Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Just after it finished blooming last November, I realized that I'd never photographed it in bloom. This was probably because, until recently, I hadn't really brought my camera to work much. Last week I noticed it had a few buds and was going to have a second smaller bloom soon. If I'm lucky when I get to work tomorrow morning the buds will have opened and if I'm not totally brain dead, I will have remembered my camera and will photograph the flowers.
I've read that a Christmas cactus needs 13 hours of darkness to set buds and that they should not be kept in rooms that have evening lighting if you want them to bloom. I guess this little plant is evidence I'm not burning the midnight oil at work and that my office stays dark in the evenings.
Monday, January 30, 2006
1. It's fresher and tastes better.
2. Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen. They can be harvested when they are ripe, not ahead of time to ship long distances.
3. Varieties can be grown for taste, not for their ability to ship long distances.
4. Shipping of food less distances is better for air quality and pollution.
5. Regional varieties not available for mass markets may be available.
6. It supports local farmers and the local economy.
7. It supports sustainablilty in agriculture and helps maintain open space in the state.
8. It builds community
It will be great when Belmont has a farmers' market. Years ago the town had many market gardens that served the nearby city. Looking closely at the town seal you can see Pomona, the goddess of fruit. I guess you might say the town is looking back to its roots.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
For more Weekend Dog Blogging head over to Sweetnicks later tonight.
This guilty pup, Kahlil, has his face is hidden, because close investigation of him and the scene below today proved him to be, as they say, 'the perp' .
That's the cyclamen, I bought last week. :(
Some days I wonder why I get so few things on my to-do list done. The end of the day comes and maybe only one or two of the things I've listed are checked off. If this happens to you, I suggest keeping track of the things that you actually do for one day. Then check those things off. You'll have lots of things checked off at the end of the day and feel like you have accomplished something. This works especially well if you have small children. So today I added to my list. "clean up plant and vacume rug". I also added "wash jacket". That got added after I put some eggs I collected from my chickens in my pockets and then forgot and kneeled down in the yard I managed to break one. I know it seems stupid to collect eggs in my pockets, but I've been doing it for years without an accident until today. I've often forgotten I had an egg in my pocket and only realized hours later when I've reached into my pocket. They are stronger than you think. What I didn't get to today was my fun project, the cold frame. There's not enough progress to post yet. Maybe in a few days...
Saturday, January 28, 2006
It seem unfair to have a food post without a recipe so I'll also post the soup recipe that I made yesterday for a different friend who came by for lunch.
It's a chick pea carrot soup with tahini in it. It's a thick hearty soup and is rather easy to make. It's one of those soups that just doesn't look good in pictures though. I also just realized that the tahini in this recipe and the sesame seeds actually give this post a sesame theme. Funny how that happens. My friend is a vegetarian, so I substituted vegetable stock for the chicken stock and it still came out just as good. I usually make my own chicken stock, but when I don't, I use Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth or their Vegetable Broth. Next to homemade, it's my favorite stock.
Chickpea Soup with Carrots and Tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb. carrots, chopped
1 onion chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped very fine or put through a press
1/2 cup tahini (this is sesame seed puree)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt (only if needed)
4 cups chicken stock
In a pan large enough to hold everything, add the oil and saute the onions, carrots and garlic until the onions are golden and the carrots have softened.
Put the chickpeas, tahini, lemon, juice and a cup or so of the broth in a blender and pulse it on and off a few times. You want to grind up the chickpeas, but not too smoothly. Add what's in the blender and all of the remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook for a few more minutes until the carrots are cooked through. Like some soups, this one seems better the next day.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Even the parking lot looked like a winter wonderland
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Monday, January 23, 2006
Streetlights and car headlights had to be my lighting and after clearing the driveway I was too cold and tired to take more than a few photos. Inside it's a different story. My lettuce is up and portends of greener things to come.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Great, I not only lost the drill. I’m losing my mind also. Scary.
I decided to sit down and think where the drill could be. The car came to mind. Ah ha! I looked in the car. I really thought the car would be it, but there was no drill in the car. I gave up. I was too worked up about it to continue. There would be no cold frame building today.
Later I went out to the garage to give the chickens some fresh water. I saw a dog tie-out chain hanging out of a bin. When I go to Vermont to visit Judy, I bring my dog tie-out chain. I sometimes bring my drill. That bin would have been in the garage all winter. It’s damp. Oh Oh. The drill was in the bin under other things. It was very damp when I took it out. It actually dripped water. I did not plug it in, but set it on the radiator for about 5 hours and them tried it. It worked, but it was dark, and far too late to drill the holes that I had intended to do hours and hours before.
Today, in 10 minutes, I drilled the 6 holes before I could loose the drill again or before I forgot that I even intended to drill the holes.
After this episode with the drill, which is sadly not unique for me, I had an idea. RFIDs are those little chips that are used for tracking inventory and other things. There are a lots and lots of very serious privacy issues surrounding their use. However my half tongue-in-cheek idea, which I’m sure is not new, is to market them to people like me, ageing baby boomers, who forget where they leave their stuff or even forget what stuff they own. I’d put them on all my things and when I lost something, I’d just get my scanner to help me find it. When I get old and forgot even what the name of my stuff is. I’d scan it to find out. I just need to figure out what I’d do if I loose my RFID scanner. Humm.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Note: the answer to the question I posted yesterday is in the comments section of yesterday.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Monday, January 16, 2006
Soon I'll be heading home, but I'm still in San Diego. Above is a photo I took today of a prickly pear cactus. It's certainly not what grows in my backyard near Boston, MA USA. I found this picture interesting because it shows four different things. Near the top you can see that some of its flowers are starting to bloom and on the right you can see some fruit. Near the bottom left there's an interesting feature, graffiti. The thing I found the most interesting, though, are the white fuzzy things you see on the lower right on the cactus. They are cochineal insects. Inside the white waxy substance that the insect produces is the insect. If you pick it off and squeeze it, it produces a bright red liquid which looks a lot like blood. The cochineal insect itself produces this bright red. These insects have been used as a red dye for centuries. If you eat foods dyed red with natural red dye or carmine, guess what you may actually be eating. Hint, look up 'cochineal' on google and wikipedia.
Below is a picture I found interesting. I guess because I rarely see cactus outside of small potted plants. I just found cactus graffiti surpising, probably because I never thought about it until I saw it.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Sunset Jan 14th , taken through the car windshield while driving from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to San Diego, USA
California Fan Palms near the entrance to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, USA
Unidentified flower near the entrance to my hotel San Diego CA, USA
Growing in downtown San Diego. I don't have my field guides, so I can't identify it.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
I'm getting ready to go on vacation and haven't been cooking much lately, and you can see that in the interest of having a post I've actually posted a 'recipe' for a bowl of oatmeal. Talk about scrapping the bottom of the blogging barrel. What's next, a recipe for ice water??
So here is my bowl of oatmeal dressed up to qualify as an ARF post. Despite the fact that it's so easy to prepare, otameal really does make a nice breakfast. After eating oatmeal for breakfast it's unlikely that you will be hungry anytime before lunch. It really is very satisfying, yummy and actually is good for you.
Oatmeal with Blueberries and Cream
1/2 cup oats
1 cup water
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh are the best, but I used frozen)
2 tbs. light cream.
Mix together oatmeal and water and cook about 5 minutes over medium heat.
If you are using frozen blueberries, Defrost them in the microwave while the oatmeal is cooking.
When the oatmeal is cooked, put it into a bowl, add the blueberries, and then pour on the cream. Optionally, add a teaspoon of sugar if you like.
265 calories, 9 grams fat, lots of antioxidants
Monday, January 09, 2006
This is a sign on a Paris street. I like it because even if you don't read French, you can understand it. In fact, one doesn't have to be able to read at all to get the message. I also like it because it's in the first person. It tries to achieve a goal without sounding like an order. I'm not totally fluent in French, but I translate it as "I care about my neighborhood. I pick up".
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Kahlil one of the resident dogs here doesn't miss much that happens. I know he can tell the sound of my car because he's at the window before I even pull into the driveway, but not if I'm driven home in another car.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Some of the activities that my nephew Michael, who is 14 years old, likes are skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing. When I saw Michael at Christmas and we were looking at blogs, I showed him a really nice picture that I liked of two boys from Sugar Mountain Farm snowboarding and asked him if been doing any snowboarding now that the surfing and skateboarding seasons were over. He told me that he was still surfing. What!!! I like winter, and I like the ocean, but the thought of going into the ocean when there is snow on the ground seems a little extreme to me, but not to Michael and his friends. So if you are like me and you think that boys in this area of the country spend their free time during winter, playing hockey, skiing, snowboarding and throwing snowballs at passing cars you would be right, but some boys are also surfing in the ocean. Brrrrrrrr.
These frozen surfers have set up a site with more photos of their winter surfing adventures at http://www.worldisround.com/articles/263836/index.html.
Friday, January 06, 2006
The Sun – This is the most obvious. The sun will provide heat and light for the plants. On sunny warm days it may actually provide too much heat. The challenge will be retaining and storing the heat that the sun provides.
Heat Stores – One heat store will be the masonry wall of the house that the cold frame is build against. I don’t think this will be a very good heat store, but the other side of the wall is the cellar and due to my inefficient furnace the temperature of the cellar in winter is probably in the upper 60Fs so there should be some heat leakage from the cellar into the cold frame. The second heat store will be water. This will be in the form of the one-gallon plastic milk containers that I’ve been saving. They will be filled with water and kept in the cold frame. The idea is that the heat stored in the water while it’s sunny will leak back into the cold frame when it’s not sunny.
Insulation – The plastic, covering the top of the cold frame, will have two layers with an air space between. This double ‘glazing’ will allow less heat to escape than one single layer. I also plan on insulating around the bottom wood frame of the cold frame, but am not sure what material I will use for this yet. I may also create a blanket type cover to put over the cold frame at night.
Composting – Here’s where the chickens come in, or at least the chicken litter, which is a mixture of pine shavings and chicken manure. I plan on having a compost pile of chicken litter in the cold frame. Because a compost pile heats up, it should be able to add some heat into the cold frame.
Add Heat – The possibility of many days in a row with no sun has me convinced I will probably need to add some extra heat into the cold frame at some time. One possibility is cracking opening the cellar window that the cold frame is built against. This window is in a separate room of the cellar and I don’t think this would affect the house temperature upstairs in the living area, but that’s an unknown. Another possibility is electrical heat tape. I would really like to minimize this, but will consider it for backup.
The challenge for me will be to see just how early in the season I can set up and use my cold frame while adding little or no external heat except the sun. I’ll be busy for the next two week and won’t be able to build the cold frame for a while, but I hope to get it built quite a while before I actually put plants in it, so I can see how all these ideas are working out.
I would love to hear from other gardeners who have tried similar ideas.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
One problem I've had with coldframes in the past is having the temperature get too hot inside. It may be cold and cloudy in the morning when I go off to work or somewhere else. Around noon the sun may come out and if I'm not home to prop open the cover of the coldframe the temperature inside can get too hot and cook the plants inside. Last year I did some research and for a little under $40 I bought an automatic window opener made for greenhouses. With some combination of springs and melting wax (I think) this device will open a window when it gets hot and close it when it gets cold. According to the directions the opening temperatures are adjustable between 59F - 77F.
Now the part I'm not sure about is should I have it open the cover of the coldframe which would be the traditional way or should I install it on the cellar window that will actually be inside the leanto coldframe so the cellar window will open when it's too hot in the coldframe. This would allow the waste heat to go into the cellar. One problem with the second idea is that I was possibly planning on opening the cellar window as an emergency heat source into the cold frame on very cold nights. I'm leaning toward the first idea of using the automatic opener on the coldframe cover and not the cellar window, but would really welcome any ideas anyone has.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Stuffed artichokes are one of the comfort foods of my childhood. Many people are put off by fresh artichokes because they've never cooked them before. The first picture shows my finished artichoke. It is WAY overstuffed. I'm not used to making one at a time and I got carried away with the amount of stuffing. The stuffing is seasoned breadcrumbs and some Parmesan cheese. Romano cheese works well also. The artichokes of my childhood used Progresso seasoned breadcrumbs and tasted great. For this one here, I started with plain white breadcrumbs and added some basil, oregano, thyme, Romano cheese and salt.
Start out by washing the artichoke. Cut the stem off and save it. Then, holding it by the bottom, turn it over and bang it on the top of counter or table. This will open it up a bit and make it easier to stuff. You can take a scissors and cut the points off of the leaves, but I only do this if I'm serving them to company. Hold out each leaf as you put stuffing in. After you've stuffed them, put them into a pot that they fit snugly in and add an inch of water. Pour some olive oil into them and throw in the stems that you cut off into the pot also. I love to eat the stems, so don't throw them away until you've tried them. You'll need to cook (actually steam) them covered at a low boil for about an hour or until a leaf that you remove is tender. Replenish the water as it boils away.
To eat the artichoke. Remove each leaf and scrape the breadcrumbs as well as the bit of artichoke with your teeth. No silverware is required. Use your hands. When you get to the point that the artichokes looks like this picture, you still have the best part left, the heart. Pull off what's left. It will look like the next picture.
Underneath it may look like the picture at the top of the post. Scoop out the choke that you see and discard the it leaving just the bottom, also called the heart. It tastes delicious and if you saved a little of the stuffing from the leaves as you ate them, you can put some stuffing in it and eat it. It's my favorite part. The heart is the reward you get for scraping all those leaves.
Finally, I have one last tip. When you finish eating an artichoke, you will have a pile of leaves. Do not put them down a garbage disposal. They are rather fibrous and may upset the disposal an/or plumbing. It's better, for environment to compost them anyway.
Monday, January 02, 2006
This Years Hope
Although January 2nd seems early to start lettuce in the northeastern part of the US, I have a plan. This year I'm building a cold frame attached to a southern wall of my brick house. I'm hoping that with a few tricks, I can keep it above freezing starting in February. Some of the ways I hope to achieve this will include, insulation, thermal mass, composting and of course, most importantly, the sun. It's in the planning stage now and I won't have time to build it until after mid January. Tomorrow I'll post a picture of the building site and some more of my ideas. In the mean time my first task is to buy a high/low thermometer. I'd love to hear from others who have used passive solar to get a jump start on the growing season.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Remember more Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnicks later