I have truly struggled with my southwest-ish facing side yard. It’s where my two compost bins are located because the afternoon sun really heats things up and it’s a convenient trip from the kitchen to dump scraps.
My first attempt to bring some life and color to this space was a series of butterfly bushes. Epic fail. After the first year I lost one of the bushes. I replaced the lost bush, but by the end of year two all of the bushes were dead. I cut them to the ground and let the bed lay barren for a year while I thought about what I wanted to do.
My second thought was to build a hop trellis and grow some hops for my homebrew. My recent reduction in beer drinking and the subsequent stoppage of homebrewing made that an irrelevant idea. Back to the drawing board. Here is what I was left to work with:
Why not vegetables? Since vegetables are generally annuals I would not need to worry about losing plants to the inevitable winter wind. It’s not a bed that people spend a lot of time looking at, so the aesthetic value of flowering bushes is diminished. Hmmm…..
The first challenge was removing the god damned river rock and landscape fabric. Seriously, this stuff is the worst. The rock just retains heat and provides no benefit to the plants other than keeping weeds down. The landscape fabric actually lets water run off rather than percolating into the soil and it traps dirt on top where weeds eventually take root making the landscape fabric irrelevant. Ugh.
With that dirty, dusty job done things went pretty smoothly. The dirt in the bed was fairly rich, but I still amended it with heaping handfuls on compost and coconut coir. In went three cherry tomatoes, three paste tomatoes, two sweet peppers, two hot peppers, two edamame plants, and four cauliflower starts. A thick layer of shredded cypress mulch on top finished everything off:
What was once a barren and sad side yard has become a vibrant little garden. The picture above is a somewhat dated as the tomato and pepper plants are really taking off with the perfect mix of rain and sun we have been getting in eastern Iowa this spring.
Now imagine how much food we could grow if every house in America just converted one neglected bed alongside their home into a small vegetable garden. Amazing potential.
Posted in Gardening
Tagged bees, butterfly bush, cauliflower, coconut coir, compost, edamame, garden, jalapeno, landscape fabric, mulch, peppers, river rock, tomatoes, vegetables, yard
I was not feeling up to working out over lunch today. It’s one of the fringe benefits of having small children–you end up with every cold and sniffle that they do just usually delayed a day or two.
What to do…
I have done a variation of this pickling recipe before and followed something similar this time. I omitted the turmeric, which accounts for the lack of a golden colored brine, and increased the amount of garlic cloves because that is the one thing that my father cannot get enough of when he opens a jar.
Wanting to see what the impact of added spices was I omitted any additional spices in the second set of jars (the six on the right). It will be interesting to see what the difference is in a couple of weeks.
Yeah, I might have gone a little overboard during lunch.
Posted in Food, Household
Tagged canning, carrot, cauliflower, cider, cumin, frugal, garlic, ginger, homefront, Household, lunch, pepper, pickling, preserving, vinegar
I have conquered pickling garlic and ginger. The results have been good and the pickled vegetables have flown out of mason jars and into waiting mouths for the past couple of months. I decided to “up my game” a little bit and try to pickle cauliflower.
Cauliflower may seem like an odd choice to pickle, but for anyone who has tried pickled cauliflower it is a known treat. The problem is that a small jar of pickled cauliflower is quite expensive when you consider that the primary ingredients are so inexpensive. This is the same logic that led me down the path of pickling both garlic and ginger.
The recipe that I started with was from Fine Cooking. This particular recipe details how to prepare the cauliflower for shelf stable storage, which is an important trait for me. It’s not that I am a doomsday prepper or anything, but I want to acquire the skills to preserve food in a way that is not dependent upon refrigeration. It’s just a learning tool really.
I departed from the recipe—big surprise to those who know me—in a few ways. First, I omitted the onion and red pepper. In the commercial mixes of pickled summer vegetables I often dislike the onions and red peppers because the texture borders on slimy. No slimy for me! Second, there will be no coriander seeds in my jars. Why? I cannot find coriander seeds to save my life right now in eastern Iowa. Three stores did not have them over the weekend and I have up looking. I am sure that the product exists somewhere but I have abandoned all hope this round.
The process is real similar to pickling garlic or ginger. That is to say, it is surprisingly easy and foolproof to make something pickled at home. It’s really the gateway drug of home preserving because easy success just makes you want try ever more difficult projects. Tomato sauce in the summer anyone?
In about twenty minutes, you end up with this:
The turmeric really adds a yellow hue. Compare a jar of pickled garlic packed on the same day:
Yeah, I went a little crazy pickling this weekend. A week from now I will noshing on pickled garlic, cauliflower, and carrots. Sweet.
Posted in Food
Tagged brine, canning, cauliflower, cooking, coriander seeds, doomsday, Fine Cooking, food, garlic, ginger, mason jars, pickled, pickled cauliflower, pickled garlic, pickling, prepper, preserving, salt, spices, turmeric, vegetarian
America is fat. Not just fat, but obese according to many studies. How do I know? It’s not because of some government study or think tank white paper or Michael Pollan. It’s because I saw this at the store this weekend:
Yep, it’s now a salient point that a chair is 20% wider for our collectively fat rear ends. There is nothing like addressing the symptom of a problem as opposed to addressing the problem.
I think about obesity a lot because I have children and I have struggled with my own weight for decades. I want to see my children grow up healthy and I want to be healthy with them as well. I do not want to spend my later years in the titanic struggle with diabetes or other lifestyle illnesses. But as a country America is quickly becoming a lost cause. How bad is it?
According to a study published by Cornell University 21 percent of health care spending is tied to treating obesity related conditions. Think about that for a moment. America already spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world and over one fifth of that amount is spent to treat illness associated with being fat. Now consider that by 2020 it is estimated that upwards of 75 percent of the U.S. population will be obese, which is an increase from approximately 35 percent at the beginning of the decade.
What does our fat future look like? Here’s one take:
As I posited in an earlier post, social justice, the food movement, and the environmental movement are intertwined. Getting people better food, healthier food, more sustainable food will lead to better social outcomes because conditions like obesity can be reduced. Why are we so fat? Because it is so easy to consume bad calories. It is so cheap to consume bad calories. I can walk into almost any McDonald’s in the U.S.—prices higher in Alaska and Hawaii—and walk out with a McDouble for $1. So, for one dollar I can walk away with a prepared bomb of questionable origin meat and sugared up bread. I cannot buy a head of cauliflower or broccoli for a dollar.
How is that possible? How can McDonald’s assemble all of the ingredients, pay someone to assemble the ingredients, and run a storefront selling a burger for a dollar when I cannot get a head of cauliflower for less than two dollars? How has our food system become so warped that this is a common occurrence.
On a lighter note, the Economist—that final bastion of imperial Britain—has noticed an increase in the size of pants while the stated size has not increased. This “panflation” means that a size 10 is now really a size 14. Uh oh!
But these mac & cheese muffins looks so tasty…
Posted in Food
Tagged America, broccoli, cauliflower, Cornell University, diabetes, fat, hamburger, health care, mac & cheese muffins, McDonald's, Mother Nature News, obese, obesity, oversize, panflation, The Economist, Think Progress