Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Family Photos

It's been about a week since I've posted because this is the most exciting news I have................

one onion popped up today and waved at me.

Other members of the garden family

the sweet pea toddlers lined up nicely in a row

 a few radishes thriving among the millions of rocks

 last year's parsley

Last spring a friend from station 25 gave us an empty pickle barrel which Cliff halved with the sawzall so we could do some container gardening.  This one was placed near the front porch and we grew Italian parsley and rosemary.  The cold winter arrived and 2 ft of snow covered both herbs.  The rosemary couldn't tolerate the winter and I thought the parsley was finished, too, but during the unusually warm early March temperatures, the parsley perked up and grew new crisp leaves.  This is about a month's growth!  I couldn't believe it.  The rosemary in the front garden looks like it's generating new growth, too.  Now I'm wondering if the rosemary from the pickle barrel was just playing possum.  I tossed it into the woods somewhere and it's probably beginning to grow again.  Anytime I think a plant isn't thriving, I pluck it from the garden and toss it into the woods and most times the discarded plant does better when ignored than fussed over in a garden. 

We have had days and days of rain.  The plastic rain gauge is cracked so we're not sure but we must have had at least 4 inches.  The roaring creek can be heard from the porch again and the rivers are almost up to their banks.  I haven't seen any sign of the potatoes yet.  Wondering if they are rotting with so much rain.  Cloudy days and more moisture is predicted all week.  

Have been watching the ads for sales on refrigerators.  The one that came with this house was small and so loud, it violated Murphy's noise ordinance.  We heard it running constantly and the ice-maker clanged, banged, and shot the ice to the opposite sides of the freezer with deadly force.  I almost bought a stainless steel but prefer the white because it keeps the kitchen bright and open.  The bottom freezer is very roomy.  We love this Samsung model. When the veggies start coming in all at once, I'll have more room to freeze them than in the old one. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I had a firm talk with the bean rows this morning and told them if they didn't rear their little heads in the next couple of days, they were gone.  Guess they believed me.

At 7:20 tonight we went down to the garden to see if anything happened after the 80 degree day we had.  The yellow beans popped through the soil right on schedule.  They're lucky.
Chinese cabbage
Rainbow Swiss Chard

We're due for thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon then  37 degrees on Thursday night. 
A shot of the "super moon."
This was still quite a sight at 6 AM Sunday.  Max and I took our coffee out on the porch and sat for awhile in awe.   The porch lit up and the moon cast quiet shadows through the woods. 

Welcome Spring!

Spring is here!  It's time to fling open the windows and feel the crisp morning air.  Time for rebirth.  Sit quietly with the rebirth that is happening around you.  Feel it in your heart and your breath.  Winter has officially come to an end...............but don't hold your breath.  Locals tell us there is still the possibility of a last freak snow storm in April.  The year Bill and Boni visited us,early April 2009, to help build our shed, the temperature was in the 70's before they arrived.  A freak white-out snowstorm passed through with temps in the 30's and on the day they left, the sun came out and temperatures returned to 70's again.

Clouds moved in and temperatures began dropping.
End of the first day.
The next morning.  And it snowed off and on all day as they finished the shell of the shed.
  Today is predicted to be unusually warm, about 80 degrees.  I've been adding vegetables to the garden and today will plant the carrot seeds.  Right now have sweet peas, yellow and green beans, beets, radishes, white & red potatoes, red & green cabbages, spinach, kale, 3 types of lettuce, rainbow Swiss chard, onions and garlic.  Everyday I go down and check to see if the beans or peas are popping through the soil yet.  No sign of the earth cracking so yesterday I had a firm talk with them. It's only been a week.   Nights are still cool so it may take 10-12 days to germinate.  I still have lots of room for more seed and have a spot reserved for my herbs.  Of course, when things are ready to be harvested, I'll be like a one-man band, trying to orchestrate the picking, canning, freezing, and giving away.  Until then, I'll just enjoy.................

Friday, March 18, 2011

HB Sighting

The first hummingbird sighting has been reported in Blue Ridge, GA, about a half-hour away from us.  Yesterday the temperature reached low 70's so we spent most of the day outside.  In the afternoon as we sat on the back porch watching the spinach grow, Cliff thought he heard the familiar whirring sound of an HB's wings.  This morning I went to the sightings site and saw that the first reported sighting was yesterday.  Just made up the first batch of nectar and filled the new feeder.  I threw away the old feeders because I've had them since summer of 2007 and no matter what I use to get the old mold removed, it remained in the tiny crevices.  I'd soaked them in vinegar and in baking soda overnight but couldn't reach all the hidden areas to clean them thoroughly.

The new one I just purchased is much easier to clean because  when you unscrew the glass from the base, the "flying saucer" becomes 2 separate pieces allowing the inside to be cleaned easily. This weekend is suppose to be high 70's so it's a good possibility that we may see our first HB. 

Also, here are the bowls were chose from our Empty Bowls Event.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blah....reading directions!

When I was teaching, I expected my students to read directions before beginning any activity.  I stressed reading step-by-step, slowly, and then rereading again if needed.  Blah!  I hate reading directions.  When I first learned how to sew I was around 9 or 10.  If I could see the finished project first, then I could break it down and build or sew whatever I needed to make.  The directions for sewing included diagrams so in most cases I only had to resort to reading if I couldn't figure out a step by the illustrations.  Even now in everyday life, I still assemble projects by the illustrations or by handing the written directions to Cliff to figure out.  I still have that mental block.  Since I've retired and my brain isn't "fried" or mushy, I've been tackling "reading and following directions."  Not an easy task for me, but a personal accomplishment.  Today I discovered how to add buttons and new pages to my blog.  It'll be a slow work in progress.  As you've probably seen, one of the buttons is Recipes.  Now I need to research how to get my recipes on those pages or do I have type them all over again.

I just realized I don't know how to get back into those buttons to add text!  Time to research...............

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Carolyn is out of surgery and in her room.  Doctors removed a mass and some cysts and were able to save 95% of her kidney.  John is exhausted and hopes to catch some sleep in her room while she sleeps.  Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as they go through this very trying time together.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our prayers and positive thoughts go out to John and Carolyn, our son and daughter-in-law, as they go through a very difficult surgery Tuesday, March 15.  Carolyn has already had part of her left kidney removed and is now having a malignant tumor removed from her right kidney. Thank you for keeping them in your hearts. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oyster Stew with Sweet Potato and Leeks

Serves 4.  Takes about 25-30 prep and cooking time.

2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs safflower oil
1 tbs minced fresh ginger
1 leek, white & green parts only, cut 1/4" dice & washed
1 med sweet potato, peeled & diced 1/4" thick
2 tbs all-purpose flour
3 cups non-fat milk
1 8-oz can oysters with 1/4 liquid
season with salt and pepper

Melt butter and oil in med saucepan on med heat.  Add ginger, leeks, and potato; cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 mins.  Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute.

Raise heat to medium-high and slowly pour in milk and reserved oyster liquid, whisking constantly.  As soon as bubbles begin to form around edges of pan, gently stir in oysters and cook just until set, about 2 mins.  Season with salt and pepper.

4g sat. fat; 5 g unsat. fat; 33 mg cholesterol; 25 g carb; 11 g protein; 2 g fiber

Excellent stew.  I had it with the wheat bread that I made Friday.

This afternoon I planted two rows of sweet peas and a row of yellow bush beans because we are suppose to have rain tonight and tomorrow.  The lettuce, chard, broccoli plants look good today.  Soil is quite moist from the rain a couple days ago.  When Cliff called his mother tonight, she asked how the garden was coming.  He told her I planted the sweet peas at 1 pm and we had them with our supper tonight.  She thinks all of the manure is not only in the garden.

Empty Bowls Event 2011

We attended the Empty Bowls Event last evening at The John Campbell Folk School in Brasstown.  This year we arrived at the school an hour before the doors opened to be in a better place in line.  Last year, being my first time,  I was close to the end of the line and didn't get seated for almost an hour after the doors opened.  At 5 pm approximately a dozen people are welcomed onto the screened porch to look over the donated bowls and choose one to keep as a souvenir of this event.  As those people as seated, more are let in.  We figure about 200 tickets are sold so it takes about an hour for people to filter in, look over the bowls, then get seated.  Also $1.00 raffle tickets are sold for the "brown bag" drawing which features a dozen clay pieces donated by the local potters.  No luck this year.  We didn't win.  The menu included beef barley soup, a hearty wheat bread, salad, drinks, and big cookies....all made at the school.  We sat at a table of eight and talked with people who drove 3 hours from South Carolina to attend for their first time.  Others at our table were local residents.
Don't look for us.  These are just shots of one of the three dining rooms.
The Folk School musicians provided a little bluegrass fiddling while we ate and talked with people we met.  It's a great event and provides food for the hungry in Cherokee and Clay Counties. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My readers probably have noticed that a few of my recipes may seem a little radical.  Yesterday I tried another new one.  I've been eating less meat and more tofu, legumes, always fatty fish with omega-3.  Cliff has been a good sport and will try anything I make sometimes not knowing what he's consuming until after he's licked the plate clean.  Friday night we had Mediterranean Stuffed Bell Peppers made with tofu and Gimme Lean meatless sausage and they were a hit!  This recipe is a keeper.  Cliff says he'll eat it again even knowing what the ingredients were.

This came about last fall when a visit to my doctor revealed my cholesterol was up a little so we began plan A.  I started with higher doses of a good pure fish oil and niacin from a health food store, but my next visit showed a sharp rise in my triglyceride numbers. That may have been caused by my careless diet and too much red wine!  One important thing I learned from watching Gregory House, is that everybody lies. I was truthful with my doc and told him I was enjoying too much wine in the afternoons out on the back porch.  He said we need to go to plan B because high triglycerides can damage organs.  I started Crestor but within six weeks had a burning sensation in my right arm and hand so painful that I stopped the meds myself.  He then prescribed Tri-Cor, gave me a 3-month supply of samples, which seemed to agree with my body and I had no adverse side effects.  After a healthy liver function test, the doctor called the Rx in to CVS and I thought I was on a roll.  I would take Tri-Cor and go back to eating the way I should and lose the 15 lbs I put on since living this retired lifestyle. Pharmaceuticals in this country are out of control.  We pay about $800 a month for my BCBS and they refused to pay anything towards the Tri-Cor because it is now a tier 3 drug.  I was told by BCBS I have to try all the generics first, see if I have any adverse reactions, have a liver function test every 3 months, be a guinea pig for the pharmaceuticals, before they will pay for a portion of the Tri-Cor which I already know works for me.  Then this week after Cliff's sample supply of Lipitor ran out and the doctor called CVS for his Rx, he found out that his Medicare drug supplement will NOT pay for the Lipitor!  It's a tier-4 drug and he has to jump through the same hoops that I do!  His Rx costs $178 a month.  It's very frustrating to be controlled by insurance companies who don't want to pay out and drug companies who are making billions on  people who depend on maintenance and life-sustaining medications.  This dilemma is a life and death situation for many, such as the unemployed, the elderly on fixed incomes, and people living at  poverty levels.  Except for my synthroid, I've never had to depend on maintenance medication, so I guess this is why it was a shock to me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Side of the Mountain

After working out this morning, I went to Wayne's Feed and Grain and bought two "scoops" of mushroom mulch for the garden.  Cliff had an EMS class so when he arrived home we tackled the garden chores.  My parents always had a wonderful garden but I never paid attention to the work that they put into it.  To me, it was a hideaway......... I could hide between the corn stalks, peel and eat cabbage leaves, pull up fresh carrots and nibble like Bugs Bunny, living in a natural world of make-believe.  Rhubarb leaves became high-fashioned hats.  Dandelion stems inserted into each other became necklaces and bracelets.  Our garden was a great place for hide-n-seek, especially, as the sun set.

We broadcast the lime first.  Cliff emptied between 18-21 wheelbarrow loads of mushroom mulch down to the garden.  I raked the mulch and mixed it into the tilled clay, constantly pitching roots and rocks into the woods.
He had a EMS call part way through the chore so I took a break and waited for him to return.
Yesterday I brought my old wicker chair down from the porch.  The garden is actually a very peaceful place to be.  It's meditative and reposeful.  It removes me from the world.
My view from the wicker chair.  Soon these woods will be lush and green and I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer passing through while I work in the garden.  Yesterday I hiked all the way down into the deep woods to the creek where the deer walk.  With the recent rain, the creek is loud and flowing rapidly.  Another 2 inches of rain is expected Wednesday.  After the rain, I'll start planting potatoes, spinach, and beans and whatever the farmers tell me I can safely plant.

Tried another new recipe tonight..........shrimp with a kiwi salsa.  The picture of the shrimp with the kiwi was what made me give it a try.  It looked wonderful and refreshing but wasn't what our palates wanted.  The page is crumbled and in the trash tonight. 

We're pooped tonight but feeling accomplished......................

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's windy and cold on the mountain today.  Our temperature was 46 when we got up this morning and it's 38 now at 3:30 pm.  This is what March was like four years ago when we spent a long weekend here running from the realtor's truck to vacant unheated houses.  I was chilled to the core.  Steve took us up mountain roads where only Sherpa should travel.  That weekend was quite an adventure.

Cliff is home safely from his trek to Massachusetts and dodged the approaching flooding rains and thunderstorms.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

  Trees in bloom.......... on the way to Ingles Supermarket.

Daffodils and jonquils are popping up everywhere........a little earlier than normal.  No predictions of a last "blizzard" yet, but we can't let our guard down.  Temperatures have been 66-70 degrees by 3 pm and the potted plants have been enjoying the porch.  Maxine and I sit on the side porch most afternoons and read.  I've been down in the garden picking more rock and roots from the soil and will add lime to the garden after Cliff returns home. I don't remember if my parents planted by moon phases but Barb says you produce better crops so I'll try it.

I got to the gym earlier than usual this morning...... around 8:45......just in time to try the Zumba class with Rebecca.  Some days it's so routine to do the elliptical for 30 minutes then work upper or lower body that I find it humdrum....boring.  I especially miss my Monday and Friday Yoga class with Susan so today I jumped in the Zumba class for an hour.  It was non-stop dancing movement for 1 hour to exotic drum pounding music.  You couldn't get bored with this aerobic exercise.  The class before Zumba is Boot Camp.  I wonder if I could last the next challenge.

Found another great recipe that smells and looks as good as it tastes.  It's meatless and made with white beans.....a favorite dish from northern Italy.

gluten free and vegetarian

1 bunch of dark greens, chard kale, collard, or escarole
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 (15-oz) can white beans, drained, rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Wash greens, pat dry, and  remove center rib.  Roughly chop leaves.  Set aside.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat in olive oil, saute onions, garlic and sage until onions are softened. (6-8 minutes).  Add green and salt in batches stirring to coat greens.  Cook 3 minutes more.  Stir in water or broth, tomatoes, and beans.  Cover and simmer 3 more minutes until greens are tender but still green.  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season to taste.  Divide into bowls, drizzle olive oil over servings and top with Parmesan cheese.  Serve with warm crusty bread.

196 cal, 4g fat, 0mg chol, 10g protein, 32g carbs, 8g fiber