Garden Party

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Snap peas seedlings with chicken wire trellis

Last year I missed the window for the cool season, early spring planting. I had to spend late March, early April pulling up the grass, building the raised beds in the yard and rehabbing/importing soil. I didn’t actually get any plants into the ground until late May. Sure, like a tone deaf man at a karaoke bar, I tried to give it a go with some lettuce and brussel sprouts anyway. The results were not exactly Martha Stewart and rainbows. The heat just kept a foot on the necks of those plants and they never went anywhere. That corner of the garden was like an abandoned block of Detroit. The one real failure in last year’s garden experiment.

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One tiny pea plant

Live and learn. This year, freed from two by eights, brackets and back breaking soil improvements, I could get to the planting early. After last year’s efforts, I only had to work in a little compost, some lime and add a few nutrients (blood meal, bone meal, greensand) before getting the dirt under the fingernails. And really, isn’t that why most people garden? A garden is just a guilt-free, bulletproof excuse to play around in a box full of dark, black gold dirt. The only thing missing from my pre-school fantasy was a tiny steam shovel replica.

Aided by some fava bean and snap pea seedlings from the father-in-law, I planted about three quarters of the two raised beds. I wanted to save some room for some early hot plants. Besides doing a better job of canning and preserving the veggies this year (last year everything came in a flood), I wanted to try to do a better job of progression planting to avoid that deluge of produce for two weeks in August. Other than the beans and peas, I have a row of cauliflower, a row of brocolli, three short rows of mixed lettuce, a half row of carrots and some medium containers of head lettuce, swiss chard and some mixed herbs.

More updates throughout the season.

Cupcakes for Chelle

The beginning of April means Michelle’s birthday which also means starting to plan for her requested strawberry dessert. This year, for the second time in a row, we are opting for the cupcakes over the layer cake. Last year’s cupcakes were quite good. After baking as many cupcakes as I have over the past few years, if one still makes me sit up and take notice, it’s probably worth a repeat. So, after conferring with the guest of honor, we decided to do the vanilla cupcakes with strawberry filling and strawberry studded buttercream. The only catch was that I’d misplaced the recipes that had proven such a success last year.  Continue Reading

3 Irish Soda Breads

Irish soda bread today looks nothing like what my great-grandfather probably ate. He would probably find our version just as puzzling and unappetizing as I’d find his. I’ve come around on soda breads. Take out the caraway seeds, use some raisins post-Nixon administration and put in a healthy slug of buttermilk and you have youself a decent treat. Not something you might make everyday, or even once a month, but something worth making once a year to help your stomach acid staunch the copious flow of corned beef and Guiness during that mid-March holiday. Continue Reading

Homemade Bagels

Mmmmmm!I tried the bagel recipe from ABiFMaD this weekend. One of the things I like about this technique is the low level of handling. Dough can be scary. It can be disobedient, slipping and oozing out of one’s grip. Those long strings of protein can have minds of their own. Handle it the wrong way and you find yourself facing some tough questions. Where’s the bread for the stew? Why did it collapse? Why does it look like underbaked snot? I’m still trying to work up the nerve to try another pie dough after the Labor Day incident of ’07.

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My Affair with Fresh Bread

I love bread. In my mind that Atkins low-carb fad was simply old school, Cold War, Ruskie propaganda. A twisted cult existing solely to warp the minds of decent working folks. Who doesn’t love bread? It’s damn near un-American. I mean c’mon, it’s made from amber waves of grain and a double shot of rainbows. It’s a wonderful thing and supermarkets across this great nation are perpetuating a crime against our taste buds with those plastic sacks of bland, uniform masses of preservatives and chaff. I’ll concede in moments of weakness and convenience I’ve bought a sandwich loaf, but I’ve never enjoyed it. Continue Reading