Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Here's why I've been quiet - I'VE WRITTEN A BOOK!

Poor, poor neglected blog... Here's the thing, when gardening and writing are 2 of your favorite pastimes (my blog friends know what I'm talking about), the urge to blog doesn't easily disappear, but often it takes the place of something else - usually a life change - in my case, the writing of a book!  If you've been following this blog, you know that I love writing about the less mainstream vegetables my family and I grow, including all the Chinese vegetables I grew up picking from the garden.  You also know I love cooking and food.

I have been so lucky and thrilled to be able to put together these things to create a beautiful book I am so incredibly proud of! Though I got to include about 20 of my own photos, most of the photography is done by Sarah Culver, a magnificent artist whose eye is close to my own. Where I had the aesthetic but not the creativity or technical skill to produce the photos I wanted, Sarah was able to translate what was in my head to real life.  If you love beautiful photos of the garden, you will not be disappointed when you flip through this gorgeous book!

I've also created a website and a blog there that will focus strictly on growing and cooking Asian vegetables.  If you're interested, please check it out and "like" The Chinese Kitchen Garden's page on Facebook to get notifications when there are new posts (or add to your blogroll if that's easier!).

The Chinese Kitchen Garden will be published by Timber Press in February 2017, but is available for pre-order now at your favorite bookseller like Amazon.  I'm so pleased to say that it's not even out but is already doing well!  Of course for me, the main goal is not to sell books (you probably know I have a day job that pays the bills), but to share some of my family and cultural experiences with the world, to highlight some amazing vegetables you may not have tried yet, and to show off some of my mom's best authentic Chinese recipes I grew up with. I've worked really hard to make this a really rich book. Please visit my website here and learn more about this book.  I know you'll love it!

Friday, July 15, 2016

How to keep animals from digging up newly sown seeds (bloodmeal!)

This squirrel sure seems to be enjoying the few raspberries I'm growing!

I'm pretty sure this gorgeous, sleek, fat squirrel is partially responsible for my garden failures early this season.  While my friends are posting photos of baskets full of green beans, tonight, I sauteed up a pan containing exactly 12 beans.  My family gathered around the dinner table where a plate of the 12 long beans lay straight as the tines on a fine-toothed comb.  Or maybe more like a wide-toothed hairpick. Each member of my family ate his/her 3 beans - not too fast! - lest he/she be accused of taking more than his/her fair share.  

What's the problem? Birds, squirrels, maybe a chipmunk...I'm not sure.  When I sow a row of beans, inevitably 70% of the seeds don't come up.  Sometimes it's because I'm a seed hoarder and put my faith in seeds that should have been tossed years ago.  But most of the time, I go into the garden and find a frustrating little hole where I planted a seed the day before.  Just a few plants make it and thus we end up with 12 beans for dinner.  

However, recently, my husband went to the hardware store and came back with a bag of bloodmeal as a "surprise" for me.  Whyever would you buy that, I asked??? For no other reason than, "Because it sounded like something you'd like".  

I have never used bloodmeal but turns out it supplies a good deal of nitrogen and has a side benefit of repelling small animal pests.  When half of my cucumbers did not come up (with the typical holes the next day where the seeds were just carefully placed), I started again with more seed and sprinkled some of the bloodmeal over the area.  No digging and seeds promptly germinated! 

So while we guardedly eyed each other tonight over the plate of 12 green beans, there is a bumper crop of cucumbers coming up. There will be peace once again in the Spray household and it's due to bloodmeal, a fertilizer with a name that people think gardeners would like.  Well, peace again until my addictive sweet/hot pickles are made - then they'll be eye-balling each other again!
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