Sunday, December 14, 2014

Last Summer's Hard Work Pays Off

This weekend, in all the holiday hoopla of gift-shopping (as little as we could get away with), visiting with friends (made yesterday great!), and cookie-making (all of this afternoon), we didn't manage the weekly run to the grocery store. When I was poking through the cupboards thinking about supper, I almost gathered up my jacket and wallet to make that run.

We are out of fresh fruit, and the drawers in the fridge contain only carrots. The rest of the fridge is pretty empty, too.

However, we have many jars of dehydrated garden-peppers and tomatoes, a big basket heaped with butternut squash, another big basket heaped with sweet potatoes, a smaller basket still half-filled with shallots, and a small freezer filled with tomatoes, berries, sweet corn, okra, zucchini, and more.

Since the cupboards pretty much always contain at least a few kinds of dried beans (some from the store, some from the little farm at which we volunteer) and popcorn from our yard, and the garden contains several kinds of greens and winter radishes (plus parsley, plus cilantro) ready to harvest, and there is homemade applesauce alongside the green salsa in jars in the garage, there is no need to make a panicked run to the store just because we are missing some of our commonly available foods (like eggs and fresh fruit).

In other words, this is a good time to relax and enjoy the results of last summer's hard work. For tonight, we made black bean soup that included some of last summer's garden produce, plus rice and sauteed butternut squash. I know that not everyone is happy with such a vegetarian meal, but it worked for us.

On Wednesday, Joe will have time to shop for additional groceries. Until then, we will use a little kitchen creativity to enjoy the fruits of our labors. I hope that all the other gardeners out there are enjoying the season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Who Loves Tools?

Bill next to tools with which to pound.
My Mom and Stepdad (Grammy and Grandpa Bill) made it safely to Georgia for Thanksgiving, and one day while they were here, because Bill Loves Tools, we visited a nearby museum that has a great tool room.

The collection is short on gardening tools, but there is plenty of everything else, and it's all artfully enough arranged that even non-tool-lovers can appreciate the displays.

I have some favorite, hard-working garden tools at home, but even if I were no longer using them, there aren't enough to make even one of these display boards!
Mom by the keys, because she is a Kappa Kappa Gamma.

Mom and Bill and tools.
In the last year or so, Bill has had to slow down some in his use of tools, but he did seem to enjoy the tool room at the museum.

He had been in radio communications on an aircraft carrier in WWII, and some of the artifacts in the tool room prompted him to share some episodes from his wartime experience. That was the first I'd heard from him about that part of his life. It made the museum-visit all the more worthwhile.

The two made it safely home after the holiday, and  - while the garden is in a bit of a "waiting" mode right now - the seed catalogs for next year have begun to arrive. Four already are stacked by my chair in the living room.

I would say that it is too early, like Christmas decorations showing up in stores before Halloween, but thinking about the garden is such a good thing that it's hard to complain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just a Quick Note

This may be the longest time I've ever gone between blog posts. So sorry to keep people waiting! I have been working on developing an e-Newsletter, using MailChimp, for my department at work, and the text-oriented part of my brain has been a little overloaded. 
Frosted sage, untroubled by e-newsletters and blog posts.
Kale getting sweeter in the cold while I sit at a computer.

Also, we've been getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday -- my favorite holiday of the year! Making the holiday even better, my Mom and Stepdad (aka: Grammy and Grandpa Bill) are headed our way for a seven-day visit.

Mom called this morning from the Oklahoma City airport, to say that they were at the departure gate and waiting to board the plane. We are really looking forward to sharing a week of togetherness and good food with family!

Luckily, my relatives all know that coming to visit at our house isn't at all like going to a hotel; it's more like going to summer camp. There will be crafts and  outdoor activities, everyone pitching in on the cooking and clean-up, and "quiet time" for which having brought a couple of books will have been a good idea.

Local friends will be coming for Thanksgiving day, too, and we always look forward to the full house. The cheerful buzz of conversation somehow makes the aromas and flavors of the day even more wonderful. 

I hope that everyone else is set for a beautiful Thanksgiving day!
Sweet persimmons mark a transition to winter in the yard.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Onion-Family is Planted; Cold is on the Way

On the way home from work one day last week, I stopped at a garden center and picked up a little bag of onion sets -- dry, tiny bulbs -- and I was able to get about half of them into the ground last weekend.

The bed they were destined for also was planted with garlic, shallots, and multiplier onions. By the time I had all my saved bulbs in the ground, there wasn't room for all of the little onions in the space that had been set aside. I'm thinking, though, that when I pull out the last of the zombie pepper plants that still are holding onto some darkened, ragged leaves out in the garden, I will be able to plant the remainder of the little white bulbs in the newly emptied space.

An alternative is to plant them around the edges of a bed that will be covered with mulch for the winter, so that spring planting can be done without too much trouble in trying to not disturb their roots. Regardless of which option I choose, planting the rest of those little onions will have to wait for next weekend, which is expected to be quite cold.

All the more tender plants need to be either safely under cover or, if potted, indoors, because it's supposed to be pretty cold tonight, and a very cold snap is forecast for next week. This weekend we are looking at low temperatures in the mid-20s, but at least one day next week is expected to be down around 22 degrees F. For Georgia, in any month, that's cold.

I hope all the gardeners out there are keeping warm as they tend to their plants!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lost Varieties - Wheat, Corn

The phone call ended up being about corn, but it started with wheat. The old-timer who called the office today asked whether it was too late to plant wheat as a cover crop for his half-acre garden. He wanted to plant the wheat to keep out the henbit that would take over if he left the soil bare. The birds could have any seeds that the wheat might produce.

According to UGA's 2012-13 Wheat Production Guide, "The optimum window for wheat planting in Georgia is typically one week before the average first frost date for a given area and one week after." In other words, this week is perfect for planting, since our first frost is usually around November 1.

I asked about his seeds, and he said they were just an ordinary winter wheat, and he didn't know the variety, but it wasn't like the one his daddy had grown on the family farm many years ago. That wheat had a bluish-purple tint to it, and the grain was very hard. Apparently, the guys at the mill didn't like it because it was hard on their roller-equipment. I was told, though, by  my old-timer, that the blue wheat made great biscuits.

When I asked if he still had any seed for that variety, he said no, it had been lost, like his daddy's corn.

Then, I had to ask about the corn.

His daddy had crossed Hickory King, which has very wide kernels and is a good corn for hominy, with Tennessee Gourdseed, because he had liked the look of the tall kernels on that gourdseed corn. The resulting corn, even after carefully selecting the best ears to save, still wasn't quite perfect, so his daddy had taken the best of new corn and planted it intermixed with Hastings' Prolific (a Georgia variety). The planting was two rows of the first cross and then one row of the Hastings corn, alternated across the field.

The resulting corn had been good for both cornmeal and feed corn, and the ears had been pretty enough to win many ribbons at the fair. Seed from that corn was saved and replanted for many years.

It's unlikely that my old-timer's daddy had had formal training in horticulture when he created his own corn, and yet he was successful in breeding a variety of corn that met his own needs.

This story is a good reminder to keep working to save seeds for old family garden crops that come my way, like the Hogseds' Sweet Potatoes and my friend Becky's Joanie Beans.

Also, the next time I have a zany garden experiment in mind, I'm going to remind myself that there's always a chance that something will go exactly right!