Victory Garden Drive

Photo by Asparagirl

garden at dusk

I plant a garden every year. Some years I have planted one at the community garden too. This year, since we took our house off the market, we are making some big plans : raised beds and a small green or hoop house. The garage/shed will come down and be converted to something useable like a small storage shed and the cement flooring will be part of the base of the green house. When I couldn’t plant a garden in the ground, I used to plant the essentials to make me feel alive in large pots. Herbs and tomatoes generally. We just looked up the city ordinances and it looks like we might be able to have some chickens in the backyard too – how eggciting! ha ha 🙂

Changes ahead! With the raised beds we should be able to more intensively garden and I am insisting that my dear BF plant those veggies that he will eat. I do a pretty good job of canning and freezing the produce. We have two small freezers downstairs, one for our sustainably raised pork, chicken and beef and one for all the veggies, fruit and misc stuff that one tends to collect in the freezer. It probably seems a bit much to most of you, but eventually, we do plan to move and get our little farmette going, but for now we have decided to pretend like we have it here in the city. Our basement stays pretty cool and is usually stocked full of apples and potatoes from the farm. It keeps our wine cold too, not quite castle temperature, but close enough. I think I have this stock up and be prepared for a large scale disaster mentality. Well, I know I have it. However, by having it, I am more self sufficient and never need to purchase canned tomatoes. I have all the green beans I need in the freezer and roasted green chiles and tart cherries too. I did not get a very good broccoli crop this year as it got too hot too fast, so we have eaten all of it unfortunately.

Last year, in the back of the garden, we planted asparagus for the first time and I planted a couple of strawberry plants too. Then we put the house on the market and the whole summer I wasn’t sure if I would be able to reap my harvest and hoped that whoever bought the house would enjoy the asparagus next year. I will be so excited to see the first asparagus spears popping up. Maybe I will even find some more morel mushrooms in the yard again! I have been rinsing them (when I find them up North) and always throwing the wash water out into the borders of the yard and now for two years, they pop up in the strangest places.

morels morel mushroom

The herb garden will spring back with life as soon as it is warm and the snow melts. I did bring several pots of herbs indoors for the winter and have enough rosemary for the neighborhood in our little “greenhouse” room. We installed some grow lights to keep them alive over the winter and overall, this first year, the cost was more expensive than buying fresh herbs all winter, but by next year, we will be saving fresh herb money! I need to figure out a way to keep the basil alive longer. The room is probably a bit too cold for it to thrive.

I recently heard about the Victory Garden Drive and wanted to share it with you. Having your own garden allows you to be self sufficient and “vote with your fork”. Your produce travels feet instead of miles and you have the satisfaction of seeing things grown and ripen. All of this increases food security too. I work in the agricultural and natural resources field, I know how quickly things could go bad for our food supply. We are really lucky to have the supply of food that we do have and yes, it is cheap, far to cheap. I will leave the Farm Bill, or the Food Bill as I like to call it, for another discussion another day. Never enough profit makes it’s way back to the farmer, unless they are directly marketing their produce at a farmer’s market. Quality foods taste better but do come at a price. You have the opportunity to know the person who raises your food when you shop at farmer’s markets or from the farm directly. We are striving to eliminate all meat, seafood and poultry that was not locally, sustainably and environmentally friendly raised, but this takes time and it definitely takes money. I have been on a lot of farms, some of them great and extremely well managed, some of them the exact opposite and I certainly would not have wanted to consume anything that was raised there. In the store, you don’t always know what you are getting, unless they take the time to market their specialty and package it as such. The innovative farmers have realized that the biggest part of their business is no longer growing the food, once they have that down, it is marketing to consumers like you and me, telling their story of how their food arrives on our plate.
I think the Victory Garden site above states the need to have our own gardens very clearly and very well. Please read it and let’s start a garden revival! If you need help planning your garden or wonder if it is possible to plant something in your soil contact your local Master Gardener through your local Cooperative Extension office. There is one in every county and they are connected to whatever university in your state is the agricultural university (Here that is Michigan State Univ). They have a wealth of information and not just on gardening, but on preserving your food that you grow too.

Photo by cwage

If you can’t plant a garden in your backyard, see if you can join a community garden.  In our city they ask for a $5-$10 donation if you can afford it and then they give you seeds and plants, typically from area greenhouses that are overstocked.  If you have space in your yard but can’t afford to buy plants, you can still sign up at the community garden, but not for a plot, just for plants.  They will even come and get the ground ready for you. At ours you might have to sign up for a job to help out at the garden, like filling the water barrels or helping rototill in the spring, but not all require this.  If you don’t have a community garden, go for pots on your porch or deck and fill them with the items you pay the most for, probably herbs.  If you can’t do any of the above, well, keep shopping at your local Farmer’s Market and smile.  When you are out in the countryside and see the land worked up, pull over and jump out of your car and take a deep breath and enjoy the smell of the freshly tilled earth.

i’m planning for food security and

i’m out


Allium Frenchy soup or French onion soup aka 5 onion soup

Wild ramps (leeks to me), garden garlic (not my garden, but a friend’s), garlic chives, chives, and onions. That is what I used for my onion family soup – all in the allium family.

french onion soup

I learned to make the basis of this soup 10 years ago when I worked at McMenamins Brewery in Hilsboro Oregon. Then I moved back and worked at the Bluebird again and the chef made 5 onion french onion soup one day for the soup of the day. Now I combine the two experiences into one. Lucky you, I am about to give you my recipe. This one is for beef broth consumers, but of course you could vegetarianize it by using veggie broth instead.

I go through enough broth of all sorts that I buy it in large quantities at Trader Joe’s or buy quality concentrated GF soup base and since I can’t find a beef broth base without wheat, I bought the au jus (sshh, i got this one at Gordon Food Service – it was cheaper and I had to go get paprika in a large amount – several cups of it to make my blackening seasoning). It has such rich beef flavor, however it can get too salty quick, so watch out.

On that note, why oh why is there no such thing as pork broth? That stuff is elixir! Who the heck uses ham broth and why do they sell that? Pork – that is what I want, pork water, aqua de puerco, pork juice, yummy pork broth.

Ok, back to the recipe. I know you are waiting patiently.

Sautee a heckovalot (ok, at least 2 if this for 2 servings) of thinly sliced (sliced so that they are still round) onions and leeks in a deep pot with plenty of oil of your choice. I use olive oil. Once they start to get brown and caramelize, add your garlic and chives. Then toss in some white wine, a dash of worcestershire sauce, several cups of beef broth and lots of fresh thyme and marjoram. Of course lots of pepper too and some salt if the broth wasn’t salty enough. Now for the really yummy part. Take some bread, whatever you have, toast it and top it off with swiss cheese and a bit of parmesan and melt it under the broiler. Fill a bowl of soup up with oniony goodness and place as many toast points on top of your soup as you can handle with out overflowing the bowl. Wait 30 seconds for the bread to start to adsorb the broth and dig in. So rich, so good, so salty, so oniony and so cheesy. It is one of the ultimate soups. I can never order it when dining out because of wheaty flavored broths and normal bread. It is so easy to make at home, thank goodness.

It’s a treat. If you need more specific directions, email me and I will make some up.

french onion soup

i’m out

Cherries, not just another berry…berries and other things I forgot to mention

The last two weeks have been busy with other things too, distracting things. I did a bone density test and found out I have the early stages of osteoporosis, not being even 40, this was a bit of a shocker (even though it runs in the family). Thank goodness for a new doc who looked up what treatment Celiac patients should have on a regular basis. I am getting two crowns put on my molars, this is just so much fun. And the kicker, I got my hair cut. Too much. It is now a bit (ok a lot) too short for me. I had at least 5 inches cut off and now feel surprised every time I see my self in the mirror. Of course it looked great the day I came home and I can’t seem to duplicate the look twice.   Moral of the story, if you are Celiac, get a bone density test done asap.  And take calcium supplements with vitamin D.  Do it.

And now, back to cooking and gardening….or gratuitous farming and shopping via traveling friends.

I am a lucky girl. I am from a fruit farm (3.5 hours and 200 miles away) and it just so happens that one of my friends (fellow homebrewer and hobby cook to boot) works with a fruit program on campus and has to go visit many cherry farms all season long, including a site at my dad’s. So, when he goes up, he lets me know and then I let my family know and beg for what ever is in season to be sent back down. I find this to be a near perfect grocery shopping method, esp for that it is free! Recently I received 5 quarts of strawberries and some new potatoes that were volunteers in the oat field (my bro planted oats to feed his pheasants and chicks). Then I received 4 quarts of cherries and 1 more quart of strawberries and more new potatoes. One of those trips blessed us with an organic, free range chicken that my brother had just processed. While I haven’t taken a photo of the raw frozen chicken, here are some fruit photos to make me go yum! I couldn’t eat all of the cherries before they were going spoil, so I pitted them and put them in jars of vodka. Of course then I remembered that I had done that with raspberries from the farm last fall and they are still in the fridge – beautiful pink juicy vodka laden fruit. Perfect for the cocktail that I keep forgetting to make.

cherries, white sweets for maraschino dark sweet cherries from the farm Bardenhagen Berries!

ah summer fruit from the farm

“Cherries, not just another berry” is the new marketing slogan for the Cherry Marketing institute.   Lots of cherry recipes on that site.  I tend to just eat them as is.  Now I just have to ask for some tart cherries and the new Balaton tart variety to be added to the shopping list.

i’m out

Ah…those little moments and some delish grilling

I know all three of my readers (if there are more, please feel free to comment for no reason at all!) are wondering why I haven’t been posting photos and blogging more often. I am sure I mentioned in an earlier post that we are putting my house on the market and we finally have. The sign is in the front yard and the house is looking spiffy. However, just because I don’t blog does not mean for a second that I don’t cook. I cook everyday (with the exception of the three days the kitchen cupboards were being painted) and I take photos most days. They are all on I just haven’t had/taken the time to write up some bloggity and cut and paste photos.

But first, before I do that, a little gushing moment. My significant other (boyfriend seems too trite, we are buying a house together after all) works in Ann Arbor now. This means he commutes an hour a day one way, plus a little bus time. One bonus to this is, he parks his car just a couple of miles from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Yesterday afternoon he asked if we needed anything from either store. Well, I had just driven though A2 for work last Friday (visiting a hog farm that had a complaint filed against it – a little idea as to what my day to day job can entail there). It had been a while since I had visited TJ’s, so I went there and stocked up. They have GF waffles and pancakes in their freezer by the way, and since I had to throw my Belgian waffle maker out for fear of it burning down the house, this is convenient, esp when I have house guests over because I don’t cook a lot of breakfast foods. But I digress. I was there on Friday, yet forgot to get the all so important mint shampoo we use from Whole Foods, so I said, we are low on shampoo and shower gel. Some how I have three giant bottles of conditioner. Therefore he made a trip over there after work.

I started cooking up some saag paneer, beef korma and aloo bhaji soup for dinner, because when I am in the mood for Indian, I want a variety, and always have to make one veg, one meat and one soup. So far, it seems that they don’t really combine veggies with meat in one dish, they are always separate – garlic, onion and tomatoes don’t count as veggies, those are seasonings. I have been studying Indian cuisine lately, as you probably could tell.

In walks my wonderful guy with two big brown bags from Whole Foods. He starts pulling items out and it is like Christmas to me. This guy knows how to get me. He unloads a pack of garlic and herb marinated lamb kabobs, chipotle marinated skirt steak kabobs, an herbed goat cheese, a rogue blue cheese that used penicillin vs bread mold to inoculate the culture, a new variety of frozen GF pizza crusts to try, a new variety of Gluten Free dark beer from England, and a Michigan made hard cider. I melted. Who wouldn’t? I looked at him and said, your bill was over $100 wasn’t it? He replied yep! We started laughing as we can’t seem to go to Whole Foods with out spending the paycheck. I should mention that he picked up several specialty beers for himself. And he remembered to get shampoo.

Ok, now for some cooking. I recently took the challenge given to me by a friend when I said I had too many cucumbers and they send me a recipe for barrel fermenting my pickles. I now have a 2 gallon container sitting on my counter for 4-6 weeks fermenting. It is actively fermenting, it sounds just like beer and has gone all cloudy. Very cool. We found these fermented pickles in the local grocery store next to the eggs and are trying to duplicate them. I hope it works!

We have been grilling a lot lately to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Grilled peaches with honey, black pepper and a creamy blue brie-ish cheese. Grillled asparagus and grilled polenta. Grilled corn and grilled salmon with a yummy garlicky glaze.

grilled peaches with blue cheese, honey and black pepper
grilled asparagus and grilled polenta
grilled filet of salmon with tacoma glaze

No recipes this go around, just yummy photos.

i’m out

Lettuce and lacey beans…garden lessons learned

Oh, to blog about the garden first or cooking or brewing?


It is now finished. The newspaper is down, the plants are in, the straw is on top. It is fertilized and watered. The slugs are really enjoying my pole beans, fenugreek (methi) and spinach – these all have a beautiful lacey appearance now. Not sure if the plants will recover and grow past the distance the slugs can slug along to, but I am hopeful. This happened last year too. I think when I was a kid and we had a garden with a full on enemy slug attack we put beer on pie tins and scattered them around the garden. I may have to resort to this tactic. Squishing all the slugs by hand is not my idea of fun, so I will let them live for now. Until I buy some cheap beer and pie tins.

We are now eating the garden lettuce for salads and tossing loads of fresh herbs in. The asparagus we planted has finally taken root and now we have lots of asparagus sprouts and will hopefully be able to eat it next year.

I started this post a while back. The garden is looking happy and healthy now. The beans have grown past the slug height and well, my greens have mostly bolted (this means starting to go to seed and get tall and bitter). Lots of tomatoes on the way.

I learned a lot about tomatoes this year, even though I have been growing them for years.

1. Do not over fertilize them esp do not let the fertilizer touch the plant. As my best friend would say (who is a master gardener) just use natural fertilizer and compost. I agree, although was desparate as my tomato plants turned yellow for lack of nitrogen as the wood chips that were rototilled in from the stump removal sucked up my nutrients. Blah. So, I killed a few plants. I finally confessed to her (my use of commercial fertilizer) as I couldn’t keep it in. This is when I learned my second nifty tip.

2. You can take cuttings from tomatos and put them directly in the ground and they will start rooting and become new healthy plants. Very handy when you killed 5 plants already. Trim the big low branches off the healthy ones and stick them in the ground.

3. When planting transplant tomatoes, remove the bottom stems and plant them very deep, not just to the root zone. All parts of the plant underground will sprout roots and make a stronger plant.

I am now harvesting green chiles, cucumbers, extremely hot radishes (it was too hot for too long), sugar snap peas, snow peas, zucchini (I swore I would only plant one hill and I did. I will be just enough), and broccoli will be here soon.

Tonight I am headed to a pre 4th party (since we all have tomorrow off) and am bringing a dilly cucumber salad. It is chilling in the fridge right now.

Dilly cucumber salad

  • 4 -5 cucumbers sliced evenly (I used a mandolin)
  • 3/4 medium vidalia onion (my mom is from Georgia) sliced wafer thin, so thin you can almost see through it
  • 1/3 cup or more minced fresh dill
  • 3/4 cup of mayo
  • 3 tbs of cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • fresh chopped chives
  • salt
  • loads of fresh cracked pepper

Mix your mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, s and p and herbs up first and pour over the cucumbers and onion. Stir, chill, eat.

garden cucumber salad

Often I add sour cream instead of mayo, but the sour cream is reserved for some spinach dip for tomorrows gathering in my backyard.

What I have planned so far :

Wood grilled pork butt – not sure what rub I will use yet

Bourbon bacon baked beans – these are already in the crockpot getting gooey and melty for tomorrow

Spinach veg dip with tortilla chips

Fruit pizza – I need a better name for this one. GF sugar cookie on a pizza pan, brown sugar and cream cheese mixture, then blue berries and strawberries (these came from my uncle’s farm delivered via a friend) in the shape of the…US FLAG. Slightly cheesy I know (esp with the cream chz) but my mom always did it and it is a fun way to celebrate our country’s 231 birthday. We could all be speaking German you know.

fruit pizza for the 4th fruit pizza bourbon bacon baked beans

The rest is up to the guests.

i’m out