Carrot Crazy

Me and Cocoa went out to check on the garden the other day. I had a bin full of warm castings and some onion sets demanding my attention.

Now I don’t usually let the dog in the garden. She’s been known to dig big holes in the dirt and roll around. But I figured it was cool enough that she wouldn’t be tempted and besides, the garden was just full of debris from last year—tomato vines and broccoli skeletons.


The two of us were in for a bit of a surprise. The carrots I’d tried to coax into sprouting last summer made a come back over the winter.


It took a little weeding, but before long we’re going to have a harvest.

 

I wasn’t the only one to notice our bounty. One of Cocoa’s favorite foods is carrots. When she hears me peeling vegetables, she comes a running looking for a hand out certain it’s carrots. She’d eat the whole pile of peels if I let her.

So when she came upon that line of carrots, Cocoa lowered her nose and started sniffing. I shewed her away before she could do any damage. The gate is securely fastened to keep the harvest safe. When she looks at me with those big brown eyes, I’m sure she’ll get her share eventually.

What’s in your garden?

 

A Look Back at September & October 2016

Maybe it’s spending the first part of September in Italy, or moving Baby Girl back to Oregon, or the MR being home so much more, or turning 50, or teaching classes on skills I’m really still learning, or the record-breaking rains we’ve been getting, whatever it is, I’ve been falling short on the blog lately.

I had big plans to share the beauty of Florence and Rome, to deck out the house for fall, and tidy up all those cluttered spots. It hasn’t happened. I sent some photos to my aunt and dropped a bag of the girls clothes off at a collection box. We’re celebrating small victories here.

So here’s a recap of what I did manage to blog about for the last few months plus a little extra cause I’m just that kind of person.

I’m rather excited about our dining room table and chairs that I talked about in An Upgraded Dining Experience. Do they look great? Are they perfect for the space? I’ll let you know when they arrive. It’s so hard to be patient. We also bought a recliner for my dad’s birthday. He’s still waiting, too. That’s what you get when it’s not mass produced.

A lot of fall seems to center around food. Waste Not those crabapples from our friends’ weekend place at the lake. I’d love to tell you how amazing that applesauce is, but when I pulled it out of the freezer, it was really sweet potato butter, which I’ve been enjoying in my yogurt, but I didn’t want to pull out another poorly labeled container before I finished the sweet potatoes. I really can’t eat that much yogurt.

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You’d think I’d be able to recognize the bright pink color. We did try the broccoli I mentioned in Saving the Harvest with mixed reviews. It tastes quite pickled as pickled broccoli ought to do, and we don’t like pickles. What was I thinking? I guess I was just tired of broccoli salad two or three times a week.

Grandma MeeMee was asking about the sage I used in the Onion Jam. It was just regular culinary sage, an herb that deer don’t like to nibble. We’ve had great luck with it here.

common-sage

I’m waiting for Sweet Miss to come home to try the beet and carrot slaw; cross your fingers that we’ll enjoy that more than the broccoli. I’ve been happy with our Fall Harvest. We still have broccoli, carrots, and some scraggly lettuce. I’m waiting for a hard freeze and the vines to die back before bringing up one really big pumpkin that has yet to turn orange. Then I can sow a cover crop of old seeds leftover from past years and let the garden be until spring.canned-goods

Our Trees with Attitude will probably have to wait for spring’s new growth before being pruned into shape. I’m hoping the months of ugly will pay off.

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I also shared in Inspiration and Disappointment how we were excited about making more wine from our grapes after visiting a vineyard in Tuscany.

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Well, it was probably raccoons that had a party with our grapes and tore up the vines by the time we got back from our trip. Me and the MR opened our bottle of homemade wine last weekend. After a sip apiece, we decided it was no great loss that we couldn’t make more wine, and the MR poured it down the drain. We need to refine our skills as winemakers or make grape jelly instead.

We saw tons of white houses on the cliffs of Capri in A Dime a Dozen.

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And then I shared a bird’s-eye-view or our home in The Colors of Fall.

fall-collage

 

The drive home really is beautiful this time of year. Of course, the MR spends hours trying to keep the driveway clear, but it does give him something to do.

 

I’m just teasing; the MR is always a busy guy. He has been out making sure the blackberries don’t come back after hiring a brushcutter to Clear Out all the brambles.

co-tractor

One happy surprise has been the reappearance of foxgloves. Perhaps they were being choked out by all the blackberries. I hope they’ll be putting on a show next spring, and I have seeds to sow from MeeMee and Papa.

The MR also bought new garage doors. I’m a girl. I’m not into garages. I don’t spend a lot of time there. They’re not really my thing, but these Garage Doors Have Style.

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It’s so nice to go out to the garage and not have to turn on the horrible, buzzing, overhead light. The new doors look great and make the whole space look so much larger.

inside-garage

See, I pulled both cars out of the garage to take this picture just for your. The MR was suprised to come home and find cars everywhere. But that’s how much I care about you guys.

He also Finished Up the last of the guest bathroom remodel. Cocoa ran into a bit of problem in the woods yesterday, so I got to try out the shower, or she did, however you want to look at it. It really did turn out nice. The gray counters look much warmer in real life, and the whole feel of the room is much sleeker and more modern.

guest-bath-collage

Don’t look at the green carpet. It’s going away—I promise. Maybe I’ll make that a new year’s resolution. Baby Girl needs a chance to clean out her room, so we can replace all the bedroom carpets at the same time.

And last but not least that leaves us with the The Big, the Bad, the Broken where one broken window was replaced perfectly and the other was broken as it was being replaced. The new window has arrived, and the installers are on the calendar for next week. Then I’ll call the window film company; eventually it’ll all come together.

When I was crabby about the broken window, I did share some fancy socks I’d made for Sweet Miss. Since then I’ve been working on socks for Baby Girl. They’re in a bright green yarn with speckles of yellow for my favorite University of Oregon student. Maybe I should start calling her Duckling instead of BG?

Maybe the window, the window films, the new table, the new chairs, and my dad’s recliner will all magically arrive before Thanksgiving, but I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps it’s time to pull out the Thankfulness Tree. I think I need a little reminder these days.

How was your fall? Are you shocked that November is already upon us?

 

 

 

 

Saving the Harvest

While our garden and orchard have been hit and miss due to the cool summer, animal intrusion, and redoing of the beds, we did enjoy a ton of broccoli, some really nice onions, and a few beets.

As you may remember, I can only eat so much broccoli. Come winter, I usually heat up corn, peas, or green beans and call it good when it comes to a side dish. I was thinking I should really make more of an effort in that department, and since I was tired of broccoli, I thought maybe pickled broccoli would be the answer. I know, my family doesn’t really eat pickles, but this is broccoli not cucumbers, so maybe it would be OK.

It all started when a few weeks ago, me and the MR went shopping with my dad; and on the way home, we stopped at a local farm and picked a couple baskets of tomatoes. No, we don’t love tomatoes that much either, but Sweet Miss complimented my Smokey Tomato Jam (or rather Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam), so of course I had to make some for her October care package.

And since I was there, and I’d really liked the jam, I decided to check out what other recipes Erin had on her blog. That’s when I came across Pepper Pickled Broccoli, Beet, Carrot, and Apple Slaw, and Roasted Onion and Sage Jam. Have I mentioned that we have a banner crop of sage, too?

Now, I’m not sure how they all turned out. The onion jam was quite lovely on a cracker with a touch of cream cheese, and I can imagine it would make a wonderful glaze over a pork roast. The pickled broccoli and the beet slaw are supposed to hang around for three weeks or so before we try them out. You want all those flavors to meld, so I’ve been practicing patience. I’m just excited to have a ready supply of beets that I can eat in moderation; the MR chooses to abstain.

I really like tomato jam spread on a grilled cheese sandwich with all that gooey cheese. I have pretty fancy tastes as you can see.

All my jars have been sitting on the counter, but soon they’ll be adding some color and beauty to the pantry and a dose of flavor to our winter menus.canned-goods

Any favorite recipes for your fall harvest? Do you have a canning web site you like to use?

(Sadly, my links are on the blink, so Putting Up with Erin is the blog where I found these amazing recipes. Google Smokey Tomato Jam, and you’ll end up in the right spot.)

Fall Harvest

My garden has been a bit neglected with our recent trips. It’s hard to keep up with the weeding and thinning when you’re on the other side of the world.

I’ve spent a few hours the past week snipping the flowers off all the tomato plants. I planted three marzanos down in the kitchen garden. They were lush and full when I removed the Walls-O-Water, but they’ve been late to set fruit. We’re expecting mid-60s to low-70s for the next 10 days, so by removing the flowers, I’m hoping to encourage the fruit to ripen. So far, they look nothing like my idea of San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’ll be happy with whatever we get.

Worms can’t process the tomato seeds, so when I add the castings to my garden, I get tons of volunteers. Since many of my sowings didn’t produce anything, I decided to let these plants grow. They’ve set quite a bit of fruit, so far. I also have a canteloupe peeping out from amongst the tomatoes (another seed that worms don’t process). I may wind up with more than I bargained for.

The beets have actually faired pretty well after the early problem with predators, and my onions (that were meant to scare away pests) are also looking good. I even picked a few blueberries this afternoon.

fh-veges-berries

You may be wondering what I have in mind for all those tomatoes. Well, I really like Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam. (I’m having trouble with the link, so here’s where to go:  http://www.puttingupwitherin.com/2014/09/19/smokey-tomato-jam/ .) Sweet Miss has requested a jar, and what mother can refuse a food request from her kid?

The recipe starts with six pounds of tomatoes, so I may be headed to the farmstand or market. Until then, I’ve been enjoying tomatoes on toast with an Italian flair.

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It’s just toasted bread of a good quality, spread with cream cheese, sprinkled with sliced tomatoes, and dried thyme. (This is what happens when I forget to water the thyme plant in the kitchen window, and it dries out all by itself.) And then this is the final part, the kicker, the piece-de-resistance, drizzled the whole thing with black truffle oil.

On our trip, we visited an olive oil factory outside Sorrento. They had around 70 different types of olive oil that were so tatsty. We dipped bread, dipped bread, and dipped some more. I was able to drag the MR and Baby Girl away after buying five cans of olive oil, some basalmic, and some for Sweet Miss. She used her lemon olive oil on pasta—amazing.

Sometimes that little extra step makes a world of difference.

Are you enjoying a fall harvest?

Herb-alicious

While the kitchen garden has had its issues, our herbs are doing great. But what do you do with all those herbs? Watch them go to seed?

Unfortunately, most years, the answer is yes. I just watch them flower and die. But recently, I saw a post about chopping them up, adding some oil, and freezing them for later. What a great idea!

Rosemary

Rosemary & Oil

I have this great marinade for flank steak with rosemary, oil, garlic, and red wine. It’s been a family favorite forever. Now, I just have to grab a few cubes of the rosemary infused oil and I’m half-way there.

Rosemary Cubes Closeup

Let’s be honest. It’s a lot more likely that I’m going to go outside with my sheers on a beautiful summer day than in a chilly November rainstorm. And those fresh herbs from the grocery store cost an arm and a leg.

Now I have rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, sage, and chives to deal with. I see a sweet smelling afternoon in my future.

Herbs in Colander

 

What’s your favorite way to use fresh herbs?

 

 

Ain’t It Funny

Sometimes life is funny. I’ve planted carrots and lettuce and peas three times now this summer, and we’ve enjoyed a big old nothing. I planted a pony-pack of broccoli from the hardware store and one measly cucumber plant, and they are exploding.

I go down to the garden with my basket and shears, and come back with cups of broccoli and stacks of giant cucumbers. You know what? I don’t really like broccoli. When we were little kids, my folks would set a bowl of frozen broccoli straight from the microwave on the table. Then came the fine dance of whether three or for florets would be considered a proper serving. If I got it wrong, my dad would grab the spoon and pile a huge scoop on my plate. My family didn’t subscribe to the “no-thank-you-bite”. We were totally members of the clean your plate club.

Then when me and the MR were engaged we went to this wedding planning event, and he won a wok that came with a booklet of recipes. Beef and broccoli stir-fry became a staple in our household. The MR doesn’t like eggs, but he likes broccoli. I learned to adapt. After all these years, I can handle broccoli in moderation.

broccoli

But what about cucumbers? Neither of us like cucumbers. Well, why plant them you foolish woman? The girls like cucumbers, and they’ve actually done well most years unlike half of things I plant in the garden. Sometimes, it feels good to enjoy a little success. I guess the key word is little versus inundation.

So lately, I’ve been scanning Pinterest, and Yummly, and Tastespotting for recipes. It’s been a bit of an adventure. We’ve enjoyed spiralized cucumber in Mango Curried Cucumber Salad from Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat (the link to their site isn’t working). I didn’t have any mangoes, so I substituted some sad looking nectarines that really should have been eaten earlier and green peas for the soybeans, since I didn’t have those either. This is a great meal on a hot summer night; yes, we have had a few.

Sunday, we enjoyed Gluten-Free with LB’s Beef Meatballs & Roasted Broccoli. Super tasty and not too labor intensive. I made the meatballs in the afternoon and baked them in the oven. Then I heated them in a frying pan with the sauce while the broccoli (I’d prepped ahead of time) was roasting. Sometimes a little work earlier in the day can make dinner come together so much quicker.

Last week, we had Bacon, Avocado, Cucumber Sushi Rolls from My Korean Kitchen. Another tasty, easy meal. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding seaweed for the wraps at our local independent grocer, so I just made a pile on the plate. I had more success in the seaweed department at the large chain store yesterday, so I’m going to give it another go.

Sushi I

The last two nights, we’ve had Hapanom’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Buns. They’re served with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and an amazing Siracha Barbecue Sauce that Baby Girl helped whip up. I made the steamed buns that the reciped called for, but that was a little time-intensive. Maybe next time, we’ll move away from the Asian influence slightly and use burger buns. While, no one in our family likes pickles, these quick pickles added crunch and a little vinegar-y tang to yummy pork sandwiches.

Finally, we have Baked Broccoli Poppers with Honey-Siracha Sauce from Oh My Veggies on the menu. I think these will be fun to munch on while I’m trying my hand at rolling cucumber sushi, so I can serve it up properly.

I managed to hand off four giant cucumbers at knitting group yesterday and one to my friend that I met for lunch on Monday, that means we only have two left before the next batch. People have worse problems.

Any favorite broccoli or cucumber recipes to share?

(Sorry not to share links. I’m having some software issue. If you Google the recipe name or type in a few key words on Tastespotting or Pinterest, I have faith that you will find them. Enjoy!)

 

 

 

July Is Gone

I know you’ve heard that all it does is rain in Seattle, that the inhabitants are frightened when they see a yellow orb in the sky, that we have a dozen names for what most people just call rain. Well, there’s some truth to all of that, but that doesn’t cover July.

Sure summer doesn’t start till somewhere around the 8th of the month, but then we have warm, sunny days, with glorious sunshine. Mount Rainier is out in all its glory, and northwesterners are ready to play. But not this year. We’ve had a lot of gray days with just a few true summer days.

When you can’t frolic in the sun, you have a lot more time for projects. The MR, with his summer off, has been a busy guy. One Saturday, while I was working at the yarn shop, he was building the Garden Box Update. I’d love to tell you that the new addition is filled with dirt and overflowing with vegetables. We have a pumpkin doing well in the corner; we’ll wait for next year for the other.

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That same weekend, the MR took on Bambi. Remember Oh Deer when I found one of our plum trees ravaged?

OD Broken Plum Tree

He’s zip-tied 10-foot lengths of pipe from our well redo to the posts and added taller netting. Friends commented on our fortress. Yes, we are doing battle, and with the number of apples and blueberries we’ve picked this week, we just might be winning.

And now for the truly beautiful, exciting project. It’s Started; we’re on to bathroom remodel number three in this house. All the green tile is gone, Marty the plumber came and dealt with replumbing the shower, the cement board is up, and just yesterday, the MR started tiling. It’s going to be beautiful.

I’m so glad my guy does his homework. When he takes on a project, he researches the heck out of it. He’s redone the showers in every home we’ve lived in and knows a thing or two by now. That’s why he was so surprised when he removed the tile and found dry wall. The experts say, you’re tile and grout will leak, use a protective barrier. What were they thinking?

The slogan on this cement board just makes me smile.

Cement Board

Now while the MR is busy with all his stuff, what have I been doing? I’ve been enjoying the produce from our garden and the farmers market. There’s nothing like fresh ingredients to serve up Good Simple Food. Last night, it was onions and broccoli from the garden, carrots and beans from the farmer’s market, and some leftover BBQ’ed veggies sauteed together to round out burgers for dinner.

With people on vacation, I’ve been putting in extra hours at the yarn shop which leads to lots of knitting and crocheting. You can check out some of my projects On the Needles. (You really should just so you can see Baby Girl and Cocoa modeling my “shoulderette” pattern. I designed it to show off lovely collarbones and add just a layer of warm on a cool evening.)

Speaking of yarn shops, Quintessential Knits moved one block over the weekend. I’ve seen some of the lovely new yarn, and the owner says we have lots of specials and surprises coming out this month. I was rather pleased with this Viroqua Cowl I knitted as a sample.

Umpqua Cowl

And what about A Lovely Jumble of flowers on the hillside or our crazy 5th of July parties? Alas, the poppy seeds are still on my desk, but the Russian sage the MR planted last year is nearly knee-high. If we’re lucky, some day it may look like this—giant, frangrant, gorgeous, filled with bees making honey.

Russian Sage

OK, so that was eastern Washington, which is a much dryer and warmer climate, but I can dream. The MR says if it gets that big, it’ll cover up the retaining wall. Maybe mounds of Russian sage would make a pretty barrier around the orchard—deer don’t like sage you know.

Me and the MR spent a few days wine tasting in Chelan last week. Good wine, good food, nice people, and a few days away with Baby Girl in charge. It was delightful.

Me & the MR

And finally, I just have to show this picture of Sweet Miss.

B Bubbles

She’ll be 22 in just over a week. (That’s years, not months.) I shared with you our deck woes in Not Those Kind of Bubbles. The deck looks great; our deck guy, Isidro, does a great job. Now if the sun will cooperate, I’d like to spend a little time out there.

How was your July? Any big plans for August?