Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend At Home...From Garden to Kitchen

Cabbage sprout
What a beautiful--and full--weekend! Logan, Hanna, Judy & the kids all left for a family visit in southern Cali just as Andres & I were making our way home from a backpacking trip in the Tahoe Sierras. With only the two of us on the land, Laughing Heart feels much more like a retreat space than a lively community hub. And no matter how many people are around, there is always plenty to tend to!

Feeling refreshed and inspired by a few nights deep in the woods, we were up bright and early Saturday morn to start our farm chores. We put away all the gear from our trip, cleaned up the house and were ready to greet the land. To start were the usual daily tasks of tending the cats, dogs, fish and watering the gardens, greenhouse and orchard. A quick spray and wipe down of the solar panels, which had gone awhile without cleaning. Then we decided to continue the fall prep of the greenhouse and veggie

Andres harvesting Tulsi leaves
garden. A few weeks ago, Logan, Andres & I pulled many past-prime plants, amended the soil and put in lots of seeds to begin our fall garden. So many tender sprouts have shot up since then and it was already time for thinning. We thinned the kale, lettuce, cilantro, beets, chard and spinach, saving all the pulled sprouts to enjoy in our salads! Next was lots of weeding and a little harvesting. I trimmed back the overgrown Tulsi patch, saving the cuttings for us to harvest the leaves for tea. I pulled a few more plants that had gone to flower, including the buttercrunch lettuce, whose seeds I decided to save. It's quite a chore pulling out all those tiny pods!

Buttercrunch lettuce seeds
The greenhouse was once again feeling fully loved up! There's still a little space for some fall veggies, but those will need to be purchased at a nursery. We are now past the time of summer to plant seeds and get a fully mature, healthy plant in the fall. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this, Logan! I am so appreciating learning more about gardening and all there is to consider to get your garden to thrive.

On to the veggie garden. We've had such an abundant summer of various squash, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, basil and melons in our much goodness! We've been continuously trimming back the massive squash vines to keep paths clear and make it possible to find the veggie treasures. Now it seems that the plants are nearing the end of their cycle. The two winter squash varieties we grew are both full of plump squash, ready to pick. However, I just learned from the woman who provided us the seeds that it's best to leave them on the vine if there is still life in the leaves and to harvest once all the leaves are brown or before frost comes...whichever happens first. So I continued to cut back the dead and dying leaves from these and other plants.

Where the green beans once lived
The green beans were another story. They have produced prolifically, despite having some sort of mite infestation for the past several weeks. As sad as the leaves looked, the plants all kept providing more and more beautiful and delicious beans! But now their time had come. I harvested the last of the beans and sang a song of gratitude as I pulled each of the plants and laid them to rest in the compost pile. Then I tilled the soil and scattered vetch seeds to provide a cover crop for the coming cold weather. A little more weeding and general fussing over and the garden was feeling tended.

Meanwhile, Andres had been tending other tasks. One of these was making hot sauce with peppers from our garden--yum! I'm hoping he'll write up a blog post soon with the recipe and some pics. Another task, the best of which (for me!) was him making us a beautiful and hearty brunch of poached eggs and lots of veggies from the garden, spiced up with yummy curry sauces. It was delicious, as his meals are known to be. In the midst of his cooking, he also harvested and prepped lots of basil for me to make up a big batch of pesto, which I did right after our meal. Though I don't tend to measure things out, I'm happy to share what I added into the mix. Lots
Andres plucks basil leaves
of basil, several cloves of garlic, olive oil, nutritional yeast, a little salt and some walnuts, all blended up in the food processor. Though I typically add nuts to my pesto blends, this was a first in using walnuts. While I liked the flavor, I was not so happy with the texture of this batch. Next time I will either use fewer (or no) walnuts or I will try a blend with some other variety. Still, this will make us a few good meals.

After storing the jars of pesto in the freezer, I soaked a big jar of almonds and a jar of buckwheat groats to make granola at some point in the weekend. I cleaned up the kitchen, started some laundry and decided it was time to get creative! I headed to my little art studio (a mosquito tent :-), and was just about to dive into a project when Andres came to inform me of a fire that had just been reported just a handful of miles away. We have only been in this area a little over 2 years and while we're familiar with the fire potential, we have not experienced any imminent danger. And we were unsure if the current fire (on Tyler Foote & 49) was an imminent danger. We discussed it for a few moments, while continuously refreshing YubaNet (so grateful this exists!) for updates. The fire copters could already be heard flying in to do their work. Was it over-reactive to start packing things up, or unwise to continue our day as though all were well? And should we message the family on their vacation to find out what they want packed up, or was this causing undue fear? While we had begun making a verbal list of what we would pack up and what needed our attention before leaving the land (if it should come to that), we did wait it out a bit to see what the reports said about containment. Within an hour of us learning about the fire, it was reported that much progress was being made and some resources were even being called off. An hour after that, the fire had been fully contained. The main thing this experience pointed out was that Laughing Heart needs to have an emergency protocol in place so that whoever is around knows how to tend all that needs tending (shut off the gas, collect the animals, etc) and is aware of the wishes of other landmates. Big thank yous to all the firefighters and to YubaNet for keeping us informed!

Today started out at a much slower pace than yesterday. After some morning yoga and tending to the morning feeding and watering chores, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (again by Chef Andres!) and sat in the garden for a bit. Since today was so much cooler, we decided to go harvest peaches from the big orchard. We have been blessed with SO much fruit this year--apricots, pluots, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears--we have even been able to sell some of it to support the process of growing it all. So exciting! The peaches today were beautiful and blushing, though after harvesting a couple of trees we decided to leave the rest for a few more days.
Homemade granola

Once back at home, I decided to continue the granola making process. Before going to bed last night, I strained the water from the almonds and groats and left them to dry out on cookie sheets. I gathered up lots of goodies to blend together and this is what was created. It's a combo of dates, coconut oil, almonds, walnuts, buckwheat groats, flax seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla & honey. After this picture was taken, I added raisins and coconut shreds as a final touch. Homemade granola is so the way to go! Thank you for encouraging this, Andres.

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Since the day was still cool and the oven
still hot, I decided to make good use of the situation and bake a treat! Andres LOVES when I make carrot muffins, which I haven't done in awhile. And since it is his birthday week, it seemed like the perfect time! So I pulled a few carrots from the greenhouse and collected all the ingredients. A little of this, a little more of that, stir it all up, pop it in the oven....ding! The final product, a gluten free, dairy free, hearty, chocolate chip, walnut, carrot cupcake. Looks good, smells and tastes divine! Then I decided it could use one more touch. Homemade frosting! My favorite concoction is cacao, coconut oil, vanilla, maple, cinnamon, cayenne and banana. Blend it all up, then let it solidify in the fridge for a couple's the best! A great way to wrap up a weekend of tending home, garden and loved ones. Hope your weekend was as sweet!

Cricket, hoping it's a doggie treat
One last share...these beauties are currently shining their light in the flower garden...