gardening


This year I was determined to plant my entire garden from seed.  Most everything was a success, minus the few that met their demise with the slugs, but otherwise fairly successful – except for my tomatoes!  Of course, another crappy year for The Calhoun’s and their tomatoes.  For those of you who know me, you know that I do not eat tomatoes during the off season and that I LIVE for that first fresh farm grown tomato from either my garden or the farmers market (usually the farmer’s market is where I get my first).  And from that moment, until the end of the season, I live on tomatoes.  Tomato sandwiches everyday, sliced tomato with sea salt or olive oil or just as is, panzanella salad (my two loves – tomatoes and bread – seriously is there anything better!?), pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes, faux bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, fresh tomato sauce, the list goes on.  I’m surprised I don’t have sores all over my mouth from the acid!

But going back to our tomatoes, I used Renee’s garden heirloom tomato seeds – I usually like Renee’s garden – so I’m not sure if it’s the weather we’ve had in Northern Cali (unusually cool and foggy) or if it was a bunk batch – but whatever it is – the plants looked lovely but the tomatoes not so much.  Small, small, small  – not big enough to slice for a sandwich.  So when all the tiny green tomatoes finally started to turn red I started making salsa, sauces, salads, etc.  They taste fine – just not that uber juicy giant beauty I like to sink my teeth into.

Luckily the farms in the area have provided me with my fix, as well as Doug’s co-worker and our friend who works at a local farm (we get lots of the leftover tomatoes – perfect for sauces). 

So I got my first batch of leftovers and other stragglers that had not been grubbed and made some sauce to freeze.  Oh, did it feel good to be in the kitchen, over the stove, smelling the slowly simmering sumptuous sauce – all made with veggies from our yard, our friends yards and a local farm (which the property is shared with our friends’ so essentially our friends property too). 

I will look forward to that cold rainy winter day when I pull out a bag to use for our dinner.  The smell will bring me right back to the beautiful summer day when this was simmering all day – as kids run barefoot through the house squealing with joy.  Ahhhh a moment in time 🙂

I was happy to see this little guy with pollen all over him flying around the garden.  We have not had as many bees in the garden as in past years, but there are still plenty flitting about from flower to flower, providing us with the lulling hum of their buzz.  Some days my favorite thing to do is go out in the early morning and sit close to the rosemary bushes or wherever they happen to be congregating that particular morning, and get lost in their hum.  It’s very therapeutic.

This little guy showed up one day (a volunteer from our compost we dumped in that particular raised bed).  At first I thought it was a squash of some sorts, then as it continued to grow I was thinking a type of melon and then when my friend Kendra was over she pointed out the flattened bottom and said “that’s a pumpkin”.  How silly of me – of course that’s what it is!  It’s now starting to turn orange.  The kids and I are so excited about our little guest in the garden – what a welcome face.

Luckily the peaches and nectarines didn’t ripen at the same time.  It was actually perfect.  As we finished with the peaches, the nectarines were ready.  These two trees are fairly young – the peach is about 2 years old and the nectarine about a year so we don’t get a whole lot of fruit (maybe about 2 -3 dozen) but enough to enjoy .  I love walking to my car to head out to work and grabbing a nice ripened fruit to bring for my lunch.  Yum!

Our first two potatoes 🙂  I can not wait to start harvesting the potatoes.  With the way the plants have been going, we should have a good crop – we’ll see.  These two were volunteers (or at least not with the rest) I must have left a seed potato in the other bed by accident.  But what a nice accident it was.  I uncovered these when I was pulling up all our onions (and boy did we get a lot of those).

Early August in the garden

Our first sunflower face to say hello 🙂

or a much more appropriate name “deadly nightshade”!  Much to my dismay, this little villain has taken root in my garden!  I saw these plants coming up in random spots in the garden and at first I thought it was a volunteer tomatillo – kinda looked a bit like them.  But then as they continued to grow I didnt’ really think that’s what it was, I didn’t really know what it was.  Then I saw these little berries form in clusters, hmmmmm?…… I am always a bit cautious when I see a plant with berries that I don’t know, always makes me think of poisonous berries? 

Well, my intuition was correct.  I had been meaning to take a picture and bring to my garden guru at work but kept forgetting so on Saturday as I was walking out to my car to head to work, I remembered I needed to ask Kimberely about the plant, so I ripped off a stem.

The look on Kimberely’s face when I walked in to her office – panic, horror, mouth agape.  Before I could even get the words out of my mouth “what is this” as I’m holding the deadly little bugger in my hands, she says (in her oh so eloquent english accent) that is “deadly nightshade”! 

I wanted to drop it and scrub the first couple layers of skin off of my hands, but I sat and listened to what she had to say.  So I was right to link it to a tomatillo, because they are in the nightshade family as well (as are potatoes and tomatoes – both which were in the same bed as this guy – probably cross pollinating each other).  But unlike those nightshade species that you can eat, this guy, not so much.  Wikipedia stated 2 berries (and these are little berries, about the size of a small blueberry) will KILL a child – yes, that’s right folks, KILL!!!!! 

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  My kids, my animals, the other animals in the area, all potentially in danger due to this death trap!  All I wanted to do was walk out the door, get in my truck and head back home to eradicate these little suckers.  But I had to work 😦  So of course I had to do a quick read on wikipedia myself, which made me feel more sick. 

But then I wondered about homeopathy – it’s used in small amounts?  How can that be?  So I felt a bit more calm, as well, as my kids are pretty good – they only eat what they know from the garden.

Kimberely had told me to go wash my hands thoroughly – you just don’t want to take a chance.  I did read that the roots are the most toxic, so while I was eradicating them at home I wore gloves and made sure to not come in contact with the roots.  I’m sure I was being overly cautious BUT not taking any chances.

I’m not sure how it made it into our garden but I will definitely be on the lookout for this “grim reaper”.

I wanted to share how we store our lettuce.  Not sure if you’ve ever had the experience of having lettuce go bad – the smell, the black slime 😦   yuck!  My succession planting has not gone exactly how I had planned, I still harvested, in one day, (4) gallon size bags of lettuce!  Much better than the past where I’m harvesting the entire planter in one day, but I need to get a bit better with my succession planting. 

Anyways, we eat a lot of salad and use lettuce on our sandwiches, but that’s still a lot to eat before it all goes bad.  But I have found a way that seems to prolong its refrigerator life (well at least it works for us).

Here’s how it goes…..

Harvest the lettuce

pull individual leaves, wash and spin

lay out a layer of paper towel, spread lettuce leaves in a single layer (you can overlap some but just don’t do too many) and then lay another paper towel over and continue the above process

I usually do 3 high and then I fold it over and store in a ziplock bag in the veggie drawer. 

 

This keeps the lettuce nice and crisp but also keeps it from having too much moisture which is what seems to be the culprit of the lettuce rotting so quickly and it’s ready for your meals.

With this method none of our lettuce has gone bad and it’s not a total pain when you are getting ready for dinner and want a salad – no washing or spinning – it’s already done for you.

And I always save the paper towel and bags and reuse (because I know it sounds very wasteful) but I just had to replace one of the bags paper towels (and this was after 5 uses).  You could also use tea towels if you prefer.

We have been enjoying wonderful salads every night with dinner – the kids love them too!

A few posts ago, I had said that the strawberries were finally coming in and I showed a little basket of berries I had picked, which at the time I was thrilled about because we had been waiting for them to arrive.  Well they have arrived….

one days harvest

a few days later!

We are LOVING this!  Every morning we have strawberries with our cereal – so yummy.  We had so many that we made some strawberry ice cream (just grabbed a cheap ice cream machine at Target – not totally sure about it) – it was yummy – but we didn’t have the rock salt so the ice cream didn’t quite do what it should so we put the mixture in the freezer instead.  The custard base recipe was from, none other than, The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters – my bible!  So creamy. 

We have another big batch of berries waiting to be picked so we’ll try again (we now have the rock salt – let’s see if that was the issue). 

In the meantime we will continue enjoying our berries as is, whenever we want them 🙂

What is your favorite way to eat strawberries?  In salads? In ice cream?  Right off the plant?

Two Friday’s ago, as I was doing my Friday night ritual (a glass of wine and the paper – the garage sale section to be exact) checking to see what treasures were out there for the next mornings hunt.  And much to my delight I see “worm bin”!  I have been wanting a worm bin – I was going to make one out of an old wine box – but with all the other projects on our plate – that was towards the bottom (unfortunately).  So when I saw this I was stoked – “we’re there!” 

With coffee in hand (of course) and kids in tow, off we went on Saturday and there it was – right at the front of the driveway – The Can-O -Worms!

Exactly what I’ve been looking for – I’ll take it!  And only $20 – score.  Good thing we got there when we did because as I was telling the lady that I would buy it – someone was walking up behind me asking about it.  Phew!  It was fate, I realized I knew the lady from the local yarn store – which was good because I only had a check with me and she wasn’t really wanting to take a check but once we started chatting about the yarn store – I was in!

Ryder and I set up the bin with some of our compost and now we sit and wait and watch.  I keep checking on them everyday – expecting a gold light to come shining out as I open the bin (liquid gold – that’s what the worm tea is).  I can’t wait to start using it in the garden.

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips on the Can-O-Worms?  I can’t wait to get this all dialed in and eventually I will be bringing a small one to the kids school.  Love them red wigglers!

Worms are the shit!

Thursday we had fun tending to the garden and harvesting a couple yummy items…

The strawberries are final coming in and we have a few blueberries too 🙂  We only have 3 little blueberry bushes – one we planted last year and the other two are new, so we won’t be harvesting enough to make a pie but they sure are delicious to eat as an afternoon snack.

Ryder and I harvested all the favas – we got about about 7 lbs or so ( I should have weighed them but I was so excited to get them shelled and turned into that yummy fava spread I talked about here). But they are all out and now there’s room for some more goodies – edamame and kale.

one of the baskets we harvested ( I think there ended up being about 5 of these). 

Here’s a shot of the little nitrogen nodules on the root of the fava’s

those little white ball looking things are the nitrogen nodules that are so good for the soil.

now these plants will all go back to the soil (once they’ve spent a couple weeks and made a couple spins in the composter – which is now my work out for my quads – I’ll show pictures later but we took an old 50 gallon pickle barrel and drilled holes all around it and now I kick it across the yard a couple times each day – it cost $8 – much better than the hand cranked ones that are more than $100 and it’s a good workout!)

What have you been harvesting?

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