In Season: Zucchini Bread with Cherries!

This may become my go-to recipe for zucchini bread. I made a few minor changes (I hear you laughing, you who know me well), but the basic recipe is from the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I do have a beef with the way it’s indexed. This wasn’t listed under zucchini; I found it in the Q section for Quick Breads, and then under S for the name of the pastry chef who created the recipe itself. That’s a little bit like the way I saved so many recipes under E for Easy-to-make or D for Delicious.

But anyway, here’s my version. When cherries are no longer available at the farm markets, but zucchini is still prolific, I’ll probably make this with chocolate chips. Mmm.

Zucchini Bread with add-ins (cherries this time)

2 cups grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Combine sugar and butter in large mixing bowl. Beat together, adding eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add this mixture gradually to the liquid mixture, alternating with grated zucchini. Fold in walnuts and cherries or other add-ins.

Bake in loaf pan or three small loaf pans for 50-60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack before slicing.

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The Saga of the Soaked Seeds

in which Daisy decides she has nothing to lose and gets reckless in her planting

It was a wonderful night in June – good weather, nice breeze, rain in the forecast. The rain barrels were ready, and most of the garden was planted. I’d been filling in a few spots here and there, just to see how the combinations would work. Carrots, turnips, parsnips alongside the tomatoes; a few more peas near the flowers; beans galore. The sun was going down as Amigo and I went inside.

It was a good night for sleeping. Cool, a steady rain, nice breezes. I woke up refreshed and ready to check on my garden plots and pallet experiment. But when I looked outside, I saw something ominous on the picnic table: my basket of seed packets, soaked through. AAAAAUGH!!!

My first reaction was to try to fix it. Dry them out! Use the oven on super-low setting! Try the grow lights! Dry the seeds before they germinate all at once! Well, they dried, but I’m still not sure they’re viable.

Since some of my seed packets were more than a year or two old, I decided that this will be the year I throw them all away in the fall. I’ll start fresh with new seeds and no more hoarding. Well, maybe no more hoarding. Seeds don’t take up much space. In the meantime, I’ll play around with what’s left. There’s nothing to lose, after all. There are large sections of my garden that are only growing weeds, anyway. I might as well toss a few seeds here and a few more there.

So, readers, I’ll share the results with you soon. So far, parsnips are going nowhere, dill is hibernating (and the dill seeds didn’t get soaked with the rest, either). Lettuce looks promising, if the chipmunk will stay out of the way.

Predictions, anyone? Will the damaged seed stock be any good? What kind of results do you expect?

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Education: valuable or dangerous?

I went to the post office one day to mail a book. The clerk was one who knew me as a regular, often mailing my Paperback Swap books on to another reader. As he went through the standard script and asked, “Does the package contain anything potentially hazardous?” I replied flippantly, “No, independent thought is still legal.”

He laughed, thank goodness. I can just see the post service suddenly searching my mail because of my slightly sarcastic sense of humor. Oops.

There have been a few changes since that day.

  • This guy, one of my favorite clerks, has since retired.
  • There’s a new majority on Capital Hill.
  • A recent poll indicates that the new majority, the Republican side, doesn’t value education in general. Worse: the Republican caucus thinks higher education is a waste of time and even bad for the U.S. (See the Pew Study results here)

Independent thought may still be legal, but learning and thinking are less and less valuable to our government. In fact, the impression I get is that the current folks in charge want to keep the populace ignorant, malleable, and easy to control.

This is scary, people. Very scary. Dare I suggest – keep reading, keep learning, and keep connecting with your legislators. Remind them that they work for all of us, not just those who voted them into office. Call, email, send postcards, attend town hall meetings. If you dare, participate in rallies and protests.

Independent thought is still legal. Let’s keep it that way.

 

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Why Doesn’t my Garden Grow?

Three major section of my raised beds are growing nothing but weeds. I have a few theories, but I’m not entirely sure. I’m hoping to narrow down the possibilities so I can figure out what to do about the problem.

Suspect number one: poor seeds

  • The basket of seeds got soaked when I left it out overnight. I successfully dried the packages, but did I manage to destroy their viability?
  • I like to stock up during late season clearance sales. The seeds I used could have been old.

Suspect number two: feathered and furry creatures

  • Birds! I suspect cardinals in the demise of my butterfly garden seed mat.
  • Chipmunks! Or chipmunk! Darn thing slips through the tiniest gaps in the fencing, and I find holes all over.
  • Rabbits? Not likely this time. The wire fencing is pretty good.

Suspect number three: random environmental influences

  • Seeds planted too late
  • Weather – too hot
  • Weather – too cold
  • Weather – too wet
  • Poor soil – doubtful. Treating my soil with compost, etc., would take a number of posts. The green “walking” onions around the edges are growing beautifully, too.

Incidentally, the pallet garden and the various containers are doing very well. Herbs, mainly, along with a few leafy edibles and flowers, all thriving. The rest? I’ll keep trying to make it work. Promote growth. Plant something that comes up, already.

Readers, suggestions? I have a gauge for testing soil pH. I might try that. What else do you recommend?

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Good Intentions & Container Gardening

I had good intentions of sharing indoor and outdoor (mostly outdoor) progress day by day. Those good intentions evaporated with the puddles on a windy day. One accomplishment was filling the crocks with plants. So far, none have been over watered – intentionally or from the rain. I must have given them enough drainage before I filled them with soil.

The Crock Garden

Just a few feet away sits the Rock Garden. In the rock garden is a large bucket filled with mint.

Mint – confined to a container

The irony here comes in the fact that I established a rock garden in the first place to take the place of the out-of-control mint. Using cardboard barriers, a lot of 20 mule team borax, and patience, I managed to get rid of the wild mint and build up a decorative and fun rock garden. That’s Amigo’s alter ego on the left: the frog playing cello.

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Goals – inside, outside

It’s summertime – the approximate ten week period that passes for a “break” in our oddly outdated agrarian school calendar. In the old, old bygone days, students would help at home on the farm in spring, summer, and then harvest season in the fall. School terms might be limited to winter or some of the town and city kids might come in early fall while the farm families kept their children home to work the land.

But I digress.

It’s summertime, and the living is relatively easy. I can sleep in, but I don’t. My body clock is set firmly between 6 and 7 A.M. I’m up and at ’em, coffee cup in hand. Up and at what? That’s where the goals come in.

I’ve decided to make one indoor goal and one outdoor goal. Daily tasks such as loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher don’t count. Watering the garden and the containers doesn’t count, either. It’s a necessity.

Yesterday the outdoor goal was to fix up the rock garden. That entailed getting rocks and sculptures and misc. from the garage and placing it strategically in the rock garden. Inside? Clean the bunny cage & replace used litter box with clean box.

The goals are a minimum. I don’t stop there. Having definite goals, no matter how small, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. “I must get more done! Must accomplish! Must do, go, achieve!” Nope. It’s a long break, and it’s a break. Setting and meeting goals is good for my mental health. Meeting goals allows me to let go of the gotta-get-it-done attitude and relax.

That said, here are today’s main goals. Indoors: laundry. Outdoors: lift pallet garden to a steeper angle. Chuck helped with that one.

And now, while I wait for the first load of laundry to rinse and spin, I can relax.

Readers, do you set goals? Give yourself permission to take care of yourself? Leave comments. I’d like to know.

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Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.

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The Twenty Minute (Vegetable) Gardener

I was gifted with the book The 20 Minute Gardener a while back, and I finally found the time to read it. Despite being more about flower gardening than my forte, growing vegetables, I’m thoroughly enjoying the stories and the advice. It’s a little like Click and Clack Grow a Garden, if you’re a Car Talk fan.

I spent much more than 20 minutes a day over the weekend. I came indoors Saturday night tired and sore, very sore. Sore legs, sore feet, sore back, sore thumbs – you name it, it hurt. A tall gin and tonic eased some of the pain and provided some much needed rehydration, and a Harry Potter marathon let my mind settle.

Sunday, silly me, I did a lot of the same. It’s been crazy busy and crazy cold in the past two weeks, so I grabbed hold of the weekend sunshine while I could.

Monday I did a lot of walking, but not so much bending and twisting. I joined La Petite and her friends in a visit to Hippie Tom’s Serendipity Farm. We had lots of fun and found (surprise, surprise) lots of crocks! Anyway, Monday was a short day (or evening) in the garden. After a 2 hour drive home and a short break for supper (Chuck’s German potato salad – Yum!), I finished planting the tomatoes and spent some time watering.

Back to the book title: The 20 Minute Gardener’s philosophy is that a lovely garden is potentially possible with an investment of only 20 minutes a day. It’s the end of the school year, and that means that 20 minutes is all I have most nights. In Tuesday’s twenty minutes I planted herbs in some of the smaller crocks. Thyme and two kinds of basil took up the 20 minutes between arriving home and starting to cook.

Tomorrow I may have more than 20 minutes (no barbershop rehearsal on Wednesdays). Watering everything, turning a little more soil, planting lettuce and root crops, spreading mulch (a.k.a. pine bedding that the rabbit no longer needs) – that plan sounds like more than 20 minutes.

The main reasoning behind the 20 Minute attitude is to lessen the stress. If I can commit 20 minutes a day, I don’t have to feel guilty about not spending more time at it. I can feel good about what I do, rather than feeling down about what I didn’t get done. If I only get the mulch spread and the tomatoes watered, that’s enough.

The side benefit? Simple: I’m away from the computer and the television news for at least 29 minutes every evening. That’s stress relief right there.

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Stalking the “Wild” Asparagus

I’m a forager wannabe, as my regular readers know well. I’ve been known to pick dandelions for the rabbit and to incorporate into salads, pesto – you name it. When Chuck and I take walks, we’ve learned the location of raspberry bushes that no one harvests.

I have my perennial rhubarb and a raspberry patch that is slowly but surely recovering from its near-destruction in the building of the new garage. I have my annual garden patch with tomatoes, peppers, and whatever decides to bloom where I plant it. So far, that includes potential for zucchini, spinach, parsley, peas, and perhaps butterfly garden flowers. Maybe.

I bought the butterfly garden seed-infused mat from a recent online auction. My main objective in this auction was a 10 inch cast iron skillet, and as long as I was bidding, I dropped a minimum bid of $2 on the butterfly garden. Now, I have no idea how old this batch of seeds might be, or how many of those seeds were stolen by the cardinal family in the backyard. I tore the mat apart to spread it out to fill the space, and it fell to pieces. Is that good or bad? No, don’t answer that. Here’s the result.

Lovely? Not yet. I planted peas in the spaces in between the mats.

But I’m off on a tangent. I didn’t start out to talk about the potential butterfly garden. I actually started out talking about foraging in the great urban-slash-suburban cityscape. I was at a most unlikely place when I saw asparagus growing. The airport, my friends, it was the airport. While waiting for Petunia’s plane to arrive, I kept myself busy playing Pokemon Go. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a gravel landscape between the parking and the pick-up areas had a speck of green in it.

The wind was blowing hard and blowing cold, so I did not get out of the minivan to take a close-up. The signs that said “No Unoccupied Vehicles” might have had something to do with that, too.

Well, there you have it, people. I found asparagus growing in the gravel at the local airport. Foraging now is simply fun. If it ever becomes a necessity, you’ll want to be with me. No matter where we are, we’ll stalk something edible.

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Rhubarb Season!

It’s that time again. I hadn’t been able to get to the rhubarb patch due to illness followed by bad weather followed by the siding project. By the time I got to it, harvesting and weeding were all happening at the same time. I ended up with about 5 – 6 cups of the delicious tart fruit, and I searched my cookbooks for an easy way to use it.

Daisy’s Rhubarb Compote

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Rhubarb should be soft and sauce thick. Serve either warm or cold, but my recommendation is to serve it warm with a dollop (you choose the size) of whipped cream. I suppose vanilla ice cream would do, too.

This compote, like a thick applesauce, had a nice tasty kick to it. I might try adding orange zest or ground ginger to my rhubarb barbecue sauce next time I make it.

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