Sunday, October 26, 2008

Planting Garlic

Yesterday I roped Thing 1 into helping me with the garlic planting. Garlic is easy enough for kids of almost any age to help with. I just plopped the garlic on the ground at the spacing I wanted it planted, and Thing 1 stuck them in the ground and covered them up. We planted about 80 cloves of garlic and 18 cloves of shallots.

I had already cleared the bed last weekend of weeds and stray potatoes, so it was nice and fluffy, waiting for the alliums. I don't put down any fertilizer for them in the fall. I put down quite a bit of rock phosphate when the beds were built, so I'm hoping it's still around. However, this spring I'm going to get a soil test done to see what minerals my soil is missing.

I grow Music and Inchelium Red garlic. Music is a potent hardneck variety, and Inchelium Red is a local-ish heritage softneck variety which is much more mild and sweet - great for roasting and braiding. I've been saving my seed from these two for over five years now.

I'm glad we got the planting done. The weather, which has been dry and sunny most of the month, is supposed to turn back to rainy by the end of the week. There's really so much yardwork yet to do, and I'm spending way too much time on the computer, and not getting the work done. Oh, to be disciplined!

I've been trying to grow shallots here for a few years, with no success. At my old house, they grew like gangbusters in rocky, sandy, infertile soil. Here, on my loamy soil, I'm lucky to get any. Yet still I try. Third time's a charm, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Was it a Deer?

My friend, M, suspects that the apple thief may be a deer. My father also thought so, until I told him that the apples were eight feet up. He's not so sure that our puny deer could reach that high.

I'll hope that it was a deer (M's other guess was a bear, but we don't have them here). However, usually when the deer are around, other things, like the strawberry plants, are munched on as well, and there are usually scat and hoof marks all over the place, and there were none at all.

Yummy scents wafting from the kitchen. I'm making vegetable stock.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mark Bittman's Miso Soup

I love miso soup. I love how we cozy up at our local sushi restaurant (it's always freezing in there in the winter), and slurp our miso soup straight from the cup. It warms my stomach, and relaxes me. I could forgo the sushi and just have the soup!

I borrowed Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian from the library, to try and find new ideas for Meatless Monday. Ooooh. A miso soup recipe that didn't look too complicated (none of his recipes look complicated. This is the first one I've tried)! So I ran out to the store that stocks lots of asian foods. I bought kombo (dried kelp), red miso, some scallions, and firm silken tofu. As it looked, the recipe wasn't complicated. You soak the kombu and a little ginger in water for 8 hours, remove them, heat up the "broth" to steaming, and add the miso and tofu. Drop in the scallion, and viola! Miso soup.

For a first crack at it, it was darn good. It was just missing something at the end, one low note (I don't know how foodies describe it). I ran through the list of "add-ons", or variations to the recipe. Mr. E thinks maybe a little garlic. I'm thinking mushroom or seaweed. Bittman's recipe used too much tofu for my taste, so I reduced it a bit. I also tried the cold-soak "broth", but it didn't have quite enough flavor for my liking, so I heated it up a little bit before pulling out the kelp and ginger.

Miso Soup - adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
makes 4 large servings

1 Quart Kombu Dashi (below)
1/3 Cup red miso
6 ounces firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 Cup minced scallion

Heat the dashi until steaming. It's important that the dashi doesn't boil. Reduce heat to low. Using a whisk, mix 1/2 Cup kombu dashi with the miso in a bowl until smooth. Pour the miso mixture into the pot and add the tofu. Stir a couple of times and let sit for a minute. Add scallion and serve.

Kombu Dashi

2 Quarts water
1 piece dried kelp (kombu)
3 nickle-sized slices unpeeled ginger

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil. As soon as the liquid is about to boil, reduce the heat, and pull out the kelp and the ginger. Use immediately or refrigerate up to two days.

Or, alternatively, you can soak the ingredients using cold water for 6-8 hours, but it didn't give my dashi enough flavor. I wound up heating it up at the end anyway.

That's it. Really simple.

Paging through the book, there are many recipes I'm dying to try before having to return the book. There are so many variations of each recipe, it's hard to write them all down. If I find enough good recipes between now and when I need to return it, I'll probably buy the book.

I really like how the recipes have you cook up a pound of beans, and then use half, and save half for another meal. He does that with rice, too, I think. The "broth" that you make to begin with (kombu dashi) makes enough for two batches of soup, so I have some more in the fridge for my next attempt, maybe tonight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple Thief

I'm not sure what happened - I'll let you decide.

Friday I brought in all but about seven or eight apples from the last tree. A few weren't ready yet, and the rest were too high for me to reach without a ladder. On Sunday, Mr. E took a few of the lower apples, found that the crows had got them, and tossed them into the horse pasture. He said there were still some left. Today I went out to cut some lettuces for dinner, and found a major branch broken, and all of the apples gone!

Now, if it were a rat, raccoon, or the like, there's no way they could've broken that branch. It looks as if someone really wanted those apples, smashing their way into the tree, or a young child climbed up to get at them.

What's disconcerting is that it the tree is way back in my back yard. Which abuts a horse pasture, which abuts another house. There are no roads anywhere nearby that someone could've been driving by and seen them. The only creatures back there at this time of year are horses. I feel like my privacy has been infringed upon.

The only thing I can think of is it was some of the construction crew working on the (illegal) building on the other side of the horse pasture, or the young kids living there. It's a 6,000 square foot mansion. You'd think they could afford apples for their kids.

I'm not so sad about losing the apples - after bringing in 121 pounds of them, I have enough. It's the broken branch and the fact that the person didn't ask. I would've given them the apples - without breaking the branch.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Over 200 Pounds

No, not me. The amount of food that's come in from the garden so far. Woo hoo.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Chill in the Air

Sorry for the lack of posting. I've had that "deer in the headlights" feeling the last few days.

And all the crashing coming while I was reading Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance, set me into a period of despair and zoning out. Well, not quite despair, but close. And the feeling was not because of the book; I really enjoyed it. Actually, her book is what kept me from delving into despair.

At any rate, too many thoughts in my head, and none of them coming to any sort of logical... well, anything.

Last night I noticed that the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees, and it was only 8:00. So Thing 1 and I ran outside with some Reemay and a flashlight and covered the tomatoes. It didn't quite get down to freezing, but if I hadn't covered them, I know we would've had frost....

Yesterday, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 crows in the backyard. It was looking like a scene from "The Birds". I generally don't mind they're coming around. They ate quite a few bugs out of the grass, so I figure they're helping out with pest control. And if they, er, drop anything, I figure it's free fertilizer.

However, when I went to cover the tomatoes last night, I found tomatoes laying all over the place, with definite peck marks in them. So today I'm going to bring in all of those tomatoes - just as soon as the temperature outside warms up a bit.

It was so chilly in the house yesterday, I finally turned on the furnace. I've been trying to acclimatize myself to a cooler house, and when I turned on the furnace to 68, it felt too warm. So I bumped the thermostat down a little.

Although I have many outdoor projects that really need to be worked on, this weekend I'm headed out with my friends M and J for a little girl time. We go for walks, crabbing and "squidding" (jigging. Although the high tide is at something like 3am. I'm not sure that'll be happening this time), work on projects, read, and generally not have to deal with husbands and kids for a weekend. I'll be bringing Mr. E's Other Sock and a crocheted afghan to work on, and a book or two.

Until then, I need to deal with the tomatoes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

September Harvest Totals

Wow! This last month I felt as though all I did was bring in food, and so I did. During the month of September, I brought in 105.8 pounds of food from my garden!

76.4 lbs apples
5.2 lbs tomatoes
0.8 lbs garlic
15 lbs potatoes
0.7 lbs carrots
4.1 lbs cukes
3.5 lbs cabbage
0.5 lb lettuce
1 ounce dried oregano

Hmmm. That doesn't quite add up. Too much rounding, I think.

Last year I weighed everything in pounds and ounces, and boy, was that a headache to tally up. I was having nightmares about trying to add up pounds, shillings and pennies in a household ledger. So this year, I weigh everything in grams, and then convert it all to pounds.