Posts Tagged ‘fall’

I didn’t make any money today. I didn’t get any painting done. I didn’t run any errands or do any housework or pay any bills today. But somehow it still feels like I got a lot accomplished.

I arrived early to the Cuddle Meeting.

I got some important research done.

I started my day with a balanced breakfast.

I engaged in important correspondence.

I photographed a friend.

I contemplated the yellowness of it all.

I stopped to smell the roses.

I made some abstract art.

I discovered a ghost ship in the mist.

I walked into a trap!

I appropriated a tomato.

I visited a real bees’ house. Luckily they were still sleeping.

I peeked in the windows of my dream greenhouse.

I rode up a grueling hill (yeah, that’s a hill, I promise).

I admired my photogenic steed.

I practiced scene appreciation.

And I decided that I live in the most wonderful place on Earth.

Not bad for a morning’s work!

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It’s been a little while since I posted a garden update. I never would have anticipated actually having a garden to speak of this late in the year, but one of my many great gardening discoveries of 2011 is the existence of something called cold weather crops.

Cold weather crops, winter crops, cool-season vegetables: these all describe plants that actually grow better in cool temps than their heat-loving summer counterparts. Salad greens of all types, broccoli and cauliflower, peas, and any root vegetables such as radish, carrots, beets, and so on, will grace your garden well into the chillier months.

About six weeks ago we built two new garden beds and carefully sowed a small variety of seeds. This is the first time I’ve grown a garden from seeds alone, so things were a bit messy and slow to start, especially whenever the cats would get around to haphazardly planting their own fertilizer, so to speak.

But things came around, and though I’m not entirely confident we will get much of a harvest out of some of it, I’m still ecstatic to have new little green plantlings to be checking on each day, even in the middle of October.

Our lettuce and spinach (and wild onions, incidentally) are flourishing, and taste a great deal better than the ones I had tried growing in the heat of late spring. If the spinach looks a bit sparse, it’s mostly because we’ve already begun supplementing our dinners and snack time with it.

Mmmm, spinach snacks.

Here you can see where I spilled nearly an entire package of carrot seeds on the ground between the two beds. Maybe it won’t be such a waste after all!

Farmer Ollie helps out.

He stomps his feet and claps his…paws, and turns around to view his land. (That doesn’t exactly rhyme, does it.)

Meanwhile, my summer garden bed is still churning out a few surprises. I found a surprise green pepper, but unfortunately by the time I realized it was growing there, it had been rendered inedible by some mysterious force or another.

My zinnias seem to have caught a second wind this late in the season, and the marigolds are still blooming full force.

Most wondrous of all, my crazy cherry tomato plants are going on five months of production now, still providing us with a few daily saltable snacks.

It’s good to be a farmer.

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To prepare my butternut feast, I did the following:

  • Very carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise with a very sharp knife.
  • Remove seeds, which leaves a convenient little indentation.
  • Place halves in a baking dish and brush the tops with melted butter. I also poured a bit into the scooped out part.
  • Mix together a dash of cinnamon, pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Sprinkle this over the top.
  • Sprinkle brown sugar liberally over the top, and put a few tablespoonfuls in each indentation.
  • Cover and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.
  • Uncover, and continue baking 20-30 minutes, or until the squash reaches your desired state of tenderness.
  • Enjoy!
I found that the melted butter and sugar mixture was the tastiest part of the dish. You can scoop out spoonfuls of the flesh and dip it into the pool of yummy goodness. Or, you can scoop out out all the flesh into a separate dish and mix in the melted sugar concoction, mashed potatoes and gravy style. For more flavor, add just a bit more nutmeg or cinnamon to the finished product.
Next time, I plan to cube the squash before I cook it, or perhaps scoop out the flesh about half way through the baking process. I think this might subtract some baking time, as well as allowing more surface area to crisp up a bit. Yum!

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My New Favorite Family

I don’t ever remember eating a zucchini, until this summer. I’m not sure how I could have gone almost 28 years of my life without ever having tried a bite of zucchini, but quite frankly I don’t think I ever had much of an opportunity. I didn’t even know what a zucchini looked like. I hang my head in shame.

As for squash in general, I’m afraid my experiences aren’t much more sophisticated. I’ve always had a vague knowledge that a pumpkin is a type of squash, and that it can somehow be put into a can, which is then used to make pies in November. One time, a few years ago, I had a butternut squash soup at a fancy restaurant. I felt really brave for eating it, even though I had no idea what a butternut squash was like, except orangish as a soup.

All that changed at the farmers’ market this summer. I picked up a funny little yellow thing that they told me was a summer squash. I think I may have asked what to do with it. It was lying in a basket next to some similar looking green things, so I got one of each and lo and behold, summer squash and zucchini made their debut in my life.

I’m pretty fascinated with squash these days. Summer squash is easy to grow and can be thrown into almost any dish to add flavor and heartiness. Winter squash is a whole new world that I haven’t even begun to fathom as of yet. I don’t know quite what to do with them, but I do know that they are more than just beautiful as decoration, and they have really awesome names, unlike most vegetables: Carnival, Fairytale Pumpkin, Delicata, Gold Nugget, Turban, Spaghetti, Golden Acorn!

When I think about the culinary possibilities of squash, I feel like Bubba with his shrimp. The possibilities are endless with such a versatile fruit! Squash can be baked, it can be fried, it can supplement stews and pastas and rice dishes, it can be served raw with dips though I wouldn’t recommend it. Squash makes pies, it makes soups, it makes casseroles and breads and even cookies sometimes. You can keep your Thanksgiving decor piled up on your centerpiece and it may still be edible months later!

My favorite part about squash, though, is its bang for your buck. Not only are they outrageously nutritious and delicious and durable, but they are insanely inexpensive! Just tonight I made a hearty meal for two, using just $2 worth of summer squash and red potatoes. I even used the expensive kind of potatoes, and came up with a $1-a-serving meal. Yum.

Now, this guy was a bit more expensive. At almost $4, this was the most pricey thing in my shopping basket. I’m not quite sure exactly what to do with it, but I’m sure it’s going to fill our bellies with delicious goodness, and is going to be worth every one of those 377 pennies..

I’ve been eyeing those decorative piles of autumn edibles at the grocery store with a new eye these days, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the squash family as if it were my very own. Only more tasty.

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October Ambitions

October is nigh, and I’ve got the cold toes to prove it. Fortunately for everyone involved, Jeff bought me these cute new kitty socks to help keep my digits warm…

This past month has been a doozy. I’ve been in a funk for most of it, and just now am starting to feel like the chemical balance is returning to my brain. Not to say that it’s been all stress and melancholy, no not at all. On September 3rd I was having a particularly bad weekend, and Jeff drove me to one of our favorite spots to help cheer me up. This secret little place of ours is a tiny park in Rocky Ripple, where the public can gain access to a fantastically undeveloped bend in the White River. All you can see is water, trees, fish, and a park bench on the opposite bank. It’s a quick getaway in the middle of the city, giving an immediate sense of peace and an air of solitude. As we drove through the neighborhood on our way out, we spotted a house that we both instantly loved. I hopped out and grabbed a flier, and the whole process began…

Much of September has been consumed by our first adventure in home-buying. We’ve been viewing, inspecting, deliberating, negotiating, anticipating, and wishful thinking for what seems like months now. If all goes as planned, we will be moving into our new home by the end of October. We couldn’t be happier about it.

Aside from that unexpected escapade, we spent our first real vacation together, touring the great state of California and visiting some excellent tour guides family members. We saw an enormous amount of fantastic sights in a short time, and it turned out to be a very relaxing getaway.

In spite of all the fun and excitement, I have to say I’m glad to put September behind me, and try to get back into some sort of normalcy groove. To help me in that, I’ve given myself a few goals to complete in October.

My first goal is to work on streamlining my belongings. A move into a new place is a great time to clear the cobwebs and begin anew. Any objects that I don’t use or treasure on a regular basis will be passed along to the next person who is willing to use/hoard/treasure them.

Second, I have a kitty in my care who desperately needs to be taught how to be loved. Hunter has been at the shelter for some time now and only very gradually making any progress from his stressed state. My hope is that a loving home environment and lots of back scratches will get him back to the point where he starts acting more like a cat and less like a hunted rabbit.

My third goal for this month is to draw. I spent a lot of time this summer salvaging vintage items and making things, but it’s been too long since I sat down with a sketchbook and a pen and let my imagination wander for a few hours.

And finally, I need to remedy the fact that vacations and slumps and home buying are not conducive to keeping up with a healthy lifestyle. Lots of fruits and veggies and time spent outdoors walking and hiking and exploring must be on the agenda for a great October.

And I think it will be a great October.

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