Monday, September 7, 2009


"Everything must be saved, nothing wasted from all the summer's bounty ..."
-My favorite quote of any of the Little House books.

That's why I've spent 8 hours with my oven on, slow-roasting tomatoes that are now in the freezer ...

and why I'm planning on making 10 loaves of zucchini bread with this thing (finally picked it yesterday):

... and why I'm going to dry vast, otherworldly amounts of lemon thyme and (shh!) give it for Christmas presents in pretty tins ...

Really, the whole thing is about avoiding going to the mall during the months of November and December.

OK, maybe not entirely that. Really, I'm just pleased as punch to have a garden that produces food. Just a real happy camper.

Psychologico-verbal change of seasons: (what? I can invent words, it's my blog.) I've finally quit saying "Well, I don't LIKE having it (the ostomy), but I can't do much about it," when people ask how I'm dealing with it. Now I'm just saying, "Fine." There's a pretty big difference there, for me. You can't just go through life not liking something that major.

Life in the kitchen: is excellent now that we've renovated. Past tense. All done! It's beautiful, and functional. And there's storage.

Upcoming: My mom is giving me a butter churn! It's not (to my slight dismay and great surprise) a stand-up cedar butter churn as shown here, but a "daisy" style here. (Or is it dazey?) Regardless. Butter making will be happening. I know some small dog who will like that very much.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Root cellars

I'm fixated on root cellaring lately. We're into the part of "Farmer Boy" where they're harvesting everything and putting it down cellar. "Everything must be saved, nothing wasted from all the summer's bounty" is probably my favorite line in any LHOTP book. Alice is braiding onion tops and hanging them in the cellar, and she's sewing peppers together by their stems. Everyone's harvesting potatoes and throwing them down cellar via chute or window. Same with apples and carrots. Likely it's the same with squashes and turnips, since they talk about eating these during the winter.

So I've got about a million questions.

-How big of a garden did Mother Wilder have to have to keep six people (well, eight, but we'll ignore that) in onions for seven months? Or was it twelve months?
-Did they not eat roots during the summer? Unlike in extreme northern New York State, I have a year-round growing season so I can plant and have veggies all year (at least, some of the hardier ones, I think) but they couldn't do this. During the summers when everything fresh was growing, were they eating the last of their cellared roots from the previous summer?
-How often did they have to check this stuff to make sure nothing was rotten or getting eaten by bugs?
-How was it packed?
-How did they come up with their original math -- how many acres of potatoes to sow, how many rows of onions, etc.? Someone had to do this figuring in the first place. Nobody ever addresses this in the entire series! The moms of the family just KNOW.

I'll stop there. But here's a snippet from a Daily Green page I've been reading and pondering, and daydreaming about ...

You don't have to live with a dirt-floor cellar to take advantage of stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruits during harvest (when prices are cheap). All you need is a cool, dark place that won't freeze; it could be under a stairwell, or in a corner of a basement, garage or shed.

Pack clean, dry produce -- such as carrots, beets, potatoes and winter squash -- in boxes surrounded by sawdust, sand or straw. You want good air circulation and relatively high humidity (earthen floors work well, or put out trays of water or damp cloths). Remove spoiled items immediately and keep apples separate, since they promote ripening.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

Need to go do some figuring.

Meanwhile, I picked some huge, beautiful radishes out of my garden that I grew from seed! This is huge! ... But now they're getting soft, since I don't really eat whole radishes ... it's a problem.

I somehow need to get realistic and align what I will actually eat with what I can actually grow.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

All things green and growing

I've been outside too much to post here ... OK, that's not entirely true. But I have been outside a lot, in my little front yard, playing in the dirt with zucchini (GOD HELP US), foxgloves, moving dusty miller, and about 20 other plants.

So I made some rookie mistakes.

1. I bought one of each plant that looked cool, instead of three or four, so there's a hodgepodge look out there right now. The unifying force is the dusty miller in the back. I'm trying to group things together better.

2. I didn't come up with a visual focus at first. Again, dusty miller to the rescue!

3. I planted four zucchini seedlings too close together.

4. We now have 20 cups of cilantro and ... one onion.

So, yes. I'm starting to see the problems in a tiny garden. If I were to plant enough onions to root cellar (which I do want to do), the entire yard would be ... onions. I'm working with about six feet wide by sixteen feet long here. If I wanted enough tomatoes to pickle some green, and to can the rest (which I do), the whole thing would have to be in tomatoes. Same with peas, spinach and so on. So right now I just have a mix of a little of everything (even some things I can't eat -- it's all an experiment at this point), but I wish I had planted more onions.

Ginger triumph: You know how at the store you have to buy an entire "hand" of fresh ginger when you just need 1 tsp. grated for a recipe? And then it goes bad? That happens to me all the time. Last night I was putting together a spice kit for my mom and I wondered if I could make that fresh ginger into powdered ginger that you put in cookies, pie spice, and such. So I peeled and grated a thumb of the ginger, spread it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and baked it at 200 degrees with the oven door open for about an hour. The result was little hardened bits of ginger ... which, when ground up with a mortar and pestle or one's fingertips, made POWDERED GINGER. I'm pleased as punch.

Little House update: I'm more Farmer Boy than Plum Creek right now. Although it's a conceit to pretend I have as much acreage, experience and resources as the Wilders, the one thing I do have is their stay-puttedness. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get a nice garden in only to be dragged back to Iowa or forward to De Smet anytime soon because my husband has an itchy foot. (If he'd just stayed in Wisconsin ...!)

Putting the country in domesticity ...?: Speaking of the Man of the Place, he gave me the new title for this blog. The City wasn't accurate anymore, since I'm here in San Bruno, which feels more like the country to me, even though it's really a small town/suburb of The City. I am telling you that it feels like living in the country. If you know me, that's a good thing. Just need some horses to get me to the train depot in less than 20 minutes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pioneer girl

(Lists are where I keep my brain!)

1. We moved. The Man Of The Place, the puppy dog, and I bought a house in San Bruno, CA. I am in love with it.
2. I'm feeling better ... mostly.
3. I've started knitting again. Started an afghan about 5 times before finally deciding to go all-garter for the border. Whether I do anything, you know, fancy in the middle remains to be seen.
4. I've started a garden. Right now it's all decorative. I can't get (two-year-old) herb seeds to catch on.
5. I'm traveling again.
6. I'm still not working. (Fie!)
7. I'm researching the everloving hell out of Laura Ingalls Wilder, thanks to the flurry of new writings about her. I'll update this reading list on the right to reflect this soon.
8. Still thinking. Thinking. Thinking about the upcoming Hell and Highwater.