Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1st Home Grown Apple Harvest

This is our first year for home grown apples. The bare root trees that we planted 2 years ago produced enough apples for 7 pints of apple butter. I know we are going to savor every last bite. How exciting also, to know that we will probably get twice as many next year. Mmmmm maybe enough for apple pie too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pickled Beets

I made some spicy pickled beets from beets I harvested out of my backyard this weekend. They look so pretty (I love anything pink). I’ll be adding them to my green salads this winter.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Salsa and tomato sauce are always really popular around our house. This year we grew 30 different tomato plants and had tons of tomatoes (still do) to use for canning. We made sauce and salsa with our first big batch and will be harvesting everything left on the vines this next weekend to freeze, can whole or wrap in newspaper to ripen indoors. I picked another small wagon load yesterday. My absolute favorite this year has been the Big Pink White Stripe. It has the most amazing flavor. I'll be growing twice as many next year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pickled Okra

My own homegrown okra was an abject failure this year. I got nada but a bunch of well fed bugs. On the way back from picking up our beef, Mark and I stopped at a road side farm stand where I hit the okra mother load. I bought the whole box (6 lbs) and found a great spicy pickled okra recipe. I haven’t opened one up to try yet, but they sure do look pretty in the jars with my home grown dill and red peppers. Let’s hope they taste as nice as they look.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ripen Peppers Indoors

The bugs keep getting to my ripe peppers before I can. It is really irritating and I decided to do something about it. I read someplace that you can ripen peppers indoors like you can do with green tomatoes. Mark and I went out on Sunday and picked boxes of green peppers on the verge of turning yellow and orange. We brought them in and cleaned the really well, careful to get all of the bug ridden ones separated out. We then dried them and laid them in clean cardboard boxes covered in newspaper. I will be checking on them every other day or so to see if they are getting ripe. I hope this works!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bread and Butter Pickles

I’ve been in a crazy pickling frenzy lately. I made enough jars of bread and Butter pickles to eat one quart a week for 17 weeks. We never get tired of them :)

Fall Flowers

The last month has been a busy time around here. I haven't found time for posting, so I have a lot to get caught up on. I've been busy harvesting and canning and putting in the winter garden. I was out enjoying the flowers still blooming in the garden and saw a monarch enjoying one of our zinnias. The zinnia flowers just popped up this year. I think they may have been part of a mix that I sprinkled out in the early spring. I will be saving some of the seeds to plant again next year. The Cosmos have been especially pretty this fall. I love plants and will be saving as many seeds as possible. I'm also going to be dividing huge clumps of irises, society garlic, shasta daisys, agapanthas, lambs ears, forth of july's, and cannas. There is so much to do in the garden, I could spend all day outside and never get everything done. Not to mention, I do have a full time job and amateur Roller Derby Career going on too. Please forgive my posting lapse, I'm back on track now :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Harvesting the Pumpkin Patch

We had hoped to leave our pumpkin patch in place until a little later this month, but nature had different plans. Rain over the last week encouraged us to harvest our pumpkins and winter squash. The photo above is what we collected. A few of the smaller squash were moldy and got thrown in the compost bin. I will be trading some squash for figs and making a lot of pumpkin curry this winter. I absolutely love pumpkin! One of my favorite recipe’s in the world is Squash Lasagna, but instead of Butternut Squash, I like to use Pumpkin. I know it sounds a little strange, but I promise that it tastes fantastic!

This is a Wonderful Recipe from Weight Watchers that I make every winter.
4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
2 medium garlic clove(s), minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
10 oz dry lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (about 12 noodles)
10 oz cooked winter squash, thawed if frozen
1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup golden seedless raisins
2 Tbsp pine nuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place flour in a small saucepan and very gradually whisk in milk and garlic. Warm over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce simmers and is thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Spread 1/4 cup of cheese sauce over bottom of a 9 X 13-inch glass or metal pan and cover with 3 lasagna noodles; top with 1/3 of squash and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of raisins. Cover with 3 more lasagna noodles and spread with 1/3 of remaining squash and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce; sprinkle with 1/4 cup of raisins. Cover with 3 more lasagna noodles and top with remaining squash and raisins; cover with last 3 lasagna noodles, pressing sheets firmly down. Top with remaining cheese sauce; sprinkle with pine nuts and remaining mozzarella cheeseBake until lasagna bubbles around edges and is browned on top, about 30 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve

This is soooo yummy!!!! My mouth is watering just typing it :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Eating Local Beef

Mark and I went on a little adventure a few weeks ago that I am just now having time to write about. We drove up to Lake County to pick our ¼ of an all natural pasture raised/ grass feed steer for our freezer.
After reading Omnivore’s Dilemma this summer, I’ve been unable and unwilling to eat any beef without knowing exactly where it came from. I hate the idea of supporting feed lot practices in any way. This has seriously reduced the amount of beef that I’ve been eating to just about none. While perusing Craigslist, I came upon an ad for all natural grass fed beef and since Mark and I already own a chest freezer to store it in we thought it might be worth exploring further.
I called up the Rancher Eric and he told me that he would have a Steer ready to process in about 2-3 weeks. The grass fed steers are really lean and a lot smaller than grain fed. The cost was $3 per pound on the hoof and ¼ steer would be around 125 lbs. Mark and I decided we would give it a try, and a few weeks later Eric called back to see what cuts of meat we wanted. Since I have never ordered meat this way, I was not quite sure what to ask for. He kindly went over all of the different cuts with me and told me that it would dry age for 18 days and then he would be individually wrapping it and freezing it.

About 2 months after ordering it (slow food) we got a call that it was ready to pick up. The directions to Eric’s house involved miles of dirt road and I was excited to see where our steer had grown up. It was a beautiful drive about an hour from home. The area was once volcanic and there is obsidian rock scattered all over the road. We met Eric, his wife Nora and 4 of their 6 kids. They had quite the menagerie of animals, cats, dogs, chickens, running around their yard. I felt instantly at ease since it reminded me of my house. Eric told us a little about his history, he used to be a Sherriff, but had to retire after an injury. He had worked as a butcher as a teenager and decided to go into ranching. He took us down to the pasture where his grazing cattle live. The grass was starting to dry out, but I was surprised at how tall it was and how green some still was despite the hot weather. I asked where they get their water from and he explained that there is a stream running thru the pasture area. They actually have 1100 acres they can roam around on. We stopped by a farm stand on the way home and I bought a box of the most gorgeous Okra EVER to pickle (see Okra Pickles post). It was a great trip and Mark and I have enough meat to last all winter and spring. I’ve made some steaks and used some hamburger in meat sauce (we have over 20 lbs bags of it). So far so good. The meat is so lean that there is almost no fat in the pan when cooking. I am looking forward to coming up with some fun and creative recipes for all of it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Side Yard Wisteria Walk

Along our front fence line we have a great purple wisteria plant that shades the south side of our house during the summer. It has not been cooperating with my plan for it to grow up over the top of the pergola that Mark built for me last year. Instead it is trying to take over the fence line and the rest of the neighborhood along with it. I keep trimming it back hard in the hopes that it will eventually cover the pergola like it is supposed to.
We have tons of Agapanthus growing all over our yard. I am a great believer in free plants and when Mark and I decided to landscape for our wedding we had very little money to cover a huge area. I learned how to devide and propogate plants very quickly. One huge Agapanthus I devided turned into over 50 1 gallon plants. The ones pictured above will be devided this fall. They are very hardy, drought tolerant and the cut flowers last for weeks. The one thing that I hate about them is that they are snail breeding grounds. the snails love to hide between the leaves. I have been picking them off and feeding them to my chickens. The hens just adore escargot.
In the far background of this picture you can just see the pond that we will be installing later this summer. It will be surrounded by plants and have a little seating area next to it so that we can relax and enjoy it.
That is one of the best shady areas in our garden and it is rarely used. Adding the pond and seating will create a new outdoor room for us to enjoy.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grape Vines

Grape Vine Fence

Baby Grapes
Planted along the fence line that separates our yard into smaller sections are 10 grapevines with an assortment of different types of grapes (some wine some table). I was thrilled to see some nice little grape clusters formed. The grapevines do a nice job of disguising the wood and wire fence and make a very pretty green wall. We planted the grapes right before our wedding last June. They were a little stressed out last year and did not produce many edible grapes. I work for a big winery and have all of the wine I could ever drink, however I am considering trying to make some homemade wine this year and lots of grape jelly for PB&J's.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Heirloom Tomato Rows

I've added a nice rice straw mulch over the entire garden. I'm hoping it will work to keep the weeds down and some extra moisture in. The photo above is of 2 rows of heirloom tomatoes we have growing on a tomato fence. The plants are secured to a wire fence supported by T-posts. It seems to be working well so far. I waited longer than I should have to support the plants and they were pretty out of control when I finally got around to tying them to the fence.
I've realized that I have been way over watering the poor plants so I am trying to cut back to every 3rd day. The leaves were starting to yellow and get a little curly which is a bad sign. Under the tomato plants I've planted carrots and baby spinach as well as beans and beets.

July 30, 2008 Harvest

Here’s what Mark and I harvested out of our garden tonight: Beets, Chard, Armenian Cucumbrs, Squash, Nectarines, Radishes, Beans, Tomato, Broccoli

I also picked this 6 bouquets of Roses, Dahlias, Lavender, Bells of Ireland, Agapanthus, Liatris, Artemisia, Hydrangea and Butterfly Bush.

Grabbed some fresh eggs too:

Not a bad shopping trip to the backyard

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back Garden Tour

On the east side of our green house we have planted Corn, Squash, Melons, Okra, Cilantro, Basil, Lettuce, Radishes and more....

South of the green house we have Beans, Peppers, Eggplants, Beets, Chard, Black Basil, Tomatoes, Onions, Strawberries and Rhubarb
Everything is doing really well. There are volunteer Tomato's, Melon, Eggplant, Cilantro and Bells of Ireland coming up all over the garden. I've been digging them up and moving them around as best I can.
This weekend I started some Lettuce, Peas, Kale, Beets, Turnips, Radishes, Carrots, Chicory, Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower in 6 packs and 4 inch pots. They should be ready to put in the ground in a few weeks. The weather has been strange. It is still smoky from the wild fires and has remained overcast long into the day. It has not been hot enough to ripen may tomatoes (I've only had 2 ripe ones). I did not plant any early varieties, instead I chose all crazy colorful heirlooms. I'm regretting not having planted a couple of early girls. I bought a tomato from the Farmers Market Saturday morning. It was the most beautiful Pineapple Tomato that I have ever seen. It weighed a full pound and was $4. worth every penny.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Pumpkin Patch

Here's a shot of our little pumpkin patch. It is located to the west of our green house next to the chicken coop. Mark had to raise up the sprinkler on to a pole because everything grew tall very quickly. There are about 10 different kinds of winter squash and pumpkins planted here.
All of my favorites like Golden and Blue Hubbard, Cinderella Pumpkins, Butternut, Sweet Dumpling , Potimarron , Musquee de Provence, Galeux d'Eysines , Red Kuri, Jarrahdale and more (Mark refuses to eat squash of any kind). I have already spotted some giant Golden Hubbard squash growing in the corner. According to the seed packet they only get to be 12 lbs, but I estimate that they will be at least 20-30 lbs when ripe. They are enormouse already.
I'll be eating home grown squash all winter. I can hardly wait!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lavender Harvest

I invited my mother over this weekend to harvest some of our lavender. We have over 100 plants. I absolutely love the scent as I walk around the garden. It has been so alive over the last couple of weeks with the buzzing hum of hundreds of bumble bees busy at work. I sat on our lawn at the edge of the lavender watching a bee sip nectar from the tiny little blossoms. It was absolutely amazing. My mom took a wheel barrel full but there is much more. I am on a quest to find some really good uses for it this year. Last year I let it go unused. I'm thinking dryer sachets to add lavender scent to my linens. Anyone have any particular suggestions on how to use 3 more wheel barrels (at least) of dried lavender? If so please share :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why I love Roller Derby:

On Saturday night I took out an entire weeks worth of frustration, hostility and stress on the unsuspecting players from the Central Coast Roller Girls. Crashing into the other team as hard as I can on skates is extremely fun and it feels really good despite the sore muscles that go along with it. Sure, I took my fair share of hard hits too and I ended up on the ground more than once. I did what I had to do and I kept on skating even after taking a skate to the face in the 3rd period. I’m happy to say that I only got thrown in the box once and that was just for some elbows.

I feel quite serene now like all of the stress for last weeks flower show craziness is gone. It is a really good outlet for me and I’m happy that we won by over 100 points. I’ll be going to the chiropractor tonight to get adjusted, but it was all worth it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Flower Show Results

I am excited to report that we won 1st Place, Best use of Summer Annuals and Best use of theme at the flower show.

The Best of Show award went to a beautiful garden that I will be posting a picture of very soon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Minute Mans Meadow

I'm done with this years flower show entry. It took me and a few helpers around 15 hours to install. The judging takes place on Sunday Morning. I'm looking forward to finding out how we did. I think it came out lovely. I will snap a few pics of the competition tomorrow morning to add. That's one thing checked off this weekends work list:)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Weekend To Do List


Every summer the Sonoma County Fair has a huge flower show. it's actually the largest theme flower show in the U.S. I’ve been working hard on preparing an entry for the Adult Amateur Division. The theme for the fair this year is Star Spangled Celebration and the Flower Show theme is Red White and Blooms. It is a nod to New England with individual entry themes like “Down by the Old Mill Stream” and “Take Me Back to Old Cape Cod.” Unfortunately, I was second to last in the drawing to pick my theme and got stuck with “Minuteman’s Meadow.”

Picture a hilly backdrop with a little house and picket fence. There will be a small pond and a water fountain made to look like a miniature cannon. The flowers will be red white and blue with pink, green and purple accents. The space is 11 feet by 15 feet and it has to be 80% covered in live plants.

This is going to be a fundraiser for my Roller Derby team and so the girls will be coming down to the fairgrounds on Friday to help me. The deadline to complete installation is midnight. I should have some good photos to post on Saturday.


Mulch Garden I’m going to get started right away on Ruth Stouts "No Work Garden" plan. I will be headed off to pick up 5 or 6 bales of rice straw and completely cover the garden with it. I am also going to clean out the chicken coop, turn the compost and start some Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Leeks in trays for the winter veggie garden patch. I will be using my new soil blocker for the first time. I plan to sow some carrots seeds and plant more beans (dry).

Saturday Night

Skate against the Central Coast Roller Girls


Clean House (It needs it badly)
Photograph the yard
Flower Show Awards Gala
Recover with a glass of wine
I hope I can get everything done!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Work Gardening Is it a myth? I'm going to find out

I’ve been reading up on my weeds. I’ve decided that I’d better own them if I’m ever going to figure out how to eliminate them. My biggest problems are pigsweed, purslane and crab grasses. Ignoring them certainly doesn’t make them go away. I swear I’ve pulled a hundred thousand weeds so far this summer and they are still coming on strong.

Yesterday, I dusted off my copy of No Work Gardening by Ruth Stout (published in 1971). This is really awesome book and I could kick myself for relegating it to the back of the bookshelf under a stack of Sunset Magazines. The simplicity of Ruth’s suggested method of weed control/soil protection is really encouraging. In a nut shell Ruth advocated covering your soil with 8 inches or so of compostable materials (straw, leaves, chips, grass clippings ect.) No compost pile, just compost everything in place. If weeds pop up you would just through some more straw down to smother them. I’ve read another book called Lasagna Gardening which offers similar advice. It may sound to good to be true but I think I’ll give it a try. I’ve recently discovered that if I use rice straw for mulch then I don’t get all of the hay seeds popping up everywhere like I do when I use the other kinds of straw mulch. I plan to pick up 6 or 7 bales this weekend and cover the garden with it. It may look a mess, but if it keeps the weeds from taking over then who cares right? I actually think that straw mulch looks very nice and natural. It is much better than hard cracked soil with patches of weeds. Another benefit to adding the mulch will be better water retention. If I can cut down watering to once a week then I am willing to live with straw everywhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Zucchini Time

We harvested our first zucchini of the season this weekend. Mark spotted it. He grilled it on the BBQ and it was quite tasty. I harvested a few more on Sunday and traded them for some peas with my sister over the back fence. On Sunday I went down to the 40/8 Flea Market at the Vets Building. I found this really cool book on Preserving for $1. There is a recipe for Zucchini and Ginger Jam which sounds absolutely delicious. I’m going to give it a try next weekend.
We still don't have any ripe tomatoes but the plants are loaded down with green ones so I am hopeful we will get a few more hot days and I'll be seeing them turn colors soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Garden Update

This photo is of the eastern most side of our garden looking thru the tomato fence. We've got beans, squash, okra, melons, tomatillos, basil, cilantro, lettuce, radishes and corn growing in these three beds.

This photo is of one of three tomato rows. We have 27 different heirloom tomato plants growing this year. not counting the volunteer mystery tomatoes that are popping up everywhere.

This is the middle garden, in front of our green house. There are probably around 40-50 eggplants (all different varieties) and 60-70 peppers plants in this section. There is also more beans, swiss chard & beets, basil and green onion planted here (not pictured). The peppers seem to be growing quite slowly. The eggplants made a miraculous recovery from the damage done by beetles early on. Once I get the straw mulch spread out I will take some more photos to share.

So Funny

I was headed home from work today on a rural back road that I don't usually take ( ironically named Scenic Avenue). I passed this sign in the front yard of a little ranch style home. I started laughing so hard I had to pull over and get a picture.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Open Road

I went on a bicycle ride with Mark last weekend. It is the first time that I have ridden a bicycle in over 10 years. It was awesome! I’ve completely forgotten how good it feels to cruise around. My bike is less than ideal. It is a little rusty and not very comfortable but it will work fine until I can save enough to get a more reliable one. I don’t like that my bike has a ton of different speeds and I have to keep shifting on the handles. We rode 5 miles and I could have easily gone much much further if my behind didn’t hurt from my seat. I really want to get a simple cruiser bike with 3 speeds and a really wide seat. Mark has a mountain bike that he is happy with but his behind was a little sore too. He hasn’t been riding for awhile either. It’s funny how we each have very different ideas of what the bicycles should be used for. My suggestion was that we ride our bikes to the grocery store or over to the coffee shop. The closest one being a few miles away. He refused because he “does not want to go grocery shopping when he is all sweaty”. He wants to just go ride around with no particular destination in mind while I want to get from point A to point B. I have a feeling I am going to be riding on my own a lot. While out riding on the trail near our house we discovered some walnut trees and blackberry bushes loaded down with almost ripe fruit. I can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks to harvest some berries for jam. I clocked how far it would be if I was to ride all the way to work each way. It is exactly 11.6 miles from my driveway to my office. There are 39 stop lights between here and there. I’d like to think that my fat ass could actually make it. I am going to have to test my theory by getting on a bike at the gym and trying to pedal 11.6 miles. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Hammock is Up

Mark set the posts and hung up his hammock this past weekend. It's really comfortable and has a great view.

Flower Beds in Bloom

The Herb Garden

Salad Bar

We're growing a salad bar in the garden this year. This patch is just starting to sprout. It's got a huge variety of lettuce, spinach, basil, radishes, and bunching onions all mixed together. It's experimental, but so far it is coming along pretty good. The bugs do seem to be eating their fair share

One Local Summer Week #2

Salad from our garden

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (From Barefoot in Paris, Ina Garten Cookbook)

Local Chicken (raised in my backyard)
Local Spring Hill Farms Butter
Local Kendall Jackson Olive Oil
Local Kendall Jackson Wine
Local Clover Stornetta Cream
Local Farmers Market Garlic
Herbs from my garden

Thursday, June 12, 2008


After almost 1 year of wedded bliss Mark and I finally managed to go on our dream honeymoon. We've spent the last week soaking up the sunshine on the beaches of Cancun. It was a wonderful experience. The hotel we stayed at was relatively small and quiet. I finally had a chance to do nothing but relax and read. I read three great books. the Omnivores Dilemma, The Botany of Desire and In Defense of Food, all by Michaeal Pollan. I have to say that these books have got me thinking really hard about putting anything I have not grown myself into my mouth. Mark and I also did some snorkeling and enjoyed a trip to Xcaret. There were sea turtles coming up on to the beach to lay their eggs at night. The hotel has a section of the beach sectioned off to keep the eggs safe from the tourist traffic. The eggs get carefully moved to the safe area each night. One of the best parts of the trip was the amazing fresh food. It was awesome to eat whole food (nothing packaged) each day.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Growing Challenge Update Oca & Yacon

I am so sad to report that my Oca has completely disappeared. Apparently something living in my yard found it to be quite delicious, because it has vanished. After over a month of waiting for Oca sprouts to come up, I dug down to see what was happening. Not one single tuber was still in the ground. I was at first completely disappointed, but then decided that I would just order some more seed starts and give it another try. I called up the folks at Nichols nursery to order some more and also to quiz them on the likely cause of the disappearance. I gave them the lowdown on what had happened. The woman I spoke with was so sweet. She cheerfully announced that they would be sending me a replacement at no charge. I was shocked. How cool is that? I am now excitedly awaiting the replacements so I can give it another try. This time I think I am going to make some chicken wire cages around the plants to thwart any would be gourmet gophers or moles. On a happy note, the Yacon I am growing seems to be taking off. It has been really easy to grow so far and I am hoping for a nice harvest (and that it tastes good, since I’ve never tried it before).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Garden is Coming Right Along

I finally got going on the garden after I got back from Bakersfield. All of the beds have been formed and I've now got most of them planted (photos coming soon).

Skating in Bakersfield

We had a great trip to Bakersfield over the weekend. The Sonoma County Roller Derby team played against the Bakersfield Roller Girls. It was a really tough game. They have some hard hitting blockers and really fast jammers. We managed to win with a final score of 66 Bakersfield, 95 Sonoma County. Here's a photo of both teams together after the bout. The Sonoma County Roller Derby Team is in the teal dresses. I've noticed that no matter what roller rink I'm in, all of the pictures I take look terrible. There seems to be a universal conspiracy of bad lighting in Roller Rinks. The wood floor however was amazing to skate on. Getting knocked to the ground was much less painful on the wood surface than on concrete.