Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dawn of the Bed

I volunteered to take some photos of a crew of (lawyer!) volunteers putting in two new double-dug, sheet mulched garden beds for a family of seven last Saturday, courtesy of Growing Gardens.  It was cold and fun.  Thank goodness for film, because I hate all the digitals I took.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

thanks, lane! thanks, jeff! thanks, mom!

Lane gave me some peppers.  Quite a few big, lovely, firm sweet peppers.  A wealth.  The photo below shows only half.  At first I thought I was going to mush them all up with tomatoes and sugar and raisins and such and set the big pot on to boil another dozen jars.  I'm so glad I didn't.  (Thanks, Lynne!)

Jeff took pity and built the last piece of the temporary counter top.  It is marvelous.  

Together with the peppers, it is making me feel very rich.

Finally, a food one is meant to burn.  And the feeling of the rich, warm-climate flesh slipping willingly out of its skin.  The smell.  The precious brown liquid pooling in the bowl under the strainer.  More than any crazy Christmas chutney, this is my idea of saving the season.  

I remember my mom peeling roasted peppers.  Her neatly pared fingernails slipping between the charred skin and the bright insides.  To child me it seemed, like most of her activities in the kitchen, one of super-human ability.  Ripping the green tops from the carrots with a turn of the wrist; balancing the wide sheet of pasta on her arm as she turned the crank with her other hand; gently drawing the round, white pepper seeds off the ragged, bright meat.  

Watching my own hands perform this eminently tactile task feels like an echo.  I cannot separate these peppers from the peppers of the past, my plain fingers from her freckled ones.    

A freezer in the basement, full of food.  A handy husband.  A community of generous friends.  An opportunity to have my mom in my kitchen, even while she's a day's drive away.  And a bowl of pepper soup (onions, peppers, chicken stock, butter, salt) as well.  When the old timers say, waste not, want not, I think this is what they mean.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

outdoor interlude

Wasn't I just taking this down?  I can clearly recall washing the valuable UV resistant plastic, drying it in the sun, folding it carefully.  I hung the pvc pipe in the garage, thrilled to behold the whole garden at once.  Evidently, I didn't post anything about that.  Ah well, this note making is a learning process, just like the growing itself.

In an ideal world, it would be full under here right now - all the seeds I just put in yesterday would have gone in six weeks ago.  Better late than never.  With any luck, they will be up in February, along with the garlic and favas in the left-most bed.  No solstice salad, probably.  

Oh well.  One of the very best things about doing this is the feeling of continuity: the seasons rolling over, the years rolling round.  There's always another chance.

quince and what to do, 2

make sure to skim while liquid boils
test for set
boil 15 minutes
(while waiting, drink coffee and eat previously made quince marmalade and quince jam)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011


I finally gave up.  After, what?, six months? of struggle, more than sixty dollars of worms, several re-engineering attempts by the resident infrastructure specialist, multiple calls to metro and other "experts", and ever so many newspapers and shredded seed catalogs... I dug up the whole stinky slimy mess and put it in a hole in the dirt behind the garage.  With an ever-growing cap of yard waste and soggy straw, I am pretending it is a compost pile.  I wish that we were going to say goodbye completely to this experiment.  I want my plywood worm box back.  I want what, in my mind, never failed.  But for Jeff, that box did fail, by rotting out (after years of productivity) and letting the rats in.  And I have to respect his feeling for materials, as he must respect my love of plants.  So, for a while I will - gratefully - put our food waste into the green rolling can and - gratefully - take it to the curb each week.  And eventually, he will fix it.  He always does.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


she can't grow carrots

They are round; they are hard; they are sour.  (Those nice ones on the right = grown by actual farmers)

They look nice in the garden; they are easy for small hands to harvest; they are way more fun than they look.

This is the truth of my garden right now, and maybe forever.  As Jeff is wont to point out regularly, it is very much a hobby.  That is, for fun only.  

Which is ok, because it really is fun. 

not a tomato year

Woe to the tomato harvest of 2011.  

That's all of them up there, practically, and they weren't even that good.  Look at those tiny, sorry tomatoes.  

I blame the soil in those not-really-mine boxes, the weather, and the corn (for taking the hoop house during the critical early summer season).  But mostly, I blame the soil.  The small seed favas that overwintered there were gorg, but because I couldn't till them in, they did little good.  This winter will be a heavily fortified sheet mulch, and next year we will try tomatoes again.  I think.  

There is a part of me that wants to turn my back on the whole idea of summer - the hot, hot days, the pink wine, the endless tomato sandwiches and no-cook dinners, the sprinklers, the dresses.  I am starting to think that these conditions do exist consistently in certain parts of the world, and we in other parts have been led to believe that - like a snowy Christmas - they are essential for summer-time satisfaction.  

I would like to say that I, for one, like the weather in the Pacific Northwest.  I like jeans and boots.  I like canning tomatoes in a not-insufferably hot October kitchen.  I like that this place is mild, in both directions.  Sure, I would love it on Maui.  Hell yes.  I liked stinky, sweaty, sexy New York City summers better than most.  But this is Portland, and it is pretty fucking nice.  

Maybe I would not say this if other people had the same bad tomato year that I had, if we lived in Alaska and a tomato cost $12.  But you can buy them, or you can get them free, or both.  The 25# boxes from Deep Roots were $20 each cuz we bought 100#s.  Rock on.  And the roasted tomato soup I made out of those free and falling apart heirlooms also = rock on.  

So, maybe summer is alright after all.  But I'll be glad to gut those natty boxes anyway, and say goodbye to big tomato dreams til next year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

casa de gallo

I have been wanting to take pictures of Amber and Justin's garden since the first time I set foot there, three years ago.  It blew my mind then, and even though I have come to expect the feeling, I am still always thrilled to visit.  Unsurprisingly, seeing them with their beautiful new lady gave me that same easy buzz.  They are graceful, hard working, eminently competent, easy with their losses, and just as easy with their wins.  What a pleasure to be close enough to see what they will grow.