Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I love snap peas

It is such an easy thing- the snap pea. I had a great harvest last year and was nervous this year would not be as successful... But the peas seem to be taking to the pots pretty well- thank you, bacteria. Makes me want to do some pea planting right now instead of beans.
Honestly, I love green beans. Green beans are great and I eat them with a lot of meals, and straight from the garden last year. The thing is ... meh. The garden green beans seem to be just as good as the farmer's market beans, and the grocery store beans! They handle some amount of transit well, and are not particularly delicate, This year as my space is Very Limited, I'm considering no beans besides snaps- is this crazy? I hope not.

May 2009

May is Bike To Work Month! I joined a team and biked to work every day in May (I bike everyday to work anyways, it is the best way to begin and end a day in my opinion, even if it is raining. Snowing....well, that is a day for staying home and making snowmen). This required some bike love as more folks were on the Burke Gilman and I was embarrassed... after a long winter my chain was almost rusty (the shame) and squeaky (I never thought I would let this happen!) and the drive train was full of gunk. The beginning of the month called for some bike love- a decommissioned tooth brush and 'simple green' bike degreaser was helpful to remove the grit and gross, then a nice rinse and dry, then an application of some sort of goo to the chain (ran out of bike chain lube briefly and resorted to lamp oil- tried not to create a spark or the bike would have become a giant flame-mobile- then later rinsed and put on some real lube) and the bike was set to go. And the month went by so fast- all of a sudden there were less folks on the road and I realized it was June. Sigh.
Also, fenugreek. I have been convinced that fenugreek is the missing ingredient in my swedish/german/english/whitegirl-can't-cook-nothing-but-meatballs-curries for some time. I've tried to create Indian dishes in the past two years but have never made a great curry, even using fenugreek seeds and all the usual spices. Except this one curry I soaked up using trader joes naan which had green fenugreek in it and imparted a taste I had been looking for all along.
To quote wikipedia:
"The name fenugreek or foenum-graecum is from Latin for "Greek hay". The Marathi name is Methya (मेथ्या). The Kannada name is mentya. The Tamil name for it is "Vendayam" (வெந்தயம்). The Telugu name for it is Menthulu. In Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi it is called methi (Urdu: میتھی). In Farsi it is Shambalîleh (شنبليله), and in Arabic its name is Hilbeh (حلبة). The plant's similarity to wild clover has likely spawned its Swedish name, "bockhornsklöver", literally meaning 'ram's horn clover'. "
So, I started fenugreek from seeds found where most bulk herbs can be bought (PCC and Whole Foods in Seattle). On the first attempt, these guys totally went for it, growing fast and well. They are seeds for spicing, not for growing, so I guess they haven't been roasted or mistreated in too many ways- or they are like Pacific Northwest pinecones and need heat from a fire to start germination... either way, they are growing well! What will happen when they see Seattle cool nights and warmish-to-hot days? We shall see...

April 2009

In April, the seeds continued to grow under lights in the closet. I tried to transfer them to the kitchen but was shot down, apparently not everyone is OK with soil and water in various puddles near food prep areas. Ho hum. My plants are destined to be closeted until they are old enough to be out in the world! Favorite blog / sex advice / pod-caster Dan Savage would have some things to say 'bout this!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reference materials

In the seeding / planting phase, the ref. books are out on the bed, floor, or kitchen table more often than they are in the book shelf. During the planting process, there are a few books I turn to for ideas and advice. The first and most beat-up one is 'The Bountiful Container' by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey. This is a container plant book for the pacific northwest- very useful in the seattle area where urban gardening prevails and containers are a great solution to the particular issues of small spaces and northwestern picky growing conditions. I also frequently buy seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery because they have reasonable prices, a low handling fee, and some neat-o seeds.
Next on the list is the original Mel Bartholomew 'Square Foot Gardening' book. He recently came out with another edition, though I fell in love with the 1st ed. Basically, the seed starting methods of putting a single seed in the ground at the spacing eventually they will grow successfully at was born from reading this book. Who knew that you don't need to do the traditional 'plant a row then thin' and use the whole packet of seeds in one go for only 12 to 40 productive plants? Seeds come in packet amounts that will never be consumed or grown by the home gardener, and when handled well will keep for years. Mel has some great tips for frugality and ease, and by not having to thin his methods are great for the sympathetic gardener.
Also greatly important is 'Carrots love Tomatoes'. Louise Riotte's book takes the gardener through garden techniques, pest control, poisonous plants, companion planting, uses and herbal remedies for herbs, veggies, wild plants, weeds, grasses/grains/field crops, fruit growing, ornamental trees / shrubs, I wondered why my snap peas were tremendously successful in one spot of the garden and never took off in another, and this book possibly uncovered the mystery easily- onions and garlic aren't great buddies of peas, snap or bush. I use it to figure out what will go together in containers, and what combinations to avoid closely in the limited garden space I have.
Last ref book is Jill Severn's 'Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest'. Granted the copyright date is 1978, so no fancy new varieties are included, but the basic advice offered is sound and gardening is broken down by how to start up, prep the soil, keep things disease free, then each p.n.w. veggie is broken down by when / how to plant and harvest. A good ol' fashioned book of gardening.
Also I have been checking out the KUOW greendays garden panel on Tuesdays at 10a, and the and websites for great advice on gardening.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

veggie start tanning bed

OK so this is finally the time for planting! I got some salvaged pots from a friend on an almost trip to the dump and sterilized in a 10 percent solution of bleach and water for 20 minutes, then put sterile organic seed starting mix in, and got going. Seeds in pots from new packets usually have a high germination percentage (meaning most seeds will grow into plants) , so putting more seeds than you want plants is not advisable. The whole 'plant and thin' process has proved too harsh for my unrelenting desire to grow every seed that spouts, so what I do is plant one-two seeds at a time and wait for them to grow. If nothing comes up... another seed goes in. It is a little scary to put one seed in a big pot and just hope it has what it takes to get it on, plant wise, but that's what we gardeners do-hope and hedge our bets that things will grow. They usually get it on, plant wise, and it is so amazing, baffling and satisfying to watch one single tomato seed turn into a tomato powerhouse by the end of the season. I felt like a super hero, but also felt humbled by the whole scientific process that only took dirt, sun, water and a few micro / macro nutrients.

Laundry the ole fashioned way

The less glamorous aspect of living in a city is the laundry date on a weekend night with your boyfriend. We just moved and have taken to grabbing a beer during the wash /rinse cycle, then another during the dry, which is not the worst way to spend an evening but also not the most romantic outing imaginable. I took matters into my own hands in the sink mid week when all my running clothes were spent with positive results, though I will admit that it took far longer to wring everything out than expected. I washed and hand agitated the clothes with a wooden spoon for about ten minutes, then let soak for about twenty minutes (while reading a book) then rinsed and hung to dry. I looked up wringers and hand washers and their ilk on the internet, and am seriously considering purchasing a hand washer unit. Also a wringer unit. That was the least fun and most time consuming step. The result? Clean clothes hanging all around the apartment, not as fluffy as fancy dryer-dried clothes, but clean!

Garbage flowers

So on the bike ride home from work, passing the flower shop, I noticed the bunch of flowers on the side of the road far too gone to sell, but obviously out for anyone to pick up. I grabbed a bunch and made a little bouquet, put it in water... garbage bouquet!