Peanut Brittle with Pastry Chef Gracie Atsma

Peanut Brittle with Pastry Chef Gracie Atsma

This week we are excited to have award winning pastry chef Gracie Atsma joining us to discuss one of my favorite topics – peanuts!  It is peanut harvesting time all across Georgia.

Peanut Brittle with Pastry Chef Gracie Atsma
It is peanut harvesting time in Georgia.

Many school and community gardeners are also pulling up peanuts.  What to do with the harvest?  Chef Atsma shares a possibility with us!

Gracie’s Peanut Brittle

  • Sugar: 4 1/2 cups
  • Corn syrup: 2 1/4 (ish) cups
  • Water: 1 1/2 cups
  • Raw peanuts: 4 1/2 cups
  • Butter: 3 tablespoons
  • Vanilla Extract:  2 tsp
  • Salt:  1 tsp
  • Baking soda:  2 tsp
  • Dark Chocolate: a bit (optional)

Start with mixing together and dissolving the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan over heat. Bring to a boil and keep a candy thermometer handy to make sure the mixture reaches 250ºF (121ºC).  Be careful here; don’t get burned.
Once that reaches temp, add the butter and Peanuts, and continue boiling until it reaches 312ºF (155ºC). Be sure to be stirring constantly otherwise the bottom will burn!

Peanut Brittle with Pastry Chef Gracie Atsma
Once it reaches 312ºF, remove from heat and keep stirring as you carefully add the Vanilla, salt, and baking soda. It will foam up a bit, so add slowly.
Have a nonstick pan ready and pour the hot mixture over it as soon as the last three ingredients are combined. Use a greased metal spatula to spread it out evenly, quickly though because it’ll get hard fast!
There you go! Once it hardens you can break it up into edible brittle pieces. Personally, while its cooling, I like to melt a bit of dark chocolate and pour it over top and put the whole thing in the fridge to cool. When it comes out you have a salty sweet treat just in time for fall!

Chef Gracie Atsma
Chef Gracie Atsma at work

You can find Pastry Chef Atsma at Ike and Jane in Athens, Georgia.    Gracie started as a home cook and has always appreciated locally grown foods.  As a teenager she had a garden of her own.    She says “there is no down side for using locally grown, fresh food.”

Thanks Gracie!  

Eye and Face Protection

Eye and Face Protection

Do not think because an accident hasn’t happened to you that it can’t happen.

What happened when the tree feller didn’t wear his safety goggles?

He turned a blind eye to saw safety.

As the chainsaw blade bites into the tree, bark, wood chips, and tiny bits of the metal blade explode into the air. Your face and eyes are nice, soft targets for all this flying debris. While a faceguard with a mesh screen protects your face, it isn’t enough to protect your eyes from injury. Neither are eyeglasses or sunglasses. Flying objects can shatter the lenses of regular eyewear, increasing the chances of eye injury.

Safety glasses or goggles with side protection or wrap-around lenses deflect threats that come at the eyes from both the front and the side. There are safety glasses and goggles that fit over prescription eyewear. Alternatively, you can have safety eye wear made to your vision prescription, even if you wear bifocals.

Whether you wear prescription or off-the-shelf safety glasses, to make sure you can see clearly, select models that:

Always inspect your faceguard and safety glasses before each use. Replace PPE that has weak or frayed straps, or cracks, chips, or damage to protective shields or lenses.

Your eyes face many dangers…

Threats to eyes and face from chainsaw use

Potential injuries to eyes and face from chainsaw use

Chainsaw kickback Cuts, lacerations, loss of vision
Sawdust Irritation, corneal scratches
Flying wood chips Scratches, splinters, corneal abrasions, loss of vision
Flying metal particles from saw blade Splinters, infection, granulomas, loss of vision
Twigs and branches Scratches, punctures, corneal abrasions, loss of vision

Can’t find the perfect eyewear? Keep looking, there is a style and fit for everyone.

Every month, 23,000 people suffer from eye injuries. Don’t let anyone on your team be one of them.

Know Your Pest!

What is the number one way to combat an insect problem in the garden?   Know your pest.  The answer is that simple.  Correct identification of the pest is essential in any type of garden management.

Know Your Pest
Aphids on lettuce

Step #1 Correct identification

Sadly, I have often seen gardeners find signs of a pest and immediately reach for an overall insecticide without properly identifying the problematic insect.   This can be detrimental to your garden.  Insecticides can kill insects that are beneficial to your garden, like pollinators and insect predators.

Know Your Pest
This praying mantis is beneficial to your garden.

Step #2 Learn about the lifecycle and biology of the pest

Once the pest is correctly identified, a major part of growing organically or using integrated pest management (IPM) is learning about the insect to develop a plan of control.  Learn about the life cycle and biology of your pest.  Knowing all you can about a pest so you can manage that pest is just common sense.

For example, Mexican bean beetles lay their eggs in garden debris.  Knowing that, you can help lessen your bean beetle problems by cleaning up your garden at the end of the summer.

Know Your Pest
Mexican bean beetle larva

Planting early, using netting, and choosing resistant varieties are all effective strategies that work in pest management IF the pest is known.  Too much science for you?  Your local UGA Extension agent is the resource to help you.  Use his/her entomological skills to make your garden better!

And, remember that when using any insecticide the label instructions are the law!

Happy, pest-free gardening!


Excuse me, did you say “Hearing Protection?”

Danger never takes a vacation:

You need hearing protection! Noise is measured in units called decibels (dB). A conversation is about 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner is about 70 db, a lawn mower is about 90 db, and a chainsaw runs at about 110 dB. OSHA regulations kick in at 85 db.

Hearing protection must be worn consistently to be effective, so pick a style that works for you and use it.

Hearing protection has a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The NRR is the decibel reduction provided by hearing protection. A saw operator needs an NRR of at least 26 dB to reduce the noise below 85 dB.

Don’t over protect. Select hearing protectors that provide adequate but not excessive protection for overall performance and effectiveness. You must be able to hear talking, loudspeaker transmissions, warning signals, and important machine sounds while reducing the risk of permanent hearing damage.

OSHA Standard Number: 1910.95 states that employers must develop, implement, and maintain an audiometric testing program. A baseline audiogram for new employees must be established within six months of employment, with an audiogram every year after that.

Check how old your ears are below.

How Old Are Your Ears? (Hearing Test)

Some hearing loss is a normal part of aging, but regular exposure of more than one minute to chainsaw noise can also cause hearing loss. So take this test and see how you are doing…

Water Conservation and Drought Awareness: Information about the Georgia EPD Drought Level 1 Response

On September 9, 2016, a drought level 1 response was issued by GEPD for 53 counties in northwest and central Georgia. Georgia’s drought management plan, as outlined by the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010, establishes a three-tiered approach to water resource conservation and monitoring.  The first tier of the system is called “Drought Level 1” and initiates a conservation and public awareness campaign by local water utilities in affected counties. Look for forthcoming information regarding the drought level 1 response from local water authorities in these counties to help citizens better understand drought, its impact on water supplies and the need for indoor and outdoor water conservation.  drought_level_1_9-15-2016


Outdoor watering: Is it okay to plant trees and irrigate turfgrass?  Yes, normal outdoor watering is allowed between the hours of 4pm and 10am and new landscapes can be watered any day, any time for 30 days in accordance with the Georgia Water Stewardship Act. However, proper plant care and responsible watering practices should always be followed.

Contact your local University of Georgia Extension Agent for scientific publications, bulletins, and fact sheets regarding plant care and irrigation practices. Key practices include mulching, proper plant selection, raising mower heights, and proper irrigation.  In addition, the Georgia Urban Ag Council and the Georgia Green Industry Association launched a website called outlining best management practices for indoor and outdoor water conservation.

According to the 2012 Annual Report, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District estimates that the 15 County Metro Atlanta area reduced per capita water consumption by as much as 20% between 2000 to 2010 through local water stewardship and conservation efforts. Spread the word about water conservation and drought awareness and stay informed on the latest practices for managing drought stressed landscapes.  For more information about the level 1, 2, and 3 drought responses, visit the Water Conservation page of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division website.

Related Articles:

Tips for Managing Drought Stressed Turfgrass

Drought Level 1 Declared in Georgia



Level 1 Drought Declared in Georgia

Level 1 Drought Declared in Georgia

Level 1 Drought Declared on September 9th

On September 9th the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared a Level 1 drought for 53 Georgia counties.  This includes the Northwest part of Georgia which is experiencing severe and extreme drought conditions.

A Level 1 Drought Response declaration means you will be hearing more from your local water authority about water conservation.

What does this mean to community and school gardens?

At this point, not much.  As always, we need to use best management practices in watering our gardens.  According to the Georgia Water Stewardship Act of 2010 irrigation of personal food gardens is allowed at anytime.  It allows daily outdoor watering for “purposes of planting, growing, managing, or maintaining ground cover, trees, shrubs, or other plants only between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. by anyone whose water is supplied by a water system permitted by the Environmental Protection Division.”

You may want to make sure your irrigation system, hoses, and faucets are not leaking.  Does your garden have a rain barrel?  Find additional watering tips below:

Happy gardening!

Fire Up with the Saw Safety Team

Saw Safety, a weekly newsletter of safety tips is brought to you by the UGA Saw Safety Team. This newsletter is for professionals in tree care and landscape, men and women who put a saw in wood. One tip per week, short and sweet, easy to share, perfect for a tailgate meeting.

Check out our past issues.

Get on the List

Sign up today. Get on the mailing list at your county office, the next training, or from your computer.

Hard Hats, Helmets, and Tree Care

Danger never takes a vacation: Hard Hats, Helmets, and Tree Care: Hard Hats, Helmets, and Tree Care

Danger never takes a vacation:

OSHA requires that a protective hard hat is worn whenever you are working in an area where there is potential for injury to the head from falling objects. For tree care workers that means every time you get out of the truck. Tree workers are often hit on the side of the head (as well as the top) and would benefit from a helmet with side protection.


How do I know if I have a safe helmet?

Look on the inside of the helmet. It should have the manufacturer’s name or ID, the date of manufacture, the type and class of helmet, head size and ANSI Z89.1-2014, Z89.1-2009 or Z89.1-2003.

The ANSI numbers mean it has met all the safety requirements for helmets.

What are those other markings?

 – The hard hat can be reversed, worn backwards or forward.

HV – The hard hat meets all testing requirements of the standard for high visibility colors.

LT – Low temperature use.

HT – High temperature use.

Can I wear a cap, scarf, or liner in cold weather under the helmet?

Only liners specified by the manufacturer can be used. Check with the manufacturer.

Can you put decals or spray paint the helmet?

Generally, decals are not a problem, but spray paint or adhesives may degrade the plastic or hide defects in the helmet. Again, check with manufacturer.

Do hard hats wear out?

YES! Check hats daily for cracks, dents, penetration, plastic chip flakes, discoloration, and chalky appearance. Look at the liner. If it’s worn or broken it should be replaced immediately.

If a big branch falls on me, I’m going to die anyway, why bother with a hard hat?

Small branches fall too, chippers spit out objects, climbers drop tools, your workplace is full of hazards. In 2012, more than 65,000 cases involving days away from work occurred due to head injuries in the workplace (2015 edition of the National Safety Council chartbook “Injury Facts”). That same year, 1,020 workers died from head injuries sustained on the job. Only 1 in 65 died from a head injury, the 64 others got hurt. Bet they’re glad they had their hard hats on!

No doubt about it, hard hats prevent injuries and save lives!

Should I wear a hard hat if there is no apparent danger?

Yes. Wear it every time you get out of the truck. In your work environment, unexpected hazards are the norm. Your hard hat will defend you from sudden dangers, when you don’t have the time or space to move out of the way.

Are hard hats considered sexy?


Why you should wear a hard hat cutting down a tree

Want to see what happens to tree care workers who don’t wear a hard hat? OUCH!!!! Nigel needs more PPE!

Pesticide Waste Collection (Clean Day) Event

The Georgia Dept. of Agriculture will host a Pesticide Waste Collection (Clean Day) event on September 30, 2106 at the Cordele State Farmers Market in Crisp County from 9:00am to 3:00pm. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is excited to have the funding to support this excellent program as a benefit to all Georgia citizens and the environment. The collection day is open to all who would like to participate.  Due to collection limits, pre-registration is required and must be completed by September 26, 2016.  Additional information and registration forms can be found online at

Don’t leave pesticide waste sitting around in storage waiting for an accident or spill to happen, take advantage of this rare opportunity to dispose of pesticide waste safely and responsibly.

For more information, please contact:

Rick Hayes
Georgia Department of Agriculture
19 MLK Jr. Dr. Room 410
Atlanta, Ga. 30334
Office: 404-656-4958 Ext. 4113

Related Post:

Disposing of Excess Pesticides in a Safe Manner

Community Food Gardening in the Desert

Less than 10 miles outside of Las Vegas’s famous strip is a community food garden.  Vegas Roots is a garden in the desert. On a recent trip out west I thought it would be fun to visit a garden with very different growing conditions than what I was used to in Georgia.  And, I was curious to know what they were growing in the desert!

Vegas Roots Garden on a hot, July day.
Vegas Roots Garden on a hot, July day.

The Climate

The climate in this area is hot in the summer, really HOT!  In July and August it is not uncommon for temperatures to be over 110 degrees F.  And, it is dry.  The average rainfall is 4.17 inches; compare that to Georgia’s 55 inches.  So, how does this garden grow?  It grows pretty well!

Vegas Roots Community Garden was created six years ago.  It is a multi-faceted space that contains plots for community members to rent, an area for children’s gardening, and rows for growing food that is donated to seniors and others in need.  Volunteers are always welcome and the nearby casinos are very supportive of this space.

Growing Food in the Desert

If you are interested in renting a 5′ X 10′ plot the cost is $500 per year.  The plots come with improved soil and a drip irrigation system installed.  The irrigation is automated and most of the rent costs go to pay for water.

Irrigation systems are installed in all the gardening beds.
Irrigation systems are installed in all the gardening beds.

I visited this garden in early July and was surprised to see beautiful tomatoes and large squash fruits.  With a climate so dry, Vegas Roots Community Garden does not have the fungal disease problems that we struggle with in Georgia.  I got to eat juicy, ripe raspberries and saw apricot trees.  Herbs were plentiful and sometimes the garden sells them to restaurants.  My tour guide, Betty, says they will get burnout of plants later in the summer.

It turns out apricots grow fairly well in this desert garden.
It turns out apricots grow fairly well in this desert garden.

I asked about pollinators and it turns out that there are native bees and other pollinating insects that pollinate the plants.  The gardeners plant pollinator flowers to attract them, but pollination is not a problem.  The garden does not allow pesticides.

Sunflowers help attract native pollinators.
Sunflowers help attract native pollinators.

The afternoon I was there a delegation from South Korea was due to visit the garden.  It turns out those South Koreans are interested in setting up community gardens in their neighborhoods.  Betty indicated that they often get visitors who are in town for the more famous Las Vegas sites.

Vegas Roots volunteer, Betty, is justifiably proud of the garden.
Vegas Roots volunteer, Betty, is justifiably proud of the garden.

What a great treat to see such a lovely space.  Thanks, Betty!

Happy Gardening!