Sunday, July 27, 2008

Can't take credit for them....



We're lucky enough to have inherited three varieties of plums. Denise made a plum preserve last weekend with our new wonder spice, garam masala. Since we haven't stocked the Point Reyes pantry yet we are reaching for garam masala whenever we need something with cloves/cinnamon/cumin etc. It is very cool to cook with. Anyhow, it turned out like a cross between a jam and a chutney. We've using it on toast to date but Denise is using it to glaze lamb chops tonight.

I've got a plum tart in the oven as we speak. While Denise was inclusive in her preserve, using plums from all across the size and color specturm, my tart is a strickly fascist Santa Rosa affair. (See second pic.) I was about ten minutes into researching a crust from scratch when I decided it would take too much time. Denise suggested a graham cracker crust. So a little melted butter and some crumbled graham crackers and I was off. I decided that the plums were so sweet that I'd only add lemon juice and zest. I don't get all this sugar in the recipies.

The larger story is that I am trying to cook without recipies and internet more and more. One of my goals in moving up here was to get to know the hiking trails well enough that I didn't have to take a map along to find my way. I wanted to know which ones were good in shade and in sun, which were a hard workout, which had good spots by streams by heart, so I could just pick up and go.

I'm getting more and more like that with my cooking. I want to get good enough that I can improvise all the time...only turning to books and internet for new experiments, or complicated things like bread. (Although, I really want to get some basic breads down as well.)

So back to the title...I can't take credit for growing the plums, but you can bet your ass I'm going to claim credit for my tart. Assuming it turns out well...
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Friday, July 25, 2008

charlotte and her web(s)

I’m not sure when I began to fear spiders. My early spider memories are of Charlotte and her web and the itsy bitsy spider crawling up the water spout, so when my fear originated is a mystery to me.

I knew before I moved to Point Reyes that if I wanted to live in such a place I’d have to learn to coexist with these eight legged creatures. This photograph was taken on a hike about a month before we started looking for a place in West Marin to call our own. It was during an early morning stroll and we were amazed by the amount of webs. They were everywhere we turned, covered with dew, and glistening in the sunshine. How could something I’d come to find so awful and creepy create such beautiful and functional sculptural work?

Since then we have moved into the house and I have slowly gotten used to these little silk producers. There are so many and such a wide variety that I really didn’t have a choice. They weren’t leaving and I wasn’t leaving. If I attempted to get rid of them, in a county like West Marin, I’d be stoned to death. Best of all, they do control evil-doers in the garden such as aphids and cucumber beetles.

When I found this little tidbit I realized I had more in common with the female spider than I knew. You know how it is, sometimes when I've skipped a meal and waited just a bit too long,'s hard to even see straight. As poor Chris knows all to well, life isn’t fun for anyone when I’m hungry…

Males are sometimes killed by females. In at least some of these cases it is likely that the males are simply mistaken as prey. The risk of this happening is greater if the female is hungry. To counter this, some male spiders offer a "bribe" to the female, in form of a fly or other prey, prior to the mating.

So the fear subsides and we share the property, but my curiosity stops there. There is no real future for us and we’ll never be pest pals. I adore the intelligence and artistic abilities of many of these spiders inhabiting the premises, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever be happy about sharing my shower with one, even if she happens to be a cousin of my good friend the scorpion. We’ll just tolerate each other as indifferent neighbors sometimes do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

where's the beef?

Tonight we cooked up half a pound of ground beef, a green pepper, some canned tomatoes, garlic and green onion (the sole participant from the kitchen garden.) They are basically sloppy joes.

The thing that is odd about this meal is that it is the first one this weekend that involves much meat. It is also the first one that didn't center around our garden. The summer squash soup with coconut milk, pasta primavera, and root veegie roast were all at least half based on the garden. (Not to mention the ridiculous blackberry pie Dene made on Saturday.)

We're kind of strangely, silently evolving to a mostly vegetarian diet. Not for political, health, or any other reasons. Just cause we try and eat what we are growing and supplement the rest at the farmer's market. By the time we have used up our food for the weekend...there's not much room for meat.

The other odd thing that has happened is that we're eating four or five times a day. Denise came in with some fresh beans from the garden and we just made them into a small course on the spot. I boiled some beets as the beginning of a pickling experiment and we ate them all as I was peeling off the skins. This keeps happening again and again.

This of course, will all end as soon as we get the goats, pigs and chickens.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

say it isn't so

my neighbor told me to get rid of these sweet little flowers and their pretty winding vines tout de suite! i did not... i couldn't. i like them. i just located the data below and still have no urge to remove them. they are popping up all over, around the tomatoes, near the peas, in front of the old chicken coop.

our comfrey is supposed to cause big trouble too. i obeyed when another neighbor said "chop that comfrey down immediately!", but then it came back and i've decided to let it grow large and out of control. why not? we've also planted two types of mint and mint is supposed to be very dangerous as well. bad bad mint. and then there are our beloved blackberries, invasive, wicked, non-native! all of the blackberry plants were cleared from the site of the new point reyes food forest so more respectable food could be planted. california blackberry plants do exist, but from what i understand, they are small thorned and all of the blackberries i've seen in our neighborhood are covered with large feisty thorns.

why am i so protective of these wild and crazies? i am not sure, but these noxious weeds, invasives, the james deans of the plant world, they are my friends.

run free, all of you!

Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is a native of Eurasia and was first documented in California in 1884 when it was collected in San Diego. By the first quarter of the twentieth century, field bindweed was proclaimed the worst weed in California and many of the western states. It has been given many names including perennial morningglory, creeping jenny, bellbine, sheep-bine, and corn-bind.

Field bindweed is one of the most persistent and difficult-to-control weeds in ornamentals, orchard and vine crops, and field crops. It has a vigorous root and rhizome system that makes it almost impossible to control with cultivation. Its seed has a long dormancy and may last in soil for up to 60 years. It has a climbing habit that allows the plant to grow through mulches. Field bindweed is also very drought tolerant and once established is almost impossible to control with herbicides.

If field bindweed is present, agricultural land is devalued and the weed precludes planting of certain crops such as onions, melons, and tomatoes.

~we currently have onions, melons, and tomatoes there!

laundry or lemonade?

Mesa Road, Point Reyes Station, July 2008

hanging cool laundry on a hot day is almost as nice as a glass of homemade lemonade.

Monday, July 7, 2008


have you ever seen baby beans? these are the first beans (blue lake bush beans) i've ever grown, so i have just seen my first (above). VERY cute. i have my hand in the photo for scale. these little guys are supposed to grow into 6 1/2" round pods. somehow i thought they'd be more similar to my peas (tall telephone pole peas), but not at all. i just went outside and took a look at my peas and even in the infant stage (i uncovered a small pea from within a dying blossom) the peas emerge shorter and much wider than the slender mini beans that even this tiny, are bare, they've already shed their dying blossom overcoats.

lesson learned: when the flower dries up, both pea and bean pods grow in the same place, but emerge looking quite different. i probably learned such things when i was in elementary school, but when it isn't part of daily life, so much of it floats away...

something else i've noticed while watching my peas and beans grow: the data on the seed packets i've purchased only serve as suggestions for what might occur. i planted my pole peas, beans, and snap peas on the same day. my pole peas packet suggests 70 days to harvest and my bush beans packet claims 55 days to harvest. i've been eating my pole peas off the vine for over a week now and my beans are nowhere near snack stage. my snap peas packet reads that they will grow with self supporting vines and will be ready for harvest in 58 days. last thursday they showed that they were not in the mood to be self-supporting when they fell right over. they are now happily growing around a bamboo teepee and it was just today that i saw my first snap pea blossom - no actual peas in sight. i guess the performance of our plants varies for so many reasons: soil, fertilizer, sun, shade, water, pests of all sorts, surrounding plants, love, etc. that it must be near impossible to pinpoint seed packet specifics such as what time of year to plant, days to germination, days to harvest, etc. i'm having fun watching and learning. no need for hard data. mother nature has her own ideas and i'm certainly not going to question them.

speaking of mothers, when i was a tot my mom used to call me beansy, her little beansy. truth be told, she still addresses me as her little beansy in an email every now and again, usually when i'm not feeling well or i've been let down in one way or another. maybe that's why i'm so fond of these sweet fragile little beans...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

casual extravagance

so the best thing about the point reyes farmer's market, of which we are in the third week, is the oyster pricing. drake's estero and tomales bay (hog island) supply the bay area with local oysters, and as we were surprised to discover, supply the local farmer's market with heavily discounted oysters (under a dollar a piece) as well.

mix in a bbq and a bottle of (not even close to local) italian prosecco and you have what we believe will be the basic meal plan for the rest of our summer saturdays. right, i almost forgot the strauss family farm ice cream from tomales. ;)

Friday, July 4, 2008

happy independence day

i started the morning by reading a book on wabi-sabi, a japanese world view on art, philosophy, design and aesthetics. (more here.) i have read a few books about wabi-sabi over the years and there is a lot in there i like, especially the embrace of the imperfect over the perfect, nature over technology. basically i dig it because it gives me an excuse for my creative ideas of precision. (see above). i would not have made a good modernist, at least not as a design-builder.

i then picked up a book about sim van der ryn, a local point reyes architect, one of the pioneers of sustainable architecture in the bay area. sim was exploring everything, i mean everything that is in vogue now. "alternative" energy, growing his own food, experimental architecture, rural living, composting, etc etc etc. it was actually pretty hilarious to learn that we (this generation) is just retreading most of the same ground of the back-to-the-land movement, but now it is too expensive here to do it they way that they did it.

i'm somehow tempted to write something about the fact that is the fourth of july - maybe write something about growing your own food being a great way of being independent. but that seems kind of annoying, even to me, and besides, that's not even what i've been thinking about today. we have a long history of independent individuals in this country - whether it is writers like kerouac or thoreau or architect/engineers like sim van der ryn - and those people have made america great. not our political parties or companies, but our individuals have been the trailblazers for the rest of us.

so as i enjoy my homemade pickled beets (thanks mary o for the inspiration) and watch my squashes blossom and tomatoes ripen - i am thankful for the strong, independent individuals in our country who have inspired me to think about living a little differently, being a bit more selfish, breaking the rules when they seem arbitrary or outdated and taking the time to write and speak about it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008