To-do List and Climate Change

In a typical year, putting the garden to bed for the winter has been a pretty straightforward task. Harvest the last of the vegetables, dump any containers into the garden to enhance the soil, spread compost, sit back and enjoy the late autumn rains. Oh, I forgot leaves. Rake leaves into the garden or compost bins.

The past few years have been different. Snow has come later – December, even after Christmas two years ago. The last frost, the one that finally kills off the annuals and freezes the allergens, has been later each year, too. Sometimes I’ve looked outside and wondered if I might still have fresh tomatoes if I hadn’t put the garden to bed already.

This year, I’m still cleaning up the tomato plants. It wasn’t a good year for tomatoes, anyway. But I put in a second planting of lettuces and another batch of peas. I’ve been able to cut several batches of lettuce in September, and the peas are growing well – now, in October. Green beans have been prolific, too. Every time I pick beans, I notice more blossoms that will be more beans if temperatures stay warm.

Herbs are doing well in their containers on the deck. I plan to bring them inside as the frost nears and see if they can adjust to growing indoors. My grow lights might help.

I have a few volunteer tomato plants, too. They turned up in a random part of the garden where I have never grown tomatoes. I tossed the smallest of those into the compost and transplanted the bigger ones into containers. I have no idea how they’ll do, but I might bring them inside, too.

I have no idea when the final killing frost will happen this autumn. I don’t know if this is the new normal of climate change, this late fall and delayed winter. Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

Zucchini Bread with add-ins – edited

Edited? Indeed. The first time I posted this recipe, I left out two pieces: the amount of baking powder and the baking temperature. Luckily, I acknowledged my source, so I was able to go back to that source and fill in the blanks. Somehow, I still messed up. The breads turned out very dry. Zucchini bread? Dry? Yes, indeed. Rather embarrassing. But here’s the actual complete recipe. Follow it properly, and you’ll like the results. I recommend cherries or chocolate chips as add-ins.

 

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 baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins:

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

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 at 350 for 50-60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack before slicing.

First World Problems, indeed.

It’s a bummer of a day when all of these happen.

I was talking to myself, and my self replied, “That’s a stupid question.”

I pulled up a batch of volunteer tomato plants because they came up in the area in which I want to plant tomatoes next year. I told myself, “It’s October!” in order not to feel guilty for failing to transplant them.

I’m still dizzy, cause unknown, and yesterday’s ER visit had limited success. Limited in that I mean the testing ruled out stroke or brain tumor, but didn’t find the cause of the dizziness. Stiff neck improved with medication, so that ruled out another angle that might have meant some really painful and icky testing. I’m relieved, at least, for crossing those possibilities off the list.

On the good side, I’m still able to laugh. I heard a Miami Dolphins coach talk about building a quality team, and then I saw Jay Cutler at starting quarterback. How could I not laugh?

But then I remembered that Jay Cutler has a job, and Colin Kaepernik doesn’t. That, my friends, is sad. It’s a First World Problem, indeed, but that doesn’t excuse the implicit racism in the situation.

This dizziness makes it hard to pick tomatoes and water plants. I use one tomato support for balance while I pick tomatoes with the other hand. But then I don’t have a hand to hold the container for the tomatoes. Tough life for a gardener, indeed.

Watering plants involves too much bending and turning for my dizzy head. It’s a bummer because the remaining tomatoes need water, the beans are still growing and need water, and the rain barrels are all relatively full.

Speaking of rain barrels, we have three. I filled out the application for a one-time credit on our water bill, and we received a note from the Powers That Be that they needed more information. They included an aerial shot of our house and asked us to indicate where the rain barrels were and how the barrels fit into the storm water flow. The picture was outdated, so Chuck put in a few updates (like the new garage and the second garden plot and the updated landscaping) and indicated all the necessary information. None of that information was mentioned on the application for the rain barrel credit in the first place.

And there you have it, readers. I’m grateful for MRI technology, and I hope my insurance considers the testing necessary. The ER doctor did. In the meantime, I’ll quietly recover, hopefully, from whatever illness inspired this post full of rants.

 

Top Ten List – in which Daisy is under the weather

Remember the Daisy Reality Show? It was the fictional creation of a reality show featuring yours truly, a television producer, and the producer’s bumbling assistant. Creating “Reality Show” posts lets me experiment with point of view and reassure myself that my life, in reality, is quite ordinary. Here’s a potential discussion between the producer and her assistant.

Producer: We won’t get much today. Daisy isn’t feeling well.

Assistant: Really? I hadn’t noticed. How can you tell? Give me one good way to tell that Daisy isn’t at her best!

Producer: I’ll do better than that.

  1. Daisy didn’t label or put away the applesauce she canned three days ago.
  2. The kitchen compost bucket is full.
  3. She stepped outside, said,”The container plants need watering,” and stepped inside without watering anything.
  4. The large hot water bath canner, full of water, still sits on the stove, taking up space.
  5. Daisy made coffee this morning and only drank half of what she brewed.
  6. Daisy ate popcorn for breakfast – stale popcorn, at that. Easy on the tummy, I guess.
  7. She didn’t empty the dishwasher, either. That’s one of her pet peeves; a dishwasher full of clean dishes, and a counter with piles of dirty dishes.
  8. The newspapers from the last two days are still in their (stupid, wasteful, plastic) delivery bags.
  9. Bunny didn’t get fed until quite late this morning, and the litter box still isn’t clean.
  10. And the biggest piece of evidence that Daisy might be ill: It’s Saturday, and she didn’t go to the downtown Farmers’ Market.

Assistant: Oh.

More Stories than Successes – This Year’s Garden

“Now that’s a story.” Miss Franny Block, the librarian in Because of Winn-Dixie, would start out her stories like that. Opal, Amanda, and even the dog would settle in to listen.

My garden has been more successful in generating stories than in producing vegetables. I’ll let storyteller Grandma Daisy tell the tales.

Oh, yes, that was quite a year, 2017. Families worried about the potential for war. They worried about our president being, well, not all there. Gardening was an investment in feeding the family and it was cheaper than therapy, too. Well, that’s a different story. 

Everything was planted, and not much was coming up. Broccoli? Nowhere to be seen. Beans? They were okay. Peas? The vines looked good, but didn’t bear fruit. Other gardeners blamed the weather, so I joined in. 

I’d planted zucchini near the raspberry, but I didn’t realize how little sun would reach that spot. That zucchini finally sprouted after I cut off a few low-hanging branches from the neighbor’s tree. It’s okay, kiddos. It’s legal to trim a tree that hangs over your own yard, even if the roots are next door. But the zucchini. Since nothing was happening, I put in a few seeds near the tomatoes. Brilliant! I thought. The squash plant will provide ground cover. When it starts putting out blossoms and needs pollinating, the vines will be near the flowers and the peas will be done. No such luck, my dears. The variety of zucchini I’d planted wasn’t going to crawl along the ground. This was determined to reach for the sky, more bush-like than vine. 

I ended up transplanting two tomato plants that were getting swallowed up by the zucchini and putting them in a container on the deck, near the French doors. At least there I couldn’t forget to water them. 

Then there was the lettuce. The lettuce didn’t come up, either. I wondered if the seeds were bad or if the soil was drained of its nutrients from too many years of planting? No matter what, I needed to do something about it. I decided to plant more lettuce in a different section of the garden. 

And then I left the seeds out overnight. Remember? That about did me in. I scattered some seeds where the broccoli hadn’t grown, and then I tossed a layer of commercial topsoil over them. A little water, and life was good again. I also planted a few heads of lettuce started not from seed, but from the tails of lettuce from the store or the market. “Grow your own food from your kitchen scraps!” the video bragged, and where lettuce was concerned, it worked. 

I scattered a lot of the soaked and dried seeds (thank goodness for grow lights!), and not much happened. Dill? Nope. Parsley? It’ll have to reseed itself from the first patch. Spinach? We’ll see. I put it behind the garage in a partial sun area. There’s still hope. Maybe. 

But the best story of all is this: the pollinators were coming back. I saw three – 3! – round and fluffy honeybees circling the flowers in the front yard. I had planted more blooms than usual, hoping for just that result. 

Now that’s a story – or more than one. Lettuce, zucchini, transplanting tomatoes – soaking seeds, too. Grandma Daisy covered the major points. She didn’t finish the summer story because – well, because I don’t know the end yet. Stay tuned, readers. School starts soon, so I’ll be busy, but gardening is therapeutic. It helps me slow my mind and lower my blood pressure. I’m sure there will be more stories.

Whine List August variety

My back/hip is sore. No walk today. No Pokemon Go unless it gets better.

My hearing aid broke. The tiny tube that takes the sound from the aid itself into the ear snapped. Audiologist can’t get me in until tomorrow morning.

Amigo doesn’t care that my hearing aid broke. He will when he wants something and has to come to me to ask. 

It’s cloudy. Why does that matter? It’s solar eclipse day.

Landscapers haven’t come yet. This will be warranty work; they’re replacing plants that didn’t come back this year. They are backed up about three weeks behind schedule.

Chuck reset the clock on the programmable thermostat and managed to set the temperatures to Celsius at the same time.

I’m feeling grumpy. Don’t cross me, world. I’m running out of patience.

Perhaps a nice rose with lunch? It’s 5:00 somewhere.

The Trouble with Pickles

Not Tribbles, but Pickles. The trouble with dill pickles, specifically: the pickles have to rest and, well, pickle in their jars for at least two weeks before they’re ready to eat. At that time, if the pickle recipe didn’t work or if I messed it up somehow, it’ll be too late to go to the farm markets and buy pickling cucumbers. They’ll be out of season. Meanwhile, I’ll just hope the new-to-me-recipe for dill pickles is successful.

The trouble with canned tomatoes (diced or chopped, in my kitchen) is that the preparation takes a long time and a lot of effort. Dig out the stem, blanch and peel, chop, and then pack tightly into a jar. All of that happens before I can even consider putting the liquid in the jars, checking the head space, and then actually processing in the hot water bath canner. On top of all this, I have to hope that I packed the tomatoes tightly enough to avoid the perfectly functional but perfectly ugly Fruit Float.

The trouble with bread and butter sweet pickles; my food processor cuts the pickles too thin, so I have to cut them by hand. The food processor just died, so I’m glad cutting the pickles by hand is my usual routine. This one is really no trouble at all.

The trouble with salsa is similar to the trouble with canned tomatoes. Last weekend I convinced Chuck to join in the preparation of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Since he is the main consumer of salsa in the house, it was only fair. Thoughtlessly rubbing his eye after dicing a jalapeno pepper? Well, that was only careless. Ouch.

The trouble with troubles in general? Not much, really. All of these problems are easily solved. All, that is, except the dill pickles. Two weeks from now, people, I will know if the new recipe is my go-to for dill pickles. Waiting…waiting…

Scraps or Pantry Raid – Tomato Soup

The end result was tomato vegetable soup, served with grilled cheese sandwiches and applesauce. Here’s how it came about.

I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains.

On the theme of the TV show “Scraps,” I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: add herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste, salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. Next time I can tomatoes, I might do the same!

The Continuing Saga of the Soil

In which Daisy discoveries the peas didn’t do well, but the beans? Stay tuned.

The peas, those lovely little vines that filled the space in between the random flowers, didn’t bear fruit. They produced a few tiny pods, but no peas. I don’t know if it was soil troubles, a hot & dry spell, or other issues, but my garden produced no peas. I pulled the plants and set them on yet another section of garden that didn’t produce any produce. When they dry, I’ll  toss the whole pile in the compost.

Beans, however, are looking great! They’re bushy as bush beans can be, reaching for the sun with their lovely little leaves and producing flowers and actual green beans. Yum! I have enough beans in the freezer already, so everything I harvest will be supper. Or lunch. Or raw beans for a snack (oh, yeah, they’re that good).

Meanwhile, I made a few decisions. The area with the non-producing pea plants will be devoted to flowers next year. I’m seeing more pollinators, so I’d like to keep them happy. The sections that just didn’t grow are getting an infusion of organic matter (a.k.a. compost).

As for behind the garage, the raspberries are coming back, little by little. Chuck trimmed a tree that was overreaching its borders (at the edge of the next door lot), and that helped allow more light into this area. I spread lots of parsley seeds so the parsley plot can expand even as the raspberries try to take over. Last, but never least, some of the bulbs for walking onions were trying to sprout in the tray where they were stored. I dug two shallow trenches and tossed the bulbs in. If they don’t come up this season, they’re likely to bloom next spring.

And that’s the current status of the Backyard Garden, folks.

 

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.