Tag Archives: state of the garden

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

Today, the new moon shifts from Taurus into Gemini.
The folks at Hoodwitch – who point out that this one is a Super Moon? – mention that this is a time when people may find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed, or else feeling like they can take on more than they actually can. (Guilty. My wife totally sat me down and told me not to reinvent the wheel on a particular project). They suggest that this is a good time, energetically, for rituals around goal-setting (new moons in general) but particularly for creative writing, communication, and social boundaries: Gemini is chatty and social, but is also an Air sign so, tarot-wise, Gemini exists in Sword Time, in terms of things you may want to focus on. Want to Work yourself to be better at Using Your Words? Now’s the time to do it. Want to get your actions more in line with your actual values? This – especially with Venus squaring Pluto right now – is a prime opportunity get that stuff sorted out, make a plan and implement it (for longer-term project, which this might be, I recommend Miss Sugar’s New Year New You magical-action project prompts – I’ve found them really helpful on a number of occasions). Want to focus and get clear about some Stuff you’ve got that’s keeping you confused and spiraling, dig down and sort out what you really, really want (as Ariel, at Siobhan’s Mirror, suggests I do in her Scorpio Tarotscope for this New Moon), or maybe let go of some Old Baggage? This is a good time to work on that (and, handily, Hoodwitch has you covered with a Meditation suggestion).
 
Liz Worth talks about Gemini New Moon as a time of social choices. She offers a handy tarot spread (bottom of the linked post) and asks us to consider who is choosing us, and where we’re putting our social energy. Are we deepening connections with people who matter to us? Are we reaching out to people who reach back to us? Or are we tossing our social energy “juggling balls” at people who aren’t tossing them back, and aren’t showing up? Are we expressing ourselves to the best of our abilities? She points out that Gemini Time has a shadow side that looks like indecision and lack of commitment, and a certain amount of abdication when it comes to owning our choices (and our ability to make them). <– This is absolutely something that I have a LOT of problems with and am only very recently starting to get the hang of. I've been faced with a series of crap options on the personal front and, not liking any of them, have chosen to stick with the status quo while telling myself (and firmly believing) that someone else had all the power in those situations… even though, really, I was making a choice to stick with something that wasn’t going well. This Gemini New Moon is a good reminder for me to watch myself, and my (in)actions, in those situations. As Hoodwitch points out: “Practice acceptance this week, even about the things you want to change. Acceptance isn’t consent; it’s self-awareness.”
 
Questions to Ask Yourself during Gemini New Moon and its Waxing Period:
What can I cultivate, nurture, and allow to take root within myself as this moon waxes?
You’ve got all that composted energy from the recent Balsamic Moon to work with so, set goals, yes. But then act on them. A goal is just a wish, if you don’t put some action into it. For each goal you set, come up with one internal and one external action you can take to further it. (E.G.: I want to use my words better. Internal Actions: I can do a faceup tarot spread to help me sort out what I want to say, or I can bless and drink a tea made from nettles and thyme, to bolster my courage and my way with words. External Actions: I can push myself to Use My Words to ask for what I want or need – attention, respect for a boundary, choose your own adventure – clearly and specifically, once a day, for a week… and see how I feel).
What I can I breathe through and/or air out during this period of clarity? Gemini Time means connections, but Air Time more generally means boundaries and sometimes cutting ties, whether with people or with old habits. Get clear on what are deal breakers (and who or what need to be offered less of your time, energy, and attention as a result) versus what are things you can accept as a “price of admission” in your social interactions (and therefore work to stop spending your energy stewing about them)?
 
Ariel’s tarotscope for Scorpio suggests that good things (and some much-needed financial/material stability) come for those who stand their ground. Which is a relief to hear. Gods know I have a hell of a time talking about Money Stuff, and don’t have a really solid grasp of what “normal” or “healthy” look like when there’s cash on the table (or not on the table, as the case may be). I hope her predictions hold true, but I suspect I’ll need to Use My Words and have some scary/stressful discussions in the near future to make sure of that. O.O
 
As far as good things coming to me go… I’ve landed another part-time contract: One day per week (or a little less – more like 4 hours, with the option of a few more as needed) at a very respectable rate of pay, working From Home for a friend who needed, essentially, a research assistant. I’ve also received a wodge of seeds and starts from friends of mine (an aubergine and a jalapeno pepper; a couple of ground cherries; a whole bag of seed packets that I can use in the front and back gardens). I’m really enjoying showing off my garden, and trading rhubarb (stewed or cooked up like lemon curd) for plant starts or giving it as thank-yous. I’m also enjoying harvesting from it! Rhubarb Bars, stewed rhubarb for desserts; baby mustard greens, dandelion greens, and garlic chives for dinner veggies with pasta and cheese sauce; sage (which is about to flower – it’s gorgeous in flower!) used to flavour dips and roasts.
The garden doesn’t quite have its legs yet, so to speak, but it’s getting closer every day. I spaced out my radishes this morning, and we’ll have them to eat in another week or so. The chard is starting (slowly) to take off, and so is the kale. I’ve (re)-sewn sorrel, and I hope it will germinate this time ’round. I may be able to get some lovage (a heavy perennial “herb” that works more like a vegetable. You use the stalks and leaves in place of celery and I think it would be good for “transition periods” – right when it’s available – for soups, stews, and as a pot veggie to cook up with a roast) from a friend of a friend.
I planted (well, seed-scattered) larkspur, forget-me-not, and field poppies in the front yard, and I now have lupin and nasturtium seeds to add as well. I’ll be getting some Lily-of-the-Valley and, maybe, some Dame’s Rocket (“Wild Phlox”) seeds later in the summer, after they’ve had a chance to seed. My goal is to hit up one of the markets (Byward or Parkdale) in the next week or so and see if I can’t get my hands of a few more herb, flower, and veggie starts to top things off but, for the moment, I’m waiting for my seeds to germinate… so that I can remember where they were planted. Adding more transplants has to wait until then! 😉
 
 
~*~
 
Movement: Not a whole heck of a lot. I spent most of last week sick, and I’m still recovering. I’m finding I need more sleep than usual (or at least “usual” during long-daylight time) and I get tired faster. I’m still walking a lot, and working in my garden (which involves lots of bending and squatting and digging), but I’m also taking a lot of rest breaks.
 
Attention: Paying a LOT of attention to boundaries and how much energy I have available to throw at any given project. Some of this means checking, and double-checking my schedule to make sure I know how much of my time is devoted to Other People (whether that’s social time OR paid-work time) versus how much I have available for writing, tending the garden, home-keeping, and other stuff that’s more solitary and self-recovering. Also working to be more actively attentive-to/engaged-with my wife, making time for date excursions and conversations, trying to make a little LESS space in my life for “screen time” (says the lady who has been on her computer for four hours at this point…)
 
Gratitude: Friends & family who give me things – Plant starts, seeds, a covered hotel room (!!!), a car to borrow (!!!), knife-throwing lessons, a recently-replaced washer and dryer (!!!!!) – to help me out. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how excited I am about all of the above, but in particular about the fact that we are going to have an in-house washing machine and drying machine as soon as early June! To be able to make the week’s bread, work my new from-home job, do the dishes, AND do the laundry all at the same time? SO AMAZING!) Grateful, too, for a long walk with my wife, dinner and conversation (and compassionate advice) with a friend, garden chats and catching up with other friends. The ability (thanks to the above-mentioned car and hotel room) to attend my family reunion in mid-June. Grateful for warm weather and long, sunny days. Grateful that my neighbour lets me use her garden hose to water my plants.
 
Inspiration: Dane Edidi’s poetry book, Remains: A Gathering of Bones JUST arrived in the mail, and I’m looking forward to digging into it. I’m also told that one of my library holds has come in, and I’m excited to dig into the work of one of Urban Fantasy’s grandmothers. I’m also getting inspired by the garden- and kitchen-craft of other folks – whether they’re friends and neighbours, or long-distance folks whose blogs I read. It’s great to geek about gardening and fermenting with other people who do what I do, to trade plants (or SCOBYs), and get ideas for what to try next.
 
Creation: Lots of kitchen creativity. Lots of garden nurture, though that’s not exactly “creative” on my part. Coming up with new recipes. Writing poems. Made jewelry for a friend (who was wearing them when she won her Big Award – I’m so chuffed about that tiny, rather insignificant, but special for me detail). Hoping I can push next week for a writing date or two. I read the work of people who come up with, like THIRTY, GOOD poems in the space of seven days, and I’m just like… How do you do that?? But I want to try, too, so I shall. (Remember what I said, above, about Internal and External things I can do to forward my goals? External: Schedule writing dates and put them in the calendar, then follow-through and attend them. Internal: Refill my creative well by reading lots of poetry by other femmes (which will then be glossed in my poetry writing, so…)

May Long Weekend in the Garden – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been sprouting and there has been planting! Of both seeds and starts! And there has also been (a tiny bit of) harvesting! Because perennial food crops are fantastic!
 
PLANTED:
I picked up some starts from the local Home Hardware (I’m not choosy). Purple basil, peppermint (I seriously managed to kill my peppermint last year – possibly due to drought, or possibly due to poor management – so I’m trying again), Lebanese cucumber, yellow bell pepper, and yellow cherry tomato. I got them in the ground early this afternoon, along with planting some golden zucchini seeds. We’ll see if they come up.
 
I’ve got scarlet runner beans and butternut squash, along with a “perimeter fence” of daikon radish (I’m hoping the long, thick tap-roots that develop will help keep water in, and invasive runner roots out, of the in-ground bed where I grow my cucurbitas and all my nightshades) planted as seeds, and have some probably-butternut squash coming up from compost-seeds already, which is nice. My rainbow chard is popping up all over, and I spent part of this afternoon transplanting it into more orderly rows (yeah, I’m doing rows… ish. I want my chard to have lots of room to get big and gorgeous and start thriving). My kale – which is, in theory, the Tuscan Black variety (Cavalo Nero) – seems to have sprouted, too, which is nice. I’ve been thinning out the self-seeded mustard greens a LOT in order to give the chard and kale some room to grow. Mustard, I’ve decided, makes a lovely “baby green” for salads, but isn’t something I love as a cooking green, partly because it bolts so darned quickly. It makes for decent sprouting broccoli when it bolts, though, so I’ll have to leave some to mature. 😉
 
The as’kebwan’ (sunchokes) are starting to sprout (again – I dug up a bunch earlier, as I needed to get the last of last year’s harvest out of the ground, once it had thawed – they’re great, by the way, and finding their way into a lot of stew and “potato” salad).
I have no idea if my (new to me) raspberry bush is going to flower this year. Or any year. But fingers crossed?
 
READY TO HARVEST / HARVESTED:
I have tonnes of rhubarb (and sage, and winter savoury) ready to harvest. Along with some frozen rhubarb left over from last year. Uhm. So, as I’ve previously mentioned, I need to make some pies. Or at least a Rhubarb Cafloutis or a crumble or shortcake or something. It makes a great coffee cake (I use the recipe in Company’s Coming “Muffins and More” for cranberry coffee cake, and just use diced rhubarb in lieu of cranberries) and, now that I have eggs in the fridge again, I may just go that route as it packs easily for lunches.
 
The sage has been getting picked and chucked into braises, fairly frequently, but I haven’t been doing a whole lot with the savoury. The dandelion greens and Vietnamese garlic (the tops, not the roots) have been getting added to pastas every so often, but (weirdly?) I’m concerned about using them up too quickly (or at least before the garlic starts to scape).
 
OTHER:
I turned the compost (first time!) and edged the in-ground beds (front and back). I’m happy with how the compost is doing. I put stuff like pizza boxes and newspapers in the compost heap in order to add carbon to a pretty “green stuff” heavy heap (at least I think it’s heavy on the green stuff, as it’s mostly spent coffee grounds, old tea bags, egg shells, and veggie ends) and its rotting into oblivion along with everything else, which I assume is a good sign.
Also, there are wriggly worms in the compost (and even in the raised beds!) and the soil in the back yard’s in-ground bed (which, until Wednesday, the compost heap was sitting directly on top of) is dark a relatively easy to turn – unlike the dirt in the rest of the yard, which is pretty compacted and mostly supports stuff with deep tap-roots, like dandelions.
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been baking and fermenting!
 
FERMENTS:
I’m drinking a LOT of kombucha lately. Partly because I’ve been home, sick, this past week, and drinking Lots Of Fluids has been a significant part of the bill, and partly just because it’s hot out now, or reasonably so, and I’m wanting cool bevvies, rather than hot ones (at least when I’m not hacking up a lung. Appetizing, I know). So I’ve been topping up my kombucha bottle a lot more frequently. NOTE: This makes for a less sharp kombucha which, with my love of the sour stuff, isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s still good, it’s just “lighter” than I like. I continue to cut it with a cup or two of lightly sweetened, long-steeped hibiscus (raspberry/pomegranate/etc) tea, as I like how that works out.
 
I’m continuing to make dairy kefir. My wife won’t touch it in terms of using it as a yoghurt substitute, but she likes it fine in baked goods, so I’m using it a lot in pancakes and coffee cake and similar. Even in bread (see below). I’m making Very Small Batches, and hoping I can get back to the stuff I was making in winter, where it would separate really evenly into curds and whey, and I could get super-thick “kefir cheese” (more like yoghurt or sour cream) that way, while using the whey in things like bechemel sauce or briases. Today, I made chocolate popsicles using (1) chocolate chips, (2) coconut milk, and (3) kefir. They probably won’t be solid until tomorrow, but they should be VERY delicious (and not overly sweet, which is a help when you want something refreshing on a hot day) if the liquid mixture is anything to go on.
 
I (finally) drained my sour kraut crock and packed the fermented cabbage (which is crunchy and done, but also salty AF, holy moly…) into some big mason jars and put it in the fridge. Time to start using this stuff on sandwiches. (Conveniently, I have some beet-and-bean spread sitting in the fridge that will work really nicely with this).
 
Speaking of sandwiches… I tried making a sour dough starter. It.. was not that? successful?
I separated out into Kinda Brown Water on top, and sludge on the bottom. Except, when I drained off the water, it was actually pretty bubbly and fermented-looking. So… It sort of worked? Maybe?
Basically, I poured the entire ferment into my most recent batch of bread, along with 2tsp of dry yeast, so while it was doing its thing, I don’t actually know if it was lively enough to lift a whole new batch of dough.
Yeah.
I’m learning to make sour dough from books like Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and I’m not too quick on the uptake. I don’t usually (yet) start making my bread dough the night before I actually want to bake it, and I’m realizing that if I want to do sour dough, that’s how it’s going to go. Or else I’m going to be starting the chef – like maybe making a chef from equal parts kefir and flour and water, which I’ve done, but am not entirely sure about (my wife liked it. I wasn’t too keen on the texture, which was a lot denser than I’m used to, but it was flavourful and made an acceptable sandwich, so it did the job) – at breakfast, and baking the bread after dinner. This is, by the looks of things, a bit of a slower process than the “only takes 2 hours” version using dry yeast woken up in sweetened warm water. So we’ll see. I’d like to keep this up, just because it would be nice to not need the dry yeast, eventually. But, for now, I’m really glad I have some on hand.
 
BAKING:
The entirety of this week’s baking has been the above-mentioned bread and rhubarb coffee cake. There are a couple of chicken legs baking in the oven right now – although that’s more like a “confit de poulet” than a “baked goods” kind of thing. It’ll be dinner along with some left-over potato salad (not made with sunchokes, or even at home, but left over from a catered lunch at a place where I was temping) and some wilted greens (as in: dandelions and garlic greens. I want that sorrel to successfully germinate even more now… Hm… a little lovage wouldn’t hurt, either…). Big Plans for this weekend include a new batch of bread (made with dry yeast, I have zero doubt), a further rhubarb Thing (maybe muffins), and cookies or cornbread. Probably not both.
 
 
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD STUFF:
Put together a care-package for someone who helped do the C-16 rally on Parliament Hill the other day. (Pasta, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tinned tuna, tinned soup, and 2L of pumpkin-coconut-lentil stew that I made with the stuff I had lying around).
I haven’t been gleaning a lot yet this year. I’ve got dandelions growing in my raised beds, so we’re just harvesting them like any other intentional crop. The the local fruit trees (my favourite cherry, plus tonnes of serviceberries) will be fruiting in about six weeks, and so will the red currants, and I’ve been watching their progress with GREAT interest. (The alley raspberries are about to flower, though they’ll take a little bit longer to fruit). I’m hoping the garden will keep us happily in greens all summer (and fall, and into the early winter…) with lots to spare for the freezer, so I’m not worrying too much about foraging for wild greens right now.
Went grocery shopping! I’ve been on “milk and eggs only” for 3-4 weeks, after a fairly lean winter. We’ve run out of a few things that I’ve been putting off replacing. It’s really nice to have cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other “not 100% necessary” things again. Plus I bought chicken. 7 chicken legs for $10. I have no idea if that’s a good price or not, but I’m really happy to have 3 meals for two + a chicken leg for some evening when I’m on my own over here, sorted as the greens start to come in. There’s still a lot of dry-goods to replace (particularly flour, but also honey and some basic baking things), and I want to re-stock on chicken and fish in one big go, though I suspect that will happen at Costco or similar, rather than ordering another half a pig. (Yet. We’re still finishing our first one). We’ve got a gallon of maple syrup due to arrive some time this coming week, which I’m looking forward to. I want to try using it more frequently in my baking.
As per usual, I’ve been offering the first slice of every new batch of bread to my gods and ancestors + Anybody local who wants to partake. Now that I’ve got the compost turned (and regularly watered – thanks to the neighbours who are okay with me using their hose), I can use it as an offering place for more stuff, should I happen to have it. The compost heap makes a great offering altar, just because it’s got All The Things in it – heat and wetness, earth and air, and movement, and change, all going on at once. If I manage to successfully make mead (hello, summer fermenting project), some of it will be going in there.
We turned the heat off. (Technically this happened a week ago, but close enough). It’s been wonderful to sleep with the windows open again!
I moved the fig tree outside. My landlord’s husband and I stood outside, drinking coffee and chatting about gardening. He said the fig tree needs a bigger pot (again), and that going around the edges with a big knife will help keep it from becoming root-bound. Which, admittedly, it might already be. But… we’ll see. It’s not technically ours, we’ve just been babysitting it for two years.
 
ANYWAY. That’s the state of the garden and the rest of the household for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Recipe: Green Tomato Chutney 2015

So, it dropped down to -5C last night, and we got a solid frost over everything. My neighbour’s glorious squash vines are no more, and our various tomato plants are done for.
I spent a good chunk of today out harvesting the hard green marbles that are unripened cherry tomatoes (plus a slim few roma tomatoes that were larger than the cherries, but there were only a dozen or so of those). What I got was somewhere between two and three litres of unripe tomatoes, plus a litre or two of ripe and ripe-ish ones (the latter are going to be dumped into the crushed tomatoes that I’ll be cooking up in the next 24 hours or so).
 
What do you do with un-ripe tomatoes?
Some folks would slice them thin, dip them in flour, beaten egg, and cracker crumbs (or corn meal, or crushed potato chips), and fry them up as per the classic dish.
Me?
I turn them into chutney.
 
Unripe tomatoes are more acidic than ripe ones, and this recipe includes a fair amount of sugar, vinegar, apple juice, and diced apples, which also all contribute to the acidity of the preserve. The end result is a tangy mixture that works gorgeously as the main vegetable content in a pork shoulder braise, or slopped over pork chops, chicken thighs, or fish fillets (think pollack or tillapia, rather than salmon) to bake. You can also use it as a side dish or dipping sauce for fish- or chicken- fingers, samosas, or felafal, if you’re so inclined. I suspect it would work well as a chunky spread for a turkey- or ham- on rye sandwich, too.
 
Here’s the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2015
 
INGREDIENTS
 
12 C rough-diced green tomatoes
8 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, diced
5 apples, diced
4 pieces of candied ginger, minced
 
1 C cider/balsamic vinegar (I used mostly balsamic)
1 C apple juice
2½ C white sugar
 
2-3 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper (maybe 1 tsp?)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Combine everything in a big pot, and stir so that it’s all well-integrated.
Allow to cook down, half-covered, for a couple of hours (you can do this in a slow-cooker, too, if you want to).
Sterilize some jars in the oven at 225F for 20 minutes (you still have to boil the lids and rings).
Once the chutney is bubbling and thick and smelling delicious, ladel it into the hot, sterilized jars.
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for a good 20-30 minutes (especially if you’re using pint jars or larger).
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed propperly.
Makes about 8 cups.
 
 
~*~
 
So there you go. Green tomato chutney 2015.
Unlike my 2011 green tomato chutney recipe, this one doesn’t contain any peppers (meaning bell/chili peppers, or chili-spices like cayenne or paprika). It has mustard, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, and ground black pepper corns to provide a little heat and a lot of savouriness, though.

New Moon – Rose Moon / Strawberry Moon Begins

The roses are bursting into florid bloom righ tnow. (And, okay, have been for a while). The strawberry plants are setting fruit (so’s almost everything else, but the strawberries and serviceberries are the ones most likley to be ripe in the next two weeks, so…)
I have been harvesting actual food frmmy actual garden for a few weeks now, putting some of it up in the freezer and eating a lot of it fresh, too.
The pole beans are starting to need something to climb (besides each other and the fava bean stalks), the peas and favas (and rappini – woops) are blooming and the bees are visiting my garden. The trellis has yet to be built, but it’s getting towards the point where it won’t wait any longer. we may be able to score some free lumber from up the street (some friends have extra left over froma project) which would definitely help.
The heat has hit, and the humidity with it. The Mystery Greens have turned out to be mustard – prickly leaves which I need to harvest and start cooking. I was thinking of doing something like sag masala or something with them.
 
This is the beginning of “Much Too Much” season, as Tamar at Starving Off The Land would put it, the wanton bride that is Summer. My bioregion is a good 6-12 weeks behind the South-English one where the Wiccan year-wheel was devised. You don’t even have scilla and snowdrops around here at Spring Equinox, not typically, let alone daffodils. So it feels strange to be calling Summer Solstice “midsummer” as if it had been sunny, steamy, and fruitful for two months already rather than just barely into the hot and heady.
 
None the less, energetically speaking, things are taking off. (Maybe that’s just Mercury being out of retrograde, I dunno). Our Archivist has a little bit of interim work and a lead on a longer-term paid contract, which is great news. My wife is ever-so-slightly drowning in army boots and army hats and othe army stuff that needs repairing before tourist season really gets going. Even some of my projects are starting to bear fruit (by which I mean “generate money” or otherwise see results). My chapbook made it off the press, for example, and a few people have picked up copies already.
 
Magically speaking, I’m feeling a push towards a certain kind of glamour – which I’ll probably be blogging about in a little bit, so just bear with me – and have been working a lot of candle magic lately – mostly for other people, though I should aim some to my immediate household as well, and sooner rather than later.
 
I have a ham thawing in the fridge, which I probably won’t get to cook until Friday night (good timing), when I’ll put it with the last of my carrots, my very last apple, one of my numerous cooking onions, and as massive a kale-and-fresh-herbs salad as I can manage. (It’s funny. I’m not sick of greens by any stretch of the imagination – we eat those all year here, thanks to the chest freezer – but I’d really, really like to have something else – snow peas, or shelled fava beans, for example – to add to the salads and stir-fries and such-like. That’s still a few weeks away, though. 😉
 
Anyway. Moving right along.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Clearly You Need To Know What I Ate Tonight

So today was a day of sending out job applications and returning library goodies. But I made the time, once the rain had let up (for now – I’m hoping pretty strongly that we get a little more rain overnight) to get all of my glorious, gifted plants into the ground – mostly into the front yard, where the card-board weed-smothering boxes are rotting nicely and doing their job, but are also soft enough to dig through and get to the (mostly clay, rocks, and broken glass) pre-existing soil underneath. Thank you, days of rain, for helping that along! 😀 Into the back yard went garlic chives and apple mint, and I took a few minutes (okay, a good half-hour) to spread the sauce tomatoes out just a little bit and give them some trellises to lean against.
That’s part of why I want the rain. I want the tomatoes to be happy. (Mainly, I admit, so that they produce a tonne of fruit, but hey. Benign self-interest?)
 
But my final garden task for the day – with the possible exception of taking a bucket of water out back and giving the tomatoes a drink – was to trim the rappini (which, given that we’re pushing Summer Solstice around these parts, is definitely starting to bolt) of its flower stalks (AKA “sprouting broccoli” or “broccolini”) and to cut a few bunches of fresh herbs, as well.
 
As you may have guessed, I’m really excited to be eating regularly (maybe even frequently – like: several times per week, so far) from the garden.
I’m also, in an entirely different way, kind of excited – or at least proud of my self – for cooking legumes from for-real scratch. As in: not just lentils, but the kind of (Great Northern, in this case) beans that you have to pre-soak, and that will give you about 3C beans for the price of one, by the time you’re done with them.
 
Partly for Year of the Pig reasons, partly for financial reasons, and partly for various health-related reasons, I’m trying to incorporate more beans-and-grains dishes into what we eat. Sometimes this means that the grain in “served on a bed of _________” becomes a mix of grain and short-cooking legumes (usually black lentils and pot barley, sometimes quinoa or white basmatic rice + red lentils) done in bone-stock, and that lets me “get away with” using half a cup of left-over roast rabbit/chicken/pork for the “meat” part of the dish without scrimping on the protein in a dish for 3+ people. Other times it’s less about being “sneaky” and more about just doing a vegetarian (ish – I do tend to cook my grains in bone stock, so…) dish for the sake of expedience and/or keeping the heat out of the house.
This was the case with tonight’s dinner.
 
Ingredients from the garden:
Sprouting Broccoli / Rappini
Greek Oregano
Sage (lots)
Basil
Winter Savory
Vietnamese Garlic greens
 
The rest:
A few stalks of asparagus (foodland Ontario for the win – I still have about half a pound of the stuff in the fridge)
Red quinoa (from somewhere south of the equator, I’m sure) + Great Northern Beans (from Saskatchewan) cooked in home-made bone-stock a couple of days ago
Black “beluga” lentils (likewise from Saskatchewan)
Dried cranberries (from California, no doubt)
Black pepper, prepared Dijon mustard, pinch of salt, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, a hint of maple syrup, and a pinch of nutmeg
 
 
I steamed the garden stuff while the lentils cooked (meaning: during the last 10 minutes of the lentils cooking), then tossed everything together in a bowl and mixed it until I couldn’t see any streaks of mustard anywhere.
It made enough for two adults plus one lunch, but we managed to get it to stretch to three (slightly smaller) adult-sized meals (plus one lunch) with the addition of a little more raw asparagus. If I’d really wanted to, I could have thrown in some of my (few) remaining walnuts and/or a few raw pumpkin seeds as well. That might have been a good idea. I find myself craving toast or some other munchable thing to fill in the gaps.
 
The salad came out tasty, just piquant enough (for someone who likes piquant – roughly 1/3 of the green stuff was fresh herbs, plus the mustard and balsamic are heavy hitters in the flavour department as far as I’m concerned) and was enjoyed by all. Had I known that I was going to be feeding three people tonight (woops), I would have cut an extra handful of rappini and made extra black lentils (I started with ¼ C raw black beluga lentils and, in retrospect, would have been better going with upwards of a ½ C of same).
All that being said: Not bad, for a dish that combines “what needs using up” with “what needs pruning”. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

The Year of the Pig – Part 1: The Garden Accompaniment and Some Formal Disclosure

So, in addition to having half a pig – Francis – in the freezer (minus two pounds of bacon – we sent one with our archivist when she moved, as you do), we also have a back yard garden. Which I’ve been yammering about pretty-much endlessly since we put the raised beds together and got the soil trucked in.
See, the other part of this year-long (or however long Francis lasts) adventure in local critter is local veggies. And, yes, we’ve been doing the “eat local, ideally” bit for quite a few years now. I seem to recall blogging about Give Cabbage a Chance back in, what, 2011? And now here I am growing it. Or, rather, growing its relatives: Red Russian Kale, Rappini and, if my guess about the Mystery Greens is correct, either Mustard Greens or Collards (not sure which, don’t entirely care).
In addition to finding out just how much pork my family of rotating adults can eat in one year without getting desperately sick of shoulder roasts, I’m also trying to find out how much food I can produce (and preserve), in my lackadaisical manner, over the course of one growing season.
 
Now, this is not Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the Blogging Version. Although, I kind of hope I wind up with something like that by the end of this. 😉 We’re not growing the vast majority of our (vegetative) food in two cubic yards of trucked-in garden soil. But I do want to see what I can produce in that two cubic yards, both in terms of how long I can stretch the harvest of those cool-weather leafy greens (currently the only harvestable veggies in the garden) and also how much I can produce, primarily through trellising, in the way of winter squash, pole beans, cucumbers, and zucchini (and tomatoes – but that’s a whole other story).
 
I’ve harvested rappini three times, so far, and snipped the greens off some (perennial) Vietnamese garlic maybe twice. This means we’ve had rappini in dinner three times, and Vietnamese garlic in dinner twice. But it also means I have five cups of blanched rappini already frozen for winter use. It doesn’t sound like much. In reality, it’s not much. But it feels like a really good start.
I’m also – because this is the way of things – trying to use up the last of my 2014 preserves. Having spent the winter feeding our Archivist (who has some food allergies), it’s not surprising that what I’ve got lingering just happens to be stuff she can’t eat without getting sick. Now that she’s off and moved, I’m trying to remember to include things like tomato sauce and salsa in our regular meals (her allergy is not to tomatoes, thank goodness, but it’s going to mean some recipe tweaking in a few places).
 
I want to point out – “for the record”, I guess – that I have a fair number of privileges that let me run this kind of experiment. The main one being that I have a tonne of time on my hands. I work casual hours as a model (think 30-40 hrs/month, rather than per week) and otherwise mostly do freelance work from home. A significant part of my “job” is keeping us fed, by hook or by crook, and being able to do so from a pre-paid stockpile of animal protein plus a vegetable garden that’s been set up in good, clean (trucked in) garden-dirt, rather than from dandelion greens and wild grape leaves growing in the lead-contaminated soil of our freeway-adjacent neighbourhood, is kind of a load off my mind. I get that most people – most people who work one or more day-jobs outside their homes, most people who have a bundle of little kids or sick parents or other family members to look after – don’t have that kind of time. And a great many of us, particularly in urban neighbourhoods, don’t have that kind of space, either. It’s all well and good to talk about window-boxes and making sprouts in a jar on your kitchen counter, but there is a massive difference in what you can grow – without a lot of know-how or bags of Miracle Grow – in two cubic yards of soil versus in pots that are small enough to fit on a balcony. Having done both, the difference is already staggering, and I’ve only harvested cooking greens so far.
 
So that’s my bit of personal disclosure, in relation to what I’m hoping to learn/grow/create/discover (how many more inspirational words can I tack onto this plan?) over the course of the coming year: I have tonnes of time on my hands. Let’s see if I can’t parlay that into having tonnes of (almost free[1]) food on my hands thanks to growing a garden and preserving what I grow.
 
And, with any luck, the food that I grow will go very nicely with the food that I bought, in the form of Francis (and also a monthly bunny from our Rabbit Lady), not so long ago.
That’s the third part of this experiment. Can I (continue to) use a set collection of fairly specific ingredients – pork, rabbit, broad beans, snap beans, snap peas, various cooking greens, various summer and winter squash-type-creatures, tomatoes, and various herbs – to keep a couple of adults in meals without us going bonkers due to lack of variety?
Only time will tell (but I’ve been pretty good at it, so far).
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] If, by “almost free”, I recognize that I’ve dropped probably $50 in seed-starts and seeds, and considerably more than that on garden soil. I’m aware that, for the next year or three, I’m probably making up in “free” food what I lost by diverting hundreds of dollars of grocery money to the Dirt Fund. Like I probably harvested $6-$8 worth of rappini today. Bringing the total up to about $20 of “free food” that we’ve eaten or preserved from the garden so far. That is less than 10% of the cost of the soil in my garden beds. But if I can keep harvesting rappini – and kale, and chard, and tomatoes and zucchini and winter squash – from my garden, and pull 50 harvests of about that size? I’ll have “paid off” my garden start-up costs in one season.

Update on the Garden (Planting All the Tomatoes)

So, by and large, I’ve planted my garden. Depending on how things turn out, I may or may not add one or two Chinese eggplant starts (from the Kowloon Market, up the street, which usually has them) and/or a few Ground Cherry starts (for the perennial bed), but those will have to wait until the beginning of June because I need to see which seeds are taking off and where I may (or may not) have space for a few more plants.
 
That’s how I do this. I intentionally (foolishly, or otherwise) overcrowd my plants to help prevent weedy things (aka: things I can’t eat AND/OR things I can totally eat, but which will take over fast and which don’t taste nearly as good as the other things I can eat that I planted on purpose) from gaining too much of a foothold. So I have a small forest of roma/sauce tomatoes in the middle of Raised Bed Number One and have planted my pole beans in clusters where (hopefully) they’ll do a good job of both (a) feeding my leafy greens LOTS of leaf-encouraging nitrogen, while also (b) providing those same (cold-hardy, heat-bolting) leafy greens with a little bit of shade during the hotter months of the summer.
 
Click on the Cut Tag to Find Out What I’ve Got