Tag Archives: gardening

in bloom: in fruit

peony

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.

poppies

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.

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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).

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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!

cherries

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden this week

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More and more is happening in the garden space this week.  We’ve had consistently warm days and not-too-cool nights.  We had a great heavy rain from a spring storm which made up for the 10 days with no rain.  All that means perfect growing conditions for the garden.  The peas have started to bloom.  The favas have tiny little pods on them, but the plants are a little yellow and aren’t looking very happy (too warm?  not enough water? normal?).   Lettuces are growing, and the cut-and-come-again patch seems to never end.  We are eating salads nearly everyday.  But, speaking of salads, the spinach has decided it is too warm.  All the leaves started to point up and the plants are ready to bolt any moment.  I think I am going to pull them all out and plant beans there this week.  We have so enjoyed the spinach patch – in salads, mostly, but I made a risotto with spinach, tomatoes, and sausage the other day that was good (though, of course, 3 out of 4 children boycotted it).

I’ve had my first ever radish crop failure!  How does that happen, you might wonder?  Aren’t radishes the easiest things possible to grow?  They should be.  But, the poor radishes were at their very tenderest when the last frost knocked them back.  Then, it got quite warm and those that made it through the frost just got woody.  Maybe it was the variety (Easter Egg – which can be very pretty, but can tend towards the woody).  Anyway, I composted all that remained.

The tomatoes seem to be growing and are putting out a few flowers.  I mulched them with straw to keep down the weeds.  I need to stake them (really soon!).   Potatoes are all up and growing rapidly.  A friend looked at our potato patch this past weekend and said, “Now that’s some food.” That’s what I think too, when I see that patch.  Those potatoes will (hopefully) feed us through the fall and winter.  I am looking forward to new potatoes, and I know the children always like everything I make with them.

I put a wheelbarrow load of compost in the garden, then got some okra planted (2 varieties: Clemson Spineless and Burgundy).  Okra is a favorite in our house, so I hope they do well.

I did something different with the cucumbers, winter squash, and melons.  Instead of planting them in mounds, like last year, I planted out seedlings I’d grown in the farm greenhouse.  I planted them in an alternating pattern in the same area as the okra.  I hope they will cover the ground well and have enough room.  We’ll see if it works out any better than the mound system (which was fine, too).  I mulched between the plants with straw.  And, the cucumbers (slicing and pickling), I planted with the peas, hoping they can also climb the trellis and will be thriving when the peas are dying.  I put in the cucumbers randomly with the peas wherever there was a break in the peas (i.e. where a few plants did not come up) and at each end of the trellis.

I still want to plant a few cantaloupes, but I am not sure I have any more room.  Hythe is a little indignant that I did not plant his beloved pumpkins or corn.  But, I just couldn’t justify planting crops that take up so much room with little return food-wise per area.  I probably need to make a little space next year for him to plant what he wants.  Maybe a new garden space.

Finally, my peonies have large buds that the ants are working on.  So exciting!

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what’s growing

The garden is growing.  Peas are starting to creep up the trellis, fava beans are almost 8 inches high.  We are picking lettuce and spinach to eat now which is such a treat.  We are also pulling up some of the walking onions to eat.  They are so pretty this time of year – and also delicious.  The regular onions (Parma) are growing quickly too. I planted potatoes two weeks ago tomorrow.  We got a good bit of rain since then and some warm weather.  I dug up one of the potatoes yesterday to see how they were growing and was disappointed to see the little buds only about a 1/2 inch long.  So, they are growing slowly right now and I have to keep up with those very fast growing weeds until they do pop out of the ground.  By the way, I planted my potatoes with a little compost and organic fertilizer.  Anybody have any good potato growing tips?  And, yes that is a basketball in the garden.  The garden is downhill from the house and basketball goal, so this is where balls end up sometimes.

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The trees are growing leaves!  This is my favorite part of spring.  Dogwoods are in full bloom and the trees on the mountain have a more subdued color autumnal cast.  Almost the reverse of fall, as a dull rust gives way to light greenish yellow then to spring green then to dark green – day by day marching up the mountain.  We have some black gum trees around the house, and this under-appreciated tree is one of my favorites.  In the spring, it puts out its tiny leaves, pointing them strait to the sky in little clumps so that they look like tiny green stars.  Unlike most trees, black gum branches set out from the trunk at 90 degree angles (for the most part), so those tiny stars are perfectly placed to look like celestial bodies held out over the earth.  This week, the black gum leaves have grown a bit more and little flowers are being set.

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And, the children are growing.  Anne is determined to ride horses as often as possible, loves playing soccer, and her excitable spirit is sometimes challenging.  Like the other Anne (of Green Gables) she has high highs and low lows, but she recovers quickly.  Her joys and sorrows and angers run hot and fast.  Evva, due to a small scare last week, seems a little more precious right now.  She is reveling in the spring flowers and growth, and is outside as much as she can be – making fairy houses, decorations, and soil/flower mandalas.  Hythe, like a stereotypical boy, wants to go fishing, dig for worms in the compost, and sled down piles of manure at the farm (he and his cousin call it “poop sledding”).  In other words, he likes getting as dirty and smelly as possible.  Steven wants to do anything his brother is doing, but also wants to go anywhere anyone else is going; “I go too” he is always saying as he runs for the door.  He is talking so much now and says cute things like “Sit a me, mom” (sit with me, mom) or “I go fishing now”.  He also says, “go way, mom, go way!” when he is thinking of doing something that might get him in trouble.  Spying a bag of chocolate chips on the counter, he glances at me, back at the chips, then looks at me and says “go way, mom!”  He is still making big messes in and out of the house while becoming more capable!  Yesterday he dumped William’s tackle box upside down and took all the tube worms out of their bags.  I came home last night to find he had dumped three entire jars of spices into a pan on the stove (garlic powder, dill weed, and cream of tarter – yuck!).  That meant he opened the spice drawer, picked out the jars, took them over to the stove, climbed on the stool, unscrewed the caps, and dumped them out.  Quite capable.  He got so tired the other day, that he fell asleep sitting up while we were watching  a video of Dado talking about WWII.  It was pretty funny and cute.  While they all have their challenging moments, they are fun, loving children, and it is a joy to see them grow.
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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?

 

in the garden, 3.26.15

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Spring days are here!  I can see a faint blush of color on the lower slopes of the mountains where red maples are blooming and setting seed, spice bushes are starting to flower, and a general awakening seems to be taking place.  The grass in the lawn grew a few inches this week, but the garden is a bit slower.  Lettuce seedlings are still quite small, but the peas have come up strong.  Hythe was in the garden with me looking at everything that was coming up and I noticed a short row of strange looking peas.  He, of course, told me that they were not peas but funny beans that he planted – and I remembered that we planted a few fava beans there.  Well, those are up too.  The garlic has grown a little, the onions a lot.

In one of my other garden places, I am enjoying some wonderful daffodils that I planted (with Hythe’s help) in the fall.  I took recommendations from an article in Taproot Magazine by Erin Benzakein (you should check out her site – it is beautiful) this past fall.  She suggested a few specific varieties of spring flowering bulbs for cut flowers, which I ordered from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  The double flowered is called Bridal Crown.  It is beautiful with small flowers and the fragrance is amazing.  I cut a few and put them on the table and every now and then catch a whiff . . . heavenly.   The other blooming now is called Pink Charm (I think).  My goal has been to plant enough bulbs that I can have cut flowers inside as early as possible.  I want to enjoy flowers outside, but want to have enough that they can also be enjoyed inside.

Not garden related, but Hythe has been a little daredevil on a bike lately.  He rode down our dirt road on a kick bike the other evening and William nor I could keep up with him (and he couldn’t stop).  It was a bit scary because he was going so fast that if he wrecked he would have been hurt (not to mention if a car had been coming up the road!).  We had no idea what he could and would do.  So, he has a ban on riding on the dirt road again until he has proper padding and has one of us at the end of the road to stop vehicles coming up when he is riding!  I took him, Steven, and a cousin to a pump track in South Asheville instead – so he could be a daredevil a little more safely.  Also, I love how he rides his pink, flowered, hand-me-down bike with pride!

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in the garden, 3.19.15

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glory of the snow

 

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peach tree

 

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red maple

I got out in the garden last week with Hythe to plant some spring vegetables.  I started raining the next day and kept up for  four days.  Then, we have 3 days of pleasant, warm, sunny weather.  And, it started raining again today (and got a bit cooler!).   But, that weather combination was perfect for the garden.  I checked on it yesterday and all the lettuces, kale, and radishes were up!  The peas were just poking a few of their little leaves out of the ground (I had to look very carefully for them – too small even for pictures).

Flowers are blooming – the first daffodils, the glory-of-the-snow (from William’s mother’s garden), the last of the crocuses. Isaiah is plowing the bottom land, getting it ready for spring plantings at Flying Cloud Farm.  Our peach tree is budding up and tiny green leaves are poking out.  The grass is growing, weeds are growing – our world is getting a bit greener.  Steven came out with me to see what was blooming outside and really liked the henbit.  He smelled the flowers, saying “smell good” (though they have no smell), but when I crushed up the stems (they are members of the mint family), he wrinkled up his nose, “yuck”.

All the maple trees are in full bloom.  I used to not consider maples a flowering tree, but they do put on a beautiful show here (and one of the first), with colors from reddish brown to scarlet.  The color last quite a while too and can be stunning on some trees.  Being on the brownish-red spectrum, our tree does not have very pretty blooms (though I do not say that very loud as I would not want to hurt feelings – it has so many other wonderful qualities).  But, it is nice to see it bloom.

I mulched and fertilized most of the blueberries, but I still need to prune them.

Speaking of pruning, my favorite pruning book is The American Horticulture Society book Pruning and Training.  There are also some great resources on-line from NC State University.  William is much better pruner than i am.  He’s had a bit more practice since he worked on the apple farm one winter and has pruned hundreds of apple trees in his life.  I tend to stand, studying a tree or bush for far too long, then make small, tentative clips around the plant, so by the end of 30 minutes the tree looks about the same as before.  Maybe I am too nervous about ruining the tree to make bold cuts.  Blueberries are perfect for me because (at least at this point) my bushes are small and easy understand.  The pruning seems much more strait forward than tree fruits.

What’s going on in your garden?  Anything yet?  I know many people still have snow on the ground (and still coming down).

in the garden

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I can hardly believe that it is time for gardening (and by gardening, I mean vegetable gardening, because of course you can do chores in the garden nearly all year).  Two weeks ago, we had snow on the ground.  But, this week has been the perfect spring weather that gets you out in the garden to put those first seeds in.  We planted peas, radishes, lettuce, kale, mizuna, and spinach.  And, by we, I mean Hythe and I.  No one else wanted to get into the garden yet, and Hythe loved it.

Not many pictures so show yet as there is not much to see.  One quarter of the garden is soil with a little garlic growing, but seeded with the above veggies.  Three quarters needs to be tilled before I can plant anything else.  Potatoes will go in in April.  Beans, corn, squash, etc. wlll go in around the end of April or early May.

I am getting excited about the coming vegetable garden and “fruits of the labor”.

Other chores to get to this month:  pruning blueberries, planting raspberries, planting asparagus (and getting the bed ready for them first).

Are you in the garden yet?  What’s on your list of garden chores?

 

the weekend

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Lots going on this weekend!  We have had, what I consider, perfect winter weather – cold nights, warm-ish days.  I love 50-60 degree sunny winter days.  We can all be outside, working and playing, for so much of the day.  I love it.

I got to go to a “Designer Diva” meeting on Saturday morning, meeting with about 20 other women sewers to talk about sewing.  I love this once-a-month meeting of some amazing  area sewers.  I am definitely the youngest (maybe by 20 years), but I learn so much from them and get inspired by them and their artistic sensibilities.  About 4 months ago, at my first meeting, one of the women had a silk sari that she cut into 10 half yard pieces.  Each of us attending the meeting got a section and were given the challenge to make something from this small piece of fabric.  I put my little silk aside when I got home and watched it float around my fabric stash for the last 4 months, thinking that I probably missed the meeting were the projects were presented and maybe they would forget that I had of the piece of silk.   When I got the email a week ago that we were supposed to present what we had made with the silk this week, I decided to get busy and do something with it.  I had thought about making a bag from it, but what I really wanted to make was a sleeveless shirt for one of my girls.  The edges of the sari were woven so they would not fray, so I just cut of a simple tank pattern, wide so Anne could get it over her head.  I put in a little box pleat in the front and back and let the gold pattern speak for itself on the bottom front.  I made a very thin bias tape with the scraps of the silk and finished it with gold thread.  Loading that bobbin made me think of spinning gold like Rumpelstiltskin.  While it was not perfect (mainly the thin bias tape binding), it did look good and made a good impression on those Divas on Saturday!

In the afternoon, we picked up apple prunings from the orchard.  A fairly easy task and half of the children helped (though Hythe mainly played with the sticks).  It was a fun bit of work.  And, we are trying to instill in our children that work can be fun and that work must be done.

William also hung up the really cool swing that the children got from Santa for Christmas.  It does take us parents a long time to get around to some things, but luckily our children are usually very understanding.  They were happy to have it up, and even William and I got a few swings on it.  Fun!

I harvested the last carrots from the garden – a full half bushel!  I was waiting for a few warmer days with no rain to get them all out. I am not sure why I let them stay in the ground so long, but I think because I was tired of gardening, or got too busy, or just forgot about them.  But, they are beautiful and taste good.  Some tops had a bit of freeze damage, but I think they will store for a while.

And, grandpa brought over a typewriter that he found in his attic.  Anne and Evva were very excited about it and wrote a few letters before the spacebar stopped working.  I know these machines are simple and we should be able to get it working again, but see two paragraphs above about how quickly William and I get around to getting things done sometimes.

Final news is that I got a new camera – a DSLR.  I am very excited about it and having lots of fun.  All these pictures are with the new camera as I get used to it and learn how to use it.

Hope your weekend was great!

 

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.