Saturday, May 29, 2010

Peas and Pak Choi

Ok so this one is neither peas nor Pak Choi, it is Red Russian Kale. I wish I could capture the coloring better, but it was mid day and it made all of my pictures a bit faded. Aside from being quite tasty, the coloring is fricken cool.

We had a mini heat wave and the result is many of my cabbages that are planted in full sun areas bolted like my sister for a Jimmy Choo sale.

Cabbage blooms when unopened can be cooked like Broccoli Raab, even the tender green seed pods can be eaten. These I will trim off the stem and it hopefully will reset... unless another heat wave in the 90's happens again.

I found a really old packet of peas... Alaska. A shelling pea that is supposed to be able to handle a bit more heat than others. Just enough sprouted and survived some rather pesky birds for me to be able to save a good amount of seeds (and maybe a few to add to pasta).

This is a different variety of peas.. I have 4 different kinds spaced out in various beds to minimize cross pollination. I have to look at my chart to remember the name of this snow pea variety. I just think it is cute how they hold on to each other for support.

I will replant more kale and cabbage in late summer/ early fall. I wish I had more room so I could plant a ton of peas and sweet peas. Their flowers are so cheery. I plan to save enough seeds from these 4 cultivars so that I will be set for the next few years.

*knock on wood* I will save the seeds provided Mother Nature will be kind enough to let it happen.

Iris are blooming

These iris were here when we moved in. We bought this place in late winter, so I had no idea they were even there until that spring.

I don't know what cultivar they are, but I really like them. Iris and roses are probably one of my favorite flower combinations.

They are extremely hardy and have gone through many droughts with little irrigation. They just started blooming yesterday. That whole area smells like sweetarts to me. It is wonderful!

When the patch first started growing only 2 sent up flowers. They were very over crowded and had expanded out of their area on to landscaping fabric that was semi buried.They were very sad looking and some of the rhizomes were mushy.
I thinned them out carefully removing the diseased and rotting rhizomes. I pulled out some more and gave them to a friend. The soil was horrible so I gradually added amendments without burying the rhizomes. Earthworms set up shop in the iris bed. This spring I gave them a little kelp fertilizer two times and they said thank you by setting out all these buds.
To the left you see coffee ground scratched into the soil. The grounds will slowly breakdown there and they attract earthworms. The soil here is clay... very compacted very fine clay that lacks a lot of nutrients. Bit by bit that is changing.
This fall I will divide these yet again and expand the patch as well as share some extras.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Found missing camera card

YAY! Found a long lost camera card! Even though I have many of these on photo stock, I am so happy I found it as it has several more pictures of my little trouble makers. I laugh at our Christmas tree... we have a ton of decorations we can't put on it because the cat view the tree as her personal jungle gym. Every year she jumps out of it from near the top and surprises someone.

Honeybees everywhere

They are adorable. Seriously I am smitten by these guys. They don't buzz around your head. They are so focused on their mission. Every great once in awhile one may land on you to take a breather, and then it continues on.

There is a cloud of them on my patio. I can't even begin to explain how mellow these bees are. It is surreal. Even with my dog's fiercely wagging tail smacking them in midair, they don't get mad. They scour over each and every plant in the trays looking for blooms. To the beekeeper who has these precious little beings in their care... thank you. I haven't cut my lawn in waaay too long so they have more dandelion flowers to visit... oh, and sorry if your honey has a faint onion flavor, but they are loving the chives a bit too much!

I keep the trays a tad overwatered... someone who keeps bees said they are probably collecting minerals and other nutrients from the soil. They can drink as much as they want. The soil is ancient recycled (multiple times through the worm bins), vermicompost and compost from lawn/ garden scraps. Just keep coming back when my other plants are blooming! They won't venture to my neighbor's yard just a few feet away.. not surprising as they tend to use various chemicals.

When not weeding, turning compost, hand turning soil in the garden... I have been trying to exercise. I have given up on losing weight, I am doing this because I need more energy. Didn't buy that? F-f-fine! lol busted. I have been unable to stop from having a glass of sweetened ice tea. To make sure my blood sugar doesn't freak out I exercise right after. Lemon, mint and a little honey... I am trying to be good, but it is so refreshing and yummy!

Breakfast in Bed

I love making someone breakfast in bed. Ever since I was little I would try to wake up early enough on Saturday to surprise my Mom. (Sundays my Dad would make the bacon and eggs before we went to Church.) We had this pale sky blue wooden tray that I loved to use. Just the right height to go over your lap and it was my favorite color back then.

My Mom is German... very German, so breakfast was often various special European cold cuts, assortment of cheeses, specialty breads, rich butter (butter in Europe is nothing like the bland flavorless pale "butter" we know in the States), soft boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes & onions, some chopped herbs... you get the idea.

My next younger sister would help me sometimes. She would run out and pick some flowers, find a little vase or cup to decorate the tray and she would help carry up the plates. The tray was heavy, so we would lug it up to Mom's bedroom door and then race down to get the plates we carefully put together. Sausages, cold cuts and cheeses on one plate fanned out garnished with sliced tomatoes... butter in the middle of another plate with chopped parsley and chives garnishing it (ok not chopped.. more like we're not old enough to use the big kid knives but we are allowed to use scissors! lol) surrounded by wonderful rye breads, grain breads... and coffee in a thermos that Dad made before leaving for work so we wouldn't spill it.

I miss those deconstructed European breakfasts. Often I wake my husband with a cup of coffee. It is much easier than yelling. (Although dumping a bag of frozen marbles under the sheets when I was in labor and he wouldn't wake up was immensely gratifying.) He's not one for breakfast until he's been awake for a few hours.

When the tomatoes start coming in a few months from now... I will make my daughter her favorite breakfast. Everything bagel with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes with onion powder, salt and pepper. It has to be good tomatoes and then the simple open faced sandwich is amazing. On the European breads it is divine.

I need to find a good German delicatessen now!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

allergic or something

There are no mosquitoes out this way so far.. Either I am encountering something I am allergic to or it is some sort of odd bug bites. It is on my hands, arms.. probably about a dozen of them now.. crazy wicked itchy little blisters.

Like right now it nailed my left index finger and is really hard to ignore. I ran out of Benadryl... and my hands are getting puffy.

I tend to worry about the worst on occasion... and admittedly my first thought was bed bugs. Highly doubtful as bedbugs tend to bite in clusters and not like what I have. That and I am the only one with these bites.

There are a few things I am allergic to... gold in my skin (I can wear rings, but not earrings. My Dad was also allergic to gold even more so as he had to opt for a platinum wedding band.) wild parsnip (although that is more of a chemical burn... that plant is wicked! I caught a horse that spooked and ran back to the barn.. riderless. Not hard as all the horses loved me for the near daily supply of treats I brought them. Anyways.. the bridle had been in contact with wild parsnip. I got MASSIVE blisters on my hands as a result. I have been stung by jellyfish before and some jellyfish will leave you with pretty huge blisters.. the wild parsnip made previous jellyfish blisters look like a joke. And to think it is naturalizing in America's midwest... sigh.).. some bee stings (I seem to get nailed by a yellowjacket every year and each time the swelling gets mush worse).. and chili peppers. The chili pepper reaction is from extensive exposure.

I make a mean green chili and once I jokingly told the guys I'd make it if they brought the roasted chili peppers. I sure as hell wasn't expecting them to show up the next day with 2 bushels of roasted chili peppers!!!! Even with 2 pairs of gloves on deskinning that many still burned my hands. I made stock pot after stock pot of it. Strong enough to peel off paint, I thought I had made enough for the guys to freeze and enjoy when the craving hit. It lasted all of 2 weeks and they showed up with more roasted chilies. Learned my lesson... gave their wives and girlfriends the general recipe and told the guys to spoil their women if they wanted more. Their butts must be made of asbestos. Eyes tearing, faces red, sweating .. they would hold out their bowls and ask for more. Oliver Twist grown up with beer bellies and some sort of demented enjoyment of self inflicted pepper torture. Getting a high of the chili pepper heat... aka middle aged crisis as expressed by mild mannered men.

ITCH ITCH ITCH... gah!! I need to go stick my finger in ice water. It is more like bug bites. I can't compare it to poison ivy/ oak/ sumac because I am not allergic to those but this does remind me of when I had chicken pox as a little kid.

Here's to hoping it isn't bed bugs, or any other bug.

itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch
itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch itch

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So I had planted some tomatillos waaay too early and had to repeatedly make mad dashes to cover them to protect them from freezing temps and freak snow storms. They were blooming in early April. Well, it snowed one night after I had gone to bed and it had gotten cold enough to blast them through the covering.

All the tomatillos except this one died. This lone defiant stem is now sending out new leaves. It is surrounded by radish seedlings. I am going through a radish phase, so I tucked as many radish seeds as I could into every space open.

I will have to give this tomatillo a name. When I thought all of them were toast, I had given up on saving them... so this plant went through several more freezing nights and 3+ inches of snow unprotected... and still lived! A reminder from the Universe that just when you think every chance of survival is gone, as long as you fight, you still have a chance.

Catnip... indestructible and thriving. This is Gypsy's herb patch that started the invasion. It is particularly pungent with HUGE leaves. I took this just a few days ago and it is doubled in size. This is just a small section of it. Her patio patch is about 3 feet long and 1.5 feet wide. The volunteers are everywhere. I hack them back repeatedly and offer big armfuls to friends also supporting felines with an herb habit.

To give you an idea roughly the size of the leaves.. I picked the leaf on the bottom right of the previous picture and put this key and penny on it to show scale. Soon the leaves will get even bigger and like every year it will survive near daily visits from Gypsy. I tear up the leaves into smaller pieces and she throws herself on top and rolls like mad. Then she sometimes chases imaginary things before coming back and eating the leaves. Catnip is good for their digestion. Gypsy's son is one of the funniest cats to watch when he gets some of the fresh nip. After rolling in it he tears through the house, jumping in the air and changes direction... animated to the extreme. He's been known to roll on it so intensely you can see green stains on the white patches of his fur.

Well... back to the garden. I have been unable to do much the last few days because of some crazy intense winds. The neighbors' daughter I think has a new dog.. and it is a bit freaky. I need ear plugs as I can't go into my yard without it barking and growling nonstop. They make no effort to quiet him and leave him outside always. Kinda sucks as the garden is where I like to relax and it is impossible to do that with his sharp intense barking. After 10 minutes it is enough to give you a raging headache.

We have another neighbor 2 doors down that lets their dog run free. Both dogs are not socialized and it worries me. The dog that runs loose has cornered me in my garage as well as kept me stuck in the house for over an hour as every time I opened the front door it would come up and start snarling. I've been attacked by a canine before (it was a hybrid none the less) and although I used to never have any fear previous to that over dogs.. when they snarl like that it does trigger automatically fear. I regain self control quickly.. but the automatic response irritates me. (When I was attacked I literally kicked the hybrid off of me twice and the third time it attacked a stray female dog we found actually came to my rescue. She bit him and he took off after her. The hybrid bit 5 people that day.. the worst was an 8 yr old girl as her bites were deep in her forearm. I ended up with both arms needing stitches- including some on the inside of my right hand.)

I don't mind dogs running loose if they are friendly. Buddy the yellow lab escapes regularly to make his social rounds before heading home, often with a small toy or ball one of the kids left out. I don't mind timid dogs... there was one that would escape and it took me hours to get her to come to me to be petted so I could look at her tags. She decided she loved me after that and she's the only dog I have ever had issues with trying to keep her out of my fenced yard. She'd break out of her yard to go break into mine. She'd play with my dog and I would bring her back when her humans got home from work. Every time I sat down on the ground she took it as an invite. She was one big lap dog.

Speaking of weeding.. back to work I go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

24 Fluid Ounces remembering Bali

If that was the amount of iced tea or water consumed... no second thought. That however is the amount of hot sauce with which I managed to lace almost everything I ate this week. Not having the right chili peppers to make a garlic, hot pepper, vinegar... I had to settle.
What I really want is this sambal that we had in Bali. We were invited by a guy we had befriended at the Tegal Sari in Ubud to have dinner at his family's home. Ever meet people that just radiated "gentle"? That was our experience there... the gorgeous terrain aside, it is the people that had me enthralled. Nowhere else have I encountered such welcoming people.
Ketu was the first one who adopted us. She worked at a restaurant named Suchi. I won't ever forget the name because it was hilarious how many times she had to explain to Japanese tourists that Suchi was the name of the owner of the restaurant and they did not make sushi. Ketu introduced us to Eric the Australian hailing from Perth... hilarious guy.
Between the two we were able to ask many questions and find out the do's and don't's of etiquette. She showed us pictures of her 2 beautiful children and their new family temple that they had just built. Eric, the grizzly older gentleman, at that time pulled out a colorfully wrapped small package and handed it to Ketu. He growled some comment about no more excuses about not enough updates on his grandkids. It was a new camera. (It seems Eric was adopted by Ketu many years previously. Unmarried man in his later 50's when we met him, Ketu and her family was his only family. He traveled to Bali as often as he could to visit them.) Ketu was thrilled and promptly sent Eric out to get film.
Timid is not the word to describe Ketu. She is a mother hen. She would bring Eric plates of food he did not order and he would protest. She would tell him he was drinking too much and that he needed a haircut because he looked like a surfer. You have to witness it to appreciate it. All of the chiding and needling was never malicious and the exchange was always comical.
We debated about where to go and what to do... my husband and I did not plan out most of the trip as we are not ones for schedules. Ketu informed us that she called her husband and we were going to see temples today. Well... ooookay then. Temples it is.
Her husband Nyoman showed up all smiles. He may very well be one of the happiest people ever. Always finding humor in whatever is going on around him, however at that moment he was laughing at Eric because Ketu refused to bring him beer until he had breakfast.
Nyoman is a man with several jobs. Aside from working as security for an upscale hotel, he also drove a cab. I am amazed at traffic in Bali. I thought Caracas was a bit intense... Bali it is insane. We saw 5 people on 1 moped. I never would have thought it possible. Whole family... 1 moped. The women able to sit side saddle style and all I have to say is they must have incredible balance.
Nyoman took us to their home first to see the family's new temple. It was stunning. You could stare at it for hours and still not see everything. It was intricate it was gorgeous. I was so busy looking that when a stealthy chicken brushed up against my leg I screamed. Yeah, I was caught a tad off guard.
That's when we heard giggling. Nyoman introduced us to their daughter. She was 9 and he told us she had only just started talking a few months ago. When she was born there was a flu going around. Ketu and the whole family had it. She delivered while everyone was ill and the baby, not even a day old spiked a very high fever. Their belief is that their daughter must have done something in a previous life. Ketu delivered early. Eric was hoping to be in Bali before she delivered, but ended up being a day late. He took Ketu and the baby to the hospital. He cared for Nyoman and his parents. The baby's fever was so high it had caused brain damage.
Their daughter survived, but it took many years for her to learn to walk and even at 9 she could only say a few words. She was not without a sense of humor as the chicken incident had her in a full blown giggle fit. She instantly had a crush on my husband. She grabbed his hand and showed him around their family compound. (Bali homes are more of a series of separate single rooms.)
Nyoman was floored. He had never seen his daughter take to someone so quickly. She was attached to my husband... literally. Nyoman told us how she liked motorcycles... Harley in particular. So that is what we nicknamed her... Harley. It was the sound she liked.. and she tried to make the sound.. my husband did the same. That was it... she was so happy she squealed and wrapped her arms around him.
When it was time to leave to continue on to Tanah Lot, Harley was devastated. We visited her a few more times (brought her crayons and coloring books)... we still have the pictures she colored for us. Such a sweet girl.

I have been thinking about Ketu and her family a lot lately. They just kinda popped into my mind out of nowhere. I really hope they are all ok.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What's Growing

The chives are in full bloom. I figured I would take a few pictures before I started tossing them into our salads. I have more than enough to eat and to leave for seed.

Bummer the color washed out on this picture. I must admit I am using it as my background atm. Such wonderful perennials, chives take such abuse and still thrive. I find them just as pretty as they are useful. Spread over baked potatoes, blended in olive oil and spices to be used to make salad dressing, I go through a lot and still have tons to share.

The blue potatoes are sprouted. My daughter really wanted them and of course her Dad picked them up for her. She was so excited she ran out to plant them the moment she had them in her hot little hands. I just shook my head as the location she chose I had just seeded with leek. Harvesting may prove to be difficult as the leek take much longer to grow.

Remember I said everything grows in my worm bin? Well that is a carrot top trimming that had not sprouted.. until I put it in the bin. I am curious if it will flower and go to seed as this would be it's second year. I just had to plant it to find out. I fished out a few more to expand the experiment.

The garlic planted last fall is doing well. It has been beaten up by hail quite a bit, but despite the battering they recovered well. Most should be larger bulbs, but there will be small ones as well because I couldn't help but plant the runt cloves too.

I have more yet going on but the rechargeable batteries in the camera keep dying so quickly.


My lawn can't really even be called a lawn. It is more like free form volunteer plantings. The backyard invasion... where invasives reign. Bindweed and thistles are the only ones I actively and constantly battle to remove. I have no fear of Martha Stewart visiting my yard.

I suppose they are interesting. Patches of various shades of green. The weeds more often are the only green when the arid summers turn grass into sharp daggers that make barefoot wanderings a brutal sliver filled endeavor. I refuse to water any more than necessary. It drives me crazy to see automatic sprinkler systems go off in the middle of a rainstorm, and that happens frequently.

Every now and then you, if you look close... some offer dainty blooms of thanks.

Sometimes dandelion are too thankful and the yard explodes in thousands of seed puffs. Between the dandelions and the cattail wars the yard is filled with floating fluff. I don't mind dandelions. They remind me of when I was young and I braided hundreds together to make a wreaths. Then make the dog sit still while I put it on his head like a dorky yellow halo.
In the event of an emergency.. we could eat the lawn... there are that many. The crazy influx of honeybees who bounced from dandelion to dandelion have moved on to sweeter blooms. The lilacs are perfuming the air and the honeybees are making the shrubs hum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Potting Soil

With all of the plants I start, if I was to buy soil mix I for all of it the cost would make a big dent in the pocketbook.
I have somewhat goofy rotation that minimizes how much bagged soil I need to get. Yes, I still need to get a few items. (Keep in mind where I am it is dry... so unless I irrigate a lot I don't have enough materials to create as much compost as I need.)
Aside from the garden, I also plant in big pots as well as a whiskey barrel. Each year I crowd them full and by the end of the season they are pretty much depleted. I snip off the plants (which go to the compost bin) and the roots + spent soil get sent to the worm bins. I leave the worms to work through it for a few weeks before I add scraps for them to munch on. Come early spring I sift the worm bin contents and toss it in a wheelbarrow. I add sand and additional compost that was made from yard scraps, toss in any spent container soil that I didn't have room to toss in the worm bin.. add a touch of bone meal and blood meal... refill containers. The compost and vermicompost act as slow release fertilizers so the only thing I do is every once and awhile water them with VC tea.

I hate buying bagged compost. Most of it is just horrible and more than likely contains an assortment of things I want no where near my garden. Even the steer manure has a ton of uncomposted shredded tree filler. As well if the cattle were offered feedstock that had been sprayed with pesticides/ herbicides.. they have found several chemicals pass through the animal manage to survive composting and are still active enough to mess with your plants when you use it! It defeats the whole purpose of amending with the compost.

I found this link to be very interesting.

A solar oven to pasteurize soil for a seed starting mix. I may just have to add that to my list. I don't exactly need it, but I will think about it. I tend to employ the "only the strong will survive" method. I save seeds and frankly plants that require less coddling is a trait I want. Unsuccessful pots where the seed did not sprout just gets tossed in the worm bin. Not many of those though and of course everything put in the worm bin sprouts!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Collapse of Common Sense

"Collapse" is not quite accurate as it can be historically pointed out on every continent a grave lack of forethought at one time or another.
Common sense implies that one has deduced what will happen, or what is most likely to happen and is then able to reason the right course of action before taking action. Some situations, especially with repetitive occurrences, it becomes a reflexive choice. Some situations, particularly foreign ones, it may take quite awhile. It is like chess. (
Little kids will berate others with an endless onslaught of "why" because they are still aquiring an informational base from which to reason. Before you stop the machine gun prattle of why why why why... realize the potential for this person to be a free thinker. Be proud and encourage wanting to know more, it is a part of what defines being a human. )
It is a process most people underutilize. Far too often people settle for a superficial answer rather than inquire any further. It allows others to think for them. Right or wrong, like sheep, the mentally impotent flock under whatever trendy banner attracts them.
Here's an example of an oxymoron run rampant.... Politically Correct. Seriously... if you have even one whit of common sense you wouldn't rely on that to shape your moral compass. The phrase alone "Politically Correct" has somehow been used, abused, and brandished to be a flimsy trump card to end an arguement of what is right and what is wrong. Common sense would question why is it right, why is it wrong... and ideally following a train of thought back to a point where one is able to make a decision.
"The Golden Rule"... aka... do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I am not religious at all... yet I find this simple sentence quite brilliant and a sound perspective from which to conduct myself.
Common sense requires thought, forethough, and application of one's intellect.

The whole "PC" thing.. a tirade into itself. (If cultural injustices were to be perpetuated and penance demanded for historical wrong doings... my family would be screwed. We are a mishmash. Who and how can you hold another culture in debt or force guilt upon what previous generations have done, when you yourself are a compilation from several clashing cultures? You can't without being a total hypocrit.)

I potentially may succumb to another rant if provoked... but right now I have to tend to my garden while the weather is wonderful.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vetch on this

Winter vetch aka hairy vetch (Vicia Villosa Roth)... it is a legume and one of many options for cover cropping. It is usually planted with a wheat or rye which acts as a nurse crop. ( A nurse crop is an annual crop that grows more quickly and provides shelter for slower germinating perennials. It basically helps with weed control, prevents soil erosion, shelters tender perennial seedlings, etc.)

So vat's vid da vetch? Well, aside from acting as a green manure and adding nitrogen back into the soil... as a mulch... it makes your tomatoes taste better. (yes, I realize the squints just adore their transgenic plants and glowingly tout the health benefits of purple tomatoes created with snapdragon genes spliced in... but every now and again they stumble upon something that doesn't trigger flashbacks to the movie "The Fly").

Tangent... speaking of transgenic plants... really it is an evil humorous thought I just have to say.. Sometimes with their crazy pairings and compulsive need to meddle with meshing totally incompatible species it makes me wonder how they would handle if the results were actually their kids? "No need for a nightlight with this one Bob, we spliced in a few glowbug genes" or "Hey Gary, you child now will have incredible eyesight, mind blowing reflexes but may not be able to comprehend math. Oh and it is possible later generations may need special footwear and be prone to seasonal molting."

Back to vetch lol.. it can be used as a living mulch too. Having a built in nitrogen dispenser is always a good thing. Just heads up if you try it... vetch has a tendency to not all sprout at once. As in they can sprout in following years especially in areas where it doesn't get cold enough in winter.

So if you are trying to grow tomatoes with amazing flavor and seem to have troubles no matter the variety... the problem is most likely your soil. Give vetch a try. (Gotta love things that do multiple jobs! Honey bees forage the flowers, some vetch plus the grain crop grown with them make good feed for various livestock, compost additive, use as a living or dried mulch, helps break up soil, nitrogen fixer, weed suppressor, reduces soil erosion, and the flowers are cute to boot!!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TMI about Composting

For those that like overkill on why and how things work... here is a link to the nitty gritty about hot composting.

Cinnamon Bread and Snow

So this is what I woke up to this morning... snow. I am trying to stay positive about this. If I am lucky this will get rid of the 8 billion birdhouse gourd volunteer seedlings sans weeding.

The poor sweet robins are dutifully sitting on their nest. I will help them out a bit and set out some worms in a tray. Robins are primarily sight hunters. So if I show the male the worms and set the tray a few feet away, he hops down and grabs a snack.

I am lucky I didn't get around to planting tomatoes and peppers. I was ready to, except the recent moisture from previous rain had triggered an explosion of bindweed and thistles. Between starting summer crop seeds in pots, weeding, baking and the sudden need to clean screens and windows, I never got around to planting tomatoes. Water with a splash of vinegar and a little dish soap worked wonders on the glass... except I had to keep the dog away. Something about the faint smell of vinegar and he can't help but taste test the just cleaned glass. I did the main floor glass, then went upstairs.. when I came back downstairs he had licked 'em all.

I actually managed to take a picture before they attacked the cinnamon bread!! That is a huge feat in this house. Usually when I bake something I have to fend off the husband and daughter. They are relegated to standing far away from the kitchen.... usually drooling and well armed with their bakery warfare forks.

This is a sweet cinnamon quick bread, it is a dessert. It had swirls of cinnamon inside and was mildly sweet. Perfect with coffee my husband says. Ironically, I can't eat any of it as I am diabetic. One of the loaves went to my husband's coworker (let's just call him Bob) as it was his birthday the next day. My husband gave him the loaf, joked and said it was up to him if he wanted to share.

The company was a small one that got bought out by a bigger corporation. So the small company tradition of bringing in a cake to celebrate whom ever's birthday vanished with the cut backs, downsizing, etc. Anyways.. Bob is hilarious. He announces in the break room he must be allergic to wheat and therefore has been on a wheat free, sugar free diet for several days now. Mind you, he is announcing this while trying to devour single faced and double handed a box of chocolate glazed doughnuts someone brought in.

Husband: "Bob... you are eating wheat and sugar right now."

Bob: "No, these don't count and they are chocolate glazed, not sugar."

Husband: "I don't think Krispy Kreme has started making doughnuts with spelt and stevia yet Bob."

Bob: "These don't count. When you squish them down it takes 4 of them to make a real doughnut anyways, so really I have only had 2."

So Bob shaved off slices to share at the office and proceeded to inhale the rest of the loaf at his desk. I will make this again with apples & cinnamon, and later in summer a zucchini variety. Right now I am getting ready to make a double batch of Banana Crumb Muffins. If I make them now, I am more likely to remember to take a picture before the family inhales them leaving only a wake of muffin papers in their wake.

Lasagna sounds good for dinner. I may just be motivated enough to make the pasta as the weather is keeping me out of the garden today. I experimented with a sourdough herb bread (I blended herbs from my garden last year in olive oil and froze it in ice cube trays or ziplock bags frozen flat so they store easily. I pop some out and thaw them to use in salad dressings, marinades, toss in at the last minute with veggies or pasta... or add them to make an herb bread. When the herbs come in strong I end up putting them in everything. Butter, olive oil, cream cheese, etc.)

My daughter's favorite summer sandwich:

herbed cream cheese (chives, green onion, garlic chives)
on toasted bread (she loves everything bagels, I grew up with German grain breads.. love it)
thick slices of tomatoes from the garden
dust the top with onion powder
salt & pepper

Seems a lot of picky eaters like it too. She has several of her friend hooked on that open faced sandwich and her best friend who would live off Mac-n-cheese if allowed now requests tomatoes when his parents go to the store. My daughter laughed as his Mom asked him "Who are you and what have you done with my son?!"

Quirky family, I appreciate them. Our kids have been best friends since kindergarten.. they are now in 7th grade. Both are only children, they decided in 1st or 2nd grade that they were siblings.

I better get back to work. I reallllllly want lasagna now and that is going to take awhile so the dough has time to chill and then enough time to dry after rolling out.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cleaning Product Ratings

So I found an interesting site that looks a bit deeper into ingredients and company impact of products. Still a work in progress, but very helpful. It covers a lot of things that otherwise would be harder for a person to research or find further info about.

Still takes time to look up the product specs, but I appreciate they take into account the impact the company makes while creating their items.

I think it is a helpful tool and I hope it helps others with being aware.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Healthier Cleaning Solutions + babble

I suppose I should thank my Mom and next older sister for a lot of my quirks/ things I just grew up doing.

My Mom has a strong aversion to many typical chemical cleaners preferring to use more simple methods. Her tactics were beyond weird for the times. Nothing like being in a well off neighborhood and your Mom making you dump tubs of dishwater into the flower beds. Oh we had a dishwasher, and we did use it. I doubt many realize how much water they use daily, especially in the kitchen. Put a big tub in the sink that you have to haul off and you will notice very quickly. Running the water to rinse out the coffee pot, running the water until it is cool for a drink, rinsing dishes, washing hands, etc. it adds up to a LOT. Try doing it for a week and you will see. If you use that water for trees or flowers you want to make sure you use a safe mild soap. You will also find yourself not cranking through the soap nearly as much as before too.

My Mom also would make us toss the leftovers and remnants from cleaning out the fridge in a rather forested area of the yard too. We had an understanding with the local raccoons that developed over the decades... they can forage for the food scraps that otherwise would have ended up in the trash... as long as they stay out of the trash. Always 2 Moms and their mess of kids would show up every dusk and patiently wait (unlike the squirrels who took to ranting at us through the screen door during the day.) 1 raccoon mom was bold and brave, the second was the total opposite as she was always wild-eyed and jumpy. They would gather some food to walk to the little pier we built on the pond and dip their meals as they ate.

We sadly had to sell the home I grew up in right after my sister passed in order to pay the insane medical bills. Not long after we left our former neighbor told us how the raccoons suddenly started raiding garages and trash. Thankfully she took up the torch and the raccoons are behaving again so those on the warpath to trap and kill them has been squelched.

My next older sister is a health nut. She always has been the one reading labels and wanting to know what everything is and it's effects for most of her 40+ years. As overbearing and annoying as it can be at times... it also is helpful and well intentioned. I began paying more attention to her when I was pregnant as any chemical smell would send me reeling in nausea. The natural cleaners I could handle, but the synthetic commercial brands triggered immediate bad responses. Super sensitive was putting it mildly... car exhausts, chemical cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides.. you get the idea... dry heave galore and darn near passing out. Pretty much everywhere except my Mom's house and her isolated farm felt like a war zone.

On the up side... my daughter has a crazy amazing immune system, and the only thing she is allergic to is bindweed (which gives her a mild rash) and mosquito bites (yeah I know, an odd one to add, but my husband is not allergic to mosquito bites, so nothing happens when he does get bit. No bump, no itching, nothing. His sister is very allergic to mosquito bites and each one swells up to half dollar size. I am typical.. medium sized bump that itches like mad but they attack me in swarms.) She's not allergic to poison oak, poison sumac, poison ivy, bee stings... after many hiking trips she proved the only thing to fear after she had wandered through masses of poison something or other... is the person changing her clothes and washing them better not be allergic either.

So anyways I thought I would post this link on healthier cleaning alternatives. Speaking of which, I better go attack the house so it is ready before the weekend starts.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bunnyrats, Bees and Gypsy

I want rabbits. Where I am at "livestock are prohibited" but rabbits I do believe escape that clause. Judging from my lawn... anything that loves dandelions would be a welcome addition.

I want bees too, but that is just asking for trouble. I do ask for trouble on a daily basis... but knowing my dog's love for chomping at any insect flying in the air... a hive is a doggy death wish.

Someone around here I think has a hive as I saw a few honeybees today. Plump fuzzy and cute, I have trays of water out so they can get a drink. I am a big enough geek to give them a rock landing and change the water daily. One landed on my arm, and it was nice to look at it very closely. Not much out yet for it to forage on... but in the near future there will be plenty.

We don't treat our yards with any chemicals. That's probably why we have bugs galore... which attracts birds aplenty... all of which are welcome. There is a mob of birds that visit almost daily. They sweep the yard for bugs for several hours before leaving. I love it. When we first moved in here the lawn would move like ripples across water with all of the grasshoppers moving. It was enough to make you motion sick. In February the dang grasshoppers were out already... but when the birds arrived the grasshopper population took a massive nosedive. Now if only I could train them to crap in the compost heap...

Our cat, Gypsy, is acting very odd. Ever since we found her in the street as a super dinky kitten... she was always aloof. Crabass was what she was almost named. Hiss hiss growl moan whine petme...whatthehellareyoudoingpettingme? She escaped the week before her vet appt. to get fixed. Surprise surprise... the huge monster orange tabby named Taz raped her. Taz thankfully had bad aim and only 1 kitten came about from that encounter.

The kitten was given to my husband's cousin, and they named him Wesley. White with orange markings.. they gave a relatively whimpy name to a kitten that grew very large with an attitude to match. Compensating for the name I guess... he is king of his turf just like how his dad was. He is a big lovey mush to people... so very unlike his Mom.

Gypsy out of the blue decided my husband is the greatest thing ever. She's almost 8 and suddenly now she likes someone in the family. We knew she was slow... but 8 years slow is rather impressive (possible mid life crisis). So she tries to snuggle with him every chance she gets. The cat who does not like affection is actively seeking it out now. The only attention she would lavish on anyone ever used to be only when my daughter was getting sick.

So the attention is a good thing... and yet a bad thing. You see my husband dumped extra coffee grounds near her catnip patch. So after hitting up the nip she took a major roll in the grounds, then proceeded to go inside and snuggle up on his side of the bed. Coffee grounds all over the white down comforter... all over the sheets I just changed that morning. Whee.

I want bunnies. They are soft and cute and tasty to boot. I don't think I could kill one. Actually I know I couldn't, not a possibility. After a hunting encounter and several slaughterhouse videos I was a vegetarian for many years. My husband, despite the fact he is Dr. Doolittle, has no such qualms. Skinning.. fine butchering meat... fine snuffing a critter... so not up my alley.

They work very well into my scheme of things. They aren't noisy enough to bother neighbors, there are many cover crops that are good forage for them, manure for the garden, don't require a ton of space... perfect fit. Multi taskers that would fit right in.

First things first... hang trapeeze in bedroom and then talk husband into making bunny hutches.

Happy Mother's Day

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beef Barley Stew

I love homemade beef barley stew, especially when it is cold out. Even though I am only cooking for 3.5, and even though every time I set out to only make 1/2 a stock pot full... somehow the whole pot gets filled up. It is always a little different than the last time, but still comfortably the same, and even my daughter the picky eater goes for seconds.

I tend to make a lot of stock, heck, I even make some for the dog. Spoiling the dog like that was probably not the best idea as it has lead to his constant vigils of the kitchen.
I also look at it this way, my daughter is really attached to him, and he is a wonderful dog. He is the dog that all of the other dogs in her life is going to have to try to live up to in standards. He checks on her and stays close when she is sick, he has a special rrrrrooooooo when she gets home, she leans back on him when she is reading or playing video games, when it is rainy/snowy out and he has to sit on the rug till he is dry enough- he will silently wiggle across the floor to get to her in such a manner that 10 minutes later we realize he is still soggy but now snoring with his head on her lap. He is a big, silly, loving, happy happy happy goofball and she is his bestest buddy. So yeah, he gets spoiled.

Leftover bones from dinner plates gets tossed in a pot and simmered for awhile, bones pulled out, meat scraps tossed in with leftovers off the plates (rice, potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, celery, etc. whatever we had), garlic added, sometimes some oats or barley, sometimes I toss in an egg... take it off the heat to cool for awhile and then he gets his treat. He's part rottie.. food is what drives him, and if it is not dog food... he goes insane. Now while you can trust him to be gentle around babies, and toddlers can feed him itty bitty bits of food, or on occasion legos.. when it comes to big people filling his bowl with a treat, he dives head first blissfully into the land of stupid. He races around, never taking his eyes off the prize (hence the rare SMACK into a wall), he quakes like a bowl of jello on a jackhammer and jumps up and down in the air. This would be why I don't give him the bowl. I am the one beaming from on top of the couch with the cat.

Beef barley stew night... while we are eating, his bowl is cooling on the counter. He is just outside the kitchen... drooling and waiting for his turn. His stew doesn't have onions in it, but it does have everything else plus a little extra garlic, carrots and some peas.

So while I may not have to cook for the next 2 nights as we happily devour the stew, it also is a few days of total dog silliness to enjoy too.

(btw- He always has a full bowl of dry food as he grazes on it. He eats a few bites when he passes it by, but like all of the dogs I have had over the years, what you whip up in the kitchen they like even better than canned/wet dog food. I can't say I blame them.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seed Paper

Seed Paper!
So yeah, I have a slight issue with paper, containers, pens, ok office supplies kinda of covers most of it. Paper though, oh how I love paper. As much as I adore it in it's many crinkly forms, textures, colors and designs, the making of paper is a pretty harsh industry.

What you see above though are the leftovers of a printing company's mistakes and some lady's scraps. Into a blender went shredded paper and a lot of water, buzzed around ruthlessly until it made a grayish sludgy glop. It was poured into a big container and food coloring was added. Then she added seeds from various flowers. Mixed it a bit, dipped in her screen gently shaking to draw them up collecting the colorful sludge in an even layer. She made seed paper.

From that many hearts and butterflies were cut out and used for cards and decorations for the impending arrival of a very loved and soon to be born baby girl's party.

Somehow the scraps made their way to me. Unfortunately the amazing paper maker was not a gardener, so after depositing the seeds into the vat of watery sludgy pulp, the packets were tossed. So all I know is that there are "red flowers, purple flowers, some cute blue ones, some pink ones, some white ones"... etc. Biiiig ol' mystery. Well, who doesn't love a good mystery every now and then?

So I am soaking the paper in a container with water. After 3 days there is quite a bit of germination. So now I am hunting for flats to continue this. I am a big enough dweeb to try to sort these by what the seeds look like if only to try to get more clues. Annuals? Perennials? Who knows!!???

What I do know is this... my recycling bin will be a lot more empty of paper products once I talk my husband into making me some screens.