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
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
Red-tailed Hawk
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.

The First Potatoes - Breakfast Greatness

How can the day not be great when its a Friday that starts with a bowl of the freshest of creamed potatoes and peas?  I believe it much be impossible.
And I was told that this is the only way to eat the first potatoes of the year.  The only way.  :)  Matt sounds just like his dad sometimes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Sword Swallower and Other Renaissance Faire Highlights

Matt and I sell tie-dye at the Montana Renaissance Faire each June on the grounds of ZooMontana.  (I know, I seemed strange to me at first, too.  But Kenneth the Humble who organizes the whole thing assured me he wanted tie-dye at the faire.  He insisted, even.  I guess, folks did hand dye all their fabric back then...and that is what we do....with a little modern flare.  But, I digress.)  It is a seriously awesome vending experience.  Matt and I trade off sitting in the shade at the booth so that one of us is almost always off exploring and taking it all in.  
There are zoo animals (The Royal Beastiary) to visit.  Jousting, sword battles, and fencing to watch.   The jousting is incredibly impressive--and usually comes along with a skit of good lords and ladies versus evil lords and witches, with a damsel in distress thrown in, that sort of thing.  Its fun.  The whole atmosphere is fun.  People--both vendors and patrons--dress up in their renaissance finest.  There are lots of tunics, leather, chain mail, robes, velvet, and full skirts.  I love it.  There were also aerial performers doing all sorts of impressive acrobatics.  Man!  People are strong and talented!   There is always someone plucking a guitar, playing a flute or otherwise fillings the open air with music for dancing.
The highlight for me this year though was the sword swallower from Butte Magic--I've forgotten his name.  Because I went to the final show of the weekend there were not to many in attendance.  As such, I got to "volunteer" twice in the show.  Once to pull a 16 inch sword from his throat and a second time to stand on top of his assistant while he lay on a bed of nails.  Both were super cool--and kind of gross.  The sword thing was simultaneously incredible and disgusting.  He was actively making himself not gag the whole time I was pulling it up and out.  I could feel the resistance as it came up through his esophagus.  His eyes were watering.  It was amazingly gross to see (and feel!) so up close and personal.  I guess I didn't know people really did this--I think I thought it was always a trick!  He did have a trick knife which he showed us, but this was the real deal.  They also juggled--including swords--and other bizarre and impressive feats.  After I stood on top of the guy on the bed of nails he was pock marked with indentations--but it never broke the skin even though they were quite sharp!  Its remarkable what people can train themselves to do.
A knight pulling a small "sword" from his nose.

It was a jolly good time indeed!  I am excited for next year already.