Friday, March 30, 2012

The Garden to Table Challenge 2012 begins!

The Garden to Table Challenge 2012 is about to begin on APRIL 9th, and you're cordially invited!

  • WHO: Anyone with a passion for growing food, cooking, and sharing ideas with others.
  • WHAT: Simply post on your blog or on Facebook about how you've used your own harvests. See any of my GTTC posts for an example. Share a recipe if you can. Be kind by mentioning Greenish Thumb in your post so others can find us.
  • WHERE: Link your post to the GTTC of the week using Mr. Linky.
  • WHEN: I will add each week's GTTC post on Monday. Simply find the most current GTTC post and add your link. Posts will begin on Monday, April 9th.
  • WHY: Because it's fun. Because you're growing and cooking amazing stuff anyway and you should let others know about it. Because you can see what other people are doing with their harvests each season. Because knowing you plan to participate will inspire you to be your culinary best. And finally, because I will be doing giveaways periodically throughout the summer and each time you 1) do a GTTC post that includes a link back to Greenish Thumb and then 2) link using Mr. Linky, your name goes in a pot to win random prizes. Your name never comes out, so the more you participate, the more chances you have to win. How fun is that?!
  • Not reaping huge harvests yet, but still want to participate? Please do! Choose fresh, seasonal vegetables and show us how you're using them!

Greenish Thumb

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scamp and the fence

If you've been following Scamp's story, he's been doing great. A little wobbly and arthritic-looking, but he seems to have a happy life with us. He's the kind of dog you can dress up in a bonnet and push around in a baby carriage. He's just a sweet and quiet dog who tolerates (and has been through!) a lot.

Unfortunately, he's also been routinely destroying my precariously stacked raised beds and sleeping and peeing in the vegetable garden. When you try to tell him to move, he sits and just looks at you. When you try to move him, he lays down and closes his eyes. Below, you see him in the strawberries. In the irises. In the raspberries. This behavior can't continue.

Sooooo... the yard that had been metal fence free for several years, is once again surrounded by the unattractive but necessary green metal fence. Above, Scamp is enjoying his last moments before being moved to the garden-free portion of the yard.

week 12 run recap - fat (asparagus, that is)

I never tire of these gorgeous magnolias. Could a bloom period be any shorter though?!

Race is approaching and my running is decreasing. Not smart. These posts, which I have set to post automatically for "accountability" every week for the rest of this year are actually really annoying me. I deleted all my posts scheduled to post after the race to spare you and me. This week, I ran twice. Didn't time it. I'm finding the whole thing getting old.

But here's an instance when getting old is good! In this photo (in which my daughter looks really horrendous for some reason), I found the fattest spear of purple asparagus yet - proof that patience is really a virtue for asparagus growers. My small asparagus bed was planted about...7 years ago I think?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Heirloom Gardener - Spring 2012

If you haven't already seen it, Heirloom Gardener is a fantastic magazine with quality articles that are very different from many other mainstream gardening magazines. This Spring 2012 issue includes articles about hardcore composting, botanical wisdom, heirloom plants of medieval Cyprus (Really, where else could you read an article like that?!), and smack in the middle, my article about the 8 Best Asian Vegetables to Grow.

When the issue came out, I asked my parents what they would have picked if they had to choose the 8 best. My mother said, "Snow peas. White people like snow peas". I had to explain that the article was not about 8 vegetables that white people like, but was intended to be an introduction to lesser known vegetables that all people might like to learn about. There are so many different Asian vegetables I could have chosen, but for this article, I tried to include a selection of vegetables that were either really yummy, really different, or really cool in some way. All of the vegetables I chose are easy to grow in most zones and I included ideas for cooking each one, along with 2 complete, simple recipes.

Nuff said. You can pick up this magazine at many stores including Whole Foods or Barnes and Noble, or you can visit the Heirloom Gardener Magazine website and buy a back issue or subscribe. If you do read the article, I'd love your feedback!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

week 11 run recap - no running, lots of excuses

Truth be told, I did no running this week. BUT! I did stay active with many gardening tasks to make up for the mileage. Plus, I plan to get back to it this week. As usual, the confidence was going to my head as I started improving my pace and so I started slacking. Not good since the 10K is just over a month away... Anyway, this week, I:
  • Raked all the sweet gum seedpods from the slope and the back yard.
  • Removed about 70% of the onion grass from the slope and vegetable garden beds.
  • Pulled all the dandelions and shotweed from the perennial beds, garden beds, lawn, and vegetable garden.
  • Repaired the four stone raised veggie beds.
  • Put up a wire fence around half my yard to keep the dog out.
  • Amended a few of the veggie beds with Bumper Crop.
  • Planted some annuals (yellow viola and pink ranunculus) in the big planter on the front porch.
  • Started seeds indoors and set up the grow lights, potted the baby lemon tree I bought.
  • Planted some purchased plants in the garden (rhubarb, cauliflower, spinach)
  • Sowed some beets, carrots, lettuce, cukes, dill
  • Did general clean up of all the perennials and herbs - everything wintered over!
  • Pulled all the carrots
  • Pulled ivy off the fence.
OK. Really, I thought I was going to do a half-assed excuse job here, but after listing all this, I did a LOT! All that, and I had time to play some bocce ball with my 7 year old. Spring (or at least spring-weather!) is so fantastic.

Above: rhubarb and Meyer lemon tree.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Friends and Enemies

First, the easy part. Deer. Straight up foe. I had just asked my friend Grace if she started using her deer spray yet and this happened the very next day. This year, I resolve to have the most horrible smelling yard (coyote pee) with the most beautiful reblooming daylilies.

The more complicated issue of the moment involves friends. Facebook friends that is. My literary agent (no, I've never mentioned this before and if I weren't so damn superstitious, I'd divulge more info right now...) has asked me to get on Facebook and I have complied. I don't know how much I'll use it because I've never been too fond of the idea. I've always been the type that prefers few, but close friendships. After being on board for a few days, I just have some thoughts, questions, reservations I'd like to journal here just for posterity (or for feedback too!). Here there are, listed in no particular order...
  • I like to say things like "in no particular order", and as I was posting something or updating my wall or status or whatever it's called, my daughter encouraged me to shorten what I was saying. She said, "It's not e-mail, mom." I'm not sure I'm ok with this. I can be concise when I need to be, but for pleasure writing, I like the freedom to be as long-winded as I want to be.
  • I was against Facebook when I saw an acquaintance who had become a new mother. It had been months and months, and when I told her we should catch up and that I wanted to see pictures, she immediately dismissed the idea and said, "They're all on Facebook". And that was the end of that.
  • I have friended people I have not talked to in 20 years. That's really freaking weird. What's the etiquette? Do you have a personal conversation? Do you just quietly accept the friending and continue to not talk? That doesn't really seem right to me. At the same time, I'm going to admit that as much as I love the "catching up" in real life, I don't necessarily want to. Yeah, and for the friends who have quietly accepted my friending, it's weird to just say "Yo", after 20 years, yet at the same time, if nothing is said now, it will just get more and more awkward to suddenly say "Yo" after some length of time.
  • I realize I'm being uncommonly sensitive about this. I was talking it out with my teenager. I was wondering: if I comment on an old friend's wall or post or status or whatever, and I DON'T comment on another mutual old friend's, that person will see, and won't she then be upset that I didn't comment on her's? My daughter assured me that she would not care - that people don't really care. Again, not sure if I'm cut out for this.
  • When my teen was younger and first got on Facebook, I established an account just to stalk her. I really masked my name because I didn't want to be found by anyone. I had like 5 friends, one of whom was the PTA President, and also a guy named Jerry Moyer - not sure who he is exactly. Anyway, on my birthday, I got a few e-mails wishing me a happy birthday and I thought that was so sweet! I wondered how some of the people knew and then I realized they found out on Facebook. Humpf. I wished an old friend a happy birthday via e-mail recently, and I realized that along with my wish, he probably received 300 others. But how is it possible to convey that his birthday is burned into my brain and that we almost never talk anymore, but I think of him every year on that day not because I get some sort of notification, but because he was my best friend for years and years?
  • I fit a lot into my life. It is not logistically possible to do everything I want to do in each day. For the first 24 hours after establishing my fb account, I was completely addicted. It's hard not to view every photo, figure out how this person knows that person, back up and see what he or she has been doing, read all the notifications, etc. I see how people can get addicted and the thing is, it's truly very time consuming to catch up with so many people - and at a count of about 45 friends, I'm at a practically loser-like popularity status. How do people with hundreds of friends do it?
  • I love the safety of my blogging world where people come here because we share a common current interest. People voluntarily read this stuff I write and that seems preferable to being forced to skim through my current interests that all my "friends" see - and that many don't give a shit about.
  • I don't like rejection. I don't carry a lot of baggage, but my fear of rejection takes up a good deal of that small bag. To "friend" someone and wait to be accepted... ha ha, well, it's just not fun for me. And I've definitely had real life friends tell me "He friended me but I ignored it", and then we both laugh at that chump's misfortune. I don't want to be the butt end of that joke!
  • I made a mistake listing my work locations and it ended up posting another job as my current job. When I went to change that, I think everyone received notification that I made a change. Now come on, do people really want to know every minuscule move I make? I just feel weird adding to the clutter of life with these kinds of superfluous notifications.
  • Sometimes I want to comment on things, like for example, all of my sister's updates. But at the same time, I don't want everyone else to read what I've written. Not for any particular reason - perhaps because I'm ultimately an introvert.
So there you have it - all the overanalysis and hypersensitivity related to my first few days on Facebook. There's a lot I'll have to reconcile, but for now, I'm open for friendship!!!

GBBD - March 2012

My hellebores have had a haircut and look fantastic! They're lovely from the sidewalk, but the best way to view them is really floating in a bowl. Hellebores were pretty huge at the Philadelphia flower show. I must admit that I have a few speckled varieties that blow anything else I've ever seen away.

The vinca is flowering and stretching out, but they're supposed to be growing over the wall, not reaching back towards the slope.

Yeah, I'm really done holding out for snow. The green halo peony is going to be great this year. This plant is 6 years old this year.

A ratty mess now, but the lamb's ear is one of my favorites. The color and texture call out for attention more than any other perennial in the front garden.

Is it spring where you are? To see more blooms from around the world, visit May Dreams Gardens for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on this and every other 15th of the month!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

week 10 run recap - Chestnut Lodge

This week was a bit of a crappy running week - about 3 miles on Wednesday but my usual 6.2 miles on Saturday. I'm plateauing on the pace.

Above: This is where the circa 1886 main building of Chestnut Lodge Hospital used to stand before it burned to the ground a few years ago. The old and historic psychiatric hospital, where I worked for 5 years, had some past. Geez - the crazy stories I could tell from just my time there would be completely overshadowed by the other sordid tales if walls could talk (which I guess these couldn't since there are no walls left). Arson is likely responsible and conveniently paved the way for the new development of expansive homes on minuscule lots. I dare say I find the whole thing sick.

Anyway, one of my 3 mile routes takes me through the development (and the old hospital campus). Maybe I should stop doing this route because as much as I like the stroll down memory lane, it always leave me feeling uneasy.

And on a lighter note, I know all these gazillions of birds naturally live in homes up there, but I'm still always delighted when I stumble upon a nest I can check out up close.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Asian greens and bolting...

Love-to-bolt bok choy
What we know about bolting...
  • Bolting describes the process of a plant sending up a flower/seed stalk prematurely.
  • Plants have a genetically controlled internal clock that tallies the number of daylight hours required for a plant to bolt.  In addition...
  • Anything that puts a plan under stress will cause it to bolt.  This includes conditions that are: too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too crowded.  Many Asian greens are particularly fussy!
  • Cold-bolting basically looks like - you sow your seeds in February, the plants face some cold snaps (which sets the bolting process in motion), once the plants face a warm April, the plants will bolt.  
  • More evidence that nature is cool:  the bolting process is the plant's survival mechanism.  When the plant faces adverse circumstances, it will try to produce seeds to guarantee the next generation as quickly as possible.  
  • When a plant prematurely bolts, the leaves usually become bitter and inedible.  Sometimes it's possible to delay this process by pinching off the top of the seed stalk, but this strategy will not stop the process.  Once it's on it's way, there's no stopping the bolting process.  
  • Once a plant bolts, the bitter compounds in greens such as lettuce provide insect resistance.  Mother Nature has thought ahead again!
Easy to grow sweet potato greens
So what if we want to grow and actually get to enjoy our love-to-bolt Asian greens?
  • Don't wait to harvest.  When your greens are ready to harvest, get to it.
  • Plant early and consider trying some sort of row cover or hoop house to start your season even earlier.
  • Or, save your favorite cold-weather greens for fall.
  • Plant in small amounts, and plant successively.
  • Choose a spot in the garden that gets some shade during the day.
  • Try slow-bolting varieties of your favorite greens (mizuna is a mild and tasty option and is not too fussy.  Garland chrysanthemum is unique and fragrant and does well in spring/fall gardens).
  • Water consistently during periods of drought.
  • Try heat loving Asian greens (such as vegetable amaranth, malabar spinach, or sweet potato greens).
Feel free to add on to these lists of what we know about bolting and how we harvest in spite of it!

week 9 run recap - things my midwife never told me about running

This photo is sort of misleading - this is the watershed area at the end of my street in sprawling suburbia...  Really pretty though, huh?  If it weren't a protected area, they'd bulldoze for sure, build some luxury townhouses and condos and put in a commercial block complete with Panera, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Marble Slab.

This week, I started my Riiiiiippped in 30 days program and the hard part was the food.  Really.  Like an addict, I was fiending for food most of the week.  One day I was driving my older kid to dance class and the voice in my head was saying, "Go to Krispy Kreme on the way home and get 2 glazed donuts or maybe get some fries or a snack size bowl from KFC or some chips and queso from Qdoba or some bubble tea or at least an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks.  It was pretty bad.  I did ok until Friday when I fell off the wagon and went on a TOTAL sweet carb binge.  That night, I had a dream that I was going to a meeting at work but there was free food because the guy who comes to sell life insurance was visiting and trying to entice customers with his bagels, apple turnovers, and danishes.  I spent so much time filling a PLATTER with food that I was going to take with me to eat during my meeting, that I missed the actual meeting.  Anyway, trying not to let all that derail me.

On crappy days this week, I did the Jillian DVD.  On nice kid-activity-free days, I ran about 3 miles on Wednesday and did 6.2 miles today running a 12.41 minute mile.  Yay!

So I successfully had 2 natural childbirths.  To manage the pain during labor, it's important to relax through the contractions as much as possible.  At one point during labor, my midwife told me to relax my eyebrows.  I didn't even realize it, but I probably had a scrunched up face and furrowed brow.  OK, the midwife didn't give me any advice about running, but I've noticed that every now and then, I do the same kind of scrunched up face with furrowed brown when I run.  I've been following the advice to relax my face and it's very helpful.  The exhaustion face does not make anything easier and in fact, only serves to make me feel more tired and intense - in a not good way.  Consciously making an effort to relax the face has helped me feel more relaxed, less tired, and more energetic.  It's been an interesting parallel.
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