Thursday, July 7, 2011

Going Green

Raised bed gardening, Zion style.

I've jumped on the green bandwagon in the last year- too late to make money off it, but early enough in my life to make an impact on my health and conscience. I carry around Whole Foods cloth bags in my big ol' Dodge Ram, and even remember to bring them into the store with me once in a while. I use my pick-up to haul around compost for churches and private homes for free. As I told my sorta-kinda compost mentor (a master sheet gardener and guerilla gardener extraordinaire), I figure if I have a big honkin' truck, I might as well use it for good once in a while. Yeah, the mileage is shitty and I help all my friends move their stuff around when their leases are up, but now I walk to the Feve or the library instead of driving the two blocks. I can't promise anything once the temperature drops to 50 degrees in Oberlin, but it's a start.

Even better, I have a garden now. It's a raised bed deal, so no messing with rabbits and voles or whatever lurks in the soil in Ohio. It's a community garden organized by a local church. They gave us the plots, the tools, the water, and a pile of loamy, organic, compost chock-full of worms, pill bugs and alpaca dung. Yes, they have alpaca farms here. It's a thing. So you know, a valuable source told me it is the only dung that can be used fresh from the animal without curing it. Seems like fodder for another post, y'all!

I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half a day watering, pruning, thinning, and just salivating over the three and a half plots my friends and I share. What I've learned is this: I love the soil. I love the worms that turn waste into vibrant food for my plants. I love the microcosmic dramas playing out under the leaves. I bend over my kale, arugula, lettuce, and spinach and pick off green caterpillars for hours. I've rooted on a jumping spider's attempt to take down a little yellow and black beetle mid-air. I garden in a bikini, which, incidentally, is a great way to tan your back. I look like a human version of a dolphin, all dark dorsal area and creamy pale on the front. It's hot.

I grew that with my own two hands and God's earth. Arugula and lettuce to the left, baby spinach to the right.

I've learned to let go of attachments with this garden. We started planting on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. A bunch of cold hands throwing out tiny seeds in hopeful rows, and piles of compost and mulch. It was exciting, not knowing what my plants would look like coming up, and they all came up: tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, peas, peppers, chives, red onions, and the abovementioned greens. Our green beans have been too fruitful, and we've had to uproot many. The act of uprooting makes a strange sound, but tomatoes and pepper plants don't like to be overshadowed by too-closely planted green beans. The broccoli plants need their space, too. Seems like plants really need their personal space, but the results are more obviously physical than the human version.

I've also learned that growing your own food is easy in the right climate, with the right tools and input. I have more kale than I know how to prepare. Lettuce, it likes to keep on giving, as long as you cut it enough. I even grew spinach, despite the doubters. Fresh Spinach, people. I'm rolling in the green, and save significant amounts of money. I priced it out; if I were to purchase the same amount of greens that my garden produces (and I consume) a week, I'd be spending around $10-20 a week. Now I can use that saved money for gasoline. No, really. Parsley and arugula are expensive. A tiny bunch of kale costs $4.00, and it's not anywhere near as fresh as my just-cut-righthefucknow kale. I eat while I garden- or did, before I noticed the bugs competing with me. I kind of take the goods home and wash them now.

I'm happy in the solitude, and happy when someone else comes along and works on their plot next to mine. Yeah, we shit talk once in a while. Someone decided to plant four zucchini plants in a 3x8 space. You've got to see it to understand what a colossal failure that is. I'll show photos soon.

What have you planted lately? I haven't just planted physical plants. It's a tad sentimental, but it's good. I need to get a PSA going for this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


So, if the bike throws ya, get back on! (Yeah, I couldn't find a better photo.)

Whoa. It's already December? Oh, that sneaky devil snuck up on me. Dear lord, I'm that much closer to being 29 and six months, that much closer to moving back to Miami, and about 25,000 words closer to having a novel completed.

You read that right. I'm writing a novel, and that, along with three other jobs, is why there was one, teeny, tiny "Let Me Be Frankie" post last month.

My fellow Wrimos and I took part in National Novel Writer's Month this past November. The goal was to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month, upload the thing on their Word Count Validator by midnight on the 30th, and then reap the praise, adulation and love of the masses. The little word count bar on a participant's NaNoWriMo page turned purple once the goal was reached, and a winner's certificate was involved.

I, er, didn't make the 50,000 word cut-off, while others posted 150,000 words on November 15th. Lousy cheaters!  Doesn't matter to me, people. The point to NaNoWriMo was to learn how to write without letting the inner critic-monster stop me (and you!) from writing. 

Honestly, I don't believe anyone can write a perfect, 50,000 + word novel in one month, despite Mr. King's best efforts. Every participant will now have to slog through editing the mess that they made on whatever medium they used to write; but HALLELUJAH, we have a mess to edit! 

Mine runs about 25,000 words. Without this little competition, it would have been a mere 2,000, and I would have been convinced that I'd done the most I could do.  I now know, with certainty, that I was full of it. Writing freely has gotten rid of the artificial constrictions I placed on myself to make it perfect the first time out. Most people cannot edit and write at the same time, nor should they. 

I'm not saying planning a story or outlining is unimportant. I think it's critical; you should know what your story is about, each scene should have a purpose, each character should exist to make the story work. But NaNoWriMo got me in the habit of writing every day, diligently, without the worry of turning out something perfect each time. It greased the wheels, and let some people be free enough to unleash their great ideas (stay tuned for my first kick ass novel!).  

Now to edit the damn thing! Hint for all you other Wrimos: go to the "Now What?" section, and commence the editing frenzy. Everyone else can participate in NaNoWriMo next year, as well as in Script Frenzy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall | Pear Bread


I really dislike most pears. In fact, the only kind I eat raw with true enjoyment are red D'anjou pears.  They're so juicy, their flesh so creamy and sweet when you bite into them at their peak, it's quite unnecessary to cook them.

Sadly, I don't know of many D'anjou growers close by, so I settled for buying four (4!) pounds of nondescript, local Ohioan pears on my last local-food shopping spree (they were probably Bartlett pears- shudder). At $1.00, they were a steal and I was supporting the Borman Farm, so I felt doubly good about myself. 'Tis almost the season, right?

There was no way I was gnawing through four pounds of pears, so I promptly found a recipe for cinnamon pear bread and fed it to everyone who would try it. Honestly, it was a success. The bread was moist, the cinnamon was not overpowering, and the delicate pear flavor came through.  This is a great recipe for those of you who buy pears with good intentions, but never end up eating them (and, if I know my friends and family, they have pears moldering away in a pretty fruit basket as I type).  So, this one's for you!

Warning: grating the pears is a bit of an undertaking. Prepare to get messy and wet. I used all the juices that grating the pears brought out.  You should, too.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups brown sugar (my go-to: I just love the flavor)
  • 2 grated cups of pears- prep this item last
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    1. Heat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour either a 10-inch tube pan, or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. I used one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and a muffin pan. I removed the muffins from the oven earlier than the larger pan.

    2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Mix well, but you don't need to sift (don't you love making bread?).

    3. Peel and core pears, then grate them. You need to set aside 2 grated cups, again, including the sweet juice.

    4. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened
    5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the bread is golden-brown, firm on top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Again, I took my muffins out earlier. 
    6. Let the bread cool on a towel or a wire rack, then turn over and serve. You could sprinkle it with powdered sugar, but it doesn't need it. Butter is better!

I'll admit that, halfway through grating ten small pears, I was growing suspicious that this was a stupid way to spend a Thursday night. Then I tried a warm piece of pear bread with butter, and I thought such nonsense no more. And you will probably be using larger pears, in which case you'll only have to grate 3 to 4.

Bottom line: get your grandmother or your significant other to make this for you if you have no patience, but get it made. It's that good. (Just don't leave the bread out overnight, and it'll stay moist for days!).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Catching Up, and Borman's Farm Lovin'

Why, hello there. It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted anything fresh, hasn't it? I've been very busy this month, what with learning a new job, working two other jobs, and practicing scale after scale on my lovely Ibanez acoustic guitar. I've also been going to life-changing concerts (reviews to come), baking, and writing a terrible short story in which I hide too much information from the reader.

I'll get to all those posts before October is over, I swear, but enjoy these photos in the meantime. Yes, I have a Picasa account and a Flickr account somewhere, but since October is still the Local Food Challenge month (remember that?) I thought I'd show you some of the fresh, local produce I bought down at the Borman Family Farm. The farm has been running since Ron Borman's grandmother decided to open it back in the 30s. Ron's granddaughter actually helped him weigh the squash.  Isn't it cool that the next generation is training to take over? Well, it's Amherst, OH. She *might* want to make her living off her family's farm...

Lovely apples from the Borman orchard.  See those little pears to the right? A delicious pear bread recipe featuring ten of those babies is up next. Yes, ten. 

Not shown: delicious, crisp bunches of basil for only $1.00. I made a very disagreeable pesto; my family would be ashamed. 

Oh, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash: you remind us that winter is a-coming.

Great peppers. I made a sofrito with them.  To the right of the eggplant: say goodbye to the last of the sweet summer corn. Bye!