Monday, July 7, 2008

Harvesting -

It's time for the annual joint harvesting of the golden yarrow and the lavender -

-Baskets of the stuff is cut and trimmed and hung on the wall - for future tea, sachets, shortbread, tub-teas, etc... This is the biggest harvest of the season, with a smaller one or two later on. For several days the house smells of lavender (much to my kid's dismay).

Still picking strawberries and loads of borage and chamomile.

And today - the first bowl of raspberries of the season.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Strawberry Decadence -

How many ways can one enjoy the strawberries you picked this morning? This is my favorite way this week -

Toast two slices of Apple Strudel Bread (purchased at the local Yakima Fruit Market) and butter.

Slice the larger berries and scatter on top.

Take the smaller berries and the very ripe ones and mash with a fork and spoon on top.

Drizzle the entire thing with sweet balsamic vinaigrette*.

Yum! Strawberry shortcake, eat your heart out.

*Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. salt

Whisk or shake until the sugar dissolves.
My favorite dressing to use on fruit and green salads (try with Romain lettuce, strawberries, mangoes and onion)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summer is finally here

Looks like summer has finally come to the Pacific Northwest, and with it, our local produce choices seem to increase almost daily. Over the past couple of week I've gone to the Lake Forest Park Farmers' Market on Sunday afternoons, and it's just getting bigger and bigger.

A couple of weeks ago the big thing was peas, a big spring crop in the Northwest. For the first time in my life, I bought English peas and shucked them so I could make a lovely braised pea and mushroom dish. Served it alongside Salmon caught just two days before I bought it from the Washington fisherman and his family at the same market.

And finally, fruit! Cherries are big right now. I bought a pound of those, and a pound of apriums (apricot + plum) this past weekend. Delicious! Definitely going back for more.

This week the big deal is local strawberries. They had been delayed by our freakishly cold spring, but they finally made it. Over at Yakima Fruit Market, they sold out within hours the first day they got them in. We have been waiting for these luscious beauties. Today, my own balcony strawberry pot yielded the above tiny bowlful of the sweetest strawberries I have ever tasted. And there's lots more fruit waiting to ripen. Not bad for a container garden.

Tomorrow is the Strawberry Festival at the market. Can't wait!

I think I'm going to have to make jam this year…

…if I can stop eating them. :)

Chickens - at home!

Now that I'm home for a bit, I was finally able to go retrieve my chickens from their fostering place a couple of nights ago (thanks again Suzy!!!)

These chicks had never been in a coop before - so it has necessitated physically putting them in and locking the door at night for a few nights until they get used to it. Here they are rather dubiously examining their new abode.

Also, never really having been in a 'yard' before, they were quite cautious about leaving the coop for the first time and coming out to explore (they've totally gotten over that already).

The yard has branches and stumps to roost on. Lots of dirt to scratch in (I'm beginning to wonder if they're going to dig holes big enough to go under the enclosure fencing), their food, water, and 'treats' from the garden and the kitchen.

My other animals are absolutely entranced. Jack, the black lab, keeps running around the coop - tail waving and barking his 'playplayplay' bark. Mia, on the other hand, can hardly keep from stealth-attack mode (undeterred as she is by the chicken wire separating them. I think she's going to have chicken wire shaped bruises on her head if she keeps this up).

All in all, they seem happy and content with their lot. We're working on naming them now that we can watch their personalities. They're young enough (2 months old) that they still 'peep' instead of cluck, and they don't have all of their adult plumage yet, so there is more growing to do.

I suspect Mia thinks they should be called McNugget. :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Early summer berries -

Picked my first bowl of strawberries of the season today -

It's always interesting, after spending a bit of time away, to see what has happened in your yard without you there watching.... Some things didn't get watered as much as I would have wished. The weeds grew regardless. Some things are finally sprouted and look like they are growing nicely. Some things never did come up...

Spent a bit of time outside doing some basic clean-up. Got the lawn mowed, the gardens and pots watered, some weeds pulled, some lanky vines tied to their posts - and a few things harvested....

Fresh-picked strawberries for dessert tonight...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finally, the Sun!

various lettuces I planted back in May before the sun went into hiding again

Reading over Tara's recent posts, I've realized a few things. First off, I'm so jealous of her yard! Her wonderful garden and her beautiful chickens! How can an apartment dweller like myself compete?! Following on that thought I remember that was my purpose in starting this blog - sharing how I do go about trying to lead a more locavore lifestyle, even without a yard, and within a budget. So often I see people saying they can't follow a locavore diet and/or eat organic food because it's too expensive, and I want to show that healthy eating can indeed be done on a budget.

And lastly, I really need to post more often.

Well, the sun has finally made an appearance here in the Seattle area, and it's making me feel all sorts of rejuvenated, and I feel a renewed commitment to keeping up with this blog. In the near future look for posts on my little container garden, the farmers' markets I've been attending, books I've been reading, recipes I've been trying…

Talk to you soon!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Teen-age chickens -

Got to visit my chickens one last time tonight before my Big Adventure. They'll come 'home' to their nearly finished coop (it just needs painted) after my return.

Here is my 'dark blue-lace Wyandotte' - which is apparently no such thing! Looks an awful lot like a barred rock to me... (I did find reference to a blue-barred Wyandotte online.... Maybe it's that?)

The auracana - with just a hint of the 'ear muffs' beginning..

And the other 'blue-lace' - ha! She is now barely dusted with grey, with a small sprinkling of dark speckles... No sign of lacing in sight. I'm not impressed with labeling of chicken-breeds-as-chicks at the store where I bought them...

We'll see if they morph into anything else as they continue to mature...

My friend who is hosting these for me has a number of lovely chickens, including a flock of tiny, rare suramas. Here is the handsome little rooster. Don't you love the shape of this guy? The large, upright tail which begins nearly at the base of his neck....

No roosters for me!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Unremitting grey...

(Views from the studio window)

We have had nothing but grey skies and drizzle/rain for nearly a week. It's June! I feel silly turning the heat back on, but the temps don't make it out of the 50s and it's chilly in the house.

I've been fighting a cold as well, so the rain makes it too daunting to want to do any more work on the gardens... I just sit here bleakly - seeing the things that need done, having no emotional or physical energy to do them...

The constant watering is good for the seeds I put in, I suppose. You can see a haze of green in patches - for the things that it is not too cool for germination. Not much growth beyond that though until the temperatures pick up a bit.

Unless you are a Jerusalem artichoke! I tried really hard to clean ALL of them out of this bed this spring (they are relocated to a more appropriate growing venue.) An exercise in futility, apparently - see the thick, lush strip of pointy leafed green next to the fence? That's apparently what I missed. (You wouldn't guess that I dug up buckets of tubers this spring. The amount growing is just as heavy as last year.) If/when it ever dries or warms up a bit, I will have to see if I can make another attempt to remove them from here.

The thing I am the saddest about is all the blooming things (English thyme above). I have seen fewer bees and other pollinating insects than ever this year, and the rain makes it even more difficult for them to make their rounds. From what I can tell thus far, less than half of my cherries and blueberries were fertilized this spring, for instance.

Would it be too much to ask for a bit of sunshine?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Works in progress -

Here is a view of my new, partially completed chicken coop and run - built under a large fir tree in the back corner of my yard. The dog house, which is being re-tooled as a coop, has a bit more remodeling and repainting necessary..

It is nestled by the back fence, by the composters (and wheelbarrow full of last year's greens ready to add to them).

I added a couple of new raised beds this spring - which needed more dirt than I had at hand - so another project-in-progress - we dug out the foundation for my pending, proposed greenhouse...

So, as June 1st, I think a record for *late*, this is the state of the raised beds. The far back left is still waiting to be cleaned out and replanted, but the next three have starts and seeds in the ground. The foreground three on the right are (from left to right) new strawberries, old strawberry bed and raspberry bed. (And what you can see in the front right is the kiwi trellis).

And even with this ridiculously chilly weather, punctuated by only a few hot days thus far this year, here's hoping that there is enough summer to come for harvesting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The 'Rise of the Locavore' article

Came across this great BusinessWeek article validating the local food movement over at

One of my favorite items is that after a century of decline, local farms have increased by 20% in the past 6 years!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Backyard Salad Foraging -

For dinner tonight, I took a stroll around the wild backyard gardens to see what I could harvest for a salad. Since my schedule the last year or so only allowed the most limited gardening time, much of what is out there is left over from last year (only this weekend have I finally gotten some seeds in the ground!), much of which is currently flowering.

I, therefore, opted for a bitter greens, herb and flower salad. Perfect for today since I hope to pull out the bulk of the bolting, blooming things tomorrow.

Tore up the leaves into bit sized pieces and separated the flowers from their stems and/or calyxes as appropriate. Added a bit of store-bought, organic Romaine to temper the strong flavors, drizzle on a bit of sweet, balsamic vinaigrette and, wallah! Fresh, foraged veggie goodness.

(Safety tip: Do not talk on the phone and snip chives with very sharp kitchen scissors at the same time if you are too hungry to multi-task!)

[Salad ingredients:
Greens- watercress, lemon balm, chives, marjoram, creeping gold oregano, climbing spinach, baby swiss chard, rustic arugula, sorrel and some spicy Chinese greens.
Flowers - borage, pinks, thyme blossoms, corn salad, violas, johny-jump-ups, calendula, arugula, chervil, sweet cicely, bok choy, and rosemary.]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chicken update -

A few weeks ago, they looked like this:

Now they are looking like gawky adolescents -

This is the blue-lace Wyandotte on the far left of the above picture (with a suspiciously large comb for a supposedly sexed pullet.... hmmm.....)

Here's the auracana from the center (the flat heads always feel a bit reminiscent of buzzards. Or dinosaurs. Or something not so chickenish...)

And this is also (supposedly) a blue-lace Wyandotte - although at the moment, I'm hard pressed to believe it. They are still being fostered with some other chicks at my POBL friend's coop - where they have all the needed amenities until they are large enough to move to my backyard (where the coop and run are a still a work-in-progress).

This punk-mohawked, silver-laced Polish is not one of mine - but I thought s/he was hilarious -especially at this stage before her head feathers grow fully in...

By sometime next month, they will be large enough to live with me, and well on their way to their mature, adult plumage...

If you want to see a gorgeous, ridiculous, mind-blowing, photographic expose on the wonders of this decorative fowl, check out "Extraordinary Chickens", by Stephen Green-Armytage.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

...and speaking of flowers...

Eating flowers is one of my culinary delights. I try to grow pretty much every variety that I know you can eat (90% of what grows in my yard is edible or medicinal). With our current heat wave - the news dubbing it 'from March to August in less than a day' - flowers seem cooling and refreshing.
Last night's dinner consisted of a fruit-filled green salad with a sweet balsamic dressing, and herbed spaghetti squash (above) garnished liberally with just-picked borage, thyme and rosemary blossoms.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The weather made me do it!

Bok choy from Lake Forest Park Farmers' Market waiting to be cooked.

This past Sunday was opening day for Lake Forest Park's Farmers' Market. As you can imagine, it wasn't bursting with produce yet, but there were lots of good greens, as well as some onions, potatoes and apples. Tasted some lovely goat cheese (yesterday's milk, today's apricot & almond cheese - yum!) that I will buy next time, and bought some fresh mozerella from Golden Glen Creamery and some tayberry jam from Blue Cottage Jams and some wild plum jam from Tiny's Organic, and the bok choy above from Full Circle Farms. I also bought some mustard flowers and arugula flowers from them. Sunday night I stir fried the bok choy with some garlic, a little sesame oil, the mustard flowers and buckwheat soba noodles. So good! And very simple, too.

Good start to the week. But then I came down with a nasty cold. Made it very difficult to want to cook anything, so we ate a lot of takeout this week.

And then today, the temperature hit over 80 degrees! After months of nothing over 60 (and that was a heat wave), sun and heat! It's amazing. I feel so energetic, and everyone seems in a good mood. And the desire to eat fruit and vegetables nearly overwhelmed me when I went to the Yakima Fruit Market this afternoon. So, (and I blame this all on the weather) I filled up my basket with produce from California. Zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries - even some peaches. I just couldn't stop myself. It was all too good to resist. And I can't wait to dig in. I feel like I should feel guilty about this, but I just don't. Guess I'm still caught up in the hot weather fever.

Strawberry blossoms on my balcony!

Spent some time out on our balcony with the cats and my little garden this afternoon too. I used to hate our balcony, because it overlooks a major freeway so it's really quite loud. Now, because of my little garden, I love it and find that I enjoy sitting out there watching the plants wave around in the breeze, and the cats seem to enjoy it too. The photo is of one layer of my strawberry pot. Look at all the future berries!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Local Food of the Month Dinner

Lately it seems that when I get together with my friends, I often cannot contain my enthusiasm for local and real food. Fortunately, some of my friends have found my unchecked ramblings interesting enough to catch their interest as well, and this past Saturday evening a few of us gathered for what we hope will be the first of many local foods of the month dinners. We had a really great night.

Being early May in western Washington, the themes for the evening were rhubarb and asparagus, which are abundant right now. And we tried to keep all the ingredients as local as possible too. For the most part we did pretty well.

It was all very yummy, but my favorites of the evening were the starters of roasted rhubarb & honey and goat cheese/pear compote and goat cheese on toasted whole grain bread, and the asparagus, baby greens and pear salad pictured above. My contribution to the evening was a rhubarb & red lentil dal, and a rhubarb & apple crisp for dessert. I also brought a bottle of Cave B Sauvignon Blanc which went particularly well with the asparagus dishes. Another friend brought a bottle from Mt. Vernon Winery. We are definitely not lacking for good local wine.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day for my Garden -

My family knows what I like. And want. Crocs for working outside in the garden (I hate tying shoes!) and an air pump for my wheelbarrow tires!

Yesterday, we went to Country Village (where I used to teach drawing classes) to shop and check out their Mother's Day Flower and Garden Show (complete with a Neil Diamond tribute band playing in the courtyard). They had a nice selection of local and native plants, along with heirloom varieties of vegetable starts. If it would start warming up here, I would get these poor tomatoes in the ground!

My deck herbs don't seem to mind the lingering chill. I have four planter boxes and 5 or 6 pots of herbs going most of the time. Everything I use for tea or cooking is right off my kitchen door. Much of it is still harvestable through our mild winters. Am just awaiting temperatures to climb above 50 degrees at night so that I can pot lemon verbena, basil and lemon grass.

Maybe by Father's Day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thanks Angela.

After discussing our mutual local-food interests, Angela and I agreed it would be useful to share a space to discuss our attempts at more healthy and sustainable eating and to share resources since we live in such close proximity. So THANK YOU for allowing me to use this venue (and to be able to keep these topics from spilling all over my art blog. Which, incidentally, several of the most recent posts apply here - from backyard spring soup, to imminent backyard chickens!)

Local Friends

Marlowe is very interested in all these new green things on the balcony.

Just got back from my friend Tara's house, and more to the point, her garden! She had a bunch of herbs out there and gave me a box full of seedlings to attempt to grow on my balcony. Thank you, Tara! I am also inviting her to join me as a contributor to this blog. We live about 5 miles from each other, and we're both getting into this whole local food, real food thing, and we're both learning so many things that we thought it might be a good idea to pool our resources here.

And a few weeks ago I received a wonderful surprise package from my friend Ellen, who is also trying to live more in tune with the environment. (You might remember her from this brilliant post.) In it was a box of Chuao chocolates from Tuscan chocolatier Amedei. Wow!!! These chocolates are truly amazing! She also included this Food & Wine article about the company, which is a great read, and a true testament that the best business practices can also be those that are best for the planet, the workers, and the consumers. Thank you, Ellen!

These women also happen to be wonderful artists, and you can see their work here and here.