Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Late-Autumn Pursuits November 22, 2009

Filed under: fall — greenwalks @ 10:06 pm
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(AKA what I have been up to instead of gardening, blogging, or reading garden blogs, all three of which I wish I had more time for at the moment…)

Here in Seattle, it’s almost unrelentingly horrid out – storm system after storm system rips through, often bringing heavy rains and high winds. Flood levels are rising, the ground is ultra-saturated, and the things that need to get done outside are just not happening. Oddly, the things that need to get done inside aren’t really getting done either! ‘Tis the season to be too busy and feel like a hamster on a wheel.

I feel lucky that we haven’t had to deal with much in the way of storm-induced problems so far. Cleaning the gunk out of the rain barrel’s screen and making sure the basement stays dry has been about it. Well, we need to fix our gate – the post cracked and the strongest winds tend to carry the loose latch all the way through to the wrong side, effectively trapping us unless a screwdriver is at hand.

Windblown gate latch

Other fascinating fall activities have included watching Jack-o-Lanterns rot:

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern I

Rotten Jack-o-Lantern II

They disintegrated when I tried to put a shovel under them, but most of the bits made it to the worm bin, where I recently spotted the biggest, baddest, blackest spider I’d ever seen sitting on one fuzzy remnant. All together now – EWWWW!

This gourd, which languished on the sideboard for a bit too long, got even more Halloween-ish when it started turning black and silvery in spots:

Rotting gourd

I rush past neighbors’ gardens and only stop for a second to admire the turning leaves, as on this hedge I didn’t realize was deciduous:

Deciduous hedge in fall

We’ve been playing a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of Uno recently. If you don’t know this card game, it’s easy to learn and keeps a 5+ yr. old busy for long stretches, at least around here. We lost the rules a while back so we may have invented some, but at least they are consistent. Sometimes, when we take a break, our friendly household shark holds the cards for us until we return.

Great white shark playing Uno

What keeps you busy when the trees bend before the wind?


Unusual Winter Food for Crows December 16, 2008

Filed under: edibles,fauna,neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 9:16 pm
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Crazy times here at the end of the year, haven’t been able to do much more than lament my lack of time for writing blog posts, reading others’ or leaving comments. I look forward to getting back to all of that, probably not until  January though!

Things have been so hectic that I can’t even seem to remember to take my camera with me when I leave the house. I’m usually driving these days, sadly, no “greenwalks” for me at the moment.

In the parking strip a few blocks from our house, someone had put out their (uncarved) pumpkins a few weeks ago in the bare dirt and leaves. Hm, I thought, odd choice but whatever. Then someone else (I suspect teenagers but maybe that’s unfair) smashed every single one of them, leaving them in place but completely shattered. Before the rot could set in, we got a really crazy cold snap (for here) and they have been perfectly preserved in their new forms. The result is oddly artistic, and I have been watching them every day as I drive by to see what will happen next.

Well, during the afternoon school run the other day, we were driving by and saw a funny sight – 6 or more crows happily nibbling away on the pumpkin shards! Maybe it tasted like pumpkin ice cream to them (one of my favorite flavors at the legendary Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco, it’s only available in the fall and early winter and I missed going there on our last visit). I lamented my lack of a camera, and my daughter asked “why, is it for your blog?” Oh dear, I guess she’s heard that word a few too many times around here! So I said yes, I wished I’d been able to take a picture of it and she said “Well, I could draw a picture and then you could put that in your blog instead.” How could I resist an offer like that?

In her rendition, there is only one pumpkin, and the crows are flying over it, not eating it, but that’s artistic license (and 5 year olds) for you. 🙂

Crows & pumpkin drawing


Skewered November 5, 2008

Today’s probably going to be the only dry day this week, so instead of attempting to craft a profound and epic post-election essay, I’m going to keep it short and head out to the garden instead.

I’m having a hard time leaving politics and pumpkins behind. They seemed to go hand in hand for me this year, with the two big fall events (Halloween and the election) colliding in space, time and my thoughts so often. At times the presidential race got so farcical it seemed like the two events were switching places! But in the end I was happy with the result and look forward to moving past all the craziness. Today the squirrel-gnawed pumpkins are going in the compost and I hope at least a few of the neighbors’ election signs will make it to the recycling.

Mini pumpkin skewer

This was my favorite sidewalk Halloween decoration, seen yesterday as I walked home from the polls (as I found out later, it was our last time to vote in person here in Washington state, something I’m very sad about). Mini pumpkins on a skewer! I won’t make any election analogies, except to wonder how much Tina Fey’s spot-on impression of a certain vice presidential candidate did to hurt that campaign. Hey, how about Tina Fey/John Stewart in 2016? (I can’t take credit for this – see ultra-leftie Seattle news rag Eat the State for this and even more irreverent punditry).


Post-Halloween Exhaustion Syndrome November 1, 2008

Filed under: digressions — greenwalks @ 12:06 pm
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(Warning: this post has absolutely nothing to do with gardening!)

I don’t know when it was that Halloween began to take over my life. Last week? The week before? Trips to the fabric shop (ballerina costume makings), hardware store (lights), drugstore (candy), pumpkin patch (duh), and grandparents’ house (more pumpkins along with the cider pressings) seemed to dominate every day. Decorating the house and yard, even on our fairly modest scale, was a daily project with my daughter. She just kept wanting it to look spookier! Now it’s over but for the candy whining.

One thing that took up a lot of time yesterday was my idea to make “Scary Sushi” for the kindergarten class Halloween party. Weirdly, I couldn’t find any recipes on the Web (just lots of pictures of folks in sushi costumes, which were cute but not particularly helpful), so I just had to make it up. It was my first time making sushi, but I had bought a wooden rice bowl set a while ago at Seattle’s wonderful Asian foods store, Uwajimaya, so I finally got to use it. I didn’t notice until yesterday when I unwrapped it that it is enhanced by imitation copper (i.e. plastic) bands around the bowl. Nice. Here it is, with the sushi rice and the package of pre-toasted nori seaweed:

Sushi rice & seaweed

I used an easy recipe from the Manga Cookbook, which is a pretty hilarious way to learn about Japanese cooking, especially if you have kids or at least a cute-food fetish.

Since I didn’t have a recipe for the fillings, I just tried to think of what five-year-olds might eat (Seattle kids can be pretty sophisticated with stuff like sushi – my kid won’t eat any vegetables except broccoli but she downs seaweed-wrapped sushi rolls by the pound, go figure) and what might at least look a little Halloween-ish. Here are the fillings I came up with: “Mooshy Mushroom,” “Creepy Carrot,” “Crazy Cucumber,” “Awful Avocado,” and “Terrifying Tofu” (I ended up leaving out the cream cheese in case there were any vegans lurking about, and also snuck in some daikon radish without telling them):

Sushi fillings

Roll in progress, I think I used too much rice but it was sticky and hard to spread:

Sushi in progress

I made five big rolls and one baby one before I ran out of nori. The rest of the fillings will have to go in a salad tonight or something.

Sushi rolls ready for cutting

My knives are horribly dull and I was worried I’d end up with just a squishy mess instead of nicely shaped rolls, so I refrigerated the uncut “logs” for a while, not sure if that was kosher but it seemed to do the trick. I cut them up later, decorated them with black sesame seed “bugs” and cut radish “eyeballs” and they were ready to go.

Spooky sushi

It was a little bit time-consuming but totally fun and actually pretty easy. Next time, I’m getting more bamboo roll mats and will recruit the rest of the family to help out.

Hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween. Did you do any unusual kitchen or garden projects to celebrate?

Halloween skull and lights


Pumpkin Patch Visit October 23, 2008

Last weekend, we made our annual foray to the closest pumpkin patch to Seattle, Redmond’s South 47 Farm. As the last remaining farm in the Sammamish Valley and a not-so-distant neighbor of Microsoft, this organic farm is struggling valiantly to survive in the midst of ex-urban sprawl. Its farm education programs for kids are helping to bring up a new generation of people who will know where their food actually comes from, and they do a great job of providing three-season fun (they close for the winter after pumpkin season is done). We visited for berry picking this summer and had a wonderful time.

More pumpkins than you can shake a stick at! Actually, I think some of these are probably imported from other farms, they’d never keep up with the demand otherwise.

Pumpkins galore

We didn’t have time to try the corn maze, which can take up to an hour to walk. Maybe next year. For small children, the pole bean maze is a little more reasonable anyway.

About to begin the pole bean maze

As a working organic farm, South 47 tries to conserve resources whenever possible. Their tractor is an antique, probably kept running with duct tape and baling wire. Here it is, taking a cartload of hayriders around for a tour.

Tractor-pulled hayride

The world-famous Herbfarm Restaurant leases land on the farm to grow herbs and veggies for their diners. The Herbfarm is kind of like the Chez Panisse of the Northwest, and is one of those places I hope to go someday after I win the lottery (despite never buying a ticket).

We somehow managed to resist the allure of these baby pumpkins, mostly because our family grows some to share every year and we get in trouble if we buy any!

Baby pumpkins

This patch of ground was empty at the moment, save for furrows and a few recent footprints… I liked the cosmos and other flowers growing casually at its border.

Running through the fields

Our daughter’s favorite stuffed creature for years has been Pumpkinman (her name), a small el cheapo toy from the drugstore that we bought years ago. He came with us to visit his pumpkin kin and got to ride in the wheelbarrow to the cashiers’.

Pumpkinman and kin

No we didn’t buy that many pumpkins! A kind family allowed us to share the pumpkin transport since we had struck out on finding one and had forgotten our trusty red wagon.

Tall stem green pumpkin

Another year, another Halloween, another seemingly successful harvest for South 47 Farm.