Posts filed under ‘gardening’
My husband and I have been working on creating wish lists for each other for future gift buying situations, and also just for fun. (There’s not much budget for actual shopping, so it’s fun to dream)
My wish list has some of the usual suspects for a girl … purses, jewelry, perfume. But also some unusual items:
As if the warm weather weren’t enough to tempt me to be working in the garden, I heard this amazing song on KXCV’s amazing Rhythm and Roots program two weeks ago and it’s been on constant repeat.
Check out Ruth Moody’s The Garden CD if you get a chance, it’s amazing, bluegrassy goodness.
And the beautiful lyrics of The Garden:
O light shine down on me
You know what I need
Shine down on me
Shine down on the garden
Sweet earth alive under me
You know what I need
Cradle me like a seed
As I lay in the garden
O wise and beautiful tree
Standing high over me
Oh the things you have seen
Tell me your story in the garden
Tell it to me in the garden
And tell me
How long have we slept
How long have we wept
There’s work to be done
so vast and so deep
You know what I need
Rain down on me
Rain down on the garden
O light surrounding me
In everything I see
Come and find me in the garden
And tell me
How long have we slept
How long have we wept
There is work to be done
In the garden
It always happens. February rolls around and I can’t wait to get my hands in the garden. (Come 110 degree weather in July, this feeling fades fast.)
Most of the garden is filled with perennial flowers, a lot of which are native species. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for improvisation from year to year, but I always find ways to sneak in some herbs and veggies. (All photos from rareseeds.com, my favorite place to order seeds from)
Plans for this spring:
Amarillo (yellow) carrots
Snow white carrots
Regular orange carrots
This year, I had way more green tomatoes left on the vine than any other year. Thanks to two volunteer tomato plants that grew three times larger than my other tomato plants, I knew I had to find a recipe to take advantage of the bumper crop.
The third attempt was the charm. (The first attempt was using a green pickles recipe by Emeril Lagasse that turned into a hard rock of carmel – not usable. The second attempt was an adaptation of my refrigerator pickle recipe, and after several days those started to taste good, but still not perfect.)
This idea was inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/green-tomato-relish
However, I had many more tomatoes than she had in her recipe, and was missing some ingredients. I adapted and it turned out so tasty.
Here’s what I did:
8 cups of green tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (halved if they are cherry tomatoes, quartered for grape/plum tomatoes, etc)
1 large white onion, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup dried cherries, chopped into very small pieces
1 large cucumber, deseeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
In large sauce pan, bring 3 cups brown sugar, 3 cups vinegar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, 1 teaspoon ginger to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add vegetables/cherries to mixture and reduce to low boil/high simmer for 15-25 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft, some of the liquid has evaporated, and before the tomatoes have begun to disintegrate. Pour into mason jars (this made about 1.5 32 ounce mason jars worth of relish), including enough of the syrup to add some flavor but not so much that it would be swimming (think consistency of pickle relish).
Store in refrigerator for up to a month. Delicious on pork chops, pork loin, grilled cheese sandwiches and more.
As we are tightening our belts, the first thing we started to look at was food cost savings. Eating out is out. Grocery shopping is on a major budget and based off what’s on sale. It’s been a struggle to find cheap things to make that were also tasty, so I thought I’d share some of our recent creations for those in similar situations.
English muffin pizzas (serving size: 5-6. Price per person: 60 cents)
1 bag sourdough English muffins. Split each into two disks, lay on two baking sheets with middle parts of muffin laying up. (Should make 10-12 mini pizzas)
For sauce, look for what is leftover in your fridge. Sure, you can use leftover marinara from pasta, but think outside of the box. Use ranch dressing. We used spinach artichoke dip that was leftover from a party. Spread your base down.
We topped with roma tomatoes from the garden, pineapple tidbits (cheap at 50 cents for a small can) and pieces and stems of mushrooms (also less than $1), and then with mozzarella cheese.
Broil at 400 degrees until cheese is melted and slightly golden (about 10 minutes)
77 cents for English muffins
about 50 cents, 1/4 container of Leftover spinach dip
50 cents, pineapple tidbits
$1, canned mushrooms
75 cents worth of shredded mozzarella
Total: $3.52 for 6 meals
It has taken me a bit to be over this enough to write this, but, our house was hit by a microburst two weeks ago while we were in Kansas City visiting with my inlaws. Luckily, our house was OK, but our garden and backyard – not so much.
Huge, huge branches cracked off of our maple tree in the back, sending a 25-foot branch crashing against our cable lines and power lines. Yes, this was sad and a P.I.T.A., but the saddest, oh the saddest – was the 15-foot-long branch that feel smack dab in the middle of my backyard garden. Half of my sunflowers were broken at the neck, and nearly all of my flowering lemon balm was crushed. My backyard, you see, is the unruly garden, filled mainly with 5-foot-tall lemon balm, 6-foot-tall goldenrod, 6-foot-tall sunflowers, and the occasional lily, black-eyed susan and mint and basil plants. I let it grow unruly and tall because it is visible out my kitchen windows when it grows that tall and makes the view all beautiful bright, sunny, yellow and cool purple flowers. It’s pure joy every time I look out the window.
Except this year, now. With half of the flowers gone and the remaining leaning every which way as a result of the tree damage, it looks uncared for and abandoned. Sigh.
Even worse, the 60+ mph sustained winds knocked down and killed many plants on the side of my house, my beloved 5 feet X 45 foot perennial garden. All of the petals were knocked off my asiatic and day lillies. My yarrow was beaten to the ground. My holly hocks snapped and died. My coneflowers were blown over. Columbine petals were scattered to the wind. Onion and tomato plants toppled. The petals of my carnations blew away. A whole year’s worth of waiting, blown away in one crazy storm.
On the bright side, this is the great thing about perennials – there is always next year.
Farm fresh eggs plus red potatoes plus cucumbers plus green onions and rosemary = one delicious, relatively light and mostly local potato salad. The perfect summer dish. In this recipe, I use roasted potatoes because it gives a crunchier, more defined texture than boiled potatoes. However, if you like a more traditional potato salad, skip the roasting step and boil potatoes like usual.
7-8 medium-sized red potatoes (farmers’ market)
5 eggs (farmers’ market)
1 sprig rosemary (garden)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 springs green onions (garden)
1 cucumber (farmers’ market)
1/4 cup honey mustard
1/8 cup miracle whip
1/8 cup ranch dressing
2 tbsp white rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
Dice potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Leave skin on (it has the vitamins and the pretty color) Throw into large bag with olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp oregano. Shake bag until potatoes are evenly coated, spread into 9X13 pan, and roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
While potatoes are roasting, boil eggs. (Place 7 eggs in heavily-salted water 1 inch higher than tops of eggs. Place on burner on high, uncovered, until water comes to a low boil. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove lid, drain hot water and submerge in cold water to stop the cooking)
While eggs are cooking, chop up rosemary and green onions. Dice cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Throw into large bowl and toss with hands. When potatoes finish, throw into bowl. Peel 5 hard-boiled eggs when finished, chop into bite-sized pieces, throw into bowl. Mix with hands.
In separate, smaller bowl, mix honey mustard, miracle whip, vinegar and water. This makes a tangy, sour potato salad (add sugar if this doesn’t sound appealing to you, or increase amount of miracle whip and decrease honey mustard). When you have achieved the right consistency (using more or less water as needed), pour into potato mixture and mix with two forks until evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve.
I love, love, love this time of year for cooking, farmers’ markets and food straight from the garden. Cooking is simpler, lighter, healthier and quicker this time of year, and everything tastes so much better. Yum.
Almost every Saturday we (or sometimes just me) get up at a reasonable time and head to the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market. We don’t have a huge market here, about 12-18 booths depending, but you can always find something delicious this time of year. We always go armed with $20, and walk away with a pretty good haul. For instance, this weekend for $18 I came home with:
1 brick of garden cheddar goats cheese
1 package goats milk cheese curds
15 new red potatoes
5 amazing, ripe, drip down your face peaches’
I am a half-committed locavore, especially in the summer when finding local treats is much easier. I’ve read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And here’s the thing – there are a million reasons to try to eat local (ideally organically local, but local trumps organic every time). It supports farmers in your area. It cuts down on the need for fertilizer, pesticides, etc. because you are eating foods that are meant to grow in that season. The foods are fresher, because they don’t have to be picked, packed, refridgerated and shipped for days on end. You have more vitamins in fresher food. You cut down on the carbon footprint by reducing the amount of oil needed to ship your food. But here’s the thing – you don’t even need to know all of that. All you need to know is: it tastes SO. MUCH. BETTER.
Throughout this week, check back and see how these yummy buys, and some key ingredients from the garden, have combined to make yummy, partially local, easy and healthy meals!
Today I turned 25, and for some reason this feels like a monumental birthday to me. Growing up, I always saw 25 as being the official marker of adulthood. (Who considers a 21-year-old an adult, really?) It’s the age your car insurance goes down, it’s a quarter of a century, it’s the age my parents were when I was born. There’s no denying it now, I’m really an adult.
Years from now, looking back on this birthday, I want to remember how completely content I am. Madly in love with my husband. Gainfully employed in a job that is fulfilling on most days, working with people I genuinely love. Working in an entirely different field that I imagined 3 years ago. Gaining rich, rewarding volunteer experiences. Still close to the people who have been my friends for 12+ years now. Earning enough to not struggle much from month to month, and close enough to recent history when that wasn’t the case to really appreciate what that means. Living day to day life in our cute, tiny, cozy little house filled with my favorite man, my favorite furry friends. A still relatively new homeowner that marvels at the ability to paint walls, tear up flooring, and create a home. Proud caretaker of a fledgling perennial garden that isn’t weeded as much as it should be. Increasing confidence in the direction of my life, of my redefined career goals, of my growth as a woman, wife, future mother, friend, employee.
I can’t help but wonder what the next quarter century has in store. In another 25 years, I hope to be the proud mother of one or two college graduates. To have established a slightly larger, but still just as cozy home on an acre or so where our children come back to visit us, to stay in a home that’s filled with memories for them.
To have a huge king sized bed with a worn, lumpy mattress from Saturday morning cartoons in bed with our kids and our dogs piled under the covers.
To still be madly in love with my handsome husband, getting ready for a new section of our life as the parents of grown children. To be established in my career, and have my husband in a career he loves, too. To have the time to really give back. To have a huge garden that feeds us in the summer but also fills the house with beautiful perennial flowers.
To have traveled to a country on a different continent (preferably multiple countries and multiple continents). To know how to finish a quilt from beginning to end. To be looking forward to watching my husband’s eyes light up at holding our first grandchild. (Woah.)
Life is a beautiful, surprising, joyful journey. I am so thankful for these first 25 years and all of the simple pleasures they have held. To the next quarter century.