Friday, August 29, 2008

Another Episode of What Not to Do

We were having a little problem with our compost.

Last year Dean took an old garbage can and poked holes all over it. Tore out a few pieces in the bottom and we put it over our railing for winter kitchen scraps.

In the spring I layered leaves over it and we continued in a pattern of scraps and leaves. At the beginning of August we reached the top.

Dean dumped it all out and we had some compost until we reached the bottom foot. Yucky, stinky, rotted food made us both feel like vomiting. Dean dumped it into an old dishwasher crate we have sitting back there (carries leaves beautifully) and covered it with a tarp to hold down the smell.

It didn't help much.

We've had so many problems with local authorities that after a week we decided we couldn't afford to leave it out to dry (Ick!) or to keep it covered, wet, and rank so under the cover of nightfall Dean got out his shovel and started digging up the soybean bed. That dark corner of the yard where nothing was growing right now because it's so dark and insect-infested.

Of course the boys joined right in.

They got it a foot deep and then we sent the boys in to wash up while we dumped the crate of nasty stuff and covered it over with sweet-smelling dirt.

Dean calls it 'the Shallow Grave.'

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Bird

Step one: find a nest while playing outside.
Step two: bug mom until she agrees to prick an egg with a pin and blow out the insides.
Step three: try not to look like you like it better when she explodes the side by blowing too hard.
Step four: keep saying 'PEEP!' and pecking her in the leg until she stops making scrambled eggs for the brothers and goes and finds you 2 pipe cleaners and some markers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Keeping It Simple

In keeping with my new streamlined blog time I've decided to have some short thoughts and keep pictures to a minimum. At least until I can get myself organized and settled for the fall.

I was out hanging the wash. I like hanging the wash. Some days the majority of my outside time are either spent walking the dog or hanging/unhanging the wash and I really enjoy those quiet moments. I can check the tomatoes or the beans, see flowers bloom and fade, shake my head at the pests latest conquest.

I noticed 2 Opalkas are ripening now. One is already orange and feels ripe. The other is that beautiful green to yellow to orange swirly color. I brought in the orange one and cut of the ugly BER (blossom end rot) off the bottom. Otherwise perfect.

E. came in and pounced on it.

"Can I have this?"
"Sure, but you may want to cut it vertically to make sure I got the yuck off."
"Okay. Hey, you guys want to try our tomato? From our garden?"
Absolutely no response from Lego-playing brothers at table. I didn't expect any.
He eats his piece with gusto (!) and turns to the other half and again asks if anyone wants a fresh tomato. They look at him like he's nuts. (Something he would have done to me just a few months ago if I had asked.)
"Okay, I'll eat it."

Coming from a tomato-hating heritage I must admit I'm not surprised by this exchange. I didn't like tomatoes until I tasted my first bruschetta two years ago in San Francisco. I didn't make my own bruschetta until I tasted my first Roma last summer. There just isn't much to admire in most grocery store tomatoes.

Therefore, I admire the willingness to take food risks that E. is exhibiting more and more. I'm not saying that he likes everything but he gives it a good mouthful and thoughtful consideration.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My body can't keep up with my mind these days

I'm not trying to ignore this blog. Really.

First I couldn't keep enough photos taken for the subjects I wanted to do.

Now I have so much to do I have no time for photos or posting.

Some big decisions were made around here. I'll make you acquainted with a few of them.

1. We've decided to homeschool all the boys. Not just son#2 but all 3 of the older ones. We were unsure of how this announcement would be taken but so far boys are comfortable with this and even excited. We're in talks about what they want to incorporate this year.

2. We've decided that we need a greater level of organization around here, especially about long term goals.

3. I have to figure out how to do all this plus Son#4's meal and drink schedule and medication times. Instead of being as unscheduled or flexible as we were in the past this takes a much greater level of organization..for me.

Not that I don't like organization. I do. But anyone with children knows of the 101 things that come up to crush your schedule into little tiny pieces. So I find myself doing well and then the phone rings or I realize I really need to do the dishes or someone starts complaining or needs help. I feel like my attention has a span of no more than 3 minutes in length. There's just so much going on.

You would think this would discourage me from homeschooling (believe me, it made me hesitate until the last few days), but after our weekend discussion I know that homeschooling is what we want and need as a family. There are too many issues at stake. Too many things we're missing out on right now.

I'm excited about the new year, but the garden and the blog may see some slowdown until I have material purchases/house organization/schedule completion are through.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: Opalka paste tomato

We opened the Opalka last night.

Thick skin. Meaty core. Few seeds. They should make great sauce tomatoes. Unfortunately the BER had spread into the core and after a few tastes (slightly sweet) of the upper core I discarded it for compost.

I'm still looking forward to my first bruschetta but it will have to wait until the Power's Yellow or the Black Krim have (finally!) ripened. I wonder if the plants are putting more energy into their siblings.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Garden Catch-up

We tried a new vegetable early last week, kohlrabi. Here it's sliced with a little salt. Dean really liked it.

I've read it described as similar broccoli stem but Dean thought it was more like a mild radish. I tried it too. It was okay, nothing to seek out.

We bought 3 for $1 at the Farmer's Market.

And we finally have a ripe tomato! Son#3 wins the prize. It was the long and twisty Opalka paste tomato. We had a great time watching it go from green to yellow to orange to (after bringing it inside and leaving for the weekend) bright red today.

Now I need a little french bread to make some bruschetta.

In the other hand is a nice head of broccoli. For some reason all the plants were planted together but now we're finally getting the spring broccoli 1 head at a time every few weeks. I'm surprised no more than one plant bolted. Not very hot this year I guess.

Tomatoes are growing well but talking their sweet time hitting mass production. I think I promised Son#2 that he could sell them by his birthday. We're just not moving that quickly this year. I hope we get a nice supply before frost (Sept. 23 around here). I hope they don't overwhelm me just as the apples come in.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What to do with a Vegetable

I don't have a huge cookbook collection. In fact, I'm not a very good cook. That's one reason I appreciate a well-written cookbook. One that teaches me something new and doesn't use too many ingredients that I (not to mention my kids) would never eat. Anchovies? Nope. Capers? I think not. More than 10 ingredients? Who has the time?!

That's why I've been appreciating Andrea Chesman's cookbooks this week. I checked two of the m out of the library.

This one goes through the year and gives recipes for vegetables as they come into season. There's also a little bit of gardening type information. Great for seasonal eating.

This is the book that started it all. I picked it up this winter and loved the specifics about roasted vegetables. I had no idea vegetables like green beens could be roasted and turn out so delicious! Very kid friendly.

And my final entry, friendly to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Way more then just kabobs. I haven't had time to dive into this one yet (our grill needs constant fiddling).

So far we've made broccoli sesame noodles, sauted zucchini, new potato and corn chowder, and smashed potatoes. Dean took the initiative and created a fourth dish from the remains of some sauted zucchini. It was a pesto, garlic oil, zucchini, pasta thingy.

He's so much more creative with food then I am. Now if I could just set him after those aging carrots, broccoli stems, and kohlrabi.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bang Bang

I finally picked the Little Fingers eggplant that had been growing for so long. It was beautifully purple with a few green swirls on the end.
Here it is after a week going MIA. It looks a bit like a shriveled up banana.

Just the kind of danger vegetables come in contact here every day...if they look like a gun.

Son#4 acquired it early. I found it on the lawn a week later.

Bang! Bang!

Friday, August 8, 2008

After a month of only male blossoms, this delicata squash finally produced a female bloom. I took this photo over the weekend. This week it turned yellow and was growing nicely. Too nicely, a chipmunk or squirrel stole it yesterday.
The soybeans are coming in and managing to survive the 24 hour a day insect smorgasbord going on in this dark corner bed. You can see the bottom trio of leaves looks like lace. It's like that on every plant. Whatever they are they've destroyed the bush beans. I got a hand full from the front row but every other plant was decimated. This has been a terrible bed since the first year I used it. It was one of the few areas created by the previous owners. Next year I may concentrate on hardy shade flowers there. I'm open to suggestion. Whatever comes next year has to be shade-tolerant and insect-hardy because nothing seems to like growing here in mosquitoland.
Once sunflower survived. It looks handsome here. Maybe more will survive next year.

Tomatoes are the same. More little tomatoes but the big ones haven't changed in what seems like weeks. No salsa yet so the cilantro is going to seed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Love Breakfast

Now that berry season is in full swing--I love breakfast!

Here it is. Plain yogurt, blueberries, and granola. Recipe will follow. I got it from an online blog (who claimed to get it from a hippie baker) and modified it a bit to suit my likes and dislikes.


2 cups of oatmeal (the whole kind, not the quick oats)
1-1 1/2 cup of pecans (or walnuts or almonds, or a mix etc)
1/4 cup of sesame seed
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of bran..I prefer oat bran over wheat bran
1/4 cup of a neutral oil...I use canola
1/2 cup of honey...I like cranberry honey but any is good

1. Mix the oats, seeds, and nuts in a pan with sides. I like to use a roasting pan with parchment paper on the bottom.
2. Drizzle oil and honey over the top. Stir it in.
3. Put granola in an oven set at @350.
4. Every 5 minutes or so open the door and stir the granola so it can dry evenly.
5. After 10 minutes check up on it every minute or so.
6. Take it out after it starts to brown.

Once it's out of the oven you can add dried fruit (raisins, whatever) but I don't usually. Keep it in a tight-lidded container or it will loose it's crunch.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dilly Beans: Another Episode of What Not to Do

Dean and I are enjoying canning. The comic relief alone is pretty great.

Two weeks ago our friends left us to visit relatives in Georgia. They left us their CSA share. 3 lb of green beans, squash, potatoes, and apples (although I think the apples were just from their refrigerator).

We ate green beans with everything I could think of but with each boy only eating the mandatory 2 beans per meal they weren't moving very fast.

Finally I got the idea of Dilly Beans. Dean had never heard of them but was on board as soon as he heard they were pickled. He is a lover of all things vinegar since the time his mother used it to get him to stop sucking his thumb. Let's just say that it's a complete failure when they come back for more.

So we needed dill (I didn't bother to grow any) and canning lids. Since last week was a hard one on the Ketogenic Diet I didn't really get out so everything sat another week.

Saturday was the day. Dean bought the dill. I picked through the beans and threw out half of them. Probably they would have been fine, but 2 weeks past fresh-picked I start composting everything that bruises funny.

I picked out some pretty jars.
We discussed if there would be enough vinegar.
We discussed whether '1 head' means one little or big head of dill which ended in him calling his mother.
While he was on the phone I put 3 little heads of dill in each pint jar.
While he was on the phone I realized we were out of cayenne pepper so I took out the red pepper and sprinkled it in each jar.
While he was on the phone I thought 1 clove of garlic was too much for each jar because he hates garlic so I split 1 clove into 4 parts.
By the time he got off the phone I was stuffing beans in each jar.
Which of course brought about the whole conversation about whether it was big or little heads of dill (big) and whether he could correct my wrongful seasoning.
Which of course brought about his observation that I put the wrong pepper in because he was holding the cayenne all the time.
So he added cayenne on top of the beans.
Then I tried to add the pickling liquid, slopped it all over, and promptly ran out of liquid half way through the second jar.
While I was mixing up a new batch on the stove he got a cute baby bib from the drawer and we christened the jar Baby Dill.
Finally we got it all done and I realized I didn't have space for the kettle to process them because I was cooking other things to which he responded,

"don't bother, I'll eat them all before the end of the week anyway."

Verdict: Not too bad. Spicy (he liked that). Needs more dill (and a little more garlic).