Friday, December 11, 2015

December Gardening

We here, in Southeastern North Carolina, have had a fabulous garden month! It's not southern California but if it were we wouldn't have tasty greens. We've had a few interspersed light frosts to moderate the bitterness of the turnips, mustard, kale and collards. Ample rain and warm, sunny days have pushed growth so everything is lush, green and productive. Frost put the kibosh on the buggy, bugs, temperatures have been just right, and rain has come perfectly in intermittent spurts.

Today there was freshly harvested salad for lunch with a small turnip sliced and pecans harvested from the neighborhood. Just delicious! Tonight we had green peppers in our stir fry. Earlier this week we had creamed Swiss chard. A special treat with the stems saved for soup. Broccoli has been coming on strong for a month. As is typical we are taking it for granted but soon it will end and we will miss it. There are a few cabbages and brussels sprouts but it is uncertain if they will make. I planted peas for shoots. They germinated and every few days I pick some to toss in a salad with arugula and small mustard leaves for spicey kick in our salad.

It was so warm today I spent most of the day outside neatening up around beds, planting pansies, moving pots, cutting back dead plants and string trimming around beds. I couldn't stop! It is so much fun when the weather is nice. Define nice? Seventy degrees, blue sky, birds singing and dogs lying in sunbeams with clean clothes blowing in a gentle breeze. That's nice.

The best part of gardening this time of year? Everything. Beautiful sunny days. Temperatures allowing for long hours outdoors  and everything growing without fussing over water and bugs.
It is, hands down, our favorite time to grow.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Growing still!

The little broccoli featured November 7th grew into a nice sized head that was eaten this week. There was enough for two adults.  Lovely sweet-tart steamed, in the microwave, broccoli with lemon juice.

We have also been having salads for the past two weeks. Amish, an heirloom Bibb is the star but there are some lovely Oak Leaf and blousy, pale green Grand Rapid lettuces in the bowl. Arugula planted in October adds a peppery bite. I planted peas really close together in a little spot by the spinach bed after reading an article reminding me that it will grow during these warm Fall days. Snipped shoots will add to the beauty and flavor of our salads. Yesterday I picked a handful of Clementine salad tomatoes, probably the last of those.

Cold nights are coming so I will be harvesting broccoli and maybe all the salad. There are still peppers, jalapeño, bell and banana, that need picking too. No worries. I need a bed to plant more garlic and maybe just a handful more of peas for stir-fried pea shoots. Mustard greens do not tolerate a hard freeze so they may need to come out as well. We'll see. It takes courage to wait out temperatures that may get down to 32 degrees, but may not.

The kale is, like, wow! this year. And maybe we will have Brussels. Maybe. If not the sprouts, we'll have the greens. That's be beauty for brassicas if they don't perform as advertised we eat the greens.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rainiest Fall Ever?

The South has had a long, wet 2015 Fall. Very wet. South Carolina's wet was epic, history making, wet. Up here in North Carolina we watched the new feeds and were grateful it wasn't us. The rain we got from Hurricane  Joaquin here was more than enough to ruin crops unharvested, like cotton. Somehow our garden survived. Other gardeners in town reported their seedlings we pummeled to death by the rain. Twice. Between rain showers I rush out and garden. Last  weekend we put down weed suppressing wheat straw on all the beds. It looks so much better now.
I did a spot check this morning. Six of the nine broccoli have formed heads. We may get three cabbage heads if I stay on top of the caterpillars. Kale is robust. We ate it in a frittata this week. Nom. Mustard, lettuce, arugula and chard are all good. We've had a few salads, yay! We might get a few beets. Carrots have beautiful, ferny tops. Herbs are great. We still have a basil. Which leads me to peppers. All the pepper plants are still producing! Amazing.

Getting bigger every day! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Yes. I mis-labled a packet of seeds as turnips. They are my best looking mustard greens!
Oh joy! The spinach took! I have the most wonderful bed of itty bitty spinach plants that will grow slowly over the winter. They will produce abundantly next Spring. If the weather holds...
Turnips. I planted them again. Maybe we'll have a warm winter and get something from them.
Peppers! They are still forming! It has been a great year for peppers.
Onions have sprouted in our St Pauls community garden bed. When the beans come out, garlic goes in!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Brief, But Beautiful, Life

And then, we had an early frost. The beans took it hard.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Great Green Bean Experiment

I read or watch a video about gardening and food everyday. It's my thing. Back in June when the green beans played out I went into mourning. They are easy to grow, easy to cook and yummy to eat. The only negative is they stop bearing as soon as daytime temperatures rise. Self-pollinators, their pollen literally dies when it gets over 85 degrees. You can plant them in mid-summer, they will grow, they will flower, but, they will not make fruit.
I thought and thought about this problem and devised a solution. Then I began an internet search to confirm my hypothesis. Bingo. At least one other Southern string bean lover had tried and succeeded with a Fall planting. Thus began the Great String Bean Experiment. August 8th we replanted Blue Lake with my guesstimation date for fruit bearing of early October noted in my journal. Sunday, October 4th we harvested enough for one meal. Tuesday, October 6th another small harvest. Yesterday, Sunday, October 10th...
a big bag full of beans! Woop!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Falling into Transition

Geeeet ready!  The easiest Southern gardening season has arrived. 'Tis also the season of tough love. Summer plants that have waned gotta go. That real estate is better used cool weather vegetables like broccoli, swiss chard, spinach, turnips, kale, collards, mustard and lettuce. Okra, peppers, eggplant and surviving tomatoes get to stay. They produce abundantly right up to frost. Peppers and eggplant go crazy this time of year. Neighbors say thank you when I share but I sometime wonder if they're just being Southern nice. I've started apologizing when I give peppers...
We have more than five banana pepper plants...

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Grow herbs! They're easy! They smell good! On the more practical side, they are packed with vitamins and make food taste better. Scrambled eggs with mixed herbs?! Delish! Turns breakfast-for-supper into a gourmet experience.

I grew some newbies this summer. I bought a small lemongrass plant on a whim at Whole Foods in June. Uh. Two months later it is three feet wide and chest high. Now, I will learn how to cook with it. Also, I am assessing it's place in my 4x4 raised bed. Nice plant but maybe it will work better in my flower border. Guys. It is BIG. And it's year one.
Lemongrass, sage, basil, parsley, garlic chives in four foot square bed. 
When I purchased the lemongrass I also bought an herbal hibiscus. The critical ingredient in Red Zinger herbal tea which I love to drink in the cold, dark days of winter. The tiny plant in the 3-inch pot that is now five feet tall and four feet wide. I wanted it for tea this winter but I have enough to share with everyone I know. I'm thinking Christmas gifts right now.
The red stems and leaf veins give the hibiscus tea it's color.
The blue ribbon winner this year in the herb category is fennel. A gift from neighbor Suzy, it grew to six feet, was topped with umbrels of tiny yellow flowers, each became a fennel seed. The bees loved it. The butterflies loved it. I loved it. When I brushed against it while working the whole garden would be filled the the bold, spicy, fragrance of licorice. I harvested the seeds, gave them to neighbors, saved some for winter, then packed some up mailed it to my son who likes to cook. A happy surprise for us all!

Single petaled flowers, like these atop our fennel, are fast food for bees! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Celia's Field Peas

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot...
Years ago a neighbor-down-the-street gave me a handful of heirloom field peas her family calls Celia's Peas. Her grandmother grew them. Perhaps they go back further in history. Who knows their original name? Maybe not even Celia. They are climbers, not bush, requiring a tall support growing at least eight feet this year. The pods are nine inches long with 15  or more peas in each pod, shiny pale green with somewhat darker eyes. I have read that over time heirlooms adapt to their specific growing area and become individualized to specific micro-climates. I like that idea. I grow them every summer, save the seeds and replant the next year. Now, the most common field peas are bush varieties mainly because they are harvested by machinery. My grandmother grew Dixie Lee peas, a bush variety, because she liked how easy they were to shell. I like growing Celia's trellised peas because they are so easy to pick; no bending, no stooping. Oh yes, did I forget to say, they are also delicious!

Note: My grandmother kept a big ole pot of peas on the stove at all times. If the words "I'm hungry." passed anyone's lips, her ready reply? "Fix yourself a bowl of peas." Even if they were Dixie Lees, they sure were good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

the food mill

Oh my! I love my new food mill. I've considered one for years. Today I'm gobsmacked! In minutes I had processed the skins and seeds from our homegrown tomato glut! Minutes, I tell you! We will have a tomato saucy something for dinner. And I will redouble my efforts to keep the tomato plants alive in the god forsaken almost-drought we having.

Next up? Figs. Which I will use in smoothies instead of bananas. Take that all you fig haters. Free vs. 44 cents a pound.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

No Rain!

July was dry. August has seen no rain. So? I water. I'm selective in that I don't water the grass.

That's a joke. The grass looks dead. Bermuda grass does that. It plays possum when the rains stop then miraculously comes back to life, like Lasurus, greening up when the rains return. Right now it's brown, a pretty buff brown that contrasts with the green oases of the vegetable beds. 

Our backyard beds are slowly letting go of summer with this dry spell. Tomatoes are dying one by one. Squash bugs are taking out their hosts even before I get a fruit. Without water the okra and field peas would be goners. Even the herbs would have died had I not provided life support.

Fried pink and green tomatoes.

A few weeks ago I planted Waltham butternut squash. They too are being watered and are growing by leaps and bounds. I have itty bitty baby butternuts. Three days ago I planted spaghetti squash and low and behold there it was this morning peeping out of the moist soil! Which leads me to write about germination temperatures.
Itty bitty butternuts!

There is an optimum temperature for germination that varies based on the seed. Some like it hot, some not. Perhaps there is a logic to this but I haven't divined it on my own. I go online to Johnny's Seeds, choose the plant I'm about to plant, and check the graph for optimal germination temperature. 
Kale!These babies germinated overnight! What?!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's Cooking

Tomatoes Okra and Corn, a time honored Southern vegetable stew, is brewing this morning! They are as seasonal and local as it gets.
Ratatouille. Southern style.
There are many recipes online but the most important thing about any stew, in my opinion, is to cook it and let it sit for a few hours or overnight to let the flavors blend together. This will be eaten with fried pork chops and corn bread. A fine Southern tradition. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Oh my darlin'! Clementines. Mine.
I attended a class on how to grow tomatoes. It was free, taught by an agricultural extension agent in Cumberland County,  and lasted all afternoon.  A half day class?. Can you really lecture about growing tomatoes for 3 hours? Shine yeah! Here's what I learned about growing tomatoes in Southeastern NC:

1. Plant Clementine, Juliette, Mountain Magic, Mountain anything for success. They will grow here and make fruit that makes it to maturity.

2. Calcium. The kind used in hydroponic agriculture, bought online, and sprayed on the leaves of plants. If you just are not into this, and I'm not…

3. …fertilize generously throughout the season. Tomatoes are heavy feeders requiring generous supplements to continue producing and to stay healthy. It will help prevent blossom end rot which is heartbreaking.

4. Water. Almost as important as fertilizer because it is the vehicle by which the plant gets the fertilizer that prevents blossom end rot.

5. If you are going to water by wetting the leaves, DO IT IN THE MORNING. Give the plants a fighting chance by allowing them to dry out during the day.

6. Mulch. Generously. To prevent the wet-dry cycle that stresses the plants. Tomatoes are sensitive ya know.

7. Do not overplant. Crowding leads to poor air circulation which leads to air borne diseases.

8. Watch for stink bugs and stink bug's nasty cousin is the tomato hornworm. They are the dementors of tomatoes.

9. Know that you can pick tomatoes when they change from dark green to light green, yellow or pinkish. They will ripen, safely, on your windowsill and still taste great.

10. Heat, humidity and our long growing season causes almost all tomatoes to die off in late July and early August. It happens to the best gardeners. Pick suckers in early July, put them in water, let them root and then them late July or early August for a Fall harvest of tomatoes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


There is a time in the life of every garden when all comes together and it's just beautiful. This is that time for our garden beds. All the work and care is worth it to come to this time in the garden. Behold.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Brain spasm

It happens. You know stuff but it doesn't bubble up into your conscious mind until you've made the mistake. No biggie. I just pulled out green (snap) bean spouts because, this is really im-por-tant, they will not self-pollinate when temperatures get over 95 degrees F. I knew that. From experience. So out came the shoots and in went field peas. They love heat! They don't care at all if it is hot. They are from Africa! They don't mind at all that it's 104 degrees for the rest of the month. Neither does the okra. I will replant green beans in late July, early August, when I can start sowing all kinds of interesting things like pumpkins and winter squash and beets and carrots and collars and kale and even more cucumbers if I liked them. Or I could plant another round of field peas which I do love so much!
Question. How long does it take field peas to germinate and send up a sprout? 48 hours tops!
In no time at all we'll have peas this big! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

prop 'em ups

If ten year old boy scouts can do it, so can I. 

A few years back I resolved to learn how to lash long poles into a tripod for peas. Using Google as my guide I found a source for all manner of lashings. Every summer I take up the tripod, store it in our makeshift garden shed, and pull it out the next year. The rope lashing allows it to be folded flat you see. I feel so satisfied and happy when I do this. Made of scavenged poles, saved cord and my own two hands my tripod is perfect for growing field peas. The tripod is up, rain is predicted, and I will plant peas of the Southern variety today. Having one of those Life Is Good days so I am going to stay home and keep it that way. Even got my LIG T-shirt on to go with it. Putter, putter, putter, around the house and garden, I will.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


They grow together like peas and carrots. 
Our yellow wax beans are planted in a raised 4'x4' bed . Intensively planted. I cannot see the bed for the bean plants. They are so thick the weeds get no light. No light, no weed. They have been very prolific this year with just right temperatures, soaking rains becoming the prettiest beans I have ever grown. French beans and early potatoes with just a bit of bacon (I am talking one slice) is early summer food of the gods. Oh my! So I made a big 'ole pot of beans and we have eaten them for days. This is a good thing. Blessed with beans, I may experiment with canning. That'll keep me busy for a day or two.

In a bed further back in our yard is a 4' by 4' bed of broccoli. They too are lovely. We will be fine in the brassica category for a while which is a another good thing. I've harvested six good sized heads this week with more coming. That time for sweet, homegrown, steamed broccoli with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice we love has arrived. 

Snow peas are out. All lettuce has been harvested. Planting it under the broccoli was just brilliant! Potatoes are on the down side of their growing curve soon to be harvested. Two tomatoes have been pulled due to wilt but others are healthy, for now. I dream of canning my own marinara. Herbs are on go. In fact, to say they are grand is to describe their size and vigor. Onions are coming out as needed. Okra has formed true leaves. Squash is a we'll see.

Yesterday, I popped in to Whole Foods-Raleigh, following a 2 hour drive there, and bought lemongrass and herbaceous hibiscus (flowers for teas). I was really hoping for bay tree. Reckon I'll have to try Raleigh Farmers Market next. Need a rest before I make the pilgrimage again, though. It's a four hour haul with hours in my feet to get everything done. Patience, Grasshopper.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tater Friends

Potatoes like it cool. It has been cool, mostly, this spring and our potatoes are just gorgeous. This scares me. What if they are beautiful up top but forming no spuds? I am a fearful woman.

Our potatoes are from three sources; four varieties. 2015 is the year of the potato experiment. First, I ordered seed potatoes from Territorial Seed Company. German butterballs and Norland Reds because they are supposed to be good keepers. (I have a problem with the keeping of potatoes.) Then I panicked and bought a $5.00 bag of Yukon Gold seed potatoes from Walmart because it was March and I still hadn't gotten my order from TSC. I also planted my own chitted seed tubers from last year. If they all make, I will be seeking tater friends. I am a hopeful.

I harvested garlic this week. It is so fragrant! Much better than the store bought stuff I'd had to fall back on for the last month. I will make more garlic salt this year so I won't have to buy next spring.

It has been warm enough this week to dry herbs in the car. Below is a picture of car cured oregano. Folks. Oregano is a weed here in southeastern NC. I need oregano friends...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Garden Theories

Yes, they go together, seasonally speaking. 

I have garden theories:
1. Weeding makes holes for water to be better absorbed.
2. It is best to mulch after a good soaking rain.
3. If there is a fire ant out there it will find me and bite me while I happily gardening. Which is why I am inside, typing, nursing my wounds.

All things are coming together in our garden. Seasons are overlapping. Here's a list, barring the zombie apocalypse, of what we have going for us. Lettuce, asparagus, carrots and pea are amazing. Garlic, onions, peas, potatoes, broccoli, turnips and cabbage are chugging right along. French beans (yellow) are about to bloom. All herbs are brilliant! Shallots, my special project this (fall, winter, spring) are lookin' good. I planted them from seed in the fall and they survived being stepped on and this cold, wet winter. Right now, they need rain.

Tomatoes. A moment of prayer for the tomatoes, please. Grown from seed, planted early, some are starting to form fruit! Varieties out and doing A, OK, are Juliet (a small Roma type), Mountain Magic, Clementine and a Patio in a pot.

Everblooming strawberries look good.

For the record, the beets look like shit. What? They do!

And can I just give James Joyce a shout out here for making run on sentences with poor punctuation acceptable

A moment of silence for Joseph Mitchell whose writer's block was epic. Joe Gould's Secret made it acceptable.

And a gold star for Harper Lee who made race a topic in Southern literature but swore To Kill A Mockingbird was a love story. Girl, don't lie.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Perennial Vegetables

Ready to be eaten!
Asparagus is one of a few perennial vegetables. Annuals that are self-seeding perennials in the South include the brassica's (kale, collards, mustard, turnips) . If you let them go to seed they will reappear in a season or two which is a good thing. Just dig them up and put them where you want them or leave them be and they will chug along right where they are. Asparagus is different. Plant the crowns, wait three years, keep them weeded and watered, and for years to come they will reward you with early spring delights. We did just that a few years ago and this is the year! We didn't plant many. Some died over time, never quite strong enough to begin with. The plant count is about ten with some still not producing well. We collect the spears over a period of a week. Then, we have enough for the two of us to have a generous portion. Asparagus steamed with a light, lemon vinaigrette and a sprinkle of chive flowers is the perfect seasonal dish, I say. 
Almost ready to be cut.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pea Shoots

A few weeks back I explained peas. We had way too many shelling pea seeds until …I realized I could plant them intensively and harvest them for shoots! Which I did. One very long row of peas spaced about two inches apart. They all sprouted, thrived and then there were too many shoots for garnishing salads. Internet to the rescue. Turns out Asians eat them sautéed with garlic and a dash of soy sauce. And that is what I did with these. Yummy.
The newest super food! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Food, my food.

Food. A four letter word. Sun, water, seed, soil and time with no small amount of work thrown in.
I know, really know, what it means to make food and it is a beautiful thing. A mostly satisfying endeavor. Mostly.
 There is a term floating around in the commercial local food scene here in NC. A product is called "value added" when food is processed or packaged in some way for sale. It's the difference between goats milk and goat cheese more. Say what? Code for processed in some way. Above is a picture of the value I added to my potatoes. They are of no value if I don't dig them. The value is added when I harvest them, wash them, prep them for cooking and do just that. 

Friday, March 27, 2015


Here are pictures of pots of plants I have taken over the years. Today is rainy but summer pots are just days away here in the sunny (sometimes) South. One more week and last day of frost will be o-o-ver.
Black Mountain, NC

Raleigh, NC

Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

Black Mountain gift shop courtyard

College of Charleston Library

T Rex in cork forest

Fairy Garden, Mine

Downtown Cheraw, SC 

Pansy pot

Brooklyn Brotanical Garden, Lettuces with Dill 

Mixed pot with basil
Goofy color combo turned out great! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pea Lesson-A Letter To My Children

Shell, snow and snap…
Dear Children,

Your father grew up northwest of the Mason Dixon line. I am Southern through and through. Peas to southerns are brown, pea-nutty flavored, cooked in a broth. They were the staff of life here once, filling, hearty, protein packed and brown. Served with corn bread or biscuits a filling enough meal. I am NOT talking about blacked-eyed peas here I am talking crowder or cow peas. They were once reserved for animals and used as cover crops to lock nitrogen into the soil. Then, we had the Civil War and food was food people. My grandmother always had a pot of peas on her stove. Always. If you needed a snack, have a bowl of peas.
The peas of Dad's youth are round and bright green. As far a I know, broth is not part of the cooking method. I did not grow up eating them. My mother served them from a can occasionally and I hated them. Mushy and scanky-tasting I could only get them down whole with a big gulp of milk. This is a truth: many nights I would excuse myself to the restroom to spit them out, until she got wise.

I digress. Here's the lesson on green peas.
1. They grow in cool weather unlike field peas which like it hot, hot, hot. Plant green peas in late winter, field peas in May, then again in late July.
2. There are THREE varieties of green, cool weather peas. I know this now because Dad wigged out when I bought the wrong variety. Folks. He wigged. I do not like his wigging.
3. The three varieties are: shell, snow and snap. Do not mistake snap for shell or Dad will... wig. ( I will not go into the, "Well, if you don't like what I bought why don't you go out and buy your own damn seeds?" thoughts I was having because he was losing it and could not be rational. It happens to all of us.)
4. Shell are the prize! They are sweet, like candy. They must be eaten soon after picking and go starchy. Then they are just like canned. Yuck.
5. Snow peas are Asian varieties and are flat. They are also sweet and nice steamed or stir-fried.
6. Snap peas?  I am using them for pea shoots in salad, because garden friends I bought lots…

Creatively yours,
Closely sown snap peas for salads :)
PS They all look the same before their pods mature…The Same. Alike. Identical.

Monday, March 2, 2015


February was tough. Really tough. Wet, grey, cold days for days on end. Man. Or, changing a single syllable word into two as Southerns do for emphasis: Ma-Yun! I can only shake my bowed head in hopes that the worst is over.
Yesterday, the 1st of March was also a loser of a day. I am sure March had not gotten the memo that it had arrived, but today? Ma-Yun. It's been a perfect gardening day and that's exactly what I spent the day doing.
We struggled and planted onion sets in the cold Saturday, hibernated in frustration Sunday, and planted broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce seedlings today. I soaked pea seeds for shoots overnight and planted them this afternoon. I potted up dill and Swiss Chard seeds, moved pots around so they can be in the sunniest spot and flipped through seed packets for more planting tomorrow.
The mach, spinach, bok choy, arugula, carrots, and tiny lettuces were uncovered for optimal sun this morning. Turnip seedlings survived the cold and kale is limping along. OOooo baby, the garlic is looking good.
Now, as I finish typing, I remember I promised myself I would put out cornmeal in jars as slug lures. Cheaper than beer ya know. Must do. Asap.
                                               Ed Ruscha, 1962 

Friday, February 20, 2015

What is chitting?

It's when you, the gardener, take potatoes out of storage in a cool dark place, give them sunlight and they begin to sprout. It supposedly gives the plants a head start on production. Potatoes bought for garden plantings will begin to sprout right away when given sleight because they have not been treated with chemical to inhibit growth. Store bought potatoes are some of the most heavily chemically treated produce, along with apples and tomatoes. That's why you grow your own if you can. Also. Fresh potatoes have not converted their energy to starch yet. They have a very different taste from store bought a sort of nutty sweetness about them. The same is true for brassicas-cabbage, broccoli and turnips. They are sweet when freshly picked without that gacky sulfur taste of store-boughts. Garden grown gives a different eating experience.

Waiting for the soil to warm up...

Ready to be eaten. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Vegetables

Almost too pretty to eat :)

This Fall I planted cabbages, broccoli and kale in The Middle Garden. The broccoli was taken out by extreme cold and I learned my lesson about picking. As in, pick, even though things aren't perfect. Savoy cabbage has a well earned reputation for being cold hardy and kept going and growing through temperatures in the teens. They were very nice. So nice that our dog ate three of them just as they were forming heads before we wised up to her greedy ways.
Today, knowing that it is going to be in the single digits for the next two nights I went a'harvesting. I ate pea shoots straight from the garden (yummy). Tonight there will be Japanese chicken soup with soba noddles.  Kale stands in as seaweed. Elephant garlic in for leeks. Tomorrow there will cabbage casserole. And then we will start eating down turnips and sweet potatoes. Did I mention I try to cook what's currently growing in the garden and what I've saved.
Spinach has withstood so far. We had as much as I could pick in a salad last night with pretty little pansies as garnish. Under the row covers the mache, bok choi, turnips and peas are just up. They were planted weeks ago when we had a warm spell. In the house there are lettuces, broccoli and kale sprouts waiting on warmer days to be transplanted. Potatoes are chitting, lined up in egg cartons on the kitchen windowsill. Hurry spring! Cold winter can't last. Me? I am having trouble lasting also.
Good eats from our winter garden! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Whiskey for Breakfast

You'd look like an ancient Egyptian too if you'd been soaking in alcohol for months.

Not quite.
This has been the year of fruit flavored alcohols or alcohol flavored fruit, however. It began innocently, last June, as a big basket of peaches bought on the way home from lovely, Hendersonville, NC. Juicy, jewel colored, fuzzy, flavorful, make-you-weak-at-the-knees-beautiful southern belle, Georgia peaches.

June 2014 I was whipped, done, exhausted from a doozy of a school year, not to mention a lifetime of working in the public schools, and I was delusional, or I wouldn't have bought a lifetime supply of peaches. We started eating but we couldn't eat them fast enough. They go bad in a hurry, ya know. It was hot. Small Town Southern hot. No way I was going to can peaches when it was 100 + degrees. I was so not acclimated yet. How to preserve them? I asked the internet. Liquor. A most appealing idea, not offered in the UGA, So Easy to Preserve, tome on food preservation. What!?! So Southern :\ So USDA:/

Europeans to the rescue! Germans have rumtoff. The French, fruit flavored liquors. Me?  I made both. Look. I didn't even have to peel the peaches. Cut them in half, remove pit, put in a glass jar or crock, and pour on the rum and some sugar water. Now here where it gets good. Keep adding fruit. All summer long. Figs. Blackberries. Apples. Pears. In the Fall add sticks of cinnamon, a few cloves, a nutty nutmeg and wait some more.

Mid-winter scoop out some fruit for a warm winter compote good with roasted hunks of meat. Make a When cooled, serve over yogurt and you can have liquor for breakfast, sort of. Make a Rumtoff Cake soaked in spiced rum and eat it for breakfast, more liquor for breakfast. You will also have a tasty spiced rum for your Super Bowl Football Knitting Party. Because some of us are are in it for the commercials and half-time show.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rock and Roll!

Take a lickin', keep on ticking', Savoy cabbage. The shar pei of brassicas! 

God loves us. That's my explanation for this warm, sunny mid-January day. All weekend the high temperatures were in the 60's and a most welcome sun has shone down on us. I pruned dead, slimy leaves from broccoli and lettuces, pulled the ones with frozen stems. They don't call it agricultural science for nothing: I'm always experimenting. Maybe the un-dead broccoli will send out edible side shoots. Maybe :)  Maybe :] Maybe :\
There was also pulling and digging of limp lettuce. In the now empty beds, Scott shoveled in composted chicken manure and wood ashes. Right behind him,  I sowed mache, spinach, boo choy, and arugula seed. A brave, hopeful, glass-half-full measure. Weather Channel forecasts show days and days of temperatures just right for cool season crops. Fingers, eyes, and toes crossed!
I also pulled turnips which were yummy julienned in pork tacos yesterday. It served as a fabulous substitute for other crunchy things recommended in the recipe. Turnips are really sweet this year. I credit the right regular rain for this.
The weather made gardening an all weekend event. I cleaned the clutter all around our garden bench and planted broccoli seeds in pots for indoor germination. Scott cleaned gutters. We pulled weeds, admired and wrapped up with a late season planting of garlic, because, you can never have too much garlic.
Rock and roll gardeners!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stink Patch

…and then it rained some more, like all week until today more, two inches more. And it was cold, really cold. Damp cold. Dreary cold. Winter cold.
     Today there is hope. The sun shines down from a Carolina blue sky with not a cloud in sight! Birds are chirping, I can hear the happy voices of the preschool children on the playground on our block, it has warmed into the 40's and dog, Scout, is sleeping in a sunbeam at my side. Spring is in the air today. This is the good life in a small town down South. However, the garden looks and smells like a stink patch. Stinky, stinky, slimy frozen, then thawed, broccoli! Hoo whee!
     In the Just So You Know category:
     My retirement gift to self (there have been many :) has been a perennial flower bed. All summer I worked on it buying plants as they came available at our local garden big box centers. Bulbs were the last to go in and, despite the thoroughly yucky weather, are sprouting! Daffodill and crocus bulbs  have pushed little green shoots up beneath the pine straw mulch. Evidence that we are on the down side of winter, the upside of summer.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rain. Lots of it.

When I woke up this morning I had this dreamy vision of our tiny, hobbitty house floating on a lake of water. That's how hard it rained last night. What would I see when I looked out this morning, I wondered? Alas no epic flood, just a drippy medium gray day. It is a balmy 50 degrees so I will venture out and contemplate starting new lettuces to replace the ones that froze last week when temperatures dipped into the teens. Perhaps the turnips, mustard, and broccoli have rebounded with the warmth. Kale, cabbage, and spinach took it like champs. All was not lost but, truth be known, I was grumpy about the lettuce (and dill) for days. Happily, we stumbled upon a seed display at Walmarket yesterday morning and I was back to a glass-half-full making plans. Cheers y'all!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Haiku for You

Fig. The centerpiece.
Every season she provides-
Jeweled fruit, jarred jam!