Monthly Archives: July 2014

Carrots! And teen pregnancy and Sarah McLachlan.

Grow:
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After a strong spring-planting showing, life got a little crazy around here, and I didn’t plant a lot of other things until late(r) in the season. Carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes…they all got a later-than-I would-have-liked start. But the hot weather is here, and the plants are psyched. The winter squash are starting to run, the summer squash are producing a million little baby squash, the tomatoes are taking over their area, and the eggplant has doubled in height and width the last week and a half. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m pulling carrots for the first time this week, and they’re uh-maze-ing. I’ve never grown them before, so this is very exciting for me! The only carrots I’d eaten for the last seven years were from our CSA shares, and when I had to buy grocery store carrots to bridge the gap between our last CSA stragglers in the veggie bin and the ones from the garden, I was very sad. If you have only ever had a grocery store carrot, even an organic one from Whole Foods, I beg you, PLEASE find your nearest farmer’s market and buy some of their carrots. You will be astonished. And if they’re pretty freshly pulled, all you have to do is scrub them really well; no peeling required.

Cook:
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The spring lettuces are bolting in the recent heat spike, so I pulled a head of Romaine yesterday, along with radishes, some four to six inch zucchini, green onions, basil, mint, and parsley. I–well, my niece, Maddie, who is staying with me right now and a huge help in the kitchen–diced the zucchini and the radishes, slivered up the herbs and green onions, and then we tossed them with a can of drained tuna, some olive oil, cannellini beans, salt and pepper. Maddie pronounced, “More pepper,” so we made it happen and then served it over a bed of Romaine. It was the perfect light lunch for a hot day. (Today, we had ice cream.)

Read:
I read two books last week: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva and Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles. I picked up One Man Guy because I so, so, so loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sanchez. Lately, I’ve enjoyed reading about romance written from the guy’s perspective, by guys. One Man Guy was funny, and Alek’s best friend Becky was an hilarious character. All of the characters were enjoyable, actually, even when they were doing things you didn’t want them to do. It isn’t as beautifully written as Sanchez’s book, but it isn’t by Sanchez, so…

Living with Jackie Chan is a sequel to Jumping Off Swings, though I’d say you don’t have to read the first one to enjoy the second. It’s another one from the guy’s perspective, and is about Josh, who has moved to a new school district for his Senior year of high school, to get away from the daily reminder that he casually impregnated a girl in a one-night stand. Josh is having a hard time dealing with what happened, and the book is a look at his story the year after the baby is born and given up for adoption. I enjoyed it, and think both genders probably would. If students were doing a genre study, they could use this with Hanging onto Max by Bechard, and The First Part Last by Johnson to look at the male perspective of teen pregnancy.

Write:
Larry and I saw Sarah McLachlan in concert this past weekend! She was amazing! I never wanted the show to end!

I experienced a first at the concert. This past year, I and the students chose song lyrics that were meaningful to us, and we annotated them with an explanation of why. I chose “Fear” by McLachlan. Though it’s primarily about a relationship, the chorus of, “And I fear, I have nothing to give, I have so much to lose here in this lonely place…” hit me hard each time I heard it. Leaving teaching had me wondering all year, “What else do I have to give?” She performed the song on Saturday, and in the middle of it I just started sobbing. I still don’t know the answer, and it is frustrating. I’m trying to be patient with myself, but…well…not always my strong suit!

I still don’t know the answer, but McLachlan’s music is again helping me think. Her latest album, “Shine On,” has a number of songs about being strong(er) and positive, and the song, “In Your Shoes,” is where I want to be right now. Here’s a link: http://www.sarahmclachlan.com/lyric-lounge/in-your-shoes/

Meanwhile, the weeds grew as fast (faster?) than the eggplant, there’s kale, spinach, and other greens and root veggies to be sown, and there’s a lot of summer left to enjoy. Tomorrow: more ice cream. And some carrots.
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Mid-summer

Grow:
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Cortland Onion
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Rhubarb Swiss Chard
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Garlic Scapes
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“Black Cap” Raspberries (do these count as “grow” if they’re growing wild taking over the property?)
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Sparkle Strawberries

Cook:
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Chinese Cabbage, Black Bean, and Bacon Saute
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Swiss Chard with Freekah and Pomegranate Molasses (adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s recipe in Jerusalem)
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Strawberry Muffins
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Strawberry and Black Raspberry Cobbler adapted from The Seasonal Baker by John Barricelli<a
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Chicken Salad with Romaine lettuce, Watermelon Radishes, Basil, and Mint

Read:
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Write:
The garden continues to do its thing, while I try to keep all the plates spinning. Unpacking boxes is a fits-and-starts ordeal, and trying to decide whether to grow, cook, read or write is a constant tug of war. There has been a bit of all of it the last week and a half. Balance is over-rated, right? An eight hour day in the garden, followed by a ten hour day reading, followed by a five-hour round of cooking/baking/preserving is fine. As long as it all gets done, right?

Right.

The black cap raspberries are coming in strong right now, and I’ve picked three and a half quarts in the last week. One quart went into a cobbler, and the rest went into today’s jam. I sweetened it with honey and brightened it with lemon juice, and again followed the instructions on the Pomona’s Pectin box. After licking the spoon, I couldn’t figure out why the dogs were looking at me so strangely. Then, on a walk past a mirror, I saw the huge blob of it on my chin. I’m glad I didn’t leave the house that way! It looked like a dried but particularly nasty wound.
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Jam!

The raspberries are the very devil to pick. I have yet to collect any without new scratches. They’re worth it, though. I could wear long clothing, but it’s hot. I’d rather be scratched, honestly. I’m sure there’s some fun psychology there.
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The kale, collards, Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, onions, scallions, and lettuce are doing well, and providing lots of green to eat. Watermelon radishes are adding some crunch, and garlic scapes add some zing. Alpine strawberries continue to grow like mad, and I stand in the garden and reward work with mouthfuls of the tiny berries. They’re too fragile to survive the trip to the house, which suits me just fine.

Grow, cook, read, write. And on we go.

From bush to jelly in 82 easy steps

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I woke up yesterday determined to pick some of the Nanking cherries that were ripe and glowing on the bushes. It turns out that picking these beautiful red fruits on a beautiful summer morning requires no determination. Simply being out there with the dogs, eating a few cherries for every few I picked, was a peaceful and enjoyable way to start the day.
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I was so inspired that from there, I went and picked some of the black-cap raspberries that are growing wild (read: taking over) by the pool house (read: rustic shed). That was a little less peaceful, but the scratches all over my arms and legs are worth it. I’m combining them with strawberries and making a cobbler. My stomach is grumbling just thinking about it.

The raspberries yielded a quart and a half, and the Nanking cherries yielded 2 and a half quarts, by the time I decided there were other things I might need to do besides picking fruit. The cherries are incredibly tiny, so other than eating them fresh and pulping or juicing them, the eating options are limited–there’s no way I’m going to pit them, ever. I found a recipe online for jelly, and figured, “Why not?”

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I then proceeded to dirty every dish in the kitchen, along with dish towels, counter tops, and cabinets.

At least it’s a beautiful color.

This was not the recipe’s fault, but mine, as I kept waffling about what exactly I was going to do with the four and a half cups of juice the cherries yielded. I finally landed on a jelly recipe on the Pomona’s Pectin box (see the box for instructions for jelly from juice). My jelly is clouded, because I couldn’t be bothered to strain the juice through cheesecloth, but it tastes wonderful. I used a half cup of honey with four cups of the juice, and the final jelly is tart-sweet. We’ll look forward to saving some for the winter, when its brightness will be wanted.

Picking fruit. Making jelly. Roasting chickens. Making chicken stock. Life is slow right now, which feels right after a momentous change. I’m enjoying the steps in making and preserving things, and the opportunity to focus on minutiae, after the grand scope of uprooting my life, is good.
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