May 9, 2010: Tassles & Tomatoes!
May 9, 2010, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: austin gardening
, better boy tomatoes
, bhn-444 tomatoes
, gardening in central texas
, growing corn
, growing tomatoes
, square foot gardening
, vegetable garden pictures
, vegetable gardens
It’s been well over a month since my SXSW post. It would be natural of you to assume that my disappearance was because I was spending my time recovering from that experience – resting, sobering up, reading, running… but alas, that hasn’t been the case.
This weekend was the first in two solid months that hasn’t seen me traveling or hosting out-of-town guests. Two months! But I’m not complaining. It has been an absolutely wonderful two months and I wouldn’t change a second of it if I had the chance. I’ve had family visit, have traveled to Houston & San Antonio & Galveston & Lake Texana. I’ve been putting in some overtime at the office, have seen some awesome shows (White Rabbits!), and have been plotting to train for the Philadelphia Marathon & a duathlon sometime before the marathon. It’s been an amazingly busy, productive & rewarding spring. Life couldn’t be better.
While my busy schedule kept me in constant motion & with a perma-grin on my face, my garden and house became the victims of unintentional neglect. I spent some time caring for both of them, but not nearly enough. This weekend I finally had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with what’s been happening in the garden, as well as get some new things going in it. The biggest accomplishment was setting up drip irrigation in both beds.
Below are some photos of the garden as of today – more photos of this year’s garden progress are on my flickr page if you’d like to check them out!
The Better Boy tomato plant has set the biggest fruit thus far... yum!
The BHN-444's are most productive, but only cherry-tomato sized... not sure what's up with that. Any thoughts from my fellow gardeners?
First major pest problem of 2010: potato beetles destroying my potato foliage.
The tops on most of my onions have already fallen, but several giants are still growing & now flowering! Can't wait to see the bulbs waiting for me under these huge greens!
zuchinnis! I hope these don't turn out to be a disappointment like last year's crop...
Tassles starting to emerge on the corn, woohoo!!
The payoff: fresh onions, potatoes & garlic. Nom nom nom!
My garden is like my mailman.
February 27, 2010, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Austin
, go green
| Tags: broccoli plants
, front yard garden
, growing from seed
, growing lettuce
, growing spinach
, growing vegetables
, spring garden
, square foot gardening
, texas vegetable gardening
, volunteer lettuce
Yup. Just like my him – minus the ponytail, of course. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keeps my garden from making vegetables. Our Texas winter has been just about as predictable as the stock market for the last two months. One day it’s 75 degrees and sunny, then two days later it’s 32 degrees and snowing. My plants aren’t sure what to do with themselves, but they continue to trudge forward in spite of it all. Seeds have been slow to sprout & transplants have been hesitant to grow. The only thing showing zero regard for the erratic conditions are my strawberries, who seem convinced that now is the perfect time to set fruit.
I keep catching myself thinking that this harsh winter has set me back in the garden but in reality I’m right on track (if not a little ahead). At this time last year I had 2 types of lettuce, 2 types of onions, and edamame planted. I didn’t even have an herb garden yet! This year by the 1st of March the garden will boast 3 varieties of lettuce, 2 varieties of onions, spinach, arugula, 2 varieties of radishes, beets, strawberries, carrot seedlings, potato starts and broccoli. Not to mention the cilantro, mint julep, catnip, camomile, oregano, rosemary and sage in the herb bed. In 2 weeks I’ll start planting the March crops: summer squash, corn and tomatoes. I can’t WAIT to plant the corn. It is going to look absolutely ridiculous in it’s tiny raised planter. I fully intend to relive my rural Lancaster County childhood by running back and forth through the single row, 8 stalks long. It’s going to be great.
lots of goodies growing!
Milo helps keep the weeds down between trips to the catnip.
Though the garden will soon be bursting with productivity, there are a few problem areas still needing to be solved. For one, I’ve got a cat problem. For the sake of being positive, let’s call it a challenge. My challenge has two parts. One: my lovely neighbor kitty Maybe, thinks that I built the raised beds for her to use as a litter box. I had this problem last year too but it wasn’t such a big deal because my direct seeding in the garden was limited to edamame. This year is a different story. So far she’s made ditches through my beets, piled mountains on my radishes, and hollowed out pits in my carrots. I can’t really blame her because she had no idea that seeds had been planted there and were germinating under her paws. And I have to admit that the beds do look like glorious feline restroom facilities. I’m hoping that she’ll find other places to bury her treasure once larger plants prohibit her from breaking & entering (& pooping). But for now I have to keep my eyes out. My second cat challenge is with the catnip. It took several months but the kitties have finally figured out that they can climb into the herb bed and roll/graze/burrow in the catnip whenever they like. I’ve come to expect the catnip to look brush-burnt. Cat hair covers it like a wispy mold-like disease. Kitties roam the neighborhood looking dazed and haunted. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do about this challenge. I’ve considered moving the catnip to grow light indoors and charging by the leaf. If anyone has any better ideas, let me know.
My second garden problem is the soil loss out of bed 2. I followed the bed-building method we were taught in the Citizen Gardener class last fall, but I did not follow it as closely as I ought to have. Because I didn’t put mulch down around the planter, soil is slipping through the cracks. Each week I inspect the bed the soil level seems to have sunk another 1/8″ inch. The whole thing looks a bit messy. The messy part doesn’t bother me much, but it would be nice to keep the weeds down around the bed. This is an easily solve-able problem and the next time I head out to the Natural Gardener I’m going to pick up some of their hardwood mulch.
Beyond those small challenges I’m really pleased with how the garden is coming along in 2010. I’ll be even more pleased once I can begin harvesting. The lettuce is getting close, and I’ve been enjoying the herbs all winter long. I’m tickled pink by the volunteer plants I discover each week. The volunteer lettuce is absolutely out of control. This week I saw that my mint julep has fully escaped the herb bed and is coming up randomly throughout the front yard. I imagine it won’t be long before my entire front lawn is edible landscape!
Easy Peasy 10 Grain Bread
February 14, 2010, 8:04 pm
Filed under: food
, go green
| Tags: baking
, baking your own bread
, bread recipe books
, bread recipes
, easy bread recipe
, healthy bread in five minutes a day
, mother earth news
, naturally nora
, sweetish hill bakery
, ten grain bread
As a birthday present this past year my mom subscribed me to Mother Earth News. This magazine is like sitting on a rural backporch in 1965 exchanging homemaking secrets with your best friends, who happen to be Rachel Carson, Sacagawea and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The magazine gives you all the information and inspiration you ever needed to live solely off the land. I’m now convinced that not only can I bake my own bread, but I can grow my own wheat, make my own flour, and build my own solar oven to bake the bread in.
I should probably preface the rest of this post with this statement: I don’t really “do” recipes. Save for one thing: baking. Baking requires a certain amount of chemistry knowledge that I just don’t have. Rather than create my own Bunsen burner experiments, I rely upon the tried and tested steps spelled out to me in cookbooks and occasionally on the back of Naturally Nora boxes. This time I followed directions spelled out to me in the December/January issue of Mother Earth News. The article was called “Healthy No-Knead Bread Recipes”, and it promised me that I could bake a loaf of bread by the traditional yeast method quickly, and inexpensively. In fact, they estimated that making your own bread costs just $.40 a loaf. Considering that I usually spend $5-$6 on whole wheat bread from Sweetish Hill Bakery, I thought it might make financial sense to give bread-making a shot.
The simple recipe that I followed below yielded 4 small loaves. The bread is a dense whole wheat and I opted to use a mix of sunflower, flax & sesame seeds on the crust. I am baking without a baking stone, so instead I warmed my cookie sheet for 30 minutes prior to baking, placed the loaf in the bottom 1/3 of the oven, and added a cup of water to my broiler below the racks to create steam. This recipe is from the book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Based on the success of this recipe I’m looking forward to buying a copy and trying some other recipes!
10 Grain Bread
- 2 cups 10-grain hot cereal (Bob’s Red Mill brand), uncooked
- 3 cups white whole wheat flower (made from wheat varieties with pale, mild-tasting bran layers)
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tbsp (2 packets) granulated yeast
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
- 3-1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 to 2 tbsp seed mixture for sprinkling on top: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, sunflower, poppy and/or anise
1- Whisk together the cereal, flours, yeast, salt & vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container.
2- Add the water and mix without kneading, using a spoon, a food processor (w/dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). You may need to get your hands wet to get the flour to incorporate if not using a machine.
3- Cover (not airtight), and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approx. 2 hours.
4- The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate it in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next week.
5- On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 lb. (grapefruit size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around tot he bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
6- Elongate the ball into an oval. Allow the loafto rest for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough), covered loosely with plastic wrap, on a pizza peel prepared with cornmeal or lined with parchment paper. Alternatively, you can let the loaf rest on a silicone mat or a greased cookie sheet.
7- Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone near the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other rack.
8- Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top crust with water. Sprinkle with the seed mixture and slash the loaf with 1/4″ deep parallel cuts, using a serrated knife.
9- Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (or place the silicone mat or cookie sheet on the stone if you used one). Pour a cup of hot water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, until richly browned and firm. If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake it directly on the stone or an oven shelf at about 2/3 of the way through the baking time. (smaller or larger loaves will require adjustment in resting and baking time).
10- Allow to cool on a rack before slicing.
oh, twenty-ten. you exhaust me already.
January 17, 2010, 6:49 pm
Filed under: food
, go green
| Tags: 1015 onions
, creeping jenny
, gardening in central texas
, herb gardening
, roman chamomile
, square foot gardening
, texas vegetable garden
, winter vegetable garden
Twenty-ten didn’t waste any time throwing a few speed bumps my direction.
The troubles began the day before I left for Colorado when I woke with a sore, swollen eye – another eye infection. And so I flew to Denver last Thursday wearing my glasses. On Friday a second medical complication required me to spend most of the morning talking with my Doctors in Austin and the pharmacy in Colorado Springs. Cover your ears boys: my Nuvaring had mysteriously gone missing. I finally got everything sorted out and a new prescription filled (only to discover two days later that the original hadn’t actually gone missing – oh, the glories of being a woman), and the trip turned out to be a fantastic one in spite of a challenging start.
ummm... not such a great idea afterall.
Promptly upon my return to Austin, my refrigerator broke down. This resulted in a frantic mid-week evening of picking up a mini-fridge found on Craigslist, ruining the interior of my S2000 with said refrigerator, and relocating all items from broken fridge & freezer to one of two locations: new evil car-destroying mini-fridge or friend Melissa’s freezer. It was an unexpectedly exhausting evening. The following morning I broke a glass in the bathroom as I was getting ready for work. Fifteen minutes later my worst nightmare came true: I set off the recently installed house alarm. In my week away from home I’d forgotten how to enter the disarm code. That afternoon I came home from work sick, sick, sick. Since then I have spent the majority of my weekend in bed, trying to dislodge the styrofoam residing between my ears with sleep, sleep and more sleep.
The worst of all of these events is that I am completely out of sync with my world right now. I can’t decide if it’s because of the aforementioned events, or if those events were a result of me being out of sync. The feeling spans back to my house break-in before Christmas, and then spending the holiday alone in Austin. While my friends were home with their families, I was here. As soon as they got back, I left town. Shortly thereafter I busted my eye, had a fridge bust, and got sick (resulting in more hermit at home time void of contact with the outside world). I’d like to think that I will be back in sync quickly, but I’m staring into another weekend of traveling that is going to keep me from getting settled anytime soon.
My brief glimpse at normalcy came this afternoon when I planted onions. Onions & lettuce & spinach, oh my! I made a quick trip to the Natural Gardener to celebrate my getting out of bed and pajamas today. While I was there I came across Roman Chamomile, which smells wonderful (like apples!). I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but it’s so lovely that I added it to the herb garden. The work was gentle and easy since the beds were already prepared. Being outdoors was absolutely refreshing after being bed-ridden for the last 48 hours. And raking through the herb garden with my hands to free dead leaves was really wonderful – the release of those scents into the air helped clear my head for a brief and wonderful moment. I planted two pockets of creeping Jenny where my herb garden meets the original raised bed in the hopes that the creeping Jenny will fill those areas and keep grass & weeds down throughout the new year.
The herb garden - new chamomile is bottom right.
1015 onions - much bigger than last year's sprigs, can't wait to see how they do!
Speaking of onions... while I was outside planting them, Mallary was inside cooking them. The ski goggles make it the perfect photo for this post.
It feels great to have started the garden, and I’m looking forward to planting carrots & broccoli in the coming weeks. It still seems bizarre to be planting at this time of year, especially after having spent a week in a snow-covered place. Since my trip to Colorado I expect to see pockets of melting snow here in Austin as I drive around town, and am still feeling shocked that there isn’t any here at all. My Yankee blood must be calling to me – I’m even anxious to get to Chicago and experience the cold again. Plans for a second skiing trip this season are sloshing around in my head as well. Which leads to the final piece of my “feeling-out-of-sync” puzzle: since when have I missed cold weather and snow?!
Garden Update #12 – Year End Recap (amongst other things)
January 2, 2010, 3:54 pm
Filed under: food
, go green
| Tags: colorado vacation
, hummingbird cabin
, new years resolutions
, square foot gardening
, vegetable garden
Garden Update #12 will conclude my series of first-year garden stories. At this point it seems fitting to ceremoniously say goodbye to my freshman experience with the garden and graduate into a new series of second-year adventures.
As I recollect over a year of growth, harvest, dormancy, death and reemergence, I realize that the garden has very suspiciously reflected my own life patterns this year. The spring was full of innocent hope. The days and weeks were balanced with equal parts work and play, and then spiced with dashes of charitable volunteering and lots of reading and learning. Health was abundant, life was full. The summer brought drought and challenge. The garden fell fallow under the grips of 100+ temps, and my life grew a bit unbalanced as well. Fall brought sweet, refreshing rains and the garden flourished once again. As the rains nourished, I turned 30 and renewed my goal of finding inner balance. At long last, winter’s first frost killed the last of the seeds I’d sprouted in January and also encouraged the growth of new plants – a fresh start for a new year.
one swift kick.
In less metaphorical terms, the last few months have brought a lot of change around here. A week before Christmas Eve, someone kicked in our front door and made off with a lot of small electronics. No doubt they will be back in a few months to collect those things that they weren’t able to hoist on the first visit. Next time we hope to greet them with a siren so loud that their eardrums will explode (but hopefully not all over my beige carpet).
Cory & I check out the ice fishing scene in the greater Estes Park area.
The other change is that I’ve been traveling, a lot. And I will probably continue to travel, a lot. My new beau is a captain in the Air Force and lives in Colorado Springs. As you can imagine, this makes scheduling regular date nights a bit complicated. In fact, our “first date” was a weekend trip to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Forest. We stayed in an adorable cabin we found on www.vrbo.com, somewhere between Lyons and Estes Park. It was a splendid weekend. Cory was down in December to accompany me to our work Christmas party, and I will head to Colorado Springs in less than a week for a skiing adventure. Two weeks later, we’ll meet in Chicago for a wedding. Twenty-ten promises to bring many frequent flier miles.
Though I don’t necessarily believe in New Years Resolutions, I do believe that the end of a year is a great time review the year past with an objective lens and learn from all the experiences contained therein. The lessons are allowed to come into the new year with me, but nothing else can carry over. With those lessons in mind, it’s a good time to formulate a plan and some goals for the year ahead. So with that, I leave you with my garden plan for 2010, and hope you’ll join me in saying, “Sayonara, 2009!!!!”
garden plan, 2010