Monthly Archives: July 2008

Return Of Bambi

Aww! Look who’s back — and he’s brought a friend!

As we raced to take pictures of Bambi, Bambi II, and Bambi’s Mom, we decided to ignore that they’re eating off the delightfully photogenic pile of weeds we’ve accumulated behind our garage. Umm… Just pretend this is a scenic arboreal setting for them.

They grow up so quickly!

And as Boomer cringed at the picture of the mountain of weeds, she loved this one, of which she said, “It makes it look like we live in Honduras or something with that forest!” (We don’t.)

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Stitching In Progress: Villages of Hawk Run Hollow

Being a hockey blogger has put a giant spoke in the wheel of my stitching progress. In prior years I’ve finished dozens of projects in no time, earning me the nickname “Threads of Fire”. Not so much anymore. All that game diarizing over at IPB means no stitching time, and no stitching time means I’ve completed something like three or four small pieces between this time last year and now. However, the instant the hockey season ended, my stitching mojo came back in full force; a hockey season’s worth of Threads of Fire burst to the surface. I finished “1824” and then started in on “The Shores of Hawk Run Hollow” (because finishing one piece means you’ve earned the right to start something new, even though you have 8,000 UFO’s [unfinished objects] in the basement stash). “The Shores”, or “MFB By The Sea” was going swimmingly — see what I did there? — but… Well, I feel in love with a different piece, “The Villages of Hawk Run Hollow”, designed by Carriage House Sampings. I had been underwhelmed by it when it was first published, but the more I looked at it, the more I found it irresistible. The graveyard! The apple orchard! The blacksmith! It’s all so wonderfully detailed, and the colors are so fabulously Autumnal. The fact that KtG came for a visit when my resolve to keep working on “MFB By The Sea” was at its weakest didn’t help — if you ever need to be talked into starting a new project, KtG is your gal!

On June 28th, 2008, I started “Village of Hawk Run Hollow”. (Sadly, that title doesn’t lend itself to an obvious “MFB-ification”.) 5 weeks later, I’ve decided to start taking pictures of the piece in progress. In those five weeks of stitching on average about three hours a night, I’ve completed one and a third of 12 squares. Not bad! Of course, I know that when the hockey season starts up again, I’ll be down to averaging about six hours a week, so I don’t imagine having this done for another…oh say… three years! (And that’s assuming I don’t get talked into starting something new between now and then, which is highly unlikely since I’m planning a stash-renewal trip to the Attic in August.) I’m hoping to take In Progress pictures every Sunday to see how things are buzzing along.

One and a Third Squares Finished!

Still A Loooooong Way To Go

The Back

I am a little obsessed with how the backs of my pieces look, but once they get framed, I can’t ever see the back again. This picture is so I can revisit the back of this one long after it’s framed. Assuming it ever gets finished…

My Favorite Detail of The First Finished Square

The fun in this piece is in the details. My favorite part of the first square I finished (technically, the third square of the piece) is the stone foundation of City Hall. I though it would be a pain to stitch, but it zipped right along! I worked on this square while watching MacGyver, which taught me one thing — MacGyver was not designed for people who were going to be stitching while watching. There were so many instances of “action” where there was no indication whatsoever what was happening if you were only listening. I needed Doc Emrick to be calling play-by-play for Mac’s big action scenes!

My Helper-Kitty

Rollie adores sleeping on my lap with piece of linen draped over her. These giant “Hawk Run Hollow” pieces are her absolute favorite, since there’s a lot of linen for draping! I figure having a few (okay, a lot) cat hairs (aka “threads of love”) stuck in linen is worth having a happy, purring cat in my lap.

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Progress Reports, Stitching

This Is What We’d Been Planning All Along

So, way back on February 18 we could wait no longer to start gardening and dropped some tomato seeds into little seedling trays.

On March 30 it was unseasonably sunny and warm, so we sat out on the deck and moved the seedlings to bigger peat pots.

On May 3 we transplanted the tomatoes into the garden beds.

On May 15 we saw our first tomato flower.

On June 9 we noticed our first Black Plum tomato on the vine.

In mid-July we started harvesting the Black Plums and a few San Marzanos, and a few tomatoes at a time, built up a nice collection of them.

And on July 26 I roasted a bunch of them…

… ran them through my food mill, and ended up with an almost impossibly thick sauce, nearly the color of barbecue sauce. This is how thick it was without cooking down at all:

With a bit of minced garlic sauteed in olive oil and a dash of chiffonaded fresh basil, there was dinner. I tossed the sauce on spaghetti, and then we drank a toast to those moments when life is completely, deliciously perfect.

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Filed under Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, We Grew This, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Picky Eating With Pookie, Vol. 2: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It’s been a while since the first installment of Picky Eating With Pookie, but don’t worry, Gentle Reader, I haven’t been completely neglecting my taste testing duties. I have a few things to report on the Picky Eating front.

The Good: Baby Chard

When the baby chard came home from the farm I thought, “Oh no. Cooked greens.” Chard has always seemed like an especially nasty member of the cooked green family. The leaves look big and tough, and the name “chard” sounds like it should be scraped off the walls of the fireplace. Not cool. But Schnookie found a deceptive way to serve it: in pasta with scape pesto with grape tomatoes. It’s like she knows all my weaknesses! Even more than that, though, she only made enough chard for her bowl, serving me a chardless dish. Because I don’t take my Picky Eating duties lightly, I made sure to ask for a bite of hers, fully preparing to gack it down and then relievedly go back to my less green, more pasta-colored bowl. The problem was, it was tasty. The flavor wasn’t the mineral-y spinach flavor I was expecting. Instead it just tasted… Well, for lack of a better description, it tasted like it was good for me. In a good way. It tasted like my liver was saying, “Ahhhh… Something besides beer, cheese, and pizza grease!” Suddenly my less green, more pasta-colored bowl looked depressingly dour. Fortunately, the farm has a lot of baby chard to go around, so this dish was served up several more times. I won’t lie and say I ate every bit of chard on my plate, but I’d still give it four stars out of five*.

*(I don’t doubt that the powerful scape pesto contributed a great deal to my liking the baby chard. Between the toothy noodles and the grape tomatoes, the chard was never the dominate element of any single bite of dinner.)

The Bad: Beets

OK, that “The Bad” is a little misleading — I didn’t actually try these beets. I hear they’re excellent, but here’s the deal: beets scare me. They’re so meaty looking. They look like they taste dark, and thick, and heavy. I’ve also tried a few the last few years and they’ve always tasted like dark, thick, heavy steam no matter how they’re cooked. My freshman year roommate at NYU used to steam broccoli all the time and I grew to really dislike the smell of steamed veggies. Beets look like they taste like someone injecting the smell of steamed veggies directly into my brain. For this reason I’m holding out on the beets until there are some from our garden. The first year of the garden we grew Chioggia beets. The red-and-white spiral bull’s-eye beets don’t look dark, thick, and heavy. They look like candy! I would say this is a violation of the Picky Eating With Pookie rules, but I make the rules so no Farm beets! (I should also point out that Beet Night is Wednesday when I’m at work. Schnookie cooks up some beets to snack on while I slave away at the library. So even if I wanted them I’m out of luck. Because Schnookie could never prepare them on another night, shut up!)

The Ugly: Corn

For a Jersey girl, I’m pretty conflicted when it comes to corn. I’m a big fan of it when it’s a supporting member of the cast, like if it’s in a black bean/red onion/corn salsa, or if it’s in a hearty soup or chili. But thanks to hating shucking it as a child (I’m a wimp and hated pulling off the husks and finding big mealy worm things) and thanks to not liking how messy corn on the cob is, I’ve never been a big fan of corn on its own. Even when we grew it in the garden and could eat fresh corn literally five minutes after it was picked, I was still a little underwhelmed. Boiled corn has, in the past, tasted a little too mushy, a little too wet, a little too dull for me.

This has been a-okay with the other members of the house. For all that Boomer and Schnookie try to encourage me on the picky eating front, the one thing they leave suspiciously alone is my disinterest in corn. This is the time of year when Schnookie will stop on her way home from work and pick up a few ears to be served cut off the cob and slathered with butter as a side dish to whatever’s for dinner. I’ve been content to let Boomer and Schnookie split the corn haul in half, much to their delight. Boomer, in particular, loves her some corn. If you look outside when she’s taking the cobs to the compost, you’ll see her gnawing on them to get every last bit of corny goodness out of them.

Thursday night, though, I decided I should try the corn again, my annual summer admittance that I live in Jersey and should therefore eat corn. I was stunned to discover that it wasn’t the dull flavor I remembered. This corn was bright and sunny and buttery and delicious. It wasn’t too mushy, but it also wasn’t the tough on-the-cob stuff I remembered getting stuck in my teeth when I was little. It was deeeelicious, five stars out of five! Boomer and Schnookie? Were not pleased to have to share with me last night. If my corn renaissance continues, things could get ugly.

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A Picture A Day Keeps The Doldrums Away

There have been some recent complaints around here that we don’t post frequently enough, so we thought now is as good a time as any to officially announce our two photography/bloggy endeavors on flickr — Project: Dinner 365 and Project: Garden 365. We were inspired by the awesome Project: 365 community on flickr (one of Pookie’s wildly talented coworkers has participated for two years now), but don’t think we’re good enough photographers to do something that hardcore. But we love taking pictures of our foodstuffs, so we figured it would be fun to regularly take shots of something we have every day — dinner. We’ve been having so much fun with it that we have just decided to up our challenge to a picture a day of our garden, too. So if you come by IPB Living and feel like there aren’t enough posts, you can always get a fix of Maple Hoo goodness over on flickr.

Project: Dinner 365

Project: Garden 365

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Filed under Announcements, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

Now that the entire garlic crop has been picked and cured, it’s time to tackle that most onerous task: figuring out which one tastes best. The three contenders in today’s battle are, in no particular order:

Persian Star

Chesnok Red

German White

The methodology was as follows:

We were going to test the flavors of the three garlics in three settings — rubbed raw on toast, roasted and spread on bread, and raw in a simple bruschetta treatment. Each type was handled with uncontaminated utensils, and they were eaten in a random, blind test.

The Persian Star had a small head with about a dozen teensy cloves. The skins of the cloves were a lovely purply red, but they were a total pain in the ass to handle. I don’t have a lot of patience with wee garlic cloves.

The Chesnok Red was basically exactly like the Persian Star. Again with the wee tiny cloves. Again with the eye-rolling and me grumbling, “This better not taste that good.”

The German White, though, was much more my speed: big cloves (but not very many of them in the head), easy to peel, basically a dream to handle.

The processing was fairly simple for this test. I toasted some slices of bread with a little olive oil for the raw-rubbed test, nestled a few cloves of each in some tin foil and drizzled them with olive oil before roasting for the roasted-and-smeared test, and stirred together some finely diced Black Plum tomatoes (from our garden), the finely minced garlic, a pinch of chiffonaded fresh basil (from our garden), and a healthy drizzle of olive oil for the bruschetta test.

Then we hunkered down for some serious bread consumption.

For the raw-garlic-rubbed-on-olive-oiled-toasts test, we ended up liking the three almost equally. We started with the German White, and felt it had “a mild, not very forward flavor” and was “complimentary”, “a team player”. The Persian Star was “more garlicky”, “sharper and sweeter”, had “a flavor that lingers”, but was “more raw-tasting” and was “asking for something else” to go with it. The Chesnok Red was our winner, by a nose, for being “a garlic-lover’s garlic” and “very strong”. In a very close vote, we decided the German White was the second best, and the Persian Star brought up the rear.

The roasted-and-smeared-on-bread test was next, and the Persian Star led things off by having a flavor “where ‘sweet’ and ‘rich’ meet”; we struggled to verbalize exactly what the flavor reminded us of, ultimately agreeing it tasted like the texture of tomato paste. It had no sharp garlic aftertaste. The Chesnok Red was up next and was “a total loser”. It tasted “like if garlic and tap water were combined”. Third was the German White, “delicious”, “light and airy”, “gardeny”, “full but not heavy — tastes like spring green”, and was fresh-tasting even when roasted. The clear winner was the German White, with the Persian Star a modest second and the Chesnok Red a crushing disappointment.

The bruschetta test was led off by the Chesnok Red, which saw a strong rebound from its failures as a roaster. It “tied the flavors together nicely”, “never tasted like raw garlic”, and was “a good team player’. The Persian Star was next and was “not as peppery as [the Chesnok], more buttery” but also “almost overpowers the tomato flavor”. The German White was the last up, and had a “warm finish” with “no sharpness”, “plays beautifully with the basil” and got the rave “all four flavors [in the tomato mixture] work together the best”. We voted the Chesnok Red our favorite in this round, narrowly edging out the German White, with the Persian Star coming up short.

Overall, even though the Chesnok Red won two of the three tests, we liked the German White best overall. The failure of the Chesnok to roast well was a damaging blow to its overall standings. The Persian Star, while delicious in its own right, wasn’t a winner in any category and had teensy cloves that are impossible to peel. So there you have it: German White it is. In fact, we just placed our order with Seeds of Change for oodles of it for next year.

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Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, Taste Test, We Grew This

The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

One of the things that I have found most fascinating with our farm share is the different ways that different weather conditions affect different crops. Some years there will be lots of rain in the spring, wiping out, say, the spinach, but leading to happier tomatoes down the line. Or a heat wave will, say, frizzle the snap peas but delight the strawberries.

Farmer Jim and Sherry do such a fantastic job of providing us with a wide array and balance of crops, so it always seems that there’s something thriving in conditions that other things aren’t happy with, and we don’t often consider the way that tumultuous weather can really be devastating to farmers. This week, though, we learned first-hand.

After a smothering, humid heatwave, Wednesday finally saw a front move through New Jersey to break the miserable, sweltering conditions for us. That would be good news, except for the way it broke — it was a giant, slow-moving front, and it crept along over us, giving us a constant string of strobe-light lightning and incessant thunder for almost 10 hours. And in the middle of the afternoon, we had a 20-minute stormburst with an intense brutality the likes of which I’ve never seen before. First there was crackling thunder and blue-green lightning flashing constantly, then sheets of rain whipping around in every direction, and then hail. Lots of hail. Giant hail. The pond below my office window looked like it was being barraged with golf balls, and when I looked out the front of the building, the parking lot looked like it had been covered with white gravel. The hailstones were the size of that huge, industrial gravel, fully an inch long. The skies pelted us with the stuff for about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out (but not for long — the thunder and lightning resumed shortly thereafter). It was the strangest storm I’ve ever seen.

It was also extremely destructive. Just that brief a spurt of violent storming wreaked havoc. On my way home from work that day I stopped for corn at the farm stand and discovered their barn had been struck by lightning (no one was hurt, and the barn is apparently fine) and the farmer was apparently on the phone with the crop insurance people. When I walked past the fields this morning, the plants were in tatters. On Thursday morning I received an email from our membership farm explaining that the summer lettuce and chard crops had been destroyed, and the tomatoes, watermelons, scallions, beets, and summer squash had all suffered severe damage. While I’m feeling very mopey that I won’t get as many wonderful tomatoes as I’d hoped for this summer, and that my produce habit is going to be more expensive than in years without hail-damaged crops, it’s also really humbling to think about people who rely on the land for their livelihood. It’s easy for me just to go to another farmer’s market, or suck it up and buy the shipped-from-who-knows-where produce in the grocery store. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if there wasn’t a fallback. Pookie remarked when we were assessing our own garden damage that it’s amazing to consider that hail doesn’t do anything good. It’s puzzling that Nature destroys things without reason, without some offsetting benefit. Puzzling and, literally, awesome.

Meanwhile, there’s been some clamor that we haven’t been posting enough pictures lately (so we’ve been lazy! Sue us!), so here’s a look at the damage our own modest crops sustained.

First, remember the pumpkin at the front door?

Here’s what a quarter-hour of hail did to it:

Our puny little habaneros, which were finally starting to look like they were bushing out just a bit, took a beating, too:

The peppers on the nardellos plants, some of the gherkins, and some of the tomatoes got pitted by the hailstones and cracked. And even more tomatoes simply gave up the ghost and were buffeted to the ground.

But you know what else is puzzling (in a “mysterious” sense) and awesome? That all was not lost. Here are some ripening Black Plums that were unaffected by the storm…

…and here are some San Marzanos soaking up the post-storm sunshine:

And look at what a week of harvesting has yielded of the Black Plums!

Meanwhile, while we were scoping out the destruction in the garden, we were also seeking signs of new growth from the wave of crops we planted this past weekend. That’s right — we spent a tortuously hot Sunday afternoon filling in the recently emptied beds with carrots, beets, and some impulse-bought beans.

These are Lina Sisco’s Bird’s Egg beans:

These are Hutterite Soup beans:

These are October beans:

And these are Tigers Eye:

So even while we shed some tears for our fallen, tattered plants, we were thrilled to see signs of life all over the bean beds.

And over in the beet bed, an eagle eye can see signs of life, first from the Touchstone Gold and then from the Detroit Dark Red:

And on the fringes of the beleaguered pepper bed? The first wave of carrots are growing like a literal fringe. Even after the hail, their fronds are cool, elegant, and lacy.

But the best lesson of the day for us was this: Sure, Nature can’t help but destroy things for no reason, but Nature also can’t help but make beautiful things, either.

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Filed under 7. July, Bad News, Garden, Harvested