Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Tuesday, June 05, 2018
Kermit sees the dragonfly as sort of a flying chicken wing, and longs to crunch it. (He does eat flies, of course, being a frog.)
I was watching them one afternoon, as Kermit raced down the side of the pool, and the dragonfly zoomed down the center. At the bottom of the pool, the dragonfly would lift off and fly over the fence, with Kermit stomping and roaring on the deck below.
That dragonfly is teasing him, I thought, and then chastised myself for anthropomorphizing animal behavior.
Then yesterday, Kermit and I were in the bedroom, and Kerm was looking out longingly at the pool. Suddenly, a red dragonfly flew up to the door and HOVERED just in front of Kermit's nose. Not for a split second, but for seconds, eliciting a big roar and a rearing on doggy hind legs. Then the dragonfly sailed away.
Seriously. No dragonfly has ever done that before.
Maybe I wasn't so far off as I thought.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
This year, I got the tomatoes right, at least. I have nine Shady Lady tomato plants, four Early Girls; they are my workhorses in tomato production, and I'm aiming for 400 pounds this year. I made room for a pot with the two little nincompoop tomatoes that came up in September in among the kohlrabi and wintered over just fine on the front porch. (They actually gave me my first few tiny-but-tasty tomatoes this year.) The lady who runs the local hardware nursery talked me into a San Marzano again, and this year, the variety is doing well. Then I got crazed and put in a "Yugoslavian" plant and a German variety in other pots, just for a lark.
The rest of the plantings ... hmm. Two variables struck hard: the STUPID weather and the ACCURSED snails.
Our winter was dangerously mild, right up until almond blossom, and then we got slammed with some plunging temps. In fact, I was listening to a couple farmers talking in the hair salon, and one of them was recounting how badly hit some of the orchards had been at a crucial moment when a freeze occurred. Yeah, I know about that. My first planting of corn and beans rotted in the ground because the swelling seeds froze. The second one, ditto. Another freak frosty few days did it in.
The third try got me a nice germination rate, but then the little sprouts of corn began to disappear. And where my beans were planted, little holes appeared in the ground. Birds? No, I have everything netted in the spring. It was snails or slugs, creeping in and chowing down the little sprouts even into the dirt, roots and all. Bastards.
So my corn crop looks like a bad haircut; if I get any corn at all from this planting, I'll immediately plant another crop. Beans I'm starting in pots up off the ground on the sheltered north side of the house, to be planted as space becomes available.
Which brings me to the above photo: when the bok choi were harvested, the violas were supposed to be removed and beans planted. But then a poppy came up in the middle of them, and the violas themselves have grown to heights of color I never would have dreamed of.
Much as I love my wax beans, there was no way I had the heart to tear out that riotous party of color.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
This is the way it happened: Bernie set up the appointment, and gave me the option of sitting in on the presentation and process -- I had things to do and didn't want to be bothered. When the representative arrived, Bernie greeted her out in the front yard garden and chatted with her about it, because she was so impressed with the growing food and wanted to come live there. Bernie needed to call some past electric company records on his computer, so he handed the rep, Lamis, off to me to show her the back garden.
She noted the lemon tree, the plum tree, the shady oasis -- and then dove for the grapevine that stretches twenty feet along the fence. "Do you make stuffed grape leaves?" she asked. "Oh, no? Okay, I'm going to cancel my lunch meeting and show you how!"
We quickly ascertained that I had all the necessary ingredients on hand, and then we listened to her presentation and what design we'd need for a solar power system. Done, she turned to me and said, "Let's get some grape leaves!"
Grape leaves for stuffing should be young and tender, about the size of your hand with fingers outstretched. No stems. We returned to my kitchen with handfuls of leaves, and began. Here are all the ingredients we used:
Grape leaves, blanched for a few seconds in a pan of boiling water
1/2 pound ground lamb, browned with
3 fat cloves of garlic, diced.
2 tomatoes, diced
a small handful of fresh parsley, minced
1 cup of rice, steeped in hot water for the time it took to prep everything else
1/4 onion, sliced into rings
another tomato, sliced
The lamb, garlic, tomatoes, parsley and rice, with a drizzle of olive oil, the salt, pepper and cumin got mixed in a bowl. One by one, we rolled up teeny spoonfuls of the mixture into the blanched grape leaves. The mixture is placed in the middle, just above the stem stub, the sides are folded in, and then you roll it all up to the top. It holds together remarkably well.
Lamis squirted another tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of a pot, put the onion rings and tomato rings in (to keep the grape rolls from scorching) and then stacked the rolls tightly together. She mixed half a little can of tomato paste with water, poured that over the top, and then added a cup of beef broth.
A small plate was put on top of all that, to keep the grape leaves from moving around and unraveling. "Bring it to a boil," Lamis told me, "and then turn it down to low and simmer it for about an hour." Off she went to her next appointment.
I am truly glutted tonight from those incredibly delicious dolmades. Bernie nearly fell to the floor at his first taste; Lillian pounced and gobbled a plateful when she got home from school. Honestly, I have never tasted anything like them, even though I have been served "dolmades" at restaurants and potlucks before. (The past dolmades get quotation marks from now on.)
And the other surprising thing was the encounter with Lamis as well. Her family is Middle Eastern in origin; my ethnic roots are in Mexican culture (and of course Central Pennsylvanian, where I grew up in my Dad's home town), but there was nothing strained or false in harvesting food together from the garden and sharing camaraderie in the kitchen while we prepped and talked about our family histories.
It was a tremendous amount of fun.
Around 2pm the phone rang. It was Lamis, making sure that I'd turned off the dolmades, and very happy to hear that we loved them.
I hope to hear from her again.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Peeled, sliced into half-inch slices, blanched for 80 seconds, ice-bathed for 4 minutes, allowed to dry, flash-frozen, and packed into 10-ounce bags, it all now resides in our freezer.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
First things first: get your pot of boiling water ready, with an ice bath nearby, and a plethora of toweling to dry things off a bit, and a timer. Not shown is the colander for the ice bath, so that you're not fishing around in that pan trying to get your chard pieces out.
Next step is to admire its leafy beauty, because you grew the stuff in a raised planter box in your front yard. Then it is time to begin the processing.
Blanch the greens for 1 minute, ice bath them for two. Blanch the rib bits for two minutes, ice bath them for three. Put them both on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them before packaging them for eating when the weather is too hot to have fresh chard.
When you can finally stand to even look at chard again, cut a white onion into halves, then cut THIN ribbons and saute them in a tablespoon or two each of butter and extra-virgin olive oil. Add the chard, and cook until tender. Add a bit of salt and some garlic powder, and at the very end, a few squirts or squeezes of lemon juice.
This will provide the impetus for planting chard again next fall. (Or early spring if you live in areas where the ground freezes.)
Saturday, April 07, 2018
The week before the Superbowl, I came down with the flu, obligingly brought home from Kindergarten by Joma. What a shame, because John had bought me two big packages of chicken wings to cook up for gameday snacks. I mean, what is a Superbowl for but eating goodies all day and hoping the Patriots lose? But although my fever had broken by Sunday, the lung and throat irritation made it impossible for me to cheer as the Eagles won, and for the next six weeks, I was worthless. I slept sitting up (in a sling chair with pillows propping me on all sides), then graduated to the couch where I could sleep propped at a little less of an angle, and after a week into March, was able to lie down in my own bed.
Whew! Twas shitty, let there be no doubt.
Nevertheless, February brought THE longest bloom of the almond orchards I've ever experienced, and their perfume of our air was glorious. I knew I shouldn't be sucking in all that pollen-laden breeze, but I could not resist creeping outside to revel in the beauty of the scent, even if it did make my coughing worse.
And then there was this: my wild almond tree on the north side of the house, planted by some God-sent scrub jay a few years back, was finally mature enough to pop out two lovely blossoms.
I'm looking forward to being alive for a few more years, and hoping that I'm around long enough to stand within my almond tree in its February bloom, drinking in the lovely air, with bees buzzing all around me.
Also I hope that the medical profession does a little better at homing in on which strain of flu their vaccines prevent. I sure don't want to lose two months again next spring.