#GARDENING TIPS AND RECIPES TO SUSTAIN AND FEED OUR BODY AND SOULS

New Recipes and Updated Gardening Tips

I wrote From Seed to Table in 2013 while we lived in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2015, we bought a cabin for summers in the Smoky Mountains of southwestern North Carolina, while returning to my north Florida home in north Florida. Since then, my husband has been learning to garden in two different zones, and I’ve expanded my repertoire for cooking and preserving the food grown during year round gardening experiences.

While self-quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided the time had come to work on revising the book. I’d been adding to a file but had put off revisions while I worked on other projects. The time seemed right to work on the revisions. There appears to be a renewed, and in some cases, new interest in planting gardens. It is my sincere hope that From Seed to Table will inspire others to grow their own food while giving plenty of tips to make the process fun and successful.

Happy spring and gardening to you and yours!

 

From Seed to Table – Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food

S2T-5From Seed to Table is available in paperback and on Kindle. Kindle Unlimited members may download From Seed to Table for free.

“This is a friendly book that makes you feel like you are just sitting and having a chat with a knowledgeable modern day homesteader. P.C. Zick has adapted a sustainable lifestyle with gardening and preserving in different climates, (Pennsylvania to North Carolina mountains to north Florida) and urban to acreage. She shares her perspective in a manner that will benefit interested readers in varying locations. There are tips in there for the novice and the more experienced.” – Dr. Jennifer Shambrook, Author

From Seed to Table offers the personal experiences of home gardening from one couple. Starting with winter, the book follows each season from the garden to the table. Gardening tips, as used by Robert and Patricia Zick in their vegetable gardens in three different zones, are given along with preserving tips and recipes. The book also includes suggestions and recipes for canning and freezing vegetables. The Zicks hope some of their experience will inspire others to grow their own food and to eat local food as much as possible. While not an exhaustive reference for all gardening, preserving, and cooking techniques, it is filled with firsthand experience from an experienced gardener and a veteran cook.

#KINDNESS LIVES IN THE MOUNTAINS

DSC03894I called it the “dam trip,” and dragged my husband along. Labor Day didn’t mean we had to work–me at my computer writing and Robert in his garden gardening–and besides, the day held the promise of perfect weather. Temperature in the seventies, cloudless sky, and a slight breeze all indicated to me it was time to do something in nature. Kayaking was out because of some back pain for Robert. The next best thing? A dam drive in the Smokies.

Three major dams in western North Carolina provide power for the TVA all within forty miles of one another. The drive took us through towering mountains as the road hugged the shores streams, rivers, and lakes. But one stop at Yellow Creeks Falls did more to restore my faith and hope in mankind than viewing breathtaking vistas.

We hadn’t brought our walking sticks for hiking, something we always do here in the mountains. We started out on the short hike to the small falls, and the path was rocky and narrow. A young couple came toward us, and I pulled up next to a tree to let them pass. He carried a walking stick, and I said. “I wish I’d brought my walking stick,” and nodded to his.

“Here–take this one,” the young man said.

“No, no. That’s fine.” I was sorry I’d made my thought public.

“No,” he insisted, “I don’t need it anymore. It’s yours. I just made it.”

He handed it to me. The stick had been stripped of its bark with one end sharpened into a point. Then he walked on leaving me with his work of art and a much appreciated implement for me to use on the rest of the hike.

Nothing on our dam trip came close to inspiring me more than one young man’s kindness on the waterfall trail. I brought the stick home. It will be my reminder to  pay it forward at every opportunity.

The dam trip renewed me. The young man whose path crossed mine gave more than just a piece of wood he found near the Yellow Creek Falls.

DSC03892

Yellow Creek Falls, Cheoah Recreation Area, North Carolina

IN PURSUIT OF THE WATERFALL

DryFalls10.JPGWe’re in our second summer of living in the Smoky Mountains, and we still have so much to learn and explore. Yesterday, we took a day away from canning and cooking to chase waterfalls. And we ended with a short kayak paddle on Nantahala Lake.

First, we headed east on Highway 64 toward Highlands, North Carolina. This road becomes curvy narrow, and extremely busy once past Franklin. But it’s worth it. Three waterfalls are within ten miles of one another and can be seen from the highway.

Bridal Veil Falls

A road goes under this fall, but it is currently closed. However, there are pull off spots and we were still able to walk under the falls.

Dry Falls

A paved path leads down to the falls as well as a great observation deck to see the falls in its entirety. Once down at the bottom, visitors can walk right under the seventy-five-foot foot falls.

Cullasaja Falls

We couldn’t figure out how to get to the bottom of these falls which are supposedly 250-feet. We could only pull off and view a portion of them, but still a beautiful sight.

Rufus Morgan Falls

We headed back toward our cabin via Wayah Bald Road and hiked almost a mile to the Rufus Morgan Falls. The path becomes wet and rocky after about a half a mile so I sat on a rock and meditated while Robert climbed to the top of the sixty-foot falls. Here are my meditative photos.

Nantahala Lake

Our day ended with a refreshing swim in Nantahala Lake. Then we hopped in our kayaks and paddled around a bit before heading home. The next day trip will include a trip up to one of the highest peaks in the area, Wayah Bald at 5,300+ feet.

GARDEN NEWS – IT’S ONLY BEGINNING!

 

20170619_105057

Jack’s Beanstalks?

Last year, our Smoky Mountain garden saw very little rain. The whole region suffered from a drought. But this spring and now into June, the rains have been frequent and steady. We left on our trip to Michigan hoping the rain would continue so our friend didn’t have to come over every other day to water. She came three times over a two-week period, but only to pick vegetables.

 

A few days before we returned, she hauled home a bag of beans, several green peppers and onions and a batch of peas. The day we arrived home, my husband went out and picked five plastic bags of vegetables, including a large bag of broccoli from plants that had already put forth heads. My well-heeled and prolific gardener husband had never seen such a thing.bowl

Yesterday, our first full day home, I spent in the kitchen. I blanched and froze fourteen bags of beans and seven bags of broccoli. There’s still a bag of beans in the refrigerator waiting to be steamed for three bean salad (see my recipe below).

Last night, he began digging up the garlic. This is the first year that we really have a crop. We’re letting it dry out on the porch now and before it rains this afternoon, Bob is outside digging up the rest.

20170619_105222Here’s a warning to family and friends we’ll see this summer – expect plenty of bulbs for your summer and fall garlic needs. I’d love to braid them, but haven’t a clue how it’s done. Anyone out there who knows how to do it?

Here’s the process for blanching and freezing both the beans and the broccoli.

20170619_105117Beans

  1. Wash and break into two-inch pieces.
  2. Place in boiling water and blanch for three minutes.
  3. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  4. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

Broccoli

  1. Rinse and remove stalks and leaves. Cut into serving size pieces.
  2. Place in one gallon of salt water (1 cup of salt) and let soak for thirty minutes. This will make sure all the bugs are gone before blanching.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Place in boiling water and blanch for three to four minutes (depending on the size of the pieces).
  5. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  6. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

20170619_105143

Pat’s variation on a marinated green bean salad

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick with Robert Zick

4 cups green beans, steamed for about 7 minutes

1 can black olives, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 lb. Swiss cheese, cut into small chunks

onion, chopped (use amount to your taste – I used two small onions from the garden)

fresh dill, parsley or other herbs of your choice

1 red pepper, chopped (you can use green or banana peppers too)

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

juice from one lemon

Mix together all the vegetables and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving. This salad is even better on the second and third days.

green bean salad

Seed1

Available on Amazon – Kindle and paperback versions.

AUMTUMN IN THE MOUNTAINS

santeetlahgap2

Santeetlah Gap – Cherohala Skyway, Smoky Mountains, on October 25, 2016

We took a drive on the Cherohala Skyway last week. We hoped to catch the colors at their peak. The trip on the Skyway is always interesting, but the colors didn’t quite match our expectations. A dry summer with record-breaking temperatures must have stymied the production of color. The areas that were in color seemed muted and exhausted. And at the peak of the Skyway, the leaves were all gone. We were driving along, stopping at many of the pull off spots to search for bits of color, when suddenly, we reached 5,000 feet in elevation and the trees were bare as if it was winter already.

Still, we enjoyed taking a few detours, even though the creeks and waterfalls barely flowed. We picnicked on Citico Creek, about five miles down from the Skyway. Citico is a former Cherokee community that was destroyed when the Little Tennessee River was dammed. Now Tellico Lake covers the former community. We managed to find a secluded spot. The Skyway had become crowded with other color seekers, so we left them up on the Skyway.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Later, after coming down off the peak of the Skyway, the colors returned on the Tennessee side.

GoingDown1.JPG

Beautiful day with my hubby that still lingers in our memory as we prepare to begin the next phase of our new life. We’re Florida bound for six months, but the Smoky Mountains remain in our hearts.

DSC03703.JPG

Happy fall! I hope you’re enjoying the season. May the color of your life always be bright and filled with life. ❤

 

SUMMER LINGERS WHILE FALL BECKONS

 

dsc03556

Wild turkeys outside my office window in the winter.

The wild turkeys gather together as summer wanes forming their “gangs” to wander the mountains surrounding our cabin. Last night we heard a rustling outside our front door. When we went to look, a large turkey flapped its wings and flew into a tree in front of our porch, settling on a branch precariously. We watched as it moved around on the bouncing branch. Finally, it quieted and went to sleep for the night. The turkeys have come home to roost.

 

As always, the summer flew by and our days are numbered in the mountains, although we hope to see much of the color burst forth on the still-green trees. Yet, signs are everywhere as berries form on the holly tree and the sumac leaves begin to turn red.

dsc03660Our first full summer in North Carolina satisfied us. The garden grew and grew, providing the pantry and freezer with plenty of vegetables and sauces for the winter. We froze peas, beans, cole slaw, soup starter vegetable sauce, and zucchini bread. I pickled dills, chips, and relish. We put up pasta sauce and salsa. And if that wasn’t enough, my husband went out and bought local corn from a roadside pick-up truck because that’s one thing he doesn’t grow. He froze twenty bags of corn kernels. When his lima beans only produced enough for the table, he bought a bushel from a local farmer of “butter beans” and froze seventeen bags of those. If you’ve never tasted fresh lima or butter (same thing) beans, then you have no idea of the soft buttery vegetable’s virtue. Try it sometime.

 

dsc03666

Tomatoes waiting to become pasta sauce or salsa.

Our kayaks provided transportation on local rivers and lakes and gave us moments of serenity and inspiration. We’ve only begun to explore all the places of watery beauty in our area. We are the beneficiaries of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s damming of the rivers. The lakes that are formed as a result–Chatuge, Nottley, and Hiwassee–are deep and long. Plenty of boat ramps make them easy to access and give us a multitude of landscapes to explore.

 

Drives brought us to waterfalls with plenty more to explore and enjoy.

The only complaint I have is the weather. It’s been an unusual summer here in the mountains. We came here to escape the heat and humidity of Florida’s summer, but it followed us here but without the rain. Temperatures near ninety, humidity as high without even the relief of afternoon showers. The storms I love to watch moving across the mountains have been few and always bring us running to the front porch to catch a rare glimpse of darkening clouds and rain hitting the metal roof. Who knows what is normal anymore as far as weather goes? Maybe the winter will be sunny and warm in Florida all winter.

How did your summer shape up?

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.

 

ConasaugaFalls1.JPG

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.

 

IMG_0756

Bald River Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

IMG_0758

Baby Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

 

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

 

 

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER

IMG_0729Here in the western Smoky Mountains, the rain has often skipped us this summer. No wonder when it started raining yesterday, we danced on the porch to the sound of drops on the metal roof. The garden turned its thirsty heads heavenward and drank in the beauty of a late afternoon shower. Our excitement was tempered by the thought of the folks in West Virginia who received too much too fast of the wet stuff.

Water is a stunning force and never doubt its ability to wield its power over anything in its path. It follows the road of least resistance, which sometimes means manmade things will never stand a chance. I respect its eminence and magnitude in our lives.

Early this morning found us in our kayaks on the Hiwassee River–yes, I’ve spelled that correctly. Here in western North Carolina the “a” is missing, but go ten miles into Georgia, and it is spelled “Hiawassee.” (From Chenocetah’s Weblog on Cherokee names: Both are from the Cherokee “a-yu-wa-si,” which means a meadow-like place, or a place with mostly low plants and few trees.) It’s anyone’s guess why. However you spell it or pronounce it, it shimmers in the morning sun and provides a peaceful cruise for two kayakers seeking beauty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow U.S. citizens and Merry Summer to all the rest of you. I hope you are enjoying blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and tranquil company.

It’s Growing! #gardenlove

Beds2My husband rushed to put all of his seedlings in his newly built garden bed before we headed to Florida for a few weeks. The light began fading from the day as he tenderly placed the last plant in the soil he’d been preparing for a few weeks. And then the heavens opened up.

He raced to the porch just as the rain poured down on the plants. Now almost three weeks later, I’ll let you be the judge whether that was a good omen. The plants are all thriving here in the Smoky Mountains.

Before we left, we put together a simple, yet effective compost bin. We’ve been unable to compost for the past ten months, and it felt wasteful to throw away onion skins, broccoli stalks, eggshells, and coffee grounds. We put the new bin right next to the deck steps for easy access from the kitchen.Compost

Here’s an excerpt from my book, From Seed to Table, which contains a section on creating a place for your scraps from the kitchen.

Composting

I’ve been composting kitchen waste ever since I had a small rooftop garden in my efficiency apartment in Ann Arbor in 1979. Since then I’ve composted on a twenty-acre homestead, in an urban backyard, and behind the shed in my current home in Pennsylvania. It’s a simple process and begins with finding a container with a sealable lid to keep in the kitchen for the food scraps.

It’s not a complicated process, although many folks hesitate to begin because they believe it’s difficult. If you simply follow a few basic instructions, you’ll be rolling in the black gold of the gardening world as quickly as the tomato plants begin sprouting green fruit.

Not all of your waste from the kitchen makes good compostable material. Avoid the use of meat scraps, fish byproducts, cheese, bones, fats, oils, or grease because they attract wild animals, take a very long time to break down, and can spread harmful bacteria into the soil and infect plants.

Eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable matter make the best material to start the process of minting your very own black gold. We buy brown (unbleached) coffee filters, so we throw the grounds and the filter in the compost bin as well.

Once the container is filled with your kitchen scrapes, empty it into the compost bin and cover with either brown or green organic material. Making the rich topsoil requires a balancing act between green materials and brown materials placed on top of the kitchen scraps. The green things are those still close to the live stage, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and some manures. Don’t use the manure from pets or pigs, as it will promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Chicken manure is the best kind. The browns have been dead for a while and consist of dry leaves, woody materials, and even shredded paper. We use the ashes from our fireplace, too. Layering these elements, with the browns taking up the most space, leads to the decomposition of the materials. Air and water are essential in assisting in this process, but usually there is enough liquid in the compost container and in the air without watering the pile. If you notice the material in the bin looks dry, go ahead and water it.

There are products you can purchase from shredders to rotating drums to three-stage bins. You can spend from $20 to several hundreds of dollars to make a compost bin. If you live in the extreme north, you may need to invest in the more sophisticated type of equipment to ensure the success of your compost bin. However, I’ve composted in Michigan, Florida, and now Pennsylvania and managed to do it successfully without expending tons of money.

When I lived in an urban setting in Florida, I did the simplest thing. I bought a plastic garbage can for under $10 and cut off the bottom. I drilled holes all over the lid and sides to allow airflow. You can spend a little more on a galvanized garbage can, but it will be more difficult to remove the bottom. I dug a hole about three-inches deep in the soil the diameter of the can and placed the bottom into the ground, filling around the outer sides to make it secure.

I covered the bottom on the inside with the dirt I removed to make the hole, making sure it was nice and loose. Then I placed my kitchen scraps on top. I covered those with leaves from my yard and put the lid back on the garbage can. Every time I put new material from the kitchen into the bin, I stirred the whole thing with a shovel.

In Pennsylvania, we bought a simple compost bin from Lowes for under $50. It has small panels on all four sides that slide off for easy removal of the dirt from the bottom.image008

In the spring, I fill flowerpots with the healthy rich soil from the bottom of the compost bin to assist grateful petunias, pansies, impatiens, and marigolds. We’ll gaze upon the blossoming colors on the patio and take satisfaction in making fertile soil that originated in our kitchen and garden. Our vegetables, herbs, and flowerbed plants will all receive a healthy dose of the soil as well, and then we start the process all over again.

Earthworms are the essential ingredient for turning the scraps into rich dark soil. If I see a worm in the yard, I’ll pick it up and carry it to the bin, but mostly the earthworms find it all by themselves. If you don’t see any in your pile, buy a small container of earthworms from the local bait shop and let them loose. They eat the organic matter, and quite graciously poop behind nice dirt.

I love the symmetry of composting. It’s a way to be a part of the cycle of nature without disturbing or destroying it.

How’s your gardening going? If you’re not a gardener, what’s going on with local food at the Farmer’s Market? Always love to hear what’s going on in different parts of the country. We figure we’re about a month to six weeks ahead from where we were in Pittsburgh. Even though we’re in the mountains, it’s still the south! Happy gardening and eating the luscious foods of spring and summer.

S2T-6

Click on cover to purchase on Amazon.

 

Building the Garden Beds

 

DSC03560

Pre-Samuel

We began by hiring Samuel to bring his excavator out to the cabin to prepare the site for a garden. Tree stumps stood in Robert’s way to turning the soft clay soil. Samuel had no problem ripping them out of the ground and dumping over the other side of our small mountain (folks here call these hills or foothills).

 

We heard him before we saw him. He decided to unload his machinery down at the bottom of the hill and drive it up to the cabin. And then he got right down to work.DSC03568

DSC03570

DSC03571

After three hours, Samuel finished the job, leaving the rest to Robert and another great guy, Peter, to start building the beds.

 

DSC03573

Cutting the boards for the sides of the beds

DSC03575

The inside of the boards were lined with plastic to protect the wood. Robert decided not to use pressure treated lumber even if it means replacing these boards in a few years. When that time comes, we hope to find a local supplier of boards made from recycled materials.

DSC03581

Making the soil: Layers of mostly decomposed bark, mushroom manure, top soil, more bark, more manure.

 

 

DSC03584

Raking in more bark, a sprinkling of lime, and another layer of top soil. 

DSC03591

Robert stained the wood to make it blend in with the surroundings.

DSC03592

The side going down the hill.

 

Originally, we planned to build two beds – one beneath this one. But then we decided that the lower bed would actually be two or three smaller boxes to be built later in the spring. One thing that has been difficult is finding good top soil. We finally found someone who will be delivering a load this week, and that will finish off this first bed.

Robert wants the soil to rest for a few days before he begins planting the seedlings, although he’s going to hold off on the tomato plants for a few weeks.DSC03589DSC03587

DSC03593

And my little herb garden – the two larger plants (rosemary and oregano) were purchased. The little babies were started by Robert from seed. The planters will be right outside on the deck so I can easily grab them during meal prep

I think this will be an excellent garden. I will keep you posted on the progress.

Robert’s retirement brings him to a place where he can pursue his passion for growing food full time. Next challenge for him will be to create a garden in our Florida home. He’s in for a huge learning curve as all of his gardening – since he was old enough to hold a shovel – has been in the north. Lots to learn in the coming months, but also food to eat and stories to tell.

 

From Seed to Table presents lots of gardening tips and recipes for meals and also for preserving the food from the garden. I wrote this book based on a northern garden. I guess it’s time to start creating another volume for gardening in the Smoky Mountains! Still, I think you’ll find lots of good tips no matter where you live.

S2T-5

Click on cover for $.99 cents Kindle version