April and May, in photos

I am so constantly amazed that you can take such lovely images with an iPhone!  I’ve got a beautiful bunch of peonies gracing my yard right now and it never ceases to make my day when I catch a glimpse of them.  I’ve been running around like a crazy person for the past few weeks – celebrating several Baby Showers, training for my first Half Marathon (four weeks away!), fundraising for the New York Marathon (yay Fred’s Team!), and getting into some serious yoga.

Here’s a little summary in photos of my past few weeks:

Baby Showers…

Planting herbs…

Running…

Fundraising for Fred’s Team…

Yoga!  I’m learning to handstand, among other things.

 

 

Summer Bounty

OK, so I know I tell you guys about my farmer’s market outings all the time, but I just can’t help sharing one more.  There is so much color and vibrance in the produce – and the people – and I simply love to photograph the goings on.  Now, in the height of the growing season here in Georgia, there is so much variety in the produce that it makes for a lovely sight.  Enjoy!

Also, if you’ve joined me on Instagram, you know that I have an overabundance of blueberries… Suggestions?

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

Hydrangeas

Aren’t those pretty?  I love hydrangeas, and I was so happy when my started blooming this year.  Apparently I don’t have the healthiest soil around since mine vary in color from palest blue to a bright magenta, but hey, I’ll take it.  Thank goodness they bloom profusely or mine would be naked since I keep bringing them indoors.  I hope you all have as lovely a view somewhere in your house or yard.  Which plants can’t you resist bringing inside?

Out and About – Bremen, Ga

I recently visited a new Farmer’s Market in my area: the Sewell Mill Community and Farmer’s Market in Bremen, Ga.  There were several interesting vendors, and I enjoyed looking around, but honestly, I was much more interested in the old part of downtown Bremen where the market was located.  I love small towns – they just have so much character, and often the oldest structures are the ones that catch my eye.  

I often catch myself saying how glad I am that we live so close to Atlanta so that I can get to town for shopping and entertainment, and sometimes I forget how many lovely things there are just down the road.  The Farmer’s Market communities are so friendly and, especially this time of year, there is so much color and liveliness there.  Enjoy the view!

 

My Fruitful Yard

Remember when I asked you all for advice on what this plant was?  I thought (hoped!) it was blueberries, and many of you concurred.  Well guess what?  We were right!

I checked up on them today, and I found these little guys popping up all over them.  I have 8 good sized bushes, and they’re all putting on what looks like a bountiful crop of fruit… I see a summer full of crisps, pies, and cobblers on the horizon, and I for one can’t wait.   I also have several of these guys peeking out:

And I’m letting my cilantro run wild in the hopes of collecting some coriander seeds – although I may give in to my inner OCD person and cut it down if it gets much bigger.  It’s almost as tall as I am, which is a little wild looking.

I know many people are enjoying the fruits and such that are slowly making their way into the grocery stores and farmer’s markets – what are you guys’ favorite springtime treats?  Me, I love strawberries more than almost anything – they’re my favorite fruit, right behind peaches.  I know I’m going to be overrun with berries before too long, so do you all have any suggestions for what I can do with them?

Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market

 

Hooray for Farmer’s Markets!  Last year my parents joined the Cotton Mill Farmer’s Market in Carrollton, Ga as a way to get their products out to more people, and I must say that I love going out to say hello so I can browse all the lovely (local!) produce.  It’s not a huge Market, but all the major food groups are represented: meats, dairy, fruits and veggies, and greens.  There are some great people involved who really love their crafts, and it makes for a fun shopping experience when the farmer is clearly dying to tell you all about their products and methods.  Buying local isn’t something that’s for everyone – sometimes it’s just not practical.  The prices are higher than most conventional grocery stores; most Markets are open only one or two days a week, limiting your ability to get groceries at the drop of a hat; selection is limited to what’s in season, and there aren’t many exotic items (tahini in Georgia? I think not). But there are many advantages, chief of which is that the quality of the products is generally much higher.  Because the produce isn’t being hauled from the other side of the continent, it’s usually perfectly ripe and ready to eat – and usually naturally grown or organic.  Also, buying from local farmers and artisans is a great way to put money back into your community.  I’ll be honest here – I buy the majority of my groceries from Publix, but during the spring and summer I try to get as much of my produce as I can from the local producers.  I like knowing that my food was grown less than an hour from where I live, and I like that it’s been grown by folks who have a love for farming.  Because more people are becoming concerned about the quality of the food we eat, more and more Farmer’s Markets are popping up in cities and towns all across the country, and if you’ve never been to one, I encourage you to check one out.  If nothing else, you’ll probably find a friendly farmer ready to talk your ear off about something.

Spring has Sprung!

I’ve been so busy running back and forth from my greenhouse to watch this happening:

That I totally missed this on the other side of my yard:

We’ve had 5 consecutive days of 70º weather, I’ve had my windows open since Thursday of last week, birds are singing, seeds are sprouting, and I bought a pair of sandals today…I think it’s safe to say that Spring has finally decided to grace us with it’s presence.  So far I’ve got radishes and brussels sprouts peeking out, and also some arugula that came from my first ever seed swap.  We’ll be tied up this weekend, and the next as well, but my garden should be officially in the ground by April 20.  I was a little worried that was going to be too late, but a coworker who is a Georgia Master Gardener told me that traditionally in Georgia gardens are started on tax day, so I’m not too far off.

Happy Spring Everybody!

 

 

Seedlings

 

And that, my friends, is how you start seeds.  I’m super duper excited about this since this is my first time starting my own plants.  It was very easy, and seems to be working well – I planted these on Wednesday and I already have sprouts.  The boxes I’m using are by Jiffy – I got them at Home Depot for a very good price, and I would definitely recommend them.  After planting my seeds I left them overnight with the lids on, per the instructions, and when I went back the next day to check on them, they were nice and steamy under the lid.  I know they’re staying warm at night, and not drying out, although I expect I’ll have to add water in a day or two.  I got two sizes – several with the smaller pellets like you see above, and then two that had larger pellets for my tomatoes.   It took mine 30-45 minutes to absorb all the water and fluff up completely, so be prepared for a little wait if you use these, but I quite like them and will probably buy the pellet refills and continue using them.

I’m having Easter house guests this weekend, so I’ll be cooking something wonderful (I hope!) and visiting with my family.  I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter, as well, and a beautiful weekend!

Home Improvements

 

Check it out, dear readers: we got a (little) tractor!  The closer we’ve been getting to gardening (and grass growing) season, the more we’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about our new yard obligations.  Our home is on 3 acres that is mostly yard, minus the quarter-acre garden plot that brings it’s own challenge…I don’t know about you but I’m not keen on trying to hoe a quarter-acre garden by hand.  We started looking at zero turn lawn mowers, and tillers, then pull-behind tillers for a riding mower, and then we thought we might need something we could pull a broadcaster behind for seeding the lawn, and a sprayer for weed control…and you see where this is going right?   We ended up looking at  a compact tractor that was small enough to not tear up our lawn while we were mowing it, but strong enough to handle some future landscaping projects and our heavier garden chores.  We found this one at our local SunSouth dealer, in Carrollton, and it was such a great deal that we snapped it right up and hauled it home.  After much shopping around we realized that what was going to cost us the most was the implements we wanted: a tiller, mowing deck, and loader to start.   The tractors themselves were very reasonably priced, but adding implements quickly got expensive.  We chose this one because it was so lightly used that it was basically new, and came as a package deal with the three implements we needed the most.   We’ve already put it to good use removing an unwanted pine tree, cutting the grass, and some light landscaping. 

That’s our 80’s model John Deere riding mower – it was given to us by my Daddy.  It wasn’t running so he gave it to Jacob to repair…it’s not very quick or agile, and the mowing deck needs to be replaced so we use it for hauling mostly.   It’s been very useful when we’ve needed to haul dirt, or rock, or mulch, but sometimes we have less practical uses for it, such as when we need to haul the Bassett Hound across the yard, or something 🙂

Despite our murky, windy, rainy weather we were able to get quite a few things done this weekend.  The previous tenants were very enthusiastic gardeners, but it doesn’t seem like they were overly concerned with aesthetics.  You can see my little greenhouse above, and Jacob has a shop building off to the left of that photo with the aspalt pad in between.  They seemed to be concerned with functionality more than looks, because the buildings were just placed there on the edge of the yard with no landscaping or anything to make them attractive.  I appreciate the functionality, but I really want it to all look pretty as well…I’m thinking a low wall made of paving stones from the shop to the greenhouse (in front of that sweet gum tree) with a little flower bed in it, and then another paving stone “planter” built along the length of the greenhouse to hide the legs of that cabinet and make it look a little neater. 

We’ve already done a lot to clean it up just by clearing away a lot of brush and junk from around the shop area, and I know the rest will come together in time.  Hopefully spring will be upon us full force in another couple of weeks and we can get down to business in the garden. 

Did I mention how much fun the tractor is?  It’s pretty cool actually.  I might actually volunteer to help with the lawn mowing…

I hope you all are having very happy and productive springtimes, wherever you are, and that all of your projects are going just the way you want them to. Happy Spring!