Friday, February 24, 2017

Garden Friday

Spring Fever has hit around here.
Seeing the season come alive with buds-a-bursting and blooms-abounding
has sent me outside to get started with our first garden in North Carolina.

Pansies are a favorite, 
with their sweet faces smiling up at the sun.
It was just too hard to resist picking up a few of these
in colors of yellow, orange and violet.

 At our local farmers' market,
we were able to pick up a few cauliflower starts.
 This is the Snowball variety.
Although I've never grown these before,
I am looking forward to seeing how similar they are to broccoli crops.

It felt good to be out in the dirt again.
These two larger pots were left here by the previous tenant,
so we put them to good use.
Until I get some more pots, 
I'll be using tin cans, eggshells and toilet paper rolls
in which to sow my starts.

 A sunny side porch will give these a good dose of just what they need.

We picked up some seeds at Renfrow's when we were there the other day.
Although their selection is ginormous
I restrained myself and bought just these few.
That gives me an excuse to go back and pick up some more! 
In case you missed our post about this amazing mercantile, read this.

Here are some of the cans we've been saving
to use for our seedling starts.
A nail to pierce the bottoms is all that is needed for drainage.
These can be used again and again,
as seedlings are transplanted in the garden.
Recycling at its best! 

They have a place near a sunny window,
and have even spent some time outdoors,
now that we're consistently in the 70's during the day.
At night I bring them back inside and place
a cover over them to hold in the heat and moisture.

We're also experimenting with micro greens.
Micro greens are a bit different than sprouting,
in that they require soil and not just water for starting.

These alfalfa sprouts were started this past Monday.

Using an old bakery container (no holes in bottom),
I added some seed starter mix and sprinkled the alfalfa seeds liberally over the top.

Instead of covering the seeds with dirt, 
we used a wet paper towel.
It's important to compact the soil with your hand first,
and then again when the seeds are added.
Adding a bit of water to the container 
ensures that the seeds will not dry out.

Closing the lid helps keep the seeds moist as well.
The container was then placed in the food pantry,
as this step does not require light for the seeds to sprout.

I checked on them yesterday morning,
and this is what I found under the paper towel.
At this stage, they are placed near a sunny window
(with the lid open)
to collect the precious rays of the sun to allow for photosynthesis.
Then they'll actually look like micro-greens! 
You can find the tutorial I used here.

I'm so excited to be growing at this time of the year,
knowing that we will most likely be able to keep the garden
busy up until the next spell of cold weather.
Since we're renting, we have to make certain concessions
with regard to our garden plan,
but I recently took steps to help that along.
(More about that soon.)
Something wonderful came in the mail yesterday
that will help us get the garden going even sooner.
I'll share that next week.

Have you started your spring garden?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Going Local-Hardware UpGrade

This hardware upgrade has nothing to do with your computer.
Instead, we are following up on one of the most magical places on earth.

Renfrow Hardware & General Merchandise in Matthews
a mere hour's drive from our location
and well worth the trip.

We mentioned this sweet treasure in a previous post 
(see it here).
Our summer vacations always included a visit to this extraordinary emporium.
Founded more than 100 years ago,
this tribute to the past is still thriving.

From the moment you enter its doors,
this place envelopes you in a warm feeling of quiet contentment.
It is a throwback to the days of old
when folks relied on the hardware store for just about everything needed to run their homestead
and stellar service was the gold standard.

The seed collection alone had me drooling.
They carry a huge selection of non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds.  
Some of the seed companies have been doing business with Renfrow  for over 50 years.

With spring quickly ushering its way in,
this trading post is the perfect place to find just what a gardener needs.

Employees are knowledgeable about growing in this region
and are happy to answer questions from inquisitive customers.
Along with this striking visual displayed at the seed counter,
I was given several helpful planting guides.
Being new to veggie gardening this far north,
I can use all the help I can get!

Bin after bin is filled with something wonderful to explore.

It would be easy to stay here for hours,
just peeking and poking through every nook and cranny.

On this cool winter day,
the heat stove felt mighty good to this shopper.
There's even a bench for those who need to take a rest
before tackling yet another area of this marvelous mercantile.
Although the selection of products is plentiful,
the store maintains its cozy, old school charm. 

Row after row of nuts, bolts and screws
ensure that you'll find what you need.
The organizer in me went weak in the knees.

Renfrow carries their own honey,
which is harvested at their off-site farm.
The farm also hosts workshops, classes and their own CSA.
(We hope to feature the farm in the near future.)

If you need it, they have it, 
and if they don't, they'll get it. 
Customer satisfaction is their goal.
One of the best features of this establishment,
is that they take pride in carrying a wide variety of USA-made items.

Even fishermen and pet owners can be satisfied here.
These are crickets used as bait or to feed exotic pets.

Many original pieces can be found inside,
fostering the vintage charm.

The nursery outside is just starting to hop.
Within the next few months,
it will no doubt be filled to the rafters with home-grown goodies.

Veggie starts were readily available,
for those of us who can't wait to get our hands in the dirt.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce were a few of the choices on this day.

simple compost pile

store mascots

Even as we were leaving,
we were looking forward to our next visit.
What a blessing to have this link to the past
so nearby

Want to learn more?

Also in this series:



Friday, February 17, 2017

Paper Trout

Although I'm not a vegetarian anymore,
I still don't eat beef, pork or poultry.
It was always a struggle for my mom 
to get me to eat meat when I was a kid.
The last time I remember eating steak (not ordered by me),
I covered it in ketchup
and my mom finally decided to give up on the idea of me being a carnivore.
It has just never felt right for me
so I embraced a meat-free diet for a good, long time.
For the last 15 years or so, I have eaten fish regularly,
and feel fortunate to be able to find a good selection at our local grocery store.

As we are trying to eat as locally as possible,
this North Carolina trout seemed to fit the bill.
I bought the whole fish so that I could keep the bones
to make my homemade bone broth.
(I'll tell you about this magical elixur soon.)

Cooking the whole fish is not something I've done before,
but I remembered a trick my mom had used.
Parchment paper is the secret ingredient.

The technique is known as "en papillote"
or "in paper", 
and it's one of the easiest ways to cook fish.
The bonus is that clean up is a breeze!

The fish was rinsed, dried and seasoned with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
Any choice of your favorite seasonings would work.
They were wrapped in the parchment and the ends were twisted tight.
This helps the fish to steam and keeps all of the juices inside.

They were placed on the same baking sheet as some veggies 
I was cooking for a soup base.
After about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven, 
they were done.

Open the package carefully, as it is extremely hot!
The fish comes out moist, tender and delicious.
The bones are easily removed 
and can be added to my stockpile in the freezer.

The same technique can be used with chicken, turkey 
or cooked beans for a vegetarian option.
I haven't tried it, 
but I imagine this would work on the grill too.

Each package is like a small gift for each diner to open.
Who wouldn't enjoy a tasty token? 

Gluten Free Fridays Sharing glutenfree recipes for all