Monday, July 6, 2015

The Ginger Kitty: Shadows and Toys

We had a good time playing with all of Ginger's toys.  She is so playful.  Sometimes she is so fun to be with I can hardly stand it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

52 Weeks of Reading - June

Happy July!  June was sure a busy month for us, but a good one.  We're looking forward to good live music, visits with friends, and a few tie-dye gigs this month.  I am sure it too will fly by!  Summertime always does!  Below is my reading recap for the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge through the public library.  This month's recap comes along with the garden photos I wanted to post on Monday--good news!  My camera survived the rainstorm!  Huzzah!
Garden overview.  Matt is pulling peas and Ginger is looking back at me, waiting for me to catch up and join them.  June 27, 2015
June 1-6
*None

June 7-13
*The Passion of Alice by Stephanie Grant
*Sleepless by Charlie Huston

June 14-20
*Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro
*The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

June 21-27
*Positive by Paige Rawl

June 28-30
*The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Our community garden plots.  We have four adjacent 8 foot by 8 foot plots there.  We're growing potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, nasturtiums, and marigolds.  We're trying to get better about growing flowers, too...even if we can't eat them.  The nasturtiums you can though, I am told!  June 27, 2015
My favorite book was The Cellist of Sarajevo.  I found it to be a very moving, interesting, and at times terrible story.  While the story is a work of fiction is it based on the Bosnia War and follows four very different people as they live their lives in war-torn Sarajevo.  The fellow risking his life to gather water for his family was particularly powerful, I thought.  Its a life I cannot being to imagine, thank heavens.  Its also a very recent conflict which I don't know much about.  I did a little research along with my reading so that I could have a better understanding of what both sides was after--not that I can ever make much sense of war...  Reading the book made me remember reading a different book when I was in, oh, 6th grade, I think, called Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo.  After we'd read it as a class we did a reenactment of sorts, bringing in foods mentioned in the books, and well, huddling on the floor behind a barricade of desks in a darkened room.  It was interesting, though not likely all that realistic.  But it stuck with me.  It made an impression.  I am so blessed with peace and safety in my life.  That is always a good thing to remember.

Sleepless was also pretty good, but in a disturbing sort of way.  Its a novel about a global pandemic of perpetual insomnia, which is almost always fatal.  People are so sleep deprived they make bad decisions, have slow reactions times, or, quite often, kill themselves because they're so tired and miserable.  With my arthritis I suffer from chronic fatigue and often sleep poorly.  As such, the whole concept was especially horrible as I could extrapolate out from how tired I am after weeks of not sleeping well--and I still at least get some sleep!  Oh, it was a terrible concept for a disease.  The story has a dark underbelly, too, as is the case with most post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.  It was pretty good.
Last year we got seven currants, if memory serves.  We may only have gotten a shade over a half pound this year, but hey!  Its more than seven!  June 28, 2015
My least favorite book was Positive.  This was the story of a midwestern teen born HIV positive who was bullied after revealing her status to a friend.  While I like the positive-love-and-acceptance-because-we're-all-fighting-some-kind-of-battle message I just didn't find the writing all that compelling.  She used the same expressions too frequently, and well, it sounded like it was written by teenager...which it was...so take that for what its worth.  It is pretty crazy that people still think you can catch HIV from sharing pens and water bottles and stuff though.  So, hopefully the book will serve as education for young people on that front at least.
I snapped this photo, set my camera on the porch, started pick the currant, and promptly forgot about it.  Memo to self--pockets are in place for a reason!  June 28, 2015
Too Much Happiness was much darker than I expected it to be.  I knew it had some dark stories, but I guess I wasn't expecting them to all be so terrible--infanticide, children who kill, etc.  I'd heard a lot about Alice Munro though and I must agree they were compelling stories, just not really my cup of tea.  I did like the title story though.  It was a historical fiction based on the life of Sofia Kovalevsky, a nineteenth century Russian mathematician and author.

The Robber Bride is a modern twist on the tale The Robber Bridegroom, made famous by the Grimm brothers.  I've never read it.  In fact, I'd never even heard of it before picking up The Robber Bride.  I just, generally, enjoy Margaret Atwood books.  It was good, but not the greatest Atwood I've read--though maybe I would have gotten more out of it had I read its inspiration.  It did have two characters I liked a whole lot though--a new-age earth worshiper type who was laughably mystical sometimes in a way that I am sure some people think I am.  The other character was a history professor who liked to spell/say words and names backwards, something my friends and I did back in high school and college.  My name never went very well, but I really liked Lav, Mada, Nelg....  That made me reminisce about some good times.

The Passion of Alice was a novel about a teen suffering from anorexia, being admitted in-patient for treatment.  It was an interesting read, disturbing at times, but gave some insight into the (false) logic behind the choices the main character makes in her dedication to thinness.  As someone who loves food anorexia is hard for me to understand, though as a woman in the modern world I can understand the pressures to be in control and look a certain way.
A different angle on the community garden.  June 27, 2015
Weeks Passed: 25 weeks (plus two days)
Books Read: 36

Recaps for the previous months of the 52-in-52 challenge can be found by following these links: January, February, March, April, May

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fractal Cauliflowers, Big Cabbages, and Other Things in the Garden

I was out in the garden and rather blown away by the cabbages and cauliflowers.  They're huge!  Well, the plants are anyways....they're just starting to form heads.  It is remarkable to watch.  Matt started a seed in the basement in March.  We transplanted them out into the beds mid-April.  They're starting to form heads by the end of June.  Being a part of the process so intimately is life-altering.  I have found that its hard to take food for granted when you have a hand in the process of bring it to the plate.  I wish that everyone could have the experience--maybe there would be less food waste and rampant overconsumption.  And even if not, I bet there'd be increased appreciation of having a plate heaped with food.  That would be a good thing all by itself.

It baffles me to find June is over.  You'd think this garden would help me realize the passage of time, but no!  All of the sudden June is over, the spinach has been pulled, and there are tiny baby cauliflowers!

Sidenote:  Cauliflower is one of my favorite German words.  In German it is "blumenkohl."  "Blumen" means flower and "kohl" means cabbage.  Cabbage flowers!  I get a kick out of it, I must say.
The cabbages and cauliflowers heading out into the garden for transplanting.  April 14, 2015
They were starting to get rootbound in their pots, but just barely.  This was an ideal level of root development, I think.  The block of soil was held together for easy transplanting and the cabbage should have a good footing in the garden--but without feeling like the poor thing had been being smashed in the little pot.  Its nice when timing works out like that.  April 14, 2015
Matt dug the holes... 
...and we filled them with freshly sifted compost.  April 14, 2015
Then we tucked the little transplants in and gave them a good drink.  April 14, 2015
A garden overview.  Onions in the closest beds, potatoes in the beds behind them.  From left to right:  cabbage/cauliflower (back corner), Swiss chard (and lots of empty space soon to be filled with tomatoes), peas (now all picked), carrots (not up yet and lots of empty space soon to be filled with tomatoes) and celeriac and fennel, garlic and strawberries (hidden behind the garlic), and raspberries.   June 18, 2015
With all the spinach bolting and, as a result, getting harvested we've made a couple of these tofu quiches.  I thought this one was particularly attractive.  Its good to be eating outside, too.  June 18, 2015
Our little apple trees are doing the best from our itty-bitty orchard.  I am so excited for my first homegrown, freshly picked Honey Crisp....they're far and away my favorite apple.  Apparently there are too many deer in the neighborhood to have such small trees in the front yard.  The apricot is doing okay.  June 18, 2015
Our onions are looking like our most promising batch to date....but time will tell!  June 19, 2015
We harvested six of these potato plants for our creamed peas and potatoes last week.  June 19, 2015
Carrots, celery, celeriac, fennel, eggplant, and peppers.  I am such a fan of the warm weather crops.  June 19, 2015
All those peppers make me happy.  I am still using up the last string of the cayenne peppers we dried last year.  Matt thought maybe we'd grown too many, but I've made good work on them.  I've not had to buy hot sauce in years!  I've got my recipe dialed in just the way I like it.  Its awesome.  June 19, 2015
The garlic looks so good--and the scapes were a tasty seasonal treat!  I am so eager to see what the bulbs look like.  The raspberry patch (on the right) has become Ginger's fortress of choice.  June 19, 2015
The pea vines were pulled last week--with another pound shelled.  We tried a new strategy this year--no trellis.  We found them easier to pick and we have the bed space early in the year--so its not like we need to go vertical.  We also learned we could easily put in five double rows instead of three without the fencing/trellis in the way.  I think we're sold on it.  June 19, 2015
The tomatoes transplanted out into the bed formerly occupied by spinach and chard.  We're growing a lot of paste and roma varieties, as usual, for our sauce making.  We got a couple oddballs through--a couple different Tigerellas, gifted to us from one of my colleagues.  There is still a little chard in the very back of the bed.  Chard takes the heat so much better than spinach--and is so pretty!  June 19, 2015
Bok choy going to flower with the cabbage and cauliflower in the back.  June 19, 2015
Ginger goes outside on her own, but I check in on her every so often--just to make sure she is still in the yard.  She's pulled a Hoodini on us a couple of times and ended up at the neighbors.  So, I went out to check on her and at first couldn't lay eyes on her.  And the I noticed her eyes peeking out from the cabbage patch.  She loves the garden.  June 22, 2015
A garden overview from the west, highlighting the potatoes and onions.  June 22, 2015
Matt enjoying a Moscow Mule and admiring the little bitty Honey Crisp tree.  June 25, 2015
This is the other apple tree--a Haralson,  June 25, 2015
We caged up the tomatoes after giving them a good top dressing of compost.  June 25, 2015
We really like these DIY tomato cages, too.  They nest inside each other for winter storage and are super easy to place in the beds and harvest around.  June 25, 2015
Eggplants and peppers--heaven for my tastebuds--also with a nice top dressing of compost.  We really like doing it that way.  Then when it rains or is watered the compost goodness can just work its way into the soil.  We never have enough compost though.  June 25, 2015
A farmer at the Farmer's Market talked us into buying a fennel bulb three years ago.  Previously I don't think I knew you could even eat fennel except for the seeds.  Heavens was I mistaken!  A roasted fennel bulb is magnificent.  Such tenderness and flavor!  I am sure glad we took a chance based on that farmer's advice.  She was on to something!  Last year was the first time we grew it.  Its attractive and smells nice, too.  June 25, 2015
Pretty purple potato blossoms.  This is the first year since we started gardening that we won't be growing purple potatoes.  We couldn't locate any locally and have given up ordering seed potato through the mail because of the weight/cost of shipping.  And all the other potato fiends got to the local purples before us!  Oh well....there is always next year.  June 25, 2015
The cabbages have gotten so big.  June 25, 2015
I like the way their leaves sort of spiral out.  June 25, 2015
Speaking of spiral!  This isn't the best photo, but I left my camera in the rain and its drying out so I cannot take a better one.  We grew a blend of different cauliflowers (blumenkohl!), but they all seemed to turn out to be Romanesco--awesome spiraled, fractal veg!  Sometimes its called a broccoli and sometimes its called a cauliflower, so I am not really sure--though the seed packet we used called it a cauliflower.  Whatever it is called it is pretty spectacular!  June 25, 2015
I had a few more photos to add from the last couple of days, but they're trapped on my camera until it dries out.  I went out to harvest the currants.  Snapped a few photos of them.  Set the camera on the porch.  That was silly....I should have just put it in my pocket!  The garden sure enjoyed the rain though.  Its hot out!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Six-Fold Green Garden Pesto

We're in that sweet, sweet spot where just about every meal we prepare is made up of homegrown, fresh-from-the-garden produce--sometimes largely made up of it, in fact.  Its one of my favorite times of the culinary year--though the season of ripe peppers and tomatoes in fall lay claim to being my utter favorite.  I suppose the canned, frozen, and dried bounty that carries us into winter isn't anything to scoff at either.  So, maybe I cannot pick a favorite time of the gardening-and-eating year.  They're all awesome in their own way.

Summer is so very green though and it is delightfully refreshing.  I am always eager for it.  We don't really buy leafy greens.  We eat the heck out of them seasonally and freeze a bunch for later, but don't generally pick them up at the store.  Our garden bounty generally meets our needs--though as a result sometimes we're just about dying for a fresh leaf of spinach come May.  I don't mind it.  I feel I appreciate it all the more on account of the building anticipation.
And from that drought of fresh greens--poof--we've got greens coming out of our ears and are trying to keep ahead of them.  Lots of spinach tofu quiches and green smoothies.

And then a week ago we made this six-fold green pesto.
It features spinach, chard, bok choy, peas, and garlic scapes from the 2015 garden tossed with one of our frozen pucks of pesto saved from the garden last year.  It was fantastic and greens never tasted so good.  Yum.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Birding on the Highline

One of the cool things about being a birder and a traveler is the excitement of seeing birds that don't live in my own backyard, ones I don't see all that often.  It makes a good thing (taking a trip) even better!  My trip to northeastern Montana earlier this month was certainly no exception.
Bird Sightings (from Opheim, Glasgow, Fort Peck, Bowdoin NWR):
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Mallard
Lesser Scaup
Eared Grebe
Black-necked Stilt (new to me!)
Ruddy Duck
(This photo actually shows both the Black-necked Stilts--on the shore--and a Ruddy Duck --recognizable by its still tail--on the water at center.)
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Common Snipe
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Green-winged Teal
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Yellow Warbler
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl (five!)
Common Nighthawk
Eastern Kingbird
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Horned Lark
Cliff Swallow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Common Grackle
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Brown Creeper
House Wren
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
The owls were certainly a highlight--seen on the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge.  For all our birding Matt and I just don't see them often--and he was bummed he wasn't there for this delightful sighting.  I think I must have spooked a brood of juveniles from their afternoon nap.  I saw a Brown Creeper on a dead tree and moved in the direction.  Just as I got the creeper in the frame of my binoculars I saw huge movement in the corner of my eye.  I looked up just in time to see the first owl fly off to a more distant tree...and then another...and another...until five had vacated the dead tree.  Two stayed near enough that I had a long viewing.  We had a staring contest--they won.  The mosquitoes tried to eat me alive, but it was worth it.
Also at Bowdoin I saw my first Black-necked Stilt.  I saw them flying and immediately knew it was something I'd never seen before--they trail their long, bright red legs behind them quite obviously and eye-catchingly.
In Opehim, MT--just a hop, skip, and a jump from Canada--I saw a flock of American Goldfinches!  We get them in pairs here and there where I live, but I've never seen dozens in one place before.  I made my sister stop the car, but alas, the memory card in my camera was full.

A Common Nighthawk made me stop mid-sentence and run off after it.

At Fort Peck Lake I watched a Caspian Tern dive for fish:  circle, circle, dive, circle, circle, dive...
I didn't intend to become a birder.  It just happened.  I got a new camera and thought, "Well, let's go to Riverfront Park and test it out."  Turns out it was a super fun challenge to test it out on birds.  And the rest is history.