Archive for the 'Garden' Category

A Few of My Favorite Things

Posted by Karen in Bruno, Day to Day, Garden, Home Improvements, Weather.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 at 9:56 am

But first, the big news.  Bruno graduated from Doggy Obedience Level II Sunday evening!  Awww.  He can now (sometimes) do all of the following:  sit or lay down and stay while we do whatever the heck we want and make as much of a ruckus as we want, or when someone comes to the door, walk right past huge distractions (dogs, food) while keeping his attention on us, come to us past a huge distraction, sit and look at us while we greet another person with a dog, and more.  The point of this class was mostly to teach him to do things he already knows how to do in a distracted environment, and to igno20080219071848_pict0002_22.jpgre distractions when we want him to, which is pretty freaking hard for our dog friend. 

For him to really get it down Nate and I now have to make it a point to take him into lots of distracting environments just to train him.  That has so not been my favorite thing to do – something about an 85 pound dog pulling your arm off and completely ignoring you…  But now that he’s already come so far and we have a new understanding of how to work with him in those situations I feel more inspired.  Plus, the better he’s able to behave in those situations, the more places we’ll get to take him!  It’s funny though, I think because of his size he has to be so much better behaved, because you can’t just yank him around like a little yappy dog. 

And now for my new favorite things.  Thing #1:  our new citrus juicer.  The last time we made homemade ginger ale, I hand squeezed lik20080219074136_nate_juicer.jpge 30 lemons and limes and then couldn’t open my hands for a week.  I vowed to get some sort of device for the next time.  So we recently picked up this hot little number at one of our favorite stores to browse in, Kitchen Window.  Nate drools over all the pots and pans, I stare at all the different kinds of cupcake sprinkles, and we both sample as many different kinds of gourmet chocolate as possible until they are ready to kick us out.  Anyway, I tend to prefer non-electric appliances when it’s reasonable, both for the reduced energy consumption and the gratification of using your own muscle power.  So amidst all the crazy expensive electric citrus juicers was this bright orange "Retro Hand Juicer", for something like $25!!  We snagged it and have used it almost every day since!  It’s so unbelievably easy and efficient.  We’ve been drinking fresh squeezed grapefruit juice in the morning, and putting fresh squeezed lemon juice in tabouli and hummus, and I can’t wait to make a new keg of ginger ale knowing how much easier it will be! 

Thi20080219075029_spice_rack.jpgng #2:  our new spice rack.  We cook a lot (and by we I mean Nate, let’s be real).  We have 1 spice rack above our stove but still had lots more that couldn’t fit in there.  So we got this one, also at Kitchen Window, and Nate hung it in the little window nook.  And then he got these wee little hooks for measuring spoons and bottle openers (of which we have many).  It makes my brain feel more organized just looking at it. 

Thing #3: this mint plant.  Lime mint to be exact.  We dug it out of our garden at the end of the season last year and 20080219075217_pict0001_28.jpgput it in a little pot in our kitchen.  And then kind of forgot about it.  I mean we watered it and stuff, but never really used it.  It got real leggy and kinda weird.  But then I all of a sudden like had a hankering for some fresh lime in a drink – mandarin vodka and soda water with fresh lime mint – very summer.  But sometimes you need that when it’s -10 degrees outside!  We’ve also been putting it in our salads lately and I’m convinced this little plant is singlehandedly fending off the February Minnesota winter blues!

Speaking of which, I have to be outside all day tomorrow for work.  Do you know what the weather forecast is for 9 a.m., the time I meet the first group?  -9 degrees, but feel like -26 with windchill.  I hate tomorrow so much already.  No amount of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or fresh lime mint can help me. 

Pumpkin Madness!

Posted by Nate in Garden.
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006 at 8:36 pm

Well, it all paid off: we are the proud growers of an enormous "Cinderella" pumpkin!  And at least one good smaller one, and possibly two more if they ripen before we get a frost… 

9-30-2006-2-24-04-pm_0007.JPGThat’s me trying to get back to the big pumpkin to cut it free – the garden, as you may recall, is incredibly overgrown.  The pumpkin vine basically took over everything, crawling up and over the tomatoes and out into the alley.  After the summer heat broke and we got some more rain, two new pumpkins started growing and they seem to be doing very well.  Just a race against time to get them ripened and picked.

9-30-2006-2-25-42-pm_0008.JPGTa da!  Got the sucker picked and hauled out of there – amazingly, the pantyhose solution worked!  I had no idea how strong that stuff is, but it grew to over twice what I could stretch it by hand and still held the 45 pound pumpkin suspended.  That’s right, I said 45 pounds!!  No state fair winner, but damn big for our little garden…

9-30-2006-2-30-52-pm_0010.JPGThe little guy is only 15 pounds.  It seems big until you see them together.  Now what are we going to do with them??  Probably cut and peel them and freeze them, either before or after boiling and mashing – I’ll read up and see.  They should keep for a while, it would be great to have home-grown pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and even Christmas.  Yum…


Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Garden.
Sunday, August 6th, 2006 at 10:17 pm

So… We planted cucumbers way back when, and sure enough they grew and we got lots of cukes. Then our CSA veggie share started sending cukes our way. With Karen out of town and a million pounds of other veggies to get through, what’s a guy to do? Make pickles!

Once again, the internets saved the day. I had a vague idea of how this might work – is it just cucumbers and vinegar? – but no real definite plan. The first thing I found out was how to tell if your cucumbers are good for pickling or if they’re too ripe, and unfortunately most of ours were well over-ripe. Also probably not the best variety for pickling. But there were still plenty of cukes in good shape, including the CSA ones, so I got to cutting and soaking the slices in a salt water brine for most of the day.

Then this evening I cut up 2 onions and peeled a million cloves of garlic. Using my homebrewing know-how I skipped the pre-boiling of the jars and lids, and after a thorough cleaning just threw them into a sanitizing solution for a bit. Put the garlic and onions on the bottom along with rounded tablespoon of the "pickling spices" from our local co-op, and started shoving cucumber slices in the jars! I had read that for a crisper pickle you can heat to 180 and hold it for longer rather than boiling, so that’s what’s happening as I type.

As soon as I started hearing pings and creaks from the jars, I knew I had trouble on my hands – all the directions mention some magical device for removing the piping-hot jars from the water, and I of course had procured no such device. Hmm. But hey! I deal with piping-hot liquids all the time in the form of unfermented beer! I have heat-safe tubing! I’ll just siphon off the water from the pot and carry the whole thing downstairs gently to cool. Awesome.

So, a big adventure. I know how Karen loves her pickles, with any luck these won’t be terrible – I may crack a jar in a week to see how they’re doing, but everything I read said they’ll be much better in a few weeks to months. Maybe a little pickle party on the North Shore in a few weeks! (if she makes it… fingers crossed.)

Also a few projects in the "development" stage for the house – mostly lighting, and mostly around the basement. I’ll post more once there’s more to post!

PS – Bruno misses you, Karen.

Stuff ‘n’ Things

Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Garden.
Friday, July 7th, 2006 at 6:15 pm

The rain garden has more blooms! This awesome red "something" flower (Karen knows the name) has been rocking out for a few days, and yesterday I snapped a few pictures. We’re pleasantly surprised to see so much growth and blooming out of these brand new plants, hopefully that means they’re established and healthy for years to come…

Brown Dog found a big stick on his walk yesterday and has been enjoying some quality time with it.

The garden continues its rampage. (compare to this) I took that picture this morning, and unfortunately by this afternoon the combined heat and lack of water (I was trying to hold out for the forecasted rain) wreaked a bit of havoc on the tomatoes – now that their fruit is so big it’s getting really heavy and a few of the taller stems collapsed. I noticed it sagging as soon as I got home and gave it some veggie first aid, I’m confident most of them will pull through.

Sick and tired of the cluttered destructo-zone in our kitchen closet, I rigged up a tiered bag holder for our recycling. It looks super ghetto but I justify it by looking at you, sneering, and saying "It’s for recycling. It’s made out of things I had lying around — and cardboard. Get it??" Then you feel embarrassed for pointing it out and I go get a drink from the kegerator. Best of all, the vacuum fits under the rack, much nicer than hanging out in the office.

I helped nature do its dirty work on this female blossom this morning. I don’t care what you say, we’re getting a pumpkin out of this mess.

Finally, today was the last day on the job for my super awesome co-worker, Eric, who’s off to bigger and better things in NY, NY. Wah. The Walker won’t be the same without him.

Pumpkin Drama

Posted by Nate in Garden.
Friday, June 30th, 2006 at 9:49 am

Oh! Drama! Last night I noticed that the topmost female pre-blossom was nearly ready to bloom, and this morning it opened spectacularly. I hunted around for a matching male flower, but unfortunately all but one were old and wilting. I think the plant is just getting in the swing of things and will sync up better later in the season – but who has time to wait?? I was all set to go grab a q-tip or paintbrush and do nature’s dirty work by hand, but as I tried to peek closer to see the stigma I noticed several small beetles milling around! No bees, but these little guys could do the job…

So I opted to let this first one go on its own – if it doesn’t pollinate, I’ll step in for the next few and see if I can help out. My biggest worry is that the male flowers are so low on the plant, and partially hidden by the leaves – will the beetles find them? And will they find them first, before they fly up to check out the female flower? I suspect I’m overthinking this, but on the other hand I really want some pumpkins!

Garden Update

Posted by Nate in Garden.
Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 at 1:52 pm

[Dear readers: remember when Karen used to post? I do. Those were good days, all right. Good days.]

Our garden is blowing up. Almost overnight our tomatoes have gone from unassuming seedlings to gigantor Audrey II-like monsters. I’m scared to go back there. But they really need some pruning, so if you don’t hear from me for a while…

At left is our amazing pumpkin. It’s weird, I know I grew up around all these veggies, but I obviously didn’t pay attention to how they grew – or how big. I’ve already extended the trellis, about doubling the height, and since that picture was taken I tied up that vine at left so it’s read to start attacking the next level.

And that’s just the main vine, there are several secondary ones lower down. (should I prune those??) On the right is our rhubarb and raspberries, both making huge progress. I just read that we shouldn’t harvest any of the rhubarb this year (its first) since it needs all those huge leaves to make energy for building a strong root system. Then next year we can harvest "some", and finally go crazy in the third year. Whoa. Some good raspberries starting too, looks like we’ll get some fruit from them.

Next is the dill and cilantro, also doing well. The dill is almost weed-like in its propensity to spread, and the cilantro has recovered from a shaky start where it all got knocked down and bent. Looking forward to chilled carrot dill soup…

I grew so much cilantro hoping to use the coriander seeds to make ultra-fresh Witbier, but now I’m reading that Indian coriander has a nicer flavor and aroma. This one may be a touch "vegetal" or celery-like. Ah well, if I get any coriander it’s going in the beer! Finally the cukes (at right) – just today I found the first flower! I didn’t check if it was a male or female blossom, but since they’re not self-pollinating like our tomatoes I’m thinking we maybe should do it by hand? (I know, dirty…)

To finish the photo spread, a few fun shots of the tomatoes-in-progress. Cool!

Detox Day 6

Posted by Karen in Day to Day, Garden.
Thursday, May 4th, 2006 at 9:44 am

Well, it’s actually Day 7 now. So yesterday was a breeze, I felt awesome, had lots of energy (in spite of once again not getting enough sleep – notice a trend?), no cravings, felt very in control. And as it was our last full day of detoxing, I even found myself feeling a little like sad or something, like I wasn’t quite ready to be done. Weird, considering I was full of hate and panic a mere 3 days earlier. But we’ve sort of gotten the system down now, all the prepping and cooking and steaming, and I’m sort of used to it. And I feel good! But what to do? There is beer to be drunk and we are just the Duo Team to do it. And then there are visitors, and farmers markets, and festivals, and parties… life is just so HARD! Well, we’re hoping that some of this does get a little incorporated into our normal life. Soon enough we will have CSA veggies galore and can steam them away to our heart’s content!

And speaking of veggies – wook at da itty bitty widdle cucumbers! You’re so cute! Yes you are!

Un Jardin Bonito!

Posted by Nate in Garden, Landscaping.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 at 8:52 pm

Ok, so after Karen’s enthusiastic but detail-free post, I’ve been tasked with posting a few more pictures and notes. Here goes: First, some "before" pictures: on the left, the buried path, and on the right the garden as it existed a week ago.

First thing we did was dig out a new section of garden for raspberries and rhubarb. I’m putting in some edging left, and then tilling the surface – mixing compost and some new dirt.

Helpy doing his thing with the tomato bed frame, and me putting in the stakes for the pumpkin and cucumber trellis.

Karen making out with one of the cool little sun faces guarding the garden, and the tomatoes in the dirt with their stakes.

The trellis at left, we’re hoping it will support the cucumbers and pumpkins. Supposedly if we put the pumpkins in pantyhose legs and tie them to the trellis they’ll stay up and grow big without taking too much room in the garden. Finally, the path. While this is totally a temporary measure – we’re going to replace the whole thing with a sweet stone path done properly – it’s one thousand times better than the overgrown mess it was a week ago.

Ta da! A big long workday for both of us, but it was wonderful – working outside in the sun in our yard with our dog… (and beer on tap in the basement.) Ahhhh…

(oh yeah, we planted: raspberries, rhubarb, a hot chili pepper, basil, dill, cilantro, mint, rosemary, 4 kinds of tomatoes, a cinderella pumpkin, and some cucumbers. Whoa.)

Oh. my. god. cutest. garden. ever!!!

Posted by Karen in Garden.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 at 8:40 pm

We did that.