July 2010

I had a small problem yesterday. I let Keith know that I was going outside to harvest some of the veggies. He said, “Bring a big basket.” You know how you hear something, but don’t really HEAR it? I sort of heard him say that, but it didn’t register. (If you ask him, he will say that is a constant problem of mine. I say it is because I am so intelligent that I’m constantly thinking…all the time, thinking, and sometimes, something new just doesn’t have room to enter at that exact moment. I think he would say it is because I’m not paying attention.)

Outside I go with our little basket. Green beans, peas, husk cherries, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onions, shallots, scallions…It took me three trips inside with the small basket to harvest what was ready.

If this is one day of harvest, we’ve got our hands full. I haven’t picked the basil yet, but it looks like I have about 12 cups. Dreams of pesto fill my brain. (Did I mention that I have 5 freezer bags full of pesto in the freezer from last season? Um, yeah…)

The good neighbor, his daughter and some of her friends were walking by as I was picking. They sampled some husk cherries, green beans and sugar snap peas, fresh from the basket. Doesn’t that just warm the heart? Neighbors, standing by the garden fence, chatting about the weather, taste-testing crispy, fresh-picked sweet peas. An idyllic picture of countryside life. (We had to stop mid-sentence as a motorcycle hit the bottom of the hill and revved it’s engine to pick up speed for the straightaway. Jerk! C’mon, it’s a residential neighborhood. Did you do that on purpose when you saw the 5 of us standing there? I hope you get crotch-rot in your leather chaps on a humid 90-degree day!) I smile as I look back on yesterday – a lovely Summer day on the homestead.

Keith is making blueberry pancakes for breakfast with local blueberries (if you see a farmstand, stop and get blueberries and corn – it’ll be worth it!), King Arthur flour (I love that brand) and our maple syrup. Doesn’t it sound so delish? I can’t wait. I asked him to save 5 blueberries from the container to decoratively arrange on top of the pancakes when he serves them. Martha taught me right, it’s all about the presentation! (That’s true love, he just puts up with little requests like that.)

While he works at the griddle (we love our Jenn-Air – hey look, two N’s! It’s one of the reasons we bought this house – not the N’s – the grille) I look up recipes for using green beans. You can only steam them and serve with butter for so many meals before it gets a bit boring. I bought 2 varieties. One is called Tavara. They are slim and skinny – ones I would call French. The other are Burpee Provider. They’re fat and almost fuzzy. I like the Tavara better, but the Burpee Provider is really that – they are prolific!

*****Small aside*****

Dear Future Jenn:

While you are having fun ordering seeds, please remember that more is not always better. Unless you became a vegetarian again or plan on supplying local restaurants with your harvest, might I suggest you cut back on the number of each variety you put in the ground in 2011 and try more varieties in general? While 24 green bean plants sounded good in 2010, please remember that harvesting a gallon bag of green beans each day did cause you to spend the entire July weekend in front of a pot of boiling water blanching green beans for the freezer instead of floating in the pool. Just sayin’.

*****End of letter*****

Something about the idea of that Green Bean Casserole from our childhoods makes me skeevy. Canned soup, french fried onions from a can and greenbeans, slimed up and cooked. I am making a “that sounds yucky” face. So, here I am with Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals GetTogethers trying to get inspired. Page 167 – Green Beans with lemon and toasted almonds. This sounds good. We’ll have it tonight with the buttermilk fried chicken K has been soaking in batter since last night.

2 oz sliced almonds

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 tbsp butter

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

In a medium pan, toast almonds over medium heat. Remove from pan and add 1/2 inch water to the pan. Bring water to a boil, add the beans and cover the pan. Reduce heat. Cook beans 4-5 minutes until just tender, yet still green. Drain beans and set aside. Return pan to stovetop and melt butter over moderate heat. Add lemon juice to butter (juice lemon half right-side up to keep seeds in lemon rather than in your beans). Add beans to lemon butter and coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer green beans to dinner plates or serving plate and top with almonds.

Thanks, Rachael. I’ll let you know how it is.

Another recipe is mine. This one rocks. It takes an entire day to prepare, but I’ll tell you where you can take a shortcut.

Smoky chicken pesto salad

Smoke a whole chicken in your smoker (shorcut: Don’t smoke the chicken) Cool and cut meat (white and dark) into chunks.

Boil a box of pasta (I like the bowties, use whatever you like). Rinse with cool water and drain, making sure all the water has dripped out.

Make pesto. I eyeball it – but be sure to toast the pine nuts before you put them in the food processer. I will take you it makes a TON of difference. Save some of the pine nuts aside (again, all about presentation!)

Mix the pesto into the cool pasta in a big bowl. Add grape tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Add fresh mozzarella, cut in chunks – you know the stuff that is soft and spongy and is found by the olives in the grocery store floating in a liquid? (Or better yet, make your own! Making cheese isn’t difficult! More on that in a later post!) That stuff.

Pour into your serving dish, sprinkle with some baby basil leaves (keep them whole, they bruise when they’re cut), a few more tomato chunks and then the toasted pine nuts. Dust lightly with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Nummy!

WHILE i STRUGGLE with Caps-Lock thanks to Peber, I will say this post is finished just in time for blueberry pancakes. It’s a good life.

My Husk Cherry haiku…ahem

Yummy Husk Cherries

Plus chicken, goat cheese and nuts

Make a cool side dish

It has been a busy weekend at the Patch. I was outside from 7:30A to 5P yesterday (with a few water breaks and a blog break in the middle) to pull the tomato leaves affected by early blight.

For those of you who don’t know about early blight, it is a fungus, Alternaria solani, which germinates in damp, warm weather (which we’ve had!) Anyway, it germinates in 1/2 hour to 2 hours and spreads quickly. The leaves get spots, usually starting at the bottom, then the leaves turn yellow and start to die off. This usually happens right at the time the fruit is setting. With no leaves, the plant can’t usually survive, or the tomatoes get hit by sun and sort of burn, called Sun Scald. (I’ve become quite knowledgeable on this topic in the last 48 hours, not to mention I lived up close and personal with it for 10 hours yesterday.) Anyway, this fungus is NOT GOOD! That is our food for the Winter.

Hopefully this little guy will keep watch over things.

On a good note, the Edamame looks good!

Time to Harvest the Garlic!

The garlic is resting in the shade on the hammock. I plan to let the soil on them dry a little bit, brush off the soil, and wash them if I need to with a gentle spray from the hose. Then, everything I read leads me to understand that I need to treat them super carefully so they can store properly and not rot. We don’t have a root cellar, so once they’re cured, we may have to keep them upstairs in the pantry.

As all of this food starts to come in, we need to catch up with it. We have a gallon bag filled with green beans that I need to blanch and freeze. The last of the lettuce needs to be enjoyed, husk cherries, peas, cherry tomatoes…all need to get ingested or frozen.

Let’s hope I’m saying the same about tomatoes at the end of the month.

My early blight haiku…ahem

What the hell is this?

Early blight hit tomatoes

Hope to save the farm

Early reports from the Patch blog and Twitter updates have been that the blight hit several people last year and they lost the crop. Waaah! Let’s say that again – all together now – WAAH! 

I took a water break. It is 11:30 AM. I’ve been outside tending to the tomatoes since 7:30, pulling off the dead and spotted leaves. We bought some fungicide which I’ll apply early tomorrow morning. I am showing no mercy and so far, have pulled 2 plants from the first bed and about a wheelbarrow full of diseased leaves. I am about to go tackle the second bed now. There are 3 more to go. (Yah, you read that right. 4 garden beds of tomatoes. Get out the calculator, kiddos, here’s the math. 4 hours to handle bed #1. 3 more to go at 4 hours apiece…that’s…carry the one…multiply by pi…now take the square root and round up…YES, that’s 12 hours left to this (insert expletive) project. Here’s your scratch-and-sniff sticker. OOh! Banana!) (Those were big when I was growing up, no gold stars for us!)

Reading up on this blight, if I am able to control it, with all the leaves gone, I need to now worry about sunscald. Now I have to put a shade cloth over 4 garden beds. Goody!

Oh and, yes, the garlic needs to be harvested, like, NOW!  

Yes, I’m pissy.

Thanks for reading and your support.  Pictures in the next post.

We have a fungus in the tomato bed. Several plants lost a lot of their leaves and just look pretty bad. We’re hoping to save the crop, but according to the internet – this type of fungus is hard to control. More updates soon. Wish us luck.

My pea haiku…ahem

I am impatient

I eat the sugar snap pods

And then don’t get peas

I came home today from the DJ and promptly starting cutting an old t-shirt into strips. You know what comes next…tying up the tomatoes. We invested in this roll of green gardening velcro (ok, can’t blame him. I invested). I thought this stuff was the bomb. Until? Until the bat shit, egg shells and coffee grinds happened and the plants exploded like some freakish science experiment. (No, it had NOTHING to do with the weather!) Yah, no stupid velcro is going to hold back these plants. Picture that scene in Christmas Vacation as Sparky brought the perfect Christmas tree into the house all tied up in rope and you can just hear it creaking before he cuts the rope and all the branches burst loose from their binds. Yeah, like that. We’re going to be taking out the neighbor with our green tomatoes as they slingshot loose when the velcro bursts free. So, one lavender (my color!) t-shirt and several bug bites (HATE mosquitoes) later, all the Audreys (feed me Seymour!) are bound up. I can tell you now, we have POUNDS of tomatoes out there.

Next post…I think the garlic is ready to harvest. I think…

My crabgrass haiku…ahem

Oh crabgrass, you suck

Taking over the garden

You like bat shit too?

First, sorry for the long lapse between posts, we decided to go away on a quick vacation. We came back to pure jungle. Note to self – what is a little, tiny weed before vacation will, if not pulled promptly, turn into a ginormous crabgrass that completely envelopes the red onion so that when you pull out the weed, you pull out the onion as well. We’ll be eating two immature onions sometime in the near future.

Onto Keith’s mission. We have a chipmunk problem. What we thought was one or two chipmunks have been creating havoc in our yard, like the gopher in Caddy Shack. I swear I could hear them giggle to themselves as they dug up our yard and garden, putting holes everywhere. Bastards. Keith bought a Havahart trap. He’s relocated 18 chipmunks so far and is still trapping at least one per day. I expect to come home and see little pencil drawings of chipmunks on the wall to mark his “kills” (which are just “relocates!”) Maybe it is the same one and he keeps coming back. Perhaps we should spray his tail or something. I doubt it though, Keith is bringing him towns away from here and setting him free to start a new life (or get hit by a truck like the one yesterday. Well, the little idiot just froze in the road! That was just natural selection right there – taking out the dumb ones.) Can you just imagine the scene?

Me: Hold him still

K: What do you mean, hold him still? I’m not touching him

Me: Well, how am I supposed to spray just the tail if he keeps moving around in the cage?

K: Just do it already

Me: I don’t want to get it in his eyes, you know? What if I blind him? Then it would just be torture where we’re trying to be humane here

K: Would you spray him, Jenn?

Me: Well, now he’s tucked his tail under his body and he’s not moving. Shake the cage

K: Oh my God, Jenn. Do you want me to put some gloves on so you can spray his tail while I hold him? (with notes of sarcasm)

Me: (Completely serious) Yeah, yeah. Where are your gloves?

K: I am NOT going to hold him while you spray him with paint. If you don’t spray him right now I’m just going to let him loose back in the yard. We do this any longer and he’s doing to die of a heart attack anyway

Me: Ok ok ok. Don’t move. (sp-sp-spray) Damn it! I had the nozzle pointing in. Crap, does this stuff come off?

K: (laughing)


Now for my story. Yesterday, freshly relaxed from a few days of decompression, I decided to tackle the weeding. Apparently, crabgrass likes guano too because they were the size of small neighborhoods. Sunscreen – check. Crocs – check (with little socks underneath, gotta protect the vacation pedicure!) Weed popper – check. Gallon bucket – check.

Out to the Chef’s Garden where we’d eat like kings if everything out there was edible, but 1/2 the plants didn’t belong there and were starting to take over. Now that I can tell what a carrot and parsnip look like (I think I completely weeded the beets when they first started to emerge. So much for that!) I weeded all the garden beds as storm clouds started to move in. Apparently, it was very hot and dry while we were gone. Thankfully, K had set up sprinklers on timers to water the vegetables while we were gone. The flowers, shrubs and lawn could use a drink, however, so the storm wasn’t bad news.

I, however, wanted to finish at least weeding this one garden before I went inside. Keith came out with his radio headphones on, ready to start up the mower. I pointed to the sky and said, “So much for mowing!” to which he replied, “Well, I’ll get it started, the grass is pretty tall,” and walked down to the back of the house to get the mower.

It was only Noon and the sky got very, very dark. The cool breeze came through and then the thunder hit. It was only a few moments from when he walked away to when I saw him walk back, “So much for that.” I told him I was just going to finish weeding and see him inside. Back in he went to make us some Sangria (love that man!)

As it started to sprinkle, I thought to myself, (always be careful of the inside voice!) “What’s a little rain? I just spent a week floating in either the pool or the ocean, why would I go inside? Real farmers don’t let bad weather stop them. I’m going to keep weeding. I don’t have much further to go. Yup, real farmer. Not letting the weather stop me.  My next blog post will be all about how I’ve graduated to ‘real farmer’ from ‘backyard gardener.’ Real farmers farm in the rain (it is definitely raining by now! I’m drenched). Look at me I’m a REAL SSSSSSSSSCCCRRRRRREEEEEAAAAAAAAMMMMMM!”

As I was bragging to myself in my head, I was yanking weeds and accidentally disturbed a grasshopper – the ones with wings – who flew up and bounced off my face and then flew away. The scream, I am sure, could be heard next door. See that peg? I was just knocked down from it. I picked up my stuff and took my drenched, backyard gardener ass inside.