Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fingertips of Summer

Hillbilly Tomato

Wooboy, this seedling stuff is so fun. While I am somewhat fruitlessly hunting the outside garden for signs of germination (which is to say hunting too early, so far only bok choy and some of the spinach and arugula that made it through the bird damage), inside we are one big germination and growing party. Yesterday when I took them out from under the light to rotate and water and cosset I rubbed my fingers over the basil and the tomatoes and could not believe that I could be smelling such summer smells in March in our living room. Awesome. This weekend I am going to try to do a little separation and repotting, although fitting everything under the light is going to be impossible.

Winter Squash, either Butternut or Delicata

The husband just called to say that we now have four cubic yards of dirt and compost in our driveway. This weekend is all about getting the new huge raised bed ready to go. I have been holding off on a photo because it's empty but will post one soon, it's so neat.


In other exciting news, we just ordered almost 50 pounds of meat from the farm here at work. Important staples like bacon and breakfast sausage. I think this will finally mean that we fire up the chest freezer (or the Bat Freezer as we call it, it's black and lives in the basement) because hot on the heels of all this mammal will come cherries and berries and before you know it peaches and it's a fact that our current freezer is usually dumping large containers of homemade chicken stock on your foot when you open it so a little organization and space in there will be welcome. Yay.

** Oh God, I just noticed that this is the second post to start with a version of woo-boy. And before that woowee. I can do better, I know it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Weekend of Yum

Woo-boy, where to start? It was a weekend of getting shit done. The run for the chickens was moved to a new grassy spot, which was all very exciting because I decided that the chickens should roam free while we worked around them and they sure did make the most of it. The girls are a little haggard right now, I think we are dealing with some picking on each other. When we returned from Portland they were out of food, which makes them grumpy and mean, and a few that looked totally normal when we left now look like their butt got stuck in a de-featherer. The confusing part is that almost everyone looks a little beat up, including the one we had pegged as a main meanie. We are trying some topical solutions, some added protein in their water, and the aforementioned new run area. They continue to lay like complete champs though, and everything I read says that this is the big sign to look for in terms of assessing chicken heath. Any readers with chickens feel free to chime in here.

Seeds were ordered to replenish the previous chicken run. Spinach and argulua were reseeded and this time protected from the birds. Another round of leeks went in. We planted cabbage, broccoli, four types of lettuce, bok choy, and carrots, also protected from birds after learning the hard way. Leaf mulch was dug out from under the leaf pile and sifted. The indoor seedlings were thinned while I was awash in the feeling of "how the hell will we fit everything in" although I practically cried anyway. B made a bird scarer from some shiny ribbon.

Laundry, studying for midterms, two papers written, a bunch of tunes played, some reading, a bike ride, grocery shopping, brunch with a friend, and cooking! I need a nap.

Anyway, the cooking. For some reason I got a huge craving for these pickled red onions that they serve at Zuni in San Francisco. Here are two versions of the recipe. It is fussy but easy and boy they are so good. I went with the version with the chili in it for a little spice, and it's just barely there in a perfect way. I ended up with two pretty jars of them and that was after using quite a lot in our dinner. Which was:

Warm Lentil Salad

1 cup dried french lentils*
4 ounces feta cheese
1/4 of a cup chopped italian parsley
2 sweet potatoes roasted this way, then diced
2/3 cup pickled red onions, chopped, more to taste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Olive oil to coat
Ume vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook lentils in 2 1/2 cups of water until tender. Drain. Chop all else, mix, and season with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. So good, and ripe for variations.

*no subbing, these are the only ones that will keep their shape!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Home to Spring

Woowee kids, we are home from a whirlwind tour of the northeast that was fun filled and food filled, just like we like 'em. We soaked up incredible friends, ran said incredible friends All Over Town to eat dim sum and ethiopian food, and sealed the foodie deal by playing an insanely fun game of highly modified Iron Chef with them. Seriously people, do this now, you will not regret it. Thanks for the awesome hosting Josh and Phil!!

Then on to Portland for much needed family visits. Have I said here how much I dig B's family? I have? Oh well, I mean it all over again. Plus, I love Portland. I do not want to love Portland. It's cold and far away from my fabulous family. But every time I go there I think I might love it a little more. I love the ocean that does not mean that there are a lot of people in bikinis all the time. I love the fresh breeze. I love that it seems like a good mix of ages. I love how strong the local food scene is up there. I love that there seems to be a lot of stuff going on that I would want to do but is not overwhelming like the other Portland or New York.

Anyway. The visit was fabulous, if a lot of moving a shaking, so I am glad to have the weekend to poke around outside.

Speaking of outside. Although it was not the snow storm we had secretly hoped for up north, it was still chilly and B's aunt and uncle have an ice floe occupying their entire back yard; suffice to say that spring is knocking on the door but staying outside with muddy shoes up there. So coming home has been one exclamation after the other: bradford pears, weeping cherries, forsythia, quince, willow. So beautiful. We look out onto the largest weeping cherry I have ever seen (like the size of a huge oak, for real), and it is gearing up for the annual spring show.

Plus, our indoor seeds went crazy while we were away. Everything is up: basil, eggplant, delicata squash, butternut squash, tomatillos, lemon basil, sungold tomatoes, hillbilly tomatoes, and sweet peppers. Our hot peppers were on backorder so they just went in yesterday. Such fun.

Anyway we are glad to be home. I hope that everyone had a fabulous week out there. The photos are flowering qince and daffodils in a Diana Fayt vase given to us by this favorite girl (also from Portland, ahem). Love the vase and love her.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Up They Pop

Ooh, just looking at these pictures makes me giggle and hop. We planted our seeds Sunday night. Yesterday was Tuesday, and when B and I crouched down to peer at the seeds I said "No way anything germinated, it's only been two days!" and then we both said, "Hey look at that!" Dozens of little basil heads had popped up, along with one brave Sungold Tomato and a Butternut Squash. Well hello there, welcome to the family.

Also, the peach tree is blossoming. This is a little troubling, as things are sure to get cold around here again. Hermph. Here are some photos, taken at the same time of morning. I do not understand The Flash one bit, it just goes off accidentally when I forget to turn it off and sometimes it is neat.

The time change. Is this kicking anyone's ass? Because it sure is kicking our ass. Next week is spring break, and we have a little trip up to Maine in the cards. We need it, we are pretty worn out around here. There will probably be snow. And exciting foods. And the seeing of some lovely, lovely friends and family. Good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

And We're Off

Pretty seed packets from Pinetree Seeds.

Well kids, game on. This weekend I dug in the dirt for hours and hours and in went the peas, spinach, arugula, and three long rows of leek starts. We are going to succession plant the leeks and try to nail down the best time to start them. Last week sometime I put down black plastic to heat up the soil, and these days in the seventies have not hurt one bit in that department (last Monday students at work were sledding and by Friday they were walking around barefoot, yeesh).

Summer gardening: there is never enough room. Already I have found myself thinking "Well, we could put that in the raised bed." The one for flowers, ahem.

I am a little embarrassed at how sore I am this morning. I think it's mostly from lugging buckets of water from the rain barrels. I staggered around the yard for what seemed like hours yesterday - lemme tell you, it takes a lot of buckets to empty two 60 gallon barrels. A pump for the rear barrel is on The List. We can attach the hose to the one in front and get to the blueberries and fruit trees, but the one in the back is A Chore. Still, I watered our little farm yesterday entirely on rain from the sky.

Other exciting garden news: a friend of ours loaned us a light! For starting seeds inside! And last year B's super fantastic auntie gave us a garden store gift certificate as a housewarming present after we bought our house and we finally used it on two heating mats for the seedlings and some trays and some bulbs and some seed starting soil and we still didn't spend the thing down. Way. Fun. So last night B and I sat on the kitchen floor, he in his awesome Christmas bathrobe from my mum, me in my lovely pink vintage nightie from my mum and we potted and poked tiny holes for tiny seeds: tomatoes, eggplants, basils, winter squash, peppers, tomatillos. All the heat loving things that we normally have to buy as starts. We giggled and smooched and uttered for the millionth time: "I would never be doing this without you." And then we sat in front of the glowing florescent light with great anticipation, as if they would sprout before our very eyes. Yay.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not Yet

Blueberries covered in buds. In the snow.

Garlic that is now about eight inches tall. In the snow.

Girl, keep yer hands off of the seed packets.