Monday, May 28, 2012

Out of doors

Where have the last few weeks gone?  Oh, that's right.  They have been spent in the yard!  From yard work to gardening to landscaping to dining to soaking up the sun and petting the dogs for a few minutes, many hours have been spent out of doors and much has been accomplished.

I'll share more about the work later, but let's cut to the fun and the food for now.  To kick off the outdoor dining season, my sister came over for dinner and a bonfire.

We made our own ginger ale using seltzer water and ginger syrup and I improvised a risotto with what I had on hand.  Jessy is a very particular eater, so when I can cook a meal we both enjoy, it is a special thing.  Of course, I left the mushrooms, blue cheese and pine nuts as optional add-on toppings so as to not offend her supertaster mouth.  We followed up dinner with a fire.  It is nice to put the firepit to use as it takes up so much prime backyard real estate.

Paul was out of town when I had Jessy over, so it wasn't long before we had the grill out and Paul made us another outdoor dinner.  Portobella for me, some sort of fancy steak for Paul.  Paul tried out something new by grilling the asparagus on a cedar plank.  It imparted an interesting smoky, savory aspect to the fabulous local purple asparagus.  If we keep up this outdoor dining pace, I may find the time and energy to replace our hand-me-down plastic table with one of these.  We've been trying to find outdoor furniture we both like for 3 years and that table may be the one!

Some of the days where we had outdoor work planned had to be cancelled due to the large amount of rain and thunderstorms we have been having recently.  All of the rain has made the ground hard to work at times, but the positive part is that the Siberian Iris plants in the rain garden are happily in bloom. Their petals are so delicate and so full of detail.  I had to cut a few and bring them inside!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Veggie Garden 2012

Our first gardening victory of 2012: The veggies are planted!

We are doing things a little differently this year.  We have coordinated with my dad again and this time we are focusing our garden on the things we treasure eating straight out of the garden (i.e. peas and tomatoes) and letting him grow some of the things that are space hogs and transport well (i.e. zucchini, squash, cabbage).

We are also working on burning some of the grass out by laying a tarp over it for the summer. The hope is that next year we will be able to till it and plant straight into the ground and that the tarp will have killed out most of the weeds and grass. In the meantime, we are using the earthboxes and a pot to expand our growing space this year.  Also, notice the awesome fence Paul built to keep the bunnies and dogs out of the garden!

One drawback to spending all your energy in the garden is that you don't have any time and energy left to cook.  We have been eating more restaurant prepared food this week than we have in the past few months combined!

For the record, here is what we planted for veggies this year:

  • Mexican Sour Gherkins/Cuke Nuts
  • Cucumber - Homemade Pickles
  • Purple Tomatillos
  • Sweet Peas - Heirloom from Dad
  • Bush Green Beans - Blue Lake 274
  • Kale - Dwarf Blue Curled
  • Swiss Chard - Organic Red and White Mix
  • Collard - Vates Non-Heading
  • Bell Peppers - Red Beauty and Valencia
  • Hot peppers - Jalapeno, Habanero, and Ancho
  • Soybean - Agate
  • Tomatoes - Sungold, Valley Girl, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear, and Hillbilly
  • Radishes - French Breakfast

And, for newly planted herbs:

  • Lemongrass
  • Ginger Mint
  • Grapefruit Mint
  • Sweet Basil
  • Mexican Tarragon
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley

Friday, May 18, 2012

Digging a hole

Last weekend, I dug myself a literal and a figurative hole.  It all had to do with the Friends School Plant Sale.  You see, I have designs on slowly getting rid of nearly all of my grass.  Lawns aren't interesting.  They require constant upkeep and suck up a lot of resources (water and gas).  You can't even eat them or look at their pretty flowers!  Last year, I put in an herb garden, which took away some of the grass.  Now I am starting to plan what I want to do with the rest of the space in our front yard.  The next phase is to plant the border on either side of our front sidewalk.  So, in addition to the usual herbs and vegetables, I was in the market for interesting perennials.  Enter...The Plant Sale.

This is just a shot of the herb area! It was a HUGE sale.

This is no small sale.  It takes over the grandstand at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  There are hordes of volunteers, seriously thick plant catalogs, and a lot of suppliers.  The catch is that this sale  only happens one weekend each year.  I had to act fast if I wanted access to the huge variety of options.

"Oops! These came without pots. These cups should help." It was a scoop-your-own situation for this plant :)
My mom and I went together and both of us had spent a few weeks researching and planning our purchases.  We were very grateful for our shopping lists because that place was chock full of temptation.  The little plants at a few bucks a pop seem like no big deal, so you want to keep getting more and more and more!

Many people brought wagons, but this true Minnesotan brought her sled.
Also, with a sale that big, it is easy for a plant to get lost.
After completing our shopping, we very nearly gave ourselves permission to "browse".  Luckily we stayed strong and saved the browsing for another year.

Even with our stellar discipline, we both ended up with a full flat of plants.  This is where the literal and figurative hole comes in for me.  You see, I didn't realize how far I was from being ready to plant these plants!  Since bringing the innocent little flat of plants home, I have spent nearly all of my free time in the yard!  There is so much to be done! After nearly a straight week of labor and research, we are at the halfway point of the planting phase. Phew!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jumping on the Chive Blossom Vinegar Train

I went to my mom's house to celebrate Mother's Day last Sunday and I left with her flowers...her chive flowers!

She wasn't planning on doing anything with them and I knew of an easy way to use them: Chive Blossom Vinegar.  It is as simple as rinsing these babies off, throwing them in some vinegar (I used distilled white vinegar) and capping it off.  After 2 weeks it is supposedly ready to use in whatever way you see fit.

I tried to make this last year when I saw the idea come up on Marisa's blog, Food in Jars.  My dad kindly picked his blossoms for me last year, but by the time they were transported from Wisconsin to Minnesota, the rain soaked chives were looking pretty mushy and unappealing.  Since chive blossoms come but once a year, I had to wait a whole year to give it another go.  Here's hoping the results are worth the wait!

A few extra tidbits: I was tickled to find that my mom had the exact amount of blossoms needed to yield a half gallon jar and I had the exact amount of distilled vinegar on hand to top the jar off.  Also, after a day of celebrating the moms (mine and my mother in law), I had just the right amount of time and energy left over to tackle this simple task.  It was meant to be!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Food Swapping - Version 2.0

Once upon a time, I belonged to a wonderful food swapping community.  Then, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture decided they didn't like what we were up to, so they put up a fuss.  As a result, the swap organizers felt it was necessary to stop scheduling swaps for the time being.  

At first, it wasn't apparent how long the hiatus would last, so I held out hope and just took a break from swapping.  It now seems apparent that the solution is not a quick nor easy one and I've been missing the swaps something fierce.  So what could I do?  Why, go underground, of course!  

While the MPLS Swappers are fighting the good fight, I am going to be bringing my perfectly safe and tasty offerings elsewhere for some unregulated swapping. Have a look at the artisanal deliciousness:

Duck eggs!

I didn't have a lot of time to prepare for this swap, so I dug into my canned goods and came up with some jars of the red pepper ketchup and some of my recent batch of meyer lemon marmalade to swap.  In exchange, I took home:
  • a dozen duck eggs
  • carrot apple ginger juice
  • hibiscus mango ale
  • chocolate covered strawberries
  • lilac syrup
  • grapefruit mangosteen soy candle (not edible, but it smells wonderful!)
  • sweet and hot mustard
  • morel mushroom butter

Long live the food swaps!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Full to the brim

I've been wanting to blog, but it hasn't been fitting in.  You see, the month of May somehow is packed to the brim.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  This is the month where this town comes back to life.  The markets open up, the ground is ready to be worked, the sun shines and people want to see and do and live out in the open again.  I've been soaking it up and hope to share some of the fun with you this week.

In the meantime, I hope you are having a weekend full of moments in the sun.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Baby Knits: Worn!

It is a really fun, heartwarming and gratifying thing to see the baby knits I have made for people in use.  I spent an afternoon this past weekend with my friend Jamie and she surprised me with this vest.  Violet is just starting to fit into it now, so she will likely get a good amount more wear out of it before she outgrows it.  The soft cotton yarn will work out just fine as we head into early summer.

We went for a walk and, since it was a bit chilly out, Violet wore a hat that I originally knit for her big sister Sylvia in 2007.  I think Violet sports it quite well as it is intended to be worn as well as a more jaunty styling.

Babies certainly are good for covering in knitwear.  They just look so darn cute in it!
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