Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Going Local-Lincoln County Apple Festival

This past Saturday was our hometown's annual
Lincoln County Apple Festival.
This event usually takes place in mid-September,
but Hurricane Florence forced it to be rescheduled.
Since 1972, Lincolnton has been celebrating our apple heritage,
with booths hosted by cooks, bakers, candy makers, crafters and more.
Our small town of 10,000 swells to 80,000 people,
as folks enjoy this quaint, rural tradition.

It was an honor to be part of the display hosted by the Master Gardeners.
About a dozen of us put together two informational areas,
so that visitors could learn more about Extension Services.
This region of the festival is called "Ag City".
In this booth, Master Gardeners answered all kinds of questions about gardening,
as well as offering up free flower and vegetable seeds to get folks started.
What a beautiful display for guests to enjoy.

This incredible presentation about straw bale gardening
absolutely blew me away!
Our resident artist (who was also a member of my graduating class),
put together this amazing model.
Not only did it perfectly explain what might be an unfamiliar method,
but the scale seemed to appeal to the smallest gardeners to boot!

At the other Extension table, a few of us were helping
with a Make-and-Take activity, especially geared to the younger set.
With an emphasis on recycling and repurposing in the garden,
we provided seed pots made from toilet paper rolls,
soil and free seeds to budding gardeners.
The kids were able to get their own garden started in seconds flat.
We also encouraged visitors to think about using discarded items for pots,
including egg and yogurt containers, milk jugs, even gourds.

Another display we offered was specifically on square foot gardening.
One of our members did a stellar job at fashioning a model bed,
and another provided the carrots to fit into the square.
Many times over, we heard how folks were challenged with the clay soil here,
and this offered them an alternative, so that they can keep right on growing!
Overall, we were quite pleased with the turnout,
and felt that we made an impact on those who stopped by.

This down-home event is anticipated for months,
and the fact that the weather wasn't ideal didn't seem to matter one bit.
It was the first time I had attended,
and I certainly look forward to being a part of it next year.
Along with the "Ag City" section of the fair,
there were plenty of local artisans selling their wares.

Carolina Tye Dyes offered up unique t-shirts for the fashion conscious.
With a wonderful array of colors to choose from
and reasonable prices, this local company could surely have the crowd dressed in style!
Who doesn't need a little of the 60's in their life?

Ron & Jill Reinhardt, from right around the corner in Vale,
showcased their beautiful rustic furniture.
Wouldn't one of these cupboards be perfect for storing
all of your homemade preserves and canned goods?
Although they don't have a website,
they can be reached at 704-276-3257.

I have to admit, I was so tempted to buy one of these festive fall signs.
These are crafted by Michael Hoffman, out of Denver, NC,
and he is a regular contributor to local craft fairs.
He also has a wide assortment of charming bird houses and feeders,
and other handmade treasures.
His website can be found here,
or call him at 704-748-9717.
His story is worth reading, I highly recommend it.

When we learned about this artist, we were gobsmacked!
This ceramic master, not only creates these gorgeous and useful pieces of art,
but he also uses the clay from his own land!

Talk about buying local!
You can reach Robert at 704-735-5946.

It's always astonishing to witness the creativity some folks have.
Take for instance, these milk crate storage units,
exhibited by Todd and Tina at INCRATEABLES.
Especially if there are kids in the picture,
there is never enough storage for all their stuff.
This is a fantastic solution and so unique!
This husband and wife team can be reached at 828-241-9242.

These yard sculptures are something I hope to someday add to our garden.
K & R Metal Works, out of Newton, provided some great options.
Ronnie & Kelly's facebook page can be found here.

You had me at Mayberry.

Foot Hills Wood Crafts displayed an assortment of hand-carved scenes.
Each one is completed using only a scroll saw and a steady hand.
Rodney Helms, the artist, is located in Cherryville
and can be reached at 704-435-4103.

Another local business offered up honey and elderberry syrup.
When I say local, 
I     mean    local.
Come to find out, 
this vendor is actually my neighbor and lives just a few doors down.
I've seen their hives in the backyard,
and it was good to officially meet them!
If we need honey in the future,
we may need only venture steps away.
Feel free to peruse their darling website.

What a rewarding day it was,
being able to be of service
and sharing our love of gardening with others.
It's easy to see why so many visitors flock to this event.

What local hometown events do you fancy?

Other Posts in the Going Local Series:
Faith Family Farm
Black Mountain Chocolates
Red Wolf Farm

Friday, October 26, 2018

Garden Friday

Welcome to another edition of Garden Friday!
The weather has been steadily moving toward winter,
with morning temperatures in the 40's!
We are still getting a good amount of rain
these days, so I'm grateful not to have to water the garden by hand.
We have disconnected our outside spigots,
just in case we get an unexpected freeze.

The carrots sown in this bin are getting bushy.
The first time I planted seed in this,
it was sitting on the ground,
and don't you know that some bunny came along
and ate all the tops right off?
Heck, it could have been a whole family!
It now sits on top of a couple of tree stumps
and I haven't had a problem since.
Some critter troubles are easier to solve than others.

The Sugar Snap Peas don't mind the cooler temperatures.
In fact, it looks like they are getting close to flowering.
In a few weeks, we hope to be enjoying these sweet morsels.

A lone Premier kale plant is finally starting to get off the ground.
I can hardly wait to taste this variety.
Elsewhere in the same bed, there is Lacinato planted,
and a tray of Vates kale awaits sowing.
I love me some kale!

The garlic planted a couple of weeks ago
is now about 8 inches tall.
The germination rate on these bulbs was spectacular,
and the 9-month wait for home-grown garlic will be well worth it.

More lettuce has been started in cell packs
and I've been trying something new with these starts.

I used some of our worm castings to make a slurry
and used it to give them a boost the past two weeks.
Time will tell if it makes a difference.

The sweet potatoes were ready to be harvested.
Although I still saw some new leaves on the teepee,
I needed the bins for the leek that should be coming in the mail soon.
The teepee was taken out of the tubs and the vines cut off.

Then I dumped the whole kit-and-caboodle onto a tarp.
This will keep the soil all together and make retrieving it much easier.

The roots looked pretty good.
This was the first time I've grown sweet potatoes in a bin.
I'm all about experimenting in the garden!

With the soil nice and loose,
it was fairly easy to dig out the taters.

I got about a half a bucket full from the two bins.
Next year, I will plant more, as they store quite well.

Most of the crop was on the small side,
but those will be great additions to stews, soups
and used for hash browns on a cold Sunday morning.
The larger tubers will be eaten as a side or as baked fries.

The dirt was recycled back into the tubs,

where they will remain when the leeks are planted.
Last year the leeks did well in containers,
and these tall bins will make it easier to "bank" the stalks
for that nice, white portion that tastes oh, so good.

Unbelievably, we still have color out there!
See the pops of brilliant orange?

The tithonia is still going strong,
despite the chilly weather.
They are so cheerful and make great flower arrangements.

I recently transplanted some liriope from the nearby workbench area.
One of the best ways to transform your property
is to take plants you already have growing,
and relocate them to other areas.
Just make sure to plant them according to their lighting requirements.
It's like redesigning your home with your own furnishings!

I'm helping a neighbor with the back parcel of her yard.
We are talking about turning it into a secret garden.
These bricks were found piled up and she offered them to me.
They came in handy at just the right time.

The butterfly bed that I installed earlier this year hadn't been completed
because I was trying to figure out if I wanted to continue the red bricks
or use something else for the border.
I made use of what was on the property,
but there weren't quite enough to finish the perimeter.

Well, it sure made it easy to decide that the brick looks just fine.
Faye's contribution allowed me to finish the butterfly bed,
and continue the pattern on the mailbox bed.
Free is good!

This weekend is our town's Apple Festival.
Hopefully, if we don't get rained out,
I will be able to share the event next week.
I hope the sun is shining wherever you are today!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Butternut Squash Soup (gf, df, sf)

Squash dishes are great for fall and winter.
The gourds can be so versatile
and with just a few humble ingredients,
can be turned into something really special.
With cooler temperatures looming,
it seemed like a fabulous opportunity to make some homemade soup.
Making soup from scratch is a simple process,
and such a satisfying endeavor.
There's nothing better on a cold or rainy day
than a big bowl of hot soup.

 It couldn't be easier to whip up this delicious belly warmer.
A butternut squash was used here, but
other types of squash can be substituted,
as well as sweet potatoes or pumpkin.
I had home-grown shallots in the freezer,
so this was the perfect chance to use them.
The twist I added here was coconut milk.
I had opened a can to make some homemade shampoo,
and wanted to use the rest of it
before it was forgotten in the back of the fridge.
It's the first time I've ever used it in soup,
but rest assured, it won't be the last! 

Since my recent foray into grain-free eating,
it's been fun learning ways to make things 
with ingredients I'd never before purchased.
Almond flour, coconut milk and coconut oil
are some of the unfamiliar recent additions to my dishes.
It really does open up a world of possibilities for the home cook.
When the next cold and drizzly day comes along,
I hope you'll make yourself a pot of this appetizing and luscious soup.

(This recipe is gluten, dairy, egg and sugar free!)

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash, sliced in half lengthwise
2 T olive or coconut oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 C shallots
1 piece ginger, 1/2" thick
10 ounces coconut milk 

Bake squash at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
Scoop out flesh from inside skin and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, saute shallots in 2 T of olive or coconut oil
for about 5 minutes, or until caramelized. 
Grate ginger and add to pan.
Place cooked squash in pan, followed by coconut milk.
Salt to taste.
Pour ingredients into blender and mix until desired consistency is reached.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Community Garden Workday for October

One Saturday a month, local Master Gardeners devote the day
to nurturing the Community Garden in nearby Denver, NC.
Because of another commitment, I missed last month's workday.
It was good to get back to the ritual this past weekend.
Although the day was cool and drizzly,
we managed to accomplish our main goal.

Before beginning on our group project,
I had a few minutes to look around.
The loofah is cascading so gracefully over the fence.

Look at the gorgeous lemon-yellow blooms just covering the vines.
This is one crop I will definitely plant next season.
This year I had trouble with germination,
but I'll get a better head start on it in the spring.
I'm looking forward to growing my own sponges
to use for cleaning and in the shower.
I have a gazebo frame just waiting for something stunning!

Here are a couple of the gourds hanging from the vines.
The one on the left has dried and will be ready for harvesting.
The one on the right is still a bit green,
but with the weather turning colder,
it may have to be picked and left to air dry.
Here's what the gourds look like after processing.

In other parts of the garden,
some folks still have veggies growing in their beds.
Here are a mix of peppers with some gorgeous blossoms.
Quite a nice splash of color on this dreary day!

The constant dribble of rain made a bit of a mess
in the walkways.
It's times like this when I am so grateful for my Sloggers.

Feet stay warm and dry in style!

Most of the beds will be empty through the colder weather.
There is still a smattering of veg to be harvested before frost hits.
Our task on this workday was perfectly timed.

Our mission revolved around these aromatic bulbs,
and one bed is dedicated to growing this kitchen staple.
All of the garlic grown here will be donated 
to the local food bank.
No doubt they will be grateful to have an abundance
of such a necessary ingredient.

The bag of garlic was acquired at a local merchant,
with care being taken to purchase USA-grown.
Once the heads were separated into individual cloves,
they were planted 2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart.
By the time we started planting, it was raining a bit harder,
and my camera was safely stashed in the car,
so I couldn't get pictures of that process.
In a couple of weeks, this crop should be sprouting,
and then it will go dormant for the remainder of the fall/winter.
Once spring is ushered in, it will reboot and grow in earnest.
You can read about our home garlic (and shallot) sowing here.

Even though the weather didn't much cooperate,
we managed to complete our assigned task.
It's always a pleasure working with like-minded folks,
those who believe in their hearts
that we are a small part of the BIG picture.
Our ample blessings encourage us to give back.

"Real generosity toward the future
lies in giving all to the present."
~Albert Camus