This is the story of our adventures -- every day and extraordinary; our dreams -- tiny and grand; our gardens -- ornamental and sustaining; this is the story of our journey.  We are a family of four living a mindful, simple life here in Los Angeles County.  We are green, conscious, and forward thinking.  We keep an eye on the past because some of the best things have already been done and bear repeating.  Walk and talk with us, have a glass of wine, taste a peach or a tomato, blow some bubbles and watch them drift up over the canyon ridge.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Preserving the Harvest, Part 1

Well, it's late July.  Kids in Arizona are returning to school already.  Lucky for us, school doesn't start until mid-Sept!  But in any case, the longest days of the year are past and Summer is almost over -- NO, it's not -- it's only 1/3 over!  But, really, in any case, the time is upon us, or upon me, to start taking steps to save some of the Summer goodness of the gardens for the Winter months.  This week I have picked more tomatoes than we can eat (and we've really been trying!).  So this morning I decided I needed to preserve some.  I usually puree and can (aka, put in glass jars) my tomato excess.  But, what I had this morning was not enough for that "trouble".  I thought of doing a couple jars of chutney or salsa but I didn't have the other ingredients.  Then it struck me: dry them!
Here are the six specimens chosen for this experiment (I have never dried tomatoes before!).
I sliced them (I didn't remove seeds because seeds don't bother me but if they do you, go ahead and remove them) and placed them on the racks that came with my convection oven/toaster/dehydrator.  I sprinkled them with some sea salt.
And started them drying.
Ten hours later, they still look like regular tomatoes. Hmmm...
Another edible I've been meaning to make use of comes from my "vineyard" -- the grape leaves.  I decided it was time to get some of those leaves prepared for dolmas!  I picked a couple dozen leaves.
Then I washed them and let them soak in salt, water, and whey for a while.  I rolled the leaves into a stack and put them in a sterile quart jar and covered them with the soaking liquid.  We'll have pickled leaves in a few days.
All of today's harvests did not get preserved.  Gregg dug the potato box, which was NOT planted this year -- we must have not harvested everything last year!  Here was our yield (after one smaller harvest earlier):
All cleaned up:

For dinner tonight we had a "stew" of veggies -- mostly zucchini and yellow crooknecks, with which we are somewhat overrun!
Onions, green bell pepper, garlic, and a couple quarts of last year's harvest rounded it all out.
Wow, I never took a picture of the stew after the tomatoes went in.   And now it's all gone.  Went down with some buttermilk biscuits, fresh grated parmesan, and to keep random, fresh ears of corn.

ETA:  Here are the tomatoes after about 24 hours:
Still a ways to go, I think.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That silly cat in the garden

But I can't devote a whole blog post to Traveler.  And he is surely not the only silly thing around here!
Gegorie and her bedtime snack.
Alex and her fun hair.
Grapes that grow in oak trees.
Can't see it?  Look here.
And who can tell me what is growing here?  Not the blackberry or the pumpkin, that new plant by the tipi post.  There is another top right in the picture, smaller.
I planted fava and scarlet runner beans around this tipi last week.  They are coming up slowly.

But, yes, it is the Bed of Chaos. Silly things are bound to happen.
Anything silly in your garden this week?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kitchen happenings

In many homes, like ours anyway -- where food is made from scratch, meals are important, the kitchen table is ample -- the kitchen becomes the hub of family life.  It also helps for us that the main door into our house enters into the kitchen.  And that the kitchen has a big East facing window and a big West facing window and a skylight!  I'd like to say that it is sunny and bright but it's not!  All those live oaks above keep it cool and shaded on all but the hottest sunniest day.  And then there are those weeks in Fall and Winter when the sun at a certain angle comes in every afternoon and illuminates every sunbeam speckle (aka speck of dust) and makes me feel like an inadequate homemaker!  I do know, however, that I am not!

On any given day, our kitchen is the scene of a myriad of cooking, fermenting, canning projects.  It is also almost daily the art studio for the Bubbles.  If you look through the old posts you'll see countless pictures of them busily creating at the kitchen table.

So, what is going on in my kitchen today?

Fairies and their accessories are taking a break from flitting around the yard.
Dinner is rising (pizza dough).

Corn relish is fermenting (this picture came out terrible -- see below for details).

Today's harvest is waiting to be put away or to good use!
Neighbor grown grapes are hanging out with herbal iced tea.

Clementines are occupying this vessel I really could have used for mashing my relish!

And Gregorie is enjoying some peaches.

So, about the corn relish.  I had purchased a bunch of fresh corn at the farm stand on Saturday for Gregorie's birthday bash.  But we had SO much food and everybody got to hanging out and talking and drinking Bubble Brew that the corn never got cooked.  I pulled out the Nourishing Traditions book and found a recipe for a lacto fermented corn relish.  I had most of what was called for and reasonable subs for what I didn't have.   I cut the kernels off three ears of corn
while Gregorie munched on a fourth raw ear.

I picked some chives and cilantro from the garden and peeled a fresh picked tomato.

I chopped those up and put them in the bowl with the corn, some sea salt, some red pepper flakes, and 4 tablespoons of whey.
I mashed it to release the juices, put it in a jar, and mashed it a little more (this is another terrible picture -- I'm treating myself to a new camera some day!).

Now we just have to wait about 3 or 4 days to give it try!

What's happening in your kitchen today?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Where are we now?

My friend just did a nice garden update on the state of her late July garden.  It made me think that I should do the same.  She is picking figs, but not tomatoes.  I am reverse of that.  The figs are still tiny.
but the tomatoes are coming in fast!
I am happy to see the blackberry spreading nicely along this back fence.
And am hopeful that next year we'll get more than a handful of berries at a time.

My eggplant plant plant... is blooming.
Some things are reaching up, like the new growth on the pomegranate tree.
And this sunflower.
Others are being pulled down.  Like this poor sunflower, attacked by a pumpkin/squash thing-y.
I'm not sure if the branch of apple tree is hanging low because of the apples, or because the butternut squash has vined its way in.
The zucchini continue to prosper.
I love the light under the umbrella of squash leaves.
Here is the Bed of Chaos, viewed from the inside out.
And the long tomato bed viewed from the BoC.
And my sweet Gregorie Ann also viewed from the BoC!
I think this may be a baby pumpkin.
But alas, the pumpkin vines have grown into the driveway -- danger!
The peach tree is still heavy with fruit, despite all G.A.'s efforts!
"One on top of me, one on top of you!"
My garden does grow tomatoes!
We'll get a few pears this year.
And some grapes.
In the lower beds we have some overgrown lettuce mingling with sweet pea blossoms.

My mache has finally grown.
The beans the girls planted last week have sprouted.
The yellow zinnia is still blooming.
And the chard looks lovely.
I haven't used my chives in a while -- need to get them mixed into something!
A few yellow crooknecks are coming along.
The potatoes in the coffee bags are growing strong (those in the box are being harvested).

The late afternoon sun adds a special glow.