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Archive for May, 2012

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I have a very low-tech watering system consisting of numerous soaker hoses snaking through my garden beds.

When it’s time to water, I have to drag my main hose around the garden and connect it to the individual soakers. Then I set my timer and go do something else for thirty minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat…

While this is a much more efficient system than what I used to do (drag the hose out each night to water), it takes about five hours to completely soak the entire summer garden.

Why not get a fancy drip irrigation system with a timer, one might ask. And the answer is because I’m not mechanically or mathematically oriented. I need someone else to figure out what I need and install it.

So until I break down and hire a company to do this for me, I’ll continue with my low-tech version.

While it might be time consuming, I have discovered a secret benefit from my soaker hoses. After I have completed the entire cycle, it manages to rain!

The weather folks can predict rain for days on end, and nary a drop will fall at my house. Down the street, however, it pours… Anyway, today I was tired if waiting for the promised rain and completed the five-hour regimin. An hour later, it rained.

Same thing happened last week. So now I know: when I want rain, I need to water!

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There are many reasons why I garden, but one of the main reasons is having the ability to walk out the door and pick my supper.

On tonight’s menu: an almost totally homegrown meal: Happy Herbivore’s greens quiche made with swiss chard; steamed green beans; steamed squash and zucchini; and a salad with lettuce, radish, snow peas and green peas.

Delicious!

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After more time than I want to admit, I finally have my summer garden in the ground.

Well, almost. I still have to dig another bed out back for the leftover tomatillos and basil. And I have to get some more mulch. But I’m basically done and have just danced a jig.

So, you may ask, what’s growing?

1. At least six kinds of tomatoes, though I can’t say what kinds because I threw away the seed packets and my tape markers faded. I know there are some Danvers, some Granny Cantrells, some romas, and a yellow variety. Close to 100 plants. Last year I got some leaf blight and a lot of plants died, so I’m hoping this year gives better results.

2. Four varieties of green beans: two bush and two pole.

3. Lima beans and purple hull peas.

4. Corn, though I haven’t had too much luck. If I don’t have better results this year, I may leave corn out next year.

5. Peppers: green, jalapeno, cayenne, and some hot thai variety.

6. Tomatillos and okra.

7. Yellow squash and zucchini. These plants currently look great, but I usually have squash bug issues.

8. I’ve also got potatoes, snow peas, peas, and chard. There’s also garlic and lettuce which is, unfortunately, bolting.

I think that’s it.

Here’s one view of most of the front rows:

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Here’s another view:

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Here’s the limas and some marigolds that had reseeded in another area of my garden. I moved them outside the deer fence, since I think they are deer resistant. At any rate, they were free, and you can’t beat that price!

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Here’s one of my front beds outside the deer fence:

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And here are some boxes, also outside the fence:

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Here’s a pretty (for now) squash plant:

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And delicious goodness is right around the corner:

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And, though they aren’t veggies, the lilies are very pretty.

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Now to dig up the dead winter plants out back and put in cover crop. But that’s for another day…

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The thing about gardening from seeds (versus purchasing plants) is that one never knows exactly how many seeds will germinate, then thrive and grow. Sometimes I have a lot of luck, other times not so much.

This year, I planted three long rows of radishes, and I think every seed I planted grew!

I usually just chop radishes on my salads, but the harvest is so abundant that I would have to eat about 10 salads a day in order to use up all the produce. Now, I’m a big fan of salads (and I do have a lot of lettuce that’s starting to bolt), but I figured there had to be another way to use up those radishes.

So I went online and found quite a few recipes for radish chips. The one I used for inspiration is found here.

I say “inspiration” because I changed the recipe a bit. Instead of chili powder and garlic salt to season the chips, I used a teaspoon each of cumin, garlic powder and kosher salt. And after steaming the sliced radishes in the microwave, I spritzed them with olive oil spray before mixing in the spices.

I placed the chips on a baking sheet and baked for 350 degrees (versus 250) for about 10 minutes each side.

Then it was time to eat!

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Not bad!

Now to find some recipes using all those radish greens…

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image courtesy of Amazon

I am now telling anybody who will listen about my upcoming walk on the Camino de Santiago, partly because it’s only a year out now, and partly because I am just so excited that I have to share.  The parking officer by my building knows, the lady I pass on the East Campus trail knows, and my coworkers down the hall know.

When I told coworker G. about my plans, he asked if I had heard about “Wild,” the best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail without any training or previous backpacking experience.

I don’t follow best-seller lists, so I hadn’t heard about “Wild.” But I literally ran to the library to check out a copy. The Camino is not a wilderness experience, but I figured there might be something in this book for me.

Here are some of the things I had affirmed for me after reading the book:

1. Training is a really good thing, especially for those of us who are pushing 50 years old.

2. Taking practice hikes with the pack is also a good idea. Heck, just knowing whether or not you can actually lift a full pack onto your back is a good idea.

3. Properly fitted shoes are very important. So is having enough water.

4. People will be there to help you, if you open yourself up to that experience.

5. You can do things you might not think possible.

Other things I realized:  I am pretty attached to showers and to being able to put on a relatively clean set of clothing at the end of the day. I may have misread, but it seemed that Strayed only had one set of clothes available at a time. I’ll be switching between two, maybe three, outfits, so washing clothes will always be an option.

I also want to know that I have access to money if I need it.  Strayed ran out of money at several points during her trip, and that sounded more scary to me than her wilderness experiences.  Though I do have to say that ice-covered snow is never a good thing to deal with, whether you’re hiking the PCT or walking your dogs around the corner.

Another thing I must admit is that, at heart, I’m a bit of a chicken.

Wait, who am I kidding?  I’m the entire flock of chickens! 

I do love day hiking, but at this stage of my life, I would not feel safe spending the night in the wilderness by myself. Luckily, Strayed only had one scary experience with an unsavory character, and she was able to extricate herself from the situation.

Lastly, I love that Strayed named her pack.  I think naming the pack is a grand idea!   Strayed’s pack was called “Monster,” which fit with her experiences with the overly heavy piece of equipment.  However, I want my pack to have a name that implies adventure, security, joy and lightheartedness.  Any suggestions?

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image courtesy of Amazon

 

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It’s strawberry season here in North Carolina, and the locally grown berries are delicious! So each year about this time, I head to the farmer’s market to stock up on strawberries.

Each Friday, I buy a big bucket and eat about half the berries. Yes, this means eating them several times a day! As for the rest, I usually divide into half-cup portions and freeze for later consumption.

But today I decided to branch out snd try freezer jam. I had seen a recipe by local cafe owner Sara Foster that looked incredibly easy — and it was!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of OrganicGardening.com

Whole thing, start to finish, including washing dishes, took less than an hour.

First, I cut up the strawberries and put them in a bowl.

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Then I heated the balsamic vinegar until it reduced by half. I poured it over the strawberries, added the sea salt, and mashed.

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Then I mixed the sugar and instant fruit pectin in another bowl.

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Finally, I mixed all the ingredients and placed in jars. The recipe calls for 8-oz. jars. Because I only had two available, I ended up using some pint jars as well.

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Into the freezer the strawberry jam went. I can’t wait to try some!

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