What’s Growing in Northern California – Harvest Update June 3rd

It’s been a huge blessing to work from home. A fifteen minute break can be spent watering the garden and watching birds dance around the bird feeder. A lot of winter crops are starting to reach maturity. Spring peas are just past their peak. I’m letting some mature on the vine to harvest seeds for sowing in fall. I shelled the others. What’s nice about sugar snap peas is that you can eat them at any stage. A great variety I’ve always loved for its versatility.

Walls walls onions.

The fava beans have been cut but I left the roots in the ground for the added benefit of carbon sequestration and organic material. Onions may have got stressed out at some point because some are starting to flower which affects their taste and ability to store well. I’m picking them sooner than I want. I’ve planted more seeds for a fall crop so I’m hoping those provide better results. The tops never did yellow and fall down. This crop was Walla Walla, the onion I just planted are Spanish Yellow. We will see if there is a huge difference in bulb size and growth pattern.

Sugar snap peas shelled.


No waste garden notes:
It’s very hard to keep up eating everything in the garden without letting the products go bad. Even with a small kitchen garden, lettuce will flower, peas go unpicked, and beets get forgotten in the fridge. Every few days I try to get into the kitchen and think of food I can make with what’s in season. Grow what you eat often is a way to avoid too much food going to waste. That’s something I continue to practice and mention in this blog.

Drought notes:
Warm weather is around us and we’ve had very little rainfall in California. One way to help with water use is mulching. I can’t say it enough, it helps keep water in the soil and adds organic material that builds healthy soil. There is some concern about wood chips stealing nitrogen from plants but I’ve had plenty of success using it and don’t plan on stopping. Check out my post on mulch here.

List of To-Do’s in the garden:
– Weed, tons of crab grass still coming up even though sheet mulching (process of laying down cardboard and mulch) helped with a lot of it.
– Finish planting summer crops.
– Plant celery seeds. Such a great plant to grow because often you don’t need a whole bunch for a specific recipe.
– Continue harvesting spring crops.
– Tie up rest of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Harvest Update

Today, I went out to harvest turnips from the garden. It’s always a pleasure to grow a plant successfully that you’ve never grown before. It’s a balancing act, you don’t want to plant veggies that you’ll never eat but you want experience growing some veggies that can add to your palate and food storage. Here in Northern California, i planted these seeds in February and I’m harvesting them now in late May. The variety is an heirloom variety called purple top white globe and the seeds were bought from seed savers exchange. I have to say that the termination rate for these seeds was excellent. I admit that I didn’t thin these as much as I should have but the crop still turned out well. These turnips will be made into a mashed turnip recipe mixed with potatoes and turnip greens and a whole lot of butter.

Purple Top White Globe Heirloom Turnips

Also in the basket of today’s harvest was some fava beans. Tore most of them out to make room for summer crops. I took the tops of the fava beans and shredded them with the lawn mower for compost and left the roots in the bed to decompose. Pretty cool that you can see the nodules that help the bean fix nitrogen.

Home grown fava beans.

Make Your Own Easy DIY Scrap Wood Potting Bench

Easy simple pottery bench.

Everyone with a house seems to have a pile of wood that stacks up over time. Odds and ends, maybe some pressure treated 2x4s or one too many fence boards. What better way to use this wood than using your imagination to create something useful.

Anybody can make one of these simple potting benches with a saw, drill and some extra wood lying around. I’m not going to lay out exactly how to make the design I made because you may have different scrap wood lying around than I do. What I will do is show you some pictures of what I came up with, some general tips, and encouragement to get out there and try!

What you might need:
Scrap wood
2 1/2″ self drilling screws.
Impact drill (standard drill works too)
Circular saw (or a hand saw if you’re looking for a workout.)

I added some hooks and nails to hold scissors for harvesting greens and a spot to hold my hori-hori.

I suggest looking at a few designs before starting out. I searched google for simple designs and modified the design to fit my needs and work with the materials I have on hand. I wanted a shelf so I chose to run the 2x4s up the back. I also wanted a place to store soil underneath so I installed a shelf. The bench can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There’s something magical about creating something of your own design then putting it to use right away. Happy Gardening!

DIY Compost Bin Made from Pallets

Pallets are everywhere for free. Check Craigslist and you’ll probably see something local. Often, they’re thrown behind dumpsters. Here’s a pallet 2 stage compost bin I made from some pallets I picked up. The idea is that one side will be loaded first then by the time the next side is full, the first one should be fully composted. The front is from paint my brother was throwing out.
**I chose to line with hardware cloth because of rats but is definitely not required.

Mock up of compost bin.
A branch from a tree I cut was used as a brace.
Inside of the compost bin that’s been lined with hardware cloth.
Finished compost bin made out of pallets.

the zen of pruning roses

It’s been a few years since I had a pruning job. I forgot how joyful the simple process can be. The weather has gotten colder and the leaves have fallen off the roses, the perfect time to break out the pruners. Note,”pruners,” if you think pruning roses is about breaking out the hedge trimmers, you’re wrong. It’s much more than that.

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It’s about sliding your hands down the stem to find buds you can’t see. Feeling for which direction the bump in the stem is pointing and either accepting the position or moving further down. You’ll mostly want to cut right above the buds facing outwards from the plants but I leave a few on the inside to fill the center so it’s not completely void of foliage.

Pruning roses is about peaking underneath the top leaves to find the stems breaking through the soil and underneath the graft, yelling “you chopped my head off!” These shoots that come from below the graft aren’t the rose you necessarily desire but they don’t know that. They just have a will to live but you must remove them or they will take over. You remove them to form the shape, to prevent overcrowding of stems and leaves that can cause poor airflow and disease.

You’ll want to take a step back from the beautiful specimen to examine it’s form. Often you can get so consumed in the pruning that you don’t know what it looks like from a regular viewing distance and not from the twelve inches your eyes are seeing it from. You may find a branch that you missed, a rose that wasn’t deadheaded, or a shape that just seems slightly off. I believe rose pruning has parallels to life. We can get so caught up in our day to day that we don’t take a step back to take a look at the larger picture. Maybe we need to trim something that is not serving us or change ever so slightly the direction of our life.

fort worth botanic garden in texas

last week, while visiting family, i got the pleasure to visit the fort worth botanic garden in texas. it was the final day of my tri.p i wasn’t at the top of my game. this time of year in texas, the air is humid and the temperature had been floating around 100 degrees. all the businesses in texas like to keep the temperature around a freezing 60 degrees (at least compared to weather outside!). the combination of switching from hot and humid to cold and dry finally gave me a sore throat and aches all over my body. my body was telling me no, don’t go! but i forged ahead.

the fort worth botanic garden is the oldest botanical garden in texas, originating in 1934. that’s make it about 80 years old this year. it’s open daily and most of the gardens here are open to the public for free. some of the gardens such as the conservatory (very cool!) cost two dollars (worth it!) and the japanese garden cost five dollars for adults.

i wasn’t thrilled by the cookie cutter annual plantings. i did enjoy the native forest walk and i felt the conservatory was the best part. if you have kids, the forest walk is great because there is plenty of educational signs and activities to interact with. one of my cousins favorites were the tubes that would relay the sound to a different part of the garden (think tin cans and a string). one thing i did not like about the gardens were that the signs for the plants were absent. the conservatory did the best job providing signs for each of the plants. they may forego putting labeled signs out because most people only want to admire the beauty and not know the name. being from california, it was not easy for me to identify all the native plants.  i would recommend going to fort worth botanic garden if you’re in the neighborhood. if you’re a plant lover or looking for some low cost fun, try the fort worth botanical gardens!

spicy hot cocoa with kava and cayenne

here’s an antianxiety, stress reducing, aphrodisiac, cancer reducing, antioxidant, digestion improving drink that will help you relax when you need it!

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what’s in the cup?

  • water
  • whole organic milk or cream (can also use another liquid that contains fat i.e. soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, butter)
  • the fat soluble constituents will bind to the fat in the liquid
  • kava powder
    aphrodisiac, antianxiety, sedative, expectorant, antibacterial, helps with sleep and stress
  • raw cocoa powder
    aphrodisiac, antioxidant, diuretic (eliminate fluid buildup while retaining minerals).
  • vanilla extract
    anticancer, carminative (helps with gas and bloating)
  • cinnamon powder
    warming, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant, astringent (drying, constricts tissue, helps with healing, creates barrier against infection), improves digestion.
  • cayenne powder
    warming, antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, antispasmodic, carminative, improves digestion and metabolism and increases blood circulation.

Directions

1) 3 cups of water, 2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup kava, 1/4 cup cocoa,  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne powder. (4 servings)
2) add everything together and bring to a simmer…continue simmering for at least 15 minutes…
3) strain and pour…although i don’t strain, i let the contents settle to the bottom of cup then enjoy!

the vanilla extract, cinnamon, cayenne powder should all be done to taste. cayenne powder will add a considerable amount of heat so if you don’t like a lot of heat, use sparingly. of course, you can leave it out all together but you will missing out on some of the great healing properties of cayenne.

warning: don’t drink kava if you have liver problems or are consuming multiple alcoholic drinks.

Regional Parks Botanical Garden at Tilden in Berkeley, California

Spring is a great time to invite your neighbors or friends who aren’t necessarily interested in plants to take a hike through a local park or botanical garden. Even if their interest lies far away from the ‘natural’ world, the showy blooms of many of our native and non native flowers will spark their interest for an hour or two. Who knows? Maybe they will catch the plant bug. I know for me, once I’m introduce to something, I began to have more appeciation for what it is, whether it be a plant, mushroom, make-up technique, fast car, anything!

I visited the Botanical Garden at Tilden in Berkeley with my friend Samantha the other day. This place has been around since 1940 and it shows. There is an amazing display of plants from all regions of California. It’s a great way to see the state’s flora in one place. Did I mention it’s free?!? There is also tours on Saturday and Sundays.

Here are a few pictures from a recent visit to the gardens…


















 

 

Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.