A One-Plant Pumpkin Patch

In a shady late evening transaction from Craigslist, I bought what turned out to be wonderful organic starts from a very cool person starting a business in selling these plants. My spaghetti squash, butternut squash, melons, cherry tomatoes, and more all came from this guy and did well, so I’ll surely post his business info as it becomes available. The most interesting fallout of that meeting was a volunteer pumpkin he gifted me – a huge old pumpkin, he said. I was thinking jack-o-lantern, so I wasn’t all that excited. But I had room for it and it was free, so I thought if it turned out without much help it could be fun.  Boy did it ever turn out.

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Monarch Chrysalis

I found her when trimming briars and things to feed to the goats. I couldn’t register what it was for more than a minute, and then I was shocked that she was hanging out at my house in late October on a goldenrod plant, shocked that she was so strange and beautiful, such an intricate, fragile, complete little form. I replaced her somewhere safe that afforded easy viewing, but as you can imagine from the pictures, it wasn’t long before she was gone.
10/21/13

Chow-Chow

In my Appalachian Foodways class last fall we had a guest speaker, Mark Muzik, who is considered an expert on chow-chow. Don’t you just love knowing that somewhere out there, a human being has dedicated themselves to collecting knowledge about Appalachian relish? Mr. Muzik described many variations on the recipe and gave his own version, a mix of cabbage, green tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and onions, collected from his childhood schoolteacher in SW Virginia. When we got to sample it, I loved it so much he gave me a jar to take home. So I added it to my canning list, of course. We’ll probably make this every year, because it’s so perfect for hot dogs and soup beans. Which means I need to write down the recipe and all my notes here…just as soon as I remember which cookbook I stuffed them in.
 10/21/13

Butternut Mac and Cheese

I made this butternut mac and cheese from How Sweet Eats tonight. My picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I wanted to put it up anyway because it was AMAZING. It makes me happy to know we have more of these butternuts from the garden to repeat this dinner.
The only things I adapted from the recipe were first to roast the butternut squash instead of cooking it in the pan, because it was easier and it allowed me to do that part the night before when I had the oven on for other things. I recommend this adjustment because it is less involved than watching the stove. Second, I used the short pasta I had on hand, which was spiral, instead of shells. You could use whatever short pasta you had in lieu of shells with no problem.

Bill Best Seed Swap in Berea, KY and the Berea Farmer’s Market 10/5/13

 
I drove up to Berea, KY for the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Seed Swap, headed by local farmer/seed saver Bill Best, author of Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers In Appalachia. It was really cool to talk to the people selling and swapping seeds. I learned the history behind Orinoco tobacco (originally grown by John Rolfe of Jamestown) and got Egyptian Walking Onions, a perennial onion that reseeds itself, as well as Hickory Cane meal corn to make cornmeal and grits. I also got quite a few old varieties of beans. The Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center specializes in beans and sells seed from the website as well. 
 
 
 
The seed swap was pretty early in the morning, so I still had time to catch the local farmers market. I’m so glad I did. I picked up chestnuts and pawpaws from one vendor and we talked at length about growing trees, advising each other on pruning, chestnut worms, and everything else we knew a little about. I bought Asian pears, carrots, and raspberries from the enthusiastic students at the Berea Ag booth. And finally, I bought bread from a wonderful older couple, chatting with the gentleman about their methods of soaked grain baking. His wife was Ukrainian and spoke very little English, but as I was leaving she pulled a cockscomb flower from her bouquet and slipped it into my bread parcel. 
 
 
The gentleman told me they brought the seed from Ukraine, and as you can see here, the flower was in seed when she gave it to me – a fitting end to an heirloom seed sourcing trip. I’m excited to try to grow them next spring.
 
Here’s a good video on saving the seed from cockscomb flowers: