Planting Phlox & Poppies

The sun is finally showing its face in middle Tennessee just in time for March 1st seed sowing. In anticipation of color (in this case lots of purple) we’re working with heirloom varieties Sugar Stars Phlox and Amazing Grey Poppies. I actually planted these seeds three weeks ago as well but I imagine they might show up down river somewhere if my neighbors are lucky as we have been drenched for many days. I’m so grateful that we did not have any major flooding but all the seeds I planted have surely washed away.

Just a light covering of soil – I brush them into the area I want them to grow with my palm – and keep them moist for a few days. We should see the phlox in about a week and the poppies in three. I can’t wait for these beauties to appear!  Happy planting!

Baker Creek Seed Order 2022

There’s always excitement in ordering seeds in the winter but this year seems extra prime for new varieties.  I started saving seeds in earnest this last year and the process has fueled my mission of buying heirloom and organic seeds to begin with.  I love the idea that when I gather seeds from my own garden they are now and will continue to be more adapted to our soil and environment each year.  What an amazing Creator!

This past week I got a start on my seeds with lettuce, eggplant, peppers and sweet peas.  If you need a refresher on the process, check out my post on seed starting here.  I find it an amazing way to get a jump on the season while I have a bit more time and it saves us so much money as we no longer buy plants.  If you’re in the Nashville area but not a seed starter and still want the very best in heirloom varieties for your garden, keep an eye out for our very first heirloom flower and vegetable plant sale in April.  We’ll be announcing info here on the blog as well as Instagram and Facebook.  We are so excited to share some amazing varieties that you just can’t get at your local landscape or big box stores.

In addition to adding excitement in the garden each year, new (to my garden) seed varieties are a great way to support small businesses that are an intricate part of preserving heirloom seeds from all over the world.  Joe Lamp’l (aka Joe Gardener) mentioned in a recent podcast that having an heirloom seed company is trusting your customers to try new things each year.  I have done my duty with Baker Creek Heirloom seeds and went a bit crazy.  But what a cool company! Jere Baker started the company as a hobby in 1998 and they now have over 1000 varieties of seed from all over the world!

My aim this year is to expand my “garden” space to include edibles throughout our two acres in edible landscaping.  I’m imagining thousandhead kale taking the place of the very cool elephant ear plant and placing amaranth in my front beds instead of fountain grass.  This property is always an experiment!  I am especially excited to introduce more flowering native plants into our various beds to attract and nourish more beneficial insects to our property.

As you’re using these chilly days to plant this year’s bounty, what are you excited to try?  Take a look at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for inspiration and let me know what inspires you and if you have other favorite seed companies please comment below as I love to hear from others.

CANDY CANE COOKIES

This recipe has been a long time coming. Not too sweet and perfectly minty they’ll melt in your mouth!

Several years ago my kiddos were helping me bake at Christmas and my son was being a little cantankerous about too much chocolate in our dessert selections. He asked me to put the white chips in the cookies instead and “why not some candy canes?”. The first batch we made was delicious but so sweet our teeth kinda hurt. The cookies have evolved a bit over the years and this is the result. So as you celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Chris and ponder the meaning of the candy cane (thank you Spangler Candy Company for the reminder each year) include some of these yummy cookies from our family to yours. Merry Christmas!

Serving Size:
4 dozen
Time:
30 minutes
Difficulty:
easy

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed candy canes (about 10)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. Cream together butter, brown and white sugars (I use a hand mixer)
  3. Mix in eggs and vanilla
  4. Put flour on top of butter/sugar mix and sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the top. Mix in thoroughly but don’t over mix. The batter should be silky smooth.
  5. Add oats, chocolate chips and crushed candy canes and combine well. We use a nut bag and the smooth side of a meat cleaver to crush our candy canes – they break through a ziplock much too easily.
  6. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to place cookies on the sheet – they will spread as they bake. Bake for 8-9 minutes until they are just slightly brown on the edges. Leave them on the pan to cool or they will fall apart in the transfer.

Keto Coconut Custard

Serving Size:
6
Time:
10 min active/ 3 hrs total
Difficulty:
moderate

Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic half & half or 1 can coconut milk (*see note)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup Trim Healthy Mama Gentle Sweet or your favorite sweetener
  • 1/2 vanilla pod (*see note) or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • *If you are using coconut milk, warm it in a pan just to melt solids >not hot!< before combining with other ingredients in the blender. If you heat it too much it will cook the eggs. Simply cool the liquid to room temp before blending if it gets too hot.
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender and whirl for 10-15 seconds *if using a vanilla bean remember to strip the paste from the bean (here’s a great bit of info)
  • Prepare ceramic ramekins with a spray of oil (I used coconut oil pan spray)
  • Line a pan with a small dish towel – this allows you work with the ramekins without slipping around in the dish
  • Carefully pour the custard mix into your prepared ramekins
  • Transfer to oven rack
  • Pour boiling water in the larger pan to within 1/2 inch of the top of the ceramic ramekins

  • Bake for 35 minutes or until knife comes clean when inserted into center of custard
  • While custard is baking toast coconut in a small frying pan to a toasty brown, stirring often to prevent burning
  • Remove custards from oven and remove from water pan as soon as possible
  • Cool custard on wire rack
  • Top with toasted coconut
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours

Blackberries at the BELL Garden

Every once in awhile it’s fun to get a great surprise. This weekend I answered the call on our local NextDoor app to help pick blackberries at a local non-profit farm and got a sweet one! Tucked behind the local middle school here on the west side of Nashville is the coolest garden project I’ve seen in a long time.

The Bellevue Edible Learning Lab garden is an oasis of a garden that shows off the beautiful volunteer work, company sponsored structures and an explosion of color. As you walk up to a wisteria- covered, rough-wood gazebo you are greeted with piles of produce that are for sale to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Baskets of garden gloves are ready for willing hands and Miss Deborah is happy to direct you to a task. Saturday’s conscription was to pick beautiful blackberries that lined the western edge of the 1 acre garden guarded by a flock of purple martins.

The garden provides opportunity for all to invest in something bigger than themselves. Whether you’re young or old, there are jobs to be done and lessons to be learned. The BELL Garden provides an opportunity to everyone in the community to come together and even encourages the students at the middle school to take part. My mom would have loved this! She was a pioneer in her day of teaching the value of the garden in her fourth grade classroom in Upstate New York. I remember her writing grant proposals for garden beds outside her classroom and using some of that money to purchase red wigglers to demonstrate composting with her students. Ellen was a garden trailblazer and she would have drooled over this opportunity.

If you’re local, stop by the market on Tuesdays from 4-6pm and Saturdays from 9am-noon or check out the BELL Garden website for information on volunteering! If you’re not in the Nashville area, check out your local agricultural extension for information on projects near you. You might be surprised by what’s around your corner!

Chill Chickens: Sweet Treats to Beat the Heat

Chill Chickens
Princess Lay-A

July has warmed right up and the girls are feeling the Tennessee heat. I’m finding they spend more and more time on their roosts with their wings spread out a bit trying to catch any breeze they can or walking around with their beaks open as if panting. In the dead of summer when the heat index is in the 100’s we do everything we can to keep our chickens cool including reducing the fat in their diet and supplying lots of greens. The best thing we have found to keep our girlies chill is provide plenty of fresh, cool water morning and afternoon.

Chickens are curious creatures and we have found that adding items of interest encourages them to drink more. If we can add extra supporting nutrients, all the better. Our favorite mix is a bowl of cold water with cut up frozen berries and chopped herbs. We keep cranberries or blueberries on hand for this purpose because they are pretty inexpensive and just the right size when cut in half. We have an abundance of oregano, lemon balm and mint by the back door so that’s what my chickies get most often but we’ll add dill, lavender, rosemary and flowers as well. Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily has a terrific article on using herbs with chickens and she has an amazing guide on how to use them for all kinds of purposes. My girls flock to the bowl as soon as it’s set out and have been less stressed by the heat this year. Less stress means happier chicken and more consistent egg production. A win for all!

PROTEIN COOKIE BALLS

It’s summer and my son is back to soccer training at 7:00 in the morning in 90 degree heat and burns more calories than I can begin to imagine.  This recipe came out of my desire to fuel his body well and feed his incessant hunger but I cannot think of turning on the oven.  I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

While my son is the main consumer of these treats, the rest of my family are fans as well.  They are like a chocolate chip cookie that you can feel good about.  They are gluten-free and can be dairy free If you use a veggie-based protein powder – it works beautifully. The collagen gives extra support for the gut and joints and We keep sugar levels lower by using THM or Lily’s chocolate chips but any chocolate chips will work. Today I used Nestle Mini Morsels – they worked great.

According to Healthline.com, these treats are a powerhouse of nutrition and support healthy skin, bones, muscle recovery, elasticity and have properties that help reduce inflammation. All in a tasty little snack!

The other advantage to this recipe is that you can clear out all those bits and pieces of healthy stuff stashed in your pantry.  There are so many nutrients tucked into these nuts and seeds. I use a mix of rolled oats and other dry ingredients which can include any of the following:

  • Flax – Omega 3’s, fiber, protein, B1, B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium
  • Hemp seed – complete protein, unsaturated fats, E, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, B-6, folate, GLA
  • Chia seed – fiber, protein, B-3, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous
  • Sunflower seeds – healthy fats, protein, fiber, E, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium
  • Walnuts – antioxidants! omega-3, polyphenols, magnesium, arginine (amino acid)
  • Almonds – fiber, protein, monounsaturated fat, E, manganese, magnesium, copper, B2, phosphorous
  • Pecans – fiber, copper, thiamine (B1), zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, iron
  • Protein powder – muscle recovery
  • Collagen – supports healthy skin, hair, bones & joints

After vitamins, nutrients, amino acids and healthy fats we add those tasty little chocolate chips that make it all go down so easy.  Finally, I bind it with a mixture of nut butter and either honey or maple syrup and use damp hands to form the mix into golf ball sized bites. As I show you in the pictures, your hands will be a mess!  I like to rinse my hands as the mixture starts to stick to add a bit of moisture to the bites and keep a bit cleaner.  These are best if refrigerated for a bit as it makes them easier to handle while the cool air helps bring the flavors together.

Serving Size:
2 cookie balls
Time:
20 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy but a little messy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts (shelled seeds)
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1/4 cup chia seed
  • 1/4 cup integral collagen
  • 1/2 cup protein powder (I use flavored or unflavored depending on what I have on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or sub for honey)

Directions

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Add peanut butter and maple syrup and stir thoroughly to combine
  3. Wash hands thoroughly and then while your hands are still damp pack a small amount of mixture in a tight golf ball sized ball and set in a large bowl or plate
  4. Continue to form the rest of the cookie balls, wetting your hands as necessary
  5. Cover with plastic wrap or keep in a sealed container in the fridge

A bowl of these in the refrigerator keeps the “what’s there to eat” question at bay for a little while, but I will admit, there are times this recipe needs to be multiplied to last more than a day.

What are your go-to summer snack for your family?

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size1piece
Servings2
Amount Per Serving
Calories100
% Daily Value *
Total Carbs8.3g
13%
Net Carbs6.4g
32%
Fiber1.9g
Total Fat7.7g
12%
Saturated Fat1.8g
9%
Trans Fat0g
Protein6.2g
10%

Sharing Your Garden

Some of my favorite things about our home are the things family and friends have shared with us.  My brother in law is an amazing maker and crafted a perfectly sized table in our entry way as a housewarming present.  It is the first thing you see as you enter the house and is a sweet reminder of him every time we use it. My mom and dad gave me a painting that she painted and he framed.  Every time I see it I think of my mom taking up painting as a retired elementary school teacher and how she thrilled to work with watercolors.   I remember the hours my dad enjoyed working on projects in his shop.  He would get so excited when he found a great piece of burled cedar or smooth walnut.  He appreciated the color, texture and natural beauty of every piece of wood he worked with and the smell of fresh sawdust is still one of the sweetest smells in the world to me.  These things add so much character to our home but when we head outdoors the blessings start to multiply.

Lenten Rose

Divide & Multiply

Just after we moved into our latest property my sister came to visit from Northern Virginia.  She brought along with her a few pieces of lamb’s ear, a section of Lenten rose and a couple of peony roots.  These have grown into the foundation plantings for two of our main flower beds.  Every spring I get so excited to see these gifts grow more and more.  These plants have history; a story to tell.

You see my grandfather was a gardener in the heart of Quincy, MA, just outside of Boston.  They fed their family and many others through the Great Depression as they used the land God gave them right in in the middle of the city.  He had a huge garden that took up most of their yard, chickens and even grape vines! He shared his appreciation for gardening and his peonies with my mom who raised us to love the process in Upstate New York.  She shared them with my sister in Virginia who in turn blessed me in Tennessee.  Those peonies have so much history!

As I look over our yard I see so many plants, both decorative and edible, that have been gifts from others and I strive to continue the blessing.

How to divide your plants

Root Plants

Sharing root plants is incredibly easy and beneficial for your plants, your own yard or better yet, for a friend!  When you see the leaves a bit smaller or the plants are outgrowing their space it is time to divide.  My favorite in-depth guide to dividing plants can be found at Garden Gate magazine.  Their drawings of the root systems are very helpful.  I’ve been most successful with this process in early spring while the ground is damp but not saturated.  I take a shovel and cut parts of the plant (such as hosta or lamb’s ear) off the side and tuck it into its new home.  If you are transporting the plants make sure the roots don’t dry out.  My sister kept wet paper towels around the roots and transported them in a sealed plastic bag.  Just make sure you don’t keep the plant in the sealed bag for more than 12-18 hours.

Lillies from my friend Jeanie

Bulbs

When spring flowering bulbs start to flower less and less, it’s time to divide in order to multiply.  Divide bulbs after their foliage has died back so you can see where to dig without damaging any bulbs. A good rule of thumb is every 3-5 years to keep your plants flourishing.  I tend to dig a few inches from where I think the bulb has grown in order to get any small outside bulb growth without causing damage.  After digging up the bulbs I separate them and replant or share with a friend. Make sure you check each bulb as they should be firm.  If you find any squishy ones throw them away to prevent the spread of any fungal issues or disease.

Seeds

Seed saving is one the easiest ways to share your garden wealth.  Each year I am more and more convinced that saving my garden seeds not only saves me money but the resulting plants are healthier and more prolific each season.  When the seed adapts each season to your specific soil and climate the results are fantastic and include larger blooms, hardier plants and larger harvests.  When we share with our neighbors we all benefit from regionally adapted seed.  If you don’t know where to find seeds in your area check out NextDoor, Facebook or a Seed Saver exchange at your local library. 

So, the next time you are admiring your friend’s garden or an abundant plant in your neighborhood ask if they might want to share.  It’s a great way to keep plants healthy and make a new friend!

What plants are in your yard that might bless someone?

Mango Garlic Vinaigrette

This is quick fresh mix of simple ingredients but adds a punch of flavor. Use your fruit infused vinegar!

  • 1/2 cup mango vinegar (or fruit vinegar off your choice)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (any good oil works well but I like that avocado oil doesn’t disguise the fruit flavor)
  • 1/8 t. Salt
  • 1 cloves garlic finely chopped

Combine ingredients in your favorite salad dressing bottle and shake well. Refrigerate for up to a week.