Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beach Bliss

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Outer Banks, NC

I'm just back from a short trip to Cape Hatteras with my brother. He went on a couple of pelagic trips- out to sea searching for birds that never come to land-only for the most hard core of bird watchers. I've gone on a couple of these boat trips before, powering far out into the ocean in search of deep water, the gulf stream and hope that the birds fly past close enough for you to see them. I opted out to spend the days on the beach, swimming in the silky ocean, watching the waves roll in and taking in the activity of all the other beach goers.

I love nothing more than sitting under my umbrella and watching other people enjoying the beach around me, everyone is wrapped in a beach bliss blanket, happy to be right where they are. Little ones play in the sand and surf, adults dive into books, teens dive into the ocean. I got a little too much sun and wind on my face but other than that, I managed to get back unscathed.

We ate tons of seafood; shrimp, clams and softshell crabs. I feel justified eating almost anything I want after schlepping my stuff out to the beach, swimming about 6 times and taking a couple of walks up and down the beach, I think I've earned a good dinner and an ice cream too thank you very much. We even played a little putt putt golf. It was pretty much a perfect trip to the beach and I'm psyched to know that I have another brief jaunt coming up in another week.
Must be summer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Summer Berry Pie

Look what I made :-)

In my opinion, pie is one of the all time greatest desserts and a real showcase for good fruits. The calories are exorbitant but I thought the fight for the berries made a pie worthwhile. The squirrels were tearing up the plants and stealing the berries but through diligent picking morning and evening, I gleaned 3 pints over 5 days, as I collected them I kept telling myself, If I get enough, I'm treating us to a pie.

I haven't cut into it yet but I know it's going to be delicious. Flavored with cinnamon and orange, it will be juicy and tart and sweet and have that amazing blackberry flavor that I can't describe but love.

I finished cleaning up the garlic this week which means I removed most of the brown tops, cut off the roots and scraped off the outside layer of skin that was a little dirty and musty. The yield was 60 heads, I made one long braid with 25 of the biggest prettiest heads and then put the smaller ones in a basket. I hope it will be enough garlic to last all year but it could be close considering how tasty this fresh garlic is and how much we like it in cooking. I am eager to learn if the onions and garlic we've grown will keep well or will rot or mildew? Hopefully keeping them in the house will keep them dry enough. (If you've experience storing onions and garlic in the south drop me a comment about that please.)

There are now about 100 tomatoes on the counter so I'm going to have to make sauce this week, no way around it. We eat them in and with everything-- like along side the fried eggs this morning. No other veggie/fruit can really compare to a good old tomato fresh and warm from the garden.
I don't even want to talk about the squash situation. It seems we are lucky, lots of folks tell us they've lost their squash to borers and bugs, not the case here so far, picked about 8 more squash today. HELP!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mushrooms, Onions and Bunnies. Oh My!

So remember the bit about mushrooms everywhere? Check these out.

I've been calling D. "Mr Mushroom" this week as he brought about a bushel of boletes to the house over the course of several days and spent hours poring over his mushroom books to try and decide if they are edible. He finally called a mycologist at the UNC Department of Biology who referred him to a local expert on boletus. D. hauled a cooler full of mushrooms to Owens' house and they sat around the kitchen table looking at books to determine species, chatting about stem qualities, spores and coloration. The upshot is we now have two trays of sliced boletes drying in the back of my car for Porcini and D. cooked up a skillet full that rendered a couple of cups to go into pasta for dinner and extras to the freezer.
Yesterday I braided these onions up for storage, this is only about a quarter of the onions that we grew. I'm thrilled, they are big and delicious and we have been eating them in everything. I hope they will store well into the winter.
I also put up 6 pints of dilly beans, my new favorite pickle as of last summer, hot peppers, garlic and fresh dill heads and seed make them extra tasty. They are crisp and the ultimate addition to tuna, egg or potato salad.
Took a couple of shots at the squirrels yesterday but missed, of course the minute we decided we might try and exterminate them they disappeared from view, though they're still marauding in the tomato patch. Given the fact that the kitchen counter is already covered with tomatoes I'm not sure why we care, but we do.
Now this little guy is one of a pair that are entirely too cute and the chicken wire that we added around the inside base of the veggie patch fence seems to be keeping them out of there for the time being so they live on. I admit we've been discussing how good they would be grilled if they are still hanging around this fall and a bit plumper.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Missing in Action, Vegetable Manuevers Underway

Part of the mornings' haul.

So I've been a slacker about posting lately- sorry about that. Summer slump I guess and I've been gone a bit and also busy in the garden too. Big harvest this morning including 4 giant zucchinis, 2 yellow squashes, 2 eggplants, 5 cukes, a big bag of beans, some okra and the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen up. We also dug the potatoes and that yielded a big bowl full.

I've started picking the 'mates a little green because Shorty McSnitch and his squirrel kin have been snatching them off the vines early and chowing down. They have also been eating all of the blueberries and tearing up the blackberries too. I went over to my brothers and borrowed his 22, though I've yet to aim it at one of those pesky squirrels, I'm definitely contemplating it.

The yard is full of young birds, I woke this morning and watched 2 adolescent hummers buzzing about in the Sourwood tree outside my window, at one point they stopped and sat perfectly still, I had to blink to make sure I was really seeing them and watch the spot and then just as suddenly, they zipped into action again. Juvenile red-bellied woodpeckers come to the suet feeder, titmice, chickadees and wrens squawk and carry-on from the tree tops.

Goldfinches frequent the Verbena Bonariensis, a clown-like flower with tall leafless stems topped by small clusters of purple flowers. Goldfinch, the color of lemons, swaying in the tops of the purple flowers is quite a sight. If you scare them into the air- it's like fireworks going off.

How about all the rain we've been having? I read we've had more rain in July than in all of last summer!? The creeks are back up and flowing and mushrooms are sprouting everywhere. Still no sign of our purposefully sown mushrooms, it's too soon, but lots of Chantrelles and Amanitas and all manner of other shrooms are popping up in the woods.

The daylilies have been putting on a big show for weeks now and are the highlight of the flower garden at this point. Our turtle Gertrude has been making regular appearances and enjoys eating the remnants of the tomatoes that the squirrels leave around the yard.

So today I defrosted the freezer in preparation for the tomato onslaught to come. It wasn't too bad and I only had to toss a few peppers from 2006 and a couple of bags of green beans from 2007, we've done pretty good on eating everything up. I made a big pot of borscht using beets and cabbage from the garden, also a batch of curried beets to eat fresh. I plan to make some dilly beans this afternoon and get the fridge cleaned out, its just overflowing. I picked lots of stuff when it got hot; beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage, and much of it is still in there and needs using, but the new stuff coming in is overwhelming us.

If you are anywhere near my house please come get some squash- I know better and I still planted too much. I admit grinning to D this morning when I spotted squash bugs on the plants. People often complain about squash bugs, I always figure about the time they show up and kill the plants I'm sick of squash anyway, it won't be long now before they go down.
OK- so I'm off to make dilly beans and I'll try to post more frequently.