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Archive for June, 2009

Peaches in a Jam

This is peach season in South Carolina and Georgia. Even though Georgia is called the Peach State, South Carolina produces more. And we live right down the road from the peach capitol, Edgefield County, the home of the late Strom Thurmond, in fact, his son, Strom, Jr., was the state’s top federal prosecutor, until he returned to private law practice in Aiken.

We jumped in the car the other day and headed out to Highway 25, where the peach stands reside. One was clean, and pretty and decorated with flowers and umbrellas and neat piles. Their peaches were hard as rocks. Down the road we went to another stand, Jackie’s, not nearly so pristine but loaded with fragant juicy peaches. We bought a big basket. Two days later we were in (a) jam, 18 jars actually. Bruce peeled and chopped, I prepared jars and lids and manned the stove with each batch. Stick to the small batches, as the recipes dictate, they are easier to stir the Sure-Jel and measure the sugar. We made four golden batches, each yielding 4 to 5 jelly jars each. Then we followed the directions in the Sure-Jel for peach jelly, using the peel and pits (with flesh still attached), and boiled that into a big mash, draining off the juice. That yielded 6 jars of jelly, which are rosy and smooth. The mash went into the compost bin. Happy worms enjoyed their treat too.

Thankfully, one jar of jam didn’t seal. Always good, as then we get a first crack at official tasting. Butter and homemade peach jam on crackers are delicious.

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Tomatoes

Our tomato plants are huge.  I mean taller than Bruce who is over 6 feet.  We’ve had to stake them even though they’re in cages — stake them inside the cages because they’re growing so well.  Boy — what a problem to have!

The plants are loaded with ones turning red, lots of green ones, and plenty of blooms.  We’re eaten a couple already and hope to have so many we get tired of them and have to give them away.  I fixed Bruce two sandwiches for supper: boloney with lettuce and tomato and mayo.

A few weeks ago I pondered — when did I add Miracle-Gro?  Was it time to add more?  Then I remembered.  All we did was add a big double handful of  our compost to each deep hole for the plants.  We planted a variety, in case one type doesn’t do well, another might.  Hedge our bets, so to speak.  I’ve always done that.  We didn’t plant any yellow ones this year.  Bruce didn’t think they tasted as good as the red ones.  He’s right.  Last year they didn’t have a good flavor.  Once, years ago, I canned lots of tomatoes and layered them red, yellow, red, yellow in the jars.  Man — on a cold winter supper they sure looked, and tasted,  wonderful!  Our one variety to yet prove himself is “Mr. Stripey.”  It’s a version that is supposed to be both — stripes of red and stripes of yellow in one fruit.   I’ll tell you later if it performs at all.  Now those would look wonderful sliced on a plate.  Perhaps sprinkled with basil and olive oil?  Bruce the purist would prefer them plain.  Still — seems delicious either way.

Needless to say, we’re feverishly working on a new barrel of compost.  Pure gold.

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A Week Away

For us, a week away from home was spent between the north Georgia mountains where we slept snug in our sleeping bags and along the Atlantic Ocean coastline of southern South Carolina where we slept on top of our sleeping bags under a sheet. The music of the Bluegrass festival was great; the waves were equally wonderful. (See Bruce’s blog — Red Clay and Sand.)

I read two books, partly by flashlight. Bruce found me a neat little light that shines right on my page. I can read to my heart’s delight. I would highly recommend them both. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is about the German occupation of the one of the Channel Islands during WWII and its heroic islanders. Prayers for Sale chronicles the life of a young Civil War widow and her 70 years in Colorado in a gold mining camp. I loved the language of each of them. Some people don’t like dialect. I do. Good reads for either beach or mountains.

Thanks to a timely purchase of a fan, we were comfortable, but the heat and humidity of the South isn’t exactly the best weather for camping. This might be the end of the camping for awhile unless we go back to the mountains. We’ll see. Maybe we’ll have a cool summer.

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PEWS

This is what our priest defines as “people enduring wooden seats”.  And we did, indeed, endure the equivalent to them several weeks ago.

I already mentioned that we find unusual things to do on Saturdays.  A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of our trip to north Georgia and a Bluegrass Festival, we drove over to Leesville SC for the Fourth Saturday Bluegrass jam in the Haynes Auditorium.  One main draw is that Shealey’s Barbeque is located there too so we hit their down home buffet.  They kept running out of fried chicken livers as they are more than popular.  I, with a smile, even threatened to snatch some off the plate of the man sitting across from me.  Shealey’s has three big rooms filled with tables so with your plate in hand,  you find a spot and make new friends and a waitress brings you a cold beverage.  They have creamed corn like my grandma could make.  From scratch and not bogged down with that icky corn starch crap.  As always, the banana puddin’ is also worth the hour drive.

But I digress.  I had researched on the internet the location of the music night.  However, it would be rather difficult to get very lost in Leesville.  Just pull over and ask someone sitting on their porch.  Anyway, we got there early and found seats.  The auditorium was exactly like the one in the old Davidson school where I taught, although about half the size.  The old school was built in 1926 and when we moved to the new school in 1996 it was literally falling down on our heads.  We could sit in the auditorium and as we clapped watch the paint flakes fall like snow.  This auditorium had been part of a college so was it better shape, however, the first seats we found were not bolted to the floor.  We found another spot.  There was a stack of cushions in the lobby and I grabbed two as we entered.  I suspected they were there for a very good reason.  Apparently the people from the Twenties were used to suffering or they had softer behinds than we do today, which I sincerely doubt is not the case.

The show started and I thought — oops, this is another Grits Festival.  One of the first group of performers was so young I could count on my fingers how many years she’d been out of diapers.  Bluegrass likes to start them young.  Fortunately,with each new group the music got better.  One group even sang “Beautiful, Beautiful Blues Eyes” which I hadn’t heard for a long time and my mother used to sing to me when I was a child.  However, mother changed the words and Brown Eyes got top billing.  Although, mother, like the rest of our family, couldn’t sing worth a flip, the song always made me feel special.  I also judge the music by how many songs Bruce can sing along to.

The evening was pleasant and fun in a small town kind of way.  Fortunately, Bruce and I both grew up in places and in that era before television when it was normal to be simple, enjoying the old ways our parents and grandparents knew.

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