Monday, December 20, 2010

Emory's Gardeners

Cool spaces, tucked into hidden places.

I have vague memories of being hot, not being able to get cool and whining about it all the time. Like, the entire months of June, July, August and September of 2010. Despite the heat I braved the outdoors and struck up a good, old fashioned, conversation with the gardeners of Emory University, Decatur, GA. What a pair of pure genius, good ole boy, garden designers. They love their job and the two are responsible, turns out, for the beauty of main campus. I spent days wandering around campus taking pictures while Katie attended classes. Their design makes a case for the understated beauty of a green, green space. And here on the cusp of the shortest day of the year, wishing for warmth, I look forward looking back.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

stink patch-not

If you've ever been near a collard planting on a hot day you understand why old timers called it the stink patch. There's just this high, ever-present, odor of sulfur all around that makes you wonder what made humans eat them in the first place. Starvation, maybe? Mustard greens don't stink, are milder in flavor and are mighty purdie to look at, especially the curly variety.
Scott broadcast some leftover seed from a few years ago and each and every one came up. What do they need to grow? Not much. Water and part shade will work. We've been eating from them weekly for about a month now. Not bad sauteed with garlic and onion and a touch of water (or a glug of beer) if needed. The beauty of the curly type is the stems aren't tough so you just pick, rinse and cook.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scout The Seriously Cute Dog

Scout has become a faithful companion hanging around when we garden and sit outside enjoying what has become a very nice Fall. Since this picture was taken she's grown and shown us her amazing talent for digging in soft dirt ie. the garden. I couldn't get mad because I knew it was going to happen so we now have fencing around areas that appeal to her. In this way we continue to reap the rewards of our work and still love the dog who barks when she should. Dude, she's a good watchdog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Last Rose of Summer

Menologically speaking it's Fall. But here in the Land Down Under USA it's still summer and what a beautiful fummer it is-cool mornings and warm afternoons with Carolina blue skies. Take that for all that heat, humidity and frizzy hair of August (and this year September). Thanks for the break Mother Nature, we were really getting frantic this year. The heat was seriously cuttin' into our outdoor party time and that's just sad. So now we're back to eating dinner outdoors and walking before the sun goes down. AND gardening is fun again. I do something garden every day when I get home from work and actually enjoy it.

We've added salad to the menu the past two weeks. There is enough for three of us this weekend. All other plantings are chugging along. Hopefully we'll have broccoli for Thanksgiving. Wouldn't that be nice with roasted butternut squash? I think so.

Zinnias are the garden star this month. They are so much prettier in person. I reckon you'll just have to come by and see them for the full effect.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Fall Garden

Carrots are up! Broccoli and lettuce plants are perkin' right along and more are in seed pots. Pea and turnip seeds were planted today. Rain failed to make so we were out first thing watering one and all. I am proudest of my new parsley plants that I grew from the seeds I harvested from last years' plant. Wow. They were a major success in germination! I transplanted the seedlings today into the garden knowing that they love heat and sunshine something we have plenty of these days. Still in the 90s here in mid-September.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two New Things

There are two firsts in the garden right now. The first was the tomato hornworm caterpillar. It completely ate one tomato, moved on to a second but ha-ha-ha-ha-ha the garden wasps had laid eggs on it! I left it to die slowly, being eaten alive from the inside out, checking daily on the progress of the parasitic wasp larvae. They did their job masterfully and all hatched within days. The caterpillar carcass remains as a warning to all. Medieval, right?

Number two in the new category are the butternut squashes. They are almost ready and wow are they beautiful. They've taken over one whole corner of the yard vining beyond the garden. Scott has respectfully left them alone not moving them to mow the grass which is going to be hell to cut. Behold.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cornell Plantations

I guess I was in shock because I did not take a single picture of the tomatoes growing at Cornell Plantations. Really, there were at least twenty varieties of tomatoes all loaded with fruit. Brandeywine, Black Krim, and great big Jersey Giants were thriving and the Swiss Chard was huge! There were beets and turnips, and lettuce and beans, and peas and cabbages, and carrots, and all of it was coming off at once and there was no one there to stop me from picking things, but I didn't, which seemed stupid and so civilized. Maybe it was the sun and the heat. It wasn't a complete wash, I did have the presence of mind to take pictures while in the flower gardens.
Here's the deal with America's world class universities. They have it all. Museums, gardens, beautiful buildings and landscaping, librarians who are happy to help, and it's all free or nearly free. This was the summer of colleges: Duke, Emory and Cornell. Below are photos from Nasher Museum at Duke and Johnson Art Museum at Cornell.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How hot is it?

Hot enough to sun dry fruit leather in your car. That's how hot.I've been doing figs this week. Puree together a bowl of figs, add between one teaspoon to one tablespoon sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Pour on to sheet cake pan lined with plastic wrap and put on the dash of your car parked in full sun. Two days later you will have yummy, sun-dried fruit leather. It helps to open the car door a few times during the day to let out the moisture. That's it. Free fruit leather. Totally free. Figs,by the way, require no attention to bear fruit. None. Zero. Nada. You can't buy them in the grocery fresh because they don't ship well. They are the most local of fruits. What do figs taste like fresh? Sweet like a banana, seedy like a strawberry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Winter squash

Folk wisdom declares that pumpkin seeds should be planted on July 4th in the South in order to have them for Halloween. Using wonky logic I waited and planted my butternut squash seeds,also a winter squash, the first week of July. I'm not willing to declare absolute success because gardening is an ongoing lesson in humility, heartbreak always a possibility, but do have some truly beautiful specimens forming. Not knowing they would rival Jack's beanstalk in speed and length I stuck seeds randomly around the beds. They are now draped like kudzu all around the yard. Last year I had one butternut that when roasted was food for the gods. This year if the garden fairy is with me I'll have nearly 20. Fingers, eyes and toes crossed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tomato Wilt

The heartbreak of growing summer vegetables in the South is the stress heat and lack of/too much water place on plants. Tomatoes are particulary vulnerable. Old timers being creative made use of the fruit of wilting tomatoes. Made famous by a movie about women who kill, cut up, and cook a bad man into BBQ, fried green tomatoes are one good use for those not yet ripe tomatoes that must be pulled prematurely.

Stuffed Squash

We have a neighbor who reliably accepts surplus vegetables. This wonderful woman, though widowed, living alone with no one else to cook for, cooks for herself. She entertains and always cooks for family when they visit. Rarely does she eat out. She suggested stuffed squash and gave me this informal recipe when I waddled over under the weight of too many squash to deal with at once. It is beyond gourmet. There is no restaurant I know of that would serve such a meal. Too bad, America. Homage to Betsy, lady, neighbbor and good friend.

Betsy's Stuffed Squash

2 yellow summer squash, halved
1 small onion, chopped
small amount of leftover meat
1 cup of cheese
small amount of leftover cooked rice,stale bread, breadcrumbs or crackers
Salt and pepper to taste.
Fresh herbs (I used oregano, parley, and thyme.)

Cook the squash for about 5 minutes in a large pot of simmering water. Remove. Cool enough to handle, then scoop out the center. Saute the onion and garlic. Mix with scooped squash, add bread crumbs, meat and half the cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in chopped herbs. Stuff the squash shells and cook for 15 minutes at 350. Top with the remaining cheese return to oven to melt.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Four Letter Words

I have an alternate collection. Collecting words is a good thing. Putting them in categories aids retrieval. Okra, for some just another four letter word. OKRA! instead of *&%$! Cooked into a southern stew it's good. Let me explain.

Stewed Tomatoes and Okra

One small to medium onion
Two cloves garlic
Three tomatoes
Four banana peppers
Five okra pods

Peel and chop onion, garlic and tomatoes. Seed peppers. Slice okra.
Sautee onions, peppers and garlic until soft.
Add okra, it will immediately develop a mucilaginous goo when sliced. Don't panic. It washes off with water and makes the stew stewy.
Add the tomatoes.
Stew over low heat until tomatoes have released their juices and veggies are soft.
Cooks note: The French would add some white wine to deglaze the pan and loosen the stew. Beer works fine or water. Just a splash.
Serve over rice for a vegetarian dinner for two.

Monday, June 21, 2010

...think shade.

To think Southern is to think shade. It really is all about the heat of the subtropical sun these days. Temps in the mid 90s with high humidity and it feels like a 'saw-nah' out there. I walk in the early morning choosing shady streets, water my garden standing under the shade of a now mature pin oak that I saved 30 years ago and walk the puppy at night. What puppy?!? The puppy that showed up under the shade of the oak tree on my birthday. She comes when I whistle and hasn't dug in my garden yet. I use water therapy as a teaching tool. She isn't a water dog. And I am having to water lots lately. No more on that for now. I get too upset.
Back to the shady garden, darkened and secluded from the world. All are lush green. Many have magnolia, live oaks, pines or pin oaks giving perpetual shade and shelter though my hands-down favorite is shaded by a large Japanese maple. River birches provide natural umbrellas of shade draping around their trunks creating a green garden room. Every yard, church and some businesses in my neighborhood have a spot of shade to ease the heat and please the eye. All give peace and shelter.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


My eyes tear
A small bunch of onions
Pulled and drying on my porch
On an old door screen

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ya win some, ya lose some.

We've had a cool, rainy spring, perfect for planting, harvesting and digging so that's what we've been doing. The peas and broccoli have come and gone, lettuce is no more, garlic is curing on the porch, swiss chard is up and at 'em, squash has been coming off for weeks and our first tomato will be eaten in a day or two! I planted potatoes this year and have been sneaking a few from under the straw for the past few days-way fun. Carrots are the biggest hit this year. I planted lots. It's great fun to pop them out of the ground, it just makes the most wonderful sound. Potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper fresh out of the garden have been on the menu this week and squash casserole is bubbling away in the crockpot for dinner.
True confessions: the beets were a bust, twice. Turnips weren't much better.Tomatoes are wilting daily. Neem oil is good but cool, very wet days are a curse on tomatoes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Walked She Did

That's Yoda for She walked across the stage at Emory's graduation but hasn't quite graduated yet but it was still fun and we are proud. The Quad looked like this the night before...

and the next morning...

a crush of people, all happy.
Arnold was the speaker, as in Swartzneger. His message: Work hard. Believe in yourself. Give through volunteerism.

Friday, April 16, 2010

creamed swiss chard

Wow! It was delicious.

One bunch of swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
One big clove garlic, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Sautee the garlic briefly in oil. Toss in the swiss chard and cover cooking over low heat until thoroughly wilted. Pour over the cream and stir in the parmesan cheese. Let evaporate until thickened. Season to taste.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Raised Bed

Not a bed on bricks, a bed of bricks. We have three garden areas not one great big garden. Each gets different sunlight and boy did I plan this one wrong. This raised bed is built of stacked bricks over an old, concrete driveway. Lettuce, broccoli, spinach and swiss chard are getting full, southern, afternoon sun.If we were really having spring weather that'd be OK. But the temp has been hovering around 90 for days. Ouch. I cover the bed with sheets to keep the plants from getting sunburnt. The Romain bolted (ran for it, so to speak) and had to be harvested all at once to a neighbor's benefit. Our fridge is stuffed with bags of greens, all kinds. I've been cooking and freezing greens every day. We eat them every meal but breakfast. That's the life of a gardener...feast or famine. Puts ya in touch with your heritage pretty quick. I think of my grandparents (and the greats) and puzzle, 'How in the world?'. Did we really crawl out of the mud hundreds of thousands of years ago hunting, gathering and growing food all the while until about 100years ago? Wow. There's some powerful mo-jo in our genes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Spring Garden

So much for whining about nothing to do. We have endless sunshine in the forcast and warm days ahead. The lettuces that wintered over have put on new leaves, Swiss Chard is coming on strong, parsley has perked up, collards are harvested with some frozen for the future. Carrots, beets and radishes have put on true leaves, potatoes are planted and peas are coming up. The rhubarb wintered over in pots and now has a permanent place in the garden. The garlic and onions are forming bulbs. And I am watering again. This is an ominous sign. O-o-oh no-o-o!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Liquid Sunshine

Gardening is suspended. There's nothing to do but wait for the weather to cooperate. Trapped in the house two weekends ago, I took out Eugenia Bone's Well Preserved and made lemon pickles. Preserved lemons are lemons juiced and salted. No heat, no mixing, just the raw materials combined. They are beautiful sitting on my counter. Bottled sunshine.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Johnny Appleseed

A legend. Legend is that he planted apple trees all across America. Johnnie was,in fact, uncle to Robbie Chapman who married Samuel Bigelow. And there you have it, he's related to every Bigelow in America because they all came from one man who immigrated from England. They, the Bigelow's, were prolific.
Putzing around on the internet one night I found this article about a man in NC who is saving (for posterity) heirloom apples. My curiosity piqued, I called and spoke with young David Vernon on the telephone. He, like me, is a public school employee with a hobbie. His hobbie trumps mine. I mean, David is really a cool guy-saving apple trees and all.
I bought three: Royal Limbertwig (don't you just love the sound of it?), Aunt Rachel (everybody has an Aunt So-And-So) and Bevan's Favorite. We planted them this weekend and I hope they thrive producing apples to give pleasure in the years to come.That's an American thing, isn't it? Hope. America is all about hope and promise. At least that's my hope.
David's website is There you will see and read descriptions of American history. Rock on America!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sesame Street's "It's a Rainy Day"

OMG. This song is an absolutely brilliant and oh-so-sweet reminder to appreciate rainy days. Lately, it's been hard, in fact, I've been in a pissy mood about the weather. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it.


It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.
It's raining outside and I can't go out and play,
Why do we need the rain, anyway?

Rain falls every where fills the rivers and streams,
Flows into the reservoire, is purified and cleaned,
Water to do the wash, Water to drink,
Water is flowing from our pipes into our sinks.

It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.
It's raining outside and I can't go out and play.
I guess I'll stay at home today.

Every living thing needs water
Every living thing needs the rain,
Every living thing needs water,
I guess I really can't complain.

It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.
It's raining outside and I can't go out and play,
Why do we need the rain, anyway?

Water to do the dishes,
Water to brush our teeth,
Water to take a shower,
Water to wash the street.
Water to wash the forest,
Millions of thirsty roots,
Water for the garden, flowers, vegetables and fruits.

It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.
It's raining outside and I can't go out and play.
Don't you know I love the rain, anyway.

Check it out on

Monday, February 1, 2010

Berry Cold

The ice man cometh coating everything outdoors in ice. It is but a transient, beautiful, state melting as I type. The sounds of ice being blown on trees and bushes has a rare a musical quality when accompanied by silence. We were spared power outages and days trapped in the house. Lady luck was with us on this one allowing us to enjoy the beauty of this round of winter weather. I vote for snow next round, then we can play in it. More wintery weather is predicted for the coming weekend. Staying tuned. Hoping to build the snowcat I've been planning for years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Planning the summer garden

The time has come, at last, to plan for the spring and summer gardens. I get really excited about being outside again, especially this year. I get so bored with being cooped up in the house. It makes me so grumpy. Felder Rushing's book has been cracked open, seed catalogs are bedtime reading,the seeds have been taken down and a small set of lettuces sitting on the kitchen window sill have germinated. We planted snow peas last weekend and will be planting English peas soon. Our turnips and mustard were vaporized by the two weeks of temps in the teens and twenties so we'll probably give them another go. Should I try broccoli from seed one more time? My seedlings haven't produced this year. I could speculate endlessly about the hot fall and the freezing winter or maybe too much nitrogen keeping them from flowering. I excel in the alchemy of gardening not the chemistry; I always plant with hope in my heart feeling wonder and awe when I get lucky enough to harvest anything. Maybe it's time to get serious and send off those soil samples...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Collards 2010

...cooked and ready to eat. To cook,heat some oil in a large, deep pan. Put in the damp, cleaned, chopped collards and steam with a small amount of water (what's all this chicken broth stuff promoted by foodies about?)for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze on some lemon juice and eat. Traditionally, Southerns use pork fat and vinegar but it really isn't necessary. Manga, manga.

...chopped and ready to cook. Cooks note: This pile of collards will cook down and there will only be enough for four servings.

... cleaned with stems removed. Eat the stems and you will die from indigestion-as in you are not a cow and the human stomach doesn't do collard stems.

... piled up on the kitchen counter; a mess of 'em.