Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New garden plan

Loris decided that the tomatoes should all be together to make it easier to water them. So I'm carving out part of a path to become more tomato-growing space, making the path narrower, and having it shift slightly into the next bed. I think it will work fine, but let me say, digging up some ground that I've been walking on for the last several years is tough! The weeds have deep roots in this section, which also makes it hard, but will hopefully help get rid of some of them.

My body is aching from the amount of digging and tilling and mixing of compost that I've done recently. And when I'm done, I'll have to really do some weeding, especially if we're getting the rain they're predicting for this weekend. Still, the end is in sight - the garden will be planted and weeded in the next couple weeks and then I can't wait for the first summer veggies!

Here's the newest garden plan:


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summer's ... not quite here yet

Brrr, it's cold! Where did summer go? After biking to the train station last week in capris, sandals, and short sleeves, I'm back to long pants, socks, a jacket and gloves. It'll warm up again by next week (I hope!), but until then, we seem to be back to spring instead of early summer. I'm a little concerned for the seedlings I bought last weekend which need to be protected from these cold nights.

The garden has undergone a major transformation in the last week. Loris and I (but mostly Loris) put up a chicken-wire fence. We bought 3 rolls of 25-feet long, 3-feet high shicken wire and some poles and erected a somewhat flimsy fence around the garden. It didn't quite reach because the edges were so ragged that we lost about 6 inches to a foot off each end of all three segments, so I had to make up the difference with some different chicken wire and poles, which were harder to put up.

But! Now we have a garden fence. With a doorway. It's not really going to keep anyone out who really wants to get in, but hopefully it will keep out errant dogs, trash, and people who think my garden is abandoned and they can help themselves to my veggies or supplies without any guilt. Now, hopefully, they'll feel guilt.

Really, though, the important thing is the veggies. I planted most of the tomatoes yesterday, probably too close together. I put eggshells and compost in each hole, then buried the tomato plant fairly deep at the edge of the usual trough I dug in the center to hold water. Each tomato plant gets its own stake, with the exception of the romas which will be held up by string tied between stakes placed every three plants.

I didn't have enough space for all the tomatoes. I only managed to fit 24 into a space where I was hoping to fit 30, and they're still really tight. I'm reformulating my garden plan right now. It's tough. I have 12 romas, 6 brandywine, 4 super Italian pastes, one Juliet, one Cherokee purple, and 3 yellow/orange varieties. I want to get three more yellow/orange varieties (or maybe 2 plus one more purple or other heirloom), for a total of 6 more plants to find space for.

I finally pulled out all the chard(it was going to seed), turnips (Loris is thrilled), and fennel (we ate it all last week, yum). I have basil and peppers ready to plant, if not for the stupid cold weather. I also have some green beans that will get into the ground today. I need to get more, though.

This year, I'm planting two hot peppers for my sweetie - the same Anaheim pepper I planted last year, and a Cayenne pepper. Otherwise, I also have red and yellow bell peppers, and hopefully I'll find some orange ones.

And that's it! Photos and updates to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Summer's coming

It's getting really warm around here, although temps are supposed to go back down at the end of the week. Today is going to be a whopping 95 degrees, though! Not bad for mid-April.

I've been busy in the garden. I picked all the fava beans and removed the plants, since they were really infested with ... aphids? Something, I'm not sure what. I didn’t want them to spread to new spring veggies. I’ll probably pull all the turnips now, too, since they’ve gone to seed. The fennel is getting big, so we’ve been picking it and adding it to pasta sauces, or just eating it on its own. One night, I’ll make roasted fennel with oil and balsamic vinegar.

I definitely planted the peas too late, so I’m not expecting much from them. The last of the cabbages have been picked, and I’m working on preparing the center garden bed for tomatoes, which will hopefully go in by the end of the week. I’m not ready for all this!

Goals for today include:

Water and weed
Pull turnips
Finish preparing tomato bed
Prepare and plant bed of green beans?
Add on to the watering system so green beans can get watered

Add to that the fact that I was hoping to make fava bean risotto and roasted fennel for dinner – well, we’ll see if there’s time for any or all of that!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Laundry

I am not a huge fan of IKEA, despite recently buying quite a lot of furniture there. I don't have any good excuses, although I did research ahead of time to make sure I was buying furniture that was made out of real wood rather than some weird, cheap material. And actually, I'm very happy with what I bought - it's sturdy, looks very nice, and seems like it will last me for quite a while.

I did get one thing that I am now in love with, though. Take a look:
This thing is fabulous. I can fit an entire load of laundry on it, indoors or out. I started drying my clothes outside on a clothesline two summers ago, but I've always had to use the dryer in the winter. Now, I've gone completely dryer-free. In the summer, in combination with my clothesline, I'll be able to easily dry 2-3 loads at a time.

My only real complaint is that it does take up quite a bit of space when in use, which is more of a problem in the winter when it has to stay inside. Small price to pay, though! I think it's already paid for itself.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

It's California. It's not supposed to rain in April.

The rain has me a little down, even though I know it's really good for the garden. I'm expecting that this will probably be the last rain we have this year, although you never know - for a few more weeks, anyway, there's always still a chance of rain.

It's still not quite warm enough to plant tomatoes, but I'm hoping to do it towards the end of the month. That's the big crop I'm excited about this year. I'll probably do around 24 sauce tomatoes (12 romas, 12 heirlooms?), and at least 6 heirloom plants for salads and other things. Maybe another watermelon beefsteak!

Sitting here, on a gray, rainy day, it's really nice to think about the sunshine, warmth, and beautiful colorful tomatoes we'll be eating in just a few months.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yum

We are so fortunate to be able to spend money on good, local food. We have a fantastic network of sources in Davis, including our very own community garden plot from which we get the majority of our vegetables. Add to that the Farmer's Market and an expanding, full-service Food Co-op, and I pretty much don't ever set foot in a standard grocery store or have to buy over-processed food from a mega-mart. Trust me, I do count my blessings and consider myself to be very lucky.

Last night, we invited our long-suffering realtor over for dinner and created a mouth-watering feast. I'm so proud of how it turned out, although unfortunately I didn't take pictures. But I thought I'd run down the dishes and the sources of my ingredients, even if it's just so I can remember what a good job Loris and I did.

Bread: I made focaccia and French bread with ingredients from the bulk aisle at the Co-op

Appetizers:

Giardiniera - home-canned pickled vegetables (mostly grown by us, supplemented with local stuff) in tomato sauce

Bruschetta - home-made bread with toppings from our trip to Italy

Prawns - from the Farmer's market served with homemade mayonnaise from my coworker's eggs and lemons from a friend's tree

Stuffed scallops - from the Farmer's Market, stuffed with basil and garlic from our garden (plus local oil, and salt and pepper)

First course:

Home-made tagliatelle pasta with leeks from our garden and butter

Second course:

Local, grass-fed pork from the Farmer's Market cooked in a red wine sauce
Asparagus from the Farmer's Market with butter and Parmesan cheese we brought with us from Italy

Dessert:

Home-made vanilla ice cream, made with local organic milk from Straus Family Creamery
Hazelnut cookies made with a friend's hazelnuts (not sure where they came from), filled with nutella (from my husband's hometown in Italy, although we bought it here) and mascarpone (I should check to see where this comes from)


Things that I'm not sure if they were local or not: Various baking ingredients (like flour, potato starch, and sugar), salt and pepper, butter, vinegar

Things that I know were not local: Some of the olive oil, probably the mascarpone, nutella, wine for the wine sauce

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quick ketchup fix

I've posted about making ketchup previously. Recently we ran out of our homemade ketchup, which I made two summers ago with tomatoes from my garden. We had enough for about a year and a half, but lately we've made do with store-bought ketchup.

Today I'm at home all afternoon. My sister's bringing some frozen french fries over for dinner, and my husband was lamenting that the homemade ketchup is gone. Well, hang on a sec! We have cans of crushed tomatoes in the cupboard. I have several hours - I can make a mini-batch of ketchup!

And so, my friends, can you. It's easy, requires almost no work whatsoever, and since it's a small batch, if you eat it quickly there's no canning or anything else involved.

Small-batch ketchup

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (without basil) or PLAIN tomato sauce
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 whole clove
pinch of salt

Put on stove and bring to a very slow boil. Stir occasionally. It's done when it's as thick as you like it, about 2-3 hours.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My finished mosaic



See previous pictures here.