Jim Long's Garden: Bear Creek Reunion 2015

Jim Long's Garden: Bear Creek Reunion 2015

Bear Creek Reunion 2015

I haven't been to the Bear Creek Reunion since I was about 17 years old. My grandmother Harper, who never drove a car, asked me to take her to the Reunion one year. So it was fun to reconnect with the few people who I know there, and meet lots and lots of new people who are all my relatives. Following here is a short tour of what I think is a kind of amazing place. It's a church that was founded by several families including my own (Garrison, Harper & Wisner ancestors) along with Johnstons and others). Founded in 1856, this Methodist church remains active, alive and thriving today.
Bear Creek Methodist Church, est. 1856.
Inside the church.

One of the original pews that was saved from the remodeling some years back. 

Behind the church is the cemetery, well-maintained, with many of my relatives buried there.

Surrounding the church and cemetery is almost a park, old oak trees for shade. At the edge of the grounds is a band shell/stage with words over it, "Make a Joyful Noise." It is the spot of weekend music from time to time - there is even a Bear Creek Band from time to time. People bring their lawn chairs and listen to the local musicians who come to play.
Under the shade of the park-like setting is a very long table, permanent, for reunions, family dinners and their annual pig roast and fish fry - both of which are fundraisers that go to help local, needy families. For the annual Reunion, this table, probably 60 or 80 feet long and 4 feet wide, is almost groaning with food. My family likes to eat!
Food of every description and kind.
Yes, real fried chicken! Barbecued ribs, chicken and noodles.
I lost count of the desserts but 20 or 25 kinds. More than anyone could sample all of, but some tried!

To prove our family likes picnics, potlucks, food in general, here's my great grandfather, George Washington Garrison, about 1930 with my aunts, uncles and others, gathered around a picnic.
Yes, note, all my relatives have plates and food in their hands!
After lunch, people visited, milled around, shared photos, stories.

Musicians played. Music is always a big part of any reunion at Bear Creek Church.

John and Minerva Wisner
John and Minerva Wisner
John Adam and Lora Wisner 1836-1907
Harpers, 3 generations. My grandfather, James Edward Harper is center, back, age 16.

Three of Richard Garrison's sons, circ 1846-1850
Being at Bear Creek Reunion was a very satisfying and reassuring experience. Almost every person there was related in some way. Nearly all of us descend from the Wisner, Harper, Garrison, Cassity or related families. We all share DNA, we are all descended from the early pioneers, and every one of our ancestors came as immigrants from another country.


Buy Garden Seed, Helps Kids Gardening

School Gardens Teach Kids about Food and Where it Comes From

A few of the 500 kids in one of their 3 gardens at school.
Since it's seed-ordering season, if you are going to order garden seed, consider ordering some of your seed through my website. On my home page, scroll down to the bottom and on the left you'll see this button:
We raised $465 from Renee Shepherd, from people who ordered her seed through our website, all of that money going directly to the kids' garden project.        Thank you to all who ordered!
Kids gardening is important! When kids learn how to grow plants, learn where their food comes from and how to prepare healthy meals, they learn skills that will stay with them for their entire life. I've written about the amazing kids' garden project at the magnet school in Jonesboro, Arkansas, several times before. (Click here to see an earlier post and more photos). And here for the story about cooking with the kids in their amazing kitchen. But I thought you might like a reminder that this project is always struggling to find enough money for seed, soil and other supplies the kids need.

Learning to weed and identify the edible plants.
For 3 years we've had a button on our website, "Buy Seed, Help Kids." It's a project whereby you can order garden seed from Reneesgarden.com, for your own garden, and Renee Shepherd generously donates 25% of the revenue from your order, back to the school! It's a wonderful project. Unfortunately we only raise about $25 a year for the school. I don't know if people don't find the link, or don't want to order seed, but if you go to our website, LongCreekHerbs.com; here's the button you will see on the left side:

The lower left corner on our home page has the Help Children-Buy Seeds button. When you click on that, you are directed to a page with a code to enter when you place your order at Renee's Garden Seed You can order seed for your spring garden and when you order, it will count toward a donation for the kids' garden project, and you will receive outstanding seed.

Renee Shepherd, owner reneesgarden.com
Renee Shepherd donates to a wide variety of children's garden projects, both in the United States and in other countries. That's why we are so pleased to partner with her in helping this garden in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you have not visited her website, please do so, her seed selections are outstanding and I grow many in my gardens each season.

To visit Renee's Garden website, go to our website at Long Creek Herbs, and click on the Help Children- Seeds button.  You'll find the link to Renee's Seeds website, look around and see if you aren't tempted by her spring seed offerings. Then when you order, use our code (it's in the instructions you'll see), so that she can make a donation to this wonderful project. Then, you will know that more kids, like this boy, below, can experience for the first time in their life, the taste and smell of a chive blossom and learn how to fix a meal using fresh herbs and vegetables right out of the garden.
I hope you'll consider ordering seed from Renee Shepherd, she has outstanding varieties you won't find anywhere else. And when you order, won't you do it through my website so the kids get credit? Thank you!
This was his first time smelling or tasting chives!


Dried Apple Zucchini Pie

Our zucchini plants are still producing great lots of squashes. The late August planting that I've started doing in recent years works way, way better than spring planting. The pest-bugs are almost non-existent and we can barely keep up with using what 5 plants produce. One year I made sweet pickles, using my mother's 7-day sweet pickle recipe, substituting zucchini instead of cucumbers and it worked very nicely. But this is my first time to use zucchini in apple pie.
Dried Apple-Zucchini Pie
Our friends, Betty and Dennis, were coming for dinner last week. The menu was simple - beef stew, homemade biscuits and pie. The reason the photo is half a pie, is because I forgot to take the photo until after we'd all had a piece. Everyone agreed my experimental recipe was worth keeping, so here it is for you to try. You could use fresh apples, but the dried apples were convenient. If you use fresh apples, be sure to add additional flour to the recipe.

Dried Apple-Zucchini Pie

4 cups of dried apples (we got ours from the Amish Store)
2 cups thinly-sliced zucchini
1 1/2 cups apple juice or water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 rolled-out pie crusts

Combine the apples and apple juice or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the zucchini slices and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Add the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and flour to the apple-zucchini mixture and stir to dissolve sugar.

Line a pie plate with one rolled-out pie crust, then fill with the apple-zucchini mixture. Dot the top with butter. Moisten the edges of the pie crust, then place the second crust on top and crimp to seal the edges.

Brush the top of the pie crust with half and half or milk, then sprinkle the top with sugar. Cut slits for the steam to escape. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let pie sit for about an hour before serving.


Zucchini, Finally! More Meals from the Garden

One view of the garden in September.
Zucchini is one of those vegetables we have difficulty growing. Between squash bugs, cucumber beetles and squash vine borers, we seldom get a crop, and often don't even try. We've used every trick in the book for organic control of those pests, none of which work. But, last fall, and again this one, I took a chance and planted zucchini seed late in the season. These zucchini were planted in late August and began producing fruit  Sep. 18.
Zucchini plants started producing on Sep 18.
Even though most gardeners, and all their neighbors, are probably tired of even seeing a zucchini, we're just tickled to have some. Josh planted the seed for these, 7 plants, and we're getting 2-3 baby zucchini per plant every other day, plus a few large ones we've overlooked. I've been making these for our supper, based on a recipe I used last year called Faux Crabcakes. It's pretty good and the recipe follows.

Zucchini Fritters

I shred the *zucchini first, then the onion, pepper and garlic in the food processor, which just takes seconds.
(About) 4 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 yellow onion, shredded or diced
2 tablespoons diced, any favorite pepper - I use half of a Jalapeno, but you can use bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or shredded
1 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, optional
3 eggs
1 teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning

*Shred the zucchini, sprinkle with salt, mix and set aside. for 10 minutes while you assemble everything else. Rinse with cool water, drain and squeeze dry.
Combine remaining ingredients with zucchini, mixing well. If the mixture is too dry to stick together, add another egg.

Form into patties about 3-4 inches across and drop into medium-hot vegetable oil. Cook until golden brown, turn over the brown the other side. Keep hot while you cook the remaining patties. This makes 4-5 patties.

Zucchini patties cooking.

Zucchini patties with kale and tomatoes, all from the garden.
We're enjoying meals totally from the garden, harvested just hours before eating them. We're thankful for every bite.


September, Hot Sauce Time!

Hot sauce can be made from any peppers you grow.
This has been an outstanding year for peppers and tomatoes in our area. We've been canning spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and tomato juice, and now it's time to turn attention to making hot sauce for winter and gifts.

One of the reasons I write books is so I can keep track of my recipes and my hot sauce book is a good example. When I wrote it, I tried and tested my recipes before putting them in the text. All are easy to follow, can be varied according to your heat preferences and it tells how to preserve, can or freeze each recipe. So this week, I'm making hot sauce!
40 pages of my own favorite recipes.
Here's one of my recipes, which is quite simple and easy to make. You can keep it in the refrigerator, or can it (instructions are in the book for safely canning hot sauce). To order the book, or read more, click here.

Quick & Easy Hot Sauce
This is a tasty, versatile recipe, vary it with the ingredients you have on hand.
Use it on scrambled eggs, grilled meats or as a marinade.

4 cups coarsely chopped mixed
peppers, such as cayenne,
Serrano, etc, stems removed but
caps left on, stems removed
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt

1. Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If the sauce
is too thick, add water.
2. Strain, discarding solids, or leave them in where they will continue to
further flavor the sauce.
3. Refrigerate for up to 5-6 weeks. Makes 3-4 cups.


St. John's Wort in the Landscape

We're fortunate to have several St. John's Worts in our area and they are at their finest in mid to late July. This one is known as shrubby St. John's Wort.
Shrubby St. John's Wort (Hypericum prolificum)
In our area it is almost evergreen, only losing its leaves in the coldest part of winter. The plant grows to 3 or 4 ft. tall and 4-5 ft. wide. It's care-free, has no insect pests and requires little beyond a bit of pruning if it gets larger than I want it to. It also occasionally drops a seed giving me an additional plant to move to another location.
Shrubby St. John's Wort flowers.
The late Billy Joe Tatum described the fragrance of these as akin to a pleasant burnt sugar or butterscotch smell. The spent flowers turn a pleasant shade of butterscotch-orange.
Common St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
The name, perforatum, alludes to the leaves appearing as if they've been perforated. There are tiny "holes" which are actually tiny clear spots scattered about on the leaves. This one grows along roadsides and in fields, about 12-14 inches tall. Bees and butterflies love the flowers.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has a considerable reputation for use in treating depression by folk healers. If you want to read more about current uses and studies, go to Drug.com
 by clicking here.

We have an additional Hypericum growing in our woods that I can't remember the Latin name for. It's low and almost ground-hugging and one of the few plants that grows happily under cedar trees. I may add it here later. For now, I'm just admiring my Shrubby St. John's Wort bush in the front yard.
Shrubby St. John's Wort makes a wonderful addition to the landscape.
 Happy summertime!