Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It Begins

What begins you may ask? The serious harvest time where we actually put away quite a bit of food for the coming year.  Above on left about a third of our potatoes, the reds are still in the ground and we've been eating these yukon golds baked, boiled and fried up in the skillet with onions, they won't store all year but should last us into the fall anyway.  On right, the garlic, spread out and curing/drying in the garden shed, in another week or so I'll clean it up, trim the roots off and make braids, this should actually last us until next year, I just tossed the final head from last year into the compost bin, too dried out and sprouting.  With all that delicious juicy fresh garlic ready to eat, why compromise.

The tomatoes are starting to come in nicely, I couldn't believe these two yellow Brandywines, they are monsters, each one the size of my hand, they look like crazy twin embryos. At this stage we are still relishing them in slices, wedges, chopped, with crisp cucumbers and sweet red onions, a little fresh basil strewn over the top, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of balsamic, S&P.  Soon it will be sauce making time and the ingredients; onions, basil and garlic are all ready and abundant.

I dug a couple of pounds of carrots yesterday, had left them in the ground too long, lots of root maggots or something were eating away at the tops, but still got plenty of useable roots.  Also pulled another big batch of beets, half of which got slow roasted in the oven last night, they'll be like candy.  The eggplants are growing daily along with the squash and beans, soon we'll be overloaded, asking "Who planted all these vegetables!?" and I still need to defrost the freezer...
Onions Curing
The heat is supposed to break tonight and I'm so ready, so many days in a row in the upper 90's really saps my strength and will to get anything done.  I went out to the Eno River quarry this morning for the first time this summer to swim with a friend.  It was beautiful there as always, had the whole place to ourselves, but the water was dissapointingly hot.  I'm longing for that mountain experience of last week and wondering when we can get back up there for another hit of cold water.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Grayson Highlands

Back last night from four days of loving the cool breezes and clear air in the high country. I understand why people have been escaping to the Blue Ridge for centuries to beat the heat of the muggy south in high summer. We camped at Grayson Highlands State Park and it was absolutely fantastic. This is our 4th try going to GHSP, the other 3 times we were completely in a cloud or it rained the entire time, but finally we hit it right. We did have a rain shower each day we were there and they tend to come up on you with no warning, one minute you hear the thunder and the next it’s raining! But we were all set with a new bigger tent we purchased just before leaving and with our trusty blue tarp stretched over the picnic table we stayed high and dry.  We even brought a bunch of flowers from home, had to tie them to the tent pole to keep them from blowing over because it was so breezy up there.

We managed to check out most of the park over the course of the 4 days, two hikes that took us up high for stellar views and two hikes that travelled through fairylands of fern, boulders and grassy glades. It was really enchanted and we enjoyed it immensely. I did not want to come home to the heat! We swam in both Wilson Creek and Cabin Creek.

This is the main water fall on Cabin, the water down there was chillier than on Wilson and the landscape and forest felt completely different than along Wilson on the other side of the mountain, fascinating to see such differences in a small area. On Cabin the rosebay rhododendron covered the steep hillsides, just beginning to open from dark pink buds to pale pink flower clusters. Tumbled boulders filled the creek bed and areas along the creek canyon, everything covered in green moss. I would not have been surprised to encounter a hobbit anywhere along that creek.
We saw several wild ponies grazing in the high meadows, including this foal that was very brazen and came straight up to us hoping for a snack.  The fields were filled with wildflowers and dozens of spangled fritillaries danced in circles through the air all around us as we hiked.
We had great food, we are known for going overboard with camp cookery and this trip was no exception. One night we grilled eggplant, squash, peppers, onions and chicken and chopped it up into a pot of pesto pasta, most all of it from the garden back home. Another night we had baby new potatoes sautéed in olive oil with fresh garlic and rosemary to accompany green beans and grilled pork tenderloin. We enjoyed good wine with the meals and good chocolate for dessert. I can’t wait to go back up there again and dip into the water so cold it makes you holler and then head right back in for more.

On the way out we turned down a side road following a sign for Laurel Hill Nursery, a place I had wondered about on previous trips to GHSP. At the bottom of the winding road nestled in a valley was an old homestead with a gigantic garden and a field with daylilies in full bloom. They carry 400 varieties, we knew we were sunk right off the bat. We roamed the rows of lilies despite the hot sun beating down on us, quite a switch from the breezy mountain top we had just left behind. In the end we selected 12 varieties and the son and daughter dug them from the field while we sat in the shade making very pleasant conversation with the mother of the clan. We headed home with the backseat loaded with tall blooming flowers, most of them dark red to purple shades with orange, yellow and green throats, colors we were lacking in our existing collection. We spent almost every last dollar we had in our wallets and laughed about it all the way home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A bit of this and that

I’ve been gazing out the kitchen window all week at the spectacle of the daylilies coming into their prime. They are really going to town and I’m especially enamored of this pairing; the cones of the Echinacea flowers are the same color as the deep orange lily, and the purple of the petals provides a fantastic contrast.

This reddish day lily is one of my top faves and I’m glad to see its spreading.
Mr. D came back from the nursery today toting this new Echinacea named “tomato soup”, I think its going to blend in nicely.
As I crossed the lawn to pick a few apples, the young red-shouldered hawk that’s been stalking our yard swooped up and landed in a cedar tree on the edge of the clearing. He let me get very close, taking picture after picture but finally he flew. A few minutes later David spied him on the edge of the woodland path and the bird was completely unperturbed by D. walking past several times. I’m hopeful he might make supper out of Flopsy or Mopsy and relieve us of the task of having to dispatch them.
Here is a little fruit sampler, check out the size of those blackberries, made to look even fatter by the fact that the apples are actually rather small. Our first apples are now beginning to ripen up, this one is called Carolina Red June, they are tart and a little soft, Macintosh like, we are trying to pick them a little early hoping they’ll be crisper, not sure about how to pick apples, never having had them before, but we are excited at the prospect and have 4 other varieties still to ripen up.

Heading out to the mountains tomorrow for a few days in the cool highlands, I’m eager to dip this body into some chilly water. We picked a good time to go, supposed to be scorching hot down here all week long.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I'm sure I've waxed poetic on beets here before but here I go again.  I know some people can't stand them but I love em'. The roots are so sweet and tasty, the tops are tender and earthy, together they're a great pair, here with a little onion sauteed in butter and finished with a grating of fresh nutmeg, salt and a grind of black pepper.  I'm feeling pretty rich this year as the beet crop is looking like one of the best ever, been harvesting a dozen or so good sized roots every week for about a month now and there are still plenty in the garden.  I boil them up, peel and pop them in the fridge to top salads, slice onto sandwiches, or make into a special dish all their own.  The other night it was a salad of beets with fresh baby fennel, purple onion and toasted walnuts dressed with balsamic and olive oil.  Or how about sliced beets in a pita pocket with ricotta salata cheese, lettuce, fresh dill and walnuts?  Those were crazy, looking inside the pocket with all the purple beet juice bleeding into the bread, it looked like a muppet mouth.  Think Ernie or Bert.  I usually eat a few while I'm peeling them, they are irresistable.   I've got enough that I might start branching out, beet muffins, pickled beets, borscht - while there is still plenty of dill to go around.  The giant yellow umbles are forming and the swallowtail caterpillars have arrived so the feathery herb will be finished soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tween Seasons

There are two young bunnies hanging around the yard and though I know they are going to be nothing but trouble, I can’t help myself, I’ve started calling them Flopsy and Mopsy. They are entirely too cute and its going to be a problem I know. Already we have the parents cruising around, I took a shot at one a few weeks back but missed, the folks are big enough to eat and we’ve been contemplating the possibilities of rabbit fricassee. But the babies are too small to eat, too cute to kill, even when I spotted one with a portulaca flower in its little mouth the other day, all I could think was, I wish I could pick you up and scratch you between the ears.…

As we sat outside eating supper the other night, a young red shouldered hawk swooped in and landed on a cedar post where birds perch near the feeders, no more than 10 feet from us, he was completely unfazed by our presence, we imagined he was looking for the little rabbits, they often hide in the flower beds beneath the feeders.
This is a new hydrangea we planted last year, its called Lady in Red, the stems are red but the flowers aren’t at all, guess we need to add something to the soil. It’s a pretty plant all the same and I prefer lace caps over the big round headed ones.

Yesterday I harvested 80 heads of garlic, right on time as the last 3 heads from last year were getting dried out and sprouting. I think I had 60 heads last year but they were larger than this year so it should work out about right. I’m starting to harvest the onions now too, about 30 small purple ones came out yesterday and the whites and yellows will be next. They are better than last years but I’m not sure I’ll ever have onions again like the ones we grew in 2008.

The garden is looking really good thanks to the rains we’ve been having, its transition time, pulled out the lettuce and bok choy and mustard yesterday and will be harvesting the rest of the kale soon too, the cabbage loopers are getting to be too troublesome.

Beans, squash and cukes got planted late so we’ll have a bit of a lull between the spring and summer crops but that’s OK, still have lots of beets and carrots to eat and the chard is coming on nicely now. I’m glad to be finished with the craziness of spring planting and to have a little time to relax before the big summer harvest and tomato madness begins. We’ve been picking a few sungold cherries but it’s going to be July before we see a big red one. I eagerly wait.