Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

Delicious January 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mary @ 11:56 pm
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This is my first post from the phone. Really. What on earth can’t I do on this thing?

Today was a fabulous day. It was sunny, clear, warm without being hot. Oh goodness I am SO ready for spring. To aid in abating some angst I dug in the dirt. Lots. What is it about digging that makes me feel so quiet inside? The whole process is just silent no matter what is going on around me.

And the soil. Oh, the soil. It’s delicious. Just the smell of its richness makes me imagine what is going to come out of it.

Today I started the worm bin (finally), planted Rosemary and parsley in pots, seeded three others for basil, chives and garlic chives, turned two beds with compost, manure and etc. and planted broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and Chinese cabbage.

In my front boxes I have red lettuce, romain and arugala in one and asparagus, brown and red onions in another. I have one asparagus spear peaking through and one boldmonion peering out already.

Oh I love it. I just love it.

Now we are getting ready to start seeds. I’ll share my tomato list and other starts tomorrow.

One thing I want to grow again is purslane. I wonder where I can get it! It’s really considered a weed here. Perhaps it’s worth a trip up to Ivey ranch to see if any is growing that the gardeners there are willing to part with. Perhaps.

Rambly phone post complete. Now, bed.

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Buzzy Bees and Gargening Again…FINALLY! July 21, 2009

Filed under: family,garden,Gardening,love,stories,thanks — Mary @ 9:24 pm
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Tomorrow I’m heading over to break ground at my new garden site — the back yard of a family friend.  It’s closer to us (less than a mile), has an enclosed yard, and is one block from the beach:  A good treat for my son when he’s been with me as I garden.  I have a rototiller to put together and beds to measure out and I just simply MUST put in my tomatoes which have been languishing in pots outside our apartment for three weeks now.

Is this odd?  I’m approaching this with much trepidation.  Getting started on a garden is just so much work.  But at the same time, I’m thrilled to death to get going on it.  It’s been a long time coming and my fingers are itching for soil.  My final inspiration was sitting in our living room last night after the tomatoes were watered.  I could smell them and the window fan was actually pulling the scent of them into the room on cool air after the heat of the day.  The ache for green is officially irresistible!

I’ll dig out my box of seed tomorrow and figure out what to start, as well.  Although we’re in a weird month to start growing.  I’ll have to pull up my old planting charts for this area, as well.

Before and after pictures will come, of course.

Last night as I finished up some work before bed, I listened to my husband and son in my son’s room.  My husband had gone in to cuddle him before he went to sleep.  The conversation went like this:

“I love you, Buddy.”

“I love you, too, Honey.”

“Hey!  I’m not your honey!”

“Oh yes you aaaarrree!”

“I’m not your honey…I’m daddy!”

“NO!  Your my honey!” (Accompanied by the beginnings of giggles.)

“Oh yeah?  Well…do you know who LOVES honey??”

“Who?”

“BEES!”

And then there was the most screechingly delightful round of tickles giggles and belly laughs heard in recent history. The perfect lullaby.

I am tremendously, infinitely, completely blessed.

 

Uncle Richard August 14, 2008


When I came to Ivey Ranch, heart held in front of me raw and scared, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing there. I only just knew I needed a garden, they had one for me, and by Jove, I was going to grow things.

Richard is one of the first people I met once I got there. He is the reason I made it. Without being asked, he offered to till my soil, wet my weeds for pulling, wire my gates against renegade bunnies, holler if my son wandered too near the road by his plot. Without his help I would have ended up worn out, burnt out, and ready to quit within weeks of my plot lease. But Dick was there every warm morning with a smile and a joke and, if I asked, humble but accurate advice on just about every thing from weeds, to corn worms, to kids.

“Hiya, trouble!” I’d call when I got to the plots and saw him with his knee pads on, working away on his own plot or some newcomer’s who he thought needed encouragement. “How’re you?”

“Fat, sassy and happy!” he’d tell me every time. I knew the answer. That’s why I always asked. I tried not to worry when he’d have a coughing fit while I admonished Eamonn not to pick the green tomatoes, worried over my watermelons, and bemoaned my plethora of squash. I’d listen to him joke and laugh with every single gardener there. He’d ask after kids, grandkids, plants, and pets. He’d give a hug and tell a joke any time you’d need it. I had to fight with him to get him to take some of my organic plant food when he demanded to know how I’d gotten my corn so tall.

“Over my dead body will you pay me for that food, Mister! It’s time for a little payback!” I’d holler at him with a foot stamp.

“Do you see??” he’d ask anyone listening, “Do you see what I put up with?”

I really, really love Richard.

Rumor has it, it’s lung cancer.

We all try to water when we can, pull his weeds when there’s time, pile up his harvest for his neighbor to deliver when there are things to pick. Everyone’s worried and no one’s quite sure what to do. But the feel of the whole place has changed. It’s pensive, and it’s quiet, and we all throw glances at that empty plot where no one is hollering out sass and encouragement like he’s supposed to be.

It is amazing how one man can shape the face of a place and how his lack can make it so empty. When I consider it, I ache.

 

Garden Update, Me Update August 9, 2008


I’ve been horribly remiss in my posting. I haven’t got much to say for myself except, “WAAA!”, total toddler style. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe the weeks we’ve had. But it’s all been good, interesting, fun…well, except the strep. And…well…except for the part where my poor brother and his wife got flooded out of their condo for the second time in as many years by their upstairs neighbors. Yeah.

There is a lot going on at Ivey Ranch and I’ll get to that when I have words for it. We’re all walking around with furrowed brows and aching hearts at the moment. I can’t start to explain it without wanting to get up from the desk and walk away…so I won’t touch it more than that for now. You just really can’t escape death and it’s touch on everything in this life.

Perhaps this leads me to a bigger thing: I have so many deep things I’ve been wanting to say of late. I don’t know where to start with them all. Some pertain to my garden and what I’m learning there, so many pertain to my mom and the new layers of loss you come to every time you get out of bed. Do you ever look at the pile of things you feel need processing and saying and just find yourself quiet in the face of it all?

Yeah. Me, too.

And so, here is a plain garden update:

Ann and Joce and I busted our collective tushes (tushi?) this afternoon. We weeded the whole area, tied up and trimmed many of my tomato plants which are, let’s face it, on their last legs at this point with the heat. We pulled up dying and dead plants (three yellow squash, two watermelons, the rest of my pumpkins, a pepper, and a tomato). He picked so many tomatoes I don’t know what any of us will ever do with them. Honest to Pete, I never thought I’d be sick of tomatoes. One of God’s graces, perhaps, is that even the best fruits and vegetables start to get a bit old before the season ends, so you’re almost happy to say goodbye until the next year…We dug in steer manure and fertilizer in preparation for the beds I’ll be planting in the next months, and eyed bunny holes that need plugging up.

Regarding my bunnies: I believe their next step in renovating my plots is installing a bunny disco ball. I really can’t think what else they need. My plot is one of the cushiest bunny hang-outs of all time. They’ve even told the squirrels to give it a whirl. I really, REALLY need to rebuild some of my fences. If not to keep them out entirely (I really think this is somewhat impossible to do entirely and still like yourself), at least to give them enough pause to like, count their blessings and say grace before they dig into my vegetables…

Tomorrow I will go back to give my tomatoes a much-needed trim down in B10 and to consider what else needs to be allowed an end so I can begin again.

Renewal. It’s an amazing thing.

I’m sort of glad that I lost what I did when I was in Oklahoma. It allowed me, in the end, to remember that my need was not to keep everything alive forever, but really, to learn the cycles of my garden and this climate to grow and produce what the seasons dictate and invite. This is a hard, but good, lesson to learn for a new gardener.

 

Living on the Edge — Support Your Local Farmers July 30, 2008


Aphids are the bane of my existence right now. I hate them. I dream about them. I take great pleasure in spraying them with a mixture of Listerine, dish soap and water…the organic gardener’s magic solution for aphids. They attacked my corn, they attacked my okra, they attacked my strawberries, they attacked even my zucchini while I was gone.

As I harvested all of my corn this week, I wore gloves and watched in fascinated horror as clumps of aphids and their farmer ants fell to the ground at my feet while I cut stalks and shucked husks into a wheel barrow. I was really surprised at the wrath I felt towards these pests, and how personally affronted I was every time I threw an infested branch or cob into the waste pile.

It got me thinking about what it must be like to really be a farmer. While I am growing this food for my family and, from a budgetary standpoint, we have begun to rely on our garden as a resource, we always have the grocery store and farmer’s market in our back pocket should things not go well. Would we have to cut someplace in our budget to compensate? Sure. But would it we devastation for our family or the end of our livelihood if a crop failed? Of course not.

But for thousands of families who farm for a living all over our country and all over the world, that is not the case. And for organic farmers and small-time family farmers, I think the burden and the tenuous balance on the edge of financial and lifestyle viability bust be very extreme. This has been highlighted for me this week as I’ve dealt with the pests, diseases and weeds in my own garden that have taken hold during my absence for a week.

And yet, small family farms and local farmer’s markets carry some of the best-tasting, beautiful produce you have ever seen — and here in California during the summer, produce is so bountiful at Farmer’s Markets that it almost seems like some of the booths are giving their things away in a joyous celebration of the plenty that our climate provides for.

I know that Farmers Markets are not as convenient as the local grocery store. I know that sometimes getting past the less-than-picture-perfect bend of a local cucumber or pitted heirloom tomato bottom can be hard when we’ve been trained to think that waxy-shined, straight-grown produce equals great taste at the grocery store. But I urge you to pick a day in the week to come, find out when and where you can get to a local farmer’s market, and support our local farmers and organic growers. Let your other senses take over, let your nose and your taste buds inform you as you choose out some of summer’s bounty at the different stalls. Enjoy the fact that your jalapenos and tomatoes from local sources are not a part of a scary national recall and that the man or woman who is helping you pick your fruits and vegetables is likely the person who grew them — not a 5th party vendor down the line from some mass-production farm with little personal investment in what they produce and sell. Do like my friend Jen and see what $20 can get you.

I doubt that you’ll be sorry, and I suspect you’ll decide to do it again.

As a bonus for those of you with kidlets? I’ve yet to visit a FM and not have my son plied with free samples of sweet fresh fruits, lots of smiles, and a chance to see from close up the source of the food on the table every night. He loves a trip to the local Farmer’s Market and I’m sure your kiddo will, too.

The San Diego County Farm Bureau offers a free online calendar for all the licensed farmers markets throughout the county if you don’t know which is closest to you and works with your schedule. Be there, or be square.

 

A Garden Update


I was a little heartsick about my garden on my return trip from Oklahoma and have been avoiding writing about it as a result. But, time has shown me that my inexperience made things seem worse than they really were, and that I have a lot to learn and look forward to out at dear Ivey Ranch.

I know it sounds strange, given the very reasons I started this blog, to say this but, I’d forgotten that death was a necessary part of the cycle in regards to my garden. I had been so focused on the flourishing, burgeoning, amazing growth I encountered every day in my garden that I mentally shoved away any of the thoughts of what to do when my plants were spent…or even the fact that they would indeed be spent at some point.

We were gone for a full week and when I returned to my plot, I was shocked. My plants, for the most part, were barely alive and many had been infested by aphids and white mold. I did, indeed, lose a few: My sugar pumpkins are gone, though I did harvest 5 ripe pumpkins when I pulled the plants. My corn was so riddled with aphids I had to wear gloves to harvest the ears. We ended up, however, with about 45 ears. I lost my red bells and some potatoes entirely. My lavender is just about done. My tomatoes had begun to die back, but they have responded well to frequent and deep watering since my return. Ryan has been incredibly understanding about my need to go out nearly every day right now. It took me three days and several plot mates taking some of them to catch up on the tomato harvest. I’ve since perfected my salsa and tomatillo salsa verde recipes as a result. I just did NOT know what to do with them all. (My dad, I must say, is a champion tomato help-mate in these cases. He polished off an impressive amount of tomatoes for me with a glimmer and a smile. I have a whole new basket bound his way this weekend…) I was forced to cut back my zucchini and yellow squash quite severely as white mold has set in. I need to get my soil healthy and figure out a fix for white mold before I plant in that particular bed again.

All in all, I did lose things. However, the beauty of it all is that, after a few tears of frustration and surprise (I blame jet lag), my mind immediately leaped forward to renewing soil, planting new seeds, trying new things, and redesigning the set-up of my beds.

We harvested all our corn and distributed what we couldn’t eat to very thankful neighbors and I have some watermelons about to come in within the next week or two, as well.

I’m aware as I write this that it’s not well organized, thought out, or written. But it’s been sitting in my chest, waiting to be explained so that I can begin blogging again without its blocking anything else I wanted to say.

So there it is. You can’t escape the cycle of life. But in the dying back of one thing, the beginning of another is allowed…there is a certain reassurance and beauty in that which makes me smile and I’ll get into more later.

In the meantime, this is my sugarbowl watermelon — the first from my garden and, truly, one of the best watermelons I’ve ever eaten.

Sugar Bowl Watermelon, Grown Organically

 

Fish Tacos July 29, 2008





fish_tacos

Originally uploaded by merlot

Last night we ate these fish tacos for dinner and they really were dyno-mite! The components were:

Marinated/grilled white fish
Avocado
Salsa
Salsa verde
White sauce
Tomatoes
Pickled onions
Red Cabbage

For the fish:
Brush with a mixture of garlic, paprika and olive oil and let stand for at least half an hour, but more like two if you can

For the salsa verde:
Broil tomatillos and serranos and let char
In food processor combine tomatillos, serranos, garlic, salt, lemon/lime juice, avocado, fresh cilantro

For the salsa:
In food processor combine tomatoes, serranos, garlic, salt, black pepper (i use a lot), lime juice and green chiles, and cilantro — if you want, char the peppers and some of the tomatoes ahead of time. You can also slightly char some of the garlic.

For the white sauce:
Combine equal parts sour cream and mayo with lime juice and salt to taste

I know I’m not giving quantities and that’s because I don’t measure these things at all.

Plop it all on warm corn tortillas and have at it.

Oh man. So good.

I’m having trouble wanting anything else but that again tonight.

 

 
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