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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

I’m pulling up roots, so to speak.  But only the figurative kind, thank goodness–my sweet container farm can go anywhere with relatively little hassle.  Relatively.

RELATIVELY.

‘Cause despite the fact that I didn’t have to do any digging, you don’t want to know how much finagling and fussing it took to fit 6 foot high tomato plants into a modest Jeep.  You just don’t want to know.

But guys.  Look at the photos I posted from my June garden–they almost make me laugh.  Everything looks so small and…under control.  At least, compared to the jungle I have now.  I keep losing The Boy in all that excess foliage.  But it’s a small price to pay, friends (don’t tell him I said that).  A small price to pay for the primo produce we’ve been eating lately…

Forgive the poor quality of that one…I was too excited to make salad to dig for my digital camera, so I just held my laptop up to the bowl.  And that is so not my hand in the picture.  But spookily enough, I don’t remember whose hand it is.

Maybe there was no hand.

Maybe it just kind of…appeared…in the photograph.  So thanks, prosthetic ghost hand that appeared out of nowhere to help me take pictures of my garden vegetables.  Thanks a whole hell of a lot.  In addition to the assistance you lent me, it’s so nice to know that the afterlife isn’t so taxing that you can’t take a little time out of your busy schedule of making walls bleed and watching people go to the bathroom to help the living out.  And it’s cool that you still manicure your nails.  To impress the other ghost hand thingies.  Man, I really hope I’m that cool in the afterlife.

But I digress.  I wildly, ridiculously digress.

Anyhow, we’ve had many harvests of that size already, and some of my other plants are even starting to catch up to those monstrous, frightening, scarily productive cukes:

Aw, well hey there, little pepper!  What caused you to mosey all the way on over here?  What’s that?  Your gardener showed you off too many times and weakened your stem, causing you to break off in her hand, you say?  She’s responsible for all this carnage, you mean?  She’s the sole reason you’re never going to be an enormous stuffed pepper, thereby realizing all your inborn potential?

Well, uh, I’ll be sure to pass on that message…to the appropriate party…

That’s not my hand in this picture either.  The nail polish is all chipped and stuff.  I would never let my nail polish get all chipped and stuff.  Oh, okay, fine, so it IS my hand.  And yes, I’m perfectly aware that this means prosthetic ghost hand thingies have better manicured nails than I do.  Whatever.  Maybe when I’m a ghost hand thingie I’ll take the time for more regular manicures.  Until then…CHIPS GALORE, MISFITS!

Ah, lemon cucumbers.  You took a bit longer to show up than the others, but oh.  Oh.

Oh, baby, OH!

Were you ever worth the wait!  You are the most cucumbery cucumber I’ve ever tasted, and I have tasted some cucumbery cucumbers in my day.  Also, I don’t think I’ve said cucumbery enough.  Cucumbery.  Cucumbery Cucumbery.  Cucumbery Cucumbery Cucumbery.  Alright, now that’s just excessive.

Friends?  My resolution for next year is going to be to learn the difference between not saying cucumbery enough, and saying it too much.  I hope you’ll help me along on the rough journey I have ahead of me.

And that sweet little, beautiful eggplant?  It’s a fairytale variety, no bigger than the palm of your hand, and so far, my plants have been problem-free.  In my gardening research I read post after post about how awfully hard it is to grow eggplants.  How pest-ridden and finicky and disease-prone they are.  But misfits?

They have been the easiest, most pest-free things I’ve grown this year.  No holes.  No bugs.  No disease.  EXTREMELY productive.  And just gorgeous.  If you told me they were just ornamental plants, I’d believe you.  You’ll see.  YOU’LL ALL SEE!

I’LL SHOW EVERYBODY!!

Okay, now I’m at a boil, and I’m gonna take things down to a simmer.  My parole officer–I TOTALLY MEAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY–says that’s good for me.

And that’s all you’re getting out of me today, fair readers.  But stay patient.  Remain true.  And I promise that when next we meet, I’ll have a recipe for you.  Life will be more normal.  Or at least, my version of normal.  Which is probably your version of sick and twisted and as crazy as a clown with ADHD.  But that’s why you like me, right?  What’s that?  You’re really here because I make you feel better about your own life?

Sorry, I can’t really hear you, THE STATIC ON OUR CONNECTION IS TERRIBLE I’LL HAVE TO TALK TO YOU LATER GOODBYE!

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Mmmmmmmm…..

And just in time for grilling season!  That is, if you push grilling season the way we push grilling season around here.  Which is to say, you consider it warm enough to grill as long as scarves and earmuffs aren’t required.

And even when they are.

I’ve been using this recipe for a long time now, and my favorite thing about it is that it gives me another excuse to drag out Ye Olde BMG Crockpot.  But now, if it’s even possible, I love this recipe more.

‘Cause, HELlo.  One more way to use up leftover whey!

If you’re no stranger ’round these parts, you know that I like to make homemade ricotta cheese out of extra milk that’s just sitting around, waiting to sour on me.  And if you’re like me, you’ve done this before and ended up with jars upon jars upon jars of whey taking up valuable refrigerator real estate.  And, if you’re even more like me, which is starting to get a little creepy, honestly, you’ve Googled “uses for leftover whey” and discovered that acidic, yellowish whey, like the non-probiotic kind you get after you’ve made ricotta cheese, can’t be turned into more cheese or very many other appetizing things.  But.  BUT.

BUT!

You CAN use that whey part-for-part instead of water for soaking beans, and my, oh, my, that’s what you’ll always do with your whey from now on, because it boosts the recipe’s protein and nutrition and makes the house smell rich and cheesy while it cooks!  Just make sure to leave a little extra cooking time, since acid can impact bean-softening time.

Really, so many things can impact bean softening time.  El Nino impacts bean-softening time.  Ladies, your cycle can impact bean-softening time.

The time you spend watching the pot and waiting for it to boil will impact bean-softening time.  Whether or not you’ve filled out your 2010 Census form also probably impacts bean-softening time.

I think you get the picture.  Basically, you should just set this sucker up to go in the morning, press “START,” and forget about it for a while.  Like, ten hours.  Toodles.  No, seriously, just walk away.  Keep walking.  Don’t turn back.  Don’t fret.  Stop biting your nails about the bean-softening time thing.  I made half that stuff up.  The beans want you to have a life.  Very good off you go thank you.

Long story short, these beans will change your life and you will henceforth never part from them, so look for the recipe below.  It’s vegetarian.  Vegan if you use water instead of whey.  But.  BUT.

BUT!

Before that, a garden update!

Peas are (finally) sprouting, as are my lettuces, radishes, and baby greens.  I’ve even crafted some eco-chic (read: very cheap) seed markers out of popsicle sticks and a little protective packing tape:

But.  BUT.

BUT!

What’s most exciting to me are these babies, which recently arrived in the mail from Northern Brewer:

Oh, yes.  You got it.  They’re HOP RHIZOMES!  The Boy will now be able to brew his beer with homegrown hops, which will help us all to breathe a little easier at night.

To the bean pot!

Crockpot Vegetarian Baked Beans
Makes about 8 servings (The Boy and I always have enough for leftovers, freezing, and Irish Breakfasts the next morning)

Go Get:
1 lb. dried navy beans
2 quarts water or whey from cheesemaking
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
5 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. black pepper
1 T. kosher salt
2 T. soy sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar

Go Do:
Sort and rinse the beans, and toss ’em in the crockpot. Then toss on the other ingredients. Then toss in a spoon and toss it all around. Then toss on the lid, and…start the slow cooker on low heat (sorry–couldn’t figure out a way to use “toss” there. I know, I’m disappointed, too.) And, uh, hey, guess what? That’s it! Stir ’em around every now and then, and otherwise just allow for 10 hours of prime bean-softening time. You can always speed this up somewhat (I said “somewhat,” don’t get greedy now, the beans will not be rushed), by cooking on the high setting. I’d say that would probably clock in at around 6 hours. Enjoy!

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter, or are damned cursed lucky enough to be a Facebook friend, you know that my “Confirm Order” finger gets a little itchy, oh, forty times per week.  And while I sometimes scratch that itch with a mammoth Barnes & Noble order or, say, the ever-elusive non-sexual Queen of Hearts costume, more often than not, if it’s between December and April, I’m buying seeds.  Oh, Lord, am I ever buying seeds.

Last year, Bad Mama Genny’s garden was good.  Modest.  Manageable.  Sane.  In other words, so not my style.  Well, this year I’ve decided to take action, and the 2010 garden plans are looking…

Utterly ridiculous.  

They are over-the-top.  They are sick.  They are twisted.  They take up six Excel worksheet pages.  They are perfect.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, here’s what I’m planting this year (NOTE, THESE PLANS ARE SUBJECT TO COULD POSSIBLY, OH HELL, THEY WILL 100% FOR SURE CHANGE IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS):

  • Red Russian Kale
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce
  • Rainbow Baby Greens
  • Red Sails Lettuce
  • Green Ice Lettuce
  • Chard
  • Chioggia Beets
  • Um, regular? beets
  • Blue Lake Stringless Green Beans
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Miss Pickler Cucumbers
  • Lemon Cucumbers
  • Miniature White Cucumbers
  • Dwarf Tophat Blueberries
  • Dwarf Northsky Blueberries
  • Mirai Corn
  • Yellow Straightneck Squash
  • Fairytale Eggplants
  • Cinderella Pumpkins
  • Garlic
  • Sugar Sprint Snap Peas
  • Chives
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots
  • Heirloom Fingerling Potatoes
  • Early Butternut Squash
  • Celebrity Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Brandywine Tomatoes
  • Edible Nasturtiums
  • Dwarf Cavendish Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Early Thickset Bell Peppers
  • Cascade Hops (for The Boy’s homebrews)
  • Willamette Hops (oh, the things I do for love)
  • Heirloom King of the Garden Lima Beans
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Alpine Mignonette Strawberries
  • Dwarf Cara Cara Blood Orange Tree

But you know, like I said, that’s just so far.  I could add plants at any time.  With zero warning.  And even less of a sense of accountability.

Did I mention these will be almost exclusively container plants?  And with any luck, my landlady will not have a cow.  Now, it’s still a little early for serious planting in Chicago (HELLOOOO, Friday picnic followed by Saturday snowfall), but my baby misfit garden is already in the works. 

While gardening is often a test of patience, squash are infinitely satisfying to watch.  These pictures were taken within the 24 hour window between yesterday afternoon and today:


You can do it, little squashling!


My, my, that looks uncomfortable.


Being born is messy.


Welcome to the brave, new world that is my apartment, little squash!  Rent is due on the 1st.


He’s lean, he’s green, and he’s HUNGRY!

Now let’s watch the snap peas!


Come ooooon, snap peas!


No?

All right, so we may have to wait a little on those.  Let’s turn our attention to the green pepper and eggplant seeds I started over a week ago:


And…nothing.

Sadly, the squash has ruined me for any seed that takes longer than four days to germinate. 

Thankfully, sneaking up from behind and watering The Boy still entertains me to no end.

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Garlic Photo

Photo by Ian Britton at FreeFoto

12 cloves.  Yesterday, I risked twelve whole cloves of garlic, burying them in the neglected strip of marginal soil at the foot of our staircase.  Oh, I’m sure there are several legitimate protests running through your mind right now.

“But I’m wearing a winter coat!”

“Doesn’t she live in Chicago?”

“Can garlic grow through three feet of snow?”

“I’m too hungry/bored/sleepy/stabby to plant anything right now!”

All legitimate concerns, misfits.  But it’s possible.

As I was up late the other night scanning the Internet for dwarf apple tree porn, I came across a quick article about how planting garlic on the shortest day of the year is good luck.  Horticulturalists pretty much recommend going with shortly after your first frost.  I made neither, seeing as how I’m pretty sure my little scrap of earth will be under a considerable amount of snow by December 21st, and I was too late to plant it right after the first frost.

Meh–gardening is about managing chaos, not controlling nature, and rules were meant to be broken, right?

So you just plop the cloves, right side up, in their new little holes, four inches apart, 1 inch deep, cover ’em up, and be all, “See ya’ in the Spring, misfits!”  They hibernate all winter long and fly their teeny, tiny, little green freak flags after the ground thaws.

Freak flags: does your garlic have them?

A few months ago, I don’t know that I would’ve risked even one, shriveled, half-dead clove of garlic on our earth.  The Boy and I moved here at a tenuous time, not entirely sure how things would pan out for us in our new situation, not willing to put down any roots–literal or figurative–that we couldn’t take with us.

But you know what?  Nothing’s ever fixed, guaranteed, safe secure.  And life just isn’t the same without risk.  Because with risk comes hope.

The BMG can risk a little bit of now in hopes for a little more later.

What the BMG cannot do, is be fucking patient for once.

After I got home from a fall walk today I opened our gate and paused before my new garlic patch, looking for signs that something transformational had happened there.  The dirt still looked barren.  Perhaps a little darker from having been recently worked?  The leaves I’d piled there in a childish attempt to hide my expectations still lay on top, mostly undisturbed.  I thought about the generous bulbs I might pull from that spot a few seasons from now.  I thought about the twelve dried up cloves I might find if that earth fails to produce anything at all.  But in either case, that spot is going to be a gentle reminder that sometimes trust is rewarded with what we wanted, and sometimes it’s rewarded with a lesson.  But trust is always rewarded somehow, isn’t it?

At least, I think it makes us better to believe that it is.

Before I turned to go inside, I squinted my hardest at my little garlic plot, trying one more time to see the change.  And this time, I did.  It didn’t look fruitful.  It didn’t look productive, or green, or rich, or bountiful, or any of that.

But you know?  It did look kinda hopeful.

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