Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you don't ask...

My latest acquisition is this fantastic compost bin, the "Earth Machine," which was lying in pieces in a neighbors' yard, overgrown with weeds. I had my eye on it for months, then finally offered to buy it, and was delighted to have it gifted to me instead. Repayment will come in jars of elderberry jelly, ripe tomatoes and basil, which I have in abundance!

The other three compost bins are full to brimming. And while I've had this bin for only ten days, it's now half full too. Kitchen waste and trimmed yard clippings are next year's garden vitamins. 

Compost is teaming with nutrients. Every bed I enriched with compost this year did amazing. I love it when waste goes into production instead of into a landfill. Check out this YouTube video on how to feed your compost bin.

These old fence boards (below) are going to use as well. After reading another "urban farmer's" blog I learned that people were repurposing old fence rails to build raised beds. 

The boards already have a new home. And the new owner is even picking them up! I save money on gas, dump fees and my trash is someone else's recycled treasure.

On the harvest front: Tying the tomatillo bush up on a trellis did the trick. In only 12 days, yellow flowers have turned into beautiful papery green cocoons. Inside, the tomatillos are growing.

Patience, patience... I must resist harvesting them until they at least quadruple in size from this. I absolutely adore tomatillos.

Unfortunately, I didn't exercise any patience with the carrots. 

Sometimes the temptation is just too great. But thankfully I held my enthusiasm down to only five.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fishing in Slippers

Finally took a few days off to head up to the lake for some R&R. I didn't even have to hit the grocers first. I shopped in my own larder, retrieving jars of gazpacho, beets, fresh potatoes, cukes, onions, tomatoes and more from the garden. 

Even at the cottage, sustainable living can be achieved... provided that there is edible fish to harvest. It's imperative that we keep our waterways free of pollutants.

The bass in this lake are still edible, but acid rain has killed off entire fish populations in some lakes with pH levels equivalent to that of lemon juice.

I learned of this while conducting research for a screenplay several years ago.

Stands of maple trees along the eastern seaboard have succumbed to dieback (dying from the tops down) due to acid rain.

I think about that every time I pay $9 for a bottle of maple syrup. Is it any wonder that most pancake houses serve up the ubiquitous corn syrup instead?

The effect on wildlife and our natural resources is devastating. Reducing your carbon footprint has never been more crucial.

I'm happy to say that I'm meeting new people every day who are taking steps to reduce their energy use. Some, even attempting to get off the grid completely. Trendsetters are installing wind, solar energy and geothermal heating systems in their homes. Rain barrels and dug wells are being used to help water sustainable home gardens. Solar ovens are fashionable alternatives for the slow cooking movement.  People are even hanging laundry on lines again. It's finally hip to be green.

If you don't have the land to plant a sustainable garden, CSAs and local farmer's markets are de rigueur. CSAs (Community Shared Agriculture) are programs where you prepay for fresh foods right off the farm. CSAs provide everything from meat, poultry, dairy, fruit and produce to herbs, crafts, honey, flowers, fibers and soaps. Each week you pick up your carton at a drop off point.  Local Harvest.org is a great source to locate a CSA in your city.

But don't forget that you can also garden inside. All you need is a pot, soil and good light. We should all start rethinking the design of our homes. Interior greenery could be hanging pots of cascading strawberries, window boxes of pretty mesclun lettuce and containers of cooking herbs instead of philodendrons and ivy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flowers, Fennel and Fall

This morning, dew drops on the chaise. First sign of fall approaching. I will miss the roses. The plants seem already to know. Everything has been rushing to complete its cycle, then going to seed.

But at the same time, I see shoots for new snow peas rising from the soil.

While harvesting the fennel, I also spotted a couple of baby fennel seedlings just arriving to join the party. That's what my garden has seemed like this season. A swinging, colorful party. I have loved every plant, herb and vegetable that graced my beds.

So even though some leaves are showing age spots, there are still cukes on the vines and newcomers in the wings.

Several herbs are just reaching their prime too. The sage in particular is full and fragrant. Just brushing past it can bring up the aroma of turkey stuffing and memories of Thanksgivings past. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. It's still only August.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Authentic living

I was snapping a photo of food for this blog and was asked why I didn't get out a fancy plate and design a pretty shot. Well, that's not the sort of blog this is. The photos here are grabbed on the fly, in the middle of actual cooking or gardening. Nothing is set up to create a false impression of what it was like, or should be. If there's a dribble of sauce on a tea towel, that's the mess I created when the food was prepared. I could take the time to set up perfect lighting, interesting depth of field and later Photoshop a picture into submission. I just don't choose to. I'm more focussed on living life than creating a fake reenactment of it

Last night's roast chicken. Photo taken when I remembered, after the bird had already been ravaged,

There is a lot of personal documenting on social media that is purely PR. I know people with Facebook accounts who update minute by minute reports of their glamorous activities. One wonders with all the time taken to broadcast blurbs about their exciting lives, if they ever truly experience them. 

This blog is about authenticity. About being comfortable with who you really are. Cutting the cord to the fake and ostentatious and getting real again. In Gardening in Slippers I enjoy good food that I've grown from the soil and I share that self-nurturance with you because I want you to experience that same wonderful, nurturing connection to the earth

Ask yourself: How do you nurture? With delicious food, lovingly prepared and served with an open heart or with boxed takeout that requires no effort and makes no muss of your state-of-the-art show kitchen? This may be harsh, but here's the down and dirty truth. If you've spent tens of thousands on the design of a sterile kitchen that's "just for show," then you are a show off. You're not impressing anyone.

So get your hands dirty, mess up your counters and fill your pantries. Because true nurturance is something that you not only feel but also hear, see, smell, touch and taste. Those of us who have gotten a friendly wink from a grandmother in an apron dusted with flour, know this.

Last night's chicken (pictured above) was  full of fresh garden produce. A recipe of Julia Child's, from Food and Wine Magazine Jan. 1997. Absolutely mouth watering. The chicken was stuffed with fresh vegetables harvested that very day - carrots, celery, onions and fresh thyme. The bird was surrounded by shallots, carrots and baby potato tots harvested off the potato roots.
Remainders seen here below.

The starter for the meal was Julia's Vichyssoise. (Yes, more potatoes!)

Vichyssoise is a cold soup made with leeks, potatoes, fresh parsley (all harvested from the garden) and heavy cream. So very satisfying. A meal in itself.

Side dishes were garden beets drizzled with balsamic vinegar, beet greens cooked with garden garlic and pancetta, and sliced beefsteak tomatoes. 

A side of elderberry jelly (canned 10 days ago) added a tart sweetness to the plate.

For dessert, a simple dish of raspberries from the garden.

This wasn't a special meal, or fancy meal. It was a regular meal. Made mostly with garden produce and fruit. But seriously, could anything be more nurturing?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Garden pizza sauce

I find the best way to use up those imperfect tomatoes is to make a sauce.

From the garden:
3 ripe, imperfect tomatoes (coarsely chopped, seeded)
1/2 onion (chopped)
5 garlic cloves (chopped)
bunch fresh Italian parsley
bunch fresh basil
Tbspn fresh oregano

From the pantry:
Olive oil

Cook chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Add tomatoes and herbs. Cook down to a sauce.

Roll out pizza dough. Lightly oil it and spread cooled sauce on top. Garnish with cheese and toppings of your choice and bake in oven on pizza stone at 400 degrees. Alternatively, bake in BBQ on second shelf on foil.

Pictured below, a traditional thick crust pizza with bacon and pineapple. 

We also prepared a thin crust pizza (my personal choice) with mushrooms, chevre, etc. and the pesto pizza pictured at bottom. All veggies and herbs are from the garden.

Crumble Recipe

I'm using up some of the rhubarb harvest in a crumble and thought I would share this super easy and totally yummy recipe that anyone can dash together in a flash. This crumble works for apples, peaches and rhubarb. (I've never tried it with pears or figs, but who knows, why not?) It would probably be great with berries too.

Remember your ingredients by ratios. Doubling up from 1/2 to 1 to 2.

For the pan pictured (about the size of a standard Corning Ware casserole) I used:

1/2 lb. salted butter
1 cup brown sugar (packed down)
2 cups flour


Place a little of the flour and sugar at the bottom of the dish, add your fruit, top it with the rest of the flour and sugar mixed in with the butter. (Note: If you use unsalted butter add a dash of salt.)

BAKE: 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

My rhubarb went in chopped up. Fresh. You can use canned apples (found in the canned fruit section at your grocers) and just add the crumble topping and get a great homemade dessert effect. I advocate fresh everything, but with apples, you'll have a little more work. Peeling and slicing, mixing them first in a bowl with some sugar and squeeze of lemon. Fresh peaches need peeling and rhubarb only chopping.


Putting up the Harvest, Awaiting the Next

I noticed some suspect leaves on a few tomato plants this morning. Clipped them immediately and harvested the ripe tomatoes. Blight? I hope not. I need to get the harvest in the can fast, literally.

Lemon Boy Tomatoes

Skinned for canning
Processed and ready for storage
Tomatillos in flower

My tomatillo plant is rife with yellow flowers (over 50 by my count), so I installed a trellis and tied them up. This plant gave one large tomatillo about a month ago, but just flowers since. I'm hoping the sunlight will encourage them to fruit. 

Rosehips ripening
The rose bush above needs no encouragement, however. Rose hips flourish.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pickled Green Tomatoes

The yellow cherry tomatoes were the first big producer in my garden and they are still going strong. The bush is now five feet tall and continues to stretch for the heavens. So this morning, before getting to work, I picked a small basket of unripe greens for a quickie pickle in an attempt to race ahead of the ripening fruit.

I used an untried recipe I found on the web attributed to Dan Field. Click here for recipe. This recipe is apparently an adaptation of another recipe attributed to Rick Field. Once you've got the basics of pickling down you can improvise on any recipe to make it your own. In fact, I did two jars following this recipe, and two jars with a new twist. It's great fun to give the eight ball a shake and see what comes up when your harvest is so bountiful. This recipe used tomatoes, dill, onion and garlic from my garden.