Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kids come for a visit

Last week my cousin's kids (ages 13 and 15) came up from Santa Cruz for a visit.

Ben, Jan, and the Fremont troll, who lives under the Aurora bridge

We had a really good time seeing the sites. Highlights included kayaking by the arboretum, watching the salmon run at the Ballard locks, blackberry picking, try to find our house from the top of the space needle, picknicking on rattlesnake ledge, and making late-night s'mores in the back yard. 

We also ate really well:

The first night we grilled big, juicy burgers and corn on the cob. I also sauteed some pak choi from the garden, which the kids decided wasn't too bad.

While Jacob and Ben were busy throwing the ball into lake union for our dog, Guthrie, Jan and I picked blackberries. Everyone was happy when I served this blackberry crisp and blackberry ice cream for dessert. The crisp only took about 15 minutes of prep time, and was really delicious (recipe is below). 
Blackberry crisp with blackberry ice cream.
The next day I tried to grill tri-tip, but the butcher was out. He assured me that the top sirloin was almost identical, and I could prepare is exactly as I would tri-tip. Boy was he wrong! The top sirloin is much leaner and tougher than the tri-tip. Considering that everyone at the table was a native Californian (the kids, my husband, and me), we were all very aware that what we were eating was not tri-tip... so don't be fooled by the top sirloin, no matter what your butcher says.

While I was outside grilling the meat, the kids made this beautiful caprese salad. Tomatoes and basil were both home grown, so needless to say, it was delicious and sweet. Before eating we finished the salad with some sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and some sweet balsamic vinegar.

Blackberry crisp
4 cups blackberries
2 Tbsp sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp + 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Gently coat the blackberries in 3 Tbsp of flour, the sugar, and the lemon juice. Spread berry mixture evenly in the bottom of a baking dish.
In a food processor, blend the remaining flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter. Once combined, sprinkle this mixture over the berries.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown and crispy, and the berries are warm and bubbly.
Let the crisp rest for 30 minutes before serving to let the fruit set and cool.

**Next time I might add lemon zest to the berries to give it some extra zing, and cut the sweetness.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

terrarium class

Ever wonder how people get those big plants into narrow-necked terrarium containers? So did I.
The other night I learned how at a terrarium-making class held at The Palm Room, in Ballard.
It was fun (and educational).


Below is a video I like on how to make a terrarium. This video instructs us on how to make a terrarium, using containers with a relatively wide opening (read: a lot easier!).

Friday, August 6, 2010

back yard transformation part IV

I haven't posted about the back yard progress in quite some time now (sorry mom), so i thought that I would do an update.

As a reminder: we started with a concrete pad, which was mostly covered by a weird shed/carport structure
After the shed came down, we hammered and hauled away the concrete.

Jacob spent time regrading and refurbishing our retaining wall, which gained us another 10 feet (or so) of property towards the alley. Given the size of our lot, those 10 feet make a big difference.

I built raised beds for vegetables.
May 2010
Jacob built steps leading from the alley up to the yard... with very heavy stones.
May 2010

We had a fence built. Brandon oversaw the operation, and helped me with design decisions.
July 2010
Brandon and Jacob have continued regrading the slopes, through a process we affectionately refer to as "spirit raking". Planting beds, patio space, and pathways are beginning to reveal themselves.

Now (August 2010)
The veggies have grown in the boxes I built earlier in the summer.

Next steps: 
Continue spirit raking.
Finish steps leading up to yard from gate.
Install lots of rock and gravel for the patio and paths (Brandon would like many of the paths to look like rocky dry stream beds - amazing).
Go plant shopping

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day at the demo garden

Today was fabulous.
As some of you may remember one of my summer jobs is that I designed, planted, and have been tending to a demonstration garden at King County's south treatment plant.

Everything is in bloom and looking beautiful (my babies are all grown up).  

When I got to the garden today I witnessed the most intense aphid infestation. Where do those buggers come from??? I immediately saw that my work was cut out for me. Why was this good news??? This was good news because it meant that I needed to spend the entire day fighting the aphids and nursing my injured plants back to health. That's right, the ENTIRE day in the garden.

These sungold tomatoes made for a
delicious snack at about 4pm.

To combat the aphids I used a STRONG spray of water on the plants. This is an effective way to kill the bugs, but it also beats up the plants a bit. After the water spray I misted the plants with a diluted soapy water solution, which also kills aphids. This works because the aphid's soft bodies desiccate due to the soap.

Lady bugs came in to help me with my work.

South treatment plant (in Renton) is having an open house this Saturday August 7th, from 10am to 1pm. I will be there giving tours of the demonstration garden, and giving away free bags of GroCo compost to the first 50 people who arrive. Please come to say hi and see what I've been up to this summer.

I love honey bees
Dark beauty eggplant
So many cucumbers!
I love the juxtaposition between the beautiful and soft flowers
against the industrial wastewater treatment plant.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

garden design

I love watching personalities come out in the garden. While some people are neat, tidy, and controlled, others are wild, weedy, and untamed. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
While I am a vegetable-focused gardener, I feel the need to add flowers and ornametals everywhere. I even pack flowers in and around my vegetable beds. Flowers attract beneficial insects, but I simply plant them because they make me happy.

Two raised vegetable beds surrounded by nasturtiums and poppies (pink Asian and orange California).

Eggplant, tomatoes, and carrot seedlings share a bed with a bright yellow Coreopsis.

Dwarf dahlias hide behind the rosemary-and-thyme-planted terracotta pot.