Tag Archives: gardening

Dear Tom, my son promised he wouldn’t weaponize the ghost peppers.

Ghost Peppers or Red Naga: Where the Ghost Pepper is From and Why It’s so Hot.

20161115_121017

The (dreaded) Red Naga.

My son made me grow them. He has plans. I did warn him there would be no weaponizing of the Ghost Peppers. Merely harvesting them was scary enough. For the time being they are safely ensconced in my freezer. Along with these chilies- bought the seedlings from a corner vendor:

20161115_121038

Chilies Diablo.

All he could say was~ “Chilies Diablo. Muy caliente.” So far I’ve harvested two quart bags and I’ve got at least another couple quarts still ripening on the plants. I too have plans!

Sambal Oelek!

I’ve very excited about this! Chrismukkah presents for all!

I’ve had a little time on my hands and a little produce left over from last year. Finally got around to dealing with it.

I added this year’s quince harvest to last year’s harvest (freezer) and made two pints of quince jam. The stuff is like gold! A gallon of quinces made a measly two pints.

20161115_120927

Quince Jam.

I also dried my drunken figs. Yes, drunken. They’ve been soaking in rum for a year, I’ll have you know! I dried them with my new food dehydrator.

20161115_120917

Dried Drunken Figs.

These are killer, man. Each one is like a shot of rum.

I thought I’d give a shout out to Jake- He treed a mountain lion last week. Dang! The thing was yowling at him like a kazoo! Jake went insane chasing the lion across the yard. It managed to scramble up into one of our redwoods. Seriously, the yowling sounded like a kazoo. My son said, “Mom, I don’t think there are any wild kazoos marauding around Napa.” Took me a long time to get the dog back in so the lion could be on his/her merry way. Hey, I don’t care about mountain lions. They snag the vicious marauding raccoons, so… (And yeah, it’s always me who has to go out and retrieve the dog. Oscar can sleep through an earthquake.)

Speaking of raccoons– Another shout out to my goldfish. Our little pond is a good example of survival of the fittest. This tough guy is two years old! He’s outlasted twelve other goldfish, all of whom have been eaten by raccoons and egrets. He’s super smart. Has a good hiding place. Only comes out for me even though I’ve never fed him. Occasionally I pull out some of the algae, otherwise the pond is a nice little ecosystem. Provides him with all the food he requires.

20161115_115947

The Goldfish.

His name is Fishy-Fishy. If anyone has a better suggestion I’m sure he won’t mind.

Still recovering. More on that at a later time.

That’s about it for now. Peace out.

Julia

 

Advertisements

Dear Tom, this morning’s harvest~

20160605_081129

Garlic. Purple potatoes. A couple leftover spring onions.

Yesterday I harvested asparagus, three bunches of celery, and a big bunch of broccoli. Now that the garlic is out of the ground I’ve got to get the clover-stuff out of the bed. Last year I purchased plants from a new nursery and unfortunately contaminated one entire bed with this yellow clover-ish weed. You can see some with the garlic.

My four baby robins fledged! Now a pair of mockingbirds have moved into the robin’s nest. They spend all their spare time begging for worms (making sounds like a puppy) and attacking Jake. Unlike the great horned owl, he can safely ignore them.

Yesterday we went to a beautiful beach. Jake had a wonderful time. He ran around like a maniac, then he and Oscar took a three mile hike. Unfortunately my climbing days are over until I’ve had surgery and rehabbed, so I walked along the shore and collected semi-precious stones. Then we drove over the Golden Gate into San Francisco to meet our youngest and her boyfriend for coffee. He lives at the very top of one of those hellacious hills and yes, I drove. Driving up the hills scares me to death. I always feel as if my car is going to flip upside down. Down doesn’t bother me. But believe me, I’d rather be driving than sitting in the passenger seat. I remember the first time I rode in the passenger seat up one of those hills – I was nineteen years old. I insisted the driver stop and let me out. I walked up the hill.

Last night we got lost in the mountains outside of Lafayette, looking for a retirement dinner. One of my husband’s managers is retiring after 40 years. The event was held in the middle of the wilderness (not kidding) at the end of a single-track road after we’d wound our way through a maze of country roads. Reminded me of the roads in Scotland but without the necessary turnouts. We had a hill on one side and a cliff on the other. We somehow managed to make it there without encountering another car (3 miles). The way home was another matter. All I can say is at least we were on the hill side, not the cliff side.

I only mention this retirement dinner because it made me sad. This woman has dedicated her life to her job. She’s married but has no children and only one sister. Her co-workers are both her family and her closest friends and now she’s leaving them.

There was a photo retrospective running on a loop on a big screen television.

Oscar’s co-worker is a happy healthy 70 year old woman. She radiates warmth and intelligence. But I experienced this weird disconnect as I watched the slide show. I’ve only known her for a couple years and I know little of her history. I was, to be frank, stunned. She was a glamorous young thing. She had model looks, kind of a combination of Bridgette Bardot and Twiggy. I had this completely inappropriate thought – If anyone ever makes one of these retrospectives of me I’ll come back from the grave and kill them. I think it’s kind of the same reason movie stars don’t watch their old movies. We’re young and then one day we get old. It ain’t always pretty.

Time does fly, doesn’t it?

XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, Remember that skunk?

Well, she apparently lives under our deck and she has a litter. I can’t fence her out of the yard away from her babies. I just can’t do it. So we’re learning to live with the situation. At least there is no odor. When they babies grow up and everyone leaves, we will figure out a way to close the gaps along the sides of the deck.

In the meantime, we are in the midst… wait, let me clarify. I am in the midst of rebuilding our broken fence (the rotting areas of the back fence and side fence the skunk uses to get in and out of the yard)– so I’ll have to cut a couple holes in a couple old boards. I’ll replace the boards later. I’d rather cut holes than have her rip down the new boards or dig beneath them.

I say ‘I‘ because Oscar is out of town and has been for two weeks. Which allows me to get stuff done. No offense, Tom, but husbands, aside from you, say they’ll complete a project yet somehow never get around to starting it. At least that’s been my experience. Of course in this case it’s just as well. As my plumber once said – “Do I diagnose your husband’s patients??? Well tell him to keep his hands off my toilets!!!”

I got new carpet installed in his home office. (OMG that carpet was soooo awful!) I’m fixing a broken coffee table- yeah, me, as in I’m doing it myself- so I can move it (can’t move it with a broken claw foot, it’s too heavy and I don’t want to break it worse) along with all the other furniture in the family room in order to replace the big threadbare throw rug. And then I’m tackling the hardwood floors. I’ve been studying up on how to refinish worn areas.

Yep. Jake and I are going to town. Speaking of Jake…

His robins are back, in the same nest. Mama robin has laid at least four eggs. I’m so busy feeding her worms I have no time to write. Boy, does she have it good. Since robins have a relatively short lifespan, I figure giving her and her babies a leg up is the least I can do. She sits on the nest, flutters down to the worm feeder for an occasional bite. Gets a drink out of the bird bath, maybe takes a plunge or two, and then heads back to the nest. She never has to leave the yard. Sweet. She’s even willing to share the feeder with the towhees, who have babies of their own, and two pairs of mourning doves. She’s pretty nasty to the blue jays though. Can’t say I blame her but I do miss their squawking.

What does this have to do with Jake? He hangs out in the yard with the birds. They love him. He keeps the predators at bay. None of the songbirds fear the dog. They hop all around him, preening, feeding, bathing, drinking. He likes birds. Now the squirrels… they are another matter altogether. And that skunk… Jake has grown wary.  He won’t go outside at night unless I turn on all the floodlights first. And even then he sniffs the air before he sets one foot on the deck.

He’s been a great companion in Oscar’s absence. Not hyper. Rather, he’s showing a lot of self-control. I think it’s because I’m pretty chill while Oscar is pretty loud and sporty, (kinda like Sporty Spice) and he gets him revved up.

Yesterday Jake and I had to wait on the side of a trail for thirty minutes. We happened to hit a bend in the river trail the same time as a kids’ 5-K. He and I needed to cross right at their turnaround point. There were so many participants, and the trail is so narrow, we were forced to wait until the end of the race. But you know, he just lay there like an angel and every single kid was cooing and fawning over him. Fortunately he likes kids. But if you’re an old lady in a floppy hat, beware. Jake hates nothing more than a floppy hat. Fortunately we didn’t see any floppy hats yesterday, although today we did see an old lady wearing an enormous floppy straw hat and, of course, even though she was across the road Jake had to bark at her.

Well, I’ve talked long enough. Will chat again soon. Love, Julia XOXO!

Dear Tom, Spring has sprung!

You’ll appreciate the fact that I’m already using produce from my garden.

Asparagus – oh yes – for weeks now.

Last night I harvested arugula, cilantro, baby garlic, and my secret green – wild stinging nettle. Love stinging nettle!

20160323_182920

Stinging nettle. Great green, if you know how to use it.

20160323_1829100

Cilantro, arugula and baby garlic.

I harvested and washed the young greens. (Always wear gloves when picking nettles. I just covered my hands with a dishtowel and tossed them directly into a glass bowl of hot water – nuked them in the microwave for 90 seconds and voila! No sting. Nettles are better than spinach. And they are super healthy. They have a delicate flavor. Always pick before they bloom.)

Then I chopped everything coarsely and stuffed it all into my food processor, along with maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper and 1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Because I wanted the pesto to be shiny, I added two raw egg yolks. (Just me. Feel free to leave out.)

I cooked up a box of pasta and opened a bag of frozen baby peas. Dumped the peas in a big mixing bowl, dumped the hot pasta plus three scoops of boiling pasta water on top of the peas and then stirred in the pesto.

20160324_114543

Later I’ll add some additional salt and Parmesan cheese to taste.

Yummy spring pesto pasta! Welcome to springtime in California!

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, Bigfoot struck again!

Seriously. No frakkin’ shite.

I’ve been keeping quiet about this because y’all will think I’ve lost my marbles. Well, maybe I have…

Two weeks ago, about 7 a.m., I went out into the backyard. I was alone. Hubs had left for work and the dog was already in the car. Usually the dog goes out first thing in the morning, but that particular morning he refused to go outside and instead wanted to get into the car to wait for our hike. Thus I figured I’d take the opportunity to feed my wild birds. It’s hard to feed the birds with the dog around because he barks like a maniac.

The setting:

My backyard. We have a fenced backyard. A line of majorly tall redwood trees. A six foot wide easement behind the fence that used to run all the way from the main road to the end of our block, opening into what used to be an orchard. On the other side of the main road is forest, a creek bed, and more forest. Both our gates are padlocked. Locked. No one can get in without either climbing over, in which case Jake would go after him, or breaking down the gate. Which would make a whole lot of noise.

It was a cold morning. Maybe 28′. Frosty. I went out to check my mealworm feeders first. When I walked back to the deck I spotted this footprint on the first step leading up to the deck~

20160114_081951

I did a double take. That is not my foot. Besides, as you can see, I was wearing flip-flops.

20160114_082001

If you’d been there, you’d actually have seen that the foot was much wider than mine, (not to mention the fact that my little toe does not look like that!) and you would have observed that the person/thing only placed a portion of its foot on the step. I couldn’t find any additional footprints because the deck itself was wet.

I freaked out.

20160114_082052

My husband said- artifact. I said- artifact of what? A foot?

And it gets even weirder. Just last week I found two footprints on the step leading up to the deck~ a right foot and a left foot, huge footprints. I ran to get my husband and grab my phone so I could take a picture. Unfortunately as we both ran outside, Jake ran out with us, tried to take the turn too fast, crashed onto his side, and rolled right over the footprints (the deck was icy) and he smeared the prints. We could see them, but not clearly. Not like the print above. Jake smushed the toes. Here’s what remained after his smears had dried somewhat and the deck had thawed- you can see the dog hair where he fell:

20160130_091822

So what am I to make of this?

A. How did a person manage to climb over a six foot fence, at night, yet make no noise whatsoever? Because German shepherds do bark… at everything.

B. Why would said person be walking about barefoot when it’s cold and wet outside? We do have winter here…

C. Why are these feet so dang big?

D. Why me?

In other news, we went to the PBR in Sacramento- OMG! It was soooo fun!

Miss you, Tom! XOXO! Julia

 

Dear Tom, I’m sorry I haven’t written but I’ve been busy going insane.

First off let me say this – it is no fun, as in zero fun, to drive to the Oakland Airport and back four times in ten days, San Francisco and back three times in ten days, and get an injection of radioactive shit, be forced to drink three liters of water in three hours, and then lie flat on your back on a hard-ass plastic table, not moving, for an entire hour, while the bones in your foot are scanned. (Both of my feet were taped to a plastic form so I couldn’t move them if I’d tried.)

You know, I used to model, as in life-model for art classes. You would think the hardest thing was being naked in front of like forty people. Nope. The hardest thing in the world was not moving. That was super hard. And if you have one of those drawings of me stashed away, please keep it stashed away. In my defense the money was really good. And I had bills to pay.

On the bright side my youngest DOES NOT have lymphoma- yeah, been dealing with this, and it has been confirmed~ I am, as I’ve been saying all along, a super taster.

Brain

Oh, I’ve also been doing stuff with books, lots of stuff, which makes me think I should quit writing altogether and take up painting. Again. I like painting. It’s messy good fun. And I won’t have to think about the bazillions of awful books sold every single day while my amazing books sell one or two copies a month.

So yes, she DOES NOT have lymphoma. Scared the crap out of us, as you can imagine. But I got to sit in a Radioactive lab, as in I was the only person, place or thing in the room not encased in lead. Even the syringe used to inject the radioactive substance into my vein was encased in lead. But we know I’m a super taster because… well, I have said it for years. Cilantro tastes like chlorine gas. Arugula makes me vomit. The tap water tastes like penicillin mold. Raisins taste like poison. That wine tastes like creosote and sweat. (This is supposed to be a good thing?) Ladybugs are bitter when you accidentally ingest one. The dog’s feet smell like popcorn. The cat smells like bacon. There’s a skunk five miles away…) Anywhooo… So Debbie, as in her name was Debbie and I really liked her despite her lead get-up, started an IV. (A feat in itself. You try starting an IV wearing lead gloves.) She said, “All you’ll feel is the IV. You won’t feel a thing with the injection. You won’t get sick. There are no side effects. You won’t even know I’ve injected it.” Thus she injected it. Within a second of the injection, I said, “Ewwwwww. That’s not true. There is a side effect.” And she asked, “Oh? What?” And I said, “That injection tastes like the inside of an old tuna can dipped in garlic.”

And she said, “Huh. So you’re one of the one-percent who can taste the radiation.”

Ha! Again~ Brain

Perhaps I can get a job tasting for radiation.

In the meantime it’s fall, which means harvest. So…

Yesterday I used the last of the beets, the last head of cabbage, and some of the potatoes to make borscht – with beef. No, I didn’t grow the beef. My daughter did.

Today I’m pulling the skins off the mucho tomatoes I harvested to make tomato sauce to go with the eggplants I harvested so I can make eggplant Parmesean. And I have been ordered by my children, yes, my children still order me about, to make both chocolate croissants and a Coca-cola cake. Yep. There is such a thing as a Coca-cola cake. And I have been ordered to bake one as in this afternoon. The croissants I’ll freeze raw so they can bake and eat as desired. But since one of the children DOES NOT have lymphoma I will bake and freeze and can and sauce whatever she wants. And I will do it with gratitude in my heart.

Oh, about the books… What books? Who has time for books???

XOXO! Miss you, Tom. My thoughts are with Ishbel and your kids and grandkids. Julia