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Sustainahillbilly:

n., Any hill dweller who knows that the best path to the future is through the arts of the past mixed with the smallest possible dose of newfangled ingenuity.

“How To” Archives

How to Eat Well While Learning on March 1st

The SC Organic Grower’s Conference just announced their locally sourced menu and it’s worth the price of the ticket just to eat lunch.

Photo Caption: The SC Growers School is locally sourcing as many ingredients from their lunch menu as possible, including greens like this chard.

CONFERENCE MENU:

“The Culinary Institute of the Carolinas does a magnificent job preparing local food. (The chefs also will ensure that we have plenty of choices for those of you who need a vegetarian lunch.)

Winter Kale Salad
with Rebecca’s Ginger Dressing

Sea Island Pea Hoppin’ John

Carolina Gold Rice Vegetable Jambalaya

Pulled Pork Shoulder
with Greens and Caramelized Onions

Culinary Institute of the Carolinas Meat Loaf
with Sorghum Glaze and Pan Gravy”

As if we needed additional temptation to attend on top of the 32 amazing class topics to choose from! It’s on March 1st at the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas, from 8am–4pm. Click here to get your tickets before they sell out! (Note that this is different from the Organic Growers School held the following weekend in Asheville).

If you aren’t planning to go, may I eat your lunch portion?

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How to Sign Up for February’s Classes

This month’s giveaway contest is over, congratulations to the winner, Christina Weit! Christina won four February classes.

Today is gorgeous, has spring fever hit you? Eliza’s urban homesteading classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery start next week! Come learn about edible landscaping, backyard chickens, beekeeping basics, composting, and more… now is the time to get prepared for your best garden yet. Classes are $15.00 each or four for $50.00 (a $10.00 savings)! Click here to purchase winter classes online, call 864-255-3385 to purchase over the phone, or visit the cafe and buy them at the register.

Photo Caption: Eliza hand-painted the signs for the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery’s holiday flea.

Here’s the list of February’s class topics (all classes held in the upstairs room at the cafe and are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm):

COMPOSTING 101Monday, February 10th
Composting doesn’t have to be hard! Find out the difference between hot and cold composting, what goes in your compost, how much of each ingredient to use, how to keep compost from smelling bad, how to avoid fruit flies, how to start a worm bin, how to make compost tea, and how to use compost in the garden. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here



CREATING AN ORNAMENTAL EDIBLE GARDEN
Thursday, February 13th
This course will cover edible plants that look beautiful in the landscape as well as ornamental plants that benefit a food garden. Find out which fruits and vegetables have great form, evergreen leaves, amazing fall color, and more! All the plants featured grow well in the upstate of South Carolina. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here



BEGINNER BEEKEEPING
Monday, February 17th
Interested in beekeeping but don’t know where to start? This introductory course will show you the ins and outs of becoming a new beekeeper. You’ll learn what equipment you’ll need, how much time to set aside for hive chores, where to place your hives, what plants your bees will forage from in our area, how to find a local beekeeping mentor, and how to find sources for bees and materials. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here



BACKYARD CHICKEN BASICS
Thursday, February 20th
Thinking about getting backyard chickens next spring? Come learn the basics in chicken housing, care, breeds, health, sources, and local laws. We’ll talk about starting with chicks or adults. This course is geared towards beginners and will cover everything you need to know to get started with backyard chickens… and even a little bit on ducks, too! $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here



DESIGNING A SUSTAINABLE GARDEN (GETTING READY FOR SPRING)
Monday, February 24th
Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from placement, types of gardens, bed preparation, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here



CREATING A WILDLIFE GARDEN (BENEFICIAL ANIMAL HABITATS)
Thursday, February 27th
One of the signs of a healthy garden ecosystem is the presence of animal life. We’ll talk about pollinators, toads, bats, turtles, flying squirrels, birds, butterflies, and much more (with a little advice on how to discourage animals from “oversharing” your garden). You can encourage the species you enjoy and benefit from the complex ecosystem roles they perform. We’ll teach you how to create habitat and homes for a wide variety of wildlife and how to provide the foods they prefer. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here


If you’re interested in these classes or any of the other topics on our schedule, you can sign up for them at this link or at the cafe.

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How to Win Four February Urban Homesteading Classes

First, I want to make sure everyone knows we’ll be presenting at the 2014 SC Organic Growing Conference on March 1st. Get your tickets before February 1st to get the early bird registration price.

Next, we’re running another urban homesteading class giveaway! Enter to win 4 tickets to my February classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery (a $50.00 value):

February Homesteading Class Giveaway

The winner will be announced when the contest ends on Monday, February 3rd (contestants are notified via email and an update on this blog). I’m teaching six different topics in February and the winner will get to choose four of them. Classes are expected to sell out and can be purchased at this link. They’re $15.00 per class or  $50.00 for any 4 topics purchased together. You can also call or visit the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery and purchase them there.

*Edit 2/3/2014* Congratulations to Christina Weit for winning the contest! Continue reading How to Win Four February Urban Homesteading Classes

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How to Make a Pair of Permaculturalists Laugh So Hard They Have to Wait to Drive Home

Today Nathaniel and I did presentations at Gardening for Good‘s Community Gardening Symposium. Nathaniel sat in on a “Going Green in the Garden” discussion panel and I did a talk on “Perennial Vegetables.”

Photo Caption: Perennial Vegetables were popular; the room started to fill up 10 minutes before the class started. We added more chairs and by the end it was standing room only.

We weren’t at last year’s Community Gardening Conference so we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a high-quality, affordable conference with thoughtful care put into choosing speakers, topics, and planning the day. We strongly recommend that you go when it rolls around next year.

Patryk Battle of Living Web Farms was the keynote speaker with a lecture on “Nature’s Default” — how an ecosystem will take care of its imbalances (like pests and disease) if you can stand to leave it alone long enough. He followed it up with a talk on “Soil Fertility” during the first breakout session. It was a thorough overview of the soil food web, cover crops, and how mushrooms can break down just about anything.

My talk covered a couple dozen perennial vegetables that can be grown in the upstate, from well-known asparagus to otherworldly Chinese artichokes. If you’re sorry to miss it, I’ll be repeating this class topic at my Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery urban homesteading class series.

Nathaniel’s “Greening the Garden” panel was at the end of the day, alongside Rebecca McKinney, Cecil Leviner, and Anna Strick. The conversation started with garden projects and recycling before winding its way to composting, the soil food web, and mycoremediation.

The disappointing thing about symposiums is that we can’t attend ALL the lectures. Many of our friends did additional talks and we hear they were well-received.

At the end of the day we hung out with Sara Harding for a bit and then dropped by The Fresh Market on our way home to pick up sushi for our daughter’s dinner. Nathaniel also decided to get her a coconut… because Rayna likes coconuts.

If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the title of the blog post, don’t worry, we’re finally here. I want to preemptively say that the woman checking us out at the Fresh Market cash register was delightful and we’re so glad she enjoys sharing random trivia with customers. That said, here’s the conversation that inspired so much glee:

Cashier: Wow! These are some gorgeous blood oranges!
Us: Yeah!
Cashier: Ooh, a coconut!
Nathaniel: Yep, it’s for my stepdaughter.
Cashier: Did you know they JUST discovered that coconut fibers last FOREVER?! I’m serious! The ONLY thing that can make them rot is bacteria!
Us: Uh.. Wow!

We managed to keep a straight face until we reached the parking lot. The people passing us on the way into the store probably wondered why we were squealing with laughter and saying, “ONLY bacteria!” and “FOREVER!!!!!!!” over and over and over again.

Photo Caption: This coconut will be here forever. FOREVER!

Yeah, we’re geeks. But you already knew that, right? Our permaculture friends understand why it was so funny. We swear!

That said, we are geeks, so I also want to present the source of info the cashier was so excited about — it’s actually pretty cool. She said, “they just discovered coconut fibers that are at least from the 17th century” as evidence that coconut fibers last forever. I can’t find any recent discoveries of ancient coconut fibers in the news, but I did find this Wikipedia info on a place called Oak Island in Canada that has this excerpt:

“In 1851, treasure hunters discovered fibres beneath the surface of one beach called Smith’s Cove. This led to the theory that the beach had been converted into a giant siphon, feeding water from the ocean into the pit via a manmade tunnel.

A sample of this material was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in the early 20th century, where it was concluded that the material was coconut fibre.[36] The origin of these fibres has been a source of heated debate among Oak Island researchers, since coconut trees do not occur naturally in Canada. Carbon dating was conducted on a sample in the 1960s and returned a date of 1200–1400 CE.”

The same Wikipedia article mentions the History Channel released a reality TV show called “The Curse of Oak Island” on January 5th, 2014. Perhaps it made mention of the coconut fibers and that’s why the cashier believed it was a recent discovery.

We”ll concede that coconut coir is rot resistant… but resistant isn’t synonymous with permanent. Organic matter might survive intact to antiquity in the right conditions, like 30,000 year old seeds. That doesn’t mean bread won’t mold if you leave it on the counter too long or wet grain won’t spoil in the chicken feeder.

Still though, as geeks we love that bacteria is not the only thing that can rot coconut fibers. Fungi and bacteria are not as tiny and insignificant as they might seem.

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How to Sign Up for Urban Homesteading Classes (New Payment System)

There’s a new way to purchase Eliza’s classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. We switched from Paypal to Marketsquare because it seemed easier for people to use. You can also call or visit the cafe if you prefer not to buy them online.

Click here to purchase classes from the winter schedule.
Click here to purchases classes from the spring schedule.

The purchasing links are also on our class description page.

Photo Caption: Eliza painted this sign for the cafe’s Holiday Flea in December. “Tons of Topics! Makes a Great Gift!”

So far each class has been sold out and we’re receiving lots of positive feedback. Hope to see you in class!

Click here to purchase classes from the winter schedule.
Click here to purchases classes from the spring schedule.

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How to Get Four Free Garden Classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

We’re giving away two free sets of Eliza’s January gardening classes! These classes are designed to turn a total beginner into someone who is comfortable designing and implementing their dream garden.

You have two opportunities to win — you get a point towards winning for liking Appalachian Feet on Facebook and another point for liking the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. Act quickly! The contest is over at midnight on Saturday. USE THE BELOW WIDGET TO ENTER THE CONTEST, simply “liking” the Facebook pages won’t enter you to win.

CLICK HERE to enter the contest to win these four classes!

Update: Congratulations to Carys D. & Meredith S., winners of the January class raffle! (Marsha M. was an original winner but asked us to choose again since she was unable to attend).

If you can’t see the contest widget, please let us know.

Photo Caption: Selling classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery Holiday Flea.

These are the four classes being given away in this contest, or you can click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00. All the classes are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm in the upstairs room at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. You can purchase dinner to eat during class! If you win a class and can’t attend that night, you may give your slot to a friend.

  • Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners
    Brand new to gardening or stuck with a black thumb? Perhaps you have gardened somewhere else and are stumped by South Carolina’s red clay and summer heat? Don’t worry! This class will put you on track to becoming an expert in no time. Learn how to choose a garden site & style, improve your soil, figure out how much to water & fertilize, select plants, start seeds, make compost, and more!  Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture
    If you’re interested in organic gardening and ecology you’ll love permaculture! It just might be the solution to all the world’s woes. Come learn how to design your property as a high-yielding, low-maintenance, sustainable system. We’ll cover the permaculture design principles, gardening techniques frequently used in permaculture, how to grow edible plants in guilds, rainwater catchment, and the best ways to create your own home ecosystem in the upstate. Price: $15.00
  • Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring)
    Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from siting the garden, styles of gardens, bed preparation, plant placement, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast
    This class will talk about the best edible plants you can grow in this area and whether they should be purchased as seeds or transplants. We will cover annual and perennial crops that can be harvested over all four seasons. Find out which heirloom seeds do best in our climate, native plants that bear tasty produce, and delicious fruits that can double as ornamentals in the landscape. This class is intended for beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
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How to Manage a Winter Garden

The best thing about winter salads is how easy it is to obtain a harvest. Cold months mean chores don’t have to be done in the heat, plus the pests and diseases are mostly dormant. You can’t beat the satisfaction of walking into the kitchen on a gray day carrying an armload of vibrant produce!

Photo Caption: This salad is composed of various greens, pea shoots, ‘Hakurei’ turnips, and radishes.

Winter gardening at Appalachian Feet is a combination of extending the growing season with cold-hardy varieties and frost protection while preparing beds for next season’s crops. It’s a great time of year for site selection, soil preparation, and choosing plants.

Photo Caption: UV plastic on low hoops provides protection for our winter crops. On the boundaries of the property we’re building hugelkultured keyhole beds.

For a long time now, the center of our yard has been a series of branching pattern rows. These were useful for crop rotation, but we’ve become skeptical of its benefits in a small scale polycultured garden. Our thought is that plant guilds and an exceptionally healthy soil food web will do a superior job of keeping plant illness at bay. Both our old and new designs have three main pathways that act like arteries for wheelbarrow supplies. The new design will involve more keyhole beds than straight rows, and some strategic swales for rainwater collection.

Instead of drip irrigation, we’ve decided to go with more hugelkultur. Our neighborhood is a bounty of unwanted wood (people pile it on the side of the road) and it takes us less than an hour to drive around and fill the truck bed with logs within a mile of our house.

Photo Caption: We’ve inoculated the wood in these keyhole beds with edible oyster mushrooms. In the next few weeks we’ll finish stacking the wood and add lasagna gardening layers on top to compost before spring. We’re also using the height of the hugel beds to block the chicken’s view of the garden — their run is behind the logs.

Keyhole beds are designed to optimize growing space vs. space “wasted” on pathways. Paths can have plenty of stacked functions (we use ours for composting, growing mushrooms, travel, and burying irrigation lines), but on a small property, growing space is even more valuable. The idea is that every space in a bed is able to be reached for planting, weeding, harvesting, mulching, and other maintenance with the least possible area devoted to pathways.

Another goal for some of our keyhole beds is for their height to block our chicken’s view of the garden. The saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” was derived from livestock being able to see what they are missing. If they can’t see juicy tomatoes hanging on the vine or brilliant greens just waiting to be savored, they don’t feel as inspired to attempt an escape. We had considered buying a roll of 2′ high plastic to run along the bottom of our chicken fence, but we’d much rather use hugel beds to obscure the view. As an added benefit, we can plant crops chickens like to eat along the fenceline so they can peck the leaves through the fence holes. A little comfrey bocking #4 and coppiced mulberries ought to make them much happier than plastic sheeting.

Photo Caption: “Give us all your comfrey!” We put our chickens next to our neighbor’s fence to control the English ivy, periwinkle, Japanese honeysuckle, Carolina snailseed, greenbrier, poison ivy, autumn clematis, and other weeds that like to creep in under the fence. It took our ladies two years, but they are finally making headway on the vine problem. Last month we filled their run with the never-ending supply of leaves from our neighbor’s curb. The chickens are very happy with this worm-promoting litter, plus the mulch keeps the soil soft enough that the chickens have an easier time scratching up weeds. They also enjoy radish greens and other root veggie tops which we toss over the fence before carrying our harvest inside. Between these foraging options and their constant access to our compost pile, the chickens barely touch the commercial feed we supply them with.

Our chickens have enjoyed a little company lately, due to an adjacent neighbor acquiring their own chickens. Someone knocked on our door today to tell me that chickens were on the loose down the street. I wish I had a picture of his look of surprise when I said they weren’t my chickens! This is one trend I am happy to spread around. Also, if you’re worried, our neighbor’s chickens are now safely back in the coop.

Photo Caption: Our chickens are also enjoying cuttings from our cover crops. This photo is of milky oats and Austrian winter peas. We’re also growing winter rye, vetch, favas, and clover.

Cover crops are another great way to use the winter garden. You get to build soil, thwart weeds, retain water, and potentially harvest a small crop. We pinch tender shoots off the Austrian winter peas to put in salads, and we’ll be using milky oats for tea and medicine in the spring.

Photo Caption: Root vegetables and greens are at their peak performance in a winter garden. If you’ve ever had trouble growing carrots, celery, radishes, turnips, lettuce, beets, spinach, or cabbage you should try them in the winter.

Most people don’t realize the myriad of crops that do well in winter gardens. We’re currently growing kale, collards, raab, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, salad radishes, daikons, rutabagas, turnips, lacy mustards, regular mustards, minutina, beets, spinach, lamb’s quarters, fennel, celery, carrots, cilantro, chervil, parsley, parsnips, scallions, endive, radicchio, chickory, lettuce, mache, chickweed, and more.

The majority of winter crops are easier grown directly in the ground from seed. Use more seeds than you think you’ll need and thin them to the proper spacing. Once the crops start maturing, you can harvest the largest plants to provide more room for the remaining plants to grow. For example, we plant our turnips closer than the recommended spacing and begin harvesting baby turnips when they reach ping pong ball size. As the crowded beds are thinned, the remaining turnips can reach sizes as great as a softball.

We also try to reduce kitchen preparation by taking care of some of the chores while we’re still outside. Turnip and beet greens are prized in our kitchen, but we’re less excited about hairy radish leaves. These get pulled off and fed to the chickens as a treat before we ever enter the house. Another trick for pre-prepping veggies is our winter rain bucket. In the winter, we don’t have to worry about mosquitoes infesting standing water. Leaving a bucket in the garden means we have a handy place to dip muddy root vegetables; thus, very little soil makes it into the kitchen. This water can also be used to irrigate thirsty plants.

Salad greens are harvested right into our salad spinner. Just a few snips with the scissors and we only have to rinse and spin.

Photo Caption: PVC pipe is one option for building low hoop beds. We also use flexible steel rods made for this purpose.

The beauty of low hoops are their low tech nature. You just need some sort of hoop frames (a smooth, curved edge is easiest to pull plastic on and off) and UV resistant plastic. All the heat comes from solar activity, no electricity is required. The rows should be covered when temperatures are below 50 ° F and removed when temps rise above 50 ° F.

It’s important to leave the plastic on when temps are below 50 ° F, even if your veggies can take freezing temperatures. Plants that take freezing temperatures are not actively growing when they are that cold. They survive, but just sit there. If you want winter veggies to ripen in the coldest months, row covers are required to keep them warm enough for active growth.

We watered daily from the time of sowing until the plants reached 2″ in height. After that, we mulched lightly and have mostly used rainwater for irrigation. Winter gardening requires more attentiveness to weather reports in order to plan when the covers should stay on or not.

Photo Caption: Weather variations make heading cabbages and lettuces some of the more challenging veggies to grow successfully in the south. We like to grow Chinese cabbages and loose-leaf lettuce varieties which are more reliable producers in mild weather climates.

Winter crops have few pests (no cabbage worms!) but do occasionally get aphids and slugs. If infestations get bad, try leaving the cover off hardier plants on a frosty (but not freezing) night to reduce the population. For aphids, you can also purchase mailorder ladybugs and release them under the plastic. If you’re lucky enough to have ducks, run them through your uncovered plants to take care of the slug problem.

Photo Caption: Chervil is a delicately flavored herb prized in French cooking. Sow it outdoors in February or under plastic all winter.

Winter weeds are another issue under low hoops. We remove volunteer seedlings like purple deadnettle, henbit, and speedwell before they set seed. We usually leave chickweed unless it is crowding a crop we want more. Try some chickweed in your salad and you’ll see why!

Our favorite source of seeds for the winter garden is Seeds From Italy. When it comes to broadcasting large beds of spinach, lettuce, or carrots we don’t want wimpy seed packets with less than a teaspoon of seeds in it. Seeds From Italy still provides impressively ample seed packets at a home gardener price.

Want a chance to taste-test some of this pretty produce? Sign up for our expert gardener class series or pick a different topic from the schedule!

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How to Become an Expert Gardener

We’ve got an amazing variety of class topics available right now — with limited seating so reserve your space ASAP!

Are you a beginner gardener? Our January block of classes starts with the absolute basics and ends with you knowing how to design your dream garden (and what plants to stock it with). Not only that, but they’re available on PayPal so you can even purchase them when the cafe isn’t open. If you don’t want to use PayPal, call or visit the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to pick them up in person. Their number is (864) 255-3385. When you buy all 4 classes together you get $10.00 off the total price!

All classes listed here are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm in the upstairs room of the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

(Click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00)

  • Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners (click here to purchase this class by itself)
    Brand new to gardening or stuck with a black thumb? Perhaps you have gardened somewhere else and are stumped by South Carolina’s red clay and summer heat? Don’t worry! This class will put you on track to becoming an expert in no time. Learn how to choose a garden site & style, improve your soil, figure out how much to water & fertilize, select plants, start seeds, make compost, and more!  Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture
    If you’re interested in organic gardening and ecology you’ll love permaculture! It just might be the solution to all the world’s woes. Come learn how to design your property as a high-yielding, low-maintenance, sustainable system. We’ll cover the permaculture design principles, gardening techniques frequently used in permaculture, how to grow edible plants in guilds, rainwater catchment, and the best ways to create your own home ecosystem in the upstate. Price: $15.00
  • Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring)
    Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from siting the garden, styles of gardens, bed preparation, plant placement, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast
    This class will talk about the best edible plants you can grow in this area and whether they should be purchased as seeds or transplants. We will cover annual and perennial crops that can be harvested over all four seasons. Find out which heirloom seeds do best in our climate, native plants that bear tasty produce, and delicious fruits that can double as ornamentals in the landscape. This class is intended for beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00 (Click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00)
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Photo Caption: Learn how to select plants for your location, like these colorful tomatoes.

Not only will you become a knowledgeable gardener, you get to do it while looking at photo eye candy and eating delicious food. Treat your significant other or turn it into a hangout for a group of friends!

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Photo Caption: Learn why flowers are a necessity in the vegetable garden.

Again, here’s the link to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00 or contact the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to purchase any 4 classes for the same discount. You can choose from anything on the schedule. Gift certificates are available upon request!

 

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How to Take Eliza’s Classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

Scenario: Instead of figuring out what’s for dinner, head over to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to choose from their delicious menu and enjoy an evening of information and inspiring photo eye-candy. Cappuccino? Soup? An entire bar of artisan chocolate? Treat yourself or buy a gift for a friend!

The choice of topics is huge and there’s something to interest everyone. Beginner? Expert? Permaculture? Perennial Veggies? Heirloom Seeds? Edible Flowers? Native Plants? Wild Foraging? Wildlife Habitats? Backyard Chickens? Beekeeping?

Click here for the class schedule.

Photo Caption: Class gift certificates are available upon request at the Swamp Rabbit & Cafe register.

Classes are held in the upstairs room at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for $15.00 each or four for $50.00 ($10 off the total price). Colorful gift certificates are available upon request at the cafe register. Seating is limited so make sure to reserve your classes soon!

Note that the first four classes in the series (Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners, Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture, Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring), and Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast) are designed to make a total beginner into a knowledgeable gardener. You’ll start with the basics and finish by designing and choosing plants for the garden you’ve always dreamed of. If you already know the basics of growing things, you may want to swap the “Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners” class for one of the other class listings.

The Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery is located at 205 Cedar Lane, Greenville, SC 29611 or you can call them at (864) 255-3385.

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How to Visit our Q&A Table on the Urban Farm Tour

Hey everyone! Even though our home isn’t on the Greenville Urban Farm Tour this year, we’ll still be at the North Main Organic Garden tomorrow to answer questions and talk to people. Nathaniel and I will be at the Appalachian Feet table from 9:00am until early afternoon (so if you want to see us, don’t come too late in the day). We hope to see you there!

You’ll also be able to sign up for the SC Upstate Permaculture Society (free and open to beginners).

Photo Caption: This was our table at the 2012 Urban Farm Tour.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can get them online at this website or pick them up in person tomorrow at GOFO’s Crescent Studios headquarters.

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How to Find Eliza’s Beekeeping Article Online

My beekeeping article from the summer 2013 issue of edible Upcountry magazine is now available online. Many thanks to Carolina Honey Bee Company for hosting such fantastic classes. Our three hives are still doing great!

Click here or on the image below to see the article:

Photo Caption: Click on the image to see the article. Photo Credit: Brian Kelley

You can pick up hardcopies of edible Upcountry at locations all over the Upstate, including the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

~Eliza

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How to Grow and Harvest Feijoa

One thing that I have really come to love about living in upstate South Carolina is the sheer diversity of fruits and vegetables that we can grow. Having come from Vermont, where the short summers and extremely cold winters put a major limit on what can be grown each year, South Carolina has struck me as an Eden of sorts. Previously, I always had to eat most of my fresh produce as shipped items (especially peaches), but now I get to try my hand at growing familiar food as well as some plants I had never even heard of. Really, it amazes me to live in a place where I can grow my own pomegranates and figs. With a bit of work, I can even pick my own fresh citrus. It’s great!

Feijoa shrug

Feijoa (aka Pineapple Guava) are attractive evergreen shrubs or small trees. They make excellent urban permaculture foundation plantings due to their usefulness and curb appeal.

One of the stranger fruits that we have decided to give a shot to is feijoa (Acca sellowiana), which is also commonly called pineapple guava. (I am refraining from calling it that myself, because it is neither a pineapple nor a guava). Feijoas are a member of the Myrtaceae family, which includes such notables as eucalyptus, clove, allspice, and true guavas.  The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree, generally not growing taller than ten feet in height (though it can be pruned to keep it shorter than that), with attractive foliage and colorful flowers. Originating in South America, feijoas were first brought to the United States in the late 19th to early 20th century.  At first they were grown as ornamentals rather than food plants (while in New Zealand and Australia they became popular for their fruit). It was not until some time later that the fruit began to become a desired aspect of growing feijoas.

While feijoas can grow pretty well in our zone 8 region of South Carolina, they do need to be looked after the first couples of years.  They are reported to be sensitive to cold winds and so are best planted up against a wall or some other structure that can give them a bit of shelter. Once they have been established, they should have no problem handling the South Carolina winters. Only up in the mountains might they succumb to cold (temperatures continually below 16° F will probably kill them). Feijoa actually need at least 50 cold hours each winter to set blossoms, so a bit of chill is not a bad thing. Our two plants are positioned along a narrow brick wall in our front yard. This provides them with the shelter from the wind. Additionally, the afternoon sun heats the wall and creates  a microclimate that benefits the feijoas when the weather turns cooler.

The feijoas put out buds in spring which open into flowers sometime in May and June. The flower petals are a very attractive pink and white (personally I find them somewhat similar in shape to fuchsia flowers, though larger, and more flamboyant). The fleshy petals are edible and can be removed for eating without destroying the flower as a whole (so that they still fruit). They give off a pleasant scent, sweet and almost spicy (which is a reminder of its relation to things like clove and allspice).  The flavor of the petals is mild and fruity, again with the slightest hint of spice.

The flowers of the feijoa open in late May or early June. They are stunning gems that cover the plant and give off a very pleasant fragrance.

Feijoas are most likely to bear fruit if you have two plants growing in very close proximity with each other (its okay for them to be close enough to touch each other). While they can fruit without another plant, pollination will be significantly lower.  We were lucky this year to get any fruit as only one of our two plants flowered (of the two it was the older plant, we’re hoping that the other one has grown enough that it will flower next year). If pollination is successful, the fruits will begin to develop in June and will grow throughout the summer months. The fruits are about the size of a chicken egg, ovoid in shape, and have a fairly tough green leathery skin. They come to ripeness in autumn (October here in SC) and will fall from the plant when they are ready to eat.

The fruits of the feijoa are about the size of a chicken egg, with a leathery green skin. When they are ripe and ready to eat in the autumn they will fall to the ground. If you grow some, remember to check for mature fruit beneath the plant.

The easiest way to eat a feijoa is to cut it in half or quarters and scoop out the pale flesh and seed pulp with a spoon (or your teeth). While the skin isn’t poisonous, it’s very bitter and not recommended for consumption. The flesh and seeds of the feijoa are an amazing flavor blast that is hard to define in terms of other flavors. “Tropical” is the immediate word that came to my mind, but it begged comparison to several other things: a bit of citrus, a little pineapple, maybe some star fruit, and definitely a similarity to true guavas — but in the end it is something all its own. They taste like feijoas and they are wonderfully delicious. I felt a great deal of disappointment that we only got four fruits this year, and am eagerly hopeful that next year both plants will flower and produce more of a crop.

The flesh inside the fruit is pale and grainy and surrounds pulpy, jelly-like seeds. The cut fruit gives off a rich and delicious aroma.

Quick searches online and in a few of our books turned up all sorts of suggested uses for feijoa fruit. The strong flavor would go well simply in a fruit salad, blended into a smoothy, paired with yogurt, or made into an ice cream. They are reported to make good jams and preserves, to act as more flavorful substitutes in recipes that call for bananas, and to impart an interesting and exotic quality to chutneys (something I’m eagerly anticipating because I love cooking a good chut). For a helpful source of ideas and a lot of recipes I recommend checking out the Feijoa Feijoa blog (which, as the name may suggest, is an entire blog devoted to feijoas).

There are many possible uses for the feijoa fruit: breads, preserves, ice cream, etc. Having only four fruits this year, we decided to keep it simple and serve them with some star fruit (which share a similarity in flavor).

So, here’s to the feijoa! A fantastical and fascinating fruit. Something exotic that can provide your garden or yard with a “wow” factor, which I had never heard of prior to coming to South Carolina.

Enjoy!

~Nathaniel

Available for purchase from Logees or Ison’s nursery.

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How to Avoid Disappointment on the UFT

We wanted to let everyone know that the 2013 Greenville Urban Farm Tour website has some misinformation that we hope will be fixed soon. In spite of the detailed listing under their “Tour Sites” link, Appalachian Feet is not one of the sites on the fall UFT. Please do not stop by our house that day.

If you want to see us during the UFT you can catch up with us at our Q&A table located at the North Main Organic Garden (formerly called the GOFO Community Garden). Again, please do not stop by Appalachian Feet during the UFT, our yard is not available that day. We will likely participate if there is another UFT in the spring.

Photo Caption: This photo was taken in the spring. It’s fall, and we don’t have much to look at right now. Also, our bees are a lot more grouchy when they are guarding their winter stores vs. busily gathering nectar in the spring. We decided to wait until the next spring farm tour to participate.

Thanks everyone!

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How to Take Our Classes

We have new classes available!

Click here to see the list of topics. We have classes for beginners through experts on subjects like permaculture, soil, insects, beneficial wildlife habitats, plant propagation, fruits, vegetables, seeds, heirlooms, backyard chickens, beekeeping, winter growing, and preparing a garden for next season.

Photo Caption: Learn about tomato varieties and more in the “Seed Saving and Heirloom Plants” class on October 12th, 2013.

We’re teaching small classes (limited to 12 students per class and available first come, first serve) in a wonderful little schoolhouse next to the North Main Organic Garden. There is heating, A/C, restrooms, and a roof to keep the rain off! Note that we are not having the classes at Appalachian Feet at this time since the weather is too unpredictable and we don’t have a rain shelter in our yard.

It’s easy to purchase classes, just use the Paypal drop box under the date you choose (if you want more than one class, click the “continue shopping” button after each selection).

We hope to see you in class!

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How to Read Posts Behind a Cut (& Puppies, Kitties, Chicks, and Flying Squirrels)

Our posts have gotten increasingly photo intensive lately so I wanted to draw attention to the fact that we’ve started using expandable summaries on our blog. Hiding most the photos behind a cut makes it much easier to load the home page.

Expandable summaries are pretty common on blogs, but not everyone is familiar with them. All it means is that if you’re on our home page, the first portion of a post will be instantly available, but to see the rest of it you have to click on the “Continue reading…” link.

To test it out, we’ve decided to tempt you with cute animal photos. There are more adorable animals photos behind the cut!

Photo Caption: This is our dog Ceres shortly after we got her last year. We named her after the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain (not to mention a dwarf planet and a Shakespeare character).

For those of you getting here from the home page, this is where the post is cut. To see more adorable animal photos you’ll have to click on the link below this paragraph. However, if you already see more photos instead of a “Continue reading” link, you don’t have to worry about it.

Continue reading How to Read Posts Behind a Cut (& Puppies, Kitties, Chicks, and Flying Squirrels)

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How to Tour Local Permaculture Sites – Part 1

Touring, photographing, and sharing permaculture gardens in my area seems like I task I will never get tired of. With that in mind, welcome to my new blog series.

I will be showcasing “official” tours as well as informal visits to existing and aspiring permaculture sites in the region. Learning from the ingenious little ways people connect to their ecosystem is so much fun! I’m looking forward to providing a database of area permaculture gardens that people can access from wherever they live.

The first garden on the tour is a home in Asheville, NC that has a three year old permaculture landscape designed by Zev Friedman. You can contact him and ask to be added to his email list if you’d like to be notified about his future group tours.

Photo Caption: I prefer visiting gardens with smaller groups than this, but it was fun to have Zev Friedman as our tour guide. He talked about all kinds of permaculture uses for plants but also covered a few other features like swales, a large water cistern, and future plans for a catchment pond.

This home was located on a downtown residential street in Asheville and fully exemplified how stunning a permaculture landscape can be. A yard this pretty makes it easy to win over the neighbors!

Plants on the property included white oak, plums, persimmons, apples, mulberries, serviceberries, hazelnuts, elderberries, aronia, raspberries, blueberries, fruiting roses, grapes, passionfruit, Jerusalem artichoke, strawberries, culinary herbs, lavender, horseradish, comfrey, begonias, sochan, tomatoes, echinacea, black-eyed Susans, lovage, yarrow, spiderwort, wood nettles, willow, mountain mint, yellowroot, euonymus, monarda, cup plant, coreopsis, and more.

Click the link to keep reading.

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How to Learn About Permaculture

When I started signing up for more permaculture classes this year, my friends and family made fun of me. The thing is, permaculture is more like an artist’s palette than an exact formula. Anyone can use it, but the more you learn and practice, the more likely you are to make a masterpiece. Plus, I just love taking classes.

In early spring we had a lot going on and all the extensive permaculture design courses in my region require a commute. I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.

Our friend Shawn Jadrnicek started the Urban Permaculture Institute of the Southeast and runs Clemson’s student organic farm. He recommended we try an online PDC class from Permaculture Visions (PV). Looking through independent permaculture forums, I found dozens of positive reviews from people who had completed the course. I really liked that we’d have a full 2 years (if we needed it) to complete all of our PV assignments and that there was a discussion email list for students and graduates. We signed up for the class as a couple and have been slowly moving through the material — which is soundly based on Bill Mollison’s permaculture principles but the examples tend to involve Australian plants and climates we are unfamiliar with.

Photo Caption: This Rosa rugosa was blooming at the permaculture home where I stayed for my first class weekend, May 18th – 19th. I generally don’t think you need much excuse to grow roses, but this pink beauty also has great hips. Roses that expose their centers are good beneficial insect attractors, too.

Then I heard about the Roots and Seeds Permaculture in Action (PIA) class in Asheville, NC. I decided to jump on their work-trade opportunity in order to get hands-on experience in an area with similar growing conditions to my own. Asheville is a colder climate than Greenville, but it has a lot more familiar elements than Australia.

Click the link to keep reading.

Continue reading How to Learn About Permaculture

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How To Identify (and Be Slightly Grossed Out By) Dog Vomit Slime Mold

With all of this week’s heavy upstate rains, microbiological processes are kicking into full gear and bacteria and fungi are actively working on the process of decay. Many species of mushrooms are popping up in yards, lawns, mulch, and on almost any other damp substrate.

Mushrooms are rarely an eyesore — most of them are quite attractive. They simply indicate a healthy soil ecosystem. However, instead of colorful turkey tail mushrooms or fairy-tale fly agarics, some of you may find ominous patches of bright yellow mushy looking goop spreading in parts of your garden. It probably won’t take much imagination to think, “That looks like something threw up!”

You’re not the first to think of a disgorged meal when seeing these unexpected blobs and thus the common name of the mass is Dog Vomit Slime Mold (which in my opinion is one of the most gross common names of a living thing).

Fuligo septica aka Dog Vomit Slime Mold

Photo Caption: Several clumps of this dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica) have shown up in our front yard over the past few weeks.

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How to Feel Inspired by Ornamental Gardens

For me, guilty pleasure isn’t buying a bag of Doritos or reading People magazine (especially since I have no idea who most celebrities are these days). Instead, I feel sheepish when I grow plants without being able to explain what they’re good for.

“Useless” plants is how I got in to gardening in the first place. Around the age of 14, I picked up one of my mom’s garden catalogs and found a whole world of weird and freaky plants far outside the realm of my grandmother’s azaleas, nandinas, petunias, and hostas. Well, Plant Delights Nursery does sell hostas, but I forgave them since they’re named things like ‘Elvis Lives’, ‘Tattoo’, and ‘Outhouse Delight’.

Photo Caption: I was in high school the first time my mom drove me up to visit Plant Delights Nursery. I used to go every year but fell out of the habit as I migrated to edible landscapes. This year Nathaniel took me for a birthday trip. (I turned 36 on April 26th in case you wanted to know).

It turns out hostas are edible plants, but I didn’t know that at the time. What I knew was that I wanted weird things for my weird garden. If it screamed “Little Shop of Horrors” I could count on Plant Delights to have it in stock with an engagingly dorky description.

I never could figure out why the other kids didn’t think I was cool.

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