Come Into My Garden: 3.1

I say it every year:

This time, I’ll keep a notebook all the way through the last harvest.

I’m not going to say that right now. I’ll just begin, because even though it’s snowing today, the work has begun.


For several Springs, we’ve hesitated on a tree order. It’s a big commitment. It means that we expect to stay here a while, or that we’ll do grand things to transform this land, and may not be around when the fruits of our labor one day appear. But, we’re in this for more than just our personal rewards. Every year, we have made the tiniest of baby steps in transforming the eroding, muddy hillsides of our wee plot into what we hope will be a flourishing food forest someday. This year, it feels already as though we’ve taken a great leap.

We transplanted berries that had been suffering, and gave them more sun and some new friends to hang out with. We planted cranberries (!!!!!!) and willows in the wettest of the wetlands, and a pie cherry tree in the most perfect place ever (in ten years). Lavender, tarragon, oh and dahlias into the place where the Jerusalem artichokes were literally choking out everything else. Now, the latter have their own bed.

All this on a gorgeous sunny weekend, and tonight it will be 25 degrees.


It still felt safe to sow peas, though, if not any other seeds, and when I started to prepare the bed, the scuffle hoe caught on something. It turned out the entire bed was filled with forgotten parsnips! Our first harvest of the year! If you’re wondering how I could forget about an entire bed of parsnips, I have this to say in my defense: we had a tremendous deer problem last summer. They came through and ate all the tops from the parsnips when they were young, down to the ground, along with almost everything else in that section of the garden. I gave them up because I figured they wouldn’t be much bigger than fingers, if they had a chance to grow at all, since the tops had only barely begun to re-sprout when winter came. And now, I have a five-gallon bucket’s worth of root candy.


Oh, the sweetness of over-wintered roots! Unbelievable.

It gives me such hope for the growing season to come.

Here’s a quick and lovely thing to do with parsnips:

  1. Peel and slice whatever quantity suits your needs, and put the sliced parsnips in a wide skillet
  2. Add about a tablespoon of butter per cup of sliced parsnips, and water to cover
  3. Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, some minced swiss chard and parsley, and simmer another 5 minutes, or until your greens are wilted. If your parsnips aren’t candy-sweet, you can add a bit of honey with the water and butter, and it will caramelize to fantastic effect.
  5. Enjoy!

Oh, and there’s this:


And, when the mist departs mid-morning, the forest is aglow with red budding maples.



Mind Games

It’s hanging on by a mere thread, at this point, but my world is pretty well stuck in a drab color palette until Winter finally lets go.


Color is my work, but I’m feeling the need to push the issue. I’m going for full mind/body injection of rich color. Waking Up kind of color. I play with dye all day, but it’s not enough. I want to taste color. I want it to stain my skin and brighten my cold-dampened spirit. I want it to help me see past the icy muck, the bare trees, and the grey sky.

Oh, turmeric, you dreamboat.


Also, the annual, most precious care package of golden, California sunshine in the shape of meyer lemons arrived from the homeland, and after performing my usual First Ferment of the Year, this happened:


If you love lemon curd, I have to tell you that David Lebovitz’s recipe is absolute perfection. The lemons are the stars, rather than sugar; just tart enough to create a happy buzz on your tongue. We used our duck eggs and, yes, 12 tablespoons of butter, and a delicious dessert of some sort will become of most of it this weekend for the extended celebration of my son’s 10th birthday. There, I just wrote that out loud. TEN.


He requested salmon for his birthday dinner, and it was the perfect dish in which to stick 10 candles!


Did I mention there were TEN candles?


Anyway, there were blood oranges in the salad because: COLOR. So far, it’s a pretty decent trick I’m playing on myself. I feel rather sunshine-y from the inside out.


Deciding that flowers are in the grocery budget even though they’re not is a pretty good one to keep up my sleeve, as well.

What do you do to keep yourself from going insane when Spring is reluctant??!?

ps: Maybe finally changing my header will help, too. Bah!


When you hit the jackpot, fry it up.


We hit the jackpot last night, a few days after the last heavy rain. I’m quite sure there is no mushroom more worthy of portraiture. The morel reminds me of a sea sponge, the brain, and the inside of an ant hill; the flavor delicate, earthy, and transporting. It’s a once-in-a-season treat that turned our simple Sunday evening plans for grilling into a celebratory feast.


But, we didn’t grill these babies. I didn’t want to lose the rare treasures to a sauce, either, so in order to preserve the melt-in-your-mouth, velvety texture as a stand-alone, we subjected them to the tried and true method of BBF – Battered, Breaded, and Fried, and the results had us in a fit of gastronomic joy.


– However many big, beautiful morels you can gather
– Your favorite batter (I used two duck eggs, herb salt, and a splash of cream)
– Cornbread crumbs (We always make Mollie Katzen’s cornbread from the Moosewood Cookbook, subbing einkorn flour and a course, stoneground cornmeal. Any breading, with or without gluten, would work here, but we found that the subtle sweetness of cornbread was a perfect accompaniment to bring out the best of the earthy mushroom flavor).



Slice the morels into thick, 3/4 inch slices.

Batter generously, and then dredge in breading.

Add enough butter to a heavy frying pan for an 1/8″ depth (I used a little over 1/2 stick), and heat over a medium-low flame. Add battered and breaded morels to the pan in a single layer and cook until they a golden, crispy brown on all sides, turning frequently and keeping the butter at a nice bubble, but not so hot that it smokes. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan and quantity of mushrooms.


These are best enjoyed while they are still hot.

We served with caramelized onions, grilled marinated eggplant and grass-fed steaks, sliced thin, and pretty much felt like royalty.


With any luck, there will be one more flush before the season ends.

If you have morels near you, what is your favorite way to prepare them?

Come Into My Garden :: 4

It seemed a fitting way to return.




And it’s Springtime.


We began much earlier than we expected and are weeks ahead of our normal planting schedule. Perhaps, we shall grow a melon larger than a baseball and with edible flesh inside?


Here is the upper garden. Now in it’s fourth year, the soil is really starting to liven up. This year we didn’t have to order any additional soil, and are working with only our own compost as an amendment. Alliums are up, and we had enough garlic at the end of last year to hold back for seed. Baby steps towards our goal of reducing the initial investment into each year’s garden.


Part of this year’s expansion includes several more beds, including a terraced winter squash hill. That pile of rocks behind the beds? That’s what needs to come OUT of our soil before we can put anything INTO it when we venture into new territory. Vermont pebbles, we call them.


Here’s Peep. You should know about him because he’s our main man and border patrol. He has two broody wives so we are anticipating the arrival of fresh, downy babies in addition to our most recent births:


of four baby goats. The sweetness is nearing unbearable, but we manage.


This is Hyssop, proud, goofy mama of the above-pictured Granola.


Always the first to be harvested. Somehow, we never tire of oregano-in-everything.

I’ll do my best to keep up with a weekly recap:


Lettuces, all kinds
Peas, all kinds


Okra (eh, we’ll see if these hold…it’s been chilly)
Onions (from sets)
Lemon Marigold


Green Garlic
Chocolate Mint (someone wishes I hadn’t planted it so close to the garden)
Dandelions (for fritters, wine, and syrup…posts to come!)


What’s happening in your garden?

Twenty-Four: 52





 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

O, this week you…

…dyed your mohawk red with kool-aid for “Crazy Hair Day” at school. It faded to a pretty awesome mauve color that I would like on a wall someday, but you’re feeling pretty done with the mohawk experiment, in general. Tonight, we buzz it off.

…cut class mid-week to spend the day with your homeschooling friends. We’ve missed them so much. I wonder what our world will look like after the Summer?

…made several modifications to your workbench, and I wonder what you have up your sleeve.


C, this week you…

…were foiled by the weather yet again! But you did manage to steal a weed-whacking moment and find the yard under the jungle that had grown in its place. I wish I’d picked the daisies first, though!

Twenty-Three: 52






 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

O, this week you…

…kept at it. You are so close to the finish-line on a project you are less than enthusiastic about. Perseverance, man, you’ve got it.

…really started to feel the absence of our departed friend. I’m glad we finally had a good cry about it. I miss him, too.

…tried something you thought you didn’t like and discovered it wasn’t so bad.

C, this week you…

…made a bomb-proof bean teepee. Pretty sure we can live in it if we need to.

Come Into My Garden: 1

I’ve been laying low this week, but I have been around…I spent some time here, waxing poetic, and then some time here, exploring Roots. I also started a summer internship I’ll tell you more about later, so there’s been a bit of a reshuffling of routine, but I think I’m settling in now (just in time for school to let out, of course).

There has also been the mad rush of Spring gardening, and I realize I should be recording more than just a few quick notes on the calendar.


And yes, I really should have started this earlier, but better late than never and all that. Before-and-after would have been nice, too, since we’ve broken much in the way of new ground this season. There’s still a long way to go, though, even beds still to be created for this year, so lots more to share in the weeks to come, I hope!


This is our new friend, the Bean Teepee. How we’ve lived here for three summers already without a bean teepee, I have no idea. A rainbow pole bean mix has been planted, 6 bean seeds per pole.


Also new this year is the way we planted the potatoes. Last year, we put them in raised beds, but didn’t have enough organic matter around to add to the bed throughout the season. 10 pounds of seed yielded enough harvested potatoes to last us until February, but we can do better. This year, trenches were dug, layered with compost and seed potatoes, then covered in straw. 4 varieties totaling 12 pounds.


These pickling cucumbers are coming up where there was a mess of blackberry bushes and milkweed last year. The hillside still needs a lot of work, but is mostly clear for the squash that will go in this week.


Garlic, I love you. Easy and beautiful. I check every day for signs of scapes, but probably have a few weeks to wait. We are quite a bit behind some of our local farmers, because we don’t get as much sun up here on the hill in the woods.


This…well, this is the tomato and pepper patch, can’t you tell? At least, it will be by the end of this weekend, if the weather cooperates. Consider this a Before


We grew some glorious starts to put into the After; I must say I’m quite proud of these. They are opalka paste tomatoes, of which we have several flats awaiting their new home…


…along with these bazillion other friends who are wishing we didn’t have anything else we needed to do besides create the spaces to get them planted out. Yes, the squash and melons are beginning to yellow for want of nutrients…just give us one. more. week.


Aaaaaand…yarn update today! Here’s a little something special I spun up while visiting Dayna at Madison Wool last weekend. It’s up for grabs along with a few traditional plied yarns. Enjoy!

Twenty-Two: 52



 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

O, this week you…

…remembered why an attic bedroom is not-so-awesome during a heat wave. You made a bed for yourself on the floor, where it was cooler.

…enjoyed your bedtime story outside, swinging in the hammock with Papa. Heat waves have their perks.

…have been impossible to wake in the mornings. It might have something to do with your insistence to stay up late so as not to miss the first appearance of fireflies. I understand. But I’m tired.

…acquired some new feathered friends. The Newbies are much easier to catch and cuddle than The Residents.

C, this week you…

…had lots of extreme heat, thunderstorm, or mama’s-away enforced rest-and-quality-time-with-the-boy. So, the tomatoes aren’t in the ground yet. But the potatoes are. Who cares, anyway, when there are Eyewitness books to peruse in a very serious way?

Twenty-One: 52


 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

O, this week you…

…spent many hours of the cold, wet days this weekend fully immersed in creating a haunted castle with your Legos.

…wanted us to spend all our hours playing with it, too.

….got so mad when we had other things we needed to work on. Lots of bummer energy this week. I think we all got a necessary recharge when the sun finally came out yesterday!

…befriended a border collie who insisted your throw a piece of bark for him about 900 times.

…pitched in to help with the garden prep and happily took an ax to the fallen pine to help get it cleaned up. Thanks, buddy…we’re almost there!


C, this week you…

…stopped sometimes. Just to be. You needed that.