May, 2014 browsing by month


Garden update

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

We ate our first French breakfast radishes today.


And here’s what the front beds are looking like. Starting to get filled up with sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and greens!

Like riding a bike

Monday, May 19th, 2014

It’s been over five years since I’ve been on a bike. And I was never much of a bike rider anyway. I always felt a bit insecure.

But today we got on new bikes! I’ve been missing running (it hurts my knees too much) and have been looking for another way to get out and get some exercise. I wavered a bit on whether bikes make sense out here, but finally decided to give it a try.

It was fun to take the bikes out for the first time today and see what it’s like on dirt roads (and today in high winds).


New projects

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

We’ve been working on some new things. First, we have caged in part of the back garden to try to keep the quail out of the asparagus once and for all. (And this new structure, big enough for Brad to stand up inside, has stood up admirably to the 60+ mph winds here the last couple of weeks.)


And we built a new adobe cold frame for growing during the winter with its own little bench:


Best of all and not unrelated, for the first time in several years, we no longer have a pile of adobe bricks in front of our house!


Is it too much?

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

[edited to include pics…it wasn’t too much]

A tapas-style locally sourced meal:

  • Grilled asparagus and garlic scapes


  • Fresh fava hummus and sourdough toasts


  • Spinach dip with goat cheese and bread


  • Chipotle sweet potato bisque


  • Salad with poached eggs on garlic bread


Homemade seitan

Friday, May 9th, 2014

We really like seitan. If you’re not familiar, it’s a meat substitute made from wheat gluten (the protein part of wheat). You can cook it pretty much like chicken. It’s more flavorful and has a better texture than tofu.

Unfortunately, like many things, it isn’t easy to get here. It’s mostly available at health food type stores, which are in short supply.

Imagine my delight when I found a recipe for making your own in one of my new slow cooker books!

The first recipe I found described what seemed like a complicated method for getting gluten out of regular wheat flour by rinsing and kneading a dough several times to separate the gluten. Then I discovered you can buy wheat gluten. I was able to get 5 pounds for about $13. Pretty cheap.

Last week I tried making it. The process was quite simple. You mix wheat gluten and a few other ingredients (in this recipe, chickpea flower, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper) with water. You knead the resulting dough for just a couple minutes. It was quite springy unlike usual bread dough. Here’s what the dough looked like before cooking.


Then you cook the dough in the slow cooker in a broth of water, soy sauce, and onions for a few hours. Here it is what it looked like after that – pretty much looks like what we buy at the store. (Note: You cook it again after this to make the final dish.)


And finally here are a couple dishes made with seitan. The first is ropa vieja, a Cuban dish normally made with shredded meat.


Then there was this barbecued pulled pork…um, seitan.

pulled seitan

Garden update

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

There’s been lots happening in the garden.

Here’s an updated map of the beds for this year. bed layout-rev

Between many days of extreme wind, much of this has been planted already. The number of beds has grown to the point that it is a fair amount of work to keep up with all this. I find it very satisfying work and am increasingly more excited about the parts of the days I spend out in the garden than those I spend in front of my computer.

For most of the beans, I’ve planted half a bed now and am waiting to plant the rest until the monsoons come. (There is a school of thinking here that you should wait to plant everything with the monsoons. I’m unsure so am running some tests.)

The tomatoes are looking very good, though I unknowingly mixed in some hybrid seeds and so may get some odd results. (Long story, but we made a huge batch of salsa last year that included some neighbor’s tomatoes. I thought it would be fun to save a mix of the seeds, but didn’t realize that one of the varieties was a hybrid.)

The sweet potatoes are looking especially strong this year. We have over 40 slips (starts). I used a new technique of putting a small potato in a carton of sand this year (the leafy starts are pulled off and potted separately; then more grow):

swt pot

This worked very well with each potato like this yielding many (20+?) slips. In the past, I’ve just pulled slips off potatoes in the pantry because that way, we could still eat the potatoes. :)

I think our starts in general look a lot stronger this year. I credit that in part to our new potting soil Happy Frog, which was recommended by a guest speaker from the county extension office who we had at one of our seed meetings.

We’ve also been continuing to improve the soil in the beds and are hopeful for a great crop this year.

We are eating a lot from the garden right now. Last night’s dinner was almost entirely grown here. We had:

  • Steamed artichokes with mustard aioli
  • Grilled garlic scapes
  • Apples (not grown here) and cheese
  • A big salad with homemade sourdough bread with scape compound butter

We’ve also been eating a lot of asparagus and spring onions. Yum!

Let’s go camping

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

We took a spontaneous camping trip this weekend.We didn’t want to spend too long away from home with lots of new seedlings in the garden and hot weather predicted (drip irrigation isn’t running yet), so we decided to camp nearby up in the national monument.


It was really nice to unplug for a few days and enjoy all the unexpected beauty that nature has to share.

We knew there would be many spring blooms this time of year, but hadn’t ever seen a cactus flower this color.


We were able to do several hikes that we hadn’t done before including one that ended with a view of this natural bridge.


The most unexpected thing from this trip was unfortunately one I wasn’t able to photograph. After dark, a wild turkey circled our camp, calling out all the way. “Gobble, gobble, gobble. Gobble, gobble, gobble.” It was delightful. Brad thought maybe we should try to get some to hang around the house. I think not.