Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Discovering my Ancestral Roots Chili

I feel like such a curandera, with all my spices and backyard herbs, using mostly indigenous ingredients, channeling my tartara abuelita, stirring an aromatic pot of thick, bubbling beany pot liquor. I'm glad I can grow harder-to-find herbs like mexican oregano.

Here's a chili half-way between my black bean chili and chicana power chili beans from Decolonize your Diet:

1 cup dried beans (black, tiger, mayocoba...), sorted, rinsed, and soaked in spring water overnight
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped (from Schaner Farm via the Little Italy Farmers Market)
1-2 mild chiles (such anaheim, pasilla, or poblano - or maybe a jalapeño if you like it spicy), chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried (preferably mexican) oregano or a couple teaspoons fresh from the herb spiral
cayenne to taste (start with a pinch, if you're wimpy; up to 1/4 teaspoon if you like it spicy)
1½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3 large cloves garlic, minced (from Schaner or Sage Mt Farm)
¾ cup tomato, fresh chopped or crushed canned in glass
juice of a small orange from mom's backyard
sea salt (about 1 teaspoon)

Sauté the onion, chile, and spices in the oil in a medium pot on medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring (do not brown). Add garlic and tomato and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add orange juice and beans (drained well) and cover with spring water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat for a low simmer and cook covered until soft, about 2 hours. Salt to taste. Serve with skillet cornbread.

Garnish Options: jack cheese (from Spring Hill), avocado, cilantro, green onions

Monday, April 30, 2018

April in my garden

I'm thinking about where I'll find a nice patch of sun for my little tomato and pepper seedlings.

I mounded up my potato plants. I deadheaded lavender and spreading calendula from ripe seed heads. I'll be clearing mulch from the chicken yard and adding to to my hugel mounds for the cool-season crops. I'm adding support structures to all my tomatoes and twine for grapevines.

I've got to empty out my freezer to make room for this year's crop.  I'll be bringing last year's remaining mulberries to my favorite local restaurant, Tribute Pizza, so they can work their magic and make them into lovely desserts or drinks.
I'm so happy carefully caring for my tiny tomato seedlings!  They all sprouted and are doing well. I credit keeping them (and the water bottle I often spritz them with) right on the kitchen counter in front of a window so I'm looking right at them all day: tomatoes - Brad's Atomic GrapeDark Galaxy, Green Zebra & Cherokee Purple from a 2016 seed exchange, Black Vernissage from last year's Earth Day seed swap, seeds saved from a brown & green paste tomato from a grocery store last year, and small red cherry seeds I've had a while from who knows where - and chiles/peppers.

Seed Saving
As I focus more on growing from seed, I'm also focusing on saving seeds. This month: calendula


I'm diligently pulling them up as they sprout, mostly while I'm in the garden watering or hanging out, a few here or there when I see them. But I'm also thinking about leaving some dandelions for their permaculture contributions.


My little tomato and chile seedlings aren't quite big enough to plant yet.
Also good to plant this month: radish, beets, carrots, corn, cucumber, lettuce, bush beans, melon, eggplant, winter & summer squash, okra, warm-season flowers (cosmos, marigold, sunflower), ginger, herbs

Fertilize citrus, avo, tomato, rose & orchids in waning moon

We've had cloudy days and I'm still hoping for rain. Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain, more often for new seedlings.

Pick off any caterpillars, slugs and snails. Blast off ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

All my tomato plants are doing so well! I've trimmed any leaves that are touching the ground, all growth in the 4-6 inches and any suckers.

Here's what I'm harvesting...
mulberries! artichokes, sugar snap peas, roses, calla lilies, guavas, cilantro, eggs, arugula, tangerines, eureka lemons, nasturtiums, calendulas, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium, lemon verbena, elderberry flowers, white sage

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Death in the garden

If I am lucky, I will bury all of my chickens. Digging a hole is a lot of work so I may as well plant a tree or bush and turn them into flowers. Today I'm planting mexican oregano in honor of Amapola, the Plymouth Rock who seemed to enjoy standing up to the bullying of our little dog, Jasper, always pecking him through the fence between them.

There is no life without death. I garden, at least in part, to be close to the death and suffering that sustains my existence. And if I can produce my own food, I can try to decrease the amount of death and suffering that goes into my food. I don't use poisons or killing traps. I share my crops with the wild critters who need to eat to survive. I tend to use a fork instead of a shovel to dig in the earth, because more worms are cut by my shovel than by my fork. I keep chickens that needed rehoming, and when they stop laying I can appreciate their soil-building contributions, weed- and pest-control, their soft noises, beautiful feathers, and their antics.

...and neither do chickens.

calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

March in my garden

thyme, nasturtium, calla lily, elderberry, lavender, sour grass, rose geramium,
johnny jump-up, california poppy, arugula, rose 'purple splash', calendula
While most of my wildflowers are still tiny little seedlings, I have many (mostly edible) blooms in my garden to herald the coming of spring!

I love adding edible flowers to dishes - in salads and drinks, decorating desserts and platters - they make food look so special.

But if I could only plant one thing, it would be tomatoes. We have lovely farmers markets and San Diego county has more farmers (and more organic farmers) than anywhere else in the country. But there's few things that taste better than homegrown tomatoes.

I do much better with seedlings, and I want to plant interesting varieties with top notch flavor so I head to Tomatomania for a pretty epic selection. While they didn't have the Gardener's Delight cherry tomato that did so well for us last year, I still came home with an exciting selection:
But they didn't have a couple specific varieties I wanted so I bought some seeds online at Baker's Creek that look pretty phenomenal so hopefully I can manage to grow from seed this year. I also bought non-tomato seeds at City Farmers Nursery from San Diego Seed Co (chiles and basil). I'm thinking about where to place new beds for my summer garden, how I'll be rotating my existing beds to grow as many tomatoes as possible this summer, and whether I should have some top soil and compost delivered for new beds.

I've been wanting to build a circular series of beds with a simple rock bubbling fountain in the middle so we'll see if I make any progress on that this year.

I'm also thinking about how I might add a small lily pond, but that's more of a dream than a plan.

I've readied my westmost hugel mound for tomatoes and I have materials to build tomato supports. I'm harvesting the mulch and bedding from the chicken coop and yard for mulching the garden beds.

I'm going to be more diligent this year with caring for the seeds I'm trying to start:
tomatoes -
and chiles/peppers -


Now is the time - don't wait!  The ground is soft and moist, making it easy to pull them and they're still pretty small and haven't gone to seed.  Do it! Do it now!


I've planted many tomatoes with their companions (marigolds, green onion, garlic, basil, carrots), sugar snap peas (a nitrogen fixer), and direct seeded sunflowers, loofah & melons (a bit early so we'll see how that goes).

Also good to plant this month: radish, beets, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, greens, green beans, corn, turnip, cucumber, squash, citrus, avocado, macadamia, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, dahlias, and the last chance this year for natives.

Fertilize citrus, avo, orchids, 3# on passionfruit, everything (except natives and drought tolerant) in the waning moon.

I'm grateful for continued rain!
Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain, more often for new seedlings. I'm blasting my fruit trees (that aren't flowering) with water a couple times this month to help control ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

I'm pinching off new growth on the grape vines below the trellis to concentrate the energy into the growth to cover the top of the trellis.

Here's what I'm harvesting...
eggs, arugula, tangerines, eureka lemons, nasturtiums, calendulas, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium, lemon verbena, elderberry flowers

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Jam

1/4 cup olive oil
6 medium-sized yellow onions, quartered and sliced thin, from Schaner Farm
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, minced, from my backyard
2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1/4 cup sucanat, rapadura, or other brown sugar
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (I used a sweet, syrupy type; you could also use a dark one)

Heat the oil over medium heat, stir in onion, thyme and sea salt; cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until soft and golden. Reduce heat to low, stir in mustard, sugar and vinegar; simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced to jam consistency.

Makes about 2 cups

adapted from The Produce Companion

Monday, January 1, 2018

DIY Pita Bread

I've tried making pita before - based on watching my siblings' Israeli other mother - with less success. This time, like my blended family, I blended in an actual recipe, which worked much better for me!

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet (or 1 cake) yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (or bread flour)
1 Tbsp olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, bloom yeast in warm water with sugar.

Stir in salt and mix in flour a little bit at a time until it comes together in a ball (about 5 minutes in the mixer with a bread hook), then knead until shiny and elastic. Return to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until springy and airy, about 1 1/2 hours.

Work small handfuls of dough by pushing dough up through bottom middle of dough, forming a ball. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Roll out a ball in a thin round, about 6 inches.

On medium heat, warm a skillet with a glass lid. When hot, add dough round and cook until bubbling with lid on (about a minute - in the meantime, roll out your next ball); flip and cook with lid on until (hopefully) the air pocket forms (about 1 minute).

Makes a dozen.

Delicious with hummus & salad

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December in my garden

Still waiting for the rain this December, but it's cooled off (this week) after having a 90° Thanksgiving. A friend of a friend needed to rehome their chickens (all my chickens are rescues), so we just added 3 to our flock. Meet Nutmeg, Eggnog, and Anise!

Eggnog (a Leghorn), Nutmeg (a speckled Sussex), and Anise (an Autralorp)

They are young ladies, so hopefully that means we'll get some eggs soon. Most of our flock are somewhere around 8 years old so they are retired (or freeloaders).  And all of them have molted and stopped laying for the winter, so we'll see how they do in the Spring...

Start drooling over seed catalogs! Baker Creek heirloom rare seeds is my favorite (such beautiful varieties! I have a strong penchant for purple vegetables 😊) and San Diego Seed Company is local. But honestly, last year I did better with seedlings.
Other good resources for research and learning:

Amend hugelkultur beds with compost. Rake out chicken area for mulch. Let the chickens into more areas of the yard to eat grubs and dig up all the grasses that have grown back (after I spent so much time trying to remove that bermuda grass! 😠)

Broccoli seedlings from City Farmers interspersed with garlic cloves from Schaner Farm did so well for me last year, I'll do it again this month.
artichokes (mine's already a big healthy plant from last year's planting), asparagus (maybe next year), beets, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, celery, cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes, radish, parsnips, garlic, wildflower seeds, natives (I need a cleveland sage - it's my favorite), cover crops (fava & peas)

Feed passion fruit 3 pounds of fruit tree fertilizer. I can't believe it's still flowering and fruiting.

Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain. I'll continue to blast my fruit trees with water a couple times this month to help control ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

Prune grapes (I'm going to weave trimmed vines in the shade structure over the windows to create more summer shade) and blackberries. Deadhead the lavender and aroma sage. Trim back mulberry (one of the big branches will be repurposed for passionfruit vine support), guava and pepper tree by mid-December so as not to disturb the birdie nest building that will start soon. Chop up trimmings (if not used in other projects) for mulch.

copious guavas, passion fruit, calamondins, the last of the tomatoes, winter squash, basil, parsley, thyme, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium leaves