In My Garden – June 2020

In My Garden – June 2020

I want to open with a quote:

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” Robin Wall Kimmerer

You are indeed a lucky person if you have a garden right now. I know it has saved me.

I have had difficulty writing my IMG post this month. I spend almost every day out in the garden…weeding, pruning, harvesting, pulling out spent annuals, watering, and planting new summer and fall plants in both the vegetable garden and flower beds. How can I possibly tie it down to how it looks in one day when it is constantly changing? And it isn’t changing slowly either, I notice new things every day. The colors, scents, and shapes are never the same one day to the next. This blog post tries to tie it down but I think I need a movie to give a true picture.

But now in mid-June it is time. So here is a snapshot of what has developed in the last month.

Quinn is our big hunter of gophers and moles.

Quinn

Who me?

She frequently does more damage than good, especially with moles, digging deeply along their tunnels. It’s not so bad when she finds a tunnel in the forest. Other than returning covered in redwood needles, she can do little to hurt the deep piles of duff under the trees. However, every once in a while she finds them in the middle of the flower garden before we notice. Such was the case here…

It took us two weeks to catch the thing, knowing she would just dig it up again if we didn’t get it.

Casey, by contrast, can’t be bothered.

Casey

Just let me be a couch potato

The vegetable garden has changed a lot since we prepared the beds. There are three varieties of bush beans planted in this one.

Under the cover of plastic, zucchini is flourishing and we are harvesting our first crop.

Summer Squash

Zucchini

I cover them in the evening and uncover them once the sun hits the beds in the morning.

I also have some cucumbers and tomatoes growing under one of the mini greenhouses provided by the plastic covering. They seem to be doing well so far and I will let you know if I actually get a crop this year, it will be a first.

I have both sweet pea flowers and edible snap/snow peas in this bed.

Peas

Flowering and edible peas

The first dahlia to bloom.

Dahlias

Dahlias

And here are some shots of the flower garden.

June is truly the most beautiful month in the garden. Northern California is at it’s most colorful in spring.

And here is the pollinator garden. With the exception of a few salvia’s and day lilies, only last year’s wildflowers have reseeded it. The colors and flowers in bloom change weekly. It is full of the buzz of bees, fluttering butterflies, and the calls of small birds feasting on dropped seed heads.

 

Now the weather has warmed we are enjoying being outside, appropriately socially distanced with close friends. The back deck is a perfect place.

Set up for a socially distanced glass of wine

Back deck set up for an appropriately distanced glass of wine with friends – Casey and Quinn join us

The hummingbirds feeding in the bottlebrush tree behind the deck entertain us with their arguments and fights over territory.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my garden. Questions and comments are welcome.

And it you travel to the coast know that the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are now open. Make sure you make an appointment, they are well worth a visit.

In My Garden – May 2020

In My Garden – May 2020

May has to be the best and most beautiful Northern California gardening month. Everything is starting to bloom, there is color everywhere. It’s lovely to sit in the evening with a glass of wine and soak in the view of the back garden.

I find my mood changes depending on the weather and if the sun is shining. Blue skies bring optimism and quiet joy, grey ones bring lethargy and sadness. The exuberance of the spring garden ignores all those effervescent and shifting moods. The flowers bloom without knowledge of the crisis in the world. The bright colors make it seem aflame, a riot of orange poppies, tangerine geum, marmalade heuchera, and yellow lupines.

I can sit quietly, listening to the buzz of bees and the songs of sparrows. In the distance I hear the sounds of breaking surf on the beach. I let the peace of the garden wash over me, a private timeless world…no schedules, no appointments. The world is on pause and I sit in the middle, quiet and serene for the moment.

Exuberance

Exuberance of colors and textures

The bees are especially active in the pollinator garden. This is the second year and survival of the fittest is definitely taking place.

Pollinator Garden May 2019

Pollinator Meadow May 2019

Last year we had a lot more rain.

The bearded irises and Spanish lavender plants edging the driveway are in bloom.

Spanish lavender and Bearded Iris

Spanish lavender and Bearded Iris

In the vegetable garden I have planted summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash, basil and determinate tomatoes this month. My husband (and partner in any hardscaping project) helped construct supports to make mini hoop houses. The microclimate of the property has not been kind to tomatoes in the past and I hope, by warming the beds, I will have better luck.

Raised Bed Veggie Garden

Raised Bed Veggie Garden – May 2020

A peak under the plastic

A peak under the plastic – tomatoes, basil and summer squash

 

Last year’s pole beans are coming back, they are about an inch high. I will plant bush beans later this week in a newly prepared bed.

Ready for Bush Beans

Ready for Bush Beans

The snap peas and sweet pea flowers are finally taking off. It was a challenge to keep the sparrows from eating the new shoots. I finally unearthed some old netting from the depths of the garage and that has helped a lot.

Snap Peas and Sweet Pea Flowers

Snap Peas and Sweet Pea Flowers

I have company in the garden, if not helpers.

Quinn

Quinn – “Mom, I will just watch you working while I relax here in the sun”

 

Casey

Casey – “Sunny days are made for napping unless you see a squirrel.”

Be well everyone, be safe. And happy gardening.

April – Domestic Harmony in the Time of Covid-19

April – Domestic Harmony in the Time of Covid-19

What does domestic harmony look like in your household? In our house it looks like this:

Domestic Harmony

Equal Split of Margaret Fox’s Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Whatever it takes, eh?

Margaret Fox was the owner and chef at Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, one of the early restaurants in the California cuisine trend in the style of Alice Waters. She now runs the deli and bakery at our local independent grocery store, Harvest Market. We are indeed lucky. Her buttermilk coffee cake is delicious. I am not a baker so we try to get one whenever they are available on our currently infrequent jaunts to the store. Sharing equally is a big deal.

What are you doing to maintain a tranquil environment in this time of social distancing and stay-at-home requirements? I know things can get testy. Long walks definitely help, and Zoom exercise classes, and gardening if you are lucky enough to have one.

It’s time to appreciate and notice small things small things. Spring is definitely here. In my yard the song sparrows are singing a chorus. This is the first year the song sparrows have found our clearing, although I’ve been feeding the birds for the last three years (the seed bill is growing). Redwood forests don’t have a lot of birds, there isn’t much food for them under the trees. So it took awhile for them to find us, it’s worth getting up early to hear the morning riot of song. I’m hoping that they nest nearby as the mourning doves have. Their population has gone from 2 to 7. I’m keeping a log of all the birds that visit the feeders, they are increasing in varieties and number. Every once in a while I see a new one to add to the list.

We now have two native Western grey squirrels raiding the feeders as well, until recently there was only one. I am expecting some little ones the summer.

Did you know there is a run on jigsaw puzzles?

Puzzle

Undersea jigsaw puzzle

We found this one in the garage, an old one we had never put together. Puzzles are very relaxing and something the entire family can enjoy. The NY Times had a fascinating article on how jigsaw puzzles are made, it takes weeks. And it seems that puzzle makers are having a hard time keeping up with current demand.

Board games are a good distraction.

Board Games

Board Games

We were introduced to Mexican Train Dominos by some friends a few months ago, it has become a favorite. The instructions that come with the game are terrible, we had to figure them out for ourselves from online research. I’m still not sure we are playing it ‘correctly’ but we are having fun.

There are currently three of us sheltering in place in our household. We each choose an activity for the evening in rotation…games or a movie or a TV series we are watching together or simply sit and talk about something from our day. There aren’t any small children so things are a little easier for us than some of you. All three of us enjoy science fiction so we have been watching the new Star Trek episodes together.

And in case you are wondering what to do with all those leftover hard boiled eggs…

  • deviled eggs, one of my favorites

    Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

    Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

  • Easter egg salad sandwiches

    Easter Egg Salad

    Easter Egg Salad

  • Eggs a la Goldenrod – an old recipe from Betty Crocker

    Eggs a La Goldenrod

    Eggs a La Goldenrod

  • sliced and put on top of avocado toast with a sprinkling of coarse salt

Deviled Eggs for Anchovy Lovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 hardboiled egg per person – see the note below
  • 1/2 anchovy per egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon capers per egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard per egg
  • 1 teaspoon mayo/egg, or more as needed
  • red pepper flakes as desired (optional)
  • Thinly sliced chives or green scallion tops

Method;

  1. Cook hardboiled eggs as noted below
  2. Cool and remove the shell carefully
  3. Slice in half, remove the yolks to a small bowl
  4. Mash with the anchovies, add mayonnaise to thin as necessary
  5. Add the capers and taste for salt (it probably won’t need any with the anchovies)
  6. Add the red pepper flakes if you want some heat
  7. Carefully fill the egg whites with the mixture
  8. Garnish with chives or scallions
Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

Deviled Eggs with Anchovies

Note on cooking hard boiled eggs:

  1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water by at least an inch.
  2. Bring the eggs and water to a rapid boil, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Leave the pan on the burner. If you have a gas stove, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and leave for 1 minute before turning off the heat.
  3. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes.
  4. Drain and run cool water over the eggs.
  5. Peel when cool. Slightly older eggs are often easier to peel.

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – April 2020

In My Garden – April 2020

The following two paragraphs are copied from Kitchen Garden Seeds. I’m on their email list and get messages fairly frequently. Perusing seed catalogs in print or online is a time honored winter and early spring tradition for most gardeners.

“Back in the 1940s in the midst of World War II, Americans across the country planted Victory Gardens to supply themselves and others with fresh food, which was a scarcity at the time. Victory Gardens were hugely successful, and a symbol of our country coming together toward a common goal of keeping ourselves healthy and proactive.
We’re now in the midst of another global crisis, and judging from what we’re hearing from our customers, gardening is yet again what we’re all gravitating toward for sustenance and comfort. As we all hunker down to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and the population in general, flattening the curve as best we can, we have the opportunity to get back to basics: spending quality time with family, cooking leisurely meals, engaging in meaningful conversations, and, of course, gardening. Growing our own food and flowers is incredibly therapeutic, with the added benefit of supplying our families with fresh food without stepping foot in a grocery store.”
Even if you only have room for a small patio garden, it can be very gratifying to pick some fresh herbs or a few cherry tomatoes for your dinner. This link will lead you to a post I wrote a few years ago with some ideas, Kitchen Basics to Grow in Pots.
We have been preparing the vegetable garden for early summer vegetables. Although I did have summer squash in the raised beds last year, it’s too cool for cucumbers or tomatoes. We’ve hope to remedy that by covering some of the raised beds with plastic to make mini-hoop houses.
I would love to grow peppers but it really is too cool for them here. I did run across an interesting article about them though and had a few minutes of ‘hot’ summer envy. Here is a link if you live in an area where you can grow them. The link is from a site called Happy DIY Home, they had some handy tips regarding home and garden.
Raised Beds

Raised Beds with Hoops for Plastic Covering

At the moment my raised are filled with lettuce, kale, and chard. Definitely winter produce, and because of the cold they are growing very slowly.

The sparrows were decimating the peas, they haven’t been able to get a start because of the foraging birds. I found some old netting in the garage and that seems to be giving them a helping hand. I won’t wait as long next year to wrap some netting around them.

Snap Peas with Netting

Snap Peas with Netting

We spent a day digging out redwood roots from one of the raised beds. This is a chore that has to be done once a year to each bed as the trees and their roots are very aggressive. There were some sore backs after the job was completed. It made me wish for that hot tub we keep meaning to purchase.

Raised Bed - roots removed

Raised Bed Minus Redwood Roots

I’ve started some seeds in seed trays.

New seeds

Seeds – lettuce, chard, kale, cilantro

So, what is happening in the flower beds this month? Spring is definitely here and the plants are starting to leaf out and bloom. The tulips and irises are in bloom, also the Geums. Salvia concolor has not been out of bloom since the start of winter, much to the delight of the yard’s hummingbirds. This variety of salvia seems to be doing better than most others of its kind in my garden. I planted several of them last fall with Alonsoa meridionalis “Apricot Mask Flower” and both have been in non-stop flower.
Salvia and Alonsoa

Salvia and Alonsoa

I am mesmerized by foliage combinations, especially welcome when not much is flowering. Here is one of my favorite combinations.

The tangerine color of the Geum flowers mirror the leaves of the Heuchera, both shown off by the dark foliage of the Anthriscus. All the Geums have just started blooming like crazy, they do very well here and I consider them one of the most successful plants in the garden. Everything has to be able to put up with the competition of the redwood roots.

The first rhododendron is in bloom, it’s a bushy yellow one. I think the variety is ‘Top Banana’ but I’m not sure.

Rhododendron 'Top Banana'

I think this is:Rhododendron ‘Top Banana’

And the first dahlia shoots are showing.

Dahlia

First Dahlia Emerging in the Spring

It will be another few weeks before most of the emerge. It’s a tricky time when the snails and slugs can ravage them.

Banana Slugs

Banana Slugs

Here are two pictures of the pollinator meadow, 2019 and 2020. Late last fall we mowed all the plants in and this year we will see how it changes. I’ll add side by side pictures each month for comparison.

If you would like to take a look at the garden last year at this time, you will find the link here. We had a lot more rain last winter season than this one. In fact almost twice as much as this year. I fear that, without a lot of early spring rain, we are headed into a drought.

And lastly, while I have been digging in the raised bed and putting in new plants, the dogs have been busy doing their own excavations. They have completely dug up a portion of the yard in search of a allusive gopher or mole.

Major Gopher Excavation

Major Gopher Excavation

Dogs digging

I know it’s here somewhere

There must be a whole colony from the looks of it.

Examining a Days Work

Examining a Days Work

Definitely a tunnel here.

Stay well everyone, stay safe. Let me know how your garden is doing. Right now I call it my therapy.

In My Kitchen – April 2020

In My Kitchen – April 2020

How are you all doing out there? I know that we are facing some hard times. In California we are in our third week of shelter-in-place and going a little stir crazy. I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but it’s not the same. I’m trying to avoid the grocery store and market, shopping only once a week or less (which is not my common practice).

By the end of the week, when fresh produce (and other essential ingredients) are running out, we find ourselves eating a lot of pantry meals. Some of them have been surprisingly delicious. Others, not so much.

Meanwhile I have been struggling with so many emotions, seemingly all at the same time.

  • I am sad and grieving, for all of us. It is heartbreaking to read what is happening in Italy, and NY, and Detroit…all over the world.
  • I am encouraged and hopeful. I know many people and companies are ramping up research and production to meet our needs in this medical emergency.
  • I am afraid for my family, friends, my community, the world and myself.
  • I feel full of appreciation, respect, pride and even love for those that are stepping up. In my book our medical caregivers, our first responders, and many in our local and state government are my new heroes.
  • The day seems to go so slowly but then again, the day is over before I know it.
  • I am accomplishing very little even though I have all day to do it.
  • And I am mesmerized by the news.

For the first time in a long time, the world feels very small. We are all connected. We are all in this together. Things will never be the same. That might be a hopeful thing.

Exercise helps, taking a walk or a Zoom class or getting out in the garden helps, a lot.

So what’s happening in my kitchen? More ambivalence… I want to spend time in the kitchen. But, then again, I’m not interested in spending time in the kitchen.

Emotions are complicated things aren’t they?

So, in my kitchen, I have pickled asparagus. Spring is happening, ignoring the reports of doom. The asparagus is amazing. I purchased 4 big bunches at the market (before the lockdown) and made 4 quarts of pickled asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus

Pickled Asparagus

I couldn’t decide whether to pickle them tip up or tip down, so I did some of each. Does it make a difference, what do you think? Our weekend brunch favorite is pickled asparagus on avocado toast with a poached egg on top. The sharpness of the pickle contrasts delightfully with the crisp toast, creamy avocado, and the rich soft egg.

I made fennel spice rub with a few adaptations for Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder. There was plenty left over for other dishes.

Roast Fennel Spice

Roast Fennel Spice

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder. You will find the recipe for the pork shoulder and the spice rub here.

In my kitchen you will find me using my electric pressure cooker more often. It’s not an Instant Pot but it works the same. The market seems to have large packages of chicken and I cooked a big batch of chicken thighs so we would have leftovers for lunch. It was very successful.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot. You can find the recipe for Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs here.

It’s useful to know you can cook an entire family sized package of thighs quickly. Most of the recipes online call for only four. Now that everyone is home for lunch each day, leftovers are very welcome. Use any kind of rub or spices that are family favorites.

Towards the middle of the week, and thinking about lunches again, I made a pantry soup while there was still a few zucchini and potatoes hanging around. This recipe is endlessly adaptable. I chose to make it more Italian spiced but you could easily change it to Mexican by using beans instead of potatoes, frozen corn, and chili powder. Or Indian if you have ground lamb and some curry powder. Customize it to what you have on hand and the flavor profile you feel like in the moment.

There’s a wonderful book, first published in 1991, called From Pantry to Table by Marlena Spieler. She has some creative cooking ideas and suggestions from a well stocked pantry or kitchen. I know Amazon did not rate it highly but for me it’s a go-to for ideas when my pantry is down to the bottom of the barrel.

Italian Soup - Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato

Italian Soup – Sausage, Zucchini and TomatoThe recipe for Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato soup is here.

In my kitchen I have one new cookbook, recommended by a friend. I haven’t cooked from it yet but am looking forward to it. It may need to wait until I can do some more expansive food shopping.

The Beauty Chef

I do like her emphasis on self care and that your skin reflects what you eat. We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves right now.

In My Kitchen is a collection of posts from around the world. It’s hosted by Mae from Sherrys Picking’s. Please do check in with us, this month the world is very small. And please, if you are a blogger or writer (or a poet), think about joining us and adding your own thoughts, it will help all of us through these difficult times.

I welcome any comments. What are you doing to stay sane right now?