Archive for July, 2008

July Surprise

Three things lately have surprised me in a happy way.

First, the other night when I was grilling some chicken for the Kid and I, I noticed a suspiciously familiar looking plant winding it’s way onto the deck near the grill. I’m only just beginning to redeem the area around the back deck. For years, that part of the yard was fenced off for the three dog the X and I had between us. Since then, we lost two dogs via attrition and the remaining Dog became such an escape artist that it’s impossible to keep him in a fenced yard. This has allowed me to start thinking of the yard off the back deck as a potential gardening area again and also simply let me use the deck. However, I haven’t gotten much farther than the “thinking” stage so, for instance, the flower boxes off the deck are still mostly in weeds. The familiar looking weed turned out to be a hale, tho small, tomato plant complete with wee tomatoes. I am not certain how it got there as I have never grown tomatoes in that spot. But it felt like a blessing on my renewed commitment to the garden and my plans for that yard/deck area.

Second. I took the Kid out into the backyard to admire the newly forming beans. The beans are flowering and being pollinated by a buzzing mass of bees and the beans are forming up nicely. While we were out there, the Kid checked out the zucchini patch and brought in another large one. I had him chuck it into the krisper reserved for the zukes and bemoaned the staggering number of them. He had been lobbying for some cookies for an afternoon treat. So, I suggested that perhaps zucchini bread would be a good plan. A couple of days ago I figured out how to get his old, battered laptop onto our home wireless network so he proudly looked up a zucchini bread receipe online *on his computer*. We worked together to make the bread — using skills I taught him at 3 or 4 that he has now completely mastered. He can sift, measure, pour, stir and even grease and flour a baking pan. He was so pleased and taken with the idea that we had ourselves grown the zucchini and then looked up a recipe and then made the bread ourselves. He really got that whole complete cycle thing. Even to the point of noticing that we put the ends of the zucchini and the shells of the eggs into the compost bin. It felt, for me, like watching the hard work of rehearsals bloom into a wonderful and entertaining play. The bread was good too — sweet and moist and tasty.

Third. At the Orange Farmer’s Market on Tuesday, we got the most unusual watermelon. It’s an heirloom variety called Moon and Stars. It is a long melon with a dark green skin. There are mottled yellow spots, which especially on the melon we bought, did indeed resemble a night sky with a prominent moon and a scattered field of stars. I bought it primarily because I was so taken by the “art work”. But the melon itself has a rich, sweet flavor that I’ve completely given up expecting from supermarket melons. We are saving seeds for next summer :).

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July 25, 2008 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

Zucchini Madness

Hello. My name is Three Herbs and I have a problem with zucchini.

Right now I have seven zucchinis in my vegetable crisper, three pints of pureed zucchini in the freezer and three quart bags of frozen chunked zucchini. And four lusty hills of the stuff are out in the garden growing more. I can almost hear them.

As a warning to others, I relay the story of my relationship with zucchini. Sure, I read the stories and watched the training films. But of course I didn’t think it could happen to me. Garrison Keelor’s advice to lock the car in the church parking lot so that neighbors could not leave bags of green ball bats on the seat seemed as fanciful to me as snow must to a Fiji Islander. For years if I got enough zucchini for one or two nice meals featuring it that was a bountiful gardening year indeed.

Three words. Squash vine borers. They were the bane of my zucchini existence and did a bang-up job ruining my crop each year. Over time I got reckless and expansive in my zucchini planting habits. I routinely put in an entire raised bed of the stuff, hoping against hope for one or two squashes to make it through the borer onslaught.

The ironic part is that I knew a way around this difficulty or thought I did or might. Years and years back I had read that protection against squash borers could be had by planting some tobacco in with the seeds of one’s squash plants. The theory, I believe, is that the nicotine (a natural pest poison) made it’s way through the zucchini circulatory system and kept borers at bay. I even sorta kinda remembered trying it once in a small garden far from here. And seeing it work. The problem was that since I don’t smoke, spit, chew or hang with those who do I kept not having any tobacco on hand when I planted my zucchini.

This year I was prepared. This year when I picked up a packet of zucchini seeds from the rack in my local grocery store, I also procured a pouch of the cheapest chewing tobacco on offer. I planted my usual bed of zucchini and added in a pinch of tobacco on each hill.

The rains came and kept on coming. The weather turned warm and then hot. The vines prospered. The squash borers vanished. I haven’t seen one. The squash plants are enormous and still growing and incredibly healthy. And there are a lot of them, aren’t there? All producing madly.

Be careful what you wish for 🙂

July 22, 2008 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

A Whirlwind Week

After posting faithfully since I began this blog, I’ve only managed one very brief post in the entire last week. The DP’s life this summer certainly doesn’t lend itself to reflection. But after a shorter-than-usual driving day yesterday, I am back in the very,very hot but more serene Piedmont. And I’m wishing more fervently than I usually do that there was some way to split myself physically to match the emotional split that certainly already exists within me. I want to be here. But I want to be there too. Ah well.

I had an interesting week. Most of the time I tagged along with the DP as she rocketed between her various camps in SW Connecticut. I spent one completely enjoyable morning tooling around in the deep countryside around Easton and Redding looking for a farmstand that turned out to be closed. But the driving itself was a gift. On Saturday, the DP and I drove north along the border of New York and Connecticut into the Berkshires. Drop-dead gorgeous countryside there. We stopped off at Taconic State Park (NY Side) / Bash Bish State Park (Mass. Side) and walked up to Bash Bish Falls for a picnic lunch. We had the last of our peaches from a roadside stand in Easton and this truely outstanding blue cheese from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company that we bought at a stand near the intersection of US22 and NY 199.

We spent the night in Fishkill and then said goodbye yesterday morning. She dove back in to camp life and I started back to the Piedmont — already several hours further along than usual. I got in around 7:30, stopped by the X’s to say Hi to the Kid. Then came back to the Piedmont house, unloaded a few things, made a quick pesto supper and dropped in to bed. I haven’t yet inspected the garden except a quick glance to confirm that nothing had died in my absence. Everything seems to be growing well.

It’s predicted to be quite hot here over the next couple of days. Not looking forward to that. Miss the DP quite a bit.

July 21, 2008 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

The Traveling Life

For the last few days I’ve been living a truely nomadic life. My clothes, cooking gear, cooler, and office gear are all packed and loaded into the car as the DP and I drive around the CRV visiting the various summer camps in her charge. If I have a picnic table in the shade and a good wireless signal I’m good. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it’s less than ideal.

So far I’ve had the chance to track down one of the farm stands on my extensive farmstand list. After much effort I found the place only to be told that they were not up and running at this point. I’m not sure when farm stand season begins if mid-July is “still too early” but oh well. By happenstance I passed a more commercial operation and got some nice cherries, peaches, and tomatoes.

Tomorrow, we’re going to cross the mountains and spend the day in the Hudson River Valley. Perhaps I’ll have better luck in that watershed. The weather has been gorgeous. It’s perhaps not the way I’d like to live my entire life but for a few days, it’s been an interesting and refreshing change of pace.

July 18, 2008 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Driving Barefoot

Over time I’ve found that driving for long periods wearing traditional shoes makes my feet, especially the back of my heel, hurt. So, I’ve adopted the custom of driving in an old pair of moosehide bedroom slippers. They look enough like street-wear mocs to pass at rest stops and gas stations and for rainy, snowy, or icy weather I have a pair of slip-on barn boots in the car.

Today, I’m making a change — actually several changes. I’ve re-done my driving route electing to travel mostly smaller roads on a more direct (read less total miles) route. And I’m leaving the driving slippers in the closet. Today, I’ll slip on the barn boots at rest stops, bring my sneakers for everyday wear during the week and do my driving barefoot.

July 14, 2008 at 11:07 am Leave a comment

Pesto and Packing

I spent just under three hours yesterday evening trimming my basil bed, picking leaves off stems, processing the leaves with garlic, salt, and olive oil and packing the finished pesto into baby food jars to stick into the freezer. I ended up with eight additional jars of pesto in the freezer. This gives me a total of 15 jars in the freezer and completely exhausted my store of empty baby food jars. I figure I need about 28 jars to have pesto every week (1 jar per week) during the non-basil months (November – May). So, I should be in good shape to reach that goal and maybe even have pesto to share with friends and family.

I also froze three pints of pureed zucchini and three quarts of cubed zucchini. I have frozen pureed zucchini before and used it as a thickener in soup or for zucchini bread but I have not tried freezing it in any other form. I thought maybe the cubes would work in minestrone or ratatouille. I just knew that I had to do something with all of the zukes I harvested yesterday. One was a real ball bat that had escaped my notice and the Kid’s hiding under cover of the mammoth zucchini leaves. I held out three nice small zukes to take with me tomorrow and one large one to split, stuff and grill for my dinner this evening. I also scored two large baskets of peaches to take north with me at the farmer’s market yesterday morning. I got ones that were not quite ripe so I’m hoping they will keep the DP and me in awesome fresh fruit this coming week.

The other major thing I did yesterday was to peruse the local harvest page for all of Connecticut, gleaning information on farmstands and farm markets that will be operating in the area of the state where I will be wandering next week. It’s my probably optimistic plan that armed with this information, I can drop in on a stand or market near wherever we happen to be and scoop up fresh lunch or dinner items with serendipity. Will that actually happen? I don’t know. But I do know that without a source list it would be impossible.

Today I need to finish up some “paperwork” tasks that don’t actually require any paper but do depend on a steady, high-speed internet connection, wash the cover of the Dog’s thick, memory-foam bed, and pack up. Tomorrow is a traveling day!

July 13, 2008 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

Lists, Lists, Lists

Ack.

I began this blog with the intention of documenting my journey in moving my dual-bioregion lifestyle as much towards sustainability as possible. And today I’m feeling like I’m where the rubber meets the road in that effort.

Next week I’ll be more literally nomadic than usual as I plan to ride around with the DP as she checks in at all her various camps. This seemed to me the most practical way to spend time with her and I felt willing to “take a break” from my whole food/local food eating during that time period. Or I thought I did.

While quizzing the DP on her eating strategies I found out that she mostly just does without food — not an option as far as I am concerned. Secondly, when seriously not just abstractly considering it I found the idea of eating in cafes or fast food joints to be completely unappealing. Somehow I seem to have journeyed far enough down this one particular road that backtracking is no longer an option. I guess that’s a good thing. Although right now it feels like kind of a pain. My current plan is to bring along my camp cooking kit and figure out meals for us along the way. I’m not sure how that is going to unfold. But I know that the golden arches just aren’t going to darken my path again. Not even in greatest extreme.

Also, it’s high summer here and the rains have been bountiful. More good news. Except the combination is making the garden exceptionally balky about being put to bed. I’m going to be spending a good bit of the weekend food processing. I’ll pick the garden back as much as possible and hope for the best.

Finally, for this one week I don’t have the services of the X or the Kid to rely upon to keep things running at a minimal level here at the Piedmont house. They are off for their annual week at the beach, so there is no one to feed and walk the Dog or water the flowers or pick up the mail. I’m boarding the Dog and holding the mail. The flowers I’m going to set out on the deck in a big pan of water and hope for the best. They have been so successful, I’m sad to leave them. But since I won’t be in any one certain place this week, it would be hard to bring them with me. The herbs have to stay here this time for the same reason.

Ack.

July 12, 2008 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

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