Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Squash Monster

Every time I walk out to our garden I sing to myself the B-52's song "Rock Lobster." But I have to admit to slightly changing the lyrics and singing instead about our Squash Monster.

There are five plants growing together in this massive clump of foliage: two zucchini, two crookneck squash, and one butternut squash.

We probably shouldn't have planted this beast so close to the house.

But, on a positive note, if we manage to survive the squash onslaught, we might be able to pitch a cheesy movie to the Sci-Fi channel.

Would anyone actually watch "Attack of the Squash Monster" or does it hit too close to home?

Monday, July 21, 2008

We've Got Mail(box)!

Up early this morning to install the mailbox before the afternoon delivery. The bottom of the hole was a little muddy from the rain yesterday and overnight, but not too bad. Kevin scooped out a couple handfuls of mud and then we were ready to install. This was remarkably easy. We eyeballed it level and straight and filled in around the post with dirt. A few tamps with a rubber mallet and we declare this mailbox ready for business.

Beautiful, isn't it?

So what will be our next great home ownership adventure?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Tilled Earth

The very act of gardening connects you to the earth. Digging and planting, watering and harvesting--all the basic gardening tasks require a return to soil. You could say gardening grounds you. In the Lord of the Rings, hobbits are known to "love peace and quiet and good tilled earth."

Having all of 6 weeks experience as gardeners, you'd think we could say we agree. But we've not had the pleasure of working with good tilled earth. Our soil is rocky and full of clay. Little shovelfuls are all we can take. We are constantly prying out little stones. Digging and planting require patience, perseverance, and even physical strength.

Today we worked on planting our largest item yet--a new mailbox. (The township sent us a notice requiring new house numbers for emergency services. But the post was rotting, the flag was missing, and the hole on the top meant our mail got wet on rainy days. So rather than slap some lipstick on a pig by sticking numbers on, we decided to replace the lot.)

The old wooden post was installed on a metal fencepost in the ground, which meant we had to dig a new hole. Kevin was less than enthusiastic about digging a hole in our rocky soil, so I decided to do it. I grabbed a beach blanket, my radio headphones, and a small gardening spade and set to work.

After twenty minutes, Kevin came out to see how I was doing. We measured six inches deep, which was about one-third of the way. Another twenty minutes and we measured again. Ten inches. It seemed it was going to take a while yet. Kevin ran back into the garage and grabbed a rubber mallet and giant screwdriver. (We found this screwdriver somewhere--we can't exactly remember where--and it has proven to be the most useful tool ever.)

This was genius! Now I could loosen the soil by pounding the screwdriver with the mallet. After another twenty minutes or so, I had reached 16 inches, which was more than adequate for setting the post.

What a great hole! Neither too narrow or too wide and deep enough to secure our post for a very long time.

Inside for lunch, a little TV and knitting break, and what turned out to be a very necessary post-digging nap.

Next we had to attach the mailbox to the post for installation. As we were working on this, a thunderstorm rolled in, requiring us to tarp over the hole. But look how smart this new mailbox looks. It's bigger than Kevin's head!

Sometime in the very near future we'll stick the post in the hole, infill it with dirt, and try to level it as best we can. But for now, we will celebrate our little hole in the ground.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

In our last garden episode, Kevin and I were so proud of our first zucchini. We made a special meal around it and thought it delicious. But since then, things have changed a bit.

On Thursday night, we picked two more zucchini. Kim steamed them and served them with grilled chicken, jasmine rice, and a Thai peanut dipping sauce. We had lots leftover.

Friday night is pizza night. As we went out to pick basil for the pesto pizza, we found two more zucchini ready to pick. Into the crisper they went.

Today we went out again and here's our harvest.

In addition to the lovely and delicious red and yellow cherry tomatoes (minus two that we couldn't help eating before the picture was taken), we have picked two more zucchini.

For those of you playing along at home, that means that we have picked a grand total of SIX zucchini since our first starry-eyed and romantic blog entry three days ago.

This is an unsustainable rate. We like zucchini (Kim more than Kevin) but cannot imagine how on earth we will be able to eat all we harvest.

We may have to resort to stealthily hanging bags of zucchini from our neighbors door knobs.

Zucchini, anyone?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our First Zucchini

It's easy to tell that Kevin and I are newbie gardeners. We just harvested our first zucchini and are ridiculously proud of it. So proud, in fact, we even took its picture. (We're not so ridiculous as to name it. Although, come to think of it, Zeke would be a good name for our first zucchini.)

Of course our first zucchini had to be the focus of a meal, so we decided on a simple Tomato-Basil and Zucchini sauce over pasta. Our basil plants are doing well, so Kevin snipped a few leaves.

Our tomato plants, while prolific, have yet to produce any ripe tomatoes, so I had to substitute a can of diced. When we make this recipe later in the summer, we'll use our garden-fresh and vine-ripened tomatoes.

One thing we noticed about fresh zucchini is that it tastes good raw. Supermarket zucchini usually taste a little bitter when raw. But our minutes-old zucchini tasted fresh, clean, and perfect for dipping.

This sauce couldn't be simpler. Just a few classic ingredients--garlic, olive oil, zucchini, tomatoes, basil--sauteed quickly.

We spooned the sauce over farfalle, added a little grated parmesan, and enjoyed the first delicious meal inspired by our garden.

Tomato-Basil and Zucchini Sauce

1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced

1 14.5-oz can of petite diced tomatoes
1 splash white wine
1-2 tbs fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1 16-oz box farfalle pasta, cooked
parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and saute until tender crisp. Set aside.

In a separate pan, pour the tomatoes. Add a splash of white wine. Cook for 7-9 minutes until reduced to a sauce consistency. Add the zucchini to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the basil on top.

Spoon sauce over pasta. Add parmesan cheese, if desired.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blueberry Pancakes

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from growing, harvesting, and then cooking with your own food. The original owners of our house were great gardeners. Our yard is literally bursting with the fruits of their labor. But, until this year, we've never reaped the benefits of their hard work.

Much of that has to do with a lack of awareness. Not being gardeners ourselves, we just had no idea what types of fruit trees and bushes we have growing. Kevin discovered that we have sour cherry trees and that they make good pie. We spent a good part of two weeks harvesting, pitting, freezing, and baking sour cherries.

Now our three blueberry bushes are ready for harvesting. We've been able to pick a handful or two each morning for cereal or pancakes.

Even Max agrees that blueberry pancakes with homegrown blueberries are more satisfying and delicious than those made with store bought blueberries.