Arugula



So, the tomatoes aren’t ours, and the eggs aren’t ours (yet), and the blue cheese isn’t ours, but who cares? The lettuces, arugula and pansies are ours. I didn’t plant pansies this year, but they re-seeded and are growing on their own. The greens were planted in September and kept under the frost blanket all Winter. We put this little dish on the side of the Orange-Sesame Pork Chops that Keith made, added a baked potato and a glass of wine, and declared it a fantastic dinner!

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My lettuce haiku…ahem…

Live long, lettuce leaves

We happily crunch salads

Made with love from thee

Our lettuce bed is looking great. In the past, I’ve always bought lettuce six-packs and planted them. I can’t recall how long it took them to bolt (non-gardening fans of the Patch – that is when the plant flowers and the leaves usually lose their flavor),  so now that I’m starting from seed, I figure I’ll just keep planting seeds every few weeks until I run out.  This year, however, I’ll pay attention to when it is no longer, “lettuce season” so I know what to expect next year.

We had a delish salad last night. Granted, with grocery store tomatoes (although ours aren’t far off!) but still! Slivers of parm cheese fresh off the block and some balsamic, it was nummy. Spinach, Mache, Arugula, Red Salad Bowl, Drunken Woman, Bibb.

There is one problem with freshly grown baby lettuce and greens. I planted the seeds very tightly and am thinning them to eat, leaving some to grow bigger. I pull them, roots and all, which is the goal, but a bunch of dirt comes up too. So I have 1/2 a bowl of lettuce and 1/2 a bowl of dirt. Rinsing them in our sink results in grit and sand in the disposal. Not good. Last night, I put a paper towel over the disposal, but I need to come up with a better plan. Rinse them outside perhaps? Any ideas would be welcome.

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I’ve been reading a book called The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.

Hey, look, he’s wearing mucks!

This is going to be my bible, I can tell. The basic premise is, you can grow veggies in the Winter, you just need to find ones that like the cold. That’s fine, but I live in NEW HAMPSHIRE. It gets pretty cold here. I’m wearing a sweater right now and it’ll be June in 5 days. I bought it, though, because the author, Mr. Coleman, lives in Maine. Sweet. Maine is definitely colder than here. He describes cold frames, root cellars, greenhouse growing, etc. I am sure I’ll be mentioning this book in the future. I bring it up at this point because he starts salad greens in the Fall and harvests them all Winter long. THAT is what I want the greenhouse for.

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Meanwhile, the strawberry flowers are crazy. When we first moved into this house, there was a small strawberry patch. I moved over 100 strawberry plants to a bigger patch to the side of the steps to the back deck. Slugs love strawberries, the little bastards, so we usually got only a few that didn’t have holes. When we rebuilt the deck a few years ago, the patch had to come up. I put the strawberries in pots just to be able to save them. Last year, when Keith and his brother built the Chef’s Garden (formerly the Side Garden and, for a brief, yet shining moment, Peber’s Point), Keith put in a section for the strawberries. They outgrew it already.

Last year, the strawberries did well. I would pick them every morning in June and early July on my way to the DJ (day job), sometimes eating the clean ones in the car, rinsing the rest went I got there and eating them with yogurt for breakfast. Seriously, what could be better? They were so good. If you do not have a strawberry plant, get one. I mean it. Grocery store strawberries, all big and heart-shaped have just NO flavor.  They are picked too early in order to make the trip to the store. Also, I firmly believe as do some other gardeners (I read as many garden blogs as I can! I want visitors, I need to be one too!), that the bigger the fruit or vegetable, the less flavor it has. (You know all those contest-winning veggies? They’ve been fertilized beyond the point of good flavor!) Anyway, ours are small/mid-sized and really fantastic. I have NO idea what variety…we inherited them.

Well, this year, the plants are spilling out of their bed, and they’re super “fluffy” is the only way I can describe them. I have a pot with flowers in the middle of the bed and the strawberry plants have pretty much engulfed it. I shouldn’t have bothered putting the flowers in.  So, as I sit here with growling tummy, I fantasize (well, “think fondly of,” “fantasize” might be a little melodramatic!)  of strawberry spinach salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Baby spinach leaves, washed and spun; Fresh strawberries, sliced; Orange segments, cut into bite-sized pieces

Mix together

Dressing: Stir 1 tbsp dijon mustard with 3 tbsp honey, about 4 -5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, about 1/4 cup evoo, pinch of kosher salt and pinch of paprika. (Those measurements might need to be adjusted, I don’t measure. Basically, it is thick and dark. It should pour like pancake syrup). Put the dressing on last as it’ll make the salad soggy. Sprinkle with crushed cashews.

Enjoy!


This will be a picture-less post, but I promise you, it will have the same humor throughout, I am just too damn-ass tired to get the camera and plug it in. Sorry, but read on if you care, this post has been festering in my head all day.

The garden is in. Here’s a breakdown:

Growing: Lettuce -(I plant more seed every few week) Red Salad Bowl, Drunken Woman, Bibb, Green Leaf, (I think some more, again, too tired to get my ass up and check the seed packets); Spinach; Arugula; Garlic, Red Onions, Bush Beans – 2 kinds; Snap Peas; Edamame (yippee!); Tomatoes – Reistomate (supposedly it is like little cherry tomatoes that grow together in a cluster), Sweet Baby Girl, Roma, Striped Roma, Marmande, Red Grape; Husk Cherry; Bell Pepper; Bulgarian Carrot, Indian PC151 and Tepin hot peppers.   

Herbs: Chives; Garlic Chives; Catnip; Oregano; Golden Oregano; Basil (a lot!); Cilantro (not enough!); Thyme; Italian Parsley; Dill; Rosemary.

Fruit: Strawberries; Raspberries.

Seeds just put in: Green Onions; Parsnip; Carrot (I’ll re-seed those every week), more Bush Beans, Broccoli; Beets; Cucumber – 3 varieties

Sounds great, right? Sounds like a wonderful bounty of veggie, herb and fruit goodness, doesn’t it? I can hear it now, “Oh my! Look at all the food you have canned, you’ll be eating all winter!”

So why am I so PISSED OFF? I’ll tell you why. Any self-respecting gardner should have figured it out by now. Go back, read that again. Anything missing?

I FORGOT THE GODDAMNED ZUCCHINI!!!!!!! What the hell? I should just shut the laptop, put on the fucking mucks for the last time and stomp through the gardens, putting a stop to this whole bloody experiment. FOR SHAME, Jenn, FOR SHAME (said in that whispery, condesceding voice. Can you hear it? Listen very closely, it’s there, shaking it’s head in disgust). The problem is, we didn’t plan, we just bought seeds that sounded good, and, well, shit, I forget the damned zucchini, (Oh, but I remembered Shit! Keith did anyway. He reminded me to put a pinch of the guano-in-the-white-bag in the back-fill soil when I planted the tomatoes and the guano-in-the-plastic bag in when I planted everything else.)

“So, what’s the big deal? Why not plant some, Jenn? Don’t give yourself such a hard time. It’s only Mid-May, there’s plenty of time.”  Yeah, well, shut up, annoying positive voice! We’re out of room. I had to pull the Asparagus (planted last week) to make room for the Peppers. 12 Asparagus roots are now hanging in a Valentine-heart-decorated gift bag from the basement rafters. (I told you I was a hoarder, right? Yes, I have an entire collection of gift bags, gift wrap and ribbon for every occasion.) I know that is a random place, but I won’t 1) lose them or 2) forget them if they’re there.

I even discussed zucchini and butternut squash here, in this blog and still forgot them. So, what lesson did I learn? Whatever, I’m too pissed at myself to try to make this into a lesson (the condescending voice just switched into that nasal, mocking voice).

So now what? We are out of wood to build another bed (yes, I said, ‘wood’), I don’t want to put it in our flower beds (I just re-landscaped the front of our house last year and don’t want to mess with it cuz I think it looks pretty if I do say so myself), we don’t have a truck to get more supplies to build more beds, and we can’t just plant it in the ground – beneath our grass/dandelion/ajuga lawn is a very thick layer of nothing but clay. Nothing grows in that!

I think that I have a small amount of either ADD (I am not mocking it, I really wonder!) or something, because that sentence about our clay soil structure just made that scene from Ghost flash through my head. Just for a second, but it was long enough to make me stop, ask myself how I even ALLOWED myself to have the scene from GHOST appear in the first place. That is embarrassing. I will not have chocolate tomorrow in penance.

Source: Wikipedia (Oh look, a picture!)

So, when I realized this morning that I had forgotten the zucchini, I tried to reason with myself (as insane people do sometimes, right?) telling myself, “We don’t really need zucchini. It’s overrated” and “It’ll be plentiful at the Farmers’ Market, go support your fellow farmers even though you can’t call yourself that anymore you silly little gardener” and then it hit me. It’ll be ok.

I have 13 quart-sized ziploc bags of last year’s zucchini, carefully blanched and shredded, hoarded in the basement freezer.


I am so full that I had to change into sweatpants. Tonight’s dinner: Burgers with beef from Normanton Farm. Each burger had a slice of Cabot cheese and bacon from Popper (if you haven’t checked out Popper’s Sausage Kitchen, you MUST!)  Topped with some of our Arugula and lettuce and Appledore Cove’s Chipotle Lime Ketchup. Num num. Local (well sort of, Vermont isn’t within 50 miles). Oh, and the bun was from Nissen bakeries – also New England. Hey, check us out, Barbara Kingsolver!

So what the hell? It is mid-May. I know, I know, my parents always told customers to not plant anything until Mother’s Day. Well, that was last weekend and we’ve had some 34 degree nights and lost a few seedlings in the Chef’s Garden to the frost. We’ve been shmucking (shlepping + mucking) the tender plants into the basement in the evening and out to the greenhouse in the morning in order to try to protect them (yes, before and after the DJ-Day Job).

As you can see, things are getting quite big.

I left control plants of peppers, basil and a husk cherry in the greenhouse to see how they fared each night. We did well – a few ruined leaves, but the flowers hung in there. Whew. So, it hit 34 degrees again last night and everything did fine. I buttoned the house up, putting blankets in the doors where there’s an air gap and we haven’t lost one thing. As a matter of fact, we have flowers.

See the little husk cherry already forming?

Buds on a tomato plant.

The lettuce and arugula are doing well in the Chef’s Garden. The bean sprouts are pretty dead, however, and the edamame was hit by frost so badly, it looks like it was regurgitated. The onion, planted a few weeks ago, seems to not have changed a bit. I know I’m impatient.

It’s just that I am anxious to get everything planted outside. It’s strange, actually, how often I think about our little Patch during the day. I ordered business cards with our logo (Daisy in the daisies) and somehow find a reason, just about daily, to force them on someone – usually some unsuspecting non-gardener who probably couldn’t give a crap but says, “Really?” and so, sounded interested. Poor soul. Here’s our card.

This is a good place to thank my wonderful non-gardening friends for their readership and support. I am sure that reading about slugs, worms, bat shit and tomato (ooh, just pulled a “Dan Quayle” by spelling that with an “e” at the end. At least I was smart enough to delete it. The snotty-spelling-bee-kid in me was just completely disgusted with myself for that) flowers must bore them to tears, but they (thankfully!) read my posts and comment with gusto.

The Gig Girl who quit her, “full-time-full-salaried-full-benefits-with-a-big-girl-office-and-even-a-window job” to be a stay-at-home Mom and is exploring home-based income opportunities in the process (with much humor and wit!) and Gillis Marketing who jumped with both feet and no swimmies into the world of SMM (no, silly, Social Media Marketing) where she tries to educate (dare I say, ‘enlighten”) others in the process. Here’s what she says, “Join me as I learn, communicate and educate my colleagues to use these tools. Join in the discussion… Consider this your therapy, your reality check, your informational portal. I feel pain – you may feel it, too.” Both very bright women who know their stuff.

Tonight’s lesson kids? Eat local, shop local and read local. You’ll feel better about your food and possibly support your sweatpant-wearing neighbors in the process.


It feels warm. It feels like SPRING. We are anxious to get the 250+ plants in the ground. Folks, these are not seedlings, these pots range in size from 4inches to 1 gallon and our tallest tomato plant is already 3.5 feet tall, tied to bamboo stakes.

We moved them all outside into the greenhouse. With typical New England Spring moodiness, Mother Nature has given us 73 and 48 degree days, back to back. So, greenhouse sides have been up and down more often than that guy and that dog on the YouTube video.

So, now we’re debating. Things look very GREEN outside, but we’re expecting 38 degree nights early next week. Do we plant or keep them in the greenhouse for another week? I think we’ll keep them in the house. The problem is, they’re tipping over and many of them need to be repotted. Grumble. I was hoping to avoid that.

 At least the big ole grow light in the basement is off. I mean, it was on a timer, but that baby had been going since February. I went outside and watched the electricity meter turn as flashes of that scene in Christmas Vacation went through my head. It was slow, but there it was – spinning up the bill. So much for going off the grid. Hopefully we’ll figure out this greenhouse thing and be able to start plants in there next winter. You know, use Mother Nature and all…

Dinner tonight…beef shanks, herbed wild rice with our garlic chives and parsley and a yummy little salad with feta cheese and lettuce/arugula seedlings I thinned from the Chef’s Garden. Yum.

Oh, by the way, this video (click here) just made me cry. I am such a sap.


Often, when Keith asks me what I’ve been up to, my response is, “Puttering.” That is my word for little errands. I have a tough time sitting still. That is why, when my friend introduced me to knitting, I felt like I had found the perfect indoor hobby for me (see her web page here – great resource for all things knitting as well as a fun hub for blogs she likes – The Daisy Patch has made it to this esteemed list!) But, this post isn’t about knitting.

I woke up yesterday morning at around 7 and set about Puttering. I donned the new mucks, went to the basement, checked on everything. Sadly, the Edamame does NOT look good. I think it missed a day of watering. So, I decided to plant some more seeds. I planted more Edamame, beans and some flowers. I watered the plants in the basement and then brought them outside to harden off on the eastern side of the house.

Hardening off gradually exposes seedlings to the elements to toughen them up a bit – wind, sun, rain, temperature fluctuations. On the eastern side of the house, they were exposed to a breeze and the warm morning sun, then, as the sun moved, it would get a little cooler. Good conditions.

I planted more lettuce, mache, arugula and spinach seeds in the Cook’s Garden (new name for the Side Garden/Kitchen Garden/Peber’s Point). These little guys are three weeks old. Succession planting is important because we’ll constantly have seedlings coming up and plants growing to replace the ones we harvest. As I’ve mentioned before, I have been dreaming of fresh lettuces from the garden and am going to town on planting a lot of salad greens.

Arugula microgreens

You might recall from Togethergoal, the tray of Arugula microgreens failed, so we didn’t have a chance to try them. I tried it yesterday. Yummy! Nice and peppery. Keith is going to make some Beef Carpaccio tonight and we’ll put some microgreens on it. I think that’ll be really good.

Drunken Woman lettuce.

I read about Drunken Woman lettuce in the seed catalog. We have loved every red speckled lettuce variety we’ve tried so I decided to order some. Besides, the name itself belongs in our garden. Here’s a link to someone’s blog describing this lettuce. I thought it was a nice post and the picture is great. Now that I see it in full splendor – 1) Yay! I can’t wait! and 2) Crap, I’ll have to thin it. That’s ok, lettuce seedlings are great in a salad.

What else did I do during my puttering? I watered the garlic. We ordered 3 different varieties of garlic last Fall and I took up the entire 12’x3′ bed in the Cook’s Garden to plant them. They look great.

Garlic

I can’t wait until we get scapes. Garlic Scapes are the shoot of a hard neck garlic variety. Here’s a better description and a small ode to the scape. The scapes end up in the saute pan or in pesto. Yumzy. Small concern – I have no idea if these are the varieties that send up scapes. We shall see. I hope so.

Back to the putter session. I weeded our small strawberry patch.

I put flowers in that pot last year and just decided this Spring to add the trellis. I think I’ll put a flowering climbing plant on it for some color. Gardener followers of the Patch – if you have any ideas, do share. Nasturtium?

I also visited our flowers. At the beginning of this post, I put some pictures of dwarf early tulips in the sun. This color is so different – it isn’t orange or peach, it is this wonderful translucent tangerine. Love these tulips.

Bleeding Heart

I watered the bean pot (you know, pot full of bean seeds and a trellis just waiting to support them) and then headed to the backyard. There, the mound of screened topsoil (4 cubic yards – more like a small mountain!) and the empty raised beds Keith built just looked at me.

You see, they weren’t in close proximity to each other. The delivery guy couldn’t go into our yard very far to dump the soil due to the wet weather we had been having. If he went very far, he might not have been able to get out of the mud. The first one (dirt) had to get into the second one (planter beds) somehow. That somehow was us.

Again, since we are basically weekend warriors, the soil pile just sat there during the week, getting rained on. So, I grabbed the shovel and started loading.

It has only been a month since gall bladder surgery and I was warned, “No heavy lifting for 6 weeks!” so at first, when talking about Mt. Dirt Everest, the plan was that I would load the wheelbarrel while Keith finished building the supports in the garden beds, and then I’d call him over to bring the wheelbarrow to the beds, then I’d unload with the shovel.

But he was inside and I was in Putter-mode, so I figured I’d start small – little 1/2 wheelbarrows. Fill with the shovel, bring the wheelbarrow to the garden bed, unload with the shovel. I did this a few times and then got the guts to lift the wheelbarrow to dump the soil into the bed. No pain, no ripped stitches or anything. Let’s go.

Muck, muck, muck, shovel, shovel, shovel, LIFT!, muck, muck, muck, HEAVE HO! Rinse and repeat. After 5 of these trips, Keith came outside and asked, “Whatcha been up to?” Puttering, my usual response. I went in, changed to tank top and shorts, (sassy look with mucks may I just tell you?), put the hair up, bandana on and grabbed a bottle of water.

As he drilled in the braces on the rest of the beds, I continued my attack on Mt. Dirt Everest. Every once in a while, we’d say something to each other, but it was mostly quiet work. He asked me if I thought I’d finish filling the beds today. “That’s the goal – it is supposed to rain tomorrow,” was my response.

When he finished, he grabbed a shovel and helped. We took turns. The loads I carried were 1/2 to 3/4 full and his were full. We took a few breaks during the day, heading inside for some water, choosing to skip lunch. It was good, satisfying team work. Once, I did hit his shovel with my shovel, sending shockwaves and a stab of pain into his shoulder for which I felt horrible and apologized profusely, but mostly, we worked in silence, tackling this togethergoal with determination. You know, like farmers who have to get the soil moved before a rainstorm turns it to mud? Like that.

It took us about 4.5 hours and who knows how many trips back and forth. I stopped counting. When we were done, we headed to the front yard , where Keith sat on the front steps and we talked a bit while I pulled some weeds under the lilac. There were a few more errands we wanted to do, hooking up hoses, weeding, spreading bark mulch – then I said the magic words, “We worked pretty hard today, let’s go get some lunch.”

It has become a ritual for us to finish up a particularly tough day of yard work at Margarita’s. I call it the “Board Room” because it seems all our planning happens over a glass of their Original on the rocks.

When we got home around 6:30, it was time for a nap. A full day of yard work and sunshine with 2 margaritas for dessert made me just want to lie down. So much for napping, I woke up this morning at 7 and feel sore as hell. Really sore as hell. I snuggled up to Keith and asked how he was. Sore as hell. I told him how great I thought yesterday was – we worked really hard, got a lot done, worked side by side, and ended the day with a nice time at the bar.

The only way to get the soreness out of your muscles is to use them, so I was back, mucking and puttering by 7:15. Now, to tackle those weeds and the rest of Mt. Bark Mulch before the rain comes.