Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Have I mentioned we are having an awesome year for eggplant?  The plants look good and they have lots of fruit.  A few flea beetles but that seems impossible to avoid. I'm particularly fond of this pale Rosa Bianca.
We've had ratatouille, Asian eggplant salad and tomorrow will be Baba Ganoush.  They are super sweet when they are freshly picked, with none of those bitter seeds.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I couldn't resist snapping this photo the other day of the kitchen counter.  I recently purchased a big stack of these plastic cups to bring to the community gardens on workdays.  It's been so hot that I felt obligated to provide water for folks, especially the kids, but I was troubled by the notion of all those disposable cups being generated. So for 25 cents a piece, I bought 80 of these cups, enough to use even when we have a potluck dinner or large event for our garden families. I also got a 5 gallon water cooler and just fill it with well water from the house so no disposable bottles are generated either.  It's not a big deal for me to wash them at home and I often put them in the dishwasher- even easier.

In addition, we wash and re-use ziploc bags at our house, I'm guessing 10-15 times before they wear out.  I don't know, but we really go through them especially at this time of year when there is lots of fresh produce moving through our kitchen from garden to fridge to table or freezer.  We often stop and wonder, are there people that use these bags once and throw them away?  If we did that we would be buying a box a week.  I'm not sure if there is any health risk related to the type of plastic, probably, but they are really handy and we use, and use and use them before they give out.

Just a drop in the bucket of our environmental load/footprint, but it's one thing that reduces our trash equation.  Recycling is good, we do lots of it, but re-use is even better I think.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Edible Schoolyard

I visited the Greensboro Children's Museum last week to attend a workshop on using the curriculum Project Learning Tree.  I did this as part of my work to earn a certificate in Environmental Education. It was an action-packed day with experienced teachers and I brought home an excellent activity guide filled with nearly 100 classroom ready programs on environmental topics for grades Pre-K to 8 .  An added bonus was getting to check out the newly installed Edible Schoolyard modeled after the original started by Alice Waters in Berkeley, CA.

It's an impressive space full of food.  They have a kitchen and are offering a series of summer camps and will be adding various programs as the year moves on.  They've got chickens, grains of the world,  food crops of the south, an herb garden, fruit trees and berry bushes. 

I was especially impressed with these lush teepees of malabar spinach. 

I'm glad we have this important resource in North Carolina and wish there was something like it right here in Chapel Hill.  Someday perhaps...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Volunteer Veggies

Plants that show up on their own in the garden we term volunteers. Tomatoes are the most common and I usually pull them up because parentage is unknown and most likely they will be cherry or some other small tomato. Butternut squash on the other hand, are some of the best volunteers we’ve ever had.

Here is a plant that came up on its own and has 5 huge squash on it, better looking than any of those I actually planted this season. They sprout from seeds in the compost pile and we let them roam because they make good fruits with little effort on our part.
The big surprise this year is this bed of cantaloupes, 3 different varieties which all sprouted in the garlic bed and after I harvested the garlic we just left them to grow on. There are at least 6 fat melons in this bed, I am hopeful that they will be tasty, in years past volunteer melons have been squashy and not very sweet but based on their size and shape I’m hoping these volunteer melons will be sweet and fragrant. Should know very soon as this one is looking close to ripe.
We got another nice rain yesterday, 6/10ths of an inch.  What an incredible difference it makes to the look of the overall landscape for everything to finally get a good drink several days in a row. Despite the humidity it brings, it also gives me hope that things won’t just burn up before August arrives.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July sullies on

The tall and diminutive day lily, last to bloom, emerging from behind some painters pallet.

Out in the garden early this morning, feet wet from the deluge of rain that came at dusk last night.  It brought 4/10ths of an inch to add to the inch that came on Tuesday night. Blessed rain. I feel so lucky when it lands at our house, it could be dry just a quarter mile away.

Baby hummers were trying to drink nectar from the red tips of new growth on a Japanese maple, they’ve got the color right, just not quite differentiating between leaves and flowers yet. Red-shouldered hawks continue to scree above the house, hunting and claiming turf, I’m sure there is some territorial and familial stuff going on between them these days, how long do the babies stay in the parents territory? Do they chase them away? How far do they go? I have no idea, but that young one has still been around our yard on a regular basis.

Only one bunny left, is it Flopsy or Mopsy? In the yard a week or so ago I came across the pom pom that was a rabbits tail, white on one side, brown on the other, nothing else, all that was left of that bunny was it’s little cotton tail….

A  view of one end of the garden, here the squash to the left, hanging in there- I haven’t spied any squash bugs or signs of borers but they seem a little anemic, this end of the garden suffers from poor soil and tree roots robbing the nutrients from the veggies I think. Sweet potato vines march towards the camera.

The beans and cukes on the trellis to the left are slowly dying from the ground up, some kind of funk -viral or soil born that’s causing the leaves to brown and fall off, but they still continue to produce. Fresh beans on the trellis to the right, just beginning to bear.  Carrots, beets and chard in between the beans need to be harvested.
The okra are finally getting their heads up above the purple hull peas in my experiment of a shared row, the peas are setting tons of pods and the okra are beginning to bear too. An infestation of aphids settled into the middle section but diligent application of soap spray seems to be slowing them down and keeping them from spreading.

July sullies on, hot and humid, at least we’ve had a spot of rain, but the prospect of 6 more weeks of days in the 90’s is a little bit depressing. Maybe we’ll get a reprieve as we did around July 4th, or perhaps a few days to escape once again to the cool of the mountains.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Bounty

The daylilies are winding down but they've been really wonderful for about 6 weeks now so I can't be too sad.  There is still one more variety that is blooming late, it is tall, with a small pale yellow flower, maybe I'll snap a pic of it for later this week.  This reddish-orange is still one of the faves in our collection and I'm sorry to see it finishing its bloom cycle.  The good news about daylilies is, they'll be back, bigger and better every year.
Inside, I've gotten all of the onions and garlic cleaned up and organized for storage, here is the bulk of the haul for this season, I also have about 40 red cippolini onions still curing outside and a basket with about 35 heads of garlic that are "use first" for tomato sauce etc in the coming weeks.
Speaking of tomato sauce, I made the first batch last week yielding 4 rich quarts for the freezer and it looks like its time for batch number two very soon.  First though, perhaps a vat of gazpacho since the cukes are coming in and maybe a pot of ratatouille since I've got both squash and eggplants starting to pile up as well.  Must be July.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Community Supported Fishery

We recently joined a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). You’ve probably heard of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you buy a share from a farmer in exchange for weekly deliveries of fresh produce and other farm raised items. Well a CSF works similarly. For the very reasonable price of $18.75 per week we receive two pounds of two kinds of fish or shellfish every Thursday. So far our share has included shrimp, flounder, jumping red mullet, and crab and last week we got 24 beautiful clams and 5 fillets of Spanish mackerel. The group organizing this in our area is called Core Sound Seafood and they are bringing fish up every week from the sound of North Carolina. It’s a great opportunity to try out different kinds of fish we might not normally buy and everything has been incredibly fresh and delicious. Furthermore, the money goes straight to the fisherman with no middleman so they get a good price to help support them staying in the fishing business. We never know what we are getting until about a day before and it’s a surprise and a treat. The group sends an e-mail announcing the sea foods of the week and we learn about exactly where it came from and who the fisher people were that caught it for us.

For the mackerel we made a rub of chile powder, cumin, oregano and thyme to put on the fish and then grilled it to juicy perfection. We then topped tostada shells with guacamole, fish, grilled squash and onions, cabbage and fresh made pico de gallo-chopped tomatoes, white onions and Serrano peppers. I didn’t have cilantro so I used Italian parsley, muy delicioso! Finished off with a squeeze of lime and washed down with a cold beer, we were very satisfied indeed.
There are still shares available so if you are in the Carrboro area, check them out!

Our drought and heat wave continue and we are spending multiple hours standing behind the hose so the garden carries on. Made my first batch of tomato sauce last week and the eggplants are starting to come in. The blueberries are really starting to ripen up too. Every day I pray for rain, we were fortunate to get a half an inch in a thunderstorm the other night, but we need much more. Here’s hoping, as everything is burning up, including me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Two Bodacious Loaves

I got in late last night and these lovelies were on the kitchen table to greet me!  One whole wheat with seeds, one white, both crusty and tasty, my man can sure bake some bread.

The heat wave broke yesterday with cloudy skies and today its like autumn out there, what a treat and just in time, everyone was starting to get kinda cranky about the extended period in the 90's.  Forecasters are saying it will be in the 50's the next couple of nights and I couldn't be more delighted.  We are heading out to Saxapahaw this evening for a circus performance at Paperhand Puppet, I hope it will be outside? 

The windows are thrown open and tonight we'll sleep to the sound of crickets, cicadas and hoot owls once again. 

It's the first of July and that marks the mid point of the year, heading down the other side, hoping to be more in control of the wheel for this section of the ride.