Friday, December 6, 2013

Good, bad and ugly

Pride goeth before a fall. Uh huh. You should see the kale. OMG. We had an abrupt, precipitous drop in temperature accompanied by steady wind and the kale, my beautiful Tuscan kale, was freezer burnt so bad I thought it was dead. Lesson learned. Wind + cold = not good. I cut the ugly burnt leaves off and hope there will be a come back. Yep. One of the basic tenants of gardening is Hope. Bible lesson for the day over.
On the other hand, you should see the cabbages and broccoli! I did cover them and they are oh, so, pretty.
Today will be almost 80 degrees so I planted young Summer Crisp lettuce seedlings in the area where the Romaine and Deer Tongue lettuces had been. They will get covered on nights when it is cold enough to frost. What shall I seed next? Oakleaf. And more Romaine.
Toodles, doodles.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall 2013

All is well in the garden. The summer vegetables are gone. Bugs got zapped by frost a few weeks ago so the greens are growing undeterred by pesky pests.
Curly Mustard
We have Tuscan kale (and tuscan salts), mucho beautiful, mucho delicious lettuce, broccoli, mustard, turnips and brussels. It is so much easier to garden without bugs. I have been seed saving as the summer plants matured and died for a few years now. I saved field peas and marigolds this year, and will soon be bringing in the okra seeds. 2012 seeds from  Summer Crisp seeds sprouted and will soon be transplanted into the garden. Freeeee foooood! Garlic is our oldest saved plant. We've been growing from one grocery store bought clove for about seven years now. Each year the crop gets bigger a crazy experiment in exponential growth. Pay it forward, garden style.Therapeutic the first year planted, still providing years later, I am especially fond of the stinky root.
Tuscan kale
How much do we harvest? Hmmm. I counted. We have ten kale plants growing in a 4' x 4'  raised bed. I harvest once a week and share each picking with a neighbor. Lettuce grows in two raised beds. We have a salad every night and have for weeks now. We always share it also. Same with the mustard. Rarely do I buy vegetables. It's all we can do to eat what we grow. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Herb Salt

I have discovered herb salt. Well, not so much discovered as learned how to make. Coastal North Carolina is the New World Mediterranean. Herbs like thyme, rosemary and parsley and sage grow year round here. My friend, Joy, uses rosemary as skewers for her marinated grilled chicken. Too fun, right?! I could write about longitude and latitude but instead I will share what I have learned making herb salts. Easy, yummy, herbs and salt.

1/4 cup kosher and sea salt (or just kosher) This is important.
2 cups chopped herbs
Sheet of aluminum foil
Time-up to two days

Harvest fresh herbs, chop, spread out on aluminum foil, sprinkle salt on top. Occassionally swirl it around with your fingers over the next two days. The herbs change color and the house smells delicious. Use the foil as a funnel and slowly cascade the salted herbs into a glass jar. Breath deeply. Use in cooking as you would regular salt. Sparingly.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Farmers Markets and such

Daughter Kate lives in Raleigh, home of NC State University, North Carolina Museum of Art and possibly the state's busiest Farmer's Market. I've visited them all this month. NC State is absolutely beautiful, a little known fact about the university outside the student population. Makes me wonder if they really appreciate it's beauty because it does truly rival or surpass Carolina. I'm just sayin'. State does not have oldest campus but it does have some of the most beautiful shaded quads I have every traversed and it is immaculately kept. Go NC State! There's treasure everywhere. For example, the Head Librarian at NC State has been there over 30 years. She has slowly acquired a most lovely collection of glass art. Eyes wide open! It is an art gallery within a busy, bustling university library that sells locally made ice cream.

Our family spent an afternoon at NC Museum of Art this weekend. We had a lovely brunch at IRIS cafe, enjoyed the free, yes free, permanent collection and meandered the outdoor sculpture garden. Nice.

The State Farmer's Market is a wild and crazy sensory experience. There are flowers and cookies and bread and cakes and all manner of vegetables and houseplants and garden ornamentals and people!  On Saturday's there's a crush of people, be warned.  But this time of year a trip yields the most scumptious apples on Earth. Crisp, juicy and oh, so fragrant. The air literally smells of ripe grapes and apples! Do I have pictures. Nope. I am so overwhelmed when I go I spin around in circles. Put it on your list of must does, just once.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Now is the time to plant fall and winter foods. Instead, I found myself, broccoli seedlings in hand, to be thinking of spring. Where, my mind insisted, will the potatoes go? This is my gardening Achilles heel: Planning.  I decided to take pictures...
Tee-pea :)

Field pea blossom

Late summer zinnias

Thursday, August 15, 2013


A few weeks ago the sunlight changed and the cicadas began their summer song signaling a seasonal shift. I knew, even as I watered the heat-loving field pea seedlings, it was time to begin the cool weather crops. Consulting Felder Rushing's The North Carolina Fruit and Vegetable Book and Mother Earth News' "What to Plant" pages on the internet (Google) the time is now for planting some of my favorites.

Out came the beet seeds. I planted them between the field peas and the tomatoes so they would be shaded and not get burnt by our hot August sun. They were up in just two days! Next the broccoli and cabbage seeds were planted in saved seed pots. They too sprouted in record time. I will nurture them for a few weeks, then plant them between the rows of okra for shade until the heat abates. Last night I sorted out all the seeds of plants that can tolerate cool weather. Kale and lettuces are on the top of the pile.
Summer veggie update:
  •  Snap beans are on the menu daily.
  •  Field peas are flowering.
  •  We have okra!
  •  Homestead and Rutgers tomato plants are still alive, fruiting and beginning to turn red.
  •  Peppers are coming on strong.
  •  Parsley got eaten by caterpillars. Must get on that.
  •  Summer squash is...words fail me.
  •  Sweet potatoes are vining.
  • Figs. OMG! Figs! How could I forget them?! I have been making the most delicious jam. Google microwave fig jam. Kudos to neighbor Suzie for sharing the recipe and to Scott for picking the figs. TEAM!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Bohemian Paradise

The windows are open as I type. Today's temperature is 71 degrees and at 9:30 am I have not one bead of sweat on my brow following an hour of gardening. It's a August miracle in The South!

I pulled up Round One of the green beans this weekend. Round Two is beginning to make beans.  Round Three has flowers. Blackberries are trimmed for the coming winter. In the spirit of full disclosure, squash is a bust. I'm moving on to Fall and Winter planting beets, broccoli and swiss chard today. The Southern delicacy and nutritional standby, field peas, are be-a-utiful! Stop. There is a cool breeze coming through the window, must enjoy. Cicadas stridulate, birds sing. Life is good, glad to be here.

Snap back to reality: I took a chicken break and loved up on Casey The Sweet Dog.  Neighbors are trippin' and critters needed care. These neighbors have a most exotic, bohemian/man-cave sanctuary. I just love it and the good times we have there. Flowers everywhere and gigantic Elephant Ears give the garden an exotic tropical feel. Open the gate, step into the tele-transporter machine in Star Trek, open your eyes and you are in the Holodeck. Part bar, part farm yard, home to a middle class family. Pictures, nor words, do it justice but here's a feeble attempt.
Casey photo bombed this one! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beans and Peas

I planted green beans sequentially but it looks like they are all going to produce at the same time. Sometimes the only thing to say is OMG! How'd that happen?

Then, thinking, 'I sure would like some field peas', I planted seeds from 2010 expecting a so, so germination rate. Uh. They all germinated which led to the hard, right thing. Thinning.  They are growing like crazy on my tee-pee/tripod structure I made from cast off, found wood. That bad boy is over eight feet tall and is totally awe-some. I am very proud of my lashing attempt and the fact that I did it all by myself. Cool. Pictures later. It's about to storm.

State Fair Zinnia

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don't give up on zuccas!

This year, I successfully managed the squash, I think. I planted many more than I expected to live knowing that squash borers would get some (and they did). Finally, my forty four living plants bore fruit at a steady pace.
Almanac Gardener farm extension agents assured viewers however to prepare for the worst, because that's just the way it is, not to give up, but to plant squash successively, brave garden warrior! I did as advised knowing from past experience that my four, reliable producers would give out.
It's been ugly, ugly, fellow earth turners. Early losses, seeds failed to germinate, and seedlings that languished for no discernable reason. Despite Neem oil, aluminum foil, garlic-onion-cayenne pepper spray and some needle piercing of nasty, life sucking, caterpillars powdery mildew was the KO punch.
It's been ugly, ugly, fellow earth turners. Early losses, seeds failed to germinate, and seedlings that just sit without growing. Not to mention those pale, slimy squash borers. But... I have another in the wings with a small zucca forming. I planted a new seedlings yesterday and more seeds gave sprouted. Victory! I think. 
The  squash we have harvested made yummy casserole for a family reunion and other dinners, fried squash succotash, zucchini pancakes and, most luscious and infinitely more healthy, tiny squashes halved and baked with a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan.
Round 2

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4th

Happy 4th
Fifty years ago, July 4th 1963, my father took my brother and me out to the family farm to pick blackberries, wild blackberries, thorns and all. Our family had just moved back to North Carolina. I was 10, Charlie 9. Sisters stayed home; too young. We were instructed to make plenty of noise to scare off bears and snakes. Oh yeah, we were out in the woods. Charlie and I were good at the noise part. Turns out we were good at picking blackberries too. It was really special to spend time with just my father, no babies and no Betty.  I'm sure a pie was made with those berries because Daddy loved all baked sweets. This year, as if in celebration of a half century of blackberry love, our domesticated, thornless berries are plump and ripening this week. I stood in the backyard this morning and ate my fill transported back to that magical family time. How sweet it was.

Monday, July 1, 2013


What a great summer we've had! I know, there are haters. They've hated the cool Spring and this year's abundant rain but me and my garden, we're lovin' it. I'm getting a fistful of green beans every day, and over a period of three days that is just right amount for husband Scott and me to have with dinner. We're still eating cabbage that's keeping in the fridge. It is the sweetest and juiciest we have ever harvested. Squash, yellow and green, matures every day. The yellow summer squash is the lumpy, bumpy kind. I love it.  The tomatoes are coming off at last. Banana peppers are old reliables. Okra is up and sweet potatoes slips were planted to replace the potatoes dug up last weekend. Both would love some blistering hot days. Me? Not so much. Last night's dinner was mostly vegetables: smothered green beans and potatoes, corn and tomatoes. I know, I should'a made corn bread. Our beans are yellow and green thanks to Scott. Great,fun, eating.  A delicious home cooked meal. I think Daddy would be pleased and more than a little surprised.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Birthday!

Six decades? Impossible!

It's a big 'un. And what a beautiful day it is! There are light clouds covering the sun, a slight breeze and  at 10:00 am it's  a balmy 78 degrees. I've hung towels on the clothesline. I walked my three year old birthday dog, Scout, to the Lumber after eating homemade yogurt and fresh picked strawberries for breakfast, got called over to the fence to be gifted a bottle of Merlot and gardenias.  Jonathan sent flowers in their most elemental form-seeds. And they are my personal favorites, zinnias. The best gift? It's my first day of summer break. Ye, haw! Beat that world.
Gardening notes: Okra is in, zinnias and green beans are up. Squash is doing it's thing. Potatoes are still in the ground but we've poached a few and they are delish.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Scott's Cabbage!


               Perfect cabbages. Crunchy and sweet. What a nice surprise.
Mon petit chou

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Jonathan's Carrots

Carrots and lettuce are harvested for the season. It is time for all crops summer because the heat is on like Donkekong. I caved and turned on the air conditioning May 31st. We mourn the day. Muted are the songs of twittering Martins, cooing Doves and soulful calls of Mississippi Kites.

Gifted seeds

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cool, wet spring.

Hhmm. Our garden is fence sittin' right now. Tomatoes and broccoli share the same grey days. Neither look particularly vigorous. This is so unlike our typical Mays. We saw the sun briefly one afternoon this week. Highs in 70s; cool, damp, weird. Every good Southerner put away fall and winter clothes a month ago. Dang y'all we still need 'em!  At school the big people turn on the air conditioners. Holy cow, it's 70 outside and in! At home I refuse to turn on the heat, but I want to.
Wait, wait. Just now a weak sun is trying to burn a hole in the clouds giving me hope! I uttered the sentence, "I am so sick of rain." yesterday, then quick-prayed to the gods for forgiveness remembering the recent dry summers and my vow to never complain about rain again. Fingers, eyes, and toes crossed, turn around three times that I don't get punished for my words. Please, please, please no drought!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Something garden every day...

We do something in or with our garden everyday. Way back in the coldest days of winter I pruned our little apple trees. I saved the twigs putting them in my old, cheap Brinkman smoker to wait for warmer days. Today is the day. A big fistful of rosemary stems, soaked apple twigs with leaves, and a great, big, ole Boston Butt and some Larry's sausages will smoke all day and into the night. Then we will have yummy pulled pork for months to come. The good life is right there in my back yard.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seed Saving

Arugula seed pods are like tiny pea pods. Surprise. Each pod is full of seeds.

Saved seeds be free food, maties. I've been seed saving for a few years now and am genuinely shocked that it is so easy. Plants are programmed to make seeds if Big Seed Companies doesn't get hold of them,  genetically modify them,  and patent them. Give the plant time which means holding space in the garden or pot longer. This is hard when you have a small garden.
The Mammoth Swiss Chard I saved last year is case in point. It took time for them to bloom, more  time for them to make seed, then more time for them to dry out. Substitute patience for time. It takes that too. There were surprises along the way. The flower stems were twisty, curvy three foot long curls with hundreds of teeny, tiny not-showy flowers tightly packed on each stem. They were incredibly, pleasantly fragrant. Bees loved them. The seeds matured from the bottom up and were identical to beet seeds. In one important way they differ from beets: I am successful with chard. Ah, yes. It germinated when planted and grows beautifully in my spring garden.
I am currently working on saving arugala seeds. The flowers were delicate, dainty, white, single-petaled, single flower beauties held upright  on long stems. It is taking forever for them to mature. I check them daily hoping they will be the kind that pop from their pods when squeezed. Soon, very soon. Patience.

Monday, April 15, 2013

No Place Like Home

Most of these houses were in decay when I was a child. 
Amish Deer Tongue is, to me, an unappetizing name for a lettuce. It really is off-putting. Perhaps because Bro-in-Law Peter-the-Cajun once hung a gutted deer under his barn, and poor thing, there it was with it's tongue hanging out and the name of the lettuce, turns out, is actually somewhat descriptive ,at least of a dead, deer's tongue. The visual gets me every time. Because of the name I never bought the seeds but, good friend and neighbor, Joy gave me a packet of seeds for Christmas. I planted them. They were a gift for cryin' out loud. They prospered. We ate some because I know Joy will ask if we did and I do not lie well. Ta-da! We like Amish Deer Tongue! It is tasty. Somewhat like Buttercrunch not as tender, more robust, with a delightful Romaine-like crunchy rib. This analysis of lettuce officially makes me a foodie.

In keeping with foodie analysis can I just say, Somewhere North of Broad over-salted the farrow with roasted vegetables? My thought is the farrow was seasoned perfectly, the veggies as well, but together it was just too much. I ate it all, however, knowing that my fingers would puff up like fat little sausages. The lamb rack was perfect. The Pear Ginger Pear Sangria was brilliant. A mild white Sangria that tasted deceptively non-alcoholic. The ambiance just right after a long day of sightseeing; relaxed and quiet. My view of the kitchen could not have made me happier. It was great fun to watch chefs cook. Busy, busy. The waiter made us laugh with a Freudian slip. He, from Massachusetts, likes Charleston (there is only one Charleston) because of the women, oops make that the weather. He blushed, and I'm like, I know right?! We had such a nice evening we forgot do the obligatory foodie picture. I offer instead my new favorite color for a door. Ciao Bella!

Orange? Persimmon? Salmon? So Southern. So Charleston. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The other 'tater

Pretty maids all in a row
I've read this can be done. Sweet potatoes sprouting on a windowsill waiting for longer, warmer days. When the vines are a bit longer I will gently twist them from the tuber, put them in water to root, plant in a place where they'll have full sun and room to grow wild.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my!

I do have moments of fear when, like Dorothy and her mates walking the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, I wonder if my garden experiments are going to work out. Failure waits just around the corner: frost/freeze, no rain, blistering heat, cut worms. Then there are the possible failures of my own making like the homegrown saved potato chits or last season's saved seeds that may or may not germinate. I have an irrepressible urge to go out and dig up a chit to see if they are rotting or pushing down roots and am reminded there was a time, not so long ago, when that was the way of life.

All food was once chance, especially in The South, where almost to a person we were diggin' in the dirt poor growing our own food. My mother's parents were the last of that generation. I grew up visiting their farm where I helped my grandmother gather eggs and watched quietly while grownups milked cows. There was to be no getting the cows stirred up before milking. We talked quietly, if at all, and my grandfather leaned his head on the cow possibly an old childhood habit from being sleepy at milking time. I shucked corn for the corn crib under the tree just off the back porch, was warned that there might be rats in that crib and to stay out. We (a gaggle of cousins) had been caught playing King of the Mountain in the corn crib and that was my grandmother's way of keeping us out without lifting a finger or fussing. It worked. 

For my grandparents, seasoned pros, there was no failure. There was always milk, too many eggs, pork and beef in the freezer for the extended family and vegetables put up by Dola. Now that I'm doing it myself, I just don't get how they seemed so calm and fearless. More than once I have wanted to call them back and ask how they did things. Like the "'tater hill"; the outdoor winter storage mound for sweet potatoes. How was it constructed? My mother has only a vague idea, somthing about straw. My grandfather always made it.

I am left to find my way using books and the internet. Sean's garden is a good place for beginners:

sweet potato futures
seedlings on table

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Little Known Veggie

Bright Lites Swiss Chard 2013

We were at a dinner at UNC-Pembroke this week were my husband announced to our table that our dinner table at home is covered with pots of seedlings and seed packets. It's true. They also line the kitchen window sills and clutter the counters. Fact is , I have projects everywhere, even Katie's bedroom, because it's sunny and warm there. Perhaps it's time for a greenhouse, with a brick floor and a solar panel for a lightbulb and a chair's turning into a conservatory. Anyway, this hapless group of victims didn't see it coming when they asked disbelieving, "What can you grow now!?" I started listing and when I took a breath to continue one poor soul asked, "What is Swiss Chard." I really will have to send him a bag because it is my answer to the spinach germination problem. Spinach is just so picky about conditions for sprouting and then God forbid it should get hot for even a day. It will bolt in a heartbeat. But, Swiss Chard is a most forgiving substitute with the most beautiful edible stems. It doesn't mind heat if planted and established in spring and will grow under cover all winter. It stands in nicely for spinach in recipes so I don't bother trying to grow Popeye's greens any more. Swiss Chard has a cut and come again quality about it too. Win-win.
Joy's eggs and my Swiss Chard 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Plant now!

March update:
Garden sown carrots, radishes, lettuces, and bok choi are up! Tiny seedlings that get a mist with water every day so they won't dry out.
Tranplanted broccoli, brussels and lettuces are looking good. The cold nor cutworms hurt them. Potatoes are in the ground but not up yet. I won't believe they worked until I see shoots coming up.  We added more asparagus to our plot. Last year's plants are sending up fat shoots. I transplanted savoy cabbage grown from seed this afternoon.
Cutworms decimated our peas. I am seriously 'bout to open up a can o' chemicals. I'm all about Neem and BT and hand squishing but it's been take-no-prisoners with Us-0, Them-All. The worms ate my beet seedlings too! We replanted shelling peas and snow peas after soaking them overnight in a cup of warm water just this morning and I planted more beets because I am on a mission to succeed with beets.
Roma tomato seeds and summer crisp lettuce are in pots of very warm soil under my new cover.
Check out the Featured Video of how to make one on the organic gardening page of Mother Earth News. It is no-brainer easy. I did it all by myself last Saturday morning. It works!  Made with fencing, plastic sheeting, and drum roll for multi-tasking, a stapler. It's light enough for lil' ole' me to pick up and move around and took just a few minutes to put together. Brilliant!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How sweet it is!

Carrots. I just love growing carrots. When I was a kid they were my favorite vegetable. Not cooked, raw. The coolest thing about carrots is the sound they make when pulled. It is delightful and if I were a little girl I'm sure I would giggle with joy over the whole process. I have actually been selfish and gotten my neighbor's granddaughter to pull carrots just to hear her giggle. It works every time. Which make me think I'll grow her her own pot of mini carrots. Easter gifts! Will do today!
My Fall carrots are maturing and I'm eating them as I thin them. How sweet they are, my Fall planted carrots! Young tender carrots do not need peeling.  Just rinse them, pop them in, nosh, and compost the tops. I seeded more today directly in one of the covered beds. Christmas gifts from son JB. Now that's a thoughtful gift :)

You pay high dolla' for these in fancy pants restaurants, y'all!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

To chit or not to chit, that is the question...

I chit because it's really not a choice. They sprouted months ago and I'm just going with it. As soon as the soil is dry enough I will plant my chits. What is a chit? A sprouted 'tater. I cut mine today to let the cuts dry before planting and brought them out into the light so they will green up. They've sprouted several times before; maybe twice. I popped off the sprouts reading that they would re-sprout up to five times. It's true. At the least, they re-sprout twice. Now I am anxious to see if I can really regrow potatoes from my own harvest. My reading tells me that chitting yields harvest 10 -14 days earlier. I don't have controls so it won't be The Scientific Method. However, growing and digging your own potatoes is way fun. Like an Easter Egg Hunt. How many will I find? How big will they be? Will they be unblemished and smooth? Will I find them all or will some sprout later in the summer?  Who to share them with? So much fun to look forward to! March into Spring, fair gardener.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new

Our broccoli has been a faithful producer this winter. Somehow it survived the coldest nights and kept producing, but it's done. I harvested the last of the side-shoots this morning. We'll pull out the big plants this afternoon (when it's warmer that 35) and make room for the seedlings I've been nursing in Katie's sunny bedroom for the last four weeks.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I learned in 2012:
1. Oregano is an invasive species in The South. It is a ground cover that sends out roots along the vine and propagates itself a lot like mint. It is not a neat plant. Moving to pots ASAP. 
2.  A season without parsley is a long time to do without. Combined with that invasive oregano I'm growing it makes a wonderful chimichurri. Both survive southern winters. A jar of chimichurri in the fridge is like money in the bank. Such a beautiful deep green and cheaper to make than pesto.  
3. Turnips should be in my annual rotation. Itty bitty roots cooked in a gratin are wonderful. The greens cooked in apple cider are wonderful also. 
4. I can grow cauliflower from seed. Somehow I got it right.
5. Grilled okra. Oil, salt and pepper, who knew it would be so good?!
6. I really don't like brussels sprouts but it's not all about me so I grow them.
7. The protective cloth I bought to cover tender plants in winter really works.
8. I can save seeds and they will sprout the next year!
9. Tomatoes are always a pain, always a pain, always a pain...
10. Zinnias. Just plant zinnias. When they get powdery mildew pull them up and plant some more from the seeds saved from the original plants. They are a win-win. Bees love them, butterflies love them, I love them.


1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
1/4 to 1/2 cup oregano leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 whole dried pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup oil
Blend them all together. Use to flavor soup, any recipe Mexican, roasted chicken.