Friday, April 29, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge - Pommelo Mojito

Pommelo Mojito

Mint in the garden, rum in the cabinet, citrus in the fruit basket. Could it be any more obvious? The sweet/tart of the pommelo is a perfect match for the classic lime/mint mojito. There are many great recipes for mojitos, but let's just say due to experience, I've memorized a recipe that never requires measuring yet works well every time.
  • In a tall glass, muddle: 1/2 lime cut into a few wedges, a spoonful of sugar, and a small bunch of mint leaves (about 6-10 leaves).
  • Fill the glass to just over the imaginary 1/3 line with rum.
  • Add some ice.
  • Fill to top with club soda.
  • Today, since I had some pommelo, I added a handful of peeled sections to the mix.
Just what am I drinking to tonight? Kate - ahem - Catherine and William, the delightful 71 degrees in which I will be working in my garden tomorrow, the spectacular 2 year old perennial garden in the front, moss phlox trailing over the stone wall, alliums in bloom, paying off the credit cards!!, the new sump pump, Friday nights, and everything growing like gangbusters in the potager. Fodder for a season of weekly Garden to Table Challenge posts!

WHAT THE GTTC CHALLENGE IS ALL ABOUT: Want to join me? It's fun! Take what you're harvesting from your garden or buying fresh and locally from your farmer's market and challenge yourself to transform it into something amazing. Post on your blog and then link here so others can find you. You may decide to add your own spin to the challenge. I have recently found out that I am lactose intolerant and I continue to work towards my weight loss goal so my challenge this season will be to cook light and without lactose whenever possible.

WHAT YOU GET OUT OF IT: You'll find this out very quickly for yourself. You may cook more. You may eat better. You may get out of a same old/same old rut. You may try new things. You may discover an new cookbook. You may rediscover an old cookbook. You may make new friends. You may be inspired by others, and you may inspire. PLUS, I will be offering prizes! At the end of the spring/summer season, I will offer prizes (to be determined later) to 3 people who will be randomly chosen. But...I think you'll find the fun is in the challenge itself and not the bonus of a prize entry - I just like to give prizes because it's fun for me. :)

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Publish your post on your blog and be sure to provide a link back to this blog. Link below so others can find you. I will give you one prize entry for each week that you post/provide a link to this blog/link below. The week's GTTC post will be up by Saturday, however you can post/link whenever you like during that week. If you're not officially doing a GTTC post and linking, I always still love your comments! So what's going on in your garden and kitchen this week? Anyone still under snow cover?

*Please do not add your blog and link below if you're not participating. This is ultimately just plain obnoxious. The point of Mr. Linky is for others to find your posts relating to this meme. Thanks!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Break staycation and Garden to Table Challenge (starting 4/30th!)

Sure there aren't clusters and clusters of blueberry blossoms, but enough to start the Garden to Table Challenge creative flow! Will it be blueberry buckle? Maybe blueberry sorbet? Perhaps I'll try blueberry tarts, or... how about chocolate covered blueberries!?

Folks - the Garden to Table Challenge will begin this Saturday! Each Saturday, I will be posting about how I've used some part of my garden harvest that week. Each week, I encourage you to join me by posting on your blog and then linking via mr. linky. Or, if you choose, participate simply by leaving a comment. Here's a sample posting - I searched through the old GTTC posts and forgot about the week I made jalapeno pesto. Gaaawwd - am I excited for summer!

Last year I got so many wonderful ideas from people who joined me. I also found it super fun to think about creative ways to use my harvests. PLUS, I will be offering a contest for participants. Details will follow on Saturday. For now, go see what you've got in the garden and get cookin'! If you're not a vegetable grower - don't fret. You can still participate by posting about how you've used your seasonal vegetables purchased from the market. The goal is to think creatively and eat seasonally.

THIS WEEK ONLY - if you leave a comment explaining how you've helped advertise the opening date of this year's Garden to Table Challenge, I will give you two entries to the 2011 GTTC contest (probably in the form of a raffle for prizes to be drawn for at the end of the season).



We've taken a reprieve from our usual Spring Break adventures. This year, we did the ultimate staycation. It was very low-key. One of the days, my husband even cancelled our day trip was raining. My Spring Break started with my afternoon with the Satanic Boy Scouts. The next day, it was demo time. See that mess below? This is not a corner in a run down shopping mall stairwell where bums pee. This is my home.

After several hours of cutting out moldy drywall, jackhammering the concrete in my basement, a beautiful pipe and sump pump were buried in the ground, then all covered up with new concrete. Don't you just love (large!) expenses that you can't even show off to your friends?

The first of our official trips was to Longwood Gardens in PA. I want one of those orange hoses that shoot mulch! Can you imagine what life could be like? And if you could have a helper follow you around and unkink your hose and reload your mulch shooter? I could get so much more done.

This is the curved "Whispering Bench" - a large curved stone bench. If you sit on one end across from your friend sitting several feet away on the other end, you can have a covert conversation just by softly whispering into the curve of the bench.

I've posted about this before - this is a large hallway with living walls. The doors you see in the wall lead to individual "bathroom pods" - each with its own skylight.

The next day, we hiked our nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. It's a very steep (and fun) 1/4 mile to the summit.

Below, our second child - not quite the nature child - is very proud of how brave she's being holding a gigantic beetle (notice I'm several feet away shielding my face with a camera). Her dad is assuring her it is friendly and does not bite.

...though he failed to mention the sharp burrs on its legs that have just cut our totally freaked out child's hand. Tears don't help the descent.

Once on the ground and about to enjoy a picnic lunch, she's back to being the happy annoying little sister again. Big sis is not amused.

On a rainy day - hours of Super Mario Bros. Here, Lyric is again proud. This time it's because she's earned 99 lives. She tried to flip it to 100 but the game won't allow it. Remember the good old days when you got 3 lives that were totally precious and if you lost them all, you needed to go beg your parents for another quarter? Or sometimes you could get another life, but you'd have to earn 10,000 points first.

At the National Gallery of Art to see Gauguin. This is the moving walkway connecting the West and East buildings. The moving lights are actually a light sculpture by Leo Villareal. It's very cool and fun for kids to pass through.

At my parents' house. My father is fishing. In the house, the incubator is completely full of duck and goose eggs! I'm sure I'll have some fun photos to share soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My afternoon with the Satanic Boy Scouts

Last weekend, I met with troop 666 (along with another troop with a less memorable number) in a beautiful home where things appear plentiful, happy, and very NOT Satanic. Honestly, I had some mixed feelings going into this project of helping the boys earn their merit badge. As a master gardener (intern, officially), I want to spend my very limited time volunteering to improve the lives and environments of people who are much less fortunate. The idea of teaching already privileged children about gardening...well, it needed to be reconciled in my head. But the way I looked at it, gardening is something that should be for all people regardless of socio-economic status. I figure if there are people - any people - who want to learn about gardening and ask for my help, I should provide it if I can. To deny a group of people based on financial status would not be right. And sometimes, it's the children from the more privileged backgrounds that are not provided certain types of opportunities (I can say this because I was one of those children!).

It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I asked the boys why they wanted to earn this badge and got some mixed answers: "I want to learn about gardening", "I need to earn more badges", "My mom made me come", "I had nothing else to do". Ha ha for honesty! I told the boys that I would provide information on everything they needed to earn the gardening merit badge but whispered that I had an ulterior motive - psst...I was really trying to create gardeners and on a future glorious Sunday like that day, I wanted them to think, "I want to go out and work in the garden", and not, "I want to work on another merit badge".

I was happy with the message I began with:
  • There are MANY methods for all the things I would show them. I would share conventional wisdom and also what has worked for me - and everything I would share would come from my perspective of organic gardening, but my way is only one of many ways.
  • No gardener would probably consider themselves "expert" because there are changes in the environment every year, there are gardening inventions every year, there are problems and new solutions every year, and gardeners are always learning and trying new things. This is part of the joy of gardening.

I had packets with information about: parts of a flower, photosynthesis, hardiness zones, seed-starting (indoors and directly outside), nutrition values of veggies and fruits - we also went through how each veggie should be started, soil preparation, container gardening, watering, seed germination, plant problems and diagnosis, IPM, garden pests and organic methods of control, hydroponics, vermiposting, composting, and water gardens. I actually spent an enormous amount of time preparing, organizing, copying, etc. I also brought lots of things to show: my gardening bucket, floating row cover, my seed starting supplies, etc.

There were many topics the boys seemed genuinely interested in and asked excellent questions about:
  • The parts of a flower - pollination/fertilization - what I called "plant sex 101". They have obviously had some good science teachers and had many "what if" questions.
  • The photos from my post on the tobacco hornworm. They then launched into a discussion about a parasite that injects eggs into a dog's butt and then flies out.
  • Interesting vegetables such as heirlooms. I explained how an heirloom is "true to seed" and often carries a story - such as seeds that may be have been brought to the US by slaves.
  • They were VERY interested in the possibility of growing purple carrots, and some seemed impressed that I am trying to grow blue potatoes and baby corn this year.
  • They were interested in our short talk on weeds. I told them about the hairy bittercress or shotweed I'm dealing with right now, and explained that if you miss the right time to pull them, they'll shoot a gazillion seeds right into your garden if you touch them. They started brainstorming ways to get rid of them - put a bag over it before pulling, put a tarp underneath (smart boys, huh?), light them with a match. I told them my neighbors thought I was crazy enough without walking around with matches lighting all my weeds on fire.
  • One kid asked how to produce the most vegetables possible and asked if fertilizer was the answer. Luckily, I had a bottle of what I use in my garden. I covered the label and had the boys sniff and guess what it was made of. This was so much fun - for me at least. After a few good guesses and several scrunched up faces, I revealed that it was fish emulsion and sea kelp.
  • During our section on garden pests, I talked about some of the struggles in my garden (slugs, raccoons, etc.) as well as some solutions. I told them that the coyote pee and putrescent egg solids (in the deer repellent) have been working to keep the deer off of my daylilies. We then had a short discussion about whether human pee was good for plants. I ended that quickly by telling them to just pee where they were taught to pee.
I had 3 hours to discuss all the topics and unfortunately, I was only able to properly go into detail with about 1/4 of the materials I brought. Though the tasks for this badge seemed relatively simple to the parents (start 3 veggies from seed, 3 from seedlings through harvesting, germinate 100 seeds, identify 5 pests and solutions for control, build a compost bin or worm bin, etc.), there's a LOT to discuss. Hopefully we discussed enough to get them started and inspired, but having done this one time, all these "basics" really require several sessions to properly teach. I feel bad that we had to speed through many of the topics. I'll have to trust them to read the packets themselves.

I sent a follow up e-mail to the parents with instructions on how to help their kids with this badge. I'm also e-mail support. I plan to send a few follow up messages throughout the season with suggestions, questions, and just to keep in touch. There's a requirement for them to visit a garden and share what they've learned. Instead, I'm going to send them to the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum and create a scavenger hunt for them to complete. Finally, at the end of the 90 days, I will follow up with a meeting where they will all bring photos and share out. I was thinking about bringing bulbs or something as a little prize, and also talking about garden clean up at that time.

On Sunday, we started with 10 boys and lots of excitement around the big table. We'll see how many make it to the finish line!!! Gardening may seem easy to novices but the requirements of this badge are really a big task. I hope they all make it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Montreal part 3 - I could live here

In words and images, some of many reasons why I could pick up and move to Montreal RIGHT NOW...

  • It's a busy, bustling city with a well-organized walking, bus, and metro system that gets you anywhere you need to go. I love the sneak peeks down city streets at the snow topped "mountain" behind the city.
  • A city where cafes offer 3.25% milk - cause I always knew there was a middle ground between whole and 2%!
  • Where teens are hanging out, laughing, and going places together. I did not see one teenager texting the entire time! The only teen/young adult I saw with her phone out was talking into it and making plans to meet up that evening (Go me! Yay for years of French class!).

  • My sister above, digging into a plate of poutine - fries, gravy, and "squeaky" cheese". In front of the lively La Banquise on the left of the photo below, a line is forming. You don't go onto the packed-like-sardines restaurant and put your name and number of guests in. You just stand outside in line. Everyone wants in - you'll get your turn. And when you are seated, you'll choose one of a plethora of poutine dishes (chili, mexican style, classic, etc.). Vegetarians like my sister appreciate the amazingly delicious vegetarian gravy (and fall in love enough to try their hand at making poutine at home) .

  • Where there are shops dedicated to growing vertically along walls!

  • Where exterior stairs are an artform in themselves.
  • Where activism is active.
  • Where gothic beauty stands tall next to metropolitan skyscraper.
  • Where birders make homes for their feathered friends in the many green spaces throughout the city.
  • Where even the parking garage exit signs take a calm and kind approach.
  • I'm going to end with a story that for me, generalizes how I feel about the Montreal people. My sister and I were on the metro one evening. It was pretty crowded. A woman comes onto the train and falls. It was quite a scene. IMMEDIATELY, two people nearest to her each grab an arm and pick her up. IMMEDIATELY, the two people near the door stand in front of the closing doors because her legs are not through. As the woman is helped up, IMMEDIATELY, a college aged kid gets up from his seat and motions for her to sit. As we start moving and things get back to normal, I notice that the group of teenaged kids look over at her a little but there were no rolling of eyes, no snickering, no laughing, as I unfortunately believe would have happened here. I noticed that when she fell, there was no loud show of ,"Oh my gosh - are you OK?" The people on that train just quickly and silently acted. There were no falsities, no fear of jumping in to help, no waiting for a leader to emerge and tell people what to do. I have thought about this incident A LOT, and have wondered why where I'm from, people would make a big show of wanting to help, but wouldn't jump in - and why I'm sure the kids here would have snickered. My sister and I have laughed at ourselves for making such gross generalizations about a culture based on spending 4 days in a new city. The grass could always be greener... But this was not an isolated incident. There were so many little examples of the people of Montreal being kind, helpful, genuine, and an overall very RELAXED people - despite managing an extremely large and busy city. When I got on the plane back to DC, the arm of my coat was on the seat next to me. As I scooched for another passenger to get into her seat, the first thing she did was fling the arm of my coat on to my seat with a "tsk" and abruptly put the arm rest down to separate us. Yep, the familiar "chip on the shoulder" that had been missing from my life for 4 days. It feels like home - but having seen the other side, I just don't get why it has to be this way.

Friday, April 15, 2011

GBBD - April 2011

It's springtime and I can't even fathom how many gazillabytes of data are probably passing through May Dreams Gardens on this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Lots to show you so I'll keep the commentary largely to myself this time!

Above: grape hyacinth. Below: sinocalycalycanthus buds

Above: one of my several hellebores. Gorgeous cut and floating in a bowl of water. Below: daffs, fox's grape in the foreground and strawberries almost in bloom in the background.

Moss phlox on the stone wall.

Trout lily above and checkered lilies below.

Blooms of the fothergilla shrub above and fragrant rose-scented tulip below.

Below: blooms from my daff collection...

Below: Ruth, who stumbled upon my blog searching for Napa cabbage info, e-mailed me these amazing photos she was sent of tulips from Skagit Valley where she is originally from. Crazy, huh?!

BY THE WAY: Don't forget that on 4/30, we will launch this season's Garden to Table Challenge. What will you be harvesting and cooking? Get ready to blog about it - every week!
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