I've decided to branch out again and share another hobby in my life that brings me great joy: gardening. I'm also going to share with you the cooking side of it, but, to be honest, that part doesn't thrill me as much. Paula Deen, I am not.
If you've been a regular reader of this blog since the old days then you know that back when Jerry and I were pining away, listening to Lightness 100 times a day, and declaring our love for each other, the garden was a symbol of our relationship. For one, we both had dreams of working in a garden together in some alternate universe where we were able to freely love each other. In addition, we both felt a deep connection to this poem by Ranier Maria Rilke which beautifully summed up our feelings at the time:
“You, Beloved, who are all the gardens I have ever gazed at, longing.
An open window in a country house-- , and you almost stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,-- you had just walked down them and vanished.And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors were still dizzy with your presence
and, startled, gave back my too-sudden image.
Who knows? Perhaps the same bird echoed through both of usyesterday, separate, in the evening...”
Anyway, enough of the mushy stuff, the point is we've wanted a garden for awhile now. Unfortunately, the first year we were together we lived in an apartment, so a garden was out. Last year around this time, we managed to get ourselves a house, but moved in too late in the season to start a garden. This year, though, we were ready. In fact, we started prepping for the garden almost a year ago.
Back in the Fall, Jerry laid out some broken down cardboard boxes over the spot we picked out for our future garden. Luckily, we had plenty of boxes due to our move and acquisition of new things for the house. The boxes served 2 purposes: to kill the grass underneath them and to be the first ingredient in our compost pile. We made sure to pick out a spot that got a full day's sun and was in close proximity to a water hose. Once the leaves started to fall, Jerry raked them out of the yard and onto the cardboard boxes. Also, whenever he would clean the chicken pen out, he would scatter the chicken poop onto the cardboard and leaves.
Over the next several months, the forces of nature disintegrated the cardboard. When Spring came, Jerry rented a rotary tiller to break up the composted soil and then he used a shovel to dig out the rows. I came out to do the really hard work of dropping the seeds in the holes. We planted 2 rows of squash, a row of red potatoes, a few beets, a row of Sunflowers, 2 rows of cucumbers, 2 rows of sweet corn, and 2 rows of pole beans (1 string, 1 lima). In addition, we planted some onions and tomatoes in the flower beds around the house. This is what the garden looked like when we were done:
It looks so small and unimpressive to have been so much work.
Tiny Bean Sprout
Silver Queen Corn
We continued to water the garden daily, and Jerry put out some time released fertilizer pellets and kept the weeds under control. The sprouts soon became full-fledged plants.
My little helper likes to run through the water. Also, I had no idea my ass was that fat and dimply. Ugh!
About 2 months later, the squash, cucumbers, potatoes, and beans started producing.
Our babies weren't babies anymore.
Jerry used sticks he found in the yard for the bean poles.
Squash, Potatoes, and Cucumbers, Oh My!
This cucumber vine reached all the way into the yard.
This past Friday night, Jerry and I enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of our labor. As soon as we got home from work, we went out into the garden and started picking items for our dinner. I prepared the vegetables while Jerry grilled steaks.
I'm going to share with you how I prepared the veggies, but I will warn you, I'm no foodie. It felt really weird to snap pictures of my food as I cooked, because I NEVER thought I would be doing a post on cooking. However, I thought it would be fun to share the Southern way to cook that my mama taught me, because it will probably be very foreign (and scary) to a lot of you.
Straight from the Garden and Ready to be Washed
I washed everything and then snapped the beans and put them in a pot of water with the potatoes. I snapped the ends off the beans and then snapped them in half. I left the skin on the potatoes.
While I waited for the water to come to a boil, I started on the key ingredient in any good Southern meal - grease.
Bacon makes everything better.
Once the bacon was done, I added a few pieces of it along with some of the grease to the beans and potatoes. I also added some salt and pepper. Once the water came to a boil, I turned the heat down and let the pot simmer with a lid on it for about 40 minutes.
This is the way we do it in the South.
Next, I got started on the squash. I cut them in small circular pieces on the cutting board. I also chopped up a couple of small onions Jerry pulled up in the yard.
I added the squash and onions to the rest of the bacon and grease in the skillet. I also added a cup of water and seasoned it all with salt and pepper. I let it simmer with a lid on it for about 30 minutes.
Squash cooked like this are my favorite. Taste like candy.
Last but not least, I cut up the cucumbers and put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar, adding a little bit of salt and pepper. Many people, even ones from the South, are not a fan of eating cucumbers this way, but I grew up on this stuff. So good! My daughter loves them like this too.
With all the hard work done, all that was left were the finishing touches, bread and steak.
From the Garden to the Table - Southern Style
Well, there you have it. Another side of me you haven't seen before. Don't worry, I'm not going to become one of these bloggers that takes pictures of my food every time I eat. We will resume with your regularly scheduled program tomorrow.