a fall visit to Lynchburg

We had a chance to spend a few days with my dad and step-mom.  The weather was picture perfect; warm and sunny and just right for sight seeing!  In all of their visits to Tennessee over the last 20 years, somehow, they had never been to the Jack Daniels Distillery.  Actually, we only went once and that was about 15 years ago.  With nothing else on the agenda, we took the trip to Lynchburg.

IMG_8474The fact that they make their own charcoal still impresses me.  These are ricks of maple wood that will be burned to make the charcoal which will filter the whiskey.

IMG_8476Because they use fire, I am assuming they needed fire trucks at some point.

IMG_8477Neither looks as if it gets a workout these days.

IMG_8478The source of the spring water used to make the whiskey.

IMG_8481Deep within this rocky cave is where the water comes out and is piped into the distillery to use in the production of the whiskey.

IMG_8483Good words to live by…

IMG_8486If you take the tour, be prepared to do a lot of walking.IMG_8488If I could have, I would have wandered all around the property taking photos.

IMG_8492As much as this is a production facility, they really have worked to maintain the property so that it resembles what it was at the start.  The black soot on the building is actually a result of the brewing process; called whiskey fungus, it is a natural occurrence near distilleries and you can read about it here.IMG_8495After walking through several buildings, we went to the barrel house and on to the tasting room.  Depending on which tour you take, you can end it with a whiskey tasting or you can even take a dry tour but none of the tours are free.

IMG_8497We took the $20 tour which means we ended in a tasting room with 5 samples of whiskey  which was multi-barrel aged. We were given samples of Gentleman Jack, Old Number 7, 100% Rye, Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire. And by taste, I truly mean a little taste; look closely at the bottom of the cups, that is all they give you, roughly a teaspoon and a half.  In my case, that was more than I needed to know that I do not have the ability to drink whiskey!

IMG_8500Our tour guide was also our tasting guide.  He led us through the process of tasting and pointed the qualities and flavors of the different whiskies as we sipped each one.

IMG_8502The tasting rooms were rather dark, it made taking photos a bit of a challenge since I was holding the camera.

IMG_8503Even so, I could have spent an hour in there playing and catching the light.

IMG_8506Row after row, seat after seat and all ready for the next taster.

IMG_8508When you leave the tasting room, you end up in the gift shop, so convenient.  We did not buy anything but that wall!

IMG_8509The entire wall is a series of bottles stacked in rows.

IMG_8510If I could, I would fill a window space with bottles because I love the way it looks!

IMG_8522When we finished the tour, we walked over to the square and strolled around.  It was a beautiful day and we had a great time.

IMG_8525

a view of the garden in early fall

IMG_8407It has been a busy summer and even though fall has arrived, things are not slowing down!  We have picked a freezer full of vegetables and I have canned more tomatoes than I can count!  Here are some photos of the garden to give you an idea of what we have been up to.  Above is a lousy photo of one of our ginger lilies in bloom-they are so fragrant!

IMG_8410Back in May, I brought home 7 tire planters from the Urban Gardening Festival.  This one is full of shade loving plants and they have really filled in, now I need to figure out how to keep it alive over the winter-these plants are not cold hardy!

IMG_8413The other 6 tires look like this and I just replanted them with fall flowers-now they need to fill in.  The strawberries have spread like crazy and we are hoping for fruit by the bowl next year.  The strawberries have also helped the rhubarb crowns get established and we were able to harvest from each plant.

IMG_8414Gate greeters-love the little faces that greet me as I enter the garden.

IMG_8417The chair planters I made this spring have filled in.

IMG_8418How can you not love sedum?  These plants are so hardy and can survive the neglect they sometimes get in this busy garden.

IMG_8419Love the colors and textures they add too and bees love the blossoms.

IMG_8420All of this heat has been just what the peppers needed and they are coming in by the bowl.

IMG_8421Poblanos

IMG_8422Sweet banana

IMG_8424Roselle Hibiscus is one of my favorite plants in the garden.  This year I am experimenting with jam.  The first batch is in jars but I see room for improvement and will be making more.

IMG_8428Someone asked me why I planted flowers in the garden.  The short answer, I like them!  But more importantly, so do pollinators and butterflies.  This little skipper is drinking from a noodle bean flower.

IMG_8432New to us this year is Cardinal Basil.  Those flower heads can get as big as a softball and the leaves are huge as well.  The flavor is an intense, classic sweet basil flavor and it has made its way into a lot of tomato sauce this summer!

IMG_8440The change of seasons means a change of plants.  Extra Dwarf Pak Choy is actually ready to harvest and we have picked some already.

IMG_8442The last of the canning tomatoes-finally done with it for the year!

IMG_8446Where ever I go in the garden, they watch us work

IMG_8447Lady Bird, our only Americauna hen is a little shy in comparison to the others

IMG_8449The watermelon jungle.  First one we picked wasn’t ready and the chickens ended up with a nice treat.  This one looks ready to go.

IMG_8451Glass chicken.

IMG_8452The bottle tree.

IMG_8456The flower tower

IMG_8459Cherokee Trail of Tears beans are one of the best heirloom beans.  We let a bunch go to seed so we will have plants next year.  We can also dry out the seeds and cook them like other dried beans.

IMG_8463Finding an egg in the box is something that never gets old.

IMG_8470We harvested the sweet potatoes and pulled up about 40 pounds from the six plants in the bed.  So, there you have it, what we have been up to the last couple of months.  Come back and visit soon!

if the garden gives you rhubarb, bake a cake!

IMG_8379Rhubarb is not easy to grow in the south.  The high heat and humidity make it challenging for this Siberian transplant.  Some of the varieties can survive in our area, Nashville zone 7a, such as Victoria, Canada Red, Cherry Red or Valentine, but afternoon shade is the key.  Plant the crowns on a Northern slope or in an area that gets shade in the afternoon so that the soil temperatures stay cooler, be sure it gets plenty of water too.  In my garden, I have four Victoria crowns growing, the most commonly found variety here in Nashville, and I use large, plastic bread racks to provide shade for the plants during the hottest periods of summer.

IMG_8384This year, I was surprised at how quickly all of the crowns grew and I was able to harvest some stalks to both make this cake and to freeze for later.  One of my favorite cakes to bake is an upside-down cake.  Being able to turn a fully decorated cake out of a pan is so much better than having to frost and decorate layers.  As beautiful as it is, the stalks made me think of celery-luckily, it didn’t taste like celery!

IMG_8385This recipe is a work in progress and I am not posting it here but it is based on a Persian Love cake made with pistachios, lemon zest, cardamom and rosewater.  To decorate it a little after turning it out of the pan, I sprinkled chopped pistachios and rose petals around the edges.  Because this was a large cake, 9″x13″, I took it to a Master Gardener meeting and potluck dinner, I came home with a very small piece; I ate it for breakfast the next day.

Blackberry-Lime Julep Cake

IMG_8296Well, it goes without saying, I have neglected this blog lately.  As spring approached, things in the garden at home and in the Demonstration Garden got busy, very busy.  As we have worked to prepare the Demonstration Garden, a small team of volunteers worked on getting the word out.  The result, a chance to tape two segments for a local TV show, Talk of the Town.  The plan, tie the garden into the Royal wedding happening this Saturday.  The result, a Blackberry-Lime Julep Cake and opportunity to talk about flowers.

While the cake the royal couple chose sounds delicious, I had to give it a southern spin.  Spring in the south means horse races, lots of flowers and a bit of bourbon drinking in the form of  mint juleps.  For a cake, those things all work well.  Elderflowers are not easy to come by but blackberries are so I decided to make a cake that combined blackberries and lime with a rich bourbon buttercream.  And for those of you that are shaking your head and wondering about the mint, I chose to use it to decorate the cake.  In the photo above, you can see Mountain Mint, False Blue Indigo, Red roses, Blackberry blossoms, Cilantro blossoms, Chamomile blossoms, Tansy leaves and Thyme.  If you want to use fresh flowers or herbs to decorate a cake, be sure that they have not been treated with any chemicals.  These all came from the garden and were grown without any chemicals, and with the exception of the Tansy and the False Blue Indigo, they are all edible.

And because I love to swirl colors together, I marbleized the layers of the cake and I suggest you do this too!  The pale green color of the lime batter contrasted nicely with the purple blackberry batter.  Honestly, you could do this with blueberries as well, the recipe was adapted from one in my first book, Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.

IMG_8308

Blackberry Julep Cake

Makes 1 (8-inch) triple layer cake to serve about 16

 

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest

½ teaspoon salt

7 egg whites

3 cups cake flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/4 cups milk

Blackberry-Lime Preserves, recipe follows

Bourbon Buttercream, recipe follows

Fresh flowers, mint sprigs and blackberries for decoration

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 (8”) cake pans, line them with parchment paper and grease the paper. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, lime zest and salt until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites, 2-3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping to scrape the bowl.

2.  Combine the flour with the baking powder and whisk gently to blend. In 2-3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.

3.  Scoop out 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remainder equally among the 3 prepared pans, smoothing out the tops with a rubber spatula. Mix 2-1/2 tablespoons of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blackberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Using a skewer or paring knife, swirl the blackberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the batter but take care not to mix it in.

4.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, remove the parchment paper and allow them to cool completely.

5.  To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the Blackberry-Lime Preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally, place the third layer on top of the second and frost the sides and top of the cake with the Bourbon Buttercream Frosting. Arrange the flowers, mint and berries around the top of the cake and the serving plate.

Blackberry-Lime Preserves

Makes about 1 cup

3 cups frozen blackberries, fresh or frozen

¾ cups sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1.  If using frozen blackberries, allow them to thaw and the juices to accumulate. Place the berries and the juice into a blender. Puree the berries and pass them through a strainer to remove the seeds.

2.  In a heavy medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the blackberry puree with the sugar, lime juice, lime zest and the ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup.

 

Bourbon Buttercream

Makes about 3-1/2 cups

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons Bourbon

2 eggs

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablesoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1.  In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and Bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil with out stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F, on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.

2.  In a large mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters or the syrup will splatter. When all of the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 minutes or longer.

3.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2-3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lime juice, and the frosting is ready for use.

 

Sky_High

Many thanks to Tuwanda Coleman and Talk of the Town for the opportunity to tape the segments and for promoting the Urban Gardening Festival.  To see the segments from Talk of the Town, follow these links:

Blackberry-Julep Cake

The Royal Bouquet

pineapple upside-down slab cake

IMG_8209Every month, our Master Gardener group has a potluck dinner that precedes our meeting.  Each member brings a dish to feed about 8-10 people and I always bring cake.  My original plan was to make an apple cake to use a few leftover apples, but when I went to the grocery store, pineapples were on sale.  My plans quickly changed.

If you have spent any time on the internet looking at dessert recipes, you have seen recipe after recipe for slab pies.  Honestly, I have seen too many.  Yes, they are a little easier than a typical pie but I felt it was time for a change.  As I planned my dessert for the dinner, I decided to double it and bake it in a roasting pan; an upside-down sheet cake.  The result, a big slab of cake to feed a crowd.

One very important note to all of you bakers, this recipe is formulated by weights!  Cups are great but can vary from set to set as well as from baker to baker since everybody has their own way of filling them.  By using weights, you get exactly what you need!  Purchasing a scale is easy, they can be found in most stores that sell baking equipment and are relatively cheap, mine cost me $15 and I use it a lot!

IMG_8195To make a really good pineapple upside-down cake, you must use a fresh pineapple.  While canned fruit will work in a pinch, it just does not have the flavor of a fresh pineapple.  If you do not want to mess with cleaning a fresh one, look in the refrigerated section of the produce department in the grocery store.  Most stores will stock fresh pineapple that has been peeled and cored, keep in mind that it will also cost at least double the price.

Another reason to buy a whole fruit, the crown.  Pineapple tops, if removed correctly, can be rooted and grown and in about 2 years, you will actually get a fruit.  Before you cut the fruit, grab the top and twist until it releases and breaks free.  You will get a little pointed knob on the bottom.  Set it aside for now and carefully trim away all of the skin and eyes using a serrated knife.  Cut the fruit in half, from top to bottom, and then cut each piece in half.  You will have a somewhat triangular piece of fruit and the core will be at the pointed end.  Using your knife, cut the core away in one long strip.  Lay the piece down and slice the fruit into 3/8 of an inch thick.  Take all of the little scraps and small pieces and chop them up, you will need 5 ounces, about 2/3 cup, for the cake recipe.  Be sure to use the ugly pieces for this!

IMG_8191Use a roasting pan that is 10 inches by 13 inches or use a rectangular cake pan of a similar size as long as the sides are close to two inches high.  Grease the pan well and pour in the caramel.  Tilt the pan to spread it evenly across the bottom and then layer in the slices in any pattern that suits you.  For my cake, I chose rows simply because they would act as a cutting guide for the person who would be slicing the cake and it worked out beautifully.

IMG_8211When the cake comes out of the oven, it is important that you let it sit for 10 minutes before unmolding it or the fruit will stick to the pan.  The caramel is boiling at that point and it needs to cool a bit to form a bond with the fruit and the cake.  If you wait too long, you will need to return it to the oven to heat it up again, so this step is not one that you want to lose track of.  Set your timer for 10 minutes when you take it from the oven and wait for it!  Place a sheet tray or serving platter over the cake and invert it.  The cake should release immediately and fall right out onto the platter.  Allow it to completely cool off before slicing or the cake will crumble.

IMG_8220The perfect blend of spice cake and caramelized fruit!

IMG_8200While your cake cools, let’s get that crown taken care of!  Gently pull off the leaves of the crown until you reveal what looks like roots.  Believe it or not, they are roots!  When you have a nice layer of them that goes all the way around the pointed end, place it in a glass of water.

IMG_8207Keep it near a bright window and be sure to change the water frequently so that it does not get moldy or fermented.  If all goes well, you will have roots that stretch down into the water and you can plant it in a pot.  Use a light soil, one that will not hold water and make sure it is in a warm, sunny spot.  It will take a long time to grow a fruit, be patient!  For more information, here is a good link on growing pineapples.

This method has worked for me in the past, and it has also failed.  The good news is that pineapples are affordable and you can experiment with allowing it to dry out and plant it directly into soil as well as rooting in water!  Look for the grocery store to have a sale, this one was $1.89, the peeled/cored ones were $5.99!

Pineapple Upside-Down Slab Cake

serves about 36

Please note, this cake can be baked in one roasting pan, 10″ x 13″ or in two 10″ cake pans or cast iron skillets.  The recipe is also easily divided in half since the ingredients are measured by weight!  Cup measurements are included but are approximate amounts and may yield slightly different results.

topping

1 ripe pineapple, peeled and sliced as described above

4 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces dark brown sugar (1/2 cup)

5-1/2 ounces light honey (1/2 cup)

cake

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

11-1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1-2/3 cup)

8 ounces dark brown sugar (1 cup)

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1 pound and 6 ounces all purpose flour (4-1/2 cups)

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1 cup buttermilk

5 ounces of chopped pineapple (2/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 325F.  To make the topping, prepare the pineapple as directed and set it aside.  In a skillet or saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the brown sugar and honey and stir to dissolve it.  Bring the mixture to a slow boil and allow it to cook until it thickens a bit, 2-3 minutes.  Pour the syrup into the greased pan and tilt it to spread it evenly.  Carefully arrange the pineapple slices and set this aside while you prepare the cake.

To prepare the cake, place the butter, the sugars, ginger, vanilla and salt into a mixing bowl.  With the mixer on low, combine the ingredients, scrape the bowl well and then allow it to cream until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Be sure to scrape the bowl well to combine it evenly.  Place the flour, baking powder and spices into a mesh strainer or sifter and sift it over the bowl, all at once.  Fold it by hand a few times, dump the buttermilk in, all at once and fold it completely.  Finally, add the reserved pineapple bits and the juice that has accumulated in the cup and finish folding it until no streaks of flour or juice remain.  Carefully drop dollops of the batter over the pineapple in the pan and gently spread it out evenly over the surface.  Use an offset palette knife along with a gentle hand for the best results, you do not want to disturb the pattern of the fruit!

Bake the cake until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.  Remove from the oven, allow it to sit for 10 minutes (use a timer for this!) and then invert it onto a serving platter or tray.  It is best to wait until it is completely cooled to cut it, you may have to restrain yourself!

 

 

 

 

winter blues

IMG_8150To say it has been cold here is an understatement.  Yes, I know that plenty of places are much colder and covered in snow, so what!  We moved south to escape snow and frigid temperatures and the last two weeks have been brutal here.  So rather than dwell on the cold or debate who has it worse and all that, let’s just look at photos from the fall taken out at the Demonstration Garden in Ellington Ag Center.  Before the frost.  When it was still warm…  Mexican Sage in bloom.IMG_8151Love the fuzzy blooms, so do the bees.

IMG_8155Vietnamese coriander in bloom.  So delicate and tiny.IMG_8158The swamp monster that tried to eat the garden-Swamp sunflowers in bloom

IMG_8159The swamp sunflowers were about 8 feet tall and they are spreading out.  Don’t they look beautiful with the Burning Bushes?

IMG_8168Want to plant something that bees and hummingbirds love?  Fill your garden with salvias and one of my favorites is Pineapple Sage.  The leaves smell like a pineapple lifesaver candy when you rub them and they are edible meaning you can use them as you would most other edible herbs.  Honey bees love them and if you have a colony nearby, you might just find enough of them in it to make the whole plant buzz and vibrate.  Hummingbirds will visit them too but only if they stay in your area through the fall.  Pineapple sages tends to put this show on late in the season and this was taken around the first week of November.

IMG_8176Just look at those pollen baskets!

IMG_8170We built this out at the Bee Garden and we are hoping that beneficial insects are nesting here.

IMG_8172IMG_8179This garden is just full of color and blooms.

IMG_8180Our climate here allows for tropical plants to grow and thrive during the warmer months but the fruit never has a chance to mature and ripen.

IMG_8185We can only dream about bananas; these did not make it and were killed by frost shortly after I took the photos but while it was blooming, the wasps and bees loved the nectar and pollen.

Late fall in the garden

IMG_8111This update is a little late but if you are wondering how the garden is coming along, here it is!  When we finally had our hard frost a few weeks ago, I went out and spent the day cleaning and harvesting what I could.

IMG_8112In my effort to add visual interest, I have added a bottle tree and the white metal baskets are a project in the works.

IMG_8118Our hens have really helped us improve the soil and control insects.  These are two of our young hens; a Black Australorp and an Americauna, who is also our only green egg layer.

IMG_8121She really is a sweet bird but she is also a bit shy and the other hens tend to bully her a bit.

IMG_8122These are a couple of the old girls.  We brought our Golden Laced Wyandottes with us when we moved here from Virginia.  They aren’t laying much anymore now that they are over 2 years old but they still help out by providing us with manure and by eating insects.

IMG_8120The iridescent feathers on the Australorps are beautiful when the sun hits them.  The hens wander the outside of the garden in their tunnels and they are safe from hawks and our plants are safe from the hens!

IMG_8132This pretty lady, an argiope aurantia or yellow garden spider, was hanging out in the carport until we moved her to the garden.  She quickly settled in and stayed out there until the hard frost.

IMG_8137Because I was curious, I looked up information about her and discovered that this little brown ball is actually an egg sac.  Each one can contain about a thousand live babies who will over winter in the sac.  As I cleaned up the bed of flowers where she was living, I discovered three of these egg sacs!  In the hope of having another spider or two next year, I carefully moved the sacs and placed them in the beds with our fig trees.

IMG_8127Early in the spring, I planted a number of perennial flowers and herbs around the garden.  At that time, I also planted an artichoke.  It has gotten large and if it survives the winter, I am hoping for chokes!

IMG_8125Cabbage heads are looking good.

IMG_8126We harvested most of the broccoli for Thanksgiving dinner and froze what we did not cook.  Because we only cut the top heads off, we left the plants in the ground so that they would produce side shoots of smaller heads.  If all goes according to the plan, we will be picking broccoli through the winter.

IMG_8124When we were in Virginia, I planted Tokyo market turnips for the first time.  They are smaller than the typical turnips found in grocery stores.  At last check, they were nearing maturity and I am looking forward to roasting a few!

IMG_8141Cardoon looks a lot like an artichoke.  The difference, chokes or the flower, are the only edible part of an artichoke while both the flower and the stalk are edible on a cardoon.  Actually, the stalk is more commonly consumed and it requires a long simmer to soften the extremely tough fibers.

IMG_8143The stalks look like celery on steroids and they are just as tough as you would imagine.  And then there are the spines; they are every bit as sharp as they look!

IMG_8147Handle the stalks with care and be sure to cut them off before you try to cut and cook the stalks.

IMG_8117All around the garden are little pops of color in the form of violas, one of my favorite plants.

IMG_8131Love this color combination.

IMG_8129Part of the clean up meant gathering tomatoes, both ripe and green.  If you are considering planting tomatoes, give these little yellow gems a try.  They are called Barry’s Crazy Cherry and they can be found in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog.

IMG_8149Late in spring, we put a watermelon plant into the garden.  Hoping for a few melons to share with the hens, we were disappointed by how slowly the plants grew.  This was the largest of three melons.  The first one that we cut into was white inside, it became some really nice pickles.  The other two are still waiting to be cut and we are hoping for better luck!

 

blue ribbon ah-fair

IMG_8072Entering a competition at the State Fair is as American as an apple pie, much like the one in the photo above.  And while I realize that the 2017 Tennessee Fair is old news, I really wanted to share these photos.  Actually, I have been missing in action (blame it on the job) and thought I should get my act together and start posting some of the photos that I have taken.

IMG_8036Dusk is the best time to visit the fair.  It is not as busy and the lighting is perfect, even when you are taking photos of lights.

IMG_8039As members of the Master Gardeners, we always find ourselves at the fair and working in the MG booth but we make time to walk around and see as much as we can.  This year, we did not work the booth but we spent some time there with friends who were visiting from Germany.

IMG_8040As adventurous as I am, and I am-I love a good roller coaster, this ride terrifies me.  The thought of dropping like a rock, straight down to the ground…If you need me, I will be out here with a camera, watching you drop like a rock.

IMG_8049IMG_8050IMG_8053This type of ride doesn’t thrill me either-too intense and too much round and round and round…

IMG_8059Ferris wheels can be fun, guarantees a great view of the fair.

IMG_8064This one made me dizzy just watching it.

IMG_8089And then there is the real reason I was at the fair.  On a whim, I decided to enter several competitions.  This was the first time I entered a canning competition and I entered a jar of my homegrown pickle relish.  When I learned the results, I was stunned!

IMG_8096Another competition I entered was the chess pie contest, this one, a honey chess pie, came in at a respectable third place.  If you were paying attention, the very first photo of this post was of a pie, specifically, an apple pie that I entered into the big money competition.

IMG_8091Here are the judges tasting my apple pie.  Long story short, I didn’t win, place or show.  At the end of the day, I have a pretty good idea of what is expected and I will be better prepared for next year.

IMG_8107

dreaming of summer; the last photos of our trip to Sanibel Island

IMG_7839By now, I am sure you are ready for me to move on from my summer vacation photos but considering the hurricanes that have blown through that part of the world, I had to post this last group of photos.  While we were on Sanibel Island, we found a walking trail by accident.  We had left our hotel room, on foot, and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  As we approached the front of the building, we realized that it was not open.  Since we were set on having dinner, we turned around and began walking back to go somewhere else and that is when we saw a small sign for the Pond Apple Trail.  And yes, we also saw signs for alligators-this little guy did not pose much of a threat but everybody knows that small alligators are the result of big alligators…

IMG_7852We didn’t walk the trail that evening but we did go back one afternoon while we were out riding bicycles.  A portion of the trail winds around several square ponds that are part of a stormwater remediation program for the island.  This handsome fellow was watching over the water for possible snacks.

IMG_7849If you are curious about the remediation method used here, small rafts of plants are assembled and allowed to float in the ponds.  The root systems of the plants help clean the water of pollutants that are washed into the ponds during storm runoff.

IMG_7844The trail gets its name from the native pond apple trees which are relatives of custard apples and soursops.

IMG_7854Although they were perfectly edible, we decided not to eat them.  We enjoyed the trail and look forward to a trip back to the island so we can explore it again.

IMG_7862On the day we were leaving, I scheduled the flight home late in the afternoon so that we could spend the day exploring some of Fort Meyers.  Mother nature had other ideas and we were stuck walking in drizzly conditions.  We found a great place to explore despite the rain!  Six Mile Cypress Slough is one of the most unique trails I have ever walked and I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.  The entire trail is a raised wooden boardwalk that wides its way through a cypress swamp.  Currently, the trail is closed and I am assuming it is because of storm damage.

IMG_7863The stumps in the water are called knees and cypress trees develop these roots as they grow in the water.  The water was so clear, golden in color but clear with amazing visibility!

IMG_7865The ferns grow everywhere!  These were colonizing the base of a tree trunk.

IMG_7867Have you seen those air plants for sale everywhere?  They grow wild all over Sanibel Island and here in the slough as well. The lichens were pretty amazing as well, I have never seen them in this color before.

IMG_7875More air plants, they can get pretty large.

IMG_7869Ferns, love ferns… The way the little fronds unfurl…

IMG_7871Of course, it would not be a proper southern swamp without some hanging moss.

IMG_7872The boardwalk, it was only a mile from start to finish but we took our time and probably spent an hour wandering the walkway.

IMG_7873At every turn, there was something to see.  Plants above water, plants below water.

IMG_7877IMG_7881And it wouldn’t be a proper hike without a reflection shot.

IMG_7888Moss and ferns, two of my favorite things.

IMG_7901IMG_7904This guy was just hanging out, he let me take his photo.  Hopefully, the damage to the trail was not too extensive and it will reopen soon.