Bumper Crop

Bumper Crop is my attempt to celebrate the intersection of the garden and the kitchen — an intersection at which many of us love to linger, I think.  This week’s Bumper Crop is tiny, adorable tomatoes.

Tiny, adorable, plentiful

Tiny, adorable, plentiful

How grateful I feel, in late September, to have lovely little tomatoes practically bursting off the plants.  The tomatoes in the photo are a mix of Jaspers and Sun Golds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I have been so pleased with these tomatoes.  They are both prolific and delicious.

Almost too pretty to eat . . . almost

Almost too pretty to eat . . . almost

We consume a lot of these little guys while harvesting.  Many of them I pitch over the fence into the chicken yard, and the birds have a great, squawky time snapping them up.  The tomatoes that make it to the house, I put on a glorious Rebecca Wood Pottery platter (which was a very generous wedding gift years ago).  That color contrast — glossy shiny red and yellow against glossy shiny dark swirly blue — I love it.  It makes the tomatoes look all the more appetizing, and so I eat a lot of them one-by-one or in small handfuls as I’m mousing around the kitchen.

But this wouldn’t be a true Bumper Crop unless there were almost too many tomatoes to use up, right?   Luckily, no matter how many of these I eat au naturel, there are plenty left to make one of my favorite things: Flatbread with Schmeer and Salad.

Flatbread with Schmeer and Salad

Tomatoes, hummus, flatbread, basil - ready for yummy action

Tomatoes, hummus, flatbread, basil – ready for yummy action

First, prepare the tomato salad: slice small cherry tomatoes in halves, julienne a few leaves of basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Using a spoon, measure out the olive oil and red wine vinegar:  5 spoonfuls of olive oil to 2 spoonfuls of vinegar.  Mix.

Now, the flatbread or naan: sprinkle one flatbread lightly with water.  Toast in the oven for just a few minutes to make it warm and tender.

The final ingredient you’ll need is some good, creamy hummus.  I would like to tell you I make my own hummus from scratch, but I have wasted too many fine chick peas and expensive jars of tahini and never got a hummus that I love as much as this prepared brand.  Life is too short–I just buy hummus so I can really enjoy it.

Now for assembly: Tear off a piece of flatbread, schmeer on some hummus, spoon on some tomato salad and munch.  This part is messy, as the tomato-ey, vinegary oil dribbles down your hand and chin, so have a napkin handy.

Now it's really ready for yummy action

Now it’s really ready for yummy action

My two wishes for you today: that you have tomatoes still spilling out of your garden in September, and that you make and enjoy this dish as much as I do.  Bon appetit!

Have bike, will travel

That’s the motto for the Etc. Family.  Our family outings almost always include our bikes, and those bikes make each trip affordable and memorable.  We save money because we spend the majority of our time pedaling around, and seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle means you see lots of things you might not have noticed otherwise.

The best item we have ever purchased as a family has to be this little neon-pink beauty:

Biking is so fun when Dad does the hard work!

Biking is so fun when Dad does the hard work!

It’s called a trailer bike and, if you’re a parent who likes to ride, it has the power to change your life.  It has definitely changed ours.  Thanks to Santa for bringing it last Christmas (wink, wink).  The smart little contraption attaches to the adult bike’s seat post and allows the little one to pedal and steer but not really affect the ride other than the added weight and balance challenges.  Their literature also says that kids who use a trailer bike have been known to learn to ride on their own faster, because they get to experience the sense of balance and motion necessary to keep a bike upright.  If that’s true, it is simply gravy to us, because the real benefit is that we can all go riding as a family so much more easily.  And L’Oiseau does contribute to the pedaling somewhat, so it’s easier on the adult than a simple “pull-behind” cart would be.

Here are some recent bike trips we’ve enjoyed:

The Atlanta Beltline: great riding and great public art

The Atlanta Beltline: great riding enhanced by great public art

Silver Comet Trail during a rainy Spring Break

Silver Comet Trail during a rainy Spring Break

Chattanooga Riverwalk - a stop near the rowing club to stretch our legs

Chattanooga Riverwalk – a stop near the rowing club to stretch our legs

We also had a great time riding on the Athens Greenway, but failed to get photos.  Bad blogger!  Bad, bad blogger!

A trailer bike does take a little effort to get comfortable piloting.  You may have noticed that all the action shots show L’Homme riding with L’Oiseau on the back.  I have only clocked about 15 minutes with the trailer behind my bike, because, well, truthfully, L’Homme is happy to be the pilot of the bicycle-built-for-one-and-a-half, so I take the easy road and just pedal alongside them.  According to my darling husband, the balance and turning radius is definitely affected, so it takes some getting used to, but it’s certainly doable and so worth it for affordable family fun.

P.S. For those who want details, the trailer bike we purchased is from a German company called Weeride. IMHO, it was very affordable: we paid $89 to get it from Amazon, and it took only some very basic assembly.  L’Oiseau has ridden on it at least 20 times in the past 8 months, and it shows no signs of wear.  Soooooo worth it!

Curse You, Chunky Chuck

I love groundhogs.  I also love edamame.  The problem comes from the fact that groundhogs also love edamame, but they don’t really give a fig about me or my eating habits.  Hence, we come to the problem we are wrestling with: Chunky Chuck, the groundhog who has been living near our gardens for months and being a perfectly acceptable neighbor, turned into a ravenous little piggy once the edamame plants sprouted.  So our edamame crop, which used to look like this:


Now looks like this:


So Chunky Chuck has to go.  L’Homme bought a catch-and-release trap and has been trying to catch the little bugger for a couple of weeks now.  We haven’t had any luck; instead, we get little guys like these in the trap:

Wrongly convicted

Wrongly convicted–don’t worry, they were released as soon as the DNA evidence exonerated them.

L’Homme’s next strategy is to visit with a local trapper, who says he uses a bait that will definitely entice Chuck into that trap.  He calls it Groundhog Cocaine.  After 2 weeks of trying to catch the sucker, I have my doubts, but it will be fun to see just what Groundhog Cocaine might be.

Anybody have any luck trapping and relocating a groundhog?

Truly, madly, deeply

Zinnias hanging out with a few echinacea

Zinnias hanging out with a few echinacea

Okay, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that is how I love zinnias: truly, madly, deeply.  Such a prolific, vibrant, colorful, reliable flower.

Working among my zinnias always reminds me of a workshop I attended at an organic farming conference years ago.  The man presenting was a successful flower farmer.  A large part of his workshop consisted of bad-mouthing zinnias — too pedestrian, he said, too common, too easy and obvious.  What?  They are flowers, buddy.  But his message was repeated ad nauseam, and I internalized it, and I so often feel a little cheesy for loving and growing zinnias.

How could you not love 'em?

But, how could you not love ’em?

Well, with the wonderful new air of acceptance and tolerance in our beloved U.S. culture, I am not going to be ashamed anymore.  I love zinnias, and I don’t care who knows it.

Oh, hello! Do you like zinnias, too?

Oh, hello! Do you like zinnias, too?

A better flower workshop was given just a few years ago by the fantastic Lynn Pugh of Cane Creek Farms

In that workshop, I learned tons of great information and tips on how to grow cut flowers, how to harvest them, how to arrange them, and how to sell them.  I haven’t put the selling knowledge to work yet — someday, someday — but I use the harvesting and arranging tips all the time.  So now I’ll share some with you:


  • Cut flowers in the morning (best) or evening, when it’s cool.  In the morning, plants have more water in them; in the evening, they have more sugar.  Either way, they’ll hold up better.
  • Cut each stem and strip off most, if not all, of the leaves.  Leaves in water promote the growth of bacteria; this is what makes flower arrangements get slimy and gross, and bacteria in the stems make them wilt and rot.  If you want greenery in the arrangement, leave some leaves up high on the stem, close to the bloom, but make sure the leaves remain above the water line.  You can also add separate stems of greenery to the arrangement, but keep to the same rule of “no leaves in the water.”
  • As you cut stems and strip leaves, hold each stem upside down; then periodically trim a handful of stems to equal length and put them in a bucket of water when your hand has reached maximum capacity.
Small, sweet and simple -- my favorite way to display zinnias.

Small, sweet and simple — my favorite way to display zinnias.


  • Most people like a mix of different flowers, rather than a bouquet made up of one or two varieties.
  • More contrast (in both color and texture) = more excitement (and if you’re in it for the money, more sales)
  • One big showy blossom can make the whole arrangement.  A showy focal flower should be low and in the front of the arrangement for greatest pop.
  • First put greenery in whatever vessel will hold the arrangement, then place the flowers as you like.
  • If you’re not using additional greenery, gather a big bunch of flower stems and place them in the vessel all at once, then edit: rearrange, remove, trim, or add more stems as you like to achieve a nice look.  Placing the stems in one by one from the beginning never works well for me.
Voila! (Sorry, French speakers, for the lack of an accent. I know it's needed, but I'm also lazy.)

Voila! (Sorry, French speakers, for the lack of an accent. I know it’s needed, but I’m also lazy.)

I hope your flower beds and arrangements bring you as much happiness as mine bring to me!


Wow, it’s about time I wrote another blog post. I hope this will be a jump-start to better attendance here at my blog.

So, here is my latest FO (finished object).  It’s a lap blanket made for our excellent friends, Mike and Karla, who recently moved from Atlanta to Michigan.  When I learned they were going to Michigan, I realized they would need something warm.  I also wanted it to be symbolic of their years in Georgia and to speak to their locavore souls.  Thus, I made a quick trip here — Southern Estate Alpacas in Adairsville, Georgia, and bought some of their locally raised alpaca yarn.

The whole enchilada

The whole enchilada

So the lap blanket is not only warm, it’s connected to their old home in Georgia in a profound way.  I sure hope they enjoy using it as much as I enjoyed knitting it.  You can see the pattern in detail on my Ravelry page right here.  I’m calling it the Back to Square One blanket.

Close up of Back to Square One blanket

Close up of Back to Square One blanket

It’s a very fun knitting technique I found in a pattern by Artemis Ardornments—you basically start with a straight line of stitches but little by little “zip up” the center by doing k3tog decreases in the middle, thus making the diagonal line in each square.  It was a perfect combination of easy knitting — all garter stitch — but with a little twist that makes it interesting.


See the diagonal line made as the decreases zip up what was a straight line into a square?

I did 5 squares by 6 squares, and I picked up and knit the edging in broken rib pattern.  Then finished with a stretchy bind off.

What have you finished recently?

The Wonderful Strangeness of Human Silence

A few weeks ago, I heard a most excellent interview with the brilliant actor Bryan Cranston.  He was (is?) starring as LBJ in a theater production somewhere urbane and sophisticated, and he talked about how duplicating LBJ’s voice each night was very hard on his own vocal chords.  So he was going about the rest of his life without speaking, in order to rest his voice for his performances.  He carried around a notebook to explain that he was on voice rest, but said that the response to his silence was always one of befuddlement and difficulty understanding why he would ever do such a thing.

I’m experiencing the same reaction.  Unfortunately, my self-imposed silence is not for artistic purposes but simply because the pollen is wreaking havoc with my sinuses and throat this spring, and I have lost my voice.

Other than breathing, eating, the . . . ahem . . . opposite of eating, and (hopefully) sleeping, talking is really the only activity that most humans engage in every day.  Not talking seems to be very hard for people to handle, so I’m staying at home and away from people.  Obviously, I’m not using the telephone.  It’s quite an isolating experience, but not exactly bad.  I can now understand why religious devotees take a vow of silence and why many deaf and mute people say they would never choose to have their hearing.

It really makes it possible to hear yourself and the universe thinking.  I wonder how long I can keep it up . . .


The Breakfast Thing

No photos this week — L’Oiseau chewed on the plug that connects the camera to the computer and now they won’t talk to each other. Yeah, I know, I wonder about that kid, too.

But anyways, on to The Breakfast Thing, my solution for a super-quick, satisfying and vegetable-packed meal. Plus, it’s easy to wrap up and eat in the car!

1. Lay a tortilla in a non-stick frying pan. After it warms for just a few minutes on medium heat, flip it.
2. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese and let it melt.
3. Slide the tortilla onto a plate.
4. Top with a big handful of salad mix and any other veggies, raw or leftover, that you desire. I frequently add sliced mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, cooked green beans and even chick peas.
5. Add a little salad dressing or, even better, a few spoons of this stuff.
6. Fold it in two like a taco and enjoy! I frequently think (usually when chomping a big bite) that this is a salad taco, rather than a taco salad.

For a to-go order, just start with the tortilla on a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap it up and then just peel back the foil to eat as you go.

The Breakfast Thing is the original gift to the world of the Sugar Shack, food vendors featured every year at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in western North Carolina. I don’t know if they are also a permanent restaurant, but if you are in North Carolina and know of a restaurant called the Sugar Shack, it would probably be worth checking out. They have changed my life with this wonderful food item.

Oh, yeah, don’t be misled by the name—it’s great for any meal or even a snack.

Smoothie Cubes = Decent Workday Breakfast

Simplest way I’ve found to get a healthy start on my busy mornings: smoothie cubes.  I make green smoothie ice cubes whenever I have a surfeit of greens and super-ripe fruit.  I keep them in the freezer, and on hectic work mornings, I blend a few cubes with some apple juice and a little water to make a super fast smoothie that involves no peeling, cutting, or composting, because that all took place on a weekend when I had time for those shenanigans. 

Greens for smoothies

A typical surfeit, left to right: lettuce mix, kale, and spinach

My favorite combination is  kale, spinach, banana, and peaches.  I sometimes add a little honey if the greens outnumber the fruit.  I simply blend the greens and fruit with a little water to make a thick puree.  Then I freeze the puree in ice cube trays.  Pop them out and save them in a container in the freezer.

An added benefit?  I can use up greens when they are exploding out of the garden, not to mention the ever-present overripe banana or two.