Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is that safe to eat?

The search for a stoneware crock has a happy ending.  My SO, who also serves as my personal shopper, found said crock at Grabill Hardware, which is a Do It Best that serves the local Amish community.  This crock is made at the same place in Ohio as all the other crocks I have looked at, but costs only $16.99.  I can check that item off my to-do list.

And why do I need a stoneware crock?  Why, so I can try some of the recipes in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

While most of the time, I live in a state of denial, I sometimes vacation in a place called What If.  A side trip to this land goes something like this:  Instead of our seemingly unending and uninterrupted access to electricity, What If there were brown outs or even black outs?  How would we get water and food?  If I grow some of that food myself, how would I preserve it?  Dehydration is one answer, but I could also ferment a wide variety of foods with little or no extra ingredients or fancy equipment.

Some people have a sweet tooth; I prefer salty and sour.  Sauerkraut, brined garlic, sour dough, yogurt all appeal to me.  One of my great disappointments of middle age is losing my tolerance for alcohol, but sometimes I wonder if it is the alcohol or the adulterants added to the alcohol that is the culprit.  Consequently, I am eager to try some hard cider, flower wine, and ginger beer, even kombucha, if I can find a mother.  Recipes for all these and more are in Wild Fermentation

Some of the recipes include instructions to skim mold (a.k.a. scum or bloom) off the top of whatever is fermenting.  That idea tends to turn me off.  While Katz believes that the cultures used in fermentation discourage bacteria such as salmonella and he has never heard of anyone getting sick from home fermented foods, he is smart enough to urge the fermenter to trust his/her nose and/or taste (but don't swallow!) to decide whether to chuck the item in question.

Anyway, once the tomato season (which has yet to start) dies down, I hope to try some experiments in fermentation.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture FoodsThe Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It must be summer

Yesterday I ate new potatoes and fresh green beans for lunch, and supper included a stir fry of zucchini, sweet pepper, hot pepper, and onion.  Today for lunch I ate the leftover stir fry, plus burpless cucumbers.  All of that came from my garden.  Ooh, yeah.  Can't wait for the first tomato. 

The unbearable heat continues, sans rain.  That means I spend too much time watering.  Last year (or the year before?) I purchased some irrigation equipment from Lee Valley, but never set it up.  I would look into that, but it is too hot. 

Some time in the past, I also purchased a soil test kit, also never used.  And some plastic edging that I never installed.  And doohickeys for organizing garden tools that never made it out of the box.  And after the construction of the raised bed, there is still more treated lumber that never morphed into the intended backyard project.  Also, two new smoke detectors are still in their packages.  (Don't worry - my old smoke detector is working just fine.)

At least this is done: 

Now,if someone would install the clothesline that has been sitting in its box on the dryer for about 8 months, the new laundry room would be really complete.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I think fresh grass clippings make the best mulch for garden beds.  Not only do they create a dense mat that discourages weeds, as the clippings decompose, they heat up enough to kill weed seeds.  Summers have been so dry in recent years that I have not had much grass to mow, but this spring was wet enough to produce a decent amount of mulch.  For this, I am grateful.  Not that my garden is weed-free, mind you, but with grass clippings I have a fighting chance.

All those weeds come in handy, though, because I pull them up and pile them up in my compost bins, and they magically turn into this:

Black gold!

My current dilemma is that I don't seem to have much time to cook.  I am looking forward to using some of this garlic:

It is curing in the shed, soon to be joined by the onions

which are starting to topple.  (Notice the weeds, most of which are growing in the path.  I'm thinking they need to be smothered with cardboard.)

Today I harvested the first handful of green beans, but what I am really looking forward to is zucchini

and cukes.

Planting the beans inside of the pea fence was not the best idea.  They are protected from rabbits, but the peas shaded them enough that they grew quite leggy.  The cukes I planted at either end of the pea fence, so they can grow up instead of sprawling on the ground.  This works quite well.

My SO helped construct a raised bed by the patio.  The wood was leftover from another project that never got off the ground.  Since it is treated with some unknown preservative, we lined the walls with plastic.

The castle block is to help level the thing; I plan to disguise it with potted herbs.  The fill is part dirt from where my neighbor dug a fire pit, part peat, and part grass clippings.  When the potatoes in the grow sacks are done, that soil will be added as well.

The weather has been ridiculously hot and humid lately and is effectively making me a prisoner of my AC.  The to-do list for this year has been whittled down significantly, but where there is a weed, there is a way to make me feel guilty for not doing more.  I hope it rains tomorrow and cools off a bit.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Is it garlic yet?

This is my first time growing garlic.  I planted two varieties last November, and so far, so good.  Unlike onions, garlic needs to be harvested before the tops completely dry down, or so they say.  Some also say it is best to protect garlic from rain a week or so before harvest; how one does that is never explained.  However, we are in a stretch of fair weather right NOW and the Broadleaf Czech looks like this:

And the German Extra Hardy looks like this:

So I dug up one of the Czech bulbs:

Looks like garlic to me.  Let the harvest begin!

The snap peas are dead:

Long live the green beans!  Last year, the rabbits ate my green bean seedlings before they had a chance to do much of anything besides poke their leafy heads out of the ground.  This year, I planted the green beans inside of enclosures, the early ones inside the pea fence, the later ones inside a contraption of my own devising.

By god, we are going to have some beans this year!  But I am also going to finish rabbit-proofing the backyard.  Last year, my SO helped me line the chain link with poultry netting, but we did not do the gates, which - go figure - became bunny super highways.  My only concern has been that I would inadvertently trap the bunnies inside rather than outside, or - worse - separate a momma from her nest of babies.  But last night, while mowing, I found where momma is keeping her current litter:

Doesn't look like much, does it?  This "nest" is in the middle of the front lawn.  I actually mowed over it, but noticed it move as I did so.  I kicked at the dried grass, thinking it disguised a mole hole or something, and much to my surprise, uncovered some squirming bunny babies.  Then I noticed momma watching from the neighbor's yard, so I covered the nest back up and finished my mowing.  Hope she doesn't abandon them.  (I know - I am nothing if not conflicted about rabbits.)  ANYWAY, my neighbor across the street has a humane animal trap, so if any (like the teenager living under the shed) are trapped inside the backyard, I can catch them and punt their cute little asses outside the enclave.

After the construction of the West Wing, my backyard was a mess.  It still is, but I am slowly starting to fill in the gaps.  Toward that end, I populated one corner with a 'Limelight' hydrangea and two 'Big Daddy' hostas.

They don't look like much now, but if they get as big as their plant tags predict, this corner will be full.  Since my electrical and telephone service enter the house in this corner, I called the underground utility people and after they marked where the utilities were, dug holes very, very carefully.

Despite its youth, the hydrangea is blooming nicely, although I think the blossoms look more white than lime.

Maybe the soil needs some amendments?

The primary hosta bed north of the garage is FULL.  My spring to-do list included dividing these, but I did not get a round tuit.  I think they can be divided in the fall, though, so I may try that.

In the lower right is 'Love Pat' which fortunately likes lots of shade.

The newer varieties of hostas are a lot prettier than the old standbys I started with, but I love them all.