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Archive for July, 2011

new for summer

The shop will be opening within the next few days, and new work should start appearing soon after, and will continue to over time. I am excited! It seems like it’s been forever.

It’s been interesting allowing myself lots of time and space to go with the natural flow of each day, enjoy the summer weather, get other things in my life done, while also creating a new work flow. It’s hard to do both! And it’s amazing how the days seem to evaporate. They go by way too fast. I think I’m getting the hang of it though, and I am liking the freshness of this change.

 

I’ll check in here with an update when the shop officially opens. And I’ll probably be here in the meantime too…

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Today was potato harvest day, and I got to thinking how I never did post about our potato tower earlier this summer, like I said I was going to. There may have been reasons for that, but first, I will backtrack a bit, and share how we did this.

This method is based on something Steven came up with when he was teenager, living on a farm. The fun part of building this tower was that it was almost free, and was created almost entirely from what otherwise would have been considered waste.

…..

At our co-op we were given a box of potatoes that were starting to sprout, destined for the compost bin. What a gift!

We gathered a pile of sticks we saved from a dead hydrangea we took out the year we moved here. With a shovel, we cut a circle in the grass the size we thought the tower should be.

Then we inserted the sticks into the cut circle, creating a cylindrical container of sorts.

When the container seemed dense enough (should have been denser!), we wrapped around it, from top to bottom, with jute twine.

W covered the bottom with compost, planted in a round of a few potatoes, covered with compost and repeat until the top (about 2 feet high in this case).

Stopping to admire the heart shaped potato…

When it was full, we covered the top with leftover sticks. We though maybe it would keep nibbling deer at bay until we figured out how we were going to protect it once it greened up. Last year they ate every bit of green!

We also trimmed the tops of the sticks so they were more even, and generally neatened things up.

A couple weeks later – emerging potato leaves…

and from the sides…

Within a few weeks, this tower became a lush green ball of leaves and amazingly, the deer hardly touched it at all. It never did flower though, and a few weeks ago the leaves began to yellow, the stems began to get mushy, and the whole mass of foliage started to look pretty ragged.

A shallow dig revealed a few beautiful potatoes, but the plants were dying so it seemed wise to dig them all. So what did our emergency harvest reveal? Some really beautiful potatoes!! And some really ugly ones too. I am now acquainted, firsthand, with “Common Potato Scab.” Some info about potato scab here.

Healthy…

Scabby…

I won’t give up on our potato tower, but next time we will make some revisions. In particular, I feel our growing medium was too heavy and dense, though it was great at retaining moisture and even with so much exposure with it’s tower shape, and many many dry days, we didn’t have to water them much. We also were able to make use of materials others might have burned or tossed out. We are working toward making our land a place that sustains itself and hope to incorporate more and more principles of permaculture as we evolve with our space.

 

If any of you have knowledge or experience of potato scab, do you know if composting the soil (a high heat compost) will rid the material of this pathogen? I have a feeling we might have brought it on the potatoes we used for planting, and am not sure if we should toss the compost back in the composter, or put it to rest elsewhere in the yard.

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I think one of this things I love most about gardening, is how it challenges me on so many levels. It requires me to use all the parts of myself in a way that is real and deep and lasting.

To fully embrace the act of successfully growing a healthy, thriving and organic garden requires physical work, thoughtful observation, accepting and embracing the fact that there is life beyond ourselves (that even might want to eat the food you are growing), the ability to trouble shoot and solve difficult problems, absolute persistence, gentle patience, love and care, letting go.

And then there are the rewards. The rewards are far greater than the crispy crunch of the best cucumber, or the juicy sweet/tart of the most delicious heirloom tomato. There is a cellular transformation that occurs when we unify ourselves with plants, and challenge ourselves to understand life at a deep level.

When I first started really thinking about this, and trying to express my thoughts, I wondered if I sounded a little bit nutty. But when I tried to share these thoughts with some fellow gardening friends, they understood me completely. They are totally there. They have experienced that cellular connectedness. It seemed profound (and relieving!) yet really it’s the simplest thing ever… In a way, we are no different than the plants or the animals we live amongst. We are all energetically, cellularly connected. This funny, far out, disconnected world that humans have created just makes it seem like we are different.

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on a bed of greens

peeling beets

 

chopping rosemary

 

tossed with rosemary, olive oil, sea salt

 

preparing the other vegetables

 

mmmm, roasting

 

a spicy little radish snack

 

prepare your fresh greens

 

chopping greens into fork size pieces

 

Cooked through but still firm. So much flavor!

 

ready to eat

 

 

Some of you may have noticed that my shop has been closed for a little while. It was a really tough decision for me to make, but once I did, it came as a huge relief. Now that I have completed all the orders on my list, that relief continues to settle in. You see, even with work that you love, there still needs to be time for other parts of life. There needs to be a balance.

For the past 8 months my life has been almost 100% work, and after a time, that kind of imbalance really starts to show up. I am a hard worker, and it can be hard for me to stop once a rhythm sets in. But I began to really miss my life. I missed the simplest of things, like cooking and cleaning, the spontaneity of being able to go out on a date with my guy on a whim, a swim in the lake, a bike ride with a friend, to be able to tend to the garden for uninterrupted hours, a day off now and then… I was always rushing, always needing to get back to the studio. I haven’t talked about this here, as I don’t want it to seem like I resent my work (because I certainly don’t) or like I am ungrateful (because I am ever so grateful). But in real life, I’m not perfect and I haven’t quite figured out the balance yet. This break I have taken has been an attempt to slow it on down, and really look at where things are going,  make adjustments where it’s not working, and improve upon what is working well. I am quite excited about reopening the shop, which should be pretty soon, but I am trying not to be too hasty. It’s amazing what a little time and space provides, for gaining clarity on a situation and getting the creative juices of life really flowing.

 

 

Pictured above is one of the first thoughtful, enjoyable, relaxed, real meals I have prepared  in months! And cooking is even more satisfying for me when there is fresh food to be picked right on the spot. I first had something similar to this roasted vegetable salad a few years ago, at a restaurant in the foothills of the sierras, with my uncle. Roasted vegetables, at least to me, create a decadent meal with total ease. This meal contained the last of our beets from last fall’s planting, fresh picked rosemary, fresh picked basil, broccoli, zucchini, grape tomatoes, romaine from a friends garden, fresh garden kale, olive oil, crumbled feta and a bit of sea salt.

 

Roasting vegetables is really easy, but there was a time when I had never done it, so surely there is the possibility that some of my readers haven’t yet. If you are interested, here is how I made this:

Peel your beets and cut into generous bite sized chunks. In a bake pan, toss with olive oil (just enough to oil up the bottom of the pan), sea salt to taste, and chopped rosemary. I don’t usually like to cook my oil, so I also like to add just a little water to reduce the oil temperature and reduce the amount of oil needed. Set in the oven on roast, or at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, in the middle position in the oven.

While the beets get started, chop your broccoli, zucchini and half of your tomatoes. And don’t toss out your broccoli stems! They are delicious. Just peel the tough skin off and slice them into little spears.

Give your beets an occasional stir, adding a bit more oil if needed, and when they seem to just barely be softening add in your broccoli, zucchini and tomatoes. Keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally, and making sure everything stays moist.

At this point, I headed out to the garden to hunt for slugs and pick some kale. If you don’t have slugs to hunt, skip that step!

Now prepare your bed of greens by chopping them all into bite sized pieces and covering each plate generously. When your vegetables are finished they should be easy to fork, yet firm. I think my total cook time is usually 45 minutes to an hour.

Pile your roast veggies onto the bed of greens, add fresh tomato, crumbled feta and a fair drizzling of raw olive oil.

Light a candle and enjoy!

 

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summer meals

 

We picked our first cucumber this week, and instead of eating it right on the spot, which was really tempting, it became the inspiration for a delicious, simple meal.

It went like this – leftover rice pasta (cold), olive oil, fresh from the garden cucumber, kale, basil and greek oregano; walnuts, cilantro pesto, avocado and feta cheese. Some dulse was added at the end. Tomatoes would have been perfect in here, but we didn’t have any. It was so delicious, and I was pretty close to giddy with every crunchy cucumber bite.

I love cold salads in the summer. Greens and veggies with black beans, quinoa with veggies and herbs, pasta with herbs and fresh tomatoes, there are so many possible combinations!

Do you have any hearty salad favorites you would like to share? I’d love to hear them!

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lakeside

 

The idea was to swim, but with the wind, I wasn’t tempted after all. Instead, simply sitting together, relaxing, observing, with no where to be and nothing else to do in that moment – I miss those moments – it was just what was needed.

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early july

Marketmore Cucumber

 

 

Green Leaf Lettuce

 

 

Oregon Sugar Pod Peas

 

 

Quinoa

 

 

Purple Cherokee Tomato

 

 

Genovese Basil – A lot of this will be harvested soon and more will be planted.

 

 

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli… This is the only survivor from the first planting. So far having better luck with the second planting.

 

 

It’s getting exciting in the garden, with visible change in growth each day. This week the cucumbers have really kicked in gear and are coming on strong; peas are ready to pick most every day, kale is ready to pick, and it looks like we could have quite a lot of tomatoes later this summer. If there is anything I have learned this year, it is to plant way more than I ever would imagine we would ever need. I keep sowing seeds, and will  continue to throughout the summer.

 

These photos might give the impression of great abundance, but there are many days I go out in the garden and think, “Where is all the food??” We have had a lot of challenges. Slugs devoured almost the whole first planting of carrots, dill and fennel. I go out slug hunting 1 – 3 times per evening now. Root maggots have killed many broccolis, most every radish I have tried to grow, and a few of my kale plants. And these last few days, the wind has been really hammering everything. I am not complaining though. I’m really not. Just learning, lots of learning. There is so much to consider, if we really want to grow a significant portion of our food. I think sheltered growing space is a must here – whether for slugs or for wind and heavy rain – and it would greatly expand the list of heat loving plants that we could successfully grow. We have started researching a design for a more permanent hoop house, and we are getting excited about building a greenhouse.

 

I really have a lot of admiration for farmers, who grow food for hundreds, or thousands, of people. There is a lot of hard work, patience, knowledge, finesse involved in growing food. It’s super rewarding though, and I can see why they do it. Sometimes I wish I could be a farmer of some sort. Maybe some day.

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