Guerrilla Urban Farming

It’s taken almost exactly three years (closed escrow on this place on May 18th 2010) but I finally got rid of all the lawn.

Something that most folks don’t know is that lawn is bad for the environment, just like street and sidewalk, a well manicured lawn on compacted soil is an impervious surface, meaning that water won’t filter through the earth and percolate down to recharge aquifers, it just overwhelms the storm drain system carrying fertilizer, pesticides and dog poop (along with gas/oil/antifreeze and whatever else is on the street) with it out to the Puget Sound via Commencement Bay.

Over the years I’ve been in this house, I’ve been slowly converting lawn in to more useful area; a nice pervious gravel bed under my grape arbor, a fairy garden, adjacent to a small orchard of mixed fruit and one hazelnut tree, and a huge garden area. The only place out back where I now allow grass to grow is in the chicken area so that they can eat fresh greens when free ranging.

I converted the (very small) front yard slope into flower garden the first year I was here, but was left with a huge parking strip full of the offending green stuff. This parking strip is 15 feet deep (measured from the sidewalk to the street) and runs the length of the property.

A neighbor, one bock over on the other side of the street has a wonderful little guerrilla urban farm that I have been admiring since I moved here. It’s hilarious at peak squash season, as the vines go insane and sometimes encroach in to the street. Since the legality of taking over what is essentially city property (but we are required to maintain) for urban farming/gardening in the front, where people can actually [gasp] see it is somewhat questionable, I like the slightly “naughty” feeling… [raises dirt covered fist in the air and yells]…”POWER TO THE PEOPLE! SQUASH IN THE STREET!”

THIS is what I am aspiring to… (you can see my house in the background)

this is not my garden... this is a neighbor one block over (you can see my house in the background) who I aspire to be like

But first, I had to get rid of the stupid lawn…

I was pretty happy to have this be my LAST mow.

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I didn’t want to dig out the sod or rent a sod cutter (sod this old doesn’t come out easily anyway) and really didn’t want to have to mass apply herbicide, so I decided to use the same technique I used for my actual front yard and garden beds out back, which has worked fabulously.

I raided my basement, then the Safeway down the street for cardboard boxes which I laid out over the lawn. Once weighted down with topsoil, mulch, or in my case Tagro, it will kill the grass with no cutting, digging or chemicals and then the cardboard and grass will decompose and amend the soil, no tilling required.

That big pile there is 3 cubic yards (that’s 4,800 pounds, over two tons) of Tagro

Gardening - Spring 2013

as it turns out, 3 cubic yards wasn’t quite enough to do it as thick as I wanted…

Gardening - Spring 2013

so I got another 3 cubic yards…

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

over the course of one afternoon and the following morning, I shoveled 9,600 pounds (oh so close to five tons) of Tagro, thus re-confirming my status as “crazy lady no one wants to mess with” on my block.

It sure felt good when it was all done. (Ibuprofen was my friend that night)

Gardening - Spring 2013

So just like that, I reclaimed 535 square feet of prime, sun filled garden space…

As I was shoveling and shoveling, I fielded a lot of questions from neighbors young and old. “Are you crazy?” and “Can I feel your biceps?” comments aside, they were interested in the process, my reasons for it and what I was going to put there.

I have been thinking about putting up some signs talking about urban farming and what is growing there due to all the interest the project has received thus far.

Anyone who knows me, figures out pretty quickly that I am a very serious and dedicated anti-Monsanto/Big Agra and pro local, healthy, sustainable, non-GMO food activist.

Of course, it was going to be food.

“What!? You’re going to grow food out here where people could steal it?”

If someone is hungry and wants fresh vegetables, they are welcome to them. I have way more than I need from my huge garden out back.

Last summer, my friend Jack, like many in this area had a bumper crop of plums. He harvested all of them, laid them out on a sheet with a sign that said “free”. He even provided plastic bags to carry them home in.

What if everyone who could, grew some of their own food. What if they made the excess available to neighbors who didn’t have the land/skill to do so? What if we taught people how and shared our plant starts and seeds with them, and they in turn did so as well?

Can you imagine how much healthier, happier and more connected our communities would be?

While I’m happy to share food, vandalism and waste would make me very sad , so I am keeping “high temptation” things that could be vandalized out back, such as red tomatoes and corn (the neighbors down the street had some issues with kids picking their corn and throwing it some time back) A neighbor grows his really weird looking, off color tomatoes such as yellow and green zebra out front with no trouble.

I didn’t get my seeds started in time this year, so it was off to my farmers’ market and Gardensphere for as many organic/non gmo starts as I could get…

Gardening - Spring 2013

What I can’t grow from organic starts, will at least be heirloom and open pollinated (those are non-GMO) so that I can save seed.

One of the many scary things about Monsanto’s monopoly and GMO is the loss of genetic diversity. At the rate we are going, the only way to save these wonderful, much tastier and safe heirloom fruits and veggies is to save uncontaminated seed from season to season (you know, like farmers used to be able to do)

Seed saving is vital to the future of our food supply.

I have planted the front garden with broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots (from seed), radishes (from seed), red onions, walla walla onions, artichokes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, butternut squash, kentucky wonder pole beans and snap peas

I roped the area off in order to keep the tender young plants from being tromped on and just to make it pretty, planted double knockout roses in two whiskey barrels I recently acquired. If all goes well, I will be picking up some landscape timbers in the next few days which will help keep the neighbor’s grass out, and keep the dirt in the bed and off the street/sidewalk.

Now I just need everything to grow baby grow…

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Of course, the back yard is getting some new plant action as well…

As a matter of fact, I’m sure that yesterday’s wind and freezing rain storm, and today’s hailstorm are directly related to the fact that I planted tomatoes on Friday. (well, the crappy weather on Saturday is mostly due to the law of nature that says it has to be cold and nasty on Daffodil Parade day)

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

and don’t forget…

Gardening - Spring 2013

The apples, cherries, plum, peaches, pears and blueberries are blooming.

It’s so amazing out there that I don’t even mind the copious amounts of pollen attacking my sinuses.

More photos of this year’s garden work and things in bloom can be seen by clicking on this link new photos will be added to this set as they are taken.


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Garden Season Has Begun!

Today I got a great surprise.

As I was puttering around the yard on a rare dry and above 40 degree winter day, I discovered it on the sunny side of the house, next to the concrete basement wall, the warmest spot in the yard.

My first daffodil of spring!

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Of course, the first blooms were my lawn crocus. The fall before last, I planted several dozen crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs around the Kwanzan Flowering Cherry trees in the parking strip. This fall, I planted about 80 more, so I’m hoping for a great display.

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The front flower bed is a very busy place where more crocus are blooming, and hyacinth, daffodils and tulips are popping up

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I got a little crazy today and decided to add some summer color by planting 3 peony, 8 Dahlias, 13 Asiatic Lillis, 30 Gladiolas and 50 Ranunculus.

The spring blubs (around 700 or so) already there will start with the crocus bloom in February then transition to the lavender, pink flowering dogwood, roses, summer bulbs and end with the Dahlias blooming through the first hard frost in the fall. It’s practically a mine field out there trying to walk more or less dig to plant anything, so I’m calling that flower bed full. I’ll be adding a few tulips and daffodils to the smaller bed on the other side of the front walk to compliment the lavender, roses and day lilies.

About a week and a half ago, I took advantage of another dry and above 40 degree day and ordered a load of Tagro. (it’s good poop) I got all the garden beds and containers out back weeded, cleaned out and topped off. I used the rest of it to top dress the blueberry bushes along the North fence.

This was after my friend Daniel helped me (helped means he did most of the work) put up a chain link fence to protect the garden from the dog and chickens.

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I also pruned all the fruit trees and rose bushes and wrestled with the Loganberry bush to get it trained where I wanted it to go. I also relocated a Marionberry bush next to the other one which I’m training up trellises on the back of the garage.

While picking up fence material I scored a very inexpensive, big, beautiful Crabapple tree that still had berries on it, which is now budding out.

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I also scored some rhododendrons, so now the boring corner of the yard will have fabulous color.

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I’m also planning on adding a bird bath, some shiny things and making it the fairy corner since it’s so close to the Hawthorne.

Oh, meet my new assistant…. (he looks an awful lot like my friend Knut)

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I have a few more photos available on my Flickr page

This is the best gardening start I’ve had this early in the year and I’m pretty darn happy about it.


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One More Step Towards Regaining My Perfect Health-Home Made Almond Milk

I’m so lucky that after surgery on my uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes that no cancer was found.

I don’t want any more surgery and I want to get off the blood pressure medication (my doc thinks that stress from the former job, medical scares, as well as chronic pain from the girly bit surgeries, wisdom tooth extractions, dental, perio and ortho work was the biggest issue)

In addition to getting back on a normal workout schedule (as soon a I’m done recovering from surgery; right now, the best I can do is walking 3-4 miles a day) I am making an effort to make as many healthy (non-fanatical) dietary changes as I can that will assist with discouraging the growth of fibroid tumors and endmetriosis and get me off of the blood pressure medication.

As soon as the blood pressure issue reared its ugly head (after having a perfect blood pressure up until very recently) I immediately went off my hormonal birth control and caffeine. (yeah, cold turkey, both at once) and stopped rinsing my mouth that was being torn up by the new braces with salt water.

I also got serious about getting back to my normally very healthy eating habits which went to heck over the holidays (I was a naughty monkey); rarely eating out, no processed foods (I even make my own chicken stock) whole grains (always brown rice, and more often than not, I make my own whole wheat pasta) eating organic eggs from my backyard hens, growing my own fruit and veggies in season, being very careful about sodium (I don’t generally salt my food or add much in cooking, but I’m being aware) and of course, I can always do better about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve read a lot (from credible sources) about the health benefits of black strap molasses, so I’ve started using a tablespoon a day in my morning lattes (healthier than vanilla and caramel syrups right?)

I decided that I also wanted to switch to almond milk for my morning lattes

Oh, no… I am not going completely diary free. You can have my cheese when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers and I do try to eat organic yogurt with live cultures several times a week.

I scored some Almond Breeze the other day, and discovered that I really like almond milk. But it’s expensive and the commercial stuff contains additives that I don’t want.

So I decided to make my own (it’s stupid easy)

First, I soaked one cup of raw almonds in water. You can do it from 8 – 24 hours; since these were older almonds, I went for the full 24.

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It’s important to rinse the almonds well and discard the soaking water, as it contains tannins from the skin that will make the end product unpleasant.

I added the now well swollen almonds and four cups of filtered water (4-1 ratio) to the food processor.

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If you want unsweetened almond milk, that’s all you need to add.

I opted to add six dates. The only thing I’d do differently is to soak/soften them first so that they didn’t gum up the food processor blades and a splash of vanilla extract. You can also add cocoa powder or nibs for chocolate milk or any fruit that you like..

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After blending in the food processor or blender if you don’t have one for two to five minutes, it’s ready to strain.

*as it turns out, the food processor wasn’t the correct tool to use for this-virtually none of them handle this much liquid without leaking from the top or bottom-I will be using a blender next time

You can use cheesecloth or specially sold nut milk bags, but I used my jelly strainer. I’m guessing that is what they are selling as nut milk bags.

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You’ll need to let it hang for some time, and to give the bag a good squeeze every once in a while. Once it’s done, you’ll have finely ground nuts which you can process into nut butter, or dry and use in granola or desert toppings

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What you are left with, is some super yummy, healthy, inexpensive almond milk.

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I’m calling this first attempt a “win” and now, don’t need to buy almond milk.



Mabon Blessings

On Friday, September 23rd at 2:05 AM (Pacific Time) the wheel turned, as it does each year to the dark season.

(this illustration was linked to this article which gives a great explanation of equinoxes for those who are interested)

The Autumnal Equinox also known as Alban Elfed and Mabon by those who celebrate holidays/sacred time by “the wheel of the year” rather than a modern calendar is considered by many to be the 2nd of three harvest festivals; the first being Lammas/Lughnasadh usually in early august and the third and final being Samhain (Halloween time to early November).

I was scheduled to attend a formal observance with friends on Saturday night, but that was not to be.

Like any good seasonal celebration, this one took several days.

Friday morning started out with me gutting and filleting a 25 pound Chinook Salmon harvested from a local river. I did it with a dull knife (note to self, get a good fillet knife and sharpener)

This thing was huge and slippery and quite unwieldy when compared to the rainbow and golden trout I was used to. When I was done, the kitchen looked like a crime scene, I was covered in scales and slime, but I had two decent fillets and felt a sense of accomplishment.

Shortly after that, a feral cat tried to harvest one of my baby chicks from the cage on my back porch. I had left the screen door open because the sun was up and raccoons and other predators weren’t a threat. I heard a ruckus and ran to the back door where I discovered Sylvester (no longer welcome due to his stalking of the pullets out in the yard and even less welcome now) on top of the cage.

I also discovered little Shirley (she and her sister Laverne are six weeks old today) fluffed up, huddled in the corner and bleeding.

I was heart broken; I had been negligent due to being pissed off at the broken screen and had not properly secured the porch (hey, it was only for a few minutes while I got the big coop ready right?) These chicks are not afraid of cats, because they lived with a cat at Gardensphere for three days before I brought them home where BadKitty did not bother them. When the feral cat jumped on the cage, Shirley was not quick enough to move away and he got her through the bars tearing out some feathers and leaving some scratches.

I tended to her without stressing her out and making the shock worse, waited and hoped for the best. I knew that she was in shock and at risk for infection; I estimated her chances for survival at about 50/50. Better if she was still with us in the morning.

She was with us in the (Saturday) morning and was eating like a pig and drinking like a fish (as well as pecking, scratching and preening… all good signs).

By yesterday afternoon, she was jumping all over the place and her sister went from hovering over her in protective stance to giving her a good peck on the head.

Yes, infection could still set in and I’m watching for that, but it looks like she’s going to make it.

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Between the after effects of the antibiotics I was on, the being worried (and making myself) sick over what happened to Shirley and having bad sinus issues due to the rapid change in weather, I opted to stay home from both a bike ride and the Mabon observance on Saturday.

I did something I virtually never do; instead of working in the yard, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen or any other number of things I should have been doing, I sat in my yard (soaking up the last bit of autumn sunshine) with a glass of my friend Don’s home made berry wine, some snacks, my laptop (to start this blog) and my camera to catch the antics of my funny new friends the Western Scrub Jays… (I’m used to only seeing the Stellars here)

From Drop Box

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Western Scrub Jay 012

It was another moment of satisfaction, no… gratitude for all the things I’ve harvested over the year, physically such as in the garden, emotionally and spiritually.

It was a lovely time of just being content and grateful and if that’s not honoring the harvest, I don’t know what is.

I also spent time just sitting with the chickens on the ground outside the small coop that is now Laverne and Shirley’s home (because it was really going to help Shirley recover if I stared at her every waking moment right?). Chickens are a lot of fun to just sit and watch. (Ethel seems to be thinking, “What are YOU looking at?”)

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On Sunday morning I was starting to feel human again and went out to harvest the last of my blueberries for scone baking. A friend and new local “chicken baron” came by for coffee, scones and to check out my setup and ask chicken questions. He also brought some home made jam which was wonderful!

I hadn’t realized I was almost completely out of unbleached flour so they ended up being whole wheat scones.

From Drop Box

After that, Francine, Elizabeth, Gayle, Renee and Lia showed up for “stitch and bitch” to finish off the coffee and scones while knitting, crocheting and gabbing.

It was running late so I left the ladies to giggle in the living room and harvested my wonderful, red ripe, meaty heirloom paste tomatoes (San Marzano)

Who says you can’t grow lovely tomatoes in the cold dark PNW during a crappy summer?

Saucy 001

I used these to create an awesome sauce with garlic, onions and herbs out of my garden as well as some sausage and meat I found in my freezer.

I documented the process here (it’s actually as easy as opening a bunch of cans of tomatoes, sauce, paste, etc… and so much healthier and tastier)

If you click through to the individual pictures the process is described.

Gayle and Francine came back over later with pasta, meatballs, a fabulous cucumber salad from Gayle’s garden, wine and garlic bread and we watched Mists of Avalon and had a harvest feast during “intermission”.

From Drop Box

The movie dealing with the blending of Paganism and Christianity during the time of King Arthur was a good reminder that for me, honoring the cycles of life and seasons is more fulfilling and meaningful that the holidays plopped on a modern calendar.

All in all, I’d say it was a satisfying Mabon and that I am truly blessed.

and yowza, is my house and kitchen a mess…


Mood: Tired


Cold, Wet Gardening

After three weeks of not being able to mow or garden (rain-STP-rain) I finally got out into the yard yesterday.

The grass in the back was a total jungle. It was finally dry enough to mow by about 7:00 PM. (note to self, replace more grass with something else; there is still too much of it out there)

One thing about our crappiest summer ever (seriously, only 78 HOURS of temps over 80 degrees so far the entire summer) is that the cherries like it. (along with our butt cold winter) My Lapin cherry tree is loaded. (I already ate all the Royal Anns)

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My tomatoes, lovingly started in the basement under grow lights and on heat mats, then moved to the greenhouse; then moved outside in protective wall-o-water insulators are growing vigorously.

Now we just need some heat so that these lovely Juliets will turn red. These were my favorite tomoatoes last year, they are a parent to the popular grape tomato.

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If we ever get any warm days, the blueberries will be ready…

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The cold weather crops (broccoli and peas) are doing well.

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It’s taking every bit of self control I have not to snap off these beautiful asparagus spears when they pop up; but I know if I leave the bed alone this year, I’ll be harvesting more than I can possibly eat on my own for years to come.

I’m glad I paid the money for two year old crowns so I only have to exercise this much self control for one season (best to hold off on harvesting until the 4th year)

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My Liberty apples are the only ones (out of three varieties) that are fruiting well.

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My Braeburn apple is badly infested with Apple Scab due to the cold, wet miserable excuse for a summer we’ve had (Liberty is resistant) I may end up pulling that tree out and planting a resistant variety. The Summerred apple never bloomed at all (we got a hard freeze at bloom time)

Yesterday, I had to spray some copper on the apple trees. You can’t really treat scab once it breaks out, but I want to keep it from spreading.

It’s just been a rough year all the way around for fruit trees; many of the trees that did bloom/pollinate dropped their fruit almost immediately.

My plum tree dropped it’s fruit and is now covered in aphids, I had to hit it with some organicide yesterday.

Oddly enough, I am getting some peaches which are considered a warm weather fruit.

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I am very lucky that my roses aren’t succumbing to blackspot or powdery mildew. They are looking very good this year (they’ve certainly had plenty of water)

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The lavender out front is doing well. I’m hoping that it will grow large and bushy and fill in the gaps this year, so folks won’t stomp through my flower beds to steal tulips next year. It stayed pretty small and spindly last year and a lot of it died over the brutally cold winter.

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I have some more photos here (make with the clicky clicky on this link to see them)



It’s Starting to Look Like Spring (well… in the Garden)

Spring is doing it’s best to spring, and I’m trying to help it along.

All the hard work of planting (704) flowers bulbs is paying off. Despite tricky weather conditions; they all appear to be doing well and since I planted them well and deep and will fertilize after they bloom, they will come back each year and in most cases even multiply.

The daffodils budded out right before the first of two snow storms and deep freezes, they don’t seem any worse for wear as my first King Alfred finally opened up all the way. (I have a dozen other varieties planted as well)

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In addition to the yellow/orange crocus, the purple ones are blooming as well.

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As are the hyacinths

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The lilacs from RainTree Nursery (a local nursery that is really great) arrived in fabulous shape, ready to bud out and bloom.

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I planted the three of them along with three new roses to replace the ones the roofers smashed along the sunny side of the house. (I moved the flattened ones to containers in the back yard in hopes that I can save them)

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The roses in the front yard already have plenty of leaves on them. Hopefully now that they’ve had time to develop a strong root system, they’ll really take off this year.

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The blueberries are budding out, one even has some leaves already and the plum trees is just about ready to bloom (Francine and I saw one on 11th St that was blooming yesterday)

The girls took advantage of the sun to enjoy a nice dust bath.

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I don’t think I posted a picture of the potting bench after I got it put together. The next time we get a nice day, I’ll move it a bit closer to the greenhouse (need to finish leveling out the ground first)

I got my Urban Farm Seed Co order in (Territorial seed order is on the way) and planted my first batch of seeds last night. (Lettuce, Spinach, broccoli, three types of tomatoes including Brandywine) corn, onions, cayenne, anehim and bell peppers, peas, pole beans and watermelon. I’ll sow the carrots and radishes directly. I have artichoke, another tomato, infrared sunflowers, and asparagus crowns coming.

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Once they have tiny leaves they’ll be moved down to the basement under the grow lights to join the lavender (which I need to thin tonight) and Drama Queen poppies.

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Even the Christmas Amaryllis is getting into the act. Once it’s done, I’ll move it into my special garden corner along with the paperwhite narcissus that Ana gave me and the parrot tulips I planted in Karen’s memory.

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Mood: Squee


A Tale of Two Soufflés

I got a wild hair this weekend and decided to create a chocolate soufflé (two individual ones actually; I can increase the recipe according to how many dinner guests I have) since I am lucky enough to have eggs so fresh they are still warm from being under a chicken’s fluffy butt, egg dishes are a natural thing for me to want to create.

I started getting items together and discovered that I didn’t have any cocoa.

Because I really didn’t feel like walking to the grocery store in the middle of a storm that included trashcans and lawn furniture flying down the street and horizontal hail, I searched and searched for recipes that used only bakers chocolate (straight substitutions are difficult because you need to adjust fat in the recipe when texture is important)

The recipes I found that only used bakers chocolate were listed as “beginner” recipes. I have never made a souffle before so I thought that might be a good thing.

The thing that both recipes call for is the standard preparation of the ramekin, rubbing it with butter and then coating with granulated sugar much like one flours a pan for cake.

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next was melting the bakers chocolate and butter

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I whipped two eggs and a bit of sugar until fluffy and added it to the chocloate

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Chocolate Souffle 008

The first (beginner/no fail) recipe called for the soufflés to be cooked in a water bath. I have seen it done both ways for soufflés and have used the water bath method for cheesecakes.

Just fill a shallow baking pan with boiling water, put the ramekins in and fill until the water level is about halfway up the side of the ramekin.

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This recipe was baked at a lower temperature than most others I have looked at; between that and the water bath, it took forever for these puppies to rise. A soufflé that rises too quickly will crack and rise very unevenly, so it makes sense that a beginner recipe would call for this.

They did rise, evenly if not spectacularly.

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It was tasty, very chocolaty, but it did not have the light fluffy melting texture that one expects from a good soufflé.

I knew I could do better.

I went to the store, got some cocoa, got my ingredients together and started over.

I cut the butter into the mixture of cocoa, sugar and a couple tablespoons of flour.

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In my saucepan, I melted the baking chocolate into milk brought almost to a boil and added one egg yolk. I cooked this gently until it began to thicken.

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I whipped two egg whites and a bit of sugar into a lovely meringue.

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Next, the cocoa, sugar, flour, butter mixture was added to the milk and melted bakers chocolate which make a truly lovely mixture.
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The next step was to add the meringue to that mixture and gently fold it in.

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This mixture looked quite a bit fluffier than the previous one as I poured it into the ramekins.

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There was no water bath, I just placed the ramekins on a baking sheet and pooped it into the oven at a higher temperature than the previous recipe called for.

They weren’t quite where I wanted them after 15 minutes, so I extended the time to 17 minutes and decided to pull them as I felt they’d hit maximum rise and I didn’t want them to get crunchy.

I got a better rise than with the first recipe/cooking method. I think I could add an extra egg white and get a truly spectacular result.

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They were dusted with a bit of confectioners sugar. (I should have sifted it, but was trying to work quickly before they fell so that I could get a picture)

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The taste and texture were amazing!

It was light, delicate, airy, filled with rich yet not overwhelming chocolate flavor and literallymelted in my mouth.

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Recipe #2 was a big success.

If any of you would like to bake one (or two) for your sweetheart on Valentine’s (or any other day) this is the recipe I thought was the best.

make with the clicky clicky here for the recipe


Mood: Accomplished


Making the most out of the SUNSHINE

Yesterday was the last sunny day forecast for Grit City for a while, so as soon as I got home from work I hit the yard.

What I WANTED to do was sit on my sunny front porch with a tasty beverage and enjoy the view of the park across the street.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sit and enjoy the beautiful day we had today?

My daffodils want to bloom oh so badly.

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and my tulips are coming up as well

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Instead of sitting there enjoying the glorious afternoon, I sucked it up and got to work.

The first thing I did was fire up the chain saw to FINALLY take care of my Yule tree. Tomorrow is yard waste pickup and the last few yard pickup days, it’s been snowy or rainy or otherwise unsuitable for being outside cutting up a tree.

*note for those who don’t live in Tacoma, there is no Christmas tree pickup here (unless you pay the Boy Scouts) if we want the city to pick them up and mulch them, we have to cut them up in pieces small enough to fit in our yard waste containers.

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I was cursing the cheap consumer grade saw I settled for (I got spoiled by big, burly professional saws when I worked for the Forest Service) as I was trying to start it. Then I noticed that the switch was set to “off”. UGH!

Once I got it started, I made short work out of the tree.

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The tree filled one yard waste container completely and the other partially. I filled the rest of the 2nd container with some other various tree and plant bits from the yard.

After this was done, I had another project. My greenhouse shelves arrived.

They were easy to put together and fit perfectly. They aren’t up against the plexiglass; there is plenty of room to walk around and I have room for my tomato containers when I move them into the greenhouse in the fall.

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and yes, there was MORE (although this was an inside job)

My “jump start” grow light arrived today (this was a package that UPS claimed was delayed by severe weather/natural disaster in Seattle, when if fact, it arrived well ahead of schedule and they put it on the wrong truck)

This is a GREAT setup. The light fixture can be raised and lowered according to the size and light needs of the plants. Several of the little mini greenhouses and/or bigger plants will fit underneath. I’m going to order another.

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My potting bench (which will arrive on Saturday when it’s snowing, raining or both so I’ll build it in the basement) will go just outside the greenhouse.

Since it’s supposed to start raining this afternoon/evening and through the foreseeable future (and maybe some snow), this will be the last gardening post for a while (until something blooms, germinates, arrives in the mail or gets planted 😉


Mood: Tired


The Poop on Gardening in Tacoma

Today, I had a cubic yard (that’s 27 cubic foot bags worth) of TAGRO delivered.

For those who aren’t aware of what TAGRO is, it’s an EPA award winning product made from bio solids from our waste treatment plant.

The thought of using human poop creeps some of the less “earthy” among us out, because they don’t understand the composting process (the “composting/cooking” occurs at a temperature that kills all pathogens. It’s also pasteurized.

Another concern that some have is that it might contain metals. We have several superfind sites here and most of our soil is contaminated by copper, chromium arsenic and lead from the Asarco Smelter. It contains way less metals than our soil does; as a matter of fact, it contains less metals than most commercial products. (*luckily, we have pretty much the cleanest soil in Tacoma up here on the hilltop due to the elevation and winds, but I still prefer raised beds)

To me, it’s the ultimate in recycling. I eat the food, my waste goes down the pipes and it comes back to help produce more food.

It’s FREE if you go pick it up and shovel it yourself and it’s only $8 a cubic yard (that’s 27 cubic feet) if you have it loaded into your truck or delivered (it’s only $15 to have it delivered in Tacoma)

You can also get the potting soil (slightly more expensive per cubic yard). If you don’t want an insane amount of the soil, you can get it in one cubic foot bags at Gardensphere, Portland Ave Nursery or Gray Lumber (just down the Street on the Ave… YAY!)

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I was fighting the weather (it had been violently windy all night/morning and thunderstorms were threatening to pound me and turn my pile into wet mush.

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The first thing I did was top dress my blueberries that run along the North fence.

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Then I finally hacked out all the old corn stalk stubs from the bed I grow my corn in (amazing 7 foot corn stalks which were bigger and better than the commercial growers had this year thanks to the TAGRO) and top dressed it.

*there are tree bits all over the yard from last night’s wind storm.

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Then I topped off all the other garden beds. Some weren’t all the way full and others had been filled with lesser quality potting soil as I’d already used up all my TAGRO before putting in the second set of smaller beds.

I had to work around some herbs and berries that survived the winter so as not to smother them.

I found one of my artichokes resprouting.

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and the Egyptian Walking Onions my neighbor Steve gave me are doing well.

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After taking care of the beds, I top dressed my grapes and fruit trees.

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My last chore for the day involved a run to Gray Lumber for a few bags of TAGRO potting soil to fill containers. (I didn’t need a full cubic yard)

I like to grow my tomatoes (ordered some heirlooms today) in containers is so that I can put them in the greenhouse around the time of first frost to extend the growing season well into November. (they’re also easier to manage when not in a bed crawling all over everything else)

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As you can see, I moved a LOT of poop…

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It didn’t start to rain until I was done and in the house.

Over the next few days, I’ll need to weed, relocate some strawberries and spread some more bark around the garden beds, planters and on top of the raspberry beds.

My potting bench and shelves for the greenhouse are on their way, as are several heirloom/non GMO/organic seed catalogs (ordered some from Urban Farm today) a grow light and some little jiffy peat pot mini greenhouses to start seeds in.

I had a pretty awesome garden last year, even though I didn’t get started until mid-late June due to not moving into the house until the very end of May.

I am SO excited that I’m able to start from seed this year; I’ll have so much more variety (and no damn Monsanto seeds)

My trees and berries will have been in the ground building fabulous root systems for a full year (I did get apples, cherries, raspberries and blueberries last year) and it’s going to be GORGEOUS when it all blooms (three apple, three cherry, one plum, one pear and one peach as well as the Hawthorn tree which should be healthier and happier this year)

Now I think I need some dinner, advil and a soak in the hot tub.


Mood: Tired