Monday, July 23, 2012


Eggplant is a cold-sensitive vegetable that requires a long warm season for best yields. The culture of eggplant is similar to that of bell pepper, with transplants being set in the garden after all danger of frost is past. Eggplants are slightly larger plants than peppers and are spaced slightly farther apart. Eggplant requires careful attention for a good harvest. Small-fruited, exotic-colored and ornamental varieties can be grown in containers and used for decorations. 

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Eggplants have a small amount of nutrients. They are naturally low in calories and unpeeled, they provide some fiber. There is also some folate and potassium.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked, cubed )
Calories 27.7
Protein .82 gram
Carbohydrates 6.57 grams
Dietary Fiber 2.48 grams
Phosphorus 21.78 mg
Potassium 245.52 mg
Folate 14.26 mcg
(Univ. Ill. Coop. Ext.)

My favorite meal to make with eggplant is Eggplant Parmesan, although there are many other recipes:  baba ganoush, ratatouille, frying it, baking it or grilling it.  Don't be intimidated by eggplant pick on out and follow my easy recipe below!

2-4 Ichiban (or other variety) Eggplant
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup italian seasoned  breadcrumbs
1 jar marinara sauce
1 8oz pkg mozzarella or italian blend cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350deg
2.  One slice at a time, dip eggplant into egg, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs.  Place coated eggplant slices on a baking stone or baking sheet.  Repeat until all eggplant has been coated.
3.  Place pan of coated eggplant in oven for ~15 min.
4.  Remove from oven.  In a 9x13 baking dish, layer eggplant, marinara sauce and cheese.  Continue layering  to the top of the pan.  Top with cheese.  Cover with aluminium foil.
5.  Bake 25 min.  Uncover, bake 5min more.

This recipe is great on it's own, served over whole wheat pasta or thick sliced Italian garlic bread.  Pour a glass of your favorite wine and bon appetit!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Garden Diary

One of the purposes of having our blog this time of the year is to help us chronicle our garden.  It has seemed that the past two years, in between gardening seasons, we forget what we had planted, how much, when it started producing, how much we processed and the recipes we used.  

And so, today I am chronicling our garden from the past week.

6/17 - picked 1/2 gallon snow peas, cooked for dinner in a skillet with orange zest & 2 tbsp fresh orange juice and 2 tbsp fresh ginger.

6/22 - picket 2 head of cabbage.  Tried a new recipe from Better Homes, sweet and sour cabbage, I highly recommend it.  

6/23 - picked 1 head of broccoli, 9 jalapeno peppers and transparent apples.  The jalapeno peppers we remove seed stuff with a mix of cream cheese, bacon, garlic, onions and cheddar cheese, then grill until cooked through.  YUM!  The transparent apples are best used for applesauce, "fried" apples, or apple pie filling. But first the have to rest for several days to completely ripen.

6/24 - picked 1 head broccoli and 1 head of cabbage to give away.

6/25 - picked 1 gallon snow peas and 11 heads of broccoli (see picture above).  Blanched and vacuum sealed to freeze.  Processed 5 bags (about 2 cups each) snow peas and 12 bags of broccoli.

The garden, as you can tell, is coming into harvest.  Our second planting of snow peas will be ready by this weekend.  What is not included in above is our Raspberry picking.  Roughly every other night we are picking 1-2 quarts of raspberries.  Some are small, but most are the about the size of my thumb and sweet!  With any berries that we pick, we wash, lay them out on cookie sheets in the freezer then place them in freezer zip-lock bags (quart size).  By freezing them first on the cookie sheet it prevents the berries from squishing each other during the freezing and having an overabundance of frozen juice in the bottom of the bag.

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Garden Diary

Enjoy some more pictures from our garden.  Yesterday (6/22) we were able to pick some cabbage, more raspberries, but then we strung green beans (probably my least favorite job in the garden).  I planted more flowers from seed, hoping that they will do better than the last flowers I planted.  I love having fresh cut flowers this time of the year.  

On the docket for today, Travis mowing the lawn, picking apples, picking broccoli, making a visit to the farmers market, sewing more lettuce seeds, spraying weed killer, smoking a pork shoulder for dinner and then actual work like laundry.

Enjoy the pictures! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garden Diary

One of the best parts about this time of the year is what little time we spend inside.  No matter what we're doing, we just enjoy being outdoors.  I realized recently that Travis and I spend more "quality" time together late Spring through Summer than we do any other time of the year.  We work as a team, gardening and processing, trying to produce some of what we consume. 

Since the last post on June 3rd the garden has hit several growth spurts.  Plus we planted another 4 rows of corn, roughly 3 weeks later so that we have corn late into the summer!  We've picked our first snap peas with broccoli and cabbage not far behind.  Tomatoes are coming along nicely, some of the most beautiful plants we've ever had, thanks to Travis' experiments.  Beets and Carrots won't be ready for awhile, but the beet greens taste awfully good!

In the past two weeks Travis has been working to get the automated irrigation system up and running, we made the finishing touches this week by laying the drip tape.  Each row of our garden can be watered separately if necessary, but more impressively, just the plants are being watered, not the weeds or in between rows.  Getting the irrigation finished was just in time for the first day of summer along with hot dry conditions.  Our peas have already thanked us by looking much perkier than before.  All the squash and zucchini are growing well and we now have a leaning cow panel for our cucumbers to climb.

In the up coming weeks/weekends to-do list is stringing the green beans, they are roughly 3" out of the ground and need stringing up so they have something to climb and keep them organized.  Weeding is an ongoing process as well as picking raspberries.  We are up to about 2 gallons of raspberries picked, easily, and that's just the start of it.  It is time to sew new lettuce seeds and hope that the slug bait will keep away those slimy buggers. 

There is always something going on at the Birdsell residence and although some days are long, gardening keeps us happy and healthy.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Our "Semi" Sustainable Oasis

This time of year there is one thing that Travis and I spend the most of our time on and that is gardening.  I guess you could say we strive to create a "semi" sustainable oasis.  Considering how little time we've actually been here and how early in the growing season it is, we are well on our way.  Typically, planting of any kind does not happen until after May 16th, our last frost free date, but this year has been different because of the mild winter we've had.

So today I will be chronicling the work we've done in are garden up to yesterday (6/2/12) and hope to try and keep all who read this blog up to date on our sustainable living adventures.

3/15 - Sprayed garden spot with Round up

3/21 - Plowed garden

4/12 - Tilled the garden for the 1st time.  After the grass has died, the ground has been plowed and rocks     have been removed the land needs time to "breath" before tilling the soil.

4/18 - Spread 18-46-0 fertilizer and gypsum on the garden

4/29 - Tilled the garden for the 2nd time, picked up rocks.
           Planted:  Row 2 - Red Candy Apple Onions
                         Row 3 - Farao Cabbage, Super Red Cabbage, Amadaeus Broccoli 
                         Row 4 - Farao Cabbage, Sugar Ann Snap Pea (56 days to mature) 225 seeds in 1 row

5/1 - Sprayed Fennel (in planters in the front of the house) for Aphids
                         Row 5 - Sugar Snap Peas (70 days to mature)
                         Row 1 - Walla Walla Garlic (1 bulb = 10 cloves)
                         Row 6 - Forono Beets (60 days), Golden Detroit Beets (53 Days), Hybrid Harrier Beets                             (50 Days), Tender Sweet Carrots (75 Days), Atomic Red Carrots (70 Days)

5/6 -                 Row 1 - Larksper, Zinnia "Zahara Starlight Rose", Zinnia "Super Giant Blend", Batchelor                                      Buttons "Fireworks Blend"
                        Row 7 - Golden California Wonder Yellow Pepper (4), Green Bell Pepper (4), Red Bell                                      Pepper (4), Ichiban Eggplant (8), Packman Broccoli (8)
                        Row 8 - Yellow Bell pepper (1), Sweet Banana Pepper (12), Jalapeno Pepper (6), Chili                                      Pepper (6)
                        Row 9 - Brandywine Tomato (2), Marglobe Tomato (8), San Marzano tomato (12)
                        Row 10 - Large Red Cherry Tomato (6), San Marzano Tomato (10)

5/28 - Weeded cut rows, put up cattle panels to hold up tomatoes, tied up sugar snap peas, put up post and           wire for green beans
                        Row 11 -  Foretex Beans
                        Row 12 through 15 - Gotta Have It Corn
          Also on 5/28 we tilled and planted a lower garden, all of which are our vining plants.  Everything in this garden was planted in hills and so after we hoed up the hills we covered them in black plastic to keep the weeds down and the plants warm.

                        Row 1 - first 5 spaces Hybrid Sweet success cucumbers (54 days)
                                      spaces 6 & 7 Armenian slicing cucumbers (64 days)
                                      spaces 8, 9 & 10 mango melon (80-90 days)
                                      hill 1 & 2 Costata Romanesca Zucchini, hill 3 Thelma Sanders sweet potato Acorn
                                      hill 4 empty, hill 5 Goddess Hybrid melon (68 days), hill 6 butternut squash, 
                                      hill 7 Argenot winter squash (140 days)       
                        Row 2 - hill 1 & 2 Table queen acorn squash (87 days), hills 3, 4 & 5 summer squash
                                      hill 6 Costata Romanesca Zucchini, hill 7 Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Acorn
                                      hill 8 empty, hill 9 Goddess Hybrid melon, hill 10 butternut squash
                                      hill 11 Argenot winter squash

5/31 - In lower garden planted sweet potatoes in row 3

Our view from the "upper garden"
The lower garden 

6/2 - Trellised Raspberries, built by Travis.  In addition we weeded raspberries

6/3 - Today we tilled the aisles in the garden for weed control.  We had a tomato plant die and some extra space at the end of Row 9 & 10 (tomatoes) and so we planted 8 Okra plants.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog!  We hope you'll enjoy watching our garden grow.  As time goes on and we begin harvesting the produce we will post about our canning and preserving process.  Stay tuned for more information and pictures on our raspberries. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Merlefest occurs every year on the last weekend in April.  In fact, for the past 25 years people from all over have gathered on the campus of Wilkes Community College to celebrate the local and global sounds of bluegrass.  In fact it is really bluegrass, traditional and beyond, as they call it, mostly because there is a wide variety of sounds.  From Doc Watson and friends playing the traditional sounds of bluegrass to the Punch Brothers who weave sounds from  every genre from classical training, celtic, newgrass and of course traditional bluegrass.  I don't want to forget the incredible sam bush and The Tedeschi Truck Band.

Every year at Merlefest there is Hillside Album hour, where The Waybacks choose a classic album to play start to finish at the stage called Hillside (1 of 12 stages).  This year The Waybacks played Jimmie Hendrix "Are You Experienced", joined by Susan Tedeschi, Jim Lauderdale and Sam Bush.  It was incredible.

The photo below shows the Punch Brothers playing before the Tedeschi Truck Band.  The Punch Brothers may be a new favorite of mine.  I highly recommend looking up their music.

To see what other great bands played at Merlefest visit the link below.  We look forward to next year and thank my co-worker Karenelle for letting us volunteer at her booth!

Merlefest Stage Schedule

Friday, April 20, 2012


What makes a Friday evening better, after a long week at work, than being able to sit in the sunshine on the front porch.  Add to that the dogs lounging in the yard, some chill music, a glass of wine and the slightly abscure view of "the mountain".  Before relaxing, I carefully walk around the house and yard to see what new blooms have unwrapped during the day while I was gone.  It is amazing how much plants can change in just a day, 12 hours really, of sunlight.  I see new blooms on the Spanish bluebells by the driveway, the last tulip has slowly faded away, but several new azalea blooms have appeared.  The hostas grow bigger everyday, almost like I can see them doubling in size and I am anticipating the hydrangea blooms, but for them I will have to wait patiently. 

I walk out into our "field"  to inspect the fruit trees, now pollinated and working as hard as they can to produce fruit.  I didn't think we would have peaches because of the early bloom and frost we've had, but they are still trying as hard as can be to grow, who knows maybe we will have a few.  If every bloom on the apple tree, turns into an apples this year I think we could supply a small army.  Even our apple trees in their  infancy have bloomed well. 

I make my way back to the front porch.  I feel pride seeing the planter boxes lining the front of the house, Travis and I build them last sunday, filled with dirt planted with Gerbera Daisy's and lettuce.  With plenty of room left in the boxes, it will probably be filled with other herbs such as Basil, Lavash (has the taste of celery), Cilantry, Rosemary...maybe some others...then again maybe some more flowers.  In another month it will be time to plant our garden which begains another new year of growing and preserving.  Definite posts about that will be to come.