Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Finishing the nixtamal for my fresh tortillas and it's chicken enchiladas for New Years's Eve dinner. I am pretty sure neither madam nor I will be awake at midnight. I actually think we should celebrate New Year on the Winter Solstice to be accurate anyway.

Everyone have a safe and happy New Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Variations On A Theme - Potatoes Gratinee

Madam had her Boxing Day luncheon for the ladies yesterday and I sliced way too many potatoes for the individual Pommes Dauphinois. Instead of wasting the potatoes I just put them in a bowl of water to keep them from darkening and I'll use them today to make a little less rich variation called Pommes Lyonnaise.  The Dauphinois is just layers of potato and Le Gruyere all covered with cream or milk and baked. My version of Lyonnaise loses the cream and uses chicken stock and adds onion to the layers of cheese and potatoes. Sometimes you'll find the recipe is identical to the Dauphinois and just adds the onion. Try them  all and see what you like. I'm being lazy today but there are a bunch on the web just Google "potatoes dauphinois" or "potatoes Lyonnaise" and you'll get plenty of options. Whatever one you pick make sure that it is simply potato, Le Gruyere and milk or cream for the Dauphinois and just potoato, onoin, Le Gruyere, and broth for the Lyonnaise. NO extraneous additions. BTW, don't bother to make either if you aren't going to use real Le Gruyere Swiss cheese.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mince Pies

Santa can come now as I have his mincemeat pies ready.

Happy Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. We have a couple of friends over this evening for kind of a pot luck. I'm doing a small prime rib and they are bringing a fish curry. It was a last minute thing since we were going to be alone so we figured why not get together.
Anyhow. got some baking to do since there will now be someone to eat it. I've got a pumpkin pie in the oven now and next will be small mince pies. Later I'll do an apple tart as well. I've had my Christmas pudding since the end of November and it has had a few nips of cognac over the weeks so it's ready. I've still bread to bake as well.

Everyone have a nice Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Sane versus Crazy

It's becoming clearer to me. This whole hubbub is not between the white and nonwhite and police and protesters. It’s actually between sane people and crazy people. It’s between people who believe in peace and justice and those that want to hate and see people that don't look and believe as they do as something less than human. The tragedy is that they will never change.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vegan Red Beans and Rice

It's a cool misty day here in Atlanta and a great day for something warm and nourishing.
Here is a nice recipe that meets this need and it has the bonus of being what's known as
cheap eats. It's also nice to have something simple while we are surrounded by all the
rich holiday food.
Traditional Red Beans and Rice fills the bill but to make it authentic you have to shell out
for some expensive ingredients like Tasso, andouille (smoked sausage) and smoked ham
hocks. It's delicious but so is this vegetarian version and while I am a huge fan of smoked
meats you don't really miss it in this dish. My small red beans(cranberry beans and not
the larger kidney beans) are all soaked and I'm ready to go. If you just really have to have
some meat in it just add a pound of diced smoke sausage(pre-cooked) or crumble in
some cooked bacon after you do the smashing bit.  Enjoy.

Vegan Red Beans and Rice
Makes about 8 servings


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped finely
1 medium bell pepper chopped
4 stalks celery chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 lb. dry red beans soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight, drained and rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth or water (I use 1 box of vegetable broth(4 cups) and 2 cups of water)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 whole bay leaf
½ - 1 Tbsp smoked paprika or 1 tsp liquid smoke and regular paprika
Freshly cracked pepper to taste but don't be shy
Pinch cayenne pepper
6 cups cooked rice ( prefer brown basmati but white rice is traditional)
1 bunch green onions, sliced for garnish


The night before or early in the morning, put your rinsed and picked over beans in a
large non-reactive pot and fill with enough cool water to cover the beans by a few inches.
Set them aside to soak. I actually put 2 TBlsp. of salt in the soaking water (which will be
rinsed off) as it seems to keep the beans from falling apart. Sort of like brining the beans.

About 3 or 4 hours before you're ready to eat finely dice the celery, bell pepper, and
onion, and mince the garlic. Cook the trinity (celery, bell pepper, onion) in a large pot ( I
like a Dutch oven) in the olive oil over medium heat until softened (8-10 minutes). Right
before you think the trinity is done add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
In a colander drain the soaked beans  and rinse with fresh water. Add the rinsed beans to
the pot with the vegetables. Also add the vegetable broth or water, thyme, oregano, bay
leaf, smoked paprika, some freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. If you
don't have smoked paprika you can try adding a tsp or so of liquid smoke.
Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a full boil over high heat. After it reaches a boil,
turn the heat to low and simmer for at least two hours.  Stir the pot occasionally to make
sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Keep an eye out and don't let the beans get to dry.
If they look dry then judiciously add water.

After two hours (or longer if desired) the beans should be soft and tender. Mash some of
the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. This will thicken the pot
and make the classic, creamy texture of the dish. Remove the bay leaf and allow the pot
to simmer for about 30 minutes more to let it thicken.

This is usually served by putting the red beans in a bowl and topping them with a scoop
warm, cooked rice. Sprinkle sliced green onions over the top.

It's a good idea to have a bottle of hot sauce handy for those that like a bit more kick. I'm
a big fan of Cholula from Mexico(the one with the wooden ball top) but whatever your
favorite is is fine.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yuletide Blessings

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December or Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.  This special day is coming up tomorrow, Sunday, December 21 at 23:03 UTC (6:03 p.m. EST).  December may be marked by Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but for pagans the Winter Solstice is the time to celebrate Yule. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known.

Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century that the church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated. Since the Bible did not point to an exact date when Christ was born, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25. It’s commonly believed that the church chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Saturnalia and Pagan Yule celebrations with the Christian holiday.

Many Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can be traced back to winter solstice rituals. For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant  called “All Heal.” Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. People would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors.  Ancient Celts would plant holly in their homes as a form of protection since the plants was believed to hold magical powers for its ability to survive the winter months.

So, regardless of which holiday (and there is nothing wrong with celebrating them all!) have yourself a Merry Christmas/Winter Holiday/Yule/Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

A significant and fun fact about the coming solstice is that it occurs within about two-and-a-half hours of a new moon.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

How Now Flu?

According to the enters for Disease Control and Protection we’re just at the beginning of what could be a fairly rough flu season. For starters, the dominant flu strain this fall has been a tough bug (called H3N2) that, in previous years, has caused increased hospitalization and death rates -- especially among the elderly, very young children and people with chronic medical conditions. Worse, this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t fully cover that nasty strain. Long story short, the virus mutated after the vaccine was already in production -- so the vaccine will be less effective this year than in other years.

If for some strange reason you haven't had your shot this year then do so as it will protect you from the other strains that are out there.

Second, add extra Vitamin C and some Zinc to your vitamin regimen. It will boost your immune system (C) and help lessen the symptoms(Zinc).

Wash your hands like a crazy person.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mashed Potato Leftovers

OK, leftover time. Everyone tries to find something to do with the turkey and there are a lot of good ideas. Pazole or other soups, casseroles, and pot pies. The lowly mashed potato usually get short shrift.

A great use for left over mashed potatoes is potato pancakes or in German, kartoffelpuffer. The basic recipe is just the potatoes, egg, flour and (sometimes) onion but I am kind of a fan of cheese as well and the kind of cheese is flexible. I like cheddar, Le Gruyere, pepper jack or even ricotta or cottage cheese.

Basic potato pancake

3 cups chilled leftover mashed potatoes
2-3 Tbsp chopped shallot, onion or scallion(green and white parts) if using
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp flour plus 1/2 cup flour for dredging
Extra virgin olive oil, butter, for pan-frying

If you are adding cheese then make it about 2/3s cup of you favorite shredded cheese.

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed potatoes, cheese if using, onion, shallot or scallions, egg and 3 tablespoons flour until combined.  Using a small ice cream scoop, tablespoon or your hands, divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a small ball then flatten it into a pancake about a 1/2-inch-thick.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter  in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (Add enough oiland butter to completely coat the bottom of the pan.)

While your oil is heating put the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in to a shallow bowl and dredge each pancake, carefully coating each side.

Fry the pancakes, in batches, until they're golden brown and crispy on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more oil and butter to the pan as needed between batches.  Resist the temptation to turn the pancakes too soon, you want a nice crisp crust. Transfer the pancakes to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle them with salt.

Serve the potato pancakes topped with plain Greek yogurt or sour cream and garnished with additional chopped shallot, onion or scallions.

This will make 12 pancakes.

Note: Depending on the mashed potatoes you may need an extra egg if they are very dry or a bit more flour if they are overly wet to start with.  Also, if you are using a wet cheese like cottage then a bit more flour is needed.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Gosh, I have been terrible in neglecting this blog recently but I'll do better. Anyway, everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Minimonk is joining us today but it won't be a blowout. Game hens, dressing, mashed spuds, creamed corn, sweet potatoes, cucumber and onion salad, and fresh rolls, Punkin pie for desert or an apple tart.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

It is the 96th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought an end to World War I in 1918.  It was called Armistice Day.  Now it is the official U.S.  holiday to commemorate Veterans Day.

Let the veterans in your life know you appreciate their sacrifice.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Quick Butternut and Leek Soup

Fall is definitely here and now is the time when soup becomes the star of many a meal at
the Monk homestead. I have butternut squash in the basement and plenty of leeks still in
the garden so what better option than another variation on Butternut Squash soup.
Instead of the traditional onions, I'll use leeks and instead of milk or half-and-half I'll just use
chicken or vege stock. To make things simple I do it in one pot instead of roasting the
squash in the oven first.  (I am still without an oven but maybe Monday.)

Butternut Squash & Leek Soup

You'll need:
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped.
2-3  tablespoons of butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, cut in chunks(the smaller the chunks the faster it will cook)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tsp Kosher salt
Depending on the size of your squash you'll need 2 - 3 cups of broth(chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream. I use Greek yogurt since that is pretty much all I ever have
on hand.
6 or so fresh sprigs of fresh thyme (optional)

Add the squash and the dried thyme to the leeks and stir to heat through for a few
minutes. Add just enough stock to cover the squash. Simmer over medium heat for 15
minutes or so or until the the chunks of squash can be easily pierced with a knife.
I use an immersion blender and blend in the pot until it is mostly smooth but you can
transfer it to a blender or food processor and give it a whir. Optionally, if you like it a bit
chunky you can just take a potato masher after it for a bit. Stir in the yogurt or sour
cream. Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Garnish with a dollop more of yogurt(or sour cream),  and maybe some fresh thyme leaves.

Note: You can, of course, use onions and garlic instead of the leeks and roast the squash
first. Roasting the squash brings out some caramel notes from the natural sugars and is
very nice if you have the time.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Día de los Muertos

It's All Saints Day and the Latina Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, the Day of the Dead—

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos;(spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos;(the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.

—Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature

Friday, October 31, 2014

Samhain and a New Year

Well it is Halloween and Samhain, the Pagan New Year. A new turn of the wheel starts tomorrow. I did my duty and voted today. I figure it was poetic to vote for the freak show we are about to see in the Senate on Halloween. We could be pleasantly surprised but I am not going to be betting in serious money on such an outcome.

I did get my new ovens ordered and it should be delivered on Saturday. If you haven't priced them double electric oven are very expensive, like we are talking 2 grand and up. I settled for a nice GE that has convection (fan oven for you Brits) in the top plus regular and just conventional in the bottom. I have convection in both upper and lower in the unit I have but I never used the lower for much of anything so I won't miss it all. If you are unfortunate enough to have to replace a double oven then beware that there are all kinds of little add-ons you have to pay for on top of the price of the oven itself. Measuring fee for the installer to measure and see if any modifications are in order...$69. Hall off of the old unit $20 and in my case removing the piece of wood I added to make the hole fit my current oven which is 110 dollars. Since I bought this at Home Depot another company will do the install but Home Depot will deliver. They advertise free haul off of the old appliance but that is only if the old appliance is already uninstalled which it won't be. So I've paid for everything and scheduled the delivery but have no word from the installers when they will appear.

So anyway, I broke down and bought a bag of Kit-Kat snack size if any trick-or-treaters show up....probably not. I can count on my two hands the number of T&T's we have had in the 33 years we have lived here but I am always ready and yes, the pumpkins are off the front porch as well.

I usually do pizza for Halloween night but that's out since I have no oven....

Monday, October 27, 2014

Whole-Wheat Biscuits and Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

I just realized that I haven't posted anything here in weeks...sorry. To apologize here is a recipe for whole-wheat biscuits.

We are all used to biscuits made with white flour and they are very nice but there is absolutely no reason to not make them from whole-wheat flour and skip the empty carbs from the white flour. Use a good quality whole-wheat flour such as King Arthur and they even have a white whole-wheat flour which is great for these biscuits. I prefer buttermilk biscuits but regular milk works as well though the chemistry is a little different because of the acidity of the buttermilk.

Whole-Wheat Biscuits and Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups whole-wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
4-5 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup cold milk

To make the biscuits with buttermilk substitute 1 tsp of baking soda for one tsp of baking powder(for the acid in the buttermilk) and substitute 1 and 1/4 cups of buttermilk for the milk.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder/soda, and salt. Mix well with a whisk or a fork.
Cut the butter into little pea-size pieces and scatter them over the flour mixture.
Mix the flour and butter together, using  a fork or pastry cutter or fingers to mash the butter pieces into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the milk and mix together thoroughly without overmixing and trun the loose mixture out onto a  floured cutting board or counter.  Knead the dough with your hands 4 to 6 times until it just comes together. We really don't want to overwork the dough or we'll have tough biscuits.
Pat the dough out flat with your hands until it’s about ¾ inch thick. Add a little more flour if the if the dough sticks to your fingers, sprinkle a little flour on the top and bottom. If it’s too dry (not holding together), add a splash or two of milk or water.
Cut out biscuit rounds. Gently press together the scrap dough and cut another biscuit or two, taking care not to over-handle the dough.
Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

You should get 8 - 10 biscuits. Serve them hot with lots of butter and homemade jam and jelly. Honey and sorghum works too.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rainy Saturday

Rainy Saturday in the Northern Atlanta burbs so we won't be getting much gardening done today. Did manage to get Zoey's walk in between showers though so that's something. We have a potluck birthday party this evening for our friend Carmen at its a "Crock Pot" thing. I'll take my Tuscan Bean Stew and a nice batch of fresh focaccia. Any fresh bread is good with a hearty soup but focaccia seems to really hit the spot. I use Nancy Silverton's method for the focaccia which is really nice and easy to boot. So it is going to be a day in the kitchen it seems. Well, I am trying to convince Madam to go with me to the CVS on the corner to get out flu shots but other than that I'll be cooking mostly.

The fall garden is growing nicely BTW as you can see by the pictures of romaine, Napa and mustard.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Not Really Pumpkin

The Huffington Post has a story up about canned pumpkin not actually being pumpkin but a variety of butternut squash called least when it comes to Libby's, Libby's, Libby's. Whatever. it still makes my favorite pie and the best recipe is still the one on the canned Libby's pumpkin label. There are actual pie pumpkins out there and I actually grow some. I actually got a pretty good crop this year with about 10 good sized pumpkins from a relatively small space. I haven't made a pie out of one yet to compare to the Libby's canned but I'm sure it will be good. These are an heirloom Amish pumpkin specifically grown for pies. We'll see. The picture is half my crop and aren't they cute.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Raining With a Chance of Garlic

I missed the dark of the moon on Wednesday for planting my garlic since the seed garlic bulbs hadn't arrived. They did arrive on Saturday and I got them in the ground today. Four days past optimum but we do have a waxing moon which should do the trick. Going big this year with four varieties and dedicating one whole bed to just garlic. (Kettle River Giant, German Red, Chesnok Red and Inchelium Red if you're interested.) A mix of hard neck and soft to see which does best for me. Even when I only plant half as much I usually can't get it used before it dries out so I really don't why I am planting so much other than curiosity and variety.

Been really busy cleaning up the summer garden and planting the fall one. Yesterday was two more beds of various cool weather things like Savoy cabbage and red cabbage, More broccoli,Giant Japanese mustard, Romaine lettuce and Swiss chard also went in.

I tagged along with Madam's garden club on Friday to tour Joe Lamp'l's garden. He is the producer and host of Growing a Greener World on PBS and his home and garden are just a little North of here. It's very nice. All his 16 beds are made from 6x6 redwood stacked three high and are like mine 4'x8'. Makes for a nice working height and allows for very good soil depth. I'm going to make mine a little deeper but with the addition of a pressure treated 2x10 hooked into the cinder blocks with a 4x4 on the corners...should do nicely. No way I can afford to use redwood 6x6...especially since mine wouldn't be tax deductible. Since he films some his shows in his home garden his expenses are deductible. Oh well..I'll post a picture I took yesterday at Joe's....really a very pretty garden and yes I am a bit jealous of the beds.

Rain is starting to move in so I was just in time with the planting today but I did have enough time to harvest some leeks. We have a house guest for the next week or so and tonight they are getting leek and potato soup from the garden(all completely home grown except for the chicken broth).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Autumnal Equinox

It's here tonight...fall that is. For those of you interested the Autumnal Equinox occurs when the sun passes over the celestial equator moving from North to South. For those below the equator it is the first day of Spring.

September Equinox in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. is on
Monday, September 22, 2014 at 10:29 PM EDT (Change city)
September Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time is on
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 02:29 UTC

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good Reasons to Vote this November

This list appeared on Twitter but I thought it needed to be shared here as well. This is an important election coming up and no Democrat or Liberal Independent can afford to sit it out. We are facing momentous problems and the GOP is not interested in solving any of them. We can win if we all vote.

Rest Day

I decided I needed a rest day today. All I've done in the garden is water. Madam and I took Zoey for a walk around the park. I've started a batch of sourdough bread. That's about it. Mabon is upon us (23 Sep) and the Autumnal Equinox finds me pretty much finished with the summer garden and hard at work putting in the stuff for fall and winter. The experiment with transplanting beets from flats to the garden has been pretty successful as I only lost a couple of percent...I actually did worse with cabbage and even more worse with cauliflower. I am actually going to restart some more cauliflower seeds since I lost so many of the seedlings....might have still been too hot. The broccoli, however, is doing fine...who knows.
I'll swing back into action tomorrow but today is chill. I do have picture of Zoey I took the other day to share. She likes to spend the day with me in the garden until it gets too hot and then she moves indoors. She also keeps a watchful eye out for evildoers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ugly and Getting Uglier

The following chart speaks volumes about what has been going on in the U.S. for the last 20 or so years. The fat cats are getting fatter and the rest of us are getting screwed. This is what money in politics translates into when all is said and done. If we don't get the GOP out of government as well as all those Democrats beholding to big money then we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Get out and vote in 48 days and vote Democratic. It won't solve all the problems but it might let us begin to focus on them.  h/t to Digby

Monday, September 08, 2014

Cheap Eats

You may have already seen this on social media or elsewhere, but it’s valuable enough to repeat it here. Leanne Brown has written a cookbook, free on the web, full of good recipes designed to:
fit the budgets of people living on SNAP, the US program that used to be called food stamps. If you’re on SNAP, you already know that the benefit formulas are complicated, but the rule of thumb is that you end up with $4 per person, per day to spend on food. This book isn’t challenging you to live on so little; it’s a resource in case that’s your reality. In May 2014, there were 46 million Americans on food stamps. Untold millions more — in particular, retirees and students — live under similar constraints.

I'm fortunate enough not to have to rely on SNAP or actually try and eat on 4$ a day but that doesn't mean I can't follow some of the recipes in this book. I like saving money and this is all good information on being a little more penurious.

Thanks to Hecate for sharing this info.

Happy Birthday Cookie Jill

Today is Cookie Jill's birthday. It's also mine. Let's wish her a happy birthday.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fall Cleanup Is Not Going Well

I am still trying to get the garden ready for fall. In between the rain and thunder storms I am trying to clear space for the fall planting. The peppers aren't cooperating. Today I picked all the ripe sweet peppers but there are still a lot of green peppers to go so I can't pull up the plants yet. I also went through and picked about half the green jalapenos and all the red ones. Still a lot of those left to go as well. At this rate, unless I just pull up the still producing plants, I am not going to have enough space for everything I want to plant. Anyhow, all of these peppers are going to the food bank, where they are much appreciated. And yes, I plant too many peppers.
The box on the left are Burpee's Big Guy Jalapeno which are really huge compared to the regular Early Jalapenos on the right. The other peppers in the right box are Peach Habanero and boy are they hot!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lazy Day

Not gardening today. Took Zoey for a walk in the Hembree Park and that looks like about all I get done outside today. I did water the greenhouse as I have a bunch of tender little plants to guard against the mid 90F heat. Other than that I am going to work on pictures and stuff where I can sit in the cool and drink iced tea. Took this shot of a couple of white tail the other day. There were actually three but one was very shy. It just amazes my that there are so many deer here in the middle of town. There are a few islands of woodland around but not that much.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Garden Critters

Lots of critters in the garden today. Nice cooling off from the last few days and we all enjoyed the morning. I actually remembered to take a real camera with me this morning instead of just the phone. The phone is an HTC M8 and has a pretty good camera but for stuff like close ups it can't match the Nikon D80. Got some good shots which I thought some you might enjoy. For thos interested the butterfly is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and there were three in the garden this morning. I was very excited to see the praying mantis and since he/she is from this season I would guess there are more and that means help with bad bugs.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dog Days

We are in the full "dog days" of summer now. Hot and humid here in Atlanta. The garden is looking pretty sad as things have made their big run and are now just tapering off. I'm beginning to remove some of the tomatoes and peppers to make room for the fall garden. Lots of stuff started in the green house and it should be ready to go into the ground in the next few weeks. The good news is that the forecast is for some cooler temperatures starting tomorrow. I've got the late summer beans for drying in and they are coming along fast in all this heat and humidity. These are the beans for leaving on the plant and letting dry for storage and seed for next year.
I need to get out and get some work done before the heat gets unbearable but I did the big Sunday breakfast thing with biscuits, and bacon and eggs with baked beans so I'm a bit slow getting out of the blocks as you can imagine. Everyone enjoy the rest of the weekend. Here is an okra blossom for you to ponder.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting Hot FInally

Depending on whose forecast you believe the next 5 or 6 days will see high temps in the 90's which is the first long hot series we have seen this year. It really has been a pretty cool summer so far. I probably won't be doing any afternoon gardening for the next few days but I'm pretty caught up anyway.

All of the fall seeds are starting to appear, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Napa, are all up. The chard, beets and spinach haven't appeared yet but I expect them any day.  My garlic bulbs should be showing up in the mail any day and I've got a bed ready for them. Has everyone got their fall gardening started?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Compost and More Compost

Yesterday was compost turning day which is a weekly task around these parts. As you can see from the picture I took yesterday at the completion of my efforts, I now have two full bins of black gold. Each of those bins is a little over 3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft. so that means 64 cubic feet of compost. I'm excited and I know you are too. It is almost ready to go back in the garden. The bin in the foreground still has some bits of un-composted corn stalk but that will be gone in a week or so. The center bin is now empty but there are several beds that need cleaning out as the butternut and acorn squash are finished as are the second crop of cukes and zukes. There are also some tomatoes that can be removed. Getting ready for the fall garden.

Only supposed to see a high of 88F today and 0% chance of rain so we should get caught up with most of the garden chores without dying from the heat. It's already almost 0830 and I need to get cracking.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Proper English Breakfast

Saw this picture on The Chive today and it dawned on me that it has been ages since I had a proper fry up. Unfortunately, the only place I know to get English bacon and blood pudding is the British Shop in Norcross and I am going to have to think hard about a drive over there just for bacon. Though a good English breakfast on Sunday morning would be brilliant. And yes, all my English friends, I know that the tomatoes are missing as are the mushrooms but rest assured they won't be from my plate. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fall Garden

Time to start getting ready for the next phase of the gardening year. The yellow squash and zucchini plants are finished and in the compost as are some of the early tomatoes and the first batch of beans. In the two newly bared beds I planted my fall beans for drying(dry on the bush). I always plant heirloom varieties for drying and I almost exclusively get the seed from  This year there are four varieties, Ireland Creek Annie, Calypso, Painted Pony and Hutterite Soup. All great cooking beans and very reliable to grow. If nothing untoward happens then I should be harvesting nicely dried beans by the time of the first frost the end of October. In a week or so I will be starting cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts in the green house for the fall and winter garden. I'll sow beets, spinach, carrots and kale directly in the garden in September. We had a hard than normal early freeze last year that cost me most of the broccoli and cabbage so better luck this year.
Speaking of harvest, I pulled all of the shallots the other day and got a pretty good harvest from a dollar's worth of seed as you can see. The other half of the bed is leeks which will stay over winter and just dug as needed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cherry Tomato Jam

The cherry tomato glut has arrived. If you are a gardener and plant cherry tomatoes you know what I mean. The vines are producing more tomatoes, by a lot, than I can ever eat fresh. It is therefore Tomato Jam time. This is a savory jam that is great as a condiment. Try globbing it over cream cheese as an appetizer or using it instead of ketchup. Mixed with mayo it makes a pretty good Russian dressing.  BTW I planted a hybrid cherry tomato called Jasper instead of my usual Sweet Million and it is very vigorous and highly productive. The fruit is small but very sweet and tomatoey. I planted it too close to the cucumbers and it has taken over everything in its vicinity...lesson learned. That's a double recipe in the pan btw.

Cherry Tomato Jam

2 pounds of cherry tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar (you can use other vinegar if you like)
1 whole large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup sugar
zest and juice from one lemon
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt

Out everything in a large, heavy saucepan and cook  over low heat, stirring frequently.
The mixture will rapidly begin to liquefy as the tomatoes break down and then start to
thicken as it evaporates.
Keep stirring and often as this jam is  prone to scorching as it thickens. After about an
hour of low-heat reduction, most of the water will be gone. Let cool (or use a chilled
spoon) and check the consistency. It should resemble a traditional jelly or jam when cool.
I had to cook mine for an hour and a half before it was suitably thick.

It's completely OK to add a bit of crushed red pepper or herbs to this just be careful as it gets quite concentrated.

Ladle into 4-ounce jelly jars. Process in boiling water for 15 minutes. If mine is any guide I made a double recipe and got exactly 7 4oz. jars out of 4 pounds of tomatoes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mushy Pickled Peppers

I just opened a jar of the jalapenos I pickled last week and as I suspected I failed to preserve any crunch. The 10 minute water bath necessary to seal the jars just cooks the peppers too much. There is an old Southern recipe for limed sweet pickles that produces a very crunch cucumber pickle and it involves soaking the sliced cucumbers in a lime solution overnight.  You have to do the water bath to have any hope of long term storage and safety but maybe I can cheat with the lime. I have another pile of peppers to preserve and I am going to try the lime routine. I let you know how it turns out. Unfortunately, I am just going to toss the pickles I did last week...while they taste fine the texture really suck. Shame but just a waste of some vinegar and a few hours time.

P.S. I also pickled a pint of my precious pepperoncini and while I haven't opened them I'll bet they are mushy as well. We'll do them with lime as well and see if it makes something edible.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

No Corn For You

The squirrels have won the battle of the corn. Earlier in the month they finished off the miniature pop corn eating every ear. Now as the yellow corn is maturing they have gone after that. There are one or two ears that aren't yet eaten but they'll have those in a day or two. More than likely I won't get a single ear. They start in on it before it is ready to pick which pretty much guarantees they get it all. Squirrels are not a gardeners best friend.

Let There Be Light

Just had some major clearing done to the East. In total 4 very large pines and a number of smaller ones. This picture is just East of the garden and the giant pine that is now missing was shading way too much space. I wasn't getting any sun on the East end of the garden until about eleven in the morning. Not acceptable. Otherwise is was a nice enough tree that just happened to be in the wrong place.

We Have Pumpkins

I have never had much success with pumpkins....usually it is either fungus or critters but so far this year things seem to be going in the right direction. There are about 10 of this size and more on the way. Keep your fingers crossed. Oh, they are Amish pie pumpkins and stay pretty small and not the jack o'lantern type

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Friend Is Gone

I am so sad to report that a good friend has passed. Trace Browne died yesterday. Known to to the others that sometimes visit here as the "T" part of "MandT" or as part of "Adjitadiaries" Trace is survived by his partner Michael. This is doubly sad as Trace and Michael were just "officially" married on June 16th after twenty years together. Our heart is with Michael.

Trace Browne  b. June 7, 1951    d. July 10, 2014

May the Goddess Guard Him. May Trace Find His Way to the Summerlands. May His Friends and Family Know Peace.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Homemade Sauerkraut

Along with all the other things that happened over the 4th weekend, BBQ, garden, baking, I got the urge for some real sauerkraut and not the stuff from the grocery. Even the stuff labeled fresh in the plastic bags is a pale reflection of proper freshly fermented kraut.
A friend just happened to call from Whole Foods about the time I decided I was going to get a head of cabbage and start a batch. I asked her to pick me up a head of organic cabbage since she was coming by here anyway. I was a little shocked when she handed me the receipt...$1.99/pound for a 3 pound head of cabbage. Ouch! All the more reason to plant it in the fall.
So I've got a batch going. If you are interested in making your own you can get easy to follow instructions for making a small batch in a couple of Mason jars here. It's really easy and pretty foolproof. Mine is going in a 2 quart pickle jar and not two quart jars.
I should have some respectable sauerkraut in about a week.

Just as an aside. A spoonful for homemade kraut has more probiotic bacteria in in than a whole bottle of the diet supplements they sell for a fortune.

BTW I've also ordered some milk kefir grains so I can begin making my own kefir. I buy the stuff every week and it  is good (Lifeway or Trader Joe's...same thing) but I think homemade should be cheaper and better. We'll see.

The pic is from the

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Squash Casserole, Yes, Another One

Still have a lot of squash bit it is beginning to taper a bit. Here is another squash recipe. This one is from the Sautee Inn in North Georgia. It's pretty simple but surprisingly tasty.

Sautee Inn  Squash Casserole

(from Sautee, Georgia, near Helen)

3 cups summer squash, chopped
1 cup onion, sliced or chopped (we chopped)
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup almonds, finely chopped (we used unsalted)
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg if you like
1 cup of Cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook the squash and onion together in small amount of water until tender (I microwave it). Drain well. Mix with other ingredients. Place in baking dish and top with additional crumbs and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 until slightly browned, about 45 minutes.

This recipe is from the cookbook by  Joseph Dabney, entitled Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine, celebrating the folklore and art of Southern Appalachian cooking. It won the James Beard Award a few years back and if you are looking for authentic Southern Appalachian recipes this is an excellent source.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

How About a Zucchini Fritter

It's definitely squash season around here. I've got a fridge drawer full of zucchini and yellow squash and we have been eating on it almost everyday. I even sent a big yellow squash casserole yesterday to an acquaintance that had a death in the family. (This is the South...that's what we do.) So instead of baking, casseroling or whatever tonight I'll pull out the old fresh vege fritter recipe and make zucchini fritters. I've also got a beautiful eggplant that was picked this morning that might like a little soak in buttermilk and a roll in seasoned cornmeal and a quick run through the fry pan as well. This recipe is labeled zucchini fritters but it will work for yellow squash, fresh corn, chard, spinach, and other fresh softish veges. I've never tried it with carrots, beets or the like but it might work with some fiddling.  I don't do a lot of frying but sometimes you just gotta.

Zucchini Fritters

vegetable or canola oil for frying, you'll need enough to get about 3/8" in a big frying pan

3 cups grated zucchini, use a box grater for the best results.
1 cup finely diced onion
2 large eggs slightly beaten
3/4  cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn meal (if you don't have corn meal use all flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
a couple of grinds of black pepper pepper

In a large bowl mix the zucchini, onions and eggs.
In another bowl mix all the rest of the ingredients. Put the dry into the wet and mix well. When your oil is hot (shimmering)  (or you can test with a little batter to make sure it sizzles when it hits the oil) Drop big spoons full of the batter in the pan and brown them on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

This should make enough for 4 easily.

These are great plain but they are great with a flavored mayo. You can use all mayo but I prefer to cut it with some yogurt or sour cream.

Try a half cup of Hellman's mayo and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream and 1 tsp of Sriracha.
or  instead of the hot sauce try 1 tbsp lime or lemon juice and 1/2 tsp chili powder or 1/2 tsp adobo powder.
or use your imagination.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hanging Out

I did manage to get to the garden this morning and pick some stuff but that's about all before it began raining. As soon as I got in it stopped so I went back out to begin the daily blueberry ritual and then the bottom fell out. I am now at loose ends. Everything that needs to be frozen is frozen and there is nothing to can right now. It's stopped raining for now but the blueberry bushes are so wet you would drown trying to pick. I'll just have to wait.

Everything is coming along nicely in the garden and now it is just wait for the rush of tomatoe and stuff. Looks like we'll have a nice crop this year. I did make one error in my planting this spring. In one bed I put cucumbers down each edge and a new variety of cherry tomato down the center. The tomato has gotten huge and is shading the cukes so production is going to be zilch. I got other cucumbers planted but the ones in that bed are lost. It just seemed like such a waste of bed space with just cucumbers. I learn.

Got the garlic ordered today for planting in September and I am going to order some beans for drying from Seed Savers in a few minutes. I know beans are cheap but you can't get much variety in the stores. Pinto, red, black,. Great Northern, lima, Navy, kidney. I'm going to have quite a few beds needing inhabitants soon and I can only eat so much broccoli, cabbage and spinach. I'll plant all that as well as kale, beets and carrots and I'll still have plenty of room.  Besides I like the names of the heirloom beans.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rainy Day...It's A Good Day to Pickle

Heavy rains last evening and rain off and on today. Managed to get out into the garden and pick but that's as far as it went. Green beans, wax beans, jalapenos, zucchini, yellow squash, small eggplant and a handful of cherry tomatoes along with some herbs.

It is nice to have a day when you don't feel the need to be in the garden. Took this day inside to make a batch of "Dilled Green Beans" or "Dilly Beans" as my mother called them. I wound up with enough beans to make six pints but the recipe below is for 4 pints. I also used to the extra brine to make 2 pints of pickled sliced jalapenos.

Dilly Beans

2 pounds of green or wax beans trimmed and stringed if nececessary
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper (though I used a sliced jalapeno instead of the 1/4 tsp per jar)
4 heads of dill
1/2 cup pickling or Kosher salt
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar

Prepare 4 pint jars and lids and rings and get them in the hot bath to sterilize.
Mix the salt, vinegar and water in a non reactive pot and bring it to a boil.

Put a clove of garlic, a head of dill and 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper(or a sliced jalapeno) into each jar. put the beans on end in the jars packing them as tight as you can. Make sure you leave 1/4 head space. You may have to trim a bean or three to get the lids to go on. Fill each jar with hot brine(don't forget the 1/4 inch head-space), seal and process the jars in the boiling water batch for 10 minutes.

Let the jars cool at room temperature and you are good to go. It's a good idea to let these stand for a couple of weeks before you eat them. They are best chilled.

Stuffed zucchini tonight for dinner...Italian sausage, Vidalia onion,tomato, mozzarella fresh oregano, basil and parsley and Parmesan. Gotta stay ahead of the squash!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

First Full Day of Summer in the Garden

Today is the first full day of summer and from now on until the Winter Solstice the days get shorter. I am celebrating the solstice with a bum left knee which is very tender and feverish. I'm resting it and taking aspirin. We did forage and weed a bit in the garden in the cool of the morning. Green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, green peppers, jalapenos. We even managed 3 cherry tomatoes which were consumed on the spot. The sweet basil (Italian) was getting leggy so we cut it back pretty severely so that means I need to make a big batch of pesto today and freeze it in ice trays for later use. Not a perfect method of preserving the taste of summer but OK.

On my walk down through the natural area to the garden I have been noticing a rather rotten smell for a few weeks. I thought something must have died but I couldn't locate it. The other day I noticed an odd looking fungus growing where I had left some wood chips last year. It is very odd looking and reminds me of crab claws. On a whim I Googled "crab claw fungus" and lo and behold there is such a thing but its more common name is "stinkhorn". That's the source of the rotten smell.

The photo comes from Mary Holland the author of “Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey Through the Fields, Woods, and Marshes of New England” and “Milkweed Visitors.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice

Well, we are an hour and change into summer 2014 so Happy Solstice or Glorious Litha if that is your choice. We are fully engaged in summer here and actually did the first canning yesterday so we beat the mark. 12 pints of fresh blueberry jam all put away.

Enjoy your solstice and have a great weekend to boot.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Garden Tours This Week

Tomorrow morning and Thursday morning the garden will be open for tours by the garden club. I think I am ready. Everything looks pretty good with only one eggplant looking poorly and one tomato plant that I am removing because of fungus. Most of the weeds are missing and the corn is standing nice and tall. I'll be doing the final touches this morning and early afternoon but since it is supposed to top 90F today I'll probably not spend all day in the garden. I understand I am the only vegetable garden on the tour so that is something.

I'll post a picture later so can see what the the tour will see.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Under The Gun

We are getting at least one thunderstorm a day and the forecast shows the trend continuing for another week. That's making it hard to keep up in the garden. To add to the pressure Madam arranged for the garden club to the tour my little space two days next week. I may be working in rain.

I did manage to get one fairly big thing off the to-do list and that was to add a picnic table. I was going to do a regular 5 foot table but since lumber comes 8 foot minimum I went with a full 8 foot table. The extra length required some changes in design like the extra legs on the benches but it turned out nice. It is a bit heavy though. So I have a table. I wonder if a stone BBQ pit is next?

The next big garden event is removal of some large pines just to East. Some parts of the Eastern garden don't actually get full sun until nearly noon. This will be resolved in the next 2 weeks.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

On Being Wretched

Don't miss Mark Morford.
You can cling to musty dogma, to strict, outdated codes of conduct and belief, all dictated by very scared, very dead old men who lived many hundreds of years ago and in such a state of abject misunderstanding of the world, and God, and sex, and women, and love, and spirit, and life itself, they might as well have written a big, terrible book about it.
Oh wait, they did. Here is the Bible, a numbingly tedious tome written (and re-re-rewritten) by multiple paranoid power-mongers obsessed with genealogy, real estate, women, weird curses, genitalia, shellfish, the blood of sacrificial animals and how to appease a schizophrenic deity who loves you like sunshine one day and covers your body in painful, oozing boils the next.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

First Of June Garden

This is the current state. Things are growing and no major crisis yet. Heavy rains last night caused a little damage to the corn but it is all righted and still there. I pulled all the sugar snap peas today to make room for something new but still don't know what that will be. We are now into full weed control mode. I must not let the morning glories bloom and set seed again.

It' funny that I spend so much time battling weeds and the one thing I am having trouble getting to grow is a weed. I planted some milkweed to encourage the Monarch Butterflies but it is refusing to grow. It is just barely bigger that when I transplanted it...very strange.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mange Tout

Just a quick pic to make you hungry and jealous. These are just a few of the Sugar Snap peas that have been part of dinner for 4 out of 5 nights. Delicious.

Power Composting

It took me two days but I now have a brand new 3 compartment composting bin. My compost tumbler just wasn't big enough to handle all the stuff so I went Cadillac. It's a design from way back when Jim Crockett had "The Victory Garden" on PBS. You can see from the pile of compost next to it that I am cooking up the 'brown gold" but the ton. The new bins will each hold 27 cubic feet which should do the job.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bad Cottage Cheese Recalled - A Boatload Of It

Kraft Foods Group is recalling some of its cottage cheese products, company officials announced Saturday.
Some ingredients used in Knudsen Cottage Cheese, Breakstone's Cottage Cheese, Simply Kraft Cottage Cheese and Daily Chef Cottage Cheese were not stored in accordance with proper temperature standards at a Tulare, California, manufacturing facility, they said.
While unlikely, the failure to properly store ingredients might have created conditions that could lead to premature spoilage and food-borne illness, Kraft said. The Northfield, Illinois, company voluntarily recalled 1.2 million cases of the cottage cheese as a precaution.
The products, with a coded date between May 9 and July 23 stamped on them, were only shipped to stores in the United States. The codes can be found on the cup bottoms or on top of the packages.

Both the containers of Breakstone's Cottage Cheese in my fridge are part of the recall so they go back to Kroger. If you have any of the affected brands in your fridge check the dates. We've actually eaten part of one container with no obvious ill effects but it goes back anyway. Evidently this factory must be pretty much the sole source for All the various Kraft brands if my product bought in Georgia is affected and the factory is in California.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Project or When Do We Eat?

It did quit raining for a bit but it didn't get sunny. I took a picture anyway and I'll try another when it does get sunny. So here it is and all the details. This pic is looking South. There are 17 cinder block beds each roughly 4'x12' and one 12x4 bed of 6x6 timbers (behind the carts) that is the new asparagus bed. In the front right are two beds of peas(you can see the sugar snaps but not the regular green peas). Moving to the left is a  bed of two varieties of eggplant and cayenne peppers along with a couple of peach habanero and yellow plum tomatoes. Then comes the first bed of tomatoes, Amish Paste and a black Japanese variety Nyagous. Next to the left is the first full bed of peppers Jalapeno and heirloom Italian. Moving left is a bed of squash(Zucchini and yellow) with a few okra plants down the middle. Finally is a bed of pepperoncini, more okra, and yellow wax beans. The second row on the far right is half leeks and half shallots and to its left is a bed of spinach, carrots, more pepperoncini and French Breakfast radishes. Moving left is another bed of tomatoes, this time Supremo, and Better Boy. Moving left is the last full bed of peppers Sweet Red Carmen and Karma and the old standby California Wonder. The next to the last bed on the second row has the European Hybrid tomato(Stupice) and the new hybrid sauce tomato from Burpee(Super Sauce). The last bed on the second row far left is more spinach and chard and to its left in the mounds are cantaloupe and Amish Pie pumpkins. The back row has less beds. Starting off on the right is a bed of Celebrity tomatoes. Then comes a bed of cucumbers both table and pickling with some cherry tomato plants down the middle. Lastly we have the bed I finished yesterday and it now has arugula and beets in it. In the back in the regular garden we have sweet potatoes(Georgia Jet and Vardamon), yellow heirloom corn(Golden Bantam Improved), Miniature popcorn(Tom Thumb), Dixie Butter Peas, Green Beans(Maxibel), more okra from seed(Emerald) and overflow pepper and tomato plants. I always have extra plants started from seed, just in case, and so the plants won't go to waste I stick them in unused space. It was good that I had extra this year as I wound up replacing pepper and tomato plants killed by the late frost. It also has some heirloom plants that I am growing just for seed. That's it for now. Some more mulching to do and the like, but it is done for now. I'll have to replace the peas in a few weeks and some of the  spinach will be eaten by then as well as the radishes. Whew! I'll probably build a few more beds this fall back on the right but at most 5 since I have to leave a little room for regular garden though I may decide that my tilling days are over and just have everything in beds. My Troy-Built tiller is nearing its 40th birthday and if it finally goes to the Great Garden I won't replace it(since you can't) and that will solve the question and It will be all beds for this old man.

Unless I weaken. I promise this is the last gardening post for a while. It has, however, consumed all of my time for weeks and weeks.

As Good As It Gets

The garden that is. I finished the last (at least for this season) raised bed yesterday, filled it and planted it. That means that except for maintenance I am finished. The last bed got beets and arugula yesterday and that finishes the spring planting. Everything but the second okra planting from seed is up and the stuff I planted yesterday, of course, but the rest is going along. Most peppers have blooms as do the tomatoes and egg plant. We have even had radishes, spinach and spring onions to munch on so far. The green peas and the mange tout are within a day or two of harvest as well.

The bad thing is I no longer have the excuse of having to get the garden in for not going to the gym. I guess I will start back on that routine on Monday. Even though I have been working hard and for long hours in the garden virtually every day I have still managed to put on a few pounds. Mostly because I am having regular meals (no early or late shifts at Home Depot) and since I am no loner working many days when the sun is "over the yardarm" I am drinking a bit more "2 buck". Couple the extra food and booze with no pumping iron or aerobic stuff and you get fat. In my own defense I did have to lay off for the three months due to the hernia but I have only driven by the gym since December. I'll do better.

Just futzing around today. Did get some mulching and weeding done before it started to sprinkle. It is really not raining hard enough to stop me from working if I really wanted to but since I have declared it finished I don't feel guilty about coming in at noon. I even celebrated with a big lunch of buttermilk cornbread and pinto beans. Madam is out with friends today so I ate my beans poured over the cornbread which she hates. She'll never know.

So to continue futzing I will now get some rainy day things done. All the kitchen knives need to be sharpened. The basement needs some attention as does my desk. I need to get some chicken thighs marinating for dinner and some other stuff. Oh! The Vidalia onions are in the markets so it will be an onion something to go along with the chicken just haven't figured out whether it will be roasted or stuffed. It was Italian sausage with red pepper and onions last night. They seem to be pretty good this year. Me and a lot of other folks complained about the quality for the last couple of years. They have not been as sweet and tasty as in the past but the one I did last night was nice. I'll probably wind up roasting tonight and that's a definitive test.

BTW, If you are one of the 3 or 4 people who still stop by this blog, I apologize for being so scarce and basically only talking about gardening. Now that I am not under such pressure I should be able to pay attention here a bit more. I haven't been ignoring the tragedy unfolding in what used to be the "American Dream" just too tired to talk about it.

If it quits raining and gets sunny I'll take a picture of my masterpiece to share. It sure is making me happy so far. It's been a tremendous amount of work but I think it shows. The good thing is I get to spend all day in the fresh air getting dirty and watching to majick of growing stuff. Nobody to please but myself and nothing to worry about that I can change (i.e. weather, temperature).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weather Break

Much needed rain today so I get to take a break from the garden. Did get out and survey the place though and things happened overnight. Corn popped up. Dixie Butter Peas out of the ground as are the green beans. Cucumbers, both the picklers and the regular are peeping through and summer(yellow) squash are making an appearance. It was a very big night I guess even though the Farmer's Almanac says not to plant until tomorrow.
Got the greenhouse pretty much cleaned out. My friend Kelly came and took a nice selection of tomatoes, herbs and peppers and I planted a couple dozen more of each as well. I have an otherwise unused section of the garden in the Southeast that took in the extra plants. It's a shame to waste the plants and since they are extra I don't need to spend a lot of time on them. I put them in the ground and mulched them really well with wheat straw to help with the weeds. I stake the tomatoes in a few weeks but otherwise those guys are on their own.
Madam is off on a garden tour with the garden club and I am just chilling today. It is not raining at the moment but the radar shows plenty on the way in an hour or so.

I don't think I mentioned that I lost my fig and my bay laurel over the winter. I replaced them last week. I actually planted a bigger bay laurel than I had and it seems to be settling in ok. I replaced my "brown Turkey" fig with another and for fun I also bought an Italian fig "Ichis" which is supposed to be very sweet and stays green when ripe so it is harder for the birds to find. Won't get figs this year but maybe next.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Killing Weeds Safely or No More Glyphosate (RoundUp)

As every gardener knows only too well, weeds are a bitch. Unless you have hours a day to devote to keeping them under control you are likely to lose the battle. Since the 70's Monsanto has made billions of dollars selling the herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate) and all the RoundUp ready GMO seed. Who actually knows how many gallons of the stuff has been sprayed around in the last 40 years.

Now that Monsanto's patent on glyphosate has expired the stuff is coming out under house brands such as HDX from Home Depot and what's worse these new ones are actually more concentrated that the old RoundUp so they are that much more troubling. If you want to read the horror stories just Google "roundup herbicide" and you'll get an idea of why this stuff needs to go away forever.

Yes is does kill weeds but the collateral damage to the environment and you and your family and neighbors is way, way too high.

The thing is a lot of stuff will kill weeds and a lot of them are completely harmless to anything but plants. Some like orange oil are very effective but a little expensive. I prefer to make my own out of cheap ingredients and it is effective on most weeds.

Here is the formula:
One gallon of white distilled vinegar
2 cups of Epsom salt dissolved in the above
1/4 cup of Dawn dish detergent to make it stick to the plant leaves.

Just put this in your sprayer and go to town. Just soak the leaves well and hope it doesn't rain for 24 hours.

This stuff really works and you can see the results in 24 hours. It won't take out everything but neither will glyphosate. Give it a try.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Happy Beltane

Happy Beltane to one and all. Happy May Day to you as well. It is time to turn the cows out of the barns to search for green pasture and have the children gather wildflowers. The 'official' beginning of spring in much of Europe but not so much here in the U.S.

We really dodged the bullet here in Atlanta with respect to the recent horrific weather. I actually only measured .4 inches of rain here at the farm. Coupled with the rain from a few days ago it is plenty wet in the garden so there is not much I can do except pick a few weeds. I will haul a few more loads of wood chips to fill the aisles but that is about it.

I did re-purpose some 6x6 timbers a friend gave me. They had a porch redone and enclosed and had these 6 big posts left over. They are now a 9 foot by 4 foot asparagus bed (or will be as soon as the asparagus crowns arrive). The old asparagus bed was way too small and in a very poor location. I'll try and rescue the crowns from there in the fall but for now we are going with all new. That, of course, means a 3 year wait for asparagus. Oh well.

Everyone enjoy the first of May.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Testing Me

The weather forecast is not too good. Anywhere from 3 - 5 inches of rain over the next two days and other severe weather stuff. Going to test all of the work in the garden over the last few months. The raised beds will definitely help but it will interesting to see what happens between them where I have so carefully piled wood chips. I'll spend some time this morning trying to beef up the defenses. Just going to wait and see. I did notice this morning that the rain we had last night overwhelmed my effort to control the runoff from the driveway. All the pine bark mulch on one side of the blueberry bed is up against the fence. I put in a drain and a large flexible pipe to try and move the water around but it is evidently not up to the task. Looks like a re-engineering job for that as well. So we are off to the garden to see if everything survived and do what we can to prevent heavy storm damage. If you are in the path of this big weather system headed this careful and make sure you are ready. Flashlights, extra batteries and all that stuff.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Almost a Garden

Now you know why I haven't been blogging that much lately. Fifteen beds built and filled and planted and maybe only 5 more tops. I am at the point that I can't plant anything else until I get another bed ready. I did till the rest of the garden and far in the back there you can see where I put the sweet potatoes and sunflowers. I'll also put the corn in the back and not use a bed. That part of the garden still gets too much shade this time of year from the trees to the South and it won't be for another couple of weeks that it will get full sun most of the day. So anyway...peppers, tomatoes, squash, okra and other stuff all in and ready to grow. Warming everyday and the night temperatures are beginning to stay warm as well which is what the tomatoes require. Supposed to rain now for a couple of days. I need the rest.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Go hug a tree, kiss a flower or just go stand in the grass barefoot. Pray to the God or Goddess of your choice that we wise up before it is ALL gone.  Right now it is not looking too good.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter if you celebrate it. This, BTW, is the first time in a while that the Orthodox Easter and Western Easter fall on the same Sunday. Two of my most memorable Easter's were when I was in Cyprus and the Greeks really do a big deal. Lots of lamb cooked on open fires and the air filled with the scents of lemon, oregano, and roasting lamb. There are so many cookling fires going on Easter that there is a haze across the countryside. I thought about lamb for dinner today but a whole leg of lamb is just too much for Madam and I to handle. Lamb is way under utilized in the U.S. where I think the per capita consumption is only a pound or two and I didn't really have an opportunity to develop a taste for it until I was in the Middle East.

Since we don't actually celebrate I've spent the day out in the garden. It's too wet to dig or construct another bed but I did go ahead and replace all the plants that got burned in our little surprise frost. Very odd that only a couple of tomatoes succumbed but I am not complaining. Probably a dozen peppers of the various types needed to be replaced. Again it was odd that only 1, 2, or 3 plants on a row with 7 plants were damaged. Must be some very small micro climates. I also went ahead and replaced all the eggplant since none of it looked too happy. Don't tell Madam but I also reduced the number of plants by 8 and put in some habanero peppers and heirloom yellow plum tomatoes. It's no secret that aubergine is not one of my favorite things and I had way too much planted.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Just A Flesh Wound

Only a few plants taken by the frost. Actually the worst looking are the potatoes which are supposed to be hardy. That surely will be the last frost. Rained out today but I did get a couple more beds built though they still need dirt. Actually the rain forces me to get caught up in the green house where there is some transplanting to be done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Nice, No Ice

Lucky me! The weather forecast for tonight has been updated to include the possibility of a freeze which would set a new record. To put the icing on the cake we are having high winds today and this evening which makes it virtually impossible to do anything to protect my plants. If it really does freeze I am out 60 tomato plants and 50 peppers. Not to mention all the herbs and flowers. Not a disaster but darn near. Keep your fingers crossed.

I do have some back-up in the greenhouse for the peppers and tomatoes but not for anything else like the Italian, Thai and French basil or all the marigolds and zinnias.

Just so you won't think I'm crazy for starting the garden this early here is the record for last frost since 1948. I had peppers and tomatoes in 3 days ago (4/12). We have only had a frost this late in 1950, 1962, 1978, 1983, 1986. Notice that the last frost for the last 10 years has been before April 9th and in 2011 was in February. Just eager for that first garden tomato.

Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center. 

                      Growing Season Data (base=32 F)
                   Station: ( 90451) ATLANTA_WSO_AIRPORT      
                Years:  1948 To Present    Missing Data:   0.0%

            Last    First            Last    First            Last    First
           Spring    Fall           Spring    Fall           Spring    Fall
     Year  Freeze  Freeze     Year  Freeze  Freeze     Year  Freeze  Freeze
     1948   3/29    10/18     1949   3/19    11/18     1950   4/15    11/21
     1951   3/22    11/ 3     1952   3/16    10/29     1953   3/ 5    11/26
     1954   3/16    10/31     1955   3/29    11/20     1956   3/25    11/ 9
     1957   3/10    10/28     1958   3/22    11/29     1959   3/18    11/ 7
     1960   3/23    11/ 8     1961   2/26    11/ 9     1962   4/16    10/25
     1963   3/23    11/ 3     1964   3/31    11/21     1965   3/22    10/25
     1966   4/ 6    11/ 2     1967   3/19    11/ 5     1968   3/24    10/26
     1969   3/27    11/ 5     1970   4/ 3    11/16     1971   4/ 3    11/ 8
     1972   4/ 2    11/18     1973   4/11    11/10     1974   3/22    11/13
     1975   3/31    11/14     1976   3/18    10/29     1977   4/ 6    11/12
     1978   4/22    12/ 6     1979   3/26    11/15     1980   3/ 4    11/19
     1981   3/20    11/21     1982   4/ 7    11/ 5     1983   4/20    11/12
     1984   3/11    11/13     1985   2/16    12/ 2     1986   4/23    11/13
     1987   4/ 4    11/12     1988   3/17    11/29     1989   2/25    11/17
     1990   3/21    11/30     1991   3/ 5    11/ 4     1992   4/ 3    11/ 8
     1993   3/15    11/ 1     1994   3/11    12/11     1995   3/10    11/ 4
     1996   3/22    11/ 3     1997   3/16    11/16     1998   3/13    12/18
     1999   3/12    11/ 3     2000   4/ 9    11/15     2001   3/27    10/28
     2002   3/23    11/18     2003   3/31    11/14     2004   3/23    12/14
     2005   3/ 9    11/17     2006   3/26    11/21     2007   4/ 8    11/ 7
     2008   3/25    11/17     2009   3/ 4    12/ 5     2010   3/ 7    11/ 7
     2011   2/12    11/11     2012   2/13    11/25     2013   3/27

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Dog, Old Tricks

Just came in from a full day in the garden. Going to set back, drink a few beers and watch the Master's. Got 20 tomatoes in the ground and the last of the peppers. All of the tomatoes and peppers now have their cages and, if needed, a little extra support in the form of a bamboo stick. The rest of the tomatoes will go in tomorrow.

Miss Zoey has learned a new trick  from Minimonk's new dog Mr. Peterson who loves to play with and demolish pine cones. Miss Zoey, being very prim and neat, makes sure she brings the pine cone indoors and demolishes it on the white  living room carpet. Doesn't do any real damage but there is enough of a mess and quantity of small bits that it requires getting out the suck broom to clean it up.

Zoey was a big help in the garden today. I use Popsicle sticks to label the individual plants I put out since peppers and tomatoes pretty much all look alike until they start to fruit. Miss Zoey likes Popsicle sticks and likes to pull them from the ground by the plants and play with them for a while. She has not learned to put them back where she found them.

Oh! The Met Life balloon flew directly overhead today and at a pretty low altitude. I would guess about 1500 feet. Cool!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back to The Garden

It's dried out enough to get back in the garden this afternoon. Our friends are heading off to Augusta in a bit for the Master's. Been a good visit and it was good that it was too wet to garden as I could spend time entertaining and not be anxious about missing good time in the garden during this critical time. This afternoon will be about moving herbs and flowers into the garden and that's where the cinder block holes come into play. They make perfect little containers for a a basil or dill plant or a marigold or zinnia. Flowers are important in the garden to attract pollinators plus they look nice. The tomatoes will start going in tomorrow I think and then I'll have to decide what goes into the last two finished beds and get started on more beds. I'm leaning towards squash.
Anyhow, off to one last lunch with our friends and then back to work. I must admit that it has been a nice rest.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Lots of Spring Rain

Looks like we pretty much got all of April's allotted rainfall last night and this morning. Flash flood warnings are in affect in the area. It is still raining so I haven't been to the garden yet to assess the damage, if any, and I am hopeful my flood control strategies are working. A good stretch of gardening accomplished in the last week with 12 10' x4' beds completed and filled and prepared for planting. Yesterday saw the first of the greenhouse plants(other than onions, leeks and shallots) go into the garden proper. One bed of 14 egg plants(7 pickling and 7 Amadeus) with 6 long cayenne plants. Another two beds with strictly peppers (7 ea. Carmen, 7 ea. Karma, 7 ea. Big Guy jalapeno and  7 ea. Early jalapeno and finally 6 ea. Jimmy Nardello. with room for six more of another pepper as I ran out of energy and light. I was trying to beat the rain and I just hope all of the little plants survived the deluge. All were supported with a bamboo stake and tied so they should be ok. Fingers crossed.

As soon as it dries a bit it will be time for the tomatoes. I've reserved 3 beds for tomatoes and haven't quite decided how best to plant them. In the eggplant and pepper beds I panted 7 plants along each long edge and 6 down the middle for 20 plants per bed. That should be enough space for the peppers plush some small things like lettuce and other greens in between. Tomatoes should have a bit more room to allow for air circulation and sunlight to reach the fruit. Maybe 5 down each edge and there may be enough room for 2 or 3 down the middle. If I can only get 36 plants in 3 beds I'm probably going to have to dedicate at least 2 more for tomatoes. I'd better get building.

Got friends coming to stay for a few days on their way to Augusta for the Master's which will put a cramp in the gardening for a few days but if the weather cooperates I should actually have it all ready to go.

I just checked the radar and the rain should be ending in a few minutes, at least for a while, and we'll go check things out.