Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh happy day!

Wednesday was the first day of the farmers market at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, and I've been SO EXCITED since the weekend. I tried to eat local over the winter (can you say greens and sweet potatoes), so I am thrilled to finally be in the spring growing season. But guess what was in my CSA? Yes, it's true: sweet potatoes and kale! To be fair, there were also other wonderful things, including shitake mushrooms, a bag of delicious radishes, and two quarts of strawberries.

Here's a wonderful way to eat radishes, passed along to me by Amy Lawrence, who is a food writer for Memphis magazine: Let your butter get soft. (That means out of the fridge for at least two hours!) Slice French bread. Slice radishes as thin as you can. Butter bread; layer on the radishes; and season with salt and pepper.

Who would ever think butter and radishes could be so delicious? Think about this as a wonderful appetizer with an evening martini or as a first course for dinner. Yum!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hanging with Michele, sort of.

A few weeks ago, Kenny, my brother-in-law, sent me the link to the opening (is that the right word?) of Michele Obama's White House garden. I love Michele, so I downloaded her photo. (Notice her pair of gray Converse. Very hip.)

Next, I downloaded a photo of me after I opened my garden. (Notice my foot wear: one muddy Ked and a clog on my right foot for digging. So very not hip.)

Call me woman, hear me roar.

For the past six weeks, I've been waiting for Vince,the man who takes care of my lawn, to build me a raised bed. He's never shown up. Lori Greene of Downing Hollow Farm has been waiting a year for the same kind of help. So last week, we built the beds ourselves.

Lori got all the materials for two beds, size 6 feet by four feet, and it cost about $100. You can do it for a little cheaper if you buy 6-inch lumber and stack them, but we went with the 12-inch lumber because it was easier and we liked the more streamlined look.

The only supplies you need in addition to the lumber are a drill, screws, and brackets for the corners. It does take two people: one to drill and one to hold the lumber in place. It also helps to have a charmer like Lori's daughter Hattie to decorate the beds. We provided the muscle; Hattie provided the finesse.

Lori plans to plant the beds with herbs and flowers. Meanwhile at my house, I've moved on to a lasagne bed for my veggies. On Sunday, after a fantastic thunderstorm dumped an inch of rain on East Memphis, I spaded up the sod. Tony even helped, which is remarkable, considering he's never done yard work in 15 years. I think the idea of peppers and tomatoes motivated him.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Anna!

Nineteen years ago, I decided to haul out the chain saw and prune the ridiculous holly that a previous owner of our house in Hickory Hill had planted around the pool. Can you imagine planting holly around a pool? I couldn’t, and so I chopped those prickly bushes down, even though I was eight a half months pregnant.

By 3 a.m. the next day, I was awake with the start of labor, and by late afternoon, I was holding our beautiful daughter, Anna Rose. Tony and I had decided on her name a few months earlier on a long drive to the beach, when the poetry of the words tumbled out of my mouth near Jackson, Mississippi. But on the morning Anna was born, a rose bush planted by Tony (fortunately, that shrub escaped my chain saw) exploded with blooms. I noticed the red roses before heading to the hospital, and that pretty much sealed the deal on Anna’s name.

The rose bush didn’t make the move to our new home in East Memphis, but a large and sprawling snowball bush has taken its place. It blooms every year a few days before Anna’s birthday on April 24th. I like to think it’s Anna’s nature that brings on the timely bloom, regardless of the weather.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lighthouse Restaurant: Don't miss it.

What do these photos of Lighthouse Restaurant on Highway 49 in Mississippi have to do with gardening? Absolutely nothing.

I'm not Barbara, but I still hate to leave my lettuce.

In her book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (a must read, by the way, if you value planet Earth, self-reliance, and good food) Barbara Kingsolver describes how hard it is to leave her vegetable garden for a summer vacation. Kingsolver, of course, has an acre of two of crops at her farm in Virginia. (Show off.) Me? I have four black-seeded Simpson lettuces and two Swiss chard plants growing in pots, but I’m still worrying about my quick trip to the beach. Will the snails eat them? (Haven’t seen any yet). Will the wind blow them over? (Possible.) Should I pick some leaves before I leave (Absolutely not.)

I planted these veggies about 10 days ago, and already the lettuces look good enough to eat.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Notice the lettuce, not the monster hand.

The Saturday before last was lettuce day. At a local farmers market in the parking lot of Tsunami restaurant, I purchased a bag of leaf lettuce from Van Cheeseman, a farmer who grows organic produce in Holly Springs, Mississippi. I love how the roots are still on the lettuce, along with lots of dirt. I soaked it several times in the sink in cold water, gave it a good turn in the lettuce spinner, added blue cheese, sliced red onions, and the season’s first strawberries, and tossed it with this vinaigrette. Delish!

One-half cup vegetable oil
One-quarter cup white wine vinegar
One-quarter cup sugar
One-quarter teaspoon paprika
Several tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now here’s an adaptive reuse.

Let’s play a little game. Try to guess what’s underneath this remarkable stand of wisteria. Here’s a clue: Go back to the 1980s when 45 television channels meant something.

Give up? It’s a satellite dish as tall as a one-story house!

Now imagine if all the abandoned satellite dishes were covered with wisteria. Wouldn’t the world be a lovely place?

April gardens: the ultimate comeback kid.

Just for fun, I wandered around my yard today and took photos of all the plants blooming.(Okay it was really a week ago. Blame in on those worms.) A spring garden is my favorite, because the plants are so forgiving. They are a little like teenagers: love them but give them space, and they become even more beautiful.

Most of these plants are shade-tolerant natives, a good choice for the hardwood forest habitat of western Tennessee. In case these plants are new to you, here are their names: wild blue phlox, woodland poppies, wisteria, wjacob's lader, foamflowers, columbine, snowdrops,spiderwort, and dogwood.

Pass-along plants for Victoria.

My Aunt Jeanne was a tireless gardener, and during the summers, she was always showing up at our house in her muddy flip-flops with a pass-along plant (or two). I could almost hear my mom’s silent groan (one more chore), but I loved the camaraderie of the plants and the connection they gave me to my family. Even in Memphis, I have balloon flowers from Uncle Bobby’s garden in Maryland, and he has yellow woodland poppies from me.

These days, I grow lots of native plants, and natives make babies, so every spring and fall I dig up a new crop of pass-alongs. Typically, I take them to my friend Victoria, because I know she actually will plant them.

Here’s Victoria in her backyard, and she’s just planted my spiderwort, woodland poppies, columbine, wild geraniums, and sunflowers in what she fondly calls her Zen garden. “Half the time, I end up planting on top of other plants,” she explains. “But it all works out.”

I’m thinking Victoria’s cat Leo has something to do with the garden’s success. He especially likes to hang out on this table, near a fragrant spread of peppermint.

So many worms, but not the good kind

It’s been a busy week in my gardens, but you’d never know because of this message from Joe, our IT guy at work: “Well the good news is I was able to get into your computer.. the bad news it is full of all kinds of infections... it has worms, Trojan horses, and several other viruses.”

I finally got my laptop back from with this advice: Replace Vista with Windows 7. Ho hum. For now, I’d rather pull weeds and try to get caught up on posts.