Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sad looking pizza

This sad looking, but tasty pizza was the result of me overshooting the kiln shelf it's baked it on, when I pushed the pizza off the peel. Cleaning the oven will be another job on today's "to do" list.

Yesterday was a mostly all day cooking day - oatmeal bread and pizza and margaritas for dinner - good activity for a rainy day when I'm down with a spring cold. I'm on my 3rd  round of antibiotics in a row for an eye infection. You'd think that a cold germ would head in another direction!

Suburban propane is filling up the propane tank and as soon as they leave I'm heading for the shower. The sun is shining this morning so I think I'll take a short stroll around the properly to see if the warmer evenings and rain the past few days have rewarded us with some morels. They're finding them in Asheville, since last week, so they should be showing up here soon. Problem is that you have to search for them and they don't always show up in the same place. A couple of years ago we got a quart of them less than 100 feet from the house and last year I couldn't find a single one.

After my short morel search, I'll try to plant some late arriving bulbs if I can muster up the energy. The garden and all these seedlings are still my major, time consuming project at the moment and will be until I can get caught up with the maintenance and planting in the next week or two.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alex McErlain's resisted slip decorated pots video

Here's a link to the you tube video:

Alex McErlain resisted slip decorated pots

It's a non gardening day which is fine with me since I'm a bit tired after digging out some sod and planting some strawberries, and other garden work yesterday. Instead, it's been a kitchen day. There's oatmeal bread baking in the bread machine and the pizza dough is mixed and on its first rise.

We have two workers here cutting up some of the trees we had cut down last week. One poplar, he figured was over 100 years old. It was hollow in the lower part and a good wind would have had it take out or new bedroom wing. Now I have to think about what I'll replace them with. It will probably be some small, decorative trees and maybe another fruit tree or two. Jay, one of the workers, think that a couple of the cherry trees that will now be getting more sun, may be fruit bearing, as opposed to the wild cherry trees on our land, which aren't. That would be great since the cherry trees I planted the past few years have yet to produce any fruit. In fact, I think one of them died over the winter.

It's pretty raw and raining lightly, with temperatures going into the 30's tonight, so we'll be bringing all the seedlings in and putting them in the mud room for the night. I might just leave them in there tomorrow as well, since the temperature is going down to the 30's again.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

We have bees!

Here's John Britt in his bee keeper head covering, installing one his bee hives on our lower meadow area. The bees went to work right away, sending scouts out to check out their new environment. The apple trees are in full bloom as are the azaleas and some other perennials and some newly planted annuals. I think the bees are going to be happy here. John gets honey and happy bees and we get pollinators for fruits and veggies.

The rains and severe thunder storms that were forecast never came yesterday afternoon or last night. We arranged our day based on that forecast - canceling the ramp search trip and then putting off planting. At least we made it to Wally world where I picked up one of their last packages of asparagus roots. I hope more are alive in this package than the last. When we got home,  I immediately wet down the sawdust that the crowns were in and hopefully, that will get them started on waking up! If the weather allows, I'll get them planted today.

I did manage to get in a brief amount of garden time yesterday afternoon - hand watering seedlings and potted plants, trimming flower heads off the rhubarb, a bit of weeding and cleanup around some of the perennials.
If the rains come today, I'll try to get some studio time and weigh out a few test glazes and throw some test tiles. If not, then I'll be in the garden planting and doing a bit more rototilling.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ramp and morel search cancelled

The rain has put a glitch in my ramp and morel trip with friends. We were going to head up toward Roan Mt, to a secret spot high on the mountain. Friends have 4 wheelers and we were going to use those to get to the spot. I was so looking forward to it. There's  a waterfall up there and incredible views, as well as a good supply of ramps and maybe, even some morels after the rain they other day. We were going to have a supper of fried potatoes with ramps and cornbread. Hopefully we'll be able to do it soon.

This rain is supposed to stop for a few hours, followed by thunder storms, possibly severe, later this afternoon. It will be too wet to do much gardening, so I think I'll use that time to head to Walmart to get some more asparagus roots. I got one trench finished yesterday but only two of the roots in the package looked alive, so I planted them and holed the others in temporarily, covered lightly with soil and watered them, just in case they're just late bloomers.

John Britt is on the way over with one of his bee hives to help pollinate all my plants. That will help our blueberry, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc. It's too late to pollinate some of the fruit trees, but the apples are in full bloom now, so the  bees will have plenty to keep them busy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Irises and azaleas starting to bloom

I spent some time this morning pruning a few small shrubs and pulling some weeds.  It took longer than I thought to transplant some seedlings into bigger peat pots and now I'm feeling like it's nap time rather than time for more yard work! Hopefully, I'll perk up soon and  feel like rototilling a new asparagus bed.

Our daughter and son-in-law left this morning for California for the last part of their vacation; and Jim and I are now trying to get the house back in order and catch up with the mail and other chores that have been piling up all week. We had a great visit and had some lovely meals and drives.

I think I can muster up the energy to do some hand watering of seedlings and newly planted annuals. Maybe that will wake me up enough to tackle the rototilling!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have we got grapefruits!

A couple of weeks ago I gave my 8 foot avocado tree and a loquat tree to Jim's niece Eva and her husband Don, after I decided I was tired of moving them in and out of my studio. I kept the meyer lemon, kumquat and bay but the meyer lemon may be going by fall as well since it doesn't seem to be doing well in the studio.

Initially I thought we'd build a greenhouse, but I nixed that plan that when I realized I already have way too much on my plate already. Yesterday, Don showed up with the large planter that held the avocado tree and it was filled with grapefruit from their Florida house. We will be enjoying the juice from those ruby red beauties for a while.

Yesterday a group of us went to the new "Bama BBQ" place in Spruce Pine. They've only been opened 2 weeks and they're expanding already! The long cooked, wood smoked ribs were huge and very meaty. They're not fall off the bone tender but were delicious. They beans are excellent as are the various barbecue sauces that they serve. We'll definitely be going back.

The only gardening I did yesterday was hand watering, moving all the flats of seedlings in and out with a lot of help, and planting a few sprouted tomato seeds and digging up some more old, plastic 6 packs and washing them good for the transplanting I'll probably be doing after breakfast. Showers are expected early this afternoon, so I probably won't get any planting in today either; but we are having fun visiting with Erin and Sven who are happy to just vegg out and watch re-runs of some of their favorite American TV shows, like Law and Order, that they can't get in Germany.

Before they arrived in NC, they were on a whirlwind vacationing mode from New York on down through Washington, DC, and Virginia.  Now they just want to munch, rest and visit which suits us just fine!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Got some ramps

Our daughter and son--in-law arrived late yesterday afternoon and as soon as they unpacked the car we headed for our friend Jim's "man cave" to join him and his group "Sugar Daddy", for a rock jamming session. Our daughter Erin is a rock singer and she's sung with them during previous visits. It was a treat for all of us to have her join them for several numbers. There's always pizza, beer and sodas for those Sunday evening practice sessions. It's always a fun time and anyone is invited.

We joined Jim and friends for breakfast this morning and after wards drove to Jim and Laura's creek house in search of ramps. Jim and Laura told me where to look, so it was a quick search. I dug up about 7 or 8 - just enough to fry up in some bacon fat with potatoes tomorrow morning so our daughter and son-in-law can have the ramp experience. If you're not familiar with ramps, they're a wild food with leaves that look like lily of  the valley with a burgundy steam, and a tiny, onion like bulb at the base which tastes like a cross between garlic and leek - with the garlic having the stronger percentage. When their young, you can chop up the greens as well.

When we got home, I decided to walk down near our stream to see if we had some on our property. None were to be found; but, I did find a stone wall on our property near the old brick silo. I have never walked down there because that part of our property is very sloped and in late spring and summer it's a pretty dense thicket that is pretty much impassable without a machete in hand. Needles to say the stone wall  was a nice find.
I sat down near the stream for a couple of minutes to rest these achy, old knees and enjoy the air and the meditative feeling of the area and spotted a grapefruit size chunk of milk quartz in the stream. I also discovered some very nice big rocks there. When I catch up with the garden work, I'd like to go down there and clear some of the area to expose those large rocks. It been a lovely morning!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Never Ending Gardening Saga

The past few days have been spent doing some intensive garden cleanup and planting. Our daughter and son-in-law are arriving late this afternoon and I wanted to at least get some annuals planted and get caught up with my perennial planting and garden cleanup. So, I've been spending 4-5 hours most day with the outdoor gardening and then another hour or so with taking care of the seedlings. Today I planted the last rose - the new white knock out, 4 perennials and a new purple clematis to replace one that died this winter and spent the rest of the time cleaning the flower beds and weeding.

I've given away over 50 tomato plants and other seedlings but still have about 9 or 10 flats to water and move in and out every day during these colder nights. I only leave them out when the nightly low is in the mid 40's or above. It's been grueling; but I am seeing light at the end of this gardening tunnel.  There's still a great deal more to do before I'm caught up but at least now, the prospect isn't as daunting as it was a few weeks ago.

With all that's still left to do,  I'm wondering if I'll ever get in the studio before the end of May! Once I get caught up I'm doing to follow the routine of my late friends Otto and Vivika and spent an hour in the garden in the morning before I head to the studio; but that is only going to be doable once I get everything planted, cleaned up and mulched.

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy our daughter and son-in-laws visit and eat out for the next five days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The days garden report

The hostas are coming in strong. This one is almost totally open. The snow in summer and some other perennials are blooming as well as a lot of the weeds!

I finished and planted the third trench with Red Pontiac potatoes yesterday and started another trench in another area for asparagus yesterday; but never finished because I was just too tired and had to get started on dinner anyway. There's space in this bed for one more trench and I think I'll plant it half in Kennebecs and half in Yellow Finns and give the extra seeds to friends. There are still trenches to dig for the asparagus, which I intended to do today, but I'm pretty tired from yesterday, so I think I'll start planting some small perennials and annuals and stop early to get started on our roast duck dinner.

It's been a busy morning already - taking these garden photos and doing a bunch of weeding and cleanup  before making breakfast.  The doctor put me on another months worth of antibiotics again and like the last one, I can't go out in the sun, so I'm covering myself head to toe and heading out anyway; but with the temperature is supposed to reach 80F today, I have a feeling I may not last too long out there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bread making and potato planting

The first asparagus appeared two days ago and I wound up breaking off a couple while planting the potatoes. My butt is guilty! I didn't realize they were already peeking through on the other bed, and was sitting right on the bed while digging the potato trenches.

Gardening, bread baking and cooking took up the whole day. It was a hard, trench digging day to plant two rows of potatoes - German Butterball and Bintje - both old timey varieties.  I wound up digging up the potatoes I had planted the other day and moving the row, after I realized I could get more rows in that bed than I thought.

The new furrow attachment for the Mantis tiller didn't seem to do the job, so I wound up hand digging the trenches.They rototilled OK but didn't seem to create a trench that was ready to plant.  I need to check you tube and see if there are any videos on how to properly use this attachment.

There's another trench to dig today to plant these Red Pontiac potatoes and I still have Kennebecs and Yellow Finns to plant some time this week.

I also have to plant some peonies and primroses that my good friend Bruce dug up on his property. I lovingly call him "Bruce, the destroyer"; because he doesn't want anything growing near his lawn, so I periodically receive these wonderful little gifts from him. He used to throw them away or just run the mower over them, until I begged him to let me come and dig them up, which I've done periodically. Bruce gives me flowers,  I give him veggie plants and we share veggies from our gardens. He's promised to take me ramp hunting soon, to his special spot up near Roan mountain. It's a remote spot only accessible by foot or on his four runner. If we're lucky we might find some morels as well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Akar yunomi show

Check out some amazing work at the Akar gallery yunomi show:

Looks like I'll have a glorious day to be in the garden. I'm still trying to recover from some porch sitting partying with friends last night. There are 10 more bags of mushroom compost to unload, about 8 trays, of seedlings and potted plants  to move back outside for the day, and two beds to rototill. Then I have to see if I can get the new furrow attachment on the tiller and make some furrows for planting more potatoes today or tomorrow.

In assessing the garden, it looks like I have at least another 7-10 days of just getting the beds cleaned up and planted along with the continuing job of seedling care. I'm hoping when the beds are done and the terraces planted that I'll be able to split my day between garden and studio. I'm already thinking of how I can cut back all this planting next year and I think I'm going to turn some of the terraces into permanent herbal beds with a few spaces left for annual herbs like basil, parsley, summer savory, etc.

Michael Cardew once told me, asI was admiring his vegetable garden, that his garden was big enough. Otherwise, he said, there wouldn't be time to make pots. I feel that I've reached that point and need to start seriously thinking about cutting back. This 70 year old well worn, achy body has made me finally come to the realization that I can't do it all anymore, at least at the level I used to. So,  it's time to take stock of how I'm using my time and prioritize, which means expending less energy in a such a big garden, leaving time each day for the studio.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Japanese quince

The Japanese quince is blooming and it's so beautiful! The plum and Japanese cherry blossoms are in their full glory now and the peach trees are also starting to bloom.

I was too sore yesterday to do any rototilling and digging; but I did get more weeding, garden cleanup and seedling transplanting done. The rain stayed away long enough this morning, for me to weed one of the terrace vegetable beds and put down a bag of mulch. Now that the rain has arrived, the rest of my days gardening is going to be indoors. I've already planted another large tray of a mix of veggies and flowers, planted more basil, this morning and got my large, pot bound gardenia, root pruned and repotted.

This afternoon I need to get down to the basement and tend to some sad over wintering plants and do a major cleanup of the area. With temperatures doing down tonight, below 45, I'll be bringing in all the flats of the heat loving tomato and pepper seedlings. I love all this gardening, but it's not leaving any time for much of anything else.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

This is spring????

 The plum tree is in blossom and my one and only hyacinth is blooming. The Japanese quince is starting to bloom as is the Japanese maple tree and some shrubs. It's going to be in the high 80's today - crazy weather for this time of year. As soon as I take my vitamins, I'm heading out to to the garden to get the heavy work done before it gets too hot.

I got over 4 hours of gardening time yesterday, not counting seedling care and feeding.  I finished planting the bed I had intended to plant the day before. Sore muscles made me postpone that job for a day and instead, I worked on seedlings - transplanting another big flat and organized my seed packets and wrote out a bunch of new labels and pulled some weeds.

Jim brought home about 20, 40 lb bags of mushroom compost which I had to unload by myself. His back is still not totally healed, so he has to avoid any heavy lifting. It was a hard working day but felt soooo good! After a bit of rest, I managed to get enough of an energy boost to try a new shrimp dish from one of my new Italian cookbooks. It was very tasty; but garlic, tomatoes and hot peppers are always a winning combination in my book! I served it over linguini. The sauce was so good it didn't even need the shrimp!

Yesterday I transplanted more broccoli, leeks and kale, I also planted some beet and shallot seeds. Those two beds are fully planted. Today I'll rototill one or two more beds after I put down a few more bags of compost and a sprinkling of organic fertilizer. The plan is to transplant and plant spinach, onions, scallions carrots and maybe lettuce if time and energy permit. I already have a few collards in one of the beds which don't seem worse for wear over a hard winter. I had never grown them before. Does anyone know if this is a perennial vegetable????? After that there will be more seedlings to transplant in the later afternoon. I do love this time of year!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

It's asparagus time

Last night's dinner - fresh asparagus on oatmeal bread toast, saturated with lemon butter and top with chopped hard boiled eggs and bacon. It's one of my own concoctions and one of Jim's favorites.

This body is a bit weary after a hard day in the garden yesterday. I got a bit more rototilling done, transplanted a few more veggies, re-potted 18 tomato seedlings into bigger pots, covered the cabbages with remay, pulled a bunch of weeds, and started digging the first trench for potatoes; but my body quit after planting only four or five German butterball potato seeds. So, I came in and searched the Internet for the best price on a furrow maker attachment for my new Mantis tiller.  It's ordered and should arrive in a week or so. I'll finish planting potatoes then! I ambitiously bought 5 potato varieties and I just don't have the energy to dig that many furrows. Come to think of it, I may not even have the space for all of them unless I want to plant on a hillside or in buckets which I may just try if I don't need those big 5 gallon buckets for tomatoes.

The plan this morning is to drag a few more bags of compost down to one of my lower terraces, dig it in and plant some scallions, carrots, parsnips, beets, some more onions, leeks and the kale I didn't get around to planting yesterday.It's an ambitious list and I probably won't get it all done because I want to take a break to watch the Roddick tennis final at one o'clock.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Terrace 1 planted

Yesterday I finished planting this first terrace. From rototilling to planting took a lot longer because the tiller didn't go very deep but did a great job removing weeds and loosening the first 3inches or so; but then I had to dig to a 6 inch depth with the addition of compost before planting each seedling.

This bed has Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Savoy cabbage,broccoli, broccoli rabe, thyme and sage which are supposedly good companion herbs for these veggies. After planting I realized that I have a six pack of DeCicco heirloom broccoli and six pack cauliflower to plant; but haven't planned on it for other beds, but I think I can plant them in the kale, spinach, beet and onion bed which still have to be tilled.

My seedlings are growing up a bit and yesterday I put two large flats of tomatoes, peppers, etc. on the porch. After we got home from dinner with friends at the Empire China buffet in Johnson City, I brought those tender plants in for the night. I don't like to leave them out when the night temperatures might be below 50, so they spent the night on the kitchen table and got moved back out this morning.

By the way, that Empire China buffet on Friday night was the best China buffet we've ever been to! They had raw oysters, clams, mussels,shrimp, frogs legs, crab claws, a good sushi bar and hibachi bar and just about every other Chinese stir fry dishes, fruits and desserts you can imagine and all for less than $11 a person. We ate that much in oysters alone!

It's downright balmy out there this morning, with quite a bit of breeze, so I should be comfortable working out there is the forecasted rain and thunder stay away till later in the afternoon. I think I'll tackle the two largest, bottom, terraced beds and rototill what areas I can, which means rototilling around the asparagus plants in both beds.

I have asparagus growing in 4 different areas, since asparagus and tomatoes do well together - asparagus putting out something that repels nematodes which can attack tomato plants, I usually try to to plant some tomatoes near some of them; but crop rotation isn't permitting that this year, even with me having them in four different places; and that's because I usually grow way too many tomatoes!

Friday, April 02, 2010


Here are some of my seedlings. Two other large flats and six packs of tomatoes, peppers, etc are still living in the house but since it's going to be in the 80's today, I may put some of them out later this morning to harden them off a bit.   In another week or two they'll probably have to get put into bigger peat pots. Yesterday afternoon, I bought the last package of them at Walmart and I'm hoping that they'll have more in a few days because I have a very large amount of seedlings that will soon be outgrowing those little peat pots.

It took me longer to get the rototiller going and till one bed the other day and yesterday I manged to plant all the broccoli and cabbage, prune the climbing roses and do a bit more weeding and cleanup. Today I'll plant the broccoli raab, kale and some onions in that bed. The compost pile has two nice, volunteer kale plants which I'll dig up and transplant. I love those compost volunteers. They are always the healthiest, best looking veggies!

My energy is still  low - wonder if it's because I'm 70 or just out of gardening shape this early in the season! Either way, after a couple of hours of hard planting and working in the sun, I'm wiped. Three years ago 6 hours in the garden was the norm on a good day.

Unless there's a rainy day in the next few days, the studio is just going to have to wait until I finish the current planting and prep more beds for potato planting. This year I'm planting 5 varieties - Red Pontiac, Kennebec,  German butterball, Yellow Finn, and Bintji and this time I'm going to mark the rows so I don't wind up with a couple of bushes on unknown varieties!