Monday, July 30, 2012

Garden scenes

Zucchini swelling. We've been eating them almost as frequently as green beans.

Cucumbers. A pickling session is in the works this week.

Coreopsis I grew from seed. So pretty.

Baby butternuts. Never grown winter squash successfully before, but it looks like I'm on my way this year.


Pete in the raspberries. Beguiling creature.
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lake picnic

We went on an impromptu picnic the other night. The best kind. I mean, the kind with planned-out menus and agendas and remembered blankets and bottle openers are nice, too, (oops), but there's something charming about a thrown-together one. Something charming in realizing, at 5 o'clock, that there is a cold bottle of Riesling in the fridge, and tupperwares full of potato salad, kale slaw, and zucchini fritters to accompany said Riesling. Also, it was farmer's market night in Morris as we passed through en route to the state park, where an immense chocolate peanut butter-filled cupcake was purchased, and shared. We ate dessert first, because, you know what they say about that. 

We commandeered a lakeshore leanto for our fete.

It was nice to have an adventure. Weekends have been busy lately-- busy with weddings and deer-proofing and work and gigs-- and so often our evenings have boiled down to watching the chickens with a beer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Also, very slow but dogged progress is being made on stripping the old peeling paint off our front porch, which is proving to be an incredibly slow and constant and neverending and --OH MY GOODNESS we are still going to be working on this when we're celebrating our 40th anniversary!-- job. So, it was good to take a break. 

We're in for quite a string of thunderstorms this afternoon, some of which have the potential to be severe, looks like, so if you don't hear from me until Monday, assume all is well. The worst that could happen is hail on my ripening tomatoes. Really.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Wedding weekend

I wish I had a mode on my camera that could better communicate the beauty of this day.

We are a small family, on both sides. I'm an only child; Patrick has one sister. Since I started dating him, and especially since I married him, his sister Meghann and I have been friends. It started, really, with calling her to tell her we were engaged. She yelled congratulations! and then was quiet, and on the other end I panicked for a second before she said, "You know, I've always wanted a sister." It really started there, I think.

When she met this guy, the truly excellent handsome guy she married yesterday, we bonded closer. Family gatherings became an excuse to share a double date of sorts-- four chairs in a corner where we sat and guffawed over Mad Men, Regretsy, and Glee. I'm sure the older generation was fully invested in their conversations about knee surgery, or retirement, or RV prices-- all respectable topics for the older generation, to be sure-- but oh, we savored those four chairs in a corner all our own.

We've shared waitressing war stories, and though she loves stilettos and I favor hiking boots, I like to think we have some core aesthetic principles in common.

She chose to have her wedding the same place I had mine-- her parents' back yard, under an enormous white tent strung with Christmas lights. Her mother's gardens and flower boxes and planters overspilled all around-- purple petunias, sea holly, salvia, chartreuse sweet potato vine. There was so much déjà vu for me, which was really enjoyable. At times it was almost like reliving all the best parts of our wedding, only I was watching instead of being in it. What could be better than that?

Again, I wish my camera could do this justice. She looked so radiant-- a little old Hollywood, a little porcelain, a little Versailles. 

I am so eager to see this next phase unfold for her, as it has for me. And I'm so pleased to welcome her new husband, Brent, into our family for good.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Evening with chickens

Maybe it's impossible to explain to people who've never raised chickens, but they're at least as good as television. Each one is a character it her own right, and, especially as the "babies" have started maturing, and working out their own pecking order, things have gotten exponentially more amusing. They flap, they run, they run and flap. They chase moths. They get into little beak-duels with each other over who gets to sit on top of the box. So far, Patsy (black-and-white) is the best at that game.

Patrick and I sit out in our camp chairs drinking things with ice in them. Sometimes Pete and Diesel join us. Sometimes we try to feed Pete's tail to the chickens. (So far, no takers.)

Maybe we're simplistic country folks, maybe we're just crazy. But I'm telling you, it's all the entertainment I need on a week night.

(P.S. We still have the red one-- Loretta-- though somehow she didn't make it into these pictures.)

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Herbivore defense system

As a rule, I only blog happy things (typically), which is why I wasn't about to show you these pictures on Friday along with a depressive dirge over my nibbled vegetables. The deer, the DAMN deer, got into the garden Thursday night when I left the gate open (d'oh d'oh D'OH), and came back Friday night, with friends, to chow down.

Green beans, swiss chard, and tomatoes were the hardest hit. The beans will recover-- and really, if those deer just reduced by total yield from twenty gallons to ten, it's hard to feel ire. The Swiss chard I can live with-- it'll grow back, and with zukes, beans, tomatoes, and cukes coming on, it's going to be hard to squeeze greens into our meals for the next month or so. By the time I'm ready for a hot pot of potatoes-and-greens soup in September, the leaves will be back.

The tomatoes are harder to handle. I've been watching clusters like this, above, swell all summer, at times checking them four times a day for any sign of ripeness. A few clusters remain, but mostly the deer nipped the choicest 'maters and scampered away into the terrible night.

See that hole? Yeah. There was a beautiful cluster of tomatoes there on Wednesday, and now it is goooone.

But, this is not designed to be a dirge. Patrick and I woke up early Saturday and made a sojourn to the lumber yard, and came home with $68 worth of 2x2s, screw hooks, and screw eyes. And a $7 roll of fishing line.

Fortifications have taken shape, and I'm pleased to report the deer have not been back. They can jump great heights, but are lacking in depth perception, so a wide fence is more likely to succeed than a tall fence-- and also, I didn't want a tall fence so near the street. Also, fishing line at nose-height weirds them out, I've read, because they can feel it but not see it. The 2x2s are hooked to the base of the fence posts with screw hooks and eyes, and a piece of fishing line connects each one at the top of the posts, and runs all the way around the outer perimeter. 

I'm not quite ready to breathe a sigh of relief yet-- they know the bounty of what's inside, now, and any day they could figure out how to leap in. But for now... for now everything is safe.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Postcards from summer, 1

Inside the shed... coming along.

This scene feels so right and comforting to me. Something about the old wood.

Genevieve hasn't eaten any of them yet, though she has taken large mouthfuls of feathers.

Progress on the greenhouse site.

Dry, dry, dry.

Before-dinner snack. I love blackcap season.

I think Pete does, too.
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Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday postcards

I'm feeling the need to step back a little bit at the moment. First of all, I'm running out of things to say about summertime and my slow and subtle project progress. I've been working on digging out the foundation where the greenhouse is going to be for weeks, (7'2" x 8'9", six inches deep; that is a lot of dirt) and have nothing particularly exciting or interesting to show for it, except a dusty hole in the rocky red clay earth. It's rewarding to me, but sharing it here would glaze your eyes. 

Meanwhile, the garden continues to be amazing, the weather continues to be bone, bone dry. 

Our weeks, and our lives this summer are boiling down to Sunday evenings. It's the best part of the week, those acutely distilled four hours. We mix cocktails with garden herbs, we grill, we sit in camp chairs, we sigh as the dew falls, we watch fireflies. Last night we had a fire. Last night we ate honey-lemon-vanilla custard with blueberries, and grilled black bean cumin burgers, and horseradish potato salad with chunks of dill pickle. It was heaven.

I think the rest of this summer is going to take the shape of postcards. Blog postcards. A couple of captioned photos is all you really need, after all, and I'm funneling so many words into other areas of my life (assignments!) that I'm feeling a little short on words to share here. So, let my month or so as a photo-blogger commence!

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer eating: Tostadas

I tend to lean back from recipes in the summertime. Partly, it's the giddy privilege of the gardener, I think: you pick whatever's ripe and work with it. Over the years, we've gotten pretty good at figuring out the whole summer eating thing, at keeping on-hand the things that can be paired with garden produce in endlessly variable and delicious combinations. In summer, we keep in the house at all times a tub of block feta (which lasts ages in the fridge), red onions (awesome in salsas, salads, and on the grill), and frozen blocks of cooked dried beans-- white, chickpea, and black. Cans of beans could also be subbed (and we keep those on hand for emergencies), but soaking and cooking our own is worlds cheaper. And tastier. We keep tomatoes in the house, too, during June and most of July before our garden's tomatoes are ready, because my husband is a tomatophile, and restricting his fresh tomato intake to August and September feels cruel. Also, in the house at all times during the summer (and most of winter, too) we keep tortillas. 

There is something festive about a tortilla. They're cheap, they keep really well, and they make a terrific foundation. For tostadas, we coat them with vegetable oil and grill them on one side, then flip them, top them, and grill until the bottom is done.

At the top of the post, we topped them with marinated mashed chickpeas (like chunky hummus) with lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper; grilled broccoli (cooked while the tortillas were grilling), mozzarella cheese, and a bruschetta-like tomato salsa.

For the picture above, we went a little more traditional with black beans, sharp cheddar, sauteed kale (gotta get the greens in!), piquant salsa and, for me at least, a liberal dose of fresh cilantro.

By the end of this month, I imagine, we'll be topping tostadas with grilled zucchini and tomatoes from our own garden... they're getting there, slowly but surely, and my goodness, we are going to have a lot of tomatoes. Next week we'll have green beans, the first zucchini will probably be ready Sunday, and oh my, the cucumbers. I pulled up the pea vines and planted long rows of winter carrots and beets. I am happy for July. May and June are eager anticipation, but, in the good years, July is triumph.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Garden scenes

Corn poppies, just in time for Independence day.

First carrots! Dinner last night involved only two ingredients not from the garden.

Tomato flowers. Lots of sizable green tomatoes-in-progress, too.

If my garden was its own country, this would be the flag.

Loving the borage. Grabbling new potatoes. Squishing cucumber beetles and stink bugs. Watching hymenoptera in the cilantro flowers. Already beginning to plan, and to anticipate, next year's garden.

It never ends. What a blessing.

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Monday, July 2, 2012



It's really not too strong a statement to say I live for days like these. Northerners, this is why we go through winter after grueling winter: summer, when it comes, is a gift. I've never been a fan of fantasy novels, because I don't need a novel to help me imagine a parallel perfect world. All it takes is someplace quiet and dreamy on a warm evening. 

Yesterday, we splashed around in the brook, got ice cream, integrated the little chickens with the big chicken (so far, no fatalities!), and improvised a pretty stellar dinner on the grill. Then, we sat in our camp chairs on the lawn (by the chicken run) and watched the fireflies and the moon rise... My goodness, this is it. This is what it's about. The customary pre-dinner stroll in the garden for ingredients, bare feet on the front porch and cracking up watching the chickens over a few beers at twilight. Living, loving, and eating. And chickens.

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