Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Huzzah! I'm happy!

got this in my email today, finally some good news in the midst of real life stress.

Dear University of California Master Gardener Program Applicant:


You have been accepted into the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program!Attached please find a letter with complete details. If you are unable to open the attachment, please note that hardcopies of the same information were mailed to you today.Welcome to the world of volunteerism and Master Gardening.
We look forward to meeting you and to your involvement in what we hope will prove a rewarding and fulfilling experience!

Janet Hartin
Jackie Brooks
University of California Cooperative Extension
University of California Cooperative Extension Environmental Horticulturist and MG Program Manager
MG Program Coordinator

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peaches (For SonomaMom)

SonomaGarden got me to thinking about peaches. We picked these back in mid June, they were wonderfully juicy. I wish we had some ripe peaches right now LOL. Hopefully next year all 8 varieties will give and we can enjoy them all summer long.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Oh Snap! (Beans)

Growing up my experience of beans was refried from a can or glued to construction paper for some sort of a craft. I knew green beans existed, they were in cans in my mother's pantry where every once in a while she'd dump the lot into a pot, boil it, and serve. ewwwww. I hated the taste, the texture...just ickick ick. Everytime I saw that french's frid onion commercial of " I brought the green bean caserole!" I shuddered and couldnt imagine how that was a good "Welcome Neighbor" gift. So naive I was...

So this year when I had a 'free' row to try and grow something new I wanted something easy to grow, liked warm weather and gave a good bounty for its space. On the forums I haunt it was suggested I try pole or bush beans. I was very iffy at first, I had this image of a row of beans that when shelled would give about 2 cups worth of beans...until I researched them a bit more and found out you eat the thing pod and all as green beans when young and tender. Something about "young, tender, green, & delicious!" got me hooked. It was a great sales pitch. Since this was my first time growing them I wanted to go with a variety that was full proof and bountiful, so I looked on Burpee and there was rave reviews for their Bush Bean Heavyweight II so I ordered a packet and hoped for the best. So far they have lived up to their 'hype' and given us quite anabundance of pods, I cant get them blanched and frozen fast enough LOL. I still had no idea how to cook the darn things...but I felt happy I had them LOL. Until I found a mouthwatering recipe for green beans from The Pioneer Woman blog...I thought I had died and found heaven in a vegetable....those beans were so damn good I ate them cold the next day like a cold green ean is that amazingly good (and simple to boot).
Eventually I bought a packet with 3 different colors beans ot fill in betwene where some beans didnt grow, so now I have some purple and yellow beans growing too, very pretty! Sadly when pickled they dont stay purple...and the yellow ones just kinda turn white...

Edible Weeds: lots to love about Purslane

I was poking around on mother earth news and was reading an interesting article on how healthy purslane is and I had to feel a bit guilty- I spent a couple of hours today pulling weeds and purslane is the most common weed I have. I don't aim to keep my garden perfectly weed free but even with landscape fabric, cornmeal, and mulch its a never ending battle against spurge, burmuda grass and purslane for precious water and space. I remember reading about edible weeds in "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" years ago so I reasoned it was safe to add to my compost bin unlike most other weeds. For some reason I havent been able to bring myself to eat 'weeds'- yet.
I guess its because I'm not much of a salad fan so as tasty as dandelions, sheperds purse and purslane may be I have the excuse of not being a salad person to avoid eating them. But in the name of good gardening as well as being more open minded I will probably nibble on some purslane and see how it is. I mean really, if its thriving in your garden,its plentiful, and its FREE and its healthy why not eh? Talk about the ultimate freebie!

If I can be 'brave' enought to forego the traditional lawn and water greedy landscape plants for edibles I may as well try the stuff I didnt plan on planting but showed up anyway. How about you guys?

Do you go as far as to cultivate what others consider weeds ( dandelion, chicweed, dock, purslane, miners lettuce, etc) or just joyfully pick whats edible as you pull other less wanted pests? Just poking on Mother Earth news I found 2 articles of interest, of course theres good ole google if you're looking for more :)

Power-Packed Purslane

I posted this on the Freedom Gardener forums and I wasnt the only one suprised that this 'weed' is so awesome! I also found a few more links via other posters. This site here deals with edible/medicinal wild plants groups by month, heres the link to their July page with many useful facts on purslane, some recipes, and more links to other sites mentioning purslane.

Last but not least one of my favorite blogers SonomaMom had this wonderful looking recipe for a Turkish Purslane Stew

So next time I go on a weeding frenzy I'm going to finally put that weed to good use and try eating it.

Freedom Gardeners Unite!

I now have another forum to go hang out on in my free time. :) But don't worry, MCD 'Diggin in the Earth' remains in my daily rounds as well. My username (on both) is Geogal17


Seeding Change: Website Seeks to Liberate Diets—and Wallets—from Supermarket
Site’s “100-Foot Diet” Brings Local Food Movement Home
PASADENA, CA. - July 7, 2008 - Think of it as Facebook meets the Farmer’s Almanac: A social networking site for backyard pioneers who want to fight soaring food prices and global warming by growing their own food. At, novice and expert growers from all over the world can gather to post success stories, ask questions, and challenge one another to ever-increasing levels of self-sustained living.
The site is backed by the example of its founders, the Dervaes family, the urban-dwelling “eco-pioneers” who have been growing most of their own food since 2001. On their one-fifth acre residential lot in Pasadena, Jules Dervaes and his three adult children, Anais, Justin, and Jordanne, grow over 400 varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers-with enough left over to run an award-winning “green” business selling fresh organic produce to local restaurants and caterers.
Few can match that output, but the Dervaeses say that by growing at least a portion of what they eat, “Freedom Gardeners” everywhere can take back control from the corporate food system. In the process, they can improve their health, reduce their ecological footprint, and save money. With food price inflation at the highest levels since 1990, the latter may be the most compelling reason to join what the Dervaeses call their “homegrown revolution(TM).”
To motivate new gardeners and focus their efforts, Freedom Gardens offers challenges like the 100-Foot Diet. With a nod to the 100-Mile Diet and other “eat local” initiatives, the 100-Foot Diet urges people to garden in whatever space they have available, be it a small patio or a spacious backyard, then prepare at least one meal a week using as many homegrown ingredients, and as few store-bought ingredients, as possible.
Mr. Dervaes uses the illustration of a target to explain the 100-Foot Diet in the context of the global food economy and the distance food travels from field to plate. “The outer ring of the target is overseas, while the circle at 1,500 miles represents the average distance produce in a grocery store travels. The 100-mile diet is getting you closer to the center. But, the 100-foot diet is actually bringing you right back to your home, and that is the bull’s-eye,” he says. “We want people to look for food security in their own backyard.”
Freedom Gardens is an offshoot of the family’s first website,, a seven year-old sustainable living blog that gets 5 million hits per month from 125 different countries. The new, more interactive site uses social networking software to connect visitors with other gardeners in their area. They can share tips about local climate and soil issues, display which challenges they are participating in on their profiles, and find others nearby doing the same challenge.
“We are providing the setting for ‘over-the-fence’ chats,” says Mr. Dervaes. “Neighbors can help each other more than we can from our particular locale. Through the website, we facilitate their getting together.”
Growing your own diet is not easy, but the Dervaeses are living proof that it is not impossible either. In their first year of full-time gardening, the family’s harvest was over 2,300 pounds; by 2003, their yearly take had reached over 6,000 pounds. This year they have challenged themselves to reach a new all-time high: 10,000 pounds from a one-tenth acre urban garden.
The Dervaes family has received several local awards and congressional recognition for their environmental contributions and outreach efforts. They have been the subject of numerous articles in newspapers around the country, including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, and were recently featured on ABC’s Nightline and CNN.
About Freedom Gardens
Launched in May 2008, Freedom Gardens is a social networking website for gardeners and homegrown food enthusiasts. The site’s founders, the Dervaes family, draw on years of personal experience on their model urban homestead to help others take back control of their diets and their budgets by growing more of their own food. For more information, please visit

The season of Bounty is upon us, woot!

Just taking a break from the sweltering hot kitchen...todays preserved count thus far:

5 quarts of Dilly Beans

8 pints of Fig Jam

2 Trays of fig dehydrating

1 tray of 'fig leather'

1 tray of tomatos drying

3 pounds of banana cut up and frozen

2 gallon bag packed with bell pepper strips frozen

I HAD to use those figs today or lose them, when I picked them yesterday most were almost to the point of overripe, the sudden humidity with the heat made a whole bunch ripen on the tree even faster then I would have anticipated. They were too squishy to can whole. I still have 4 quarts of whole figs in syrup in the pantry ( I gave some away to family), they look cool in the jars. I'm watching the tree more carefully, with the next 'wave' of figs I want to can them whole again.

My face is all greasy feeling, all that steam and boiling water from canning and blanching is like a sauna, opens the pores which is good I guess but man I feel hot and gross. I keep washing my hands and face to cool off and not feel so oily but my face keeps pumping out more LOL. I'm just letting the kids eat something then mybe they will go take a little nap so I can shower.

I need to do another tray of tomatos in the dehydrator and probably chop some to freeze as well. I have the rest of the row of green beans to pick as well, I only got thru about 5 plants worth, they are so packed with beans right now. Need to do something with the eggplant....not sure if I can freeze it. Oh wait, lookkee HERE I can freeze it , nifty! Fresh eggplant to make curry with for the next few weeks.

I also have a bumper cop of basil I need to do something with, its flowering. I'll probably end up freezing it for later. I tried to keep up with snipping it so it wouldnt flower and affect the flavor, but serious, basil WANTS to flower, I swear the more you snip it the faster it tried to flower LOL. Time for frozen pesto.