WATERFALLS – HEAT RELIEF

We decided to take a break this week and go out in search of waterfalls near us here in the western Smoky Mountains. The vegetables are piling up, but before we begin the arduous task of canning tomatoes, we needed a respite. Here’s a little photo journey to help beat this July heat wave of 2016.

The road trip book said Conasauga Falls were down a mostly paved road two miles off the road. Instead, we took a rough ride on a rutted road, mostly gravel, for more than three miles with no signage except the cardboard from a case of beer someone had attached to a tree, with the word “Falls” and an arrow when we reached a crossroads. That should have been our first clue that perhaps our guide book didn’t have all the information. To be fair, it did say the “less than a mile” hike to the falls was “moderately difficult.” That is definitely was but it was more than a mile down to the falls and the walk back to the car was not as easy as the book suggested with switchbacks lessening the incline. There were only two very long switchbacks and in 90-degree heat, the climb felt tortuous. But was it worth it? Take a look and judge for yourself.

 

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Conasauga Falls, Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Plains, Tennessee

 

The heat wore us down, but we continued in our quest. The next waterfall on our journey was said to be easily accessible and perfect for the handicapped. Just what we needed. And this time, the directions were perfect and the description apt. The waterfall was right next to the road. And even better, a short drive further, and we were at smaller falls–more like cascades–with a picnic spot and bathrooms.

 

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Bald River Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

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Baby Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

 

How are you beating the heat? However, you’re doing it, I hope you’re enjoying the summer.

 

 

THE FIRST SALAD OF THE SEASON – #GARDENLOVE

IMG_0648We rolling in lettuce right now. Radishes are beautiful and tasty, too. My husband planted a variety of radishes, and the taste differences are subtle, but none of them are bitter as sometimes happens with older radishes.

I’m amazed at how fast the garden is growing. I’ll soon be pulling down the canning equipment from the attic and buying new jars to put up sauces, pickles, and relishes. I didn’t pack our canning jars from Pittsburgh — too much to move as it was. Time to stock up on freezer bags, too, for peas and beans that will surely come on quickly and soon.

The photo on the left was taken March 20, and the one of the right I took this morning, May 5. It’s a lovely, yet shocking, surprise. I guess my northern gardener adapted to gardening in the mountains with ease.

The bed with straw on top in the photo on the right is planted with approximately twenty-eight asparagus plants that arrived via mail the other day. We have to wait two years to enjoy their bounty.

Today, he’s building the last of the beds, and I’ve asked him to hold off on planting anything there. Fat chance. He has winter squash in pots ready for the ground. At least, I won’t have to deal with preserving those because they should store all winter long once harvested.

We went to the local farmer’s market on Saturday to see what others were offering in local food. They had about the same things we did. I should look into getting my own table at the market for later this spring.

How’s your gardening growing?

 

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From Seed to Table is FREE on Kindle through May 7, 2016. Grab your copy by clicking on photo or if you’d prefer the paperback, click here.

 

 

 

FREE March 9-13 – FROM SEED TO TABLE

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Good morning – Just wanted to let you know that my book, From Seed to Table, is available for free download on Kindle today through Sunday, March 13.

This book is a compilation of my blog posts about gardening, harvesting, and preserving vegetables. It’s full of recipes and organized by the season. If you don’t have your copy, now’s the time to get it.

I haven’t been posting about gardening much in the past few years because we’ve been in transition and moving. But this month, my husband–the real gardener in our family–is building raised beds on the side of our North Carolina hill, foothill, mountain, and I’ll be posting his progress as he begins our new garden journey.

Here’s an excerpt From Seed to Table:

SPRING

Most years by the end of March, the seedlings are growing; onions and garlic are in the ground; spinach, lettuce, and cole plants await placement once the soil is workable. During the second week of March, Robert begins covering the areas of the garden with plastic sheets where he’ll plant first to protect the soil from the late winter/early spring snow and rain. The soil needs to be dry when he begins turning it over and readying it for planting.

Since there’s still a chance for frost or a freeze, we watch the weather each evening and keep the Reemay® near to cover the onions, if necessary. It’s a time of growth, but it’s a tender and tenuous time as well.

From Living Lightly blog – April 2, 2013

The spring of 2013 is late in coming to western Pennsylvania and other parts of the Midwest and Northeast. Spring sprung on the calendar more than ten days ago, yet the cold temperatures stymied our gardening plans. Seeds sprouted a month ago are now seedlings growing under lights in our family room.

I can tell they are yearning, as we are, for the warmer days and nights of spring, for the sunshine to heat the earth, and for soil large enough to spread their roots.

The onions should be in the ground by now or at the very least, they should be outside getting sunlight for a portion of the day. My husband has been putting them out for brief periods, but the temperatures are still too cold for any type of sustained sun bathing.

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The soil for spinach needs preparation. They’ll be ready to go into the ground as soon as the weather cooperates. If spinach is started indoors about a month before transplanting into the garden, the harvest will triple or quadruple, and huge succulent leaves will grow before the plants go to flower in June. Any plants grown indoors need to be slowly exposed to direct sunlight for a few days with minimal mid-day sun during the early spring.

The peas have been most affected by the cold weather of spring 2013. My husband worried for weeks that he wouldn’t be able to get the sprouts in the ground in a timely manner. He sprouts seeds on an old cookie sheet and covers them with several layers of damp paper towel. He has one tray all ready to plant, which he intended to do this past weekend. Then we heard the weather report for the first week of April: nighttime temperatures hitting the low to mid-20s. He said he’d put them in the ground even with predictions of high twenty temperatures, but 25 degrees is too low. He sprouted another set this past week because he’s fairly certain the ones already sprouted won’t last until he can put them in the

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peas ready to plant on March 30, 2013

ground. He put the tray in the basement, hoping to slow down the process.

We’re learning to be flexible with the unpredictable weather patterns of recent years. It’s not always easy, especially when we’re as eager for the warmer temperatures as the plants stretching for light right before our eyes.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, download the rest of the book for free until March 13, 2016 by clicking here.

If you prefer reading the paperback, click here. It’s $7.99 on Amazon.

Thank you and happy gardening. Would love to hear what’s popping at your house!

 

Where Did Summer Go?

Potato Leaf Tomato

Potato Leaf Tomato

I haven’t forgotten you, Living Lightly blog. In fact, I think of you often, and then something comes along to interrupt so I don’t end up writing the post. I’m sorry.

Now that I’ve apologized, it’s time to move on–right into autumn. Now that I think about it, I know exactly where summer went. It went into enjoying the heat and preserving all the vegetables Robert carried from his overflowing garden to my waiting kitchen. Our freezers (we have three of various sizes) are filled, and I know that I have to spend an hour one day organizing so I can find food during the winter.

The tomato crop this year was the best one since we moved to our home here in western Pennsylvania. In fact, my own personal gardener tells me it’s the best year he’s ever had in more than forty years of gardening.

We canned more than forty quarts of Italian sauce and salsa. There are untold numbers of whole tomatoes frozen, waiting for me to make fresh sauce when the winter winds blow. Then when I said I’d done as much as I could with canning and freezing, we started giving away. We put a box out one Sunday afternoon in front of our house with the sign “Free tomatoes.” Within an hour, it was empty. We refilled it. I looked out at one point and a man was taking the whole box. I opened the front door, and yelled, “Do you want more?”

He smiled and ran to my door where I gave him an additional box. A few weeks ago when I was out trimming flowers, a man pulled into the drive and asked what kind of tomatoes did we grow. I answered that my husband grew a variety of types. He said, “They were the huge ones.” Potato leaf, that’s what they were, and they were huge and red and absolutely delicious.

Writing this post makes me long for those tomato sandwiches of summer.

So tell me, how did your tomatoes grow this year?

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Pasta Sauce from Frozen Tomatoes

10 frozen whole tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1 chopped onion

several chopped peppers – I use both sweet and hot peppers

fresh or dried herbs in any combination and to taste: basil, oregano, thyme, fennel, tarragon

salt and pepper

Remove tomatoes from freezer and put in refrigerator for 4-5 hours. Rinse under hot water for a few second until skins peel off easily. Let skinned tomatoes sit for an hour or until core can be cut out easily.

In the meantime, sauté onions, garlic, peppers (or anything else you’d like to add such as mushrooms, carrots, or olives) and herbs.

Chop tomatoes, even if they’re still partially frozen, throw pieces into pan with sautéed mix.

Bring to boil then put on low for several hours, stirring occasionally. When sauce is reduced enough, it’s time to use sauce in your favorite Italian dish.???????????????????????????????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Gardening and #Raspberries

We’re getting a steady influx of vegetables these days, but nothing much to preserve yet. There are a few tomatoes ripening on the kitchen windowsill.firsttomatoes Last night I grilled zucchini and green peppers. Cucumbers are trickling in, but not enough to turn into pickles and relish. Usually this waiting period occurs in late June, but here in western Pennsylvania, we’re about three later with everything.

raspberriesI did manage to pick more than a quart of raspberries this past week and made my very first batch of jam. Two cups of raspberries made two 1/2 pints of jam. I bought six quarts of blueberries from a local farmer this past week and froze four of the quarts. One quart I used to make three 1/2 pints of jam. Raspberries and blueberries generally follow the same recipe so I made the jam all at the same time.blueberries

I searched the Internet for recipes with low or no sugar added. My husband and I prefer the tartness of fruit without the added sweeteners. I finally settled on Ball’s recipe using their pectin calculator.

I used Ball’s RealFruit Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin. Basically for two cups of berries, the recipe calls for 1/3 cup unsweetened fruit juice or water. I used apple juice. 1 1/2 TBSP pectin, and 3 tsp bottled lemon juice. Two cups of berries equals two 1/2 pints.

First I carefully washed and picked through the berries. Then I put them in a shallow, rectangular dish and mashed them with my bean masher.RaspberryMash I could have mixed the raspberries and blueberries into one jam, but since this was our first raspberry crop, we wanted those in their own jam.

From there, I put them into a large container and added the other ingredients. I also added 1/4 tsp butter to each pot to alleviate foaming. All the while, the 1/2 pint jars were boiling in the canner, and the lids and bands were simmering in a pot.

blueberryboilI brought each pot of berries to a boil and let them boil hard for one minute. The mixture must be stirred constantly to avoid sticking. Then I removed them from the heat and ladled into hot, sterilized jars. Processing time is ten minutes for altitudes under 1,000 feet. Since we’re at 1,100, I always add five minutes to the processing time when I’m canning.

I had a bit too much of the blueberry mixture, so I put that in a glass container and stuck in the refrigerator, where it will last approximately three weeks. The blueberry jam tastes wonderful and it set up perfectly. I look forward to opening one of the jars of raspberries very soon.jars

What’s growing in your garden these days?

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

Freeze those Tomatoes

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The tomatoes aren’t producing enough this year for me to make my Italian sauce or salsa. The peppers aren’t doing well either. We blame it on the weather, which has been too wet here for the tomatoes liking. We are getting enough tomatoes to eat at least once a day. I’ve also managed to freeze a half dozen bags of tomatoes for sauce this winter. The sauce I make from the frozen tomatoes is our favorite.

Here’s an excerpt from From Seed to Table on how to freeze and then use those tomatoes in a few months – if you can wait that long.

 

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I asked my Facebook friends if they knew anything about freezing tomatoes, and I received some interesting suggestions. But after canning dozens of quarts of sauces, I wanted simple. I washed the whole tomatoes and let them dry. Then I placed them on a cookie sheet that I put in the freezer. Once the tomatoes were frozen, I transferred them to ziplock baggies where they stayed until I needed them for a sauce. They won’t be much good for putting raw on a salad, but they make a delicious Italian sauce or salsa.

 

 

Pasta Sauce from Frozen Tomatoes

10 frozen whole tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1 chopped onion

several chopped peppers – I use both sweet and hot peppers

fresh or dried herbs in any combination and to taste: basil, oregano, thyme, fennel, tarragon

salt and pepper

Remove tomatoes from freezer and put in refrigerator for 4-5 hours. Rinse under hot water for a few seconds until skins peel off easily. Let skinned tomatoes sit for an hour or until core can be cut out easily.

In the meantime, sauté onions, garlic, peppers (or anything else you’d like to add such as mushrooms, carrots, or olives) and herbs.

Chop tomatoes, even if they’re still partially frozen, throw pieces into pan with sautéed mix.

Bring to boil then put on low for several hours, stirring occasionally. When sauce is reduced enough, it’s time to use sauce in your favorite Italian dish.

What’s going on in your garden this year????????????????????????????????

 

From Seed to Table – Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food is available for Kindle on Amazon for $4.99.

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Crabs and Writing

DSC02602 By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from writing regular blog posts. I suppose I could blame it on summer. Having more daylight hours means having more things to do, such as gardening, boating/kayaking, and golfing.

The garden isn’t doing much these days because the added rainfall has made things a bit too soggy for our tomatoes. I haven’t canned one single sauce yet this summer. But I have been out on the water relaxing and thinking up all sorts of topics for my blog. I have so many topics written down on a pad of paper that I don’t know where to begin.

So I’ll write about Maryland crabs. We recently went to the Maryland coast and visited the Red Roost restaurant near Assateague Island. The place is an old converted chicken farm, which lends itself well to the casual atmosphere inside.DSC02600

My husband and I had never experienced eating Maryland crabs, but our waitress was pleased to help us. It’s not unlike lobster, except it’s a lot more work.

We ordered the bucket which came with scallops, shrimp, clams, and corn. And six crabs, which we thought was plenty for us newbies.

Our bucket came with ten crabs instead. We set to work becoming experts after the first one. The meat is sweet, but in small bites. It might make for a good diet because you are forced to eat very slow.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely as we experienced something together for the first time. But we both agreed we’d had our fill of Maryland crabs for a very long time.

???????????????????????????????What have you been doing this summer? Anything exotic (I know it’s hard to beat eating crabs in an old chicken house, but I bet you can!)?