Monday, August 25, 2008

All Quiet on The WidsomBlog Front...

This week: school starts and the madness begins.
Next week: I'm blowing it off to go here.
The week after that: I'm back in black, baby.

Have a good coupla weeks!

PS: the fall beans are off; the shallots and leeks are transplanted; some late tomato seedlings have been set out...the true fall garden goes in Sept 13. Stay tuned for disco!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I heart Al Gore

I loved this so much over at jeneflower's blog that I had to do a repost.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fall Planting - woohoo!

Well, the weather this year has been down right weird. It rained and rained and rained in June. Then it got normal - hot and scorchy in July and most of August so far but the past week it's been around 80 degrees and overcast with some rain. Portland weather!

In the midst of the cool down I decided to start the fall garden with a first sowing of green beans and romano beans. The spring beans did well until the spider mites nearly obliterated their numbers. I'm hoping the cooler fall weather will spare them of this menace since heat seems to send spider mites into heat (the reproductive kind). I also tucked in some more winter squash (Chicago warted hubbard, black futsu, and jumbo pink banana) since the last round got decimated by squash vine borers. Not sure I'll get anything off of them but I'll try. Today I followed up with a mix of fish emulsion, hot pepper spray, and insecticidal soap to get the heat-oppressed garden back up to par. The peppers till look good, as does the okra, sylvetta arugula (that stuff is amazing!) and cherry tomatoes. Everything else looks sad and will probably come up soon.

Several weeks ago I also started some fall tomatoes (a pink Israeli tomato I received as a thank you from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - it's a trial tomato not for sale, so we'll see), shallots, leeks, and beets under lights inside. I plan to plant out the tomatoes tomorrow and hold off for cooler weather for the other stuff. I've been trying to decide what and how to plant everything for this fall. I just got a big order of seeds from Pinetree that included three kinds of kale (konserva, dinosaur, and dwarf blue), rutabaga, brussel sprouts, daikon, spinach, collards, cabbage, miner's lettuce, salsify, and some seeds for next spring (banana legs tomato and the bianco lungo cucumber). Garlic should be arriving from Territorial soon. I already had some carrots, broccoli, leeks, favas, turnips, and peas that are relatively cold hardy so we should be good. I need to get a few more frost blankets, though. Between that and some salvaged windows we should be able to make several things last through the winter. Okie winters involve a lot of ice but aren't typically ridiculously cold.

In terms of putting away the harvest, we've been busy on that end, too. I've made 14 large batches of pesto (anyone want some???) which are currently in the freezer. Dried and froze some tomatoes. Dried habaneros and cayenne for Pizza Flakes from Hell. Pickled peppers. Pickled cucumbers. Canned salsa and jam. Made homemade tabasco sauce. Canned tomatoes and green beans. Stewed and froze some tomatoes. Dried loads of dill, rosemary, and cilantro. Tonight I'm canning up loads and loads of chicken stock with homegrown onions and carrots and herbs. Oh, and the crazy volunteer butternut squash has just provided number 17! I've got them stored in an old bread box until it cools down enough to clear a space in the (largely uninsulated) garage. I checked my calendar and I first noticed it had come up on March 29 which is ridiculously early and cold. I didn't bother to cover it when it froze two more times after that, so it was one hardy bitch! :)

And lest it sound like its all roses here, it's not. Absolute failures in the garden included the aforementioned winter squashes and the chartenais melons (nice vines - no fruit!). Largely failures included the broccoli, red onions, and white onions (the yellows did great). Somewhat failures included the damned Opalka tomatoes! I'm so disappointed about them!!! I'm going to do some more research to see if I can clarify the problem...

Well, I suppose that's it. I need to work on the course I'm teaching starting in...10 days...Au revoir summer. You were one belle soeur if only for just a little while...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The journalistic prowess of Martin Brashear and company

ABC did a Nightline story on (mostly) peak oil survivalists last night. Of course the whole thing was sort of like "Look at the crazy monkeys in the zoo, little Johnnie! Aren't they weird? They're saving FOOD!"

Someone, somewhere, on some blog (probably lots of someones) made the point that the green movement/peak oil preparedness movement/locavore movement, etc. is garnering enough attention and short time devoteeship that it might eclipse itself into trendiness (which it has) and eventually passe-dom. I certainly hope this is not the case...but stories like this don't help.

Nightline story on survivalists

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Two night ago was the first time I found myself jumping up and down and screaming in my living room in quite some time (well since OU played last year...). I get somewhat turned off by the melodrama that goes into enormous sporting events, but watching the athletes themselves is such a pleasure. Especially when you get this:

Frickin' awesome

Last night lovie and I marveled at the absolutely outrageous Chinese gymnastics team. Those dudes nailed their landings, you could see shock waves rippling through their backs before they stood up. Good god.

And Jonathan Horton is like a bullet with magnetic feet.

He may be from Houston, but he goes to THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA!!!!

Diving or Jumping?

I can do without the Morgan Freeman schlock, but this stuff is sweet.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pepper Report

Another update on the growing guide...

This year I grew Roberto's Cuban Seasoning and Lemon Drop peppers from seed, as well as a hot pepper mix that included ancho, jalapeno, cayenne, Hungarian Wax, and poblano. These I started under lights inside in March and April. I bought plants for habanero, red bell, and tabasco. All were planted out the last week of April in a soil amended with homemade compost, store bought mushroom compost, and manure.

Roberto's Cuban Seasoning
Started 9 seeds of which three were viable. Planted those out - 1 died and two are still a-growin'. One is now reliably producing a gorgeous and delicious wrinkled Chinese lantern type of pepper. The other is still growing and is stunted for some reason, although it looks healthy. Roberto's is billed as being a heat-free version of the habanero with that delicious taste. While it doesn't look like a habanero, it could be reasonably similar in appearance to a savina or scotch bonnet, but wrinklier. It does have that phenomenal taste and very low (though not heat-free) heat. I had trouble getting these maturity, but I frequently have trouble starting and maintaining peppers from seed (except for Fish Peppers which seem to grow themselves). They're worth the trouble, though - great pepper if you can get em going. Very, very, very tasty!

Lemon Drop
I started 6 of these, of which 2 were viable. Planted them both out and 1 died. The other is now covered in green peppers that are beginning to ripen to yellow. I guess I can't really comment on the flavor as they haven't ripened yet, but hopefully they will taste like the one I got from the pepper lady last summer - it tasted like a pepper dipped in lemon! YUM! In any case, these too were persnickety in terms of the growing culture. I don't have much space for heating mats and a big lighting rig, but I bet that would help my pepper turnout...

Hot Pepper Mix
These grew very easily in comparison to the speciaty peppers mentioned above. They are likely hybrids, though - wasn't mentioned on the package specifically what variety they are. In any case, they were much easier. So far I've gotten some of all, but the real stars have been the Hungarian Wax peppers which have gone mad. The anchos are doing okay. The jalapenos are doing well. The cayenne is working on it. The poblano is not doing so okay. Both the poblano and the anchos are somewhat spindly and growing straight up, rather than bushing out. Not enough leaf cover to prevent sunburn on the fruits. Lame. I think next year I will pinch all of my peppers when they are young things and remove the first sets of flowers. I want busy, bushy plants!!!

Red Bell
Hmph. Usually when I've purchased plants they've done well. Well, not these. The plant looks okay but I've only gottn 4 bells off it so far. Boo! And the first had BER on the side of it. I know it was a weird year weather-wise (wettest on record by July!) but still. Not impressed this year.

I've had good luck with habaneros in the past and this one is no exception - big, bushy plant with loads of lethal orange beauties. Doing great.

This is probably the standout plant in my garden this year - well, this and the Grendel Squash of Doom - but this one is much more manageable and productive in a much, much smaller amount of space. This plant is literally covered in hundreds - yes, really - of tiny peppers. I'm constantly pulling them off. Very much worth the space and time, particularly if you love things bloody spicy. Need I mention homemade tabasco???

Friday, August 8, 2008

Homemade Tabasco

Easy, very hot sauce to dribble onto everything. Except people. This could seriously burn eyes and sensitive membranes (never pick your nose after cutting's just a bad idea). Use hot pepper safety.

Homemade Tabasco - makes one jar

  • Save yourself a Tabasco jar with lid and plastic stopper.
  • Simmer about 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with about 1 1/2 cups tabasco peppers until peppers look soft and mushy (maybe 15 mins?).

    The little orangey-red peppers in the left hand corner are tabasco peppers

  • Grind it up in a food processor or food mill. If you are so inclined and have the time and equipment, put it through a sieve to get out the seeds, etc.

  • Place a funnel into the neck of the bottle - you might have to shove it down on there. This one came from a flask kit.

  • The bamboo kebab stick helps you poke the pulp and seeds through so they don't just bottleneck the funnel. Top remaining pulp with enough vinegar to cover (maybe a tablespoon or so).

  • Shake! Shake! Shake!

  • I left enough room to add more peppers, so adjust accordingly. I think I'm going to regrind this or maybe sieve it because it's getting clogged. Or I might just remove the stopper and see how that goes.

  • This sauce is really hot! It tastes a lot like regular Tabasco except it's not fermented for three years because frankly I don't have that kind of patience or self-discipline. We had it on eggs and on jambalaya and it really is great on most savory things. But be careful, though, because it's firey hot. The seeds make it hotter than the real deal.

    Et voila!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

July eats stash

* July 31 - sandwich fixings and salad
* July 30 - Buffa-pho (peppers, basil, onions), mixed beans, Greek salad
* July 28 - Faux Nicoise
* July 27 - green beans; tomato salad
* July 26 - lavender infused vodka...
* July 25 - turkey and bulgar burger fixins', yellow tomato salsa, homemade pickles
* July 23 - Butternut alfredo with edamame and oyster mushrooms (I didn't grow those!); tomato salad
* July 22 - caprese salad
* July 20 - lamb's quarters and bulgar stir fry with carrots, onions, eggplant, okra, tabasco peppers, and tomatoes
* July 19 - 13 pints tomatoes, 3 quarts mixed beans
* July 18 - bulgar pilaf with onions, carrots, and dill
* July 16 - butternut squash with goat cheese and pasta; dill and habanero pickles
* July 15 - tomato salad and sandwich fixings
* July 13 - Greek salad
* July 11 - gi-normous batch of salsa
* July 10 - salad & enchildadas (tomatoes, onions, peppers)
* July 9 - zucchini & onion frittata with tomato salad
* July 8 - salad
* July 6 - tomato salad
* July 4 - big batch of salsa!
* July 2 - butternut squash and onions in habanero cream sauce over wild rice with mixed tomato salad
* July 1 - Green tomatoes, onions, & mixed herbs with organic chicken and pickled onions

Swimming in powerpoint slides


I feel I've been silent too long!!! Truth is I've been crash prepping for a survey course I'm teaching this fall, still helping with campaigning (it's run-off time), still trying to improve my food storage skills (peak oil can be fun and instructive despite the scariness!), still trying to beat the heat, and still trying to relax after all that. posts may be few and far between (or not, who knows) for a month or so. AND in 3 1/2 weeks my lover and I are taking a belated honeymoon to Greece! Woohoo! I'd feel guilty about the carbon issues except that it will very likely be our last trip abroad (besides O Canada and El Mexico) maybe ever (unless newer, better, cheaper technology develops fast and I don't mean hot air balloons). So it's going to be a busy month!

Tara, at Enough..., gave me an award for my quest for knowledge and frequent invocation of the triple word score - thank you, Tara! Using large words in public makes me feel that my indentured servitude with Sallie Mae is somehow worth it. Some.How.

In kind, here are few fun and random facts about moi:

1) Je parle francais. Au moins, j'ai parlé francais auparavant - which is probably self-evident by the spelling and grammar errors. My folks lived abroad for a little over five years so I spent time in France, the Philippines, Malaysia, and New Caledonia.

2) I spent 18 magical months working with these guys: Pongo and Grub back in 2000.

3) I am a twin.

4) My grandmother's family on her father's side was in the land run. My great-grandmother was an educated well-to-do woman who graduated from Boston College in the early 1900s but found herself a spinster at 28! She decided to make an adventurous trip out to Oklahoma to see her cousins and ended up meeting my dashingly good looking (but illiterate) great-grandfather who roughnecked on oil rigs. They married. They had four kids. She had a stunning nervous breakdown from which she only partially recovered. They never divorced but lived across the street from one another in matching tar paper shacks. Aren't people fascinating?

5) I am distantly related to Edgar Allan Poe but come without the torment or the inspiration.

Some pictures before I go!

Vegetable Art I

Vegetable Art II

Vegetable Art III

Pickled Peppers I wrote about here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Growing Guide for the Little Pink House 2008, pt 1

So I wanted to make some notes on what worked this year and what had problems. As we cruise into August I don't have super high hopes for everything. I think the okra and squash will stay strong and the tomatoes will probably limp through but we'll see. We'll all do the best we can in 106º heat...

Opalka, Paul Robeson, Golden Queen started from seed under lights in March
Green Zebra, Amish Paste, Ananas, Mexican Midget, large red cherries bought as plants

Opalka - Large, horn-shaped paste tomato; giant plants, very late to set fruit, have harvested two tomatoes to date! Disappointing. They tasted good, but not great. It was exceptionally meaty and there were very few seeds, as to be expected from a paste tomato. Also the Opalkas are showing the most heat and time damage - I think! - with the bottom 1/4 yellowed and drying. I'm seeing a resurgence of Blossom End Rot on these, unfortunately, and I guess it's due to the dry, dry weather. I think it's the climate here - maybe it was too hot too fast or too rainy. Did not live up to the rave reviews I read online. (Pinetree)

Paul Robeson - black-brick tomato; big plants, good fruit set with heavy, large fruit. I was surprised at how big the fruit is, actually. Baker Creek said 7-10 oz but mine have averaged on the large size with several 2 lbs+. Serious problems with cat facing and cracking but awesome taste. I planted 6 from seed and 1 of the 6 has turned out to be more pinkish-purple than the rest and resistant to cracking and cat-face. Guess which one I'm saving seeds from? I labeled them Pink Paul, which I like! These tomatoes have tasted great, just wish I had more of them. They have ceased setting fruit over the last few weeks and one looks as though it may have some form of wilt.

Golden Queen - 3-4" orangish-yellow tomatoes; big plants, great fruit set - having a bumper crop of these, actually. Mine are smaller than 3-4", more like large cherries at 2-3". They taste great and are pretty, one complaint being a rather thick skin. Not much loss of acid like you sometimes get with yellow tomatoes. Still setting fruit despite the temps! Definitely a keeper! (Also from Pinetree.)

Green Zebra - 4"-5" ripens to yellow with green zaggy stripes, green on the inside. I LOVE this tomato! So flavorful and psychedelic. They had some early troubles with BER but have gotten over it and are now doing great. Very prolific and still setting fruit even in the heat. I will definitely keep this one around. (Bought plant.)

Amish Paste - giant paste tomatoes that grow so thick they're almost heart shaped. I've pulled several of these and they're good, but not great. Not prolific for me and the plant is drying up around the base due to heat stress. No new fruit in several weeks. Not sure what the problem is this year but haven't had good luck with either of the paste varieties I tried. (Bought as plants.)

Ananas - Large, yellow striped tomatoes with a red core, up to 2 pounds...Boo. I was prepared to be delighted with these beautiful fruit and they were beautiful...but I couldn't get them up to a ripe harvest before they had cracked and became infested or rotted. So I tried a couple that weren't ripened to perfection and they weren't that good. Very thick, so would probably make good salsa roughage, but not that tasty. Again, this is probably due to my/Oklahoma's error as I hear it's a fabulous tomato. Maybe a bit delicate for our climate or needs stronger/more pesticidal attention (we're all organic chez nous). (Bought as plant.)

Mexican Midget - tiny little gum-ball tomatoes. SOOOO freaking good!!! Producing like crazy, even now. The plant has spred enormously and every day I get at least a handful or two of these guys. Very reliable and delicious - the skin isn't too thick, either. Definitely a keeper! (Bought as plant.)

Large Red Cherry - 1 oz+ cherry tomatoes labelled generically as large red cherries. They are producing well now, despite the heat, and the heat seems to have improved their flavor. At first I was not at all impressed but they've gotten better over the last few weeks. I don't have science to support me on this, but I'll bet it's something chemical. In any case, I won't devote too much early garden space to these but might consider adding some in June or very early July. (Bought as plants.)

Here are some of the troubles I've experienced with my tomatoes this year - septoria leaf spot, aphids, spider mites (though not bad, the beans have had it much worse), stinkbugs (eww), BER, and blossom drop. I'd say the single most impactful thing has been the blossom drop, which as I wrote about here, is due to environmental conditions usually. Therefore I've started researching tomato varieties that like heat (and aren't hybrids, as I like to save seeds). I'll have that out fairly soon. I'll update with the rest of the garden roll call soon, as well. The sad fact now is that the heat is taking its toll - stuff's starting to get ugly and there's not much I can do about it except write! (And make sure everything's watered, of course!)

Here's a question for all of you garden pros out there - how do you distinguish between normal heat-related dying, yellowing, drying, and browning of the bottom foliage of your tomato plants with wilts and blights? Enquiring minds want to know!


Okay, this was so good I have to share...somehow this has turned into more of a kitchen blog than a gardening blog but as I said yesterday, the garden is in deep-heat-survival mode.

So I ordered a buffalo roast from our coop last month. We used it as a roast, as yummy sandwiches with dijon mustard and pickles, and as BUFFA-PHO.

If you're a pho devote like myself you'll realize that all you really need to make a good pot of pho is a few fine ingredients. Simple, simple. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup which includes a meat, onions, peppers, rice noodles, fresh bean sprouts, fresh basil, lime, and a squirt of hot garlic chili paste. Man, is it good! And it's fairly light, too, so while it's soup, it's still good on a summer night. No food coma afterwards. Typically it's made by quickly heating raw meat in simmering stock and then serving immediately. I usually make it with leftovers, though, and it's great!

Here are rough estimates of what I threw together the other night, remember my constant motto - taste and adjust!

Buffa-pho for two

  • about 6 oz thinly sliced buffalo roast (throw in the freezer for 30 mins to make it easier to slice the meat thinly
  • 1/2 pkg rice noodles, prepared according to directions (boil water, remove from heat, soak, use)
  • 2 peppers, hot or not, sliced
  • one small onion, thinly slice in rings
  • 2 cups stock + 2 cups water (or 4 cups stock, we were running low)
  • about 2 tsp soy sauce or Braggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • about 8-10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 lime, quartered
  • Sriracha sauce at the ready!
Heat stock and slice meat while it's warming up. Toss in onions and meat and peppers. After four or five minutes add the rice noodles. Let it all get hot but don't cook it for too long - the veggies should still be crispy. Ladle, and garnish with bean sprouts, torn basil leaves, squirt on lime and Sriracha and you're ready to go!