Thursday, June 25, 2009

DC Bound

Woohoo, check out that poppy. I cannot say for sure, but I believe that is a poppy from the packet of poppy seeds that the Rachel mentioned below smuggled, er, imported for me from, let me think, Amsterdam? I went a little crazy with the poppy seeds this year, just flinging them willy nilly, and the front bed has delivered with tons of these as well as another smaller type that has yet to show its colors. B and I were eating on the front porch yesterday and commenting on how we love poppies at every stage - droopy headed fuzzy buds, beautiful ruffles of colored blooms, and lovely geometric poppy pods. This is not true for every flower, thus the special. Also, the pink and purple action cracks my ass up because I can distinctly remember going through a phase where Rachel and I would argue over our favorite colors. Like if mine was pink she would change hers to purple. And then if I changed to purple, she was back to pink. But if she went back to purple while mine was still purple, I would change to pink. We were in the bathroom at the public pool when Beth McClintock had enough of our banter and informed us in no uncertain terms that we could both have the same favorite color. That was the end of that. Anyway. Headed to DC for more of this scintillating nostalgia and some Ethiopian food. Yay. Be well out there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One Year

Wow, I have so much news that I hardly know where to begin.

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary. Last fall my girl Dietlind came to visit and we hiked up to the top of a big mountain and at some point while looking out at the view she asked B and I what our favorite part of our wedding was and before I could even think of answering there were tears rolling down my face. Jeezohpete. Will I always burst into tears when I think about our wedding? I might. It remains a treasure of a memory for me, suffused in natural beauty and incredible food and good music and so much family and so many friends, and above all, our hearts laid bare out in a field of clover, held close and careful by all the amazing people we love. It's a raw, raw memory, and probably one of the few of my life where the entirety of it is just this wild and open feeling of love. So yeah. We spent the day remembering what we were doing at exactly that time last year. Just remembering how much fun we had. We said our vows again, we exchanged small gifts, we talked to people on the phone, we pulled vegetables out of the garden, we got dressed up, and we took ourselves out to a stunning dinner, and mostly we just acted like completely in-love dorks. I am so lucky.

And. As if anything could make the day an even bigger deal, hang on. The day after our wedding, my oldest friend and I were sitting on a picnic bench and she said something about giving us two tickets to wherever unless we wanted a bowl or something. And I was all post-wedding circuits blown but must have said something to the effect of hold the bowl, a trip sounds great. But I probably said it like how you would say that sweet potatoes for dinner sound great. And then probably two weeks later, somewhere in Nova Scotia, it was like our brains snapped into gear and we were very belatedly very holy shit about what a huge and awesome and exciting gift this was. And then we kind of forgot about it for a while. But she's a good one, and every now and then she'd kind of casually ask me if we'd thought about where we might like to go. At some point B had suggested going over our Christmas breaks, which seemed peachy to me. And so a few weeks ago we got the globe off of the bookshelf and we spun the sucker around and tried on a few spots for size. Turkey? Guatemala? Argentina? And then someone stuck their finger at Vietnam and we both knew it was the spot. And after a week of my friend and I spending some super quality time with various airline operators, yesterday she booked us two tickets to Saigon in December. When the confirmation landed in my inbox, I emailed her and said "You are so glad that you are not here right now. We would be jumping on you and licking your face like two enormous verbal puppies." Seriously, we are so excited. We are actually going to be seeing Rachel this weekend, and I am hopeful that we will be out of the jumping and licking phase by then, but I can't promise anything.

Whew. In calmer news, the garden is rocking so hard. Everything is growing and green and huge and blooming or climbing or fruiting. We continue to eat lettuce, beets, kale, chard, leeks, broccoli greens, and carrots. Peas are done, and beans are in. The garlic is getting close to harvest time. The first cabbages are on the menu for dinner this week. The beets beg to be picked, and the f-ing chard and kale are as big as I've ever seen it. The basil is getting on its feet and the peppers are growing into big bushy green trees. We have the cutest baby butternut and delicata squash growing, and there are baby cucumbers too. Tomatillos are swelling in their tiny husks, and green tomatoes weigh down huge limbs of our tomato plants. The grocery bill is tiny, and we are eating like royalty. Good times. Sorry for all the beet pictures, they were just so photogenic and since I practically have to beat myself into picking them (bad garden hoarder) I nursed my wounds by taking a lot of pictures.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pickle It & Finish It

Goodness me oh my, did we ever have a nesty weekend around here. First, there was cherry picking, er, scavenging. Which for us, is kind of the beginning of our wedding anniversary, because last year picking and pitting cherries was like sweet occupational relief from the holy shit of being less than a week away from getting hitched. This year we were all holy shit, we've almost been married an entire year. Woah. Anyway, we packed away many pies worth of cherries which makes us both feel very safe in the pie department and also is the official kick off of summer fruit stashing.

Also, there was pickling. I made another batch of my favorite pickled onions because I am completely sad whenever we don't have any, and then, hold on to your hats, I pickled carrots! From our garden! Flipping awesome. We had complete beginners' luck on our carrots this year, and damn, they are so good. Like melt in your mouth good. And being the garden hoarder than I am, pickling is a mighty fine way to get my hoard on. Anyway, I have no idea whether the are tasty since they are not ready right away, but they smelled awfully good and lots of pickling fiends out there think these carrots are mighty fine.

Ok, lastly in the food department, because I needed a small amount of buttermilk for something (why, why, why don't they sell a small container of this stuff????) I ended up making Buttermilk Panna Cotta, which was stupid easy to make and very, very yummy. Maybe a tad too much lemon and cutting back a bit on the gelatin would be good, but still: yum, served with fresh picked cherries and blueberries from the garden. Simple and cool and oven free.

In the finishing department: we are done with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We pretty much hit this series at a full tilt and aside from a lot of travel and house guests, this was what was going on at our house once the sun went down. What can I say? Fucking brilliant at turns, and I really mean that. Also kind of rough to have it head so precipitously downhill there at the end, which was completely unsatisfying emotionally but had a killer plot wrap up. Yes, I cried, and frankly I am still sad about it really being over. I might just have to write some fan fiction. Kidding.

Ok, also, I finished this book, which along with this article, will pretty much scare your pants off about the natural world getting its ass kicked. Honey bees, frogs, bats - all having a very rough go in very extreme ways. Grr. Fruitless Fall is full of jaw dropping tidbits about the mechanics of pollination, everything from bees that buzz around flowers vibrating them at specific frequencies in order to get their pollen to pop out to species that now require hand pollination because their natural pollinators are extinct (vanilla).

Also, I finished learning a tune that had been kicking my ass for quite some time. Sally in the Greencorn, you are all mine!

Ok, in the not finishing department: 2666. Someone out there please tell me to finish this, I am stalling after the first book and can't get going again.

The end.

P.S. It was my beautiful mum's birthday this weekend and she was out having so much fun that I had to settle for singing on her answering machine! Happy Birthday Mum, love you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bumper Crop of Peas

Stokes' Aster

How are the peas growing out there where you are? North Carolina has had a long, cool spring with plenty of rain and as such our peas turned in a stunning and lasting crop. We just did bush peas this year, snow peas - maybe Oregon Sugar Pods? I can't remember now. I actually love sugar snap peas very much, but I had forgotten to order any and honestly putting up a trellis in March was just not high on the list. So bush peas it was. And, of course, the first ones were very exciting and eaten with great fanfare while standing barefoot in the yard. And then the next ones were eaten from a small pretty bowl, along with dinner or lunch, and while still exciting perhaps less so. And then a few were stuck into sandwiches, tasty but afterthoughts. And then we officially started to drown in peas. I would look at the bushes and think to myself that I should pick peas soon, and then I'd *really* look at the bush and realize that it was positively dripping with peas. Fortunately, at some point I made hummus and someone dipped a pea in just like a chip and we probably ate a bushel of peas just like that. Yum.

But still, the peas would not quit. And then the husband made dinner last night and I nearly died with the tastiness but instead talked about it all night and again this morning when I pulled my trademark move of looking forward to dinner while eating breakfast. The inspiration was from here, but he made a few changes. Obviously, the type of pea. Also, he dry roasted the almonds and I would not have traded them for a fried almond for anything: they were perfect. Also, hard boiled eggs. Which pretty much taste good with any vegetable, if you ask me. And damn, this was the best dinner I have eaten in some time. So refreshing, and the feta and mint and almonds are amazing together; I think they'd be a good starting point for lots of other things. Anyway. If you are drowning in peas and have a mint patch, go there.

Monday, June 8, 2009

By Request

Stokes' Aster.

Hello you. We are home again after spending the weekend here, getting rained on, learning new tunes from old friends, two stepping on some muddy hill next to a crew of cajun musicians (I flipping love cajun music anyway, but after 48 hours of non-stop old time tunes it was like a brain massage), getting my ass flayed by C tunes, and in general just hardly believing that all these people and all these instruments show up places and make music that will break your heart with both the beauty and the wild. B and I sang the whole way home; after 32 years of fully believing that I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket it turns out not to be entirely true. I mean, my bucket it wobbly and new, but good lord there is nothing like harmony in a tiny car to make the time fly. My husband sure can sing.

Anyway. By request: the chickens. Are amazing. They love their new enormous yard, with its new variety of spots - damp and leafy? Sunny and dry? Overgrown with multiflora rose? Beds of pine needles for naps? Why yes, we have all of that, and they roam and range with great gusto. We continue to have a few chickens with small bare spots, and at this point I can't tell if it's continued picking (either self inflicted or otherwise) or if those feathers just won't grow back until they molt. I decided a while ago not to worry about this unless there were other symptoms, but just a few weeks ago their egg production dropped off dramatically. This was just after we had found quite a stash of eggs that they had laid in a nest they made in some underbrush, so for a while we wondered if they were hiding their eggs in a new location. But man, we looked and looked and even enlisted a very proficient seeker from the junior age and size (hey Meg!) with no luck. Then, after a few slightly odd shaped eggs (banded), all was back to normal with 5-7 eggs a day. I really don't have any idea what happened for sure, just a few half baked theories. Once we enlarged their run, they started eating significantly less feed, presumably because they are now eating far more bugs and greens. So perhaps the somewhat abrupt alteration to their diet was part of it. But also at this time our neighbors got some three month old chickens locally, and several of them have been struggling with something that is presenting a little like coccidiosis but could be a few other things as well. I don't think that coccidiosis can be transmitted between separated coops, but a few of the other things that it could be might travel that way. Anyway, I fretted and read a lot of scary information about diseases and then all was back to normal. I am still watchful, but the girls are perky with bright combs and no weird symptoms so I think we are ok. Livestock can sure put you through the ringer.

And lastly, also by request, here is the table set our neighbors gave to us. I was hesitant to take it when they offered because I knew we didn't have room for it inside, but as soon as we stuck it in the back yard and ate our first meal back there by the girls I was sold.

And really for last, here is the raised bed at the end of May. It is packing rhubarb, borage, dahlias, marigold, bee balm, false indigo, bachelor's buttons, love-in-a-mists, euphorbia, hen and chick, yarrow, coreopsis, flax, chard, kale, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, thyme, sage, and some other random flowers that I can't remember. We are pre bloom on a lot of these, but it's about to pop any day now. It makes me goofy happy to grow such things.

Hope everyone is well out there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

We Have Celebrated

My goodness people, did we ever have a birthday weekend around here. So. Fun. Out of town guests bearing presents from Maine and a dog that could charm the socks off of a doorknob. A hike out to a stunning waterfall and swimming hole just east and south of Asheville. Music. Summer beers. The giving of many excellent birthday gifts, including a massage table for the acupuncturist-in-training from my mum, B's mum and dad, and me. Meals outside on our new backyard table and chairs; meals like waffles with blueberries, barbecue, over easy eggs with garden greens, refreshing summer salads, salmon baked with ume paste, garlic, garlic scapes, and basil...

Oh, and some carrot cake cupcakes, with pecans and dried apricots. And, in a fit of ambition I decided to try my hand at Pecan Financiers, our absolute favorite thing to eat from our favorite bakery in our most favorite town of Portland, Maine. Risky, giving it a go at something someone else has already perfected. And so many recipes to choose from! Yeesh. So I held my breath and picked one. Lucky break, because this recipe, with a few modifications, pretty much baked up spitting images of our beloved Portland goodies. I could hardly believe it, and you should have seen the husband's face when I pulled a plate of these out. For anyone who has never indulged in a Financier, they are traditionally a browned butter (swoon), ground almond, sugar, and egg white affair, with various fruit or chocolate embellishments. I'm sure that almonds are quite tasty, but we fell in love with a pecan version, so that's what I made; I just toasted roughly chopped pecans and then ground them in the food processor (no blanching). Also, the benchmark Financiers are baked in a brioche pan, rather than a Madeleine style or bar style baking mold. Lastly, chocolate, dark, plopped right in the center midway through the baking. This recipe did have one of the worst descriptions of how to brown butter, so go here if you are giving this a try for the first time. Also, since the brioche pans are bigger than a traditional mold (this recipe will only make four of them), the baking time must be adjusted, but definitely get them brown and toasty on the edges. Oh! Also, I didn't strain the browned butter because I like things Very Brown Buttery.