Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Electric pressure cookers

A brief aside towards the cooking connection with gardening.

A sudden interest (from my gardening companion), who isn’t a cook, in slow cooker recipes from an NPR report on Hugh Acheson (via a new cookbook) had me looking into slow cookers (I haven’t ever had one). Acheson was writing about much more flavorful takes on slow cooking than I’d read about (and I read a lot of recipes).

So I was rather amazed to stumble on all of the Instant Pot/electric pressure cookers that combine a slow cooker with what is a truly remarkable modern pressure cooker. I remembered my Mom’s stovetop pressure-cooker from decades ago. Scary.

But the Instant Pot mini that I bought (thinking I could entice my gardening companion into learning how to cook a few healthy things) — well, it’s been amazing.

I never thought that a new electric kitchen appliance would be so interesting. I’ve pressure-cooked all sorts of things, from meat to butternut squash to brown rice to beans (which I’d stopped cooking on the stove-top, because it was so time-consuming, and tedious on our gas stove.)

Whether I can get my gardening companion to pay attention about how to cook in it — well, I’ve made him pay attention a couple of times, but I think I’ll just need to put together my personal version of easy, dump in the instant pot dishes, based on the recipes that I’ve gathered online, and thanks to Hugh Acheson’s and Melissa Clark’s cookbooks.

He seems impressed by the speed and tastiness of the results so far, so maybe I can get him to be potentially self-sufficient (I worry about what might happen if he was suddenly on his own!)

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Winter is coming

We’ll have a first freeze tomorrow night, if predictions hold. After an abnormally warm fall, it’s a bit of a shock, but welcome. Average first frost temperatures describe a fairly wide amplitude, but it’s clear that the timing is later than it used to be.

If you’re a gardener, and in your early 60’s, like me, you’ve been paying attention to fall and spring frost/freeze dates for a long time.

I realized that my favorite Clemson vegetable gardening fact sheet, that helped me become a better year-round vegetable gardener years ago, was extremely conservative around when to plant in spring and how late we could plant in fall (uh, it was because it was older data around frosts and freezes)...

Of course, fall vegetable gardening really depends on planting in late summer and harvesting in fall, but we can really push the envelope through season extension and overwintering hardy greens (whether with protection or not).

Traveling limited my fall planting; only the argula germinated (presumably the spinach seed was a bit too old or young seedlings succumbed to drought stress!); but transplants of kale, collards, and broccoli are doing fine, as is the Swiss chard, most of which is rebounding after a cool summer.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Late fall vegetable plantings

Fall vegetables are really planted in late summer, and harvested in fall — that is, the lettuce, chard, spinach, kale, and collards, not to mention broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

It’s all about timing, and what the fall is like.  The Southside Community Garden, where I volunteer, is filled with beautiful rows of fall greens.

I’ve just planted some very nice garlic, to be harvested next spring/early summer.  I don’t really have the good conditions for it, that I had in my Piedmont garden, but why not?  Green garlic is delicious, too.

I’m planning to sow more spinach, arugula, and turnip seeds after the rains that are forecast for tomorrow.
A view from a couple of years ago (the only one that Blogger (on iPad gives me access to)
It’s all good!

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Growing food, cooking food, food waste, and other modern conundrums

I love growing vegetables, among my other gardening passions.  There's nothing not to like about harvesting delicious vegetables and herbs from your garden, then taking them straight to the kitchen.  But, you need to willing to prep and cook these vegetables to enjoy them.  It's not necessarily easy and it's often time-consuming.

I'm willing to do it for my two-person household, as long as I'm not too much over an hour prepping and cooking at a stretch.  Vegetables take prep, for sure, but they're my favorites.  I eat a small amount of cooked vegetables at breakfast, and more for lunch and dinner. And happily, my hubby will eat plenty of them, too. He's actually rather protein-averse, so it’s easy to put veggies and grains on his plate.

At a regional "Food Waste Summit" today, I've learned a lot more about our food waste problem in this country; there’s a broader continuum of issues than I ever realized.

I'm pretty keen, as a daughter of parents who grew up with Depression Era parents, on being frugal and careful around food. My mom, not a particularly devoted cook, taught me how to cut up a chicken, and we always turned our chicken bones from a roast chicken into broth.  She'd learned that from her mom.

I never throw away edible food, we eat our leftovers, anything organic is composted, yada, yada.  Our fresh-veggie based diet is oriented around what is in my garden and at the community garden where I volunteer.  Ugh, greens again, I often think, in my four-season vegetable garden.

But clearly there's a bigger picture out there, too.

Harvested greens from Southside Community Garden
Many American families throw away (edible food) worth about $1500 a year. Yikes.  The edible produce, etc. that can be diverted from the waste stream back to food banks is considerable. The prepared food that can be donated to homeless shelters and soup kitchens -- that's also huge.

I volunteer in a community garden where our harvests go to the local community.  Great.

But we clearly need to rethink our food systems in this country to reduce food waste. There are lots of opportunities.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fall light and temperatures

It's delightful to be home now, to the wonderful shift of fall light, as the sun dips to the south, bringing light in our front windows in late afternoon.

In summer, the sun moves directly over the house; in fall and winter, the sun's light is angled, so we have light throughout the day in the kitchen and main room and in the front of the house.

And this week, temperatures are actually going to be fall-like, and perhaps help me adjust to what time of the year this really is --  having traveling to Kauai and Vancouver in late September and early October has just added to my internal seasonal confusion, preceded by a cool August and September in Western North Carolina.

Of course, in the hurry to get dinner cooked, after a wonderful loop walking through downtown, I don't have a photo, and can't find one from previous posts (what could I have labelled a fall sunset view out the front window?)

Here's a beautiful winter sunset in the mountains instead.  Something to look forward to.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Writing is art

I've returned to thinking about writing as my primary creative activity. Perhaps I'll get back to watercolor. Maybe.  I'll be probably sticking with gardening and writing.

I have a natural dye-printing class on Thursday, inspired by a wonderful scarf that I acquired at one of our tailgate markets --the creator of the one I bought will be the instructor.

But I keep coming back to writing as a primary medium (as I tap this on my iPad keyboard) in a curious way of thinking.

Gardening has been a significant expression of creativity over the years - that's been a interesting evolution in its own right, but perhaps more narrative writing is yet to come.

This small snippet from the (much longer) Emily Carr University's Writing Manifesto (in Vancouver) says it right.

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Friday, October 6, 2017

A lovely community garden

On our last day in Vancouver, we ventured into the 4th St. corridor, towards UBC and the Anthropology Museum.

Bumbling off 4th St., I came upon a delightful community garden, largely flowers, built along an old railway line, now turning into greenway.

It's so refreshing in a massive urban environment, to come upon gardened spaces, even in a city like Vancouver that has incredible seawall walkways/bikeways along most every inch of their shoreline.

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A wonderful urban park

Stanley Park, at the edge of central Vancouver, is a venerable space, designated in the late 1800's on space that was home to First Nations people. (There were still people living in the park through the 1950's, I think I'm remembering right, but the park lands now include second-growth temperate rain forest, gardens, and a spectacular perimeter seawall around the entire peninsula).

We walked around the seawall a couple of days ago, but returned to visit some of the interior trails. A destination amid the wonderful forest was Beaver Lake.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

View from Cambie Bridge

Even though the full moon isn't until Saturday, it's luminous right now in the Vancouver sky.

Views from the Cambie Bridge this evening were spectacular.

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

A sponsored median strip garden

Around our "borrowed" neighborhood in Vancouver, there are a number of sponsored median strips and traffic island plantings. I've already posted about a couple of sidewalk plantings, but these, as part of a community program, are worth showing, too.

This one, in early fall exuberance (and senscence) was charming, at least to me.
There were others available, presumably due to someone moving. This one had been well-tended.
I totally love this concept -- it transforms our towns and cities as we help create gardens where there was only a scruffy patch of lawn before!

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Community gardens and neighborhoods

An excursion down to Richmond, BC, for a (inaguaral) harvest festival, found lots of interesting non-profit booths, promoting agricultural preservation in what was a traditional agricultural area, now being overrun by high-rise condo developments.

The city has set aside 136 acres as part of a Garden City Parklands development, so the festival was marking the development of this area for farm/community garden space as well as wetland restoration.

A lovely community-building event.
There were excellent initiatives around developing and replacing urban forest and "rewilding" areas represented, although it was interesting that most of Richmond was originally bog and shrubland, with a margin of Western red cedar and alder forest.

I especially appreciated the local food/seed saving intiatives.

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