Enjoying life's adventures in a secluded mountain cabin

Posts tagged ‘gardening’

The Sound of Silence

Fall is imminent up here at the cabin.  The days are getting shorter, the air is crisp and cool instead of sticky and hot, and the bugs have fell silent.  The God-awful dreaded bugs of summer.  They’re dwindling away and the nights have become silent again.  Walking outside a month ago was, at times, a shock to the ears with all the katydids singing their majestic songs of summer.  I happen to love that sound, while some others in my house loathe it.  Hearing those little green bugs makes me happy and lulls me to sleep in the summer.   It’s one of my favorite things about the hot months of the year.

But, alas, I’ve noticed for the past few evenings that the katydids have quieted down.  There are no more glorious songs coming from the trees around the cabin.  There’s still the occasional cricket and maybe a frog or two off in the distance, but for the most part, it’s become very silent up here on the mountain.

Don’t get me wrong.  Silence is good, too.  Silence means that pretty soon the leaves will begin their metamorphosis into a brilliantly, magnificent, colorful work of art that surrounds and envelopes the cabin on all four sides.  The heavens will keep getting clearer and clearer with every passing day.  They’ll be filled with those wonderfully white clouds that pop against the background of the vivid blue sky.  The flowers of fall will be glorious in their rich colors.  Afternoons will be spent gathering the last of the summer’s bounty from the garden in preparation for the long winter ahead.  And it’ll be time, once again, for comfy, cozy, warm jammies and socks, curled up with blankets and loved ones in front of the fireplace.

Yes, the sound of silence is a good thing.

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It’s a Jungle Out There!

I spent the better part of yesterday out in the garden tackling this little project.

Now that I’m sitting here looking at this picture, I’m thinking little is probably an understatement.  These were our tomato plants in the garden.  They were literally taller than me.  And we’ve only put Miracle Grow on ’em twice throughout this entire growing season!  Some of these were started from seeds here in the cabin back when the snow and cold was still swirling about outside, and others were bought in what I remember to be fairly tiny little pots and then lovingly transplanted in our garden.

I’m not real sure what happened here, but I know this ain’t right.  Somewhere along our journey into this whole gardening thing, we stopped growing tomato plants and started what appears to be a small jungle up here in the Western NC mountains!  Three or four small children could easily hide in this one row of plants and we’d never, ever see them.

Now I definitely don’t know a lot about gardening, but I knew these things weren’t supposed to look like this.  So, for the past few weeks, Mountain Man and I have been attempting to control the jungle that’s growing beside the cabin and we’ve tried to move some branches, limbs, arms, vines, (I have no idea what the correct terminology is regarding the various parts of a tomato plant,) so that some sunlight could find its way inside to the vast amount of green tomatoes that are hanging inside each of these plants.

Well yesterday, out of a sheer fit of boredom and the need to do something productive that involved actual labor, I decided I was going to wage war on our tomato jungle.  With the help of some serious pruning shears, of course!  I fought with those branches, limbs, arms, vines, or whatever those things are called for four hours.  Some of those dang things were eight and ten feet long!  They started at one plant and had wrapped themselves halfway down the row to the plants all the way on the other end!  I trimmed and cut and rearranged and trimmed some more until they finally took shape and began to look like tomato plants again.  I was merciless.  I cut off every single thing that didn’t have a tomato growing on it and even the ones I left, I stripped most of the leaves off of them so that the fruit I’d uncovered could get plenty of sunshine to ripen up.

So, what once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

Poor things, they look just pitiful.  Almost naked without all those branches, limbs, arms, vines…. thingies shooting out every which way.

But I know this’ll be good for them in the long run.  I know that we’ll have lots and lots of fat, juicy, ripe, red, yellow, and striped tomatoes here in the coming weeks! I probably shoulda got out there with the pruning shears sooner!

I’ll remember that come next year.

 

Fall Is In The Air

 

It’s only the middle of August here in the Western North Carolina mountains, which would normally mean that the last of summer’s heat would be lingering and all of us without central heat and air would be praying for a break in what I like to lovingly refer to as the sweat sessions.  Well, not this year.  It’s felt like Fall here on the mountain all weekend long.  Especially yesterday.  Beautiful blue skies with big ‘ol white puffy clouds drifting lazily by.  No humidity to speak of, only the slightest bit of warmth from the midday sun on our faces as we split wood in preparation for Old Man Winter.

It was a glorious day here at the cabin.  After splitting and stacking wood, Mountain Man and I canned some more veggies from our garden and made some more grape jelly.  All in all, we had a very productive Sunday afternoon.

I just feel so blessed to be where I am in this world.

Carrying On An Old Family Tradition

I grew up not too far from where we live now.  In the next county over, as a matter of fact.  And like most people ’round here, my grandparents were close by.  They didn’t live next door like a lot of my friend’s grandparents did, but they were only a short drive away and we were there most every single day of my life for as long as I can remember.  Most of my childhood memories involve Granny and Paw in some form or fashion and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of those memories that’s been replaying in my head over the past couple of months involves helping Paw in the garden and then, later on in the summer, sitting on the porch with Granny and my Mama, either breaking or shelling beans to be canned.  Even though I absolutely loathed this task as a child, I sure do miss those hot afternoons spent listening to Granny and Mama gossiping back and forth while we all messed with those beans ’till our fingers were raw and in bandages.

As a young child, I never really understood the value in all that painstaking, backbreaking work in the garden and then later in the sweltering hot kitchen.  I didn’t understand why on earth they didn’t just buy their food at the grocery store like “normal” people.  Didn’t they have anything better to do than work their fingers to the bone?  Literally, to the bone at times, I might add!  Weren’t they absolutely exhausted after working 8 hours on their jobs?  Didn’t they just wanna come home, relax and unwind, like “normal” people?  Wouldn’t they rather spend their weekends doing anything other than planting, weeding, watering, weeding, feeding, weeding, harvesting, breaking, shelling, shucking, peeling, cooking, canning, and freezing?

Whew…  Just typing that was exhausting!

Now… Fast forward about 25 years or so, and here I am, living a very similar kind of life.  On a much smaller scale, of course.  We don’t have the space for a huge garden like Granny and Paw had.  Our garden may not be huge, but it keeps us busy enough, that’s for sure.  Living on the side of a mountain, we didn’t exactly have the luxury of just plowing up a little plot to make us a garden.  Mountain Man and I literally built our garden!  We have a raised bed garden that required dirt to be moved from one area to fill it in.  And let me just tell ya, that was no easy task.

Then of course came the task of sectioning off different areas for different things, the planting, the watering, the weeding, the feeding, more weeding, more watering, and so on, and so forth.  You get the picture.  But, you know what?  I’ve gotten more enjoyment and fulfillment out of this garden than I ever thought possible.  Mountain Man and I walk out there every afternoon to tend to our creation and take care of any weeds or bugs that might be threatening our harvest.  We fight off the little flying winged devils that threaten to carry us off every time we set foot outside and we withstand this scorching heat that’s taken over here in the mountains.  And we love every minute of it.

We’ve now started to see some of the fruits of our labor and with each delectable bite, I’m starting to see why Granny and Paw always insisted on growing their own vegetables instead of just settling for whatever the grocery stores might be offering.  And what good would a garden be for people like Mountain Man and myself if we weren’t going to try to preserve some of this wonderful goodness to enjoy when Old Man Winter decides to show up?

So, along with the gardening, we’ve also ventured down the path of canning and preserving our harvest.  Neither one of us has ever canned anything before, even though my childhood is rich with memories of this process and his parents can food every year.  As you can imagine, this has been an interesting endeavor to say the least.  We’ve studied up on the subject, perused the internet, bought a book, bought all the necessary equipment, bought, picked and harvested all the necessary ingredients needed, and set out on our task.

We both made phone calls to our families for extra tips and helpful hints.  I called Granny, of course, and he called his Mom and Dad.  And you know, with a little help from them, a few recipes, a little luck, and a wink and a nod from the canning gods, we managed to make it through our first canning session and we have many more planned for the very near future.

This latest adventure has given me a whole new appreciation for my grandparents and all the hard work they put into making sure we all had food for the winter.  Even though we never really would’ve gone hungry since we only lived about 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store!   All that hard work paid off when the first chill of fall set in and then later, with the biting cold of winter knocking on our door.  Eating those beans, tomatoes, pickles, corn, soups, sauces, jams and jellies that Granny had canned and we had helped her to prepare not only nourished our bodies, but they fed our souls as well.  Honestly, nothing you can buy in the grocery store will ever taste as good and be as soul satisfying as something you’ve poured your heart into.   And to think, it only took me a couple of decades for this little epiphany to occur and settle into my existence!

Up next:  Adventures In Canning!!!

Fresh Veggies

Honestly, is there anything better than garden fresh veggies?  And I’m not talking about going to your local produce stand here y’all.  I’m talking about walking less than thirty feet out my front door to pick the most delectable, absolutely life-alteringly good tomatoes in the world!  Mountain Man would argue that the best tomatoes come from Illinois, and granted, they are pretty dang tasty.  But our blood, sweat, and tears have went into these tomatoes and the other veggies growing out there, so they’re pretty darn awesome, to me!

 

 

Our cucumbers, radishes, and green onions have been pretty good, too.  After what seems like endless weeks of patiently waiting, watering, feeding, and spraying with soapy water to keep the bugs at bay, it appears that the cucumbers are quadrupling daily!  We’re planning to make pickles so this is most definitely a good thing.

And the tomato plants!  Aaahhh!  They’re gorgeous!!!  We were a little worried about them at first.  They didn’t really appear to be doing all that well for the longest time, but then they suddenly started to flourish overnight, it seemed.  Now, we’ve got some really big plants and one in particular is just hanging with big, juicy, green tomatoes, just waiting to ripen up in the hot sun.  We’ve already eaten a few of them and they were really delicious.  Now, our little grape tomatoes are starting to come in and they, too, are just scrumptious!

 

 

I’m afraid though, that once everything starts coming in, we’re gonna be bombarded with tomatoes and cucumbers all at once.  Since we’re gonna be canning most of our crop, this will actually be a good thing.  I think…

My Brush With Death

Ya know, I really like living up here in the woods, on the side of a mountain, in the middle of nowhere.  Really, I do.  Some people think I’m nuts for living this far away from civilization, but they just don’t understand.  And it’s really not for everybody.  That being said, there is one thing that I must admit that I do not care for and this one thing is something that I’ve written about before but I feel compelled to write about it again.  So, I’m going to.

With all this gardening we’ve been doing up here at the cabin, I decided that I want to make some blackberry jelly.  So, Mountain Man, my son, and I went blackberry picking one afternoon last week.  It has been unusually hot for our neck of the woods here lately, so we decided to wait ’till the late afternoon to head out on the 4-wheelers in search of the deliciously sweet berries that grow wild in various parts of the mountain.

I was prepared for most anything.  Even though it was sweltering hot, I had on jeans and my pink, multicolored striped boots.  We had a basket for the berries.  We were off to a fairly slow start at first.  Most of the berries weren’t quite ripe enough for picking.  They were still kinda small and for the most part, they were that beautiful pinkish-red hue.  Some of them were still just tiny green balls beginning their journey toward the plump juicy blackberries they will later become.

We found a few good ripe ones here and there, but nothing really of considerable significance to help fill our basket.  Then, Mountain Man turned up a road that I’ve never been on in all my time here on the mountain.  Jackpot!  We hit the mother load of blackberry bushes!  These thorny branches were hanging full of plump, juicy blackberries!  Some of them were ripe for the picking, and some of them were bright red, just on the verge of turning.  But there were plenty to help fill our basket.

I had to take a phone call while we were picking, so I stepped away from Mountain Man and my son and was trying to listen intently to the person on the other end of the line when it happened.

I was innocently walking through the grass close to the edge of the bank where the guys were picking and he came outta nowhere!  He slithered right by my foot and off into the bushes growing right in front of me!  And he was a fast little devil, too!!!  All I saw was a little 13 or 14 inch grey serpent slithering swiftly to and fro in the grass, away from me, I might add!  And I almost peed my pants, screamed like a little school girl, and cussed a blue streak all in the same breath!  But I didn’t!  I was on the phone with someone who may or may not understand my slew of profanities at the thought of being eaten alive by a snake!

I did, however, let out a little shriek and let my caller know that she’d have to hold on for a minute while I composed myself after nearly meeting an untimely death at the hands of a creepy, slithery, snake.  She totally understood, having shared my deep-seeded fear of serpents.  After I took a few deep breaths, I was able to get a hold of myself and return to the conversation, but for the rest of the evening, I couldn’t help but shudder, somewhat violently, I might add, every single time I thought about how close I was to that snake.

I’ve said it before.  I don’t wish these little darlings any harm.  I don’t want to kill them.  I just want them to leave me alone.  Perhaps they could just give me a little warning of sorts before they pop outta nowhere.  That’d definitely be nice.

But, alas, I’ve moved into their territory so I’m just gonna have to get used to the slithering little devils popping out every once in a while.  Surely, I’ll eventually become desensitized to the dang things at some point!  One can only hope…

Here One Day, Gone the Next

While eating supper last night, it occurred to me that the radishes we were having with our absolutely mind bogglingly good Philly Cheese Steak sammies, courtesy of Mountain Man’s culinary expertise, were the last ones we’d have this year from our garden.  Now, I know that radishes aren’t usually served with Philly Cheese Steaks, but we had ’em, so we ate ’em.  But, seeing those beautiful little red orbs in the bowl and knowing that there would be no more of them for a long, long time, filled me with a veritable cornucopia of emotions.

A slight sadness came over me because this was the very last of the crop from our garden this year.  Sure, we can always buy more of them from the grocery store or the produce stand, but they just really don’t compare to something that you planted from seed, watered, weeded and harvested yourself.  Perhaps it’s just a fallacy, but I think a lot of people would agree with me on this one.  The blood, sweat and tears that you put into something really do make a difference.  And let’s face it, as daunting as going to the grocery store can sometimes be, there’s usually very little, if any, blood, sweat or tears involved.

A slight elation washed over me, as well.  As much as I like radishes, we’ve had them nearly every night at supper since they first started coming in.  We’ve had them in salads galore, as garnishes, as snacks while Mountain Man was cooking, finely diced and sprinkled over fried potatoes, diced up in tuna salad, and packed lovingly in Mountain Man’s lunch alongside his daily sammy.  I’m sure there are other applications that we totally missed while trying to use our abundant harvest of the little red jewels, but we touched on each and every one we could think of at the time.

Finally, the last emotion that washed over me was one of hope and excitement for the future.  Just thinking about working the soil and planting those seeds again next year brought a smile to my face.  Imagining the first bite of the first radish out of the ground next year almost made me giddy with anticipation!  Hey, I’ve always said it’s the little things in life.

Knowing that even though I didn’t quite have a clue what I was doing when we planted the garden this year makes me hopeful that next year’s crop will be even better.  I won’t make the same mistakes I made this year and I’ll keep reading up and taking advice from other’s who’ve been there and done that.  I’ve learned a lot about growing things and gardening, and I hope to keep increasing my knowledge in this area so that next year’s radishes will be even better!

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