What Inspires You in the Garden?

This is such a lovely time of year in California. It is a time of harvest and planting. Creating fun and tasty foods from the abundance of a summer garden that has been given an extra burst of growth with the heat wave of autumn. This year, I’ve had lots of different orange tomatoes and a variety of colorful cherry tomatoes. I found them collecting in the kitchen -everywhere. On the counter, in the refrigerator and the table too! So, I thought, what can I do with this wonderful variety.

Tomato bowl with figs

I decided to try cooking them down for a sauce or soup. I washed them and dumped them in a large soup pot – no peeling or removing seeds. I cooked them for about two hours. As they softened a delicious aroma filled the house. When they were cooled, I put the liquid through a cloth to remove the seeds and skins. I ended up with a beautiful, soup base. Tomato Soup when fresh is at it’s best! I added some salt, a splash of goat milk and some onion powder. Delicious!

The basil also called to me, so I made some Pesto. Usually I like to add parsley, but my parsley didn’t grow very well this season. So, I just used basil.

Happy Basil

Take a large bunch of basil wash it and put it in a food processor. Add two cloves fresh garlic, a cup or so of olive oil, grated parmesan or asiago cheese and a handful of walnuts. Blend thoroughly. Add extra olive oil, a little at a time, for it to become a nice, smooth paste. You can vary the amounts to fit your taste buds.

It turned out quite well and made for an nice addition to my dinner – Pesto Pasta with Tomato Soup. A perfect repast for a cool autumn evening.What creative meals are you cooking from your garden (or farmer’s market) produce?

The preparations for our fall garden are continuing to move forward. Our side yard is currently being fixed up to receive flower seeds in the next week or so. We added a layer of manure and a layer of soil. This bed was our first insta-bed that we made two years ago.  It seems like a good time to try a larger cut flower garden. I’ll be planting some of the seeds now for early blooms in the spring and some will be planted in the early spring for summer bloom.

This fall I’m planting snapdragons, marigolds (these will go with the vegetables as a companion plant for healthy veggies), early sweet peas, bachelor’s buttons, delphinium, gaillardia (thanks, Eileen for sharing your seeds!), butterfly flower, canturbury bells , red tulip and freesia bulbs. I’d love to know – what’s your favorite cut flower to grow?

Ofer and Yo’el continue to make more soil so we can add a top layer to our new beds for the fall vegetable planting. They are digging the soil from an area of our yard that had been used for a vegetable garden in previous years. Then manure, ashes and compost will be added for a good top soil mix.

 

broccoli plants

The purple broccoli that we planted this spring has been growing like a weed. The plants are absolutely monstrous with huge leaves and about 4 feet tall. All summer we’ve been watching it and wondering when it will actually grow the heads (that’s the part we eat).

broccoli head forming

It is just now beginning to form the broccoli heads. Here you can see the light colored leaves in the center. That’s where it all begins. Keep your fingers crossed so we’ll have purple broccoli for the first time.

kohlrabi

Another plant from the spring is this darling kohlrabi. When I first saw kohlrabi I thought that it was a root vegetable. I couldn’t figure out how they washed the bulbs to get them so clean. Then I grew some and voila! it isn’t underground after all.

 

 

 

 

A funny cat story:I was out in the garden a few days ago and saw Jade batting at the Love Lies Bleeding(amaranth) flowers.

Love Lies Bleeding

Jade

Lao Hu

The funny thing was, when I looked closer, I saw Lao Hu laying in the plant bed rubbing his face against the stalk of the plant. Every time he rubbed, the stalk made the flowers start swinging and Jade would happily swing right back! They are quite a pair.

 

 

 

Come and Get It!

We would like to provide an opportunity for you to purchase our produce on a somewhat regular basis (as we have high yielding plants to share). We’d like some input from you as to how best to go about it. What would be a good day and time for you to have “Come and Get It” days?  We will post a list of what we have available with prices.

Right now, for example, we have: Chard – $2 a bunch, Red Flame Grapes $2 a bunch, Figs $4 a basket, Pears .50 each, Basil $2 a bunch and Eggs $5 a dozen

Do you have other suggestions? Please let us know.

 


Old Westbury Gardens

I took a long weekend and went to Long Island, NY for my nephew’s wedding. While I was there I decided to spend the afternoon with some family members at one of the local mansions that reportedly had beautiful gardens. I chose the Phipp’s Mansion, built in 1904, with the Old Westbury Gardens. A Victorian era, 200 acre estate with ponds, lakes, statuary, walking trails, manicured and untouched gardens. Wow! What a gorgeous property.

South Terrace of the Westbury House

Front of Westbury Mansion

The only thing really missing was a vegetable and herb garden or a fruit orchard. Kind of odd to me. I suppose they had one when people actually lived there. To me, growing food is a most splendid attraction and seems like a wonderful feature for a garden estate. Not in the Victorian era, I suppose. The food gardens were probably mostly seen by the servants who used them to do their jobs. Interesting, huh?

We started with a very quick tour of the mansion. Not really what we were interested in. Then on to the gardens! The first thing we came upon (aside from a bride being photographed) was the West Pond. Complete with turtles!

West Pond

Throughout the entire estate are these enormous grassy fields that are kept pristinely manicured. An unusual sight indeed. It’s difficult to see how long this stretch was. But if you squint you can see the rod-iron fence at the far end.

Lawn with fence

Next we came upon the Walled Garden. This turned out to be my favorite part of the estate.

Walled Garden

The magnificent colors and combinations of plants and flowers  with the lovely architecture in the background and lovely statues took my breath away.

 

 

 

 

 

We were tickled to find a stone bee hive in the garden for the bees to enjoy.

Here’s one that is absolutely in love with the flower. It looks like it’s hugging it! One of the ways to know that you are in a healthy garden is by the amount of bees and butterflies. And we definitely saw quite a few.

Bee loving flower

For the bees

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a monarch that I managed to capture with my camera even though I was far away.

(I love my zoom!) Aren’t those colors magnificent? The Lotus Pond was quite breathtaking as well. I especially loved the architectural features with the contrast of the light green iron arches against the brick wall. Stunning!

Lotus Pond

 

 

 

The next place we wandered was to the Rose Garden. It wasn’t very impressive at this time of year. It did have some lovely features that were quite unique like the wooden trellis that circled all around the periphery.

wooden trellis

There was a path that we wandered down that took us to a surprise!

Tree-lined path

peacock tail up

Peacock planters in a secluded cove.

 

peacock tail down

 

 

Not far from the peacocks we found the Thatched Cottage. This is a lovely miniature cottage with a white picket fence and, of course, a cottage garden!

Thatched Cottage

 

 

There was a fun yard for the kids to play in while the adults relaxed.My not-so-little kid is showing us how small the cottage and bench are. Cute!

Thatched cottage with fence

Kid-sized Play Cottage

Picket fence flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way to another part of the property, the estate pool surprised us as we turned a corner. What a place for a pool party!

As we wandered through the grounds, we found ourselves upon a path to the East Lake. Along this lakeside path, my son quips “I can see why people want to have their weddings here, it sure is a romantic place!” And indeed it is. Here’s a view of the pool and house across the lake.

On one side of the lake is the Temple of Love. Stunning!

Temple Dome

Temple of Love

Temple through trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

All along the trail was wilderness beauty! Well, that was about it. Hope you enjoyed the tour with us.

East Lake

East Lake Bridge

Woodland walk


The National Heirloom Exposition

Yesterday I went to The National Heirloom Exposition: the World’s Pure Food Fair held at the Sonoma CountyFairgrounds for the first time. It is a three day event (so you still have time to go – it ends on Thursday, Sept. 15) offering inspiring speakers, seeds, plants and other garden-related items for sale. If you are a gardener, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn and collect heirlooms.The displays are phenomenal. Our tour started with outside displays with educational features like the tomato booth shown here, the possible ways of designing your garden with vegetables and flowers. A Master Gardener booth was there to answer questions about mulching. Friendly, knowledgeable people!

Flower display

Then, we went inside to a building to see the produce displays and oh, my! how beautiful they are! Filled with amazing varieties of food. There must have been twenty types of garlic at one table.

One of the exhibitors, Mac Condill of the Great Pumpkin Patch and Homestead Seeds did a marvelous pumpkin hill.

 

 

As we wandered around it was quite apparent the immense creativity that the farmer’s have! At one booth, they had gorgeous flower bouquets made with artichokes!

Artichoke Bouquet

One of the vendors was devoted to experimenting with heirloom plants that have the highest density of nutritional value. It was quite interesting to read about the benefits of these plants, like quinoa. The entrance to their booth said,

“Plants from the Past, Food for the Future.” A valuable sentiment.

I had the opportunity to buy some unusual seeds from the Synergy Seed Exchange. The owner is a friendly, interesting man who focuses on collecting and selling heirloom seeds. He has some very unusual items at great prices. I love to plant in my garden the flowers that I use in my Flower Essence Therapy as it adds a quality of sacredness and healing to the garden. So, I was thrilled to find Agrimony, Self-Heal and Centaury – three frequently used flower essences. (I’ll tell you more on Flower Essences in another post.) He also had a Chaste Tree bush which is a wonderful herb for women’s health.

Chef Duey's display

Chef Duey carving

carving closeup

watermelon carving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some photos of Award Winning Chef Ray L. Duey doing his carvings. What unique creations he does! He was carving leaves to add to the flower bouquet he was carving out of a huge winter squash. Beautiful‼

Some of you know that I am involved with a new non-profit, Healthy Food in Schools. So I was quite thrilled to see the  booths demonstrating the gardening education programs at the local schools. These programs were sponsored by Project Eat. One of the vendor booths was a group called Dirt Diva Royal Horticultural Society. Their inspiration comes from a book I dearly love, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I spoke to them at length and they are a group of devoted local moms (in Santa Rosa area) getting schools to add gardens onsite.

Some of the displays were just plain pretty. If you ever had a doubt about the inherent beauty of food, these displays will teach you otherwise. Just take a look and drool!

 


 

 

 


Seed Philosophy

 

amaranth flower

A delicious breakfast in the garden of freshly picked fruits was purely heavenly on this perfect fall morning. For those of you interested in getting some basil, pears or eggs, they are still available this week. Contact us to come by.

The other day I was in the garden collecting seeds from my plants. It’s a practice that I’m working on doing more regularly (and effectively). There’s a lot more to it than one would realize. In fact, the other day I opened a bag of sunflower seeds I’d collected. They had molded because I forgot to let them dry first – duh! Oh, well, I digress. There are more seeds to collect in the garden when I want them. If you look at the amaranth flower here you’ll see the little light colored spots. Each of those is a little black seed protected by an outer covering.  From each tiny seed a new plant will grow. There is such abundance in nature.

I found myself wandering back and forth between the plants, moving from picking produce to collecting seeds and back again. My mind is filled with two activities in the garden right now – harvesting the fruits ofmy labors (Oh, joy!) and planting seeds for the next season (exciting and creative!). I began musing about the way the garden symbolizes life. In Chinese medicine, the fall is a time for grieving, clearing, letting go. This process is best done both physically and emotionally. Physically, we can take this time to do a cleansing with broth (see a recipe in Salsa Summer post) or a watermelon fast. Emotionally letting go of what is in the past (whether it’s the bright days of summer or the  innocence of youth) allows the soil to be fertile for new experiences.

So, this combination of removing the old, dried up materials for composting and preparing the soil for planting (by adding last year’s compost and dry manure) is a beautiful reflection of the way life unfolds. It is good to do this regularly in life as well – by removing the old mental habits and planting the seeds of fresh thought. Come spring we will have sprouted a new attitude!

 


Making New Beds

Now that we have moved the chicken fence back it is time to build our beds. We are continuing the process by clearing away the debris and gradually adding the layers for our “insta-beds”. We experimented this summer  with the idea we could make new beds on top of the clay soil instead of the heavy work of  double digging. What you see here is the first two layers. One of wood chips (delivered free by your local tree company) and horse manure (also free to pick up in many locations locally). Ofer and Yo’el will continue to put down alternating layers until there is a nice high bed. Top it off with a layer of good soil. Insta-bed!

About 8 feet long and only about four feet wide for easy reaching.

  

napa cabbage seedlings

We like to use recycled materials as much as possible, so here you see the seedlings in their pots inside a container that we picked up at the recycling center. Free and easy!

A planting calendar comes in handy when you are planning a garden. What I’ve discovered is that there are numerous times during the year to plant. Some in spring, some in fall. So, now is a great time to also get some of your flowers planted. Bulbs for spring blooming, like narcissus, daffodils, freesias and tulips. I find the freesias have the most heavenly scent, especially the yellow ones. This is just a short list of all the wonderful bulbs that are available. Mix and match for a fun, colorful spring bloom!

pink tulips

white tulip

orange tulip

white freesias

colorful freesias

white daffodils

yellow daffodil

Narcissus


Come and Get It!

Our garden has been sustainably worked for 22 years. Even before us, the owners gardened organically. No use of sprays or pesticides of any kind. We have continued that tradition. We are quite pleased that this is the quality of soil that we have here. The legal term of “organic” these days requires only three years of clean use (and lots of money to governmental orgs for the privilege of using the term).

This year we have an abundance of pears, grapes, basil, figs, rosemary and other goodies in the garden.

The chickens are laying quite well right now, too, so we have some extra eggs.

We would like to invite you to come over on Sunday, September 11 between 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

to buy some delicious late summer crops. Bring your own bags for carrying.

First Come, First Serve.

                                                                        

Rosemary Chicken

Here’s a wonderful way to use fresh rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rub olive oil and salt generously inside and out of a roasting chicken. Put a clean sprig (this is a stick about 4 – 5 inches long) of fresh rosemary, a whole lemon (cut in half), and a large clove of garlic inside the cavity. Place in a roasting pan and cover. Bake for 2 hours. You can roast this even more slowly by turning the oven down to 225 degrees and bake for 3 1/2 hours.

Fantastic served with a grain and a salad. Use leftover chicken for chicken salad with walnuts, celery and grapes. YUM!

Garden Basil

Pear Picking

 


A Day in the Garden

Yesterday was a day filled with activity in the garden. The glorious sunflowers that brightened our days have made way for the vegetables being planted for the fall. It used to bother me to take a plant out of the garden before it was absolutely finished. I guess it brought forth a certain melancholy for the end of the season. After so many years of gardening, now I find that I am eager to move on to the next season. There’s  a perceivable change in the air when it is time to remove the old and make way for the new. So, out I go using a yoga posture (lazy triangle) to support my back, as in the photos here. Leaning with one elbow on a knee, with an open stance I am able to move freely – reach, pull, turn and toss!

 

 

 

 

 

Echinaceas

 

After attending a workshop at the Gardens at Heather Farm on herbs this week, I am inspired to divide my plants more regularly and now I know which ones do best from seed or division. Rose Loveall of Morningsun Herb Farm is a great presenter with a wealth of information. Part of yesterday’s project was dividing the echinaceas. A surprisingly easy job. Now I have a nice section in the garden for next year instead of just a  pot. A great herb for cutting – the flowers are so lovely.

Another fun piece of info that I learned at the workshop was that if you infuse fresh rosemary into honey it makes a great cough syrup!

Rosemary Honey Cough Syrup Recipe

Presenter Tammi Hartung told us to loosely pack a clean pint jar with rosemary. Warm the honey lightly on the stove just to the point of liquifying. Pour the warm honey over the rosemary. Stir well to cover the herbs thoroughly with honey. Let sit for three days. Rewarm the honey and strain out the herbs. Return the infused honey into a clean jar and keep for next time you have a cough to soothe!

 

After a busy day working in the garden, the summer evening beckoned. So, the early evening was delightfully spent relaxing in the new swing we have in the garden (Thank you, Eileen!). It’s always fun to have company and I had plenty. First Lao came over to enjoy the cooling ground.

Gradually, one by one, the cats came over to try out the swing.

 

 

 

 

 

The triad of willow, juniper and fig

The view from the swing was marvelous. With chickens quietly clucking in the background I found myself marveling at the trees. The majestic willow is a huge presence in the garden. She fills the sky with her branches. In the early years, she held a rope swing for us to play on. Her partner, the junipers that volunteered to grow next to the willow. Each one with a different personality. Tall and strong, standing near them I feel grounded and secure.

Ripening figs

The fig tree in the foreground brings me pure joy. The delight of being with this tree is felt by all who come to visit the garden. According to Tarla Fallgatter, “The ancient Hebrews looked upon the fig tree as a symbol of peace and plenty.” This is exactly how we feel each year as the figs begin to ripen. Definitely full of peace and plenty of them!

The early fall is filled with wonderful flavors. Picking the last of the summer peaches, the first of the fall figs and grapes and mixing them all together for a juicy fruit salad is a pleasure only available for a short time. Delicious as is for breakfast or served with vanilla yogurt and honey for  dessert.

fall fruits salad