Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Distributed Gardening, Phase 1 Complete

Last weekend, my boyfriend James and I went collected a pair of hardworking men from the casual labor corner in Berkeley to dig his garden on Saturday and then mine on Sunday. James' garden is going to be about 10' x 12' and mine is about 14' x 12' or so -- it's just a couple feet bigger in either direction from last year.

The tomato seedlings (I swear, I will get some pictures up!) have now spent two nights outdoors! I have the seed start tray in the house still, with a full-spectrum lightbulb over the basil and pepper sprouts. Amazingly, the Wonderlights are starting to germinate so I even have a pair of them!

I may have to come up with a better irrigation system -- that means plunking down more money on garden gadgetry (likely made of plastic) in order to conserve water.

Gardens will be planted with:

Tomatoes (35 plants in my garden, probably 12-15 in James')
Peppers (jalapeno, cayenne, ancho)
Basil (purple ruffled, genova, boxwood)
Japanese cucumber
Green Beans (french, purple bush)
Mini watermelons (you never know!)
Corn (in James' garden only)

Existing plants in my garden include:
  • Arugula
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Strawberries
  • Mint
The strawberries & mint are fighting for control of the garden and I have a lot more strawberry plants than I put in last year -- they are putting out beautifully. The berries are sweet and small and I have to fight Dobson -- the only kitty who helps himself to strawberries and sugar snap peas right off the plant.

Existing plants in pots include:
  • Rosemary (two varieties)
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Strawberry (this guy has lived in this pot for 3 years - it's George's strawberry, left by his parents when they left him with me)

Total costs for garden to date:
  • Tomato seeds: $60
  • Other seeds: $25
  • Seed starter tray: $10
  • Tray tags: $6
  • Fiber pots: $45ish (have to check receipts)
  • Soil: $15
  • Labor for my garden cost $90 ($60 for James garden)

Total: $165 paid by me, $150 paid by James (though I plan to pay him the $90 for labor in my garden)

Phase 2:
  • Next steps will be to buy manure and sand to mix in with our very clayey soil.
  • Plant the seedlings this weekend.
I may have to come up with a better irrigation system -- that means plunking down more money on garden gadgetry (likely made of plastic) in order to conserve water.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blackout Sabbath

Here's a great idea -- "Blackout Sabbath" -- unplug for 12 hours, from noon to midnight, on the summer solstice, June 21st. I don't suppose they mean refrigerators, though.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

DIY Foods update

Veg pickle is really good. It's very tasty and I put it in the fridge today because it wasn't fizzing nearly as much as when I opened it up to check it three days ago. It's delicious and the pepper has really permeated throughout.

Kombucha is coming along slowly... looks like something is growing in there, so I am going to have a hand at making some kombucha this weekend.

Sourdough starter -- doesn't seem like much is happening. Was I supposed to just leave the lid on? I left the lid on and it is in a warm-ish place, but the flour is separating from the water. I shake it a bit to mix it but... it just looks like flour and water.

Tomato seedlings - some look really good and some are still pretty scrawny... this weekend I'll do some digging and plant stuff like peas and beans and squash. Pictures will be up for the seedlings and stuff soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bubble & Bubble

Last night I went to my third cooking class at the home of Dara Merin of The Sage Table. We went through a comprehensive list of fermented foods and asked questions as she prepared some dhosa (fermented lentils and rice) and potatoes for our dinner. Topics covered included fermented vegetable pickles, kombucha, sourdough, nut yogurts, vinegars and dhosa.

The homemade kombucha was entirely different from what I have had out of a bottle. My first kombucha experience was a bit offputting -- it tasted like apple cider vinegar. Others I have sampled tasted lighter and less like vinegar. Dara told us that when kombucha tastes like vinegar -- it's gone too far in the fermentation process and you should just toss it or let it go to become vinegar. I can't wait to try my hand at kombucha at home!

Nut yogurts sound really intriguing -- I have lots of raw cashews, so I plan to give that a go.

I left the class with starter for kombucha, sourdough and a jar of vegetables to ferment/pickle. I can't wait to do a jar of carrots, cauliflower and hot peppers for my brother -- he's going to love it. I am also going to make my own sauerkraut.

Seems like I need to wait until I get my tomato seedlings out of the kitchen though -- they have microbes in the soil that can get into my fermented cultures. I promise pictures of the tomato seedlings soon!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting SPICY!

COOKING & SHOPPING: As you probably know, you should always use organic herbs and spices, and you should ditch anything older than 6 months. In refreshing my pantry, I came across two amazing websites.

One site only offers 1#, and on the other, it was nearly as cheap to get 8oz as 4 oz.

It's all pretty cheap, and I have a scale at home and am happy to split off part of my order – here is the list of what I bought and the cost per pound (or half pound):

From SF Herb & Natural Food Company (
  • 1# Cinnamon Sticks (5" Ceylon) $8.00
  • 1# organic coriander seeds $7.25
  • 1# organic cloves $11.00
  • 1# organic sweet paprika $8.35
  • 1# organic super blue lavender flowers $11.00
  • 1# organic cut/sifted spearmint $7.00
  • 1# organic cut/sifted peppermint $5.90
  • 1# organic garlic powder $8.25
  • 1# organic white pepper, whole $7.80

TOTAL: $74.55
w/Shipping: 86.24

From Mountain Rose Herbs (
  • 8oz Anise Star Pods organic $5.25
  • 1# Cinnamon Sticks (cassia cinnamon) organic $5.00
  • 8oz Cardamom Pods organic $9.50
  • 8oz Fenugreek Seed organic $3.50
  • 1# Black Peppercorn whole organic $7.50

TOTAL: $30.75
w/Shipping: $39.22