Monday, May 26, 2008

Garden Tour

A few weeks ago, one of my neighbors stopped by to meet the bees. After the 45 seconds it took to get the gist of them (flying in and out, in and out, in and out) I asked if I could tour her garden . We trudged through the wilderness that separates our back yards and she said something that struck home with me... I can't remember exactly, so this is a paraphrase.... You won't invite people into your house if it is messy, but it doesn't matter what state the garden is in, a real gardener will always give a tour.

And I love to give a tour. Here are a few of the not so high lights of the garden.

Some of my favorite weeds in the driveway

My potato field with the auxiliary potatoes in pots experiment...
Some of the delicious lettuce I have been harvesting

Garden smooches from the SB found in one of my flower pots... He really is adorable....

In other news, I visited the bees today. There are a LOT of them out there now. And they are all working REALLY hard. There is lots of brood and they are making honey and wax and doing all the stuff they are supposed to be. Good for them. I have stopped feeding them, though I don't suppose it would hurt if I continued. It is interesting to look into the hive and you can see the "real" honey they have collected is dark amber and the sugar water they got from me is essentially clear. And you can see bits of pollen in there and brood and all sorts of interesting stuff. Did I mention there are a LOT of bees in there? I didn't take the whole hive apart, but I was surprised at how many of the little darlings were in there. They cover the frames that they are working on completely. There is still quite a bit of wax making to happen, so I hate to stop feeding, but I also don't want to get stuck with a bunch of sugar water as my first bit of "honey" - I am hoping they eat it over the long winter. You know, junk food for eating while you watch movies to pass the time. Maybe I'll sign them up for Netflicks.

The rest of the day has been spent in the garden - I planted sugar baby watermelons and some delicata and butternut squash. I also did some watering and some tall plant management (bracing stuff while it is still small so it doesn't fall over and smush everything later), and some re-potting of teeny lavender plants.

I visited with the LB and picked up some dresses to alter. Visited a friend's cat who is very lonely without his little boy (really, I have never met a cat that got lonely, but this one clearly is), and went to the grocery store, made tea and yogurt, and tried to figure out where all the effing pantry moths are coming from.

And a recipe to work on....

Home made magic bread toasted with a little of Everona Dairy's baby swiss with a couple of fried eggs on top and some local hothouse tomatoes. It was almost perfect, but I cooked the eggs too long. I was shooting for runny yolks but missed the mark.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Loooong Weekend

Yes, I have been out of touch for quite a while. First it was a visit from the SB and ensuing (mostly) delightful chaos. Work has been very busy with events, comings and goings and to-ing and fro-ing. All together, it adds up to being super busy.

While the SB was home, we planned out our future garden shed which may include a cistern for water collection under the floor, a shaded area for summering over plants, a place for the mower - hal a freakin' luja! - a sleeping loft, potting bench and running water. Ultimately, it will link to the chicken run and a separate chicken house where we can store straw and chicken feed and any other associated chicken necessities. It is VERY exciting, but means that our chicken house is probably put off somewhat into the future. This is disappointing, but I think there are chickens coming to others in the collective soonish. So I will content myself with that and try to be patient.

The LB and I have been e-chatting about some local flour and how we might get us some. We are scheming and plotting, plotting and scheming. I am excited about Magic Bread made with locally milled wheat. Is that not the coolest? In the search, I came across a place in Roanoke that makes animal feed. So potentially, we could order chicken feed milled locally. If we buy it by the ton, they will "custom blend" it for us.... This opportunity cries out for some kind of excellent chicken feed blend name, but my brain has not yet been able to hit on it.

Other than that, there is little to report. The SB worked his butt off in the garden during his stay so the yard is lovely. But the mower is broken. The old economic stimulus check will be supplying a new mower. And I dread going to buy one at Sears on Memorial Day weekend. And once I get through fighting the crowds, shelling out bucks, wrestling the thing home and (god willing) getting it assembled, my reward is the ability to mow the grass. Woo hoo. I think I might sleep in tomorrow.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Fruits of the Killing Fields

So, that pumpkin.... I found a recipe that does right by it... This recipe is adapted from the recipe for Basque Pumpkin and Corn Bread as published in Mediterranean Light by Martha Rose Schulman. Of course, I had to adapt it. Sheesh what were you thinking.

Preheat oven to 400. Mix 1 cup of mashed, drained pumpkin (or just canned if you are using that) with 1 cup of delicious, unpasteurized whole milk (or skim milk from the store if you aren't lucky to have the real thing available), 1 1/2 T. melted butter (the real recipe calls for safflower oil, but I never have any), and 1 1/2 T. honey. Mix this together and then add 2 eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each. Put a greased 1 quart (I used an 8x8 square pan) in the oven to heat for at least 5 minutes

Sift 3/4 cup of regular all purpose flour and 1 1/4 cup of cornmeal (stone ground is delicious), 1 T. of baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda and 1 t. salt on to the wet ingredients. Stir to incorporate but don't over stir. Pour into the hot pan and stick it in the oven for 35 minutes. I found this bread went from not at all done to just done in about 3 minutes, so keep a close eye on it at the end.

This would be especially fabulous with a very spicy chili garnished with sour cream and chives (I am not a big garnish-er myself, but I sure do appreciate the skill/art of it when it is done right). This bread stays moist and spring-y, which is not typical of corn bread and one reason I don't really make it all that often. Well, that and I don't want to eat a whole pan of cornbread on my own....(but I am sure the chickens will like the leftovers when they are here). The recipe says that it doesn't freeze well. Luckily, the SB is here, which is why I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


So last night I was practicing ... For the day when, as a legitimate urban farmer, I will have to slaughter something. I know it will happen, from injury, illness, or perhaps a need to eat the victim. I have no doubt at some point, I will need to kill, on purpose, one of my charges.

Last evening, the time came for the pumpkin - the B.I.G pumpkin. The hour arrived and we began our long march to the kitchen counter. Thankfully, it was quick. No struggling (at least, not by the pumpkin, personally I was working up a sweat). And after the top was removed, it was clear, the pumpkin's condition was terminal. The seeds inside had already begun to sprout. (I say already, but I had had the fool thing since October.) The pumpkin was so huge, I had to cook it in 2 batches. While it was cooking I scoured cookbooks for pumpkin recipes. A lamb tangine, some breads, pumpkin soup, etc. The first batch came out (approximately 5-6 pounds of pumpkin). I tasted it despite it being hot-hot from the oven. I instantaneously began to wish that I had chickens who would enjoy the pumpkin much more than I was going to. It has absolutely NO flavor. It is lovely and orange though. I spent a good part of the day whirling the cooked stuff in the food processor and draining it so that I can add it to things with flavor so as not to miss out on all the exceptionally nutritious pulp. I am going to try a pumpkin corn bread. I'll let you know how that goes.

Also made in the kitchen today (I spent the entire day there) - (Starrhill Girl, this list is for you):

Magic Bread
Chicken Stock
Chicken Salad
Lamb/spinach/pumpkin saute. I am trying to decide if I can put this in ravioli and if so, what sauce I will put on it...

Wish me luck. And if you are excited about pumpkin in May, come on by. Perhaps I will think of a way to make some Popsicles from it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Posting Pictures

Since I haven't posted pictures lately, I thought I would throw a few in for good measure, even though some are old.

Here is my first harvest....

Then, this weekend, I decided that I wasn't going to wait any longer for the chard. So I picked some (note the lovely colors but relatively small leaves):

So I made some black eyed pea and country ham soup with chard. A small onion and two cloves of garlic sauteed in some olive oil and then the ham added. About a half a cup of country ham chunks (I got greedy and used more and it was a little too salty). Then two slim stalks of celery and a carrot. Next I added bay, thyme, sage and rosemary, all from the pots out front, including, get this.... the bay. They have wee plants at Southern States and I couldn't resist the expensive little buggers. Then went in a half pound of black eyed peas (soaked over night) and a quart of chicken broth (purchased - I HATE to buy it, but the alternative is eating chicken WAY too much). All simmered for an hour or so and then the chard was pitched in and the heat turned off. Add pepper to taste. It was pretty good, other than salty and it could have used more chard...

Here it is done, nice colors, huh?

And then of course, the gratuitous cat photo. Kitty loves to help in the garden by rolling on the seedlings and generally flopping around in newly turned soil. Here he is just being cute by standing between my feet. He does this when he really wants to be inside eating breakfast but I am in the garden. It is a not so subtle reminder that he hasn't had is third breakfast yet. He seems to think that somehow I am responsible despite the fact that he always has food in the bowl and can eat whenever he likes.
My gardening this weekend was mostly mowing, though I did plant some potatoes. And some perennial seeds. I needed a break from the mowing. After day one I thought I was going to be permanently crippled. It is always good to be really aware of your slothfulness, really embrace the reality of it. Nothing does that like a really sore butt. And hips. And feet. And back. Since I am not flexible enough to embrace all that, I let the alcohol do it for me. Wine on the back porch in May, even when you are crippled-sore is a pleasure.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Enter Impatience, Stage Right

So this is the time of year that I start to get antsy. The tomatoes are in, but not doing much. They are waiting for night time temperatures to be consistently in the 50s. The spring things are coming slowly. I have lettuce and some radishes now. I don't like radishes. The kale is slllooowww. The strawberries are little green knots of seeds. The broccoli are all leaf. The leeks are leeking. Cukes are just two large oblong leaves. The blueberries are little rock hard green things. The bees are still a year off from honey that I can do anything with.... The grass seems to be the only thing really growing fast enough for me, and it could just go ahead and step off a bit. Just sayin'.

My chickens may be in residence by the end of summer. At least, that is the goal. The Chicken Posse helped build the first chicken house the other day. It was actually more of a reassembly job, but it went well and was followed by pizza and beer, the way all good jobs should be. I am hoping my chickens can camp there until my house and run get built. It is one of the top items on the SB's list when he returns. That and a garden party. Which definitely needs to be first so that we can beat the mosquitoes. Things in the yard become considerably less fun with heat and mosquitoes.