuce from the sun with an old beach umbrella. Afternoon sun is too hot for these tender Buttercrunch babies. Looking snappy casual in the back yard on these hot days.

Planted a bell pepper in a jute bag this morning. It worked before. Growing sweet peppers are not my superpower. Banana peppers always do best here, go figure.

Ollas are covered by the potatoes now. During dry spells I push back the plates and fill the clay pots with water. Osmosis does the work. Sure were ugly when I first put them in though. Looked like random dishes tossed out in the garden.

Marigolds, zinnias, shallots, dill and parsley seeds were planted this weekend. Now we wait.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What to plant, when.

Spring is time of choice. Straddling two seasons one can plant cool weather crops knowing that as soon as it heats up down South they'll be goners, and, looking forward to warm, sunny days, plant beans, squash, and tomatoes.  I have room to do both. Chugging along in the shadiest area of our yard/garden are late winter broccoli, cabbage and mustard. Our hope is that the weather will be moderate enough for them to not bolt. Gardening is a gamble. If we win this game we, and our neighbors, will be living large, in the vegetable category. Natures lottery.
Our current inventory of eats are all things green. Salads every meal. Amish, Summer Crisp, Red Sails, Savoy Spinach, baby turnip and mustard greens. And yes, kale in our morning smoothie.
Because our temps are going to drop to below 40 at night this week, out come the covers for our tomatoes. Checking Felder Rushing on the beans, they will be OK. If it doesn't freeze.
In the category of amazing recoveries is the garlic. It looked awful all winter. I despaired and planted a late winter crop (not doing well at all) sure that our Fall crop was going to fail. And...drum roll please, we have these strappy Elephant garlics growing. I think I've figured them out. Two years, they take. I think.
                                           Spinach. It's been years.