Thursday, July 30, 2009

Food Safety

This is a little late but outside of healthcare, food safety is being discussed as legislature, specifically HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act. I do not feel as well informed as I should to discuss this but people have and do die when we neglect regulating food safety. It is a matter of national security. I found a good non-partisan blog devoted to this issue, Marler Blog, well actually he tracks food poisoning around the US. "Bill Marler is an accomplished personal injury and products liability attorney," so begins the description. I feel guilty for not being able to speak better about this. It is this guy's job to know what is going on with food safety, anyway, it just passed in the house. I still do not know exactly what sort of suspect modification and improvements have been made to it. Some parts were threatening to small farmers, and I am not sure what has been left in.

I'll talk about something I know a little about, my garden. Here's my cabbage growing back in. After a cabbage is beheaded, it often sprouts numerous smaller heads to replace it.
My yarrow is starting to grow in. In part because I am concerned about food safety, I do not eat anything grown on my curb. I understand in some areas that they are trying to force farmers to have dead barriers surrounding their fields to prevent disease. Seems to me that this would not work. What drives me nuts about the internet is that I read so many little things and cannot quite recall my source. OK, it is the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which I found out about via ACTION: Speak Out Against the LGMA!, a post in Lavida Locavore.
Anyway, my scarlet runner beans have reached the top of this tower I made from a bunch of rose of sharon that was towering over much of my back yard. Now these scarlet runner beans will tower and perhaps the hummingbirds will enjoy them.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Welcome rainy Day

portakal patlıcan - Turkish for orange eggplant. Google is often more helpful if you translate things into the language of their origin. I was looking for recipes specific to Turkish orange eggplants and found "I keep looking for recipes for this weird eggplant but can't find any." posted over and over again! By googling the translation I found some pretty interesting results, none that I have found so far refer directly to orange eggplant, but some really interesting Turkish recipes for eggplant in general. The translations left much to be desired but I got the gist. If I use one with my interpretation and good results I will post.
These plants are growing in the pot with the turkish eggplant. I have lemon gem marigold and some basil.
It's a rainy day and the hops are growing. This is a small sample of the cones swelling up.
You know it id hard for me to resist the cats. Abe is being demanding here. It's hard to say exactly what he wants but he is used to being spoiled by me. Sometimes I love the distortion of my canon powershot. One of these days I'll get something fancy but really, this camera is just so easy and pretty good even with its limitations.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009


My cabbages! That's my new exclamation in front of small children.
This proud cabbage, what with all the rain is starting to split.
It is pretty big, 7 pounds 2 ounces(3 kilos?) to be exact. I think this picture most accurately shows its scale relative to my head.
Here's a sister cabbage that I harvested a week or so ago. Already it is growing baby cabbages which should be about as big as softballs. You can't quite see them in this picture but this plant still looks pretty cool.
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Friday, July 24, 2009


I posted these tomatoes to compare their growth with the same tomatoes today posted in Tomatoes sure do grow fast.

This is the supersweet tomato, image posted May 9th.This white queen photo was posted June 9th.
Here's the juliette, image posted May 30th
It is nice to see progress. That is one reason why gardening is so satisfying

Tomatoes sure do grow fast.

I think I'm gonna look up some 'before' pictures to compare to these 'after' shots even though these tomatoes haven't even peaked yet. OK, Tomatoes(before) is the link to see if you are not on the mainpage. All but the back door tomatoes are represented at an earlier age.

I did not post a 'before' picture for these guys. Really, these are my orphans, left pot-bound for far too long They seem to be doing all right now. Tomatoes can be fussy but they are resilient.
I am enjoying my driveway tomatoes now. Supersweet are great anytime snacks. Really, I end up eating more raw food when it's just a bit just in reach.
Where's the tomato? Uh, somewhere in with all those sunflowers. This is part of my obscure backyard. That's a white queen. I think I will let the sunflowers mature then chop them down to save for winter, then the tomatoes will get their space.
This tomato on my sidewalk has produced the earliest. I am pleased with its productivity and people walking by have complimented it. I do sort wish that this was the supersweet because this juliette is basically a mini-plum which isn't as nice to snack on. I want people walking by to fill free to snack on my tomatoes. It just isn't a great eating tomato. I mostly using juliette sliced on homemade pizza.
Homemade pizza is a wonderful way to use fresh produce. If you have basil and tomatoes, you are more than half there. Some fresh chives or other onion type plant is great too. I also LOVE fresh eggplant sliced on pizza too, which is one reason why I really enjoy the smaller varieties of eggplant.
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Artichoke Bloom

For some reason this artichoke is more purple than the others.
The novelty of these blooms isn't as strong but this one struck me with it's purpleness.
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Turkish Orange Eggplant

These little babies are starting to ripen. We'll see how they taste. They are mostly larger than golf balls but smaller than apples.
Just a quick post here.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cats Studies

Abe under the hedge
The Cheddarhead
Sally with sunflowers I am saving for colder weather
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Curb Cabbage

I finally finished cleaning up my curb, and my neighbors rejoiced. Overall, they like what I am doing but yesterday some neighbors that had never spoken to me before did, and they were kind words.

You see, I am one of those people that sees grass as a desert, who thinks that mowing a lawn is a waste of time and fossil fuels, though my mower is hand pushed. I resolved this year to leave it in the basement. I only needed to pull up the rest of the grass and let the good plants take over. But I procrastinated. I have a coffee mug that says
"Procrastinators of the world unite and fight...
and it suits me perfectly. So there it is, my curb with my fine cabbage in the middle of my labor.
And after.
I left a few plants I like there. I chose to divide the yarrow that had been growing quite well before I moved in all over my berm. Yarrow is a native plant that is excellent for xeriscaping. Yarrow also has a very long history of medicinal use all over the world. It was even used in divining the I Ching.

Anyway, this ended up being much more work than I like. I pretty much dug up EVERYTHING, including the cabbage to more effectively remove all plants in my disfavor. I also removed a lot of dirt. I think I took away several cubic feet which I dumped in back. I wanted the soil line to be lower than the curb and sidewalk so that perhaps I will have less plants growing in the street and that perhaps when it rains the water will collect in the soil rather than just washing away. I amended the remaining soil with some gypsum, greensand, and compost in all of it. Most was on top of a hardpan clay but some was on top of decaying concrete. I added a bit of lime to the clay parts. I also buried some bokashi below part of it. Another part has cat turds from bad kitties that keep pooping below some hedges that are not part of the veggie area and part has no additional fertilizer. I wonder how differently each part will grow.

I am sure I will still need to weed it, indeed, it still looks a little sloppy, but it is much better and hopefully will be less work. As you can see I replanted the cabbage. It has received a lot of admiration.
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Mint Puree

I needed to prune my mint pot. It was getting too leggy so I trimmed off 8 inches(20cm)or so. What to do with the mint? Dried mint is easy but not special. I decided, after my mint chutney experience to puree and freeze it.

I had a LOT of mint. I pulled the leaves off and used only the stems at the tips. I mixed in a little bit of water and started with just a little mint, adding more as each bit was pureed. This was a bit tedious adding a little mint at a time but I ended up with almost a pint of it, and it actually burned my eyes when I opened the blender. I did not need to add anymore water after the initial time. I think that the large quantity worked out much better than a smaller one would have.

I ended up with a mixture that was mostly a very wet paste on the bottom which some liquid on top. I did my best to distribute the paste into my ice cube tray and to pour that remaining liquid evenly on top.
After it is frozen I will take the cube out of the tray and into a freezer bag. I may use this puree in lots of things but on the top of my list is mint chutney. One cube should be enough for a small batch.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Green Fruit

My turkish eggplants are pleasing me even though I have yet to truly sample them. This is a unique growing experience. I suppose that I should use google to figure out how to best use these. These are not yet ripe. I have found numerous images of shiny orange eggplants.
These sungold are staring to ripen. Sungold are delicious as well as pretty. I suppose supersweet might rank slightly higher, that is if I only have room for one tomato it I might choose supersweet, but I think that these should be more common. Cherry tomatoes are necessary for me because they do ripen early. I can't stand waiting around for SOMETHING to ripen. Cherry tomatoes let me bid my time for the big'uns.
Speaking of of big'uns, here is a green carbon tomato. Last year a groundhog sealed his fate by gnawing the stalk of my carbon tomato. There were perhaps a dozen green tomatoes on it many as big as this one that I lost. I feel safe from groundhogs this year. If there were one around he wouldn't get to this one as it is growing in my tomato box.
This is simply a view of the left side of my front yard showing many edible plants flourishiing. An incomplete list is ghostbuster eggeplant, royal purple beans, sungold tomatoes, alaska nasturtium, strawberries, lemongrass, he shou wu... you get the idea.
I am so glad that yesterday was a traditionally cloudy Pittsburgh day. I like my photographs better.
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Friday, July 17, 2009


I love monarda. Monarda is a perennial native to north America also known as beebalm and oswego tea. Bees love it, hummingbirds love it and I love it. I have seen various bees sleeping on a monarda flower. There was a mcmansion I worked at years ago that had insanely huge monarda growing 5 feet tall in clumps almost 6 feet in diameter. I had to prune and tie it back while seemingly thousands of bees buzzed around me. I had no fear, bees at this plant are always very happy.

This 1st flower is in the tomato box and is the most red of all the ones that have bloomed so far.
This pink one is the 1st to bloom.
Raspberry is my favorite color. Actually, it seems to be the most popular color in general. This color is usually called 'raspberry wine'. I bought my monarda this spring in a 4 inch pot that had perhaps 8 individual plants in it which I think may have come from seed.
I had a hard time choosing just 4 pictures. I really do love this perennial
This plant likes lots of sun, water, and rich soil. It is also susceptible to powdery mildew. I'll see if I can avoid that. Probably not, but for now they are growing pretty well.
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I have seen 3 different mantises in my front yard.

This one is the smallest.
I think this mint mantis is the largest but it's hard to say.
This one seems to get around a bit. I guess you can tell by the shape which one is largest. I tried to show them each at about the same size.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009


I am less obsessed with my garden now. The most important plants are flourishing and have done so for more than a few weeks. It's getting hot and humid, yet I've had little rain. My water cistern is dry, and has been dry for about a week. I need to water my garden pretty frequently which annoys me. A large percentage of my neighbors are using their air conditioners. I have none. I hear the hum of somebody's air conitioner everytime I go outside now.
I was just sitting outside drinking a beer thinking about the people I see walk by. Some are friendly, some are not. I think the only one I can justify feeling superior to is the woman, just a girl to me, who walks by with her jack russell terrier who is always talking on her cell phone. One day Abe ran across the street growling and hissing at her dog for no reason that I could understand. He was batting at the dog and generally acting like a mad cat. The girl's response was to keep talking on her cell phone and walk faster. That is not how I would act.

My neighborhood is pretty mixed. I don't actually know everyone's story, but there are working class people, mostly that actually, but also students, and a few arty types I suppose. Really I live in a buffer area. A few blocks either way go rough or somewhat upper class. My neighbors are perhaps half white, half other. I like my neighborhood.

So gardening is less high a priority for me now. Everything seems OK. None of my tomatoes have late blight so far. My one feral tomato is showing itself to be a cherry tomato. Hopefully it will be interesting. I grew 6 varieties of cherries last year and it could be any number of cross breeds. I suppose I will know in a few weeks.
I called this post feral because Abe was a feral cat who chose domesticity, to a point, and because of the tomato. Abe gave me a bit of a scare after a fight he had with one of his rivals. He was given a clean bill of health by the vet today.
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