Monday, July 7, 2008

If we were farmers, we would starve

The boy and I spent our 3 day weekend building up our set of homesteading skills. Wistfully, we talk about how great it would be if we could eat from our garden almost year round. Well, unless we want to thrive on lemons and weeds (hey,we'll never have scurvy!), we have a long way to go. Yet, hope springs eternal and we spent many therapeutic hours working in our wanna be garden.

Our tomatoes are sad and few. At last count, there were 4 of them. I picked a variety, sweetwater select, that is compact (perfect for a container) and that can fruit in the fog. Grow, damn it, grow! I dream of making Harriet the Spy sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise, freshly baked bread, and homegrown tomatoes.

The boy grew this little gem lettuce from seed. I never buy lettuce at the produce stand, mainly because I find making salads boring, so lettuce never finds its way into my produce cart. The boy decided to grow his own greens so he wouldn't have to beg me for salad greens.

We also planted an embarrassment of chard. I've witnessed chard growing in the most neglected spaces around my neighborhood, so I figured it would be the perfect vegetable for us. I planted both golden and ruby chard. This is our second try because our first attempt was mowed down by some unidentified slugs. Those damn slugs hide well... I even went outside at night armed with a flashlight and a bucket of soapy water in the hopes of catching the little vegetable stealers at work, but no luck. This time, we planted the chard (which is so easy to start from seed) in pots on our deck. These specimens are about 3 weeks old.

Citrus is the one plant I have no trouble growing at our place. We grow meyer lemons, key limes, and kaffir limes in wine barrels. The kaffir limes rarely fruit, however, that is fine since I am really only interested in their fragrant leaves. You can add kaffir leaves to Southeast Asian foods for a perfumy, citrus kick.

Our meyer lemon tree is going all out this year. I am excited! It's also chock full of bees right now, so the boy and I can smugly say that we're doing our part for the bee crisis.

We also spent a fair amount of time in our front yard

and the backyard. Those leafy, green plants kissing the ferns are wild ginger. My task was to propagate as much of the wild ginger as I could along the rest of the hillside. It grows slowly, but since it is naturally paired with coastal redwoods (the majority of our yard has one of these), it thrives. Unfortunately, it isn't an easy plant to find at our local nurseries, and when we do find it, we never want to spend that much money on something we can get for free, however slow the process may be to reproduce it. Supposedly, you can make a tea from the ginger leaves, but I have not tried it yet.

While at a drugstore, we found a cushion that covers up the missing black paint on our bookcases. Mingus is to blame, for he spends hours each day laying on top of the bookcase and looking out the windows. We've already repainted the bookcase once with an epoxy paint, but he still managed to scratch that away, too. Since this cushion's is for outdoor furniture, it's made of tough material! When summer patio furniture goes on sale, I am so going to be raiding all the stores since these cushions also make for cheap dog and cat beds. Wouldn't the colors of the cushion make great sock yarn???!

Our biggest weekend adventure was teaching ourselves how to can. I'm already having panic attacks about the end of summer fruit, and the boy is always interested in yet another self sufficiency skill to add to our bag of tricks, so we decided that we had to learn. The equipment was relatively cheap, and it was all found at our local hardware store. Our first canning attempt was to can the rest of our sauerkraut. I think it turned out well, but yet again, Mingus is not impressed.

In fact, he was quite embarrassed that we'd go through all this work just for cabbage.

Oh well, I don't expect him to understand.


  1. I'm so JEALOUS!!! I wanna grow stuff!!! WAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

    I so need to get my butt in gear and get some stuff planted. What's the best thing for a procrastinator to grow? You know, something that can be planted ANYTIME OF THE YEAR (because I will always put off that part!) and isn't fussy about requiring things like regular WATER and stuff like that? Ooorrrr....maybe something that can TALK and tell me that what it needs....after all, that's how my KIDS are still alive!

  2. Leann--the answer to your question is zucchini. You cannot mistreat or kill it in the Bay Area. You will have submarine-sized zucchini boats if you're not careful.

  3. That sounds great...but I live in the Central Valley where we have more heat and less water than the Bay Area! I still might try zucchini...but I have to clear out the corner of the yard I wanted to use. you have me thinking...I would also LOVE to grow my own herbs for tea. You know, just the basics like lavender and mint....

    HEY! I thought this was a knitting and cooking blog!!! How did we get on GARDENING???

    Wildtomato, you really DO do it all!!!

    *giggle* I said 'DO do!'

  4. I've had great luck keeping the slugs & snails away with copper--I read about using copper flashing, but I just ring the plants with pennies.

    And, Phoenix Pastificio often trades pasta for meyer lemons!

  5. Ooh, I'm glad the canning experiment went well - now you're all ready for blackberry picking!!

    Copper pennies to keep slugs away? I guess they're still worth something after all!

  6. i thought pennies had hardly any copper in them anymore, though...

  7. My tomatoes started so slow this summer (only 4 ripe so far) but now they are bursting with tiny green globes of promise. Of course, the last 2 globes of promise were eaten by some insect that was smaller than the chicken wire I have all around my potted tomatoes.

    If you want to feel good, grow mint :-) I'm trying valiantly to kill mine!



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