Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter isn't so bad

Well, here in coastal North Carolina winter isn't so bad! Harvesting carrots, broccoli, and tangerines today, on the solstice. Days now will start getting longer again, although the wintery cold, for us, is still to come. Have a wonderful holiday season that hopefully includes something nice from your garden.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going underground

Carrots always surprise me. I see their feathery tops every day, but unlike other root vegetables, I tend to just forget something is underneath. I guess it pays to be a bit dim about some things, because the beauty and crunch and sweetness of fresh carrots all are even more pronounced when you suddenly remember and pull up a handful of these.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seed purge

It was tough, but I emptied my basket of saved seeds and threw away all that were packed for use before 2012. Whew, that was difficult! I even found myself pulling the trash can back out to "save" some, but saw how absurd this was and let them go. What an odd hoarding disorder!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Garlic day

A little late, but I selected the best looking outer cloves from a few of my garlic bulbs (harvested this summer) and got them planted today. The smaller inner cloves are simmering with tomatoes and anchovy filets on the stove! We will have garden lettuce and carrots in a lunch salad today as well. Such a warm and sunny day calling me outside, it was impossible to resist.

Even when a garden season, like this fall for me, is a bit of a bust, there are still wonderful things to harvest here and there and excitement about NEXT season!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Look in a different direction

It has been a pitiful fall garden year, and my lack of blogging reflects that. So this morning I looked to the front yard for a new take on things. For the first time since it was damaged by extreme cold a few years back, there are a number of tangerines on the tree. Looks like we will get close to 3 dozen, and they are just turning color. Also turning color is the maple tree. Isn't it spectacular? I planted it for the bees, but it apparently wants to make its own mark.

So, the garden. I left the broccoli plants that had been topped by little dog, hoping they would send out side shoots. Well, they did. She surgically removes each tiny head when it reaches about the size if a golf ball. Sigh. So much for that bed. Carrots do look nice, and broccoli in another bed have gone unnoticed so far. I am late on garlic, but may plant some today. It is beautiful out, and who can be unhappy about a less than perfect garden when the tangerines are ripening and the maple is putting in a show?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Still in season

My butter is ready and the water is on to boil. At least two farms here on the coast are picking new fields of beautiful sweet corn, and I just shucked 16 ears of three different varieties. I like to think of these farms as my extended garden. This certainly will fill the gap as my fall vegetables grow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Before leaving for an amazing two week trip, I carefully planted fall vegetables. When I arrived home, they looked like this: very nice considering they weren't watered for two weeks. With watering, they doubled in size in a week. Broccoli, cabbages, kale, all those amazing healthy greens of the new season.

So, why am I distraught? Jo, the smaller of my two dogs: you know, the one who loves vegetables? She ate the top out of every plant. Every. Single. One.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Timing is everything

Switching out the summer garden for a fall garden is tricky. I am trying to fully mature at least one of the edible gourds so I have the seeds for next year, but mildew is killing the plant faster than the huge fruit is ripening. I also am getting antsy to clean out that bed for fall plants. I will try to leave it alone for a bit longer!

My best timing in a good while: I saw a forecast of possible rain last night, and got some broccoli, cabbage, collard, and spinach plants in the ground. Overnight it poured, and they are very happy new transplants this morning. I am really pushing the date with the spinach, it is too early and too hot, but I have high hopes for the others. Today I will plant some carrot seeds; they should already be in the ground and popping up.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Small batches

This time of year I tend to find myself with batches of vegetables, too small to make the effort for serious canning but too many to eat fresh. I handle those with small batch processes.

Last year at this time I told you about hot pepper fig jam, made one jar at a time in my bread machine. This year I seem to be working with tomatoes, always just a few from 4 or 5 different plants. Luckily they are easy to save.

I bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop the tomatoes in a few at a time, leave them for only a minute, then scoop them out into a bowl. When they have cooled a bit the skins slip right off. I then cut out the core and slice them in half lengthwise, squeeze the seeds into the scrap bowl with the skins and cores, and drop the halves into a jar.

In about 10 minutes I go from a cutting board covered in mixed tomatoes to a jar filled with jewel toned tomato flesh. I will keep this in the fridge now for up to a week, and pull it out when I want salsa, or pasta sauce, or soup. I have saved many a tomato from compost this way, and love having small batches of good, fresh food ready in the fridge.

You know what? I think I will add a big pile of fresh chopped garlic and minced fresh parsley to this jar. Whenever I am ready it will be perfect cold or warm on pasta.

The scrap bowl went to the chickens. They almost hurt themselves scrambling to get to those tomato skins.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Finally figs!

The early crop of figs was lost to the cool spring, so I am especially happy to taste the first fig of the main crop for this year. There won't be many, but oh so yummy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Saving flavor

The herbs have done so well in the garden this summer. An 8 inch deep pile of thyme twigs in a very low oven yielded this half sheet pan of dried thyme leaves, almost a full pint! The basil, well lets just say this photo is the 4th harvest with no sign of things slowing down. I am giving bouquets away.

Otherwise things are slowing down. The early warm nights means few tomato blossoms setting fruit, and the beans never recovered from the virus that hit them early on. I have an Italian edible gourd plant going wild though.
You eat the buds and young leaves!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Foraging and harvesting

Here at the coast in July I am lucky enough to be able both to harvest from my gardens and to forage from local waters. Right now that means steamed blue crabs and seemingly unlimited cucumbers and tomatoes. Especially cucumbers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


As many of you know, it has taken awhile for tomatoes to ripen this year. They are ripening now, and I have cherry and grape tiny ones, plus orange, striped, and chocolate full sized ones maturing. They will make a daily dinner standby when mixed with the overly abundant basil and daily cucumber harvest.

I welcome them, as it has not been a very good garden for me this spring. The littler dog ate the tops off the pea plants daily, so I didn't bother to react to an aphid infestation that led to their final demise. Despite a strong start, my beans puckered and yellowed, it looks like a virus, and stopped producing after the first few tasty harvests. They have new flowers now, so we will see.

Some seasons are just better than others. I have high hopes for the remaining items I will tend this summer, and for the bounty I will buy at county farms.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Aromatic and tasty pantry door decorations! The stalks were so thick I can't seem to get them to dry. Hopefully they will continue to cure here.

I lost a small part of 3 different garlic heads to a soft rot. When peeling the remainder of the cloves in each (to keep in the fridge till used) it seemed those heads, though huge, may not have been quite mature. Two other heads have tiny insect holes; I placed them outside and plan to explore that later.

I need to remember to save the heads with the nicest big cloves to plant this fall for next years crop.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Garlic harvest

The tops of the garlic had yellowed, and when pushed over, stayed that way. Time to harvest garlic! I filled a large basket, I think somewhere between 35 and 40 heads; I did not count. You can see the size by looking at the quarter I placed on one head. Getting them properly cured (dried) will be the trick! For tonight, in an airy basket on the porch.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Under attack

My sugar snap peas are under attack from thousands of aphids. The aphids are under attack from lady beetles. I should move the good beetles aside and try some insecticidal soap on the aphids, but it is so much fun watching the drama work itself out that I have not been able to do so. Plus, the aphids are the only thing that finally stopped the little dog from chewing off the tops of the pea vines every day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Struck gold

The potato plants were showing signs of disease. Since they are in the same plant family and share diseases with tomatoes, I decided to take them out now. So, with a late planting due to weather and an early harvest due to an abundance of caution, I have a small, but beautiful harvest of golden potatoes with pink eyes. 16 pounds, and now an open spot in the garden for more planting!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Grab hold

Pole beans find the old fish trap pole that washed up in our marsh and that has been put to work in the garden. It is a spectacular day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making way

I had planted my tomato plants in among the lettuces and the spinach. I knew that the weather would warm and the greens would bolt to seed, just as the tomatoes started to put on some size. That all happened this weekend, so I pulled out the last of the greens.

The good leaves made a trip to the kitchen. The stems, flower buds and any damaged leaves made it into the coop. All were delicious and enjoyed!

Now the bed has 6 tomato plants and one mega chard. The chard is 4 feet tall and wild looking, and I have not yet been able to let it go. Soon though, so the tomato roots are not damaged by it's removal.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Something to hang on to

So, it has been a frustrating spring. It has either rained or blown full gale force winds practically every day. My peas have been blown down, then pummeled by rain into the muddy bed. The potato leaves are brown and battered on the edges. The birds even plucked half the blueberries, even though they are still tiny and hard and green. But am I whining? Well, yes, apparently I am.

But, these flowers are in bloom in my front yard, and I ate strawberry shortcake for dinner. I'll hang on to these bits of spring and hope that soon we will see sunshine and will even be able to push open the north east facing back door!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Delayed summer

Well, the weather has stayed cool, delaying the summer seed germination. My beans have not peeked out, and may have rotted in the cold soil. I will check soon and replant if needed. Transplanted seedlings of tomato and hot peppers are fine, just sitting still instead of growing!

In the meantime, the potatoes and garlic look amazing! The garlic is huge. I hope the bulbs below ground look as good as the greens above.

Finally, tiny blueberries forming, and farm stand purchased spring onions, steamed in the microwave for 3 minutes and then grilled. Oh my.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Today I ate a delicious, fresh greenhouse tomato and a fresh crispy greenhouse cucumber from Simpsons farm, and grilled the fattest, most tender, sweetest wonderful asparagus spears from Garner Farm's field. Spring crops are in and it is time to celebrate with amazing food!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring salad

Finally! I have been watching and waiting for a mixed greens salad from the garden, but our late, cold, gray spring was holding everything back. Now, after a two inch rain and a few slightly warmer days, the spinach, arugula, chard, and four kinds of lettuce have jumped up, and I finally could make and eat this beauty.

It has been almost painful waiting for spring to get here. I don't want to be cold any longer. Now I know those of you further north may have no patience with my complaints about weather in the 50s, but I am weak, and I want to go out in the boat.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Making room

The ladies enjoying a lactino kale plant pulled from the garden to make room for more spring planting. We have had just about all the kale we can take, at least until next fall, so don't mind sacrificing still healthy plants.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Colored eggs and tulips. Yep, it must be Easter. Now if only I had croquet wickets and my extended family from past generations here.

My potatoes and peas are peeking out as well, so that confirms it: chilly or not, spring is well underway. I truly hope for rain today so I don't have to water the vegetable beds, but not until after I have cleaned the chicken coop. I sound a bit demanding weather wise, don't I?

Hope you all have a lovely spring day too!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Got to use those eggs...

Sticky buns made with challah dough full of the ladies eggs and yolks. Goo made with our honey (I still have some even though the hives are gone). A trick i learned at ICE baking class: a toping of half honey and half brown sugar tastes amazing and stays somewhat soft. Oh, and the pecans are from only one state away! These were a three full inches high this morning, and so very very good.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shady blooms

Spring comes to the heavily shaded garden bed under my house. That is the worm bin beside the holly fern.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Best dinner ever

Lactino kale and eggs, straight from the backyard to the pans. Amazing, fresh, homemade sausage, a gift from a friend. Yum, yum, yummm.

I was able to get lettuces, arugula, and peas planted just before dark this evening. I hope it rains tomorrow, as forecast! If it does, these new plantings will be jump started, and those potatoes from last week may pop through the soil even sooner.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring planting begins

I'm a little late for planting potatoes here, but still within the planting window. I tend to be a bit flexible, within reason, and not too hard on myself on planting dates, as the garden is not the only thing going on in my world. The important thing is that spring potatoes and spinach and lettuce are now out in the garden beds!

I cut the potatoes into chunks two days ago, making sure each piece had at least one eye, where new plant growth will begin. The cut piece in this photo has two visible eyes: one is the huge, obvious one where growth has started in ernest, the other is tiny, just beside the cut edge down near the bottom of the photo. Seethe little bumps, just lightly green, just above the tear in the skin? It would have been fine even if only the tiny eye had been present, it just would have taken a bit longer before the new plant emerged.

Here you see the three slightly trenched rows I dug in the bed for the potatoes. The rows are about two feet apart, and the seed potatoes were placed about 10 inches apart within each row. In the photo they were placed just for spacing, when I went back and buried each (about 3 inches deep at the bottom of the trench; I will then cover them with more soil as they grow), I made sure that the cut side was down and the skin side, and eyes, were facing up.

I also planted two types of lettuce, buttercrunch and a nice red leaf lettuce, plus spinach transplants. They are in the bed with one of the remaining lactino kale plants and one chard plant. It wasn't until I looked at this photo that I realized the kale is preparing to bolt ( go to seed). See the tiny flower head forming in the very center at the top? It will have to come out soon, leaving room for a second planting of lettuces.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Is parsley a vegetable?

My volunteer parsley, seeded naturally by plants of prior years, has gone wild. I have a full bed, 4x8, full of parsley. It is two feet deep! That's a lot of garnish, so I have to think of some better uses. Now parsley is by far the freshest tasting of any leafy green I grow, and with spring in the air I want that clean, new taste. My first effort: tabbouleh! I jazzed it up with raw garlic and red pepper flakes, and used my own orangequat juice in place of lemon. It was great!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter spring

We are in that in-between time. I know that weeks of cold weather remain, but the longer hours of daylight and stronger sun have me thinking "spring." Apparently the garden feels the same. Here is a quick shot of lactino kale, a winter crop growing well right now, sautéed for dinner, and one of a rosemary bush in full, purple bloom. Both are from this week here on the coast.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blue, baby blue

Diana is laying again, adding a pale bluish greenish egg to the mix. With the longer days of sunlight we are back to three or four eggs a day. I need to share.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Creepy Yummy

Today, against all odds, we had yet another warm, sunny day. Not even a breeze, so every speck of sunshine warmed the garden. I used the day to pull out all the winter annual weeds that had filled parts of the beds, and to loosen the soil beneath.

As I worked the soil with my fingers I began to notice white grubs. Every handful of soil held at least one. These larvae of beetles eat plant roots, and a large infestation can weaken plants. So, I fished them out and found the perfect use for them: the ladies were happy to turn the pile grubs into eggs.