Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pressure cooker madness

I bought an old pressure cooker a month or so ago and have been using it primarily to make rice and beans. The other day, I made some saffron rice in it and then stirred in some ginger, spices, mixed veggies, and raisins to make a pulau kind of dish. It was pretty good. I attempted the same thing today, this time with a chopped up onion added to the rice and some of Angeline's veggie stock instead of water. I also threw in some bell peppers, star anise, fennel and cumin seeds. At that point, it looked like there wasn't enough water, so I added more, perhaps totally 3.5 cups of liquid. It was WAY too much to produce the intended dish, I'm afraid, as the rice was fully cooked while the whole thing was still swimming in liquid. I tasted it and it was pretty good as it was, so I added salt and pan-roasted cashews and served myself a dish of it. Wow! It turned out very tasty in a subtle and complex sort of way. I like it enough that I will probably try to make it this way again sometime.

Angeline made a vegan lasagna, some of which I am also having for lunch. It's pretty great, too, hopefully she will write about it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 prosaic

It would be easier to make sense of all the seed charts and growing information and helpful hints if they would all just agree with each other! I was under the impression that the tomato seeds needed to be started in January to be planted in March/April, but it seems they can wait another month or so. Everyone agrees, however, that the onions should be started now, or maybe last week. I bought 2 packets of onion seeds (Seeds of Change, Valencia onions) from Common Ground yesterday and put 78 seeds into pots today, hopefully I'll end up with 30-something plants from these. The Sustainable Vegetable Garden says 67 onions for 2 sq. ft.!!!!!! I guess I have to believe them...I'll start these and then put some more directly into the ground later and it'll just be nonstop onions for a while. I hope.

I loosened the soil for the 100 sq. ft. bed yesterday and today. The spading fork goes down 8 inches in some places and 12 in others. I'm hoping that the next round of single digging will be easier since the rain will get down further into the ground and loosen things up a bit more. LOTS of earthworms in the soil already, thank goodness.

Trying to find ways to get compost and topsoil for free or cheap, instead of buying many bags of potting soil for the raised beds. I suppose it would be nice to just be able to throw money at the garden, and I probably could do that if I really wanted to, but I'd rather be creative and frugal. As usual.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seedy musings

I spent a lot of time this week with the charts in both The Sustainable Vegetable Garden and How to Grow More Vegetables... and the conclusion is that I don't HAVE to start all the seeds myself. Which is good, because I don't have room for this, and I'm not willing to build a mini-greenhouse with a heating pad on the porch. Compromise: I will start tomato seeds, if they don't work out I can always buy the seedlings. I have Green Zebra, Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, and Roma. They are going to live in re-used 4-inch plastic pots...I knew I was saving them for a reason. I am trying to do this with as little actual expenditure as possible, so instead of spending $16 on the nifty redwood flats from Ecology Action, I have recycled nursery pots and 2 plastic trays from Goodwill. They will all live on the washing machine as that's the only window that gets decent south light. Stay tuned.

Yesterday I cut back all the herbs from last year and took out most of the plants that were left, for the new compost pile. The old one is a soggy mess but it's supposed to be sunny all week so I'll turn it a couple times and hope it dries out a bit. I think it's actually compost, though. I also stuck the spading fork in the ground and it went in 6 inches. Arrrggghhh....One step at a time.

I have visions of wildflowers in the front yard, the entire back yard full of happy growing herbs and vegetables, pots placed here and there, the entire back porch filled with houseplants, as much of it as possible gotten from Craigslist or friends or stuff we found in the garage when we moved in. I also have visions of the landlords deciding to knock down the house in June, just as everything's getting going. If nothing else, all the planning has been good for me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy new year!

I went to my second round of Grow Biointensive classes today in Palo Alto: Introduction to GB and Composting. The Introduction class was very well done and presented a large amount of information well within the class time, along with gorgeous pictures in the Powerpoint slides. It made everything sound very easy and logical. The Composting class was mostly people who didn't seem to know about GB methods so there were a lot of tangential questions to be dealt with, but answers were provided (or at least local resources to find the answers) and things moved on. Again, very straightforward, except I don't have giant piles of compost material ready-to-go...

So I picked up a copy of The Sustainable Vegetable Garden and headed home (after the thunderstorm, thankfully). And I read my new book. And I got VERY nervous...I was planning to prepare the 100 sq. ft. bed (recommended for beginners) this month and let it sit for a while, and then plant in March when I have a week off from my morning job. However, I need to start seeds (I want to do this RIGHT!) in January and February and prepare the bed right before the actual planting. Ack! I think if I get the flats and get them ready, it'll be easy to put the seeds in at the right times and then I can do all the serious work over that last week in March. So, flats and seeds on Jan 12, start sowing Jan. 19/20, continue through Feb., and so on. Hope the compost pile actually did its thing...once it stops dumping rain on us, I'll see what's at the bottom and if I can use it. Flat soil is just going to be regular potting soil, I can do it properly next year.

Also, there will be 3 raised beds with potting soil and plants from the nursery. I feel like I need a control group :)