Category Archives: Gardening

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Wordless Wednesday

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Look At My Babies Grow!

So far so good…

SeedlingsJustSproutingThe peppers are just sprouting, at last.

SeedlingsFirstPairOfLeavesMost of the tomatoes are already growing their first pair of true leaves. (The “leaves” that you see when they begin to grow are really part of the seed.)

Red and Green: Christmas….Peppers?

We had frost a day or two ago, so it’s time to put the garden to bed for the winter. But even after this strangely prolonged warm weather, I was surprised by what was waiting for me:

Dec15PeppersWaitingTen days before Christmas, the pepper plants have wilted, but they’re still ready to pick.

Dec15BowlOfPeppersThis is a pretty large bowl, and I filled it to overflowing. Way too much for us to use up before they start to spoil, so a lot of these are destined for the town food bank.

186 Cookbooks: Who can resist?

Seriously, who can resist a title like “Forever Summer”? We may not long for the heat and humidity, but when you’re thinking about food, summer is the magic land of luscious fresh produce, more of it than you can eat, more delicious than you could remember after a whole year of waiting for it to return.

And the recipe I tested is so flexible it’s almost shapeless; it’s almost cheating to try it. I (mostly) followed Nigella Lawson’s basic recipe: marinate chicken in lemon juice, olive oil, onion, and rosemary, and grill it. (I used drumsticks instead of whole chickens, and white onion instead of red; I had white onion.) But Nigella tells us that she also marinates chicken in peppercorns, garlic, and wine vinegar, or replaces the rosemary with tarragon, or uses sambal oelek (chili paste).

I haven’t tried those variations, but this one is great. Of course, chicken, lemon, onion, and olive oil are available year round; but the rosemary was about as fresh as it gets, straight off the little rosemary plant at the corner of my backyard garden. So that’s definitely summery.

And a small confession: this cookbook could be classified as a ringer, if this project is intended to identify cookbooks I’m willing to get rid of. There are a few authors whose recipes match my taste so well that there’s no chance I’ll ever give up one of their books: Julia Child, Rick Bayless, and the wonderful Nigella. On the other hand, it is true that I bought this book a year or two ago and hadn’t gotten around to trying anything from it yet. About time. Yum.

So how am I doing, halfway through the year?

Recently Marge Katherine over at Inside Out Cafe (the home of No Comfort Zone) took stock to see how far she’s come toward meeting her beginning-of-2012 goals. How about me? Have I been bold enough to thrust my snout beyond the edge of my comfort zone and sniff the strange breezes out in the wide wild world?

Well, yes and no. Life caught up with me, as it so often does, and elbowed me into spending an unexpectedly large amount of time propping up my mother so that, for now, she can go on living (pseudo) independently. I remind her to take her daily pills; I nag her into keeping her doctor’s appointments; we (my husband and I) pick up her prescriptions, buy her groceries, pay her bills…it doesn’t end. And taking charge of her life certainly puts me far, far outside my comfort zone; but it hardly counts as one of the goals I wanted to achieve for this year.

Beyond that? I’m learning to be thrifty myself, and more usefully, I’m involved in a couple of projects at church to extend what help we can to people who don’t have enough. My house is as much of a mess as ever, but the outdoors is doing pretty well. And as usual, I’m fat.

Best of all, I’m learning to write. Daily blogging helps; so do the weekly writing projects at Friday Fictioneers and the 100 Word Challenge – both of them exercises in concise, vivid storytelling. And at last, after way too many false starts – I’m an expert on how not to finish a novel – I’m bulldozing my way through inventing a world with its history and politics and economics, and telling the stories of people who live there and have problems that I think are interesting.

Visiting a world I made up out of my own head? Now, that’s a worthwhile trip beyond my comfort zone.

Weekly photo challenge, today

(Normally I don’t post more than once a day – but who am I to defy the Weekly Photo Challenge? This time, they’re asking for photos of “today” – Friday, June 1, 2012 – and I just went out and took some.)

Today in my back yard –

The vegetable garden. Does it look a bit empty in the middle? That’s where the second row of beans and the cilantro will be.

A closer look – tomatoes, basil, and peppers at the far edge. I doubt that there’s a backyard garden anywhere in South Jersey that doesn’t include these.

 

 

 

And the opposite corner – oregano, purple (!) tomatillos, and beans stretching off into the distance.

 

 

And a nod to the Photo Challenge I skipped two weeks ago: Let me give you a hand.

I’m mixing purchased topsoil with the – stuff – that came with the yard to make another garden bed. This area has never been tilled since we moved into the house, and maybe never since the house was built. Years ago, I struggled to make other sections cultivable, but I had forgotten that the basic mixture is clay and lots and lots of stones.

You know you’re dealing with hard soil when you stick a garden shovel into it, stand on the shovel (so you’re applying your full weight), and can only get it to penetrate about the length of a finger. It turned out that a hand trowel was a more effective tool to loosen the clay enough so I could crumble it and mix it with topsoil.

Basically, it’s a quiet day in the neighborhood – my town had its big extravaganza last Saturday, closing the main street for Mayfair and holding boat races on Cooper River.