In the Garden Mid-July 2014

photo 11One of my earliest memories is being in the garden with my family, sneaking ripe tomatoes off the vine and into my mouth before my Nanny could see. Nanny and Pawpaw always planted a huge garden, and I can remember watching them go through the huge process every single year. photo 111Planting, Harvesting, Canning, Eating. Summertime was great in our house. Sometimes our meals were made of things completely pulled from the garden that same day. Sweet slices of tomato, bright green onions, and chewy new potatoes cooked with fresh green beans. What a feast!

photo 4I’ve lost both my Nanny and Pawpaw over the past five years, but their lessons have stuck with me. We hung on to their house in northwest Tennessee for a bit, but in the end the family decided to sale it this spring. The good news is that while the garden may not be there anymore, I’ve kept the traditions alive and well in my own life. Andrew and I made plans in early summer for a “small” garden. In his mind I’m sure he was thinking about a couple of tomato plants and a pepper or two, but I sometimes tend to go overboard without realizing it (okay, sometimes I know good and well what I’m getting myself into, and I still take the plunge!).

photo 311Fast forward to mid-July and we currently have about 17 tomatoes, 10 peppers of all shapes and sizes, 10 squash, 4 eggplant, and rows and rows of corn, green beans, okra, cucumbers, and melons.

A small garden, right?

I’ll be honest: we’re not pros, but we’re learning! Everything has been planted without a tiller this year, and that was a lot harder (and more expensive) than we’d originally thought it would be. I can remember Pawpaw walking behind a huge red Troy-built in the hot sun throughout the summer, lifting the heavy machine up and turning it around at the end of each carefully placed row. Since this is our first year of planting a garden of our own, we weren’t ready to make such a big investment, and we didn’t bother renting one as the transport back and forth was a bit of an issue. Instead, we dug holes for the individual plants, and supplemented the existing dirt with garden soil and compost. Then we added a layer of landscaping fabric and wheat straw to hopefully stifle the grass within the garden bounds. photo 5We did the same sort of process for the rows of vegetables we planted from seed, although this did require us to come back once the plants had sprouted with an additional layer of newspaper and wheat straw to keep the grass from taking over. It was determined, but so were we!

So far we’ve had a plethora of zucchini, and more cherry tomatoes than we know what to do with (spoiler alert: I made a tomato pie). The big tomatoes are green and healthy looking on most of our plants and the ones we started from seed are looking the healthiest – we call them our “tomato babies”.photo 511 I picked our first “mess” of green beans the other night, and found 3 medium cucumbers hiding when I was staking up the vines yesterday. I had just been complaining that I was ready to make some pickles! The corn is short, but there are ears growing, and the okra has little fruit that looks promising. Our watermelon have exploded, and if all the little melons make it to adulthood, we’ll have plenty of sweet treats to last us.

photo 21It’s been such a fun adventure! No, everything isn’t growing – the planters full of lettuce, rhubarb, beets and chard hardly sprouted and I replanted the bins with flowers and squash last week. The crooked-neck squash stay small with really hard outer skin, which the internet says means they’ve cross-pollinated with the patty pans, so they’re pretty close to inedible. BUT – the butterfly garden has grown into a butterfly forest, and we love sitting on the porch and watching things grow. I love waking up early and wandering out to the garden with cup of coffee in hand checking out what’s grown overnight while Wally chases rabbits. It’s comforting and makes me feel like I’m back in my grandparents’ backyard.

photo 1I think they’d be happy if they saw how far I’ve come in the past five years. Things aren’t perfect, but I’m a long way from where I’ve been. And just like our garden, as the days, months, and years go by, I’ll keep growing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pickles to make.

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A Thursday morning at the Collierville Farmer’s Market

photo 11I am a sucker for a good farmer’s market. Give me a bearded group of guys with guitars singing twangy songs, food trucks, and stacks of fresh/local vegetables and I’m in my own special kind of heaven. Don’t even get me started on the skinny jeans or the plaid shirts. A good farmer’s market should feel like a Mumford and Sons video in my opinion. But I digress…

photo 4The unfortunate thing about the farmer’s markets in the greater Memphis area is that they’re SO far away from where we live (I know, I know, it’s all about me, right?). Since we’re on the outskirts of the city, it can take us 45 minutes to get downtown, and that commute gets even worse when we hit traffic. One day I’ll tell you all the story of the night we attempted to go for a “quick dinner” downtown during BBQ fest. That was super fun.

Needless to say, when I heard that the Collierville Farmer’s Market was opening for the season just down the road from my office, I was excited – and then I realized it was only open each Thursday and had limited hours: 8am until 1pm. I work an office job five days a week, 8a-5p, so most mornings I’m stuck in front of a computer dreaming of my garden. Bummer. But I decided to look on the bright side and took an early lunch this Thursday to check it out.

photo 42While this one may not be as big and trendy as the Downtown Farmer’s Market that I drag my boyfriend to whenever possible, it’s still pretty spiffy! All the staples were there: my favorite “everything” bread from Lime Foods, the BEST local pickles from Old Apple Hill Brine, and lots of Midsouth based organic vegetable and meat vendors with everything I needed for dinners next week.

photo 12The market is based in the rear parking lot of Collierville United Methodist Church, and there was live music playing when I pulled up, with even a few couples dancing along! I definitely didn’t miss the crowds from the weekend markets, but there were still quite a few people shopping in the sunshine.

While the vibe was a little different, I still very much enjoyed myself, and I’ll definitely be returning next week. I’ve even convinced a couple of my coworkers to come along! If you’re like me and looking for local, fresh, organic products without the crazy drive into the city, you should spend your Thursday morning (or lunch break if you must), in Collierville.

Check them out on Facebook for more information. Here are just a few of the great vendors you’ll find there:

photo 21A New Life
Bartlett Soap Company
Bethel Road Farm
Cold Comfort Farm
Coldwater Alpaca
Daily Blessings Farm
Donna’s Kettle Corn
Faith Farms
Flavor Mavens
Fresh From the Farm
H&H Farms (later in season)
Jones Greenhouses
Las Delicias
Lazy Dog Farms
Leigh Ann’s Chicken Garden
photo 22Lewis Tomatoes (later in season)
Lil Brooklyn’s Italian Ice
Lilee’s Gourmet Bakery
Lime Foods
Mai Vue
Old Apple Hill Brine
James Overman
Robert Hays
Papi Joe’s Pepper Sauce
Paradise Seafood
Peach World
Pontotoc Ridge (next week)
Renaissance Farms
Ripley Produce
True Vine Farm
photo 5Wolf River Honey
Wolf River Popcorn

Have a lovely weekend everyone! I’ll be spending it snacking on the fresh plums and roasting up the gorgeous green brussel sprouts I picked up this week.