Small Scale Gardening

Small scale gardening

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English offers the following definition for patch farming:

1972 Graham County 50 With the first stages of early clearing, the farmer did "patch" farming near the cabin. Many farmers today still speak of a "patch" of corn or other crops. The farmer gradually and systematically extended the patches into wider fields by each year extending his farming into a new area known as a "new ground."

Back in the day when I first started gardening I read all sorts of books and magazines on the subject. I was fascinated by the articles which showed how much food could be produced in small raised beds. Typically the gardens profiled were in urban settings where there is less square footage to go around for gardening purposes. 

In those days, we had even less flat land around our house than we do now so I thought my narrow little bank tops would be perfect for raised beds. I remember telling Pap about what I had been reading and he got this smile on his face. I said "What?" He said "Why Tip people around here have been growing gardens like that since I was a boy, only nobody called them raised beds. But every wife would have her a little garden patch right close to the house where it'd be handy for her to tend it and for them to eat from it too." 

Then Pap showed me, you don't have to break the bank to build those little garden patches aka raised beds.

We found some 2-to 3 foot length tree branches The Deer Hunter had cut and thrown in the woods and used them for the sides. Pap showed me how to fill the bottom portion of the new patch with leaves and then dig a few buckets full of dark loamy soil from the edge of the woods to put on top. 

In the years since Pap first showed me how to form little garden patches I've made them all over the yard-one here and one there gradually increasing their size and building up the soil all at the same time.

I've used all sorts of boards, logs, branches, and rocks to form the sides. Basically I used anything I could find that was handy. And I've discovered: if you're able to fill the patch with 12 inches of good lose dark rich soil like the gardening books tell you to-GREAT. But if you're like me and you're really doing good to end up with 3 or 4 inches of so so soil it still works better than trying to grow vegetables on top of hard packed dirt. And if you're short on gardening space those little patches here and there and can boost your vegetable production in an amazing way.

Remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

 *Source Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English and Pap.

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Planting by the Signs Calendar - March 2017

March 2017 Planting Calendar

Who can believe the crazy weather we've been having! In the 70s one day and the next day a hard frost with a temp of a chilly 23 degrees. My plum tree was in full bloom before the hard frost on Sunday morning...not much left of the blooms now just some mushy brown things. 

Seems like everywhere I go I hear folks saying we're going to pay for the warmest February ever with a cold and snowy March. I even heard one person mention the blizzard word for March's forecast. I guess only time will tell what the weather will actually bring us. 

My Sow True Seed Kale from last fall is still hanging on and I have a few onions that overwintered that are nice and pretty. I want to plant some radishes and lettuce this month and of course the tomato seedlings still need to be started as well. 

My favorite sign to plant under is Cancer, but if it doesn't work out to where I can plant under Cancer, I aim for Scorpio, Pisces, or Taurus.  

  • Taurus: good for all root crops and above ground crops

  • Cancer: best for planting above ground and root crops

  • Scorpio: best for flowers and above ground crops

  • Pisces: Good for planting and transplanting above ground crops, trees and shrubbery

Remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


p.s. Tomorrow - Thursday March 2, 2017 6:30 p.m. Don Casada will be presenting a history of the Bryson City Cemetery and stories of some of those who are buried there. Many of these people as well as the cemetery itself have played a significant role in the history and development of WNC. Info about the preservation and maintenance of the cemetery by Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery will also be included—Swain County Business Education Center 45 East Ridge Drive, Bryson City 28713 Conversation and Refreshments Following. All are welcome—No admission charge

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Sow True Seed Sponsors Blind Pig and The Acorn's 2017 Garden In A Even Bigger Way!

Sow True Seed Sponsors the Blind Pig and the Acorn Garden

Sow True Seed has once again signed on to sponsor the Blind Pig and The Acorn garden as well as the Blind Pig & The Acorn Reporters @ Large planting project for the growing season of 2017.

This year Sow True Seed has added a new element for their sponsorship-something that will directly help me. 

I have become an affiliate of Sow True Seed. What does that mean? That means that if you go through me to get your Sow True Seeds I get 5% of the money you spend. The money I earn will go to pay for the Blind Pig and The Acorn website. I know many of you have purchased your seeds from Sow True Seed in the past, when you purchase them in the future please go through my link. Then it will be a win-win for all of us. Sow True Seed can do the important work of ensuring open-pollinated and heirloom seeds continue to exist, I get a small bit of financial help to continue my endeavor of celebrating and preserving Appalachia, and you get to grow some great plants and harvest some of the tastiest veggies and fruits ever!

Now let me tell you a little bit about this amazing company. 

Sow True Seed is located in Asheville NC, they have a great website for those of you who live to far away to visit, and their seeds can also be found in racks all over the place. (go to this page to see the rack locations)

The company has a large selection of heirloom seeds and they strive to find varieties that do well in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

With an eye on the future, Sow True Seed has taken a stand to help ensure the purity of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds so future generations can continue to grow their favorite veggies, save their seed from year to year, and continue the circle of growing that our ancestors handed down to us.

Sow True Seed has an impressive selection of vegetable, flower, herb, and cover crop seeds.

  • They offer open-pollinated, non hybrid, and untreated seed-meaning you can save your seed from year to year with each new plant's yield staying true to the original yield.
  • Much of their seed production is USDA Certified Organic-and they're striving to increase their organic varieties each year.
  • Heirloom seeds-which are always open pollinated-make up most of Sow True Seed's inventory.

Sow True Seed also offers programs such as:

In addition you can get seed garlic, sweet potato slips, seed potatoes, garden collections, hand tools, tee shirts, gift certificates, and a variety of how to/gardening books from Sow True Seed.

Jump over to their website and while you're there sign up for Sow True Seed's great newsletter which is always a pleasure to read with helpful tips and gardening info. The newsletter is FREE. Be sure to check out the Sow True Seed Blog too!

Be on the look out for more information about the Blind Pig & the Acorn Reporters @ Large Planting Project in the coming days-this year's trial hasn't been decided yet, but I know it will be something great. Oh and remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on any link in this post that reads Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


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Memories and Food

Memories connected to food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.

A few years ago I shared my thoughts about memories which are connected to food you put up yourself. Here's a portion of that old post:

"Recently I watched the rain come down in sheets while I ate apples I dried back in the fall. As I munched my tasty apples, I realized there's another reason why things we put up are good. 

On a yucky dreary day my dried apples gave me sunshine; a slice of crystal clear Georgia sky; and the sounds of 4-wheelers and giggling girls. In other words my apples gave me a swirl of good memories from the day I dried them.

I've long realized we have memories and emotions tied to certain foods-like how we can taste a certain food and instantly be taken back to childhood. But I've never before thought of food in connection to the actual day it was made.

I'm positive the next jar of tomatoes I open I'll smell the hot summer sun shining on the green leaves and the next time I cook a jar of greenbeans for supper I'll think of the early summer days when we planted them together in Pap's big garden with friendly banter back and forth among us all."

I've kept pondering on the idea of food I put up being tied to the memory of the day I put it up.

I couldn't seem to care about none of my growing things after Pap died. But last fall as The Deer Hunter and I harvested the largest crop of apples we've ever grown I felt hopeful. Hopeful that all those apples would make some delicious applesauce for us, hopeful that I would dry apples from them for snacks and for a Christmas apple stack cake, hopeful because I knew Pap would be so proud of those apples.

So in some weird, maybe even silly way my canned applesauce became wrapped up in my grieving process for Pap. Now each jar I open reminds me of the hope and sunshine that came after the greatest rain of my life. 


p.s. Mark Davidson will be speaking in Bryson City, NC this Thursday night at 6:30 for the monthly meeting of the Swain County Genealogy and Historical Society. The meeting will be held at the Swain County Business Education and Training Center. If you live close enough, go out and hear him-I know you'll be glad you did!

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My Fall Garden

Calendula flowers growing in western nc

Chatter's Calendula flowers are still blooming strong. Hard to believe anything is growing let alone blooming in this terrible dry weather we've been having. The cows walking across the pasture down the road are sending up dust clouds. With forest fires going all around we desperately need rain. 

Sow true seed turnips

My Sow True Seed Turnips are doing really good-again I'm surprised how good in spite of the drought. 

Sow true seed kale

The first kale I planted never showed one little green leaf. Since the turnips were doing so well in the backyard I re-planted my kale back there in a raised bed. The plants aren't exactly thriving, but at least they did come up. I've been trying to water the kale at least once a week. I think a cold spell and some rain would help it really take off. 

Heirloom plants chicago press

Several months ago, the kind folks at Chicago Review Press sent me the fascinating book above. Here's a short quote from their website about it:

Heirloom Plants includes information on almost 500 exciting cultivars to be grown and harvested, along with detailed profiles and cultivation tips for each plant. In addition to edibles, the book also has chapters on antique herbs and flowers, from Cup and Saucer vines to Sweet William carnations to Empress of India nasturtiums. Trowel and book in hand, let your motto be, "Growing the past, saving the future."

I've had so much fun reading through the book, the only downside to it-I want to grow every plant in it! The book is a great read for anyone interested in growing heirloom plants and in preserving those precious plants for future generations.

Chicago Review Press generously donated a copy of the book for a Blind Pig Reader too. Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway for the book. Giveaway ends on Saturday November 12, 2016.


p.s. Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details. 

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Harvesting Together in Appalachia

Harvesting social get togethers in appalachia

Admiring your harvest is one of the greatest satisfactions of gardening-you can see some of Granny's in the photo above.

Several harvesting chores have traditionally taken on a social aspect in the history of Appalachia. 

  • berry canning: a community work activity held to preserve fruit for the winter-usually followed by dancing, eating, and general merry making.
  • bean shelling: a work session to shell beans such as October beans.
  • bean stringing: a community or family work session to prepare beans for canning or drying.
  • berry stemming: a family or community work session where stems were removed from berries before they were preserved-especially gooseberries and huckleberries.
  • cane stripping: a social work session to strip leaves and tops from sorghum cane before the canes were pressed. (Pap said sorghum making time was always something he looked forward to. The men (and boys) usually stayed the night to keep an eye on things. Pap said there was good food to eat, lots of storytelling, and even a few practical jokes.)
  • corn gathering: an organized work session used to gather corn from the field. School was often let out so that the children could help.
  • corn husking/corn shucking: a social activity held to shuck the corn. Typically music, dancing, and merry making was enjoyed after the corn was finished. 

In today's world there isn't usually community wide socializing during harvesting chores; however, there can still be a social component to harvesting-even if it only involves your immediate family.

Chatter and Chitter love stringing beans with their Granny and their cousin. They say breaking beans at Granny's and being silly while doing it are some of their favorite memories.

The Blind Pig family spent many evenings this summer breaking beans together. One evening we even had company help us-the cutest little red headed boy you ever saw.

Being together while harvesting and preserving-whether it be breaking beans, canning tomatoes, or even picking blackberries- allows for much talking, much laughing, and fosters the making of many memories.



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Results of the Sow True Seed Cucumber Reporting @ Large

Sow true seed marketmore cucumber

Sow True Seed Marketmore 76

Time for the final report on the Sow True Seed Cucumber Reporting @ Large project!


Our entire garden suffered this year because of the hot dry weather. It was not the year for anything! I'm positive all my Sow True Seed Cucumbers would have done better with more of the wet stuff and less of the above average temperatures. 

Slicing Cucumber Muncher: While this one was a great producer-I don't think I would grow it again. It just didn't taste much like a cucumber.

Richmond Green Apple: I've been growing this one for a few years and will probably continue to grow at least one or two plants each year.

Marketmore 76: The one was similar to the muncher above. Probably would not plant it again either. 

Boston: I really liked this one and plan on growing it again. 

Bush Pickle: I grow this one every year because it produces great and tastes great. The bush pickle came through as it always does for us. 

Another cucumber that is a must plant for us is the Arkansas Little Leaf from Sow True Seed. The variety wasn't part of the reporting project, but its hands down my favorite cucumber to grow. And as always it's did great in the garden this summer. 

Comptonia - Quinn

Quinn who grew the Sow True Seed Suyo Long:

Since it seemed all seven seedlings were likely to survive, I thinned them by - why not? - moving four plants to a raised bed by the goat barn, to see which conditions the cucumbers might prefer. All seven plants have done well all summer! As they grow, those strange, spiky-looking bright green things become strange, spiky-looking little white nubs. They may look sharp, but they aren't. I've even seen them described as "thorns" but I guess those people have never encountered an actual thorn! These little nubs just brush right off when you run a hand over the cucumber. The suyo cucumbers certainly earn their "long" title, and most of mine were grown on a trellis and have been quite straight. I love the texture of the suyo peel; it is crisp and not bitter at all. A few of the cucumbers got so big the seeds developed so I scraped out those cores as a treat for the hens. LeShodu, my Matriarch doe, greatly enjoys eating the strips of rind, one by one. I think her teeth may not be as strong as they used to be, so this is a nice way for her to get some soft "bark" without actually having to gnaw on a tree.



My results were not very good this year. I have been gardening for over 30 years and felt pretty bad about my results.  All of the seeds were in a very sunny area, the plants had soaker hoses and mulching to control the water needed,  and the plants were provided 6 foot tall trellis lines.
The Boston pickling cucumber did not produce at all.  Despite a good location, soaker hose and adequate water less than 8 seeds germinated.  The few cucumbers produced were great for eating raw. Nice crunch and very pretty color and skin.
The Muncher slicing cucumber came up almost over night and sent out more flowers than I have ever seen. The stems seemed to drop about 50% of the cucumbers before they were an inch in size. We enjoyed a reasonable number during the summer. I would not allow these to get much over 5 inches in size as they seem to loose taste as they get larger. The skins are smooth, there are a lot of seeds in the very middle so there is a lot of cucumber flesh.
The Suyo Long was our favorite. They took a while to start producing but the taste was fantastic. They are a bit spiny so I would suggest handling with a towel. This cucumber had crisp flesh and seeds were minimal. I would grow this one again.
I am sorry to report that I had a problem for the first time ever with pickleworm and then powdery mildew. Our 80 days of above 90 degree days and the humidity did not help at all. I usually look forward to picking enough pickles this time of year to make relish with. However, this year we are pulling up all the remaining vines this weekend and burning them to prevent further problems.
I am located in Northeast Georgia midway between Atlanta and the South Carolina border. 

Our season started out with heavy rains; at one point some of the plants were under water. Once the ground began to dry a little, they started to recover and were on their way. I tried the Suyo and the Muncher along with Marketmore seeds I had saved previously. 

The Suyo is a real garden wonder. Not only a prolific producer, but tasty as well.  It stays crispy for days after picking. It has earned a spot in my garden in the future.

The muncher did not bear well. The plants were beautiful, but didn’t have a lot of cucumbers. I probably would not plant this one again.

The marketmore continues to put on fruit. It continues to be my favorite, the flavor is good, it produces a lot, and stands up to the weather well.

The only pests we had this year was the Mexican bean beetle. They seemed to favor the muncher more than the others.

Even though the recent drought has been hard on the garden, we have harvested a lot of cucumbers. Thanks for including me in the cucumber trials. 


If you signed on to be a Cucumber Reporter @ Large leave a comment with your final report so that everyone can see how Sow True Seed Cucumbers did at your place. 


p.s. If you live close enough to attend and haven't entered the JCCFS Fall Festival ticket giveaway-go here to enter!

p.s.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing at the following places this week: 

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How do You Pick Your Apples?

Homemade apple picker

As I told you yesterday this is the largest apple crop we've ever harvested. Our trees are several years old and are supposed to stay on the small side. As you can see from the photo-the trees really took off this year and grew bigger than I thought they were supposed to. 

I know apple trees are supposed to be pruned, since we have no experience pruning apple trees we asked Uncle Henry to help us. He was going to prune the trees late last winter, but one thing and another came up and then Pap passed away so the trees never got pruned. 

As we pondered on how to reach the highest apples The Deer Hunter came up with a plan.

Easy to make apple picker

In about 5 minutes he made an apple picker from things he found around the house: a piece of pvc pipe, an empty 2 liter bottle, a dry wall screw, and some gorilla tape.

While he managed to get all the apples, the picker could have been better. It was very hard to get clusters of apples and the pvc pipe was a little flimsy when trying to reach the highest apple. The Deer Hunter wondered if a hook would have worked better? 

Hope you'll leave a comment and tell us what you use to pick the highest apples!


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How Does My Garden Grow?

Planting a fall garden

We're still getting a few tomatoes and beans from the garden. I've been really excited about our first ever grape harvest-they were so pretty! I'm hoping next year the vines will produce even more.

Growing apples in western nc
This summer brought our largest harvest of apples and I'm pretty excited about that too.

Growing pumpkins and watermelons in western nc

We still have watermelons, pumpkins, and winter squash varieties hanging on for a little while longer.

Planting turnips in the fall

A few weeks ago we got our fall garden planted. The turnips are mostly up, but the kale and collards haven't shown their faces yet, I sure hope they decide to.

Since my cucumbers are almost gone I'll give my final report for the Sow True Seed Cucumber Reporters @ Large Project in a week or so. If you were a cucumber reporter @ large please send me your final report and any photos you may have taken during the growing season. A big thank you to those who've already sent theirs!


p.s. The Pressley Girls' Schedule for this week: *Saturday September 3 @ 8:00 p.m. Vogel State Park Blairsville, GA | *September 4 @ 2:00 p.m. Heritage Day Blairsville, GA

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Ever Ate a Ground Cherry?

Growing ground cherries

All my life I heard Pap talk about ground cherries. He told me they grew wild alongside most everyone's garden and that they made a tasty snack for children who were working in the garden or playing close by.

There are several varieties of ground cherries, one of which is native to North America. Some folks call them husk tomatoes or tommy toe plants.

Ground cherries in western nc

The plant usually grows fairly low to the ground, but this year mine are taller than they've ever been before. Once you have a plant you're bound to have more the following year. Ground cherries are self sowers and one plant turns into many many volunteers in the years to come.

Tommy toe plant - ground cherries 
The cherries are covered with a husk. Once the husk has dried and turned a light brownish color they are ready to eat.

Growing ground cherries to eat 
This is what they look like once you remove the husk. I've read a variety of different descriptions about how they taste-everything from citrus to pineapple. There's a sweetness to ground cherries along with a note of acidity or tang.

A few summers ago, Jim Casada asked if I had ever heard of ground cherries. I said "Yes, but I've never seen them or tasted them."

Jim packaged up a box full and mailed them to me. I was so excited to open the box and see what Pap had been talking about all those years. And after Jim explained to me I could grow my own the following summer by simply throwing a handful or two out in the garden I was doubly excited. Jim's explanation was right and every year the ground cherries spread farther around my garden. 

Have you ever had a flash of a memory that is so real yet so fuzzy you just can't put your finger on exactly where or when it took place?

As soon as the first ground cherry rolled out of Jim's box into my hand I had a flash of memory.

I was in the garden with Big Grandma (Pap's grandmother Carrie-my great grandmother) and she handed me a little round yellow ball and encouraged me to eat it, but I refused, at least I think I did. I would only have been 3 or 4 years old. Big Grandma died before I started school.

Funny all those years I listened to Pap's memories of ground cherries-when my own ground cherry memory was hiding somewhere deep down inside just waiting for Jim's generosity to bring it to light.

Have you ever tasted ground cherries?


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