Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter Annuals

My winter annuals are thriving, and I finally took a photo of them. From what I recall, there are dianthus, pansy, viola, and snapdragon. (My co-worker Jen kept hers all organized and labeled, but mine were randomly planted in containers. I like bright colors all mixed up.) They're getting bigger and more of them are blooming now.

Strawberries and Radishes

Despite my garden slacking, I am managing a tiny, tiny harvest. From my winter garden, every few days I get a strawberry, if the squirrels don't get to it first. Here's a strawberry flower:

And every few days I get a radish:

Homegrown radishes are spicier and fresher-tasting than store-bought ones. And I like putting the greens in a salad. They're kind of spicy and fuzzy--too bitter to eat alone, but mixed with spinach/mixed baby greens and cilantro, just right.

The winter gardening season ain't over yet (Tom says it ends in February), so if I can find some daylight time soon I'm going to plant some more seeds (lettuce, radish, broccoli, collards, onion, and carrots, et al).

I just have to do a few small things first. I decided that the problem with the vegetables I already planted (most of them died off when they became small plants) is that the soil in the containers is too compacted. It's been in there for over a year, after all.

So I'm going to gather the pots from work and bring them home (still haven't done that...), empty them several at a time into a giant bucket thingy, stir them up with a shovel, and put them back into containers. That'll aerate the media and also get rid of some of the weeds that have been colonizing the containers.

Before I do that I will start some more seeds in small containers. And not leave them under the house gutter.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fresh Veggies

Today Emily (a.k.a. "Wacahoota") brought some of her homegrown vegetables in to share with the office. Yum!

I got some mustard greens:

I am going to make some tempeh, marinated in tamari, garlic, and maple syrup, and steam the mustards. Then I can eat them with what I made last night: basmati rice and black beans with corn, TVP, green onions, olive oil, green pepper, garlic, a couple of dried chili peppers, and carrots. I'm already excited!

I also got some lettuce:

I haven't decided what I am going to make with this. Probably some kind of hummus-muenster sandwich with vegannaise and dijon mustard on toasted bread. Mmmm.

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was great. My parents had around sixteen friends and family members over, and made a really, really long table in the living room.

I folded the napkins. It's the only useful thing I learned from working in a restaurant a long time ago. And I may have done it wrong. So interpret that as you will.

There was tons of good food. I made kasha with mushrooms, which is supposed to be burger patties, but I just sauteed it as a crumble. I also made a succotash chowder from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I substituted soy milk for regular milk, and it was really good (I thought).

I took a picture of my plate to make my brothers jealous, since they couldn't be there and I missed them:

Then I remembered that while my oldest brother is mostly vegan, my other brother wouldn't be too impressed with my plate, so I got two carnivores to take photos of their plates before digging in. This one is Rita's:

This one is G-Bill's:

Doesn't it look like we're all eating completely different meals? We basically were--that's how much food there was. But of course the 'rents and I have been eating leftovers for days.

There was...

candied pecans
homemade hummus-olive tapenade with fresh vegetables
brie with cloudberry jam on little toasts
mozzerella and tomatoes with basil and olives
mashed potatoes
sweet potatoes
broccoli casserole
cranberry sauce
green beans
caesar salad

There was also a bunch of dessert, but I didn't really pay any attention to it.

My grandmother's day was made when the vegetarian sitting next to her unknowingly ate three helpings of her sausage-filled stuffing, while she silently watched with barely disguised glee. Luckily that vegetarian was not me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Native Flowers

Thursday I picked a bouquet of native flowers from in front of the office. They looked so nice on the dashboard of my car on the way home that I took a photo (while stopped at a red light):

There's swamp sunflower (ours is over six feet tall!), gaillardia/blanket flower, firebush, scarlet salvia, and muhly grass.

Yard Round-up

I got some yardwork done this week, finally. The new place is shaping up nicely.

The first thing I did was create a compost heap. I didn't ask my landlady about this, but the nice thing about a composter is that it can always be removed later with little to no impact on the yard. Of course, my ideal would be that it stay after I leave, with the next resident continuing to compost. Then again, right now I don't ever want to move again, so that might not come to pass.

I got the composter--basically a roll of chicken wire-type stuff--from the Alachua County Waste Management office:

They don't advertise it, but they give these things away for free. I only called them because I knew that many cities have similar programs. They also give away free air-tight compost buckets for the kitchen, and they sell these other compost bins for $30. I'm on the waiting list for one of those, but I don't know if I'll get one when they come in. I don't use my compost for garden fertilizer, so I don't really need a high-tech system. It's just a way for me to reduce waste, and sometimes get free plants.

It's lined with cardboard to keep heat and moisture in, and to reduce the chance that raccoons will get into it when I forget to stir it up. (Properly maintained compost should not stink or attract pests.) I know it looks ugly, so I planted my new passion flower and a native honeysuckle vine up against it. The hope is that the compost will feed the plants and they'll vine up all prettily onto the wire, thus concealing the cardboard from sight.

There are admittedly some flaws in this plan, however: 1) I may have waited too long to transplant the honeysuckle from the pot where I placed it this spring--and it's not looking so hot right now--and 2) passion flower dies back in the winter. Well, call it an experiment.

Yesterday my duplex-mate and I built a massive fire pit:

The thing is about four feet across and represents some serious sweat equity on both of our parts (my back is killing me today). Don't ask me where my neighbor got the cement, because it may be borderline misdemeanor-y. We created a pile of dirt that was mind-boggling. Our lot seems to stretch back another half-acre or so. There's grass, and then there's a line at which a weedy, forested wilderness begins. So we threw the dirt back there.

I don't know about anywhere else, but in Gainesville, people go nuts for backyard fires in the fall. So that's pretty exciting.

We also scavenged some wood:

This morning I took some photos of some other aspects of my landscape. Here is my sad little collection of vegetables (and strawberries):

You can see I have a bowl of seed packets there waiting, nay, begging, to be planted. It's been a busy fall, so I'm trying to give myself a break and not get too upset about being a lame-o slacker veggie gardener this season. There's always spring, summer, and next fall to grow vegetables.

I'm still trying to figure out what the light's like in my yard. The recent time change didn't help my observations. So right now I have most of my plants edging my driveway:

I try to look at them every day to see if any look like they're suffering from too much exposure to sun. I have a few more lining the pathway to the back door:

I also placed a few plants on my old rickety plant stand under the magnolia tree:

Those are the shadelovers, and I'm banking that that area is pretty shady. But it's hard to tell. (When did I get so many plants?)

The only other thing I'd like to point out about my landscape is these horrid shrubs that edge the back and sides of the house. I really, really, really don't like these plants. I think they're ugly and they make getting to the hose annoying. (I have to say that I'm not a shrub person in general.) I'm going to ask my landlady if I can rip these particular ones out and make a flower bed. I've actually never had a flower bed before, so I'm kind of excited about the possibilities. (It would help if I knew how much light that area gets.)

That's about all that's going on in the landscape right now. Oh, wait--I did plant those winter annuals (dianthus, snapdragon, pansy, etc.), but forgot to take photos of the pots.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Back from My Road Trip!

I'm back! I had a great road trip.

(I will interrupt myself here to explain that yes, I know road trips are not exactly sustainable since one uses gas and all that. And if there were trains that actually got you anywhere worth going in fewer than twenty hours or whatever, I would gladly take them. But meanwhile, we live in the U.S., and so we drive. Finally, my car gets better gas mileage than the cars of anyone else I know--forty to forty-five MPG on the highway--so I think I've said enough about this now.)

My first stop was Asheville. Of course, I love Asheville. Good food, beautiful mountains, and sympatico people. I stayed with my friend Hugh:

He just bought a house. I wanted to blog about the landscaping, but he only had two sad planters on his porch, and they were empty:

Asheville was so beautiful. Here in North Central Florida we get some leaf color in, oh, January, but in Asheville it's prime leaf color season, or whatever you call it. Anyway, it took my breath away. We played frisbee golf on what I am convinced were the two most perfect days of the year anywhere in the world, weather-wise.

The color of the leaves is impossible to really capture in a photo. At least with my camera.

I really love the mountains.

Next I drove to Durham to see my oldest brother and his family. They have a two-and-a-half-year-old and a five-week-old. At the risk of deviating from my blog's mission, I have to show a photo of my niece Mia. She was a princess for Halloween:

Finally, I went to Charleston to see my friend Chris. We danced salsa. I am not a good dancer. But I did have fun. My camera was out of batteries by then, though.