Christmas gifting

Today I pruned the wisteria that are beginning to grow up and across our porch . I took the cuttings and wound them into some wreaths. In a very poor Christmas in the past we used their seed pods to string into ornaments on our tree.They would twirl in the breeze and look pretty with red ribbons on the tree.
Here is a wreath I made today. They can be decorated with rosehips,birds nests pinecones,holly.Look around for what you can find for free.

My artist daughter also illustrated some kitchen towels and some fabric that I will make into pot holders.These I’m embroidering . I finally found the best batting for pot holders is cotton felt padding for protecting tables .Two or three layers of this protects your hand from heat.I’ve also collected garden seed from our property all year that will also be good as gifts. Jams, pickles, vinegar. These all are very inexpensive, creative gift ideas. What are yours ?

I think there is nothing as wonderful as handmade gifts. It makes sense to me to have a holiday for that. This crazy shopping consumerism holiday does not appeal to me. I still remember the feeling of wearing a sweater my mom had knit.Or clothes she had sewed. It was like the difference of good home cooked food or fast food.The energy and love that goes into the creations embraces you.Makes you smile. The Christmas’s we all remember the best are the ones where we had the least amount of money and had to make most things.Get really creative and try to make your dreams or maybe just a fabulous meal is enough of a “gift”.Share your energy not just things.

Remember what memories you most value about the holidays. It’s usually not the things you received or gave but the feelings of being with one another. The memory of a special taste or flavor.The stories you read around a fire. The time you did something wrong, but it was still OK.None of this was the material world this was the physical world of sensation and feelings. Consider what really gives someone happiness in the gifting .Think about supporting a local person in their creativity if you don’t have time for it yourself.

Homemade soap, herbal teas and hand thrown mugs.Local jams and jellies, homemade candies. A collage of memorable family pictures maybe mixed with items that remind you of the person.Handmade ornaments.Maple syrup or honey from a small farm.Trade, barter, support local small business if you do buy.

Weekly CSA box

Yesterday, garbed in rain gear, unfortunately not my rain overalls, I joyfully picked a huge box of veggies for a CSA client.

Artichokes, purple onions, acorn squash, yukon gold potatoes, hard neck garlic, mizuna, red russian kale, rainbow swiss chard, bull’s blood beets, broccoli.

It really felt like Thanksgiving.

Soaking wet , both wood fireplaces going in our cozy house. Maybe we do get to relax at this time of year even in California. Although ever the optimist I still planted a bed of spinach , right on top of where I have red potatoes started. I wonder how that will do?

I still haven’t harvested the Christmas Limas. The bean pod is still green . Anyone out there know whether they’ll dry on the vine? Even in the rain ? Hum , so many questions , so much to learn about this marvelous world of plants.

Fifteen years old

This picture is a few weeks ago and now this area is much more organized. But here’s the reality of the mess when my husband was hand mixing all the concrete for the floor.

Tonight my middle daughter is having the first birthday party she’s ever really wanted. So of course I have to make ton’s of food from scratch. Yesterday I made Marek’s lasagne, her favorite birthday meal for many years. It’s rather meat packed so hopefully not too many vegetarians are coming to the party. I canned Spaghetti sauce last summer, forty quarts plus some large quantities in the freezer. Marek made it even better but I try. Basically saute onions, carrots, summer squash( all homegrown and recently picked) and any other veggies you want; cook until browned a little- then add to a large pot with tomato sauce ( mine was from Dennis’s parents tomatoes) and some salted capers, hamburger if you want . Cook until all the veggies are soft then put through a food mill with a coarse blade.

Then layer sauce, Barilla lasagne noodles, white bechamel sauce, thinly sliced ham, noodles, sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, repeat these layers.

Then brownies, richest ever are the recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Of course I also will make a cake. She want’s it with Lime green and purple frosting, but chocolate cake.

We’ll be firing up the  wood fired brick oven and baking bread ( later post) tonight. This area built by my husband has become a great party area a boon we didn’t realize as it was evolving. It will later have a sink for processing veggies. Tables and storage for bread baking.
The party was a success and the food was all slurped up. It’s so fun cooking for people that EAT !

Starting from Scratch,from the ground up

We’ve been working like dogs for way too long. Turning bare, scrubby brush land into garden space and of course a home. Fencing is such an issue out here as we have deer, rabbits, bears, even an occasional  mountain lion or feral pig. Luckily our dogs keep most of them at a distance from our home and our general territory.

The other serious item we’ve been dealing with is how to turn this sandy clay soil, full of sticks,  into fertile soil . All my girlfriends look at me and say “Yeah, but YOUR husband has HEAVY EQUIPMENT”. My husband has been working his way through at least in a portion of our property
compost building, bringing home plant clippings, wood chips, shredded paper left over from a local printing press(all organic inks) mixed in with manures, horse and chicken, making lot’s of compost. At one point before we started the new garden area we had about 50 yards of this material. I like to start these piles with some compost from a previous pile. We even got to haul a large compost pile that was in the way, home from a job, what a boon ! This is my method of biodynamic innoculation.These micro-organisms help to break down the compost more rapidly even though our piles were “warm piles” not “hot”.

One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten was, “You imported that soil, right?”. Our soil in the garden areas is gradually becoming dark, rich, worm laden. Growing beautiful healthy veggies.

Now we are working on growing grass, pasture. This will take some time but baby shoots of grass and clover are coming up in one area. Next comes the large scale fencing, ow money, money,$$$.

Gardening by Intuition

I’ve been gardening for thirty years now. Most of that time working in a large garden in a Buddhist Monastery. I believe one of my most wonderful tools is my intuition. Paying attention to the voice inside me and the voice of the garden.

How happy does the garden look when you look at it? Does it shine with good health and abundance? Or have you been neglecting it due to your busy schedule and higher priority items? How do you pay it attention? I think it’s a lot like a child or a dog or yourself, some attention everyday is best. Love it, nurture it, give it good tummy rubs, I mean weeding. Scratch it behind the ears. Check it for ticks. Play with it!

When you start working in the garden look it all over with a very general view, look up, look down, but not specifically. Don’t just jump in to some task you’ve given yourself to accomplish, then you only see what’s in front of you, small minded. Instead look even with blurred eyes, or even look in your mind before you get there. Does anything speak to you?Maybe needs attention? Looking lackluster or has a pest? Does it need some fertilizer, water, compost or just some attention? You don’t always need to use this method but it works well when you’re working a large space. Trust what you hear be it from your mind or the garden.

Onions,Garlic and brassicas

So many brassica ; broccoli, kale, cauliflower right now.Spinach, chard, arugula, parsley, lettuce, onions and beets are what we are feasting on these days. Doesn’t seem to make sense to eat salads now when it’s colder .But reality is that in July and August it’s just too hot to grow lettuce.Really, salads of tomatoes and cucumbers and chopped basil are of the hot summer days. Spinach salad  w/ roasted walnuts, Pt. Reyes blue cheese, purple onions and chopped wild arugula is what’s for dinner now. So delicious. Still harvesting potatoes and eating acorn squash that’s stored.

We’ve gotten spoiled with vast super markets and year round availability of whatever we want to eat. We’ve lost the eating in season mentality.Now after three years of eating primarily from our garden, we’ve begun to switch gears. Eating lot’s of what’s available not expecting other than that.Especially our four year old who has grown up with this.She is not surprised that the only fruit around is the huckleberries gleaned off the last of the bushes. Or canned applesauce. Just traded for some persimmons and more apples. What a deal !

Mushrooms have just started here. We had our first meal with chantrelles .Served with roasted beef from my friends grass fed Belted Galloway cows and gravy. Over rice.Starting to replenish my stock of dried boletus mushrooms.So good later for tasty risottos.

Our small new pasture has begun to sprout new grass and clover.It’s been hard to start with ground that was covered with brush. New soil , virgin grassland .It will have to be carefully tended before we can ever think of buying a cow.

The moon cycle will still be good for some above ground crops and I will replant my 40′ rows of peas.There seems to be a rabbit in my garden. I feel like Mr. Mac Gregor and Peter rabbit. I wonder if he used to sell his veggies? I’m ordering more garlic and potatoes from a succulent looking catalog that arrived the other day http://www.potatoegarden.com .I hope I can get them in during the waning moon.