Gardening

Morning Harvest

flat straw basket setting on gravel and holding green beans, tomatoes, red peppers and a spring of thyme

With Boston looming large on my calendar, followed by a week at home and then flying to Montréal, (I am still befuddled as to how I have 13 travel days in just one month) I am focused on home-centered tasks; the garden this morning and moving furniture this afternoon to prepare for the new living room floor.

  • Green beans – picked, blanched and frozen although an evening’s serving size has been set aside to sauté with thyme.
  • Blueberries – harvested and baked; this time in scones.
  • Tomatoes – just for eating; and likewise
  • Peppers – ready for some dish yet to be selected for our summer dining menus.
Gardening

First summer pesto

Food writer, Beth Dooley offers a trio of pesto recipes in The Northern Heartland Kitchen: More than 200 recipes to satisfy appetites. Her traditional basil version of this “pounded sauce” is a favorite at our house.

As reported earlier, this summer’s basil crop is the best we have ever grown and a quick cutting this morning yielded five individual servings of fresh pesto – one for tonight’s 3-cheese tortellini and four for the freezer; so good when the cold winds blow and summer basil is only a fragrant memory. 

Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Gardening

Division of Labor – Not

yellow cone flowers

While Richard used the heat gun, applied citric solvent and scraped years of pigment (thankfully no lead) in preparation for the installation of nine new windows all part of our rennovation projects, I focused on our rain garden. A part of the yard, like mowing, that I had previously identified as Richard’s purview.

With his Parkinson’s Disease (PD) diagnosis last July 23, I made a conscientious decision not to immediately tackle “his” jobs. Rather, to allow him time to navigate what was still comfortably do-able and what was not before I took on a task (or we hired it done.) So last summer went by with very little attention given to our rain garden; that long expanse of ground which replaced the old tarmac driveway. It suffered from overgrown perennials, too few wood chips, and oh so many weeds.

Admittedly, we had never discussed a division of labor however, in my mind, there was a clear delineation. Each summer, while I focused on our square-foot vegetables and 20+ potted plants (the number always varies) I let Richard maintain the rain garden. Come to find out (amazing what a conversation reveals!) that he was unaware of this breakdown in gardening duties. What I had assumed was his preference was actually a simple default location determined by cool morning shade. Recently, following Richard’s wise example, I have started my morning gardening tasks in the shade and the rain garden now presents a bit of order sans so many weeds.

Gardening

Backdoor garden

The potted herbs clustered around the backdoor are mid-summer hearty and offer a veritable Pantone spectrum from dusty silver sage to vibrant Genovese basil – my version of “50 shades of green.” 

The basil crop is the best I have ever grown although, as to what might be different, I cannot claim credit as a variety of factors are equal – bought at same greenhouse as previous years, planted in the large Italian terracotta pot that formerly held a St. Thomas, V.I. lime tree from Dad, and tucked under the wind chimes on the left side of the doorway.  Every day with easy morning sun and cool afternoon shade.  

In an attempt to capture the lazy summer day in a jar, this morning’s task included harvesting and drying fresh basil.  Great for aromatic hearty winter stews or tasty marinara sauce garnished pasta.

Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

PS – Ever the librarian, my backdoor crop in alpha order:  basil, bay leaf, dill, nasturtiums (although technically not an herb but an edible flower – both leaf and blossom), oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.

Gardening

Chives: Allium schoenoprasum

When you buy a house there are those unexpected discoveries.  A plug-less dryer, wired directly into the fuse box with an old copper penny keeping the circuit open and the electricity flowing without blowing the fuse.  Very dangerous!  Or green shoots sprouting in the garden bed just outside the backdoor when the last of the 1983-84 winter ice and snow finally melted.

Over our nearly 40 years of residence, this same perennial has migrated to four different garden spots as our backyard living space evolved.  Each summer it provides a gentle crown of pearly purple, star shaped flowers and tasty herbs.  The milder oniony zest offers lots of flavor without the tears of chopped onions.

Gardening

November Gardening

fresh garlic bulbs with roots and stems

The last of the 2021 gardening tasks is complete!  Although, planting for next season’s garlic harvest might be more correctly classified as getting a jump on 2022.  With a sunny day, autumn temps in the comfortable 30s, and the ground cool but not frozen, it is the perfect time for hard-neck, porcelain varieties, such as Music, to go into the ground.

Sporting a large blub with 4-8 individual cloves, Music is easily identifiable by its pinkish to purple hued thin papery skin.  It is dubbed hard-neck because of its stiff center core.  Porcelain garlic prefers cooler weather, perfect for Minnesota. 

Happy gardening!

Gardening

Pandemic Fatigue: Real not imagined

The last burst of pandemic summer color

My across the street and next door neighbors each recently acquired new garden tools.  With a cordless power drill and a hex drive auger to serve as bulb bit, my neighbor to the north planted 160 tulip bulbs on either side of the walk leading to her front door.  Not to be outdone, my gardening neighbor to the west made a quick Amazon purchase for this same handy tool and scattered 80 daffodil, hyacinth and early snowdrop bulbs among her well-established perennials.  Promises of spring – that is assuming the scurry of squirrels that nests in our 80-year elm tree doesn’t dig up the bulbs as winter appetizers or the fluffle of rabbits under the neighbor’s shed across the alley doesn’t devour each green shoot just as it pokes through the snow. Normally all this activity would have inspired garden envy and set me on my own quest to add spring color.  And, last fall I would have enthusiastically joined the planting challenge but not this October.

When we first entered our global quarantine, I accepted it as an inconvenience and then joined two new book clubs, enrolled in an Impressionist art appreciation class, and participated in an earth-based meditative retreat led by French knitting designer, Solène Le Roux.  But what I am feeling today, 18 months into our shared Covid experience is a bit like the title of the 1971 S.E. Hinton coming of age novel, That Was Then, This is Now.

When mass media began mentioning “pandemic fatigue” I recognized some of the symptoms as my own but also wondered about the power of suggestion.  Then articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet validated my feelings.  The World Health Organization even has entire publication devoted to “pandemic fatigue” which is defined as:

…an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis – not least because the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic have called for the implementation of invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself. 

An expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis.  The validation that what I am experiencing is an international phenomenon may not be a precise recipe for an attitude adjustment but it certainly is a step toward reducing my irritability.  Getting back in the garden, if only to put things to bed for the winter, may also help diminish my pandemic fatigue.

Gardening

Beans – No Beans

pottery bowl filled with fresh green beans

I am in a harvesting war with some critter or multiples thereof.  One day I have succulent beans needing just a touch more sun-filled nutrients to go from too small to just right which then disappear, leaves and all, with only bare stems remaining.  For years we grew our beans vertically in a true square foot gardening technique but they always seemed to develop a late summer rust as our garden has just barely enough but not quite enough sun plus the added inconvenience of growing so tall so as to be out of my five-foot, five-inch reach.  Several years ago we reverted to bush beans and, while taking more room in our six – four foot by four foot raised bed squares, they have always produced.  And, this year too, we have produce it is just that something is beating me to our crisp haricots verts, despite the fence. 

Summer gardening versus neighborhood fauna – the war continues. We may have to revert to trellises.

Gardening

Pesto with thoughts of Genoa – no actually Madison

a large bunch of fresh garlic bulbs with roots and stems on a red metal background
Our garlic harvest – August 2017

As I prepped this morning’s basil harvest for the second batch of summer pesto, I smiled and remembered the first time I had this savory concoction.  It was summer 1977.  I was in library school and a friend who was in town for a library association meeting had offered to treat this poor grad student to dinner.  We met at Helen C. White Hall, wandered over to Memorial Union, spent time on the Terrace before strolling up one side of State Street and then back.  Reaching the small second floor storefront Italian restaurant where we had dinner required trudging up narrow wooden stairs.  (This was long before ADA required accessibility.  It was a restaurant Dad hated when I took him there not because of the food but because he worried about exits – or the lack thereof.  But that’s another story.)

My friend was quite excited with the chef’s pasta du jour which featured fresh pesto on tortellini.  I had no idea what pesto was but as I did not want to appear anything less than sophisticated, I ordered the same entrée.  I remember my surprise when I was served a dish far more green than pasta white; heavy on the garlic.  For this first sampling, it was a good there was a nice red wine accompanying our meal. 

Despite growing up with big vegetable gardens at my house and my grandparents, basil and garlic were simply not things we grew.  From my narrow culinary perspective at the time, basil and garlic were dried herbs from McCormick; used infrequently, mostly just for Aunt Thelma’s spaghetti sauce.  But now, basil graces pots just outside the back door for quick access and grows in the tomato squares as a companion plant.  While we do not have garlic growing this summer, we have harvested splendid crops in years past.  With a nod to food writer Beth Dooley and author of our well used The Northern Heartland Kitchen cookbook, we will fully enjoy this batch of savory almond basil pesto.  Bon appétit!

Gardening · Writing

Blueberries after a year & a month of blogging

First Picking – 2021

Inspired by Suleika Jaouad, I started Knit+ Librarian as a Covid survival technique early into our worldwide pandemic quarantine hoping to capture random thoughts and images.  Over the past year and a month, I never gave any thought to what might happen as topics cycled back through my life.  I knew the Knitting and Reading blog posts would stay fresh as there would always be a just-knit sweater or shawl to describe or a new favorite book to review.  But with today’s first picking of blueberries even while reveling in their dusty blue hues, I realized there may be some repetition in the Baking and Gardening categories whether I am describing the last rhubarb crisp of the summer or this season’s blueberries. 

There is a simple beauty in the natural cycles each following one after another, season by season which especially deserve our appreciation in this northern clime where we go from warm days of verdant greens to frigid, frosty whites and grays and back again.  And, I am certainly in good blogging company, as Christina Campbell on The Healthy Knitter shares monthly posts about each full moon and Solène Le Roux at Knit Pause leads meditative knitting retreats focused on nature.  As I celebrate the ebb and flow of the seasons in our garden sans any exotic varieties and filled with plants I can only describe by their common names without knowledge of scientific nomenclature, I will simply enjoy “playing in the dirt” and you may see a similar but never identical new post or photo.