21 July 2010

Garden Update

We have a zucchini problem. I'm not embarrassed about it. I mean, sometimes, in life, you wake up nearly every morning to find new, surprisingly large zucchini lurking where you thought there were only flowers. I did better when N was out of town and I could convince myself that a plate of sliced raw zucchini constituted dinner. And lunch.

But now that he's home and we cook, we've cut back to maybe 1/2, maybe 3/4 of a zucchini per day, and that's just not enough to keep up. Tonight (N is out) I did make Barbara Kingsolver (and family)'s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo. I have to say that while it did make the zucch disappear, this is definitely a dish for a family with kids. I helped it out with some sun-dried tomatoes, but it could probably use more zest. (though I just went back for seconds)

And yesterday we made Sunset's arugula, fennel, and preserved lemon salad. Here's a question for you: are salt-preserved lemons just supposed to taste like salt? Did we miss something? Maybe you should rinse them? It was intense. Nothing like having to hydrate after your salad...

04 July 2010


I think I had forgotten about summer. Not having interns to supervise makes it feel less real. That and being away for its first month. But now it's too hot from noon to 6 pm, too cold right after that, and right now I can hear fireworks (R is, as usual, surprisingly indifferent). Though this strange school schedule means that independence day feels more like the start of summer, not the middle. It's strange how little is going on campus, compared to during the year.

Folks were over earlier and I tried to hide some zucchini in a salad that included potatoes (also from the garden!), grated zucch, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, thyme, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and, of course, salt & pepper. Not great but not too bad. Everyone was impressed by the gigantic-ness of my zucchini plants... but no one knows the cause - more morning sun? afternoon shade? fertilizer anomaly? oh, plants, why are you so fickle?

30 June 2010


... from Santa Fe and road tripping. See pictures of the Grand Canyon and whatnot. Not quite done processing the experience, but came home to an excessive amount of zucchini. Learned an interesting lesson tonight about hunger beating out kitchen creativity. And the house is still not self-cleaning. Sigh.

03 June 2010

What am I forgetting?

Tomorrow I embark on the first serious solo road trip I've taken in a while. I'll be in Santa Fe, NM, for the next three weeks, learning something about "complex systems." On the way I have plans to spend a night in the Mojave, a night with friends in Flagstaff, and then two nights at the Grand Canyon on the way home (which I have never before seen! gasp!)

At the end of a pretty ridiculous search, I finally found my old-ish iPod, which will make all of this much more fun. I've gone through more than one hard drive in the past few years, and, of course, I'm not so good about backing up music, so this little device contains some music that I don't have other access to (yes, I know I could deal with this... but that takes effort and some shadiness). It will be interesting. Just me, Rowdy (the car), Sylvie (the road bike), and a bunch of random stuff (my cycling shoes are already packed).

I've already said goodbye to N and R, so now it's just parting with the garden, which will hopefully survive without me. The real news is that the center hop reached the ROOF of the garage the other day. Observe:

Awesome. The corn may be a lost cause, but I have hope for everyone else.

Here goes something!

27 May 2010

Who knew?

Friends, I have surprising news: my brain has been hijacked by a crazy wedding planning person. This isn't actually all that surprising. I love parties, planning complicated things, and DIY stuff, so, really, a wedding is like a great culmination of fun things for me to obsess about. But it is a bit terrifying. Like, yesterday my cousin sent me links to EIGHT DIFFERENT WEBSITES that sell bicycle-themed wedding toppers that are not tandems. I hate to say it, but if for men the internet is for porn, for women it might be for wedding planning.

So, I either need to not talk about it here, or disconnect this blog from my "professional webpage" lest people realize that I spent several hours yesterday (1) looking for shrug knitting patterns, (2) shopping for yarn, and (3) knitting.

But, in other news, parts of the garden are going great. The weird one, though, is that my corn is tasseling at about 3 feet tall. Not good. According to the internet, corn flowering is linked to how many leaves it's put out, but its height is driven by sunlight & temperature. Hence, I plant corn too early, we have freakishly cold spring, I get diminutive corn. But supposedly it won't decrease yields. I'll let you know.

One more wedding / party planning comment: it's funny how some environmentally friendly things can make a party more expensive than normal (organic food, recycled paper invitations, providing shuttles), while others make it cheaper (not using flowers flown in from Peru, recycling, hand making stuff). Hmmm.

15 May 2010

The News!

Phew, well, yet again a couple of weeks have slipped by. But below is the epic tale of our engagement! Enjoy!

On Saturday, we drove up to Chico, CA, with the intent of pedaling in the 100-mile Chico Wildflower Century. At about 6 a.m. on Sunday I realized that I had forgotten my cycling shoes (a fairly essential part of a 100-mile ride). After a quick search for friendly cyclists with extra shoes, I conceded to try on N's size 10 (men's) shoes. With a pair of arm warmers stuffed in the toes, they weren't so bad, and so I conceded to *try* them on the ride. That left N with no shoes, but he valiantly pulled on a pair of socks, donned his flip-flops, and then duct-taped them to his feet.

At the 51-mile mark we reached the top of the last major climb, and while was I celebrating surviving, N, very unexpectedly, quieted the crowd at the rest stop, got down on one knee, and pulled out a ring! Of course I said yes, and then (since we were behind schedule due to the shoe epic) we got back on our bikes and finished the 100 miles.


26 April 2010

Once again...

... Sunset Magazine comes through, even though I was skeptical at first. Brown sugar-banana coffee cake muffins, I thought you were going to get ugly, but you turned out awesome. Hopefully my committee agrees. Actually, hopefully the muffins aren't the most important part of the meeting, but baking success is an added bonus.

There is other big news but it's not quite blog-ready yet. But we did successfully complete the Chico Wildflower Century on Sunday, despite several surprising, monumental occurrences.

20 April 2010

In the news

Our favorite local German beer garden is totally famous.

28 March 2010

The Salsa Trials of 2010

Whoa. This has been a pretty epic house/garden weekend. I started off with a solid to-do list, only to discover yesterday that each thing on the list was really a >1 hr type of activity (i.e. "harvest" = pick winner plants/leaves, reject losers, pull up whole plants, compost, wash, wash, wash). Last year I had what I think was salmonella from unwashed farmers market lettuce, so I am no longer casual about leaf-washing. But the salad spinner is my new favorite invention.

The real purpose of this post is to record a salsa recipe. In anticipation of tomato season I'm hoping to perfect a mix. I'm usually a pico de gallo kind of gal, but for long-term storage, I think boiling will have to do. So today I made two 12 oz jars of this (an amalgam of internet recipes)

Salsa Trial No. 1

9 med. tomatoes (from TJ's) chopped (seeds & middle stay in... I'm lazy)
1.5 chipotle jalapenos (from B & A) minced
1 T brown sugar
1 "garleek" (going to be hard to replicate) chopped
2 t salt
2 t white vinegar
0.5 c cilantro stemmed & washed
juice of 2 limes
zest of 1 lime
0.5 c onions (mini-scallions from the garden) minced
2 t black pepper
2 T cornstarch
0.25 c water

Combine all but last 2 ingredients in a big pot, hand blend till smooth, bring to a boil then simmer for 45 min to cook down. Mix cornstarch & water separately then add to pot. Pour into jars, let cool for a bit on the counter then into the fridge.

Upon first tasting this recipe is okay. Next time definitely needs more onions and a squidge more garlic (N permitting...) and maybe another spice, but I'll have to ask the expert for advice on that.

In other news, I out-planted the corn yesterday. I know it's too early, but it was too huge for the wee peat pots. I think normally it would be okay, but we're supposed to have epic weather this week. So I haven't planted the pumpkins and beans, in case we have to start over. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to live somewhere with simultaneous warmth and rain, eh?

27 March 2010

I had a leek there, but I got bored.

Epic garden day - mowed the over-grown lawn, planted the corn (with embarrassing soaker hose), and harvested almost everything from the raised beds. Sure, stuff wasn't ready, but after some thought I decided to turn it all into soup. I'm calling the garlic "garleeks", the leeks sad onions, and the onions... scallions. And the kale and chard... epic. But about 17 rounds with the salad spinner later, I think I've made soup. Now if I can just get it all into cans without any serious burns, I'll be good to go. Pictures will be posted manana. R is not entertained.

14 March 2010

Bed Prep

Yesterday I painstakingly cut all the cover crop in the 10x10 plot (wheat, vetch, fava beans, and who knows what else) and then dug it up. Then today I began what could be a long experiment. First I added some soil and manure to amend and level it out.

Then I covered the whole thing with newspaper, wetting it to keep it all from blowing away. This step will hopefully keep down the weeds. Looks classy, eh?

Finally, the whole thing got covered with a nice layer of soil. When I plant into it I'll dig through the newspaper, but hopefully this will cut down on the weeds and re-sprouting cover crop.

09 March 2010

more Spring!

We pedaled up OLH after work today, which was surprisingly not as hard as I expected (though I still wouldn't want to do it every day...) But the best part was that it is as close as I've ever been to hiking while on a road bike. Not only did we ride through redwoods, but there were Trilliums and milkmaids in bloom all along the road. And a lot of very fancy houses with PVs and water tanks, which I guess you have to do up there, but it was impressive.

08 March 2010

Spring! (well, almost)

Whoa, where did February go? Meh, it was rainy and cold and full of work. But now there's sunshine (springing forward this weekend, though that won't help my early mornings) and the garden is starting to perk up. I've been posting stuff on flickr, but here's the big winner:

The daffodils ('Tahiti' and another double) are finally starting to bloom! We also planted three 'Magnum' hops rhizomes (alpha 12-14%!), so the asparagus and hops bed is mostly done (still need to do some rigging for the hops). The seedlings I started indoors are growing a bit faster than I expected (mostly the corn), so we're changing our planting plans a bit, but all should be fine.

Otherwise all is well in our little homestead. My two new favorite books are the Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles and Home Grown. Just as long as it doesn't hail again...

31 January 2010

I am thinking of things that are brown.

Earlier today R and I went for a hike at Pulgas Ridge, where there was a serious fetid adder's tongue (Scoliopus bigelovii) party on the northwest side. Check this out:

So I don't forget, this is what I baked today, adapted from Dreena Burton's Vegan Recipes. Though, honestly, the whole wheat-for-spelt substitution was simply because I couldn't fathom a trip to Whole Paycheck just for spelt flour. These cookies are an attempt to solve two challenges: (1) being vegan for 1 or 2 months and (2) not being super hungry on days that I run. Immediately out of the oven they taste pretty good!

Super-Charge Me! Cookies

1 cup oats / whole grain mix
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp (rounded) sea salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 - 1/3 cup dried berries
3-4 tbsp walnut pcs
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup flax meal
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp almond butter
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp canola oil

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, coconut, dried fruit, and nuts, sift in baking powder, and stir until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flax meal, syrup, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Stir in oil. Add wet mixture to dry, and stir until just well combined (do not overmix). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon batter onto baking sheet evenly space apart, and lightly flatten. Bake for 13 minutes (no longer, or they will dry out). Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 minute (no longer), then transfer to a cooling rack.

Number of Servings: 12

In other news, I sowed seeds today (indoors, of course)! Cherry & Roma tomatoes, baby bell peppers, Ancho, Jalapeno, and New Mexican chiles, marigolds, and Echinacea. Get psyched for spring!

29 January 2010

Salinger & Zinn

I have to say, right now, that I have a closer affinity for Zinn, and more sentiment, than I do for Salinger. I think this is probably telling, but here's the thing: Salinger, at least in my brief, distant experience with him, wrote books for boys. It's interesting, actually. Adam Gopnick's tribute claims that "In American writing, there are three perfect books, which seem to speak to every reader and condition: 'Huckleberry Finn,' 'The Great Gatsby,' and 'The Catcher in the Rye.'" Funny thing - these are all books about men/boys. In contrast, A People's History of the United States reminds us that there is more to U.S. history, and life, than white men and their adventures. This also all sweetly reminds me of my high school APUS history teacher, Mr. Strand, who had us reading Zinn, Takaki, and Stephen Steinberg when we were supposed to be memorizing textbooks. In hindsight, those books (and Mr. Strand?) played huge roles in my adult view of the world.

AND, I am reminded that I should own (or at least preview from the library) Voices of a People's History of the U.S. - Zinn's selection of primary sources. Just as soon as the stack of books on the bedside table shrinks a bit.


This almost made me cry. Poor Rover...

19 January 2010

The best laid plans...

Before I start I would like to thank the home rental gods for providing me with a home with a gas stove. I woke up this morning (after waking up at the normal time, hitting the snooze, and going back to sleep) to find that the power was out and it was much later than I expected. Cool, except that my coffee maker needs electricity, and therefore I need electricity. But I rummaged out the French press, lit a burner on the stove, and made coffee anyway. Also, I'm glad I remembered to grind beans the night before. That does need electricity. I should keep an emergency stash of ground beans somewhere...

And then here we go. I am not a great cook. I'm not a terrible cook, but since I am a vegetarian and try to stick to Michael Pollan's rules ("Eat food, not too much, mostly plants") and experiment with raw diets, I don't have a huge repertoire. BUT I do own a tart pan (for reasons I won't discuss here) and so when the opportunity to produce a baked good of the tart variety arises, I often volunteer.

So, my friend is rallying some folks to try to raise money for Haiti the old fashioned way - with a rum-focused bake sale, Haitian single-drip coffee, and whatever we can get away with making in the bike-powered blender. Naturally, I volunteered to bake a tart.

Searching epicurious for baked deserts with rum, I found this, which looked relatively simple. And it is. Two problems: the "1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs" should read "1 1/2 cups." I know this now. Now that the bottom of my oven is covered in burned butter, my stove hood has been venting for 30 minutes, and both house doors are wide open (in January). Second problem is that it turns out (I should read these things more carefully before I start to make them) that the filling is just bananas mixed with apricot jam. JAM. Is that lame, or is it just me?

But it turned out at least food-looking, and my vision is to cut it up then serve single slivers topped with the whipped cream. And nutmeg. Or maybe I'll add nutmeg now...

18 January 2010

To Link, or Not To Link

There are now five sprouted asparagus, and after untangling an epic knot, I'm trying to get back in the knitting saddle, as it were.

There are some additional ponderings, but they may have to wait.

14 January 2010

Tiny Asparagus

Today there were two (of ten root crowns planted on 12/30).

[sorry about the crappy picture] They were planted about 10 inches deep, then covered with a few inches of soil. Once they've all emerged I'll cover them with a couple more inches, until they emerge again, looping (I've been writing code all day) until the ground is flat again. Then NEXT YEAR we get to taste a bit of home-grown asparagus. This year we're just all about establishment.

In other news it's supposed to rain like crazy all weekend/next week, so I may get my wish of lazing around the house and reading all day. And in one of my beer traps there was a crazy huge larvae thing. Gross.

11 January 2010

On Coffee

I'm thinking a lot about coffee these days because (1) a friend of ours sent us some of his favorite local beans for Christmas and (2) apparently coffee grounds spread around a plant prevent slugs (so far so good!). BUT, more interestingly, recently several people have independently told me how their new favorite thing is single-cup, freshly-ground drip coffee, and how they've found it to be the most delicious, best way to enjoy the brew. "Wow," I've responded. "Yeah... you know that's like the hipster trend of the moment, right?" They all have responded with disappointment and/or incredulity. "Really?" "Damn."

Though it's not really even of the moment. Blue Bottle Coffee has been around for nearly 10 years (they now sell it on campus), I had single brew coffee from a pedi-cart in Chico, CA, almost three years ago, there's a single-brew place in my (not hip) neighborhood, and the Chemex was invented in 1941 (so could it qualify as steampunk?). There's no real point to this except that (1) how can people be so unaware of what, at least in the Bay Area, is like 15 minutes away from being the next big ubiquitous thing, and (2) be so bummed that it's a trend?

Interestingly (with some web surfing), it seems as if there may be a debate among coffee brewers at this time. Some, like Blue Bottle and Chemex, rock the pour-through-paper-filter method. Others, like Stumptown, are apparently all about the French press-style (soak the grinds then filter). I am apparently not the expert to judge, but I will point out that I tend to be anti-sludge.

Still, as long as we still have a non-Nescafe option, I'm cool.

10 January 2010

Oddly Cleansing

Yesterday morning we started cutting. Or, I started cutting on the small apple tree. Then we moved up to the big apple and flowering plum. The carbon-handled loppers N got me for Christmas are fantastic, as are N's climbing skills and our neighbors. Midday yesterday involved our neighbor on the roof of his garage (with the white siding in the picture), beer in one hand, chainsaw-on-a-stick in the other, us with a rope around a limb to pull it into our yard, and then a lot of smoke (chain could use some sharpening). Here are the winning shots. Before:

And after:

The neighbors also loaned us the cutting pole and the crazy ratcheting loppers. Which were great. The flowering plum still has a big top on it, but, well, it's really tall and awkward. Plus a hummingbird definitely considers the top of the tree to be an essential part of its territory, so we felt bad cutting it down. Maybe next year it will have to go all together. I starting thinking I could plant a coffeeberry or two in its place...

I have a new respect for wood rats after my experience cutting up and piling tiny bits of stick (which will maybe all fit in our green waste bin eventually? too much for the compost, I think, and we probably shouldn't burn it). It's a lot of work! And imagine doing all that with just your teeth and no opposable thumbs!

We also caught another slug (!!!) and I'm trying using coffee grounds around the bases of plants as a slug deterrent. We shall see. I ordered the last of the seeds we need for the summer, so I think we're pretty good to go. Though we may just have to wrap copper tape around all the raised beds. And I'm still waiting for the asparagus to come up. Did I mention the asparagus...?

06 January 2010

Update - spoke too soon

In the daylight this a.m. I saw this

Next to this

Victory! But only one. How many more are out there...?

The Slug Wars of 2010

I think the garden has a (minor) slug problem (holes nibbled in leaves, a few missing edges). So I did the reasonable thing and went and got a six-pack of Simpler Times, sank a few shallow jars/salsa containers between the plants, filled them each with the brew and a pinch of yeast, and patiently waited. But it's morning number two and still no slug carnage! Somewhere the internets said birds might pick the dead slugs out, so you might not see them, but I just went out pre-dawn and still no slugs! Am I doing something wrong? No noticeable increase in slug damage, either, so maybe they're on vacation, but I'm pretty disappointed. (side note: how do Buddhists grow food? I'm down with growing organically, but not killing pests? How does that work?)

I also read in a book that spreading coffee grounds around the base of seedlings (or just on the ground before they sprout) works. I may try this on the strawberries. And N loves it when I collect and store random trash-like things. Tupperware full of used coffee grounds, anyone?

02 January 2010

First Harvest

Radishes! Meowkay, so we've been eating the arugula, lettuce, and spinach for a bit now, but this is the first things we've actually, like, grown into food (esp. since I bought the lettuce & spinach as starts, so basically all I've done is not kill them... yet...)

N's dad and step-mom are in town and coming over for dinner, so I thought it was an appropriate occasion to harvest. I've spent most of the past few days poring through seed catalogs, and designing our spring garden, but I'm beginning to worry that I won't have much to do in the coming months.

But then again, N got me awesome carbon-handled (of course) Felco loppers for Christmas and so now I get to go nuts on our trees. We did the fig last week, and the apples and plum will come along shortly. Though I think those will be a bit more involved.

I also *finally* finished the baby quilt I was making, and I'm pretty happy with it (but the next babies are definitely getting knitted things!) and threw together some slippers for the cousins and sister-in-law. Mental note = sewing through vinyl is hard! But seeing all three of them immediately put them on Christmas Eve was totally cool.

Okay. Time to go help cook! (vegetarian risotto with pureed acorn squash, porcini, & red bell pepper, roast asparagus, and warm spinach salad)

Happy New Year, internet!