Picture Snob

December 21, 2010

The Solstice is a time for quiet contemplation

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It's always a good idea during this holiday season, to take time for quiet reflection and the winter solstice provides that opportunity. The garden has usually been put to bed, the days are short, and the growing season over. It's important in the our life as well as the garden's life to take time to think over the year, it's gains and losses, the successes and failures and assess the everyday projects and activities that keep us going. It's most important of all to JUST STOP DOING ANYTHING AT ALL and feel what it's like to be at rest.

We can learn a lot from gardening about nurturing, about persistance, about fruition and about being still. The earth, the soil and our efforts need a time of rest. It's something our culture does not value, but it is essential to life and health that every once in a while, we stop trying and sit quietly. Just stare out the window for a while or shut your eyes, or be grateful for what you have. So you might use this solstice as such a time. I wish you many more such times over the holidays and in the new year.

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November 5, 2010

A great idea from Southern Exposure Fall Newsletter

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Garlic planting always leaves us with a lot of small bulbs and loose cloves of garlic just as the threat of frost packs the kitchen with too many hot peppers. This Southeast Asian raw garlic chili sauce is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. We think this modern version made using a food processor is mighty tasty.
½ lb hot red chilies, seeds and stems removed (cayenne, serrano, jalapeno, Thai, etc.) chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2-4 Tbsp. vinegar
Chop chilies into 2 inch chunks if using large peppers. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until combined. Place the sauce in a pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars. Keeps several weeks in the refrigerator.

At Southern exposure newsletter

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October 20, 2010

An October garden treat--the last taste of summer

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As the garden winds down in October, I often roam through the rows and pick whatever is ripe. If the day is cool, I make a fresh soup with whatever I have harvested. It's such a delight and I never bother with a recipe because everything is so fresh and tasty. I usually saute the onions and garlic with squash or kale or carrots and then add tomatoes and a sprig of rosemary or some basil--whatever I have found. If there aren't enough tomatoes, I use a cream sauce or add some chicken broth. It reminds me of my childhood, when I would come home from school and ask, "What's for supper, Mom?" and smell the soup simmering on the stove. It's the perfect meal for a cold October night and a great use of the last fresh vegetables from the garden.

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October 8, 2010

A mystery break in of the garden!

I was doing my usual routine garden walk, checking to see what needed watering when I saw to my astonishment that the back fence by the gate was torn down! The back fence line needs replacing and I haven't gotten around to it. I've nailed up some wood stringers across the weak places where the break in the fence was and so I went to get nails, hammer and wire to fix the fix. Of course, the fix was less stable than the fix that it fixed, but I promised myself that I would buy the fencing and replace the sagging old fence that has been there for 30 years or so.

So as I carry the tools back to the shed, I pass the grapevine in the garden and notice that the birds have been after the grapes. There are tons of them this year. I stop to taste them and find them at last sweet enough for me. The birds are the first to know. And I stop to eat a few. And that is when I discover that the whole left side of the grape abor has collapsed and fallen on the rototiller! Yeesh! First moles, now chaos and destruction!

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The broken fence and the broken grape arbor all add up to a bear in the garden whose weight would make short work of both items, but I searched the ground around for footprints and found none. No deer prints. No bear prints. Nothing. Now the ground was wet enough to pick up both deer and bear prints but both animals would have left tracks, not to mention poop!

Maybe it's just that things fall apart which is also true. So far the fix of the fence has held and there have been no more intrusions.

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October 5, 2010

Cloudy and cool! Fall has come!

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Everything is still mostly green and it hasn't frozen yet, but suddenly the weather has turned autumnal. It rained about 1/2 inch and since then the mornings have been foggy and cool and if sunshine comes, it comes too late in the day to do any good. I'm hoping that the quail have left some of the ground cover for the garden. They have been out there, scratching and clucking and chortling to themselves as they peck away. As soon as I go out of the house, the whole covey files up in the air, only to return, clucking and chucking to each other.

Everything has slowed way down. A friend came and picked about half the tomatoes and now I feel like the ones left are all I may have. All the warm weather vegies are just sitting still. I still want to make the ratatoiuie before all the warm vegetables are finished.

Here is a great recipe from Epicurious:

2 1/2 lb tomatoes (4 large)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions (1 1/2 lb total), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 assorted bell peppers (green, red, and/or yellow; 1 1/2 lb total), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini (2 lb), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and fresh basil
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preparation

Skin the tomatoes then

Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.

While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.

Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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September 29, 2010

The first heavy rain of fall has come

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It rained all night and this morning I went out to see what the rains had done. The lawn was obviously delighted by the moisture and some dryer patches had greened up already. There was a whole flock of quail in the garden ecstatic over the ground cover. I shoed them out but they will come right back. So I spent some time throwing dirt over the seeds which the rain had exposed. I may have to replant the ground cover, but this rain should help the seeds sprout and I'll soon know.

Several of the tomatoes had split. It's interesting to note that I can water and over water the tomatoes, but they never split, but let a good rainstorm come in and they do? Maybe there are nutrients in the rain that the plant loves and so takes in more than it can hold, because splitting from excess irrigation doesn't occur.

The grapes have grown fatter and juicer overnight. There are huge clusters on all the vines and they are almost sweet enough to pick. This is another crop the birds love. They sit on the fence and flutter in and among the vines, filling themselves with the juicy fruit. And the everbearing strawberries are sooooo happy. They are standing up tall with a few almost ripe berries peaking out of the green.

All the dust on the trees has been washed off and the whole forest looks very grateful and happy and I breathe a sigh of relief because the constant watering of summer is now over.

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September 14, 2010

Canning tomato juice is easy and makes a wonderful winter treat

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When you've given away all the produce you can, and eaten all the tomatoes you can hold, then it's time to get out the canner and put some away for winter. When I first came to the country everyone was canning all during late summer and fall. The old timers had a lot of trick ways to shortcut canning the acid fruits and vegetables which I vaguely remembered. I haven't done any canning in a long time, but I have a nice, new pantry and would like to see the shelves hold some canned apples and tomatoes for winter.

I had to look up the directions and was surprised to find that the recommended water can method is 45 minutes and they wanted you to add lemon juice to make sure of the acid content. My old Joy of Cooking Book says 30 minutes is sufficient and suggests small amounts of celery or parsley to add flavor.

I opted for the 45 minutes, first juicing the tomatoes and adding some peppers, a few hot and some green. The juicer is a great tool! I can make gazpacho quickly and easity with it and juice tomatoes, apples and grapes.

This is a great link for canning instructions if you have never done it, it will help you a lot. http://www.pickyourown.org/canning_tomatoes.htm

And as for a juicer, this Champion Juicer is 20 years old and still working like a charm. You can juice your way through the garden, tasting the delights of chilled vegetable juice of all varieties.

At Champion Juicer G5-PG710 G5-PG720-WHITE Commerical Heavy Duty Juicer

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August 27, 2010

August chores keep gardeners busy

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Hopefully, you are enjoying the well deserved bounty your labors have created. It's always important to take time to sit and stare at the flowers, the fruiting plants, and the lush greenery in your yard and garden.

But there are never ending tasks to take care of this month. To keep the harvest growing you can plant a row of peas and lettuce for fall harvesting. Many of the herbs, like basil, are going to seed, so it's a good idea to harvest some and dry them, and others can be dug, potted so they can be brought indoors for the cold season. I have moved a dry seeded stalk of cilantro to a bare place in the garden where I want a new crop of cilantro and used another stalk to harvest and save the coriander.

You can check out the rows of mulch and see if they need more to preserve the moisture and add manure to any plant that looks like it's too yellow. Needless to say, dead heading is a constant job. I do it almost automatically and my granddaugther learned the task too well as you have to stop her from picking the flowers off before they are spent. Don't forget to start thumbing through the fall catalogues where you can order your garlic and flower bulbs for fall planting.

Its' a great season for the garden. Enjoy!

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August 9, 2010

This Summertime salad just keeps on giving

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Now that the Sungold tomatoes are ripening and the cucumbers and beans are ready to be picked I can begin to make my favorite summertime green bean salad. The Sungold tomatoes are cherry type and are the sweetest of all the tomatoes. I usually plant a six pack of them to make sure I get enough for all the summertime salads.

The green bean salad I make is very simple. Steam the green beans for about 10 minutes and add them with whatever tomatoes are on hand. Slice cucumbers and a red onion, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. It's sooooo simple. I always keep the leftover salad and the next day add more ingredients and serve it again. You can add broccoli and some sweet corn for variety. Potatoes can also be used for a potato salad without mayonnaise.

So enjoy the bounty of the garden in mid summer. These are the months we have been working for all year long.

At Sun Gold Tomato 20 Seeds - Golden Orange Cherry - Sweet

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August 6, 2010

The Winter Garden needs some planning

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I've planted late beans and put in a winter planting of beets. I think the broccoli, kale and cabbage will have to be started indoors and transplanted as the weather is too hot right now for good germination. Fall planted vegetables take about two weeks longer to mature because the daylight is getting shorter and all plants respond to that. So it's a good idea to get a jump on fall plantings by prespourting seeds.

To presprout seeds, place them between two layers of damp paper towels. Place the towels in a plastic bag and keep them in a warm place until the seeds germinate. Another method is to soak seeds for 4 hours. Allow the seedlings to reach a length of up to 1 inch. Be careful not to break the roots when planting. You can plant sprouted seeds more deeply than normal to help prevent drying out. Water well until the plants break the soil surface.

If it's hot and sunny when you plant, young plants will need extra care. Water transplants daily at first. You might need to sprinkle seeds and newly germinated seedlings twice a day. To keep the soil moist and protect young plants from the sun, temporarily shade them. Boards and umbrellas make good shade structures and a mulch of straw or hay helps.

At Renee's Greens Crispy Winter Seeds 900 Seeds

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