Saturday, May 29, 2010

Floor is down!

May Menu

For those of us who are striving to eat local produce, May is a huge problem. You would think the selection would be thinnest on February—but it is not. There are still onions AND leeks, about five types of squash, lots of mushrooms, apples, all of the summer canned foods, potatoes in the bin, berries in the freezer… menu planning is a snap. May is the down time. Everything is planted, but nothing is producing-- except for the greens. I have kale, mustard, sorrel, several varieties of lettuce, and chard, as well as volunteer orach and amaranth growing in my beds. Sunbow Farm is overflowing in greens: I have to set limits or the living room chair is full on Thursday afternoon. And every single farmer at the market has lovely lush leaves for sale. Not an onion or baking potato in sight. Denison Farms has these HUGE butternut squashes, but I was suckered into two of them at the last Winter Market, and it was not good—mealy. So, this is what we’re eating this week, only slightly exaggerated. I did find a bunch of carrots at the market, as well as a fennel bulb and some morels.

Monday: Kale, rice, and seared tofu
Tuesday: Pasta with chard, dried cherries, and walnuts.
Wednesday: Vegetable Hash—AKA mustard, potatoes, and roasted canned tomatoes
Thursday: Sorrel, potato (last five potatoes there), and leek soup
Friday: Pizza with garlic, greens, tomatoes (once again the canned roasted), and feta
Saturday: Frittata with chard and a salad with radishs (hold the mini-slugs)
Sunday: Sautéed greens and white beans over whole wheat toast.

I’ve used the huge squash to make a quick bread…I am ready for summer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May Garden

It’s May and the gardens are almost totally planted. I’ve been using the “Sunbow System” this year, based on Harry McCormick’s arrangement of starting almost everything from seed in trays. He starts in flats in his greenhouse, transplants to six-packs, and then plants out. I start in the six-packs, bring them into school for three weeks to a month, and then plant in the raised beds. So far, it has been working well. I’ve been able to plant by the moon, which I’ve been considering for years, but always ran into a hailstorm on the one day the moon and I were aligned. It doesn’t matter when you’re planting inside. I’ve also been able to space the plants better. I have a horrible tendency to plant seed heavy so that something survives the mini-slugs and then not thin well, so my plants don’t grow as lush and large as they could. After laying out the spring bed, I realized that I could plant the lettuce in color patterns—but that might be a little too Sunset-y for an urban homestead. So, potatoes and dried beans are all in at the Annex, spring greens are filling one bed (and our stomachs), summer greens, carrots, and leeks are up and out from under the cold frame, winter leeks and a bit of extra brocolli are growing in another bed, all of the tomatoes and vines are in, and the last bed, for the summer green and yellow beans, is waiting to be turned over. The pitchfork marks the spot. Now, if it would only stop hailing in the late afternoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dining Room, Take One

After twelve years of bragging about our 625 square foot home, we are increasing our living space by 190 feet. We’re not adding on, but remodeling the attached garage, which held recycling, bikes, and weird pieces of junk scavenged from the side of the road because it “could be useful someday”, into a dining room. After years of curtailing our social life to summer gatherings in the backyard and a few friends in winter who were willing to balance dinner plates on their laps in the living room, we are going to have a real place to eat in the winter! Company during the Rainy Season! A home for my mother’s dining room table, which is in Tennessee right now. It’s pretty exciting.

I tried to be a model green builder. I did research. We found a set of French Doors from Habitat for Humanity for 85$-- double paned and excellent condition (I feel a little guilty, but they are getting our extra insulation as a donation…) and Mark Meyer built a beautiful frame around them. Light now reaches all the way into the back of the space. The flooring came from the old Highland View Middle School stage—fir with some paint splashed in it—that I’ll refinish this summer. A little of the framing wood came from the old garage door and our road-side collection, but the majority is new. Some is even—gasp—pressure treated. We bought the materials from infdependent local businesses, no Home Depot in our house. We insulated the entire space better than the rest of the house but we used standard fiberglass insulation. Every time I picked up a “green remodeling” book, hoping to find an examination of the carbon footprint of fiberglass insulation vs. recycled blue jeans or some other material, all I found was—a “green building” was well-insulated, and it didn’t really matter what you used in the long run. They used spray foam in the cracks. They weren’t into eco-trends; they saved energy by patching leaks. I saved a bunch of the drywall scraps to use as canvases for art projects and signs and a few larger pieces will go to Habitat. We’ll use some of the wood scraps in the fireplace. There’s really not much going to the landfill. I’ll use low VOC paint, even though I love the smell of paint.

Is it a “model green remodel”? We would have used no resources if we hadn’t done it—stayed smaller and balanced plates, so it is hard to say. At what point does the desire to eat real food at a real table with a group of friends, to have a neighborhood association meeting around the table so people can take notes easily, to sit in a light filled space on a grey Oregon day take precedence over our carbon footprint? We all make choices.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dining room progress


We have an active bee hive in the back yard once more. This is our second year trying for bees; last summer was a bad season for them—it was very dry during peak blackberry pollen season and they were not able to gather enough honey to survive the winter. I found my hive dead in the spring (I had my suspicions after the really cold spell in December) with bees head first in the comb, hunting for the last scrap of food. I felt unbelievably guilty—I killed my bees—until the bee keeper at the Winter Market told me that everyone lost bees. I’m trying again this year.

The bees have been in the hive about three weeks now and they are swarming around every afternoon. Lucy and I like to watch them as they enter the hive, saddlebacks packed with pollen. Usually it’s creamy or white, but, once in a while, a bee finds the fuchsia Hawthorne tree out front and there is a flash of a pink behind. It’s startling! I can hear them moving around inside, too, a soft knock, knock, knock against the sides of the hive. Sometimes, there’s a gentle hum. But the coolest thing about the hive is the constant movement towards the light; the bees fly upward in steep curves and dive-bomb down into the hive. Stand in the way and they buzz past your ear, sounding annoyed. Stay too long and one is caught in your hair. They are a peaceful bunch, though. Lucy moves right up to the entrance, sniffing around, and they do not sting her. I can open the hive, wearing my beekeeper’s hat with the veil, and they move softly around me. This may all change when I take honey out, but, right now, they add an entirely new layer of movement and life to the back yard.