Friday, June 29, 2012

the mojito

DSC_0350 DSC_0351
we are up to our ears in mint over here. it's growing along the side walk and on top of the bunny hutch. and there is lots of it! i have plans to dry a bunch of it soon for tea to give away as a christmas gift this year. but for now we are enjoying it fresh on top of fruit and ice cream, in popsicles and with the heat that has just hit us, in ice cold drinks. DSC_0358 DSC_0361 DSC_0363 DSC_0365

we are having a porch party tomorrow night and i think mojitos are in order.
the perfect summertime drink.
i even like them without the rum. you can't go wrong with fresh mint, lime and sugar.
and muddling is so fun.

the mojito

12 mint leaves
1 lime
2 teaspoons sugar
2 ounces white rum
2 ounces club soda or seltzer
crushed ice

put mint leaves in tall glass and squeeze lime juice over them.
add the sugar and muddle the mint, lime juice and sugar together.
add crushed ice.
stir in the rum and top off with club soda or seltzer.
add mint garnish.

happy summertime friends!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Post: Fridge Pickles

While I'm on vacation I asked my lovely cousin Emily of Thyme and Reason to step in for me. Emily is a semi-recent but incredibly productive backyard gardener living in the Bay Area, I'm always jealous of the things she can grow in her backyard!

I was born without a sweet tooth.  Since I was a kid, I have always preferred salty to sweet.  And as my romance with beer continues, so does my need for salty snacks: for roasted peanuts, hunks of parmesan, jars of fancy olives, and, of course, you already know my obsession with popcorn.  But summer brings barbecue season and mountains of farmer's market cucumbers, which means it's time to make pickles.

Pickles bring out the old country in me.  The shtetl in me.  The hot summers by the Danube in me.  Mind you, I am several generations removed from that life, and any pickles I ate were dished out in the suburbs.  I don't know if I am channeling the pre-Ellis Island kitchens of my past, but I do know this: when there are pickles on the table, I cannot stop eating them.  And nothing, I tell you, nothing makes a burger taste so right as housemade pickles.  Maybe it's that the spicy vinegar cuts the grease?  Or maybe it's because we always like what mom served, and when dad would barbecue, mom always served pickles.

Pickles are easier to make than you think.  Fill a clean jar or container about 3/4 of the way full of veggies.  Cucumbers can be sliced and go right in the jar.  Onions too.  If you are pickling other vegetables (my other jar is filled with radishes, carrots, and padron peppers), they should be blanched in boiling water for a minute, then plunged into ice water before you put them up for pickling.

Next, for one jar of pickles, combine 1 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp dill seed, 2 bay leaves, 5 cloves, 1 clove of garlic, slices of onion, crushed black pepper, and crushed pepper flakes if you like things spicy (which I do).  Liquid should cover your solids--if not, top off with more white vinegar.

Close the lid tight and shake it up so the sugar will dissolve a little and hard spices will distribute throughout.  This beautiful jar in the front is cucumber done with fresh jalapeno slices--yum!  You could easily play around with the flavors, substituting star anise for the dill.  Go wild.  

As the name implies, put your fridge pickles in the refrigerator, not on a pantry shelf.  Cucumber pickles will be ready to eat in a day and keep in the fridge up to a month.  Other veggies may take up to a week to pickle--just an excuse for you to open the jar and sample to see if they're done.  It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

early summer happenings in the garden

Abby is a regular guest writer of tend & we are so happy to have her here once more! Thanks again, Abby. Psst- take a look at her hoop house!  
Since summer just officially arrived, I thought I'd share a few of the things happening in our early summer garden.

In our 3rd year at our place, I am starting to feel like we have a solid foundation to build on, allowing for a greater momentum all the time.

Our little upper garden is more productive each year, and the soil is looking healthier than ever.

The "industrial worm bin" (seen in the distance), is slowly turning into rich compost. The wildflowers and perennial herbs maintain themselves, and are a treat for the eyes every spring and summer. They are also a great attraction for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

It's mild enough here in the winters, that we are able to grow greens (particularly kale), carrots and beets all year long. This is my first year focusing more heavily on lettuces.

The summers here are also quite mild, so peas will continue to produce through much of the season.

We recently built a hoop house to make it easier to grow heat loving plants like tomatoes, peppers and melons. This year we decided to go hog wild with tomatoes! The hoop house will serve as the epicenter for a lower garden, which we hope to start creating very soon.

I harvested our first artichokes today. Seems early, but I sure don't mind.

And the first sunflowers have already bloomed. This one was planted by a squirrel, and should produce a head full of black sunflower seeds for the birds.

June is always such an exciting time in the garden, where everything is getting well established and it still feels like it's only just begun. What gets you excited in your garden this time of year?

Monday, June 18, 2012

garden happenings


my favorite of the garage wall garden

chamomile everywhere

first raspberries

kale and cucumber

lavender, mint, phlox

cherry tomatoes

these are the good days in the garden. when i've finally gotten everything planted (except for that failed radish patch i need to replace, and that last empty spot in my community garden to fill) and the bounty is starting to flow.

flowers are blooming (all that lavender, calendula, and volunteer chamomile that i've been snipping and drying), raspberries are ripening on the stalks, garlic has been de-scaped, kale leaves are growing larger by the day, and little green cherry tomatoes are bursting onto the plants.

it's a beautiful time in my garden these days. how about yours?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

bring along a camera into the garden

just recently i realized how often i bring my camera with me into the garden. most of the time i grab my digital, but lately my film camera has been by my side. my camera is my tool of choice, really. i use my photos to document season to season, year to year in the garden. i am terrible at keeping a paper journal so often my photos do the journaling for me- helping to remember the pest problems, creative trellises from gardens past, & the date of our first tomato harvest last year. as the seasons progress, i add photos little by little to my gardening set on flickr.

i also really enjoy the art of garden photography, if there really is such a thing. pausing to savor fresh eggs in a basket, light flickering among green tomatoes on the vine, little seedlings bursting with energy & bouquet of june flowers. there are so many reasons to slow down in the garden - in our lives - & enjoy. my camera helps me do so.

i hope you will invite your camera along on your many trips to the garden.

Friday, June 8, 2012

gardening tools and essentials

i thought it might be fun to share with you a few of my favorite gardening tools and essentials that i can't live without.

 i don't have many but i like it that way.
 just a few simple pieces that i use almost every day. 

:: when gardening i like my feet to stay clean and dry. 
my gardening clogs are durable and super comfortable.
i've had these for many years and although they are a bit dirty they still seem brand new.

:: the basket scoop is one i found while thrifting. it's perfect for cleaning up piles of yard debris.

:: i admit, i'm not a fan of sunscreen but i do love a good sunhat.
this one is comfortable with a rim that gives just the right coverage.
and the chin strap is perfect for windy days.


:: twine is my favorite thing to stock up on at the hardware store. i can never have enough.
 i use it for so many things but especially in the garden for trellising and tying up plants.

:: i love my little brass sprinkler that's easy to screw on to the end of a hose. for something so small it does a good job in watering the garden.

:: i think my most used gardening tool is my wooden nail brush. it lives at my kitchen sink and gets used several times a day. 

:: my felco pruners are always at hand for snipping and pruning.

:: and my potting trowel  lives in my back pocket.

:: the edger gives a nice clean garden bed edge.

:: the pointed spade that i scored at a garage sale is the perfect size for digging up and transplanting.

:: and my favorite tool of all time is the stirrup hoe.
i used this tool every day when i was farming and completely fell in love.
i recommend that if you were to buy only one tool this would be the one.

what are some of your favorites?
i'd love to hear what you use in your garden.

Monday, June 4, 2012

front yard garden update

new front yard garden

new front yard garden

people, we did it!

there is definitely a long way to go with our front yard garden, but the big project, the one that was my biggest garden goal of all for this season, has been accomplished! last weekend, on our extra day off for memorial day, jared and i spent the better part of the day digging up the grass on this hill in front of our house (this is what it looked like just a few short weeks ago!). i used some bricks that we had inherited with our garage to create a makeshift terrace, and then spent the rest of last week and this past weekend putting in some of the plants that i'd bought at that plant sale about a month ago (boy were they happy to get in the ground and out of their little tiny pots!). the plants from the sale that i used here were: poppies, anise hyssop, violas/johnny jump ups, french sorrel, various columbines, and a lavender. i also transplanted a bunch of plants from elsewhere in our yard, including borage, yarrow, chives and garlic chives, and phlox. i filled in the rest of the empty spaces with kale, chard, amaranth, and the small bare patch at the bottom has some assorted wildflower seeds planted there (i'll put mulch over it once the seeds have sprouted). i used 7" gutter spikes to secure some of the bricks in place (hey, i am married to someone with a degree in physics afterall!). some of the plants that i put in this garden say they need full sun and this is definitely a part sun spot. i put the ones i was worried about (poppies, lavender, anise hyssop, and phlox) in the sunnier spot, along the steps, and everything else might just be a bit smaller than it would in full sun. but i think they'll all do fine. i'm a  bit worried about how this will all hold up when we get a big rain...will all my mulch and dirt wash away? but i know that once the plants get rooted in over the next few months, it will hold the soil in place much better.

new front yard garden

i know everything looks a bit bare now, but most of what i planted here are perennials and they'll fill out over the next few years. and this is something i keep trying to remind myself. i have time. we don't plan to move from this house for a very long time, if ever, and i take comfort in knowing that i don't have to overhaul the entire yard and garden space this year. i try to set realistic goals for myself (notice that we also got those rain barrels installed too? garden goal #1...check!) each year and make progress little by little, while still working towards making our outdoor home a beautiful, productive, healthy, and delicious space for us to enjoy. i try to remind myself of the time i have when i get overwhelmed about all of the garden spaces around our house that i'd like to improve or change. little by little. i have already made so many adjustments and changes over the past two and half years and i know that each season will bring more projects.

front garden bed

front garden bed

while the big hurdle of the front yard is completed (for now) i do want to keep working on the other beds up front here. mostly, i'd like to remove many of the hostas. i pretty much pawn them off on anyone who will accept them, and i think later in the summer, when perennials start to go on big sale, i'll find some more plants to replace them with and send an email to the citywide gardening list-serv that i'm part of for people to come take the hostas off my hands. i know i'll get a good response.

so, what do you think? i'd love to hear your thoughts

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just enough

So like I have said in the past, our property is not conducive to a typical vegetable garden due to space and light conditions. And as much as I have always dreamed of a “mr mcgregor “ style garden it has been fun coming up with ways to squeeze in as many edibles as we can.

 I have been experimenting with fruit, vegetables and herbs in different light conditions and have found over the years that many edibles can do quite well in part sun. They may not be as prolific but they will produce.

I have stopped pretending that we are able to feed ourselves completely on this land of ours. But luckily we have other local sources to help feed us.

The farm (where I work), our farmers market in town and our community plot also play a huge part in our seasonal cooking and eating. And our little garden space at home is more of a place to grow a variety of things for fun, to nibble on and to supplement with in the kitchen.

Although I do love a veggie garden of neat little rows I also like incorporating fruits, vegetables and herbs into the perennial garden. DSC_0176
I use strawberries as a ground cover where taller perennials like Spiderwort, Coneflower, and Black Eyed Susans can grow through. DSC_0177
Our strawberries are not huge and may be not as plentiful as they would be in a sunny row but there are plenty to nibble on and each morning there is enough to fill a small bowl for breakfast. DSC_0186
Swiss chard makes it’s way into our containers and is tucked in amongst the perennials.

I love the 'Bright Lights' variety with beautiful brightly colored stems. Swiss chard definitely does well in part sun.

Currants, blueberries and gooseberries are planted along the sidewalk where they can receive a bit more light than out back .

Yes they may be tempting to people walking by but we don’t mind. We like to share. DSC_0181
There are many herbs that are just as beautiful as perennial flowers if not more.

Comfrey, Borage, Anise Hyssop and Catmint are some of my favorites to throw into the mix. DSC_0189
And the more shallow rooted and creeping herbs like Mint, Oregano and Thyme grow beautifully in the living roof of our bunny hutch. DSC_0198
 The peas that were growing up the chicken coop are now finished and have been replaced with cucumbers whose little tendrils have just started to grab onto the wire. DSC_0168
Cherry tomatoes are a must. I like to grow things that are easy to pick and pop right into your mouth.

I also like to tuck bush beans in wherever I can which is another great one for nibbling. DSC_0184
We planted a dwarf pear tree in the back yard three years ago. It hasn’t produced a bushel of fruit yet but just a handful of pears is all we need.

 I won’t lie when I say that sometimes I get a bit jealous when visiting a friend’s farmette.
 Or when i stumble upon a beautiful farm blog to find a family producing an entire year's worth of food.

But then I come home or walk out our back door and realize how much I love this little place where there are no rows, and just a handful of peas and where everything grows together like one big happy family.