Tag Archives: vegetables

And then it was Autumn


I went away for five days and when I returned, Fall had arrived in the hedgerow to the north of us, with its mustard yellow, russet red, and piney green. The sun is setting right now and as I type, my view is of a lavender light settling over the mountain just beyond that hedgerow. To the west of us, the sky is still an icy, crisp blue. The light in Fall is one of the reasons I never want to live anywhere without seasons again. The hazy light of summer is giving way to the sharply delineating light of winter, and the transition is magical.

The garden is on its way out for the season. I may throw in some radish seeds, perhaps try some late kale under a row cover, but at this point it is mostly harvest and clean-up. There are collards, kales, and Swiss Chard to cut, de-worm (those things are having a field day right now) and blanch for freezing. The cranberry and cannellini beans need to be picked and shelled. The winter squash are desperately trying to fully ripen before the local rodents gnaw through them. So far, two of the Red Kuri squash have been half-eaten by what look to be rabbits, based on their, um…leavings.

There might be sweet potatoes, though I don’t know yet. The squash vines over-ran their garden area, and covered the sweet potato vines. As the squash vines die back, I’ll be able to get into the sweets and see what we have. It’s possible that, given the amount of compost laid on the bed at the beginning of the season, there are no real roots. I’ve only recently read that sweets don’t like a lot of nitrogen, and there was a good amount given by that compost. Fingers crossed. I’ll know better next year.

The red-skin (I have to look up the kind I planted, because I love them and want them again next year), Yukon Gold, and Russet potatoes seem to have done well. All of the reds died back and have been dug and stored, along with about half of the Yukons and 1/3 of the Russets. The rest are slowly fading, and I figure I’ll be digging those up in about a week or two (depending on the weather, of course).

There are still tomatoes and peppers, both of which produced beyond my expectations this year. This season, I may be up to about 150 pounds of tomatoes processed by the end of this week, into jams, diced, crushed and whole tomatoes, marinara, plain sauce, and salsa. I’ve also cored and frozen a few pounds, and roasted pounds of cherry and plum tomatoes for quick sauces I can defrost. I was only somewhat joking when I told the tomatoes I needed them to distract me from writing, but they sure took me seriously. Part of the problem is that I think I might not be a very efficient canner–I’ll have to take a look at my process and see how I might be able to speed things up. I found a blog post that talked about an assembly line for prepping the tomatoes, and that helped some. More research to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mistakes I made this season, and will do a post soon about what I can do to have a more productive garden next year. Most of the things I learned are things I “knew” because I’d read about them, but until I had a 40 ft x 80 ft garden full of food in front of me, it didn’t all start to come together. This was a good year for learning.

Carrots! And teen pregnancy and Sarah McLachlan.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

Divestment and a Coconut Curry

I have spent the last 18 years collecting books for my classroom.

One person can collect a lot of books in 18 years.

Now that I’m leaving teaching, it seems insane and somewhat criminal not to make sure that most of the books wind up in the hands of students. I started this process last year, filling many boxes with books that students could take from, and then passing on the remainder to colleagues and the school down the road from our home. But I still have probably 2,000 left.

I started the divestment process in earnest today. I have already filled five boxes from the “realistic fiction” section, and still have all of the other genres to go. The kids will get first dibs on most of the titles, but I’m setting aside some literature circle books and author sets for the teacher who will take my place. (Fingers crossed that it’s a certain someone I know…) I am also keeping a fair number of them, on the off-chance that I decide to go back to the classroom. My deal with myself is that if I haven’t returned to teaching in two years, I will get rid of most of the rest of them.

Some, I will keep forever. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson; Winger, by Andrew Smith; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz; The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak; A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly, all of John Green’s books…the list is actually pretty long. Some books are meant to be read over and over again, and I have encountered many, many of these books in the amazing world of young adult fiction. It is one of the things in my life for which I am most grateful: that I had a career that led me to such amazing places.

And now I’m getting weepy, so let’s talk curry. This one, in particular: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/coconut-chicken-curry/

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There will be no Rachael Ray bashing on this blog.  Along with my family, she taught me to cook and I will be forever thankful for that.  The fact that she isn’t a trained chef is what still makes her food so approachable, in my opinion.  And no one who has ever eaten one of her recipes in my house has complained, so she must be doing something right.

I didn’t change too much to this recipe.  I had regular coconut milk, so used it (creamy and silky and coconutty…light, schmight–use the full fat, unless you’re on a diet).  I didn’t have sweet potatoes, but I did have cauliflower and regular potatoes, so I chopped those up and used them instead; I put them in when the recipe called for the sweets.  I added chopped dried apricots with the vegetables.  (This recipe could easily be vegetarian; use the sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and potatoes, and you’ll have a filling, spicy, fragrant meal.)

I also added shredded coconut as a garnish, along with chives and micro-greens (no basil in these parts yet).  Oh…and I goofed and added 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, instead of 2 tsp.  But they weren’t packed, because apparently it’s still winter here (Snow!  This morning!  Dammit!) and my brown sugar is as hard as a rock.  I had to chisel it out, which is probably why I got distracted and used too much.

The extra sugar wasn’t a bad thing, though, because I used a spicy curry powder; the two balanced each other brilliantly.  The house smelled like a cozy Indian restaurant, and it was nice to have a big bowlful of warm for dinner.  Since, as I mentioned, it’s still frigging winter here.  Not that I mind, or anything.

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