Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter solstice and vegetable growing

I’m looking forward to the Winter Solstice and lengthening days ahead. It’s not just about my affinity for sunlight. It’s about vegetables growing again.

Here in Western North Carolina, we have a very short Persephone Days period (a term coined by Elliot Coleman to describe the less than 10 hour daylength period where cool-season vegetables stop growing and are in a holding phase.)

It’s less than 3 weeks, I think, here, much longer in coastal Maine, where Coleman and his spouse Barbara Damrosch live and have managed a thriving four-season market garden.

Years ago, when I read about this in Coleman’s books about Winter Harvest and Four-Season Harvest, I thought, well why aren’t we doing this more in the Carolinas? Thankfully, it IS happening more now, well past a decade or more when I read his books, and market farmers here are using row covers and hoop houses to produce lovely vegetables, as are home gardeners, too.

I haven’t set up my hoops and covers this year, as our traveling has disrupted my vegetable gardening rhythms a bit (not complaining about that, really). I’ve still got collards, chard, arugula and kale, if they survive the 11” of snow we had last weekend and the deep chill to <20° F tonight and tomorrow (not to mention all of the perennial herbs which hopefully will be fine).

And at the Southside Community Garden, where I volunteer, we have lots of beautiful kale, collards, chard, and onions under light row covers. This is an October view.

Southside Community Garden, October, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thinking about early winter vegetables

I missed the window of fall planting for early over-wintered vegetables.  The spinach didn't germinate because of drought while we were away (and maybe the seeds were a bit old).

But I do have collards, parsley, herbs, chard, garlic, and leeks (currently covered with unexpected snow).

We'll be traveling this winter so I'll have to rely on early March sowings, I suppose.  Not a bad thing.

The red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, and titmice, not to forget about the doves, are visiting the feeder behind the house in a constant swooping parade.

It was fun to check out posts about red-bellied woodpeckers from previous years; they're regular inhabitants of the ravine woodland below the house, so I've seen them many times. (Click on green for the link).

There are other woodpecker posts included towards the end!
Sighting in 2012
Hmm, clearly, I need to get out my "old" SLR (or get a new one) to get a reasonably decent photo like this again -- my iPhone wouldn't have gotten this shot (or the other ones I posted at the time, too).

Friday, December 8, 2017

Unexpected snow

Flurries were forecast, but the moist air had other ideas. We woke up to a wonderful blanket of snow and it continued snowing throughout the day.

In the South, everything shuts down for snow and/or ice. Today was no exception.

It was wonderfully quiet in the neighborhood, aside from the families heading over to sled at the local Community Center’s hill.

I took my cookies over for the pre-sorting for the Montford Tour of Homes this afternoon, and enjoyed helping plate up dozens and dozens of cookies for tomorrow’s tour (it’s a fundraiser for the Neighborhood Association).

The views out the windows tell the story, too.

View from the deck

Sassafras branches covered with snow (out an upstairs window)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A quiet time in the garden

Although my gardening companion has been busy adding rhododendrons to our woodland garden, and moving around native azaleas and kalmias, my vegetable gardening activities have slowed down (along with the pollinator-supporting ones).

Because of traveling considerations (being away all of February and then April), I've been reluctant to resow more winter spinach seeds or other greens.  I'll need to think about the timing.

I had fabulous spinach last year.  I clearly was already harvesting spinach about this time (Dec. 8) last year, and did so through the winter!

raised beds with Remay last year


This year, we haven't had a really hard frost yet, although it's coming at the end of the week.

Oh, well.  I've got nice arugula and chard, along with some collards and broccoli greens (which never produced a head).  I'll harvest as much as I can tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

French Broad River views: Biltmore Estate

I really don’t care about the house, but the estate is wonderful. A walk yesterday late afternoon was lovely. We’re so lucky to be close by, and to be passholders.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


In a difficult time in our country, I’ve found comfort in sharing - sharing fresh vegetables, sharing encouraging advice, and connecting with folks that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

I’m a secular person, but admire the way that faith communities make this part of their lives.

Launching a paper lantern:  on a Full Moon celebration, Hoi An, Vietnam
A community Thanksgiving meal this week was a wonderful way to connect with others and share delicious food, donated through the generosity of our local providers - grocery stores, farms, food distributors, and our umbrella foodbank organization (Manna Food Bank), not to mention the small contributions from community gardens like Southside.

Helping distribute fresh produce yesterday afternoon in an adjacent county, I was so glad to be able to help — we had such wonderful vegetables and fruit to share, including some greens from the Southside Community Garden — it’s a good thing to be able to do that, thanks to the various networks that help reallocate great food (and away from landfills). I was volunteering with the YMCA Healthy Living Mobile Pantry again. Love it.

In our loop through downtown Asheville in late afternoon, it was a beautiful late fall day. It was remarkably empty of visitors ( it was Thanksgiving, after all), but there were also more “travelers” and homeless folks evident. They’d gotten a pass, I think, for Thanksgiving, and we’re tolerant in Asheville.

Woody made a number of folks happy, including a homeless couple who seemed to be channeling long ago happy experiences with dogs.

Another young fellow had petted him and said Happy Thanksgiving. We came upon him later, staying in an alcove on a quiet downtown street, having found an outdoor outlet to plug into, so he was watching a movie on his phone. He said he was going to stay there overnight, since he’d traveled to Asheville to visit his mother, and was headed back to Florida.

So my gardening companion asked if he’d like some dinner, he said yes, and since there were few places open to buy him something, we thought the best thing was to take him some of our simple turkey dinner after we’d returned home. Nothing fancy, just some turkey breast slices with gravy, dressing, roasted yams and brussels sprouts, and a couple of cookies. But it was all home-cooked.

Tim said he enjoyed it.

I’m grateful tonight for what we have. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, to me, and giving thanks for our many blessings.
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