Category Archives: Gardening

bits and pieces

lettucepeppers kimchi


witches halloween boy


I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately, but fall seems to be my busiest time – with children, activities, work, business, etc.  I got a pulled into what felt like chaos and hectic-ness.  But, I am feeling a bit better now.  A bit more grounded.  I think I am ready to head into the next set of holidays (which I love) with more peace.

But, first, some of what we’ve been up to . . . .  This fall was lovely and quite warm and wet.  I’ve had lots of lettuce in the garden (it may have been killed back by the freeze yesterday), as well as green, carrots, and beets.  I bought some of the last peppers at the farmers market the other week. I roasted them (and the last of my jalapenos) and froze them.  I also made my version of kimchi – I love it’s spicy, sour, hot flavor on just about anything, but especially on grilled cheese sandwiches.

I’ve also been making rope bowls (I’ll post a picture soon) and dying some of the rope.  I dyed a batch with turmeric, but my favorite has been with black walnuts.  I just love the brown that black walnuts make (though I hate black walnuts for eating) – I find the color really beautiful.

We had a great Halloween.  Normally, I refuse to make or buy costumes for Halloween.  I feel like we have enough dress up clothes that they can find something or make something themselves.  But, this year the three oldest wanted to be characters from Harry Potter (Hermione, Fred, and Luna), so I sewed the robes and bought patches to put on them.  I even made wand pockets inside the robes.  I figure they will probably get lots of use other than this holiday.  And, they had such a good time playing in them, I felt good about spending the time and effort to make the robes happen.  Steven did not want to be a Harry Potter character so he dressed up from the “dress up box” (as a race car driver).  Trick-or-treating in our rural neighborhood took 3 hours and we only made it to 13 houses.  As we are usually the only trick-or-treaters, the kids get nearly all the candy at each house, so they do get lots.  The long time is because we drive to each house, visit for a short bit (occasionally have an adult beverage), and then load back into the van with cousins (7 children, 4 adults).  This Halloween, most of us somehow ended up bushwhacking, as darkness fell, over a nose ridge to get to another house instead of getting in the van.  That definitely affected our timeline since we got a little lost, left a trail of candy (all the children fell down multiple times, spilling the candy buckets), and lost one shoe (one of Steven’s best pair – it got snagged by a branch and we could not find it).   It was an adventurous and fun time.

Soccer season is over for now, and they all enjoyed playing, but especially Anne.  I did not get to watch many games, but I did make it to Anne’s last one where she wore a mama-knit hat while playing.




Finally, these warm fall days have kept us outside as much as possible.  We are playing, going on walks or hikes, and even making it on some horseback rides.  This is my favorite kind of weather – just warm enough to be outside and active in shorts.  And, the afternoon light (and morning light) is so beautiful.

Also, for a little humor.  Hythe came home with this note he wrote to me in his Kindergarten class the other day.  I love seeing these early writing attempts.  They are precious, even if this one is slightly chastising!


Dear Mom, Please do not send any more pears.  from Hythe

*I’d packed sliced pears in his lunch for the second day in a row.

in the garden, october







Fall is definitely here – on the trees, in the meadow, in the garden.  We have had some pleasant fall weather of warm days and cool nights, but we also had 11 days of nearly continuous rain.  We needed the rain, but the last 3 chilly days of it pouring down were disheartening.  The sun has come back now and I am back in the garden a bit.  Mainly to pick greens, but I did some weeding after all that rain, too.  The greens are plentiful and delicious.  I am eating salads nearly everyday, and collards and kale are showing up in most suppers.  I will freeze some soon so we will have them through some of the winter too.  I’ve got quite a few jalapenos in the garden still – and the plants have started blooming again!  Of course, they will be killed by a frost before any baby peppers have even form, but they are pretty with the red peppers and white blooms.  And, my marigolds, scattered throughout the garden are vibrant now.  I may need to get out and pick some for a dye bath.  Finally, the pears are coming down fast in the large tree by our house.  I hope we’ll make cider this weekend.


in the garden: not a lot




ginger lily

We are waking up to chilly, often foggy, mornings here.  The fog burns off and the days are often quite warm (even hot).

Work has been busy for me for the last few months.  School and soccer and music lessons have also started over the last month.  I feel as if I have 2 full time jobs, and I am feeling slightly drained already, though that may be because I am just tired (I hate waking up early, especially after staying up late to have some “me time” – why does school have to start so early?).  So, the garden has been a bit neglected lately.  But, that is really fine since the garden is near its end (at least the summer garden).  A few fall crops, like kale and arugula, are just now ready, but everything else is still too small to harvest.  Weeds are growing everywhere, but I haven’t had the time to get out the weed eater or the hoe.  Maybe today.

My favorite fall flowers are out now – ginger lily, that white orchid-like flower with an incredible scent, and Autumn Joy, the sedum which is so pretty from now till frost.


late summer icons

peaches mullet and watermelon watermelon apple eating apple goldenrod summer sun

Nothing says late summer in the mountains of NC like baskets of peaches, watermelon, the first apples, and goldenrod.

I have canned some peaches, and will likely can one more batch.  Then, I’ll freeze the rest, peeled and sliced, for smoothies all winter.

The watermelon came from our garden.  The first watermelons I’ve ever grown – and they were delicious!  I think I liked them the best though.  The children are used to seedless watermelons and William says he is not a big fan of watermelon, but I enjoyed them.  I cooked mullet one night, rubbed in salt and rinsed.  Coastal NC tradition says to eat fresh salted mullet with watermelon.  It really was a good combination.  I like the flavor of mullet, but . . . my, they are bony.

The meadow is full of goldenrod, cardinal flower, ironweed, and Joe Pye Weed.  It is beautiful, and so iconic of fall here.

The first apples are ready and I have a bushel sitting in my kitchen.  I really do need to make sauce because the apples have a lot of bitter rot and won’t last long.

Nights have been cooler recently and it is less humid than normal Augusts.  One thing I notice about nights in August, though, is that they are loud.  Cicadas, katydids, crickets are all making the most of the last warm-ish nights and sing all night long.  It is a chorus, or a racket – depending on your opinion – but I am always surprised at the noise level in the middle of the night from outside.



in the garden: potatoes




The garden has faded into its late summer nearly-nothingness.  We’ve been in desperate need of water, but got a good shower yesterday.  Hopefully, we’ll have a few more this week.  And, I love the flowers of late summer which are starting to show now.

Cucumbers are done, beans are done, winter squash is just about done.  It’s too hot for lettuces, spinach, and most greens.  There are a few watermelons that are ripening now and I need to check on them often.  I brought one inside because the vine had died, and I thought it would be a pale, tasteless thing.  But, it surprised me and was ripe and delicious.  I brought it inside in late afternoon and I’m not sure I’d ever before eaten a warm watermelon!

The tomatoes, which have done well, and we have eaten nearly everyday, fresh, in salads, on sandwiches, and on pasta – well, they now have late blight and are rapidly fading.  The only plants actively still growing and producing are the hot peppers (and one sweet pepper) and the okra – and the weeds too, but let’s just ignore them for now.  Funnily, the biggest space in the garden that looks the dead-est is the potato patch, which is also producing the most food from the garden right now.  I am harvesting large amounts of potatoes each day as I am clearing out rows to grow fall crops (collards, kale, beets, and some carrots have gone in the last few days) – about a bushel today.

I start craving potatoes in April, just when they are pushing up green and bushy from the ground.  After I’ve waited for 3 weeks for them to come up because I never remember to pre-sprout them and am too anxious to get them in the garden as soon as possible.  But, we don’t get to eat any until late May or early June.  Then, just a few small new potatoes, which are tender and nearly sweet.  Now, though, we have so many potatoes that I feel I need to cook at least a few pounds for supper each night.

A friend visiting our garden in early summer commented, “That’s a lot of food right there.” when he saw our potato patch.  He was comparing it to his 10’x10′ garden with a few lettuce and tomato plants and herbs.  Just now though, I am think it an apt description of it – it is a lot of food.  Those potatoes will fill us up for most of the fall and right into the winter (maybe even through most of the winter).

We grew 5 varieties this year. Ordered from Fedco Seeds (their Best Keepers mix), I think they were Elba, Red Pontiac (my favorite red – so round and large), Cheiftan (did not like as much), Katahdin (had lots of disease), and Russet Burbank.  I also planted a fingerling (Banana).  I have come to realize that while a darling in the foodie world, I don’t really like fingerlings much.  They are ok, and sometimes great, but I prefer the less dense flesh of “regular” potatoes, which I also find easier to cook.

But, with so many potatoes, I am currently feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount and hence not sure what to cook.  You can only have roasted potatoes so many times per week.  So, I am going to write out some of our favorite things to make from potatoes – hoping to keep me motivated to keep using them:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s baked potato crisps with the works (potatoes, sour cream, bacon – so good), from the book
  • Roasted potatoes made with the method of parboiling them first, then putting them on a baking sheet with hot oil and roasting in a hot oven (a technique Smitten Kitchen also uses to make fries)
  • mashed potatoes with browned butter (a whole stick!)
  • latkes (or as we call them, potato cakes – BTW, I am totally a Smitten Kitchen fan)
  • frittatas – and adding herbs, variety of cheeses, and/or chopped greens and onions or garlic
  • gratin – also love to add lots of extra stuff to it from winter squash, to herbs, to bacon (and cheese of course)

I think I’ve come up with a few meals that will work for us here, and some I will use over and over because they are so delicious and everyone loves them (the first, in particular).

Any other really great meals that use lots of potatoes (and that kids will like, and that don’t take too long to prepare)?  I tried gnocchi last year, but gave up until my brother can give me lesson.


summer doings

Whew!  Summer has been going strong and full.  We only have a 6 week summer break from school, and it has been packed.  With work, fun, gardening, harvesting, canning, play, camps, (sewing, for me), and all kinds of other things.  I’ll give a sample here – showing much of the things I love and cherish about summer.

lighting bugs

























  • Catching lighting bugs, of course.  The best kind of fun for a late night kid (it stays light until nearly 9 in mid-summer here).
  • Time for playing games.  Of course, the chess board does tend come out right when I ask for some help cleaning out the dishwasher or putting away laundry.  “But mom, we’re right in the middle of our game.”
  • Campfires and marshmallows (at least for the children).  It is a fun way to spend a long evening, especially with friends.
  • Hammocks and cousins.  Hammocks hung to relax in, take afternoon naps in.  And, cousins from out of town were here for a few weeks and we all loved seeing them.  Our three oldest children went to the farm camp for a few weeks and had a blast, playing with their cousins and friends all day, riding horses, making art.  Coming home tired and hungry and very happy.
  • Hythe, who would wear shorts and no socks nearly all winter, puts on sweatpants and a sweatshirt and plays in the yard on the hottest days of summer.  “What are you doing”, I say.  “I’m a gray wolf, mom.”
  • Picking flowers from the meadow and from my garden.  I love the fresh arrangements – large and small that I can scatter around the house.
  • And, I love them on the dinner table.  We have a 16 year old cousin from France visiting for the month (and helping out, too).  One of the wonderful things she does for every meal is to set the table beautifully, with plates at each place, napkins, flowers, glasses, pitcher of water, salt and pepper.  That sounds so simple, but often when I am getting ready to put a meal on the table, I am scrambling to get the food, plates, condiments, etc. to the table and I have to keep jumping up from the meal to fetch water, salt, knives.  Evva is usually in charge of setting the table, but often it is done with the perfunctory fork and knife, though occasionally she will find a napkin or two and put them out.  I have explained what I would like to have her do (put out the glasses, water, napkins, etc.), but see the note above about when I ask for a chore to be done (“but, mom, we are in the middle of . . .”).  We’re working on a solution!
  • Handsome husband sitting across from me at the outside dinner table while eating a great meal of fresh food from the garden and meat from the farm and washing it down with a cold local beer.  Contentment.
  • Lots of porch sitting and playing.  It is the perfect place to read a book, take a nap, or play cars.  Steven has been at without siblings for the past week (they are with my mom on the coast), and while he has enjoyed more undivided attention from parents, he misses his playmates.  (William and I miss them too.)
  • Picking berries.  While I love picking blackberries because they are free berries that I don’t have to do any work to raise, they have the most vicious thorns, and usually I have to get hot, sweaty, and thoroughly scratched up to get them.  This year though, the blackberry vines have grown right up to our back deck, thick with the largest wild blackberries I’ve seen.  So, I can stand on our deck, in the shade, and pick berries with minimal wounding.  And, I got enough to make jam.
  • Fresh jam.  So far, I’ve made sour cherry, mulberry, and blackberry.  We did not have enough jam to make it through the year last year, so I am trying to make more this year.  I’ve never made mulberry before, but William, Fiona (the cousin), and the children picked so many that I had enough berries to jam.  It is quite good.  And, jam jars are so pretty.


in the garden








We had really hot weather two weeks ago and we went away for the weekend, coming back to a garden loaded with things to harvest.  This past week has been cooler, but everything is still producing.

  • The green beans are nearly done (second planting is coming along). Lots of bean leaf beetles  on them.
  • Blackraspberries are done (such a short season).
  • The blueberries are still producing strong.
  • I am harvesting cucumbers everyday, but have yet to can pickles.  I love having them in the winter, but we do eat a lot of fresh cucumbers – in salads, mainly.  I have not had quite enough to pickle – maybe next week.
  • The first tomatoes were harvested (and eaten quickly).  No more have ripened since, and I’m thinking its because of the cooler weather this week.
  • The winter squash and watermelons are taking over the garden.  I’ve seen on ripe butternut already, which seems way to early, but probably not.
  • The potatoes are delicious.  I’ve harvested some of three varieties  One variety of red potato has lots of scab and so is not very pretty.  The fingerlings have been wonderful – as have the Kennebecks (my favorite, I think).
  • We are also harvesting mulberries, but only a few at a time – which either get eaten all up, or go in the freezer with blueberries or black raspberries.  The kids love to eat them (and climb the tree to harvest them).  They will keep going for a while.
  • The first zinnias have been picked (dalias, too).  The yarrow and alliums and dill are so pretty together.

I’ve definitely got some weeds (mostly grass weeds, which I hate most).  And, my 2nd beet planting failed.  I think I will try again in August when I do the fall planting.  I would love to have some more beets, since I think I only harvested 3 or 4.

What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden 6-4-15











anne weeding

Everything in the garden is growing like crazy.  The potatoes look really great, but there are still some potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) on them, so Hythe has been helping me pick them off every other day.  He likes to drown them (rather than smash), and I agree – they can be a little gross to smush.  I am now working to get the potatoes mulched with straw.  I am half-way there and will finish this weekend, I hope.  The straw fills in for the second potato hilling and works quite well.   I love the potato blossoms.  They are so pretty, and with five different varieties, each flower is a little different in color.  I told Hythe we could start getting some potatoes from the ground when they starting flowering, so he has been reporting to me each time a variety starts to flower.  I have only dug a few little baby potatoes, though – they still need some time.  It is a pretty time in the garden.

The snap (or English) peas are producing lots and lots of peas right now.  We’ve been picking (and eating) every other day.  I have a stock pile in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks.  I will try to freeze some tomorrow because we finally have grown enough that I can feed everyone who wants peas, and have some left over.  My family far prefers to eat the peas raw, and they end up on plates and in lunch boxes in the pod to be split open and snacked on during the day.  I have also been shelling and throwing them into salads and soups every chance I get.

Lettuces are still growing, though some are starting to bolt.  I need to do my “next” sowing of lettuces, carrots, beets, and beans.  Maybe this weekend.

The squash and watermelon are growing well and are all now mulched with straw.  I hope to have zucchini soon.  The beans are getting ready to flower and the okra is about 3 inches tall now.

And, we have (or had) cherries.  Lots of cherries, so many we could not possible pick them all.  Plus, they were at the top of some tall-ish trees and we could not reach them all.  Nor, would I have had the time to pit them all.  But, we did get a couple of gallons.  We ate lots fresh, then I pitted a lot and made jam, a pie, and froze the rest.  While I love cherries, I am ok with the season being short.  We’ve had so much rain that the over-ripe ones in the tree are mostly split and moldy now.  I am grateful for all the fruit we have.  Strawberries are just finishing, cherries have come and are nearly gone, but while we were getting the last of the cherries tonight, Evva came up to me with the first black raspberry!  And, soon there will be blueberries.  And, the boys have been finding some ripe mulberries.  So glad to have all this fruit!

The garden work is continuous, and for now, still enjoyable.  Hythe enjoys helping me, and I love it when William joins me in the garden to pick or mulch or weed.  The girls have not been so enthusiastic.  Well, they are enthusiastic about the theory of a garden, but not in practicality of it.  They cheer on the great food coming from the garden, but rarely participate in the work.  I should probably encourage them more, but I don’t want to nag.  And, they often have their own passions and interests they want to pursue while I pursue my in the garden.  But, I came home from a run last weekend to find William had set up Anne with the weed wacker and she cut all the weeds around the garden and near our house.  She had fun and felt grown-up and useful.  It was wild to see her from a distance as I came home from my run, wondering who the teenage boy (or old man?) was who was weed wacking our garden, only to realize it was Anne.  Looking strong and capable.   While I never would have set her up with that machine (I can barely run it myself), I was glad William had.

in bloom: in fruit


The peonies have bloomed and passed.  It happens so quickly.  These here are the ones I transplanted from my grandparents house a few years ago.  They are quiet in color, have a sweet fragrance, and are just beautiful – perfect flower in my opinion.


These poppies are blooming right now, and will continue for a while, I think.  Every time I send Evva out to pick flowers for the table, she picks a poppy and within a few hours, the petals fall off.  But, they are so irresistable.  These poppies came from my great-grandmother’s seed.  But, my sister-in-law grows some on her farm that are from her great grandmother’s seed (brought over from France just before WWI).  They look identical.  I love that these flowers are passed on through generations and have a bit of a story.  And, they are beautiful.


And, the wild daisies are blooming.  These flowers are so sweet; delicate yet hardy.  I love seeing them come up through the grasses, waving in the meadow.

And, I have a beautiful purple Salvia growing in a bed by the house.  Evva loves to pick them and use them in necklaces and arrangements.  And no,t your typical arrangement, but many like this one I found one the rock outside our door (our door-rock).


Also, cherries are in fruit.  This season also is short, a little over a week.  The cherries are going fast.  We’ve picked a few gallons, which have been eaten fresh or pitted for jam and pie (and a few for the freezer).  We’ve got 2 sweet cherry trees (at my mother’s house) and 1 sour cherry.  The sweet cherries were loaded with fruit, but we just can’t reach the higher branches.  But, at this point (after pitting cherries for 2 hours today), I won’t be terribly sad to see cherry season end here.  Though I will miss them.  My, they are delicious!


in the garden

We have been very dry here for nearly 3 weeks, until yesterday when a glorious long, not-too-intense rain fell.  It has made all the difference.  And, more rain is expected for the rest of the week.  Most of these pictures are from just before the rain.  All of a sudden the peas have started to fill out, the fava beans are ready to pick, and the potatoes are thankfully so much easier to hill.


The peas grew what seems like 6 inches while I was away on a retreat last week.  This week they are filling out those pods, and Hythe and I picked enough for the him and his siblings to eat for supper last night.  Such a treat!

The potatoes also shot up in the last week, and I have been trying to get them all hilled.  Since it is a bit of a tough job, I usually do one row a day, but with the dry soil, it was even more physically challenging.  I got the last row and a half done after it rained yesterday.  Next job is to mulch them all with straw to make up for the less than adequate hilling (they really need to be hilled twice, and I always plant too close together to get 2 good hilling jobs done – but I get more potatoes per area and I’ll make up for it with the straw).  We also have potato beetles, but Hythe and Steven and I go out and pick them off and drown them.  The boys love to do it and take the job very seriously.



All the spinach is done now.  The warm weather caused it to start bolting. I got a last big harvest which I froze and will soon put that area into snap beans.


The walking onions are starting to walk.  They are not so good to eat right now (as they are mostly stems putting up flowers), but I’ll have a few windows to get them while the new ones are young.  Their shapes are so interesting and beautiful.


I couldn’t believe I already had a few large-ish green tomatoes on a few of the plants.  But, I imagine they will stay green for a long time.  For some reason they do that here in the mountains.  I am staking them differently than I have in the past years.  I’m going back to my favorite method after trying lots of different ones.  With this one, I stake each plant, tie it with old sheets, and prune suckers fairly heavily.  I usually end up with one or two main branches, less disease, and lots of tomatoes.   We’ll see how it goes this year!


What’s going on in your garden?