Demonstration Garden, Planning is in the Works

A Demonstration Garden For our Boonville Cottage

I’m planning the demonstration garden for the Boonville cottage as the rain comes pouring down.  I’m stuck inside once again, so why not do something constructive?  It’s been a long, wet winter this year, offering up very few days to get out there and work in the dirt…errr…I mean mud.  We are expecting a few days of sunshine, starting this weekend, so I’m getting prepared.  I’ve got the shovels sharpened and the rototiller primed and ready to go.  Now, I’m drawing up a garden plot, even though the actual cottage isn’t built yet.  No problem, I can work around that.  The time to start the garden is now.

Demonstration Garden Will Educate

Grow Your Own Food
Demonstration garden
Demonstration garden will offer lots of fresh vegetables for our guests.

So, the big question is: What do I want my demonstration garden to demonstrate?  What are the messages that I want to get across?  Well, first off, I want my cottage guests to know that you can plant a garden to feed a family on a small, town-size lot.  We already have a row of twenty, old, apple trees along one fence line and a pear and walnut tree in the back of the property.  We could add a couple more fruit trees, such as a plum, or apricot.  As for other fruits, were planning a mini-vineyard in the front and I hope to put in some thornless blackberries and raspberries somewhere; perhaps along the fence with our neighbor, so that he can enjoy the berries too.  Of course, there will be large, permanent, veggie plots.

Edible Gardens Can Be Beautiful

I also want them to know that a self sufficient, food garden can be beautiful.  Along with flowers and climbing roses, edible landscaping is a must.  Honeyberries, strawberries and aronia berries should go around the house.

strawberries growing in the landscape
Strawberries – part of the edible landscape

Elderberries will work well for a tall, informal hedge that will block off the neighboring fairgrounds along the back line of the property.  Artichokes make nice landscape plants near the house.  I feel strongly that there should be a spattering of medicinal herbs around the lot, either as landscape, or in the veggie plots.

herbs in teh garden
Herbs, both culinary and medicinal, are a nice edition to the garden landscape
Demonstrate Gardening Techniques

Besides the plants themselves, I do want to demonstrate a few of the various gardening techniques.  Organic gardening is a must, but there could be much more than that.  Perhaps one plot could show off Veganic gardening.  Permaculture practices will definitely be part of the landscape.  We could also compare a no-till plot to a double digging plot, or new varieties of veggies compared to ancient ones.  There is a spot in the front of the shed that is always damp and shady, so that would be a good place to show off ferns and other acid-loving plants.

ferns in shade
Fill in the shady spot with ferns and other acid loving plants.

Creating the Garden Plot

So, how on earth are we going to fit demonstration garden in?  It’s not as complicated as you might think.  It’s amazing  how much food one can grow on a tiny, city lot.  (OK…so Boonville isn’t exactly a “city,” but you get my drift.)  Our guests need to enjoy the garden and be right there in the middle of it.  So, I’m thinking of designing it in a semi-circle of veggie plots, radiating out from the house and patio.  There will to be an open area for horseshoe pits and BBQ, and a hammock hidden amongst the plots.  We have to have a table and seating, so that our guests and can relax and enjoy it all.  There also needs to be a sense of privacy…a secret garden hidden from view, so hedges and fences must be considered.

As for the existing shed, it desperately needs a makeover and we’ve already started on that.  We’ve been priming the new exterior walls that will be going up on the backside of the building.  The old ones are just too rotten to try to paint over.  The final color of the shed will be a salmony, “barn red,” with cream trim.  The yellow, Lady Banks roses will climb up the sunnier sides of the building.  This building sits near the front of the property, so it will be a nice, welcoming feature as our guests drive in.

My biggest worry is how I’m going to actually DO all of this.  I’ll definitely need some help.  Volunteers would be wonderful, but I can’t really expect that, since this is a for-profit venture.  I’m sure there are some young people in town that would be willing to work with me on the weekends for pay.  My kids may pitch in once in awhile, but they have jobs and need some days off.  Of course, my hubby is always there to lend a hand…thanks, Hon.

Why a Demonstration Garden?

You’re probably asking WHY I’m doing this.  First, for educational purposes.  The people that I expect will be staying at our cottage will probably be from the city.  I hope that they come away from their stay with us with some courage to try building an edible garden on their own properties.  Therefore, I plan to offer lots of books to read while they are there, as well as a notebook explaining the details of our own garden.  Our guests will also have the joy of eating fresh, wholesome food that is grown right out the back door.

I also wish to produce enough excess produce in the demonstration garden for our neighborhood food bank.  It always surprises me how many people just don’t have enough to eat, even in our little community, where everything appears to be so bountiful.  I could go out and buy canned and prepared foods for donating, but those just don’t hold a candle, nutritionally, to fresh fruits and vegetables.

So, let it rain.  While the storm is howling outside, I’m warm and safe inside, with my plans and promises.  Ahh…armchair gardening is so much fun!  Now, I just hope that I can follow through, roll up my sleeves and do what I say.  Wish me luck.  (Pix are coming soon.)

Garden on!

~ C

 

Veganic Gardening – How Do I Incorporate It In My Home Garden?

“Veganic Gardening”…a step up from “Organic Gardening.”

Veganic Farming and Gardening…why not?

As a life long organic gardener, I’ve always been on the lookout for better, environmental ways to do things.  Each season, as I learn and grow, I try to make at least one small change in my gardening practices that helps to make our food and flora healthier, or soil more fertile and the world a better place.

That being said, my gardening practices aren’t perfect.  I still rely on horse and chicken manure, a gas powered rototiller, some plastic tools and supplies, etc.  I also am not making best use of cover crops and grain production.  As you can see, there’s definitely some room for improvement.  That’s generally, my mode of operation…Set it up and then fix it up.  So, once again, this season I am taking stock of what I am doing now and what else can be done.  Veganic farming has piqued my interest.

Keeping healthy and fertile soil in the garden is my number one priority.  The first thing that I took a look at this year was the use of animal fertilizers.  How could I get rid of them, or at least reduce their necessity?

Chicken and the Garden
Chickens and the Garden, not veganic, but so cute!

Currently, we have a lovely flock of chickens.  Their used straw supplies us with the main source of nitrogen for the compost pile.  We only have about 25 birds, so the amount of nitrogen rich straw that we get is somewhat limited.  However, it does give the compost pile an occasional, nitrogen boost to keep it cooking and steaming, especially through the cold, winter months.  As for the chickens…they’re our pets and we wouldn’t dream if getting rid of them.  They’re old friends.  (Our little, Japanese Bantum, “Mrs. Banty” is going on 12 years old.)

Horse Manure
Horse manure…not veganic either, but it does help improve the nitrogen levels in the soil.

We also still use horse manure once in awhile.  For many years, we owned horses, mostly rescues, so we always had piles of horse sh*t.  The addition of the manure to our garden made a noticeable improvement.  Sadly, our last horse died about two years ago. We’re getting too old and too poor to take in any more horses.  I do miss the ponies, but I also miss that manure.  I guess that I’m not quite ready to give up its use.

This season, someone gave us a truckload of horse poop, which was very generous.  We gladly took it and layered it in the compost heap.  While I’m happy to have it, I always worry about bringing things like this in from the outside, for fear of introducing unwanted, noxious plants.  Hopefully, the pile will heat up enough to kill off any plant intruders.

We’ve already experienced the invasion of daikon, clover, thistle and bind weed that originated from our horse hay of past.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that we’ll ever get those out of the garden.

Thistle in Garden
Nasty Thistle can establish itself in the garden fairly quickly.

That being said, it would probably behoove us, no pun intended, to just get rid of horse manure entirely.  But what do we replace it with?  There’s bat guano…it’s expensive.  Cover crops don’t really do that well over the winter.  They also show up too late in the spring, thereby competing with new crops, and frankly, they’re a pain to dig under by hand.  Their are other commercially prepared meals, but I question their “organic” origin and once again, we have that problem of bringing in more invading plant species.

Grow Comfrey For Fertilizer
Common comfrey can be grown to use for a well-balanced fertilizer.

Comfrey Fertilizer…Totally Veganic

One idea that I’m looking into is growing comfrey for fertilizer.  I’ve read that the leaves, when composted, turn to a perfectly balanced, liquid, plant food.  I need to do some more research on that one.  I may try growing a few comfrey plants in the flower garden this season to test this idea.  It can’t hurt.   (Note: Comfrey should not be ingested by humans, or animals, as it has been shown to be a carcinogen to the liver.)  Supposedly, the large leaves break down pretty quickly, so we should have a steady supply throughout the growing months.

Cover Crops

I’ve found some other great ideas on the Go Veganic website.  One is to rethink the use of cover crops.  I know what I said above, but cover crops, if done right can greatly improve the soil, which is where it all starts.  For one, cover crops can prevent soil erosion and nutrient loss through exposure.  That’s major, right there.  Cover crops can help protect the eco-structure of the beneficial plants, fungi and small creatures, such as earthworms through the winter months.  Maybe, I just tried the wrong cover crops in the past.  I need something that comes up in the cold, wet winter months, dies out early and is easy to till under by hand.  Right now, I just let the native grasses grow over last season’s beds.  Any other suggestions are welcome.

Mulching

Mulching during the growing season is another good practice, which I try to do, but sometimes I just run out of steam.  It means gathering more leaves, grasses, etc. and spreading them out over the young plant beds.  Again, I have the problem of possibly introducing invasive species.  I could use newspaper, or cardboard instead.  I’m not crazy about the inks in the newspaper being added to the garden soil.  Also, newspaper and cardboard are not the most beautiful things to look at, albeit they are practical and in abundant supply.

Mulching and composting with chipped, small wood is a very good idea.  The smaller branches of trees and shrubs harbor the most nutrients.  I also have a huge, over-supply of plants and shrubs that grow in our surrounding forest.  Now…If only I had a chipper/shredder.  It’s on my list.  I suppose that I could rent one, but it would take me an hour to drive to the rental place, an hour to drive it back and then there’s the cost of renting it.  I do wish that I still had an neighbor close by that I could share tools and sage advice with.  Our only neighbor up here on the mountain moved away last month.  I’m missing them already.

mycorrhizal activity, mushrooms, veganics
Mushrooms are a good sign of mycorrhizal activity in the soil.

Inoculating the soil with micorrhizal fungi can boost the garden soil’s ability to take in phosphorus and potassium.  We are already doing this and I do believe it helps.  We also live in a rainy forestland that is full of various fungi growing naturally, so I do believe that our soil is already microrrhizal rich.

Veganic gardening isn’t just about putting things into the soil.  It’s also about carefully using crop rotation to minimize nutrient depletion is also a big help.  I do that…to a point.  I don’t have fifty acres of totally flat, river bottom land to work with.  My gardens are tucked into small, irregular spots of semi-flat, hillside benches.  I only have so much room to grow things and sometimes I have to plant the tomatoes, or kale right where they grew last year, although I try my best not to.  Of course, leaving a bed, or two fallow each year would be nice, but not always possible.

I know…it sounds like I’m just complaining.  Trust me, I just need to go through this doubting, excuse ridden, sad faced process in order to move forward. I mean, really?  Don’t we all?  It’s part of the many, thoughtful ways to finding solutions.  I’m just setting up my, “road blocks,” so I can find ways to knock them down.  I’d love to hear from my readers, so please post your constructive, non-commercial posts. (Trolls, don’t bother.  I’ll just delete your comments.)  In the mean time, I’ll continue to edit this post to give you more information on veganic growing.

Garden on!

~ C

A Second Look at Older, Vegan Cookbooks

I want to take a second look at older, vegan cookbooks. It’s all nice and wonderful to review those CBs fresh off the press, but there are those tried and true books that I always go back to. Let’s hope that we don’t so quickly forget about these gems.  Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

The Millennium Cookbook, by Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl, M.P.H., R.D., C.N.S., Dessert recipes by Sascha Weiss, Ten Speed Press,1998.

This is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  The recipes are taken from the well-known, Millennium Restaurant, (formerly in San Francisco and now located in Oakland, CA.)  Each dish is timeless, elegant as well as absolutely delicious.  These plant-based chefs were dreaming up recipes for Chickpea Flatbread and Quinoa Pilaf long before they were fashionable.

I can’t wait for mushroom season to start in earnest, so that I can attempt to make their Chanterelle Mushroom Sorbet recipe.  They have illustrated the book beautifully  and have made the recipes easy to follow.  I only wish that there was a hard-bound version.  Sadly, my paperback copy is getting tattered and torn from so much use.

Crossroads, by Tal Ronnen, Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen, Photos by Lisa Romerein,  Artisan, (Workman Publishing Company, Inc.,) 2015

This is another great, (ok…not so old,) cookbook that comes from a renown, plant-based restaurant, Crossroads, in Los Angeles, CA.  (Tal Ronnen is also the creator of Kite Hill, plant-based cheeses, of which I am very fond of.)

I’ve loved every dish that I’ve tried in this book, although, I tend to gravitate toward the pasta recipes, such as Chive Fettuccine with Asparagus, Morels, Prosecco Sauce and Pappardelle Bolognese.

There is a lovely section of alcoholic cocktails that I go to when I need a special drink for special times.  There is also a section on, “the basics,” which are anything but common, such as Demi-Glace made with Roasted Vegetable Stock and Walnut Parmesan.

This book will definitely find a permanent place on your kitchen bookshelf.  I’m also happy to say, it has a sturdy, yet chic, hard cover…nice.

Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, Da Capo Press (Perseus Books Group,) 2007.

For me, this is the all-star of the older, vegan cookbooks.  It got me started on my vegan venture and I am forever grateful to its authors.  I love the no-nonsense approach to vegan food that is combined with the fun, full-of-nonsense commentary.

Most of the meals are all down home goodness; easy to prepare and sure to make everyone at the dinner table is happy.  I’m always asked to make their Cauli-Pots recipe at holiday gatherings, along with their classic, Cheezy Sauce to go over the broccoli.

There’s great sections on casseroles and one-pot meals, as well as some really, yummy desserts, such as Vanilla-Yogurt Pound Cake.  (I was amazed at how good this recipe was the first time I tried it..no eggs, no dairy…unbelievable.)

Not every recipe is a, “just like Mom used to make,” kind of dish.  They’ve put some unusual things in there too and if you don’t have this vegan bible yet, you’ll just have to pick yourself up a copy to find out what else is in it.  All I can say is GOOD STUFF!

Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow Naturally, by the editors of Organic Gardening and Farming, Rodale Press, 1977

I know…this is an oldie…geesh 1977!  My owning of this book attests to the fact that I’ve been interested in organic gardening for a very, very long time.  I’ll have to admit that I don’t open this book very often, but there are times when the newer writers…well… they just don’t know.  Like how do you make real catsup, (not ketchup?)  Or what’s the best way to thresh your own grains? Or how do you build a sun dehydrator from scraps of  this and that lying around the homestead?

This book is near and dear to my heart.  The late J.I. Rodale and his son, the late Robert Rodale, founders of the organic foods movement, have always been heros of mine.  While this book is not just for vegans, since there are sections in the book on cheese making and teaching us how to dress and preserve meats and fish, it is still a worthy edition to your cookbook library.  I don’t know if this edition is still in print, but any good, used bookstore can probably find it for you.  If not, check out the latest, third edition.

Appetite For Reduction, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011.

Everybody needs a low-cal, diet book for those Januarys and nervously anticipated, upcoming, social events.  This cookbook is great for those and any other day of the year, for that matter.  What’s really nice about this book is that every recipe is accompanied by its nutritional information, including calories.

I frequently use this cookbook because of this feature.  Now, has this cookbook made me any thinner?  Well…no.  But are the recipes absolutely delicious?  Yes, indeed!  If I made a commitment to only eat from this cookbook for a couple of months, then I probably would lose weight.  That would be no problem for me, with recipes such as Mango BBQ Beans, Curry Laksa, Portobello Pepper Steak Stew and Bhutanese Pineapple Rice.  Ya know…I DO have a special trip planned in May.  Maybe I’d better heed my own advice and start my weight loss program using Isa’s recipes…hummmm…food for thought.  If you’re looking to lose a few pounds, or just want to live the fullest of healthy lifestyles, then you really otta have this cookbook.

Do you have some favorite, older, vegan cookbooks.  If so, please share.

~ C

 

 

Sustainable Packaging Counts too!

Don’t the food producers realize that the sustainable packaging counts too?

(Climbing on to my soap box.)  It irritates the hell out of me to see wonderful, organic, non-GMO, vegan products wrapped up in wasteful, multi-layered, not-so-green plastic bottles, bags and cans.  I mean, really, what are they thinking?  As an environmentally conscious consumer, do you not think that I would notice that ?   After all, am I not the very person that you are marketing to?

From Producer to Comsumer

I do understand that the food needs to stay fresh and undamaged as it makes its way to my grocery cart.  I get that.  But I don’t need a plastic carton for my salt…cardboard will do.  Besides, the plastic one only melts on my stove top shelf.  I don’t need my vegan, “pulled pork,” wrapped up in 2 layers of non-biodegradable plastic and THEN surrounded by another cardboard sleeve.  If I’m going to buy chips, or cookies, then don’t put them into a “new-age,” plastic bag that no one but King Kong can open.  What happened to the old paper and cellophane bags?  BPA-free canned goods are still far and few even though BPA is a known carcinogen…why?  Even jar and bottle labels are now made of plastic instead of paper.

Oh…and the one I hate the most (my pet peeve, really,) are those little stickers that they put on all produce now days.  I barely tolerated the paper ones, but I realized that they were a great help to my check-out person and produce manager…so…well…OK.  However, when I see those stupid, plastic labels still floating around in my 2-year-old compost pile with the words, “ORGANIC” written on them I just want to scream!   COME ON!  Does anyone else not see the hypocrisy of it all?

So, here’s my deal…

If you’re going to talk the talk, then you had better walk the walk, or your products won’t make it into my pantry, or fridge. That’s my 2017 New Year’s resolution and I plan to stick to it.  Hear are some of my reasons.

  • First, I DO NOT want to have to pay the dump (Yes, the dump charges us when we take in non-recyclables,) to haul your excess, package-garbage there.
  • Second, I don’t want to have to pick out your plastic produce stickers from my otherwise, “black gold,” compost every season.
  • Third, I don’t want to read any more stories about plastic grains and fragments making their way into our precious ecosystem.
  • Fourth, I would really like you to act on what what you preach by going eye to eye against the oil and chemical companies.  Take a stand against them through better packaging practices.  You’re already half way there by producing wholesome foods.  For Gawd’s sake, be an example, as your labeling suggests and not a flunky follower.

You may argue that there are no other alternatives, but I beg to differ.

There are some exemplary companies out there making positive changes.  Eden Foods has been packaging their beans in BPA free cans since 1999 and Native Forest products are also canned sans BPA.  Many other companies are now going with biodegradable, sustainable packaging.  That includes safer plastic liners and non-hazardous printing inks on cardboard boxes.

Looking at our consumers’ options

Besides, commercially packaged foods, there’s always the bulk section.  Granted, they offer you plastic bags in which to put your dry goods into.  However, our co-op, for example, will also happily accept it if you bring in your own reusable containers to put your goodies in.  You just need to weigh your container first, (find the tare weight,) so that they can charge you only the net weight of your item.

Bring your own bags to the produce section

Bringing your own produce bags to the store is also a great help in reducing the number of plastic bags that make it into our environment.  Now, I have to admit, this is not something that I currently do and it’s really been bugging me.  I definitely need to find a good, biodegradable set of bags for my fruit and veggie purchases.  So far, the only ones I’ve seen are made of plastic, or it’s derivatives.  I’m on the hunt.  If you, dear readers, have a good suggestion then please leave a comment.

Just say “NO” to plastic bottles

Plastic Bottle Pollution
Plastic bottles don’t always make it to the recycle bin.

Glass ones are totally recyclable and paper cartons will decompose over time.  Again, if your grocery store, or co-op offers it, bring your own bottles and fill up on things like soy sauce, honey, vinegar, etc.

Limit the Acceptable Layers of Packaging

If that food you’ve been thinking of buying is wrapped in more than 2 layers of packaging, (I really want to say just 1 layer,) then just put it back on the shelf.  Any company that is putting that much into it’s packaging, probably isn’t putting nearly as much into the product itself.  You simply don’t need it. Think of it as a vote with your dollar.

Recycling Label

Look for the RECYCLABLE mark on the back of package.

You also can check with Carton Council to see if there is a facility in your area that accepts your used carton.  Steer away from styrene packaging and opt for PLA, a corn derived packaging, instead. If your local grocery store has a salad bar, ask them about what type of take-out cartons they use.  Same goes for take-out food in restaurants.  And while you’re at it, if you buy a product at a grocery store that does not use sustainable packaging with the environment in mind, simply write the company and ask them if they can go with something a little more “green.”  If you don’t like what you see at the grocery store, tell the manager.  Your words are more important to him, or her, than you might know.  SPEAK UP!

~ C

Oyster Mushrooms Rockefeller…OMG Good!

Oyster Mushrooms Rockefeller…yes, I said, “Oyster MUSHROOMS Rockefeller,” has to be my best, recent, vegan, recipe find…hands down.  Before I went vegan, I was a serious aficionado of oysters, raw, or cooked and I’ll admit, I have sorely missed them.  So, when I had a crop of fresh oyster mushrooms ready for harvest, I went on a hunt for a mock oyster recipe.  Vegetarian Times did not disappoint with their recipe for the classic Oysters Rockefeller, using oyster mushrooms instead of the briny shellfish.

What’s Oysters Rockefeller?

Not familiar with this famous, New Orleans dish that was so popular in the mid-20th century?  Traditionally, it was made with freshly shucked oysters which were placed back in their half shells and then topped with a creamed spinach concoction and broiled until bubbly hot.  This dish was often served at fancy affairs as an appetizer, preferably with a tall glass of nice, crisp Champagne…. pure heaven.

The Vegan Version of Oysters Rockefeller

I am sure that I have not eaten enough Oysters Rockefeller in my life time, so I thought I would try this vegan version in order to fill my quota.  I pretty much followed the recipe as written.  The only differences were that I used chopped, Toscano Kale in place of most of the spinach. I also didn’t want to put my treasured, French casserole dish under the broiler flame, in case it might break from the intense heat.  Instead, I just turned up the oven to very high for a few minutes.  Oh…and I added a dash of salt, since there was none listed in the recipe and real oysters are salty, after all.  As I said, I served it all in my pretty, Parisian, casserole dish.  It would have looked perfect served in oyster half-shells.  But then, some poor, little oysters would have paid dearly for that.

The Results

So, for the results…my goodness gracious…it tasted remarkably like the original, real deal!  OK, not exactly, but it did have that exotic, “can’t put your finger on it,” taste that is similar to the taste of fresh oysters.  It was goooood.  The hubby thought it was goooood too.  It was also incredibly easy to make with simple ingredients and short prep time.

I think that the key to this recipe was using very fresh, oyster mushrooms.  That dash of salt might of helped too.  Next time, I might add a bit of seaweed as well, for that oceany taste.  I may also play around with whisking in a little béchamel sauce, or sherry to the spinach for even more flavor and body.  It was definitely missing a dash of tabasco, sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a spritz of lemon.  Geesh… I don’t know how I could have forgot those.

Alas I should have taken pictures of it as I was making it…sorry.  Oh well…I guess I’ll just have to make Oyster Mushrooms Rockefeller again soon and update this post.  No problem.  I’ll be sure to do just that in the very near future.

~ C

Honesty on the Internet, a Scarce Commodity

Honesty on the internet, the, "Mouth of Truth."
La Bocca della Verità, the, “Mouth of Truth”

Keeping it Real

Honesty on the internet has become a scarce commodity these days, I’m sad to say.  Personally, I’m finding it harder and harder to sort out real information from all of the “let’s make-a-buck” copy and overbearing ads that are out there.  Not just on web sites, but on blogs too.  While I don’t mind if a webmaster, or blogger makes a small, discrete recommendation of a product with a link and picks up insignificant monetary kickback, I do mind blatant disinformation, teasers to buy the book, or DVD, so many ads that it makes it hard to load the page without it jumping all over the place and just plain dishonesty.  If I’m searching for information, I want INFORMATION and not all that other crap.

For Example

Today I was searching for some instruction on permaculture guilds, specifically for apple orchards.  We have a young orchard that I was planning to expand on with permaculture plantings and the addition of our flock of chickens.  My goodness!  I found everything BUT the advise that I wanted. Did I really want to watch promotional videos for sometimes, outdated books, order pamphlets that had little usable informational content for $4-5 a pop,  attend a seminar half way across the country, or take an online course?  ( A very expensive course, btw.)  When I finally did find a useful article, my reading was constantly interrupted by ads that loaded as I scrolled down the page, thereby resetting the screen to the top of the page.  It was a frustrating experience to say the least.  These practices used to be the exception on the web, but now it’s becoming the norm.

I know, I’m just an old lady who wants things to go back to the way they were… “FREE THE INTERNET,” I say!  However, I’m not so naïve to think that will happen anytime soon.  I’m afraid that it will only get worse over time.  So, the only thing that I can do is make my blog as user friendly and as chocked full of good, ad-free information as I can.

I Have a Ways To Go

I’ll admit, I’m not that I’m quite there yet.  My posts could definitely be much more informative than they currently are.  That’s going to start happening soon, I promise.  This is a very young blog and right now, just getting some content up there is my main goal.  I definitely plan to go back to my older posts and add real and valuable material to them.  I hope that you, my dear readers, will be patient and oblige me as I go through this process.

Here Are My Promises

While I’m building the blog out, I will make you some promises: I will only  supply useful links and disclose to you any time that I receive a small commission on that link, which is very rarely and only at the insistence of the product maker.  (I mean, really, how much money can you make on a $.03/click link?)  I will only try to provide my readers with useful coupons and discounts and not a bunch of unnecessary junk. There will be no disinformation.  From me, you’ll get only the truth, as I see it.

There will be no ads…period.  I won’t be selling any book or video and I don’t give a flying *u&k about Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.  If you are having problems viewing the pages, then for Gawd’s sake, please let me know.  There will be nothing but pure honesty on the internet, at least from my blog.   For me, for better, or worse, that’s the poetry of my writings.

Peace & Love,

~ C

The Great Bee Hunt…Searching For Wild Honey Bees

Searching for wild honey bees…

is a springtime endeavor and spring is just around the corner.  We have high hopes in enticing the wild honey bees into living in more of our small, top bar hives this year.  Last year we were surprisingly successful in starting up a hive in our apple orchard on our property in town.  We didn’t really have to go searching for the bees.  They came to us.  It was probably a swarm venturing off from someone else’s hives nearby.  My husband just nestled his starter hive in the apple trees and dressed it with a few drops of lemongrass oil.  The apple blossoms and lemongrass scents were enough to lure them in.  We now have a growing colony of bees, madly producing delectable honey for next season.  (We’re skipping the first season’s harvest to make sure that the bees have more than they need through the winter.)

wild honey bees in apple orchard
Searching for wild honey bees has paid off. Here’s the new bees enjoying their home in the apple trees.

This year, I’m wishfully thinking that we’ll also garner a hive, or two, on the ranch.

I’d like one near the veggie garden another one at the flower cutting garden, near the house.  We now have new, starter hives are set up in each location, waiting for the bees to get busy and make homes in them.  There are still bees buzzing around in what’s left of the flower garden, which I find amazing, since it’s getting down below freezing at night.  I keep wondering where their hive is and how much happier they would be in a warm, cozy, new hive that’s closer to their pollen source.  It’s time to go on a bee hunt.

swarming bees
Following the swarming bees

Our past attempts a bee hunting have been miserable failures.

Now, we have a book to guide us and give us hunting tips: Following the Wild Bees, The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting by Thomas D. Seeley.  I got the book as a Christmas gift for my husband, but I’ve picked it up a couple of times out of serious curiosity.  I also receive updated reports from the hubby as to what he’s learning about finding wild honey bees.

We’re not done reading the book yet.  So far, we’ve found out that offering a couple of bees a, “three martini,” sugar water lunch can pay back in a mutually profitable, business arrangement between us and the bees.  Basically, what this amounts to is gently capturing a couple of bees in a small, wooden box that dishes up sugar water, allowing them feast and then letting them go.  Hopefully, they will make a “bee line” straight back to the hive to tell the others about their newly found, sugar treasure.  They will then bring back some of their friends for a second helping.  Once we get a parade of bees coming back and forth, we can start following their flightpath back to their hive. This could take many days.  Bees move fast and my eyes move slow.

Once we find the hive, we can start watching it for signs of swarming.  Then, we’ll move our own hive into closer proximity, in hopes that they will choose our starter hive for their new digs.  I suppose that we could also capture the hive and force the bees to live in our space.  We prefer that they set up housekeeping in our top bar hives by their own free choice.

honey bee on flower
Honey bees in the flower cutting garden

Now, you may ask why a mostly vegan like me would want honey bees around.

First and foremost, they are the great pollinators of the world.  I also want to help save the bee populations from a severe die off that has been happening for the last few years. Plus, I want more flowers, fruits and veggies in my garden and their pollination process will make that happen.

Bees in hive
Bees keeping busy in the hive

I also want to raise bees in a more natural and responsible way, than the exploitive, commercial operations.  I feel that it’s better to allow the bees to make their own homes in our hives voluntarily and survive off of their own honey.  We will only take what honey they can’t possibly consume in a season.  We want them to be our friends, not our livestock.  IMHO, if done right, it does not conflict with our own, vegan values.  Besides, we just want a small amount of honey for our pantry.  We’re not trying to get rich off of the bees.

So, I’ll keep you posted on how our bee hunt goes and the growth of our bee colonies.  If you would like more information about beekeeping with top bar hives, please visit: Mother Earth News

~ C

 

New Gardens For The New Year 2017

New gardens planned for 2017.  Already?  Yee gads, I’m still recuperating from Christmas!  Time certainly does not wait!

More Garden Chores In January

As each growing season ends I always think to myself that next year, I’ll cut back on the gardening.  I’m just getting to old to do all of this.  But, as January rolls around and the garden catalogs start to pile up on my coffee table, I begin to feel a renewed energy and optimism.  So, instead of cutting back on my gardening chores, I end up expanding them.  Last year I put in a beautiful, cutting garden and lawns around the house.  This year, I’ve already added a mini, grape vineyard to our food garden, expanded our blackberry patch, as well as enlarged our fruit orchard by adding 15 new trees.  I also plan to put in a demo garden to spruce up our commercial property in town, as well as planting a dozen “Lady Banks” roses.  Over ambitious?  Maybe.  Talk to me about that in August.  Right now, (…sigh…) I just can’t help myself.  New gardens are so inspiring!

Keeping Up With the Compost

The biggest obstacle that I have to growing so much stuff isn’t the initial plantings, nor the tending of the gardens.  It’s generating enough organic compost to keep the plants going through the summer to fall. Right now, I’m creating wheelbarrows full, but in reality, I need truckloads.

I could go out and buy a couple of dump trucks full of compost from our local garden supply, but that’s expensive, especially since they would charge me a pretty penny to haul it up here.  Besides, I don’t know what goes into it.  I definitely want it comprised of organic materials and I certainly don’t want any seeds from invasive species up here.  I have a tough enough time with the wild radishes and bindweed that showed up in the hay we brought in a few years ago.  Call me a control freak, but I need to make my compost myself and be fully aware of just exactly what is going into it.  I should go out and gather leaves this morning, but geesh, it’s cold out there.

Now is also the time to get started

The new, early spring plants like peas, lettuce, greens, broccoli, cauliflower, for the veggie garden have to be started now.  Early flowers for the cutting garden need to go on that list too.  My dear husband made me a seed starting tray out of redwood.  It’s just beautiful!  (Thanks hon, I need about 25 more of these please.) I would absolutely love a greenhouse, but alas, I won’t be getting one this year.  Starting the seeds on the porch is my best option right now.  I may break down and make a temporary hoop house.  They’re ugly as sin, but I’m getting desperate and I just may have the materials for that lying around.  I need the space and warmth for my early starts.

Cleaning Out 2016 Plants

Of course, besides starting new plants, I still need to clean out the old ones.  With all of the rain and cold snaps we’ve had I haven’t been able to get out to the veggie garden, which is still a tangled mess of dead vines and weeds.  There are some perennials in there like the asparagus and artichokes that need cutting back and dividing.  The grape arbor could use a hard pruning, as well as the orchard trees and berries.  This is also the year we plan to put a deer proof fence around the orchard…lots of work, lots of money.

Demonstration Garden Planned in Boonville

Also, as I mentioned earlier, besides my new gardens at home, I’m also planning on putting in a demonstration garden and climbing roses at our bare property in Boonville.

New gardens and updates for shed in Boonville are coming soon
Front of the shed that faces the street. It’s in dire need of an update and new gardens.

It’s about a 1/6 of an acre with about 20 old apple trees and a medium-sized shed structure on it.  The property is a real eyesore right now, so I’m getting ready to clean up the land, paint the shed and plant a pretty garden.  The shed will be “barn red” and covered in yellow, “Lady Banks,” climbing roses.

Lady Banks Climbing Rose, perfect for fence and shed.
The fence and shed will be awash in yellow, “Lady Banks,” roses.

The “Gawd awful,” ugly chain link fence will also get the rose treatment.  The dirt there is OK.  It’s valley bottom land so the soil is not so terrible, but it still needs amending.  (Shewwwwt….Now I need even MORE compost.)  The land is totally flat, so it will be a good place to plant the different kinds of corn we’ve ordered, being careful not to cross pollinate them, of course.  Other summer crops will go in such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and herbs.  It’s starting to sound like I’ve got an native American theme going on, so maybe I’ll stick with that and just go for the summer crops.  Eventually, I’d like the Boonville garden to produce tons of food year round that can be donated to the local food banks.

So, as you can see, I’ve got my dirty hands full all year.  I have a ton of ambition right now.  We’ll see how far I get with my plans for the new gardens.  I’ll be sure to post updates.

Keep on growin’

~ C

 

 

 

Jyun Kang Vegan Restaurant – The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

A thousand thanks for the existence of the Jyun Kang vegan restaurant.  When I first moved here, almost 6 years ago, I searched and hunted for vegan and vegetarian restaurants.  Much to my surprise, there weren’t many.  While on my weekly town trips to Ukiah, I usually settled for bean and rice burritos at the Mexican joint, or mixed vegetables and rice at the Asian café.  Then, I heard about The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a Buddhist Monastery and University in Talmage, just outside of Ukiah, (map,)which has this small, vegan café on campus.  I have to admit that I was a little intimidated about going to the place at first, but once I made the, “pilgrimage,” I’ve never wanted to eat anywhere else.

city of ten thousand buddhas entry gate
Entry Gate to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, taken by Qin Zhi Lau

When you arrive, they ask that you sign in at the administration office first.  Although, I know that some people don’t, I feel that it is the respectful thing to do, especially since it is a school with children present.  Besides, it gives you a chance to get up close with some of the many peacocks that frequently hang out in the parking lot.

City of Ten Thousnad buddhas, restaurant: Jyun Kang
Jyun Kang Restaurant, located in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

The Jyun Kang vegan restaurant is just down the road and around a corner from the administration office.  It’s a small building with a beautiful Asian garden out front.  Inside, the dining room is plain and perfunctory, but almost always full of diners.  The staff members are ever so polite and the service is usually good…although, the dishes rarely come out in the order that you’d expect them to.  (Oh…spring rolls for dessert.)  The prices are dirt cheap, so I don’t expect Michelin star wait-staff.  You should come prepared with some bills in your pocket, as this restaurant takes cash only.  Sorry, no checks, or credit cards are accepted.

They tell you that their food is vegetarian, but I’ve honestly never seen any dairy, or other non-vegan products on their menu, so I feel free to call it vegan.  It’s interesting to note that their dishes contain no onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, MSG or eggs. The food is prepared very simply and has a wonderful, homemade quality to it.  There’s not a lot of overly rich, canned sauces, or high degree of seasoning.  It’s just a collection of tasty dishes, prepared with grace and love.  Some of my favorite menu items include: Wor Wonton Soup, (a meal in itself,) Golden Tofu Seaweed Roll with plum sauce, Sautéed Mushroom with Basil, Ginkgo Nuts with Fried Mushroom and Seaweed Roll, Cucumber and Carrot with Thai Style Tom Yam Sauce. 

They also have a takeout menu.  I’ve gone home with their Vegetable Buns, which were quite yummy.  I’m still eyeing their Nutritious Buns and Smoked Bean Curd for the next time I’m doing the all day, town run and don’t want to cook when I get home.  The restaurant asks that you please bring your own containers for takeout and leftovers, if possible.

One more thing that I’d like to mention…they have a small bookshelf at the register and they allow you to browse at the books while dining.  There’s quite an interesting array of reading materials there, mainly about Buddhist life.  I picked up their beautiful cookbook, WOK WISELY, and asked how much it was and they told me it was FREE.  I couldn’t possibly have taken it home without making a modest donation.  I love the book and use it all the time.  Since then, I’ve also picked up a small, interesting autobiography about a travelling priest, again, with another small, monetary contribution made to the CTTB.  (Please note that this was not asked for by the staff, but it was my decision alone.)

Wok Wisely Cookbook
Wok Wisely cookbook, purchased from the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas’ Jyun Kang Vegan Restaurant

So…if you are ever driving through Ukiah, take a little side trip to The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and have a meal at the Jyun Kang vegan restaurant.  They’re open every day except Tuesday.  It’s easy to find.  Just take the Talmage exit off the 101 and turn east.  The road runs right into the gate of the campus, about 2 or 3 miles down.  Upon entering, look for the administration building on the right.  Drive slow and watch out for the peacocks, guests and students.  Happy eating!

~ C

 

 

The New Grape Vines We Chose…Starting Our Vineyard

New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.
New grape vines for our mini-vineyard.

Ahh…the world of viticulture in California…such a complex maze of analyzing wine, the new grape vines available, their varieties, their growing habits and their ultimate potential.  It’s enough to make one pass out just trying to grasp it all!  Thirty five years ago, I planted a few Pinot Noir grapes in our previous homestead garden.  I don’t know what rootstock they were on, or how much tannins they produced.  I certainly didn’t have any fancy trellis apparatus.  I just let them grow up the arbor.  During those years that I wasn’t overwhelmed raising kids, working and going to school, I simply harvested the grapes, juiced them in my mixer, added a few ingredients and set a carboy of the concoction out on the cool, back porch to ferment.  Many times that wine turned out to be absolutely amazing.  Sometimes it was just some killer vinegar.  I didn’t care.  It was all good.

My, how times have changed.  As I am planning on putting in a tiny, postage stamp, “vineyard,” (it’s literally only 25 vines,) I find that these days, it’s a big, scientific affair.  Are my Pinots Dijons, or Wädenswils?  115s, or 777s?  Is the rootstock resistant to Phylloxera?  Is my soil too acidic…does it have too much clay?  Am I too close to the ocean?  Which trellis system should I go with?  Do I really have to “romance” the vines?  How do I do that?

::::sigh::::

Honestly, that’s just to much to think about for a couple of dozen, little vines.  I went ahead and ordered some plants, but then I got a frantic call from the nursery saying that they only had half an order of one clone of Pinot Noir and apologetically asked if I would accept another clone to fill out the order.  I could hear the gasp of astonishment when I told them that was fine and that I didn’t really care.  Besides, I had a few vines that I’d already planted from last year and I didn’t know what type of clones they were.  They turned out to be Wädenswils.  So now, I have half Dijons and half Wädenswils.  I figure that I’ll be able to compare the productivity of the 2 types and blend their juices together…a crazy, fun, science experiment, so to speak.

New Grape Vines
New Grape Vines, Ready For Planting

The vines have arrived and I’ve been busy getting my mini, hillside site ready for planting.  I can guarantee you that I do not have too much clay in my soil.  In fact, it’s mostly rocks, as my trusty, Mantis rototiller can attest to.  But as I understand it from the dreamy winos, rocky soil is good…very good.  It keeps those vines struggling to get their nutrition and “struggling vines” make the best wine, right?   Yee gads!  Rocky, or clay soil, they’re going in and that’s that.  I’ll worry about the trellis system later.

So now, I’m halfway done with the planting and I’m excited that I’ll hopefully be able to harvest my first wine grapes in 2, or 3 years.  I already have some table grapes growing nearby and they’re doing great, so I have high hopes for my small patch of pinot noir plants.  I’m sure that I’ll never be able to make enough wine from them to fulfill my yearly need, (ahem) but they’ll put a dent in it.  Plus, winemaking is good fun!  I’m already starting to save up wine bottles for reuse…which is also fun.  Cheers!  Here’s to romancing the new grape vines!

~ C