Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In the Kitchen: A Rosemary Tableau - VIDEO

Video by Room Eleven Media

In this video, the Farmer shares about the New Year's meal, Lucky Money Stew.... be sure to check out last year's post for recipe - Lucky Money Stew.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Through the Years…

We all will be together… this line from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” chimed through my mind as I was setting my table. With sweet memories and poignant reflections, each element of the tablescape brought thoughts, stories and smiles to mind – the china, the linens, the glassware – all a part of a tablescape that has become near and dear to me.

Though this tablescape is very traditional – and the story of this tableau does commence with a woman great with child – it is not a parody of THE Christmas story by any means! 


My mother was truly great with child (yours truly) back in June of 1981. A stroll past an antique store in our small Southern town was the outing du jour for Mama on this particular day, hoping the jaunt would cause her carriage to soon deliver (I was over two weeks late and walks had become a part of her routine to entice delivery… sorry Mama for the inconvenience.) I digress…

As she perused through this particular store, she spotted a set of Johnson Brothers Christmas china that she wanted to purchase for her mama, the soon to be branded Mimi. The combination of a severely pregnant lady walking about in the sweltering Southern, early summer sun, and further coupled with the mindset many expecting mothers have (we must feather our nests, prepare for our children, buy Christmas china in June, yada, yada yada…) lead the shopkeeper to abate Mama’s pleas and lowball offer and sold her the set for a song. Mimi has been using this set now for thirty years, so I felt it apropos in using a few pieces for my Christmas table, with this coming June marking my entrance into the family thirty years ago.


The glasses, a gift from Aunt Kathy to Mimi and Granddaddy on their fiftieth wedding anniversary a few years ago, are monogrammed with a “G” for Granade - and the he claret red glass, gold leaf rims, and lettering are that perfect touch of elegant glam my table needed. They inspired the Jefferson cup arrangements filled with red roses and variegated boxwood sprigs to punctuate the tabletop with floral freshness. The Jefferson cup is shorter than a julep cup, more of a tumbler. Silver, pewter, copper and gold styles abound and these I found on a hunt through an antique mall now have their home with me, for they boast a “G.” I love to mix the initials of my surname and mother’s family maiden names – this mélange of initials gives representation of the generations at my table.


As for the linens, a mix is always fun! The hand embroidered cloth with candles, poinsettias, and holiday foliage is from Panama – a gift from a pair of dear friends who served as missionaries there. They brought this to us years ago and we all relish in the opportunity to use it. I use a round table my great-grandfather built as my dining room table, and I love to use different linens to herald the season. A sucker for checks, buffalo plaid and gingham, I used one of the red covers from my book launch party with buffalo check napkins – giving the delicateness of the table topper some pizzazz and punch.


Green chargers anchor the Christmas china and a wreath serves as centerpiece. Being round itself, it is the perfect center point for a round table, low enough to see over and to cloak a classic hurricane. A boxwood base, this wreath is filled with other Farmer’s seasonal favorites – preserved orange slices, dried pomegranates as a further Granade nod, pine cones, cinnamon sticks and a baby artichoke or two. Wreaths don’t have to don doors and windows alone!

The combo of this tablescape not only made my dining room merry and bright, it made me merrier and brighter. Faithful friends and family gather near to us – gather near the table. Set your tables with traditions and twists, and from this Farmer’s table to yours, hope you had yourself a merry little Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wreaths – an Outward and Visible Sign of the Season

Frasier Fir, boxwood, magnolia, grapevine – all traditional bases for wreaths. We can pick them up at garden centers and Christmas tree vendors and even grocery stores, but sometimes it is fun to spice up ye olde wreath with some seasonal flair. In this December’s issue of Southern Living, I took some traditional wreaths up a notch or two to festively deck our halls, doors, windows and tables with versions of wreaths donned with a bit of Holiday zest.

Rosemary and grapefruit – two of this Farmer’s favorites! From their scents to their colors and flavors, the combo of these two can be appealing to many of the senses. Sliced grapefruit and Meyer lemons combined with Savannah holly foliage and berries on a boxwood wreath is garden glam at its best! Add fresh cut red roses in varying shades and sizes for a boost of elegance and fragrance. The jewel tones of the fruit and flowers on the deep green base are luscious!

Keeping it green – a basic Frasier Fir wreath spiked with artichokes, ivy and pine sets a green theme for this updated wreath. Pine cones and pheasant feathers ground the greens with earthy browns and textures that complement as well. The tapestry of greens in various hues, tints, shades, and textures makes this wreath at home in your home all through the holidays and even into winter! With the absence of holiday sparks such as red, this wreath is soothing yet warm for the coming winter months.

Summer Lovin’ for the Holidays – preserving your blue hydrangea blossoms is a garden living great! Using them for a Christmas wreath adds a dose of delicate blue that is sharp with the vivid reds and greens of the season. Nandina berries and its foliage punctuate the dried mopheads and dry well themselves! Kept out of direct sunlight, this wreath will last a long time, looking good in January too as a piece of post-Christmas door décor or winter tablescape.


Magnificent Magnolia – Magnolia wreaths are probably my favorite in their sheer simplicity and versatility. Magnolia is a year-round décor element in my opinion and Christmas may be the swan song of this Southern staple’s regimen. Burford holly berries and Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) snuggle into the broad leaves of this magnolia wreath. Textural complements of the fine Cryptomeria foliage and the magnolia is striking and the bold red berries of the holly punctuate the wreath with some of the season’s best. This wreath is easily made from the trappings of many Southern gardens, for magnolia, Cryptomeria and Burford holly abound.


Cinnamon Twist – Taking a good ol’ grapevine wreath and weaving in some fantastic foliage is an easy way to boost this simple form from drab to fab! Eucalyptus, rosemary, magnolia leaves and sliced Meyer lemons all intertwine the grapevine. A bow of cinnamon sticks further enhances the amazing aroma this wreath boasts and picks up on the color of the magnolia leaves backing. Another wreath well suited for not only the holidays, this wreath can celebrate the winter season, for citrus is a Southern winter crop, rosemary is evergreen in the Deep South and eucalyptus can be found growing in many a Southern garden. If your garden isn’t growing deep in Dixieland, then your florists and craft shop should have all these same elements.

Take a traditional wreath and jazz it up. Remember this Farmer’s “Three F’s” to making an arrangement fabulous – fruit, flowers, and foliage. A fourth “F” of “feathers” never hurts either! These wreaths are apropos all through the holidays and even into January.  From the vow’s Granddaddy uses when performing wedding ceremonies, “the ring is an outward and visible sign of…” May these wreaths be your outward, visible sign of the holiday season! From this Farmer’s garden to yours, Merry Christmas and happiest of holidays to you and yours!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday 2011

Well ladies and gents, this book tour has come to a close for 2011 and this Farmer is humbled by the reception my book and I have had across the country! We have slap sold out of books! Second printing coming soon!

I’ve been doing some fun decorating this season and wanted to share a few things with you. No shock here, but I am still obsessed with peach/salmon/ coral orange and how fab it looks for the holidays! Of course, you can’t forget red and green but mix them all together and you’ve got something pretty grand! From the julep cups filled with my favorite hues to mantles laden with holiday splendor, I hope you enjoy these pics! Another note of fun, I’m going to chat on Martha Stewart XM Radio on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 1 o’clock EST… hope you can catch it but if not, enjoy these tips for this marvelous season! Merry Merry!!!

1.       Remember the Rosemary! During the holidays, one of the quintessential herbs of the season, Rosemary is not only fabulous for flavor but great for décor as well. Rosemary pairs lovely with pork, chicken and beef but the savory nature can go sweet with apples, pears, and even pecans. Roasted Rosemary Pecans are a favorite and my Mimi’s Apple Pie with Rosemary and Pecans is divine! Even Rosemary Ice Cream is so good with desserts this time of year. I also love to use rosemary as greenery with red roses in julep cups for bouquets and also as a key ingredient in my Farmer’s Garden Wassail.


2.       A Twist on Traditional Red and Green – I love to use red and green for the holidays but a twist on this tradition is to take shades and hues of pinks or oranges and mix in for a splash of other colors. Taking peach and salmon colored amaryllis, tulip and roses and mixing them with cedar blue greenery gives a lovely touch to the classic color combo. Pink can be used in the same fashion and pairs so well with brown pinecones, cinnamon sticks, and lotus pods.


3.       Think green – tone on tone décor of greens is classic and crisp. Shades and hues of nature’s neutral color can be layered upon one another and accented with green fruit. Green apples, grapes, limes or pears tuck in boughs of pine, cedar, cypress and holly is simply divine! Going green is so chic! Wreaths, centerpieces, and mantles can be adorned in a green on green scheme that looks great well after the holiday too. Your friends and neighbors will be green with envy!


4.       Have a Blue Christmas – if red and green ain’t your thing, try a blue Christmas! Blue cedar berries, ligustrum or privet berries, blue cypress and even hydrangeas make gorgeous tableaus when set in silver containers, blue and white jardinières, or creamware. This cool palette is fantastic with an accent of chartreuse or lime green too. take some gorgeous blue and white jars, fill them with blue spruce, cedar berries and some blue hydrangeas and then garnish the ledge with a garland of the same, and you’ll have a blue Christmas that’s nothing shy of spectacular!

5.       Think Inside the Fruit – grapefruit, pomegranates, oranges, lemons and limes – so gorgeous inside and amazing with greenery and holly berries, this little slice of décor advice will take your bland holiday to the next level. Gorgeous coral, ruby red, garnet, jade green and topaz yellow colors, like jewels, are the actual inside colors of these fruits. Wired to wreaths, donned on mantles, and accenting centerpieces, make a statement with sliced fruit for your own holiday event!


6.       The Farmer’s Christmas Sweet Tea – a holiday twist on a classic Southern drink, this version of my sweet tea recipe will welcome you and your guests to the holiday table. Delicious hot or cold, serve this drink however you fancy or depending on the weather. If it is frightful, then serve warm. If you’re having a sunny, warm holiday, then iced is totally apropos. Scents from the season and garden fill this recipe and engage the senses to celebrate this time of year.

Whatever or wherever you are this Christmas season, I wish that all is Merry and Bright! From this Farmer’s kitchen and garden to yours, Merry Christmas!!

And just for are more pics.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Falling for Fall: A Harvest Tableau Part 2

continued from this post

In  regions where fallen apples are abundant in October, a fresh cider would  complement this collection of simple yet succulent dishes exquisitely.  In lieu of apples or sans local orchards, one may serve the South’s  house wine, sweetened iced tea, tweaked with the season’s spice. Mixing  rosemary into the simple syrup for an iced-tea recipe adds a complexity  to the tea, layering flavors as leaves layer on the forest floor. The  bouquet of black and green teas is paired with the pine-like flavor  said herb lends and is then enhanced with sugar and accented with  citrus and floral notes from a lemony garnish.

For  floral arrangements and table décor, I relish in creating a still-life  of objects found in nature, shed from animal and fowl, tree and vine  – the likes of acorns, fruits, pods and plumes as well as textures  found on the farm, such as burlap and twine. I favor a more muted, non-traditional  color palette for an autumnal tablescape; for, I’ve found inspiration  in the internal soft fleshy orange of cut gourds, the coppery salmon  of sliced persimmons, and of the external colors and textures of citrus  rinds, garnet pomegranates, sea green artichokes, and eggplants  – a depth of purple aubergine only begins to describe.

Shed  deer antlers can serve as a beautifully natural centerpiece to a tablescape  inspired by the earth. The sun bleached bone is aesthetically striking  and equally evocative of the season’s cyclical passing into winter.  Clusters of gathered goose and pheasant feathers, the fallen traces  of a flight southward, are a gentle reminder of September past. Oyster  shells, acorns, and gourds can be easily and artfully scattered down  the table’s center, adding variations in texture, cadence, and charm.

Each  of these objects is found in nature – in the garden, the marsh, or  the woods. A tablescape of natural artifacts of seasons past serves  as a tangible memory, or trophy, a memento mori of the growing seasons, which, with the entrance of autumn, are on the  cusp of turning to winter, that ultimate season of rest. Even if your  home is not within a shell’s throw of a pecan grove or a low country  marshland, the bounties of fall – pecans, sweet potatoes, and garden  greens – are all thankfully found at market. These simple luxuries  are elegant reminders of our connection to the inevitable and cyclical  process of the transforming seasons, of our relation with the ever-changing  natural world around us. From the forfeit of leaves, through this time  of thanksgiving and to the bracing for another year’s end, fall ushers  us into cornucopias of delight, natural grace and elegance – a culmination  of the seasons’ pace and rhythm – into a tableau of all things truly  bright and beautiful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Falling for Fall: A Harvest Tableau Part 1

October into November, the end of that liminal turn between summer and autumn, conjures an abundance of sensory memory: turning leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds, and browning marsh along the Georgia coastline. When entertaining this time of the year, I cherish the utility of fall’s natural, burnt aesthetics: burlap, twine, and butternut squash, all warmed and toasted by the summer sun, and lingering memories of a season gone. A veritable reward to a dusty, dry, and long summer, fall is the swan song of the seasons; it is the precursor to a time of dormancy, of rest, of winter, when the bones of the garden are revealed. 

Autumn entertaining “falls” at the beginning of the celebratory crescendo that culminates into various large, welcoming meals rallying towards the conclusion of the year: Thanksgiving – the advent of the holiday season – and, in turn, the new year. Fall entertaining should thus reflect the casual “falling” nature of the trees, of the season’s brevity and tendency to again turn to the ground for sustenance. Simple dishes seem all too apropos for honoring the autumn garden’s findings and are easily complemented by a tablescape that combines the lush harvest of the season with the fragmentary and shed elements of flora and fauna who have grazed or grown through the backyard, garden, woods, or marsh: shed deer antlers, fallen pheasant, goose, and turkey feathers, and dried oyster shells. 

Pecans descend from trees; produce, such as sweet potatoes offering us richness in both flavor and texture, derive from the ground, uniting two realms – earth and sky. I pair these ingredients for a fall fete accompli full of flavor and tinged with the evergreen brightness of rosemary and the nostalgia of cinnamon. Roasted rosemary pecans are the perfect hors d'oeuvre for an informal autumnal gathering, as are they the delightful pairing of an orchard’s autumnal yield and garden’s herbal doyenne. For a stunning visual effect, I pour the pecans into glittering silver serving bowls, as the naturally gnarled, candied texture of the roasted pecans contrasts beautifully with the slick silver vessels.

Furthermore, a sweet-potato soufflé is a wonderfully warm way of welcoming both nature’s bountiful harvest and close friends into the home. A simply Southern staple, this soufflé combines sweetness with spice, packing a heartiness that complements the season’s cool nights. With the soufflé, a salad of autumn’s newest greens – spinach, lettuces and mustard – wilt under the warmth of a bacon and herb vinaigrette. A peppercorn and sage studded pork loin with pear chutney serves as piece de resistance and ginger apple cake rounds out the menu. The briskness these nights now bring draws upon field and flower to surrender to harvest time and garner us to table, hearth and home.   

to be continued....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Today Show Tableau

Well, this Farmer and his sisters traversed and trooped up to the Big Apple for the Today Show. Fun times had by all, but before the event could ensue, I had to have my dress rehearsal right here in Kathleen, Georgia!

I set the table, donning the board with fall’s finest fruits, flowers and foliage, all in prep for the live show the following week. I wasn’t nervous about the camera but more so whether or not the materials would all arrive (broken plates, check!!!) and the sort. Thankfully, enough materials were worthy for their debut after a cross country shipment, and I set the whole tablescape up again – this time in NYC and in Studio 1A at Rockefeller Center! Here’s an homage to autumn a la table top décor and my preliminary round for national TV!

Fruits, flowers and foliage –  the three “F’s” every tablescape needs. Croton leaves, dried hydrangeas, old fashioned asters, pomegranates, persimmons, and oranges and a myriad of  sundry garden accoutrements. Chargers of the seasons loveliest leaves, sweet potato soufflé topped with candied pecans and cranberries and served a l’orange, and apple votives nod to the season with flair. Julep cups filled with Apple Ginger Sparklers and garnished with candied ginger and cinnamon sticks further fill the scape with festive fun. With these drinks, Mr. Roker and I would toast to a happy fall!

Fall is my favorite season –  a Southerner’s reward for surviving the summer! With a tapestry the season’s elements woven for this tableau, it is truly a joy to celebrate this time of year. From this Farmer’s garden, kitchen, table, and the TODAY Show, Happy Fall, ya’ll!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

James Farmer on the Today Show tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Correction: I'm watching now and figuring that the Today Show is not live. Always thought it was live. Shows you what I know. James' appearance will be at 9:43 for everyone.

Hey friends of the Farmer, it's SB here. I'm popping in to inform you that our very own JTF III will be on the TODAY SHOW tomorrow. You read that right. Teasers start at 9:30 am eastern time zone and James' segment will start at 9:43 or 9:44. Don't miss it. This is huge. For you central time zone folks like myself that's 8:43 am.

I will be proudly watching, wearing my yoga pants with my 4th cup of coffee in hand. I've never had a better excuse to sit around and watch the Today Show all. morning. long.

James at Today Show practice this afternoon. Swiped this from his facebook wall.

Go James.
Excited for ya!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Marshes of Glynn

“…Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,

 Of the heavenly woods and glades, 

That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within 

The wide sea-marshes of Glynn;-- …” 

Live oaks, Spanish moss, myrtle, palmetto, sweet, Spartina and cord grasses woven with ephemeral sunlight that melts colors into muddy jewel toned hues – coastal Georgia’s marshes stir my soul.  

Not the first nor the last to wax and wane on these storied marshes and not the first Middle Georgia boy either to do so: Sidney Lanier did, oh so eloquently, in a fluid body of words reminiscent of the marshes cadence themselves. “The Marshes of Glynn,” one of Lanier’s most notable works, is a love song to the swansong of Georgia’s rivers journey to the sea and the purely organic moment said waters meld, meet, swarm, sway, and thus lace together forming these storied marshlands. 

Wellheads in the cool, clear mountain streams, then trickling from Lower Appalachia to, in turn, wind their way through magnolia strewn red clay midlands, through loamy drifts of southernmost Georgia even through sweet Vidalia soil, Georgia’s rivers carry their silt laden waters to the sea – offering their watery bounty to the ocean in caches of coastland and estuaries of evolution.

Smells, colors, textures, flora, and fauna all abound from the Low Country of South Carolina to the First Coast along St. Augustine, with Georgia’s Golden Isles as the epicenter of Dixie’s southeastern marshland. As I’ve been down on St. Simon’s and Sea Island this week for a photo shoot, I’m instantly inundated by my love, obsession, connection, and delight in these marshes – the indescribable colors, their soulful tidal lurches, the golden yet silvery yet copper toned light all at once – who’s very presence and palette are rejuvenating and inspirational enough to recharge my sense of being.

I’m wanton for wetlands and on par with Mr. Lanier’s love of the land and his exultation of Nature’s religious rhythm. On this very dawning of autumn, I’m finding myself surged with energy anew not only from nostalgia for pumpkins and mums, but for the crisp, cool breezes perfumed with sulfuric yet sweet aromas of the Marshes of Glynn. 

“…And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep 

Roll in on the souls of men, 

But who will reveal to our waking ken 

The forms that swim and the shapes that creep 

Under the waters of sleep? 

And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in

On the length and the breadth of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guest Post: a Book Review

Hello dear friends of the Farmer!

It's Sarah Barry from Spoonful here. I'm guest posting today to tell you about James' FABULOUS new book, A Time to Plant.

I've known James a long time. We were friends at Auburn. He was a groomsman in our wedding. We've traveled the Southeast together on numerous trips in college and post college. Most recently, we carpooled to my home town of Greenville, Mississippi for James to speak to the ladies' garden club --- my two year old son and nursing baby in tow. JTF III is a trooper!

So of course I'm thrilled for my friend, that at the whopping age of 28 he has written and published his very own book. A real book! It sits on my coffee table, and I can't wait to tell all my guests that "Yay, my friend wrote that book."

But I must admit that prior to receiving my copy, I thought "Can it really be that good?" After all, I wasn't getting this information for the first time. I've heard James speak at multiple events, read and re-read each blog post, seen all his photos, discussed with him basic garden philosophies in person, photographed some parties he's given. Honestly, I thought that I would have a 'been there, seen it, done that' mentality when it came to experiencing his book. I hate to admit this, but I was concerned that I would be underwhelmed.

But my experience was much the opposite. I was stunned. Thrilled. Completely enamored from the moment I saw the cover. For one, the book itself is beautiful. The photography on each page is breathtaking as well as the drawings and illustrations.

In the dedication James references the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth." I love the last lines of the chorus:

"Lord of all to the we raise 
This our hymn of grateful praise."

This book is just that - a hymn of 'grateful praise' to God's glorious creation.

The second thing that struck me about A Time to Plant is it is so incredibly practical. On occasion, James has asked for my input about his blog. To which I always respond by encouraging him to explain things so the po' folks can understand. How can I, a busy mother of two, who can't even find time to take a shower, begin to dabble in a little gardening? And entertaining? Where do I start? Do I grow herbs? How? Do I plant perennials? But which ones? And what time of year do I plant them?

Y'all, it's all in the book. James gives the most practical instruction and advice about garden living, a concept he describes as bringing the garden in - to your cooking, your home decor, your relationships - and making the most of each season. And he presents it all in a way that is charming and fun to read. I can't say enough good things.

Get this book for yourself, your mom, your mother-in-law, your husband - everybody who's anybody needs a copy. I have no doubt it will become a legendary go-to guide for Southern gardeners and entertainers for years to come.

James, thank you for sharing your time and talents with us. You are a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
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