As the Garden Grows

As the sun has been shining brightly, the plants are beginning to grow more quickly.We have a large variety of plants this spring and it is fun to wander through the garden and see how much growth has occurred during the last day.

Jerusalem Artichokes "Sunchokes"

The jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are a fun plant. A beautiful yellow flower blooms on tall stalks in the fall. Or if you want to eat them, dig up the roots for a tasty tuber. Last year, I unintentionally planted some pole beans next to the sunchokes. As the two of them grew, the beans wrapped themselves around the stalk of the sunchokes. This year, we did it intentionally to see what will happen.

Beans growing

We’ve tried many types of supports for pole beans over the years and have found that it is not easy for us for some reason to find a good solution. In the past, we’ve resorted to bush beans which can be harder to harvest as the beans get lost in the foliage.This year we’ve set up a fence for the beans to grow on and that seems to be a perfect solution for a large crop that needs support.

Artichoke plants

 

This is the first time we’ve grown artichokes and it is interesting to watch them grow. Starting plants from seed and seeing the cute little leaves turn into broad large leaves always amazes me. We’re keeping them well watered and have put manure around the base of the plants as they like lots of fertilizing.

 

 

 

The natural beauty of plants continually keeps my photographer’s eye in heaven. The light at different times of day offers a completely unique view of each glorious plant. The colors are so beautiful!

Evening beans

Heirloom Eggplant baby

Baby Purple Cabbage

Baby Kale

 

The strawberry patch that Ofer made this year is starting to give us some darling little strawberries.

New strawberries

Strawberry baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re sweet and delicious when popped into the mouth directly from the plant! The figs are also growing prolifically providing a different shade of green in the garden. We have already picked the first of the blackberries, just one or two, but they aren’t as sweet as we’d like them to be. So, now we need to figure out what to do to sweeten them up!

White Figs

Red berries

 

Whenever we’re in the garden, the cats are not far away. It is fun to see how differently they enjoy helping us. Lao is the overseer.

Checkin' out the grapes

 

He is always sticking his nose into everything to make sure all is running smoothly.  Every time I turn around  he is  underneath the plant next to me, looking closely at the seedling I just planted or smelling the flowers nearby.

Overseeing the side yard

Lao standing guard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jade prefers to follow nearby looking for a petting hand, watch from afar or tussle with Lao in the dirt.

Jade on swing

Lao and Jade helping

 

Sumiko is the more distant overseer. She doesn’t want to be near people too much, but she is constantly doing her rounds of the property, taking good care of her territory. A talented climber, Sumi is often up a tree or making sure the grapes are growing well.

Sumi in the garden

Peeking at chickens

Cattail grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chicks have arrived! We are thrilled to have some new flock members this spring. Iowa Blue, Russian Orloff and Wellsummer chicks are now residing at the Sugi Garden. They are so tiny when we get them, only a day or two old. Yet, each day they are a little bigger and cheeping more enthusiastically!

Baby chicks

Fluffy chick

Cuddly chicks

 

The black ones are the Iowa Blue, a rare breed that lays brown eggs. The yellow ones are the Russian Orloff, an exotic looking bird that lays tinted eggs. And the darker brown chicks are Wellsummers, sweetly tempered chickens that lay a dark red-brown egg.

I'm exhausted!

 

 

It can be alarming the first time you have baby chicks because, like all babies, all they do is eat, poop and sleep. So, after running around pecking and eating, they will suddenly fall to the ground in slumber. It looks like they’re dead and it can be tough to watch until you’re used to it!

True to form, Lao is watching all the goings on quite closely. Initially we were concerned about the cats, but it turns out that they are very respectful, Sumi is actually wary, and they stay a safe distance away like guards.

What's that?!

 

 

 


Why Bother?

I was out in the garden yesterday morning (what a gorgeous fall day!) and as I was digging a hole to plant the fennel,

fennel

I found myself thinking, “Why do I bother to do all of this out here?” As I paused to give my back a break, I looked around at all we’ve accomplished this fall. I took in the sweet little plants that are starting to peek out of the soil and heard the cluck, cluck, cluck of the chickens next to me. A deep breath filled me…. Such a blessing to be part of the rhythm of life. My eyes move across the garden, taking in the incredible abundance and growth surrounding me.

baby romanesco broccoli

Turnip seedlings

So, why do I bother? I realize, yet again, that this sanctuary is not only a place of physical labor. It is also a place of inspiration and comfort.The food that I grow sustains me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined without experiencing it.

onions and squash

In the busyness of our lives, it is easy to become disconnected from the cycles of the seasons. The excessive amount of food in the grocery stores woos us into the feeling that we can have anything at anytime. The cost of this excess is hidden by colorful displays, bright lights and happy music.

When I get caught up in this frantic energy of modern life, I have the garden sanctuary to embrace me. Simply walking out

into the garden, smelling the humus of the soil, watching the chickens or the cats at play all bring me back to myself and what is important in my life. The cats are wonderful examples for me. They move around busily for short bursts of time and the stop and watch to see what is the next step. Putting my hands into the soil, so hard to resist, brings me deeper into myself and my inherent connection to what surrounds me – the bigger aspects of life.

Following the natural cycles of the seasons teaches us the true order of life. As people our lives mimic the garden’s rhythms even when busyness keeps us from seeing it happening. If you look back across the years of your life, you can see periods of growth just like a young plant, times of flourishing that bring a feeling of having bloomed in spring. In the fullness of our lives, there is a feeling of productivity and accomplishment – of bearing succulent summer fruit – juicy and ripe. We reap a harvest every time a goal comes to fruition or we reach the end of a chapter. In the autumn of life, there can be feelings of melancholy and letting go, just as a tree lets go of its leaves each year.

Perhaps you can remember a moment in life when everything was at a standstill, waiting for seeds to sprout – a new direction in life, growth. This is a dark time, a time of quiet and reflection, like winter. This winter-like experience has a purpose in our lives, just as it does in nature. Without these times of quiet dormancy, there would be no integration and rejuvenation. The spurts of growth that come following times of dormancy set the stage for the harvest that is reaped further on. And on and on it goes…

Here’s a recipe from my cookbook for you to enjoy the fall harvest.

Delicious Delicata Squash Barley Soup

2-3 cups delicata squash, peeled and cut in squares                            6 small-medium carrots, shredded

½ head green cabbage, chopped                                                                 ½ daikon radish, shredded

1 cup barley                                                                                                      2 stalks celery, chopped

handful of wakame seaweed                                                                        1 tsp. Dried orange peel

6-7 cups water

Place water in large soup pot and bring to a boil.  Add barley, turn down to simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare vegetables. Add vegetables after barley cooking time is done. Simmer another 20 minutes. Add orange peel. Turn off heat. Serve after five minutes.

 

 


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.

 


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