Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birthday Celebrations & A Bite of History

I normally have horrible birthday luck. And I mean
horrible. In years past, I have had beloved (pregnant) animals die on (or around) my birthday, lost my job, had all of my friends completely forget to show up for my birthday party, had to go to the hospital, or had been working in the middle of nowhere and completely out of cell phone range. I have begun to actually dread my birth date with something akin to superstitious paranoia. I don't think you can blame me... This year, my darling husband decided to banish my birthday bad luck! Secretly, several months earlier, he had sold off some stock at the height of its value, and squirreled the money away for my birthday celebration. On the morning of my birth, I was awakened by happy kisses from my excited husband (and thankfully not from either wet-nosed kitten). He presented me with gifts from himself (a book on herbal veterinary remedies) and my mother-in-law (a vintage hair piece and antique Wedgwood cameo brooch).

Then, he did morning farm chores and milked the goats, and took me out for coffee and breakfast at the Good Bean in downtown Jacksonville. After breakfast, we wandered over to Harry & David to browse the wine section while we waited for stores to open. Once 10 am hit, we visited numerous used book stores around Medford. My favorite was the one located directly next door to Harry & David. They were a bit expensive, but they had a very good selection, and I managed to find an informative herbal that I did not yet own (rather difficult to do these days!). After hopping around to all of the bookstores, we went walking around the Main Antique Mall (one of my favorite places and where, tellingly, they know us by face). I had a feeling when I entered the store (a place where I have scored many previous amazing finds!) that I needed to carefully browse through all of the books, and lo and behold! I was correct! Amongst the dust and books, wedged in a forgotten corner of the store, I found a gem: an 1882 2nd edition of "Gardening for Profit."

Why am I so excited about this? The book not only talks about the basics of gardening (preparing soil, conrtrolling insects), but lists popular commercial vegetable varieties (along with woodcuts of some of them) grown at the time. Thus, not only can I research heirloom (or extinct) vegetables grown in the past, but I can identify unknown heirlooms if any ever fall into my collection! I am so excited to begin my research!

After the antique mall, Ryan took me out for a sushi lunch at Bonsai in downtown Medford. Then, we headed over to the Madrone Mountain tasting room in Central Point, where we were treated to a complimentary birthday wine tasting!

After wine tasting, we went home to relax before beginning evening chores and milking (a bit early in order to make our dinner reservation). Dinner was a lovely little candlelit affair over at friend David's 38 Central. We had a delicious little Prosecco to start while our main red (an absolutely spectacular '08 Baco Noir by Girardet Wine Cellars) aired. We both ordered steaks, which paired grandly with the tobacco, leather, and berry notes of that big, bold red wine! For dessert, a lovely chocolate pot de creme! Thank you, David and the staff at 38 Central, for a very enjoyable evening!

Ryan and I drove home, slipped into our jammies, and curled up in bed with an old edition of "The Velveteen Rabbit." Ryan read out loud to me until neither of us could keep our eyes open.

And that concluded the happiest birthday I have ever had.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Here's Hoping...

I have planted roughly 2/3 of my tomatoes outside this week. Yes, it's a bit early, but I have been keeping my eye on the weather report, and I think things are going to be okay. May 15th is the average date for our last frost in the area, and as that is today, I'm hoping the numbers play out. Tomatoes can survive down to about 38 degrees - it sets them back, but they can make it to the morning alive. Ideally, your nights should be 45-55 degrees for maximum tomato (and pepper!) happiness! However, with the recent trend of high 70 degree weather, my plants (except the peppers who LOVE it) are frying with the heat inside of my greenhouse. So I had to weigh the choices of possibly losing plants to heat stroke or losing plants to frost. I figured that frost was the less likely danger, and thus the reason that over half my tomatoes are already outside. Unfortunately, with the recent thunderstorm predictions, I now have to worry about hail!...sigh...

I have been busy gardening, weeding, and filling out last minute plant orders this week. There is actually space to
walk around inside of my greenhouse - I had forgotten what that felt like! Yesterday, my Georgia Jet sweet potato slips arrived in the mail, and I spent the day planting them in pots until the nights are warm enough to set them outside. I think they made a mistake on my order however: instead of 12 slips, they sent me 24! Ah well, more potatoes for me! I am also still eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Purple sweet potato slips.

Speaking of potatoes (well, we were technically speaking of morning glories, but whatever), I have discovered a fascinating new "potato!" It's call the Negresse Potato, but it's technically a wild relative of the potato and not a
true potato. The Negresse is a little known and under-appreciated tuber! It is jet black in color, and tastes like a truffle! Unlike the black potato,
"Congo," it does not have a bitter skin. Negresse is the cheapest "truffle" you can grow, and also one of the easiest! It is very difficult to track down, but I finally did manage it (thank you, Seed Savers!). I am on the waiting list for my own set of seed tubers in 2011. In the meantime, I have ordered seed tubers for the Ajawiri. This tuber is thought to either be the same, or the parent of, the Negresse. Thus, I will be able to grow
both plants over the next two years and make comparisons. What is rather exciting is that, because of how little known these varieties are, I will be sharing notes with others about the two tubers!

Other plants that I am trying out in my garden this year for the first time: Crosnes, Lemon Verbena, Purple Cowhorn Potatoes, Oaxacan Green Dent Corn, Violetto Artichoke, Lazy Housewife Pole Bean, Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean, Camellina, and more!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Attack of the Purple Sweet Potato Eater!

This year I have decided that I simply do not have enough blue and purple foods in my life. I decided to remedy this by planting several varieties of blue and purple potatoes (Adirondack Blue, All Blue, Purple Cowhorn) as well as purple artichokes and beans. Now, I have finally managed to track down the greatest prize of all (and here you thought that my purple "bear poo" cowhorn potatoes were the most sought-after prize! *grin*): the "Purple" sweet potato variety. This sweet potato is not like the Okinawa Purple, which has purple flesh but brown skin. Oh no, the Purple variety has light purple skin with deep, gem-purple flesh! Thanksgiving sweet potatoes will never be the same! Many thanks to Duck Creek Farms in Oklahoma for reserving some of these slips for me (you can also find them at Sand Hill Preservation Center, but they are sold out for 2010). I look forward to the much-anticipated arrival of my slips in the mail soon!

In other news, my Aji Limon peppers, Litchi Tomatoes, Naranjilla, and Borage seeds have begun to poke their heads above the soil. The first three will be grown as perennial container plants, and brought indoors for the winter. Now that it appears as though the weather has mellowed out enough, I will also begin planting my Cordao and Moldavian Dragonshead starts outside too.

Look for more pictures and plant varieties as the gardening season progresses!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A New Life & A New Set of Memories

Meet Jugi 2.0

Many thanks to Danielle at the Del Norte Humane Society in Crescent City, CA, for her amazing help in bringing Jugi 2.0 to me.

It was love at first sight when I viewed the picture of Jugi 2.0 (formerly "Benji Button") on the website. There was something so...familiar...about him. He reminded me strikingly of my beloved Jugi (whom we lost to cancer in November 2009).
See if you can understand what I mean:

Image courtesy of Crescent City Animal Rescue

When I brought Jugi 2.0 home roughly 2 weeks after first beginning the adoption process (it's a long story and the reason that I am SO thankful for Danielle!), there was an immediate connection. I had only ever seen him in a single photograph up until that time, but upon bringing him home, we both bonded. He slept curled up on my side all night, and every night since then has slept with us in bed (very atypical for a young, active kitten!). He is a sweet & precious baby who loves to play but yet is very polite and only needs to be told "no" once in order to stop. This has been a paradise after Adso! Speaking of the "Meowosaur," he is happy, FAT, and doing well! However, because we need to take Jugi 2.0 into the vet tomorrow for testing and a general post-adoption exam (the Del Norte Humane Society does not test for FiV or any of the other contagious diseases), Adso has been relegated to the barn and given strict mousing instructions until he can be safely introduced to Jugi 2.0 back at the house. I think Jugi 2.0 will test negative for all of those awful diseases, but it is still important to get the testing and exam accomplished. Every new pet owner owes it to their animal to do this!

In the meantime, Jugi 2.0 is loving his new home, and we are loving the completion of our furry feline family! I think that Jugi 2.0 and Adso are going to be the best of friends someday soon, and I look forward to having two wonderful cats in my life for many years to come.

What's For Breakfast?

We were blessed to have some truly spectacular guests staying with us this weekend! The weather was gorgeous, the herbs and greens were in full swing, and I had faaaaaaar too much fun playing with my food! Here are some of the breakfast creations:

Farm fresh scrambled eggs with butter-fried sage & chives, and garnished with strawberries, orange slices, and spring chive flowers

Ryan's famous sourdough rolls and Maple-Ginger Waffles with maple syrup, strawberries, and a Moroccan Mint sprig, and garnished with an orange wedge over a fresh sorrel leaf

As I have been told yet again that I absolutely MUST publish a cookbook, I have decided to post the recipe for my famous farm fresh scrambled eggs:


6-8 fresh chicken eggs (or 1-2 goose eggs)
1 handful chives
1 small handful garden sage leaves
1 tbsp fresh butter
fresh strawberries, chives (both leaves and flowers), and orange slices for garnish

Coarsely chop chive and sage (remember to set aside some chive leaves - and flowers! - for garnishing). Place butter in small frying pan and set on med-high heat until melted. Add chives and sage, and saute until browned (roughly 1-2 minutes). Pour off butter and fried herbs into a a small bowl, and add eggs, stirring mixture vigorously. Pour mixture onto frying pan and cook egg mixture until scrambled. Remove from heat and put on plates, using strawberries and orange slices for a side garnish, and chive leaves and flowers for a top garnish.

Serve warm and enjoy!

This easy, delicious breakfast will always be a huge hit!