Have a little faith!

Reprinted from February 2012. This one seemed appropriate to me, all over again. Hope you enjoy it, too.

It’s garden time again in Texas.   We’ve already planted cool-loving potatoes and onions, spinach, carrots, lettuce and radishes in the soil.   The more sensitive herbs, the tomatoes and peppers and watermelons that want to be coddled in warmth until all danger of frost has passed, are just breaking ground in their little pots, safely tucked away in the $20 greenhouse.

Plant too early and you may lose the crop to a freeze.  Too late and you limit or lose the growing season.   And that is  just one of the many hurdles Mother Nature keeps in her play book to challenge those who dare play the game.  Farming is one part sweat and sore muscles, one part strategy, one part planning and ten parts faith.

If you’ve never planted those seeds with a deep dependence on the harvest, it’s a miracle you might take for granted.  (We all know where tomatoes really come from right?  The grocery store.)  But if you have, it’s difficult to do the work and not be awed by the process and respectful of the limited role we play, which in all our might as modern farmers is truly very small.

I stand in a field of carefully prepared rows.   We have tested the soil for appropriate nutrients and made supplemental changes to raise the pH and add calcium and magnesium to match the scientifically determined targets.  We’ve planned for crop rotation and plant compatibility (did you even know that beans and tomatoes don’t get along?  Or that borage not only draws bees in to pollinate the plants, but also repels tomato worms?).  We’ve put in the sweat and the planning, not to mention the cash.  Consulted the calendar and watched the weather reports.  And then we cover those little seeds with dirt and stand there looking at our bare ground.

We have every expectation from prior experience that something will grow, no matter that we can scarcely explain the microscopic physical and chemical processes that must occur and we have absolutely no control over the macro-environment.

That’s experience.

We cross our fingers that the weather will cooperate and bring rain as needed, cool temperatures for the right periods of time, warmth when the plants call for it, not too much heat and no hail storms.

That’s hope.

And then we make dinners from the last of last-year’s harvest to make room for the new.  As the cupboards become more and more bare, we pay dues at the Farmer’s Market and spend more than we ought on the new water-saving drip irrigation and build a website promising customers fresh veggies in the spring.  We act on our convictions and stake our livelihood and our reputations on a crop that does not yet exist.

And that’s faith.


“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1, KJV).


Summer Leftovers

We’ve had a great summer break here on the knoll (that’s a ‘hill’ to most Texans).   Now. just as the weather begins to cool a bit, it’s time to get back out to the garden and take care of fall chores.

Even though our summer CSA ended at the end of July, the garden has continued to produce on a smaller scale.   The heat-loving crops that were so very slow to start last spring finally got going.  Better late than never, right?

Melons and okra were both particularly slow getting started across East Texas.  Everyone was a little disappointed not to find their favorite summer treats ready for the 4th of July picnics, but I have to say you are missing a treat if you don’t take advantage of these fall bonanzas!   Get yourself down to the Farmer’s Market and find some on Saturday!

I pickle some of the okra (the littlest ones) and dry others for chips.

What’s that?  You haven’t tried okra chips, you say?  Maybe we will bring some for sharing to the Fall Festival at Athens Organic.  That’s October 24, so you might want to pencil that in to your calendar.  <hint> <hint>.

Herbs, of course, love summer!

Hidden among the weeds are some nice stands just perfect for harvest; basil, mints, sage, oregano, lemon grass, ginger, and lemon balm,   Not to mention some of the natives like blackberry (root) and Sassafras leaves (gumbo file).   We’ll make some of the basil and mint into pesto.  Whatever survives fresh eating will be frozen in ice-cube trays to use later.  Other herbs will be dried to use as spices and teas.

Ginger is one of the best to keep around.  It’s one of the healthiest herbs out there!    We add fresh ginger juice to a hot lemonade/raw honey/ginger tea to soothe (or prevent) colds and flu. (Disclaimer:  I’m a gardener, not a doc.  Just sayin’.)

Of course, since we work hard at finding and developing heirloom varieties that grow well in our sandy East Texas soil, we also save a lot of seed for next year’s garden. It assures us of a good source of seed and contributes to preserving this genetic resource for the future.

Seed saving isn’t the most picturesque of our chores.  Plants gone to seed blend in well with the weeds that got away from us somewhere along the way.

summer weeds

How to resolve this?   Most of the area (except for the smaller winter garden area) will be mowed, tilled and planted in a winter cover crop of elbon rye (prevents erosion, helps control root-knot nematodes and provides for lots of nice organic nitrogen in the spring.)

Then we’ll get busy on our winter projects.  A new composting area, planting of fruit and pecan trees, removal of invasive trees, fencing….    I’ll keep you up to date on those as they come about.

In the meantime, would you like to have coffee and talk garden?   I’ll be at the Athens Organic coffee shop (Hwy 31 E of Athens) about 9:00 AM for the next few Tuesday mornings.   We could plan winter gardens or seed-starting schedules for spring.  You bring your seed catalogs and I’ll bring mine.

Market on the 4th!

And what better way to start the celebration than by meeting friends at the market!


We’ll have lots of blueberries and wild blackberries in the morning!

A few of the great heirloom tomatoes – Cherokee Purple and Black Krim.   Cherry tomatoes – Ildi (a little yellow burst of sweet) and my favorite – Texas Wild tomatoes.  

The Texas Wild is a ‘currant’ type tomato and is the only one I know of growing naturally in Texas.  The size is small – but the flavor is Texas size!

Peppers:  Pasillo Bajio (the traditional pepper for mole), Cayenne, Pepperoncino

Herbs: Sweet Basil, Peppermint, spearmint, sage, lemon balm and lemon grass.  

Potted herbs:  Lemon Balm and Calendula

Hope we see you there!

Tomato Time!

We can’t be at the market every week, as much as we miss seeing you all.


Black Krim and Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes.
Black Krim and Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes.

You’ll find our heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee and Black Krim)  for sale out at Athens Organic Supply – just about a mile outside the loop on Hwy 31 toward Tyler.   BLUEBERRIES, too!

Hope you’ll stop and get some!  And we’ll see you next week (a special July 4 First Monday) at the market!

Silver Linings……

Just want you to know there are silver linings behind all those rain clouds we had for so long.

bull nettle

One might be that really difficult ‘weeds’ like bull-nettle are much easier to dig out when the ground is so soft.

Not easy, mind you.  Just easier.

We had to dig this one now because sweet potatoes are waiting to be planted right there.

Another plus would be the pretty Cherokee Purple tomatoes in the background.  They have such a great set of fruit this year, thanks, in part, to the cooler weather.  They are not quite ready for market yet, but getting close.  By next First Monday weekend, we’ll have plenty of heirloom tomatoes for you.

We won’t wait that long to see you again, though.  We’ll be at market this weekend, too!

Lots of good heirlooms are already ready!    By Friday,  we should be able to drive past the mud-holes and down to the garden to pick up harvest.

This weekend, we’ll have new potatoes – Purple Majesty, Mountain Rose and Fingerling potatoes.  Quite the treat for the eyes as well as the palate.  Purple Majesty, in particular, has the highest level (among potatoes) of chemicals called anthocyanins – the anti-oxidants that help our bodies repair damage from sun and stress.

We’ll have Texas sweet, white bermuda, and sweet red onions as well as some red scallions.  We’ll harvest a few of the smaller garlics, too.

Rat-tail radish will be back this week!  This is the aerial radish we introduced last year.  We eat the seed-pod rather than the root.  They have the bite and crispness of a radish in a finger-friendly package.   We’ll have some for sampling, as well as some kohlrabi.   This will be our last week to offer kohlrabi until fall.  Hope you won’t miss the chance to try it.

We’ll have New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard, a small amount of Scarlet, Dutch Blue and Lacinato kale.   Some huge, beautiful Frisee endive.

Plenty of fresh herbs:  oregano, thyme, peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, dill, sage, and cilantro.

Hope we get to see you there!



Still paddling….

Anyone up for a slide show?  We can look at what’s working in the garden and forget our troubles for a little while.

This is some of what has made it through the spring so far.

I haven’t taken any pictures of washes that reappear or grow with each rain, or the weeds that are certainly outgrowing the corn.

But sometimes, it’s good to just count our blessings.

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We’ll be at Farmer’s Market this weekend with some of this.    Come try a kohlrabi and learn how to make kale chips.

We’ll be in the parking lot at First State Bank off the square in Athens because the carnival for Old Fiddler’s Reunion will have our usual site.  Look for Henrietta!  If the weather breaks, she’ll come out to join the fun.  🙂

Curious about Kohlrabi

That weird looking vegetable in your CSA box and at the market stand.  The one that looks like an alien spaceship.  Or maybe the vegetable version of an octopus.  You know.  The one that is too strange to take a chance on……


It’s kohlrabi.

And not trying it would be a mistake, because kohlrabi has made the superfood list for it’s combination of super nutrition (it may help lower blood pressure and support healthy hearts) and great flavor.  You can delve into the details of nutrition by clicking HERE.

You may have received either Green or Purple kohlrabi and they are just the same – once they are peeled, that is.  We plant both in our garden because green kohlrabi tends to be ready for harvest about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the purple.  Planting both extends the season for one of our favorite veggies.

Part of the cabbage family, it has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that complements almost any meal or stands on its own as a snack food.

As you would with a root vegetable, the first step to prepare or store your kohl is to remove the leaf stems.  They will break off easily at their base.  Clean and save them as you would kale or collard greens.  They can be used exactly the same way and have a pleasant flavor somewhat reminiscent of broccoli.

If you want to store the kohlrabi for a while, it will keep on a counter top for 3-5 days or in the crisper section of your refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

To use, you’ll want to peel off the outer tough skin with a paring knife or potato peeler.  The white, tender, inner portion can be cut into matchsticks for snacking or shredded and used raw in salads or coleslaw. You’ll find some great pictures if you click HERE.

You might also slice it thinly to add to a stir-fry or cube it and add to soups or stews.  As with all things, a quick internet search for recipes will most definitely bring you a variety of ideas.

I do hope you’ll give this super-vegetable a try.  It isn’t just healthy.  It’s really good eating!

Market Again!!

The garden is finally beginning to produce a little bigger quantity, so we’ll be making an extra market this month!

May 15 garden

Look for just a few New Potatoes to go with the fresh Dragon Tongue beans or French beans.   Some of the last Lettuce of the spring season that are still sweet and fresh.  Spring Onions – reds, whites and texas sweets along with some pretty red scallions.

We’ll have Kohlrabi – purple and green, Scarlet and Dutch Blue Curly Kale – still tender and sweet.  A new (to us) kale called “Tronchuda” has a large flat leaf that is perfect for sandwich wraps or ‘cabbage’ rolls. And Swiss Chard, of course.

I’ll bring some bunches of cilantro, parsley, oregano and peppermint, chocolate mint and spearmint.

And I’ll have a couple more of the Thai Roselle plants for your own garden.  This is a member of the hibiscus family which produces a flower calyx that is used for a healthy herbal tea.  You can find more information about that by clicking HERE.

As always, there isn’t a lot of any given thing.  Come early for best selection.  I know it must sound like a really trite sales pitch when I say that – but really….

Hope to see you there!

Dragon Tongue Beans

Heirloom veggies generally spark questions with their intriguing shapes and colors.  This week, for example, our CSA customers will receive a beautiful and different ‘green’ bean with the outstanding flavor heirlooms are renowned for.

If you aren’t a CSA customer, but live in the Athens area, you can order some fresh-picked from our Farm Store (just click on the link at the top of the page.)  We’ll harvest them just for you and deliver them to a local store for your pickup.  Check it out!

Dragon Tongue Beans

Called Dragon Tongue Bush Beans (or Dragon Tongue Langerie), these beans have flat, edible pods and a creamy white base color with variegated stripes of dark purple.   One of our favorites for garden-grazing as we harvest. (There are perks to gardening!)

As with most heirlooms, you don’t need to feel obligated to find some fancy recipe for them. Just use your own favorite green bean recipe.  They will make your dish something extra special.  In fact, we had these for dinner last night, cooked gently with fresh new potatoes and flavored with spring onions and green garlic.  Really good, I must say, although they lose the beautiful colors when you cook them.

If you want to try something new to showcase the fresh, crisp flavor, feel free to add them to a raw veggie platter along with the carrot sticks and red peppers or simply snap them into short, happy pieces and toss them into a favorite salad.  I’m thinking they would make excellent refrigerator pickles, as well.

I found several great sounding recipes on the Gardenerd website you might want to check out  (Just click HERE.). I’ll be trying the Summer Bean Salad in the next few days.

We often provide recipes for CSA and market customers and we label most of the veggies just so you will have the right words to do a quick internet search for more information and recipes.

If you find – or create – an especially good method for fixing any of our fresh veggies, we hope you’ll share the tips!  We’d love to try it your way!

But the most important thing is not to avoid those unique and different heirlooms.  You’d miss out on so much great eating!

All Clear at Gopher Knoll

Our sincere thanks to everyone for your concern about the garden (and us) after last night’s storm.   I’m not sure if that was a record setting downpour, but we’ve certainly never seen one quite like it.

rain gauge.

I understand we had just over 10″ locally.  Can’t tell for sure, since our 5″ rain gauge topped out somewhere along the way.

Bunny fence

We will be moving a lot of dirt from where it landed at the bottom of the garden back to the top.

Rain damage May 2015

The cucumbers will be grateful.  They’re hanging on to what’s left for dear life right now.

If we dry out just a bit today (hopefully the next rain will hold off until tomorrow evening, at least, we are expecting to have CSA boxes filled and delivered on time in the morning.   Will let you know if that needs to change.

Our thoughts and prayers for all who have been hurt and are dealing with real damage from this.  Especially neighbors in the Van area.  Y’all stay safe.  And dry.

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