Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Garden in Review: 2019

We picked all the peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes (except those in the greenhouse) over the past few days.  Most of the tomatoes are still green, but we'll ripen them indoors.  We dug the last of the potatoes and our small crop of carrots and pulled all the old bean vines.
I haven't written much about the garden this year.  Honestly, that's because I haven't thought much about it either.

Our spring was so bizarre.  I felt like we were living in the pacific northwest there for a couple months.  So much rain!  There are pros and cons to this, of course.

We got a slow, slow start to the season.  Seeds that were planted in the earth took forever to sprout.  We were also a little behind starting our seeds indoors...and the weather outdoors really didn't help them make up for lost time once the seedlings were transplanted out.  The eggplants especially failed to thrive.

On the other hand, the garden basically watered itself, which was handy.  We enjoyed a long spinach season and our herb and berry crops were off the charts.  We still have lots of jam from last year so we just ate and ate and ate those berries.  Mmmmm-mmm-mm--good.
The weeds and grasshoppers flourished in the moist conditions--though the grasshoppers didn't bother us nearly as much as some other folks we know.  Ginger thought they were great fun to hunt.  We also only got minor hail damage this year while many of our friends had their gardens thrashed.  All of Montana--including my front yard--was abloom in brilliantly yellow clover for months.  Our spring roadtrips were a blur of golden roadsides.

We traveled boatloads over the summer, as we are known to do.  My mom says, "Are you ever home?"  We are.  During the week.  Sometimes on the weekends, too.  😄  But, with autumn here and winter soon upon us we'll be staying home more and more.  The garden has to thrive on neglect mostly, since we're gone so much.  We are grateful for April who watered for us on two occasions in which we were away for a more than a week at a time.

We feel our greenhouse gardening is ripe with promise, if not fully dialed in.  We learned quite a bit this year--what to grow where and when--and enjoyed the early start to our garden season.  Next year we will make even better use of the space.  I already eagerly await the off-season clubhouse parties though.
We planted some grape vines along the front fence--I call them my "grandma grapes" because they were purchased with a giftcard from my late Grandma Fran--and they're fruiting for the first time.  One of the young apple trees also fruited well, though the apples are a bit dented and bruised by the hail.

We upgraded our watering system, making drip irrigation from some old hoses we had.  Since we've got ditch rights we can just let the slow steady drip do the watering for us.  This is something I've wanted to make happen for Matt for the last two years.  Watering is probably the most time consuming bit.  As with the greenhouse, I suspect we'll figure out the best strategy here with a couple seasons of practice, too.

Another success was Matt's garlic project.  Maybe I've mentioned it, maybe not.  He got some advice from the "garlic guy" at our farmer's market and hatched a scheme last year that involves growing garlic rounds to re-plant each year for the next crop (as opposed to just planting cloves from the heads of garlic).  Apparently rounds make for bigger cloves.  You get rounds by planting these little garlic bulbettes that some plants make.  Plant a bulbette, get a round, plant the round, get bigger cloves and more bulbettes.  Honestly, I am still not 100% on the details, even though I am sure Matt's explained it to me.  I probably garbled it.  Either way, he grew some huge garlic.  Garlic so big that when a recipe calls for five cloves we only use two.  Apparently it will be even better next year.
Photos from around the garden this week.
We weighed almost nothing we harvested.  We recorded the most meager of notes in the garden journal.  We took it easy.  We still ate potatoes and carrots which taste of the earth.  We still enjoyed our tender, thin-skinned eggplants and jewel colored red onions.  We still have flowers bringing the bees, butterflies, and birds to visit.  We still enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Breakfast Pizza, Where Have You Been All My Life?!

Matt and I made two trip to Arizona this year--May and August.  It was at a teeny-tiny little vegan restaurant in Mesa called The Cutting Board Cafe that I learned about the awesomeness that is:  Breakfast Pizza.
I'm a pizza fan.  Huge, huge fan!  Matt and I make homemade pizza just about every Friday.  It is "our thing," an end-of-the-week tradition.  I've had Detroit Style pizza, deep-dish, stuffed crust, white pizza, pesto pizza, polenta pizza, Thai pizza, braided pizza, New York style, pizza bites and pizza bagels--plus we can't forget about spaghetti pizza bake and fruit pizza!  I've eaten pizza in at least five different countries.  But never breakfast pizza.

Why?!  How have I heard of "Breakfast Nachos" and not Breakfast Pizza?!
It is like the best parts of pizza and breakfast had a baby!  The crust is basically biscuits and gravy...but with toppings!!!  Mmmmmmmmmm....
We finally made some breakfast pizza at home last weekend and--OH--MY--GOODNESS--it was incredible.  It totally lived up to the restaurant memory/expectation that I'd built up in my mind.
At the Cutting Board cafe their pizza consists of a biscuity crust, with country gravy as the pizza sauce, smothered in an onion, tomato, potato, and tofu scramble and topped with avocado slices and cheese.  We happily replicated this winning combination of veggies and flavors at home.

It was heavenly.  I dreamed/talked about the leftovers for hours.  True story.  My mom can vouch for me.
We used our standard country gravy for the sauce and our regular biscuit recipe for the crust--though I used the lesser amount of milk so I could roll the dough out nice and thin and crust-like.

I imagine non-vegans could modify and run with it, too.  😂  And if you're ever in Mesa pop in to the Cutting Board Cafe.  It is quiet, casual, and affordable.  The staff was very friendly and the food was scrumptious.  Plus, they have board games, books, and cool art to enjoy while you wait!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

May The Four Winds Blow You Safely Home - Robert Hunter

"What a long, strange trip it's been"

Robert Hunter--poet, musician, and the wordsmith behind a tremendous number of my favorite tunes--died last night.  Sigh.  

He was 78 and had accomplished a heck of a lot, created a lot of beauty, and inspired a lot of folks.  Still, I sigh to think his writing days are over now.  He had such a beautiful way with language.  His words are etched on my heart.  It strikes me as amazing, really, that as I listen to his lyrics today they're so helpful in this occasion, if still bittersweet.
"So many roads I know
So many roads to ease my soul"

I have always appreciated that death is an unavoidable aspect of the Grateful Dead.  I mean, "dead" IS right there in the name.  Their album art and associated imagery abound with dancing skeletons, skulls wearing crowns of roses, and the eternally classic Grateful Dead icon, the Steal Your Face skull (which has been modified and customized in more ways than I could imagine).  But it is more than that.  Mortality, change, love and loss are woven throughout the lyrics and infused in the music--highs and lows, light and dark, joy and pain.  And I like that.  

We're all connected in this unfathomable circle of life.  None of us are getting outta here alive.  So I think we should talk about it.  Think about it.  Sing about it.  Be honest and true with ourselves about it.  Even find beauty in it sometimes.  Death and loss are natural byproducts of living.  It is just saying goodbye that sucks.
"I will walk alone, by the black muddy river, 
and dream me a dream of my own,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river, 
and sing me a song of my own, sing me a song of my own."

Robert Hunter had a gift for putting poetry to music in a way as to make it accessible to anyone who cared to stop and listen and feel the words.  Black Muddy RiverThe WheelHigh Time.  Standing on the MoonHe's GoneLibertyTerrapin StationSo Many RoadsBrokedown Palace.  Touch of GreyDark StarFranklin's TowerEyes of the World.  Stella Blue.  So many more.

"I have spent my life
Seeking all that's still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me"

I liked what his friend and bandmate Phil Lesh shared today:

"As much as anyone, he defined in his words what it meant to be the Grateful Dead. His lyrics, ranging from old border ballads to urban legend, western narratives and beyond, brought into sharp focus what was implicit in our music. A case in point is “Box of Rain” - he heard so deeply what my feelings were when I composed the music, feelings I didn’t know I had until I read his lyrics. The lyrics he wrote for Jerry likewise tapped into the very essence of Jerry’s heart and soul - drawing forth the music living there."

Fun fact:  Robert Hunter was included as a non-playing member of the band when the Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.  He was, at that time the only non-performer to have ever been included.  I'm not sure if that is still the case, but he was a first.  It was the appropriate course.  Hunter might not have been on stage in body, but his spirit is draped all over in the words.
All photos from Melvin Seals and the JGB playing at the 2019 Deadwood Jam, our most recent opportunity to bask in live Grateful Dead tunes.
And so, Robert Hunter is off through the "transitive nightfall of diamonds" to "sleep in the stars" with Jerry Garcia, Barlow, Brent Mydland, and so many others.

"May the four winds blow you safely home."

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Dragon Cycling

I've come to learn that many people think I am brave/nuts because I enjoy cycling year-round.  Largely the exclamations of shock/admiration/horror occur when it is cold, but rain is another major factor.
A springtime commute selfie

I had a realization this year though:

  • It is a thousand times crazier* to cycling when the sun is beating down and it is 90+ degrees**.  A bajillion times.

Someone left me this rock painted like candy corn while I was donating blood this summer.  
Cycling when it is 40 degrees can easily be made tolerable, heck even enjoyable.  Same with a drizzly day.  I create my own heat just from the act of cycling and I've built up a stash of dependable all-season gear.  Like those flannel-lined ice fishing pants I got at the thrift shop.  Or those killer rain pants from my dad which render me downright impervious to water.  I am cozy and dry even on a mid-winter day--if anything I struggle not to layer so well as to be too hot.

There is little to be done when it is 100 degrees though.   So I just pant and breathe like a dragon, breathing fire from my a parched little mouth all the way home.

Yesterday was the third time since 1950 that it hit 100 degrees in September here.  I rode 10+ miles.  Like a lunatic.

*or braver, if you're being charitable.
**I walk or ride the bus when the snow accumulates on the bike lane because I find that to be actually dangerous, not just cold.  I haven't yet gone full bore and gotten studded snow tires or chains for my bike.