Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Life to an Old Herb Garden

The Herb Garden c. 2008
I had to dig way back into the blog archives to unearth a photo of my herb garden in it's prime.  A couple of steps from the kitchen door it stood ready each day to offer me a sprig of this or a pinch of that.  Often just the right ingredient to add a touch of flavor and freshness to the evening meal or breakfast omelet.

Since then the Kwanzan Cherry tree has gotten huge grown exponentially.  Between the expanding canopy and root system, my herb garden has been reduced to two lone survivors.  Lemon Balm can be seen at the bottom center of the photo and if you had microscopic vision you might even see it sprouting up in the grass too.  Gotta love that herb for it's tenacity.  The other survivor, Garlic Chives, have been relocated to a new home.

See them there in the upper righthand corner?
They are now mingling with oregano and thyme in a sunny little pot.  The thyme is a silver/green color bearing the name "High Ho Silver".

I put one on each side of the grill.  
They should like the full sun and I think it will be a convenient reminder to the chef to add a snip or two to the food as it cooks.

The remainder of my herbs will now reside in my one and only raised bed.  The chives have been growing in 3 spots along the front of the garden.  We just got the garden planted last weekend, which is late for this area.  Four tomato plants, 3 peppers, a small row of leeks and the rest are herbs.

When I think of the tastes of summer I think of watermelon, corn on the cob, fresh crisp cucumbers and basil, to name just a few.
Last year we enjoyed fresh pesto and I froze pesto in ice cube trays.  What a wonderful treat that was in the wintertime.  I also dried every last leaf that was left at summer's end.  I like the fact that I know my herbs are organically grown.

Planted last year from seed, this sage hung out in the corner of the bed all winter.  It is now doing so well I decided to leave it right where it is.  I must admit that I don't use sage all that often, but hope to find some new ways to do so this year.  Do you use fresh sage?  If so, what are your favorite ways to use it?

Tarragon and Parsley
When I think of Tarragon I think of chicken, in particular chicken salad.  My favorite recipe can be found here .  
Parsley finds it's way into many of my meals.  I can't imagine not having it close at hand as I think it adds just the right touch of freshness to so many things.  I prefer the Italian flat leaf variety.

 My herb garden wouldn't be complete without Mint.
Those who have grown mint are well aware of it's tendency to go a bit wild in the garden.  It is definitely more well-behaved when grown in a pot.  When selecting a mint plant this year I was tempted by the many interesting varieties.  In the end I went for the chocolate mint. (one of my very favorite flavor combinations).  Once potted I was looking around the yard for a place to put my mint plant.  It needed to be somewhere that I would see it daily to remind me to check whether it needed to be watered and also for convenience in snipping.  I had read that mint can grow in partial shade which helped to make the decision.  The bench in front of the blue hydrangeas.  I must say I love the selection of glazed pots that are currently available at the garden centers.  It was really hard to make a choice based on the many pretty color combinations.  
I'm thinking this one will work just fine in my garden.

 Herbs are such a wonderful addition to the garden.
Most require very little care.  My original herb garden grew happily for almost ten years.  It was a great return on my original investment of about a dozen plants.  If you've bought those jars of dried herbs or fresh bunches at the grocery store you know how costly they can be.
As you can see they can grow in a garden plot or a little pot making them ideal for just about any situation.  
I'm beginning to sound like an herb sales person. Ha.  Not meaning to do that at all, just sharing my passion for herb gardening with you here today.  If you share this interest and want to talk herbs, please do so in comments.  Favorite herbs to grow, favorite uses for particular herbs, recipes, etc.  I'm all ears :).

Happy Herb Gardening and Happy Weekending too!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Since Last We Met

 When Brett went off on a business trip with my laptop (aka:  command central for all blogging activity) I wasn't too concerned.  After all, it was only supposed to be for a few days.  When it became apparent that the trip was going to be extended, I started to get a bit itchy and twitchy.  Ha!  I guess that's what happens when the blogging groove is interrupted for too long.  The next best thing was to keep snapping the moments.  Like a shot from Mother's Day which also happened to be my two son's birthdays.  Lots to celebrate that day :D.

 Right after that I had a visit from an eager little helper.

Each morning he was all too happy to help me keep up with the lettuce harvest.

 He has a great work ethic except for the occasional slowing of production to observe a passing jet.

 Much to my delight the first blooms of the "Double Delight" rose appeared.

As did the first hydrangeas.

 Meanwhile, my little helper happily fed Peanut every day.
Gotta love their enthusiasm at this age.

In the kitchen, great amounts of vegetables were prepped and consumed.

And many new-to-me recipes and ingredients were put to the test.
Here a sweet potato pie with an oatmeal/pecan based crust met with rave reviews.
My interest in a whole food approach to eating was just intensified after completing this workshop .  So well done by Heather who has the lovely blog Beauty That Moves.  

Now that the hubby has returned with the laptop, I plan to get around to visit with you.  I feel hopelessly behind at this point, but will do my best to catch up.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Slowing the Pace

 When my parents retired and moved to Tennessee, their dearest friend Bernice came for her first visit.  My mom was pointing out the beauty of the mountain views which were lost on Bernice.  Being a gal who loved to be where the action was, she looked at the mountains and said "half an hour of that view and I'm done."  She thrived on the constant activity going on near her Florida beach home.
I often think of that little conversation when I am gazing at the mountains.  This past weekend brought just such a moment.
A short getaway into the Smoky Mountains brought us to our home away from home for the next couple days.
Upon reaching our destination, we happily spent a few moments checking out our new surroundings.

 It was hard to resist the lure of the front porch rockers.
Particularly when the view in front of us looked like this:

Hills, valleys and the Smoky Mountains all combining into a beautiful, tranquil landscape.
In the foreground the croak of the bullfrogs could be heard loud and clear.  
The greening of the springtime earth was evident as far as the eye could see as was the sound of the birds singing their sweet melodies.
 Definitely not a fast-paced place, but that was just fine with us.

 A walk around the garden revealed that the irises were the star of the show at the moment.
Little hand painted ladybugs were hiding in amongst the plants courtesy of one of the innkeeper's granddaughters.

 The story of how this inn came to be is one that is best told by the owners.

Twenty-Seven years ago the idea of owning a bed and breakfast inn began to grow in the minds of Norman and Sarah Ball. Sarah, an elementary school teacher, particularly was intrigued with the idea. The 60-acre farm where she had grown up would make a perfect location. Once the idea turned to passion, she quit her job. Norman, an educator himself, was also an architectural draftsman and started drawing the plans for a Victorian-style farmhouse to sit on top of a hill overlooking the rolling hills and mountains. (He kept his job.) The inn opened in July 1987, when Norman and Sarah had a daughter in college, a fifteen-year-old son, and a five-year-old son.

And this in reference to the "blue mountain mist" part of the name :

The mist rises from every hollow and ravine, and the hills and mountains appear layer upon layer—their hazy-blue color giving meaning to the Cherokee phrase “Shaconage” (land of blue smoke). This land has a wonderful, mysterious, magnetic pull. The lush vegetation, varied wildlife, and spectacular views have an appeal that attract the Smoky Mountain visitor.

Each morning the tables were beautifully set.
Unfortunately I didn't think to take pictures until the meal was over and the tables were cleared.  Oops.  Guess I was too busy enjoying the scenery and the mouth watering food.  Speaking of food, it was all prepared by one of the sons, served family style and extremely delicious.
On this weekend they had a full house.  We shared breakfast with another couple who were about our age.  While making introductions, they told us that their getaway was a Christmas gift from their kids who think that they have too much stuff :).  We smiled and said that ours was a Christmas gift from our son who thinks we need to get away more often.  We all could relate to this stage of life where vacations may be more about a change of pace and scenery than visiting the local tourist attractions and purchasing souvenirs.    If however one was interested in that, Dollywood and Gatlinburg are just a hop, skip and a jump from here.  Since we had been there before with our kids when they were younger, we opted to avoid them this time.

Each evening homemade desserts, coffee and iced tea were set out at the "Temptation Station".  Did I manage to get a picture of the chocolate cake or the apple cobbler?  Of course not... but, trust me, they were scrumptious (and also made by one of the Ball's sons).

 All too soon it was time to head down the stairs, past the little frog pond and bid farewell to the Blue Mountain Mist Inn.
Pulling away from the picturesque country setting I felt thankful for the decision Norman & Sarah Ball made all of those years ago to share their land, home and gentle southern hospitality.
Also thankful for a thoughtful son who made it all possible.