Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Bettie Page Photo by CMG Worldwide

By now you’re probably conjuring images of lusty tomato plants wearing pasties.  Fuck yes.  What a pleasant daydream, and also a great business idea (note to self…).  So go ahead.  Take a moment to really let that image sink in.

Ready to move on?  Oh, okay, I’ll give you another minute.

You guys are twisted.  I like that.

WELL, my twisted little misfits, I got a question via Twitter from one of the darlingest misfits I know–@pinecone99.  Here’s what she had to say:

“Dear BMG, what is the best edible to grow in an alley in a narrow patch alongside a garage?”

Well, first off, this is awesome because she’s now abbreviating “Bad Mama Genny” to “BMG,” which naturally makes me “The Notorious BMG.”  At least, I hope it does.  ‘Cause I’m kinda diggin’ the street cred that no doubt comes along with such a badass name.

Secondly, it’s awesome because HELLO, misfits, she’s interested in capitalizing on an unused strip of land and homesteading the shit out of it!

And really, that’s what we’re all about here: homesteading the shit out of things.

So after some clarification about the size of the strip and the amount of light it receives, we established that she’s dealing with a 2 foot by 10 foot strip of land on the west side of the alley, which translates to plenty of morning sun exposure.

Misfits, she could do a lot with this space.   She could do a hell of a lot with this space.

So after I finished wetting myself at the prospect of additional land to exploit (sexy!), I got to work.  Let me show you how you can grow a ton of food in a small space.  Here’s what I had to say:

2 feet by 10 feet?  Hardly a challenge!  You can grow a lot there; things you wouldn’t want to grow include plants that get insanely bushy and spread out, like indeterminate tomatoes, vine-style squash, or conventionally-grown fruit trees.  But since it’s morning sun, let’s put your less heat-loving plants there.  That way they get everything they need early in the day and can recover in the afternoon and evening if they were overexposed.  I’m thinking things like lettuce, cabbages, cauliflower, chard, peas and green beans (both bush and vine type). While you could technically fit some bush-type squash in there, I wouldn’t recommend it.  They have spines on the leaves that can irritate your bare skin, so you may get a temporary itchy rash if you brush past them in bare legs.

Other ideas include dwarf blueberry bushes (no thorns, stay nice and compact, gorgeous ornamental coloring), onions, and garlic.  Strawberry patches are a great idea, too (why not plant a mix of early-bearing, late-bearing, and everbearing for a continuous harvest?).  Grape vines and fruit trees are entirely possible in that space as well–if you grow them espalier style and train them to snake along the wall.

If you think you’ve got the sun to support heat-loving plants (we’re talking at least 6 hours of direct sun per day), peppers and eggplants stay compact and actually produce more when they’re “holding hands,” or packed fairly close together.  Another heat-friendly idea–a wall o’ cucumbers.

Let’s think about how some of these things can be executed:

*Cabbages and Cauliflower–Each require about a square foot of space–a 2 x 10 foot space laid out grid style means you can grow 20 cabbages in that strip!  Your very own cabbage patch.  Plant some anise around it if you want to keep cabbage moths at bay naturally.

*Bok Choy–Each plant require a six inch square…so 40 bok choy!

*Beans and Peas–Depending on the variety, you’ll plant these between 1 and 2 inches apart, with poles or a nylon net strung up for support.  That means you’ve got room for A TON of beans and peas!  Plus, you’ll be able to say that your “STRIP” is flashing some “SERIOUS LEGUME.”  Get it?!  Get it?!?!  Ahaha, I’m totally killin’ it.

*Fruit Trees–When trained espalier style, these require lots of horizontal spread, but not much depth–let’s say two dwarf pear or peach trees for that 2′ by 10′ space.

*Peppers or Eggplants: Give ’em eighteen inch squares to grow in–so only 1 row, but spaced a foot and a half apart like that, it’s about 6 or 7 eggplant/pepper plants!

*Onions: Sure, spring onions are space-efficient, but bulbs are, too, and even a large, crazy-sexy specimen like Heirloom Red Wethersfields only need 4 inches of space in each direction.  A strip as large as yours could accommodate enough onions to braid and hang in your kitchen come fall!

Those are just a few thoughts, and there’s an endless number of combinations you could pull off.  How about a pickle garden, with cucumbers trained up the trellis and alternating garlic and dill in front?  Or peas and pearl onions, which can and freeze (and cook!) so well together?  Or a root vegetable patch, with baby radishes, exotic carrots, and golden and red beets?  A kraut garden with cabbages, carrots, and onions?  A gourmet salad patch with baby greens, sugar snap peas, cut-and-come-again leaf lettuces, kale, radishes, and edible flowers, like nasturtiums?

Any questions, just ask!

Bad Mama Genny

Well, misfits, I’m not gonna kid myself–I kicked the shit out of that question.  But there are so many more ideas out there–really, we’re just grazing the tip of the iceberg.  What would you do with that kind of space?  What are you considering doing with your teeny strip of unused land?  Anything you’d like to try, but you’re not sure if it’s possible?  (Hint: it probably is, I’ve probably tried it, and you should probably ask me.)

Much love and big red kisses to every one of you adorable, huggable weirdos!

Bad Mama Genny

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Photo by Greyson Orlando

If you follow me on Twitter, by now you know that our garden apartment flooded this weekend.  Badly.  The Boy and I lost about a third of our possessions, but we’re both acutely aware of how much worse it could have been if the plumber hadn’t made it out when he did.  The garden is suffering, too–last week’s intense heat followed by this week’s deluges and heavy rains have meant damage and calcium problems.  We’re knee-deep in homestead recovery efforts, but at this very moment I’d like to think about the one bright spot in my weekend.  Actually, it was more like hundreds of bright spots…

And they were all a gift from The Boy.

On Friday evening he came home from work clutching a brown paper bag in his fist and wearing a grin as big as his face.  And when I unrolled the bag and peeked inside…

Ladybugs!  HUNDREDS of them.

I was, honestly, bowled over by the romance of his soul.

So why was I so thrilled with my bag full of insects?  Well, ladybugs are beneficial bugs–they’re carnivores, and they’re pretty much non-discriminating about it.  They’ll eat any bad guys they can possibly find with no picky whining and no asking for ketchup.  In fact, I once read that a single ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.  If you’re anything like me, that little fact alone was enough to sell you on adding ladybuggers to your garden because HELLO THOSE FUCKING APHIDS NEARLY DECIMATED THE NIGHTSHADES AND THEY SHALL PAY FOR THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS.  But if you’re looking for another cute fact, I gotses one!

Did you know that ladybugs bleed from their knees when they feel threatened?

Aww, that’s the CUTEST!

Okay, now for a fact that isn’t so cute: cannibalism.  Did you know ladybugs are capable of cannibalism when they’re out of other bugs?

What a Bummer.

Well, that won’t happen at this homestead, that’s for sure.  Between the cabbage moths and the aphids and all the assorted THINGS, my ladybugs should be set for quite some time.

Now haven’t I made you want to release ladybuggers into your gardens?  Don’t you misfits think you need littler misfits?  Don’t you want the newest and cutest garden accessory around?  The one that comes in polka-dots?

Of courses you do!  I mean, come on.  I can make you weirder yet.

So here are My Almighty Ladybug Tips and Hints:

*Get ’em from a reputable, preferably local nursery.  You want to make sure that you’re not introducing an invasive species that could compete with local ladybugs.  And buying from a reputable source helps to ensure that you’re not getting weak or diseased bugs.

*Newly released ladybugs are often cranky and parched from their travels.  Remember how cranky and parched YOU feel after a 7 hour flight in a tiny seat in a tiny, airless cabin with too many cranky and parched strangers?  Yeah, it’s like that.  So release ladybugs after a rain, or water the earth well before releasing them.  Of course if you’re like me and you just had a flood you would laugh at this advice and go AHAHA LISTEN LADY WATER ISN’T EXACTLY MY PROBLEM MMMKAAAAAY?  But.  I.  Digress.

*Diversify your ladybugs’ dietary portfolio.  That’s right–if your garden doesn’t seem hospitable, your ladybugs just may peek under the fence at the neighboring yards, turn to you in frustration with their little ladybug “hands” on their little ladybug “hips,” put on their best Eric Cartman voice, and screech, “Screw you guys!  I’m going home!”  That is, someone else’s home.  Dammit.  So when you’re releasing them, resist the urge to dump the bag in one place.  Instead, sprinkle them throughout the garden.  Same goes for containers–distribute them as evenly as possible.

*Release your ladybugs when it’s starting to get dark out.  That makes them less likely to be all, oh, hey, let’s run as far away from here as possible, even if that means leaving the yard and blowing this loser’s investment.  Yeah.

*Cold air makes them slower and calmer–hence, releasing them becomes easier if you chill them in the fridge for a wee bit before letting them roam free.

*If some of your ladies don’t want to leave their bag, turn it upside down and tap gently.  If they still won’t leave, why not place the bag on an area of moist ground and just walk away?  Come back in the morning–once you’re out of the picture and your bugginses have had a chance to review their options, I’m sure they’ll come to the conclusion that OH, HEY, LEAVES AND INSECTS AND WATER ARE PREFERABLE TO THIS DARK, DANK, BARREN HELL BAG.  But that’s just a hunch.

*Check your hair, body, and clothes for stowaway ladies before heading back inside.  If nothing else, the process of picking off the clingers just may have you giggling in delight all by your lonesome, and if there’s one thing we urban homesteaders need, it’s YET ANOTHER REASON THE NEIGHBORS THINK WE’RE STRANGE AND/OR DANGEROUS.

Well, whaddya think?  Anyone ’bout to head out for some ladybugs?  Done it before? Think they’re weird?  Think they’re cute?  Wanna dress up like them?  Wanna marry them?

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Oh, for Delilah’s sake, misfits, my garden is like the set of “16 and Pregnant” right now.

It’s an epidemic!  Babies having babies!

And you know what?  The little sluts want more!

Okay, now that’s just ASKING for it.

That last photo is Blondkopfchen tomatoes–little yellow pear tomatoes.  The name, literally translated, is “Little Blonde Girl.”  (In bed!)  That pretty much says it all, now doesn’t it?

So how do I feel about having a veritable brothel on my little plot of earth?  I’m not gonna lie–I’m pretty freaking proud.

Also, if I ran a brothel, it would be the awesomest brothel in town, full of fishnetty goodness and lots of good times spent sitting around eating chocolate truffles and laughing with all our teeth showing.  We’d all stick together, like in that music video for “Love is a Battlefield,” and we’d dutifully share tutus with one another.  And if someone crossed one of us, we’d make an example of him.  Like those hookers did to Neil Patrick Harris in that second Harold and Kumar movie.

But I digress.

Oh, yeah, and those soon to be enormous tomatoes?  All grown in containers.  This is as close as Your Bad Mama Genny gets to a religious experience.  Check out my bitchin’ soil recipe for fab tomatoes.

So how does your garden grow right now?  (In bed!)

Are your plants whorin’ it up as ambitiously as mine, or are they regular prudes, with nary a bloom in sight?

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Sexy, Sexy Vegetables

Bags of bok choy and a huge bowl full of Egyptian Walking Onions.

This is just the bok choy that’s getting frozen.  The rest is being pickled, fermented, sauteed for dinner, and turned into Hot and Sour Cabbage.  Wanna grow your own bok choy next year?  They have shallow root systems, so you could pull it off in windowboxes!  We started harvesting at 30 days after transplant…not too shabby, eh?

Speaking of pickling and fermenting, why not take the classes I’m teaching in those very subjects?  Sign up for the Creative Connection Event in St. Paul, MN, September 15th through 17th!  It’s going to be a blast!  My classes are Pickle It! and Let’s Ferment!   If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make the easiest ever vinegar pickles, naturally fermented vegetables, apple cider vinegar from fruit scraps, sourdough bread, and a heck of a lot of other things (ooh, mysterious!), you’ll love these classes.  Plus, I’m hearing about all the fun social stuff (Cupcake Farewells?  Craft Markets?) that’ll be included in your pass, and, uh, it sounds freaking delightful.


Register today!–class size is limited to keep everything hands-on and fun, fun fun!

What are you harvesting?

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Hello, Greenie Beanies,

I recently got an email from another satisfied customer.  That is, someone who read and liked my regular column on Urban Homesteading, which runs in every issue of MaryJanesFarm Magazine.  Her name is Linda, and she wanted to pick my brain about urban homesteading.

Linda has been living in a rural home in California, and 2 years ago she moved into a city apartment with her adult daughter.  Linda is not used to cramped city apartments.  Linda does not like to feel cramped.

Oh, we can feel that pain, can’t we, sugar dumplings?

In any case, she’s having a hard time adjusting, and she’s finally looking for some ways to bring out her inner farmgirl.  But how to do it in the city?

Oh, sugar pies, YOU JUST KNOW she came to the right place!

Since I get questions like Linda’s fairly often via email or text message or Facebook nudge or secret message (seriously, people, if you have a question, ain’t no shame in postin’ it for all the guacamole-lovin’ world to see!  We won’t tease you!  And I kick jerks off my comments board, which makes “The Alchemist” the fun-lovin’, free spirited, totally tolerant, non-judgmental, warm and fuzzy, rolicking good time encouragin’, dictatorial palace of blogs.  Or something like that.).  Okay, I forgot what I was saying.

Oh, right.  Since I get questions like Linda’s fairy often, I’m going to print a piece of my response to her here.  Benefit from it, add to it, improvise, my sweet pets!

…It sounds like you’ve had to undergo quite the adjustment, you poor dear!  I was born and raised in Chicago, but have lived elsewhere–always in major cities, including Honolulu and New York.  So the crunch for space and land has always been an issue for me, and boy, do I sympathize.  I think one huge perk about city-living and small spaces is that they make you creative.  It is, of course, far easier to homestead on forty acres than it is in a 600 square foot apartment.  So you get plucky.  You get creative.  You become less wasteful and more ingenious.  You will, too!  Embrace it, and give it time, Linda.  But maybe I can help you to hurry things along….

Most of what I grow is in containers.  People have no. Idea. How. Easy. This. Is.  Really, I’m astounded at all the naysayers who will tell you vegetables can’t be grown in pots.  [Readers: remember when I showed you how easy it is?] Listen, you can grow colonnade apple trees in pots!  Almost any plant, given the proper space, soil, water, and nutrition, can be container-friendly.  A great beginner’s book I’d recommend is McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container. I’m not sure what kind of balcony space you have, but I say, load it up, girl!  A big part of urban homesteading is seeing what you can get away with.  The answer, in my experience:

a whole lot.

Think lettuce in window boxes that hang over your balcony railings.  Patio tomatoes in pots.  Strawberries in hanging baskets.  Peppers and eggplants are extremely container-friendly–mine are very productive in a mere 8-inch pot.  Zucchini are notorious for a reason–they are practically reproductive machines.  Though I’m a big fan of heirlooms, you might try the Raven Zucchini hybrid–it’s container-friendly and produces loads of fruit very quickly.  Tea gardens are a great offshoot of the herb gardening thing, and mint and chamomile do very well in confined spaces.  Make use of vertical space, too, with plants that climb.  Just be sure that your landlord is okay with all this, and that you’re following the necessary safety precautions for balcony weight limits and such.

The great thing is, I think city neighbors, while they may not know much about what you’re trying to do, are usually pretty receptive and curious.  You may have been no big deal to your far-off rural neighbors, but you’ll probably be a sensation when you cut pumpkins from a vine twirling around your fire escape.  Try to make friends with your new neighbors, if you haven’t already, and let your garden be the icebreaker if need be.  Share your produce, try not to drip water onto your neighbors below (I said “try”…it won’t always be possible), and if you make friends with people who don’t really use their space, go ahead and ask if you can put a box or two on their railing.

Remember, mushrooms are a great edible crop that you can grow indoors in low light–why not try a mushroom kit?  Several issues ago, I wrote about the process in my “Urban Homesteading” column in MaryJanesFarm Mag.  In another piece titled “Bunnies in ‘da Hood,” I wrote about raising indoor angora rabbits for their knitting fiber (they shed it naturally).  My very first article for that column was about community gardens and yard shares.  If your ambitions outstrip your land, you might try to find for-rent gardening plots nearby.  You’re likely to meet new neighbors who share your farm fantasies.  Try to cultivate online relationships, too–I like to do a little seed swapping on the forum at www.gardenweb.com.

Homesteading for me goes beyond gardening.  I cook, I bake, I sew, I knit, I ferment, I pickle (I’ll be teaching pickling and fermenting workshops during MaryJanesFarm Day at this event in St. Paul in September–why not attend?!), I bake my own bread, brew beer and wine, make cheese, and am generally engaged in any nonsense I can lay hands upon.  Now The Boy and I are getting into roasting coffee.  We also subscribe to a local CSA or farm share box, which connects us to great local produce that we can’t or don’t grow ourselves (try www.localharvest.com to find one near you).  It helps to make us feel like part of a community.  We satisfy this urge by visiting our local farmers markets, too.  Perhaps you could start a weekly farmers market habit and hobnob with farmers and foodie neighbors?  These little things can help to put you in touch with a local, land-loving community that you didn’t even know existed.

…Lotsa hugs,

Well, whaddya think, my little custard tarts?  Did I just about cover it?  Did I give you any fresh inspiration?  Can you add anything to help Linda’s transition go a little more smoothly?

Duh, you totally can!  Do so in





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Those of you who follow my writing career (All of you, right?  RIGHT?!) know that I’ve written quite a bit on the topic of urban homesteading.  And if you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, you know that a big part of urban homesteading is creative food-growing.

But let’s be real for a moment.

It’s time to face facts.  For most of us in this fine country, the garden is loooong gone (::weeping sounds::).  But homesteading isn’t just about growing.  It’s about self-sufficiency.  In some circles, it’s about returning to the “old ways” of doing things.  It includes making many of your own goods, cooking and preserving a bit more from scratch than just about anyone you know, and making do with whatever you can re-purpose.  And truth be told, there’s still plenty you can do to keep the misfitty mojo flowing.

And it is extremely essential to keep the misfitty mojo flowing.  You know how you keep the water tap dripping ever so slightly in some parts of the country (MINE!) to keep the pipes from freezing up and becoming useless?  Yeah, it’s kinda like that.  This has been a public service announcement from your Bad Mama Genny.

Here are some of the things I’m working on.  Why not try a few yourself?

1. Prepare the garden beds and containers for next year.  So all the dead plants have been pulled and you spend entire mornings looking at those barren containers/patches of earth and sobbing your little heart out (No?  You don’t?  Uh, me either!…).  Let’s get it started for next year!  Why not try your hand at lasagna gardening?  You’ll be layering moistened “brown” and “green” layers of compostable materials and topping the whole thing with finished compost or rich soil.  Then you just keep the whole thing moist and let nature do its work.  Come springtime–voila–beautiful, black gold ideal for planting.

2.  Make some countertop kefir!  Get started with this lady –she REALLY knows her stuff.

3.  Why not grow mushrooms in a cool, dark corner of your little homestead?  This winter I’ll be growing shiitakes and oyster mushrooms!  Then I’ll be trying this OMG recipe for Creamy, Buttery, Chive-y Caviar-Like Mushrooms or, heck, even this Mushroom, Jalapeño, and Cilantro Salsa.

4.  Make some homebrew, dudes!  Right now The Boy’s got Bourbon Pecan Pie Ale and Gingerbread Pumpkin Pie Ale on tap in the old refrigerator he converted to a kegerator.  Now or soon-to-be bubbling away in our fermentation room:  Hard Apple Cider, Whiskey-Spiked Christmas Porter, and Ye Olde English Bitter.  We’re also considering putting up some mead made with local, raw honey.  (Have you ever eaten raw honey?  Ohmygoodnessgracious, you haven’t?!  GO.  DO.)

5. Cure some meat!  Why not try your hand at duck breast prosciutto or even–gasp!–an entire ham?

6.  Churn your own butter!  Simply leave some heavy cream on the counter for 12 hours to sour, pour it into a jar that’s big enough to still be 2/3 empty, and shake!  It’ll get super thick and heavy and then…BAM!  A hunk of butter sitting in a pool of buttermilk!  Press the resulting butter with a wet wooden spoon to squeeze out all the buttermilk, wash it under cold water ’til it runs clear, press it again, and then mix with a bit of fine-grain salt.  The Boy, The Brother, and I did this one recent Saturday night (shut up) and the fun was off the hook.  I think The Guys really liked flexing their muscles, and we all liked spoiling our appetites with fresh-baked bread slathered with soft, just-churned butter.  Not sure what to do with the leftover buttermilk?  I’m judging you right now, because if you don’t think of biscuits and pancakes immediately upon acquiring buttermilk, you must not be “ONE OF US”…

::heavy breathing::

–Alright, so that was unsettling and I promise not to do it again.  For at least a few days.  Or more like, 12 hours.  6 hours.  3?  ::heavy breathing::  Okay, well, guess you’ll have to take the BMG just as I am.

What was I saying?

Oh, yes, you can freeze buttermilk.  Just do it in small increments (1/2 or 1 cup) so you can take out just what you need for your recipe.

7.  Make cheese!  You may remember my ricotta recipe , but you can also experiment with mozzarella, farmer’s cheese, kefir cheese, or even some homemade cheddar!

8.  Ferment some sauerkraut, the natural way.

9.  Got a bin of green tomatoes on hand?  Use them for making relish, or let them turn red and cook up a batch of this Sweet & Savory Tomato Jam. (The tomato jam is delicious, but I prefer mine a little less sweet.  If you do, too, and you’re not planning on canning it, I’d halve the sugar.)

10.  Tell me you went apple picking.  I go every year–just wouldn’t be fall without it.  And it just so happens to be the way you and I got to know each other.  Did you know that pectin, that stuff that sets jams, jellies, and preserves, occurs naturally in the peels, stems, cores, and seeds of apples?  Recently I froze my harvest with a dry-pack method and SAVED THE PEELS AND CORES to make a beautiful pink apple jelly!  Everything else went into my sugar-free pink applesauce. 

11.  Scoop up the last of the tomatillos from the market and make some salsa verde to freeze.

12.  Roast some winter squash and freeze it in 1 cup increments for pies and muffins!  I seem to be doing this weekly, as I just haven’t met a punkin I didn’t like.  So you probably know the typical method for roasting pumpkins: chop ’em in half, scoop out the seeds, roast in a 425 oven face-down until they’re super soft, food-process the pulp.  But how about putting that slow-cooker to work?  Put the halves (or quarters, or eighths…you may have to cut them down to fit) into the stoneware, add a splash of water, cover, and slow cook on high until tender.  Save the seeds…

13.  And then roast those seeds!  Rinse ’em off, toss them with a bit of olive oil and sea salt, and roast at 375 until they’re toasty and crunchy, stirring occasionally.  When they’re done, eat ’em as they are, sprinkle a handful outside for the squirrels to enjoy (yes, I AM that much of a softie, but only when they’ve STAYED THE EFF AWAY from my garden), or turn them into brittle candy!

14.  Eat your greens.  At this point, your fresh produce consumption has already dropped, and you need to compensate by boosting your diet with nutrient-rich food.  Enter kale, chard, and the multitude of other cold-weather greens that are now sweeter and more tender thanks to a little frosty weather!  Try this raw kale salad–I  actually like it better without the bread crumbs–or make this delicious Chorizo, Chickpea, & Sweet Potato Soup (I added kale).

15. Try your hand at homemade laundry detergent.  You’ll feel like a frugalista.  Did I just say “frugalista”?  Excuse me while I go kill myself.

16.  Knit something!  The 6-Hour Afghan (free pattern at Lion Brand’s website; you’ll just have to register as a member.  Search “6 hour afghan”.) makes an awesome gift (for someone who will appreciate it!  Remember, non-knitters have a limited capacity to understand all the time, money, and effort that goes into knitted projects!).  It’s also easy enough for a beginner to tackle, and comes together so satisfyingly fast, you probably won’t even abandon it halfway through!  Not that anybody I know regularly abandons knitting projects halfway through…

Anyhoo, when I was new to knitting, I churned out two of these babies–shades of purple for Mom, shades of pink for Aunt Pat–and true to the claims, each took less than 6 hours.

17. Research some breeds of miniature livestock and plan for the day when your urban homestead has a wee bit of land to play with.  Don’t you just LOVE the idea of a miniature jersey cow wandering around your backyard, grazing on your lawn, mooing every now and then for a milking?  I bet your neighbors would think you’re just the bee’s knees!*

*Your neighbors will probably not think you are the bee’s knees, they will probably try to gas you in your sleep, and also, I just said “the bee’s knees.”  The bee’s knees.  There, did it again.*

18.  Check out some chicken coop building plans if you fancy a d.i.y project, or consider asking for one of these for Christmas!  Then plan your flock on this fantastic site.

19.  Review your garden notes from this year (you did make those, right?) or sit down to pen your observations, hopes, and plans for next year’s plot while it’s all still fresh in your mind.  Nothing like dreamin’ bout Heirloom Tomatoes (you must read this book!) to get you through those cold, lonely nights.  Also, The Boy is good for that but you can’t have him ’cause he’s mine and stuff.  Get your own The Boy.

20.  Start a countertop sprout farm!  No soil, light, or hard labor necessary!  Of course, you do run the risk of pining after some seriously kiff sprouting equipment.

Those are just a few of the projects we’re involved with this year–what are you up to?  Will you be trying any of these?  Have any suggestions of your own?

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Wanna know what I did on my summer vacation?  Besides drive myself and everyone else batty?  And tweet too much?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I…

Visited a beautiful farmhouse B&B set on a five-acre organic farm in Wisconsin.  Then I wrote it up for an article.

Celebrated my un-burfday with my twin brother, Johnny.  Being born on Christmas could have sucked royally.  Thankfully, my family applied the same logic to birthdays as they do to shopping furniture sales–Christmas in July is never a bad thing.  What you see there is my birthday dessert of choice–a banana cream pie from the always-nommiful Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Chicago’s bohemian West Town neighborhood.  Better pie I have not found.  And believe me, I’ve looked all around.

Did you notice that rhymed?  I worked hard on that.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to offer a shoutout to The Brother, Johnny.  You’re one cool dude, Johnny.  If Bad Mama Genny has to share a birthday with someone, she’s glad it’s you.  ‘Cause frankly, you’ve put up with a lot of shite over the years.  I’m sorry about that one time with the thing.  And that other time, with that other thing.  And though I’m sure it scarred you for life, the incident with that third thing, that was really hilarious to me at the time, but which I’m sure was annoying as hell at the time said thing occurred.

Uh, love you!

Made an extremely popular, mostly-natural version of those cream-filled Hostess cupcakes for one of my many un-burfday parties.  What?  Look, if it’s just a birthday, maybe you only have one party, but this was an un-BURFday party, ‘kay?

Don’t hate.

Notice the “g” hidden in the swirl.

Blew up an obscene number of balloons for said un-burfday party.  Walked through, bodysurfed over, and danced around them for two days.  Vowed to fill my apartment with balloons and live that way year-round.  Carefully migrated the balloons down two flights of curving stairs and into the backyard for the un-burfday party.  Watched them all pop systematically as soon as the vicious heat expanded their gases enough to push them past their limit.  Cried a little.  Jumped into The Boy’s arms and screamed every time one bit the dust.

I also scream every time that timer thingy from Scattergories goes off at the end of the thinking time.  Every time.  Does not fail.  Hey, guys, wanna play Scattergories with me again?


Ya’ sure?

They must be intimidated by my brilliance.

Carefully migrated every refrigerator magnet, including the magnetic poetry, from the old fridge into a plastic bag.  Then put them up, one by one, on the new refrigerator.  Which, by the way, bit the dust one month after purchase SO HOLY HELL I HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.  Onto a third fridge.

I think there’s a circle of hell where all you do is migrate magnetic poetry from fridge to fridge.  And now that I think about it, that’s probably the circle of hell I’ll inhabit one day.  Magnetic poetic justice.

What’s that, dearest mommy?  You didn’t think I was going to hell?  Well, I am.  Apparently, it’s all part of selling your soul to Satan.  But I’ve talked it over with Jesus, and he knows it’s nothing personal, and he promised not to take it out on you.  So I’m sure you’ll still get that pineapple whipped cream room when you die, like you’ve always wanted.

Glad we had this talk.

Took bizarrely-lit nighttime photos of my cucumber bounty before I turned it into pickles.

Yep.  We made pickle spears, smaller pickle spears (out of the white cucumbers), and bread and butter slices (from extra lemon cucumbers).  I dunno about you, but I’m not a huge fan of sweet pickles.

Actually, that’s an understatement.  I LOATHE SWEET PICKLES.  So when I’m in my magnetic poetry circle of hell, I’m sure someone will be force-feeding me sweet pickles.  DAMMIT!

Ooh, look, finally a natural light photo.  Took me long enough.  Pickles, pickles, pickles!


Made brandied cherries…aren’t they pretty?  And I love that vintage pink jar (thrift shop!).  You don’t even need a recipe, but here’s one that’s sorta close to my method.  By the way…these things’ll knock your socks off.  Put ’em on a cocktail, top a sundae with ’em, or just sit on the couch armed with a jar of these and your cherry-pickin’ fingers.  Just know that they’re strong.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you stand up to put ’em back in the fridge and Charlie the Unicorn invites you dance with him to the greatest hits of Pink Floyd while you search for his missing kidneys.

Made some kickass chicken thighs.  Very good recipe, by the way.  The Boy died in my arms tonight when I made them.  Then he unmelted and asked for seconds.

And by golly, any chicken thighs that can melt and unmelt a man with as much structural integrity as The Boy is A-OK in my book.  A-OK, I tell you.

Harvested every one of these little Parisian round carrots from a little spot in back of the old apartment that my landlady so kindly allowed me to borrow.  I couldn’t bear to leave them behind, so just know that some of them are a little undergrown.  At an inch to an inch and a half per plant, they’re not the most efficient use of space, but you know what they are?  Cute.  Very, very cute.  And probably a great addition to a garden-themed dinner party’s appetizer spread.  Ooh, note to self: garden-themed dinner party.  Wanna grow these yourself?  Ask and you shall receive, my sweet poppets.  Sweet, sweet misfit poppets.

Sweet, sweet, sweet misfit poppets.

Too much?  Chill out–there will be no eating of your liver with fava beans a nice chianti, okay?  Not today.  Here’s the link.

Took unfocused, sideways shots of unwashed produce and didn’t bother to reorient them before posting them here.  It’s just who I am these days.

Celebrated my mom and aunt’s actual, for real birthday!  Like, it wasn’t even an un-burfday!  They’re also twins, but they’re for really real twins.  Not that Johnny and I aren’t for really real twins.  But we’re fraternal.  And we don’t have a mind-reading thingy going on.  My mom and aunt are identical twins, and they do have a mind-reading thingy going on.  Wanna know what kind of cake this is?  Yellow, with pineapple and whipped cream filling.  And, oh my, look how this blog post has come full circle; suddenly I’m filled with a feeling of oneness and harmony.

Moving on.

Tried to figure out what happened to make my eggplants change color and stop producing.  The answer is me.  I happened.  By neglecting to fertilize my eggplants for a two month stretch while I moved my earthly possessions from one plot to another, I happened to my eggplants.  And they weren’t happy with the happening that happened.  But I’ll be better next year, lil’ eggplanties, ‘kay?  I’ll also plant a billion more, since aside from the happening that happened to them, they were beautiful and productive and beautiful and problem-free and beautiful.

May I remind you of a fabulously delicious way to use prepare eggplant?  Besides the eggplant parmigiana thing that everyone knows about and has done a thousand times?  And baba ghanoush?  Here you are. She’s my all-time favorite food blogger.  And I hear she’s also absolutely stunning in person.  True story.

Found my old favorite gym shirt!  From back when I used to go to the gym.  When dinosaurs roamed the earth.

In case you’re too damn lazy to read this backwards, it reads “Asthma is Sexy!”  Note the striking background silhouette of a man using an inhaler.  I’ve now made a promise.  A life changing promise.  To myself.  To never go to the gym again.  Oh, and another promise.  That every time I use my inhaler, I will strike a sexy, dramatic pose like that one.  To propogate the notion of asthma’s sexiness.

So what have we learned today?

Well, I’ll tell you what we’ve learned.

One, I am now on a personal crusade to erase guilt from my life by legitimizing all my actions.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Two, other stuff.

Three, I’m pretty lazy when it comes to wrap-ups of what we’ve learned.  It’s just who I am these days.

See you soon, my precious babies!  Precious, precious, babies.

Precious, precious, precious misfit babies.

Am I doing it again?  Sorry.

It’s just who I am these days.

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