January 21, 2009

Obama-Nation indeed!

Yesterday, I produced a video with colleague Ann Silvio about Boston's take on Obama's inauguration. I thought I would share. Hope you enjoy!

January 19, 2009

Garden Porn ("Winter vs. two but's" final installment)

The mailman came the other week and delivered a fantasy. The seed catalog is 98 pages of wishful thinking and undreamed-of self confidence. Gorgeous images of vegetables - voluptuous, dewy and thrown together in opulent piles - promise themselves to me, if only I am skilled enough.

There's the rub. The produce is one sort of taunt, the obvious one. But the real fantasy here is that I could be the sort of master gardener to coax these beauties from the earth. That I could pop a seed, maybe two, check in the morning and wham, I'm a garden goddess. Gone would be the memories of puny carrots, short as erasers and equally tasteless. Forgotten is that dreadful August day when I accidentally cut the main vine of the winter squash. And I'd no longer feel so inadequate when faced with the mountains of robust produce at each farmers' market.

The etymology of the various vegetables listed in the catalog could be a study in itself. Some names are plainly descriptive: (ie, the albino beet)

some are mildly offensive:
(the "lazy housewife" bean),

and some are straight to the point: ("Jacob's Catle Gassless" bean - which is "Reported to have half the flatulence of regular Jacob’s Cattle." FYI).

I think two of my favorite names (given that I've think this whole magazine is a greener, dorkier version of porn) are "Kentucky Wonder Bush" and "Kentucky Wonder Pole." I am not making this up.

I guess Kentucky really is for lovers.

Moving on - let's talk about carrots. And my very, very inadequate, puny carrots that fed only the ants. I have hope for this year, though, for several reasons. First, now that the soil has had a year to assimilate all the compost I've added, I think it will encourage more downward growth (longer carrots). I think that last season, too many nutrients near the surface encouraged the carrots (and some beets, too) to hang out close to the soil surface.

So I'll try again with my Danvers Carrots, but a new bull's in town. Meet Oxheart:
"Hard to find heirloom introduced in 1884. Uniquely shaped short, very thick roots are 5-6" deep by 3-4" in diameter and grow over 1 pound very rapidly."
I like that they're already short, so when I pull up short carrots, I'll know they were meant to be that way. Also, I'm a Taurus and feel an affinity for anything stubborn and purposeful. Those veggies look pretty fierce. My money's on them.

Corn came next. I almost skipped this chapter because I don't really want to grow any corn in the space that I have. Besides, I'm getting chickens this spring and 8-foot-tall rows of corn may just push my neighbors over the edge.

But let me show you the pictures that nearly changed my mind. Meet Japonica Striped Maze:"Blue Jade":. . . and "Strawberry Popcorn:"The jury's still out.

Have you ever heard of ground cherries? I came across "Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry" and now I can't think of a more perfect plant."Ground cherries were recorded as early as 1837 in Pennsylvania. This outstanding variety originated in Poland and is prized for its clean flavor. Fruits are ½ to ¾" in diameter and are encased in a papery husk that turns brown when the fruits ripen. Stores 3-4 weeks in the husk. Extremely productive plants have a sprawling habit and grow 18" tall and 24" wide. Excellent citrus flavor, can be used for preserves, pies, over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads. Starts fruiting by the end of July and continues until frost and a little beyond, extremely productive."

To summarize the rest of my notes:

Definitely going to plant eggplants. Looking at Florida High Bush ('cause they produce lots of sturdy little eggplants),
Lista de Gandia (because they're gorgeous) and Thai Green (because I like to eat them).

As for lettuce, I'm totally confused. I wasn't happy with last season's variety (I picked up some seeds at a grocery store), and I don't know where to begin.

I'll plant as many peas as I possibly can, especially the Amish Snap Pea.

Ditto for sweet bell peppers such as Wisconsin Lakes.

Tomatoes, OMG. SO many. Mostly Brandwines, because they are divine,
and lots of yellow pear-shaped miniature ones such as Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato.
I have to stop here or this post will go on an on and on and...

Bottom line: I'm staying away from the monocrop seed packets at the hardware store. This season, it's all about genetic heritage, hope and luck.

January 9, 2009

We interrupt this message...

...because there was a cookie emergency.

A chocolate emergency. A low-energy on a Friday night emergency. A what-am-I-doing-with-my-career emergency. An "it's a recession," "the middle east is exploding again," "my car battery died today" and "I'm out of eggs" emergency.

You know, an emergency. So I made some really great vegan chocolate chunk cookies.

(Yup. I just confirmed. They are really good.)

Here - you make them too:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • dash cinnamon and nutmeg, if you wish
  • 5-7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped up coarsely
  • 1/3 cup coffee, cold (you can use water if you want)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but good)
  • handful of raisins or dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup (dash more) canola or olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, sugar and baking soda. Add chopped up chocolate
  3. Steep raisins or dried cherries in 1/2 cup boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside
  4. Mix together wet ingredients in separate bowl: coffee, oil, agave nectar (or honey), vanilla and almond extract, and drained raisins/cherries.
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients. The batter will look very strange - sort of piece-mealy and a bit oily. If it looks like there's no way it will come together, add a dash more coffee or oil, but don't go too much over 1/2 cup total oil.
  6. Form by hand into balls, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Squish slightly, and space relatively close together on an ungreased cookie sheet (16 to a cookie sheet). They won't spread much.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. If you bake them longer, they will be thoroughly crunchy, but I like mine soft.
  8. Cool on cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes (they're delicate at first), them move to cooling rack until firm.
Eat, and enjoy the cholesterol-free and chocolate bombs!

January 8, 2009

Winter vs. "two but's" (part 1.7 of 2)

Back to business.

So as I was saying, the plants in the coldframes? Not dead. In fact, they're startlingly alive considering how brown the landscape is around here.

I dusted the snow off one window, took it off and braced myself for the pile of ex-plants inside. Instead, this:
(turnips and an occasional radish)

And this:
(lettuce and chard)

And this!(baby turnips!)

Of course, the lettuce has pretty well checked out. That's fine with me, though, because I was never a huge fan of the variety I planted anyway. Too limp and wussy.

And the garlic - it continues to try to sprout through the 6 inches of compost I piled on top of the original sprouts.
I nervously went back and re-read the planting instructions for German Extra Hardy organic garlic. Indeed, I planted it none-too early (October 25), and the instructions warned me that the cloves would try to sprout before winter and advised to pile on the compost or mulch. But it's January, and they're still poking through? All in the name of experimentation.

Oh, yeah! I pulled up a couple turnips to prove to myself that there's action going on below ground too.They're small, but tasty. I put them in soup.

And did I mention that it's freezing outside? I bring this up only to brag about my new outfit, courtesy of my mom. She custom embroidered a very warm pair of cover-alls for me for Christmas. Though not flattering (won't be wearing these to any cocktail parties), they are WARM. Plus there's a chicken.
They're lined. In hot pink.Just what every city-farmgirl needs. Thanks mom!

Now to the "part 2" portion of "Winter vs. 'two but's".

The mailman cometh. And he bringeth - garden porn.
The seed catalog.

Not to be a major tease here, but I have to go to work - again. So though I have pages of notes for this next post ready to go, it will have to wait - again.

Back soon!

January 4, 2009

Winter vs. "two but's" (part 1 of 2)

Mini-feed in reverse chronological order:

It is Sunday. I sit here with my coffee.
House guests left yesterday. Before that, New Years, and with it, a large, fun, messy party. Before that, Mom's visit for 8 days, during which was Christmas. Before that, Ireland for a week - the entire magical island - and a wedding. (That's Newgrange)

And before that, I stated in a whining post that it was cold outside.

It is still cold outside, it is still that season where nothing grows and everything is asleep. At times, several feet of snow have blanketed the cold frames outside, and the back garden receives no light at all this time of year. My garden is a colorful memory like that of an old love, walled off by snow and time.

But . . . well, two "but's" . . .

Number one but: Something is growing. Inexplicably, slowly, but very certainly, the plants in the coldframes are actively growing. When we left for Ireland in mid-December, I had saluted the coldframes as we walked out the door, thanking them for our late-late crops of lettuce, radishes and turnips. Since our return, Boston has been pummeled by winter storms and arctic cold. On a walk the other night, both my coat, made moist by breath, and my eyelashes froze.

So yesterday, after our final guest took to the road, I grabbed a broom and a camera to investigate how dead everything was.- So very not dead, is the verdict.

Here's a peek:
- but I have to go to work right now. So the big "reveal" as well as the second "but" will have to wait a day.

Be warm, and Happy New Year!