Thursday, July 10, 2008

A slight change

Since the happenings in my own garden are becoming less humorous as I start to take myself a little more seriously and (I hope) make fewer hilarious, glaring errors, I have decided to open up the purview of my blog a little bit. I realize I have already done this in some posts, but expect it more and more.

In light of that decision, here are some wise words that Hannah forwarded to me from our farmer, Allan (who grows our CSA shares).

"POTATOES: We had a thunder storm during harvest. Your spuds may have
been bagged WET. This means you need to IMMEDIATELY get them out of
the plastic bag and wash them and then let them dry in the air (or
then cook them!) If you don't, they will ROT really fast!

LETTUCE: We have had almost continually rain and little sunshine for
two weeks. This week's lettuce is showing the results of this. You'll
have to preen it for good leaves. All of our lettuce is for one week
of shares, this is what we have this week.


Salad Mix
Kohlrabi (that 'green vegetable' no one can identify!)
basil (pesto freezes very well, but you have to leave out the oil...or
is it the garlic? You better check!)"

For those of you readers in the mid-Atlantic region, I'd be remiss not to link you to his site:

I include this because I always find his missives interesting both because of the description of the delicious food we can expect and because I like knowing about the challenges they face from the weather, etc. to get this food grown. He also often includes recipes, which is pretty helpful.

I will point out that I was not one of the suckers who paid for purslane. I pull that tricky weed out of my garden in abundance for free. And when I do, I try to eat it instead of discarding it because I have read many places that its healthful goodness is epic. And it tastes pretty nice, too.

Mystery Cucumber

I got my first cucumber!

Unfortunately, it was one of the standard old green kinds; my weirdo, heirloom lemon-shaped-and-colored cucumbers are still all in the flower stage. I titled this post "mystery cucumber" because the circumstances of this cucumber were a little mystifying to me. I was just tromping around my garden, trying to suppress the weeds growing up through my mulch by frowning at them, when I noticed a fully ripe, 8 inch long cucumber on one of my plants. That on its own wouldn't be weird, but then I looked around to see if there were any others, and there was nothing. A few flowers on this bush, no baby cucumbers yet...

Perhaps this particular bush was channeling all of its energy into this one cucumber. Maybe this is normal, I don't know. But I am now keeping a closer eye on all of my cucumber and squash plants, because who knows what other fruits have has escaped my notice during their entire childhood.

The other plants I think I am keeping better tabs on, though. My runner beans look quite nice climbing up their makeshift trellis-y thing and my tomato plants are staked, relatively happy looking, and flowering copiously. I also have a teeny tiny eggplant. I am worried, since it looks pretty ripe, that it is going to stay teeny tiny -- a product of a stunted plant, rather than just a fruit in its early stages. I started this plant indoors, and perhaps I did a poor job meeting its needs as I transplanted it. I hesitate to say that it's just an issue of soil fertility (although I readily admit that my soil is a serious work in progress) because the other plants in that area are doing much better. My pepper transplant is having the same tiny-ness issues in a different part of the garden, also surrounded by healthy looking plants. So for the time being I blame my poor skill at transplanting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

So I haven't actually gotten around to mulching...

Well, so only a little mulching has happened, even though I said that would be my next update.

There has, however, been some theft. It's ok, though, because I was doing the thieving; It wasn't really that serious. In one of the weeded-over sections of the garden some mint has gone crazy, crazy. So I took a whole bunch of it after I got done planting a few more herbs and pulling some greens and the last of the peas.

Then I looked up recipes for mint (other than the recipes involving rum, which I already knew). I found many things, most of which sounded weird/unappealing. In the end, I settled on a mint granita recipe from, and it was really awesome.

Here it is, for those of you who won't click a link:

2 cups water
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves 1/2 cup sugar 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Garnish: fresh mint leaves

Bring water, mint, and sugar to a boil in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and pour through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing hard on solids and discarding them, then cool.

Freeze mixture in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart shallow nonreactive metal container, stirring and crushing lumps with a fork every 30 minutes, until evenly frozen, 2 to 3 hours. Scrape with a fork to lighten texture, crushing any lumps. Spoon into glasses or bowls.

I recommend it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I know, I know

It's been forever; It's true.

I have a boatload of excuses, of course. There was the dispiriting uncertainty about whether I'd get my plot back. Then there was the assurance that I would have it. Then I planted some things and some other gardener who didn't want to double dig requested that the WHOLE PLACE (including my obviously double-dug and partly planted plot) be roto-tilled. Then that whole plant then have it roto-tilled adventure happened again.

But all of this was weeks ago. In the ensuing weeks, I have planted some herbs, some squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans and a section for lettuces, greens, spring onions and root vegetables. Some of the snap peas that I planted right up close to the edge (in the hopes that they'd out-compete the mint) escaped the double roto-till and produced for a few weeks as well. I've also gotten a bumper crop of mustard greens (figures -- Alli hates them). I used a few of them in this mustard greens and fontina cheese fritatta yesterday, which she managed to choke down (the addition of eggs, cheese and garlic-y things will fix nearly any food).

We've also gotten some Easter-egg radishes, which are cute and pastel. We like to food process them in with equal parts butter and spread it on French bread. That's tasty; try it. They came up really fast! In fact, with the intermittent rainstorms, everything has been shooting up. Particularly the weeds. Effin' weeds.

Over the winter I had a rather short lived worm farm, (did I mention that?). And while I managed to commit worm genocide after a couple of months, they did make a nice amount of worm castings, which I have used as an early fertilizer for some of my more nutrient-hungry plants. Someday I'll re-start that worm operation, but it was just so sad. I left for a weekend thinking they were fed and taken care of for a couple of days (I mean, they're worms, not a puppy) and came home and they had all fled their habitat: Into the dry, inhospitable cardboard box around it. This is the equivalent of thinking that it's a little warm on the beach and so you walk headfirst into the ocean and drown yourself. Again, though, they're worms, and therefor not known for their enlightened self interest.

I'll get back on posting, and return with some photos shortly. I promise to keep you all apprised of any particularly creative/stupid decisions I decide to make. We are also receiving a weekly CSA share (mentioned previously) now, and I'll let you know of interesting things we get from that. For starters, there were garlic scapes. So far we have both cooked them like green beans then served them with a lemon-vinaigrette, and blended them into a dip with white beans which ends up pea-colored. Hannah suggests using them in soups and with potatoes.

I will update you guys when I finally mulch.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

getting antsy

It's nearly time to start planting!!

In fact, I should have started a few things indoors already (eggplants, peppers). I'll get on that this weekend. I promise.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A little inspiration

Here's a link to a youtube video about turning hyper-arid, perfectly flat and extremely salty land a few miles from the Dead Sea into a productive multi-crop orchard. These guys use permaculture principles which focus on mimicking the resiliency and productivity of natural systems but recreating them with species that are not only useful to the system but also edible or otherwise useful to humans.

An ideal permaculture system requires minimal upkeep and uses perennial and self-seeding plants to keep itself going even if left unattended for months or years at a time. Interesting stuff, and more on this later.


So I visited my dad in Phoenix, AZ last weekend. It was a ton of fun. There's been such a wet winter there that the landscape was so green it was nearly unrecognizable in places. We did a lot of fun things, but in my free moments I started a very pathetic beginning to a compost pile in my dad's back yard.

The main ingredient was the leaves that lay scattered all about below his tree. Alli and I raked them all to an auspicious location near the side fence and put them in a big old pile. I intended to have my brother help me pilfer some wooden loading pallets like you can find behind supermarkets to use for walls for the pile, but there was never time.

Alli and I were cooking a meal for many people on Sunday night and since we went to a farmer's market and found a ton of fresh vegetables there was a fair amount of vegetable scrap to throw on the pile (I just can't get others to share my taste for beet greens. Odd).

Since I doubt dad will produce copious amounts of vegetable waste to add to the pile, I was a little worried that the pile would be too leafy. On the other hand, he does drink a lot of coffee. And the coffee shop he frequents every day has a policy of giving away their coffee grounds to composters. My dad is a serious early bird, so I think he'll have no trouble taking advantage of this resource.

I sent him a link to City Farmer's photo-illustrated how to on composting since I didn't have time to really go through the process while I was there.

There's the link, if you want to give compost a try yourself. Drop me a line and I'll talk until I'm out of breath about all of the benefits.