East Sac Edible


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Garbage Workers to the Rescue!

20150304_101212Today I had two babies sound asleep in the back of my car while we were driving to music class. I happened to stumble upon a mountain of trash in front of a house which had a perfectly usable large roll of mesh fencing, perfect for building compost piles frames. I was trying to figure out a way to get this large roll of mesh into my car (which clearly was not going to fit with the babies in the car) when the garbage truck and claw came by. The workers asked me if I wanted anything else from the pile and despondently I had told them that I didn’t think the mesh was going to fit in my car. These two men took 10 minutes of their day to fold the mesh into quarters (using their most powerful tool… the CLAW) so it would fit in my trunk. One said, “This will grow great beans!” City workers after my own heart!

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Crushing the mesh with the claw!

A shout out to the great city workers who helped me make sure one person’s trash could be diverted from the waste stream into my garden! And they didn’t even wake the two sleeping babies!

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From Garden To Table: Bowl of Croutons and a side of Kale Caesar Salad

DSC_0702Right now I don’t have much to harvest in my garden other than kale. As my garden is in transition, I have to settle putting kale into everything which I don’t mind one bit. A couple of weekends ago we spent a beautiful day out in Point Reyes with some friends and picked up some Mt. Tam cheese, bread, olives and a kale salad from Cowgirl Creamery for a picnic. The kale salad was delicious, packed with cheesy goodness and I decided to recreate it for my lunch today.

My motto is that salad is basically an excuse to eat croutons. An all kale salad can be hard to pull off so dressing and extras are a must… and croutons are those extras…

DSC_0695I harvested about 100 grams of kale, which I thought looked like a pretty big bounty for one personal salad but I always forgot that the kale really reduces in size when you massage it with oil and lemon juice (an absolute must for a good kale salad). After washing the kale (aphids are always hiding in the folds), I cut out the ribs and chopped it up a bit. I put a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice over the kale and gave it a good massage for a few minutes. Recently I have been having all kale salads in restaurants around Sacramento and it horrifies me that they don’t massage the kale! Eating a bowl of unmassaged kale is really hard to handle… not even croutons can help. DSC_0696

DSC_0706For the dressing, I whirled 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of full-fat greek yogurt, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, the juice of half a lemon, a dab of mustard, a squirt of red wine vinegar, a shake of salt and a few grinds of pepper in my food processor. I added about a tablespoon of olive oil while whirling. I put the dressing into a jar and put it in the fridge. This made about a jam jar of dressing so I envision many more meals of Caesar salad in my future.DSC_0697

Croutons were made with day old bread on low heat with a drizzle of olive oil and shake of salt.

So in my defense, I had two little toddlers eyeing my salad and I knew I was going to have to share so I made double croutons… but my bowl of salad really was more of a bowl of croutons with a side of kale. I added a few shaves of parmesan to the top.

DSC_0701 DSC_0703Did I mention I like croutons?

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Garden Visit: Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School Edible Schoolyard

Over the weekend I was able to visit good friends in Berkeley and they took me on a tour of Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard garden at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School (click here to see their website). I was surprised by how big the garden was (a full acre!) and walked through (jealously) thinking that I wished I had that much space to garden! I will let the pictures do the talking for me and I hope to visit again in the spring or summer. DSC_0621 DSC_0622 DSC_0623 DSC_0624 DSC_0625 DSC_0626 DSC_0627 DSC_0628 DSC_0629 DSC_0630 DSC_0631 DSC_0632 DSC_0633 DSC_0634 DSC_0635 DSC_0636 DSC_0637 DSC_0639 DSC_0640 DSC_0641 DSC_0642 DSC_0643 DSC_0644 DSC_0645 DSC_0646 DSC_0647 DSC_0648


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Harvest Tally 2015!

As you may know the last two years of living in East Sac I have totaled up my annual harvest from my garden. In 2013 I grew 425 pounds of food and in 2014 I grew (a disappointing) 382 pounds. 2015 will be no different I will continue to weigh my harvests. My 2014 goal was to grow 500 pounds of food and since I did not achieve that goal my 2015 goal will be the same. I hope with each passing year that I will be able to harvest more and more mainly with the support of my fruit trees which have yet to give me a sizable harvest. So for now, 500 pounds it is!

In January, I was busy not being in the garden but I started preparing beds for spring planting and tended to my large compost pile. I was only able to harvest kale, a few strawberries and herbs so my total poundage for January was a whopping 1.11 pounds! I was able to pick lots of fresh herbs to make vegetable stock!

DSC_0597I am hopeful for my 2015 garden although I was listening to CapRadio and they stated that Sacramento has had the driest January since records began in 1870s. We have not received one single drop of rain since mid-December which is really scary. I think about my dry soil and what it will mean for my garden. During the height of the summer we were regularly saving our shower water for our rain barrel but in the “colder” months we have been a bit more lazy about this. Time to save our water in earnest now and help the soil which has been parched for water… even if it is shower water.

 


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Starting Seeds

DSC_0612 DSC_0613I always like to start some seeds in January to give my seedlings a good healthy start before I set them out. Last week I cleared off my work bench in the garage to make room for my heat mat. I started many varieties of lettuce, kale, pepper, basil and tomato. As the seeds germinate I move them indoors under my grow lights. Once the seeds have germinated I make sure to remove them from the heat because the heat can damage the young roots and the plants will not thrive. Heat really only aids in speeding up the germination process and then after that the seedlings need light. I move the plants indoors because my garage is just too cold for the young plants.

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This is my second year using the heat mat and grow lights system. The year before I tried to start seeds indoors and just put them by the window but they got very poor light. Last year the grow light system really gave them the boost they needed so they didn’t become spindly plants. Since the lights are on a pulley system, I am able to move the lights close to the plants and retract the lights as the plants grow taller.

I keep track of everything I start with dates of when I sow seeds, when they germinate and when I transfer them outside. I also keep notes on how well the plants do during the season so I can keep track of whether I am starting seeds too early or transplanting them too early. I especially like to keep track of what worked well (rather than what failed) so I can repeat the same timing from the year before. This also helps in succession planting because I always try to have something in the ground. For example, I noticed planting turnips before tomatoes works great because turnips are quick and out of the ground before the tomatoes are big enough to go in.DSC_0615 DSC_0617

Last week I also started some seeds directly outside. After amending the beds, I planted Green Arrow Peas, carrots, various turnips (Purple top, Shogoin, and Mikado), and beets (Red Baron, Early Wonder, and Detroit Red). I had put a layer of leaf mulch on top of my raised beds a few months ago and while the bottom layer was pretty well decomposed, the top layer was still a visible layer of leaves. I just dug these into the soil so I am a little worried about them tying up the nitrogen as they decompose. Hopefully it wont affect the growing seedlings!

 


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Seeds, seeds, and more seeds!

Well January is one of my favorite months because of seed catalogues! Do I need to buy more seeds? The answer to that is definitely, “NO!” but am I going to buy them anyway? The answer to that question is definitely, “Yes!”

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Here is how I currently store my seeds. DSC_0604 DSC_0606I have a lot of seeds. So I don’t know why I feel the need to buy more but the other day these seeds came in the mail…
DSC_0609In my defense, most of them are going to According to Ai and Seed Sowing Mama so I am not the only one with the problem!

 


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A New Composter!

As you may know, I have been battling some sort of rodent in my compost for awhile now. Small mice were living in my black stacked compost bin a few months ago so I took apart my bin to make an open air pile (taking apart my bin involved a lot of screaming from me and the mice and play out in a similar fashion to this earlier episode). So I thought taking my bin apart was going to allow me to turn the compost more often and discourage the mice from living there. I didn’t see any more mice, however each time I went out to put some new scraps into the compost I noticed large tunnels into the compost. Like tennis ball size… One tunnel even went under my compost, under my DG path and up into my raised bed! I tried to do some research about mice tunneling but I didn’t come up with much, plus these tunnels were huge. Every time I went to my compost I would just cover the holes and hope this would discourage whatever was making them.

DSC_0600About a week ago, I went to take out the compost and in the very corner was the largest rat I had ever seen. I almost thought it was an opossum it was so big! Unfortunately for this guy, he was looking rather poor and definitely on his final breaths. He didn’t even try to move away from me. He died right there next to a kale stalk and a spent pepper plant.

Well, even though he lost that battle, I am done battling the rodents! Enter my new solution: a 50 gallon tumbling composter!

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Isn’t it beautiful?

My plan is to put all my kitchen scraps in this bad boy so I wont attract any rodents and then when it is partially decomposed I will move the contents into my open air pile. I think this will be a good system going forward.

And since the death of my rat friend… no more tunnels!


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December 2014 Harvest Tally and Year-End Review

DSC_0484DSC_0490 DSC_0461 DSC_0437Happy New Year! Over the holidays, we spent the nights building fires and viewing the lights in East Sac. We also took a day trip out to Willows, California for some bird watching at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. We saw many snow geese, herons and hawks. Let’s not forget one of our favorite nights of the year, a caroling party at a friend’s mom’s house, full of musicians, singing and food. DSC_0404DSC_0409 DSC_0421 DSC_0414

As we say hello to 2015, let’s take a look back at the gardening year of 2014. Lots happened in the garden over the year and although I didn’t meet my goal of 500 pounds, I had lots of interesting new things happening in the garden and I learned a lot. I am excited to start fresh in 2015.

My yearly total for 2014 was 382 pounds!

My yearly total for 2013 was 425 pounds. The main culprit for my low numbers this year was a bad tomato season. In 2013 I had 207 pounds of tomatoes! In 2014 I only had 41 pounds with even more plants. Not all produced poorly in 2014. Some of my heavy hitters were: greens (8.27 pounds), basil (10.47 pounds), beets (15.33 pounds), carrots (7.77 pounds), cucumbers (47.85 pounds), kale (16.87 pounds), trombetta squash (72.89 pounds from 1 plant!!), onions (22 pounds), peppers (34.39 pounds), and turnips (19.27 pounds).

Here are some of my garden highlights of 2014:

1. Being part of the East Sac Edible Garden Tour was by far my best gardening moment of the year. I was able to open my garden for visitors to stroll through (and all for charity!) and spent my day talking to amazing gardeners full of useful and inspiring information.DSC_2830

2. My monster trombetta squash made it on live T.V. It’s famous! DSC_2694

3. Spending time in the garden with my daughter. DSC_1608

Thanks for being part of my 2014! Here’s to another great year in the garden!


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A Stormy Harvest

DSC_0378With wind blowing ferociously outside, I decided it would be a good time to harvest my Satsuma tree. This tree is only two years old and is really tiny but was loaded with fruit. Looking outside this morning with the impending big storm, I feared that this little tree wasn’t going to make it through the storm with the heavy weight of the fruit. So I donned my rain boots and jacket for a harvest. It is a pretty magnificent haul from such a small tree. 21 Satsumas for eating, almost 16 pounds! I lost 3 more to slugs since the tree was weighed down to the ground and the fruit was touching the soil.  It is nice that even on a day like today I am able to harvest something from my garden. We probably wont go out for the rest of the day so we will hunker down with a fire, s’mores, hot drinks and a puzzle. DSC_0375


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November 2014 Harvest Tally

DSC_0369Now that we are saying hello to December we can reflect on what happened in the garden in November. I pretty much lost steam in regards to my garden so not much to report. In November there wasn’t much to harvest but I have still been picking basil, kale, butternut squash, Hokkori winter kabocha, Trombetta squash, peppers, strawberries and lots of herbs like parsley, sage, and thyme. The herbs came in handy for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not sure how I am still getting strawberries at this time of year but my daughter is enjoying them.

My total poundage for November (2014) is 27.06 pounds.

My total poundage November (2013) was 17.41 pounds.

My yearly total is 369 pounds.

DSC_0370If I can suggest one piece of gardening advice it is to grow your own herbs. They are so easy to grow and are pretty much “set it and forget it” plants. When not much else is going on in my garden at this time of year, my herbs still look great. Plus they are perfect for adding to Thanksgiving dinner. I used thyme and sage for my Vegan Mushroom gravy, and parsley and chives to add into mashed potato pancakes. Plus throwing a few herb plants in the ground is economical. Take sage for example. My one plant provided me fresh leaves for Thanksgiving dinner plus some for drying. The plant cost me a buck whereas a small spice jar of dried rubbed sage from the store can cost you $5-6. Even for an herb that I don’t use that often, planting your own is a no brainer.

I was going to take pictures of my herbs for you but the last couple of days we have had our first REAL rain in over two years. We have had a few showers here and there but this storm reminded me of what fall storms are supposed to feel like. It is sad when you have a year and a half year old and they have NEVER experienced rain before. After a downpour yesterday and some puddle stomping, we enjoyed the most vibrant rainbow (although my pictures don’t do it justice). Happy rainy season!