Friday, April 14, 2017

Seder 2017

Another Seder done.

This was the centerpiece arrangement for Seder this year, with really lovely flowers from Trader Joe's, white chrysanthemums and yellow alstromeria. The leather ferns came from my north-side garden, where they grow rampant.

I can't ever remember a bad Seder, but this one was especially joyous because -- well, we didn't host one last year, and we all missed the tradition. The singing was great, the laughter of company welcome.

John outdid himself by making lamb kofta, little patties of seasoned ground lamb, with a cucumber-yogurt sauce. Eaten with a dab of spicy goat cheese on a little flatbread -- superb. Bernie made a surprisingly delicious rice dish that included onions, garlic, raisins, and roasted cauliflower, with a corn stock gravy. Amazing food!

Oh, I baked two loaves of French bread as my culinary contribution. Actually I baked four; the weather (cold and rainy) affected the dough and the first two loaves were truly horrible. They FELL, and even tasted bad. The second two were great, go figure.

Yeah, I guess we'll do this again next year.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Baby Kittens, Who Could Resist?

The very first in this season's line of kittens for the Crazy Old Tomato Lady's garden.

The variety is "Gladiator" from Burpee's Seed catalog of Roma-like tomatoes. They're supposed to produce some spectacular fruits, so we'll give them a try. I haven't started my own tomatoes for a few years, so this has been a treat. I've moved the seedlings from the sunny window in the front room to the sunnier, hotter window in the kitchen. After the coming chilly nights the next few days, they'll be transitioning to the outdoors by playing on the front porch during the warm afternoons, and being brought back indoors at night.

I hope they do well. The rest of the tomato areas will be inhabited by the wild and wooly Early Girls and the draft-horse powerhouse Shady Ladies.

In addition to tomatoes, we'll be planting sweet corn, watermelons, canteloupes, and maaaaybe a cucumber. And peppers. And I hear Alex is doing herbs. And who knows what else?

Today's weather included drizzle, sunshine, downpours, hail, sun again, and a cold wind. Good for kittens to stay inside a little while longer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Looks Cool in the Morning

Back in 1986, when I saw my backyard fence look like this, I was sure I had an irresponsible neighbor who was surely going to set the property on fire.

After our drenching rains soaked the world of California, this morning the sun came up in a cloudless sky, and steamed the excess wetness out.

Back in pre-1985 Pennsylvania, fences didn't steam, and February was a month of cold slushy days and dirty snow. Twenty years later, here in the Central Valley, I now know that a smoky-looking fence is a sure sign of spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tools of the Trade

From the left: grooming mitt, leather gloves to protect my hands from cold and potential leash-burns, a thin (and cheap) kennel lead. Then a short black goat-lead (yes, goat, you read that right), two chain collars, a green nylon collar for a dog to wear when he's riding in the car, a leather leash that originally belonged to Babe, and a 10 foot training leash.

Not represented is a soft red slip lead because it was in the car.

Bernie made me this cute wooden rack for Kermit's stuff. It hangs on the wall behind the bedroom door, perfect for a left-handed grab while my right hand signals Kermit to sit or lie down to get ready for an outing.

The mitt and gloves are pretty understandable, but why so many things, and what is their purpose?

The thin kennel lead is something I can tuck in any pocket (I have one in the glove compartment of the car, too) and use to show Kermit what I want him to do, such as lie down and stay put in any given place instead of pestering people. It's a slip lead; it has an eye at one end and a handle on the other. That way it can hang loosely around the dog's neck if the dog is calm, or be tightened under the dog's ears to control his head. What Kermit has learned from it is that he is to pay attention to what I want him to do. It's not a punishment, it's a permit to relax and not have to think things out for himself.

The goat lead is a nylon handle with a snap end. It hooks to Kermit's chain collar. At that arm-length and dog-height, he doesn't need to put any pressure on it to walk properly at my side. Lillian had one when she was showing goats for 4-H, and I knew it could be a useful tool.

The two chain collars ... one was Howie's, and fit Kermit when I got him. A "choke" collar like that should have a four-inch drop -- uhh, that is, if you tighten it up high on the neck under the dog's ears, there should be four inches of chain running to your leash. This kind of collar is not to choke a dog, but a quick tug makes a clanking symbol to Pay Attention Now. Babe's old chain collar is in a secret place in my studio, too big for Kermit, as Kermit doesn't have the heavy thick neck pelt that Babe did. But Howie's chain collar is now too small for his froggy successor.

The nylon collar is simply for car travel, so Kermit can still his head out the window and not put nicks in the glass with the chain collar. I don't like what nylon collars do to fur, so it's strictly a car outfit.

The leather lead is what I use most often lately; the 10 foot training lead is handy for when we're out in the woods and I don't want him off leash to chase squirrels, and was invaluable when Kermit was just learning how to go for a walk -- I could use it as a slip lead to control his big head, but the long length was good for letting him sniff the new world he found himself in.

But lately, he's been "getting it" and walking pretty darn gentlemanly with the leash hanging in a loop, putting no pressure at all on my hand. Makes me feel good, seeing my big dog padding along at my side, checking on my attention to make sure he's doing right.

Right now, he's coiled on an oversized ottoman by my knees, waiting to see what we're going to do next, dozing until I'm ready to move. Oh, good dog.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Happy New Year! And Food! And Dog!

Bernie's grand experiment this past fall was to attempt to grow Brussels sprouts in pots in our front yard farm. I'd given it a half-hearted try the previous year, but planted them too late -- I got to eat some of the foliage, but they never made those cute little mini-cabbage shapes. Bernie has had much more success.

Today he decided that some of them were big enough to eat. So we cooked them in bacon fryings with diced onion. Melt the bacon fat, add the onions, let them sweat down a little, then put in the halved Brussels sprouts, stirring gently now and then. When the color is bright green, cover them and let them steam themselves for a few minutes. Then flavor with salt and garlic powder, stir and steam again. They're done when a fork can penetrate them tenderly.

Holy smoley, they were delicious! Of course, as with just about all food, the sweet intensity of the flavor was so much better coming out of the garden minutes before. Yes, fresh is better than produce that sits in bins for days or weeks.

I love how they look like little knobby palm trees, and based on our culinary experience today, Bernie says he wants to plant a lot more of them next fall. I agree. More Brussels sprouts, more red-leaf lettuce, less spinach and chard and collards.

Yes, of course I have a picture of Kermit on his office chair near the table where I work. When I picked up the camera, he looked at me as though he expected to be photographed. He was very proud of himself today: he helped me unload the throw rugs from the dryer, every one of them. He's a working dog.

2017 is coming in with a deluge. I even heard a rumor that some of the reservoirs are going to fill to pre-drought levels. I certainly hope so, but I'll believe it when I see it. In the mean time, we have tentative plans to visit a somewhat flooded soccer field on Monday -- we're supposed to get a whopper of a rain over the weekend. Kermit is going to love it...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year for 2017

In 2016, I did not make as much of an artistic effort as I would have liked. I'm hoping that 2017 will be a little better in that regard.

The big things in 2016? An expanded front yard garden, with over 150 pounds of tomatoes, a year's worth of turnips, my first successful canteloupes and cabbages, and more chard than I can eat or give away.

And Kermit the Frog-Dog. He's about a year and three months old now, hopefully as big as he'll ever get, and blossoming with a sweet and gentle personality. When I first got him, he was very needy-puppy-don't-mess-with-your-laptop, but with the newly-donated furniture in our front room, he has his own chair right behind where I work on the Press. I pull out the computer, and he hops up on his chair and snoozes like a perfect Office Dog. Maybe he'll let me get more art done in the coming year.

In spite of not doing enough art in the past year, I did renew my love/hate relationship with water colors, and revisited my teen efforts (crap, 46 years ago???) with oil pastels.

Do I make any resolutions for the new year? Not really. I'd like to do some art work every day, but I know that it's not, at this time, a realistic goal. I know I'll walk more with Kermit, garden more with 10 raised boxes in the front yard, and learn how to lay hardwood laminate flooring (starting in a week or so). I'll keep the Piker Press going.

That's probably enough.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Surprise Snack in the Flower Pot

What the heck?

Who knew that ornamental sweet potato vines would produce -- sweet potatoes?

And not only are they edible, they're delicious with a little butter and salt.

Kind of looks like plumbing under the sink, though.