October 22, 2012
There’s no way everyone answers these questions the same way. Some of us are focused on growing food. Others simply want a neat & tidy entry to their homes. Folks like me, well, we’ve got a mish-mash of never-ending reasons. Some may seem like worthless distractions — like the video that follows — but I’d argue the distractions are as important as everything else we do outdoors.
This weekend I set a few goals. They seemed reasonable and attainable as I mapped them out over my Sunday morning latte:
- Plant bulbs, including garlic
- Rake leaves & fill composters
- Clear out spent annual containers, including pots of tomatoes
- Pull weeds as you go
Sure, it’s a small list, but I didn’t manage to complete everything before the hail showers arrived mid-afternoon. The decorative bulbs made it into beds from which I pulled weeds as I worked. Many more containers filled with summer’s dead have been cleared. And, our compost bins are filled to the brim and even more leaves are piled in spots where the wind won’t whip them out into the beds in the coming months. (I like to stash as many as I can to refill the compost bins as the months go by.) But, I didn’t manage to get the garlic planting scratched off my list.
Instead of racing to get everything done, I took time to really relax as I worked. I breathed deeply, savoring the fleeting fragrance of fallen Katsura leaves. I looked up as our resident hummingbird buzzed me again and again on his way to feed on nearby Monkshood, Fuchsia and Salvia. And, I looked down, marveling at some of the hardest working & most under-appreciated wildlife in our garden — the earthworm.
Now that the rains have returned for autumn, our luscious soil was teeming with earthworms of all sizes. Traveling through they soil, they make their way upward to feed on the leaf duff, mulch and wood chips. And, as they move through the soil, pooping and sliming along the way, they drop nutrients for the plant roots among which they live and thrive. I enjoyed them so darn much, I even took the time to pull out my camera and film one in action.
Yeah, that’ll slow a gardener down.
More leaves will be falling all winter long, so that’s a never ending chore. And, I’m still in the safe zone to plant my garlic, so it’s okay that didn’t get done.
After I went inside, got cleaned up & planted myself in my favorite reading chair overlooking the garden, I watched flocks of robins, sparrows, wrens, towhees, starlings, chickadees and others make their way into the garden beds where I had recently raked, planted and pulled weeds. The seed eaters feasted upon Love Lies Bleeding, Sunflower and other seeds. The robins scratched their way through the beds looking to snack upon the slurpy worms I’d left behind. Together they put on a show in the pouring rain, entertaining me ’til sunset hid all but the brightest garden bits from view.
Yes, I garden for food, to improve the environment, to get exercise, to make a lush outdoor environment and all that jazz. But I also garden to stay connected to nature — whether I’m filling my fist with soil, planting a bulb (decorative or edible) or simply watching nature in action on our little piece of the planet.
September 21, 2012
There’s still have time to plant some cool season crops in the PacNW. But do it fast or your window will close soon. September is winding down fast afterall.
Not sure what will work?
There’s no guarantee with any seed, but if you want to give some a try, consider these:
- Radish: direct sow and keep those seeds and seedlings consistently moist. The faster they come to harvest, the better they’ll be. More info here.
- Lettuce: direct sow or sow in start trays to thin later.
- Spinach: direct sow and keep moist
- Snow & Snap peas: Have some seed leftover? Roll the dice. Depending on how fall goes, you may get a late harvest — or at least some pea greens to toss into a salad. More info here.
If your planting beds need a rest, get out there and sow your cover crops now. Most nurseries and seed vendors offer selections of seed to work well in your location and replenish your beds over the winter.
If seeds aren’t your thing, be on the lookout at nurseries for chard, kale, leeks and other pre-started crops to pop into your winter beds.
And, don’t forget to order your garlic seed soon. October is the month to get that planted and vendors are shipping seed now!
August 23, 2012
When I played garden sitter for a friend last weekend, I was rewarded with a big harvest of veggies. If I’d left them intact, much of her garden would stop producing soon. So, I picked half a gallon of cherry tomatoes, a few green beans and a couple of enormous zucchini. That was the same day our CSA box came with zucchini and the same day our patty pan squash started coming in. So, what to do with all those extras?
Freeze them, of course!
One of our favorite ways to eat zucchini is to whip them into zucchini latkes. There are loads of recipes out there for making these; our recipe follows. What’s common to those I know is calling for shredded zucchini, so that’s how I prepped our squash for freezing.
I began by shredding the zucchini with a grating blade in the food processor. For the older, tougher fruits, I peeled them first and removed any larger seeds inside. Then, I blanched the shredded bits in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Immediately after cooking, I drained the zucchini and plunged it into ice water to stop the cooking. Then, I drained it to remove a lot of the moisture. (Next time, I plan to put the cooked bits into a clean tea towel and squeeze out even more moisture).
Because the cooked and shredded zucchini was so wet and because we only use about a cup or two at a time when cooking, I had to come up with a way to pre-freeze it in globs before vacuum sealing them for longer storage.
My solution: fill muffin tins with about a cup of the zucchini. Pop the tray in the freezer for several hours to harden. When these “freezer muffins” were hard, they easily popped out of the tray. Then, I vacuum sealed them for the deep freeze.
In winter, I’ll need to defrost the clumps and then wring them out before cooking up our new favorite latkes.
Zucchini Latkes Hagbert Style
These tasty cakes cook up quick! Serve them with a tomato side salad or bit of guacamole and salsa for a fast, delicious breakfast, brunch or even dinner.
1 garlic clove, crushed with sea salt
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 cup shredded zucchini (moisture removed by wringing it out in a tea towel)
salt & pepper (to taste)
olive or coconut oil
Combine onion, garlic, zucchini, eggs, flax seed meal and a bit of salt and pepper.
Warm 1 teaspoon of oil in frying pan over medium-high heat.
Scoop about 1/4 cup of mixture and add to hot oil, pressing down lightly with a spatula to spread out and create a pancake form. Fry on each side until crispy. Before removing from pan, be sure to confirm the interior is cooked through.
Add additional oil to the pan, as needed to fry additional batches.
February 03, 2012
Making your own homemade salad dressings is easy and inexpensive with the right recipes. Growing up on the farm, we ate a lot of homegrown veggies, and salads were always on the menu. And, I don’t remember ever having a store-bought dressing in our fridge.
Today, when I walk the grocery store aisles, I’m stunned to see how many shelves filled with all sorts of bottled gunk to pour over your fresh greens. Yes, I’ve fallen victim to their lure on occasion, but I always find them lacking, composed of fillers and sugars and ridiculously over-priced. So, I return to making a batch of homemade dressing instead.
It only takes a few minutes to whip up a jar that will easily keep in the fridge for several days. And, if you use a canning jar, they’re easy to seal and shake up right before using. Plus, you can wash and re-use the lids since you won’t be trying to seal these for long storage outside the fridge. Just make sure they’re clean and free of any mold and rust first!
Try whipping up this simple recipe, and see if you don’t save some dough, cut down on the additives in many bottled sauces, and enjoy the taste of your salads that much more. We prefer a lower-oil, highly tangy dressing rather than a super sweet one. Definitely experiment and adjust to your taste.
Our Everyday House Dressing: We almost always have a medium-sized mason jar in the fridge filled with this dressing. It is sweet-tangy and very light on the oil. Once it is chilled, the oil and spices will clot at the top of the jar. To make sure we don’t have a bunch of oily clumps in our salad, I take the jar out of the fridge as I begin making our salad. Within a few minutes, the oil melts, and the jar can be shaken to blend the ingredients before dressing the salad. If it doesn’t melt, set the bottle in a dish of warm — not boiling — water, and it will melt a little faster.
- 2 Tablespoons minced onion
- several grinds of black pepper (about 1 teaspoon)
- pinch sea salt (1/4 teaspoon at most)
- 1-2 Tablespoons freshly chopped herbs (optional & changes seasonally depending on what’s in the garden: basil, thyme, parsley)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (can substitute rice wine vinegar or if using red wine vinegar, add 1 t. sugar)
- 2 T. plain yogurt (optional)
- ~ 1/4 cup olive oil (enough to finish filling a 1 cup container)
Using a half-pint size mason jar (or a seal-able container that will hold about 1 cup), place minced onion into jar with herbs, pepper and salt. Pour vinegar over and let stand for at least 15 minutes to mellow the onion. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, whisk the oil and yogurt together. Stir the vinegar mixture a few times, then whisk the vinegar mixture vigorously as you slowly pour in the olive oil (or yogurt-olive oil blend) into the vinegar mixture. If it doesn’t blend to your satisfaction, close the jar with a mason jar lid and band, and shake vigorously. Sprinkle a few tablespoons over a family-sized dinner salad and toss. Re-close container & store in the fridge. It should keep for a week easily, but if you’re a salad eating family, you’ll probably devour it before it goes bad!
Check back over the weeks ahead for more recipes, including: Mom’s 1:Salad simple dressing and a light bleu cheese dressing that will fill you up!
January 11, 2012
Yesterday flurries. Today frozen lawns. And, by Sunday, we may have real snow.
This on the heels of a very mild winter. So mild that bud casings are expanding, loosening and breaking open weeks early on many winter bloomers, leaving these otherwise hearty plants susceptible to any big weather fluxes — like the cold and snow the forecasters are predicting.
So, why blame me? I can’t really control the weather right?
Well, I got way behind on my fall gardening chores. My biggest regret? Not getting my garlic in the ground before November.
Yep, not practicing what I preach.
But, because my seed garlic was still firm and the weather has been so mild, I put it in the ground last weekend. Why let it go to waste? Might as well get any of those last bulbs planted, right?
Sure…unless it freezes and gets super soggy and everything rots before it can set root.
So, yep, you can blame me for the change in weather. I took a risk, and it looks like Mother Nature decided she’d throw a wrench into my late throw of the gardening dice.
Maybe all that garlic will rot. Maybe it will perform great and just come in a little late. Some is planted directly in the garden beds. Another bunch is in a big pot, which I’ll move into the greenhouse today to give it a little protective edge. I’ll be kicking myself come spring and summer (and all the way through next winter) if I don’t get any garlic.
And we’ll see. Maybe it won’t snow. Those forecasters have certainly been wrong before.