How Were You Initiated?

We used to have apricots in our backyard when we lived in California. I found the confidence to make apricot jam after discovering

Mostly, when I try something new in the kitchen or garden I start by reading a book or going to the World Wide Web. But the real initiation comes with learning by doing. If my efforts culminate with the desired results then I can say I know something. I am far from an expert cook or gardener and I am not writing this blog to repeat what I’ve learned from people writing other blogs. I’m more like the one who walks you through your initiation, and then walks you through it again as needed. I know you need encouragement sometimes, because I do too.

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Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s still tomato season around here, and I’ve done many things with the baskets of tomatoes yielded by about two dozen tomato vines. There are a variety of them, grown from starters that were purchased in our area. I’ve canned tomato sauce, paste, salsa, and BBQ sauce. But there’s also some heirloom varieties available around here, and a few years ago we started growing some Cherokee Purple that I discovered at the Farmer’s Market.


According to a story from NPR, the original seeds did indeed come from the Cherokees. Mostly they don’t grow picture perfect. They have a purple tinge to them and are really meaty and delicious.  I don’t throw them into the crockpot to stew down. Instead I reserve them to eat fresh in sandwiches and salads. Continue reading

Taking Stock after the Summer of Rain

Canned pickled cayenne, sweet peppers and chow chow, sitting on my pantry shelf.

A summer of record rain fall diminished our expectations for most of what we planted this year. Now, with unusually cold weather this week, we are bringing in the last of our crops.   Even with less than what we planned, we have enough. What’s more, after my husband completed the chicken coop and we successfully raised fourteen hens, we now collect fresh eggs every day from our chickens.

Instead of the nightly watering rituals that we kept up each summer since we moved here to Greenville in 2009, in the summer of 2013 we did a lot of sitting inside watching the rain wash our gardens away.  There actually was a short spring season with strawberries, cabbage and even artichokes, before the heavy rains really got started. We also managed to have a short fall growing season with some drier weather. Last year our okra was washed away every time my husband planted some seeds. This year okra is one of the few fall crops the we have harvested, along with some broccoli, eggplant, and greens and lettuce, a variety of sweet and hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.
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How to Enjoy the Benefits of Your Labor

When I see cabbage growing, I also see jars of chow chow on my pantry shelf, that I get to enjoy after my husband and I have put in the labor...

When I see cabbage growing, I also see jars of chow chow on my pantry shelf, that I get to enjoy after my husband and I have put in the labor…

In my entire school career, no one taught me how to enjoy myself. Our constitution proclaims that everyone is entitled to the pursuit of happiness. But sometimes the very things we think will make us happy turn out to be the things that cause us unhappiness. You might be happy that you can afford to eat out every night. But after six months, or a year or two, you might realize that you have sacrificed your health and gained twenty pounds. You could have spent the extra money on your future, instead of instant gratification.

Dried chamomile is good for tea, or just to inhale the smell for some instant pleasure.

Dried chamomile is good for tea, or just to inhale the smell for some instant pleasure.

Now in my fiftieth year, I have learned without a moment’s hesitation that happiness has only two sources: love and labor. We’re all victims when it comes to love. But labor, well either you work or you don’t work. You know which one it is you’re doing. You could be a master with a thousand slaves and never be as happy as the woman or man who has the satisfaction of achieving a goal, of breaking a sweat and accomplishing a task. We all must learn to find enjoyment in our work, pay attention to the details, do the very best we can and contribute to a common cause. But we also have to enjoy the benefits! Continue reading