Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Harvest

Don't they look delicious?  They're tiny and sweet - our first harvest this year.  Okay, our second harvest. The first harvest was yesterday and Joe ate it before I could grab the camera.
  We're getting there.  In the foreground, Sugar Snap peas, then green beans, then carrots (hidden behind the beans), radishes, zinnias, okra, and cucumbers.
 And about those cucumbers - check out the trellis.  We saw this being done on a visit to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  The cucumber vines will climb the trellis!  The cukes are much easier to pick - and look how much garden square footage we save.  This is just a simple panel of lattice that we attached to two posts.  
 Looking back down the garden from the trellis, you can see the tomatoes on the far end and the pumpkin patch beyond.
 Wild and crazy tomato vines before we braved the heat yesterday and tied them up.  They are happy campers this year.
And last but not least - giant pumpkins with a border of young sunflowers.  We have never had much luck with the giants, but I'm going to use all my powers of persuasion on these this year.  This will be my grandson's first October - so if they don't feel like growing, they're just going to have to get over it.   Think happy pumpkin thoughts for me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Motor Oil and Magnolias

The magnolias are in full bloom and NASCAR is in town for the weekend.  Somehow, outside the South, that sentence just wouldn't sound the same.

 But this is what I love about the region I call my own - the South is always full of surprises.  This is a confusing, confounding place for the uninitiated.  Our code is hard to crack.  We love Moon Pies.  Sometimes we serve them on silver platters.  Our heroes drive loud tacky race cars that look like rolling billboards, but off the track one of them was caught doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone - driving a $300,000 prototype Lexus.  Admittedly, he isn't really "from around here", as we say, and he hasn't actually been given the "hero" designation yet.  Southerners are careful with their title bestowing, and we aren't overly fond of rude behavior.  Ask any newcomer.

When we speak, we are famous for dropping the "g" and adding extra syllables.  But just up the road from here, linguistic scholars have long been fascinated with the remnants of Elizabethan English that they insist are still being spoken in some of our mountain communities.  However, when we refer to "The King", we're talking about either Elvis or Richard Petty.  Period. Two members of our royal family are known simply as "Junior" - and we never seem to have a bit of trouble explaining to each other which "Junior" we're talking about.  We just know.

Drive over to the Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend if you need a good visual of what I'm talking about.  It is rimmed with million dollar skyboxes that overlook several square miles of RV's and pickup trucks.  Look closer and you will also see the Mercedes S500's sporting banners and bumper stickers that say things like "Honk if you love Earnhardt".  We're good with a curve ball.  It can be maddening and fascinating, all at once.

A Facebook post came my way this week that said, referring to the South, "Sweet tea is the house wine, everyone is darlin, and someone is always getting their heart blessed".  Suffice it to say, this is a wonderful, lively, magical place, clouded by illusion, marked by contradiction and famous for it's hospitality.  Be careful of that "Bless Your Heart", by the way.  It can be the kiss of death.  And mind your manners. Somebody's mama is always watching.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend.
Remember our service men and women who gave their lives for our country.

Today is Countdown Friday

Take time to stop and smell the magnolias! 
These beautiful photos were taken by my husband, just as the sun was setting.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Courtyard Cam

It is actually just a paved area where we park the cars, but there is a pretty brick wall and a wrought iron gate enclosing everything, and I did inherit the pink hydrangea, the Solomon's Seal and the monkey grass when we moved in.
Sounded like a good excuse for a garden to me.  Here it is in real time, with the impatiens only a couple of weeks old.  I'll update every month or so and you can watch it grow.  By October, the flowers in the big clay pots will measure 4 to 5 feet across, and the iron racks on the brick wall will be spilling over with pink and white.  
The Fountain of the Laughing Happy Boy has been in the family for about ten years.  We tried to give him a grand, snooty name but he wouldn't allow it.  Water spills out of the bowl in his hands and into a little pool at his feet.
Heaven help me if they ever outlaw the color pink.  I'll be in in a fix.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank Heaven for a Porch

White rockers on a shady porch aren't bad all by themselves.  Add the heady scent of Confederate Jasmine and the song of a mockingbird and you might be approaching the Walt Disney version of springtime heaven.

The jasmine is in full bloom - on both ends of the porch and also along the fence that borders the garden. Here it is against one of the porch columns, and in the photo below, you can see the younger vine against the far column.  I planted it six years ago when we arrived here.
The vines are green year-round, but I try to spend extra time on this porch when they are singing their loudest song, in full bloom.
A porch is such a simple thing, but the best things in life usually are.

Tomorrow is Countdown Friday
Take time to enjoy.  Life is so much better when you do. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Strawberry Saturday

The big debate Saturday morning centered around strawberries.  The local ones are at their peak, and we couldn't decide - do we go to the Farmers Market and buy them, or go to the Strawberry Farm and pick them?  We split the difference and went to the Strawberry Farm to buy the ones they had already picked.  They are tiny and sweet and red-ripe to the core.  We came home with five gallons.

Hubby volunteered to wash and cap them for freezing if I would agree to make a strawberry cobbler.  Seriously?  Let me think...wash and cap and put up five gallons of strawberries...or...make a strawberry cobbler.  I let him talk me in to making the cobbler.
This cobbler is so easy I'm almost ashamed to tell you, and I will tell you that I debated on making it with hubby in the kitchen at the same time for fear that my secret would get out and he would realize I didn't slave over it.  All those years, I would take the thing out of the oven and then throw a little flour on my shirt and dust my nose with a little of it - just like the girl in the Rice Krispie Treat commercial - and THEN I would call out "cobbler's ready!".  He thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Anyway - here it is - the easiest dessert recipe known to man:

Simple Strawberry Cobbler

Place a stick of butter into a small ovenproof dish and put it in a preheated 350 oven to let the butter melt.

In the meantime, put 4 cups of fresh or frozen strawberries that have been washed and capped into a bowl.
Pour one and three-fourths cups of sugar over the berries...
then gently toss to coat the berries with the sugar.  Let these hang out while you make the batter.
Then, in a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of self-rising flour, 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Whisk it together.  It will look like pancake batter.
And now for the fun part.  Remove the baking dish from the oven with the melted butter in the bottom.
Pour the batter into the middle of the dish.  DO NOT STIR!!!  I mean this.  Don't go thinking on your own - just do it.  It should look like the picture, below...
Then - and, again, just go with me on this - dump the bowl of sugared strawberries into the middle of this batter/butter.  Be sure to scrape all of the good strawberry goo out of the bowl and let it ooze over the berries.  It should look like this...
IF YOU MUST...gently take a strawberry or two and pull toward the edges of the dish...but if you try to stir or swirl the thing, then I, along with Paula Deen and Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart and Dr. Phil, will all come to your house and have a word with you and it won't be pleasant.

Now, put it in the 350 oven, just like you see it here, and walk away for 40 minutes or so.  The batter will bubble to the top during baking.  Depending on your oven, feel free to check on it after a half hour or so.  What you want is a golden brown topping.  Don't worry if your topping is broken with streaks of fruit juice bubbling up through the cracks - that is supposed to happen.  If the center isn't bubbling and doesn't look quite done, cover the edges with a little foil and bake until the center is ready.

Serve it warm with ice cream, or splash it with heavy cream.  You can do the same thing with peaches, blueberries, blackberries.  And just so you know - I took pity on hubby and helped him with the rest of the washing and capping and freezing. It was the least I could do.

Friday, May 13, 2011

After The Rain

Earlier this week, we had a ferocious thunderstorm that kept us awake half the night.  Mercifully, our old trees were spared yet again.  In the morning, after the rain, I took the camera into the garden and found everything sparkling with leftover raindrops.
Future graduates of the Better Boy Tomato Academy...
 Sugar peas in waiting...
 Green beans in progress...
Radish Row...
A summer full of zinnias...
And...Lord willing...Giant Pumpkins.  I'm hoping for whoppers...pumpkins so big they can only be lifted with the aid of heavy machinery.  We'll see.
As you can see, the garden is green and growing and we're off to the races.
Elsewhere around the garden, there was even more to celebrate.  This Kousa Dogwood is one of a pair flanking the pool.  The flowers bloom after the leaves are full and green.
One of my four Confederate Jasmine vines - blooming their hearts out.  This is the jasmine I pined for all winter long and mentioned more than once, I'm sure.  More about the jasmine next post!
Basil and mint in the courtyard garden, just outside my kitchen door.  I have pots of thyme, sage, and Italian parsley just outside the door as well. A big bush of rosemary lives in the vegetable garden year round and survives our winter just fine.
Pink hydrangea in the courtyard, just before full bloom...
and flats of pink and white impatiens, waiting to be transferred into the pots, planters and window boxes - which we accomplished later that same day.

Whatever your favorite season (guess which one is mine...), you must admit there is something special about a late spring morning and a simple walk in the garden after a rain.

Today's Count is 141

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Garden Cam

So the garden is officially in the ground.  I'll use this as the "before" shot, and hopefully will be able to give you updates as the summer progresses.

In the foreground is the raised bed of zinnias, okra and cucumbers.  The middle bed has radishes, carrots, green beans and sugar snap peas.  Beyond that, you can see our tomatoes and pepper plants.  We have four kinds of tomatoes planted - Better Boy, cherry, grape and Roma - plus three kinds of peppers - green bell, yellow banana and giant jalapeno.  At the very far end is the pumpkin patch.  Directly behind me in this photo are summer squash and cantaloupe. 

Stay tuned.  We know just enough about gardening to be dangerous - but the journey makes for a fine summer, no matter what!
Yesterday was Countdown Friday

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If there remains any question about why I spend the winter months pining away for Spring - the peonies should erase all doubt.

Even though great strides were made during the past winter, and I gained a new appreciation for the beauty of snow and ice, as well as an added dose of patience - my heart still belongs to Spring and always will.

This crystal bowl is full of Sarah Bernhardt and Minuette peonies from my garden.  The blooms are huge - easily six inches across - and their beauty speaks for itself.