Thursday, January 21, 2016

Winter is the time to plan your spring garden!

We're expecting a big snow storm in Southwest Virginia in the next couple of days. Frigid temperatures, blustery winds and predicted snowfall have most folks longing for the warmer
temperatures and sunshine of spring. You might not realize it, but January is the perfect time to start planning your spring gardens!

While it is snowing over the weekend, why not take the time to plan what you want to plant this spring? Are you planting tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, onions and the like? Will it be an herb garden? Watermelons? Radishes? Once you have decided which delicious, warm weather growing foods will populate your garden, it's time to find your seeds. Take a look at a seed catalog and make out your order. You'll also want to order a garden seeder to help with planting. Why risk an achy back from being bent over and planting the seeds when you can let your garden seeder do the work for you?

After you have your seeds in place, use a high wheel cultivator to cover your rows of seeds with dirt. Cultivators are a versatile tool for gardening. From furrowing and light tilling to cultivating and hilling, you will find a multitude of uses for it!

Stay warm and safe in the snowstorm that is on its way! Dreaming of and planning for your spring garden is a surefire way to warm you up!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Collecting and Cooking Chanterelle Mushrooms for Breakfast Omelette

Eating foraged foods physically connects us to the local ecology and change of seasons. Chanterelle Mushrooms are a delicacy you can collect, clean and cook on the east coast throughout Summer. We harvested these Chanterelle mushrooms in Southwest Virginia for a breakfast omelet.

 Chanterelles inhabit moist and mossy areas with old deep leaf litter. This easily identifiable golden/orange mushroom looks like a blossoming trumpet. There are a few varieties of Chanterelles, which are all edible, however, one "look-a-like" is poisonous. It is called the Jack O' Lantern mushroom, which is distinguished by its long gills on the underside of the body and an orange interior meat. The Chanterelle will have a white interior meat. 

Cleaning - Brush and rinse dirt off in running water. Drain and air dry. Do not soak (mushrooms would lose integrity). Chanterelles are best cooked immediately, however, can be refrigerated in a brown paper bag for 1-2 days. 

Cooking - Cut Chanterelles into medium-large bite size pieces. A larger cut celebrates the mushroom's profile for more flavor and consistency. Mushroom slices will also lose moisture and decrease in size during the pan fry.

Rada knives are light and maneuverable for a sharp and consistent cut!

 Simply saute in butter on medium/high heat for about a minute. The video below demonstrates this brief process with finely chopped onions. Mushrooms have a tendency to take on any flavors they are cooked alongside. 

Remove the mushrooms and onions. Whisk a few pastured eggs and fry in a pan on medium/high heat with oil/butter. When eggs are cooked on the underside and still a bit runny on top, add the mushrooms and onions on one half side then fold the other side over. Turn off heat and remove pan from heat. Put a lid on top to sit for 2-3 minutes until serving.

We split the omelet and laid each half on a bed of spinach and baby tomatoes. The final experience was reminiscent of the flavors of Appalachia in July. Including four eggs, two tablespoons of butter/oil, and veggies, one omelet between two people is roughly 300 to 350 calories each. 

For a healthy and wholesome meal, this egg omelet is beats the competition. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best Christmas DIY Decoration Idea

Tiny Red, Green and Copper Cowbells hung with twine are easy, chic, classic and versatile Christmas decorations. 

Let's decorate our new house for Christmas!

When I moved last, after graduating college, I donated or otherwise left any tinsel, lights, Sorority Santa hats, stockings once decorated with glitter and ornaments I didn't pick out of the community beer can recycling pile. 

My Christmas decorations? I was starting fresh.

I decided a short time ago, that it's not just what we buy - although securing particular items we want is still worthy - it's how and where we buy or secure it from that brings us the most value of owning the item. Plus, I didn't want to purchase decorations that contribute to the deterioration of our planet and living systems. Considering, you know, the Christmas spirit and celebrating life. anyway...

We have so many little tiny cow bells. I had a ball of twine.
I tied each cowbell onto the rustic twine so it would keep it's position. 

red and green tiny cowbells hung horizontally with twine

How about that for a simple, old-fashioned and unique Christmas decoration you can make yourself?! For extra flair, try adding additional ribbons and twine as bows. Find Christmas Bells here.

tiny green hanging cowbell with twineSanta Ribbon on Copper Cowbell in hanging cowbell decorationjungle bell

When you're done with long strings of hanging cowbells, they make adorable and unique ornaments too! 

Maybe thrift will again be a dominant social idea? And if it is, do we get to make more crafts?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to collect wildflowers and woodland plants

Before you collect -

Knowing your wild plants - the kind of soil, degree of shade, amount of moisture, temperature, acidity, and the other conditions that will made it grow best. 

Where to collect - 

It's fun to collect the wildflowers for your garden or diversify the woodland species in your landscape, because no matter how long you've been at it, there are always interesting additions to for your collection. 
The essential thing is to gather plants in such a way that you neither infringe on the rights of others nor lessen the supply of many of the species already too scarce. 

Pretty Blue Cosmos Flowers, eh?

Familiarize yourself with state laws prohibiting the removal of rare wildflowers, ferns, and bushes. Common kinds of plants - those especially abundant in any given locality - can usually be collected in reasonable quantities with little harm (Birdseye, 1951 p. 22-23). 

When to Collect - 

Wildflowers may, with sufficient care, be transplanted at any time of year, even when the ground is frozen. Generally speaking, however, it is best to transplant plants during their dormant seasons. That is, after plants have passed their periods of active growth. 

Coniferous trees can be best moved immediately after their new foliage has matured - the end of August to September. This allows enough time for the formation of new rootlets before freezing weather sets in.    

Most deciduous trees should be transplanted during the later part of September or early October, when their leaves are beginning to change color. However, in very cold areas they may be handled in the very early spring before their buds have begun to swell. Bushes are best moved after the leaf fall, when they are fully dormant  (Birdseye, 1951 p. 24-25). 


These deciduous tree seedlings (Yellow Popular pictured left in the purple metal bucket, Red Maple pictured right in the large light blue metal bucket and below in the small green metal bucket) I collected two days ago this spring. As long as these receive sufficient water, sunlight and other species-specific requirements they'll live long into their fall dormant period when they will be transplanted. 

Yellow-Popular or Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera L.)
This is a commonly occurring tree throughout Virginia, reaching its largest size along deep moist soils along streams and in the lower mountain coves. Height of 60 to 100 feet with diameters of 3 to 4 feet. The tree has been excessively cut, but is reproducing rapidly and is one of the most abundant and valuable trees in second-growth forests. It can be planted as an ornamental or a shade tree. The greenish yellow tulip shaped flowers occur in early April (Virginia Department of Forestry p.60). I think the leaf looks like the face of a cat.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.)
It is used as a shade tree (although the sugar maple is better for this purpose) and occurs commonly across the state. The tree produces soft maple wood used  for furniture, woodenware, and also for fuel (Virginia Department of Forestry p.60). 

Collecting Equipment
Sure, many kinds of wildflowers can be collected without any more equipment than a stout stick and your hands, but a certain amount of paraphernalia will save you a lot of time and sore fingers.
  1. Most important of all, you will need a long, strong (so brute force can be used in prying plants from rocks), sharp (to cut through hard ground and small roots) trowel like this one.  
  2. A keen bladed pocket knife will come in handy, particularly for cutting the stakes with which you should protect the long blossom stalks of certain plants and the large fronds of some kinds of ferns. Case knifes like these are durable steal made in the USA
  3. In addition to these tools you'll want one or more baskets with stout handles, in which to carry your plants out of the woods. 
  4. Have a half gallon of water to moisten roots dug from dry ground. 
  5. A plentiful supply of bags and wrapping material are also very important. You ability to successfully carry out your collecting operations depends on these. Bags should be waterproof and various sizes. For wrapping earth balls too big for bags, you will want some large burlap sacks or strong old cloth and safety pins.     
How to Collect
  1. clear away ground litter that might obstruct your process. 
  2. make a circular cut 12 to 18 inches in diameter and about 8 inches deep around the plant - these diameter measurements of the cut depending on the size of your plant and the depth depending on the soil conditions. There will probably be several extraneous small roots and stems to be severed by your trowel. 
  3. Pry out the root ball and place it carefully in one of your moisture-tight bags. 
Remember that no two patches of soil are exactly alike, and that your new plant will be most at home in it's new location if it is surrounded there by some of the earth from which you took it. 

I collected plants to give as gifts in these colorful buckets to be transplanted in the fall. Each bucket came with a plastic liner and holes should be punched in the bucket and liner bottom with a hammer and nail. Placing a few rocks in the bottom of the plastic liner helps with plant drainage - you don't want to drown your plants with too much water. 


Birdseye, C., & Birdseye, E. (1951). Collecting Wildflowers. Growing woodland plants. New York: Dover Publications.

Forest trees of Virginia. (1992). Charlottesville, Va. (Box 378, Charlottesville 22903): Dept. of Forestry.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wild Ginger, Homemade Cookies, Vintage Oil Lanterns and Pastel Mini Buckets from the long weekend

At Red Hill General Store, we had a wonderful memorial day weekend! Here's a few photos of finds from Memorial Day weekend yard-sales, flea markets and nature finds. 
On a Sunday afternoon hike we found wild ginger!

Wild Ginger in Virginia's temperate deciduous forest. 

Homemade cookies by Kassie at her lemonade stand!

Old kerosene lanterns. We picked up a vintage kerosene lantern for camping this summer for $45. You can buy a brand new oil lantern here (From $9 - $21) or replace the wicks from your antique memorial day finds (click here for replacement oil lantern wicks).  

Love these darling pastel mini painted sold-color pails. You can find these plus more sizes, shapes and colors here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Time Creative Container Gardening

It's Spring!

Time to plant all of your favorite garden vegetables and annual flowers.

 Even though we are getting past the danger of frost that can create a devastating blow to much of our garden, when these late frosts hit. Consider planting more tender plants in containers. When planting in containers you can create a small garden that can be easily transported to a safe location when there is a frost warning for your area. Container gardening can be fun for all gardeners and can help get those of us that have less space to cultivate our interest in gardening. Many people when thinking of container gardening think of expensive terracotta or ceramic pots, but I think it can be more fun to think of interesting and creative containers to plant vegetables and flowers in. I got these great galvanized buckets from Bucket Outlet that have turned in to great container garden pieces that look great along with other plants around my home. The only thing I had to do to these buckets was to drill a few holes in the bottom to give them proper drainage.

Here are a few pictures of some of my buckets that I used for containers.

Hens and Chicks (Laid on it's side, and drilled holes in sides)

Tomato Plants (Sitting outside my back door, I can't wait to have fresh tomatoes!)

Annual Container (I have two of these sitting on my front steps)

The buckets I used for these containers are these 6 quart galvanized buckets.
Just remember to drill holes to insure proper drainage with these buckets. 

Also be Creative, if you have any pictures you want to share of your bucket containers,

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to keep tomatoes from rotting

This summer has been wet. The tomato crop this season has not been good.
Most people we've talked to say their tomatoes look like -

our heirloom tomatoes last week. 
Hopefully future summer weather will return to normal. In the meantime, we just learned how we can best plant our tomatoes in anticipation for summer rain next year. 

Our friend messaged us how he achieved a successful tomato crop, "My tomato beds are done in hugelkultur. 2 feet deep, filled with hardwood logs, and pile the dirt back on top to be about 2 feet tall. The tomatoes have good drainage now. They're up off the ground so the breeze can keep the plants drier than they would be planted at ground level. Constant water supply and they don't have wet feet. I haven't had a problem with bottom rot or moisture splitting despite all the rain."

They are pretty cool. The photo below is from this place and they have more information on this genius garden bed. 

With less rotting garden tomatoes - the more fresh food we can harvest to preserve for the winter! Read this expert canning supply post about making Salsa from Red Hill's tomatoes, green peppers and hot peppers!

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