GARDENING IN OCTOBER

dsc03682The garden started in March by building raised beds on the side of a hill are still producing! Tomatoes, winter squash, and lima beans grace our table. Although the butternut and Queensland Blue are there more for decoration right now.

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Queensland Blue Pumpkin – Cooks up just like regular pumpkin

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March 2016

 

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May 2016

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July 2016

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October 2016

Next on the agenda:  The Florida garden. We’re in the process of heading to our home in Tallahassee for the winter. It will be the first time my husband has spent the winter away from a northern climate. He’s already plodding and planning and ordering seeds. In fact, yesterday, he began potting some seedlings. He hasn’t even built the garden yet! But he plans on using the same concept of raised beds and creating his own mixture of soil.

How did your garden grow this year? Love to hear from you!

 

 

 

SUMMER LINGERS WHILE FALL BECKONS

 

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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.

 

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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?

#Garden Abundance

IMG_0716It’s a good thing we took a break this week because, by Friday, the refrigerator and countertops overflowed with zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, and carrots! Time to get to work.

Normally, I try to spread it out over a few days, but I decided since I’m between writing projects that I’d take one day and devote to the preserving the produce.

I started with a new recipe. Zucchini Blueberry Bread. The local market called me this week to tell me local blueberries were in, and they’d saved two gallons for me. After freezing two large gallon bags for use in smoothies, I still had a full container and zucchini in the crisper. After researching online for recipes combining the two, I finally found one that I could modify for our tastes and preferences. So here it is! I’ll be adding it to the next edition of From Seed to Table, but until then here it is.IMG_0765

Zucchini Blueberry Bread

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil

1 cup maple syrup

3 cups, zucchini (unpeeled and grated in food processor)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups unbleached white, 1 cup whole wheat – personal preference)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

4 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Add oil, syrup, vanilla, almond extract, and zucchini to beaten eggs.
  2. Sift dry ingredients and add to batter.
  3. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour to one hour, fifteen minutes until toothpick comes out cleanly.
  6. Cool on rack. Bread freezes very nicely.

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We had it for breakfast this morning, and it’s very moist and delicious. I modify recipes to reduce the oil usually suggested. Then I add more zucchini because if I’m making zucchini bread, chances are I have enough to spare.

IMG_0770My husband picked the first cabbage yesterday along with a few lovely carrots. Nothing else to do but make some cole slaw. I used the recipe for freezing slaw originally from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preservingmodified for my book, From Seed to Table. When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical, but in our family, it has a proven track record!

Here’s the recipe from From Seed to Table:

Cole slaw to freeze

This is a wonderful way to preserve all that fresh cabbage. Once thawed, add mayonnaise to taste. The flavors are even better in this slaw when thawed than when fresh, even if the cabbage wasn’t as crisp.

1 large head of cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, grated

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cup sugar

1 tsp dried mustard

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup water

Combine all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let mixture stand for one hour. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and boil for three minutes. Cool. Ladle over vegetables and stir together. Place mixture in freezer bags or containers and place in freezer. We like our slaw with a little bit of mayonnaise so I add about a tablespoon to each two-serving bag when it’s unthawed. If you like an all-vinegar slaw, you don’t have to do anything except thaw the slaw when you’re ready to eat it.

We saved back some for dinner last night, and it was tart and biting, which we like. The freezer will mellow some of that.

Finally, we put together our pasta sauce, using the method and recipe from our book, which brings me to one final thing!

Normally, From Seed to Table  is $3.99 to download on Kindle, but through July 25, you can grab it for only $0.99. The book also comes in paperback. Check it out!

 

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Click on cover for $.99 cents Kindle version

Kindle

Paperback

What’s growing in your garden? What’s going on at your local farmers’ market?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

GARDENING BY DEFAULT – TOMATOES, PEPPERS, AND PRAYING MANTIS

June 8, 2013 - Raccoon Township, PA

June 8, 2013 – Raccoon Township, PA

I’ve written several tons about my husband’s gardening abilities and prowess. But this year, we’ve had to readjust because of the major transition in our lives. We’re still one foot in Pittsburgh and heart and soul in the Smoky Mountains. He knew this year’s gardening would be non-existent, but still he refused to give up completely.

Before he left our cabin in early July, he threw two pepper plants and two tomato plants in the ground where he hopes to build terraced beds next year. He bought the plants at Lowe’s, unlike in past years when he started all plants from his own seeds. Yet, he persisted. When I came back to the cabin in August, the plants had survived and banana peppers and one tomato hung on the vine ready for me to eat.

August 2015 - Neglected Peppers

August 2015 – Neglected Peppers

I left the mountains and came back to Pittsburgh for a few weeks. We returned to the cabin last week. To our surprise, our neglected, but not forgotten plants thrived in our absence. My husband feels certain the soil and the sun will provide us with a two-season garden in the years to come.

Garden Bounty

Here’s another little treasure from our trip to the mountains. We picked up a hitchhiker and he clung to our windshield until we drove to the river where he finally flew off. Hopefully, not to get his head eaten by his female partner as some rare species of praying mantis are wont to do. Autumn is mating season so perhaps he decided to get away from that dreaded fate.

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Tomorrow Robert undergoes surgery for his GERD, which we hope will help alleviate many of the symptoms he’s suffered through the past two years. It’s been tough for him, and we would appreciate prayers and positive thoughts for his recovery back to his old self. the leaves

GRILLED PIZZA WITH VINE-RIPENED TOMATOES!

Seed 99 cents smallerFrom my gardening book From Seed to Table, here’s one of my favorite recipes when the tomatoes are overflowing the kitchen window sills. I miss having our garden this year, but thank goodness for local food markets and farmers markets. And to celebrate the harvest, you can download the book for only $0.99 on Kindle by clicking here???????????????????????????????

Grilled Pizza

This recipe is one I’ve been perfecting over the past several years, and it’s best made with the freshest of tomatoes from the garden. Pizza is personal. I’m sharing my personal recipe, but you may find other toppings you like better.

Just like with pie, it all starts with the crust. You can buy pizza dough, but this recipe is pretty basic and easy to make.

Pizza dough

1 pkg. dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 ½ cups flour (all unbleached white or use half white and half whole wheat)

Olive oil

Beat yeast, sugar, and water until well blended. Let rest for a few minutes. Add salt and flour and mix until dough forms. Knead on floured board until smooth (three-five minutes). Place in a warm bowl coated with olive oil. Cover with damp towel and leave in a warm spot. Allow to rise until dough doubles (approximately an hour). Punch down dough and roll into oblong roll on floured board. (I usually cut dough in half and place one portion in a freezer bag and freeze). Cut into ten to twelve (full dough recipe) or five to six pieces and roll each into a ball.

Roll out each ball into a thin circle, approximately six inches in diameter and place on cookie coated with olive oil. The smaller the individual pizzas, the easier it will be to put them on the grill. Grill at 400 degrees Fahrenheit on side with oil for two minutes or until a crust forms on the one side.

The trickiest part of the whole process is making sure the crusts don’t burn on the grill. You know your grill best. I’ve learned to do this by trial and error and mostly by hovering near the grill and watching.

After one side is grilled, make sure cookie sheet is still coated with olive oil and place crusts back on the cookie sheet with grilled side up. You are now ready to put the ingredients on top of the grilled side.

Pizza toppings

(For six pizzas – double if using full recipe of dough)

3-4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 sweet or hot banana pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste

Place sliced tomatoes on the grilled side of crust. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly on top of tomatoes to taste. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Sprinkle basil and feta over tomatoes. Put on peppers. Finish with the mozzarella cheese. You’re now ready to put back on the hot grill.

You must be very careful at this point so you don’t burn the bottom of the crusts. Again, I’ve had to learn from practice. For my gas grill (which is very old), this method works the best. I put the pizzas on the hot grill and shut the cover leaving burners on high. After 2-3 minutes (without opening the lid), I turn off the grill and let the pizzas sit while the grill cools down. After 20 minutes, the cheese is melted and the crusts are not burned. Sometimes I put the pizzas on the cookie sheet and place under the broiler for one minute to ensure a bubbly cheesy top. Sprinkle the finished product with Parmesan cheese.

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Final task: ENJOY!!!!!

Saying Good-bye

MaplehurstIt took me by surprise when I shut the garage door and prepared to leave the house for the last time. I sat in the driveway, crying. I called my husband, but he was in a meeting. So I sat and cried. We loved this home where we’d lived for the past five years. With our wedding in the backyard less than a month after we moved in, we began our marriage in the large house with a flat yard for my husband’s garden.ceremony

Love and produce blossomed and bloomed in this house. We didn’t sell the house because we hated living there; we sold it because the time had come for it to be used by a family big enough to fill its spaces.

And so this week after months of preparation and packing, the place stood empty, but not vacant. The walls echoed with the sound of our laughter and waited to embrace the young couple who bought it.

I cried again at the closing. Not tears of sadness, but of happiness for the family about to make it theirs. Two young folks with a five- and two-year old and another baby on the way in September, excitedly signed the papers turning it over to them. Their young sons played on the floor behind us, unaware of the momentous event occurring for their parents who were buying their first home.

“You know why we bought this house that was far too big for us?” I asked the couple as we signed papers. “It had a flat yard for the garden.”

“That’s my favorite part, too,” the woman said.

June 8, 2013

I wish them abundance, laughter, and love in this home that embraced us in its loving arms.

We left green tomatoes on the vine, peas bursting from pods, and onions peeking up from the earth. It feels good to walk away knowing we nurtured the land and left it better than we found it.

We move forward in a cabin that is much, much smaller and with no flat land. We’ve packed the pick-ax and boards for terracing a mountainside garden. Wish us luck!

 

I gave the couple an autographed copy of From Seed to Table and two of my novels written in this house. This home proved fruitful for both vegetables and words.

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

THE RITES AND RIGHTS OF SPRING

Tomato and pepper plants wait for warmer soil

Tomato plants wait for warmer soil.

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

It’s a rite of spring around our house that my husband begins preparing the soil and putting in the ground onion seedlings and pea sprouts.

Onions are in the ground.

Onions are in the ground.

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Spinach babies seeking the sun.

Spinach plants come out from under the grow lights and into the sunlight of warmer spring days. Tomato and pepper plants begin peeping out of the soil in their pots and when tall enough transferred to larger pots, waiting for that day in May when the ground and air temperatures are warm enough for them to stretch their roots into the soil of the raised beds.

Alas, this year hubby promised he’d go easy. After all, our house is for sale with hopes for a spring or early summer buyer and move. Hubby’s had a heck of a year health-wise, with the doctors no closer to a solution than they were a year and a half ago. A very large blood clot in his leg that broke off and moved to his lungs put him on the disabled list this past week. That didn’t stop him. The doctors at the hospital said he could do some planting, but they didn’t know that my husband believes the rite of spring planting is his right of life no matter his state. Sunday found him in his garden planting two rows–each fifteen feet–of pea seeds he’d sprouted during the past two weeks.

Rows of peas are planted in raised beds.

Rows of peas are planted in raised beds.

Monday found him in bad shape and a severe lecture from our family doctor has taken not only his right of spring to plant, but his rite of the season is squashed for now.

As we left the doctor’s office, he said, “There’s nothing more to plant for a while anyway.”

The pansies are my offering to brighten up the yard.

The pansies are my offering to brighten up the yard.

Thank goodness or we’d be right back where we started.

As the days warm and the daffodils bloom and tulips push forward, we also hope for answers for my stubborn husband with the green thumb.

How’s your garden growing this spring?

Don’t forget to download or get your paperback copy of From Seed to Table.

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?

From Seed to Table S2T-5

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.???????????????????????????????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Monarchs and #Tomatoes As Summer Wanes

Potato Leaf Tomato

It’s been a very bountiful year for our tomatoes. They are the biggest my hubby has ever produced, and they are still coming although the leaves are telling us that the season is about to end.

I put up ten quarts of Italian sauce two weeks ago. We’ve given away dozens of tomatoes. I have seven bags of frozen whole tomatoes for the winter. This weekend we plan on doing eight to ten pints of salsa.

The last of this year's crop

This morning I walked outside to visit the dahlias and marigolds and sunflowers in full bloom and full of bees and now butterflies. We planted milkweed there in the spring, but only one of the plants has survived, but with no flowers. We planted it in hopes of helping the monarch butterfly that depends on these plants to fuel them enough to fly to Mexico each winter.

 

MonarchMuch to my delight and surprise, among the many butterflies feasting on the flowers, sat a monarch on a red dahlia.

The final weeks of summer bring their own bittersweet shots of beauty. I treasure these days. A few trees are turning orange but the weather is still hot and sunny.

I hope your summer has been bountiful and fruitful whatever you’ve done, eaten, or planted!

 

Recipes for preserving tomatoes can be found in From Seed to Table. S2T-5