Monday, October 28, 2013

It's almost garlic time!

The past year has been a whirlwind of doing LOTS of things we've never done before. Like build a retaining wall. Or three. Or start an orchard. Or put together a worm bin.

So I figured, why not throw in one more... let's plant garlic. Lots of garlic! Several pounds of garlic, to be exact.

Apparently in Southern California, the right time is October-Novemberish. The idea is to get the cloves in the ground once it's cooled off a bit, giving them the fall and winter weather to slowly establish; then come springtime, they'll take off like gangbusters (I actually rewrote this sentence specifically so I could use the word "gangbusters") and hopefully be ready in June. Or so I read. Because I've never actually done this before.

Sampler pack from Peaceful Valley: check.
Read and re-read tips from Peaceful valley: check.
Stare longingly at garlic while waiting for the daytime temps to no longer hit 80: check.
Build raised bed for garlic: check.
Stare longingly at garlic some more: check.

At long last... next weekend might be the time. Should be an interesting adventure.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Taking pictures like a big girl

I'm usually too lazy to pull out the DSLR to take pictures for the blog, since my smartphone automatically backs up all my photos. But even my several-years-old camera blows the socks off a cell phone picture any day, so today I decided to take just a few. (Keep in mind, I'm still too lazy to retouch any of them.)

The dew was on the plants, the sky was overcast, and all in all the garden is really coming alive.

Heritage raspberries, growing quite happily on their trellis:
Calendula (pot marigold) brings a shot of sunny color to gray mornings:
 Heirloom Benning's Green Tint pattypan squash. Has decided it's a fall vegetable and not a summer one. :-)

Total experiment: Graffiti purple cauliflower. I have no idea if cauliflower will even grow here. But the purple was so cool:

And who is this guy, hanging out on the last of my basil?

Friday, October 18, 2013

A warm bowl of lentil kale soup

Ahhh, Southern California weather... it's now definitively fall, and yet the days can still hit 80. The nights are consistently cool though, and our house tends to hang onto that chill so it doesn't feel totally inappropriate to eat autumn food even if I'm still in a tank top.

The Irish Boxer Husband is on paternity leave and I work from home, so we're both in the house nowadays. Which means lunchtime has become a bit of a challenge. When it's just me, I just scrounge around in the fridge or just skip it altogether, but when it's both of us, two hungry people in the house = BAD idea. We do really well putting together complete breakfasts and nutritious dinners, but lunch always seems to get forgotten once the Monkey's lunchbox has been packed.

Today, I was determined not to let that happen! so made this soup. Literally had all the ingredients for it already, but feel free to take liberties and throw in a bit more of this or less of that, depending on what you've got. Didn't take too long and is so good, I might have to plant more kale...

Lentil kale AKA clean-out-the-cupboard soup
1 smoked ham hock (was buried in the back of the freezer for AGES)
1 pound of red lentils
1 onion
1 pound of carrots
6 stalks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of kale
1 cup of rice, cooked (totally optional. But again. I had it. Throw it in!)
2 bay leaves
Handful of Italian parsley
Salt & pepper

Boil the ham hock in 12 cups of water for about an hour, or until it's almost falling apart and the water has become milky in color.

Stir in the lentils and bay leaves and simmer gently until almost to your desired tenderness (I like mine practically mush, so gave it nearly an hour).

Chop up the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Add to the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes or so.

Pull out the ham hock and let it cool.

Lastly, roughly chop the kale and add it to the pot. If using some leftover rice, throw that in there too. And the thyme. And whatever else you've got laying around. Beans? Potatoes? Corn? Hard to go wrong, really.

And by now your ham hock should be cool enough to handle, so shred any meat on there and throw that back into the pot too. I didn't throw the big chunks of fat back in. I guess you could. I won't tell...

Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle chopped parsley on top, and feel that soup warm you up from the inside out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Growing the family

Ever since moving in last fall, we've been slowly but surely chipping away at the previous landscaping -- which basically consisted of 'cheap plants that are green as long as you constantly douse them with sinful amounts of water' -- to make it more drought-friendly, but also more productive. I don't feel quite as bad watering a tree that gives us fruit than I do when watering a tree that doesn't do much of anything and isn't even all that attractive.

We've been on a bit of a spending spree for the past month or so, now that the weather is a little cooler and planting a new tree isn't an automatic death sentence. Meet the latest members of our family:

Our new Haas avocado to keep our Bacon company:

A sweet little bay laurel that traveled all the way down from the Bay Area in my brother's car (why they don't sell them down here I do not know) and hopefully will grow into a more substantial plant that gives us plenty of bay leaves:

A little Mexican lime tree awaiting its final home, the third of four citrus trees we're looking to line our walkway with:

Heritage raspberry brambles to take up residence in the new fancy schmancy trellis that the Irish Boxer Husband built:
The raspberry came from the sweetest old man at the farmer's market who sets out huge plants for only $20. Considering the number of canes shooting up from the pot and the tons of developing fruit still on the vine, the patience-challenged person in me says we got a deal!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

There is autumn in the air...

Today was the first damp morning of the season, and it was almost disorienting to wake up to the patio (and patio furniture, eek) being wet. Forecast says there may be a bit more rain coming today. Summer may finally be over! And Halloween, the Monkey's favorite holiday, is just around the corner. You know it's happening when pumpkins start popping up around the house because we can't go anywhere without her picking out just a few to bring home. "But look, they're SO cute, can't we have one? Or two?" You'd think she was talking about puppies. But no. Pumpkins. Which might explain why, after the season, I have such a hard time cutting these guys up for pie. Because in my head, they are almost like puppies.

Yes, silly, I know.

The peas-and-lettuce Earthbox is coming along, and we've eaten salad from it a few times already. I've learned that, when growing lettuce, it's not about getting individual seedlings started and lovingly placed. It's about quantity over quality. Plant many, often... then harvest ruthlessly.

Baby kumquats!
Unfortunately no baby fruit on the Meyer Lemon despite a profusion of blooms and lots of bee activity, but maybe it will just take a bit more time...

The first batch of potatoes is looking a bit silly despite having been hilled up nearly a foot already. Oh well.
There are two big SmartPots of potatoes right behind it, and then 10 more pounds of seed potatoes coming in a month. The Irish Boxer Husband likes potatoes, what can I say.

And in the terraces, the rainbow chard (which is oddly un-rainbowy), lettuce-and-cosmos-volunteers, and pattypan-that-has-decided-it-likes-fall-better-than-summer are doing well.

Next up: raised bed kit is in the mail, destined to hold garlic and onions. We need to go pick up a persimmon tree. In the empty terrace, kohlrabi, beets and maybe some more kale. Because you can never have too much kale. And leeks. LOTS of leeks.

Because it's fall!