Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scenes from a Dusky Winter Garden

The bees are still quietly buzzing...

the scallions are finally finished...

rain, snow, ice, rain, and more ice, all melting, melting, melting...

and some Holiday Cheer from the coop...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why I Garden (Essay Contest)

Mary Ann from Gardens of the Wild Wild West has put forth this essay contest  to encourage garden bloggers to tell each other (in 500 words or less) what motivates them to grow (kill, and grow again.) I, Jennifer, of the Puritan North, submit my entry:

I garden for many reasons, some fairly common and some a bit less considered. Although I grew up gardening and have given it at least some effort each spring of my adult life, I've only had true success over the past 3 years. Beforehand, I led a complicated life of a traveling 'art show artist,' selling my photography at juried festivals nationwide. This allowed me long van rides across the United States, deep in daydreams of growing my own vegetables in between stops at what I called the 'iceberg lettuce stores.' The lack of variety available across the country stunned me; was no one demanding fresh vegetables and um, flavor? My only consolation was to imagine that people who wanted more were simply growing it at home, and that if I wanted what they had, I needed to figure out how to garden in my van. Herbs, peppers, and some greens worked well in pots, as long as I could air them out in between trips at campgrounds. But during heat waves none of us were happy, and I had a bad habit of sleeping in parking lots where no one was allowed outside (house rules.) Something had to give.

I suppose it merits mentioning that throughout this adventure I also had a husband, entangled in his own traveling career. Our relationship has always been a real success, but our home life was becoming a bit unkempt. We acknowledged our failures and looked for a creative solution, which I insisted had to include growing some vegetables. Our first thought was to sell our house and move into the van full time with the peppers, herbs, and very wilted greens. Sometimes we can be so thick. In fact, this realization of stupidity in itself is the crux of why I garden; plants are the best lesson in 'keep it simple.'

I often look to plants when I'm trying to figure out a better way. As we renovate our house and try to make energy efficient decisions, plants have been a great lesson in solar energy. I think about them when I build things that need both stability and beauty. I appreciate what I'm able to learn when I realize that I alone am responsible for taking plants into an extended season; there are actions I can take that they will respond to, and those actions have parallels in my own life and work. These ideas may seem so small, but as an artist I can get really lost in the specifics of things without ever considering the bigger picture. Gardening makes me value simplicity above all else. No more gilding the lily. No more sleeping in parking lots, either. Now we grow a great deal of our own food, have a winter greenhouse, have planted a small orchard, and have a weekly food swap with friends. Now we grow plants just to watch them grow.

The contest is still open! Mary Ann is receiving entries until the Winter Solstice, 8:37 a.m. mountain time, December 21.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blotanical Seed Swap

I came across Michelle's blog, From Seed to Table  on Blotanical, and was immediately drawn to her writing and excellent photography. Living in California, she has a much longer growing season than I do, so following along is like virtual gardening for me. Michelle recently offered up some seeds that she had saved, and after I told her what I was interested in she sent me some Golden Corn Salad and Crimson Flowering Favas. This is the best! ...but now it's time to return the favor, and the only seeds I've saved are winter squashes. Does a zone 9 garden even grow winter squash? Do they have winter, or rather any need for a lasting storage vegetable? So, I've decided to give her some Luffa seeds for fun, along with pelleted carrot and lettuce seeds. Pelleted seeds have changed my gardening life, and if she doesn't already know about them, maybe they'll change hers, too!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Food Swap Monday

Today's Food Swap? Another success... Black Bean Soup, Pumpkin Cream Soup, Boule Bread (baked in a crockpot) and Savory Turnovers with squash & leeks, sherried mushrooms, and pecan chard pesto & goat cheese. Tune in next week for more delicious treats!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pay it Forward

My nephew Jack came over yesterday to do some baking as part of a school/community project. King Arthur Flour has been to his school, handing out supplies and demonstrating techniques in exchange for a loaf of baked bread to donate to the Salvation Army. The program is called 'Pay it Forward' and every child is given 2 kinds of flour, yeast, a recipe book, a dough scraper, and bags to package 2 loaves of bread  - one to keep for their family, and one to bring to school on Monday. Clearly, whoever came to demonstrate was a real pro, because Jack could do every trick he was shown - pretty cute...

flipping over flour onto the dough scraper...

kneading with his little ham hands. You can't tell from these photos, but he's kind of a badass, especially on the football field. The dough knew who was boss...

in fact, it was kind of a learning experience for me, as I don't bake loaf bread very regularly (flatbreads, yes.) We recently found a bread machine in storage, and have been making bricks ever since. But, this was inspiring, and I think I might just give it a try. It smelled and tasted great!

and just one more photo that I snuck of the girls sleeping with their heat lamp last night. Not much different from the red light all of the rotisserie chickens are lined up under at the supermarket. Luckily, they've never been to the supermarket!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Food Swap Monday

Here are the goodies! Again, a pleasure to eat but difficult to photograph for some reason... This time  we had another round of fresh bread and flavorful granola, as well as a  roasted root vegetable hash and a Thai winter squash soup. Everything tastes better than you can imagine! Next week we'll continue with bread and soup, a vegetable tart (exciting!) and the Wild Card category. Since we are usually able to come up with 3 out of 4 ideas, we've had fun allowing the undecided cook to surprise us, and I hope it sticks. I bet you're ready to start your own Food Swap Monday. ??
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