Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I've moved

You can now find this blog at http://mybitofearth.typepad.com.

Please come say hi over at the new place!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

An Ity-Bity Bucket 'o' Beans

I planted my little plot of soybeans to enjoy some fresh edamame, but my methods were a little faulty. Instead of picking them when they were young, I kept waiting for them to get bigger. Only, instead of getting bigger, they just got browner.

But all is not lost. I cracked open one of the brown pods tonight and, low and behold, there were nice little hard beans inside. Soup beans.

Some were more dry than others, but I put the not-so-dry ones in the oven for a bit to finish them off. My little bucket 'o' beans is getting fuller.

There was an article in the LJWorld the other day by the wonderful Miss Mellinger (of jinxing tomatoes fame) asserting that it's not worth the time and trouble to shuck beans for soup, given that they are so cheap to buy at the store. I see her point, but I think I have to respectfully disagree. Sitting outside, gleefully popping open the pods, and scooping out the verdant little beans was probably one of the high points of my weekend.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

A pretty summer trio--German Green, Yellow Pear, and Mexican Midget.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


A few weeks ago I was at the farmer's market and saw someone with moonflower plants. At the time I had just dug up my potatoes and had free space so....(listen to me pretend I need an excuse to buy plants). As you can guess from their name, moonflowers only open at night.

I took this picture while the sun was still up--the flower was just starting to open.

Then I took this picture in the dark using a long exposure. In small quantities I don't think you get the full effect, but if you had a nice large planting and a full moon they would be spectacular.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Good With the Bad

Bad: The lawnmower guys haven't been here since before the 4th of July. I know it's hot guys, but sheesh--it's starting to get down-right pasture-like.

Good: The lack of lawnmowing has allowed my morning glories to begin to grow . . .

. . . and this funny flower outside our fence. I'm curious to see what it is.
(Update 7/24/06: They finally came and mowed! I'm almost surprised they didn't have to brush-hog. And despite the fact that they let the grass get to knee level, I'm pretty pleased with them--although they did cut down the mystery flower, they trimmed around my morning glories. Thanks lawn mowing guys!)

Sunday, July 16, 2006


....I hacked away at the tomatoes; they're kind of taking over. I've never really thought of plants fighting for space before, but my sweet tomatoes are definitely doing some pushing and shoving.

....I noticed I have beans. The beans are almost as vigorous as the tomatoes. Next year I need much taller trellises.

....But I found a few beans that were all dried and ready for picking.

....All told I got five Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans. I'm on my way to a nice winter pot'o'soup.

....I picked the first "Aunt Ruby's German Green" Tomato.

....And we made a grilled pizza. We had red tomatoes (from the store) and yellow pear and German green tomatoes (from our garden). Combined with some lettuce, onions, garlic, and fresh mozzarella--mmmm!

Eat Pickles!

As I said, I was inspired to try to make pickles. It was easier than the jam. Or at least, it was much more my style. (I learned to cook largely from my Dad whose theory was, "Just throw stuff in until it tastes good.") And, even though hot water has a tendency to splash, it stings much less than hot jam. But I digress....

I followed this recipe--kinda. On the advice of several websites and the lady at the farmers market who sold me the cucs, I tried not to quite boil the jars at the end. Supposedly if you can keep the temperature almost boiling, but not quite, the jars will still seal and the pickles will stay nice and crunchy. Mine did end up boiling a bit at the end, but not for too long. I also couldn't find baby dill sized cucs so I used regular pickling cucumbers (i.e. somewhere between full-sized and tiny) cut into nice thick slices.

All told I ended up with 7 quarts. I'll report back in a few weeks and let you know how they taste.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Nice In Theory

But maybe not in reality.

I picked up these pretty blue 'taters at the farmer's market this morning. They were really pretty when raw, but not so much once they were cooked. And the texture was a bit funny too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Would All the Vegetables Come To The Front Please?

Another great post from Garden Rant. As part of a project called "Edible Estates" the Foti family in Southern California has planted a vegetable garden on their front lawn. It kind of reminds me of my neighbors here in Lawrence that I posted about, only the Foti garden (being in a place where I gather the neighbors are a bit more likely to complain) is much more stylishly done.

Mr. Foti has kept a blog of his experiences (which both reminds me of my own blog and is tempting me to try to make my own pickles). I particularly enjoyed this observation:

I guess that in person, one of the things that is most striking about the garden when you first see it is how open and close to the sidewalk it is. How vulnerable it seems. There's no fences or anything to keep anybody out. It really makes you aware of how most lawns function as kind of buffer between public and private space. In a way, it sort of illuminates the value of a lawn to most people - not worth stealing, and useful only to the extent that it keeps people away, or doesn't need to be worried about.

Many people don't even take any pride in maintaining their own lawn. They pay a service to do it, usually when they aren't around to see (or hear) it being done. One of the concerns I've heard from some neighbors is that they fear I might have taken on more than I can handle in terms of maintenance. Lawns are so easy to deal with, especially if somebody else is doing the work. There is nothing low maintenance about our garden, and you really can't pay someone to give it the kind of care it needs. I couldn't afford it anyway. If I slack off on the maintenance, it will turn into an eyesore very quickly. I think that is valid concern, but do people really prefer their neighborhoods be maintained by low-paid workers who's main concern is efficiency rather than beauty? I think it's a vicious cycle. The more utilitarian and functional these spaces become, the easier they are to maintain, but also the easier they are to ignore and neglect. Ultimately, the upkeep of a lawn becomes nothing more than a kind of tax on the homeowner that he only pays out of some sense of obligation, or self interest in neighborhood property values.
Personally, looking at my own space, it's very evident what gets more care--and it's certainly not the grass.

(Edited on 7/20/06 to add: Here's a link to the NY Times article discussing the project in more detail and with more pictures. You have to login, but it's free.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Milkweed, All Grown Up

The pretty Asclepias (aka Milkweed) that I planted in April has been a wonderful little burst of color by the back door. But, somehow I'm not sure if it's growing correctly. It keeps getting taller, but it's very spindley. It doesn't seem like it would be sturdy enough for a butterfly cocoon--which is part of why I chose to plant it. I wonder if maybe I need to plant more of it to make it a bit thicker and more protective?