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Tag Archives: house and garden

Fruits of Our Labor

Since a picture is worth a thousand words here is a glimpse beyond my garden gate …

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Today we are picking lots of green beans, Kirby cucumbers and Abraham Darby roses.

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The corn is definitely “knee high by the fourth of July”.

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The squash is a little too small to pick, but we have a dozen plants happily growing.  We should be overrun soon!  Of course I spot a tiny bit of powdery mildew so maybe not!

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I think eggplant is the most gorgeous veggie in the garden.

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These are the reasons we compost all year long … literally the fruits of our labors.  Happy gardening!  Happy summer!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Gardening, Musings

 

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Warm Weekend Sunshine

After months of unseasonably frigid weather, we’ve had a weekend respite.  Celebrate!  With temps nearing seventy we headed OUTSIDE for some warm Southern sun and a little lawn work.

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We left the head gardener in the middle of a painting project and while the boy begrudgingly tackled the front lawn (hatehatehatehatehate Bermuda), I went to work on the rose/perennial beds.

Luckily I had pruned back most of my old (these and these) and David Austin roses around Christmas so I only had to rake out some early weeds then tackle a little dead wood.  I happily snipped, then fed them (compost in the fall, this in the spring).

Are you a pruning fan?  I totally am.  I love to get my shears into a plant and visualize its best shape.  I spend a lot of time standing and looking.  It becomes very meditative, communing with the plant.  Roses, more than any shrub, really make you concentrate.  Watch out for thorns, carefully gauge the green from the dead wood, cleanly and swiftly cut, and watch out for the dead wood thorns.  Pruning is probably a metaphor for life.  You can’t prune mindlessly and for me, it’s a gift to be utterly absorbed.  And the promise of rosebuds is just around the corner… bliss.

If you remember to watch out for aphids.  But I digress.

Anyway, not sure how in the fall I didn’t notice that some of my Siberian and Japanese Iris are essentially out of control.  I pulled out the dried foliage but stopped short of dividing since I know old man winter isn’t finished with the South yet.  Although these plants are best divided in the fall, they are extraordinarily tough, and, in my neck of the woods, can be moved anytime that you can commit to watering them in after transplant.  But even that is not always necessary.

My large 4×3 mound is the result of a single small clump of iris that was rescued from a weekend weeding heap a few years back.  My husband accidentally uprooted some sad looking stalks and let them dry out in the sun before I realized what they were.  Yikes!   I hastily dug them into a rose bed with fingers crossed.  And then I forgot about them,  I honestly never watered them more than a time or two.  Mother Nature handled the rest and now I’m contemplating dividing them.  Soon.

But first, the lamb’s ears need some attention since they are similarly out of bounds.  I really love this perennial, even though it gets a little invasive and crowds out anything less hardy in its path.  It looks gorgeous with roses.  Every late winter I survey the beds with dismay wondering if winter has finally killed off that fuzzy foliage for good.  Every spring I find lots of new growth and I’m happy.  I guess I’m going to wait a few weeks to start grubbing out the old leaves because I’ve gotta say, this stuff looks REALLY bad this year.  I’ll check back in a few weeks…

Broken pots … argh!  I know terra cotta is not meant for winter, but honestly in all my twenty-five plus years in Atlanta, I’ve rarely lost a pot.  This year I lost multiples: several terra cotta, two cute ceramic giant “teacups” and some gorgeous blue pottery.  Clean up on aisle seven.  I researched ways to recycle this stuff, got rigorously honest with myself KNOWING that I am not making mosaic tiles from pottery shards (it hasn’t been high on the priority list even though I’ve thought about it for years) and with much guilt I tipped them into the trash. **gasp!**

I even said goodbye to some frozen stiff rosemary topiaries that never had any business being outside in the first place.  I replaced these with some bushy new ones that now bookend my kitchen sink and make me happy every time I see (and smell) them.  I’m happy all the time!

Spending all that time hauling clippings to the compost pile meant we didn’t spend much time inside.  Here’s the Friday-Saturday bucket, um, paper towel…

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What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • blood oranges
  • lemons
  • onion stem ends & skin
  • more blood oranges (three words: blood orange margarita)
  • more lemons
  • some lime too!
  • limp cabbage outer leaves
  • garlic paper
  • brown banana peels
  • more lemon
  • clementine peel (I think I have citrus covered)
  • grape stems & a few hiding moldy specimens

What I made with all of that: Salmon Tacos with Cabbage Slaw,, Mango & Pineapple Salsa (bought at Whole Foods), Feta, Lime Cream and Crispy Onions, plus Blood Orange Margaritas, a couple of smoothies and lots of orange and grape snacks.

Bring on spring!  I’m totally ready for tacos and margaritas on the deck.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Gardening, Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Sunday Supper: Cauliflower Steaks

How many times can I sing the praises of a Sunday meal with family?  Is there anything more satisfying than knowing that one day of the week is dedicated to time spent leisurely preparing a meal, then leisurely enjoying that meal around the table with the people you most love?  For a mom who loves food and a family who appreciates that food (most of the time) I think not.

This Sunday was even more enjoyable than usual with two things to celebrate: my middle boy was accepted to his top college choice (It’s great to be a Florida Gator!) and my oldest boy made a surprise visit home for one day.  Woohoo!  Time to pull out the stops in the kitchen.  In my house food is love.

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What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • cauliflower stem end & leaves
  • kale stems
  • strawberry tops
  • Pink Lady apple peels (organic from local farm and amazing, plus lots more peels underneath)
  • more cauliflower stem ends & leaves
  • banana peel
  • half of a lemon
  • TAZO teabags (underneath)

What I made with all of that:

If you are a cauliflower fan, run, don’t walk, to the nearest grocery and buy a head (or two) so you can make that delicious cauliflower recipe.  I’ve been wanting to try it for weeks and it was everything I expected it would be; rich, creamy and delicate all at the same time.   By now you know I am a recipe tweaker, and this one is no different.  The initial cook time is longer than stated, with at least five minutes per side to begin caramelizing and I used half olive oil/butter combo.  As well, I used a higher milk to water ratio for the puree.  And it was amazing.  Just saying.

For the Roast Pork Loin recipe, I simply subbed dried, freshly ground coriander seed for the rosemary, added some olive oil to make a paste, then rubbed it into the meat and let it sit for about six hours.  I took it out an hour before roasting so that it was not ice cold going into the hot oven, ensuring a more even roast.  It, too, was wonderful.  Dipped into the cauliflower puree, it was memorable.  The side of kale added just the right bitter finish.

Hungry?  Run out and get some cauliflower!

 

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Two Day Bucket

Life is busy.  I’m sure that is not a revelation to anyone.  I am regularly surprised though by just how busy the days are and how quickly they run together.  Like yesterday.  I forgot to take a photo of my scrap bucket because we were juggling rainy weather and soccer practice and ballet and the first college acceptance letter (yay!) and life, so here are two days worth of scraps to ponder:

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What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • yellowish green stem of a leek
  • iceberg lettuce core
  • carrot peels
  • iceberg lettuce outer leaves
  • banana peel
  • half of a lemon
  • apple core
  • russet potato peels
  • stem end of a leek
  • stem end of a small red pepper

What you can’t see:

  • eggshells
  • extremely dirty mushroom stems
  • garlic paper
  • stem end & ribs of a cayenne pepper
  • skin & stem ends from two Vidalia onions

What I made with all of that:

  • Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies
  • Bacon, Lettuce & Muenster Sandwiches on homemade bread
  • Scrambled Eggs with Muenster and Mushrooms
  • Potato Leek Soup
  • Really unbelievably spicy Chili 

Let me tell you about the chili.  My neighbor gave me a bag of about 25 homegrown cayenne peppers.  I’ve been debating whether to dry or pickle these or turn them into hot sauce, but since I was out of jalapenos and serrano peppers, I decided to sub a cayenne for dinner.  We like spicy, so I was not concerned.  Plus, I’ve made this chili about a million times and always tweak it for what I have on hand.  Today I used fantastic local grass fed chuck steak and a single red cayenne pepper.  WOW.  Can you say S P I C Y ?  Moral of the story:  Beware of neighbors bearing peppers.  No.  Taste hot peppers before you cook recklessly with them!  And if you forget to taste, have plenty of sour cream, milk, and homemade bread around to soak up the spice.  Would you like some leftovers?

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Toss It Tuesday: Yuck

Costco is not my produce friend.

I like LOTS of things about Costco: organic maple syrup, organic chocolate milk, organic evaporated cane juice, organic eggs, cheese, trash bags, wine, flowers, and surprises.  But produce … not so much.  Why?  There is just TOO MUCH of the SAME THING.

So, you can probably guess what I bought in excess at the big box.

toss it tues use 10.8.13

What you can see (clockwaide top to bottom):

  • fennel stems & fronds
  • tangerines, moldy, squishy or hard, NEVER tasty (Costco)
  • green onions
  • mushrooms, lots and lots and lots of mushrooms.  You can;t see them all but they are there. (Costco)

So, that’s a pretty big bucket of yuck…

I roasted the fennel bulbs with carrots, but despite my best intentions, never found a use for the fennel stems.

These tangerines were never good.  I thought they’d be perfect because, even for tangerines, they were tiny, but they sat unloved for weeks in the produce drawer.  They came home uneaten in lunch boxes.  My husband, who can eat a bag of oranges in a sitting, ignored them.  I hear compost bugs LOVE citrus.  I’ll let you know if they get tossed out of the pile …

The mushrooms were lost in the back of the fridge … how, when the container was the size of fridge shelf I can’t explain, but they were hidden.  I now realize that one kid who loves shrooms + one kid who hates shrooms = 8 ounce container.  Lesson finally learned.  Who ever said we don’t use math in daily life?

I wish green onions were sold by the piece.  I’d only ever buy one stem, maybe two.  Wait.  I just realized that’s what everybody would do, so the onion farmers have banded together and insisted on bunch sales.  This makes me cry!

Until next toss day … eat up your veggies!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in The Daily Bucket, Toss It Tuesday

 

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Easy, Lazy, No Turn* Compost

For a while now, artisan, no-knead bread has been popular among foodie-types, myself included.  I particularly like the “even lazier” version of no-knead bread, which minimizes mess and hands-on time.  Last week while I was whipping up a batch of no-knead sandwich bread, it dawned on me that my version of making compost is just about the same: minimal fuss, minimal tools, basic ingredients, heat and time.

So, without wasting more valuable time, here’s a step by step guide to Easy, Lazy, No Turn* Compost:

1.  Keep a container for scraps handy in your kitchen.  There are all kinds and I have this fancy one with a filter, but I prefer to use these plastic berry picking buckets.  Each season I get a few new ones & recycle the old yucky ones.  I keep my bucket on the sink & everyone know to toss food scraps in there.

bucket on counter

2. Empty your bucket regularly.  If you are too lazy, it starts to smell … and attract fruit flies and ants… Yuck.  We typically fill a bucket every day or two & take it out to this compost pile.  The “active” compost pile is where I pile the daily scraps.  (Note: We’ll spread the remaining aged compost in a few weeks over my fall veggie bed when my plants are more established.)

compost pile fall 10.4.13

3.  Dig a shallow hole in your active compost pile.  We keep a pitchfork at the ready beside the pile so that this takes just a moment.  It’s kind of hard to see, but here is a close-up of what the pile looks with the hole prepped:

compost pile hole 10.4.13

4.  Add your kitchen scraps to the hole.  Colorful!  The discerning eye might spot two paper towels.  We don’t use many of them, preferring cloth dish towels & fabric napkins, BUT I do line every bucket with a half sheet of paper towel, otherwise clean-up can be gross.  Decomposition starts immediately, even in the bucket.

compost in pile 10.4.13

5.  Cover scraps with lawn waste.  Using your pitchfork, completely cover the scraps with grass clippings, brown leaves, etc.  My son had just cut the lawn & leaves were falling, so this is a nice blend of clippings and chopped leaves.

coompost pile covered 10.4.13

5.  Repeat the process every few days.  The more kitchen scraps you add, the more compost you will have at the end of the season.  I’ve mentioned this before, but organic in, means organic out.  If you eat mostly organic, non-gmo produce and don’t use chemicals on your lawn, you’ll be producing rich compost for a fraction of the cost you can buy.  WITH PRACTICALLY NO EFFORT ON YOUR PART.

compost fall closeup 9.16.13

6.  So, walk away and let nature work!  Rain, sunshine, heat and cold, lots of naturally occurring bugs and microorganisms work to decompose your potato skins, banana peels, and coffee grinds into black compost gold.  You can put that back into your veggie beds, annual or perennial beds, or even around your trees and shrubs for happy, healthy plants.

* No-Turn … every compost pile requires some turning to mix the rotting scraps and the fresh additions.  We turn the entire pile two or three times during a six-month season.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Mix more if you want to speed up the compost process.  Mix less if you are satisfied with a a six-month process.

Happy composting!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Compost How To, Gardening

 

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Savoring Sunday Supper

What does Sunday look like in your house?  Is it another day to get things done?  A day jammed with kids’ sports, household errands, work deadlines, and study?  Or is it a day filled with religious services, family time, hobby time, relaxation, and reflection?  Our Sunday falls somewhere in between.

Traditionally, unless we have a rare Sunday soccer game (under 19 is seriously laid back soccer), morning Mass is the only concrete item on our agenda.  This week after church, we headed right home for a leisurely afternoon and fun “chores” like painting the porch swing, carving out a new garden bed, working on creative writing (my daughter), and of course, NFL/fantasy football (my son & hubby).  There was a bit of schoolwork, some soccer kicking, and I even found time to knit a few rows on a shrug project.  It was a quiet and cozy family day.

Now one of our “day of rest” non-negotiables is gathering for Sunday Supper.  It might be just our immediate family, or it might include grandparents, or sometimes friends, but regardless of who is around the table, it’s a time we set aside to linger, savor, and just enjoy the company and food.  Here’s a clue to what we had:

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What you can see (left to right):

  • brussels sprouts leaves and stem ends
  • wax bean trimmings
  • sweet potato peels

Sunday Supper Menu

  • Pan Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts and Wax Beans
  • Oven Roasted Maple Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg
  • Oven Roasted Mahi with Paprika & Lemon Butter
  • Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache & my mom’s secret recipe frosting

Even though we decided we prefer cod to mahi, it was a nice time to just reconnect and prepare for the week.  A time to breath and a time to reflect.  If you don’t have a Sunday Supper tradition, perhaps it’s time to start one?

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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