Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Valley

When I was visioning moving away from Virginia, I told a friend that I wanted to live somewhere with a happy wonderful name.  Now I find I am gardening in a place called Happy Valley, North Carolina.  It is a happy little farming area between two mountain ridges. It is so green and lush and beautiful.
I have been putting in a vegetable garden at the Ripshin Dairy Farm there.  Liza and her family make goat cheese and sell to the local restaurants and farmers markets.  And...after looking at the above link, I find out they make Truffles as well in the fall.  I can't wait to try them~

Liza and William are so precise and thoughtful in the way they work the farm. It is a joy to be there and see how it all works. They don't have time for a garden, and I don't have any sun on my wooded 1/2 acre.  They kindly let me use their tiller and garden space.  It is wonderful soil to work in, and all around me are piles of old straw mixed with goat droppings to mulch with. I am in heaven.

Liza's flower gardens are pretty extensive as well.  Mike and I have been helping to get them into better shape, as well as some college students from Appalachian State University.  Things are looking so good there. 

When I arrived last fall after the death of her longtime gardener, the gardens were a solid mass of chickweed.  We have been diligent about mulching with chopped up leaves from last fall and they are doing the job so well.  We just had 5 days in a row with inches of rain everyday, and weeds in the beds we have done.  The sun is out this weekend and it is so fulfilling to see the result of months of tough work. The butterfly's were having a wonderful time dancing from flower to flower to Finn.... sometimes they take a little rest on my shoulder. 

I spent the day planting red okra, melons, sweet potato's and squash.  By the time I had mulched all the rows I was way overheated, as was Finn.  I felt bad for Finn, panting in the heat. Every weekend last year I took him swimming in Wilson's creek.  Between the Leola street community garden plot I also keep in Boone, work and keeping up a large home, I have had no time to do this for Finn. 

I was considering how long it would take me to get to Wilson's Creek and give him some fun time when I asked Liza, as she brought out an ice cold glass of sweet tea, if they could build a pond for Finn to swim in.   We decided instead to take him to the beach at the end of her property on the Yadkin River.    Heaven~  Everywhere I go around here I am in my own personal heaven... 

The River was really moving fast around the bend after recieving 7 or so inches of rain this week.

It didn't take Finn but a minute to figure out how to work with the current to grab the sticks.  He got a good workout and I snapped a few photo's and talked to the butterfly on my shoulder. Finn was at last, in his own personal heaven after waiting so patiently for me to get the gardening done.

I had an opportunity to go to Myrtle Beach and meet my daughter for a spur of the moment weekend.  After getting rained out all week, I had to finish a job on Friday that was half done. Then, I realized it is the end of the month, I need to send out bills for the work that was done all month, and I hadn't put my veggies in the ground.  It was a tough choice, but I took the responsible route and stayed home and motored on.....I would have loved some girl time laying on a beach with my oldest gardener daughter.  I am sure there will be other opportunities for playing together soon. 

Meeting the Yadkin River for the first time today helped a lot, as did being in a place called Happy Valley.  Just like I wanted when I moved here. Things like that make it so much easier, when I realize how far away from my family I am. I have a really great family, they are my favorite people in the whole world.  But, I am also loving the people and places I am discovering here. Now, I can't wait till all those veggies are ready to eat!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Crazy Giant Morels

We have been finding morel mushrooms in the gardens of Blowing Rock for the last month. Last year we found a few, but this year there has been an explosion. We came to work on Ski Mountain on Monday and found the largest morels I have ever seen growing under the deck of house in some pea much for theories about where they like to grow.  

I suppose, in a cool wet year like this they will grow just about anywhere, and will swell up to huge proportions over a rainy weekend like we just experienced.
I collected two to take home before the blackberry frost due to arrive turned them into mush.  

The Morchella, a genus of edible mushrooms, are very difficult to spot in the woods. They are the color of dried leaves, and disguise themselves well. But one you find one, your eyes then learn to spot them more easily.  

Morel hunters are secretive about their favorite spots to find them.  
They are yummy. I generally cook them in garlic and butter and use them as a topping on Pasta Alfredo. It is not recommended to eat a morel without cooking it first.

I'll never forget being approached by a woman coming outside from her office where I was working to ask me very secretively...'So...have you found any yet?'  I had no idea what she was asking about. When I realized she was whispering about morels, I had in fact been hunting and found them a few days earlier.  So, apparently Morel hunters tend to recognize each other for some odd reason. I tend to share spots with people if they ask for any info on how to find them.

Morel hunting is a great motivator for getting out into the woods to see all the spring ephemerals, like Trillium, Lady's Slipper and the terrestrial orchids in bloom. Though here in Blowing Rock, these showed up after the trillium tried to bloom but froze in an earlier spring frost.  

I brought a few home and sketched one while dinner cooked.  They are now drying on the counter. These seemed too big to me to eat.
If they dry well, I can always rehydrate them later.  I think morels sell for about 15.00 /pound.
I should have picked them all sold these fella's!

I left the rest for the chef, who I noticed wasn't all that interested. Nether were a few other people I showed them too.  Not morel people I guess. 
I suppose I really love morels for the hikes, walks, memories, treasure hunts and delicious meals they provide me.  Not to mention trippy sketches......Nature is so cool that way, and mushrooms are very trippy beings psychedelic or not.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Poppy Week

With all the rain the May flowers are in their prime. This week was poppy week. All kinds. They are so delicate looking, but tough little plants in reality. They self seed easily, and need no special pampering or conditions to colonize quickly.  

Poppies have captured the imagination of gardeners and artists for eternity. They have a narcotic effect, even in just gazing at the crepe blooms.

The California poppy has always been a favorite of mine.   Years ago, when I was discovering the Doctrine of Signatures I read that taking the flower essence of the California poppy works on the rods and cones of the eye and can assist one with the ability to see fairies.  

Now, the descriptions of it's healing qualities are associated with helping us to "find spirituality within our hearts and to develop an inner center of knowing versus seeking outside of ourselves for a false sense of higher or altered consciousness as through addictions or the lure of glamour. When you think of how and why the Gold Rush drew so many people to California, the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood, and the height of drug activity during the Haight Ashbury days, I think it is only fitting that the California Poppy be our state emblem, encouraging people to go within and seek out that “inner gold” that is of most value for ourselves and for humanity. Isn’t it lovely that our state flower provides the  medicine for people who are star-struck (I’m talking Britney not the Big Dipper!), into cults or fleeting fads to be able to strengthen and develop a solid inner life that leads to self-responsibility and quiet inner development? May we all truly appreciate the healing gifts of our lovely state flower, the California Poppy."

This little Iceland poppy color was new to me. I am not sure the camera got the color quite right. But it has scattered itself about Liza's garden here and there and was such a sweet little visitor for the week. 

Then, the Papaver somniferum were in full longtime favorites for two decades....

This is a low toxicity form of the opium poppy. I used to use this plant to train my new gardeners on how to research a plants medicinal qualities. They would find articles about making opium, and soon enough I would see carved X's in the  milky buds in our clients yards. I used to giggle as they loaded their cars with the harvested plants, only to report a few days later of a nauseous feeling and headaches as a result of their experiments. To me, these are definately not the poppies that grow in afghanistan, but they do have some potency, but not enough to cause dreams or visions by any stretch. Just a mild headache.

But it was fun and the young folk that worked with me learned to love to explore old herbals for information. 

Though,ignorance is bliss as far as this plant is concerned according to Michael Pollan
When I worked at Oatlands Plantation, Alfredo scattered these seeds everywhere and was our mothers day showstopper with thousands of poppy blooms exploding in the 4 acre garden. Originally they were orange in color, but I noticed a few lavender ones in the garden. Over the years I would pull out all the orange ones and eventually the Oatlands garden poppies were mostly lavender. Occasionally they morph into a double bloom. 

Like this one on the right. 

For a great article on growing baby greens Airynee has posted her tips for growing them on her wonderflul blog at Goodstone Farm.  I was going to post on all the wonderful baby greens I have been enjoying all month, but she beat me to it, and did a much better job! 

Next week....Peonies!   Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My friend Carol's father gave her a Gardening Encyclopedia many years ago. It was one of those Better Homes and Garden type books that were written in the 1950's and it had all the information you would ever need to know concerning gardening. We reffered to it often.  It was called 'The Garden Marches On'  We used to laugh so hard at that title, and we still use the phrase often with giggles still. So even though it is Mother's Day, I am thinking of 'Papa' and the gardening knowledge we gleaned from his book.

This year, with all the rain, the garden is surely marching on...

The Cinnamon Ferns have been emerging and they are so interesting I had to photograph them.
They only look like this for a moment. If you blink they are unfurled. The ferns should be very happy with all the rain we are having. Things are lush and
 beautiful everywhere. The ferns are marching on....

I was late getting started today gratefully, both daughters called for a long Mothers Day chat.  Little Barrie was trying to show me over the phone how to make a man in a boat out of the Bleeding Heart Flowers. 

Morgan says her plants have been stripped of the pink heart shaped blooms. 

I am spending the weekend getting the veggie gardens ready for tomatoes and warm weather crops.  But first I had to prune away at some overgrown azalea, forsythia and maple limbs.
I have designs to do but nature is not letting me sit inside and contemplate such things.
I decided to post these photo's after a big pruning and cleaning of my huge azalea's. Rehydrate......then I will head out to the goat farm veggie plot and till.

I have several paintings of my spring bouquet's started, they end up in half done phases and then the bouquet fades and gets tossed before I can find a moment to paint! So frustrating. But such is spring, and things are growing so fast they soon get out of hand if you ignore them.
Kind of like the sprig of Virginia Creeper that covered my bathroom window last summer. I loved it, but this year it had to go or would it truly invade , smother the window and try to creep inside the room.
I never worry about what will happen when we humans leave the planet. I watch nature smothering abandoned homes and buildings along highway 321 on the way to work. It doesn't take long at all.

Some garden things have to be done now, before the next Rain! 
So I must keep marching on!

Enjoy and Happy Mother's Day!