The Garden Gods

On the subject of gardening, there is always much to discuss each year with family, friends, neighbors, even the smart folks at the Co-Op. How to prep the soil? Plant before Easter or before? Why is rainwater better for the vegetables than county water? And the weeds, oh geesh, who’s gonna tackle those every day?

We’re still learning, of course — and I’m not convinced there aren’t divine forces at play when it comes to how a garden will grow. Here’s hoping our good behavior this year will help make the garden gods shine down favorably upon us and our little patch of country dirt.

Happy Gardening! And please feel free to share any secrets to your own backyard garden successes…

Perfect timing

sweet-potatoes

Our very first sweet potato planting was a small success! Here’s a shot of the ‘harvest’ — dug up today at the start of Thanksgiving week. We loved seeing all the funny tater shapes emerge with each shovelful of turned dirt. If the family doesn’t choose the classic casserole with marshmallows and all the trimmings, we might just opt for this yummy looking recipe from our talented friend Tara, whose delicious food ideas can be found at TaraTeaspoon.com. Let the Thanksgiving Day cooking commence!

 

Read more about the 10 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes.

 

Near Pear-Fect

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Every fall we stare at the old pear trees out back and make plans. What will we make this year with this sweet country fruit? Who might need extra for canning? In past years, our friend Wendell whipped up an easy Pear Crisp that I love, and two years ago we went around to all our neighbors surprising them with Friendship Pear Muffins. This year we wanted to do an Apple Pear Bread, but after a few tries I was about to give up — that is until last night when, using the very last of the pears, we managed to make a pretty delicious bread…the kind you want to scarf down for breakfast, lunch, snack and dessert. And this time, we think the effort is worth sharing! So here you go, friends: our near Pear-fect Fall Bread (and muffins). 🙂

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Pear-Fect Fall Bread

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plain applesauce (or 1/2 cup mashed-up peeled apple)
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tblsp vanilla extract & 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (we like King Arthur)
4 cups firm pears, peeled and diced

Optional: 1/2 cup sliced almonds, ground up in food processor

To Make:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease one large loaf pan (or 4-5 mini loaf pans); also line a 6-count muffin pan for the extra batter. In a big bowl, combine brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce and honey. Stir to mix, then add eggs and extracts. Stir well. In separate big bowl combine salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, ground almonds and flour. Mix well. Fold in wet mixture and stir until moistened. Gently fold in pears. Pour batter into pans and muffin tin. Fill almost to the top. Bake large loaf pan for 45-60 minutes (until toothpick comes out almost clean); bake small loaves and muffins approx. 30-40 min. Eat up right away, the next day…or freeze for later.

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Inspired by Chew Out Loud.

Lessons in Beekeeping


Well, we’ve gone and done it. Just added about 10,000 honeybees to our place — they’re out back in the orchard. Thankfully, we’ve got good neighbors who know a thing or two about creating a healthy apiary, so we’re really just apprentices at this point. But our best-laid plans did soon go awry when our one little beehive (Mike was adamant: we could only have ONE) decided it was doing so well that it would do this thing called “swarm” and subdivide. So now, after our friend Charlie rushed over to help capture the wayward bees that thankfully chose to hang out in a low branch, we have TWO hives. If these little drones divvy up again, I may have to start looking for a new husband because the current one might just quit. But let’s hope not. 🙂

Here are shots from our adventures so far, including installing the first hive (which came from a beekeeper on Lookout Mountain), capturing the swarm, and later helping Charlie rob one of his own hives and make a delicious 2-gallon batch of honey.

No stings to report yet — well, except for Lola, who just had to go and poke her nose into one of the boxes.

our own giving tree

The old pear tree has been calling our names this fall…wondering, we think, why we continue to let it bend over, burdened with the weight of those big country pears. And now it’s mid October and we’ve hardly picked any, except for those we’ve given to friends for their annual canning jamborees. That old tree has become our friend. It was here long before us and will probably be here long after we’re gone – faithfully producing an abundant amount of fruit each year, so much so that the neighbors often speak fondly of it. Today, we couldn’t bear to look at those lingering, lonely pears any longer, hanging high up beyond our reach, so I went out and shook  the branches hard (being careful not to get beaned on the head in the process!). And then we sat in the kitchen and played around with this little recipe to honor our noble tree. Tomorrow morning we’re having coffee with “Doc Pope,” a professor emeritus at JSU and one of the first friends we made out here (ironically her youngest son was one of Adrian’s favorite teachers at Grady High School in Atlanta), and I’ll bring Margaret some of these breakfast treats. Then maybe we’ll stop by Patsy’s on the way home and drop a few off for her, too. And since we’re spreading delight from our “giving tree,” we thought it’d be nice to also share some with you – well, in a recipe at least. 🙂 Here’s our Friendship Pear Muffins.

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Friendship Pear Muffins

What You’ll Need:

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon honey

1 small lowfat vanilla yogurt (6 oz)

1/4 cup lowfat milk

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups finely diced peeled pear

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

To Make:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put chopped almonds in food processor and grind until fine. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into large bowl. Add ground almonds, stir well and set aside. Mix together brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of the turbinado sugar, canola oil, vanilla/almond extracts, honey, yogurt, milk and egg into small bowl. Add to flour mixture and fold in diced pear. (If batter is too dry, add a little more milk.) Spoon batter into paper muffin cups/muffin tin. Sprinkle tops lightly with remaining 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar.

Bake for 4-5 minutes at 425 degrees (this helps set the muffin tops), then reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking for 10-12 minutes, or until muffins spring back lightly to the touch. Remove muffins from tin immediately and continue cooling them on a counter or cooling rack. Enjoy – and be sure to share leftovers with friends and neighbors!

Makes 12-16 muffins

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light