Swimming for Potatoes

PoAlmost literally, with the weather we’ve been having today!  Rain, rain, go away… We’ve got work to do in our garden and getting drenched while doing so isn’t our idea of fun.  Okay, the kids might disagree with me there, but you get the idea.  Sending them back to class with mud on their bodies and smiles on their faces is not how to make friends with the teacher.  And I love teachers!

So we keep them on our good side, and reschedule our “swim.”  Thank goodness we have a few classes where we can stagger the harvest.  Middle schoolers had a ball digging through the dirt (never too old, are they?) and since it was their last class for the day, no problem.  Teaching them the finesse of hunting for potatoes was another story.

harvesting taters

You see, when you harvest your potatoes, you must do so with some restraint.  Dive-bombing your shovel into the dirt is not helpful, because you will likely tear the skin of your hidden gems before you ever see them.  And torn, ripped up potatoes do not store as well as clean, bruise-free, stab-free ones do.  So tread lightly, proceed with caution.  Use your tool to loosen the dirt around the potato plant and then gently dig through with gloved hands.  Middle schoolers opted to go glove-free.  Go figure.

But they were successful!  “Throw me another one for the bucket!”

“Ack!  Don’t throw it–don’t you remember me telling you to be gentle?” More

Southern Cornbread

After my sad post about giving up on corn, I needed something to boost my spirits, a little pick me up, if you will.  And there’s no better way sometimes, than with a spot of comfort food.  Southern Cornbread, anyone?

This is a recipe I devised through trial and error, not to mention the help of my daughter’s taste buds.  I’ll warn you, she’s a sweet one.  Sweet on the outside, sweet on the inside, plain everything in her world is sweet—including her preference in food.  Which leads me to a disclaimer:  this is NOT my mother’s recipe.  (We don’t want to tarnish her reputation in any way, particularly “guilt by association.”)

To be completely forthright, we took her basic recipe and modified from there.  Frankly, I prefer her recipe, only not oven-baked as she directed, but pan-fried, with lots of yummy butter to make it a beautiful golden brown.  My apologies to my healthy friends—this recipe is anything but.

But it’s oh-so-delicious.  And simple–the best part of all!

Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread

2 cups yellow cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk

3 TBSP melted bacon drippings, extra to grease pan

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup vanilla pudding mix (optional – to add moisture)

2 TBSP sugar (optional – for the sweet tooth!) More

Ever Juiced a Carrot?

We bought a Jack LaLanne juicer a few years back to make the most of our garden.  While there are a wide variety of juicers on the market, we chose this brand for no other reason than the commercials stuck in my head.  Besides, Jack was a fit guy, a motivational sort and I thought, if it worked for him it can work for us!

close up carrot juicing

It does, but so do most of them.  And healthy doesn’t begin to describe a life of juicing.  You’ll be infused with energy, discover a spring in your step (probably because you’ll be pounds lighter!), your complexion will be brighter, your skin luminous–what’s not to like?  Actually, the hardest part about the juicing lifestyle for me is the clean up.  I know, I know….wah.  But truthfully, juicing is so simple and makes great use of your harvest, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start.

juicing carrots

My daughter enjoys juicing, so long as I handle the mess.  (See what I mean?)  She finds it easy and fun though I’ll warn you, before you pull out that juicer, harvest a lot of carrots, or spinach, strawberries–whatever it is that you want to juice, because you’re going to need a bunch of it. More

Ladd Springs

Ladd Springs_Book1-LGLADD SPRINGS

“Ladd Springs was one of those books that I couldn’t put down – at first because it drew me in with a ton of questions to be answered about the pasts of the characters, and a great story. Second because of how heart pounding it gets towards the ending!” ~~ Debbie Jean’s Blog

A deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the Tennessee forest bring Delaney Wilkins and Nick Harris together in a dramatic fight for the rights to Ladd Springs.

Delaney Wilkins finds herself at odds with hotel developer Nick Harris over a deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the forest.  Both are after title to Ladd Springs, a mecca of natural springs, streams and trails in the eastern Tennessee mountains, a tract of land worth millions.  But Ernie Ladd, current owner of the property and uncle to Delaney, is adamantly opposed to them both.

Felicity Wilkins, Delaney’s daughter, deserves to inherit her family’s legacy, but neighbor Clem Sweeney is working against her, ingratiating himself with Ernie Ladd.  Clem is also harboring a secret that will make him a very wealthy man—unless the others stop him before he can bring it to fruition.

Complicating matters is Annie Owens.  Ex-girlfriend to Jeremiah Ladd, Ernie’s estranged son living in Atlanta, she declares her daughter Casey is Jeremiah’s, making Casey every bit as entitled to the property as Felicity—only Annie hasn’t proven this claim.  Yet.

All are fighting to get the property, but only one will walk away with the gold.  Which will it be?  Find out in the first installment of Ladd Springs…

pan-frying cornbread

While reading this novel, don’t be surprised if you get a hankering for some good old-fashioned southern cooking.  Take my cornbread, for instance.  Delaney Wilkins makes some of the best and her hero agrees.  Try it and see what YOU think! ;)  Check out my recipe section for full details!

***This is book #1 in a series of 5

Visit my website for a complete listing of my books.

It’s Blueberry Season!

We learn by doing.   It’s an age-old saying for a reason.  We read books, study the almanac, listen to the experts, but sometimes there’s no substitute for experience.   The tried and true kind.  Shall we say, true blue?

Blue, as in blueberry patch.   My pride and joy, my dream come true… strolling amidst the morning chirps and peeps, plucking fresh blueberries for my yogurt and bran flakes.  Well, you understand.  This little patch of heaven has come to mean a lot to you.  You work hard for these sweet, luscious, high in anti-oxidant fruits and you don’t want to lose them to the natural elements.  Wind, pests, birds.

bird netting for berries

 Blueberries are fairly easy to grow.  Lots of sun, lots of water, a good acidic soil (think pine bark/needle mulch), a well-balanced organic fertilizer and you’ll have yourself a blueberry patch in no time.  However, once you set out on this project, understand that birds are a definite problem when it comes to berries.   Like you, they enjoy a plump serving of berries with their breakfast.  But they’re hungry varmints and will eat you out of house and home—and garden, if you let them.  But me, I count myself as smarter than the average bear (no pun intended to my friend and also fan of blueberries).  I figure I can outwit these flying friends with a simple bird net.   Says so right on the package:  bird nest for fruit and shrubs. 

Wonderful.  Problem solved.  All I have to do is cover my plants—all twelve of them—and I’m off and running in the blueberry race.  It’s not pretty, but it is practical.

First recommendation:  don’t choose a windy day to start your net project.  Blueberry blossoms are extremely sensitive to the slightest tactile cling and snare easily.  Translated: touch them and they pop off the vine.   Bad.  Very bad.   No blossoms means no berries.

With a little practice, though, I became quite good at throwing and securing my net without touching my delicate blueberry blossoms and only lost a few to the endeavor.   Can you really miss what you never had to start?  If you’ve noticed, philosophy seems to be on overdrive in my garden.

But abstract distractions aside, I finished my task an hour later, rising with a nice deep yoga stretch for my back before I secured my last stake in the ground. 

Second recommendation: don’t attempt this after several hours of weeding and tilling in the garden.   Me?  I’m more doer than planner.  “Oh look, I still have two hours before I need to pick up the kids!   What else can I slip in before my time runs out?”

That’s when I heard it. More

Now That Vacation Has Settled…

The students hit the garden running–literally. :)  It’s understandable.  Gardening is exciting!  I mean, have you ever seen what a real “bunch” of broccoli looks like on the plant?

bunch of broccoli

It’s cool.  Fascinating, really.  Mind you most of these kids have never seen broccoli still attached to the stalk.  No trip to the grocery store, no plastic wrap, and you can eat it?  You bet.  But eat it before it goes to flower.

bees are swarming the broccoli

By then, the bees are swarming and the plant is throwing its energy into creating seed pods. More

Confessions From A Corn Field

Sort of.  I have a confession to make.  I have no plans to plant corn this year. *sigh*  It’s proven a tough plant for me.  Too tough.  Which makes for a very sad day in my household because corn is delicious–especially fresh from the cob.  It’s fun, because the kids can craft corn husk dolls on their way to the compost pile.  It’s versatile, because we can eat it standing between the beds of our garden or hauled up to the house and boiled, roasted or grilled.

kidney beans and corn

And giving up is not in my DNA.  But since I’ve gone organic (the first season after my wonderful neighbors helped me start my garden), I can’t seem to feed my corn enough, de-bug it enough, de-disease it enough.  I won’t say I’ve scored a zero in the endeavor, but the cobs I have harvested are few and far between. The consensus seems to be… More

Pulling Sweet Babies from the Ground

In my kids’ garden world, there’s nothing better than harvest time–unless, of course, we’re tilling.  My son loves tilling and tearing through the dirt.  (Doesn’t every boy? :)) And we’ve waited so long for the sweet onions to mature, it’s time we get digging. 

Planted back in the fall, these sweet delicacies take time to fill out and ripen to perfection, about six months or so.  You’ll know when they’re ready when their tops brown over.  As you can see, we didn’t wait that long.  Besides, we could clearly see the rounded tops poking up through the soil surface, these onions were calling our name…

“Hey, you–come and get me!”

Pulling onions

Didn’t take much to distract my daughter from her chore of weeding carrots.  With the recent cold snap, she’s been craving French onion soup, so we pulled a little early. Simply wedge the onion back and forth from its position and gently pull. Voila!

pull it easy...

Your very own fresh sweet onion!  Hmmm…can you smell it?  VERY fragrant and oh-so-sweet when freshly harvested.  While not quite round in shape, this one is plenty fine to eat.  Again, we can be impatient gardeners and this is the fruit of our labor. My son prefers them raw, but my daughter likes them baked, broiled and caramelized. 

If you’ve never tried growing onions yourself, give them a whirl, if only for the fact that they taste like “butta” when eaten FRESH from the ground.  Try the Baked Sweet Onion recipe or perhaps the Onions Au Gratin.  Both are divine

Time to Break Some Ground!

Put your “fun cap” on because it’s time to get your hands dirty!  It’s time to break ground for your new spring garden!  Already have a garden?  Perfect, but you can still get in on the action as it’s a good idea to work your soil for a fresh start.

Now, while I’d like to say this is the easy part—that would be a lie.  This is the part where you get your exercise.  Stretch those cold stiff muscles and get limber again.  Remember, we reap what we sow and we can’t sow if we don’t dig.

Are you smiling yet?  Good.  Now, one of the secrets to great plants is loose soil.  Loose soil promotes strong, deep roots and encourages a healthy plant which means a productive plant.  I learned this the hard way with carrots.  Have you ever seen an “L” shaped carrot?  I have.  As a general rule, carrots will grow down as far as they can easily manage, until the going gets too tough, and then they grow sideways.  Literally.  Packed soil is not their friend.  It’s not friendly to any plant, really, because it doesn’t promote good aeration which helps the plant take in the nutrients it needs. More

Lucky in Love and In the Garden

Now this can go either way.  We can talk about how men resemble plants.  A few of my favorites are potatoes and watermelon…

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Or when it comes to love, we can simply talk plants.  The green stuff.  Those we love, those we love-hate.  There out there, you know.  And they come in all sizes and shapes and pose different challenges for different regions. 

Me?  I love herbs–specifically herbs that grow themselves! More