Category Archives: Garden

Quilts on My Mind

I just got back from a hot week of facilitating strategy meetings in Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia. It is such a pretty park! It was in the 50’s and 60’s all week and in between sessions I lazed on the deck in a t-shirt, smelled the spring air and gazed at the mountains – a bee even landed in my coffee.  I kept subconsciously thinking I needed to be getting on my gardening, then remembering that it was JANUARY. The weather is crazy.

I have really been missing my sewing machine, to the point that on the drive home yesterday under a brilliant blue sky, I passed under a white bridge that had “Eat the rich” spray painted in gray and thought, “Oh, that gray/white/blue combo would make a great quilt!”

To that end, I have some new fabric combos I am working on – these are by request – a gray and yellow quilt for a wedding and a purple and gold quilt for a high school graduation.

Purple quilt - stage 1

Yellow and gray quilt - stage 1

Garlic 101

When I was in college, I met a couple who supposedly made their living farming different varieties of heirloom garlics. Forgive me, but I thought this sounded incredibly romantic. I’m pretty sure I even wrote a poem about it, because, well, I used to write poems about everything that happened.

Though I am less starry-eyed about garlic these days, I still have an above average affection for it. I can say garlic in German (knoblauch) and Spanish (ajo) and Swedish (vitlock).  I once went to a restaurant called The Stinking Rose, where the pesto is just chunks of raw garlic with some basil leaves mixed in. For desert I had garlic ice cream. By the time I got to the garlic ice cream, my taste buds were no longer able to taste the flavor of garlic and it just tasted like ice cream, however, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it had I been able to. I sweated pure garlic for days afterwards. As a side note, one of our party looked sulkily at the menu and asked if they had anything without garlic? Needless to say, I don’t talk to her anymore.

Shockingly, despite my fangirl status, I have never grown my own garlic! Probably because by the fall I’m too bored with gardening to throw any garlic in. But this year I was determined.

Over the last few weeks, I have learned several useful things about garlic. How did I not know these things before! :

  1. There are two basic types – hard neck and soft neck. Hard neck garlic is easier to peel and grows better in northern climates. Soft neck is the kind you can braid and grows better in warm places.
  2. To plant garlic, you drop in cloves of garlic (usually two inches deep and 6-8 inches apart). For some reason it never occurred to me till this week that you could go to the farmers market and buy garlic there and then plant it in your yard, and the next spring, fancy heirloom garlic! Is there any difference between this and the fancy heirloom garlic they sell specifically for planting online? I hope not!
  3. Not totally related, but wild onion (seen incidentally in the photo) is bad for you, babies, and livestock in large quantities. My dad always told me not to eat it, and (bummer) he was right! I’m glad I looked it up before I ate a bunch of it.
Below is my garlic bed, which is actually bigger now, I found some more garlic I had been saving up. 

garlic

Fall Harvest Volunteer

Today I volunteered with a big community garden and some YMCA afterschool kids. Among other things, we cleaned a giant pile of Daikon radishes for distribution to poor people and also to sell to rich people.

See, I took a picture of me and a bunch of kids cleaning them and separating the greens and radishes into separate piles and then cleaning them (I’m the one with curly hair):

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Ok, actually, that is a drawing I did of it. Could you tell? I purposely didn’t take a picture because sometimes I get this idea that we take too many pictures and it’s a lazy artificial way to experience nice things. Like, it becomes more about the photographs than the experience itself.  The flip side of that is that I have a remarkably poor memory and rarely remember anything outside of photographs.  I had a girl’s getaway weekend this summer, and halfway through, we paused and drew pictures of a bunch of the fun stuff we had just finished doing. For some reason I thought this added way more to the excitement than just taking a picture of our activities (though we took a lot of those).

Anyway, back to the present, it was a really beautiful fall day, and in case you are wondering, the size of the piles of radishes are pretty much true to life in the image above.  I am actually pretty doubtful that the city of Columbus can support the influx of this many Daikon radishes, but hey, I’m just the volunteer.

Vegan Apple Cake Success

imageThis recipe was my second attempt to come up with some kind of vegan apple recipe to use up the half gallon of apple butter that we didn’t can (ran out of jars!!!). I suppose I could freeze the apple butter (???), but I’d rather freeze it in some kind of usable form.

I got “Canning for a New Generation” by Liana Krissof as a wedding gift, as well as another book about canning. I am pretty happy with her book, it’s cute and friendly and casual and MOST IMPORTANTLY has lots of tips for the lazy, non-perfectionist person (like, you don’t have to peel everything). Yay! It’s really usable and includes recipes on how to use all the crap you just preserved and not just HOW to can/preserve, but WHY you have to do it that way so that you don’t die and/or kill all your friends (ie, a lecture on botulism, fun!).  I like knowing WHY I am supposed to do something a certain way so I know which rules I can safely ignore.

But she really won me over when I realized her Applesauce Cake recipe is vegan AND formulated to use the leftover pulp from her recipe for homemade apple pectin stock.

Vegan baking sidenote: I actually prefer cooking without butter, because I think butter tastes too, ahh, buttery. To me, butter is more of a savory flavor than a sweet one.  So it doesn’t phase me at all to bake without butter.

The struggle with vegan baking (for me) is moisture and density, as in, too much of it, always. Eggs really do a lot of good things for cakes and breads. My vegan sweet breads especially often come out doughy in the middle.

My last round of attempts to use up apple butter and apple pulp were ridiculously dense and gooey in the middle. Though they tasted awesome, it was a bummer. And edible bummer though!

These cakes rose really nicely and fluffily. So now I will make six more of them and put those in the freezer too. If you come and visit, I’ll pull one out for you!

Garden Cat

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My cat Fancy has realized that my out of control gourd patch is the perfect height for her to spy on the neighbors.  However, the more it rains the less the cats are in the garden, and the more the groundhogs and raccoons and bunnies are in the garden. And yes, it is has been raining nearly every day for a while.

So, the garden is looking a little rough, but still keeps cranking out the tomatoes (which mostly go to the groundhogs, who need the lycopene, I guess?) and the habanero peppers and of course endless giant gourds, which I planted on a whim and now I am having to look up how to make birdhouses out of giant gourds, because lord have mercy, what am I going to do with these cursed gourds.

I keep saying that the plant kingdom is just as merciless and brutal as the animal kingdom, but, you know, slower. Case in point, all of the gourd plant above is from one plant. And I regularly mow around the edges of it to keep it in check, but it still grows…..

Frankly, I am feeling kind of spiteful towards the garden at this point, actually, because it killed off my cucumbers, but is hurling endless habaneros and basketball sized gourds at me.

I have canned up a gallon or so of hot sauce of three levels of spiciness, and dried around 30 of the little monsters up to make into unholy quantities of chili powder, and given away around 30 more peppers. And let a lot of them rot on the ground.  Which I suppose means they are getting to seed the whole garden with their evil, spicy progeny.

But isn’t Fancy cute? Who needs garden gnomes when you have garden cats?

Garden In Review

Garden Thoughts – September 19, 2011

I think it’s useful to review what just happened in our garden:

On what we planted this year:

Butternut squash – three plants again – everything was awesome.

Tomatoes – Fewer cherry tomatoes. We don’t really use them. But we can handle the produce from 15 or so regular size tomatoes and 2-3 cherries.

We do need to stake them and sucker them like crazy. I am thinking to cage and stake them, but stake them early and put the stake really far in when the ground is soft because everything fell over in the big storms and never got back up again.

Green beans – get different varieties next year and some climbers so we can use some vertical sun space. These didn’t have enough sun and I hated crouching down to pick them.  Maybe plant them in with corn

Corn – No trouble though the groundhog and raccoons ate 90% of it. Plant in mounds next year? Looks good.

Peas – yes please! I loved our pea trellis!

Freeze more cilantro.

More marigolds, they are pretty

Have green and red peppers. Two plants each. Two plants of hot peppers, IF we have used up all of the spices from this years bumper crop from hell

Lots of cucumbers! 5 plants? Plant in different parts of the garden so if one plant fails, we’ll increase the chance of getting more. We only got one cucumber all summer. Waah.

More sun for the zucchini – we got about a zuke a week, which isn’t so bad, but not so good.

Kale – yes please! Five plants would be better than four. And get seeds for a fall planting.

Giant Gourds – no thanks. Or if we do plant them, put them 50 feet from everything else. The flowers are really pretty at night and the gourds look cool.

More lemon thyme, I loved it!

12 basil plants was a good amount. Save the seeds from the basil plants we had because they were awesome. Purple basil is pretty but doesn’t taste that good. Don’t mess with the thai basil, we hardly ever use it.

Leave more room for walking

Stuff we didn’t plant but wanted:

More herbs – parsley, regular thyme, Oregano.

Get brussel sprout seeds! Lots of them.  Spring planting and fall planting, please!

Broccoli –

Eggplant? This year our seeds didn’t do anything. Matt wants them.

Cauliflower – we had three of these plants but they got overshaded by the peas and never did anything. Eh. I didn’t miss them.

Cabbage! It’s our favourite! Sauer kraut!

Beets? More in the ground things.

We are about to plant some garlic!

Apple Time!

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This was really one of our first free weekends since July so we went to an apple orchard. We were going to go to a Paw Paw festival, but eh, it was an hour and a half farther away.

We saw they had boxes of “seconds” or “canning” apples for $5 a half bushel. So, we bought four. Then we walked around the orchard for a few hours, not picking any, because our trunk was already full.

Are we crazy? What if I told you we’d already bought a half bushel of apples at the farmers market that morning? What if you have no idea what a half bushel is? I can tell you – it is a bit smaller than a printer paper box.  A bushel is about 50 lbs. SO we now had 125 pounds of apples. Is this possible? Maybe we had less.

Apple Cider! OK, so, my favorite tool EVER is the apple-corer-slicer that we got at the Goodwill for $5 this summer in anticipation of Apple-Time. Here is a HOT VIDEO of one.  Let me tell you, I am much faster at using those things than that person in the video.

Matt wanted to make apple cider, and we were told we’d get about a gallon and a half from a each half bushel/25 lbs. AND that the sooner you juice them, the more juice you get. So, we got cranking away on the apples for that. We cored them, then juiced them with the skins on. We made 5 gallons of cider, and used champagne yeast to ferment it. We’ll let you know in about a month if it works! Matt was really the hero on that one.

I also made 3.5 quarts of Apple Butter. I made that much because that is the size of my slow cooker. HINT: Making Apple Butter on a slow cooker is way more easy than doing it over a fire in a giant cast iron cauldron like some people still do in Appalachia. Incidentally, the apple that dries up on the side of the slow cooker as the water evaporates down makes the most delicious fruit leather.  I would like to make fruit leather on purpose sometimes, as it is AWESOME!

AND we canned up a gallon of apple sauce. Making apple sauce and apple butter makes me feel like the worlds best cook, even though all I did was slice the apples and put them in a pot. You know how sometimes you are canning and nibbling on whatever it is all day and by the end of the day, the idea of eating any of the food you just labored to preserve just turns your stomach? Well, that never happens to me with apple sauce or apple butter.

And we used apples in the peaches we canned to reduce the amount of sugar we had to put in the peach and nectarine jams we were making. Apples are full of pectin so you can use them as a more natural and local way to sugar up your, well, everything.

But that’s another story!

Veggies on Their Way!

Veggie Pattern In ProgressVeggie Pattern In ProgressBecause it’s raining too much to do much with my veggies in the garden, I’ve decided to finally finish my Veggies Extravaganza pattern series.

Oh did you not know I was working on a Veggie Pattern series? That’s because I have been very lazy, ahem, secretive about it.

The only hint I have given was the free “Kale On Guitar” pattern I put out in February.

I’ll do some more free veggie patterns sometime soon (definitely within the next five years!).

I’m stitching up the sample For Sale patterns right now.

One thing that is amazing about veggies is that their little sprouts taste just like the big version of themselves. I know because I generally eat all the sprouts that I thin out. Waste not, want not! Most startling this morning was the tiny, tiny cucumber sprout full of cucumber flavor, if a cucumber was a leaf.