Thursday, September 24, 2009

longer shorter days

It is officially fall now. I have been noticing the lowering of the sun for awhile, though the weather continues to be mostly summery and perfect. The days may be shorter, but in some ways they feel longer now that Sam is no longer napping. When Denis has a heavy week, and I am doing most or all childcare for days at a time, I am so spent after putting him to bed. Last night I sat on the front stoop with a mudslide and noticed signs of fall as twilight descended.

Leeks were a favorite fall crop back on the farm crew. I loved trimming the long leaves into a tidy 'V' shape with the quick slash of a knife. The fields would be frosty in the mornings, our large summer crew gone, and I would carry a 5-gallon bucket of hot water in the back of the truck to warm up my freezing dewy fingers between harvesting the arugula and whatever else wasn't winter-killed.

Fall, if not my job, is milder here of course. Our winter kale plants are only newly planted seedlings, stretching up from the mulch all green and blue.

Monday, September 21, 2009

weekend in pajaro

This year's Pajaro trip was short but very sweet. We played frisbee and boomerang and had a great visit with Grandma, Fred, and the dogs. Despite Sam's mysterious apprehension with the beach, he had fun every single minute. Crashing surf, big empty beach, nothing to do, even the fog...a beautiful weekend.

Friday, September 18, 2009

operation tomato part 1

Our tomatoes are finally coming in full force, and days of tomato canning are upon us. First up were the cherries, way too many to snack on. For the first time we made sauce and canned these tiny packets of flavor, and for fun we did them separately from our regular tomatoes. I spent over 30 minutes harvesting these (below) this morning, while Sam was at school, from one sweet 100 and 2 sungold plants. Spending that long harvesting one crop makes me feel a bit like a farmer again; I revelled in it.

Sam offered to help when he got home, but he kept getting phonecalls.

So pretty!

To prep the cherry tomatoes for sauce-making, I washed and de-stemmed them out on the back porch. Sam prepped quite a few, but most of his went into his mouth.

(Did you notice the tomato foreman in the yellow hat?)
I filled the 6-quart pot (above, on the left) almost full (adding a few paste tomatoes), boiled it down, strained out the seeds and skins, and then canned the thickened cherry tomato sauce in pint jars.

Final yield (the seeds&skins to flesh ratio a bit surprising): 3.5 pints of summery sungold sauce. Come February, we'll be eating this tiny bit of goodness right up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

half-sour pickles

Our kitchen counter looked like this for weeks this summer (though it was even more blurry with my glasses off). We grew 4 varieties of cucumbers and have been eating amazing cucumber salads almost every day. We also put up a couple batches of both canned and refrigerator bread and butter pickles. Most excitingly for me, we also made two batches of brined half-sours. Yum!

I hadn't tried fermenting pickles for several years, and to be honest my track record was not good before this year. In the past I would make huge crocks of brine only to have something go wrong with the process and end up with a huge crock of cucumber compost. But I just love deli pickles, so this year I tried again, and used a new recipe (from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich). This process is small-scale, just a 2-quart jar, and utilizes a brine-filled ziplock bag to seal off air. The brine is seasoned with garlic, coriander, and home-grown dill heads. It was a brilliant success! These half-sours are delicious, perfect for an afternoon snack, on their own or alongside sweet garden tomatoes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

my little platform

As we try to figure out our new problem with downloading photos from the camera, I bring you some picture-free content in the form of a couple interesting articles:

This one, I just read this morning, is Michael Pollan's op-ed piece in the New York Times bringing the huge yet under-noticed issue of food into the national conversation on health care. He cites a study that explains why our health care costs are the highest in the world: it's the great American diet (surprise!). A plan to lower health care costs must include food industry reform, folks. I think we all know where I stand on this issue.

And this one is very long, but riveting, and very disturbing, but important. I don't even know what to say about it except that if you care about capital punishment, no matter which side you're on, I think you should read it.

Thanks for listening. Regular blogging to resume as soon as we get these technical problems solved.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

iraqi bundle of love

Today, at the last minute, I am sending off my Iraqi Bundle of Love. This is a project started by a wonderful man in the army over in Iraq who is returning home soon and simply wants to leave Iraq with a little bit of goodness. As the husband and son of quilters, he came up with the idea of donating fabric and sewing supplies to sewing cooperatives and individuals in Iraq. Yarn and knitting supplies are also welcome. He has called this project Iraqi Bundles of Love (IBOL) and keeps a blog about it here with all the specs for donating a bundle. I regret that I did not do better in spreading the word, because today is the last day to mail off a bundle, but if you are reading this and would like the address from me today, give me a call. I'm going to pick up Sam from school and have him help me pack up our package at the post office, while trying to explain something about giving things away to people who might need them more than we do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

strawberries and delayed gratification

My past experience with Seascape everbearing strawberries has been that the plants are easy to grow, produce abundantly, and that the berries taste magnificent. My CSA members in Berkeley would pronounce our strawberries the best they had ever tasted. This is not a variety widely grown for production because of the fragility of the berries, but when sweetness and flavor are of the utmost importance, usually for a small grower, nothing beats the Seascape in my opinion. So of course when we bought our own house, and with a 2-year-old berry-lover to think of, I planted them again.

Early on in June, I let go control of the harvest and allowed Sam to pick and eat and learn with minimal direction from me. I guided him to look around the whole berry to make sure it was all red and ready, and after picking a few that were barely pink, he now makes sure only to pick ones that are truly ripe. With only 6 container plants, Sam eats almost all of our strawberries himself, which is just fine with me.

Recently Sam has been picking strawberries and declaring that he must "save it for breakfast and put it in the refridgerator." So he runs inside with his berry (or handful of berries) and deposits it on the top shelf of the fridge. The next morning, he eats them cut up in his oatmeal. This has been going on for a few weeks now.

I am reminded of an interesting article I read recently about children and self-control. Simply put, studies show that children who are able to delay gratification early in life can have greater success as adults. If I hadn't provided Sam the guided freedom to pick his own strawberries, I wonder if he would have expressed this ability to save them.

As far as the Seascapes go, I think they do much better in a more coastal climate. I find our productivity and flavor to be not quite as amazing, and the plants that are doing the best are the ones with the longest shade period. I will try some additional varieties next year.