Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Garden Update

Here in Southern California we are blessed with a ridiculously long growing season. Seriously, last year I didn't pull my tomatoes out until the end of December! Since we have such a long growing season it's a good idea to plant several garden rotations, replacing tired plants with new, vibrant ones. Case in point: our sunberries have to go. Jonas will be so devastated, he would seriously sit out there picking berries and eating them all day long if I'd let him. See: Since the sunberries are winding down I've started ten new tomato plants to replace them with, most of them Red Siberians to carry us through the cold-ish months. I'm curious to see if they'll make it straight through the winter. I'm hoping for a bumper crop from these babies, for canning. My other canning tomatoes have not done so well and now the japanese beetles are moving in and eating them:(. Quick side note, my plan for the japanese beetles this year was to just pick them off of the plants in the early mornings when they are sluggish, but they have outsmarted me again! They are living in our neighbor's yard and coming over into our yard in the afternoons for feeding time. Very frustrating!

We are also replacing our first rotation of bush beans. Bush beans generally only produce beans for a two week period before dying back, so it's good to plant several rows of them with sowing dates a week or two apart, to keep you in constant supply. We have four rows of bush beans, or to be honest, two rows and two self watering containers, each with an equal number of plants. The good news about bush beans (and really any legume) is that they have the uncanny ability to pull nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil through their roots. This makes bush beans an ideal crop to plant near hungrier crops like squash, melons, corn, tomatoes, etc. Once the plant has died all of the extra nitrogen remains in the soil, so bush beans are an ideal candidate to be replaced by hungrier crops as well. In our case I am replacing the first bush bean row with hard winter squashes. Instead of pulling out the tired green bean plants it is a good idea to snip them off as close to the ground as possible. Leaving their roots in the ground means you are leaving as much nitrogen in the ground as possible. After snipping the green bean plants I laid them on top of the soil along with some dead tomato plants and other trimmings, then I spread a bag of manure over the whole thing creating a small grow heap. I also added plenty of organic fertilizer.

And lastly the determinate, silvery fir tree tomatoes, which were in five gallon buckets, have been replaced by basil.

Things are looking good in our garden, despite my sister's boyfriend commenting "if people didn't know what you were doing back here they'd think there was just trash everywhere." Lovely. :) He is referring to the fact that I use junk mail to mulch the walkways between rows and keep the weeds down. Here are some pictures for your viewing delight:)

A funny italian zucchini I found today. It looks like it was going to have a siamese twin but things didn't quite work out. Am I the only one who saw this and thought: Alien fetus? That's just me? Ok then, moving on...

Today's summer squash harvest.

One of the self-waterers with new green bean plants. Side note, the self waterer book I ordered from the library is in, I'm picking it up today and hope to have lots of juicy tips for you all.

The Cayenne Peppers are turning red, we'll have hot sauce in no time, hooray!

Our Myrtle is in bloom three months late. What is that about? I've heard that myrtle is sometimes eaten as an herb. I'm still a little too skeptical to try.

A new zucchini plant on the rise!

One of our hot pepper plants called Tequila Sunrise. It grows very similar to the tabasco pepper. I'm really hoping it tastes similar. I loves me some tabasco sauce!

Our giant marconi peppers are really living up to their name!

Felted Baby Bunny Slippers

Last Saturday I attended a baby shower for my friend Tandy. I love making gifts for people when I have the time, and it's so easy to make things for babies! I mean, everything's much smaller and therefore less time consuming. I whipped up a pair of felted fuzzy bunny slippers for Tandy (small problem, Tandy's baby will be born in August, in San Diego, not exactly slipper wearing weather, hmmm, oh well). I originally got the idea for the slippers from my friend Nikol (who just happens to be Tandy's sister). Nikol found a picture of felted bunny slippers on etsy and emailed it to me months ago. My initial thought was, Hey, I could make something like that! And so I did, there were a few bunny slipper prototypes and here is a picture of the final product.

I made them with some off-white wool that I had on hand, but I recommend making them with white wool if you can. The great thing about these slippers is that they are felted, so even if you're not the best at crochet the felting will generally hide any uneven stitches. To make the slippers first you crochet two infant moccasins (instructions to follow). I used a J hook and crocheted them very loosely. They will be somewhat bigger than a baby foot, but remember you are going to felt them.

Make 2 (duh!)
Round 1: ch 14. Dc in 4th ch from hook and in the next 9 chs. 7 dc in last ch. Working down the free loops on the other side of the chain, 10 dc. Join w/ sl st to top of ch 3. (28 dc)
Round 2: Ch 3, dc in same st. Dc in next 10 sts. (2 dc in next st) 7 times. Dc in next 9 sts, 2 dc in last dc. Join w/ sl st to top of ch 3. (37 dc)
Round 3: Ch 3, dc in next 15 sts, (dc dec) 4 times. Dc to end of round. Join w/ sl st. (33 dc)
Round 4: Ch 3, dc in next 11 sts, (dc dec) 5 times. Dc to end of round. Join w/ sl st. (28 dc)
Round 5: Ch 3, dc in next 8 sts, (dc dec) 6 times. Dc to end of round. Join w/ sl st. Finish off. (22 dc)

Weave in ends and felt mocs.

Next you make the ears. Here's where it gets a little tricky. Chain three and crochet 8 or so rows on those three stitches, whatever looks proportionate in relation to the moccasins, on the ninth (or so) row, the last row, slip stitch in the first stitch, half double crochet (or double crochet if you feel adventurous, it's not an exact science) in the second and slip stitch again in the last, finish off. This last step is to round the ear. Make four ears, obviously.

Then you sew the ears to the moccasins with wool yarn and felt them (felting instructions to follow). Now, with Tandy's slippers I stitched the little faces on after felting, but I think stitching a face on before hand (with wool)and then felting would also be very cute. It would certainly blend well.

Now, to felt. Set your washing machine to it's hottest setting and throw the slippers in with an old pair of pants that you are SURE won't bleed color into the wash. Also add a bit of detergent. Bring a pair of tongs with you to fish the slippers out of the stifling hot machine, you don't want to use your hand for this. Start the machine and let it agitate the slippers (agitation and heat are what cause the wool to felt). Before your washer gets to the rinse stage check the slippers to see if they are felted enough (more on this later) if they are felted enough (lucky you I ususally have to do at least three cycles) then rinse them in cold water and shape them to dry. If they are not felted enough then wind the washing machine back to start (don't rinse, don't refill, use the same hot water). Run the slippers through as many cycles as needed to felt them to your liking and then rinse and shape them to air dry.

So, how will you know if the slippers are felted enough? Use your best judgement, the slippers should start to look like a solid piece of felt and the individual stitches will all mesh together. Remember that the felted look will intensify with drying so if they look close to what you think they should look like pull them out and rinse them. Remember that the more you felt them the more they will shrink down so if they are getting to be about the right size they're done. And lastly, remember that you can always felt them more later, but you can't undo the felting so better to be safe than sorry.

The last two things to do are to stitch the face on and deal with the ears. Stitch a face on using black yarn for the eyes and pink for the nose. Now the ears: if your ears are looking how you want them to look then leave them alone, if they are falling to the side or something then stitch them into a placement that is pleasing to you with a white thread. When I did this with Tandy's slippers it only took like two small stitches per ear to hold them back, they kept falling in the poor bunny's face. And TADA! You are done. How adorable. While this may sound like a bit of work it actually goes rather fast. Now I'm working on figuring out an adult version of these, how fun would that be? Enjoy! Here's one last picture of them because I just never tire of looking at my handiwork:)

Hot Sauce

This year I planted lots of hot peppers. Originally I had no plans for the peppers, I just wanted to grow them and so I planted them. Once the cayenne peppers really started coming on I realized I would have to think of a way to use them. So I decided to make hot sauce, and I was very excited. Rightly so. I put hot sauce on everything! Seriously, it's an addiction. Seriously...I saw this thing on PBS about how it's completely possible to become addicted to spicy things. Moving on. If you've got an abundance of hot peppers and would like to make hot sauce here's how you do it. It's so easy! You can use any hot pepper you like, I used cayenne and plan on using tequila sunrise and jalapeno peppers next week.

Before you start be aware that hot pepper oils are very irritating and hurt like the dickens if you get them in your eyes, or even if your hands are exposed to them for too long. The oils can remain on skin for a very long time so please just wear gloves and be careful.

Here's what you'll need, Hot peppers, vinegar, salt.

First trim the stems off of your peppers and throw them whole into a sauce pan. Cover them with vinegar and cook them. Put a lid on the pot, the vinegar/hot pepper steam is potent!

Next, if you want to peel the peppers then be my guest. I got tired of peeling them after about thirty seconds and devised a simpler way -which will be revealed later.

After peeling -or not peeling, as the case may be- put your peppers into a blender with a bit of the cooking vinegar and blend the living daylights out of them. Add more vinegar until you get the consistency you want.

Now, if you didn't peel your peppers -or even if you did- pour the blended hot sauce through a fine sieve. The sieve should catch most of the peel and seed bits that eluded the blender blades. Salt it to your taste. Pour the hot sauce into an old tabasco sauce bottle that you saved and are now recycling:).

If you make a lot of hot sauce, I've heard that it freezes well, so you're in luck. Enjoy!

Use the pulpy sieve leftovers to deter unwanted rodents. We have a cardboard compost pile that mice just adore. I sprinkled the cayenne pulp around the back of it -where Jonas can't get to- and I'm hoping it irritates them into leaving. Probably won't happen, but one can hope.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Slow Roasting Tomatoes

I love to grow small tomatoes. I'm pretty sure jelly bean tomatoes are my favorite. Now there is a plant that just doesn't quit! I also like red pear and yellow pear tomatoes. Though red pear seems a little too susceptible to blossom end rot for my taste. I feed and feed and feed some more and they still remain calcium and magnesium deficient. Whatevs. Often, at this time of year I am faced with an abundant crop of small tomatoes. What does one do with so many little tomatoes besides eat them raw and in a nice pasta salad? Jonas and Greg can pack away quite a few of the little guys, but still we have a lot left over and there's no way I'm going to can them (can you imagine peeling all of those little things? I can, I did it once, four years ago. It's hell). What you can do with them is slow roast them. I initially got this idea from Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Something everyone should read. But I digress.
Slow roasting tomatoes is easy as pie! Basically you slice small tomatoes in half, spread them out, cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet, spray them with olive oil (or toss them in olive oil pre-spreading if you don't have a handy refillable oil sprayer), season and let them sit in a low oven (like 250-300 degrees) for a few hours until they shrink down. Check them every now and then to make sure they aren't charring, charred roasted tomatoes do not taste good. Learn from my mistakes. A properly roasted tomato should be very sweet and delicious. A poor-mans version (and a somewhat softer version) of those expensive sundried tomatoes.
I am very fond of roasting a whole bunch and then freezing them for later. They are delicious alone, or on a pizza, sometimes I throw a bunch of them in the food processor with some garlic, olive oil and maybe basil if it's in season and whip up a pesto (the pesto also freezes nicely.) If you do decide to freeze the pesto, freeze it in ice cube trays so that it's easier to portion out later and defrosts faster. But I've gotten off track. Honestly these tomatoes would make cardboard taste good. Try them, I guarantee you'll want to just eat the entire pan yourself. And you can, I mean, they're tomatoes, they're good for you:) Here'e what they look like all done.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Is That Thing?!

Something has taken up residence in our worm bins. Or, I should say, LOTS of somethings have taken up residence in our worm bins. Last week I spent several hours picking a bunch out, only to find they've increased ten fold this week. At first I flipped out. They are creepy looking, and also the fact that I didn't know what they were added to the flipping out. So what am I talking about? This:

We have Black Soldier Fly Larvae!!! Gross, right? Right. It is very gross, but also very helpful. Lucky for us, we have millions of them. And I'm quite delighted. I'm perhaps most delighted because, now, since they're helpful, I don't have to spend hours upon hours picking them out. I've read online that they are just as helpful, if not more so, than red worms. They eat a lot! And subsequently poop a lot. I've read online that there are actually people who go to the trouble of acquiring them so as to add them to their compost piles/bins. In Australia they occur naturally, and apparently the same is true for San Diego.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae are not maggots, nay they actually deter maggots and keep them from sprouting up in your bins. And the adult soldier fly is not a pest. Hooray! I am somewhat dubious though, I mean, who determines what a pest is? All I know is that since these little fellas have arrived the fruit fly population has decreased to almost nothing.

They still creep me out, but then again so did the springtails at first. Hopefully I will become desensitized to these guys soon. Anyway, if any of you start worm bins and these things show up, fear not. They're here to help.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Glorious, Glorious Vinegar

Last summer, when I had a child that took two naps a day, I read Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. It completely changed the way I cleaned house. The book is a bit long. Since reading a book on housekeeping isn't the most exciting thing in the world, I'll cut to the chase for you and share some things I learned...and still use a year later.
Easily the handiest tip I picked up from Ms. Sandbeck was the many uses of...Vinegar (kinda gave it away with the title didn't I). Who knew it had so many uses? If you don't keep a giant, costco size jug of vinegar around you're missing out. It's so cheap, and seriously could clean almost everything (if not everything) in your house, and it doesn't stop there. Here are some uses for vinegar to get you started.That's what I'm talking about.

For cleaning hard surfaces: countertops, toilets, stovetops, walls, refrigerators, floors, etc. When vinegar dries it leaves zero residue, also it dissolves stuck on messes fast and has natural antibacterial properties making it ideal for cleaning and wiping up. Also, since it leaves no residue you don't have to worry about it leaching into you (or your kids, or your food) like you do with chemical cleaners.

Sticker Removal: like it says people, vinegar will remove the stickers your kids decorate the leather couch with. Also good for removing the labels from jars you are recycling to hold the new homemade yogurt you just fermented. Clever.

Fruit and Veggie Wash: If you are somewhat paranoid about your produce being clean, and buy into that expensive veggie wash sold in stores look to vinegar (and hydrogen peroxide) instead. Keep a spray bottle of vinegar and a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide (must be in separate bottles to remain potent) around for cleaning fruits and vegetables. Obviously don't clean everything because you need to challenge your immune system every now and then to keep it strong. But if your apple fell into raw meat juice or the lettuce is extra dirty spray first with vinegar then hydrogen peroxide. Rinse if you want. Don't be afraid of the hydrogen peroxide, it's completely safe.

Spot Cleaning Carpets: In the book Ellen Sandbeck suggests that vinegar and a rag can be used to clean your wall to wall carpeting (that's some serious elbow grease). It works just as well for spot cleaning. The problem with spots in the carpet is that they keep coming back (this is doubly true for when your husband spills an entire bowl of roasted potatoes on your brand new carpet, am I right ladies?), you clean them and then a few months later they reappear. How do they do that? Basically residue stays behind and new dirt clings to it. Vinegar solves this problem since it leaves no residue. Hooray!

Glass, Mirror, Window Cleaner: If you have previously used cleaners like windex then you will initially need to clean your mirrors and windows with a solution of vinegar, water and dishsoap before using just vinegar to clean them. This is because windex and similar cleaners leave behind a wax like residue that vinegar cannot get rid of. Or so says Ellen Sandbeck. When I started using vinegar to clean windows and things I just lived with some slight streakiness from the waxy stuff and eventually it went away. If you are less lazy than I, use the dishsoap stuff once and live streak free from the get go.

Jet Dry Replacement: I am starting to sound like a broken record, vinegar leaves no residue and therefore your dishes will rinse clean. Pour it into the allotted jet dry spout, and rest easy knowing the vinegar is much easier on the enviroment, and cheaper to boot.

Weed Killer: Peace-loving lover of the earth that I am I'm strongly against Roundup and the like. Use vinegar instead, just as effective, a million times less harmful! I pour it into the cracks of our driveway every now and then when I feel like keeping up with the Joneses. Works like a charm.

Laundry Gunk Banisher: Pouring a half cup of vinegar into the rinse cycle rids your laundry guessed it...residue! Vinegar is indispensible if you use cloth diapers. It keeps the smell down (if you let the diapers soak in the wash before actually washing them, like we do) and rinses away any soapy residue that would irritate a baby bottom.

See how awesome vinegar is? If you aren't already sold on it's many glorious uses you should be. Who doesn't like saving money, helping the planet and ridding their home of unnecessary chemical cleaners? Enjoy, People:)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Of Squash

Those of you who have successfully grown zucchini before will sympathize with this problem: here is our zucchini harvest for the week (minus those that have been eaten, which is a lot!). We are bringing in about 7-10 zucchini every other day! All from 1 (1!!!) plant. Well actually the little round ball zucchinis are from two other plants, obviously. I really shouldn't call it a problem, it's an enormous blessing! In an emergency we surely wouldn't starve, provided that the water keeps running during said emergency.

I was warned of such problems/blessings by many people, but I still went ahead and planted many zucchini and summer squash plants, 8 have survived. Only three are producing, the others are either in the baby stage or the teenager stage. My father in law asked why I planted so many and here is the answer: there are so many different kinds! Who could ever choose just one. Also, I don't mind giving away squash and I have come up with quite a few uses for it. That's what this post is about, how to use up all of that zucchini. If you are in doubt over any of these recipes my father in law, who HATES squash, has eaten and loved several of them. And he wouldn't lie to me:)

#1 Zucchini Bread. I'm not typing out a recipe for this, mostly because the recipe I use is a mediocre one. Pull out your betty crocker cook book and use that or if you've got a better recipe please share! Zucchini bread recipes also make zucchini muffins, which are easier for little hands to hold.

#2 Zucchini Scrambled Eggs or Omlette. Sautee shredded zukes in a little olive oil and stir in eggs, or if your making the omlette put sauteed zukes in middle of omlette and fold. Not the prettiest thing, but it's sure tasty!

#3 Shredded fresh for salad. Shred it and toss it into a salad. SO good!

#4 Shredded and sauteed with other veg as a side dish. If you don't have a mandolin slicer and grow a lot of zucchini, invest in the slicer. It is also known as a Chinese Mandolin, but everyone is using that name less and less in this politically correct day and age. Anyway, my mandolin slicer also comes with a julienne blade. If you don't have a mandolin you could julienne by hand. Julienne carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. Sautee the carrots in some butter or olive oil until they start to soften, add squashes, sautee until the green on the zucchini brightens. Season and enjoy.

#5 Barbara Kingsolver To The Rescue. In her WONDERFUL (if a little bit preachy) book, Animal Vegetable Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver lists a few recipes for using up a zucchini harvest. Recipes include, Zucchini Orzo (we eat this A LOT at our house this time of year), and Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. You may be skeptical of the cookies but they're pretty good. You can check out these recipes at

#6 Gnocchi (or pasta) With Summer Vegetables. Also a good way to use up a tomato and garlic harvest. Quarter and slice two medium zucchini or summer squash. Sautee in olive oil with two cloves minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper, add two cups grape tomatoes sliced in half. Cook until it all makes a juicy sauce. Toss in 15-16 ounces cooked gnocchi or pasta of any shape. Stir in a quarter cup fresh basil, chopped, some parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, and two tablespoons lemon juice.

#7 Add To Pizza. Using your new, handy mandolin slicer, thinly slice several zucchini. Briefly steam them and add them to your pizza like pepperoni. Even the FIL liked this one.

#8 Veggie Lover's Pasta Bake. EVERYONE loves this dish. Sautee two sliced zucchinis in olive oil, add a package of frozen spinach and sautee until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add a jar of marinara sauce, a jar of alfredo sauce and a cup of shredded mozarella (I usually leave out this addition of cheese). Stir in 16 ounces cooked penne. Pour it all into a 9 by 13 baking dish and sprinkle on more mozarella, bake until the cheese is melted and it's all good and bubbly. Seriously this is sooo good.

#9 Chicken Taco Filling. For the chicken portion of this throw 4 frozen chicken breasts, a package of taco seasoning and two cups water into the crockpot, let it simmer, shred it and let it simmer a little longer to soak up some juices. This is good as taco filling all by itself, but that doesn't use up zucchini, does it? Shout out to Siobhan for the crockpot chicken recipe:) THANKS! If you don't want to make the chicken filling yourself you can buy it at most big grocery stores next to the packaged pulled pork. In a pan sautee quartered and sliced zucchini and/or summer squash. Add a bag of frozen black bean, corn, onion, green pepper mixture (I forget what this is called). Cook until the black bean stuff is thawed. Stir in the chicken, heat it all up and serve in warmed flour tortillas, with sour cream and whatever other accoutrements you choose.

#10 Whatever. Zucchini has such a subtle flavor that it can be added to almost anything, soup, pasta, taco filling:) Once you start looking for places to use zucchini you'll find them. More veg never hurt anyone.

#11 Give It Away. It's good karma and the garden gods will surely bless you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yogurt Making Made Easy

This post goes out to the Damsel at The Damsel has a post about making yogurt from powdered milk, if that interests you check it out. I made yogurt from fresh milk using the same method. Before reading her post I was using the crockpot to make yogurt, which works but takes a bit more effort. Want to make your own yogurt? It's so easy!

First you will need some starter cultures, the wonderful little bacteria bugs that make yogurt yogurt. You can either purchase cultures and have them mailed to you or you can use yogurt from the store -much easier. Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing your starter yogurt, while not all of them are absolutely necessary they're good ideas. Try to find a yogurt with as few ingredients as possible. The yogurt should be plain, and without pectin. It absolutely MUST contain active live cultures -duh- most yogurts tout this on the label these days so it should be easy to find. Remember that the cultures in your starter yogurt will be the cultures in your homemade yogurt so if you want something specific -I'm looking at you activia consumers- buy accordingly. I've read that stoneyfield farms yogurt is highly reccommended as a starter.

Here's what you do, in clean, ovensafe crockery (I actually used the crock from my crockpot) combine 6 ounces of starter yogurt with 4 cups of milk. Whisk well. Heat your oven to 275 degrees. Once the oven has reached 275 degrees turn it off and place your covered yogurt-to-be inside. Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. When you return it should be yogurt! Admittedly it will not be quite as firm as store bought yogurt, that's because it doesn't have pectin in it. Store it in the fridge and enjoy it in good health. Remember to save 6 ounces as a starter for the next batch. Look at you making your own food:)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cheese Making

Here is a picture of my very enthusiastic friend Nikol, holding a cheese making book. Can you guess why she's so excited?
Because we made cheese, Yo!
First we read the instructions. They were awesome, if not completely forthcoming -more on this later-- notice the almost completely non-sequiter goat in cap and gown. It made my year.
Next we had to heat the milk to 90 degrees. (Was it 90 degrees? I can't remember, anyway...) That's my hand giving the thumbs up, I helped, in my own way. --methinks someone should have cut her nails before cheesemaking night. That's not right.
The milk started to curdle. We got very excited.
It continued curdling...
...and our anticipation and excitement grew with each passing moment.
Then it started to look -and smell- like vomit and we became slightly less enthusiastic. But we remained undeterred!
We separated the curd from the whey. The cheese's likeness to vomit continued, on a thicker level. My good friend Siobhan considered saving the whey for pizza dough (who knew?) but ultimately she poured it down the drain, we didn't fight her on it.
Ingrid was skeptical that the cheese would turn out.
After heating the curd in the microwave to an unholy temperature it had to be pulled and coerced into cheeselike form. The instructions recommended wearing rubber gloves. The cheesemaking kit included latex gloves. We used them, despite our misgivings that they might give the cheese an unpalatable flavor. Rookie mistake.
We continued pulling the cheese, unwittingly...
It was starting to look cheesy.
We formed it into logs and chilled it.
The cheese worked out! Even Ingrid couldn't deny it.
But I'll be honest, and tell you, it did not taste good. Our downfall was the latex gloves. Next time we'll be sure to use utensils to pull the lava cheese. The other girls were champs and ate all of their cheese. I couldn't stomach it. Wimp.

Some of us had a little too much fun making cheese.

Big Worm Bin, Little Victories

Here's some good news: it hasn't even been two months since I established my first worm bin and I've already expanded to a second. That's right, the worms quickly multiplied so today I set up a second -and larger- worm bin. The parents have been giving us their compostables to feed the worms so we are blessed with a plethora of kitchen wastes. Which means, ultimately, a plethora of compost! I harvested the worm castings a few days ago, there was a LOT! And already both bins are full again. One of my favorite parts of this story is that we didn't have to buy more worms. They were just there for the taking. Simple pleasures. Although now that I think about it, at this rate, we could become overrun with worm bins by the end of the year. There are worse things. Most likely I'll be able to start giving worms away to friends...I've already got several in mind. You know who you are, and you've been warned.

Our little homestead is running great these days. I spent most of monday and tuesday in the kitchen baking things for family birthday parties (we have quite a few birthdays this time of year). I also made yogurt, which I then made into yogurt cheese. Jonas and I have been spreading it on crackers for morning snack. Correction, I usually do the spreading, he eats it at his leisure. And on top of the yogurt cheese I made bread, rolls, and started a jar of sprouts to be used on friday.

I've been making our bread for well over a year. I just can't believe that! We haven't bought store bread in a YEAR! How time does fly. When I first told one of my family members that I was going to attempt to make all of our bread she cautioned me --be careful, it's hard. And it was a bit trying at first, we suffered through a lot of not-so-good bread. But now, it's almost second nature, part of the routine. I'm bringing this all up because it correlates to the yogurt thing. Why have I started making yogurt? Because the guys that haul our recycling away have announced that they now only accept #1 and #2 plastics. Yogurt containers are #5. We eat quite a bit of yogurt, especially Jonas. It pained me to put those containers in the trash. So I started making our own. I had thought about doing it for awhile but this recycling thing really gave me the kick I needed. The first batch of yogurt didn't go so well. Then I talked to my friend Nikol -hi bff!- who had made yogurt before and she recommended using a crockpot to keep it at an even temp while fermenting. Brilliant! Now the yogurt making is a breeze. Hopefully a year from now I can come onto the blog and write about how I've been making all of our yogurt for a year. Small steps. It makes me feel great that I know what my family is eating. I know exactly what is in that yogurt and bread. In a dream world I would know the cow/goat that the milk for the yogurt came from, and grow the wheat for the bread myself. Again, small steps.

Wondering how you yourself can make your own yogurt? That's coming up in a post next week. I'm waiting until the next time I make it, so the post will have lots of lovely pictures to go with.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Not Quite What I Was Planning

First, some pictures:
The sunberries, which have take off! They have outgrown their allotted space...and then some.

One of the rows of green beans, with a little fennel at the very end.

A row of hot and sweet peppers I planted, including, red marconi, better belle, tequila sunrise, jalapeno, chocolate beauty and pasilla bajio. We obviously have been using a lot of shredded junk mail and newspaper to mulch and keep the weeds down. My sister and her boyfriend Ben came for a visit on memorial day and Ben, looking into the backyard said to me: Uh, someone dumped a bunch of trash in your yard.

Here's what the trifle tomatoes look like these days.

A handful of sunberries, taken several days ago.

The title of this post is stolen from the six word memoirs book. But it seems very appropriate, as, the garden this year has turned out to be something entirely different from what I planned. Isn't that always how it goes?

The Edamame still hasn't come up, and I've given up on it. Maybe I'll try again next year, or possibly even later in the season, if the mood strikes me.
I have fallen in love with the volunteer plants. Particularly the zucchini, MY it is a large plant!

The self waterers, which had my heart at the beginning, have become quite the disappointment. Many of the tomatoes in self waterers have seemingly incurable blossom end rot, and the plants just can't handle heat well at all. On the other hand, I think all of the slaving I have done over the ground soil is finally paying off. There's one tomato plant inparticular -a red pear- that has out grown the self waterers. It's SO vibrant, and hardly ever needs watering. While I still hold a place in my heart for the self waterers, I think I'm going to use them for smaller things like green beans, and basil next year. Here's a picture of some tomatoes on the wonderful red pear!

June is here already, and we are beginning to enjoy the fruits of our labor here at our house. pear and jellybean tomatoes are ripening here and there. I seem to forget, every year, just how much better a homegrown tomato is compared to store bought. The brambles are ripening also, at the rate of a berry a day. Jonas, upon eating his first raspberry promptly picked and ate all of the remaining (and unripe!) berries on the plant. And here I thought I'd be fighting off the birds, apparently the problem comes in a form closer to home.
The sunberries are coming on strong as the weather heats up. We're picking a good size handful every day. Jonas eats them faster than I can pick them most days. Today while picking sunberries A RAT ran out from the bushes. I was thoroughly disgusted and quit the berry picking for the day. I guess this means the rats from last year have returned. Isn't that just wonderful. Now we're just waiting for the japanese beetles to arrive and then the vexations will be complete...hopefully.

Oh! And I also harvested the garlic today! I kept thinking it was too early, that I had to wait until june...then it dawned on me, um, it's june! So I pulled it up and learned a valuable lesson, the the size of the stalk does not in any way correlate to how big the garlic head will be. Some of the wispiest stalks produced the biggest heads. Go figure.

Though the garden hasn't sprung up exactly as I mapped it out it is still a thing of beauty to me. It fills me with glee to think that by this time next month I'll be up to my neck in tomatoes. Canning season is just around the corner. It'll be keeping me extra busy this year as I have been put in charge of the parent's apricot harvest. Greg's mom will be in Europe for a month, and therefore unable to jam. And despite Jonas picking the green apricots off of the tree, the harvest will still be sizeable.