Month: September 2014

The Weekly Wildflower ~ MistFlower

Several years ago, I found a single blue tufted flower growing in the fold on the property – just at the point where the dry creek sneaks under the road before continuing on it’s way through the neighborhood. I took it and poked it into the front tiered planting bed to see if it would reseed.   It did… by the hundreds. Say hello to Conoclinium (Eupatorium) coelestinum… or  Wild Ageratum… or Mistflower. Although, my dad always called it “Millions” because of the number of new plants it produces every year. A branching member of the aster family, Mistflower is easily spotted by the profusion of soft blue tufts, crowning a mass of sturdy,  saw-toothed leaves. Here in North Georgia, Mistflower begins blooming in early September and blooms through the first heavy frost; meaning we typically get flowers well into October – up to about the 3rd week. Sun Exposure – Full Shade to Dappled Light Flowers – Bright Blue to Bluish – Purple Blooms – September through October Foliage – Foliage appear in early summer, Deep green – Saw toothed leaves …

Bread Whore ~ TOAST

I’ve always loved great toast. And apparently, I’m not alone.  I read somewhere the other day that toast has become a “thing“. Affected, terribly cool people are flocking to certain restaurants where they serve big, thick,  honkin’ slabs of complicated bread (probably kneaded on the thighs of Tahitian women), hand toasted over hardwood coals, and served with rare, artisan snoozleberry jam and yak butter churned during a full moon. Probably… Maybe… but you know what I’m talking about.   It seems to be the trend these days to take something exceedingly simple – and remake it into a ritual… a process…. an ordeal. Me? I can’t be bothered. For toast to be enjoyable, it only has to have: 1.  a developed richness that comes from fermentation 2. an outer crust that stays crisp even as the toast cools 3. toast centers that are tender and soft. Toasting Bread Some years ago I came across an English Toasting Bread (or English Muffin Bread) at one of the markets in the area. So I thought for this episode of …

The Weekly Wildflower ~ The “Non” Flowers

The obligatory disclaimer: I make no assertions nor assumptions that any of the fungi shown here are edible. I’m not a mycologist. The general rule of thumb when observing any wild flora and fungi is: “When in doubt – consider it poisonous.” While most people wouldn’t consider  Mushrooms and Toadstools flowers, in fact they really are. The parts we see above ground are the “flowers” of a network of fungi filaments coursing through the ground. Found in moister areas of leaf rot or decomposing forest matter, the flowering spore heads are usually triggered by periods of intense –  or slow, soaking rains where the forest floor saturates under the deluge, signaling to the fungi filaments that conditions are right for reproduction. I know a large portion of people would consider any of these blights on their property. But, since I have a relatively large, natural wooded area here at Turtle Creek… … and a considerable amount of decaying woodland as the result of high winds,  harsh Winters, and marauding Woodpeckers, I tend to let nature take …

All That Lemony Goodness – Lemon ~ Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

  ” I want a cookie…” Generally speaking, those four words don’t usually raise shrieks of alarms in your head. But, then again… you don’t live up on the hill here at Turtle Creek; where everything tasty is filled with things that are taboo – and the list of things we can’t eat grows like that Creeping Charlie out in the garden. But, I do my best to make life here a little less sucky. I decided to try and make homemade cookies… something I’m not particularly good at. And since 100% of the really good cookies have butter – it’s not been something very high on my list… You know,  since lard cookies taste like crap. Thankfully, one day when I was griping about the lack of good butter options for the severely lactose intolerant,  someone (I’m sorry, I really don’t remember who pointed me in the right direction) asked if I had ever tried Cultured Butter. For those of you not in the know, Cultured Butter is Fresh cream butter to which lactic acid cultures have …

Kitchen Fodder ~ Gettin’ all PC (pressure cooker) on some sauce

 Test #1 of the CooksEssentials 4.5 Qt. Microwave Pressure Cooker First of all, I’m going to do a bit of housekeeping and apologize to Jane. .. the rest of you can look at the picture for a bit. You’re absolutely right… this isn’t your exact recipe. The spice blends are there.. and basically, it’s the same.  However,  I had to make a couple of alterations in order to keep it from turning to just mush in the pot, and a couple of things had to change to cope with the shorter cooking time.  The vegetable chunks are larger, but generally, it has the same feel, taste, thickness, and richness.  And… We’re back. So, like I said yesterday, you’ve got to futz with the settings a bit to sync the temps and times up to your own microwave. For example –  I use a 1200 watt micro, so the bulk of what I do is at 60% power  and 10 less minutes on the unit for any of the recipes in the provided cookbook. Because of that, …

Kitchen Fodder – Testing the CooksEssentials 4.5 Qt Microwave Pressure Cooker

Just to set the record straight… No, I wasn’t given one of these units to test and make nice about… No, I wasn’t contacted by QVC or Cooks Essentials to test their cooker… No, Left to my own devices, I probably would not  have ever considered buying one of these things… It all started as an innocent text message from a friend in Taiwan; thinking he could use it to make braised pork belly. “What can you tell me about these things… have you tried it?” Not only had I never heard of it, the whole idea of nuclear cooking and highly pressurized impact plastic frightened me ….  more than a little. But, being the gadget whore that I am, I decided to buy one and see what it would do. The Basics Considering a decent stove top cooker will run you $45.00 to $65.00, the $50.00 price tag (including tax, shipping, and that worrisome “handling”) for the CooksEssentials thing will hit you right at fifty bucks. It comes in a variety of colors. I bought a …

“Be vewy, vewy, quiet… i’m hunting wabbits.”

There’s been a bit of a vanishing act happening in the garden as of late. Where there was once a beautiful Balloon Flower in this pot… … there’s now this. Where I once had a beaming stand of native Asters along the walkway backdropping the lavender and thyme… The center stand is no longer there… … and they appear to have been “snipped”.. Rabbits have found their way back through the fencing, and are wreaking havoc once again. This time – I’m prepared. This will make the fourth critter I’ve caught with the live trap. And, I have something to tempt them they just can’t resist… So… be vewy, vewy, quiet while I research Wabbit Stew.   UPDATE 10/29/2014 Finally got the bastard. End tally – 1 complete stand of chard, 3 pepper plants, 15 carrots, 1/2 a rose bush, 1 fennel plant, 6 tomatoes, All the basil, 1/2 the parsley, 2 balloon flowers, 4 aster clumps, and most of the perennial saliva. On the plus side – he did clear out a large portion of …

Weekly Wildflower – Euonymous Americana

Say hello to Euonymous americana, or American Strawberry Bush / Burstin Hearts / Wahoo. Although, Jane swears it’s called a Cat’s Paw.  A member of the bittersweet family, the strawberry bush likes to inhabit wetter areas on the edge of wooded groves – or as in my case, the drainage runoff area just off the neighborhood road in the middle of the right-of-way. It’s a wonder I even saw it in the first place. Cultivated and cherished, Euonymous Americana has been an old Southern favorite even though propagating plants from seeds are not always successful. Your best bet is to either purchase a plant from a reputable native plant nursery, or find and transplant one from the wild. It is a deciduous, loose shrub with wildly branching limbs and bright green leaves. Plants that sit closer to the edge of the wood and receive more light, have branches and leaves with a decided purple tint. GROWING CONDITIONS Water Use: High Light Requirement: Part Shade Soil Moisture: Moist Soil Description: Moist to dry soils. Conditions Comments: Although it will tolerate …

Baleful Bounty – Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped potatoes – that mainstay of Church Homecoming potlucks – the master of family Sunday dinners – the keystone of just about every holiday get together… And, face it… most of them are pretty dreadful. Flaccid potato slices floating in noxious, overly garlicky gravy. But, it doesn’t need to be that way. Let’s break away from the norm and make something a little lighter, a little more flavorful, and a hell of a lot prettier to look at.   Since I was blessed with a handful  (really, out of 5 plants, I got 2 pounds of potatoes) of beauties from the garden this year, I thought I’d do something to go with the Sage Battered Pork Chops I was making. And, smashing them up just seemed a crime… you know, since I only got 8 taters from all my hard work and all. I decided to do Jane’s scalloped potatoes… except, I really didn’t know her exact recipe… just basically how it was done… So, I did what I always do… I punted. ________________________________________________ Plate Fodder’s …

The Barrel Hoop Walkway

On the northern side of the cottage, just before the land drops off dangerously sharp, I installed a deadfall garden and stumpery. A “Stumpery” is a collection of natural and unique..well… stumps and other forms of log and tree matter. These I’ve interspersed with perennials, grasses, rocks and birdhouses to create a minute haven for critters. (Trust me, it’s attractive.) Anyway, I’ve never been really happy with the walkway bordering the garden. Back earlier in the year, I came across a stack of rusty barrel hoops that my Dad, for some odd reason, had saved and squirreled away at the shop. Perhaps he once had something in mind for them – I’ll never know. They have just been quietly rusting away into obscurity for the past seven years. I thought it was time to either use them or haul them away. I’ve recessed the hoops about 2″ into the soil and excavated and leveled the interior circle. Each hoop holds 1 – 25# bag of pond pebbles, which I’ve tamped down to pack them into …