Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eggplant Blossoms and Other Goodies

I'm far away in Sacramento, where the high today was an inhumane 105 degrees, but I took garden pictures this morning to post tonight. It's nice getting to be reminded of my beloved garden while I'm in this oven getting educated.

First Baby Tomatoes

Cabbage, Carrots and Onions; coming along nicely

Edamame that's started looking quite sickly, must do some research. Definitely getting enough water, ideas?!

We now have two eggplant blossoms. Aren't they pretty? I've never grown eggplant - and these will be white and named Casper!

I had no idea the blossoms had spikes. Yay!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Local Feasting on Game Night

Tonight's meal was salad (lettuce, radishes, baby pea pods), steak, and green beans. Salad was from the garden, beef and beans were frozen after purchase from local farms. Beer was some S and Q bought at Oakshire, a local brewery, last night, brewed local but wheat from Wyoming.Olive oil from Corning in northern CA. Salt and pepper of unknown origin. Very yummy. Can't get much more local.

We were eating while we played Settlers of Cataan. I love being a grown-up and getting to play while I eat. Binky immediately hopped into the box as I started to set up but, as you can see, was unimpressed by being photographed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Complete Non Sequitor

I was thinking about how odd it is that in life Ed MacMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson were completely unconnected but they'll be forever linked in a weird way by the proximity of their deaths. It seems like Farrah Fawcett fought a long noble battle. I'm rather sorry that her passing will now be so overshadowed. Of course I also hope that Michael Jackson has finally found some peace he never could in life. So absurd to pay any attention to celebrities anyway...

Strawberries in the Freezer

I've finished my strawberry preserving for the season, barring any that we can't manage to eat fresh from our own patch. I froze most of another flat yesterday for a total of 7 gallons whole frozen strawberries. I ended up paying $34 for all the berries, so it worked out to about $4.90/gallon. I've still got 9 1/2 pints of jam and 3 pints of strawberry honey ice cream topping from last year. This is fine by me, I've never noticed any degradation of quality. I can't wait until we manage to grow enough that we don't need to buy them. I'd better get out there are start preparing the new bed...

Sleepy Kitty

Digit was the last one up today. He always looks so silly when he's using the people pillows as is the only one in a king-sized bed.

I biked 11 miles again today and then jogged about 1/2 mile. Even though I got breathing quite hard, there wasn't even a hint of the asthma stuff. It was so nice having my legs and not my lungs cut the run short.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Praying Mantises

A few weeks ago, Q couldn't resist buying a praying mantis egg at the check-out when we were at Down To Earth. Praying mantises are very good for gardens because they are carnivores and gobble up all the naughty, vegetable eating insects. The bag said to keep the egg in something with breathing holes if you wanted to see them when they hatched before releasing them. Well, duh, of course we wanted to see them!
This morning, Q walked into the kitchen and Binky was looking quizzically at the jar on the window sill. They'd hatched! Aren't they funny?
We took the jar outside and released them. This little guy is the first one who decided to make a break for it. Hopefully some will survive to maturity and maybe even lay an egg or two in our garden to keep their population going next year.
I rode 11 miles on my bike today by keeping Q company on the way to work and then taking the long way home. After getting home, I weeded for a couple of hours. I hope I won't be too sore tomorrow. Embarrassing to admit, but that's more exercise than I usually get lately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roasted Radishes Review

(I love alliteration, don't you?) Anyway, we made the radishes for dinner. The original poster said that they'd found them a bit bland. A commentor suggested rosemary and balsamic. I chose to add a fair amount of salt, fresh rosemary, and garlic powder. Review: passable. Next time, I'm going to devein the larger leaves (a bit bitter and stringy) and add more garlic and little to no rosemary. The radish greens are robust enough that the rosemary gets lost. Definitely a recipe worth tweaking though since it uses a vegetable the grows so well and so quickly on the shoulder seasons with such a big return. If the bed out front is any indication, we'll have plenty of opportunities at future meals to work out the recipe.

Today's Strawberry Picking

We just went out and got today's harvest of 1 pound, 13 1/2 oz. Very good.


Today's harvest: 3 1/2 oz. rhubarb, 8 oz radish greens, 1lb. 2 oz radishes, 1/3 c. peas, 2 lb 11 1/2 oz strawberries (actually strawberries are the official count from Q's picking before going to CO)

I found this recipe for Roasted Radishes for tonight's dinner. Opinions and pictures will come soon. I hope they're good since the harvest above was quite selectively chosen as the ones that really needed to be picked right now and there are a lot more coming in. I love the fact that it uses the tops; I went searching for such recipes this morning after thinking "beet tops, why not radish tops?"

Lupines are just on their final gasp, coreopsis is strong and the daisies are just coming into their own.

The bed next to the driveway, planted with a seven layer guild placeholding for next year's kiwi and dwarf fruit additions.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mom Continues Her Dash Into Modernity

Today and yesterday I set my dear mama up with her own blog so she can let the people she sells craft goods to see what she's up to. I'm so proud of her. She's now got her own blog, her own flickr photostream, and two gmail accounts. Pretty brave lady to learn all this new stuff.

We've also been making granola bars, beef jerky, and camping meals and sorting a huge box of zippers inherited from Grandma. More complete tales of our adventures coming soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Harvest is Beginning

Although a lot of the garden is still in its early stages, the strawberry bed, cherries, rhubarb, and first plantings of peas and lettuce are coming into their own.

I managed to harvest the first pound of strawberries from our bed two nights ago (which Q and I promptly ate as dessert). We've gotten a brilliant idea to make some of what was going to be grass in the front into a huge strawberry patch with stepping stones judiciously scattered for picking ease. Hopefully, allowing them to take over a couple hundred square feet (Q is sooo into less mowing) will eventually make a bed that's big enough to produce more than just eating berries. It's going to be more work to be vigilant about removing old plants each year to keep the production vigorous, but what a payoff. The stump's gone and it looks so much cleaner out there now, much easier to envision a strawberry field. I'm in Colorado right now on an impromptu trip, but new garden pictures will definitely be due of all of the garden when I return next week.

Q brought in two ripe cherries today. Mine was very tasty.

We've gotten two meals of salad off the lettuce.

Three larger stalks of rhubarb were harvested and the next big harvest is well on it's way.

Pea pods are starting to fill out. There are a lot of them.

Radishes are quite clearly developing rounded bits coming out of the ground. I'm hoping they'll be just right for harvest middle of next week. I'm glad we got the Easter Egg variety pack. It's fun peeking under leaf after leaf to see if the root that is now visible is pink or red or white. Truly an Easter egg hunt!

The violet podded beans have come up. (The plants also have a lovely purple tint.) I'm worried their growth will outstrip the corn that was meant to support them though. Oh well, if that trouble comes, we'll just have to come up with a different solution.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Today's Outing

I really wanted a field trip to celebrate the first day of summer vacation but the rain in the southern valley prevented local strawberry picking. We decided to drive an hour and a half north to Canby. We picked 20 pounds (= 1 flat) for $15 (pretty good). Afterwards we headed back and decided to stop in Aurora at a cool looking architectural salvage store and discovered that Aurora is this very extensive antique mecca. See the photos Q took here. We got an art deco lamp as a bedside lamp for the guest room. It matches the furniture style and color scheme very well. (You'll have to wait to see pictures when we finish the guest room. ;p)
We also got a really really good deal on a bunch of '50s and '60s vintage sewing patterns. Below are the 5 I'm keeping. I'm going to try to sell the other twelve at my Etsy shop. I am so excited.

Coat pieces are missing but I like the shift.

This is my favorite. I need to finish my other projects before I get to make it though.

The print on the right one makes me think of the Flintstones.

This old sewing magazine was only $3 and has a lot of really good basic seamstressing how-tos (click the contents picture to enlarge it).

Oh yeah, the strawberries are now 4 gallons of frozen whole berries in freezer bags in the new shiny freezer. :) (Sorry the pic is blurry.)

It's raining!

We were going to go pick strawberries at a farm today and it's raining, hard! I'm glad we at least have the garden now so I can look out and see all the happy thirsty plants enjoying it. It provides a little consolation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Our Garden's First Harvest

The first 10 berries all became ripe today - and they were very, very good. I love the way our patch goes from almost full sun to almost full shade. The berries ripen from front to back in a relatively orderly manner, extending our season a little. (Although the sunny ones certainly tend to be the sweetest.)
Today was the last day of school! I made a peach cobbler with two of the last quarts of peaches as a celebration for the summer birthdays. It was a hit.

I also made a batch of split pea soup last night from the ham bone we "created" earlier in the week. (Mmmmm...ham, black-eyed peas, and beet greens.) After sitting in the fridge overnight it was divine for tonight's dinner. I keep my recipe simple and it works every time - 2 lb. split peas, one meaty ham bone, 4 stalks chopped celery, 4 diced carrots, 2 chopped onions, and some salt with a bunch of water. Simmer for a long time. :) I've tried the recipes with thyme or bay leaves but never really noticed that they were better. We even have leftover ham to mix in this time too!
And, finally, the new freezer, all 20 cubic feet of it. My friends were surprised at how full it already is. The white packages in the drawers are the 1/4 cow (grass-fed, organic, free-range - woohoo) that we bought. Cows are big.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


My delight for the evening - graham cracker crust, vanilla pudding (with a little extra cornstarch to make it good filling), and fresh strawberry topping. Oh my goodness! I'm a little sad that the pudding end broke after I poured the topping on. It's the only thing marring Q's fancy photos. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Strawberries

So, ever so often teaching has it's perks. Thanks to a scheme by the teacher below me for the middle school classes to make ice cream during the afternoon of the All Grades Outing on Wednesday I had an excuse to buy an ice cream maker and my first flat of berries for the season from Thistledown. It's actually quite difficult anymore to find a hand-cranked machine (it also has an electric option though).
I have to agree with the other teacher - a 3 mile long extension cord would probably not be practical for getting it to the park. :)
I have a feeling that this is a warm-up flat though. After giving some to the neighbors (as a thank you for the beautiful home grown eggs they gifted us) and ice creaming 9 cups and giving the kids 3 or 4 cups to keep them from eating the ice cream berries and the quantities that keep disappearing every time I walk through the kitchen and....well, I don't think any will make it to the freezer.
We've still got about 6 pints of jam from last year, so I just need to freeze this year for my neverending smoothie obsession. I have now got a responsibility to fill that glorious new freezer full. Only 4 days until delivery!
I can't wait until this weekend when Q has promised to take me picking. A new freezer and a weekend of berry picking/processing - what a great way to celebrate the end of school!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A New Twist on Fool

Yesterday's rhubarb harvest needed to be converted into sweet breakfast goodness this morning. I'm trying to start using honey rather than sugar where possible. I was going to just replace the sugar with honey when my eye alighted on an almost full jar of strawberry honey jam in the fridge. This jam making experiment from last year turned out delicious but didn't set up; it has been best as ice cream topping. Into the fool the 1 1/2 of jam went with about 1/4 c of additional honey for good measure. This was a very good idea. I will be interested to see what just honey by itself will do next time. By the way, if you don't have whipped cream or are just trying to cut down on the calories, fool is really great with vanilla rice milk poured over it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Strawberries are Right Around the Corner...

This 4x8 bed was quickly overrun by daughter plants who spilled out in all directions starting a couple of years ago. I completely cut back all the crowns inside the bed in the fall and removed all the old mothers. Cutting them back only makes them stronger - total hydra style thing. EEEEEEE!
A typical view from a bit closer up.
And another view, closer still. U-pick farms are opening this weekend or next and I'm guessing my first berries should be ready in a week or two, depending on if the weather gets warmer again. It's been cool having thunderstorms and lightning for the last few days though and I can only imagine what we're saving in water since it's been raining quite a bit.
We clearly missed this plant (and some on the others) when we were picking off the blossoms so the plant could concentrate on getting established and not on fruiting this year. Now that they're so big and yummy looking we've decided that producing a few berries is unlikely to do them harm, even this first year. :)

Aren't the lupines amazing? I think they're my favorite flowers and the foliage is pretty up in that front bed all year round.

The irises are in bloom and we've never had so many. (You can see them better in the bottom right of the next picture.) Isn't this weird? Ever bud gets absolutely covered with ants - they must eat the nectar?! It serves as a bit of a detractor in a beauty sense but from a freaky nature perspective it's totally cool.

So, it's been a while since the last sprout pictures, so here goes! It's rather exciting. I believe we've had some of everything we planted come up. This weekend, the corn is finally actually high enough for me to plant the climbers around it - 2 hills of Violet Podded Stringless Beans, 2 hills of Kentucky Wonder Beans, 1 hill of Bingo Beans, and 3 hills of Alderman Shelling Peas.
Golden Bantam sweet corn
The full planting list is...

For the bed to the east of the driveway (where kiwis/dwarf apple/pears will go next year) a scattering of seeds for a guild consisting of - Easter Egg Blend radishes, Long Island Mammoth Dill, Cobham Improved Marrow parsnips, Triangle Flashback calendula, Wild Garden Lettuce Mix, Perfection fennel, and Derby Day and Danish Ballhead cabbage.

Between the corn hills - 2 mounds of Wautoma cucumbers and one mound each of Small Sugar pumpkins, Casper eggplant (bought a start), Banana Pink Jumbo winter squash, California Blackeye beans, and acorn squash (from a start).
Blackeyed Peas
Banana Pink Jumbo Squash

Bed 1 - 1 Beefeater tomato, 5 Roma tomato, 1 Cherry tomato, and 1 green bell pepper (all starts)

Bed 2 - Easter Egg radishes, Little Marvel Bush peas, and a Giant Red Celery (from a start)
Peas, Radishes, Celery (in the upper right)

Bed 3 - 2 cauliflower and 1 yellow squash (starts), Cobham Improved Marrow parsnips, and Golden Ball turnips
Parsnips and Turnips (I need to thin)

Bed 4 - 2 broccoli and 1 zucchini (starts), Early Wonder Tall Top beets, Talon Hybrid onions, and Marian rutabagas

Bed 5 - Nantaise carrots, Talon Hybrid onions, Ballhead and Derby Day cabbage, Misono Green edamame


Bed 6 - Sweet Basil (my transplanted starts from seed are looking not so hot, I'll probably buy a couple of 6-packs of starts)

Bed 7 (the old one that will be moved forward after the growing season) - Bloomsdale Savoy spinach, green leaf lettuce, and Little Wonder Bush peas
These were all planted around March 21. I'm quite frustrated. My spinach got just a few inches tall and then bolted! I suspect not enough watering or it could have just been that hot spell we had I suppose. The peas have lots of blossoms now though so I'm optimistic about my first wave of them.

In harvest news, I gathered another 1 lb. 3 oz. of rhubarb (after trimming) today, bringing harvest so far in '09 up to 2:12

We agreed to go in with a friend to buy a cow's worth of beef. A family in the school raises grass-fed all natural cows. Q and I are getting a quarter, which equals about 140 lb. and figured it will run around $3/lb., a pretty good deal when you consider the supermarket cost for even conventional ground. It will even be all neatly packaged in separate packages of 2 steaks or 1 lb. ground beef or 1 roast bundles. After some quick math, we deduced that, as we want to also keep other foods in our freezer, we needed an upgrade from our "starter" 6.6 cubic foot chest. We went out and bought this one today. Now we'll be set for life and oh, the berries/peaches/corn/marinara/beans/peppers/etc. I can freeze! Pictures of bovine bounty and freezer fun next week.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Weekend Pictures

Friday was the Medieval Feast, a celebration after my class participated in the Medieval Games this week. (How often do you get to see a caber toss in our modern world?!) To get into the spirit of things we found costumes for the kids from the costume closet (often a bit Renaissance-y, but close enough) and I rented this dress from Nobody's Baby, a vintage/costume rental shop downtown. I'd never been in there before. I'm afraid it's dangerous. I bought the most adorable green gingham 60s babydoll dress. It's clearly loved to the point of almost see-through so I need to add a lining before I wear it, but I'm so in love. Sundresses are quickly becoming my summer uniform.
By the way, Binky is awfully cute. (Thanks for the photo, Q!)

Freezing Enchiladas

This weekend we made up a quadruple batch of what is the best enchilada recipe in the whole world. It is likely that I believe this due to the cream cheesy goodness of the filling. It was originally copied from one of my aunts (I don't know where she got it) and I've modified it a bit along the way. Below is the recipe for a single batch. They freeze really well although I do like to leave them out to thaw before baking them. I think that the cook time might get quite long otherwise.

Chicken Enchiladas
Sauce - Saute 1/2 c. chopped onion and 1/2 c. chopped green pepper in a little oil until softened. Add 15 oz. of tomato sauce, 1 c. chicken stock, 1 t. cumin, 2 t. chili powder, 1 t. salt, and 1 t. sugar. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Filling - Soften 8oz. cream cheese (or neufchatel). Lightly saute 3/4 c. chopped onion until soft. Mix onion into cream cheese, add 1 t. salt and 2 1/2 c. cooked chicken. When this is well mixed, stir in 1 1/3 c. whole milk (or light cream).

Assembling - Have 10-12 flour tortillas ready. Dip a tortilla in the sauce, coating both sides, and place it in a 9"x13" baking pan. Scoop about 1/2-3/4 cup of filling onto the tortilla, fold ends over, and roll. Place the finished enchilada seam side down in the pan. Repeat until all of the solid parts of the filling are used. I always seem to end up with about 2 or 3 more enchiladas than the pan can accomodate so I make a supplemental 8"x8" as well. Pour remaining filling liquid evenly over the enchiladas. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with about 1/2 c. cheddar cheese. Cover the pan with a metal lid or aluminum foil.
This is the point where they can be frozen for later use.

Baking - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Also, I just discovered that cooking sushi rice and adding rice milk, sugar, vanilla, and dashes of cinnamon and cardamom makes about the most delicious rice pudding ever. The gluey sushi rice makes it all rich and creamy without having to add a bunch of cream.