Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Roundup

At least I've been earning my apple cake this week and yesterday I did penance for it. I finally finished up the beds and getting all that dirt moved. Three hours of heavy labor. And then I went to dance class in the evening. Weirdly I'm not even sore today. I think my body is finally back into working shape. I'm guessing you all want to see the finished product.

You can see it all from my front porch.

The overhead view from the second floor is a weird perspective and you can't even see one of the beds.

This is looking straight down from the same window so you can see the last bed. Yeah OK it looks just the same as all the others, but imagine a white fence along the driveway to the right with an arbor over the path. There will be a 2' strip of herbs and mostly flowers for the bees all along the fence. The fence is supposed to be put in next week. I'm hoping.

Someone (I think Toni) was asking the other day if the paths were wide enough to work in. They are very tight. They are only 19" across. Which is wide enough to bring in my wheelbarrow and set it down. Just. Barely. If I had gotten rid of one of the beds I could have had a good two feet between. A lot of people go for wide paths. I went back and forth in my mind so often. But I figured if I'm going to weed something it is going to be the bed and not the path. I'll mulch the paths, but I'll still be weeding. It will be a veritable jungle in there during growing season. I'll have to be vicious about keeping the foliage out of the paths.

I finally pickled my jalapenos and serranos. If I get any more from the garden before the first frost I can just toss them into the jars. These are refrigerator pickles and not canned. They will be used up long before they go bad.

The last time I was canning - hmm OK EVERYTIME I can I wish I had an apron as I get splattered with red sauce. I had plenty of cloth hidden away and I decided to start making one. This one is partly finished. I really ought to use a pattern as then I know it will come out right the first time. I kept changing how things were getting done after cutting the fabric. But I wanted a cutesy apron with frills and those don't usually cover enough. I wanted the skirt to wrap around a bit. The top part hasn't been added yet. Eventually I'll get it done. Maybe. I really hate sewing. I'd rather be digging in the garden.

I picked a reddish color so it won't show my tomato splatters as much. Maybe I should have picked off white. Then I could wear it when I bake. I get flour all over the place.

Last week I put some GabrielleAnn seeds on the top of the fridge to ferment. I forgot about them. This is the norm for me and tomato seeds. But I usually don't forget too long. I'm allergic to mold and when the sneezing starts, I know I'd better deal with my seeds. There was some pretty gross mold growing on top, but luckily the seeds hadn't dried out yet. So I washed off the seeds to dry. I'm thinking next year I ought to grow the F4 seeds and a real sungold and see how far apart they are in taste and habit. I could get fancy and back cross them. I've never done that before. Then again I could just let nature takes its course.

Today is garlic day. I soaked the seed garlic last night. I had just gotten into bed when I remembered I hadn't done it yet. Whoops. Back downstairs to take apart my cloves. I'm planting some unknown softneck which I really ought to name because "unknown" just doesn't do it justice. And some German Extra Hardy. I love German Extra Hardy, but the issue with planting it is that it only has four cloves on each head. Four really huge cloves. So to get the same amount as last year I have to plant a quarter of my garlic. This year I'm dumping the Bogatyr so I need to fill in with more German XH. This means I won't get to eat much of it this year. Sad, but I think making more is the best choice. Those cloves had better all make it through the winter. Having only four cloves is really a negative when it comes to planting time.

And at least last night I ate a little bit better. I had a mix of white and brown rice in the freezer. So I defrosted it and added the fish I had bought on Wednesday to make a nice fried rice. The green is a head of my green stemmed bok choy. So at least I got my veggies yesterday. I love fried rice. Simple fast and so easy. Well as long as there is left over rice in the house.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some Days I'm Good

And then there are the other days.

My husband has been gone on business trips a lot. I really hate when he goes. But I was good on Monday and Tuesday. He left and I ate well. I was going to make myself a nice Pasta Foozle (maybe better known as Pasta y Fagioli). Or pasta and beans.

The recipe starts off easily. You make a miropoix or since it is an Italian dish I suppose I ought to call it a soffritto. Which is just a fancy way of saying saute some diced onions, celery, and carrots. Then add the beans that have been soaked. I used my Ottawa Cranberry beans that I showed you on Harvest Monday. Add some broth and seasonings (I chose oregano and a bay leaf) and simmer until the beans are done. After add some diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. Or in my case both since I had some nice Cherokee Purples ripe on the counter that really needed to be used up but not quite enough. Throw in a little pasta and you are done. But somehow as the beans were cooking I thought that some hot Italian sausage from the farmers market would taste really good in it. So I tossed that in. I added just one link. But it really turned the soup into a very spicy dish. Regular pasta seemed a bit bland at that point. So I added tortellini. That was good but it needed something else. So I added some Greek yogurt at the end to add a creamy flavor.

Oh it was so good. And good for me too.

Then came Wednesday. My husband was home. I was thinking some fish from the farmers market. But then he called an said he was stuck in a meeting late that day and today too. It made me sad. So I made something else for dinner.

Yes this is an upside down caramel apple cake. I usually make it with a strudel topping, but caramel seemed so much more apropos for a day that I'm going to be bad. So caramel it was. I had two slices for dinner (yes as my dinner, not dessert) with some really good sharp Vermont cheddar. At least I make my cake with some whole wheat flour and it used a lot of apples - apple butter and grated apples in the batter, and the yummy sliced caramelized ones on top. OK so it also had half a cup of butter and a cup of brown sugar in that recipe but whose counts calories when your husband deserts you*.

And since I just know I'll get asked what the recipe is I'll give it to you.

Daphne's Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

Preheat the oven to 375F.

  • 1/4c butter
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 2 apples peeled and sliced

Put the butter and brown sugar in an ovenproof 10" frypan over medium heat. Start slicing up the apples. When they are sliced, cover the pan evenly with the slices. Then start mixing up the batter. Keep cooking the apples while you do this.

  • 1/2c flour
  • 1/2c whole wheat flour
  • t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/2c applebutter (but you can sub applesauce)
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c melted butter
  • 3/4c grated apple

Mix the dry stuff together(except the sugar) and the wet stuff together (plus the sugar), then mix the both of them together. Take the fry pan off the heat and spread the batter over the top. Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once it is done let it sit for about five minutes and then invert it onto a plate. Then if you are like me fix the apples that fell off during this process.

Then cut and put onto a plate and eat with Cabot cheddar cheese for dinner. Err. OK you can have it for dessert if you want. But really don't you want to eat it for dinner too? Especially if you are all alone and no one can see you?

*puns are always intended

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Monday -25 October 2010

Ottawa Cranberry, Trail of Tears, and Kidney

This week I finally got around to shelling my dried beans. I'd been collecting them for weeks and they were sitting on my counter. I decided I needed to reclaim the space. Dried beans take up a lot less room once shelled. Plus they are prettier. The pole beans didn't have any issues with rot, but the kidney beans were dragging their pods on the ground. I found quite a few pods that had to be tossed as they had molded up. I like pole beans better than bush beans, if just for ease of picking, but there are so many varieties that only come in bush. If I grow bush dried beans again, I'll have to remember to pick more frequently.

I picked some Asian greens, but only the ones that had to be picked. The Chinese broccoli (also known as Chinese kale, or Kai lan or Gai lan), was done up in a stirfry. We had a take out dinner at my house with friends. None of us ate the duck sauce that came with our meal so I mixed that with some of my homemade terriyaki sauce and it was quite yummy. But no my friends didn't get to eat my greens as those gatherings are just take out. However I did score some takeout containers. I love the white plastic ones they give out. In the spring they will become flea beetle traps. Flea beetles love the color white (and yellow, but the bees love yellow too so that is bad to use). I fill them with soapy water and place the traps near the tomatoes or the Asian greens and the flea beetles suicide right into them. It doesn't get rid of all of them, but enough to keep them from doing real damage.

I also used up the last of the tomatoes that I had picked green a while back. There weren't many, but the ones that were left got put into the tally. But then I replaced them. There were some frost warnings for Thursday and Friday nights. It turns out we didn't get a frost. I seem to have just as nice of a non-frosting place as my last house. It could be the huge fence surrounding the property. It could keep the cold air from flowing onto our property. And our property has a lot of pavement and bricks which hold in the heat. But because of the frost warnings I picked all the sizable Cherokee Purple tomatoes and any GabrielleAnn that was starting to show a decent amount of color. The Gabrielles were weighed, but the green tomatoes were not. They will once they turn. I also picked all the peppers of any size. Including those two green peppers that wouldn't turn red. If you look at them you might notice that tiny bit of a red blush, but they have been like that forever.

It was a good week for putting up food too. I put up nine pints of applesauce and 2 pints, four cups and one half cup of thicker tomato sauce (good for making into spaghetti sauce later on). Though DH and I can eat a jar of applesauce at a meal, the tomato sauce is sometimes used in smaller quantities so I love to have different sized cans. This time I made sure I had exactly 7 jars so they would fill up my canner, but not go over.

  • Alliums 0,14 lbs
  • Dried Beans 1.39
  • Greens 1.01 lbs
  • Pepper 0.59 lbs
  • Tomato 2.21 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Total harvested this week 5.34 lbs
  • Total for the year 319.03 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $934.89

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Changing Seasons

I've been busy since Monday. Tuesday I canned the last of the ripe tomatoes. The green tomatoes that I stripped off about a month ago were either ripe or ready to get tossed. I'd slowly been collecting the remaining tomatoes in the freezer. This was my last canning session of the year. I could use a few more jars of applesauce, but I don't think I'm making anymore. Canning season is over. And just when it starts getting colder and I could use the heat in the house.

My meals have been changing too. Above is what I liked eating during the summer. I have a really nice toaster oven that bakes very well. It puts out very little heat so it works great for baked goods during the summer.

Those tomatoes I use are fast disappearing. A frost was predicted for last night (never materialized) and tonight. So I picked off all the tomatoes from the Cherokee Purple plant. And any that were starting to turn from the cherry tomato plant. I'll have very few fresh tomato pizzas anymore. In addition the basil is turning a horrible brown color so no more basil either. Goodbye summer food.

Now I want something to warm myself during the day. Lunches have been soups all week long. I've been very sad not to have Chinese cabbage this fall. One of my favorite soups is Chinese cabbage soup. Tis the season to be eating it, but with the lack of a planting space in July or early August, it just never happened. My garden was just too small this year. So I only planted the fast maturing Asian greens.

Yesterday I was checking out the greens patch and had to harvest more Chinese broccoli, but I also had a couple of heads of bok choy that were bolting. They are still quite edible at this stage. I even like the stem which was very thick on these. I peel the stem and the inner part is very tender. I was thinking a stir fry was in order, then I remembered my soup. I figured that bok choy isn't all that far from Chinese cabbage - at least the stems aren't. So I made bok choy soup instead.

It wasn't as good as my regular version, but it wasn't bad at all. I like the texture of the Chinese cabbage better as it holds up to cooking more than the greens do, but it was very tasty.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Day in the Slow Life

Slow life. Hmmm. Sometimes it doesn't seem very slow when I'm multitasking trying to get several things done at once. But then I go outside and talk to my two remaining bell peppers.

Me: So do you think you could turn red right about now?
Peppers: Don't rush us. There is still plenty of time. See we have a tiny blush on us. We think it looks pretty that way.
Me: You have been green for months now surely it is time to turn red. (I get a very hungry look in my eye.)
Peppers: (Looking worried.) No its not time yet. We just want to sit here and soak up the sun for a few more months. We like green. Green is good. Please don't eat us.

The reality is that I never considered myself part of the slow movement. I never really consider myself part of any movement. Movements tell you what to do. I'm not very good at listening to what others think I ought to be doing. I'd much rather do what I want to. But the reality is that at times it follows the movement pretty well. At times not.

When The Mom at Heather's Homemaking invited me to participate I told her I thought about playing devil's advocate. I'd give her Saturday with me not feeling up to snuff and eating all the wrong food, watching TV or playing computer games most of the day. But no I would be kind. Instead I picked Monday, one of my favorite days. If you don't like your Mondays, maybe you will like mine instead.

Monday October 18th

Last Monday I had to work the store (an artists' cooperative), but this Monday I was free. It was all mine. I woke up at 6:30 which is fairly typical for me. I never set an alarm clock. I just wake up at this time. Well truth be told, my husband accidentally woke me up at 5:15 or so first when he got up, but I went back to to sleep.

6:45 Bleary eyed I went downstairs and logged onto the computer. You would think from my blog that I would be writing my post right away, but nope. I logged onto Runes of Magic, a computer game. I play with my husband, but we also have characters to play with my son and daughter. When they both have free time on the weekend we play together. But this morning it was just me. I make the money in the game for the rest of the family. The amusing part is that I do it by planting and harvesting. Yes I play a hack and slash fantasy game and yet still I plant. I only had to water the plants then, so I did, and logged off.

7:00 Time to write my Harvest Monday post. I try to get it up by 8am EST everyday so people can start linking. First I get the sheet where I enter all the harvests from the last week. I punch them into Excel. Then update my side bar tally. Then I upload the photos and process them in Lightroom. I have it set so it automatically sizes the for me when I save. It makes it really fast. Then I write the post.


8:00 Time for breakfast. The typical breakfast that I eat everyday is eggs and cereal. Usually my eggs are from the Golden Egg Farm at this time of year - free ranged and good, but I forgot to get them last week when I was stocking up on apples for sauce and meat for the winter. So these are store bought eggs. Which is unusual in the summer and fall, but pretty normal for the winter and spring when we have no farmers market to shop at. The vegetables are from my garden except the onion. I was too lazy to go out and pick one of my bunching onions so store bought it is. The jar is my pickled jalapenos and serranos. I love to spice up the eggs. The cereal is a weird mix of two kinds of flakes. One organic multigrained cereal and one non organic oat flake cereal that makes it taste good. I'm lactose intolerant so I drink soy milk with this. I grew up hating milk anyway. And soy milk I love. I buy Trader Joe's Organic plain soy milk. I really don't comprehend the love of sweetened vanilla flavored soy milk.

As the onions are cooking I clean the kitchen as I do everyday that I cook eggs for breakfast. I can pretty much get it looking nice in the time it takes everything to saute and cook. Though occasionally I have too much to clean and I end up with cold eggs. I'm weird about my dishrags that I clean up with too. I like them small, but I'm too lazy to sew up the edges, so there you have it. Dish rags coming apart at the edges.

Another thing that you don't usually see in kitchens is my plastic jar of egg shells. When I make eggs the shells don't get thrown out. Or even into the compost. They go into their own little container to get dried out in the oven and powdered. It makes wonderful fertilizer for tomatoes. I never plant without it.

8:45 Monday is laundry day. And if you are me or my son as soon as you hear the word "laundry day", you start singing "Laundry day. See you there. Underthings tumbling..." And if you can tell me where that song comes from you are a person after my own heart. Each day of the week has its own chore. Tuesday is the master bath; Wednesday is dusting; Thursday guest bath; Friday sweep and mop if needed. Unlike a lot of people, I don't really mind cleaning the house as long as I don't have to do hours in a day. And breaking it up means that I rarely have to do more than half an hour in a day. You might notice that the kitchen isn't in the list at all. That is because it has to be done just about every day.

I usually have four loads of laundry to do each Monday - darks, lights, towels, sheets. I've made my own laundry detergent but I really don't get the charm of it all and might go back to store bought. I started because no one as selling powdered detergent and I hate the liquid stuff.

9:00 I'm canning applesauce today. The first chore is to clean the stove. It gets hot with lots of pots on high and anything on the stove will burn to it. I'd rather start clean and then clean it up again after. Then I clean the sink with Bon Ami. All the other cleaning was done with a wet dish rag and no cleaner at all, though I do use a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar some days. I have asthma and am not a fan of cleaners with chlorine or ammonia.

After the kitchen is clean, I wash and cut up the apples. I use two pots to boil them down. They could fit into one pot but they are so much easier to stir in two. Plus they cook faster. I don't peel or core the apples. I toss them in quartered.

9:45 The apples are all chopped and bubbling away. I'll let them boil down for about an hour or so. While I'm occasionally stirring I start to think about making soup. I picked some radishes the other day and their tops looked wonderful. So radish top soup is on the menu. I just know you will ask what is in it so here goes:

  • 1/3 Vidalia onion
  • 3T butter ( I never said it was healthy)
  • 3 small yellow onions
  • 4c chicken broth
  • radish tops lots they filled my colander
  • 1/2c cream optional

I debated back and forth with myself about the cream part. I love it with cream, but I didn't have any in the house. So I turned off the stove and got my shoes on. The nice thing about my new neighborhood is that you can walk to things. We have a little Greek corner store about 6 or 7 blocks away. It is a tiny tiny shop but carries a lot of nice vegetables and typical items you would need on short notice. In addition it has half the store devoted to things whose labels I can't read or things like sesame seeds in large plastic bags. It is a fun little store. So I got my cream there and was back in 15 minutes from when I left.

10:00 Switched the laundry, started the dishwasher (how I get my canning jars hot). It was here that life got hard. The radish top soup that I make is blended to make it smooth. It doesn't look like radish leaves. It looks like green liquid. I've made radish top soup often enough before in my old blender. Now I have a new one. I brought it out and put in half the soup which filled it up half way. I turned it on and it pushed the lid off and I had chicken broth all over the counter. Sadly the toaster and the small food processor were nearby so it was all over them. I have a line of bottles, red wine, olive oil, sunflower oil, Pam. It was all over them. It was a greasy disgusting mess. I looked at it and told the blender how bad it was. So I got my big food processor down and put half the soup in that. My food processor doesn't have a very sharp blade any more. Too many eggshells have been crushed in it. But it was enough to get the leaves chopped into bits. Then could pour that into the blender to turn it into a liquid. It was annoying but it worked. Then it was back onto the stove. I looked at the counter and started to clean, giving my blender bad looks the whole time.

11:00 The kitchen is clean again. I put the canner onto the stove filled with water. In addition I put on a small pot for the lids. Then I strain the apples into applesauce. I like using the whole apple because I get the core too. The core has a lot of the pectin so the applesauce is thicker. Once it is strained I put it back on the stove and do a taste test. This batch gets one cup of sugar (for about 15 lbs of apples) and some cinnamon. I stir it all in. As soon as the canner starts to boil I start canning. It took two sessions to finish. My canner takes seven pint jars and I ended up with nine.

I'm not just sitting around while I'm waiting the 15 minutes for the cans to come out. Though I love my dishwasher and filled it up easily enough. I still had a lot of things that needed hand washing. I always hand wash my Victorio strainer. Plus all the bigger pots and bowls I use. It is amazing how many things needed cleaning. It didn't help that both my food processors and my blender were dirty. They could fill up the top of the dishwasher with just them.

12:24 The last of the jars get removed from the water bath. The counters get a last wash down. The only pot not washed is the canning pot. I left the water in it to cool down. With the heat on I figure pouring hot water down the drain is a waste. It can get cool on the counter then I'll toss it. The bits and pieces of the vegetables and fruit were taken out to the compost pile. I wash my hands.

12:30 A long morning, but I'm still not hungry. I'm tired and hot. I need to rest a bit before I'm hungry. First I switch the laundry. Then I sit down and respond to some of my blog comments. A little after one and I'm finally hungry. I heat up the soup (which was put in the fridge). I add some cream and some greek yogurt to it. And sit down and have a nice bowl of soup. Of course one bowl of soup is just not filling enough. I want some bread and cheese. Usually I have bread dough in the fridge and can fry some up in my cast iron fry pan fast enough, but I was out. So I brought out the mixer and got a batch of dough made. Sadly frying up dough that hasn't risen is not quite the same, but I'm calling it flatbread. I covered it in some raspberry jalapeno jelly that I canned last year and then added some nice cheddar cheese.

Actually Tuesday's lunch as I forgot the photo on Monday

I sat down at the TV to eat it all. I usually eat breakfast and lunch at the TV. I like to watch the "news". Which means the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. What can I say? It is much more fun to laugh at the news than to cry.

2:15 Switched the laundry.

That bed won't fill itself

2: 30 Got changed to go outside. I've been working to get my new garden up and running. After the move I just had a little rock wall garden and I wanted a big garden. Bigger than my old one. In fact this one will be over twice as large as my old garden. Next spring I'll be saying to myself, "What in the world was I thinking?" But for now I'm finishing up the last of the beds. I couldn't get wood for the last bed. Home Depot had run out. But I had all eight of the others built and made. I had seven of them mostly filled with the dirt. Some need a bit more, but mostly done. I just needed to finish filling up the eighth bed today. Ok I did a bit more. I filled up some of the other beds a bit more. I leveled off one area at the end that will be an herb/flower garden. I measured out where the last bed will go.

Finished for the day

4: 15 Shower. Then read blogs. I probably switched the laundry again. But who knows when. It isn't on my paper anywhere.

4:45 I start thinking about what we should have for dinner. Chestnut Hill Farms was selling some smoked chicken breasts and I wanted to try them out. If we like them, I can stock up on more before winter hits. So I made chicken, hmm lets call it focaccia even if it isn't, and some salad for dinner. Yes the bread is the same that I had for lunch and will have all this coming week when I want bread. This time I brushed it with olive oil and put on some herbs and freshly grated Parmesan cheese then I baked it in the oven. The salad was made with things just from the garden. The dressing was made by my townhouse mate from basil and parsley from the garden. She made it last week and I've been slowly eating it up. I only have one salad left with it.

6:00 Dinner time. I think. Maybe. I quit writing down the times. We often have dinner at 5:30, but I think he was late.

6:30 Exhausted. Tired. My feet hurt (though I'd have to give you Sunday to really show you why). I was just dead tired. I got myself a glass of scotch. Yes, I'm a scotch gal when I'm being bad. I drink wine when I'm being good. But right now I'm being bad. I went into the cabinet where I put the Halloween candy. I took out two little Snickers bars and ate them. Scarf. Mmmm. Yum. Yum. Don't look at me like that. They really hit the spot. Spiked my blood sugar. Raised my insulin levels.... Well at least they were yummy.

I thought about reading blogs. I hadn't read much of the Harvest Monday blog posts yet. I also thought about all the other things I didn't get done today. I hadn't done my Spanish homework. I hadn't made the pickled peppers out of the pepper harvest I just had. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time for it all. So I put my feet up in my reclining chair and turned on the TV. I watched things off tivo for an hour and a half. Until 8pm. Then hubby and I went upstairs to read. Since this is a PG blog, I'll leave it at that. But maybe I wasn't as tired as I thought. Or maybe it was the Snickers bar.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harvest Monday -18 October 2010

This last week was fairly cold. We hovered around 60F with lows in the 40s. Some days we never made it out of the 50s. This week had a couple of firsts. In the basket you will see my first bunching onion harvested. I planted them in July as transplants from my other garden. They never grew much in the heat, but once fall hit they started to take off.

You might also notice the plastic baggie in the photo. When I was outside I saw my neighbor and he handed me one of his pickled tomatoes to try. I told him I didn't like green tomatoes. Sadly I had to tell him, I still don't like green tomatoes, but I like pickled ones better than other kinds.

The other new thing was the German Beer Radishes sent by Jody. They looked ready so I pulled all that had sized up. My townhouse mates had the beer and I brought the radishes. I salted them before eating them. We tried them. They are spicy radishes. I can see why the Germans eat them with beer. I don't think I would eat them straight. Interesting, but I don't know if I'll grow them again. I might try cooking them next time. The greens were saved and weighed too as I'm thinking of making my radish top soup today if I get a chance.

Sunday I decided to peek under the row cover. Something is starting to eat my greens. But I also noticed that the Chinese broccoli was starting to bloom. Whoops. I'm supposed to pick it before the flowers open. No biggie though. They really are more about the stem than the flower.

It was a pretty good harvest week. I didn't even add in the ripening green tomatoes either. I think I'll do that this coming week. Most of them have turned red at this point. I'll see which ones are still good and toss them in the freezer for when I make sauce next time.

I spent more money this week. I bought out all of Home Depot's good 2x6 cedar. The ones left in the bin were very warped or had bad imperfections (like long cracks). I got enough for all but one bed. While I was there I bought two more lights for growing seedlings next spring. I figure I need at least that to grow seedlings for the beds. I have more than twice the growing space. I ought to have more than twice the lighting space, but the reality is that I don't. I just doubled the seedling space so things will still be tight. These did get into the tally. I always just put that kind of thing in the tally when I buy it. They had the ones with the foot wide reflectors that I came to love last spring.

  • Alliums 0.21 lbs
  • Cucurbits 0.70 lbs
  • Greens 0.77 lbs
  • Herbs 0.14 lbs
  • Turnip and Radish 2.09 lbs
  • Pepper 1.31 lbs
  • Tomato 4.56 lbs
  • Spent this week: $63.26
  • Total harvested this week 9.78 lbs
  • Total for the year 313.68 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $911.95

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why Oh Why

I'm always struck by why people garden. Today I was reading a post by Laura at The Modern Victory Garden. Her preamble to her "Day In The Slow Life", talked a bit about why she gardens. She gardens to eat locally and to avoid factory farming. And to eat more healthfully. But she also gardens for the process itself. To get away from the noise of a modern high tech life and for physical exercise.

I've been a crafter for years now (though am having to give it up because of repetitive strain issues, but that is another story), so getting away from the high tech life isn't really an issue. I never really bought into cell phones or being constantly connected. I have one mind you, but those that have my phone number are told to only call on my cell if it is an emergency. Mostly it was gotten for meeting up with my kids. I've found it good for meeting up with others too. But I don't gab on it all day long, nor does my phone ring every three seconds. People can call me at home. If I'm not home, then I'm out busy doing something. I'm not free to talk.

I appreciate local, organic food, but I can buy it at the farmers' market easily enough. I like to exercise, but there are a million ways to do that that I love. So why do I garden?

I think I garden for the feeling of the miraculous. For the feeling of beauty. For the feeling of wonder. I know in my logical brain - that very important part that lets me plan and keeps me organized - that gardening is unnatural. It is a warping of nature. Agriculture is humanity forcing nature to do its bidding. Even organic agriculture. Even sustainable agriculture. Even hedgerow or diverse forest agriculture that gets about as close to nature as you can get and still be called agriculture. The logical part of my brain is the pessimist. It knows not everything I plant will live. It knows I'll forget to water sometime when I should; that a disease will come through and kill something; that a groundhog will eat all my squash.

But I don't garden for the logical part of me. I garden for that emotional side. The spontaneous, irrational side of me. The optimist in me. The part in me that built a circular bed outside my back door, when the logical side just told me why it wouldn't work as well as the rectangular beds. That part of me thinks that every seed I put in the ground will be a perfect plant. That part of me that sees my garden as an extension of nature, despite the weeding required or the raised beds that contain it.

Every seedling that pops up awes me. I'm always amazed every time the seeds come up. I've done a lot of things over my life. I've been in the computer industry and I got a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. I've crafted, which sometimes come closer at least for my art pieces. But only raising my children have surpassed the feelings I get from my garden.

Every seedling is a miracle. Every tomato harvested is an amazing gift.

The groundhogs might have eaten most of my squash, but the one that was left was a wonder to me. I could grow flowers and I do, but they don't give me the same feelings as growing food. I think growing food adds to the feeling of wonder as it is part of the web of life. Part of something greater than just beauty. Part of something magical.

So I confess to not being an altruist in my gardening. I don't do it to save the world, to eat locally and use less fuel. I don't do it to save money even though I keep a tally. I do it because I'm drawn to the marvel of nature. I want to be a part of it all and to see it all happen before me. I do it for selfish reasons. If I'm ever stressed out, all I need to do is go into the garden and listen to the bees hum. I do it to be connected.

So why do you garden?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slow and Steady

The new garden is slowly coming along. I took out the screens in the guest bedroom so I could look over the garden. There are two windows in that room and one overlooks the backyard and one overlooks the side yard. Part of the roof blocks some of the side yard. I might use the hallway window next spring for overhead shots. It has a better view.

View of the side yard on Tuesday morning. Over the weekend my husband filled up the first bed as I made the other one and a half beds and loosened the soil underneath. The soil was amazingly compacted for just having been put there. But not nearly as compacted as the spot we are stealing the soil from (the part of the garden near the driveway). That soil is acting like clay it is so compacted, but in reality this soil is very sandy. It will be a real change from having heavy clay.

View of the back yard on Tuesday morning. On Monday evening my husband came home and told me I hadn't gotten much done that day. Then he looked out back. I filled the back beds and planted the measly four plants I had taken from my old garden. I really wanted to take more cuttings, but I didn't have time as the closing was moved up by a couple of weeks. Ah well. I took my chives, both garlic and regular and put them in the circular bed opposite of one another. I'll fill the rest of that circle with kitchen herbs since it is right outside by kitchen door.

Also I took the only plant that has been with me through all my houses. I grew these dianthus from seed decades ago. The seedlings all came up very different. Some more red then pink. Some tall, some short. Over the years they all succumbed except this one. It thrived. It thrived in the wet years. It thrived in the dry years. It slowly spreads out into a nice mat and has the prettiest pink flowers. I'm hoping I haven't planted it too late as I would hate to lose it. I planted two of them one on each edge. I took two from sections from the old garden because I figured I had a better chance of them living it I had more than one. I'm hoping they thrive and trail down the sides of the wall. In the spring when they bloom they scent the air so beautifully and I'd love them right outside my door.

View out my back door on Wednesday late morning. I always do the work in the morning if I can. That way I can take my shower after and be clean for the rest of the day. Yesterday morning I filled up bed number two. Today I filled up bed number three. Tomorrow hopefully I'll have time to build two more beds. I've ordered five cubic yards of soil to be delivered tomorrow morning. I will probably need a total of 7 cubic yards, but the big truck probably can't turn around and dump it where I want it so I ordered just enough to fill up their smallest truck. This might cost me an extra $35 but it will save me a lot of time since otherwise it would have to be dumped in the farthest corner of the yard from the garden.

So the garden is coming along slowly. I'm almost halfway done. Earlier this week I was feeling very worn down from the work. It isn't just this job. It was all the other things on my plate too. I seemed never to get any rest. I also was getting a lot of exercise that I wasn't getting before. This summer I did almost nothing except bike to the store and unpack. I was about as out of shape as I've been for quite some time. Now I'm back to my schedule of dancing, walking, biking and digging in the garden. It was a shock to the system, but I'm slowly getting used to it again. And one of my classes ended last night so I will have more time to just relax and be with my husband at night.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harvest Monday -11 October 2010

The harvests are getting slower. Even the tomato harvest. It looks like 4.66 lbs from the tally, but the reality is that most of them were picked earlier green and they ripened up. As soon as they ripen they get added. I'm not a big fan of green tomatoes so I don't add them until they are edible to me. I did still pick one little tiny Cherokee Purple. I don't know how many more there are left. I pick them as soon as they blush so have plenty from the previous week on the counter, but with our temperatures getting into the 30s at night (last night and more predicted later this week), I doubt they will ripen very fast.

Gabrielle though is still pumping them out. This Sungold F3 just won't quit. They are cracking more with all the rain, but there are still plenty of good ones left.

As the Asian green harvest picks up, the zuke harvest is slowing down. There is one in this basket I swear, but it is overwhelmed by the boc choy and the chard.

This week I spent money. I haven't yet added it to the tally. I bought myself cedar and hardware for some raised beds. I haven't bought it all yet, and I need to order soil. But I'm getting there. I'm wondering if I should wait to add it in next year since I won't even be using the beds until then. So how long does a cedar bed last? 10 years?

  • Cucurbits 0.39 lbs
  • Greens 1.25 lbs
  • Herbs 0.69 lbs
  • Turnip 0.16 lbs
  • Tomato 4.66 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0 (sort of)
  • Total harvested this week 7.15 lbs
  • Total for the year 303.91 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $962.47

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


The best thing to do for a daunting task - like putting in the eight garden beds and filling them up - is to just start. I was dithering for way too long trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the materials that I could find. So I started. I went over to Friend's Lumber. They had told me on the phone that they stocked and sold 2x6s in cedar for $1 a linear foot. Well they lied. They stocked decking which isn't a dimensional "2" ie 1 1/2", it is thinner, I think by about 3/8" or so. I really wanted thicker so there was less chance of warping.

So back to Home Depot. I had them cut their 2x6x8's in half so I wouldn't have to. That made me happy. They didn't have 16' lengths, but I wanted a board in the middle anyway to keep the boards parallel. And I could fit the 8' length in my car so I wouldn't have to wait for delivery. I got enough lumber for three beds and all of the shorter lengths so I wouldn't have to wait for cutting again.

I thought I had gotten enough hardware to put them all together. I like to use corner brackets. Two in each corner, top and bottom. This means eight screws for each corner, but I only counted four when I was doing the calculation in my head. Whoops. So instead of making three. I made one and a half.

I'm working right by the hardware store this morning, so hopefully they will have another large container of them so I can finish it off. When I put them out I was a bit miffed at my landscape designer, whose job it was to get all the dimensions right. I told her this bed needed to be 17' wide, no shorter. Well it is only about 16' 5' long. I told her it was an important dimension to me and I knew it put the path a bit close to the chimney, but I didn't care. She comes and lays it all out for the landscapers so things go in the right place. So I'm short by 7" which means I can't walk around the back of the bed, which will be a pain in the ass. I really wanted my beds to be prefect. Nice and long, but easy to walk around. Sigh. And this means the beds on that edge are more shaded. The foot along the edge really helps bring the bed out of the shade.

My husband told me that I could shorten the beds. Ack! And take away the length so I can't plant eight tomatoes along the bed? I don't think so. I want my 16'. It is more important than walking around that section, but I'm going to miss doing it. If I don't have a trellis right at the end I might just be able to scoot by. Maybe. If I lose a few pounds.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Am NOT Getting Old

I look out my back sliding glass door often enough. I think a lot about what will go in there, but didn't have a real plan on Monday morning. I knew there would be vegetables of some type there, but how would the beds go? I'd drawn up different plans for that little spot. I debated back and forth. On Sunday the winner seemed to be put in raised cedar beds going the short way across this section. I would have three beds of about 4'x8'9".

I liked this plan. It made the organized part of my brain very happy. The other beds will be 4'x16' so things could be pretty modular. All the beds would be the same width so the hoops could all be interchangeable. But there were nagging doubts. First was that I couldn't anchor the beds well here. If you look at the above photo, the steps going down go to my sliding glass door. The area in question is the part where the bobcat is in the photo and the dirt in front of it. There is another path not in this photo that behind the bobcat. The area in question is 8'10"x15'9". And mostly surrounded by paths. The paths are anchored all along the side with plastic edging that is pounded into the ground. I didn't want to fool with the plastic edging as I wanted the paths to last. But I could cut a small portion out and pound in stakes if I had to.

The other nagging doubt was that I wanted something pretty. I'd be seeing this section every single day. It was my view. I already was going to have the compost piles along the fence in the back. Right down the path leading from my door - straight down - would be the first compost pile and more would go off to the right. Surely I could jazz it up a bit.

So Sunday I went to Home Depot to look around. Did you know they don't even sell 2x8s in cedar? In fact no one does around here. Friends Lumber could order it for me at $7 a linear foot. But for $1 a linear foot I could get 2x6s and they have those in stock. They are decking material. I looked at the pavers and rock wall bricks they had. Nothing seemed very nice. I came home discouraged.

Monday I decided if I couldn't get my beds built right now at least I could get the compost area back together as the landscapers had moved it all around. I told them to keep the pavers from my front walk which had been redone in brick to match the rest of the walkways at the house. They had piled them on my compost pallets, so the first chore was moving them over. I had almost gotten them all moved and I decided I would see how they looked in that section of bed.

I had previously drawn up a plan using bricks/solid concrete blocks, but didn't see the nice 4" thick ones at Home Depot. I figured I had these. They were imperfect because they were strangely sized. Some were 2 3/8"x 6 5/15"x 9 7/16", some 2 3/8" x 6 5/16"x 6 5/16", and some real brick sizes of around 2 1/4" x 4"x 8 ". A motley assortment. I originally didn't want to do it with thinner pavers as they are only about 2" thick. They lean over time. If I used these they would have to be dug up and reset occasionally. I could use the brick piled up two high, but the bricks would slide over time to the outside. I'd have to keep replacing them.

But my "I want something pretty" side of the brain wouldn't stop. I just kept laying out the pavers. Until it was all done. It took me quite a while. The organized side of my brain complained bitterly that I wasn't making rectangles and it would be hard to put on a row cover. I didn't listen. In the end I was short some bricks. I wondered how many. The answer was 42. Of course it was. It meant I must have done the right thing.

At least it is pretty enough. I'll have to get those 42 more bricks next time I have the car (ie when my husband takes a business trip). Then I can fill in the beds and I'll finally have a place finished to plant my garlic this fall. Maybe I'll pick up some bamboo screening too for the compost piles. then I'll have a very pretty view to look at. Of course I'll still need the fence. Maybe my next call will be poking the fence company to give me an estimated date.

Oh and yes the title. Monday night I was so tired. More so than I would usually be after working all afternoon. Surely its not because I'm getting older. It is just because I'm not used to working all day anymore. I went to bed figuring I'd be a bit sore in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to find I wasn't sore much at all. Then I got out of bed. Aaarrrggghh. Those butt muscles complained mightily. I had issues all day when I had to get up out of the sitting position. And when you start to get older you go to the bathroom more and have to get up and down more often. No wait. That can't be it. Surely I'm NOT getting old.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Front Yard

The landscapers have mostly finished the yard. I showed you the back yard and now I'll show you the front yard.

This is the end of the yard by our townhouse mates door, which you can just see in the photo. The shed is for bikes. We make it really easy to get in and out of it with the large patio in front. I no longer have a car anymore. I walk; I bike; and I take the bus that stops just a couple of blocks from my doorstep. On rare occasion I take the Zipcar that is just a block away. Just past the shed is a small little patio area where we will probably have a table. It is in the shade for a good portion of the day, which is nice. The back patio that I showed you before is in constant sun all day long until really late in the day when the house shades it. So it is nice to have a shady spot. To the left you can see a small shade bed that will have ornamentals. And just past the patio area near their door is the walkway to the back. Along the fence part we are going to put in clumping bamboo. The hope is that it will be big enough to be useful to harvest for the garden, but if not then it will at least be really pretty along the fence.

In this photo I've backed up to the entrance to our yard. To the left just out of the photo is my rock wall garden. Technically the pavement here is part of the private way and the town plows it. But it feels like our driveway. If anyone comes down this road it is because they are visiting one of us. In the winter during snow days we will have to get the car off the road (our townhouse mates also have just one car, the one you see in the photo). Since we ripped up most of the driveway pavement there is no longer much of a place for them to park on the side of the road. But we didn't want to pave the front of the house.

So this is what we did. In 3/4 of the front yard we put down drivable grass. The above photo shows you the under structure of it. Underneath this they pack the ground down hard with a rocky mixture that drains well. They add a layer of sand. They add the plastic surface that will take the weight of the cars and distribute it. Inside of the plastic matrix they put good soil and then they seed. For our area drivable grass is a very ecological way to go for overflow and occasional parking. We live right next to a flood zone. East Arlington floods all the time. And as time goes on it gets worse as more and more people pave over their yards. So we wanted to put in something that would take the rain into the soil as opposed to letting it drain off into the street. Plus grass is much cooler in the summer than pavement is. It will be much nicer to open our windows out to grass than to pavement, even pretty pavement like we put outside our townhouse mates door.

They are supposed to be putting down hydroseed. They were supposed to do it on September 25, but that didn't happen. Then the 27th didn't happen. It still hasn't happened. I made the landscaper put in seed so at least something would happen. It is getting late to seed in this area. It should have been done in late September when it was scheduled.

This is my front door. The bed in front which is larger than you can see in the photo and next to the drivable grass will have two dwarf peach trees under planted with low bush blueberries. There will be one short high bush nearby and two more near my townhouse mates front door. On the left side of my door will be three gooseberries bushes. Looking past the driveway where my husband parks is my garden. There will be a fence with an arbor between the driveway and the garden. Along the path to the left, right against the house, will be some herbs and perennials for the bees. The herb/bee patch will also extend along the driveway just inside the fence.

The rest of the side of the house will be raised beds. It will take about eight 4'x16' raised beds to fill up this area. I think I'm going to do it in cedar. My issue has been finding 2x8s in cedar around here. Lowes and Home Depot both only stock 2x6s and they barely have any stock of that. I really would like 2x8s. Friends Lumber said they could order it for me, but they also said they would call back with pricing and didn't. I'll have to harass them some more. This huge undone section seems very daunting to me. I know the rest of the yard still needs planting up and mulching, but this area is mine alone, and I'm freaking out just a bit about getting it set up. I need an EG in my house that loves this kind of thing, but neither of the guys are DIY kind of guys. I'm the closest we have to a DIY person in the two families. And I like the work, but hate power tools. Loud sounds freak me out and the circular saw really freaks me out. My old garden work was all done with a hand saw, but it was done slowly over time and this is a big job. There is no way I could do it all with a handsaw.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Harvest Monday - 4 October 2010

Though the totals are less this week, I was out harvesting more often this week, so there are more photos. The reason for this is that my landscape workers are gone so I can get to the garden during the day easily now.

Ah Cherokee Purple. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Or at least the poundage. So far I have harvested 34.4 pounds of tomatoes from this one plant. I've never had a tomato perform like this. I'm a little worried that the spectacular results are just weather based and in a normal year it won't produce much at all. This was a trial year for tomatoes for me and what I really want to know is how they do in bad years, not in good years. But I can't help but love the results of this variety this year. The next closest in weight (ignoring the cherries) is Amish Paste and Market Miracle. Each produced only half the weight of this one plant. And Cherokee Purple is the best tasting of all of these.

Lettuce thinnings, turnips, and zucchini

This week brought harvests of more turnips and zucchini. In fact seven little zucchinis were picked this last week. Two weren't photographed, but it has really picked up production. The flowers mostly aren't pollinated due to the lack of male blossoms, but I pick them when the flowers have been open for a day or two. They are never very big, but at least they are numerous.

My parsley plants were getting way too big. I have two plants left that were shading my beer radishes, so the parsley got cut back by about a half. The radishes were appropriately grateful and started taking off. The parsley was given to my townhouse mates. She asked how to preserve it. I said dry it (and offered my dehydrator) or chop it up in the food processor with some water and freeze it in small blocks.

The cherry tomatoes are still coming in. The Chocolate Cherries are off a plant that is essentially dead, but still I get a few here and there. Most of them split when I pick them and they don't get into the harvest tally. The others do.

Yesterday I was out thinning my Asian greens again. I got a large pile of Chinese broccoli, bok choy, tatsoi, and a little bit of Fun Jen. My husband called me in as my kids were on the computer and wanted to play online games together so I tossed the greens in a bag in the fridge. It got photographed this morning. The harvests just can't compete with time with the kids. They are both off at college and Sundays tend to be the days I gab with them on Skype or in Vent if we are playing games together.

  • Cucurbits 1.5 lbs
  • Greens 2.34 lbs
  • Herbs 0.98 lbs
  • Turnip 0.31 lbs
  • Tomato 6.69 lbs
  • Spent this week: $0
  • Total harvested this week 11.82 lbs
  • Total for the year 296.76 lbs
  • 2010 Tally $931.92

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.