Sunday, October 7, 2012

turning to fall

The fall harvest begins.  Less and less fruit, more greens and roots.  

It is dry as a bone here, more late summer than fall.  I have to water, still.  Worth it for the blue skies, which are unmarred and utterly reliable.  Worth it for the bare feet.  I'll do almost anything for bare feet.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the witch apples


I got the recipe.  B's killer pickles.  My favorites.  Each year I hoard them away from everyone else and each year they are perfect.  But not this year, because this year B didn't make them; I did.

I don't know why they sucked in on themselves, pruning like a bunch of old cocks in their brine.  B's don't do that.  I could take a jar to Persephone and show them what their cucumbers have done to me, and to my delicious garlic, and jalapeƱos, and to my dreams, eighteen quarts over, but I'm not sure they're to blame.  Maybe next year when I once again have a whole row of pickling cukes I'll try again, in just a few jars to start, and prove to myself that I can do it.  I can make the good pickles!  On the other hand, there are still jars of oversized, nearly inedible (whew, especially a year later) cornichons in the basement from the Pickling Chronicles of 2011.  I think it's time for a city compost sacrifice.

The day that I pruned my pickles, Julia and Eric came over for dinner crowing over their first really-truly-just-right fermented pickles.  They were embarrassed to be bragging, and they didn't even know of the rows of sorry jars squatting in the basement, but I was thrilled to hear of such success.  If you don't miss the mark a few times, what is winning?  I only hope I get to taste them.

summer bumps along

Little by little, summer rolls through the door.  Little by little, it rolls away to spend some time on the bottom half of the ball.  We are used to it now, to yellow grass and blue skies, skipping out the screen door without our shoes.  Tomatoes at every meal, plenty of plenty.  It never feels, on the food front, anything less than bountiful here, to me.  But the generosity of the weather, of being able to do what you like when you want - waking to sun and breakfast on the deck, making dinner in minutes, taking the bike to the park only to do the slide and come home in time for dessert... It feels as luxurious as the white peaches we've been plowing through, four and five a day, as the candy bowl of sungolds, always on the table, as the pink evening sky behind the fat, dry sunflowers, which the birds pick at before bed.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

more greens!

I cleaned out about half the first bed yesterday - making way for the growing kale plants by yanking all the crazy, smothering mustards.  I had to keep packing down the pile in my basket, to get them to fit.

It took two rounds in both pans to braise them all, and in between I decanted the braising liquid from the first batch (I just shake them and toss them into the hot, lightly oiled pans from the sink, but they sweat like mad) into a mason jar and then absentmindedly drank the whole pint of hot murky green broth while braising the second batch.

It must be the pregnancy, right?  Like a vegetal vampire.  It was just so delicious!

Friday, August 31, 2012

bless the farmers

I didn't grow it.  I didn't even pick it.  But look at what I can buy.
(and the plums are from Julia's tree!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

small (sufficient) summer harvests

The sungolds taste good again, after an extended period of mushy thick-skinned strain after the 100 degree pickathon drought.  [sungold soup, turned sungold sauce for pizza, sungolds in salad, sungolds balanced on strips of bacon as Zelda ate them today]

The summer squash plants crawl and wilt, but they can't help but make fruit.  [garden bread, zucchini fritters, zucchini rice gratin] The north beds, which are the summer garden this year, are a thousand times (or maybe ten) healthier than last year, after their long sleep under a layered mulch, but still, I have my doubts.  Still, I have to water every day.

The lettuces in the back are bolting (grrr), so the whole crisper drawer is full of them.  [best salad yet=holly's dressing, chevre, cucumbers, tomato, beets, copious lettuce]  I never buy lettuce any more.  Either there's too much, or I'm relieved there's no more.

The romanos are just coming on [currently in the japanese curry with pork and noodles I made for Jeff's post-surgery meal], with some other pole beans behind them, and then some other ones.  I'm going to need a plan.

The cucumbers and Zelda are dead even.  They grow, she eats.  I love cucumber plants.  I love Zelda.

The mustard crop that I threw into bed #1 has predictably taken over and I am ripping it out and dumping it into the sink, and into the pan, and into everything I eat.  [eggs, black beans and chorizo, lentil soup, pasta, my mouth]  Along with the occasional tomato, a month of blue skies, half a melon a day, and a couple of cloves of garlic, young mustards are all it really takes, it turns out, to make a summer.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

fruit trees

 Considering that this is wrong with them, the apple trees are doing rather well.  

Last year, with the ants and all, and that bad thing I did with the string, I just removed all the blossoms.
This year, Jeff cluster pruned back to a single apple per.  And there are still a lot!  And, actually, lots of them are looking pretty clean.  But the apples, and leaves, near the ground especially, have this.

No, I don't know what it is.  APPLE SCAB!

Or what to do about it.  WE HAVE TO TIDY UP!

But I have the internet on my side.

Ta da.

Friday, July 27, 2012


It is practically the One Straw Revolution around here.  I am so lazy.

Four chops with the hoe, and my uterus is as tight as a softball, pressed forward against the high waist yoga pants which are also gardening pants, out to dinner pants, sleeping pants... you get the idea.  And then, the bending over.  I groan my way down the row, a parody of pregnancy.  At eighteen weeks!

Anyway, it has taken a long time to get bed #1 weeded and chopped and fed and seeded.  Bed #2 is simply a garden cress seed ripening area.  For the first time in a few seasons, people come over at look at the general mess, and I feel, well, apologetic.  I say something about the fall garden, and then I start pulling weeds around the perimeter and quietly groaning.

Last night, while Z and Jeff were shivering at Grant Pool, I did, finally, take care of the first bed - and put in kale, collards, what I hope will be Solstice cabbage, a heavy dose of mustards, and some random edible chrysanthemum which I swear I did not order and surely have no idea how to grow.  The One Straw part was where I just walked along the bed, crumbling brassica seed through my fingers, covered it with a shake of complete organic fertilizer, and raked over the rest of the mulchy 'soil-building compost' that Nate left in our driveway.  It was a tutorial in how to garden standing up.

Lazy, I tell you.  Lay.  Zee.

But the bouncing ball I am growing seems, increasingly, anything but.


Comfort Food

Over at NASA, they are trying to figure out how to package peanut butter cookies and garlic mashed potatoes for a trip to Mars.  Because the mission will need five years of food security, they are considering the possibilities of a hydroponic greenhouse, in addition to the freeze dried cookies and tofu stroganoff.  The NASA kitchen representative I heard on the radio said that they are very concerned with providing 'comfort foods' so as not to increase the 'alienation' of being on a long mission.  Get it: alienation?

I thought about that last night as I pulled together an easy, warm-evening dinner for Z and me.  Soft white beans, warmed with a big glug of olive oil, green beans cut into inch lengths and sauteed, a salad of cucumber, tomato, avocado.  We sat at the recently relocated picnic table (in the driveway) and dug in.

Zelda can be hard to feed at restaurants, food carts, even from the deli at the store.  It is partially because of what she can't eat - the cheese and butter that are in so many of the kid friendly food options.  But it is also partially because this is how she likes to eat: fresh food, minimally processed.  At our table, and at the homes of our friends, she eats as well as any kid, and much better than some adults.  Since her baby-hood, she has chosen the freshest food on the table as her preference - squash over noodles, cucumbers over crackers, watermelon over cake.  Even more, her preference is for the food itself - she would always rather a grilled zucchini - not too large, or bitter, or seedy, mind you, and not over-done or mushy - to a zucchini muffin or fritter.  At our house, the bowl of cherry tomatoes on the table is devoured like candy, before I have a chance to turn them into something else.  During pea season, we are really only supplementing a steady diet picked off the vine and shelled in the shadow of the row.

At dinner, she hummed her pleasure as she scooped beans and tomato.

Years ago, Jeff pointed out that I have a special hum I do while bent over a bowl of perfectly prepared veg.  'It's your vegetable hum,' he said, 'You don't do it for other foods, even when you really like them.'  And there is something to that - some whole other level of satisfaction that exists for me - when I can feel the life still in something as I chew it, when the color and texture of the food is part of the joy, and when every step of the process is dear to me.  Like eating sun - which I imagine is just what I would want to do, out there in space, surrounded by beacons of light.

Don't get me wrong, I like peanut butter cookies a lot, and so does my kid.  But for us - oh, and especially right now - comfort comes from the un-compromised joining of soil, sun, water, seed, and human attention: the living gift of our belonging in the cycle of things.


So Patrick Barber says to Jeff Falen, do you think I could make saurkraut with radicchio?
And Jeff says, that would be radicchulous!
And Patrick says, so, then, you don't think it would work.

Har har.  That one got me.

I'd like to know how those guys at Perspephone get all those nice tight heads.  Of about ten in the bed, two headed up and colored to purple.  Did I plant them too soon, and they couldn't stand the lengthening days?  What's really gross is when they just start to head and then the phallic wand emerges from the gathering knot of leaves and makes its way heavenwards to seed.  Yuk.

But green olive, garlic, and radicchio salad with homemade croutons while camping?  Ha ha ha.  Not gross.

I'll plant some more in the center bed next week (after I yank all the bolted garden cress), and we shall see...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

a cabbage

Made-up Chinese Chicken Salad:

Bittman's peanut chicken and cucumbers (chicken breasts bone-in, skin-on, grilled then shredded)
Cabbage, radishes, snap peas in a ginger/garlic asian dressing from Deborah Madison
Chow Mein Noodles
Grilled spring red Torpedo onions
Siracha and salt for the table

(Patrick's dining table aerial stolen with ease from  Please note green toes.)

Nom nom nom.

Monday, July 9, 2012

up next

The garden this year is a strange beast.  The spring garden in the Pacific Northwest can meet the fall garden at the halfway point, and just hand-off the baton.  What summer?

Sure, there is a sungold plant sprawling around in one of the North beds, begging to be lifted out of the dirt.  There is a box of nasturtiums, hardly necessary now that a single volunteer majus plant has overtaken the yard around the rock box.

There are a few buckets of small and hopeful squash starts, a cucumber or two, some climbing Romanos.  These things are just starting out now, and will blow my mind come August.  Probably not unlike the cabbage under my shirt.

But unlike last summer, there will be no big drama in the backyard.  No corn, no squash, no jungle.  Bed #3 I planted last week, with bush beans, lettuce, and neon calendula.  Bed #1 I'll plant this week, maybe tomorrow.  With kale and the first round of beets and savoy and broccoli.  And then after I pull the peas (next week?), it'll be time to double dig that bed in case I might actually be able to grow some carrots there.  And then frantic watering for the next two months.  And so fall begins in July.


independence (garlic and peas)

Wouldn't it be amazing if this garden actually fed us?  Of course, I would miss our weekly farmer's market: the choices, the sights, the glory of just plain shopping (oh, three dollars for those sweet, hairless carrots that I couldn't grow for a hundred?  why, sure, here you go.) - but when I think of the word Independence, the current state of this country is not what comes to mind.

On the 4th, though, I did do a lot of harvesting.

Jeff estimated that there were 15# of shelling peas in that bag.  I picked and picked.  He shelled and shelled.  I could feel the difference between the snap peas and shelling peas with my hand: the plush edible pods versus the thin, leathery cases with their rattling contents.  I looked down under the sun, face pressed into the exuberantly bolting greens of spring.  Picking like milking, elbow deep, I smelled watercress, nasturtium, rocket.  Everyone says these things taste and smell 'peppery' but I think they smell only like their own selves, each its own color of green.

While I was at it, I pulled out these 17 (!) heads of garlic.  David hung them by a bungee in the garage. Now when I wheel in my bike, the smell in there takes me right back to the farm.

We ate this broccoli in ten minutes.  

But let's look at that garlic again, shall we?  It is giant.  Brag, brag, brag.

Hope it cures well.  Hope it tastes as good as it smells.