Category Archives: Garden

Kitchen Days

There are few things I like more than a kitchen day. Maybe champagne in bed day or hot air balloon over Goreme, Turkey day.  A day in the kitchen is pretty high on the list, though.  Here are some kitchen food preservation projects from a recent kitchen day:

– pickled jalepenos
– pickled garlic
– dilly beans
– whole plums in honey syrup
– grapes to raisins
– plums to prunes

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Garden update…and never look a gift box in the mouth

What’s going in the garden?

After a disappointing pea crop, we have had a good run of spring things.  Asparagus. Cabbage. Broccoli. Our tomato plants are the largest we have ever had; nothing ripe yet but I think there will be tons. Peppers look okay. We have had a few bells so far. Green beans are starting to produce. Love these beans, from seeds I purchased in Europe. Just put some leek starts in the ground for fall harvest. And our potatoes are almost ready to be dug.

Here are some of our first string beans on the grill with the almost-last broccoli, potatoes (from the store) and marinated tempeh skewers. Marinated tempeh because someone (was it you? If so, thanks) sent us a gift box from Try the World. The theme was Brazil and there were some Brazilian spices and BBQ sauce in there so I applied them to tempeh instead of their suggested beef and chicken. How lucky are we to get a mystery gift box?!

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What I did over my summer vacation, part one

What I did over my summer vacation…

When you are retired, there is no real “vacation,” as any work you do is of your choosing. “Summer vacation” is a misnomer, but it sounds good, and I want to write about this season that just passed.

We spent a large portion of our summer on a house addition project. We added a master bathroom, bringing the total number of bathrooms in our house to two. Yay! While we had a fabulous contractor who built the “shell” of the building for us, we did the demolition and all the finish work ourselves. While “ourselves” consists of about 80% my husband and 20% me, the work still consumed a large portion of our summer. We are thrilled with the results.

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Yep, we did all this tile and glass block work…and my husband built the vanity from a table we got on Craigslist.

I also trained for and ran my first-ever 5K!  Because if you aren’t going to do your first 5K at 50, when are you going to do it?

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When you undertake a home remodeling project and a new running regime during the prime growing season, your garden (indeed, your whole yard) turns into a weedy overgrown mess. At least our vegetable garden has its water on a timer, or everything would have died of thirst. As it was, more things died than should have and others were largely ignored. Pests multiplied, blossom end rot took over before I got on it with my liquid bone meal. And weeds? Did I mention them? Despite the neglect, we had some good crops and have been eating quite well from the garden this summer — tomatoes, green beans, peppers, broccoli, greens, and even one lonely egglplant.

Preserving-wise, I managed the following:
— salsa
— pizza sauce
— dilly beans
— Marionberry pie filling
— Marionberry jam
— Dried apple rings
— Albacore tuna canning with a wonderful Master Food Preserver friend

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A productive season!  Stay tuned for “part two” of my summer vacation….

 

Apple season in mid-August?

My husband and I have been busy adding a bathroom onto our house.  We did all the finish work ourselves, including tile, paint, trim, installing a pocket door, building a vanity.  (We=> 80% my husband, 20% me.)  We also had to tear our deck off to have the bathroom built, and are now putting the deck back on.

I tell you this because we have been consumed with this project and the garden has GOTTEN OUT OF HAND.  Climate change has also contributed, giving us 100 degree days in June and July.image

imageimageDespite my attempt to improve my thinning skills, our little Gala apple tree is overloaded.  It’s time to dry apple rings.  This is not a difficult process if you have a sturdy apple corer and an Excalibur food dehydrator.  We use these apple rings all year as snacks and in homemade granola.image

It’s time to can pizza sauce and salsa, too.  So dang early.

Is your garden also changing due to our climate extremes?

Sad gardens

  
I have been noticing a trend lately that makes me feel sad. I walk a fair amount. I walk mainly in my neighborhood and to downtown. These are middle class to lower-middle class neighborhoods with a mixture of apartments and single-family homes, rentals and owner-occupieds. I look at peoples’ yards a lot because I like to garden. I especially take note of nice perenniel beds or front-yard raised-bed food gardens. I like to see people growing food in their front yards, even though my own experiement with such a thing became a cat box for neighborhood cats. I now keep my food items in the back yard where cats rarely venture.
But I digress. What I notice from time to time, as I look at these small raised-bed gardens, is how sad they look when they are abandoned. Houses get new renters or change owners and what was once a tended patch of kale or beans is now a cedar box full of weeds. What is even sadder is when they are abondoned mid-season. Then, they contain perhaps a few spindly tomato plants, parched for water or brown peas on dried stalks. Did the folks move? Or just forget about the little plants that they must have put in with such enthusiasm and care? Did it become too onerous to water their box after a long day at work? Whatever the reason, I see these little neglected food gardens and find they make me feel melancholy. Somehow, they are much more bleak and forlorn than a struggling bed or roses or unwatered wilted daylilies. They represent someone’s hopes for feeding themselves, for growing sustenence, for connecting with the earth and its gifts. They represent lost hope, disruption, and slow painful death by neglect.

A cautionary tale regarding garden pests

Spring is a busy time in the garden.  At least that is my excuse for not seeing the destruction of our gooseberry plants until it was too late.  I was busy starting veggies, transplanting, checking the veggies, and harvesting spring crops and didn’t notice the rapid defoliating of the gooseberry shrubs. The culprit is evidently the sawfly larvae.  These little green larvae are too numerous to count.  I am trying to control them now by blasting them off with water and then either smashing them or serving them to the chickens. But unfortunately, it might be too late for our plants.  Once the berries ripen, we will cut the shrubs back, fertilize heavily, and hope for the best. Lesson:  walk your garden every day.  Look at everything, not just those plants needing current attention. Damn those little green vermin. 

Goosberry shrub sans leaves

  

May garden update – loving our asparagus

We have had a generous asparagus year. Every time I think we will only have one or two more spears, there are five the next day. I love our asparagus beds. Most of the crop is about 5 years old, that we planted when we moved in. Some is older (and some of that is purple) and I don’t know its age. I think it is almost done for the year and the tiny pencil-thin remainders are going to their frothy seedy stage. This year, I am trying some bark mulch on the beds to try to inhibit the weeds. It is impossible to weed the beds when the ferny asparagus blooms are poking you in the eye. Just saying. I would love advice on this, if you have any. Also advice on fertilizing — I want to keep my asparagus really really happy!

Last spear of asparagus among the fronds

Last spear of asparagus among the fronds

We have been eating a lot of salad.  So have the snails.

We have been eating a lot of salad. So have the snails.

Asparagus fronds.  Hops in the background.

Asparagus fronds. Hops in the background.

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