Friday, July 31, 2009

Kudzu - The Vine That Ate the South

In 1876, the lush green leaves and fragrant purple flowers enchanted visitors to the Japanese Pavilion at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and gardeners were eager to add this exotic Japanese vine to their collections.

Those who lived in the South quickly found that kudzu, given warmth and moisture, can grow as much as a foot a day. And cattle will eat it! An enterprise was born and "the miracle vine" was planted on farms as well as in gardens.

In the 1930s, the soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control and farmers were paid to plant it.

It's estimated that around 7 millions acres of the Deep South are covered by kudzu. It can kill trees by keeping the sun from them. Pesticides can't destroy it -- one actually makes it grow faster. Goats can wipe it out -- for a while.

Kudzu is one of many introduced plants that, without natural enemies, can take over. Multiflora rose, bittersweet, and water hyacinth are some others.

We have the roses and the bittersweet on our farm -- but, thank heaven, no kudzu . . . yet.

It's just across the river . . . and growing.

(Here's a terrific site that tells even more of The Amazing Story of Kudzu)
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Squash for Squash-Haters

Stuffed squash topped with bacon is the single recipe for yellow squash that actually elicits a bit of enthusiasm from my family. Oh, they'll eat squash in all the other ways I fix it but this is a recipe they'll take seconds on . . . or thirds.

Begin by boiling your squash in salted water till fork-tender.

Remove and drain and let cool a while. Meanwhile, saute some diced onion in some sort of fat -- I used bacon grease this time; olive oil would be better for you.

When the squash are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise and scrape their little insides into the pan with the onion. Mix and saute.

Now add bread crumbs -- homemade or otherwise. I used Italian flavored breadcrumbs. A stuffing mix would work too.

My mother used to make these and one time, out of white bread, she used caraway seeded rye. That's really good too. If I had some caraway seeds, I'd add them now.

But I don't. I do have cumin seeds so I toast them in the crepe pan to bring out their flavor. I realize this is too much cumin so half goes into the stuffing and the other half into the bucket of scraps for the chickens. I wonder if they'll be pleased?

Stuff the squash halves, top with bacon, and bake at 350 till the bacon is done ( about a half an hour.)

And there's the squash -- along with turkey breast roasted with garlic and Herbes de Provence (just like Elizabeth fixed for Phillip in Signs in the Blood) and a salad of spinach, sliced cucumbers (fresh from the garden) , red onion, gorgonzola and vinaigrette.

It was good.

But wait, there's more! Pat in East Tennessee sent me some more squash recipes and here they are:

These recipes are from the book "Too Many Tomatoes .......". It's a book I got about 35 years ago and is very handy.
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the above ingredients.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
(I also add 1/4 teaspoon cloves)
Stir to blend.
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins or craisins
Add and beat 4 minutes - put in a greased bundt or tube pan and bake for 1 hour at 350.
This freezes very well.

1 cup grated zucchini
1 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening or butter
1 egg beaten
Mix together.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Stir to blend.
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins
Stir in and then drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 375.
Yes, these are similar to zucchini bread. A moist, spicy cookie that also freezes well.


1 large onion, diced
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Using a large pot, sauté until soft.
1 # ground chuck
Add and cook until crumbly.
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup minced green pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh minced parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
2 cups diced tomatoes
Add, cover and simmer 15 minutes
6 zucchini, sliced diagonally
Add to pot, stir well, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until tender.
Grated Parmesan cheese
Serve in bowls, sprinkle with cheese. I usually have crusty rolls to go with this ... good for dipping in the juices.
I know this recipe sounds a little weird, but it is VERY tasty!

and this:

Here's a yellow squash recipe that I have made for years and is always a hit with everyone, except for Mike! HA! It's easy to make and freezes well, so I make it often when the squash are in and then freeze it in serving sizes for Bob and I when the snow flies!

4 cups squash, chopped
1 or 2 medium onions, chopped
Cook together until tender.
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 13 ounce can evaporated milk
1 can cream of chicken/mushroom soup ... yes there is such a soup but
it is not always easy to find.
Mix together well.
1 - 8 ounce bag Pepperidge Farm stuffing. (You can use either the
Herb or the Cornbread, but we prefer the Herb.)
1/2 cup butter, melted.
Mix everything together and put in a large greased casserole. Bake for 40 minutes at 375.

and finally -- a link to a recipe for Pineapple/Zucchini Sheet Cake
-- yet another way to sneak a little squash into your family's diet!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Gentle Rain

After being spoiled with abundant rain for most of July, we've found the past week way too dry. Thunder storms have dodged all around us, giving us a few tantalizing drops to pock the dust and then sweeping off to soak someone else.

But finally, yesterday evening, came a lovely gentle rain! Perfect timing, as I'd spent the morning whacking back the mock orange that was obscuring our view of the fish pool. Now John and I sat on the porch, luxuriating in the cool, damp air, the patter of drops on the metal roof, and the syncopated dance of rain on the once again-visible pond surface.

Miss Susie Hutchins joined us in our blissful appreciation . . . though I think she believed we were admiring her rather than the rain.

Just before night fell we could see in the distance, the after-rain mists rising from all the grateful coves and hollows.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Of Beans and Blogs . . . and Zucchini Too

Oh, dear, the beans are in. I picked on Sunday and somehow there were twice as many on Monday.

The slender tender beans on the right got steamed briefly and marinated with red onion slices, to accompany John's homemade pizza. The bigger ones got a three-minute blanching and went into the freezer.

And then there' was the zucchini -- the chickens got the biggest one; I grated two more to freeze for zucchini bread; and blanched some more to freeze for minestrone come winter.

And now, re blogs: Margie, of Margie's Crafts recently gave me the One Lovely Blog award. Check out her blog for great pictures of Ireland . . . and possible the cutest car I've ever seen. And thanks, Margie -- I love this kind of travel!

Closer to home, Sam of My Carolina Kitchen just presented this blog with the SPLASH award. Sam is a foodie and you should avoid her blog if you don't want to be stricken with immediate hunger. Right now she's got a recipe for seared tuna and Asian slaw that has me drooling. And the previous post is of a BLT that is as close to the Platonic ideal as they come. And the corn cakes a while back-- I've made them multiple times now . . . oh boy! Thanks, Sam, for the award and the calories!

And one last thing -- I had an email from 'a leading broker of internet advertising.' They would like, in exchange for an annual fee, to place an advertisement on my blog.

Yikes! I wonder what that annual fee might be? And what they'd be advertising? But I just replied that I wasn't interested. It would feel a bit like tattooing a big logo on my forehead.

Last night's pizza . . . with beans on the side.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bow Pots and Flower Pots

I love making flower arrangements -- though they're never much more than shoving a bunch of flowers into a receptacle of some sort -- certainly there's none of that garden club stuff with Hogarth's curve and the rule of three that my mother-in-law used to talk about.

A friend of mine -- who grew up in the piedmont of North Carolina -- calls this 'making a flower pot' and once I realized she wasn't talking about potted plants, I remembered something similar from Thackery's Vanity Fair (a truly delightful book, by the way.

" . . . we have made her a bowpot."
"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."
"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack . . ."

Vanity Fair was written in 1848-- in England. I wonder if 'flowerpot' and 'bowpot' are related. Have any of you heard either term used?

Click on the sundial for an early morning stroll.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Sermon

. . . And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones . . .

Yes, I've used this quote before ; maybe it's being an old English major that has me seeing a sermon in these plants..

Now, what I wonder is if any of you see it too?

Hint: I'm thinking about parenting.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009


I enjoy weeding -- especially when I've let things get out of hand and the weeding really makes a difference. Weeding also puts you close to all sorts of interesting things. . . Like this lovely little nest, riding lightly on a fern frond. . .

And this box tortoise -- we surprised each other . . .

This fern shoot seemed to be leaning over for a better view . . .

. . . maybe of the bull and his harem who are browsing nearby.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Blooms

I've been awfully wordy the past several posts . . .

Just pictures from the garden today . . .

Happy weekend!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From The Marshall Auricular Hour

As promised, this is one of the things I read last night. The scene takes place in 1938, at Gudger’s Stand – a place which figured in my last book. Once a stopping place on the Drovers Road, it is now a tavern and a bawdy house. Redbird, who has been kitchen help and a taxi dancer, has so far avoided the so-called ‘upstairs work’ but things are about to change.

The boss looks at me and jerks his thumb for me to come out and I can see he ain’t going to battle with the sheriff no more.

‘Redbird,’ he says, not quite looking at me. ‘You staying clear of upstairs has brought these fellers near to a boil. I reckon it’s time you started and you might as well begin with Sheriff Hudson.’

All them men is looking at me like they was hungry dogs and I was a plate of meat. I hear some muttering amongst some of them and one of the bolder ones speaks up and asks ain’t there gone be an auction, like when it was Lola’s first time.

Now I know that I am in a pickle, for sure. But rather than hang back and let things be decided for me by a bunch of drunken rowdies with their blood up, I step out bold as brass amongst them.

‘I’ll go upstairs tonight with the feller who can dance me down,’ says I, lifting my chin and giving a slow look round that gang of men. I let my gaze linger a spell on several of the likeliest and give each one a little bit of a smile or a wink. ‘Will that suit you, Mr. Revis?’

Well, there is a roaring and a hoo-rahing like you never heard and though the sheriff tries to argue some more, the boss sees that there will be trouble iffen he don’t side with the crowd. He does about the only thing he can and calls for a dance down with me as the prize. Though, he is quick to put in, it will cost two bits to enter.

The sheriff ain’t happy about this turn of events but he tosses back a glass of whisky and moves away. He ain’t one to take part in any contest where they might be a chance he could lose. I see him grab onto Sharleen’s arm and pull her toward the stairs. She sends me another poison look but they ain’t nothing she can do but go on up with him.

But there ain’t time to worry about Sharleen for the boss has gone to talk to the musicianers – likely telling them to step out and take care of the necessary so as to be ready for a long spell of picking and fiddling. Folks is crowded round the bar getting drinks and now the boss is having some to push back the tables and make more room for the contest.

The fellers who are known to be strong dancers are talking big and making bets. I see a few right young men – just boys, really -- calculating their chances, their spotty faces all grinning foolish-like. Some are turning out their pockets to find their two bits or are asking friends to stake them. Over by the bar a couple of old drunks who can’t hardly stagger are limbering up and doing a few shaky steps. And every one of these is eyeballing me like I was already in the bed with them.

I hold up my hand so’s I can say my piece and, for a wonder, they all hush as I begin to speak.

‘Mr. Revis,’ I say, lifting my voice so’s he can hear me above the scraping of the chairs and tables being moved, ‘now, iffen it happens that I outlast all these fine fellers . . .’

There is a burst of laughing and hooting but I keep my hand up and afore long they settle down.

‘I want to get it clear,’ I go on. ‘iffen I was to win, then there’d be no going upstairs with anyone, not tonight.’

It’s like all them voices come out of one throat and it makes a single sound, a big Awww of disappointment. But then the one voice breaks into many and they all commence to buzz again. I plow right through them, almost hollering to make myself heard.

‘And I’ll take part in a dance down every night till I’ve been bested and one of these good-looking fellers has got the prize.’ I give a little wink at one of the spotty-faced boys and he jerks his head back and claps his hand to his heart like he’d been shot.

The boss looks at me and nods then hollers for the musicianers to get started. I take my place in the middle of the floor and those who’ve paid their fee come out too and circle round me and the fiddle lights into “Sally Goodin.”

The slap and thump of boots on the floor is so great you can hardly hear the music to keep in step. But soon I see that it don’t matter; us dancers are marking our own time and it is the driving sound of a great locomotive CHUCK-a-chucka, CHUCK-a-chucka, CHUCK-a-chucka and all of our feet are hitting the floor at the same time till I fear we will crash right through it. We raise a knee-high cloud of dust and the everyday smell of whisky and tobacco begins to be overtaken by the smell of sweating bodies.

At first, it is hard to bear, there is so many of them-- all facing me and all with the same crazy look on their faces -- but directly one old drunk goes down and two fellers, what had looked like they couldn’t keep going much longer anyways, stop to haul their friend up and all three of them limp off to the bar.

That makes it easier, for no one wants to be the first to quit. But now, one after another of them, seeing that others is going strong while they themselves are winded and like to drop, these ones give it up and commence to making bets amongst themselves.

After a quarter of an hour, it is down to me, one of the spotty faces, and four of our regular customers, strong dancers who have won whiskey prizes back of this. With only five still on the floor, I can hear the music again and the tune slides from “Old Joe Clark” to ‘Roasted Rabbit’ and the crowd sends up a laugh and they all sing together, ‘If you want some roasted rabbit, You can go upstairs and have it . . .’ and I feel my face go bright red and I dance for all I’m worth.

And the music grabs me and it seems that my legs ain’t my own and the floor is rising and falling beneath my feet – that I am a limberjack, powered by something outside myself. And my legs rise and fall and rise and fall and I smile and smile and smile the painted smile of the limberjack.

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