Monday, November 22, 2010

Rocket City

I am overrun with arugala. This happens to me every year. 

Usually it's because I put in too many starts, but this year I planted a second batch of lettuce from a seed packet (Spicy Mix) and it turned out to be 90% arugula. I guess it's just my fate to have an abundance of rocket.

I enjoy rocket as a bed for carpaccio, in salads, soups and pasta, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Picked early it's light and refreshing. Left in the soil too long, it becomes tough and very spicy! Arugala pesto may be the answer.

Alas, the garden is waning. Leaves are falling and the mercury reports stew weather.

Outside, thai shallots, carrots and peas remain in the ground, but none are quite ready for the table.

Still, there was a mini harvest to be had. Turnips and beets for dinner.

And today, the last tomato.

Of course it was a Honey Bunch cherry tomato. That little over-achiever. With a heavy heart I added the wilted tomato bush to the compost bin. I will now have to rely on the tomatoes I canned for the winter if I want to stay true to my efforts to eat locally. I'm not strident about this pledge (I can never resist mangoes at the market) but I am making daily efforts to shop greener.

So I turn my attention to the indoor garden and the seed catalogues.

I've been hunting for all the heirloom and certified organic seeds I can get my hands on. Two Green Thumbs up to Burpees and Johnny Seeds who carry sections on both. They get my business this year.

The cost of seeds is really alarming. Halfway through my enthusiastic shopping spree I realized I had already managed to add $148 to my cart.

When you're paying $3.99 for 25 heirloom seeds you want to do everything in your power to ensure that the seeds take. Better planning of the 2011 vegetable garden is definitely on the agenda. I'm finding great tips from so many sources. Blogs, books, garden shows and the best of all, the gardeners in my community.

Maria Finn's cute little book, A Little Piece of Earth, offers handy suggestions on beneficial combinations of plants for container gardens.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Instant Cold Frame

Inspired by other bloggers, I began a rather casual roadside search for discarded windows to use for a cold frame. Only two weeks has transpired and already I've scored this baby. A thick, double paned window that is so substantial I may be able to grow food outside in the winter.  The home owner was replacing it purely for cosmetic reasons, changing the tone of the vinyl to a gray. I felt good about recycling it for eco-friendly food production.

The window fit perfectly over an existing raised bed. Instant cold frame. 

Admiring my handiwork in my well-worn end-of-the-season slippers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Under the growlights

The beginnings of the indoor winter garden. Mesclun lettuce is starting to sprout under 40 watt grow lights in the otherwise dark basement. 

Red potatoes await their indoor potting. I expect they will be a challenge, but I'm going for it. My Yukon Golds were so exceptional this year I crave more homegrown tubers.

Two 40 watt fluorescent plant lights are the only illumination these plants are getting. Chives and parsley thrive and a potted strawberry plant (a runner pulled from the garden) appears happy. Small pots of peppers germinate behind the lettuce.

I long for a heated conservatory and orangerie where citrus trees could grow year round. One day. 

My hope is that green builders will answer this call for year-round growing by building sunrooms and conservatories as standard issue for new developments. The current trend has cold cellars making a comeback. Bright minds will seize the moment. I have faith.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Apple Sam

Get the recipe here: APPLE PANCAKE SAM. I leave out the cloves and dust it with powdered sugar. Also good with warmed maple syrup. Good on a brisk morning.

(Please note the scattershot apple placement. Your dish can look more elegant than this. I began placing the apples uniformly in a lovely semi-circle, as I've aways done in the past, then suddenly cast that impulse aside and flung the apples hither and yon, in an act of wild abandonment. There is both beauty and freedom in imperfection. One must embrace the imperfect from time to time.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Cozy Factor

I love old wood barns.

I love their smell, their look and the raw, wild earthiness of them. Barns and greenhouses are by far my favorite structures. They make me feel all cozy inside.

It's really a shame they are falling out of fashion as the characterless industrial steel structures take over. Steel doesn't provide the same coziness factor, for beast or human.

I was talking about coziness with my sister-in-law the other day and she said,"What is it with your brother and you and cozy? You're both always talking about things being cozy." I laughed. Because it's true! The pursuit of coziness is a family obsession.

We were raised in a home that worked. Every room was cozy and the neighborhood kids gravitated to it. The house was always abuzz with social activity. Sofas were slouched on, rugs were tread on, kitchens were cooked in. We played games, music, baked cakes together regularly (from scratch) and just plain hung out. Our parents never had to worry about what we were up to because everyone was perpetually at our home.

Children and pets were permitted in every room, except for adult bedrooms that were designated as private. There was a lot of laughter. (Although, I admit, it was a bad day when the rabbit we brought home from school ate a hole in my mother's new designer sofa.) You couldn't blame the poor thing. It was just trying to get into the fluffy down inside.

Fact is, all creatures seek coziness and love a good warm spot. Dogs, cats, squirrels, mice. My kitty purrs contentedly while cuddling into her bed. Squirrels nuzzle into fluffy lined nests to sleep. Animals don't create showplaces to live, they create cozy dens and nests that provide warmth and shelter. Everyone likes to feel held.

Working with design clients in the past, I discovered repeatedly that people who insisted on minimalism in design, didn't really hang out in those stark rooms at all. They retreated to messy bedrooms or to a casual den when visitors weren't present. The primary purpose of their show rooms was to provide a presentation for others to admire. There's nothing authentic about that.

My personal crusade, as is evident in my book, The Emotional House, is to try to get people to decorate rooms that are both beautiful and functionally livable, so that every space in your home draws you in. This keeps your life in balance, because every room in your home serves an emotional function.

In the garden, I believe a chaise helps with the coziness factor, because it provides a place to stretch out and read, catnap, chat on the phone, or just kick back and enjoy the outdoors.

A chaise screams "relax," and that is a big function of the garden. Serenity. Every garden needs a chaise in my opinion. Preferably one with a nice thick cushion. Next to that, a side table for a drink and snack. One of my chaises (pictured on the right side of this photo) has an embedded table that slides out from under the bottom and retracts when not in use. A similar one is available at Plow and Hearth and at Pottery Barn.

Outdoor dining tables are functional, but the chaise is what creates the cozy factor. They come in all price ranges, or you can build one yourself.  When the material on the cushions on my chaises started to deteriorate I tore it off and kept the stuffing inside. I recovered that with Sunbrella material I bought in bulk from a remains store online. But first I plumped up the stuffing with additional polyester fill from old pillows. That is one cushy chaise, let me tell you. And so very... cozy!