Category Archives: Gardening
It’s been quiet around here lately.
No lie – I’ve been trying to cut back on the daily computing.
I’ve been needing to get outside.
Luckily, the weather was warm over the weekend, so we headed out to the garden for some peace – and hard work.
But when I knelt down by our carrot patch, where that crisp orange smell still lingers in the soil, I knew I had to raid our little seed bank.
As usual, I sowed ‘em thick – two rows of traditional carrots, one row of purple carrots, one row of beets and one row of root parsley.
And the dogs tend to love tasty roots as much as we do.
I’m hoping for a bumper crop of root veggies this summer.
In the meantime, the fruit trees are full of buds and dozens of onions are just begging to be trimmed as garnishes or dug up for roasting.
And there are wild things to harvest.Come back tomorrow to learn about the weeds we’ve been eating and a recipe!
Have you begun gardening yet this spring?
It’s lemon season.
Well, technically, the season for Meyer lemons grown in temperate areas, such as a big pot in my Missouri dining room, can be year-round. But we just finally picked the first golden bursts of sunshine from our little tree.
In a little over a year, we have seen our little Meyer lemon tree burst into bloom a couple of times. After creating an intoxicating fragrance, most of the flowers fell off. But last spring, several of blooms gave way to little green fruits.
Two of them lasted through the hot, hot summer, my inconsistent care and a move back inside for winter. I eyed the lemon babies daily for signs of yellowing. Finally, they were ready.
Since we only had two, I wanted to be sure we used them for some special and memorable recipe.
By chance, around the same time, my DIY gourmet friend Lisa gave me a bottle of her homemade ginger syrup.
So, Zach cut up the lemons – which were amazingly sweet, tart and juicy – and mixed up some delicious drinks (with a little help from the Sodastream that I previously bought on Lisa’s recommendation).
Check out the recipe for the drinks and the syrup itself!
Lemon Vodka Gingerade (Crystal’s approximation of Zach’s recipe)
- Lemon wedges
- Ginger Syrup
- Unflavored sparkling water
Fill a pint glass with ice. Add vodka. We usually pour to about 1/4 of the glass. This would be about 1 to 1-1/2 shots if you’re measuring. Next, add sparkling water, leaving about a finger’s width of room at the top of the glass. Grab a couple lemon wedges and squeeze them into the drink. Then, add ginger syrup to taste.
Now, stir, and enjoy!
A Loose Recipe for Ginger Syrup (Lisa’s Recipe)
- 3 big pieces of ginger, about the size of your hand
- (Filtered) water
- 2.5 – 3.5 cups suger, I used about 2 parts white, 1 part lt. brown, 1 part raw
- A few pieces of lemon peel from an organic, unwaxed lemon, no pith
Note: I just filter it though a medium/fine mesh sieve a couple of times, but if you want it less cloudy and pulpy, you can pass it though cheese cloth a few times before you add the suger.
On this batch, I boiled the ginger down a second time with a couple fresh cups of water. I thought I could get more ginger flavor, but I think it just got a bit bitter. I probably wont do that again.
Have you ever made your own syrup for flavoring fancy drinks? What’s your favorite sparkling drink for holiday time?
Tiny cuts cover my hands from Sunday afternoon’s weeding extravaganza. Crabgrass and tall, unknown wild plants have been choking out the neglected garden all summer.
As Zach and I removed the invaders, we were surprised to find a rogue tomato plant thriving in a spot far away from our designated tomato area.
As long as the weather holds, these babies should ripen soon. I know we will enjoy them as much as the small basket of tomatoes we harvested a few weeks ago.
Weeding day also yielded a big, fat eggplant and a handful of peppers. We expect a lot more peppers in the coming weeks. After looking sad all summer, the eight or so plants that have hung on are getting heavy with blossoms and pepper nubs.
How is your garden growing this time of year?
Want fresh produce from local farmers? If you are in Kansas City, stop by the Waldo Farmers’ Market today between 3 and 7 p.m. This is the last market of the year!
This is a recipe for master estimators.
It is the only kind of recipe I can follow. And it’s for dogs, who will never tell me, anyway, if there’s a smidge too much cinnamon.
Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Blueberry Frozen Goodness
1. What’s left of last year’s sweet potato harvest. Or, as many sweet potatoes as you feel like cleaning, chopping up, boiling and pureeing in the blender – minus the amount of mash you decide at the last minute to save for yourself. Because mashed sweet potatoes are so awesome to eat they require no condiments (although a dash of salt and butter can’t hurt).
2. Peanut butter. As much as you feel like spooning into the pureed sweet potatoes, but probably not an equal amount or the batter will get so voluminous that you’ll be at this all day.
3. Oats – regular or the instant kind. Really, the dogs won’t know the difference.
4. Cinnamon. Put the container on the sprinkle – not the dump – setting, and use your judgment.
4. Dried blueberries. For topping.
As the photos above indicate, you will mix all ingredients together. Be patient – the potatoes are light and fluffy, and the peanut butter is thick and heavy. Feel free to keep adding oats, since they seem to help stiffen up the taters.
Once you are satisfied that the mixture is sufficiently even, you will 1) wonder why you mixed things by hand instead of putting it all in your ridiculous $400 Blendtec blender and 2) proceed to the next step.
“The next step” is easy but messy: Use your fingers and a spoon to deposit little lumps of batter onto wax paper. How big you make these lumps is entirely up to you. How big are your dogs? I made two sizes – tablespoon-size for big dogs and teaspoon-size for my elderpin.
When you get sick of spooning out lumps, or when you realize you’re running out of containers to store them in, you might grab the nearest Kong toy and stuff it with this delicious-to-a-dog mixture. Just don’t drop it, or there could be a fight.
Once the Kong is stuffed, go back to the gooey lumps. Tuck a dried blueberry into the center of each, because it makes them look cuter. And, blueberries are good for dogs.
Finally: Freeze everything. Including the few sweet potato chunks you skimmed for healthy “training” treats.
Like everything else I make (including yesterday’s basil mint tea), this recipe is adapted from a more specific version. When you don’t have sweet potato mash and blueberries on hand, make the simpler No Bake Peanut Butter Oat Treats by For the Love of My Dogs.
What homemade goodness do you make for your pets?
We love jars.
Pickle jars, mason jars, jelly jars, olive jars, old Kombucha bottles. If it’s glass and it has a screw-top lid, the Wayward House is loathe to let it go – even to the recycle bin.
The bigger jars are really fun. I like to use the biggest mason and pickle jars for making slow brew, cold brew or sun tea. It’s still hot enough in Kansas City for the latter, and because volunteer basil is among the things thriving in my shabby garden, I have been getting creative with my jar-brewed tea.
For this batch, I used all three of the basils we have growing this year: Genovese basil, lemon basil and, the one we have the most of, Thai basil. I also used some of the wild peppermint growing in our backyard (being careful to pick the freshest sprigs that seemed untouched by dogs).
I picked an amount of herbs I thought would fill up the jar, about equally split between the basil mix and peppermint.
After rinsing the sprigs under water, I broke them up a bit and stuffed them in the jar along with two bags of green tea and poured filter water over the top. Then, I set the concoction on our porch for about eight hours.
When I brought the jar inside and removed the lid, a lemon-y, minty, basil-y fragrance emerged.
The next step involved separating the tea and the herbs. For this, I placed a funnel into the mouth of a juice pitcher and covered the top of the funnel with one layer of cheesecloth.
Lucky for me, I picked the right juice pitcher. It held almost exactly the same quantity of liquid as the pickle jar.
After taking this picture, I chucked the used herbs into the yard to decompose.
The tea stays good refrigerated in the pitcher for about three days – if you don’t drink it all in one day!
I like to separate my batch into single servings that I take with me to work. Of course, I reuse screw-top glass bottles for that!
This recipe is adapted from one I received from a Sierra Club mailing list. View the original here.
Do you ever make your own tea? Share your suggestions and ideas in the comments!
Gardening hasn’t gone so great at Wayward House this year, but many of our containerized plants are alive and thriving.
Here’s a look at a few of the potted plants I currently count as successes.
This little fella is on its second summer with us. We bought the baby fig from Bear Creek Farms, one of our favorite vendors at the Waldo Farmers’ Market, last year. The little tree looked about like this then, and it kept gaining leaves throughout the winter, which it spent in a warm, bright corner of our living room.
We though we killed the fig when we moved it outside this spring. All of its leaves turned brown and fell off. Then, they came back. It is due for a repotting. Perhaps someday it will actually produce figs, which are highly nutritious.
Our dear friend and helper Debbie left a surprise on our kitchen counter fairly late last year – an organic garlic chive seedling. Because I am a procrastinator of epic proportions, it took some time for me to get around to potting the little chives. Fortunately, they’re hardy.
These tasty chives overwintered in our dining room, providing a springy color throughout the off season and enhancing the flavor of Zach’s delicious homemade soups and other dishes. During spring and summer, the garlic chives have thrived on our front porch. I steal one of the grass-like blades and eat it raw every other time I pass by.
Because I am obsessed with Hawaii, it is necessary for me to have a hibiscus bush. For about three years, I had one that bloomed red and existed in a big, plastic, self-watering pot. Unfortunately, because the pot was plastic, it tended to blow over during last summer’s frequent wind and thunderstorms. The hibiscus spilled out of its container too many times and eventually croaked.
When I finally picked up a replacement hibiscus a couple months ago, I gave it a ceramic home. The plant has given pinkish red blossoms a few times. The next time it produces, I will harvest the blooms and make homemade hibiscus tea.
Meyer lemon tree
This is the potted project I am most proud of. Our little Meyer lemon tree is now on its second year with us.
Every so often, it bursts into the most fragrant white blooms. As you can see, a few of them turned into lemons this year. The fruits seem to take a long while to mature, but I hope I get to taste one before the end of the season.
Don’t be fooled – container gardening at Wayward House has only been as successful as our regular gardening. The potted pineapple never flourished (although it did root), the living Christmas tree dried up, and the air-improving money tree succumbed to a fungus.
In pots or in the ground, I am not so good at watering my plants at regular intervals. This has led to the death of several non-edible houseplants. Luckily, the species highlighted in this post have proven to be pretty hardy. So have most of the aloe plants we potted up last year.
Do you have containerized plants? What’s growing in your pots?
Embarrassing truth: Gardening just wasn’t a priority at Wayward House this summer.
This fact disappoints even little Scooby.
There was much death, underproduction and waste – of money, water, plants and time.
Fortunately, a few species persisted in spite of my neglect. There was that bumper crop of mutant squash.
And my uncaged, untied, laying-down-on-eachother, half-mowed-over tomato plants managed to produce a bounty that, while very modest, dwarfs our total tomato failure last year.
The tomatoes are so sweet, delicious and few that we have been careful to savor every single one.
A few other plants in the garden still show promise.
Some of the healthiest things seem to be the ones I didn’t even plant. Lots of basil self-seeded from last year.
A rosemary seedling we bought at the Waldo Farmers’ Market seems rather robust.
The only eggplant that remains from my own starts is struggling to survive at the foot of our sad, dead pear tree. The bright purple blooms give me hope.
If the weather cooperates, we could get some sweet potatoes this fall. These vines were started from last year’s huge sweet potato harvest.
Although there are signs of life, this summer’s garden will not go down as a success. I allowed it to get truly wayward, in the bad sense of the word.
So, what’s the takeaway for next time? Simple:
- Focus on fewer species and overall quantity of plants.
- Plan out the design instead of planting willy nily.
- Figure out how to make watering easier so that I don’t get lazy and skip it for too many days in a row.
What brings you success as a gardener? How is your plot looking at this time in the season?
“Is that dog waiting for someone?”
That’s what a visitor asked upon seeing Luke in this pose – perched at the end of the deck, ears erect, eyes intent, his body facing the gate to our driveway.
“Yes,” Zach replied. “A mouse!”
A family of mice lives in our fencing. I hear them scuffling nervously every day when I open the back door to let the dogs out for their morning break.
Before the deck went up, I often saw the little buggers, too. Gray shadows flitted past the gaps in the boards. Or maybe a little face peeked through to see if the coast was clear.
Luke’s not the only one keeping watch.
Foster dog Charlie Machete knows about the mice, too.
He races Luke around the corner of the house daily. They even attempt a sort of team hunting tactic, with Charlie Machete ducking under the deck from the back and Luke crawling in from the other end. This strategy has yet to prove successful.
In the spring, the fence mice attracted another kind of predator.
Luke found the evidence - a snake skin, half buried in a mound of dirt next to a fencepost. It was beautiful.
I hope the former wearer of that skin enjoyed a mousy meal before slithering on.
Last year, the mice inhabited the garden.
They nibbled the melons and excited Luke and past foster dog Minnie, who rushed to the melon patch at every opportunity to nose every possible mousehole in the hopes of catching something. (Ideally, not a disease.)
One of those times, I snapped this familiar picture:
A few minutes later, Luke succeeded at hunting! The mouse trapped between his teeth did not succeed – at life.
At least the killing was quick.
I was more grossed out than mad. But I won’t gross you out with a picture of a bloody rodent.
Truth be told, even in death mice are pretty adorable.
Their pointy little faces can’t help but remind me of a certain very old, pointy-faced toy dog, if only his head was the size of a thimble.
Scooby has in fact been known to engage in dirty, mousy behavior.
But let’s be realistic.
Cute though they may be, mice are not creatures I want lingering in or too near my home. I’m glad Luke’s looking out for us.
However, something tells me I may need to get him some back-up in the form of pet-safe traps.
Do your dogs chase mice or other small animals? Do you have a foolproof method for deterring mice?
My mutant squash seems to have matured.
We harvested a dozen of these things this week. I am unsure precisely what they are. All are colored like butternut squash and some have that shape. Others are bigger than a butternut, with a crooked neck.
They really are huge.
No matter the shape, each squash has a base about the size of a coffee cup.
The crookneck squash are about Scooby size.
How could I not know the variety of squash harvested from my own garden, you ask? Well, suffice it to say I’m not a very organized gardener.
I planted several varieties of squash, pumpkin, melons and cucumbers in very close proximity. The lone plant that yielded these fruits pretty much took over. And I was pretty sure that seedling – which I grew from seed – was a giant pumpkin.
Until we solve the mystery, these mutant squash are a nice addition to our kitchen decor.
Do you know what these mutant squash might be? Do you know a good squash recipe?