Three ways to support your local farm without spending a dime

Thank you for supporting your local farms, farmers markets, and local businesses, that is an incredible expression of love and support.

While shopping is always appreciated, there are other ways to help your local store that don’t require spending money.

  1. Share posts from your local farm on Facebook and Instagram–This small act takes no time at all but it does make an impact. If you share the posts you love or find inspiring, your gardening friends will too! You’ll be helping the farm reach a new audience and giving your friends a new source of fun.
  2. Teach your friends and family to garden/can/cook with local products–Not only do you get to share the love of gardening, you also get to spend some fun quality time with your loved ones. Spreading the excitement about plants and local grown produce is good for your soul and good for keeping your favorite farm at the market.
  3. Tag your local farm on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter–Just adding a link to the store where you bought the produce or got help from in your social media posts will help your local farm reach a new group of gardening lovers.
    Did you just make a delicious dish? Have some lovely blooms in your garden? Tag your farm in the picture you post on Facebook or Instagram!

    Spring Market Booth

Valentine’s Plantable Seed Paper Hearts DIY

I saw the video on how to make your own seed paper hearts on facebook and just had to try it out right away.
cover food processor with a towel
Once i dug through the baking closet to find my heart shape cookie cutters and through the paper closet for red paper, I was on my way.  Fast forward and here is my tutorial so that you won’t have to clean up your cabinets and kitchen like i did (or maybe your blender/food processor seals better!)

seeds added to paper mushUse 1 cup of paper pieces to 1 cup of warm water, let sit for a minute or two inside food processor.  Then cover food processor with towel and pulse until there is mush.
Add about a teaspoon each of 4-5 different types of seeds and blend them into the mush, I used a fork.  A smaller amount Creating the heartof seeds will go a long way, I was way too generous with my first batch.

Use a screen or a piece of cheesecloth as base, add a tablespoon of mush, then press down firmly.  Wait about 30 seconds or so and pull up the cookie cutter.

Paper Seed Heart

Let dry naturally for about 12 hours and the paper hearts are ready. Glue to cards and/or attach to chopsticks and insert into a plant.

Click here for my printable pdf gift card #1. I sometimes run a glue stick around the edge of the printed heart and sprinkle a little glitter on the gold colored background. Click here to download card #2, same inside.

foldable card

Card #1

foldable instruction sheet

Card #2

Delicious Recipes with Sicilian Serpent Squash – Soup or Curry

Fresh Sicilian Serpentine SquashMaybe you have seen this amazing vegetable at a Farmer’s Market or maybe you even grow it yourself in your garden?  It has many different names such as serpent zucchini, italian squash, serpent of Sicily, zucchetta, calabash, and other names. They can be usedSelf-Healed end of a sicilian serpent squash like zucchini or summer squash, taste great, stay fresh for 2 weeks without refrigeration, and their most amazing feature is that they self-heal.   Just cut off as much as you want to use and leave the remaining portion out on your kitchen counter.  In no time, the end will dry and seal in the moisture and freshness of the left-over portion. when ready to use more, cut off another piece and discard the dried end.

So don’t hesitate, grab one and take it home.  Here’s my favorite EASY recipe that’s a hit at our table every time.  Add a different liquid and spice to make it either a soup or a curry (great over rice and pasta).

Serves 4
1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat
2 onions, chopped, add and cook until soft
1/2 of a serpent squash, peeled and cut into bite size pieces, add and stir
1 large package sliced button mushrooms, add and stir

For soup: add 2 chicken or vegetable flavor cubes and 2-3 cups water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Freezes and reheats well.
For curry: add 3 tablespoons curry powder and 2-3 cups milk. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta or with rice.  Freezes and reheats well.

Thin Bearded Iris Easily in 3 Steps

How to thin an iris clumpYou know it’s time to divide and thin your iris when the clumps are crowded and the blooms are declining in numbers. There are many opinions on the best time of year for tackling this task and this mostly depends on where you live.  As long as there are a good 4 weeks before the first freeze and you are able to provide adequate moisture, the iris will thank you with prolific blooms next spring.  So go ahead and get started.

1. Lift the iris out of the ground.  I prefer to use a garden fork, lift the whole clump, shake of the soil, and transfer the clumps to a wheelbarrow, one variety at a time.

2. Sort and trim. Toss all ‘mothers’ and tiny rhizomes. Keep only healthy looking plants and cut back  foliage and roots.

3. Replant.  If desired or needed, amend the soil for good drainage, then plant and water the iris in well. I recommend planting with the rhizome set into the ground and covered. If you live in a hot and wet climate, you may want to plant them a bit more shallow for better drainage.

Homemade Satsuma Citrus Orange Marmalade Recipe

Homemade Satsuma Marmalade

Just as the taste of a homegrown tomato cannot compare to the grocery store version, so too is it with homemade marmalade where the flavor pops on your tongue.

Satsuma Marmalade

Satsuma Marmalade

This recipe is simple, delicious and a great recipe for beginning canners. 100% deliciousness in a jar that goes perfectly on toast, saltines, chicken, pork, with coconut shrimp, and, and, and…
Tie a pretty ribbon around the top and it makes a great gift at any time.


  • 12 Satsumas (about 2.5 pounds, can substitute Mandarin or Clementine oranges),  quartered and thinly sliced, discard any seeds.
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice, discard any seeds
  • 6 cups of water
  • 4 pounds of sugarTools: jelly jars, candy thermometer, funnel.


  • Saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Jelly Jars, Lids, and Rings
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Ladle
  • Funnel

1. Wash the fruit with warm water and scrub with a brush to remove any dirt, grime or sprays that may have been used on the fruit beforeSimmering sliced Satsumas harvest.

2. Quarter and cut the satsumas into thin slices.

3.  In a heavy saucepan add water, all the fruit and lemon (zest and juice). Bring to boil and then simmer for 35-45 minutes until peel is tender.

4. Prepare your jars.

5. Remove pot from heat and add the sugar. NOTE: the rinds will stop softening once the sugar has been added, be sure it is to you desired tenderness before adding sugar.2016-12-06-09-41-30-small

6. Over medium heat, bring the fruit/sugar mixture up to boiling – stirring constantly. Cook to the jellying point (222 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Once the temperature starts rising over 212 degrees, it will take an additional 30-45 minutes to get to this point.  Do not rush here as your marmalade will not set if you are impatient.

7. Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in a waterbath canner.

8. Check seals when cool and label. ENJOY!

Satsuma Marmalade going...going...gone

Satsuma Marmalade going…going…gone

Chestnuts – Fresh from the Garden

Fresh Chestnuts
The chestnuts are looking great this year!  They feel solid and I have been picking them them this morning.  Picking chestnuts is a prickly affair, one best wears heavy shoes and gloves. If you are fortunate to have a chestnut tree in your garden, it’s well worth the effort!



Once harvested, the nuts are  washed and then soaked in hot water (120-125F) for 30 minutes. Any nuts that float to the top are considered ‘not good’ and are discarded. They are then cooled, dried and stored at 35-40F in cloth bags. They will keep for weeks until ready to roast.

How to roast
chestnunts on baking sheetslitting chestnut
1. preheat the oven to 425F  
2. cut a Y slit into each nut

3. line cookie sheet with foil and spread out the nuts in a single layer
4. fold up the foil, leaving opening on the sides, then add 1/2 cup waterPeeled Chestnuts
5. roast for ~20 minutes
6. take out of oven, peel and enjoy

Roasted nuts can be shelled and frozen for later use.  Shelling is much easier when the nuts are hot. I leave the pan in the oven and get 2-3 nuts out at a time, then pack them in ziplock bags and put in the freezer.

Odenwälder Kochkäse – German Cooked Cheese – Recipe

One of our favorite foods when visiting Germany is Kochkäse, a creamy, semi-liquid cheese that is served on bread, on top of Schnitzel, or it can be eaten like a dip with crackers.  There is no shortage of recipes, most of them use ingredients impossible to find in the US, take weeks to prepare, or are complete fails in the flavor department.
For the last 20 years I have tried to make this delicacy here in Chattanooga. For the first time…..SUCCESS…Here’s my recipe using Greek Yogurt.

Koch Käse with crackers

Koch Käse with crackers

1 Large (35.3 ounce) container 2% Fage Greek Yogurt
2 1/2 teaspoons Natron (Baking Soda)
2 teaspoons Salt
2 tablespoons Butter
2 teaspoons caraways seeds (if desired)

Yogurt with Natron and Salt

Yogurt with Natron and Salt

1. Strain the yogurt in the fridge overnight.
Line a strainer with cheesecloth (a kitchen towel, coffee filter or clean handkerchief will do too). Set the strainer over a bowl and pour the yogurt into the lined strainer.
2. Pour the thick yogurt into a bowl and mix well with the Natron and Salt, using a wooden spoon.  Cover the bowl and let sit out on the counter at room temperature.  Stir every few hours until the mixture is translucent. This process will take about 24 hours.
3. Pour the mixture into a pot, add 2 tablespoons Butter. Stir constantly and slowly warm on VERY LOW setting until it has the consistency of vanilla pudding.  DO NOT let this mixture get hot or it will curdle.  If desired, add caraway seeds.
4. Pour into containers and store covered in fridge, will keep 2 weeks.

Finished Kochkäse

Finished Kochkäse

Bite Back at Henbit

Come visit and take a look in our gardens, you’d surely soon guess my favorite color in plants. From light lavender to a deep, nearly black – purple – it’s present in every bed and during every season.

But not every purple flowering plant is a keeper. Henbit – OH NO! I have no idea where it came from but it’s everywhere in our garden. Lamium amplexicaule officially is a member of the mint family, flowers during cool weather and is present throughout the US.

Henbit plant

Henbit – GO AWAY!


My favorite method, so I’ll mention it first. Spread newspapers, flattened cardboard boxes and junk mail around the plants and cover with a thick layer of compost or mulch. Instantly, the beds look great and cared for and weeds stay suppressed all season. You may be tempted to go for weed fabric or plastic – resist and use biodegradable paper. It’s better for the environment and there will be no need to wrestle with bits and pieces of material a year or two down the road.
Don’t give weeds a chance to get started!

Hand Weeding

What other activity can you think of that is so destructive and rewarding at the same time?
While not having to hand weed would be the best option at all, no amount of mulching and using groundcovers will eliminate weeds completely. Henbit seems to only need a single ray of sunshine and a speck of dirt to grow into a fine specimen plant!
Try to disturb the ground as little as possible and avoid disbursing weed seeds (don’t shake off the plant) before tossing it. Use a hand weeder or a pair of clippers to cut off at the base. repeat as needed and sooner or later, the roots will be exhausted and incapable of sending up new growth.

Paint Class

So I have been thinking about painting some of the —eeewww brown— furniture in our house for some time.  I am not someone to whom design and matching colors comes naturally so ii have been following Pinterest boards and paint groups on facebook for some time.
Finally, I was ready to take the plunge and try out some painting techniques on an olf board.  I started -per the info I learned from the paint groups- by going to some ACE hardware stores and buying sample paints (on sale 1.99) in the colors I liked, plaster of paris powder, sandpaper, wipe on finish coat, and java gel.

I think it was my good luck to see the ad for the painting class at Redbriar Antiques when i was out shopping.  ‘bring a piece of furniture and leave with it finished’. I signed on the dotted line!

So rather then trying out painting on a scrap board, I jumped in head first and painted this gossip bench.

gossip bench


gossip bench

getting ready to paint

gossip bench


gossip bench

java gel top, purple and cream paint

gossip bench

home again – all finished

Mixing It Up

One of the things I love about Belle’s garden is the way that she has mixed edibles with ornamentals, and perennials with annuals. You will find fruit trees and brugmansia, tomatoes and jade plants, and many other examples of food-producing plants alongside ornamentals in Belle’s beautiful garden.

In my own garden, I try to emulate Belle’s permaculture-esque approach. One trellis supports sweet autumn clematis, another provides a structure for a grape vine. Each spring, I sprinkle zinnia seeds betwixt and between the perennials in my garden. Rosemary and sage grow next to coneflowers and rose bushes. I even have a small patch of asparagus, which offers beauty (those fern-like fronds are gorgeous), delicious salad additions, and the sturdiness of a perennial.

There are so many reasons to garden, and we each have our own set of wishes and desires when we bring together soil, seeds, roots, water, and sunshine. My grandparents had a bit of an on-going battle regarding gardening for food or for pleasure. My grandmother loved flowers and throughout my life she planted all sorts of things. My grandfather, though, somehow thought growing flowers was wasteful. He preferred to see any gardening efforts go toward growing vegetables.

Asparagus, Penstemon, and Lilies growing in a tangle.

Asparagus, Penstemon, and Lilies growing in a tangle.

Happily, there is a middle ground, and Belle demonstrates it wonderfully. Pathways that twist and turn amongst the flowers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetables offer surprises no matter which way you look. My favorite time to visit Belle is during her spring driveway sale. At that time, there is an area behind her house that is filled with purple iris and columbine. It is breathtaking — even though she doesn’t have any edibles mixed in that particular area!

Winter look of Belle's mixed garden with columbine and iris

Winter look of Belle’s mixed garden with columbine and iris