Home In Disarray

May 31, 2013

Fabulous Flowers Friday

Fabulous Flowers Friday
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Or – Astounding Alliteration Achievement.

beautiful yellow rose in liquor bottle

Our rose is blooming.  I generally don’t like rosebushes, because they’re finicky, prone to disease, pointy, and don’t look all that good when they’re not covered in flowers.  Oh, and most roses don’t smell like much. Most Junes, my dad & stepmother will spend a week or so camping when school lets out.  This happens to be when many of the flowers in their yard are blooming, the strawberries are ripening, and the carrots are just getting ready to eat.  Because they’re not around to enjoy it, Kim often asks me to come by and cut as many flowers as I can, pick and eat strawberries, and collect some of the magical sweet little carrots.  Naturally, I oblige. They have an awesome yard.

beautiful yellow rose

A few years ago, I caught the tail end of blooming season for one of the roses.  It was situated in the back of the yard and getting a lot of shade, so not doing as well as it could have.  On my lunch break, I headed over to their house and cut the last bloom that was on it, and tossed it into my car with a myriad of others and headed back to work. The entire inside of the car became so heavily perfumed that I nearly had to roll a window down.  It was epic, unlike any rose I’ve ever experienced. So I begged Kim for a cutting of the rose.   The next year, I wasn’t working and they paid me to do some yard work, and she had me take the entire bush home.  I am pleased to report that it survived the winter and is doing quite well.

beautiful yellow rose

And it’s fucking coated in flowers.  This is my second bouquet to come into the house this year.  I’m going to try to take cuttings and make babies from this bad boy.  It is the greatest rose ever.  I have no idea what it’s called, but it has a strong fragrance, so I’m assuming it’s an old cultivar, definitely not bred for disease resistance.

beautiful yellow rose

Anyone have any idea what it might be called?  The blooms are huge, and look peony-ish with the swirls of petals.

Posted in: Garden, Landscaping, Misc
May 30, 2013

GMOs – Am I paranoid or just a hippie?

GMOs – Am I paranoid or just a hippie?
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I honestly don’t know enough about the topic scientifically to say with any actual authority whether I am right about this, but by golly, I’m going to have an opinion about it regardless!  There has been a recent news story about unapproved genetically modified wheat showing up in fields in Oregon recently.

 I know that humans have been “genetically modifying” food crops (by selectively breeding for particular attributes naturally occurring in those organisms) for thousands of years, however the newest batches of GMO foods are a little scarier(to me, at least).  Monsanto is a huge food conglomerate which is closely tied to the USDA and other governmental organizations.  They produce Round-Up, the stuff that you use to kill weeds.  A while back, they decided that it would pretty cool if you could just dust whole crops with Round-Up (they’d sell more of it, and it would be more convenient for farmers) and kill all of the weeds, but leave the targeted crop growing.  So they got to genetically modifying crops like soybeans and corn to be resistant to Round-Up.  It worked.  They patented their genetically modified seeds, and began selling them.  Then once enough farmers began using them, they began suing farmers who would save seeds from the previous year’s crops and replant them, because Monsanto owns the rights to the seeds.  Ok, kind of a dick move, but the farmers DID decide to buy from them and they DID know that those were the rules.  The problem is that normal seed-buying farmers that have fields that border those of Monsanto-buying farmers have experienced some amount of genetic drift, where pollinators would spread the genetic material around, wind, rain, flooding, whatever would somehow get Monsanto patented genetic material onto the normal farmer’s land.  Then they’d sue the farmers for patent infringement.   Monsanto has made a business of selling farmers seeds and crop chemicals; and has made a point of destroying the livelihoods of farmers NOT buying their products.

Monsanto as a company being total dicks and having questionable ties to certain federal regulation agencies is PERSONALLY enough for me to not want to buy their products (hence the eating clean thing), but it’s the  potential health concerns the seal the deal for me.  Of course there haven’t been any publicized studies relating the consumption of GMOs to many of the common health problems that we’re experiencing lately, but perhaps that’s because they’re in EVERYTHING, and the vast majority of America is eating them.  Over the last 50 years or so, we’ve experienced higher than normal rates of infertility, birth defects, autism, food allergies, cancers, etc.  Perhaps it’s eating foods that have been sprayed with poison, perhaps it’s eating all of the pesticides, perhaps it’s the genetic modification itself.  I’m not a researcher and really don’t know enough about all that stuff, but I still find it scary.

And GMOs are in like… everything.  The two main offenders are corn and soy.  Corn is in everything.  High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in all sorts of stuff you wouldn’t expect it to be in… like bread.  Or peanut butter, ketchup, toothpaste, even whiskey and many beers!  Corn and soy are also the main contributors to most vegetable oils.  Soy isn’t quite as hidden i tons of everyday products, but it’s out there.  Corn and soy are also used quite often in animal feed.  Unless you’re buying grass fed beef, it’s been fed with corn and soy.  Pork, chickens, lambs, etc.  They’re also corn and soy fed. And farm raised fish?  You guessed it!  Milk, butter, eggs?  You guessed it!

So how do you avoid putting GMOs into your body?  Organic is an effective way to do so, but it tends to be pretty expensive.  Many “higher end” but non organic foods will have markers on the labels saying something along the lines of “contains no GMOs.”  At our local QFC, they don’t have any organic corn tortillas, but they DO have non-GMO ones.  I either buy organic or non-GMO tofu.  Grass fed, organic, or wild caught are your friends in terms of meat.  I still haven’t gotten there with meats.  We do only buy wild caught fish, and rarely buy beef, but do still buy “all natural” chicken for a few meals per week, which I’m sure is fed GMO corn.

It looks like wheat (which is everywhere) is on the no-no list now too.

Posted in: Food, Misc
May 29, 2013

Clean eating – week of 5/28

Clean eating  – week of 5/28
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This is how I usually do things.  Both Safeway and QFC sales start on Wednesdays, so I USUALLY do my shopping on Tuesdays when I make meal plans based on the sales that are about to end.  Then I can get all the stuff that’s on sale, and if something amazing comes on sale the next day, everything is still pretty fresh and it’s easy enough to shuffle things around to make use of the new sale.  I was hoping that chickens would go on sale at QFC this week.  They have “locally” grown hormone and antibiotic free chickens that the regularly put on sale for $.89/lb.  I usually buy 5-7 of them in a week to feed to the dogs, and will usually roast a chicken and/or make stock those weeks.  It’s been a few weeks, and my stash of dog chicken is gone, which has me buying Fred Meyer brand leg quarters for $1.09/lb until the sale comes back.

Here’s my haul.  Expenses came in at about $83 this week (same as last week’s costco run, but I bought meat this time)  I also bought a $14 box of Franzia, because we’re classy like that.

clean eating grocery haul

Here’s the haul:
3 organic zucchinis
2 heads cauliflower
4 avocados
1 bunch organic beets
1 bunch organic parsley
1 bone-in pork shoulder
~ 2 cups bulk chickpeas
~ 2 cups bulk long grain brown rice
2 clamshells organic grape tomatoes
32 oz saffola oil (for making mayo)
4 bell peppers (2 orange, 1 red, 1 yellow
1 large bunch bananas
4 roma tomatoes
4 cobs yellow corn
1 organic cucumber
4 granny smith apples
1 mango

I will also be using leftovers from last week’s shopping trip(eggs, tofu, etc), plus some other staples that I have in the pantry, like quinoa.

clean eating meal plan

In case you can’t tell, I’m a compulsive list maker.  It helps me stay sane and also allows me to obsess about getting things done when I’m not able to do them, and zone out/watch TV when I am doing them.  When I’m making numerous different dishes and multiple things need to be prepped for each, lists help.  I do this all the time when I ‘m going to be entertaining so I can be sure not to forget any components, and when I’m planning a week’s worth of meals, I prefer to do the same.

to-do list
As soon as I got home, I got started on that night’s dinner, which ended up being the quinoa “tabouleh.”  It was going to be tuna melts, but it turns out that I THOUGHT I had a couple cans of tuna in the pantry, and I do not.  After dinner was made, I got to my priorities.
quinoa "tabouleh" salad
  On my list, they’re marked with dots.  Those are the things that take a while and will need to be done before I can conceivably make any of the other stuff for dinner.  So I peeled and cubed the sweet potatoes and beets first, and got them roasting in the 400 degree oven for about an hour.  While they were roasting, I got the chickpeas going in the crock pot(this was an experiment, and I liked the results), started simmering the carnitas, and got most of the stuff chopped that needed to be chopped.  I also cut up the cauliflower for roasting and decided that I wouldn’t have enough pan space to roast carrots, and didn’t really need them with the sweet potatoes, so crossed them off the list.
roasting sweet potatoes and beets

While the cauliflower was roasting, I shredded my parmesan and packaged it up for when I assemble my veggie cakes, then shredded the zucchini and carrots.  I saved out a couple cups of quinoa (left over from the “tabouleh”) and roasted them in a nonstick skillet so that it will absorb some extra liquid and hopefully function in place of bread crumbs or flour when I try making these veggie fritters.  We shall see!

At that point, I was wanting to get to bed.  I started packaging up everything that I had completed.  I pulled out 2 cups of cooked chickpeas, and froze the rest on a cookie sheet for later use.  I didn’t fry up the pork, but had finished simmering it, so all I need to do now is throw it in a nonstick skillet and crisp it up before we eat it.

roasting cauliflower

 I got home, changed, and unpacked my groceries by 5pm. Including making dinner that night, cooked (and ate as I cooked) til 9pm. In that time, I accomplished:
Cook quinoa for tabouleh and veggie quinoa cakes
Chop bell peppers (1/2 for tabouleh, 1/4 for fit salad, 1/4 for rice bowls)
Peel & chop cucumber for tabouleh
Cut and fry tofu for tabouleh
Cut up tomatoes for tabouleh
Cut up olives and parsley for tabouleh
Cook chickpeas for fit salad and freeze most for leftovers
Cook brown rice for carnitas rice bowls
Simmer chopped pork for carnitas
Boil and peel a dozen eggs for snacks
Roast beets for fit salad
Roast sweet potatoes for fit salad and freeze half for leftovers
Roast cauliflower for fit salad and for snacks

Shred Parmesan for fritters
Shred zucchini for fritters
Shred carrots for fritters
Cut up carrots for carrot stick snacks
Pull chevre and hemp bread from freezer to defrost
Wash cherry tomatoes for snacks
Pack everything up to go in the fridge
Now all I need to do is a little bit of assembling/heating/cutting things up to get dinner on the table through the rest of the week.
All that’s left is foraging in the garden for lettuce and kale, and chopping up and frying tofu for the fit salad, chopping up roma tomatoes, avocados, and cutting corn off the cob for the carnitas bowls.  Assembling and frying up the veggie fritters is pretty easy.
May 24, 2013

How I meal plan for clean eating – Costco Edition!

Costco Clean Eating
By

This is certainly not an end-all, be-all method for how to meal plan. It works OK for us when I actually follow through on things, which is not as often as I probably should.  I don’t assign particular meals to particular days, but instead have some idea of what I’d like to eat on what day, and then play it by ear.  Our commitments have a tendency to get jostled around, and there are usually a few days a week where we end up going out with friends, eating at Craig’s best friend’s house, or I just can’t bring myself to cook, and I’d much rather have takeout.

Our “brand” of clean eating is trying to cut out most processed foods(durr), meaning things with lots of ingredients that we wouldn’t normally cook with, also refined flours and non-whole grains(I’m still a sucker for breads though, so we are really just cutting down).  We’re also trying to cut out refined sugars and GMO crops, increasing our organic and local purchasing, and trying to cut down on animal food sources.  Regarding organic, we TRY to buy organic, but sometimes the cost differential between conventionally produced and organically produced products is so great I can’t justify spending the extra $$ on organic.

Here’s where I start:
What do I have in the fridge that needs to be used?
What do I have in the freezer that I could use?
What have we eaten lately that was awesome?
What have we eaten way too much lately that I want to avoid?
What’s growing in the garden that we need to be eating?

This week, I had some leftovers from the weekend.  Those included a little under a quart of black beans that I had cooked up, a couple cups of leftover smoked pork butt that had been pulled, some buns from the pulled pork, a ton of leftover homemade salsa, and all the stuff for my rainbow cabbage salad .  Those tend to be my first priorities. Then I look through the freezer and determine what I should use soon, and add that to my mental list.  In this case, I found a block of organic ground beef from costco, and a block of boneless skinless chicken thighs.

Now I have to figure out what to make.  I TRY to make at least one new thing each week, just to a)keep me on my toes b)try to stay seasonal in what we’re eating c)not get bored with the same dishes all the time.  For that, I consult my handy dandy Pinterest board, 101Cookbooks, or SmittenKitchen.  Many of the recipes that I pull from other sites have things in them that we’re trying to avoid, but with a little modification, most “healthier” recipes can be made to work.  Let’s say a recipe calls for orzo or couscous.  You could easily sub out parcooked brown rice for the orzo, and quinoa for the couscous.  Easy enough.  I find that even browsing vegetarian and vegan pinboards or blogs (I use pinterest to find good blogs too) can sometimes give me ideas, and I can sub in a more conventional ingredient for one of the stranger vegan ones, or add meat to a vegetarian side dish to turn it into a meal.

This week, I started out knowing that one of the first meals that I made would need to be my rainbow cabbage salad, as everything had been prepped and in the fridge for like 4 days already and needed to get eaten.  I also knew that I was running to costco after work and would have a LOT of prep afterwards when I got home, so I opted to just buy a rotisserie chicken (they’re so cheap at costco, it’s hard not to!) and shred it over the top of the salad and have that for dinner.

I also try to use the same ingredients in multiple dishes.  This cuts down on additional ingredients that are sitting around in the fridge costing me money.

Costco Clean Eating

This week’s meal plan was:
Dinners:
(Kind of) Patty Melts with fruit
Grilled veggies & tofu
Chicken sausage w/ leftover grilled veggies
Chicken sausage, tomato & kale pasta w/ parmesan
Chicken sausage w/ polenta, kale, & quick ragu

Lunches:
Rainbow cabbage salad w/ chicken or tofu
Black beans w/ salsa, greek yogurt, and leftover meat

Breakfasts:
Leftover dinner
Protein waffles

Snacks:
Fruit, smoothies, gouda

The meal plan was tailored to work with one trip to costco for ingredients.  This is what my receipt looked like:
Rotisserie Chicken – $4.99
Aiden’s Chicken & Apple Sausage – $13.99
Firm Tofu (Non GMO – 4 packages per box SO CHEAP) – $3.79
Kirkland Signature Greek Yogurt (2 tubs) – $6.99
Ancient Grains Penne Pasta(whole grains, no wheat) – $7.49
4 dozen locally produced eggs – $6.38
4lbs strawberries – $6.49
2lbs brussels sprouts – $3.79
1 pineapple – $2.99
3 eggplants – $4.99
2lbs broccolette – $5.49
2lbs crimini mushrooms – 4.49
2lbs (I think?) multicolor cherry tomatoes – $4.99
1 case (8 cans maybe?) organic diced tomatoes $5.99
Total – 83.23

There are some things that I could have gotten a little cheaper at the grocery store, like the eggplants if they had been on sale, and MAYBE the broccolette had I found a sale on it as well, but for the convenience of only making one trip, and knowing that the quality is going to be good due to costco’s high turnover, it was worth it to me.

On grocery shopping night, I count on spending the entire evening prepping and processing my haul.  So that’s what I did.  Craig attacked the chicken as soon as I walked in the door, we got the cabbage salad made, took the chicken off that we wanted for that, and then I got down to business.  The first thing that I did was stick the eggs, sausage, yogurt, and tofu in the fridge. I had no immediate plans to do anything with those, so they got put away.  Then the chicken got shredded and put into various containers with beans and whatnot so it could go to work with me or be eaten by Craig for lunches.  Then the carcass went into a pot with some onion, garlic, celery and carrot scraps that I had frozen from previous meals, plus some fresh parsley stems leftover from dinner, and was turned into stock.  I let it simmer away while I worked on other things.

Costco Clean Eating

I got down to business and started prepping my mushrooms (and a couple of bell peppers that I picked up on sale a few days prior) for grilling.  Since they were going on shish-kebab sticks, I took off the stems.  I’d normally chop them up and turn into something else, but I had lots to get done, and knew that they’d help add some umami to a veggie stock at a later date, so I put them in my veggie scraps bag and stuck them in the freezer.

Costco Clean Eating

Costco Clean Eating

After everything was prepped, I simply threaded them onto skewers and stuck them in a casserole dish.  Now when I ‘m ready to grill them, all I have to do is fire up the grill and throw them on!

Costco Clean Eating

My brussels sprouts were also pretty simple, albeit a little time consuming.  I don’t like the funky outer leaves on them so I peel the outer 2-5 leaves off til I get clean ones, then cut off the nubby stem part and they’re ready to go.  If I were roasting or sauteeing these, I’d have cut them in half or into quarters, but I was a little concerned they’d fall through the grates on the grill, so they got left whole.

Costco Clean Eating

After they were cleaned and ready to go, I just topped them with some olive oil,salt, pepper, herbs from the garden, and some spices from the cabinet.  I don’t like using fresh garlic when I’m grilling because when it browns/blackens, it gets super bitter, so if I want real garlic flavor, I’ll crush some up and top the freshly grilled vegetables with it instead.

Costco Clean Eating

Costco Clean Eating

Then I just shook up the container and had seasoned and ready-to-go brussels sprouts for the grill.

Costco Clean Eating

Costco Clean Eating

I did something similar with my broccolette.  In my experience, it’s always been fresh and no parts have been particularly wonky, so I just rinse it off in the bag, drain, then top with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, then shake it up like the sprouts, and I’m good to go.

Costco Clean Eating

Then it was just a matter of prepping the fruit.  Craig loves snacking on fresh fruit but is also exceptionally lazy, so he will eat healthy if things are ready for him to grab, otherwise, he’ll go for crackers, chips, chocolate, etc.  I also prefer to preload my work and get stuff done while I’m already in prep-mode, so I can just grab a container out of the fridge later and eat whatever it is.  So I processed the pineapple, and the strawberries.

Costco Clean Eating

At this point, I had spent probably 3 hours total prepping and cleaning, and washing dishes and whatnot.  The chicken stock had simmered for enough time that it looked good, but I was ready to go to bed.  I know that this is totally against all food-safety regulations, but if I make stock on the stove in the evening, I’ll cover it, make sure the lid is tight, simmer for 20 minutes or so totally sealed, and then turn it off and let it sit overnight to cool before I strain it and stick in the fridge.  When I cook with it, it always comes back up to a boil or gets reduced down, so I haven’t experienced any health issues with it, but I do make sure that it’s only Craig and I eating it.  If I’m serving to other people, I am sure to use stock made “by the book”.  If you’re more reasonable about safe food handling, you could try my crockpot method.

Costco Clean Eating

So by the end of the night, I have skewers made and veggies prepped to be grilled, I have chicken shredded for lunches, and cabbage salad  & dressing ready to go for lunches, everything I need purchased for the rest of my meals, and a solid plan that can easily be modified if/when plans change.

If you like meal planning posts like this one, be sure to check out a few of my others… Here and Here

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food
May 15, 2013

The edible garden is coming along nicely!

The edible garden is coming along nicely!
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For the most part.  I have a few things that are doing… well… less than ideal.  kohlrabi, or basically anything that I started indoors with care.  The winter squash seeds that I put in wet paper towels and then forgot about for weeks on top of the fridge?  Gangbusters.  It figures.

Blooming chives and a spoon flower garden art

The herbs are all doing beautifully…. Except for the thyme that I actually  managed to kill by no watering.  Yes, one of the only things that should be near impossible to kill through lack of water.  That one… The thyme.  It was in a strawberry pot.  The same strawberry pot that it’s been in for the last 4 years, except somehow last year it was killed.  Killed while both parsley and cilantro managed to survive, and even hang on through the winter.  I don’t understand.  But I will rebuild replant!  But I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Shocking, I know.

chive flowers

But now I have these great chive flowers to stare at.  I see them as kind of a mixed blessing.  They’re beautiful.  Delicate, early, exciting, but I hate killing them when I go out to snip chives, and they don’t last all that long as cut flowers, so I have to choose a “blade” and then follow it up to the top prior to snipping to ensure that I’m not destroying the flowers.  Do they taste good?  Am I missing out on that?  I bet they’d be pretty in a salad with some beets, baby kale, roasted butternut squash, and chevre.

This is one of my most problematic beds.  I’m willing to bet you can tell what the shallot starts that I just jammed in the ground are, and what the special Pacific Pearl and Purplette onions that I lovingly started from seed inside the house are.  Oh, and the 2 things towards the back that look like sad little weeds?  Brussels sprouts that I ALSO started inside the house from seeds.  When will I learn that starting things inside from seeds without grow lights always ends up in sadness and wonky plants!?

cool season vegetable bed

Luckily, my FAVORITE bed, the one that ALWAYS looks great in spring is doing quite well.  The carrots look the best they’ve ever looked, the peas, while still a little short, are bushy and growing healthily.  I have lettuce coming out my ears.  I’m frantically trying to plan meals around using lots of lettuce and kale.  Not exactly a bad thing, but very effective.  I have to admit that these photos are about a week old.  At this point, I have one row of lettuce that is 4 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and probably 9 inches tall.  It’s crazy huge.  I just brought a gallon-container that I had stuffed full of lettuce this morning to work for my coworkers and it didn’t even use up 1/3 of the row, which will grow back soon, in addition to the other variety of lettuce that is growing next to it and will be ready to eat late next week I’d assume.  Plus the kale.  The green kale is probably a foot tall by now (it was supposed to be a DWARF variety), and the red kale is growing a little slower (luckily) but is also starting to get quite large.  Stir fry for dinner tonight.  Last night we had chicken lettuce wraps, and the leftover chicken mixture went on a big salad for lunch today!  The zucchini in this bed is taking it’s time, but finally appears to have started going and it’s probably only a matter of time before i have zucchini coming out of my ears.

tomatoes

The tomatoes are doing quite well.  Like I said, these photos are a week old and everything has grown more since then.  I installed my stringy thingies for trellising purposes on the tomatoes over the weekend.  I also fashioned these subterranean watering devices that you can see here.  People on pinterest and whatnot tend to use 2 liter bottles.  I imagine they work just as well as these or better, but I was cleaning out the closet in our spare bedroom and found them.  They’re leftover 2 foot sections of 4″ abs drain pipe that I used to mold soap like 4.5 years ago for Christmas presents.  Basically, all you do is drill or poke some holes in them, cap off the end (i used the cheap “temporary” caps @ $.69/ea vs $2.99/ea for permanent caps) then sink them in up past the top hole.  Then you fill them with water (or just put water in them… for me, the water leaks out about as fast as I put it in, so they don’t really hold any) and it waters the root systems of the plants without wetting the leaves or getting the surface of the soil wet (which is theoretically a waste of water).  I’ve used them once, although I’m not sure how useful they are at this point in the growing season because a) it’s not very hot outside, thus less evaporation, and b)the roots of the tomatoes probably aren’t very deep either.  Still hasn’t stopped me!

green globe artichokes

Here we are growing some green globe artichokes.  The whole proposition makes me nervous as I have had terrible luck with them in the past, but Craig has recently taken an interest in growing our own food, and wanted to give them a try.  So I changed plans a little and dedicated this whole bed to a perennial food crop.  Hopefully they actually give us some flowers this year!  Additionally, we have some of these crazy lumpy pumpkin seeds that my coworker saved last year for me.  This bed shares a bamboo trellis bridge thing with the bed next to it, so next to it I planted Painted Lady runner beans, which have a pretty red bloom and should grow up the trellis nicely.

garlic and pumpkins

Here you can see the robust garlic sprouts going, plus butternut, spaghetti, and lumpy winter squash.  Oh, and a couple really sad (started inside) brussels sprouts  that really haven’t done much growing in the last month.  I’m thinking it might be necessary to just start more from seed outside and wait for them to overtake the indoor-started ones, then kill those off.  Jerks.  And next to the trellis thing, I have some bush beans.  They’re shelling beans and will be pretty.

rhubarb in a raised bed

Rhubarb has done well, as always.  At this point, I’ve made decently sized harvests from it twice, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down one bit.  I have more winter squash growing on each of the corners of the bed.  The hope is that they will hang over and trail down onto the ground and do most of their squashing down there.

This is the saddest of my beds.  I have kohlrabi and beets and some spinach in it.  Everything looks like shit. Most of the kohlrabi has died, and for some reason there are random bits of kale popping up.  I have no idea.  I would LIKE to just turn everything under and plant a cover crop in the bed this year, which I may still do, but I’m holding out just a little hope for the beets still.  If they don’t pick it up by mid-june, I’m planting bush beans and that’ll be that.

strawberry flowers

The strawberries are blooming.  They’re lookin’ good, and at this point, I have several small green fruits that are taking their sweet time to start ripening.

Anyone else totally impatient in waiting for things to GROW? GHP is hosting a link-up, go check out her site to see the rest of the exciting spring festivities on the interweb!
http://gardenhomeandparty.com/2013/05/15/garden-home-and-party-celebrating-the-season-with-a-party/

Posted in: Food, Garden
May 10, 2013

Love Spring in the Yard!

Love Spring in the Yard!
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This year’s spring has been strange.  Our rainfall has been well below average, which has been nice, but so have temperatures, which is less nice.  We’ve had a solid week or two of really nice weather though, which is not something that Western Washingtonians tend to experience in May…. ever.  Our summer usually doesn’t start until the 5th of July (there’s a long running joke that it has to rain on Independence day, so the day after that, the weather is finally allowed to improve), so I’m not holding out too much hope that it will stay as gorgeous as it’s been, but I’ll take what I can get.
Lupine just starting to bloom

I have a strange way of remembering things, so please bear with me, but it’s usually pretty easy to tell within a week or two what the date in late spring is by what’s blooming.  Generally, our purple lilacs bloom first, and just as they are starting to get brown and crunchy, the white lilacs will begin opening.  That transition usually takes place on Mother’s Day weekend.  I know this because my mom used to have like 30 lilac bushes, and we would cut a huge bouquet for her each year.  The purple ones always looked bad but were open, and the white ones were usually mostly closed, but were in good shape. Lupine is usually in full bloom over Memorial Day weekend.  I remember this because a few years ago we drove up to my in-laws’ cabin for Mem. Day weekend festivities and I remember certain areas of the freeway were surrounded by lupine in bloom.  It was gorgeous.

5 year old Primrose lilac - NOT yellow.
This year, everything’s out of order.  The lupine is blooming a full 2-3 weeks early, and all of my lilacs have opened at about the same time.  It’s pandemonium people!  My yard is CONFUSED!

Syringa Vulgaris Blooming

I’ve pared my Mock Orange collection down to just one bush.   Haha, like how I just suggested that I willingly chose to do so instead of managing to kill the other 2 bushes that I bought our first summer in the house?  Anyway, I’m pretty sure this one is cultivar ‘Heaven Scent’ but I may be totally off.  It has some really interesting bright yellow variegation in the leaves.  None of the flowers have opened yet, but it’s coated in buds, so in a few weeks time, I’ll probably just drag a chair down next to it, sit among the weeds, and read a book.

I not-too-long-ago had an exchange with another blogger about how useless tomato cages are.    They are terrible.  Not tall enough to contain them, not short enough to fit under anything, and apparently not supportive enough to even handle a peony.  This is my grandmother’s peony by the way.  Well, part of it.  I suspect it’s not getting quite enough sun, as it only gives me 1-2 flowers each year, but I’ve also moved it twice in the last 4 years, which also may have a little to do with it.  Regardless, I’ve tried a number of different support methods, year 1, I had no idea they needed support, so didn’t provide any, and it vined across the ground.  Year 2 I made a square out of bamboo stakes and wrapped twin around them to box it in.  Year 3 I made a teepee out of bamboo stakes and then lashed on horizontal bamboo supports.  All 3 methods seem less stupid than the fucking tomato cage.  Perhaps it is just the false hope that I had for it’s promise as a peony support, but I’m about ready to melt it down for scrap.

Last but not least is my Korean Mountain Ash.  This thing is great and one of my favorite plants, although I still can’t get over the sneaking suspicion that it’s actually a pretty boring tree.  Craig doesn’t seem nearly as pleased with/excited about it as I am.   We had a Pacific Wax Myrtle where this tree was to eventually act as a screen for our neighbor’s bedroom window/mint green siding.  But then there was a big snowstorm and half of it broke off.  And it was the important half.  So I opted for something a little taller to begin with that should fill in fairly rapidly. And it has cool shit going on each season.  To begin with, it blooms in May. (see below), has pretty leaves all summer, the leaves turn nice colors in autumn, and in winter, it produces colorful berries that the birds nibble.  As long as it doesn’t start showing up all over the yard, I’d say this tree is a real win.  So go get one post haste!

korean mountain ash

Last year was it’s first year in the yard, so I’m expecting it to begin to fill in much better this year, but time will tell.

Do you have anything exciting going on in your yard so far this spring?

Posted in: Garden
May 8, 2013

“I know these are her sunglasses”

“I know these are her sunglasses”
By

Just a quick story from today, something that made me laugh a little.

I work in a fairly large office, and we have a large shared computer room where people will come in to work on projects and whatnot.  We have an elderly person at the office who is beginning to get a little less sharp than she had been previously.  Yesterday evening she came up to the receptionist and told her that (let’s call her) Deborah Gibson had left her glasses in the work room.  The receptionist asked her how she knew they were her glasses.  The older lady replied “I know they’re hers because her initials are on them.”

Posted in: Misc