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It is February and I just found this in my yard.



A beautifully decorated Christmas tree welcomed visitors to my in-laws' house on the Southport Christmas Homes Tour.

I’m fortunate enough to live near and have a great relationship with my in-laws. They live in Southport, NC, only 30-odd miles south of Wilmingtong, and I worked for a few years with my father-in-law, Bob Dzubak. Bob taught me to build cabinets and some key design principles and introduced me to the world of woodworking. My mother-in-law, Kathy, or KD, has a great eye for design. A few years ago, Bob and KD were looking to move out of a gated community and into the town of Southport, so Bob and I built a house. Well, we didn’t exactly build it, he hired framers and painters and all that, but we refined the layout and look of the house, designed, built and installed the cabinetry and built a beautiful home. This year KD decided to decorate in her usual way but put their home on the Christmas Homes Tour. Here are a few pictures showing off the house and the cabinetry. Enjoy, and Merry Chistmas.

It was a rainy day, but the house's holiday spirit couldn't be dampened.

A table-filling poinsettia greeted visitors on the Christmas Homes Tour.

There was a giant Santa in the TV room. He freaked me out a little (sorry, Santa).

A table full of Santas. I hope they bring me lots of presents.

KD festooned the breakfast bar with live greens and fruit. The pomegranates were my favorite.

No detail was spared, even the shelves above the butcher-block cutting board were decorated.

The dining room table was carefully decorated.

KD sait it took forever to wrap all of the little presents on the table.

Two amaryllis (amaryllises, amarallisi?) that KD grew for the occasion.

The living room was filled with live greenery, flowers and even the Grinch.

Like I said, the Grinch.

KD's treatment of the mantle shelf was beautiful.

Down the hall is the master suite, where KD was showing off her green thumb with this table of plants.

The kitchen table looked so great, I thought you'd like to see it again.

At the beginning of the gardening season, Lauren and I were excited. We built a new garden bed; mixed our soil, compost and fertilizers; poured over seed catalogs and made our selections. We planted our seeds in Dixie cups, moved them in and out of the house and watched as they finally sprouted. We stepped up the seedlings and had dreams of wheelbarrows full of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

Last year we picked up a couple of tomatoes and a couple of peppers and a bunch of herbs and planted them. We didn’t tend them that well. A little water and a lot of luck later and we had TONS of produce. We gave away pounds of tomatoes and zucchini, dried herbs for our friends and generally enjoyed a fantastic and easy harvest.

Now, this year’s garden. We worked, watched, watered, weeded and worried over our plants. I pulled suckers off the tomatoes, picked off slugs, snails and caterpillars, sprayed for bugs and disease with soap and oil and an assortment of organic products. Everything was going well: the bugs ate a few of our early zucchini but we were winning the battle; our Hungarian Heart tomato was thriving and bearing dozens of little tomatoes and even one the size of a softball; cucumbers were vining; peas were shooting and all was right with the world.

The Hungarian Heart in its death throes.

Until one evening when I went out to water. Our Hungarian Heart was wilted and leathery and was drooping like it hadn’t been watered for a week. It was dry, but not that dry, so I watered. By morning it had slumped against the trellis, dead. We cut off the one big tomato, pulled up the plant and threw it away. But what happened? Why did this plant die while the rest of the bed looked healthy? We added more soil and lime and tried another tomato. It thrived, growing quickly and heartily and looking promising. Then another tomato in another bed died just like the Hungarian Heart. Then another. Then the new one we planted where the Hungarian Heart used to be.

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CSA week 4. It's finally zucchini and squash season.

This week we picked up the fourth of our 10 CSA boxes through Copper Guinea Farms. In the last two weeks the weather’s gotten warmer and we’ve seen a decline in lettuce but an increase in squash. As we move into summer I’m sure we’ll get a variety of squash, zucchini (which is squash, really, but I like to spell it and say it) and tomatoes.

Which brings me to our garden. We had our first harvest this week: one zucchini and one cucumber. There’s a Hungarian Heart tomato on the vine. It’s odd looking, heart shaped and supposedly pinkish-red when ripe. This morning I harvested another zucchini and two more cucumbers and counted 52 tomatoes on our plants. I don’t eat tomatoes (or meat cooked into a ball or loaf, but that’s for another time), but I’m looking forward to making salsa, fried green tomato (they lack the gross texture of a ripe tomato) BLTs and fresh red sauce this summer.

First harvest from our garden: one zucchini and one cucumber. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.

And, with that in mind, how about a recipe using some of the ingredients from Copper Guinea’s CSA box and our very own herb and vegetable garden?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Grilled Vegetables and Tofu with Parsley-Walnut Pesto and Quinoa.

Oh, and there’s this: I’ve never written a recipe, but I guess you’ll see that.

A full grill is a happy grill.

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Turnips (white) and radishes (red). We grew radishes, but were all out by the time we got our CSA box.

A little over a month ago I put up a quick post about our gardens. They’re doing quite well: we’ve harvested all the lettuce and have one more round of arugula to pick; we’ve planted tomatoes (five kinds), zucchini, peppers, herbs, two kinds of cucumbers (and we have 20 finger-sized cucumbers on the vine right now) and more herbs than we know what to do with. Even with all of our planting we don’t seem to have enough vegetables in the summer and it’s always one more trip to Harris Teeter for produce.

No more.

This year we are participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with Copper Guinea Farms, a family farm in Atkinson, North Carolina, about an hour inland from Wilmington.

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