Showing posts from April, 2013

Cuckoo for Coconuts

During our vacation to Mexico earlier this month, we were surrounded by all kinds of plants we can't grow. We've resigned ourselves to having to buy our citrus, bananas, and avocados, but then we discovered something else: coconuts.

On the beach in Tulum, a Mayan vendor and his son walked the beach selling freshly harvested coconuts. We bought a small bag filled with a bunch of slices, as you can see in the photo above. 
Fresh coconut is nothing like the shredded, dried stuff you get in the grocery store to make macaroons. Although I like that too, the fresh slices are much more nutty in flavor. The texture is kind of like a water chestnut, although not quite that moist. It's really good, and feels like somehow eating a cool, refreshing protein. Too bad there's no way to recreate that here at home.
It was also a main ingredient in this mole dish I had for dinner that night:

None of the white ingredients you are looking at is the coconut. What you see is sour cream, so…

Patriot's Day Flowers, 2013

Ok, so Patriot's Day was last Monday. We were away, and things were unbelievably crazy while we were gone, but I wanted to share something beautiful from an otherwise terrible time here in Masaschusetts:

We came home to our perennial border full of daffodils and tulips. To my surprise, the tulips came back even stronger than last year. It looks like the ones I salvaged from the squirrel-led replanting last spring are now solidly in place and doing well:

You can also see a bit of the blue Siberian squill that is hanging on:

This year it's been nice to see the color combination I was building really come to life. I may have to add some more daffodils to a section that looks a little sparse, but other than that, this is one thing that turned out just as it looked on paper.


We got back from Mexico this weekend and were eager to get a look around the garden. While we were relaxing, a lot was happening here: rhubarb, daffodils, tulips, peas, and our latest sowing of salad greens all popped up. And, most surprising of all, was the moment we first saw this:

For a brief moment, we weren't sure what we were looking at. It's kind of other-worldly, hovering as it is over the earth, and to us it seemed to have appeared over night (though this can't possibly be true, can it?). A closer look:

We'll get a better look when we get around to weeding it (which it clearly needs), but it looks so far like the whole bed has started coming up, with no major winter losses. The above photo shows how it starts with a purplish tinge, but most spears change to all green as they grow. 
Trying to keep in mind that, since we only planted these last spring, we are supposed to harvest only "lightly" this season, we of course cut a bu…

Mexico: Courtyard Garden

¡Bienvenidos a México!

This won't be a long post since I am typing it from my phone in Mexico, but I wanted to share an example of a courtyard garden. This is the breakfast area at Hotel Julamis, where we are staying in Mérida, the capital of Yucatan:

We won't be able to emulate any of this back home in Massachusetts, where outdoor living is hardly a year-round proposition. We are definitely enjoying these indoor-outdoor gardens while we are here, though!

These hanging vines grow from a planting box that is part of the wall on the second floor. On the courtyard patio, there are potted plants as well as trees that grow from a very narrow trench in the floor along the exterior walls.

It seems that these plants don't need much in the way of water or fertility, but I'm not sure. We may be able to find out more when we check out the botanical gardens later this afternoon.

In the photo above, you can see the small fountain in the center of the courtyard. You can also see t…

Expanding the Strawberry Patch

A stroke of excellent luck and timing: Our new strawberries arrived in the mail yesterday! It was a perfect day to get them in the ground, as yesterday was a balmy 70 degrees. Nice and sunny. 
No wind.
And from here on out, it's supposed to rain every day, so we're lucky these arrived when they did. Nice day to plant, and then they can soak up a few days' worth of rain to get settled into their new spots.
Our strawberry bed is laid out with one plant per square foot. That may sound close, but we maintain that spacing by making sure to pick off the runners. That keeps all the energy in the mother plant, and should lead to bigger berries. In a few years when the plants are spent, we can experiment with letting runners produce new plants.

You can see our new Honeoye plants laid out above, ready to be put into the earth and given a couple handfuls of compost as top dressing. Honeoyes are June-bearing, which means that all 25 of these will come into fruit at the same time. Tha…

World's Best Chicken Soup

Is it more labor intensive to make chicken noodle soup from scratch than, say, to open a can of Campbell's and add some water? 
Is it totally, life-alteringly worth it?

First, pull some homemade chicken stock out of the freezer. We always try to have some on hand, especially in the winter. Just save your chicken bones and make some (the link has more specifics). You really do get your money's worth out of a whole chicken — a couple of meals plus stock. You could use store-bought broth in a pinch, but using your own is richer, and you can control the herbs and salt content. 
Next, finely dice a (garden fresh or winter storage) carrot, leek, and turnip. And don't wrinkle your nose at turnips — they are what I am now calling soup potatoes. Fall turnips are pretty sweet, and they hold their texture way better than a potato in a soup. They’re totally superior, and that lets you save your potatoes for something else.
Bring the stock to a boil in a big pot and add the…

Death and Destruction

Kind of a sucky gardening day. I don't think that I should need my winter coat and gloves to fertilize fruit trees in April. I don't think there should be a windchill of 29 degrees in April. And I definitely don't think there should be 35 mph wind gusts in April:

That's the destruction: yet another fence section bit the dust in the wind. So instead of building our last cold frame, Kirk is spending a cold afternoon working on rebuilding the fence section. Not cheap, either. The only bright side is that we can salvage the scrap from the old one for our new potato boxes. But still ... damn.
Oh, and here's the death:

These are (were, in the case of all but three plants) our broccoli and cabbage seedlings. I've been hardening them off over the past two weeks, but this week was really too hard, I guess. They started out pretty spindly (especially the broccoli), most likely due to a two or three week stretch of cloudy days after they first sprouted. They were doing a…

Spring Mini-Molt

Good thing Easter is over, because Abigail is molting:

All chickens shed their feathers to make room for new ones at some point. According to just about everyone everywhere, most chickens don't molt until their second autumn, as the daylight dwindles. Abigail, however, didn't get the memo, and has started dropping feathers in the spring instead.
There are a few possible reasons behind this. First, since the equinox we have weaned the chickens off of their supplementary coop lighting, so it's possible that Abigail's body is reading this as autumn instead of spring, and her body has shifted into molting season. Usually molting happens in the fall to give the chickens nice warm feathers, but also as their hormones change from sun-splashed-summery-egg-laying time to long-cold-not-gonna-do-anything-during-the-winter time. It could also be a hold-over reaction to her injury, as stress can also lead to molting. I think this is unlikely, though, given the weeks in between pot…

Spring Planting Update: Potatoes and Peas

This past weekend was so lovely — sunny and (for March in New England) warm. Nothing at all like today, where we're struggling to stay at 40 degrees, and with a gusty windchill that's back into the 30s. We're also going to have lows in the 20s tonight, all of which sets back my hardening off schedule for the cabbage and broccoli seedlings that should be planted next weekend.
So let's look back on a nice day instead of thinking about this cold one, shall we?

After adding compost to the beds we needed, we were ready to go with three varieties of peas (Premium Nat, Penelope, and Sugar Snap). The tape measure was to keep us on track to plant them every six inches; the garden plan to remind us where we want to put them. Loving the smaller-scale garden plan this year — much more convenient.

Once we got the trellises up (Kirk had to build some more, by the way, since the rose trellis-turned-pea brush schemes last year didn't work out too well), I set out a double row of …

Aerial View: April 1, 2013

As of yesterday, our snow is all gone! We made a lot of headway of garden cleanup over the warm holiday weekend, and it should show in the last two pictures. (We'll get to the other half next weekend.)    
You can see that spring planting has begun as well: Pea trellises are up in three different locations, cold frames are scattered about, and potato boxes are in place (though not yet filled). The chickens are still on tilling patrol, making their way around areas that had a cover crop. You can also see the cover crop is still in place in one quadrant, as are winter straw mulches. So it takes time to shift fully into spring gear, but we're getting there!

The swingset quadrant.

The patio quadrant.

The driveway quadrant.

The workshop quadrant.