Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A lovely afternoon

Amid the smoke for the last weeks, and the first frosts, and hoping for rain, which we finally got overnight and this morning (about a half-inch), it was unexpected to have a lovely clear afternoon.

It was amazingly mild for a late November afternoon.  It was my gardening companion's birthday, and after he'd gone on a welcome mid-day bike ride up Town Mountain, all of us (including Woody) headed to Biltmore Estate, and a walking loop from the Gardener's Shop down and around Bass Pond.  Woody knows that there are biscuits to be had at the end!

Nothing not to like about an excursion to a wonderful place on a beautiful day.  I'm thankful for that to be an opportunity in my life.

Bass Lake view from the bridge

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Last leaves

The cold temperatures (down into the mid-20° F range) have triggered, finally, abscission layers in the last leaves. 

The sugar maple leaves were finally falling in the ravine behind our house.

Coming home after Thanksgiving away, a walk around the neighborhood found the venerable ginkgo on Cumberland shedding leaves as we walked by -- not in the all-at-once mode that's normal, but falling in a way that would have made a perfect video, if I'd had my phone in my pocket.

There was a golden carpet, mixed with green, below this huge old tree.  Beautiful.

Some of the red Japanese maples seem to be the last hold-out.  They're beautifully crimson, but haven't yet dropped their leaves, perhaps being from a colder climate in Asia, genetically-speaking.

Of course, all of the frost-intolerant plants have been zapped, but the greens in my vegetable beds are looking good.  And I'm hoping that the predicted soaking rains will come!

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Biltmore hay field

Mist cloaked the end of one of the hay fields at Biltmore on a recent morning visit. 

The iPhone's camera captured the light in an interesting way;  the image became more impressionistic than realistic.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Southside Community Garden

I've been volunteering at the Southside Community Garden for the last growing season. It's a young community vegetable garden, finishing its second year.

It's on the playground site of what used to be an black elementary school (in segregated Asheville), now turned into a vibrant community center in a place that has a rich history. It's a neighborhood faced with challenges, with gentrification edging in, along with homes of long standing and apartments subsidized by the Housing Authority of Asheville.

We'd harvested about 750 pounds of produce, when I tallied amounts last month, with more winter greens to come, most all of the harvests going to the Kitchen Ready's Southside Kitchen, which serves meals free of charge and by donation four days a week, as part of a training program for culinary students in need of career options. Excess produce has gone to local homeless shelters and the YMCA's Healthy Living Pantry.

It's a good project.

Please join me as you're able in supporting a SeedMoney campaign for the Southside Community Garden. We're eligible for a matching grant as part of this, too, but all donations are tax-deductible.


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

A winter squash

A winter squash from Southside Garden
I'm heartsick about the election, but I've realized that I can't turn my blog into a political rant, nor make my FB posts about that either.  That's crazy-making for me.

It's enough to comment, contribute, and join organizations that I haven't been a part of before. And step up and be present where I can, and continue to do good work.

Teaching a class yesterday about "creative use of color and texture in the garden" seemed frivolous, as I was preparing for it, but turned out to be a lovely class, and encouraging to prepare.

This winter squash, a "leftover" from our final harvesting of warm season crops, seems to me to symbolize where I am. It was an OK squash, quite stringy, and not particularly flavorful.  It was probably a result of the mixed squash plantings (lots of variation there!)

But I'm hopeful for more squash in the future, preparing for the first freeze (I pulled up the final bean vines and eggplants today in my own small garden), and we'll see how the greens fare, with a drop into the mid-20°F.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fall ginkgo

This is an interesting fall, as the leaves are holding much longer than usual, probably because of droughty conditions.

Ginkgos usually turn yellow fairly uniformly, then drop all of their leaves at once.

Not this year.  Around town, there are some that already dropped their leaves and some that are still green. Our small tree in front, well, it's been dropping leaves sporadically for weeks.

But now, the remaining leaves are turning yellow, so it won't be long until a golden carpet of leaves appears.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Whole grain digestive "biscuits"

I can't believe I'm actually posting a recipe on a gardening blog that doesn't involve vegetables that I grew or harvested, but in a food/vegetable geek way, it makes sense, I guess.

A friend's question about "hard" flour had me answering about hard red (winter) wheat vs. soft spring wheat. And reading Dan Barber's The Third Plate recently also had me thinking about flavors and qualities of wheat, along with the flavors and quality of a variety of vegetables, too.  It's all about the selections and growing conditions -- the epiphany is that it's not just true of "fresh" food.  It's also true of our staples, such as flour, corn, eggs, etc.

Of course, this is a first world perspective, from an ability to grow excellent vegetables myself, and buy high-quality ingredients -- but it's also about paying attention to the flavor, too.

I'll never forget the amazing array of fresh vegetables in the markets in Vietnam, for example, and the landscapes pocketed with remarkabe vegetable gardens. They're all over the world. Why not more here in America?
Market in Hoi An, Vietnam
Garden in local Vietnamese village, near Hoi An
When I moved to the Southern US over 3 decades ago, there were few specialty breads available aside from Arnold's Wheatberry in local supermarkets.

It's decent, and I think it may still be available, but having grown up interested in baking, I started making my own whole-grain bread following Martha Rose Shulman's multi-grain loaves recipe and never went back to store-bought (aside from a diversion into Father Sam's Pita Bread, mail-ordered, but that's another story).

Today, I can buy absolutely delicious bread from artisan bakers here in my mountain town.  But for a price.  A loaf is $6-7.50.  I can buy 5 lbs. of Bob's Red Mill Organic Stone Ground Flour for $7.18 or a similar amount of King Arthur's Flour for $4.95.

Five pounds of flour makes a lot of bread, muffins, and biscuits.

I guess it's telling that the results of a search for "bread" in my blog posts brings up a lot of things, but this was the first image that popped up. Most of my loaves are better-looking, but not accompanied by persimmons!

homemade bread and persimmons from my Piedmont garden
My recent diversion into a wholemeal digestive biscuit, modeled after British ones, but inspired by a homemade graham cracker recipe that I saw recently, came to this approximation.  I thought they were a bit doughy, but not bad, when twice baked.     

1 1/2 cups of Bob's Red Mill Wholewheat Flour
1/2 of oat meal, ground fine
2 T. Sweetener (white or brown sugar, Splenda, or Stevia)
1/2 tsp salt.
1/2-1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup walnut oil (or other fat)
1 egg

Mix it all together.

Then I added toasted chopped walnuts and Zante currants, but this could be altered (almonds or pecans would be great) or left out entirely.

I rolled the dough into marble-sized balls, then flattened them with the end of a glass as thin as I could.

I baked them at 350° F for 15-20 minutes.  I rebaked them later (biscotti-like) for 10 minutes at 300°F to crisp them (the currants added moisture).  Without currants, you probably wouldn't need to rebake.

Eaten with ricotta honey spread, they were both tasty and unusual, at least in a world of either sweet cookies or savory crackers!

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A full moon

I've done many full moon posts over the years.

Tonight's full moon is welcome.  And full of hope.

I'm remembering a Hoi An, Vietnam celebration tonight.

Hoi An Full Moon nights

We were lucky enough to bumble on a Full Moon night in Hoi An. They don't take place literally on the Full Moon (like we thought) but the 14th day of the lunar month (I think I'm remembering that right).

 My gardening companion was a bit under the weather, so I ventured forth.

It was quite wonderful, with paper lanterns (similar to Mexican and Southwestern US luminaries) launched to float on the water.

Locals and tourists alike were there -- and there were many local folks enjoying the rituals. Quite nice.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Growing vegetables, cooking vegetables, and supporting local farms

After waking up, after a difficult outcome to an election that I'd participated in as a campaign worker (for the first time in my life, for numerous shifts), I found solace in gardening.

First, I volunteer in a local community vegetable garden, in a "food desert" in a historically black part of Asheville not more than a mile from where I live (in the oldest neighborhood in Asheville, now upscale.)

I'm privileged, to be sure. We have a lovely small house, surrounded now by nice gardens and a restored woodland, thanks to our efforts.

But the first thing I did this morning was to head over to the Southside Garden to harvest -- we're at the tail end of the harvest, but still, now almost all of the produce goes to the Kitchen Ready Southside Kitchen, which serves lunches free of charge and by donation to the community.

Check.  I felt better.

This afternoon, I did a volunteer landscape consultation on behalf of NC Arboretum (the young woman whose landscape I visited had taken a class that I taught there).

Check. I felt better again.

This evening, I went to a benefit dinner for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), sponsored by a wonderfully gifted local chef, Katie Button from Curate and Nightbell.

Check. Feeling better again.

I feel the power of community, giving back, and coming together tonight.

part of my small-scale vegetable garden, a couple of years ago
ASAP is all about supporting local food and local (small) agriculture -- they've done a brilliant job of it, promoting WNC local farmers (post-tobacco) for over 20+ years.  Our local chefs support them, too.

But I'm also mindful about our food deserts, and where folks have access to fresh food (hmm, it's sometimes hard work growing and harvesting veggies, not on my small scale, but on the market gardening scale of Southside).

It's a work in progress, trying to engage the community in growing and harvesting vegetables, and expanding vegetable growing beyond our community garden.

I sat next to a fellow at the the dinner tonight who described flying into Nagosaka, Japan, and looking down at small vegetable gardens surrounding every (small) house. 

What a wonderful vision!  We have so much space in this country that we can be growing fresh vegetables, rather than lawn. 

I don't think urban agriculture/small gardens/ etc. are some total answer to big ag, but they are a way for many of us to have fresh vegetable on relatively small spaces, in a Victory Gardening sort of way.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

A beautiful fall

In a difficult election season, where I can only keep going out to get out the vote, by canvassing, etc., to keep my spirits up, there's always the garden and nature.

Even with droughty conditions, we've had lovely reds and yellows this year, along with drab tones of drying leaves, prior to dropping. Carpets of red maple leaves line the space between the road and school, where I was poll greeting this week.

On walks through the neighborhood, leaves are everywhere.

The ginkgo in front is lovely, with the first leaves starting to fall.  They're huge.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A luminous hickory

The fall color has been sporadic this year.  The reds of the dogwoods and maples have been encouraged by the warm temperatures and sunny weather post a cold snap, despite the dry conditions.

The yellows have been more spotty, depending on the species.

The hickory towards the ravine forest has been lovely.

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