Monthly Archives: September 2008

Eat your peas and links

Peas
Since we had such a dissappointing pea harvest in spring we’re trying again. These however are snow peas which will be great for stir fries and just plain snacking on. There aren’t many pea plants coming up, but they are flowering. Always a welcome sight!
Peas
And since it’s the end of the month, I wanted to thank all of these fine folks who’ve sent the most traffic my way. You guys are the greatest!
Tipnut
Canadian Freestuff
Sunshine Through the Windows
The Morse Family Spot
Kale for Sale
Skip to My Lou
Composting
Fresh DirtWhat an honor to be featured in our favorite magazine’s blog! Thank you!

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Filed under musings, state of the garden

Back into the Garden

Cabbage
I bet you were starting to think that there wasn’t much ‘garden’ left in this Sonoma Garden, weren’t you? Well now that all the other to-do list chores have been caught up on, we were able to plant a few things for fall which I’ll be sharing with you this week. The first thing to note is that if all works out well, we are going to be having cabbage coming out of our ears soon. We’ve planted both red and green cabbage, all starts from our favorite nursery, Sonoma Mission Gardens. We haven’t had great success with cabbage in the past, it just hasn’t formed very well. But being the gardening masicists that we are, we are trying again.
Cabbage

We’ve also grown some Napa Cabbage from seed. This is the first time we’ve grown that so I’m anxious to see how it works.
Napa Cabbage

And while this isn’t cabbage, look, the raddiccio is actually starting to form! We planted these seeds quite a while ago, maybe six weeks ago or so?
Raddiccio
I was starting to feel pretty ho-hum about the progress of our yard at the end of summer, but now that we’ve pulled out all of the old, ugly stuff it’s rejuvinating to get some new happy green growth back.
Update: Carrie asked for some cabbage growing tips so I thought I would share some things that we’ve read. Now mind you we are not cabbage experts, so we are learning from this too. Cabbages like a sunny spot with well drained soil. They are also heavy feeders and heavy drinkers, so be prepared to give them ample nutrients and water. Heavy mulching is also a good idea. While the cabbages are still young you can interplant them with lettuce and radishes since they have such a short growing period. Where as cabbage takes anywhere from 60-180 days to mature depending on the type you are growing. If you want to read more, check out Mother Earth New’s article.

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Filed under 1, growing challenge, leafy greens, seeds, state of the garden

Apples for an Anniversary

First Apple Pie
It was our sixth wedding anniversary this past weekend. Scott made an apple pie to celebrate. Which only seemed appropriate because he made one the day before we got married too. At the time we lived a few streets away from where we do now and we had an ancient Gravenstein apple tree in our backyard. He made countless apple pies that fall in our newly received pie pans. I remember my great aunt was amazed at his baking ability, she’d never seen an apple pie quite like his. So we served slices to all of our out of town guests before our wedding rehearsal.

Six years later, I’m continuously amazed by his abilities, not only at making apple pies, but in everything else he undertakes in life. Thanks for six great years together, Scott!

Apple Sauce
(few jars of applesauce were made this past weekend two with leftover apples)

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Happy Autumn!

Happy Autumn!
Some people, I think, are hard wired for different seasons. There are some people who live for the summer and love the heat of the mid-day sun, others love to curl up to the rainy day window ledge of winter, but we are autumn people. We welcome the coming of fall with enthusiastic cheers of delight. It’s the advent of wearing fleece vests, enjoying the weight of a down comforter, pouring a glass of deep red wine and viewing all the splendid fall colors that energizes us. After a day spent at the San Francisco Ferry Building, we came home and made an incredible meal of egg pasta with shaved Italian truffle paired with a heavenly Barbera d’Alba. We gave a high toast to the coming of fall.
Mushrooms
Which season is your season. Which one brings you extra energy and enthusiasm?

For a great write up on her views of fall, read what Amanda of Soulemama has to say.

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Filed under musings, our weekends

It feels like Autumn!

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It’s been a busy week. With a new preschool schedule it’s been a challenge to fit my previous 16 hours of dedicated work time per week into the five that I am now given, which means less time for posting. We’ll figure it out. I’m thinking that a new wireless connection laptop is in my near future. But for now, I am enjoying this cooler weather and thankful for the the last of the summer harvest.

Have a good weekend friends.

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You have to check these out

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There’s a ton of great blog posts out there right now. I’m totally inspired! Here’s my favorites:

Wasted Food by These Days in French LifeLove this blog!
Holy &*%!@ That’s Not a Potato! by CompostingsHe’s a seriously funny gardener
Frugality in Practice: Home Canning by Get Rich Slowlymore proof that canning is cool
Why Hang Tomatoes Upside Down? by A Taste of the EarthI first heard about this through compostings, but this is another great read on it.
Foraging for Dinner by (not so) Urban Hennerygarden foraging is one of my favorite ways to plan dinner too

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Our fig had a little baby

Fig Harvest
Our blackjack fig is finally kicking it into production. This is one of the very first fruit trees that we planted when we moved in five years ago and it was nothing but a stick at the time. Now its the size of a small bush, but it actually has handfuls of figs on it.

When I was young my best friend had a mature fig tree in her backyard and we’d spend hours after school sitting on our favorite branches talking about everything that had happened in school that day. There’s something magical about large fig trees, isn’t there? Down the street from our house is the Sonoma Garden Park, a community garden, which we love to stroll through. They have an entire fig grove which they hold lectures in the middle of. It’s amazing.
Fig Baby
Last spring our fig tree had a baby. Part of one of it’s drooping branches got buried in the soil and sprouted roots. We clipped off this new sprout and potted it up. It’s even produced a fig! Expert gardeners would call that layering, we call it a miracle.

Some of my favorite things to do with figs are stuff them with goat cheese, wrap in procuitto and put in the oven for a bit to warm it up. Or even better, put them on skewers with thin slices of lemon in between, brush with a mixture of honey and lemon juice and grill. Oh, that’s delectible!

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Filed under fruit trees, just picked, recipes

The Thing About Chickens

With Chickens
There’s been a dialogue going on in our town for a few months about chickens. Sonoma has long been an agricultural town and was well known for its flock of chickens living in our town square. The chickens were quickly removed a few years ago after a visiting child was pecked by one of the roosters. It was quite a hot topic of discussion back then and now chickens are back in the news.

A local farming advocate, Bob Cannard, is proposing, among things, that the city relax its guidelines on keeping backyard chickens. His thought is that more families should be able to have chickens to raise for eggs and for butchering. He’s voiced that families should be allowed to become more self sufficient with their food supplies, which is something that we completely agree with. He’s also proposing that raised beds and chicken coops be included in all new Sonoma housing development backyards. Wonderful.

After having chickens in our backyard for a year, ourselves, we support his argument completely, well, except for a few things. He would like the City to relax its guidelines to allow families to have at least 20 hens and roosters at any one time. That’s a awful lot and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, chickens, even hens can be loud. The content little clucking they do as they search for bugs is adorable, but this loud screeching that our ladies are doing now can drive you nuts. If my next door neighbor had 20 of these squawking feathery friends, that would be hard to live next to. But that’s just the hens. Roosters are even louder. Granted, hearing a rooster crow in the distance in the morning is a really wonderful sound. It just gives you that great country feel, but when it was right outside our window, we just felt bad for our neighbors that we had such a loud pet. When you buy baby chicks, you are given that 90% of them will be females, so chances are that if you get a handful, at least one will turn out to be a rooster. Once our rooster grew up, he was crowing at all hours and became pretty aggressive. Anytime a hen crossed her path, he’d violently jump on her and hold her head in the dirt. He also pecked our oldest son right under his eye. Twice. That action right there sealed his fate of going into the stew pot.

That brings me to butchering. It’s a hard thing to do. We did it because we felt as meat eaters, it was something we had to do, at least once. So that we wouldn’t take for granted what we buy at the market. Not ony was it difficult to kill something that we had come to know as a pet, but it’s a lot of messy, bloody, feathery hard work. To imagine that your average family would want to butcher a flock of their own chickens is far fetched, I think. Would you have the guts to do it?

I don’t want to discourage anyone from having chickens. They are very entertaining and we relish the four eggs a day we get from them. But I think 20 chickens in someones downtown backyard is just too many. Maybe it should be kept at 2-4 hens if you live in a standard size lot and 20 chickens if you live on half an acre or so. In the end, I’ve kept my mouth shut and words away from the town newspaper and City Council meetings, because I don’t know how to support Mr. Cannard. On one hand, I would love to see more people become self sufficient and raise their own nutritious egg layers. On the other hand, sometimes chickens don’t make the best neighbors.

Does your town allow chickens in our backyards? How would you feel if your neighbor had 20 chickens? Kale for Sale just posted about her first chicken harvest, go read about it.

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A Peppery Success

Peppers
I’ll be the first to admit that our vegetable garden isn’t looking its finest right about now. That’s why you haven’t seen many outdoor photos lately. Its been hot and dry recently. So dry that it is hard to keep things looking green and lush. The melons ares are done, the first round of zucchini have hit retirement and truth be told, our minds have drifted over to other parts of our yard.
Carmens
Carmen Peppers
We always had it a goal to own a small house on a large lot, which we gratefully have. However, having a large lot means having a large list of things to do. This summer has been titled ‘The Summer of Taking Care of Business’. A summer filled full of to-do’s which we didn’t accomplish last year, which was ‘The Summer of Getting It Done.’ So we’ve set about the business of reseeding the entire back lawn, building new and repairing old fences and planting large landscape plants to give us a bit more privacy.
Asti
Quadrato d’Asti Giallo Peppers
One thing we are having great success with in the vegetable garden are with peppers. We planted enough to feed a small army. We planted all sorts, Carmens, Quadrato d’Asti Giallos, Serranos, Gourmets (remember when we ordered them from Territorial?) and a few from some fellow Seed Savers, Colossal Kim’s and a few pimentos. All are doing outstanding. Peppers take a long time to grow (some long time readers might remember our post about planting the seeds) and needs lots of sun and heat. Things that we have in abundance here in our Sonoma garden.

What’s your most successful crop this year? What have you been disappointed by?

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Filed under growing challenge, in the kitchen, just picked

What my Great-Grandmother Ate

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have moved my grandma into an assisted living home which provides three home cooked meals a day for her. Much better than the microwave tv dinners she was making for herself when she was on her own. She used to be a great cook. She and my great grandmother were traditional homemakers and had prepared three sit down meals each day.

While our family sorted through her house, we came across her recipe box plus a large, well used notebook full of recipes. I quickly laid claim to it. And when we also ran across her mom’s recipe box, it felt like I had come across a treasure chest.
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After reading Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food, I’ve been very curious about what my great grandmother cooked for her family of four. Michael advised that when grocery shopping you should think of your grandmother or great-grandmother. If she wouldn’t have recognized the food item, don’t buy it. He argued that because our ancestors kept processed foods out of there diet, they ate healthier. I am here to tell you, after extensively reading through each recipe in this collection, that Michael Pollen did not have my family in mind when writing his book. I’m quite certain that my great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized his example of GoGurt. But I’m also quite certain that once she had figured out what it was, she would have grabbed a handful of them.

I was surprised to find in those tin boxes that more than half of the cake recipes called for store bought cake mixes. The salads were full of jello and canned fruit. The entrees were mostly all casseroles that called for cream of some sort of soup and Pepperridge Farms dressing. Lots of frozen veggies baked with cream and more cream of mushroom soup. In fact, except for a couple of spinach salad recipes, all the ingredients in all of the recipes were either boxed, frozen or canned. Even the mushrooms were called for as canned.

These were church going Lutheran women from St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up Lutheran myself, I know that I come from a strong casserole heritage. Which is not all bad, who can resist a comforting casserole from time to time? And they were also busy housewives and I’m sure they appreciated the convenience of boxed and canned foods when they could find them.

It’s made me realize that we have come along way with our eating. I’m grateful to have had the experiences I’ve had that have lead me down this path to cleaner eating. I’m grateful for the good fortune to have the garden that we do and a husband who’s so passionate about tending to it. And I’m grateful that I had such caring grandmothers who worked so hard to prepare us such nice meals. And being that my great-grandma lived to the ripe old age of 98 and my grandma is still kicking at 89, I think it won’t hurt to try out a few of their favorite creamy-baked-casserole recipes once in a while.

Also wanted to share that I think I’ve figured out where I got my compulsive list making tendancies:
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