Monday, July 21, 2008

Fly Control

We have always had fly problems, especially in the heat of summer. We keep our doors and windows open almost all day instead of using our air conditioner, and the little buggers just love to swarm the house. As a joke last year, I bought this Pitcher Plant (see above), for Fred, and to our surprise, it not only works, but it works GREAT. It is in the kitchen window, and almost all of the flies that enter the house seem to find it and crawl down into its depths, never to return again. I love it, and it's a beautiful plant to boot.

I have no expertise with carniverous plants, but ours seems to love lots of morning sun, and shade the rest of the day. Pitcher Plants grow wild in bogs and swamps, so they need to stay nice and moist.

Happy Fly Eating!


Monday, July 14, 2008


If you've never grown tomatillos (this is our first time) you really should consider it. They're very simple to maintain, seem to grow year-round in our climate, and are way more flavorful than any store-bought varieties. If you do decide to plant them make sure you plant more than one since, unlike their tomato cousins, they don't self pollenate.

If you happen to have a pound of fresh tomatillos laying around, as we do about every other week, I highly recommend the following (my modification of this recipe).

Pollo en Chile Verde

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours

1 pound tomatillos
2 T Olive Oil
2 serrano chiles
1 poblano chile
3 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion
1 small bunch cilantro
1 pound chicken breast
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or crushed red pepper
1/2 cup hot water
salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions
- Peel the papery skin off of all the tomatillos, wash tomatillos in warm water
- Chop tomatillos in quarters
- Heat olive oil in large saute pan
- Cook them over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes
- Chop the chiles, garlic, onion and cilantro, then puree them together in a blender
- Add the puree to the tomatillos. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the mix with 1/2 cup hot water
- Cook over medium heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and chipotle to taste about half way through the cooking time.

This can be served with/over rice.

I prefer to serve it on fresh warm tortillas with a bit of sour cream and avocado. It really doesn't get much better than that.


This is so cool...our garden is being featured in the current issue of Newsweek Magazine in an article about growing your own!
I am completely thrilled. Veggie seed sales have been up by about 30% this year, so they decided to do a feature. Here's to food independence, lots of dirty fun, and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.


PS. A GIANT thank you to Celeste for her fabulous photo of us. I'm so grateful that she can shoot on a deadline, and I can't wait to go to Luques!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


People come by and smile (or frown or look at it quizzingly) and say words like "revolutionary" "subversive" "weird" "fabulous" "horrible"...

I love how people respond to our garden, and our project, but really, what is so subversive about growing our food? What is so "revolutionary" about feeding ourselves when we need to eat to stay alive? What is so "weird" about not relying on corporations to do the job of sustaining our family in it's most basic function: eating! What is so "fabulous" about simply being independent? Have we really sunk that low? Can I tell you that every time I give one of our neighbors a little something - be it a handful of basil, a squash, or even a little radish or a strawberry, that they suddenly smile.

Yes, I am proud of every bit of everything that we grow. It makes me feel SAFE that we grow about 80% of our veggies. It makes me feel like part of the world that we picked about 8 million apricots off our across the street neighbor's fabulous tree and canned them. It makes me feel saddened and depressed that this is such a big strange deal. Did Laura Ingalls' neighbors think they were "subversive"? What a world.

Especially today...just take a look at this:
New Salmonella Outbreak

Now who's weird?


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Canning Day

Our friend Cheryl, who lives across the street, has the most prolific apricot tree I have ever seen. This tree had literally hundreds of fruits on it...we decided to take an afternoon (and evening, AND the next morning) and can the fruit! It was good fun, easier than we thought, and we got many cans of jams, and preserved fruits. Now if we don't kill anyone with botulism, we'll be up to our elbows in apricots for quite some time! Here is the diary of our day, as well as the recipes we made:

First, we went to the Jardan Corporation Website, which has a really easy guide to safe canning (they make the Ball / Kerr canning jars that we used for our project). We used an enormous enameled pot with a wire rack on the bottom, to boil the jars in. Since we were canning fruit, which has a high acid content, we could use the standard boiling method as opposed to buying a pressure canner. Basically, we ran the jars and bands through the dishwasher to sterilize them, then kept them in very hot, simmering water (enough to cover the jars by at least 1") until we were ready to use them. We put the jar lids in another, smaller pot of water (kept to a simmer, not a full boil, to protect the rubber). We made the recipes, pulled the jars out of the hot water, using a special "jar lifter" that we bought as part of a canning kit from the hardware store, used the special canning funnel (also part of the kit), and a regular soup ladle to fill the jars, leaving no less than 1/4" head space (do not touch the insides of the jars with your fingers to avoid bacteria!), then, carefully, without touching the bottoms or sides with our hands (we used tongs to do this), put the tops on the jars, screwed the bands on (you can touch the bands), then boiled the jars for 5 minutes (this is based upon our altitude, which is practically sea level). The jars were then left to cool on a towel, overnight. You can test the seal of the jars by poking the tops of the lids. If the lids pop up and down, the seal is not perfect, and the fruit should be refridgerated instead of shelved (it will last up to one month). ALWAYS follow the manufacturers instructions for sterilizing and sealing jars, and do it carefully.

Ian, Cheryl, And Celeste, Working On The Jam...

Hot Boiling Jars (Thanks To Nanny For The Gyenormous Pot!)

Me Pulling Jars Out Of The Pot!!


Simple Apricot Jam:
(Makes About 4 Cups)

2.5 pounds (approximately 12-15) apricots
3-4 apricot pits
3 cups of sugar
juice of one lemon

Pit apricots, and cut them into 1/2" pieces. Crack open apricot pits with a hammer, and remove the whitish kernels from the inside (this gives a bit of an almond flavor to the jam), and set aside. Put the apricot chunks and kernels in a heavy bottomed pot, and stir in sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and boil steadily, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. As the liquid thickens, and the fruit becomes soft and translucent, start testing for consistency by putting a spoonful of jam on a chilled plate to cool down quickly. When the jam is the thickness you want, stir in the lemon. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Martha Stewart's Peach / Rosemary Jam (We Subbed Apricots for Peaches):
(Makes About 1 Quart)

3 pounds yellow peaches, peeled
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 3/4 cups sugar
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

Halve and pit peaches, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon juice; toss. Add sugar and rosemary; toss. Cover; let stand, tossing every hour, for 4 hours (sugar should be completely dissolved).
Put peach mixture into a large, wide pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is syrupy, 12 to 13 minutes. Crush lightly with a potato masher, leaving one-quarter of the wedges intact. Skim foam from surface. Discard rosemary sprigs. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Preserved Apricots In Simple Syrup:

Make a simple syrup of 4 cups water to 2 cups sugar in a saucepan. You can add a few leaves of mint, lemon balm, bay leaves, rosemary, lemon verbena, etc.) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer syrup for a few minutes, then turn off heat.

Prepare fruit. In this case, we washed and halved the apricots, removing the pits.

Pack fruit into jars - and do pack well. If you don't pack them tight, the fruit will float a little in the jars. You can put a sprig of rosemary, lemon zest, lavender, mint - even a couple of cloves, into the jars - pretty and flavorful!

Fill jars with hot simple syrup, leaving about a half inch of headroom. Screw on the lids and rings. Lower jars into the kettle of hot water. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Happy Canning!