These mornings, we wake by 7am. We’re in bed by 9pm. Really, whatever combo gives us maximum sleep time given we’re really on baby time, not our own. Mallory gets up without complaint, puts on something warm, and heads directly for Solstice. The warm mother touch soothes any hunger cries that may be coming from that direction. Admittedly, I seem to be rolling out of bed second these days. A change from the past but I’m not too far behind. It’s time for coffee, more precisely, espresso fills our cups these days. The radio is turned on with the volume set at a level between I care about what’s happening but I also want to hear the birdies. The radio doesn’t wait for you. Something I find enduring when most information is there when we want it. The radio is “take it when we give it” and soon the familiar NPR voices come alive. Traffic on the Bay Bridge, “Ahh, thankful I don’t have to commute,” I say to myself. Cease-fire in Sudan, “Grateful we have peace in our community.” The news providing a sense that our battle is nothing compared to that of others. Of course, it’s all relative but ignorance or being oblivious is no excuse to not hold space for our neighbors no matter how far abroad. After Solstice gets her morning breakfast, I start on ours. These days, it’s anything from day-old nachos turned into our version of chilaquiles or most often, a fried egg on fresh bread baked the day before. I find peace in the routine, love in each other, and an appreciation for the day that has begun to unfold.
Fog and cool mornings here along the Russian River. The blue sky has been slow to appear. The summer veggies are either confused or taking a deep breath before the summer bares its heat. The brewer’s blackbirds fiercely defend their nest as I grab the mail, dive bombing my head but I can’t blame them. We’re continuing to pick a small bin of strawberries every couple days. Letting the broccoli go for a little longer. Note to self, plant earlier in Fall as they never quite took off until now. The florets have been quite tasty simply roasted in olive oil and salted on the cast iron. Any day now, I expect aphids to show their force and devour their tender sweet flesh. Only then they will be removed from their beds to meet their final resting place. A compost pile to feed the next generation.
A sign of a healthy garden. The buzzing of bees visiting the flowering maple. Other lesser known pollinators floating around the parsley in bloom. Pill bugs discovered under a layer of wood chips. Cabbage moths floating effortlessly over the brassicas planted a season ago. A slug eating a delicious perfectly ripe strawberry. A healthy garden is not free from insects that cause damage to plants or fruits. A healthy garden consists of the whole entourage. There’s a metaphor there that can be applied to our society. The fervent desire in today’s world to squash anyone that doesn’t support our views. A healthy society like a healthy garden has space for all and in turn, everyone benefits.
the free stand
I want to connect with my community. I want to share with my community. We are a somewhat rural town made up of old houses that are more like cabins constructed by people living in San Francisco who wanted a place to stay in the summer along the Russian River. This vacation hot spot has now turned into more affordable full time housing with a tight knit community.
As I wasn’t new to the area but new to this neighborhood, I wanted to meet our neighbors. Through daily walks we slowly began to meet our neighbors. The ones living here for 50 years under the tall redwood trees to the newly arrived family who loved the unique character of the neighborhood. You’d be hard pressed to find a house identical to the next.
There is a beauty in sharing and offering help. I believe the person offering the help oftens benefits just as much as the one receiving. So when I had contemplated putting up some sort of stand to offer veggies our family couldn’t consume or to share the odd piece of clothing or tool no longer needed in our household, I knew it would benefit us just as it would our neighbors. With the help of some recycled wood from old fences, a piece of drift wood, and old deck wood I was able to create a little stand to do just this.
I put out extra veggie starts and was left a note thanking us because this particular person hadn’t been able to get to the nursery this year. I put out veggies only for them to be brought back cooked for us. Items that may have been thrown out have been quickly picked up extending that item’s lifetime. It’s been great to have people stop and look in the garden while visiting the stand. I’ve met many people in the neighborhood as well as people just paying through. All my experiences have been positive regarding this stand.
So, today, I go out and look to see what’s been taken. A pair of old speakers, a lime, and a plate. I’ll imagine this person sipping a margarita, eating a grilled cheese while listening to their favorite tunes. Our items that were collecting dust are brought to life through new eyes and hands.
Solutions through “Problems”
Moles have been wrecking havoc and creating mounds throughout our small lawn. They turn up the soil and create mounds that will inevitably get sucked into our electric mower as it dulls the blade and creates a bare chunk of grass. The moles like to dine on what’s living underneath the soil such as worms and our soil has a lot of worms! Being in the flood zone along the Russian River, each flood deposits rich soil on our property, long before a house was built on this land.
We decided early on to live with the moles instead of trying to trap them, exterminate them, or buy one of those beeping deterrents off Amazon (they don’t work, for moles or gophers!). Also, because we grow our lawn organically and let the clippings compost, this soil is prime which gave me the idea to grab my shovel. I noticed the soil in these mole mounds was nicely turned, rich, soft and dark. I started to take a shovel to these mounds and deposit these pilings into a large container.
I then built a small sieve out of some leftover 1/4″ hardware cloth and some reclaimed 2x4s. Sifting this soil and adding some vermiculite made for the perfect potting soil and seed starting mix.
You can not buy this quality of soil through a bag at a store. Meanwhile, once the mound is leveled, I reseed the area and wait for the grass to grow back. It seems the moles in our area are more active in the winter. In the summer, when the lawn is used most, we don’t see many if any mole mounds being created.
So, a problem turned into a solution. We now have great potting soil without leaving the house. Often the approach is to get rid of rodents, insects, like the cabbage moth eggs underneath the kale but when we do this, we are not seeing the bigger picture. I can let a few kale leaves have holes to have my other plants have a few extra pollinators (those eggs turn into butterflies). I can let some bad insects live without spraying because I know the predatory insects will begin to show up without the use of pesticides. I can live with moles because we don’t need a perfect lawn and now they’ve become our little soil farmers.
Note: If you want sterilized seed starting mix, try checking out this article on SFgate with some tips. It involves using an oven, steam or a microwave.
Note 2: If you don’t have Moles in your yard turning up your soil, you can use compost you made or soil you know is not contaminated. Sift the soil, add vermiculite and boom!
Garden First, Fridge Second
Instead of reaching for the fridge to make my meals, I try to think about what I can incorporate from the garden. It’s worth taking those extra steps down to the garden to pick even the smallest of plants, a sprig of thyme, a few kale leaves, or green onions. No matter if most of my meal is store bought, it’s nice to get into the practice of going into the garden to pick our food. Not only do I get the benefits of fresh air and movement but I get to see how the plants are doing and what bird feeders need to be filled up. If the birds haven’t reminded me already! The addition of some greens or zucchini to a meal can stretch out store bought ingredients to make a cheap and healthy meal.
There’s no denying that a meal solely from the garden is something special but it’s also nice when the topping to a meal is from the garden such as some basil or parsley sliced thinly to give us some green to our meals. Sometimes we can feel lazy about going outside to grab some herbs for a meal but take the moment as a gift to explore the open air, the soil beneath your feet and our connection to this earth.
How to Eat from the Garden Regularly
Keep on seeding. Keep on planting. Think ahead. A lot of seed packets will have days to maturity. That’s not always accurate in less than ideal conditions (I.e. too much shade, cold, poor soil). So, we need to plan ahead. Maybe it’s starting seeds inside for faster germination then transplanting for a jump start.
I may have enough lettuce today but what happens when the lettuce turns bitter or goes to seed? I need to wait another three weeks before greens. That’s why it’s important to sow successively (sowing seeds every few weeks). Learn your soil, your conditions/seasons, your taste preferences to help guide you in staying stocked with seeds and having vegetables to eat when you want.
One biggest piece of advice is to plant what you eat or learn to cook with the veggies you’re growing. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with piles of veggies that take up space and aren’t utilized.
The Secret to Making Bread Everyday
- It’s ok for it to not be perfect.
- It’s ok to not be exact.
- It’s ok to start the dough whenever you have time.
It’s great to think ahead, to measure things perfectly and to bake at the exact temperatures needed but the fact is that I’ve found bread forgiving. If you’re looking for consistent loafs that look the same every time, that requires attention to detail. If you’re like me and don’t mind things coming out different, you can play with it. I’m making bread to eat daily and I don’t want to stress myself over minute details. If you have at least 4-5 hours of time to let the dough rise, you can find a recipe that can work. An example of imperfection in my kitchen is that I’ve had dough that wasn’t rising after 8 hours. I added some more flour, some water, and some more yeast, boom! The dough started to move and it turned out OK.
Two things that you’ll always want to have on hand. Flour and yeast. Yeast can be bought in bulk and stored in an air tight container in the fridge. That’s all you need!
Here’s a quick picture of what’s happening in the kitchen this morning. We don’t buy much bread from the store these days. Each morning consists of taking the dog out, making breakfast, prepping lunch, coffee, and starting the fire in the wood stove. Once Mallory is out the door for work, I prep the dough that’s been rising overnight. Today there are two bread products being made. One is the no knead bread baked in the Dutch oven, the other is a no knead baguette recipe that I’ve turned Into a roll recipe. It Making bread consistently means always having something rising. In our house, bread is made every two to three days. Having fresh bread around makes for easy meals like egg on toast in the morning. The rolls are great for sandwiches or as substitute buns for burgers. It can be a lot of work but if you build it into your routine it can make it much easier. The bread is better than store bought, we use flour from either King Arthur or bobs red mill, it’s much cheaper and the flour is from a B corporation that supports sustainable practices. At roughly a dollar a loaf or 10 cents a roll, you can’t beat it.