Sunday, September 4, 2011

A year later and here we still reside!

Here we are, a full five years from the starting date of this blog. I've enjoyed writing about the farm, the kitchen, and the life...but it's time to move on from. As the last couple posts hint, I'm in the process of reshaping this world and as a result, I'm packing my suitcase and heading to a new home  soon.  As much as I've loved the urban farm here in town, I'm ready to lose the long commutes to work, and the crime ridden neighborhood.

I hope you'll come along for the ride. I can't promise what it'll be like, because my sense is that it will not encompass quite the same things that this one has. It will be broader in scope, and with any luck, a little more involved with the art and cooking side of the life.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A heart for you!

We are in love with glass beach. Been there? It's up in Fort Bragg, near Mendocino where we spent a few days last week. Glass beach used to be the city dump! Horrible way to treat the ocean goddess, if you ask me. Apparently the town concurred several decades ago by cleaning it up. What was left were hundreds and hundreds of pieces of glass...soft edged silvery green sea's staggering to think about the tonnage involved. Savage and beautiful what we idiotic humans can do to the land and sea, isn't it?
This is a little heart shaped from the glass. My intention is to use the image in a piece of art soon...but liked the photo well enough to post it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Times They Are a'Changin'

It has been a hell of a ride, folks. I've learned a great deal about what I need, who I am and what I want in life over these last six or seven years, but I'm making some choices right now about where to land in the next six or seven to come. These are hard choices, with little assurance as to whether or not they will be correct.
As much as I've loved the farm here, what I'd call the saving grace of all the other white noise of life, I've decided to pack up my seeds and get out of dodge.
I think if we are to grow as human beings on this planet, we must grow forward in some positive way.
Although I will miss my soil, my wood floors, my laundry chute and my studio, I have reached a pivotal point in life where I am intending to make enormous, somewhat intense and drastic changes that will involve letting go of this nice piece of earth, and moving ahead to find another.
The economy has tanked my little town which struggled to survive even before this crash. As a result, I'm surrounded by empty places, high crime, and drug use that goes beyond what ought to already have been legalized. In short, NashobaGardens in its current location is no longer a safe, healthy, viable living or growing space.

Over the course of the next year, my intention is to continue on with the posting you've come to expect around gardens and cooking....

I'm excited for the change. I get itchy feet every few years and perhaps also need a new challenge around bringing a new place to live to life....
This summer, since I'm aware this may be the last; I've planted the most enormous garden I've yet to have and it's cranking along nicely. I am setting and intention to have the smoothest transition out of the American Dream as possible.

It was just a dream, after all, wasn't it? A nice one. But there are other things to dream about, aren't there.

The Killing of the Trees and the Privacy.

For the last five years, I've done major battle with an elderly woman living next door who had dementia. She'd routinely cut my plants down, pour poison over the fence, and create all manner of mayhem. Sadly, it was her dementia speaking, but she was convinced I was on her land in my yard and house, and was going to take it back by hook, crook or Round-Up. I could delight or terrify you with the hair raising stories about this woman and all I went through with her, but I think you get the picture. If you know me well, you've likely had the er..pleasure, of seeing this action first hand.
Well, long story short....sort of....she died. And she went the way she wanted to go, in her own her own time. It's horrible, and sad, and honestly, we came to some kind of a degree of peace between us when she realized I was her only lifeline if some dreaded thing happened and she needed help. I survived several rescue missions on her behalf--and so it goes.

Her very dilapidated house sat empty for eight months, and then was sold. The new owners moved in, paying 50k cash for the place, and began renovations. Great, thought I to myself! Finally some nice people. And I present this information to you all with the pre-presentation that they are indeed nice folks. But! They are very loud. Very different. Very BIG. And since they've moved in, there's been non-stop partying in their yard with loud music, big families, and sadly---a total lack of privacy for myself and O.C.

All of this get used to it business aside, my greatest sadness about this whole thing has been the loss of the beautiful fruit trees. They paved paradise...not that crazy ladies house or land was that, but this area where we are is full of large lots and very old homes. With this comes very old trees.

These folks came in and tore down just about every fruit tree in the yard. Ripped out a large shed that provided privacy, and put in cement to park their trucks. Not cool.
The photos above will give some indication of the current scene. The two trees in front are lovely pineapple, er, were lovely pineapple guava. All gone now.

It has put a spin on the world I never thought I'd have. Total lack of privacy and really noisy, but nice, folks next door...and a parking lot of gardener trucks to look at.

In wondering about karma, one has to ask, why me? I did my time already....
But so it goes.
A lot has changed around here, given the economy. Empty homes lead to more crime. And this has been utterly true in these parts. It has gotten to where I only feel safe in the confines of the farm here, and have given up trying to run or ride the foldy bike here in town. Too many dangerous types and too much violence out there in urbania.

Simplest pasta sauce in the world. Really.

There are ONE too many nights when I arrive back at the urban farm here after my two hour commute back from the place of servitude, that I just can't manage to cook anything I'd consider REAL and substantial and good. This sauce has now saved my life a number of times with it's basic ingredients that I always, and likely you all, always have on hand. There are many variations of this out there, but this one is my own with tweaks to those I've found.

One can of San Marzano tomatoes. (No comments on the canned part,...there are really good organic tomatoes out there! Really!)
One onion, grated. I know the photo shows a whole onion. I was lazy.
One cup chopped basil.
Six-eight cloves garlic, chopped.
Salt, red pepper flakes.
Really good quality olive oil: Key.
5 tablespoons butter OR unrefined coconut butter /oil.

Dump the tomatoes, grated onion, and butter in.
Let simmer for 45 minute while you go get a life.
In 45 minutes, onions should be tender. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.
Add in garlic, basil, red pepper flakes to taste.
Cook another 20 minutes to half an hour. I like more garlic in the finished product so cook it less time.
Remove from heat, and add in 2-4 tbs of the really good EVOO...(I'm partial to our local Sepay Groves olive oils here in Solano County. They rock.) This brings out something kinda magical about the sauce.
Add more chopped basil, and parmesan if you like!
See? All you did was grate, dump, stir and eat! Eazy-peazy!

Lump o' mozzarella!

This is a photo of some pre-stretched mozzarella. Fresh out of the pot.

New obsession: Cheese making.

Those folks who check in on this blog from time to time know two things about me...
A. I am really lazy about blog entries
B. I tend to get really cranked up about certain things and will go out of my way to learn all I can about that thing...particularly if the thing involves cooking, gardening, or making art.
My current crank-up is making cheese. Yup. I've now taken a couple classes and feel pretty confident about my ability to craft some mighty fine goat cheese, mozzarella, mascarpone, and fromage blanc.
If I could have the space, I'd get me some goats of my own, but since I don't, I've been dabbling in goat herding classes this summer, and learning what I can about them. They are very sweet animals, and although I'd certainly welcome their little faces here at NashobaGardens, the fact is, I just don't have the space for them.
Soooo...I'm currently searching for goat-share situations in order to be able to find good milk.
I have to say, there is some sort of deeply soulful thing about milking a goat, then immediately crafting some cheese from the still warm offering. NOT to mention that this cheese beats out all other store bought cheese by leaps and bounds when it comes to taste and consistency.
So, I'm pretty into it now...and in fact, have plans to attend a session where crafting hard cheeses is discussed later in the summer. How cool would it be at Solstice to unveil a lovely cheddar you'd made with your own two hands ===and a cow's several udders, that is.
I've always been utterly lactose intolerant, but have to say, raw milk in all its forms has dealt with this issue. I still don't find myself able to drink MILK straight, but the cheeses I've been making from the raw stuff is SO much better, can't say enough about it. I'd make a post about HOW to make this cheese I've been making, but really, after internet searches, there are thousands of folks doing this with far better instructions.

And yeah, that's me, milkin' the goat at one of the classes this summer...this one at Love Apple's goat herding class. Cool, no?

Garden Excitement

It's been a very busy summer. I've had guests and guests and guests. My folks had their 50th wedding anniversary, so I was in Low Cal. for the big party. I did a little mini trip with a friend up to Mendocino this past week, and came back to a very neglected garden. Leaves, weeds, and under fertilized soil do not make for happy tomatoes...or anything else for that matter.
Two men working all day later, I now have order again, along with a goal of getting some worm tea going so that I can feed these poor babies by week's end.
Worm tea? If you garden, you know what this is. If you are a newbie, you need to know what it is.
And in its simplest form, it's easy to make. NashobaGardens has so many plants going, that there is a huge need for volume in feeding procedures. Generally, I take a large 9 gallon garbage can, mix in water, rain water if I have it, and pour in about half a bag of worm castings. I let this sit in the sun a day or so, then sift out the water into another bucket. It's good stuff. I either foliar spray the plants, or directly water with the tea. Try it out! It's worth the effort.

Monday, January 17, 2011


So, I've been yearning to make bread again after a long hiatus. And so, I purchased this awesome book, Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a day. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a bread fetish, such as myself, and to anyone with very little extra time in their life...sadly, also such as myself.

I think I did pretty good considering this is all hand bread machines allowed. The cool thing about the basic bread recipe (which I'm intentionally not posting here as I think you folks ought to buy this amazing book...) is that you can really mess around with fillings for each loaf.
One of these is cheddar garlic, the other olive rosemary. They freeze remarkably well.

Happy Solstice! (a bit late, I know...)

Here is wishing anyone and everyone a glorious decade. I have to admit, the last ten years have been arguably some of the roughest ones I've spent. Perhaps it is the curse of aging that when one looks back on one's life and journey, it is somewhat inevitable that the pages seem a bit less full of the writing one might want to spend time reading.
This decade saw so much change for me....leaving California, living up in Oregon, meeting new and wonderful people, illness the likes of which I never hope to experience again, found love, lost love, death of friends and loved ones, healing, breaking, moving, digging, discovering, cooking, creating, learning, renewing...growing. It's been a strange trip, for sure.
At midnight this past December 31st, my oldest friend and I called each other at the stroke of 12....she's recently lost both of her parents to horrifying ongoing illness, and I've been dealing with my own nightmares the last few years of a similar ilk. In any event; we popped a cork on a good bottle of champagne, seven hundred miles apart, and toasted to what we both hope will be a far better of hope for us all, one of renewal, and one of lasting happiness where missed chances for heart connection and laughter are a thing of the past.

So blessings on you all who might follow either publicly or privately these little posts on garden, kitchen, and gentle witchery. May your years be as you wish them to be, both the soon to be, and the yet to be. Life is too short to miss any second of it.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

These were relatively easy to make, and pretty tasty.
1/2 pound de-veined shrimp, tail off. Ick.
Rice paper wrappers, can be found at local Asian supermarket. Mine are from Seafood City.
Fresh mint.
Bean thread noodles.
Bean sprouts.
Fresh basil.
Fresh lettuce of your choosing. I used some arugula from my garden....I like the spiciness.
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce.
4 tbs. mirin
2 tbs. memmi, a soup stock can omit this is you want to.
1/2 tsp. chili paste or if not available, ground red pepper will also work.
4 tbs. chunky no-salt peanut butter.

How to:
Steam the shrimp and set aside to chill.
Boil a large pot of water, and carefully dip the rice paper wrappers into the water. It'll only take a few seconds to wilt them. Lay them out onto wax paper or parchment to dry. They'll stick to paper towels. Yes, I found this out the hard way...six wrappers later..ughkkkk.
When you've boiled all the wrappers you intend to use, add the bean thread noodles to the water and very quickly remove. They cook rapidly.
Drain these guys on paper towels and then set in the fridge to cool for a bit.

Chop the mint, basil and lettuce into thin ribbons.
Wash and drain the bean sprouts.

Place a wrapper onto the counter and add a narrow strip of the greens mix, two shrimp, some of the bean thread noodles, and some of the bean sprouts.
Carefully roll the entire thing up, tucking the sides in half way, and finish by sealing the edge closed with a bit of warm water.
Continue wrapping and rolling until all are finished. Place in the fridge while you finish making the dipping sauce.

For the dipping sauce:
Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, mirin, memmi, and chili paste and whisk together. I usually head up the peanut butter a bit before I whip it about. It makes things more smooth and you don't have to work up a froth trying to get it to incorporate.

Serve the rolls with the dipping sauce.

Espaliered Tomato Plants

Wanted to post about the only real experiment this year.
My good friend Keith, an avid gardener friend, had shown me his garden of espalier tomatoes a couple seasons ago.
Last year, I'd thought about doing this, but was so consumed with the idea of grow boxes and soil additives...well, it just never happened.
So, this summer, in my ongoing effort to find the BEST possible tomato growing operation, I tried it out.

As you can see from the worked pretty darned well! Not only did it allow for a lot of air flow around the plants, it was very easy to pick the little guys when they were ripe. The only alterations I'd made to this would be to lower the cement reinforcing panels closer to the ground. Doing this would have eliminated a whole lot of tying up of vines in the early stages.

It's January, and if you can believe it, I finally ripped out these babies and ate one little last cherry tomato that was clinging for dear life to a blackened vine. Summer is certainly in the past...and fall rolled through wine country like a ghost, barely stopping to crisp leaves and turn the sky that amazing copper blue light.

So much pasta sauce!!!

This summer we grew an obscene amount of Roma style tomatoes. It's always interesting to see what will grow and what won't. There's been so little time to post anything this past year, that I thought maybe I'd take some time to post a pasta sauce recipe here from the summer harvest.

Six pounds *yes* of Roma tomatoes.
Submerge in boiling water for about a minute. Run under cold water, peel, and seed the tomatoes.
Saute three onions in the bottom of a large stock pot, along with about half a head of crushed garlic. When both are softened, add 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or 1/4 cup chopped fresh red peppers.
Add tomatoes and half a cup of good, vegetarian stock.
Continue cooking tomato sauce, slowly, for about four hours. It will reduce in size.
Add 1 tsp. grey salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper.
Add 4 cloves chopped garlic. I do this only because I like the combination of both the cooked and the uncooked garlic.
Add about three cups of chopped basil.
Cook another half an hour.

I usually can all my sauce for the wonderful taste of summer throughout the dead of winter, but this is equally delicious right from the pan served on a bed of fresh pasta.

Monday, January 10, 2011

This year's other new thing...

I decided to build my own raised beds this time out. I know...this is insane...sort of. I am the one with tools in the fam. and so was pretty much on my own on this one. I wanted a dedicated bed for the squash and one for edible flowers. The squash happened, the flowers did not.
The first one is about 6'x8'..and was a bear and a half to move from garage to garden....but it got in there. The second was 5'x5'. And it never got filled with new dirt.
But the larger bed did VERY well for the plants in all.

Of course, once again, we put up the giant anti-opossum fence to keep the little twerps out of the beds. I managed to actually have some squash to freeze for future breads and pies and fritters as a result. Yay!

I wish I could say I'd done massive garden time this past summer, but other than the drip system, nothing really huge occurred.
All in all, it was quite the abysmal summer in terms of the production. Eggplant essentially failed in the cold. Basil...ughkkk, I never even made pesto for winter! I'm regretting this now, as we are deep in the heart of January.