Friday, February 27, 2009


I haven't decided what to do about the car yet. I am ignoring it right now in hopes that the best decision will make itself clear. Right now, I am pretty clear that I don't want to spend $8,000 on a used car. When did they get so flippin' expensive?

I took the day off Friday. Thursday evening I moved the strawberry plants from the vegetable beds where they have been for a few years and into the blueberry beds. Hopefully that makes everything easier. It is inconvenient to have perennial stuff in annual beds. I fed all the transplants some Roots and hoping for some rain over the next few days.

I also planted a bunch of summer stuff Friday as well. Black plum paste tomatoes, a hot pepper mix from Burpee, San Marzano Paste tomatoes, fennel, best boy, marglobe and yellow pear tomatoes, AiQwa Ai Gua and Rosa Bianca eggplant, Italian Pesto and Eritrean Basil, Red Cherry and Hungarian Wax peppers, Cisineros Grande and Toma Verde tomatillo and Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra. It feels a little early, but my handy calendar says we are really only 8 or so weeks from last frost.

My onions and leeks are up, as is the parsley and lots of beets and kale and the lettuce is going great guns. I started to clean out one of the beds at the front of the house this morning with hopes of putting some greens in there for the summer, nice and close for quick salads and herbs.
Lettuce to the right side, baby ball beets in the middle and multicolor beets on the left.
The things to the left side that look different are the parsley plants. The rest are all onions, leeks, scallions etc....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kick 'em when they are down

So you expect that your day may not be all sunshine and roses when your mechanic calls and you say "how are you?", politely, and he answers "I'm fine, but you're not". Gulp. The almost manageable $400 jumped to $600-ish in a few short hours of investigation. Damn.

So it is looking more and more like the trusty Nissan is for the scrap heap. Or the parts yard. Someone is going to get a massively good deal on a starter (used only 7 or 8 times). Gah.

Anyway, I'll be looking for another vehicle and in the meantime, begging, borrowing or stealing transport. I don't think of myself as using my car much, but I guess I do...Clearly I do. There is milk to fetch and children to watch. But at least I can get to work without problems. THAT is a huge relief.

Anyway.... I guess it all works out one way or the other in the end. I bet I get kinda creative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Direct Hit

So I guess we all though I had dodged a bullet last week with the starter on the car. Sunday morning I found a HUGE puddle of oil under the front end. Some mysterious gasket decided to blow only hours after I retrieved my car from the mechanic. Actually, not a huge surprise since it has been dripping for a while. But this repair will be even more expensive than the starter. Oof. BASTARD! Gah!

OK, move on.

I am still determined to have the ducks. I shall post a notice and take on more babysitting (temporarily of course) if necessary. My next steps are to come up with a suitable brooder for them. Ducklings need to stay warm, and they need to not be eaten by my cat, which is something that I definitely fear in the early stages. My cat has a taste for the soft bodied and helpless in the animal world.... Anything that is completely defenseless is on the top of the menu. I visited a lady that brooded ducks using a heating pad instead of a light. Which sort of makes sense to me, except I am a little more concerned about that catching fire than just having the light on.... Anyway, figuring that part out is next on the list of things to do. I am going to try to work something out over the weekend - just to keep the ball rolling. Then when the SB comes home for break we can work on the duck house and yard. I also ordered a new colony of bees for arrival in late March.

I had a really nice weekend. Full of friends and family, exercise, some volunteer work (sewing for the theater), errands completed, a bit of cooking done and some house cleaning. You know, sometimes it just all falls into place. No rush, no struggle, just things done along with some fun. Lovely. I made hamburger stroganoff and some chocolate coffee ice cream.

The seedlings are coming along... The beets and chard are a little leggy but I think they will be ok. The onions and lettuces look lovely. I have to figure out how to move some things out and get the summer stuff going. Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, etc. etc. Theoretically it is only 8 weeks until last frost as of Wednesday. But who is counting? Doesn't seem possible since we have single digit wind chills predicted for tonight.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Close call

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Lots of kid sitting and cooking and getting ready for the SB and friend to come to the Urban Farm. Then a weekend full of friends together in remembrance. Then the leaving of the SB, which takes many many hours. And then back to work, sitting, a surprise late meeting.... All this without my trusty vehicle. I THOUGHT it was totally shot. I THOUGHT I was in the market for a new set of wheels (well, not NEW, but new to me). Then, after standing in the rain and waiting for the tow truck and nibbling away my fingernails and searching craigslist for cars that I cannot afford, my mechanic called to tell me that it was the starter. So the $268.50 I spent seemed like a total bargain in comparison with the cheapest vehicles available. Had I needed a new car, I think I might have had to delay the farm animals.

The farming thing is freakin' expensive!
Fruit trees, seeds, bees, fencing, ducks and duck housing....

Then fabric/notions for the duck costumes, custom curtains for the duck house, pool maintenance, etc. etc. Of course, my duck costumes will have a more eastern flair, they being Indian Runner Ducks and all. And maybe Vintage Hollywood for the evening drinks around the pool. Ah, but those decisions are for later in the summer.

But the SB and I figured out that we spent $85 on all the appliances in our house... That includes the stove, dishwasher, fridge, washer/dryer, microwave, toaster oven and upright freezer. So I guess it all works out in the end.

Friday, February 6, 2009

SB at Work

So while the SB was home over the holidays, we had much discussion over chickens and ducks. He sent me this "sketch up" model of a chicken coop. It is planned for the bank above the upper lawn near the bees. And although it is a long walk on a cold morning, it is the best place for warmth and lack of dampness.....And is that not the cutest chicken coop you have ever seen? The bees will live right by that tree. I say "will live" because I was out there the other day to take them a snack and I am now sure that if they were there, they are not any longer. I opened the hive and poked around and they are not there. They may have been, but the bees I saw earlier may also have been from another hive just coming over for a snack since there wasn't anyone home. I e-chatted with my bee mentor (who rocks) and he said that he has lost half of his hives this winter. Makes me feel not so bad about losing my one in the first year. I am planning to reinstall in the spring. This crew should have it a little easier as the last bees left behind a lot of pre-made comb, so the next ones won't have to work so hard - they can get right to the brood rearing and honey making. In the meantime, I am going to try to process the rest of the honey that I had saved out in the event that the bees needed it.

The weather was spectacular today. Amazing. I went out back and started hacking at my frozen bale of potting soil and eventually chipped off enough for another seedling flat. I planted Scarlet Charlotte chard, Italian Silver Rib chard, Baby Ball beets, a rainbow mix of beets, and Marveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce. In the past I have just gone out in the middle of March and sprinkled seeds in the garden. I find thought that things tend to sprout unevenly, so I will have a few plants very close together and then spaces without any.... This year I am envisioning cute little well spaced rows/checkerboards so as to maximize the use of the spaces. I am hoping to be able to put things out earlier with the row covers for protection. The sooner this party starts the better as far as I am concerned. And on that note, the early leeks and bunching onions are cooperating. Sprouting already! Since I expect I may have more seedlings (of all sorts) than I can actually put in my garden, I will be happy to share. Leave a comment and let me know what you are interested. Even if I don't know you. Happy to share. Really.

I also checked out the stuff under the row covers. The spinach is snapping back from the blistering cold nicely, and the Italian Silver Rib chard is making a comeback as well. The jury is out on the Scarlet Charlotte chard, and the arugula. I also ordered more potatoes today. I saved some from last year, but I want to try a few new things... So I ordered an early season, a late season and some Jerusalem artichokes and another variety of onion (thinking I can put them in later in the summer for fall harvest.) The SB gets frustrated with me for buying too much for the garden, but I figure, If I get one pound of onions per pack of seed I will (financially) break even. I only need 3-4 lbs of potatoes.... At least if you compare with the prices of organic produce at the local spots - $2/lb for organic onions and potatoes. Seems like a lot to me..... But I am not trying to make a living at it either.

There is much to do tomorrow. I want to get some newspaper down in the paths between the new beds to start killing out the grass. I also have to re-paper the old paths since the newspaper and grass clippings we were using to smother grass and weeds have broken down. We have a giant pile of horse poop that needs to be moved down to the old gardens and a bunch of strawberries that need to be moved. We are going to experiment by nestling them under the blueberries. At least until we come up with a long term strawberry bed. I need to check all the new trees and re-spray with Deer Off and add some fencing tubes to keep the nibbling creatures from eating away the bark at the bottoms of the trees. We lost a couple early on that way. Ground hogs or rabbits. But we need to get that taken care of before everyone comes out of hibernation.

Soon, it will be time to order the, EEEEEEP. OMG! DUCKLINGS!

The SB and our friend D will be coming to town over the weekend. Nothing like a few strapping boys around to get some real work done. I'll be providing the food and the cash to keep the ball rolling.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cooking Chez Moi

So I guess you all know that I am a Recipe Modifier. I rarely follow to the letter a recipe I find. But I own many cookbooks and I decided to make a goal of trying new things, as I tend to make the same things over and over. I made an asian chicken noodle recipe from the NYT, a beef taigne with winter squash, and some chicken cooked in yogurt. All more or less following a recipe. The chicken stuff was ok but not fantastic, the beef was darned good and the chicken in yogurt is tasty but not so lovely. Tonight, I am back to the "wing it" form of cooking. So I thought I would walk you through what that looks like at my house.

Musaman beef curry from Bowl Food

1 T. tamarind pulp (um, used to have it but threw that out since I never used it. It is an ingredient in the curry paste so I omit)
2 T. vegetable oil (check)
1.5 lbs. lean stewing beef (check on the beef, not so check on the lean)
2 c. coconut milk (wow. Lot of coconut milk. Forget that, I don't want this stuff swimming.... I compromise on the coconut milk/cream and make it 1 can total)
4 cardamom pods (make that 12)
2 cups coconut cream (see coconut milk above)
2-3 T. prepared Musaman curry paste (make that about 4T. or a nice semi round half can)
2 T. fish sauce (not my favorite, omit)
8 pickled onions (sub 1.5 small onions sliced and a T. of vinegar)
8 baby potatoes (sub 4 adult potatoes)
2 T. brown sugar (reserving judgment)
.5 cup unsalted peanuts, ground (sub 1 large spoonful disgusting natural peanut butter left by SB)

The directions start by soaking tamarind in water (scratch that, omitted tamarind).
Heat oil in wok (sub dutch oven).
Add beef in batches and cook over high heat until browned (do it all at once for a little longer).
Reduce heat and add coconut milk and cardamom pods and simmer for 1 hour. (put in can of coconut milk/cream and pods. Simmer for a while. Add onions and curry paste thinking that it can't do any harm to simmer in curry paste- I mean, yum. Add some carrots because you had a really great musaman curry with carrots before).
Remove beef and strain and save liquid (puh shaw - leave it where it is and save some dishes)
Heat coconut cream and stir in curry paste (um, done a while ago, so have another glass of wine)
Blah blah blah, oil "cracks" add fish sauce (nope) potatoes and beef brown sugar peanuts and tamarind water, straining liquid. (omit all but adding potatoes)
Simmer for 25-30 minutes. (Oh sure, I can do that).

Taste, add lots of salt and big spoonful of chili garlic sauce.

Concessions: Maybe the tamarind would be good. It needed a little tang.
Gloat: 2 cups of coconut milk AND cream would have made a greasy mess. This was the right amount.
Further consideration: It wouldn't hurt to have some more vegetables in that... It is pretty heavy, but quite tasty.

On Sunday it was lovely and warm and I planted King Richard leeks, Italian "Gigante" parsley, Evergreen Hardy White bunching onions, Primor French baby leeks, and Yellow Sweet Spanish onions. I went with the seeding in the flat method. Last year I planted leeks in individual cell packs, but since I have only one plant light and bigger plans, I figured I had better use my space more wisely. So this whole flat is VERY early stuff. I still have space to add another flat or some other starter methods for the just plain early stuff.