Tag Archives: garden

in the garden 4.9.15

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It is all about the flowers this time of year.  Our favorite tree on the property is a huge pear tree, leftover from someone’s homeplace many years ago.  It produces those huge, hard pears that are perfect for cider.  But, in the spring, she is majestic in full bloom, and we call her the Snow Queen.  The daffodils are fading, but my few tulips are blooming.  The apple trees are in the “pink”, as they say, but some are just starting to bloom.  They all make for perfect little arrangements to have on the table.

Dandelions are blooms plentifully – everywhere.  I was weeding my mother’s garden with a woman from Kosovo this week and she said that she used to make “dandelion honey”.  She described how she made it: 150 dandelion blossoms, some water (probably a quart), a sliced lemon or two, and sugar.  Boil this for 20-30 minutes and strain.  It sounded to me like what we might call dandelion cordial, but I think “honey” was the literal translation from Albanian.  So, I made some dandelion honey this week. It was quite good and would make a great lemonade.  I probably used too much water (2 quarts) because I thought it was a little weak.  I am putting a little in sparkling water and enjoying the sunshiny taste!

The fava beans, peas, garlic, and lettuces are growing well and quickly.  I finally put up a pea trellis, which I have not done in years, just letting the vines cover the ground.  But, I thought I would try to have a neater looking garden this year (we’ll see . . . ).  We’ve had plenty of rain and a bit of warm weather.  I need to replant radishes, beets, and lettuces – second sowing.  And, I can do that now because William tilled the whole garden this week.  We also have our seed potatoes, but have not planted yet.  Usually, I try to follow tradition of this area and plant potatoes on Good Friday (why?  because even if hit by a frost, they will “rise again”).  I plan to plant them that by this weekend, though.  I am excited to fill this garden up again.

What’s going on in your garden?  Is it still full of snow?  Do you see signs of spring?

 

mid-winter grumps

I came down with the grumps today. I was so grumpy I felt like smashing the plates as I cleaned them out of the dishwasher. So grumpy, I felt like kicking across the room every toy that was left on the floor then slam dunking it in the trash can.  So grumpy, I considered pouring a large glass of wine to have for lunch.  So grumpy, that I would take deep breaths and focus on calmness when I was told for the 5th time in 15 seconds to “get me me milk”. I will get your milk, please don’t ask so much, and you need to say please. And, thank you.

I don’t know what got me in to me. I tried to think of why or how I got so grumpy.  Maybe I am jealous that one of my best friends is away this week with another friend enjoying wineries and spas in Sonoma, CA and I am here in frigid WNC with mid-winter blahs (and children with mid-winter blahs). Maybe it is because we came downstairs this morning to find the cat had the stomach bug too – it wasn’t enough that all the humans in the house had it this week. The cat had to get it too – and we had to clean up after him also! Maybe it was because it was so cold and windy outside that trying to go out was miserable (and made me sick of winter). Maybe it was because I skipped my morning exercise (yoga) today to try and fit in a little more to-do’s, which of course did not work out (the way I wanted them to). Maybe it was because I often feel that I don’t have more than 5 minutes to focus on anything (not dinner, not work, not exercise, not laundry). I am called upon for so much, am doing so much, that it is hard to get my brain to prioritize and “get things done”. I feel at loose ends. I love my time at night when everyone is in bed and I can work or sew or write. Maybe my grumps, though, are because I’ve stayed up too late for too many nights trying to get some things accomplished and I am just tired. Maybe I am feeling guilty that I am not spending enough time focusing on my children and engaging them, or when I try, they are uninterested in doing anything I suggest and would rather jump on furniture and throw all the laundry I just folded in the air. Maybe technology is not allowing me to focus (or I am allowing technology to keep me unfocused), as I can jump from page to page, activity to activity, looking up a recipe, a pattern, a new idea, my email, business news. Doing this with technology just keeps me with that “never more than 5 minutes uninterrupted” feeling. Maybe, it’s hormones.

Probably it is some of all of it.

The children were sweet. I told them I was feeling grumpy and to please use caution with mommy this afternoon (i.e. do what I say right away). I also asked for cuddles. They complied.

At the end of days like this, I make a point to write in my bedside journal, just before I go to bed. I write three things that made me smile today – three things that brought a little joy to my day. Remembering these things reshapes the day into something that was good – a day with good memories, not bad ones – happy feelings, not grumpy ones. These small things actually change the way I think and help life stay positive. I call this practice “my three things”.

Here, I’ll put my three things from this week:
1. Hythe and Steven helping each other clean out the dishwasher. This was a great help this week when they did it and it was awfully cute to watch them. Steven handed Hythe the dishes to put in the cabinet and together they put the silverware away.

2. Snowdrops. The first flowers of spring have come up in one spot in our backyard.

3. Seeing the girls off for a horseback ride on a beautiful, not-frigid, day this week.

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garden update and CSA box

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We’ve had a number of hard frosts and freezes already this fall.  The fig tree, mulberry tree, and my ginger lilies look very sad.  I have not yet checked out how the vegetable garden fared after this latest cold spell, but I am hopeful that the carrots made it through, since that is the only real harvest from the garden right now, and will be sweeter for it.

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I have never had so many carrots in my garden before and I love it.  I hope to make a carrot soup tonight, and I hope the it goes over better with the children than the winter squash soups have done.  We have eaten lots of fresh carrots and roasted carrots, also.

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The garlic us up, but I have given up on the turnips – they are now a cover crop to be turned into the soil in the spring.  I think I did not order the best (i.e. sweetest) variety to plant.  I also planted some radishes a month or so ago and since I planted so many and we are not prolific radish eaters, they got left in the garden to grow.  And grow they did.  These are the biggest radishes I’ve ever seen!  I’ve not cut one open yet.  I doubt they are edible.

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One of my favorite late fall/winter trees is the Witchhazel.  We have two trees beside our house and I love the bright yellow starburst on their branches.  A sunny, natural decoration in this greyish landscape.  I love it!

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And, finally, I wanted to show off the last of the CSA boxes I have been getting from my sister- and brother-in-law (Annie and Isaiah).  They own and run Flying Cloud Farm here in Fairview, 1.5 miles from our house.  It is a 10 acre well-run, beautiful, organic (but not certified) fruit, flower, and vegetable farm.  I’ve never bought a CSA box from the farm because we have a fairly large garden and I can easily supplement from their fabulous produce nearly all year long.  But, this fall Annie gave me one of their extended season CSA boxes.  They have been packed full of gorgeous broccoli, greens, winter squash, and root vegetables.  We can eat through it all in less than a week, though I do have a bag of turnips in the refrigerator and three huge acorn squash on my counter, accumulating from past weeks.

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Yesterday, I got a cookbook that I am excited about – called Farmer and Chef Asheville.  Annie Louise (my sister-in-law) has a recipe in it!  It will be made tonight with those lovely greens above.

Collard Greens in Coconut Milk

1 (14 oz) can coconut milk

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic

2 T minced fresh ginger

1/2 t crushed red pepper

2 bunches collards, stems removed and torn (I like to chop- almost in large chiffonade, though I am sure that is not culinarily correct)

1/2 t each salt and pepper

Pour 1/4 cup coconut milk in large skillet, heat to a simmer.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and crushed pepper.  Saute for 3 minutes.  Add the greens and pour over the remaining coconut milk, stirring to coat the greens.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in salt and pepper.

 

in the garden update

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I have not been doing a lot in the garden for the last few weeks, besides harvest some things.  It really does slow down for us here with all the summer crops gone and the fall ones planted and growing.  Weeding is minimal, there are very few bugs, we’ve had plenty of rain.  There is just not a lot to do.  Which is nice.   I like to just enjoy the fall colors and green garden.

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I’ve been pulling out turnips and carrots, mostly.  There are lots of carrots and turnips – with a lot still in the ground.  Hythe loves to come help me pull up the carrots.  He has his own bag of them in the refrigerator.  But, the turnips are a bit of a problem.  I like turnips pretty well, but William and I are the only ones in the house who don’t completely hate them.  I’ve cooked them every way possible – soups, roasted, boiled and buttered, braised.  The children do not like them.  And, to be honest, after a few days, I am pretty tired of them too.  Unfortunately, I planted a LOT of turnips in the garden.  I am contemplating using some of them as winter cover crop for the rows they are on and just not pick them.  I picked a few the other day and put them in the root cellar to see how they store.  I even carved a couple of them, with Hythe’s help, into tiny Jack-o-Lanterns (which the dog promptly ate  when walked away – at least HE loves them).  So, have any suggestions for turnips?

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*By the way, it looks like two of our garden pumpkins have survived long enough to be carved for Halloween!*

This week the seed garlic arrived.  I ordered it the week before when I realized I had not done so yet and it really was time (or past time) to plant.  This year, I just got hard neck garlic.  In the last two years I’ve grown soft neck which you can braid and they keep fairly well.  But, I want to have garlic scapes in the summer and have slightly less cumbersome bulbs to store (i.e. no long leaves to clean and braid).  We’ll see how it goes.  They are now in the ground, with Steven’s help.  The day after we planted garlic, a large order of narcissus and other spring flowering bulbs arrived from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.   William will may be horrified, but I think I ordered nearly 100 bulbs!  Now, I need to get digging – but first figure out where to plant all these bulbs.

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garden update: into the fall

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We might have one more pumpkin in the field left to pick and a few winter squash.

Flowers are still producing well–and I enjoy getting down to pick them–nearly all zinnias this year. Such cheerful flowers.

We’ll probably pick the popcorn soon. Hythe is nearly desperate to do it and points out each time we are near the garden that “the corn is dead”.

The first turnips have been picked. Look at those greens–so many and so beautiful! I froze the greens to eat this winter, but I’m planning to cook the turnips tonight with bacon and onions.

Hythe got the first carrots out of the garden. Little baby ones, which he disdained after tasting. They are a little bitter at this point. But, it helps to thin those carrots a bit.

We are eating salads from the garden again (and still outside)! Lots of arugula and a little bit of leaf lettuce so far. I hope the rest of the lettuce I planted comes up. I put in a large row of an unknown lettuce seed (which I found at the bottom of my briefcase), but I am afraid the seed was not good. It has not come up.

The radishes are huge! They grew so fast with the wet warm weather. I’ve picked nearly all I planted and not knowing much else to do with a lot of large pretty radishes, I pickled them! These pickles are so delicious, especially with meat (especially BBQ pork), and they will last all winter in the refrigerator. Not only delicious, these pickles are beautiful, but they are a bit smelly (pungent-good smelly, but smelly). Recipe below.

Also, my ginger lilies are blooming. They don’t always make it here with our cold weather, but I’ve found a protected place for these with full sun and they are happy. The scent is heavenly! Plants, thanks to Nita (an almost-aunt) who is one of my gardener inspirations.

Recipe for Pickled Radishes (update):

Put in a jar:
3.5 cups sliced radishes
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic

Make brine and pour over radish mix:
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 star anise
1 tsp coriander seed
1 bay leaf
3 tsp kosher salt

garden update: pumpkins and potatoes

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No major changes in the garden lately, though we’ve picked a few more pumpkins. Unfortunately, two of those pumpkins (big ones, too) were completely rotten. I was able to pick them up and throw them so they exploded. This was a very exciting event for Hythe. He loved the exploding pumpkins, and it was almost worth growing them for his reaction. We did get one which we carved into a jack-o-lantern and another which is in the root cellar, otherwise known as the well house.

All the potatoes are dugnow, and some more lettuce, arugula, and turnips were planted. Winter squash harvest is happening too, and most of this bounty is going in the root cellar for now.

We will be eating lots of potatoes and winter squash this fall and winter!

garden update and swap

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goldenrod

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As much as I hate to admit it, things have turned to corner toward fall in the garden and in nature. Apples are ripening, the fall flowers are out (my favorite color combinations), the summer garden is dying off and the fall garden is getting greener, and pumpkins are being harvested! The fall flowers are the best! The meadow by our house is full of goldenrod, ironweed, cardinal flower, Queen Anne’s lace, turtlehead, and others. It is truly glorious.

I’ve harvested about a half bushel of acorn squash and a few butternuts, but the piece de resistance (excuse the omission of the accents) was the first large pumpkin from the garden. Unfortunately, it looks like these pumpkins will all be ripe well before the jack-o-lantern making time of late October–which was the reason Hythe wanted pumpkins in the garden in the first place. We might just have to have September jack-o-lanterns. I’ve explained it and he seems ok with that. He is also looking forward to pumpkin pies–as the first pumpkin had a few rotten spots on it, so it only stayed on the porch for a few days before going in the oven. I’ve been making quite a few apple tarts (or galletes), and now the children are expecting pies every night. But, fresh apple sauce is sufficing.

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Found these in the garden, left after I picked them up empty from a house and then went to weed the garden. They got left and have been “decorating” the garden since. I need to get them to the recycling bin, but I like the stories I can make up in my head when I see them about why they are in the garden.

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Turnips, carrots, beets (those rabbits have munched two rows and I’ll need to replant), lettuce, and radishes are coming along very well. The potatoes have all died now, and we’ll dig the rest this week, I think.  I need to do some weeding too!

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Finally, I put together a package for a blogger in Alaska last week and mailed it off. I was participating in a blog swap organized by Amanda. I did this in the spring as well, and it was lots of fun to think up homemade gifts to send. This time, I sent flower seeds from my garden (larkspur, poppies, calendula), some walking onion sets (not sure how they will do in Alaska), a lavender sachet, garlic-herb salt (made with garlic and herbs from the garden), soap, and a hand salve.

in the garden, early August

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The garden is really producing right now, but it is also the time of plant death as insects and disease is our warm and wet climate overwhelm the garden plants. I am an “organic” gardener, in that I use organic fertilizers, cover crops, mulches and not pesticides or herbicides. I don’t do much for insect pest control other than squish the offenders. I don’t do anything for disease control other than try to time my plantings to hopefully be nearly at the end of their production before disease pressure builds up too much. This year has been pretty average, but August is usually the time of death for my garden. My tomatoes have are completely dead, within a week, from late blight. I harvested enough to make a few batches of sauce to freeze, lots of tomato sandwiches and salads. There are a few more that I will harvest tomorrow, but that will probably all. I pulled the rest of the beans up today because while there were still blossoms on the plants, the bean leaf beetles had completely taken them over. They were struggling so hard to produce only a few beans per plant that they did not care about keeping allowing any new beans to grow. It reminded me of the smart mothers who have only one child, realizing that more than this would sap all their energy and they would not be able to live (a decent life). In my first garden at my grandparents house, my grandfather insisted beans could not be grown without Sevin dust. I did not want pesticides, but when I was not looking, he would scoop up a handful of Sevin and sprinkle my beans. Today, I understand the thought!

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The potatoes are dead or dying and I’ve harvested just over a bushel–with at least half left to go. We are eating them at every meal. Same with the onions–not nearly as many, but I’ve gotten about half of them out.

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Powdery mildew has started on my beautiful winter squash and pumpkins. This bed has been such a pleasure for me to witness–the very insistent growth, the large green leaves filling the garden, the amazingly bright blossoms that are open in the morning. They will not last much longer, but there are lots of acorn squash, butternuts, and green pumpkins coming on. I think (hope) they will be able to finish ripening. Those large, bright blossoms always made me want to pick, stuff, and fry them, but I’ve looked in them and each one has at least 2 bees. I’d rather not evict them.

In September, the garden seems to come back to life again, and I hope the same to be true this year. I’ve just planted turnips, carrots, radishes, lettuce, and beets where the beans and potatoes were. Garlic will go in then, too, and perhaps some cover crops.

Apple season is starting as well, with the Winter Banana (at least that is what we think they are) ripening. I picked a bushel with the boys this week. They are perfect (and unsprayed, so I don’t mean they look perfect)–sweet, tart, crisp. I am not sure what I will do with them all, because they don’t store that well. We will probably eat as many as we can, give some away, and make a little applesauce. It is not quite cider making time, yet.

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in the garden

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Well, I nearly always find a ball in the garden because we live at the top of a hill and whenever the children play soccer or basketball and the ball gets away from them (as it often does) and rolls down the hill, they often give up the game and run off the to something else. However, the plants are going strong, though one of the gardens is being taken over by pumpkins and winter squash.  I’ve never had any luck with them in the past.  Actually, I’ve never grown pumpkins because they require so much room.  They are amazing, stretching out over everything–over the beans, through the corn, onto the lawn. Tiny pumpkins and squash are there. More squash than pumpkins, which is good because we will eat the squash and Hythe is determined we are going to have lots of jack-o-lanterns which I am not as excited about (I’d rather make pie!).

The zinnias in the cut flower garden are blazing. So vibrant and happy. It is nice to be able to bring them in the house.

We are getting loads of green beans still despite the bean leaf beetles and the pumpkin vines. And, tomatoes are ripening everyday, even though we have late blight. I made a tomato pie last night for William and I (and Anne ate a piece for lunch!). Tomato salads and sandwiches are for lunch and supper (and breakfast sometimes). Soon, I will make sauce and freeze.

We picked nearly all the sweet corn but the popcorn is growing. Sweet corn is usually a disappointment in our home garden. We get just about enough for one meal–so many ears with poor pollination, some picked too early (by little hands eager for the first sweet corn). It takes so much room, for so little result. When I checked the corn a week or so ago, I heard a loud hum and saw bees massed around the corn tassels. I was surprised since corn is usually wind pollinated. I did not know bees would gather the pollen. Any bee keepers out there with answers?

in the garden

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pumpkins

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The first thing I did after pulling into the drive from our long trip and giving my husband a grateful-to-be-home-and-see-you-thanks-for-holding-down-the-fort hug (the little boys were asleep!), was head to the garden. I was excited to see how much it had grown over 11 days. The pumpkins and winter squash are thriving, the beans are producing, and the corn is over head-tall. The tomatoes needed tying up, the lettuce had bolted, and the garlic needed to be pulled. William did a great job taking care of things, but I feel great to be back overseeing things too. I planted the fifth sowing of beans before I left and they are up and growing, and we are harvesting a gallon of snap beans every other day. Lots going in the freezer. Hythe comes down to the garden with me to dig potatoes and to squish bean leaf beetles. We dig down around the potato plants to pull up those new potatoes, just enough for supper. I am excited about those pumpkins, too. I’ve never grown pumpkins, or at least not with any luck. These are looking good so far!

I’m glad to be back!

As a postscript, I will mention that William’s aunt and uncle with whom we visited in England had the most beautiful allotment (or community garden). I went over to see it a few times while we visited last week and was so impressed by the neatness, beauty, and massive amounts of food being produced. I am very sorry I did not take pictures to share, but each time I visited the allotment, I forgot my camera (and am not sure I would have been able to capture it well anyway). I love to see gardens where ever I am!