(Moore, South Carolina)
Growing gardens. Growing green. Growing locavores. Growing kids. Growing one day at a time.
[ Member listing ]
Spring is here!
Although, I’m afraid upstate South Carolina skipped spring and rushed straight into summer.
Honestly, 86 degrees?
Battling raspberry canes is painful enough without fear of sunburn.
Fortunately, I’m keeping my eye on the prize: heirloom tomatoes.
Pesticide-free strawberries. Peas. Lettuce in more colors, textures, and
adornments than a Whole Foods display.
Tags: american native corn garden companion beans squash three sisters planting
Posted by Julie
@ 03:03 PM EDT
Finally, my friends—it's here.
SPRING! Tra la!
To celebrate my favorite season...
giving away a “Spring into Spring” gift to one lucky, randomly
Look! Books! Plants! Seeds! And a tub!
The lucky winner will receive:
The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to
Table by Amy Goldman. This is a seriously gorgeous book, filled
with stunning photography, amazing history, and recipes, too! It was
the first book I bought when I began my heirloom adventure. (You'll
get a new copy—not mine!)
Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from
Small Spaces by Gayla Trail. This is a great how-to book. It's
the perfect book for those who are land-challenged. Don't have a big
backyard? No worries, you can grow a great harvest in containers! I
like it, because even though we do have a yard, I still enjoy growing
in containers on the balcony.
OK, maybe I'm lazy, but it's so nice to
open a door, pick some herbs, and keep cooking dinner.
Plus—you get recipes! And
instructions to preserve your harvest! You'll really like this book.
I'm also sending the winner some seeds
from my favorite sources: Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds
and Seed Savers Exchange
. Honestly, if you haven't visited these sites
yet—please do. You will be amazed at the wonderful selections
you'll find. (Plus, they're just really good people.)
Plus—who doesn't need a garden tub? I
love these little tubs—they're great for collecting weeds,
mixing soil with amendments, and carrying compostables to the bin.
And finally—the winner will receive
six, organic heirloom tomatoes from Garden Delights! (Yes, that's
me!) The plants still need some more greenhouse time, but look at
these roots, my friends! This is why I use organic, OMRI certified
Dot Pots. When you plant these babies, you plant the entire pot—and
the roots aren't disturbed.
What is your favorite garden treat?
Are you a tomato girl? Love flowers?
Can't wait for the first spring peas?
The giveaway begins NOW and will
continue until April 1 at midnight EST. (And if you'd like to follow
this blog or “Like” Garden Delights on Facebook
, I'd be most
grateful—but it won't affect your chance to win!)
UPDATE: Because I'm new to this giveaway thing, I completely
forgot an important note: the winner must reside in the contiguous
United States. I can't ship plants to Alaska, Hawaii, or abroad (and
honestly, you wouldn't want me to...those would be some very sad plants
by the time they arrived! Sorry for any inconvenience...)
Happy spring to you!!!
Posted by Julie
@ 02:00 PM EDT
We lost Salt this weekend.
When we decided to add chickens to our
menagerie, I knew the risks. We live in a subdivision, but we also
live in a forest. A river borders our property. And we've always
loved spying wildlife in our backyard. Deer. Possums. Squirrels.
Although the girls free-range in a
protected area in our backyard, we lock them away in the coop at
night to keep them safe.
After all, these are Kiki's babies.
Who knew how sly a raccoon could be—or
how vicious. Not only did it open two latches, causing the girls to
scatter into the dark at 3 a.m.--it refused to give up Salt, hissing
at me and standing its ground while I yelled at it and tried to make
it run. It finally, finally left the area when I shook a tarp at
it—but it didn't go far. I stood watch while Peter searched for the
Thankfully, they hadn't flown to the
forest, and within an hour—we had them all safely tucked away. They
were nervous but unharmed.
Except poor Salt.
We were hopeful, though.
At 5:30 a.m., our wonderful vet met my
girlie and me at the clinic while Peter stood guard in case the
Dr. Hurlbert examined Salt, explained
the extent of her injuries, and discussed what she might do, all
while being as gentle as possible to my devastated girl. She
explained that the damage to Salt's beak and her back wounds would
require surgery, and even then—there was no guarantee. Best case
scenario—we would need to tube feed her until her beak healed. She
also worried that the bacteria from the raccoon could make Salt
We asked her to try her best, and left
Salt in her care.
I know what you're thinking.
It's a chicken, for goodness sake! Who
spends $400 on surgery for a chicken?
Sadly, Salt couldn't be saved. Her
injuries were too extensive, and even if she survived, Dr. Hurlbert
told me that she would be in constant pain.
I had to tell Kiki.
My poor, sweet chicken mama.
When I picked up Salt from Dr.
Hurlbert's office, they had this for Kiki:
I am so thankful for our wonderful vet
(who, by the way, did not charge us $400.)
Peter is frantically trying to finish
the already-in-progress chicken palace—a fortress-like building
that no raccoon can infiltrate.
Until then, guess who is living in our
basement after dark, under house arrest?
Yes. I know. It's not a pretty sight.
Our weekend tragedy makes me question
what I'm teaching our children.
Yes, Kristen loves animals, and that's
one reason we have so many—but the chickens, while pets, are also
supposed to teach a lesson about food sources and eating locally.
Obviously, we never intended to eat her chickens—but what values am
I instilling in her about local food? She eats her girls' eggs. But
now, after I held poor, injured Salt and tried to comfort her, I have
to admit...I'm meat-adverse. Logically, I know that's crazy—locally
raised, humanely treated animals live good lives until the end.
But emotionally, I'm wrecked.
We've been eating a lot of veggies over
the past few days.
More than anything, the raccoon taught
me a very valuable lesson:
I could never be a farmer of anything
My heart isn't tough enough.
R.I.P. Salt. You were a well-loved
chicken. Thank you for your eggs.
Julie, who needs grief counseling over
Posted by Julie
@ 10:47 AM EST
For most people, December is a time to dress up, visit Santa, and take the kids to The Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker is always on our holiday agenda.
But this year, instead of dressing up to watch Sugar Plum Fairies, we decked out some chickens.
Which is not as easy as you might think.
Who knew that this cute little wine accessory is exactly chicken-sized?
And who knew how much fun we'd have, dressing up chickens on a Sunday afternoon?
you dress your pets for the holidays? Kiki is lobbying for attire for
the entire menagerie, but Peter is protecting the pups from her stylist
We'll see who prevails...
Ho Ho Ho!
Posted by Julie
@ 07:22 AM EST
know how it is. It's December. Gifts to buy, last minute sparkly white
shirts to locate for fifth grade orchestra concerts. Add in the merry
making, enforced holiday cheer, Martha Stewart wannabe crafts (which
always are a fail in our house), then sprinkle in a few birthdays,
chicken coop projects, greenhouse growing...and December is madness.
I'm already a day late. BUT—maybe I was actually a day early, since I took this shot on 11/30, during our outing to the National Gingerbread Competition
display in Asheville at the Grove Park Inn. It was Peter's birthday, and he took the afternoon off. (Shocking, I know!)
What can I say? I am amazed at the talent.
I want to be a little fondant woman, claiming this beautiful building as my own.
It's my dream business—a flower shop.
With fresh baguettes next door.
And, when the mid-morning sugar craving hit—I could just lick the walls.
Who knew I would find my perfect world in gingerbread?
Posted by Julie
@ 07:34 AM EST
Last week, I picked up a novel called The Magicians
by Lev Grossman, thinking that this might be a fun read for our girlie.
As I found it in the teen section, however, I decided to read it first.
(Confession: I love kids books, teen books, ANY books.)
Thank goodness I checked it out! Within the first two pages, the author
introduced topics including virginity (or lack thereof), masturbation,
as well as some... flavorful... language.
I'm not a book burner. In fact, nothing incites me more than extremist
groups who try to ban Harry Potter from school libraries. But, I do
worry about age appropriateness, particularly when a 10-year-old reads
books with teen protagonists.
Yep. Not passing along this book to my daughter just yet.
get me wrong—it's a good read so far. It's just too mature for my Kiki.
Although she loves books with magic and fantasy, this one has a bit too
much harsh reality that I don't want her to experience
ever too soon.
there is something magical about pushing the limits. As a child, I
definitely read books that were too advanced for my age. And boy, do I
remember the trouble we got in for passing around my friend Diane's
dog-eared copy of Forever. I wasn't typically a rule breaker, but on the few occasions that I did—it was, well, thrilling.
Maybe even a little magical.
Breaking the rules and pushing limits is still a bit of a rush—but now, my rebelliousness lives in the garden.
(Wow, writing that aged me about 20 years, didn't it?)
admit—I am very behind on my gardening chores this fall. In fact, I
just planted our fall vegetable garden—two weeks ago. Even by South
Carolina, zone 7b standards...that's late. It's almost futile.
Unless you push the limits and disobey certain rules.
I've become enamored with the concept of season extension. What can I
do, with our little piece of earth, to feed my family throughout the
winter? How can I keep my fall garden producing? Can I fight the
elements and extend the harvest, even if the “experts” disagree? Will my
garlic crop fail if I don't get it planted by Halloween? Will my
lettuce wither and melt if I plant it in late October instead of
mid-September? Or can I thumb my nose at conventional gardening wisdom
and produce a bumper crop of brassicas to harvest in January?
The key, I think, is to break some of the rules...but still adhere to some of the tried and true methods for season extension.
There's a really terrific program with which I'm lucky enough to be associated: Greenville Organic FoodsOrganization
(GOFO) Grow Healthy Kids. Through GOFO, schools in a local district can
participate in growing an edible garden, complete with lessons that
match the ever important state curriculum standards. The students
receive transplants and seeds, as well as organic fertilizer and
supplies, from GOFO. However, the key to the success of the gardens is
the highly technical row covers GOFO provides, which allows the schools
to protect their crops during cold periods, so that the kids can
continue to harvest crops throughout the semester.
Plastic covering + bent metal masonry ladders = mini greenhouses.
schools can participate in both the spring and fall, with the focus on
cool weather crops, since those are the veggies most easily grown during
the school year in Upstate South Carolina. The low tunnels are easy to
install, and the supports can remain in place throughout the growing
season. When a freeze watch is issued, the teacher or students can
simply place the plastic over the supports, securing the covering to the
ground with rocks or bricks to keep it in place. The plastic protects
the plants from damaging frost and insulates the plants from severe
temperatures. On average, the temperature in the low tunnel is
approximately 10 degrees warmer than the outside air. In our zone, those
10 degrees can mean the difference between an ongoing harvest—and
complete crop loss.
Because I'm the Master Gardener liaison for the Grow Healthy Kids program, I decided it's time to practice what I preach.
I plant our fall garden in the potager—my experiment in an attempt to
design a formal, attractive kitchen garden. Honestly, our other gardens
are—to put it nicely—wild. Unkempt. In serious need of hours of weeding
and prettifying. The potager is my one place that I try to keep balanced
It's also the perfect experiment for bending the rules with season extension.
the potager resides in the midst of our backyard, and because our two
sweet pups are fabulous destroyers of all things green, my darling
husband installed a fence around the potager when we designed it.
My supports are already in place!
no need to buy additional hardware to make low tunnel supports, I
headed to the big orange box store to purchase the plastic cover. I
spent a little bit more for a thicker covering. Wow--who knew how many
assorted plastic drop cloths are available? For $25, I found a 4 mm, 20'
x 50' plastic sheet to serve as the insulation of the low tunnel.
the trickiest part of installing my winter covering was unrolling the
plastic—if you have a friend handy, recruit the extra pair of hands.
Still, in less than 15 minutes, the potager was covered, the plastic was
secured to the ground on each side of the fence with several rocks, and
the cool weather crops were insulated against the nighttime low of 30
Now, that's cold for South Carolina!
the plastic protects against the freezing temperatures, it can also
damage the garden if the temperature spikes. Immediately following our
few days of freezing nights, we're back in the 70s this week.
beauty of the low tunnel system is its simplicity—when it's warm, roll
the cover off the frame and leave it on the ground (or, in my case, on
one side of the fence...)
and when the temperature drops—pull the cover back over the frame.
Presto! Fresh veggies into the winter!
It's like magic! (I hope.)
because I planted the fall garden so recently, I haven't harvested
anything from it yet. Soon, I hope we'll have lettuce (eight heirloom
varieties), spinach, chard, broccoli, pac choi, red cabbage, and
But, because of the “Produce Post” hosted by smallkitchengarden.net
, I thought I'd share a few things we're enjoying this week from the garden:
fraise des bois keep surprising me. Even after several frosts, they are
still producing fruit—and more flowers! Love, love these tiny delicious
night, along with the quiche made from the eggs provided by our
backyard chickens and enhanced with chives from the garden...
ate one of the last tomatoes of the season...picked green and ripened
in a paper bag with a banana. Ripening green tomatoes was a huge
success—our freezer is now filled with bags of tomatoes to use this
winter, all picked while still green.
nine varieties of garlic harvested this summer continue to be a staple
ingredient in almost every dish we cook. How can anyone not like
garlic—especially homegrown garlic?
the single most prevalent item I'll be using from the garden this week
will be herbs...lots and lots of sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme for
Thanksgiving dinner. Our local, organic turkey will be dressed with many
herbs. I'm still harvesting:
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Rosemary, possibly my favorite of all herbs.
So, while we won't be eating from the potager just yet, we might be harvesting heirloom lettuce to serve at Christmas dinner.
Homegrown lettuce in December? It's kind of...magical, don't you think?
Posted by Julie
@ 10:34 AM EST
Next year, during the oppressive heat and humidity that epitomizes South Carolina's summer, I need to remember this week.
This is why I love South Carolina.
...while pots of fraise des bois still bloom and produce fruit—even after a slight frost.
Is there anything better than the ultra-sweet taste of these tiny, unexpected berries?
although I'm late planting our fall crops in the potager, I know that
the lettuce and greens will provide tasty meals throughout the winter
with just a little attention and protection.
And finally, my long neglected roses...
My poor roses that were breathtaking in the spring, succumbed to Japanese beetles, heat, and my apathy during the summer...
producing one last bouquet, their fragrance competing with the autumn
spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and apples baking.
But, I fear, most of the remaining blooms will soon be gone.
Ah, but there are always pansies. And paperwhites! And amaryllis! And spring, in just a few months...sigh.
Posted by Julie
@ 09:44 AM EST
the season to eat. Heartily. Locally. Gluttonously. Thank goodness,
it's finally sweater weather, because the amazing dinners in which we've
been indulging are seriously taking a toll on my waistline—and the
holiday eating is just around the corner. I'm hoping a few layers of
wool might hide the results of my recent and soon-to-be overindulgences.
ever-increasing jean size is for a good cause, though. Really. I'm just
trying to show my support for local farmers--lending some
encouragement, helping ensure the local food scene thrives.
It's a tough job.
most recent outing involved an amazing organization, seven brilliant
chefs, a dozen local food producers, and a stunning farm—all combining
talents to showcase the deliciousness of Upstate South Carolina.
Saturday evening, Peter and I attended the second annual Hub City Farmers' Market Farm Dinner at Live Oak Farms
Live Oak Farms is one of my favorite local farms. Operated by Allison
and Chuck Schaum, 80-acre Live Oak Farms not only epitomizes
sustainability through the Schaum's commitment to raising heritage breed
animals, it also showcases one of South Carolina's most extensive solar
Allison and Chuck are not only farmers--they also work tirelessly to
educate the community about the benefits of organic, local food. The
Schaums provide an outlet for organic farmers to sell their goods to
customers through Live Oak Farms' onsite store. Additionally, they lend
their expertise to various organizations, such as Hub City Farmers'
Market and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, serving on boards,
championing food policies, and aiding local farmers in achieving their
Allison serves on the Board of Hub City Farmers' Market. Hub City Farmers' Market
is a not-for-profit organization that works to increase the demand and
availability of healthy foods in Spartanburg County. All proceeds from
the dinner benefit the markets' numerous programs, such as community
outreach that includes school gardens, a Mobile Market that brings
healthy food into communities, and educational events to inspire healthy
eating throughout Spartanburg County.
disclosure: Hub City Farmers' Market is close to my heart. It's where I
hang out on Saturday mornings and sell my heirloom plants in the
spring. Executive Director Ana Parra is an amazing advocate for farmers
and a dedicated leader who has made local, healthy food a reality for
as is typical for both Ana and Allison—they were in high performance
mode Saturday evening, ensuring every detail was perfect—from the
entertainment to the decorations to the stellar service. Ana, Allison,
and their volunteers and staff not only planned, prepped, and pampered
guests—but they also served meals. Truly, I am in awe of their energy.
(And their ability to avoid spilling food on diners!)
is typical for us, Peter and I were late. Some day, in the far off
future when the kids are on their own, we may actually arrive at events
on time. Maybe.
were greeted at the “barn” with glasses of sparkling wine: Conde de
Caralt Brut Cava. The barn is actually a gorgeous event
facility—somehow, I don't believe that horses get to live in that much
luxury. The chefs were busily preparing the food, talking and joking
while ensuring every plate was perfection.
course, because I was starving—I forgot to photograph the hors
d'oeuvres. C'est horrible! Let me assure you—they were gorgeous. And
Molasses Cured Turkey Tenderloin with a Black Pepper Rub on a Sesame Cracker
Guinea Hen Galantine with a Muscadine Jelly Glaze on a Saltine
Spoon of Savory Gelee with Duck Confit and Smoked Turkey Offal
Spiced Turkey Salad Profiterole
Wooden Shoe Farms, Woodruff
Live Oak Farms, Woodruff
Sweet Potato Bread, Sage Bread
once I assuaged a bit of hunger, I remembered to photograph the rest of
the meal. (Sadly, there is always one course that I inhale before I
remember to shoot it. I have no willpower.)
Chateau de Nages Rosé
Bourbon Glazed Turkey Ballotine, Wild Rice Sausage
Turkey Brawns, Cranberries and Pecans
Patrick Wagner and Tim Page
Bethel Trail Farms, Gray Court
peCAUHNS, PEcans...it was much fun to confuse my Swiss hubby with the
various pronunciations for the nut that garnished the Turkey Brawns. I
choose the second—being a northern girl, but truly—I think it's fair
game. (How do YOU pronounce “pecans”?)
the past year, I've been a snob about rosé wines. But lately, Peter and
I have been drinking a happy little sparkling rosé, which convinced me
that rosés do not just come out of a $7.99 cardboard box at fraternity
parties. And then—Saturday's Chateau de Nages Rosé was a revelation. A
really good, lovely, fruity, not-too-sweet rosé. A grown-up rosé.
I'm completely converted.
Santa, I've been a good girl this year. Please bring me a pretty bottle
of Chateau de Nages Rosé. I'm sure that if the elves can't help you,
Brendan Buttimer, our MC of wines from Total Wine
in Greenville, can sneak one in your sack for me. Thank you.)
Chateau de Nages Nimes Blanc VV
Mulled Cider-Braised Pork Belly with Pumpkin Pecan Couscous,
Roasted Beets and Apple Butter Puree, Micro Greens
Easler Farms, Spartanburg
most of my life, I did not eat pumpkin. In fact, I thought it was on my
most disliked foods list. And then, a miracle—a year ago, at our
monthly book club (which is as much about the delicious food shared with
friends as it is about book discussions), a friend made a scrumptious
pumpkin dip. And I fell in love. How did I live for such a long time
without eating pumpkin?
adorably presented couscous was the quintessential taste of autumn.
Earthy, spiced perfectly to taste of soon-to-come Thanksgiving dishes,
it was one of my favorite treats of the evening. Pair it with pork—how
can you go wrong? Sheer deliciousness. Dear Chef Tornatore, could you
please come to Thanksgiving dinner—oh, and if you'd like to bring the
couscous along, I'm sure we could find a place for it!
Val do Sosego Albarino
Roasted Golden Beet Salad
Baby Rocket and Micro Lettuce, SC Pecan Crisp, Goat Cheese Mousse
Mission Fig and Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil-Balsamic Reduction
Smoked Bacon and Lentil Ragout
Parson Produce, Clinton
Easler Farms, Spartanburg
Mathis' ragout—rich, smoky, earthy—is the ideal chilly weather comfort
food. I truly could eat it as an entire meal. The problem is—Peter and I
should have fasted prior to the dinner. With hors d'oeuvres, five
courses, scrumptious homemade bread, and much, much wine, at some
point—there's just no more room. Honestly, if I could make one
recommendation to improve the event, it would be this: guests must dress
in pajamas. Equipped with stretchy PJ bottoms, I may have been able to
fully indulge in every bit of each course. Instead, by the third course,
I tried to remember the philosophy of French Women Don't Get Fat: savor the flavor, enjoy bites, but don't gorge.
Too late. Sadly, I gorged.
And it was heavenly.
the flavors of the salad, I was amazed at the chef's creation. As
someone who fought domesticity for a very long time, I've finally
learned to enjoy cooking. Sometimes, I even get wild and—gasp!--don't
follow a recipe. Still, how does a chef decide to pair mission fig and
blood orange, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a delicious
reduction? Looking at those ingredients separately would never inspire
me to create the beautiful sauce Chef Mathis served.
Perhaps this is why I am not a chef.
(I am very grateful for chefs.)
also in awe of Chef Mathis and his amazing energy. We were excited when
he opened his Westside restaurant and are frequent visitors to Tee 19.
In fact, we spent many meals there during the summer when our kitchen
was under construction.
Thank goodness for Tee 19!
I can't wait to see what project Chef Mathis will pursue next.
Sonoma Cuvee Pinot Noir
Duet of Pan-Seared Venison and Turkey
Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Swiss Chard, Wild Rice, Pecans, Apples
(And a mystery sausage...)
Chef: James McCallister, Milliken Guest House
Bethel Trail Farms, Gray Court
Easler Farm, Spartanburg
Live Oak Farms, Woodruff
don't like sweet potatoes. I know, I know...how can I possibly call
myself a locavore if I don't eat sweet potatoes? I've tried them every
way imaginable. Baked, roasted, fried.
Obviously, I've never tried sweet potato gnocchi.
I like sweet potatoes! I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!
Really, I could eat sweet potato gnocchi at every meal.
But wait--let's not forget the luscious turkey and (don't think about Bambi, don't think about Bambi...) venison.
I mean, honestly—is it even fair to serve so much delicious food on one plate? As a fourth course?
No, I'm sorry—it's not.
think I should have been fasting for a week, and then perhaps I could
have savored every bite of this beautiful melody of flavors.
Each bite was extraordinary.
I can only wish that our Thanksgiving turkey tastes even a tenth as delicious as what we ate Saturday night.
At this point, the size of my stomach seriously rivaled my dinner companion's, who was seated to my right.
Her baby is due at Christmas.
R.J. Rockers Star Spangled Stout
Spiced Pumpkin Napoleon, Pear Sauce
Hughey Farms, Boiling Springs
Live Oak Farms, Woodruff
I am in love.
Honestly, look at it.
Look at the maple leaf, for crying out loud!
Look at the layers!
Look at the lovely, swirled chocolate and perfectly drizzled sauce!
Chef Kaminski, please come live with us. I can't pay you, but I can
give you fresh eggs from our hens and veggies from our garden. Does it
sound like a good deal? You don't have to cook for the kids, because
they don't eat anything, anyway.
You can just make this beautiful dessert every day. OK?
have to admit—I passed on the stout. One sip was the perfect pairing
with the dessert, but there just wasn't any more room for a big glass of
And we all know I'm not going to sacrifice dessert for stout.
Next year, someone please remind me:
No eating for a week prior to the Hub City Farmers' Market dinner.
Or else, I'm going to embarrass myself and bring doggy bags next year.
to Hub City Farmers' Market, Live Oak Farms, all of the chefs and
producers—thank you for a lovely, delicious evening! Can't wait until
Posted by Julie
@ 08:25 AM EST
images conjure my inner romantic—fields of sunflowers, rows of grapes,
olive trees dripping with fruit. A Tuscan villa, complete with orchards,
where we wander rows filling baskets with deliciousness.
reality is—I'm not going to be a large commercial flower farmer,
vineyard owner, nor olive oil manufacturer. Still, we all know how I
like to push boundaries, and in a fit of romantic longing, I ordered an
There is, of course, a backstory.
Like all of us gardener folks, I can't resist a too-good-to-be-true offer.
For plants, that is.
I'm not a coupon clipper. More power to those people who head out with
their binders organized to find the best deals on twenty toothbrushes,
but it will never be me. In fact, as I watched the woman in front of me
spend $30 for $200 worth of products, I was in awe...until she argued
rudely with the (amazingly sweet and patient) Publix cashier for
twenty-five freaking cents. Apparently, the woman had spent FOUR HOURS
in Publix, took a break for dinner with her husband, and came back to
finish her shopping.
I mention that I stood in line behind her for 25 minutes, until I
finally took everything off the checkout counter and moved to another
line? However, I didn't move quick enough before she thrust her business
card in my hand, along with a photocopied biblical passage, promising
me she could teach me the fine art of saving money.
digress. I may not be good about saving money at the grocery store,
much to Peter's chagrin, but if there's money to be saved on a plant I
covet, I'm all about a deal.
spring, I scoured the web for a reasonably priced, decent size olive
tree and was deciding between a couple sites when fate entered our
“Try us now!” screamed the coupon. “$25 to spend on anything in this catalog. If it's less than $25, it's free!”
Well, now! That's my kind of coupon!
And there, tucked in the back pages, was my olive tree. It was kismet.
never ordered from this company before, so I figured this would be a
good trial. (The company's name begins with a “G” and ends in an
“-urneys.” Please keep that in mind.)
attempted to order the olive tree online, but interestingly—the site
wouldn't accept the coupon code. I called customer service, placed my
order, gave the gentleman the coupon code. The olive tree was $14.99,
plus shipping, and I was still well under my $25 coupon. He was
“I need a credit card,” he said.
“No, you really don't,” I reminded him.
“But you're paying nothing,” he said.
“Yes, that's what your coupon promised. My order, including shipping, is less that $25.” I felt like the Publix coupon goddess.
After several rounds of coupon shenanigans, including his need to talk to a supervisor, my order was confirmed.
Yea! My olive tree was on the way! Maybe it's a direct descendent from Athena's olive tree planted at the site of the Acropolis!
I realize that it was free. But really, if a company wants to attract
new customers by using a promotional offer, wouldn't you think they
might want to send out something that is, oh, bigger than a pruning of
an olive twig?
Here are a few shots, just for perspective:
No, that isn't the actual, full-sized R2D2. It's Mikey's Lego.
first, I must say...I was ready to relegate the twig to the compost
pile. But then, some latent hormonal nurturing urge took over. After
all, it wasn't the twig's fault I was disappointed. Maybe I could give
it the TLC it needed to grow lush and produce olives—well, if not in my
lifetime, then for our grandchildren. I seriously doubt Peter and I will
be feeding each other olives off of this tree.
So, the challenge is set.
And, six months later, my little Charlie Brown olive tree is trying its best to grow into a real tree.
I think it even needs a new pot.
I won't soon be using our own olives to make this recipe, it is pretty
tasty, and with the holidays approaching, we can all use good, tasty,
easy recipes, right? I suppose I'll go stand in line behind the coupon
goddess to buy our olives at Publix.
Olive Tapenade with Feta (adapted from epicurious.com)
- 1 1/4 cups pitted manzanilla olives (or other green Spanish olives)
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- Toasted baguette slices
Combine olives, capers and garlic in food processor until well
chopped. Gradually add lemon juice and oil and process until blended.
Transfer tapenade to bowl. Stir in parsley and feta. Season to taste
Serve tapenade with toasted baguette slices.
Posted by Julie
@ 11:20 AM EST
curious. Why are salad greens and tomatoes irrevocably paired? In most
zones, these garden staples don't grow during the same season—unless
aided by a greenhouse. Who decided that diced tomatoes belonged on
iceberg lettuce? (And does anyone still eat iceberg lettuce, which was
the only green veggie that crossed my childhood lips?)
Obviously, the pairing of tomatoes and lettuce didn't originate with our local, sustainable farmers.
I've always considered it a challenge to see if I could push the limits
and actually prepare a homegrown salad with our own heirloom tomatoes
weekend, with an impending frost, I grabbed a large bowl, headed to the
gardens, and harvested all of the decent looking tomatoes, peppers, and
herbs before they succumbed to the weather. Peppers were sliced and
frozen for winter fajitas, basil turned into pesto for a little taste of
summer mid-winter, and the few ripe tomatoes were either eaten
immediately or popped into freezer bags to use with pasta.
But the pile of unripe, green tomatoes towered on the counter.
not a fan of unripe tomatoes. I know there are many pickling tips and
recipes that employ green tomatoes as the star, but honestly—it's just
not my thing. (Unless, of course, it's supposed to be a green tomato
when it's all grown up, like Aunt Ruby's German Green or Green Apple.
That's a different story.)
So, it was time for a little science experiment.
read various methods for ripening green tomatoes—put them in a box,
hang the whole plant upside down in the garage. Instead, I opted for the
easiest method that seemed most logical. Plus, all that I needed for
said experiment was a paper bag. And a banana.
Now, that's my kind of experiment!
remove any leaves, stems, or dirt from the tomatoes. You don't want
anything that can cause bruising. Only use fruit that is bug-free, at
least three-fourths of its full size, and glossy green (or just
beginning to ripen) for best results.
Place the tomatoes in the paper bag...
...add a ripening banana (please excuse this nasty banana. It's been in the bag and needs a replacement)...
...keep out of direct light, and voila!
two weeks at 65-70 degrees, your fruit should ripen. (This tomato was
completely green when I put it in the bag. The shoulders will remain
green, because of its variety—Ananas Noir. It's an heirloom known for
it's purple coloration with green shoulders.)
banana helps speed the ripening process, as it releases ethylene. All
fruits release ethylene, so you could also add a semi-ripe tomato into
the bag with the green tomatoes, but bananas produce the most ethylene
and quicken the process.
Isn't it amazing when something actually works?
I won't be slicing tomatoes to serve on our homegrown lettuce. Somehow,
I'm way behind schedule planting our fall garden, and our little
lettuce plants are lingering in the driveway, begging to be transplanted
into their home.
first I have to clean up all of the blackish, frost murdered plants
from the potager. And transplant strawberries. And get the beds ready
I'll start a few tomato plants for the greenhouse, and when the lettuce
is ready in the spring, we might have a real, homegrown salad. With
tomatoes off the vine.
A girl can dream...
So, quick! Go rescue your green tomatoes before the frost hits.
And perhaps, if you're better organized than I am, you can have a homegrown salad with Thanksgiving dinner.
Posted by Julie
@ 11:04 AM EDT
Ten years ago, if someone told me I would one day own chickens, I would have questioned that person's sanity.
Five years ago, if a friend called me “earthy,” I would have been seriously offended.
Six months ago, if I knew how much pleasure chickens could bring a family, we would have gotten them sooner.
month ago, if I knew how many egg cartons would be lining the shelves
of the refrigerator, I would have begun stockpiling egg recipes.
week ago, if I had known how loud a hen could be when she is laying an
egg, I could have avoided a potential heart-attacking inducing sprint to
the coop to rescue the girl from a predator (I thought.)
if I had known I would spend two panicked hours searching the forest
and neighbors' yards for a missing hen, I would have stayed in bed.
Who knows what adventures life will provide?
And who knew that adding chickens to our menagerie would be such a rush (in mostly a good way)?
Our chicken adventure began clandestinely. We live in a subdivision. With a homeowners' association, albeit a fairly lax one.
property is just under an acre, includes an extensive forest and backs
up to a river. Our HOA doesn't have rules against chickens—it just
doesn't mention chickens. Still, we feared that by asking permission,
there might soon be rules incorporated into the bylaws. Plus, we have no
intention of adding a rooster to the flock, processing chickens (the
horror—they have names!), nor allowing them unlimited free ranging
throughout the neighborhood. They free range, but within a fenced-in
area on our property.
(Well, at least, most of the time. Naughty Roxanne.)
Honestly, these girls are pets. Pets with benefits. Pets who make breakfast. Pets who teach.
our chicken mama, is learning amazing lessons. From the research she
did to decide which breeds would be best for egg production to the first
home she created for them—with rules decorating their box (“No pecking
each other! No pooping outside the box! Bedtime is 8 p.m.”), she is an
incredibly responsible chicken owner. As with any new pet, it's natural
to worry that the excitement will wear off, and Mom and Dad will be
relegated to chicken detail. After two dogs, two cats, two guinea pigs, a
multitude of fish, a snake hidden in her tree house, as well as injured
wild animals she helped nurse back to health, I didn't think we had
much to fear about her losing interest. Still, at 6:15 a.m., I always
feel a little sorry for Kiki, especially now that it's still dark
outside when she wakes up.
Me: “Time to feed the chickens!”
I wouldn't have been a good chicken mama when I was Kristen's age. Then
again, I was never chicken-obsessed like our girlie is. I often wonder
what her teachers think about her chicken-brain...because she constantly
thinks and talks about chickens. Her new endeavor? A chicken-based
science fair project.
had a few scary moments. On the first day of school, Kiki ran to the
backyard—only to have Clue, one of the Americauna hens, fly over the
fence to see her chicken-mama. The problem is—our backyard is divided
into “dog/kid-side” and “pool/chicken” side. We have a privacy fence
surrounding the entire backyard and an iron fence that surrounds the
pool within the back yard. (Crazy, I know...)
horrific as it was for Clue to become a dog toy for a moment, we were
so thankful Kristen was there—because she saved Clue. After losing many
feathers and having to spend some time in a hastily erected “chicken
hospital” downstairs so that she could heal, Clue is fine.
Kristen and I were traumatized, however.
By the way, do you have any idea how smelly a chicken kept in a dog kennel in a basement can be?
You don't want to experience it. I promise.
yesterday, when I couldn't find Roxanne...I felt ill. I know Kristen,
and I knew how she would react. These girls are her babies. She's raised
them from tiny fluff balls...
...through their awkward teenager phase...
...to lovely laying hens.
A missing hen would be traumatic.
I didn't see feathers on the ground—neither in the forest (which might
have indicated a hawk attack) nor in our dogs' area. The race was on to
find Roxanne before Kristen got off the school bus.
two hours, I searched the forest. The river. Looked up in trees,
searched neighbors' yards. I walked up and down the forest, opened the
greenhouses (because, you know, I'm sure the chicken could just open the
door and lock herself in), drove through the neighborhood, calling
“Roxanne! Here, chickie chickie!”
I walked down our street, shaking a bag of scratch.
I did what any mom would do: I e-mailed Michael's piano teacher,
explaining that we needed to cancel his lesson because we were searching
for a missing chicken.
I wonder if she's ever heard that excuse before?
was running out—Mikey's bus arrives 30 minutes before Kristen gets
home. I grabbed his hand, told him we weren't going to piano (“YEEES!”),
and took him into the forest with me to continue our search.
“I hear flapping!” Oops, sorry Mikey, that was me, shaking the feed bag.
Up and down the forest, through the neighbor's yards, and then we tried the novel idea of being still and quiet.
“BAWCK, bawck, bawck, bawck...”
Did you know how incredibly loud and distressed a chicken can become when she wants to lay an egg?
Mikey and I took off to our front yard, and there, in the woods between our yard and the neighbor's, paced Roxanne.
I was unbelievably happy to see that naughty girl.
our hens are extremely tame and used to cuddles and hugs. Mikey scooped
her up, I gave her a handful of scratch, and he carried her back to her
With 10 minutes to spare before chicken-mama came home.
Then I collapsed.
things became clear to me yesterday. First, it's impossible to keep
secret chickens in your backyard. I'm pretty sure our neighbors have
heard our girls before, but this was the first time I was really worried
about inconveniencing them. I mean, truly—what if they found a chicken
in their pool or in their dog's mouth? Not a pleasant thought.
we want to have our chickens free ranging in the area behind the
pool—and we have installed a maze of string above the area to keep them
contained—we obviously need to find a different solution. This isn't the
first time a hen escaped, but they typically stay along the exterior of
the fence, desperate to get back to their flock. Roxanne, apparently,
is more adventurous.
my clearest realization yesterday was this: I am not a farmer. I think I
want a farm, but the reality of farming is far different that my
idealized view. Our chickens are pets. They have names. And I was
literally ill, thinking about how I would tell Kristen that one of her
girls was gone.
dad's family were real farmers. Real farmers, struggling to feed a
family post-depression. My dad used to tell me that he would cheer when a
chicken got loose and killed by a car, because then they could have
fried chicken for dinner.
Have I mentioned that we've been unable to eat roasted chicken—or any chicken with bones—since we acquired the girls?
I'm a farmer impostor.
the benefits of our girls outweigh the stress of yesterday. The first
time Kristen found eggs in the nesting box was like Christmas and her
birthday wrapped into one. She came running up the stairs, yelling for
me, trembling. I thought something terrible happened to the girls.
But no. The first two eggs! Such a proud chicken mama!
Kristen shared her first eggs with Peter...
...cracked and cooked into scrambled eggs all by herself. She was a very proud girl. (And I was a very proud mom.)
our girls are feasting on pumpkins. I'm hoping the post-Halloween
treats make them all stay close to home. I'm incredibly paranoid about
escaping chickens. I don't think my heart can handle the trauma.
girls are all laying now, with the exception of Risa. Kristen is
organizing her egg business, lining up customers, with the hope of
raising money for a horse. With six chickens, I'm happy to report that
it will take her a very long time to raise money for a horse.
Because, somehow, I don't think we can keep a secret horse in the backyard.
Posted by Julie
@ 08:01 AM EDT
It's October, but it feels like Christmas.
Look what arrived.
Nope. It's not the kids' Halloween costumes. That was a different box.
These are my treats.
Specifically, it's my “seed garlic.”
I'm ridiculously excited!
I know what you're thinking. “Garlic? You can buy garlic at Publix. Bi-Lo. All grocery stores sell garlic.”
True. But until you grow your own garlic...you've never really tasted garlic.
year was my inaugural attempt to grow this pantry staple. I mean,
honestly—I usually pay 99 cents for a three-pack of basic, white garlic
bulbs. It seemed a waste of time and effort to cultivate my own organic
But you know my gardening obsession. I had to try it.
Oh. It was so worth it.
know you're skeptical, and I understand. Truly. Though garlic dates
back thousands of years, cures 22 ailments, according to an Egyptian
papyrus dating from 1500 B.C., and was found in King Tut's tomb, garlic
was shunned in America until the twentieth century, due to its pungent,
lingering aroma. In 17th century England, it was known that garlic was
“...not for ladies, nor for those gentlemen who wanted to court them.”
It's a good thing that Peter and I both like garlic.
herbalists believe garlic can cure the common cold, fight high
cholesterol, serve as a natural antibiotic, and even repel mosquitos.
Plus, we all know the mythology involved with garlic—vampires, be gone.
(Well, unless you look like Edward Cullen.)
and its culinary uses, arrived with the influx of immigrants into the
United States. It wasn't until our new citizens arrived that garlic
became a common, well-loved fixture in the kitchen, permeating the
American culture with its flavor...and scent.
I'm so glad it did.
Honestly, could you imagine Shrimp Scampi without garlic?
beauty of garlic is that it's incredibly easy to grow. I promise. In
the fall, when your garden looks tired, and you're pulling up the last
of your gangly tomato plants, you can keep your garden productive with
very little effort. It's also a great crop to grow if you've never
gardened. You dig a hole, place a clove in the hole, cover it up, add
some mulch on top, water occasionally during dry spells, and viola! By
June, you'll be harvesting fresh, flavorful garlic that is so much
better than the grocery store variety.
Speaking of varieties...do you know how many kinds of garlic are available?
Neither did I. But I do now...
there are a couple distinctions. Softneck garlics, which can be known
as Artichoke, Italian, or Silverskin, are the most commonly grown
garlics in the world. These are the garlics that you traditionally see
braided and hanging in rustic farmhouse kitchens. Orphio, or hardneck
garlic, derives from wild garlic. Orphio forms a circle of cloves around
a single, woody stalk, while softneck varieties form cloves in a spiral
layer. Hardneck varieties traditionally perform better in cold
Then, there's elephant garlic. Just to confuse things further--it's not a true garlic but a type of leek, with a mild flavor.
Who knew? I'm overwhelmed with options.
So, as is my habit when I can't make a garden-related decision, I bought a little bit of a lot. Here's what's awaiting planting:
Bianco Piacentina (white)
Viola Francese (purple/white)
German Extra Hardy (purple striped)
Rosso di Sulmona (red)
OK. Maybe it wasn't such a little bit. Peter rolled his eyes when he saw the boxes.
some of my gardening friends, I've heard that seed garlic is selling
out quickly this year. So, if you want to try growing your own garlic,
here are two sources I use:
Now, the fun begins!
Prep the garlic.
the garlic is very easy but a little messy. You're simply separating
(or “popping”) the cloves. Each clove will grow into an individual bulb.
If you are OCD about your varieties, like I am, only prep one variety
at a time so they don't get mixed. I like to separate the cloves over a
big bowl to catch the papery skins, then put the cloves for each variety
in a labelled paper bag. DON'T PEEL THE CLOVES. If some of the skin
comes off, you can still plant the clove—but it can bruise easily, so
considered farming out this task to the kids...until my thumbs started
hurting after the second bag of garlic. I turned on some mindless TV and
continued popping the cloves.
the way...do you ever find yourself watching kid TV when there are no
kids in the room? I'm a little disturbed by this new habit of mine.
Although “Phineas and Ferb” is brilliant, you have to admit.
Prepare the bed.
raised bed for garlic is great—but honestly, I just plant it in my
larger kitchen garden, which doesn't have raised beds. I like to keep
the rows about three feet wide so that it's easy to plant and harvest
without stepping in the bed and compacting the soil. Add organic matter,
like well-composted horse manure, and make certain the soil is well
tilled. In South Carolina, I use a lot of compost to prepare our soil
for planting—red clay is my nemesis.
a day or two of popping the cloves, you'll want to get them in the
soil. For best production, garlic needs to be planted in the fall to
give it enough time to make sizable bulbs.
mid-October, so for me, that's my cue to plant garlic and pansies.
Seeds from Italy recommends that northerners plant garlic after the
first frost but 20-30 days before the ground freezes so that the garlic
clove can begin to make roots. All garlic needs a period below 40
degrees to make bulbs.
planting a lot of garlic, so my method of choice is to dig long
trenches, about three inches deep, placing one clove of garlic root-side
down approximately every six inches. In each bed, though, I'm going to
plant several rows of garlic, staggering the placement of the cloves to
provide ample growing room. Cover with soil and water well.
thinks it's really amusing to jump on my lap while I'm trying to work.
Ignoring her isn't an option--she'll start kneading my leg with her
claws if I don't fawn over her. Between kids and animals, it's amazing I
ever get any work done.
planting, it's important to add three to six inches of mulch to your
bed. Shredded leaves and dry grass clippings are free and work
wonderfully. I'm using straw, only because I have other plans for my
leaves, which involves making a new front garden bed...but that's a
different story for another day...
serves various purposes, depending on your climate. In the north, mulch
will keep the ground moist and warm throughout the fall. In the south,
it keeps the soil moist and cool. The mulch helps protect the garlic by
minimizing the freezing and thawing that occurs in unprotected gardens,
which can damage the garlic. Mulch also minimizes weeds.
And truly...who likes pulling weeds?
Well, OK. I do. On bad days when I'm annoyed, I kind of like yanking those nasty weeds out.
It's cheaper than therapy.
Read recipes for garlic-laden Italian dishes and dream of scrumptious
summer dinners. If you're having a really dry winter, make sure to water
the garlic bed occasionally.
early spring, look for little shoots peeking through the mulch. As the
shoots emerge and the weather warms, remove the mulch from the bed.
Water during dry periods, and let the garlic continue to grow. For
hardneck varieties, you will see the main shoot curl as it grows. These
are known as scapes. Cut them off to make bigger bulbs, but don't throw
them away—they are delicious braised in a bit of olive oil.
the lower leaves of the garlic plant begin to turn brown, it's time to
harvest—which is typically in June in mild climates, July in colder
areas. Carefully dig up the garlic bulbs, leaving the stalks attached,
and store in a well-vented location for several weeks to allow the
garlic to cure. Do not put the bulbs in direct sunlight.
curing, remove the stem (unless you plan to braid the garlic) and the
outer papery layer of skin to ensure clean bulbs. Really, those garlic
braids look so much better when there's not red clay attached to the
bulbs. Store in a cool, dry location—and save a few of your largest
bulbs for next year's planting!
there, my friends, you have it. A plethora of pungent, flavorful
garlic, plus enough left over so that you won't need to purchase starter
Isn't garlic grand?
remember...make sure you share the wealth with your significant
other...because eating garlic alone can make for a very lonely night.
don't you make this super easy, looks-way-more-fancy-than-it-is dinner
for your honeypot tonight? (Honeypot is my new favorite word.) It's my
go-to dinner, based on a recipe from my dad (who used the term
"honeypot" in a letter to my mom) when I need a super quick meal that
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
5-6 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Clean shrimp and pat dry. Arrange shrimp in a single layer in a casserole dish. Do not let them overlap.
a small saucepan, melt butter. Add garlic, sea salt, and wine, stirring
until warm. Remove from heat, and pour butter mixture over the shrimp
in the casserole dish. Place dish in oven, and bake for 5-7 minutes, or
until all shrimp is thoroughly cooked. DO NOT OVERCOOK or shrimp will be
Serve shrimp and garlic butter sauce over pasta, with a light grating of parmesan cheese on top.
two very hungry adults, one 9-year-old who will eat three shrimp, and
one 5-year-old, who will eat only plain pasta with cheese.
Or serves four adults with normal appetites.
Posted by Julie
@ 09:40 PM EDT
Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader