Monthly Archives: July 2008

We are so fragile, let’s eat well

A moment I don't want to forget
Recently we had to have our son’s hand x-rayed. It’s amazing to see the insides of anyone, let alone your child’s. He’s almost four and did you know that bones are still forming at that age? Inside his hand are big gaps between his finger bones, where the joints are. That’s all still cartilage. His joints have yet to harden into firm bone. Amazing isn’t it?

When you have children feeding them is a hot topic. Formula versus breast milk. Home made baby food vs. gerber. You always try and do the very best that you can for your infant. And then they grow up a bit and with each passing day you get a tad more lax about what you feed them. A little bit of chocolate won’t hurt, a cookie for breakfast? Well, okay, just this once. You sort of forget that they are still growing and forming.

But getting that peek inside of him was such a reminder. The visual that he is still in the process of forming bones was a call to order to make sure that he’s getting all the nutrients he needs, and the healthiest ones we can provide.

At the opposite end of the spectrum I visited my 89 year old grandma yesterday who’s been struggling with increasing demensia. We were planning out her move to an assisted living facility. Seeing her progressively slow down both in her movements and in her mind is hard. And you wonder, maybe if she ate more greens, maybe if she avoided eating vegetables sprayed with modern day pesticides, maybe if she didn’t apply Round Up in her yard, maybe she would have stronger bones and stronger eye sight and a stronger memory.

I don’t know. But I do know that we are all so fragile no matter our age. So we should eat well. Okay? And let’s feed each other well. Let’s do the best we can. Maybe we can’t eat locally and organically with every meal and every bite, but we can do our best. Let’s do it for the little ones who’s bones are still forming, for the old ones who’s bones are breaking down. And let’s do it for ourselves so we keep ourselves strong.

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Filed under musings

One Day’s Harvest

One day's harvest
I had great intentions of posting everyday this week, but it looks like our family’s been taken over by an evil summer flu bug. Instead of posting anything of merit, I’ll simply show you a picture of what we picked on Tuesday, before we got sick. Purple Haze and Thumbelina carrots, cantelope and beans.

Have a great weekend! See you next week.

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Filed under just picked

oh, the problems we have

First tomato
We ate our first tomato this weekend. A San Marzano. Not this one above, but a different one, one without blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is something we seem to struggle with every year. Especially and almost exclusively with the San Marzanos. It’s caused by the plant not getting enough calcium. We already knew that we didn’t have enough calcium in our soil due to our home diagnosed weed problems, but it seems like adding that liquid calcium didn’t do enough to prevent blossom end rot entirely. It’s not affecting every tomato, just some, but its there.

One reason is that plants aren’t able to absorb calcium is by infrequent and inconsistent watering. I don’t think that’s our problem. We do water on a regular basis, about once a week. And it’s a deep watering since we do our drainage pipe method.
blossom end rot
Is anyone else dealing with blossom end rot? You Grow Girl did a great post about this last week.

This next problem is a mystery to us and maybe you can help us.
mysterious
It’s this spotting that’s happening on our nectarines. It’s on the vast majority of nectarines, no matter if they are in the sun or shaded by the leaves. It’s edible, we eat right through it, but it makes them kind of funky looking. Does anyone know what it is?

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Filed under fruit trees, tomato

Canning Lids Download

Canning Lids
As promised, I’ve created a little goodie for you home canners. After years of canning, we have been very lazy about labeling our jars. Sometimes we write a quick Sharpie note on the lids or maybe a short length of masking tape with a ball point pen scribble. But usually they go label-less and we have to guess what we worked so hard to create over the summer.

This summer, however, things are going to be different. I design for a living, for crying out loud, why haven’t I gotten it together to create our own labels? Who knows why it took me this long, but last Thursday was the inspiration. Seeing all of those beautiful label-less jars of nectarines was the final straw. We put so much effort into growing the fruit, then picking it, slicing and canning it and we give them away as gifts so often, it’s a shame to not put a final little touch on it. The perfect gift giving touch. The touch that will make you smile when you go to open it.
Canning Lids
I created four different designs and put them all together on one sheet for you to be able to print them onto Avery Sticker Project Paper and use for your own home canning. I hope you like them and please, feel free to share.

If you are looking to put these labels on Christmas gifts, you might want to check out my new Christmas Canning Lid Labels too!

Download the pdf here and print away my friends! Make sure that when you print them in Adobe Reader, that you set your printer settings a full size. Frequently Adobe Reader will reduce the size of the file you are viewing and make them micro labels!
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Filed under in the kitchen, musings, preserving

Up to our eyeballs in nectarines

It’s been a busy week, so I just wanted to share a few pictures with you of what we did yesterday. And to let you know that on Monday I’ll have something fun for all of you home canners. Let’s say it’s a little something to spruce up those jars.
overflowing counter
getting ready to can
Canned nectarines
Have a good weekend!

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Filed under preserving

Links to all you Mothers

Cilantro Flowers
Cilantro Flowers

I don’t have much time to post in forums, but when I do, I head straight over to the Mothering forums. I’m usually in the Digging in the Earth section and I’m SonomaMom, if you happen to frequent there too.
I really like the Mothering forums because it’s filled with women who also value the similar things I do and there aren’t any big cliques or overly judgmental posters as you find on some forums.

Recently a few moms shared their gardening blogs with me and I wanted to share them with you too. Its always wonderful to read about what other folks are up to.

http://serenetabbie.wordpress.com/
www.xanga.com/simplespirit
http://myindigodreams.livejournal.com
www.aramblingcanuck.blogspot.com
http://amyandtonysgarden.blogspot.com/
http://sinnedee.wordpress.com/
http://carrottops-steph.blogspot.com/
http://themorsefamilyspot.blogspot.com/
http://mygardenismyhappyplace.blogspot.com/
http://farminginsuburbia.blogspot.com/
http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=LannaM
http://sher365.blogspot.com/
http://cathairsandchocolate.wordpress.com/

Where else do you guys hang out on the web?

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Beans and Cucumbers like each other

Summer Beans
After reading Carrots Love Tomatoes, the past two growing seasons we’ve been experimenting with companions planting. We already have our carrots planted with our tomatoes and now we are trying beans and cucumbers together. Beans, as with most legumes (like our winter fava cover crop), draw up nitrogen from down deep in the soil, brings it up and fixes it as little white nitrogen nodules to their roots. You don’t have to fertilize beans, in fact they really don’t like being fertilized, because they can do it themselves.

Cucumbers on the other hand are heavy feeders and like a lot of fertilization. But we’ve read if you plant them along with plenty of beans, the beans fertilize the cucumbers without you having to do a thing. We like that ‘not having to do a thing’ part, a lot! And so far, its worked. We have both more beans and cucumbers than we can eat and both plants look happy and healthy.

The only issue we’ve found with planting these two together is that cucumbers like a little more water and beans like a little less water. We’ve done our best to accommodate both by focusing our water on the cucumbers and it seems to be working.

If you haven’t read Carrots Love Tomatoes you should give it a try. It has really helped us.

Also, A Sonoma Garden is featured in this week’s Home Preserving Blog Carnival. Go see what other home preservers are doing.

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Filed under companion planting, just picked, what we've learned

Scott finally chimes in – A Pesto Manifesto

Pesto
One of the great things to enjoy summer all year is to make and freeze pesto. Pesto is fairly simple to make but there are a couple tips I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share.

The first tip is that you can add other herbs or greens. Pesto doesn’t necessarily have to be made from only basil. You can add with basil or replace it completely. Parsley, cilantro, spinach, kale, amaranth leaves all make great additions or replacements for the basil. They have great flavor and can bulk up your recipe if you are short on basil. My favorite is half spinach and half basil basically because I can add more sauce without getting overwhelmed by the strong basil flavor.

The second tip is to blanch the basil and or greens before you make the pesto. This makes a huge difference in the color. It stays vibrant green instead of dulling or browning. Blanching is easy. Have a bowl of ice water or cold water ready. Get some water boiling in a pot. Toss the basil or other greens in the boiling water for 30 seconds making sure you give it a stir or two. Pull the greens out with tongs or a spoon and quickly get them in the cold water to stop them cooking. They are now blanched and ready to use.

The third tip is to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. Then when frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag for later use. This is so handy because the cubes are easy to use for portioning – about 1 per person depending on what you’re making. Just take a few out thaw them in the microwave or toss directly in a hot pot and toss with noodles.

Here is a good basic basil recipe but remember the variations are only limited by your imagination…

Makes about 1 full ice cube tray
Blanch 2 loose cups of spinach and 2 loose cups of basil
In a blender place
– the blanched spinach and basil with
– a couple table spoons of the blanching or cooling water
– two peeled garlic cloves (more or less depending on your taste for garlic)
– a hand full of nuts (pine nuts are classic but I like walnuts)
– a quarter to half a cup of good extra virgin olive oil
– a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese
– salt to taste (too little is better than too much because you can always add it when you use the pesto later)

Blend it up to to a loose paste. The amount of olive oil varies due to the moisture of the other ingredients. I add it until everything in the blender starts to churn.

Enjoy
-Scott
Thai Basil

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Filed under recipes

Our Little Praying Pet + Free Download

Praying Mantis
The other day while walking through the yard with my camera I glanced down at my shoulder and saw this little guy sitting on it. There he was sitting here, just along for a free ride, as I strolled along. Of course my little one wanted desperately to hold him. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve had a hitch hiking praying mantis. They are friendly little creatures and love to hop on for a free ride when they see that you’re walking through the garden. And they’re bad ass too. Read this description I got from Wikipedia:

Mantises are notable for their hunting abilities. They are exclusively predatory, and their diet usually consists of living insects, including flies and aphids; larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, and even rodents. Most mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey rather quickly. Prey are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs (“raptorial legs”); the first thoracic segment, the prothorax, is commonly elongated and flexibly articulated, allowing for greater range of movement of the front limbs while the remainder of the body remains more or less immobile. The articulation of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species, allowing for a great range of vision (their compound eyes have a large binocular field of vision) without having to move the remainder of the body.

Ellen asked me the other day what we did for pest control so Scott and I had a talk about it this morning over breakfast. And really, we take a preventative approach to pests. When we first moved in 6 growing seasons ago, we did have a pest problem, and a lack of water retention problem, and a whole lot of other problems. Our plants were small and bug eaten, but as we’ve learned more and more about organic gardening we’ve learned that the key to pest prevention is to nurture healthy plants. Give them highly nutritious soil, water them correctly and provide habitats for beneficial insects.

Now while we do have our fair share of white flies, aphids, grasshoppers and other pests out in the yard, after six years of returning the soil back to health, we have them outnumbered with ladybugs, praying mantis’, birds, chickens, soldier beetles and all sorts of good little guys. And really at this point we don’t do much to control the bad bugs. We collect snails when we see them and pick off a worm or two, but at this point we let nature take it’s course and live with the little bug bites we do get. Of course, that’s not to say that we haven’t lost a plant or two, but really that was my own lazy fault for not jumping onto of the situation earlier.

If you’d like to read up more about different pests and what you can do to organically treat them you can download this free pdf. It’s an exerpt from the ebook I have over in my sidebar: How to Start an Organic Garden. You can download the pdf here, it’s full of photos and treatment ideas and its yours for the taking.

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Filed under bad bugs, good bugs, what we've learned

Hot

cooling down the house...
You know when the first morning glint of sun shines down this hard that it’s going to be a hot day. Actually a hot, hot week. Over 100 degrees. We’re going to do our best to keep cool, keep the garden watered, and maybe we’ll do a little reading up so we can wrote a bit about organic pest control, pollinating watermelons and maybe we’ll even talk a little mulch when the weather cools down.
Stay cool friends.

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Filed under in the kitchen, musings