Thursday, June 30, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column-- June 29, 2016

Folks say that corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July. Miraculously, except for where the deer nibbled, our popcorn measures just up to my knee. Unfortunately, the weeds do, too.

At our house this week, we’ve been waging a war on weeds in the garden. We’ve almost reclaimed the five varieties of beans and rescued the tomatillos and ground cherries from certain destruction at the hands of tough crabgrass, prickly horse nettle, wild blackberry brambles, and a thick carpet of purslane.

That purslane is a traitor in the garden. I read a little bit about it on the internet a few years ago, and supposedly it is a “good” weed for the garden-- drawing up nutrients to the top of the soil. It’s edible, too-- high in omega-3’s. So this year, I treated it like a friend.

Never again. That sneaky little plant not only started to crowd out everything else, but it hid beneath it other hostile weeds taking firm root.

Somehow those weeds have enlisted the rocks in their army. Before we planted, the kids removed buckets and buckets of rocks, but the heavy rains uncovered more reinforcements. Because of them, weeding by hand produces sore fingertips, and I’m afraid our poor nicked-up hoe will soon succumb to it’s battle injuries.

The invading weeds are also helped by our guineas, pecking here and there and leaving fertilizer behind. I had read on the internet that these birds leave the garden plants alone, but last year my kale fell to the birds. And just yesterday they started in on my beautiful bed of lettuce!

So I continue to struggle on in my quest for the perfect tomatoes for our summer B. L. T.’s and the prettiest lettuce for our salads. However, I am not alone; I have strong allies.

You should see my dear volunteer troops, brown from the sun or dirt or a little bit of both. My children are such hard workers. Over the last few days and independent of any chores, they have decided that my garden will be saved. They’ve hacked away with hoes and scratchers and fingernails. They’ve chased guineas and dumped more rocks. They’ve been so determined to keep at it that I’ve had to order them inside for breaks.

My little (and, I must admit, not so little anymore) troops have suffered bee stings, gnat bites, scratches, and thorns, but they have not backed down (unless it gets too hot or if it’s their turn to play a video game).

With help like that, I’m almost certain to prevail. By August I’ll likely be up to my eyebrows in zucchini, beans, and other garden treats, but only if I stop believing everything I read on the internet!


With the holiday weekend upon us, I decided to make a treat for my troops for breakfast today--some red, white, and blue pancakes. The recipe for the red velvet pancakes is below, and the blue and white were provided by some fresh blueberry sauce and whipped cream.

The red in these pancakes comes from pureed beets, so the red color is light; if you want a bright red, you’ll need to resort to food coloring. But the beets are much healthier!

Red Velvet Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice)
1 cup pureed beets

Stir together all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg, butter, buttermilk, and beets.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until incorporated. Fry pancake batter on a hot, greased griddle and enjoy with your favorite toppings.

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