Paying It Forward

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Celebrate with me and win a $100 gift certificate!

Mother of a Hubbard has much to celebrate this holiday season. This blog just turned a year old last month, and many exciting things have been happening behind the scenes since its inception. Blogging has been a fantastic vehicle for me to meet people, including many extraordinary folks who are shaping an agricultural future for eastern Kentucky and the greater Appalachian region. Through my winter gardening workshops and a handful of guest spots on radio, television, and social media sites, my experiences in four-season gardening are beginning to be shared broadly and people are trying it out for themselves. Let me tell you… it’s incredibly exciting to see low tunnels popping up in my community’s backyard gardens, and to receive pictures of low tunnels and winter harvests from people around the world.

Not my winter garden, but that of dear friends who attended one of my workshops. Picture taken today, December 22, 2013.

Not my winter garden, but that of dear friends who attended one of my workshops. Picture taken today, December 22, 2013.


My First Giveaway

If you are a frequent visitor to this site, you know that this is my very first giveaway (Hurray!). I’m showing my thanks to YOU — my friends — for your encouragement over the past year, and more recently, for your support of a very worthy charity, Grow Appalachia. Grow Appalachia is one of the most unique food charities of its kind, providing seeds, tools, and training for hundreds of Appalachian families and community gardens in four states. Rather than a hand out, it is a sustainable help up. Founded by entrepreneur John Paul Dejoria in 2009, Grow Appalachia participants have since produced over 574,000 pounds of fresh, organic food!

In case you aren’t following my Facebook page, you may not know that I have volunteered to conduct winter gardening workshops for Grow Appalachia over this past year, visiting with wonderful people in Floyd, Pike, Letcher, and Harlan counties (Kentucky). I also recently competed for Grow Appalachia in the King Arthur Flour Holiday Cookie Decorating Contest, which offered a chance to win donations to food charities across the United States and Canada. I entered two cookies — a gingerbread scarecrow in the “most creative” category, and a gingerbread version of Olaf, the irresistibly-cute snowman in Disney’s newest animated feature, for the best “celebrity look-alike.”

All is gluten free here, from the gingerbread scarecrow, to the veggies (made from flavored Tootsie Rolls), to the pretzel fence (Glutino brand).

All is gluten free here, from the gingerbread scarecrow, to the veggies (made from flavored Tootsie Rolls), to the pretzel fence (Glutino brand).

Olaf cookie

My “backup” entry in the competition, Olaf… also gluten-free, of course.


I was very nervous about winning anything, as I had won in the “most creative” category in KAF’s gingerbread house contest the previous year (would they let me win two years in a row?), and also because this competition required a public voting component to qualify for judging. That’s where many of you stepped in, casting your vote for my cookies to make them among the top five vote-getters in their respective categories. Although I didn’t win the $5000 grand prize, the judges selected my Olaf submission to win in its category, earning a $500 donation for Grow Appalachia. The prize also came with a $100 King Arthur Flour gift certificate for the cookie-maker, which I’m passing along to one of YOU!

On December 30th, I’ll randomly select one of you to receive this $100 prize. Now, I recognize that I have a mixed audience on this blog — some of you are here for gluten free recipes, some for gardening inspiration, and others both. In recognition of that, I’m going to allow the lucky winner to have their choice of the $100 KAF gift certificate, OR a $100 gift certificate to their favorite seed company.* So whether you love to bake, love to garden, or both, you get to choose how you want to use your $100 winnings!


Entering to win is easy. Simply share one thing that you learned in the garden (or in your kitchen) over the past year, and how you plan to build on that lesson for next year. (I love learning from other people… don’t you?). Please note that comments are moderated to avoid spam, so it may take several hours before your comment shows after you have submitted it. One entry per person, please.

The winner will be randomly selected on December 30th, so check back here (or watch your email) to find out if you won.

Thank you all! Good luck, and enjoy the holidays!


*Seed companies eligible for this contest must offer gift certificates for purchase, and must have signed the Safe Seed Pledge.



  1. Laura Terry

    December 22, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I have always had trouble growing brassicas because of an abundance of cabbage worms, but this year, I learned about tunnels, and I used bridal veil (tulle) to protect the crops while also allowing plenty of sunlight and rain. Broccoli has never tasted so delicious!!!!

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 22, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      That is a great tip, Laura. Thank you for sharing, and good luck!

      • Ann

        December 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Thank you so much for sharing all this good information. Could you PLEASE tell me how you terraced your slope for gardening? We have a 33% slope on a area that is about 45 X 20 feet that we desperately need to grow our food on. But a professional landscaper told us that the only alternative to doing this using the existing top soil was to spend almost $7K to cut into the slope and build retaining walls instead of bringing about 30 tons of top soil from who knows where to build beds.

        • Ma Hubbard

          December 31, 2013 at 5:29 am

          Ann, I will check and see exactly what our slope is (it may be less than yours). I simply laid out the slope into beds that are about 4 to 5 ft in width, running horizontally across the slope. I then started with the lowest bed and got on the downhill edge with a shovel and started heaving the topsoil onto the bed above, stopping when I hit the clay hardpan. Thankfully we had a thick layer of topsoil to begin with, and most of the downhill edges of the beds ended up being about 2 ft in height. Currently, there is no permanent structure in place to retain the downhill edges of the beds — I’ve planted ground covers on most of them, but some of our local weeds do a better job holding on so I just let them grow (I give them a good mowing whenever they begin to go to seed). I’ve often thought of constructing wattle fences at the bases of each bed, as some soil inevitably does wash into the paths below, but because it hasn’t been a serious problem, and also because I like flexibility in my garden spaces, I’m continuing to use living plant walls instead.

          I surely understand the challenges of growing on a slope — good luck!

          • Ann

            December 31, 2013 at 8:59 am

            You made the way you terraced your garden sound like a common-sense, DIY approach! Thank you for sharing what you did, especially regarding the edges. Two-foot high edges don’t seem terribly high, and I like how you used plants as your walls. To determine our percent slope, in short, I just laid a 2 X 4 piece of wood down the slope, raised the wood until the bubble on a level I placed on top of the wood moved to the center, and then measured the distance (rise) I had to raise the wood to make it level. I used the rise/run (48 inches) to determine the % slope – I felt like I was in Algebra 2 and Trig again!

  2. Tricia Houston

    December 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    One thing I learned in the garden: be sure to pick your vegetables at a reasonable size. (this means: if you leave that zucchini or pickling cucumber on the vine for another day or two without a visit – you will come back to a zucchini baseball bat – or a huge yellowed unusable cucumber), they grow much faster than you realize…and from the kitchen: don’t be afraid to try new things when canning or preserving. Flavor combinations can lead to new favorites for your family. This year I caned my tomato jalapeno ketchup for the first time – it was amazing. Next year? I am going to try to pickle rat tailed radishes, grow more herbs and spread the local food growing love. Congrats Mother of a Hubbard on your cookie success…

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 22, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      Very inspiring, Tricia! I can’t wait to hear about those pickled rat tailed radishes! Thank you for helping me to the finals, and good luck!

  3. Willow

    December 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I learned about winter gardening for the first time and am trying out winter hoops. I also learned that I enjoy using Coconut flour in the kitchen for Gluten free cooking. 🙂

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      Coconut flour is on my “to-try” list for 2014 — I’ve heard great things about it! Good luck in the contest!

  4. Nancy dusko

    December 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    I thinned my grandfather’s peach trees for the first time this year. Although it was somewhat painful to pull seemingly good fruit off the tree. The resulting fruit was definitely larger than the fruit we’ve picked previous years. Next year, I will do an even better job thinning the trees and it will not be near as painful!

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 5:00 am

      That is great, Nancy. It can always be intimidating pruning fruit trees for the first time, but it really makes a difference in the quality of the harvest, as your example points out. Thanks, and good luck in the contest!

  5. Shilo Hinrichs

    December 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    This year I grew red garnet amaranth in my garden for the first time. It was so easy to grow and absolutely gorgeous. It quickly became one of my favorites and I plan on growing it every year. My mom was inspired to grow it next year too. I also grew mammoth dill for the first time. The bees loved it.

    • Shilo Hinrichs

      December 22, 2013 at 10:01 pm

      By the way, I love your Olaf cookie! It looks just like him, so cute!

      • Ma Hubbard

        December 23, 2013 at 4:57 am

        Thank you!

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 4:59 am

      I wanted to try amaranth this year but ran out of space. I’ll definitely be planting it in 2014 after reading your comment. Good luck to you!

  6. Lana

    December 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    One thing I learned in the garden was to puts layers of newspaper down and punch holes to put in plants. I was having a terrible time with weeds in my garden and a friend told me to try this, worked out great.

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 4:58 am

      Great tip, Lana! Good luck!

  7. tpescdoc

    December 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    What an awesome giveaway. We just moved to TN via MA, yes I’m a Yankee, but embracing my new Southern roots. I did manage to drag my husband to Vt. to visit KAF while we were living in New England, and it was wonderful. I would recommend planning better than I did, so you might be able to attend a class while there. The people in Vt. were very friendly and it’s another beautiful part of our country. I love to cook and garden and am looking forward to a longer season at my new home. My awesome new neighbors, Georgia (81) & Vincent (87), who have lived in TN their entire lives, have introduced me to turnip greens and ham hocks (among other things), which I didn’t expect to like, but thought were really good. I am planning on planting them this year.

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 4:57 am

      Oh my — I bet that was a great trip! I remember you sharing with me about your neighbors on Facebook, so thank you for sharing that here for the other readers. Wouldn’t we all love neighbors like them! I’m sure they will be thrilled to see those turnips growing in your garden this year. Good luck in the contest!

  8. Michelle

    December 23, 2013 at 12:21 am

    I planted swiss chard in an unused bed in my green house this summer. It wasn’t happy and had lot’s of moldy leaves, even though I thought that I had enough ventilation and air flow. It limped along and I was able to salvage it, and now with cold weather it’s very happy and going gang busters! Yeah!

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 4:53 am

      Love it, Michelle! Good luck!

  9. karenarnett2013

    December 23, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Most exciting thing I learned was how to make pots de creme using squash. Love that recipe! Love the garden pictures too – garden tours always a favorite for me,whether virtual or in person – but that’s a slight tangent from my contest entry (smile.) Happy holidays!

    • Ma Hubbard

      December 23, 2013 at 4:52 am

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Karen! Thanks, and good luck!

  10. Kathy Curtis

    December 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi Ma. I learned to put in supports for beans and tomatoes when I plant them and put on the row cover when I put in the cabbage and broccoli, start insect control the minute I see the first bug, pull weeds and suckers when they are little and plant the winter garden Labor Day weekend. I learned all these things by not doing them this year. Thanks for all your support for Grow Appalachia and for being such a great educator.

  11. Chris

    December 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

    The one thing I have learned is the importance of proper spacing. It is very tempting to put all those tiny seeds close together, but then they use all of their energy to compete with each other, and produce little or nothing. It sounds counterintuitive, but using less seed, you can actually get a better yield, if you watch your spacing.

  12. Vicky Tewes

    December 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Veggie gardening is an ever changing and challenging passion for us. Each growing season can bring on bounty and crop loss, depending on so many variables that we all face each year. One thing I have learned is to not be afraid to try something new, be it an unfamiliar variety of asian greens or old varieties of heritage beans. Also, with this venture, I am still learning how to save seeds in order to continue sharing these wonderful, rarely used crops. Wishing everyone a wonderful and productive growing season.

  13. Mair Newton

    December 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    The most important thing I learned with regard to my low-tunnel gardening effort is that I need allies! The slugs that were merely a nuisance in my raised beds during the warmer months have completely overtaken the low tunnel this winter. So one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to invite some Khaki Campbell ducks to join our family of farm critters. I wish all gardening dilemmas could be solved in such a fun and environmentally friendly manner!

  14. christine zigler

    December 24, 2013 at 8:25 am

    I learned (again) that if you live in the country you must have a fence around everything, or you won’t be feeding yourself, you’ll be feeding the wildlife.

  15. Tree Dellinger

    December 24, 2013 at 8:32 am

    I live in an area prone to late blight on tomatoes (southwestern Virginia). After several miserable years of fighting the blight, I’ve finally learned my lesson. Planting extra tomatoes doesn’t always translate to more tomatoes to harvest; it can also mean more plants to die from blight! Now I plant fewer tomatoes with sufficient room between the plants within the row and between each row for good air flow. Heirloom tomatoes have little to no resistance to late blight, so I now plant two late-blight resistant hybrids for my main tomato crop and a few heirlooms for tradition. I know those heirlooms will take a lot more effort to protect from blight. I remove and destroy the blighted foliage daily and regularly spray with a copper solution, but the flavor of an heirloom tomato is worth its weight in gold.

  16. Cathy

    December 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I’ve learned to plant early! Took me several years to get this through my head (after growing up in Ohio), but planting too late puts my plants trying (and usually failing) to bear fruit in July and August. And 110 degrees and setting fruit don’t mix. So I need to have cool weather crops ready to go out February 1st (unless we get materials to do a tunnel like yours) and warm ones ready for mid-March. Thanks for the giveaway…that’s very generous of you to give away your prize.

  17. Sandra

    December 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    One thing I learned this year is that I have been always late planting my Fava Beans, next time I plan to put seeds in the ground by Valentine’s day here in Piedmont NC along with my sugar snap peas.

  18. susitravl

    December 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I learned that the easiest way to make bacon bits is to cut the whole slab of bacon (without separating the strips) into pieces with kitchen shears right over the skillet. They separate while frying. Only have to wash my hands once, so it’s also a time saver.

  19. Rosemarie

    December 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

    This year, I planted radishes with my squash because I read it would decrease the squash bugs in my squash bed. It seemed to help so I started researching more about companion planting for pest & disease control. This year, I’m going to plant various herbs among my vegetables based on their pest & disease control benefits – as well as to draw more beneficial insects. I will also use herbal teas along with my compost tea to strengthen the health of my plants. I’m very excited to try this garden herbal medicine. 🙂

  20. CeeCee

    December 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    My biggest learning curve involves my fall and winter gardening. But I am taking notes and getting a little better each year. This year I planned on constructing tunnels …. But didn’t think I would need them till mid December or January. Turns out that I needed them in November and wasn’t prepared. I have kales, rapini, tatsoi and other mustards…..etc that has frostbite and is not good eating quality now. The plants will over winter and produce nice early spring meals though.

    I am trying to over-winter snow peas and sugar snaps with out cover. The plants are 4-5 inches tall and look great at the moment. I need peas to be planted early enough to bear while its still cool. In the past I either plant them too late or cant get them to germinate in the cool temps. Only time will tell if this is a worth while technique.

  21. Juanita Herrington

    December 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I learned that a cover crop must be turned under a sufficient amount of time in order for it to compost properly. Early in 2013, things got busy, and we were unable to get the ground worked up until March. Hence, the soil wasn’t as loose as it should have been for an optimal vegetable crop.

  22. Cary Bradley

    December 27, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I had 2 great lessons this year. First was ease of growing tomatillos for chili verde salsa and fresh salsa. Pollinators loved the blossoms and vines were quite productive. Was hesitant to give over green bean real estate to beans grown for dried beans. Not as productive as green beans, but will have dried beans for cooking all winter long now. This year, will have to balance green bean and dried bean garden real estate. Both lessons fun and productive.

  23. beverly conroy

    December 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    This year we put up onions and garlic in the barn, We didn’t take into account the freezing problem when the temperatures dropped. Next year we will have an indoor storage space to hang them in. Lesson learned 🙂

  24. Evan

    December 28, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I learned that 2 basil plants isnt enough. If you plan on making much tomato sauce you need several plants. Also, I learned how to save basil by shredding it and putting the leaves into ice cube trays with water and freezing them.

    • Juanita Herrington

      December 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Evan, you can also take fresh, whole basil leave and freeze them in olive oil. Just strip a enough off and pack into the bottom of a jar; pour on some olive oil. Be sure all the leaves are coated. Continue the process until you’ve either filled the jar or run out of basil leaves. To use, chip off as many as you want. The basil retains its green color until it is added to the cooking pot.

  25. Joyce G. with Bertram Elementary Gardening Club

    December 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I live in Texas, where battling heat and drought can be a challenge when gardening. Our school is just getting started with a gardening program. This year I learned about keyhole gardens like those used in Africa. We just received a grant from the Captain Planet Foundation to help us put in our first keyhole garden!

  26. Tonda G.

    December 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    In the garden I learned that I can grow greens…other than lettuce! I planted Swiss chard and it grew like crazy. Kale did too, but I let the bugs get the best of it. I am definitely going to try again. I want to use row covers to extend the season and keep out pests. In the kitchen I learned that I need to find more recipes for Swiss chard!!!

  27. Susan Mrenna

    December 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    This year was the first garden at our new house. We did move in the middle of the summer before, but I broke my ankle badly the day after closing and did no gardening that year. My ankle is still a work in progress. More surgery on January 7th. In spite of my limited mobility I was able to start all my seeds for 70+ tomato plants and plant them out. My ankle would not let me use a shovel so the plants were laid on the ground and the roots covered with mulch. All but 3 of the plants survived and I was able to harvest enough for all our processed tomato needs. I blenderized the tomatoes and froze them in containers and pull out a container or two a couple of days before I want to make the next batch of salsa or sauce and thaw in the refrigerator. I also made a year, or more of pickles and relishes. Summer squash is a good substitute for cucumbers, but the end product is softer. We are still eating winter squash, but it won’t quite last till next harvest.
    This year I know not to count on my ankle so have made several raised beds out of pallets and animal water troughs. I am still plugging away at getting the garden cleaned up, but have a dozen plants each of sprouting broccoli and cabbage and 400 garlic cloves planted. I am going to go completely no till and LOTS of mulch. I never watered the tomato plants even one time, not even when I planted them out. Did it when it was wet and covered with wet mulch. The raised beds go on top of mowed grass/weeds and under them is cardboard. Chickens provide fertilizer and make compost. I plan on growing all our alliums and potatoes and cabbage for kraut this year in addition to the tomatoes. If I am lucky enough to win, I will choose seeds!

  28. Ma Hubbard

    January 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you all for participating! The lucky winner of the Giveaway is Mair Newton, and she chose the seed gift certificate option. Mair selected Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company as her company of choice (and a great choice, at that) — she has a big (but fun!) task ahead of her as she peruses Baker Creek’s amazing variety of open-pollinated fruits and vegetables. Best wishes to Mair, and to all of you in the New Year! May all your breads rise, and your seeds grow true!

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