Monday Recap: Winding Down and Coming In

It’s another one of those transitional times of year, as we go from warm weather to cool, long days to shorter ones, and gardening chores slowly start winding down for the year. Last week I cut a few more herbs to dry for tea. Even though they aren’t hardy here, I planted one lemon verbena in the ground this spring, and it has gotten pretty large by now. I cut quite a few of the stems the other day, and stripped the leaves off before drying in the dehydrator. The dried leaves will be nice for teas this winter.

lemon verbena for drying

lemon verbena for drying

You can see some of the lemon verbena in the above photo. I wound up with enough dried leaves to fill two loosely packed quart jars. While I was at it I cut some mint to dry for tea. I want to harvest what I can of the mints before freezing weather comes. I also have a couple of containers of mint that I started in the greenhouse, plus containers of lemongrass and lemon verbena that I will bring indoors for the winter. It is nice to have a few fresh leaves if possible to add to the dried ones for tea. The mints in the greenhouse will eventually freeze down, but they will also leaf out early next spring and give me a jump on the season before the ones outside get going.

calendula flowers for drying

calendula flowers for drying

I’m also still cutting calendula flowers for drying. The calendula plants seem to have perked up a bit with cooler weather, but they have still bloomed pretty much nonstop all summer and fall. These are calendulas selected for their high resin content, and we use them mainly for infusions. They do attract a few insects too, and there are always a few bees and other pollinators on them when I do the cutting.

Diplomat broccoli

Diplomat broccoli

The fall broccoli is coming on now. That is Diplomat in the above photo. It had a little browning on one of the heads, which I am thinking was caused by the fact it rained ten straight days in a row as it was heading up. It didn’t hurt the broccoli any, and I have surely been enjoying eating fresh broccoli lately. Arcadia should be the last broccoli to head up here. I am not sure if growing a late variety like it makes sense here in the fall, but we will see.

white turnips and Striata d'Italia zucchini

white turnips and Striata d’Italia zucchini

Last year Striata d’Italia was the last squash to produce for me, and it looks like that will be true for 2014 as well. It’s hanging out with some Hakurei and Oasis turnips in the above photo. The turnips have some slug damage, since I neglected to spread Sluggo in that bed. I usually peel them anyway, so I really don’t mind as long as they leave most of the turnip for me!

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri kohlrabi

I harvested a few of the kohlrabi last week. That’s Kolibri in the above photo. I left the rest to size up a bit more. I am looking forward to making some kohlrabi kraut later on. I am almost out of the cabbage and kohlrabi kraut I made from the spring veggies, and I want to make some more to eat on this winter. You can see a bit of slug damage on the kohlrabi too, even though I did spread Sluggo in that bed. Slugs are really a problem here in the garden.

Red Ursa kale

Red Ursa kale

I was hungry for kale last week so I harvested some of the Red Ursa leaves. This is an o/p variety from Wild Garden that I really like. It’s a cross between Red Russian and Siberian kales, with semi curly leaves that have a reddish tinge like its Red Russian parent. It has a great flavor, and I used it to make a kale and cannellini bean dish we had for lunch one day.

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

cooked Runner Cannellini beans

The beans I used were some dried Runner Cannellini beans I got from SSE. This variety is much larger than your usual cannellini bean, and cooked up into huge beans that were smooth in texture and quite tasty. I would love to try growing them but I am not sure they would be worth the effort or the space, since dried beans are always a challenge with our hot and humid weather.

sweet potato vines headed for compost

sweet potato vines headed for compost

The next big gardening event I see coming up is planting garlic. It’s going in where the sweet potatoes grew, so I cleared out the vines left after I dug the sweet potatoes a couple of weeks ago. The vines all went on the compost pile, where hopefully by next spring they will have turned into compost to go back on the garden. In the meantime, I still have two Okinawa plants growing in that bed, and they will have to come out next week. They will have had 140 days to grow, and with cooler weather I doubt they will be doing much more underground growing anyway. Last year I planted the garlic on 10/29, and I will plan on getting it in somewhere around that date this year.

houseplants on front porch

houseplants on front porch

It’s also time to start the annual migration of houseplants. A few of them have been spending the summer out on the front porch, and it is time to bring them back in. Some of them get a little bath in the shower first, to clean them up a bit and to wash off any bugs that might be hiding out on the leaves.

That’s a look at what’s happening here at HA. To see what others are harvesting and doing in the garden, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

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Things To Dye For, Indigo Edition

Usually it is my wife who blogs about artistic matters, leaving me to cover the areas of food and gardening along with the occasional side trip into nature or travel. But today I’m going to step ever so slightly outside of my comfort zone and talk about some of the artistic things she made for me. Lynda has been working with indigo lately, as she was getting ready to teach her Indigo Dyeing Class. So I asked her to dye a few things for me, while she had an active indigo pot going. And today I want to share of few of those here.

removing material from the dye pot

removing material from the dye pot

Pretty much all I know about indigo I have learned from my wife. For instance, I know that it is a plant based dye made from plants of the genus Indigofera. And I know it makes some beautiful blue colors on fabrics. Fortunately she knows a whole lot more than I do about the subject! I took some photos of one of her recent dyeing sessions to help document some of the process involved, which I find fascinating. In the above photo, she is removing one of the pieces and cutting the string she used to tie up the material. It was a beautiful sunny day so she is working outside, and I am playing photographer.

shirt after being untied

shirt after being untied

When you remove the material from the dye pot, the color is initially a yellow green. As the dye reacts to the oxygen, it turns blue. It looks like magic, but it’s really science. In the above photo, the shirt has just been untied and fully exposed to the air. You can still see some of the greenish areas at this point. This particular shirt is a spun bamboo t-shirt made of 70% bamboo and 30% cotton.

indigo dyed shirt after being exposed to air

indigo dyed shirt after being exposed to air

The above photo of the same shirt was taken about 15 minutes later. Notice how the areas that were green are now blue, and the blue areas are a deeper shade of blue.

indigo dyed bamboo shirt

indigo dyed bamboo shirt

Next the shirt needs to be washed and dried. That lightens up the color a bit, and the end result shown in the above photo is a one of a kind shirt for me to wear. I’ve already worn the shirt several times, and it is comfortable as well as colorful.

indigo dyed cotton t-shirt

indigo dyed cotton t-shirt

Another shirt she did for me is a bit darker overall. It’s a 100% cotton shirt, with a comfy soft feel and a generous neck opening. I can’t stand a shirt that is too tight at the neck, which is why I was never a fan of turtlenecks.

indigo dyed tank top

indigo dyed tank top

She dyed quite a few things that day, including some napkins for us and some shirts for herself. She dyed a tank top for me that I intend to wear around the house, using a spiral pattern on it. We both loved the look so much, I asked her to do a few more spiral pieces in a later dying session.

indigo bandana with spiral pattern

indigo bandana with spiral pattern

We bought some white cotton bandanas for dyeing, so she dyed one of them in a spiral pattern too. It’s almost too pretty to use, but use it I will!

indigo dyed bandana

indigo dyed bandana

She tied another bandana in a different pattern. I think it sort of resembles snowflakes.

spiral pattern t-shirt

spiral pattern t-shirt

And she dyed another t-shirt for me with the spiral pattern, this time another one made from 100% cotton. And I simply love the wild look. Thanks again to my artistic wife for dyeing all these lovely pieces for me. I think I could go almost anywhere and not have to worry about anyone else wearing similar shirts. I think I will be all set for indigo things for a while. It is a good thing that blue is my favorite color too! I’ll be back soon with more happenings here at HA.

 

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Monday Recap: More Digging, Roasting and Drying

Last week I managed to get most all of the sweet potatoes dug before the rains came. I am so glad I made the effort, because the garden is a soggy mess right about now. It looks like we’ll have plenty of sweet potatoes to eat for the coming year, with 56 pounds of them now safely inside curing. The best producer this year was Norma’s Purple. You can see a few of the biggest ones in the below photo, with a dollar bill to give it some scale. I really look forward to trying them once they have cured.

Norma's Purple sweet potatoes

Norma’s Purple sweet potatoes

The peppers are still ripening even as the weather cools down to more seasonal temperatures. It has been a great year for the peppers here, both the hot and sweet types. That’s a mix of Early Sunsation, Flavorburst, and Red Knight in the below photo. Most of them got dehydrated.

ripe bell peppers

ripe bell peppers

It hasn’t been a great year for eggplant here, so imagine my surprise when I brought in two beauties last week! That’s the hybrid Nadia in the below photo, along with a few of the heirloom red Tolli’s Sweet Italian peppers.

Nadia eggplant and Tolli's Sweet Italian peppers

Nadia eggplant and Tolli’s Sweet Italian peppers

I also harvested some of the Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers for dehydrating. I use these to make chile powder and to put in bean dishes and soups. The Anchos are usually somewhat shy producers for me but Holy Mole (a 2007 AAS winner) always does well here.

Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers

Holy Mole and Ancho 211 peppers

I got a large number of the ripe Aji Angelo peppers, most of which came from a container grown plant I overwintered inside, then planted outside in the ground once the soil warmed up this spring. These thin walled peppers have a mild fruity flavor and a moderate heat, at least the ones grown here do. There’s about 24 ounces of them in the below photo. I wanted to try oven roasting some of them like Michelle does.

Aji Angelo peppers

Aji Angelo peppers

Wearing gloves, I removed the stems, cut the peppers in half, then scooped out the seeds. Then it was off to a 200°F oven for a pan of them. I roasted them for about three hours to get them crispy dry, stirring them around occasionally.

oven roasting the Aji Angelo peppers

oven roasting the Aji Angelo peppers

The rest went on a dehydrator tray for drying. I wanted to compare the oven roasted ones with the dehydrated ones, and knowing me I will probably like both ways! I saved seeds from some of the nicest looking peppers as I was prepping them, and I plan on sharing seeds of this lovely C. baccatum variety later this year.

Aji Angelo ready for dehydrator

Aji Angelo ready for dehydrator

You can see the results in the bottom photo. The oven roasted ones are on the left, and the dehydrated ones are on the right. The oven roasting definitely adds another layer of flavor to the peppers, and I will store them in a glass jar and crush them up as needed for pepper flakes.

oven roasted(L) and dehydrated(R) Aji Angelo peppers

oven roasted(L) and dehydrated(R) Aji Angelo peppers

The broccoli plants are continuing to head up here. I’ve cut several heads of the Packman variety, and some of them are already developing side shoots, before the others have even produced the main head. The first of the ‘broccolini’ type Apollo was ready last week. It made for a nice side dish, lightly steamed and dressed with a bit of olive oil plus salt. Apollo doesn’t make a real big main head, but has numerous side shoots with long, tender stems.

Apollo broccoli

Apollo broccoli

Summer planted Slobolt lettuce continues to be a star while I wait for the fall planted lettuce to size up.  I also pulled one of the Purple Haze carrots to see how they were sizing up. I think it and the rest of the fall carrots need another couple of weeks before I start harvesting any more of them. I used the carrot, a little arugula and the lettuce to make a lunch salad one day last week.

salad with Slobolt lettuce

salad with Slobolt lettuce

After not baking any bread for a few weeks (other than zucchini bread), I made up for it Saturday. It was a cool, rainy and dreary day and that was a great excuse to put on a pot of soup and bake some crusty sourdough bread to go with it. I baked a loaf  of what I call my 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread. I’m still working out the details on that one before I share the recipe here, but it has become one of my favorite sourdough recipes. This loaf had some issues though, as the dough stuck to the pizza paddle and in my haste to fix that problem I didn’t slash the dough deeply enough and it had a ‘blowout’ in the oven. Oh well, as most bread bakers know, looks don’t usually affect the taste, and this one tasted as good as usual, with a nice sourdough tang to it and a crunchy crust.

loaf of 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread

loaf of 1-2-3 Sourdough Bread

I love roasted garlic, and the bread gave me a good excuse to roast a couple of the bigger bulbs. I cut the tops off, sprinkled on a little olive oil, wrapped them in foil, and then baked in a 400°F oven until they were soft. I squeezed the garlic from the cloves and then spread it on some of the sourdough bread. Paired up with a bowl of vegetable soup, it made for a great meal!

garlic ready for roasting

garlic ready for roasting

To see what other gardeners are harvesting, digging and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week.

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The Sweet Potato Dig

This week I decided it was time to dig a few of the sweet potatoes and see how they were sizing up. With the weather report calling for seven straight days of rain, I was anxious to get them out of the ground if at all possible. The soil was already wet from a recent rain, and more rain would not make the digging any easier. The first few plants I dug looked promising, so I kept on digging. I am still recovering from a head cold that has slowed me down a bit lately, but it sure felt good to get out there and work in the garden.

I grew five varieties this year, two purple ones I am calling Carla’s Purple and Norma’s Purple, the orange-fleshed Hernandez, my old standby Beauregard and the tan skinned purple fleshed Okinawa. All total I planted 30 slips, set out about 14-16″ apart in a ridge of raised soil. The Okinawa variety is truly an experiment, as they take a long, hot growing season to produce well. I decided to leave these to grow as long as possible, and I will dig them later this month before frost threatens.

harvest of Beauregard sweet potatoes

harvest of Beauregard sweet potatoes

Beauregard typically makes big sweet potatoes here in our area. I got just over 25 pounds from them, for an average of 1.9 pounds/slip. That is lower than last years yield of 2.25 pounds/slip. However, the Beauregard was planted on the end of the row, and part of that area is new growing space as a result of my 2012 garden expansion. It is possible that contributed to its lower yield this year. But that is just a guess. I have seen similar results this year in the same general area of the garden, which tells me I probably need to work in more compost/organic material there next year

Carla's Purple sweet potatoes

Carla’s Purple sweet potatoes

It is my second year growing the purple variety our friend Carla gave to me to grow. This year they produced right at 10 pounds from 4 plants, for an average of 2.5 pounds/slip. That is up considerably from last year’s average of 1.7 pounds/slip. These tubers were mostly long and tended to go straight down, often down into the subsoil. I broke a few, all the while thinking “why aren’t you growing in this nice soft ridge of soil I worked up for you?” Still, I was pleased with the results.

big sweet potato sticking up

big sweet potato sticking up

It is my first year growing the Purple variety given to me by Norma (Garden To Wok). I set out 5 slips of this variety, and the vines grew lush and long all summer, so I had high hopes for the roots. I was working my way down the row, and when I got to this variety I saw the first root that was sticking up out of the soil. That is usually a sign that a big one is waiting, and I was not disappointed.

Norma's Purple sweet potatoes

Norma’s Purple sweet potatoes

I wound up with 15.5 pounds of Norma’s Purple, for an average of 3.1 pounds/slip. They were nicely shaped and fairly easy to find near the planting spot, which is always a plus in my book. There were not many really small roots either, which I think can be harder to use in the kitchen. I am reminded of Goldilocks when I think of the ideal sweet potato that is not too big, and not too small!

Hernandez sweet potatoes

Hernandez sweet potatoes

Hernandez is a variety I have grown in the past when I got the slips from Robin’s Nest, a local nursery where I also get my Beauregard slips. The last few years Robin has been unable to get Hernandez from her usual supplier and so I have not grown them. But this year I ordered Okinawa slips from Duck Creek Farms and I also ordered some Hernandez. The yield from 5 slips I planted was a little over 5 pounds, for an average yield of 1 pound/slip. The sweet potatoes were long and skinny, and nothing like the Hernandez I grew in previous years. In 2011, Hernandez out-performed Beauregard and produced 3.4 pounds/slip, but this year it was the least productive of the four varieties I dug.

large Norma's Purple sweet potato

large Norma’s Purple sweet potato

The big root of Norma’s Purple sticking out of the ground proved to be the largest of that variety, and weighed in at 2 pounds 7.8 ounces. Which is a bit smaller than the whopper Daphne harvested last week, but still big. Bigger is not always better when it comes to sweet potatoes though, but I am not complaining about the size or the yield of this variety.

Beauregard sweet potato

Beauregard sweet potato

The biggest one of all this year turned out to be a Beauregard. It weighed in at 3 pounds 5.7 ounces. The shape is really unusual, with a big round section at the ‘top’ where it attached to the vine and tapering smaller as it grew down into the soil. It will be a bit harder to use one that big and with that shape. I am thinking it will wind up getting baked and served up when we have company over for dinner, since otherwise the two of us would have to eat on it for days.

closeup showing skin of Beauregard

closeup showing skin of Beauregard

Overall, the sweet potatoes were in great shape this year, with no vole damage like I’ve had in years past. The were a few roots where wireworms had eaten on them a bit, but otherwise the roots were pretty smooth and clean. I have no idea why the voles left them alone this year, but it was great to not have a bunch of sweet potatoes with teeth marks already on them! The purple varieties both did great, outproducing even my usually large and dependable Beauregard. The Hernandez was disappointing though, and I don’t think I will plant it again unless Robin gets her source back. I have no real expectations for the Okinawa variety, so if that one produces it will be a very pleasant surprise.

After harvest, I moved all the sweet potatoes down to the basement, which is the warmest spot we have to cure them. Ideally they prefer temperatures between 80-85°F and high humidity (85-90%), though home gardeners like me usually have to just do the best we can. I spread the potatoes out to a single layer and then covered them with sheets of newspaper to help keep the humidity higher. I’ll let them sit and cure for a couple of weeks before we do any taste testing. And I won’t clean them up any more until right before I use them. The total harvest of 56 pounds so far is the same as I got last year, with the possibility of adding a few more if the Okinawa plants produce anything.

We still need to dig the sweet potatoes at the Impact Community Garden. Those were planted about two weeks later than the ones here, so I think it makes sense to leave them for a bit longer, as long as cold weather doesn’t arrive. Based on current weather forecast we should be good for another week at least.

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Lavender Honey Bastille Soap

Olive oil has been used both inside and outside the body for thousands of years, especially in Mediterranean cultures where the olive trees flourish. It is loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols and other components that nourish, condition and soften the skin when applied externally. It also has a long history of being used in soapmaking, and the olive oil soaps made in the Castile region of Spain are legendary.

Castile soaps made with 100% olive oil are mild and gentle on the skin. They have many of the same moisturizing and conditioning qualities of the olive oil they are made from. However they are somewhat challenging for the home soapmaker to produce, requiring more mixing time with the lye, and lots more curing time before they are ready to use. While most cold process soaps are cured and ready to use four to six weeks after they are made, 100% olive oil soaps are best after six months to a year of curing time. And while 100% olive oil soaps are great for the skin, they are also shy on their lathering properties, and the lather can sometimes leave a slimy feel on the skin.

Lavender Honey Bastille Soap

Lavender Honey Bastille Soap

All the soaps we make at Happy Acres have some olive oil in them. Our basic soap recipes usually have between 30-40% olive oil in them, along with other oils and butters. We have made several 100% olive oil soaps too, but so far haven’t been real happy with the results. Earlier this year I revisited the idea of making a soap with a high percentage of olive oil. And after some research, I found out about Bastille soaps which have a high percentage of olive oil along with a few other carefully selected base oils. And so the recipe for Lavender Honey Bastille Soap was born!

This soap contains 70% olive oil, along with a small amount of coconut and castor oils plus some shea butter. The coconut oil helps to increase the lather and harden the soap, while the castor adds moisturizing qualities and makes for a creamy lather. Shea butter also hardens the bar plus it’s great for the skin.

extra virgin olive oil

extra virgin olive oil

The soap also has honey in it, which helps increase the lather. I like to add some lavender essential oil, but you can use your own favorite EO or leave it unscented. The honey is added to the lye water, which typically turns a reddish brown color when the lye reacts to the sugars in the honey. When the lye water is mixed in with the oils, the result is usually a yellow-gold color. It would be nice if the soap turned out to be this color, but it lightens up to a shade of tan as the soap cures.

mixing the soap with immersion blender

mixing the soap with immersion blender

We poured this soap into one of our homemade PVC pipe molds, after lining it with freezer paper to keep the soap from sticking to the mold. We let the mold sit for for four days to finish saponification.

pouring soap into mold

pouring soap into mold

Then we pulled the soap from the mold, removed the freezer paper, and cut it into bars.

cutting Lavendar Honey Bastille Soap into bars

cutting Lavendar Honey Bastille Soap into bars

After cutting, we laid out the soap so it can cure. It is generally safe to use after a couple of weeks, but the longer it cures, the harder the bars will be.

bastille soap curing

bastille soap curing

Please refer to the cold process instructions here if you are new to making soap. Always take the proper safety precautions (we wear rubber gloves and goggles when mixing and making the soap).

Lavender & Honey Bastille Soap

Lavender Honey Bastille Soap Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
(adapted from a Candle & Soap About.com recipe)

Olive Oil – 315 grams (70%)

Coconut Oil – 67.5 grams (15%)

Shea Butter – 45 grams (10%)

Castor Oil – 22.5 grams (5%)

Distilled Water – 171 grams

Lye – 59 grams  (7% superfat)

1 Tbsp of honey, warmed and added to a small amount of the distilled water, then added to the lye water once the lye water has cooled so both liquids are about the same temperature.

Added at light trace:

4 tsp lavender essential oil

This recipe is for a 1 lb/450g batch (oil weight) of soap. We ran this recipe through a soap/lye calculator, and you should always run your recipes too before making them. This one at SoapCalc is our favorite.

NOTE: This soap is superfatted/discounted at 7%

For more recipes and soap information, check out my wife’s Soap Recipe page. I’ll be back soon with more adventures. Until then, Happy Growing (and soaping) from Happy Acres!

This post was shared at Simple Lives Thursday.

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Monday Recap: Almost Falling Back

The last week or so has brought fall weather here to our neck of the woods. And I for one am happy to see it, because I am ready for a change of season. The garden harvests have slowed down considerably, but we are still getting quite a few things to eat from our own backyard. Like the zucchini in the below photo. There are two Romanesco and one Striata d’Italia there, and a couple of them were hiding from me and got a little bigger than I prefer. These two squash plants have managed to keep on going all summer, and any squash they can produce at this point is a real bonus.

trio of Romanesco and Striata d'Italia zucchini

trio of Romanesco and Striata d’Italia zucchini

But even though the zucchini were big, they made some great zucchini bread! This is my Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe in the below photo, and I have found the bread freezes exceptionally well. That makes it a great way to enjoy the zucchini even when the harvests are over for the year.

Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Spelt Chocolate Zucchini Bread

A very pleasant surprise last week was a harvest of pole snap beans. Fortex and Musica have really done well this year, and I got a little over a pound of them one day. Like the zucchini, green beans in October is always a treat!

October harvest of Fortex and Musica pole beans

October harvest of Fortex and Musica pole beans

Back in August I planted some Slobolt lettuce in two of the cold frame beds, hoping it would survive the heat and give us a jump on salads for the fall season. I think it did quite well, and I need to make a note and try to plant some about the same time next year.

harvest of Slobolt lettuce

harvest of Slobolt lettuce

The lettuce in the above photo went into a Wilted Lettuce Salad my wife made for us. The wilted lettuce is always a real treat for me, no doubt in part because it has a little bacon in it and I don’t often eat bacon. The sweet and sour vinegar dressing nicely compliments the tender leaf lettuce too, without having it swimming in dressing.

Wilted Lettuce Salad with Slobolt lettuce

Wilted Lettuce Salad with Slobolt lettuce

The pepper patch is still producing like crazy. There are three Italian heirloom peppers in the below photo, the long slender Jimmy Nardello, the round pimento shaped Topepo Rosso and the smaller hot cherry pepper Piccante Calabrese. I’ve been a fan of Jimmy Nardello for some time now, but this is my first time growing the other two. Based on the results so far I think they will be back next year as well.

Jimmy Nardello, Topepo Rosso and Piccante Calabrese peppers

Jimmy Nardello, Topepo Rosso and Piccante Calabrese peppers

A few weeks ago I pickled some of the Piccante Calabrese. I didn’t can them, I just prepared a sweet vinegar brine, heated it, and then poured it over the peppers in the jar. I added a few cloves of garlic for added flavor. When the contents cooled I put the jar in the refrigerator to sit and pickle for a bit. They turned out pretty good, and the hot peppers are pretty tasty prepared this way. I’m going to make another batch using some of the Topepo Rosso peppers, though I will have to cut them into pieces before pickling. The pickled peppers are nice for salads, antipasto, pizza, and for making pepper aioli sauce.

pickled Piccante Calabrese peppers

pickled Piccante Calabrese peppers

I also harvested lots and lots of the C. chinense varieties this week. Trinidad Perfume and Aji Dulce #2 have been especially prolific, and you can see them in the below photo. Numex Sauve Red and Numex Suave Orange have been less prolific, but are finally ripening up here for me. I used some of these peppers to make a Fermented Hot Sauce, and I will dry the rest to use for a very distinctive flavored chile powder.

Aji Dulce #2(front) and Trinidad Perfume(back) peppers

Aji Dulce #2(front) and Trinidad Perfume(back) peppers

Even while summer veggies are still rolling in, the first fall broccoli is ready to harvest. That’s Packman in the below photo. It’s not the biggest, but it is almost always the earliest of the ones I plant, and I can usually count of lots of side shoots too.

Packman broccoli

Packman broccoli

Whenever I travel it seems like I always forget to pack something. For the trip last week, it was soap! Mind you, we have countless bars of homemade soap in the basement, but I packed nothing. Fortunately my wife brought along some for herself and was kind enough to share. We always like to check out soap makers when we travel, and so this time I was on the lookout for something I could use right away. We found plenty at Appalachian Natural Soaps. We wound up talking shop with the owner, Victor Taylor and when he found out we were amateur ‘soapers’ ourselves, he threw in a couple of extra bars of soap for us to try, as well as gave us a good deal on his specially made extra virgin coconut oil. I am keen to try his Neem soap which he told me contains a whopping 30% neem oil, which is great for the skin.

Appalachian Natural Soaps

Appalachian Natural Soaps

My wife and I love to visit farmer’s market wherever we go. The Western North Carolina Farmers Market is open seven days a week, and we went there a couple of times while we were in Asheville. Of course I also had to try out some of the local honeys at every opportunity. The sourwood and locust varietals were especially tasty, though I am guessing that any honey that is produced while the sourwood trees are blooming is labeled ‘sourwood honey’.  I normally prefer to buy honey directly from the beekeeper but we didn’t get that chance on this trip. There is a tremendous difference in color in two of the sourwood honeys in the below photo, though they both have a lovely flavor. We also enjoyed some of the local apples, as well as some sorghum made the old fashioned way by an Amish family using horse and mule power.

honey and other goodies from WNC Farmer's Market

honey and other goodies from WNC Farmer’s Market

I’ll also share a photo my wife got of me posing by the Flat Iron sculpture outside the historic Flat Iron Building in downtown Asheville. I’m wearing one of her t-shirt creations she dyed for me. She’s been busy doing more dyeing, and I will share some of the results soon.

me by the Flat Iron sculpture

me by the Flat Iron sculpture

And last but not least, I was pleased to be a part of the recently released Love It Evv Fall 2014 issue. The very talented Kana L. Brown asked me to do a piece on fall gardening for the Holistic Corner(page 28), and I was happy to oblige. Kana is a part of our Impact Community Garden this year, when she is not doing other things like being an esthetician and an editorial editor.

That’s a look at what’s been happening here lately. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays every week.

 

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Photo Friday: Biltmore House and Gardens

During our recent trip to Asheville, NC, we toured the magnificent Biltmore Estate. This mansion was built by George W Vanderbilt II and completed in 1895. It is the largest privately owned house in the U.S., with 178,926 square feet and 250 rooms. No photography is allowed inside the house, but the gardens were lovely even though it wasn’t the peak season. I’ll share a few of my favorite images from the tour.

front view

front view

me on the Esplanade

me on the Esplanade

view of the Esplanade from the house

view of the Esplanade from the house

stone carvings on exteriour

stone carvings on exterior

one of the many carved 'grotesque' figures

one of the many carved ‘grotesque’ figures

pool with water lilies and papyrus

pool with water lilies and papyrus

cactus flowered Dahlia

cactus flowered Dahlia

mixed planting with amaranth

mixed planting with amaranth

Lynda in front of espaliered fruit trees

Lynda in front of espaliered fruit trees

orchids blooming in greenhouse

orchids blooming in greenhouse

bright colored coleus

bright colored coleus

Fatshedera hybrid

Fatshedera hybrid

Strobilanthes aka Persian Shield

Strobilanthes aka Persian Shield

walkway with grapevine covered trellis

walkway with grapevine covered trellis

openings in the trellis frame views of garden

openings in the trellis frame views of garden

garden tools as handles for garden gift shop

garden tools as handles for garden gift shop

I hope you have enjoyed looking at some of the sights at the Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville, NC. I’ll be back soon with more local adventures here at Happy Acres!

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