Around this same time last year I was already planting my egg carton seedlings but I learned the hard way that it was just too early for them to go in the ground. As in, they all died. They had been started in February so this year, I’m a few weeks later getting them started but hopefully that means I will have significantly more success with my seedlings!
That huge stack of egg cartons? Yup, I asked my husband a while ago to start saving them for me. He’s so good to me! I took my egg cartons, my potting soil (you can also use garden soil), my trowel, Digz gloves and of course my seeds outside to get to work. I didn’t buy any new seeds this year as I have a pretty good stash so I plan on trying to make it through a few more of what I already have before I buy anything new but I sorted the seed packets (and saved seeds) into sections first.
Once everything was laid out in categories– for example all squash-type things went together like pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon and zucchini– I could decide what was a late spring crop that could go directly in the ground like Brussel’s sprouts and what needed to be started in the carton like watermelon.
It’s as simple as adding dirt, labeling and popping in the seeds. Later, I lined the lid of each carton with foil so that it holds the seeded part and keeps the bottom dry. But before I could do that, I was precariously carrying my three cartons into the house all together just asking for this to happen:
That’s right, I completely dumped out one and a half cartons. Arg. So what I actually did is refilled one carton with what seeds I could see and emptied out the third carton. Looks like my surprise squash planting last year is becoming a tradition where I plant some seeds and have no idea what I’m growing. Makes it more exciting this way???
Are you working the garden yet? I’m looking forward to seeing our grape vines start to grow little leaves and to see if the peas I planted in a new spot this year do well. What are you planting?
Instead of traveling over the long weekend my husband and I stuck around while I did some of my favorite things: spent time in the kitchen, time in the garden, built something, and took a little drive. I can be very predictable. I took some phone pictures along the way and thought I would share some of my sunny weekend with those of you who had snowy long weekends, instead!
While I was initially intimidated by making my own yogurt (any recipe that requires over an hour of waiting scares me off at first pass) I finally got around to it using this recipe. It’s exactly like the store bought stuff and it so much cheaper that I will definitely be doing this again. Using four cups of milk and four tablespoons of yogurt yielded two pint jars and a not-quite-full half-pint jar. This method can be used for ANY type of yogurt (soy, coconut, goat milk, etc.) by using the “milk” and yogurt of matching types.
I strained my yogurt to get thicker yogurt like the Greek stuff. I save my whey as I’ve mentioned before to add to beans, bread, soups, and anything else I can think of. It still has vitamins and nutrients in it so I either freeze it to use later or in this case, I made a big pot of soup last night and it all went into the pot!
While I didn’t take any pictures of the finished product, I built a simple trellis for one of my grape vines over the weekend. The first step was to do a little digging and put in the posts but as is true in our backyard, before digging we always run into a few cinder blocks. Luckily I only found one and it came out of the ground pretty easily. Digging out the grape vine to transfer it to this new location was not as easy and I’m hoping it makes it after all the cutting I did. Oops. At least it won’t have to share the arbor with a rose, wisteria and another grape anymore.
So I guess it’s spring-ish around here? Came across the first (and always tiny) asparagus shoot in the garden. For size comparison, that’s one of my Digz gloves you see it on. While small, it was delicious fresh from the garden.For my grand finale, I give you my new favorite tile: glass and travertine. Let me explain how I came across this: The husband and I like to take Sunday drives occasionally and explore the area. There is a really, really, fancy, expensive neighborhood a short drive away and as we found ourselves purposefully getting lost, we saw a sign for an open house. The conversation in the car went like this:
Wife: “Ooooooo, open house. Let’s go!”
Husband: “What? Why? That house is going to be sooo expensive.”
Wife: “I know, I just want to see it, it’s an open house. Look, there’s another sign, we’re already here, let’s just go!”
Husband: *Begrudgingly drives to house*
As soon as we pulled up out front we knew we were soooo way out of our league. Someone had bought a house here, razed it, and built a brand-new fancier (exponentially more expensive) new construction home with all the premium finishes throughout. After we both embarrassed ourselves with the real estate agent showing the house (we were the only ones there since the house was so darn expensive so we had to chat and expose our out-of-league-ness) a neighbor showed up to see the house and we snuck off to see the place. And the highlight was this tile. I love it. Maybe it’s not too late to put a backsplash in our kitchen?
How was your weekend? Any cooking going on? Have you started gardening yet or is it still too cold? Are you an open house crasher, too?
Picture some tacky, clubby “unce unce” music coming on after reading that title, will ya? No? Not feeling it? I am. Because seriously, I think 2013 is going to be my lucky year. It’s my lucky number year, anyhow.
And I’m off to a good start. Last weekend I got out into the garden to cut back some of the roses. It’s a little early since you’re supposed to wait until you’re done getting frosts but our area never gets a hard frost so we should be fine. This weekend I’ll get around to more rose trimming, wisteria trimming/ training and then I’ll work on the two grape vines. My husband and I realize that we may have planted them too close and intend to transplant one to a new location and build a simple trellis for it this weekend. The garden doesn’t get ignored ever, even in winter! I’m still using produce including kale, limes, cilantro and some sort of ripe tomatoes that I’ve let stay on one piddly plant. I figure they’re no worse than tomatoes you buy in the store this time of year (tomatoes, are NOT in season, people!).
In my continuing quest to make edible bread (the early attempts of which I don’t believe I’ve shared in this space because they were a wee bit sad) — not to be confused with my quest to make the world’s best cheese rolls– I tried a King Arthur Flour recipe with great results. I’m going to see what I can do to make sure there’s plenty of healthy stuff in there and maybe eventually this bread, risen with both commercial yeast AND my sourdough starter, can replace store bought bread in our home? One can hope! I’ve been hearing more and more about locally grown and milled flours so that will be my next avenue in the bread world.
It’s not all healthy bread baking and gardening, there’s infused vodka around these parts as well. Yuzu seems to be the new “golden” ingredient lately. It’s a citrus fruit that looks like a Mandarin orange except more yellow. It’s also quite fragrant and smells almost more like orange blossoms do than a citrus fruit. When I saw them next to the Mandarin oranges at our farmer’s market I grabbed one to try (and then the farmer “forced” a kiwi upon us that looks like three melded together, usually not sold in markets because they look funny and we devoured it). Most recipes focus on the fragrant peel of the fruit so, since I didn’t want to make a dessert infused with it, I went the easy route and peeled just the skin (leave the white pith out!) and put it in a jar of vodka. You may remember this method from my limoncello recipe. Eventually I can use the vodka as is or add simple syrup to make “yuzucello.” I’ll try and remember to make an update about how it turns out!
And on the home front, because gardening and making recipes aren’t all I do around here, I have a project that stares me right in the face each night. If you follow me on Pinterest you may have noticed my new closet obsession.
This view of our main bedroom (is it a “master” if the only difference between this bedroom and the other one is the addition of a closet?) hasn’t really been shared on the blog before. We have side-by-side standard closets that take up this entire wall despite the openings not really showing that aspect. When our house was built in 1947 I’m thinking that men and women each needed their own separate closet, no sharing! And also it was probably more cost effective to have the two smaller openings than making this some sort of larger door.
As you might imagine, these dark (nope, no lights in them!) closets with a wall covering each side may be better accessed by opening the space, losing a couple of inches of wall separating them, and adding a 3-door sliding system so there’s no lost space. It would also mean we could add some closet organization stuff to make better use of the limited space. I’m trying to convince my husband this is a project I am totally capable of taking on (it’s just demo, right!?) minus the possible electrical work since there’s a plug that we had added where that small night stand is on that wall. We will see how that goes! But since this is my lucky year, anything is possible!
That’s what’s happening around these parts. So tell me, ever taken out a wall on your own? Are you going to make some infused vodka or limoncello now that we’re in citrus season? Is your garden totally non-existent during winter in your parts or do you have some winter garden maintenance, too?
The Thanksgiving table this year had several mason jars with foliage from the garden, some of which were kale leaves and roses. After Thanksgiving, and after the roses had expired, I had a little jar of water and kale leaves on my counter for two weeks. When I went to toss them I discovered that they had grown roots?
I honestly have no idea what this means but I did the logical thing and stuck them in my raised garden bed where they’ve been for a week and so far haven’t wilted. Is this a way to grow new stalks of kale?
I’ll keep ya’ll updated on what happens with the kale leaves. The stalks that were planted by seed last spring are still going strong and producing lots of leaves. Speaking of the raised garden bed that my sister and I built last April, it’s still holding strong though the area around it is now green with weeds from the rain we’ve been getting. My wonderful husband installed a drip system in my garden for when the weather is dry and it’s helped some things take root.
There are a few small lettuces, some cilantro that is still leftover from summer, beets I’ve neglected to harvest, the kale I mentioned before and some new additions including purple cabbage and only one brussel’s sprout plant (all from seed).
Those purple cabbage plants are looking a little windblown! Also, it’s citrus season in California and our limes are finally taking off and looking ready! A few ripe ones have dropped from our little tree and the mint is still going strong. Mojitos, anyone?
Last but not least, I had to show off the gnarly weeds we get in our area. There are some spiky looking weeds that are pretty harmless and then there are spiky weeds that have spines sharper than our rose bushes! These things are NOT to be messed with!
Anyone else have a winter garden or root sprouting kale? Or weeds that are sharper than barbed wire!?
There are still things that surprise me in my relatively tiny garden. Salamander/newts in the garden? Commonplace now. Pumpkins cracking on their own and rotting? It’s happened a few times. Pound and a half tomatoes? Duh. But this was a new first.
Uhhhh… what is that!?
I spent Sunday cleaning out the gardens– and gathered over six pounds more of usable tomatoes!– pulling out tomato plants, pumpkin plants, zucchini plants that were all past their growing prime and called the season officially done until I start seeds in February. The same pumpkin plant that grew a gorgeous, massive 20-plus pound pumpkin for my Thanksgiving table also covered just about everything in its path in my side yard including several rose bushes and a very old looking fuschia plant. And what you see above is the result of a pumpkin plant covering an already somewhat sad looking plant that otherwise grows beautiful flowers (and normal leaves) like this only a few months prior:
After calling in Ghostbusters and establishing that it wasn’t going to hurt me, I lopped the gross parts off and am thinking it might be time to do some transplanting if possible of the fuschia and roses back there so the pumpkin destruction is reduced next year. And if this fuschia doesn’t make the transplant, at least I put an end to it’s weird mutant misery.
Anyone every successfully transplant old roses or fuschias? Or catch one trying to grow it’s own body our of green furry leafiness?
The month of November flew by but somewhere in there the husband and I hosted nine friends and family members for our second annual Thanksgiving feast!
Last year we laid the table (which was two tables pushed together and surrounded with every chair we had) for 11 people with drop clothes, silver, crystal and cloth napkins. Between that dinner and this year’s, my grandma gave me two beautiful linen tablecloths that were my great-grandmother’s. Naturally it was worth breaking out the nice linen to lay under my other great-grandma’s silver and my hand-me-down crystal (which may have been yet another great-grandma’s).
Even with two less people our standard dining table would not have fit everyone and while I debated buying an eight-foot banquet table to keep, we ended up renting a table, chairs and a green linen to go under my great-grandmother’s. It was well worth the very minimal rental fee and my husband and father just had to pick everything up and drop it off. Worked great!
My grandmother said that this linen was custom monogrammed in Chicago for my grandfather’s mother. There are also matching napkins that I have but there was only so much dry cleaning I was ready to commit to. With such lovely silverware, glassware and linens being used, I kept everything on the table to a minimum and took things from my garden.
Centerpieces were mason jars with the garden’s straggling roses and kale. My pumpkins made an appearance and even my giant French muscat pumpkin was finally picked as a beautiful centerpiece! It doesn’t look terribly crazy but it weighed in at over 22 pounds!!! Quite the show piece and I’m very proud of it.
The grape vines in our backyard do turn fall colors so I made use of a few large leaves with more roses.
We serve the food buffet style in our home because even if I hadn’t put anything on the table it would have been a tight fit with all the dishes we had!
After setting the table it became crunch time in the kitchen where my spatchcocked turkey was cooking and I was finishing up some last minute side dishes. My dad got some pictures but I haven’t seen them yet!
I’m so thankful that I was able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my loved ones and that I have been entrusted with pieces of history from my family. I cherish the loved heirlooms from my ancestors and look forward to enjoying them for years to come.
I know, I know, two Farmer Fridays in a row I’m writing about pumpkins. I can’t help it. I’m obsessed. One plant already did it’s thing giving me three small baby bam pumpkins, but my other plant (that happens to have gotten MUCH bigger) still appears to be thriving. But I think I made a mistake. I think I under watered.
When a second large pumpkin appeared on the vine virtually over night I noticed a bad thing, a very bad thing. It’s underside (the blossom side) was totally cracked. Too much growing, not enough water? Being the optimist that I am, I flipped it so water wouldn’t pool in the crack and hoped for the best. Nature showed me that sometimes the best doesn’t happen.
Yup, that’s the underside. See that giant crack in it? Yikes. I had to cut it off the vine (which I obviously should have done sooner) when I noticed it was starting to seriously rot and not ripen. Shoot. Needless to say I’ve now been diligently watering with hopes that the late season pumpkins might not have similar troubles and the one large pumpkin still on the vine will ripen in time for Thanksgiving.
This is not the last you will hear of pumpkins, certainly, this year. There are still several to be baked for pumpkin puree/ chunks and recipes to share. I’m still crossing my fingers that at least one of these larger pumpkins will be usable as well!
Most people hear “apple picking” and think of a chill in the air, scarves, tromping through a bucolic orchard and maybe coming back to the farm house to get apple cider and apple cider donuts. Or maybe that’s just what I think of when I see folks posting pictures on Facebook of cloudy skies and bright red apples. And I wanted that! I wanted the cool weather and the feeling of Fall. Sweet apples and apple cider donuts. I didn’t quite get that when I convinced my husband and our friends to venture to Petaluma, CA for the only apple picking place I could find in the Bay Area (it helped that it was sort of out of the way but north so we could do our wine club selections on the same day!).
In the Northern California Bay Area our Fall is known for stupendous Indian Summer weather. Instead of cold and overcast, as San Francisco can be for most of the summer, suddenly the sun glares down and we get hot weather. As it turned out, this weekend we had already selected for wine tasting turned out to be over 90-degrees. It felt like the height of summer, not a beautiful fall day. Undeterred, we headed to Chileno Valley Ranch to pick apples. If it was going to be hot, we could still enjoy a day spent outside in the beautiful California countryside.
Our first impression of this place when we arrived: Holy smokes, the parking lot is chock full of mini vans and Subarus! And we arrived at what we thought was a reasonable morning hour (around 11am after about an hour and a half drive). We pressed on. We got our “orientation” from a nice volunteer after walking by the sheep and goats. Each couple grabbed a paper bag and we did our best to ignore the throngs of city parents with their rug rats. Then, I wandered over to the front of the orchard and discovered…. it was yellow jacket season! There was a peach tree, right up front, swarming with the bitey bugs. And my husband is very allergic. Super. He decided to play it safe and wandered off to feed sheep apples while the other three of us went to collect our apples in the hot sun.
We had been instructed to gently tug on the apples and if they didn’t come off easily, they weren’t ripe yet. The volunteers also directed us to which varietals were ready for picking which were about half of the 15+ types they had planted. I will say, once we were in the orchard there were significantly less yellow jackets and kids around so it wasn’t too bad. It was fun to see all the different kinds of apples and go around picking and choosing.
Near the end, when my bag had a little more weight, I thought I would try one of my lovely apples. I bit in and …. not really that good. Not juicy, kind of tart (when it was supposed to be sweet), and maybe not very ripe? Lucky me, there were cows who were happy to eat apples, even if they had a bit out of them.
When we were done, there was no apple cider. No apple cider donuts. Or pies. Or canned goods. There were eggs and meat for sale, but that wasn’t what we had in mind. This certainly was not the apple picking experience I envisioned. While it wasn’t terrible, most of the apples got used for baking (apple cider muffins covered in sugar and spice and overnight slow cooked apple butter) and we probably won’t be going back any time soon. I think we were all glad we did it because now we know what that farm is like, but next time we head up north, we’ll stick to wine tasting and picnicking al fresco.
Tell me, do you/have you gone apple picking in your area? Is it more of the chilly weather, delicious apple experience that I thought this was going to be?
Finally. I finally grew fully ripened pumpkins this year. By January of 2012 all I had was a sad withered looking thing, but this year with Baby Bam pie pumpkins I had success and I am now enjoying my successes on display.
Sure there are only three (so far!) and sure one is about the size of an orange (but it’s SO cute!) but I call it a success. My fancy french pumpkins, which ended up not getting big enough to ripen quick enough last year, show more promise this year but I’m not sure if the first large pumpkin will ripen?
While the Baby Bam plant has withered and died after producing three small pumpkins this large musque de provence squash plant has taken over, looks to be getting stronger and is now covered in furry baby pumpkins. Besides this large one above, there was one other large one that developed but the bottom of it cracked open probably due to lack of water. Oops. I figure if I aggressively water for the next few weeks there may be some improvement and some new little ones might start but that doesn’t give them much time in decent weather to mature.
These pumpkins were started around June, will they make it to full mature pumpkins by Thanksgiving?