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On zucchini

August 15, 2014
by

We recently returned from an 8-day vacation.  When we got home, I wandered into the vegetable garden and found seven obscenely large zucchini / “pool ball” (ha!  basketball!) squash laughing heartily.  They were growing so fast I swear they were bigger 30 seconds after I spied them, when I returned with a knife to hack them free.

Child for scale.  The squash are 60% of his body weight.

Child for scale. The squash are literally 60% of his body weight.

This is a challenge for me, although not an unwelcome one.  They are too large to stick in a neighbor’s mailbox under cover of darkness, and gifting them to friends seems nearly like an act of aggression, although one friend did bravely cart one home to make bread.  In retrospect, I should have lent her the wheelbarrow… The largest zucchini is nearly 5 inches in diameter.  The largest pool ball squash would make an excellent jack-o-lantern.  Combined, I harvested 25.7 pounds of squash from one week’s neglect.  Twenty-five-point-seven-pounds.  From three unfertilized plants.

It is astounding to me that three plants can produce so much vegetable matter in one week.  It’s alchemy.

Some people would be dismayed at a counterfull of zucchini, but we love to gobble it up when it’s crashing through the kitchen door for free.  In our five years of vegetable gardening, we have amassed a collection of awesome zucchini recipes, and while I don’t get excited about eating it raw, I’m perfectly happy if it’s cooked up right.

Some of the meals we are currently really enjoying (repeatedly) include:

Roasted zucchini torta with tomato and mozarella, Jack Bishop’s Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.  This was unexpectedly, profoundly delicious.  It far surpassed what I imagined.  Roasting the squash before layering it with cheese and tomato sauce made it unbelievably sweet and tasty.  We use cherry tomatoes from the garden instead of the canned crushed tomatoes listed when we’ve got them.

Zucchini and ricotta fritters with lemon, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  One of my favorites.  I can eat a lot of these.  A lot.

Spaghetti with zucchini and lemon, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.  Pea’s favorite, and fast and simple to prepare.

Zucchini frittata with parmesan, Jack Bishop’s Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.  Fast and simple for a weeknight, this is awesome with a green salad and some roasted fingerling potatoes.

Bountiful garden zucchini enchiladas (add a can of black beans).  This has been a summer staple in our house for years.  It’s a bit slow to assemble, but can be made in advance.  Cool, fresh tomatoes from the garden are added after it’s removed, piping hot from the oven.  Late summer perfection.

Happily, other bloggers have typed all of these out so I can easily share them with you.  If you see a trend with Jack Bishop, it is because he is my god of vegetarian cooking.  Nom nom nom nom, so delicious.  Don’t ask me about his potato arugula pizza unless you have an hour.  Pure genius.

Now there are only 2 squash left on the counter.  The rest has been consumed, given away, or shredded and frozen.  I have 20 cups in the freezer so far and will probably add to that stash before the season is over.  Given our love of the above recipes, that won’t last as long as one might think.

My favorite quick bread recipe for zucchini is one with lemon.  I add 1t vanilla extract and up the lemon zest to an entire lemon.  There are two loaves cooling on the counter as I type, ready to go to a garden party across town tomorrow.  A blogger I follow is having a pot-luck brunch followed by a tour of hers and three other vegetable gardens on the east side.  I geek out seeing vegetable gardens and can’t wait.  I hope for lots of inspiration for the garden for next year – like other varieties of zucchini I should try.

Owen Park, July

July 20, 2014
by

DSC_0527Same park, different month, different kid.DSC_0488

While Kyle took Pea on a bike ride to the union, Tea and I went hiking at Owen Park, which I enjoy because it has both prairie and wooded trails.

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Hiking stick. Grrr.

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Tea was patient while I photographed a few things (while yearning for a macro lens) and I was patient while he quietly observed the 87 bunnies we encountered along the trail.  He never wanted them to feel scared, so we’d sit and wait and wait and wait until they hopped on.  Sometimes another hiker would pass, startling the bunnies into the brush, and Tea would pout.

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Tea watches a bunny through binoculars

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Bunny, take a lesson from your brothers – you should not let us get this close to you

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kid legs in summer

 

We hiked both the prairie and the woods, as Tea was in an exceptionally accommodating mood.  “We can walk whichever was you want, Mama.  This trip is for you!”  Where he got that idea I don’t know, but given the sometimes (often) challenges of too-much-together-time-in-summer, I embraced the cheerful attitude.DSC_0455

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We also spotted turkeys, including a hen and three poults (that’s baby turkeys to you uneducated people who didn’t just use Google, like I did).  Many turkey feathers were collected, which were later used to fletch arrows.  Obviously.

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Veggie Garden, mid July

July 15, 2014
by

It’s a little surprising to be writing a July update for the garden while wearing a sweater and sipping hot tea, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the cool temperatures from the polar vortex even if my tomatoes are not.  Are you excited to see 47 pictures of my vegetable garden?  Of course you are!

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Kyle and I (OK, mostly Kyle) moved 7 yards of mulch into the backyard to do some major weed control in the flower beds, but also to add a 3′ border around the vegetable garden fence. I want to move the rhubarb over from the flower bed and add some pretty herbs like lavender, calendula, chamomile, and anise hyssop next spring. We also created a large bed between the garden and the neighbor’s service berries. Instead of mowing the grass in an area the boys don’t use, we covered it in cardboard and mluch, and in the spring I hope to plant some bushes that will provide fun edibles for the birds and us as well. I’m considering elderberries, gooseberries, and Nanking cherries.DSC_0030

I think my garden is still behind, either from the cool spring or a lack of fertilizer, but at least it’s looking like a garden now, and we are eating from it daily. Last night was a salad with our lettuce, green beans, parsley, and basil. We have a lot of lettuce. I find the “freckles” variety adorable.

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I have two patches of arugula, one that has bolted and one that will soon. We’ve enjoyed tons of arugula pesto, fritatas,and salads. Next up: arugula pizza.

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We have lots of basil, dill and parsley.  The cilantro was slow to get established, but we finally have enough to harvest.  I love the dill that has popped up all over the garden – it looks like fireworks.

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Pea’s grape tomato plant continues to be the most prolific. He’s harvested a few already and has kindly ensured everyone has gotten a taste.  My 3 varieties are coming along slowly but surely.  This morning I noticed the first teeny tiny Brandywine tomato just starting to grow.  Hopefully we’ll get a few ripe ones before the frost.

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Pea’s tomato

 

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The pole beans are up over the top of the 8-foot trellis and are delicious. The scarlet runner beans sweetly gifted from my neighbor are starting to show signs of flowering.

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The first planting of peas is just about finished, but the second planting, made on the shady side of the trellis, is just starting to spit out peas. This is good, because my boys eat as many as they can find.  The kale, shaded out by the rogue bleeding heart, might give us a harvest some day.

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The over-crowded cucumbers (3 varieties) are finally really starting to scramble up the trellis, and I hope we’ll get some baby cukes appearing below those flowers soon.

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Zucchinis and other squash are sooooo close. I could pick some now, but I’ll give it another few days.  And knock on wood, no sign of my nemesis, the squash vine borer.

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Sadly, the asparagus (the original impetus for starting our first veggie garden 4 years ago) has attracted asparagus beetles in it’s second month above the ground. The good news is I’ve seen the little parasitic wasp that preys on them around. I hope they’re really hungry. Meanwhile, I am keeping a pail of soapy water next to the bed and pay the boys a nickle a beetle and a penny a larvae for each one drowned. (I think I should reverse this payment system, however, as the larvae are far grosser to pick off the plants.)

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The nasturtiums around the fence are getting bigger but no sign of flowers yet.

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The volunteer cup plant next to the asparagus is growing like crazy. I’m sure I waited too long to transplant it and will either kill it when I try, or forever, forever, forever have cup plant in the middle of my garden path. Oh well. There are worse plants to fight – like Asiatic dayflower and bindweed. Gaaaah! I spent two hours pulling them out of the flower beds yesterday and I could hear the little bits of roots left behind howling with laughter. They will be in this yard for eternity.

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There are okra, bush bean, eggplant, Brussels sprout, and ground cherry plants all limping along, wishing for warmer weather. I’ll be happy if half of them get around to producing something this summer.

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bush beans and okra

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ground cherries

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Brussels sprouts and (too small to see) eggplant

And since I can’t leave you with a picture of a pathetic Brussels sprout, here is a guy I saw this morning.  He wouldn’t budge.  I think he’s frozen.  Hopefully the sun comes back out soon.

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This *was* my garden

June 30, 2014
by

I intended to document the veggie garden half-way through June.  These pictures were taken 2 weeks and 7 inches of rain ago, so they don’t really resemble the current garden.

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Arugula and lettuce were the only things we were harvesting, although the peas were getting close.

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The basil and parsley were OK but the tomatoes were spindly little things (except for Pea’s plant, which isn’t shown because it is truly unfair how HUGE and healthy his was while mine were NOT.  Especially since all were purchased from the same grower and planted at the same time.)

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A bleeding heart that must have previously hidden in the old dill forest popped up in the middle of the kale and okra seedlings.  It was the healthiest thing around so I couldn’t bear to pull it out, even though I can’t eat it.  I might try to transplant it this fall, but it’s roots must be all the way down below the raised bed, so I’m a little afraid of killing it.

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The pole beans were climbing but the cucumbers had barely broken ground.

Dill was volunteering everywhere (no surprise), the cilantro was taking its sweet time, the eggplant seeds failed to germinate, and the squashes were all hiding under row covers (trying to avoid the squash vine borer).

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And the rabbits were hoping we’d forget to close the garden gate.

 

Cherokee Marsh

June 19, 2014
by

Trying to take advantage of free-admission-to-state-parks weekend, we drove over to Governor Nelson State Park a week or so ago.  Eighty-six bazillion cars parked along the highway and bikers zipping by with race numbers pinned to their shirts reminded me that there was a triathlon in the park that day.  Oops.

We checked the smart phone for other nearby hiking options, and ended up at the south unit of Cherokee marsh.  We didn’t do all 3 miles of trails, because the mosquitoes were threatening to drain us dry.  What we did hike, however, was very pretty, and we were jealous of the paddlers putting their boats in the river at the landing.  (Note to self – buy a vehicle that can transport your canoe!)

DSC_0041We had to hustle the boys along to retain a few pints of blood.  They were very interested in finding spittle bugs and making leaf hats.  (Thank you, Rachel Kesting, for teaching them this trick!)DSC_0009

Tea decided killing mosquitoes was fun and tried to entice them to land on his arms so he could slap them.  What a turkey.DSC_0026

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The trail curves above the marsh so you can look down on it, but most of the trail was actually through prairies and woods.  I love prairies, and enjoyed seeing many different flowers in bloom.  I’m sure we’ll be back to see it in other seasons.

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My last quiet cup of coffee

June 12, 2014
by

last day of school

The boys are off to their last day of school for the year.  Pea blew a kiss from his seat on the bus.  After today he’ll walk to school.

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We are starting to think about all the fun things we wan to do this summer, so we wrote them down to help us remember.  Summer has a way of slipping by in a humid haze.  We wouldn’t want to wake up in September and discover we’d forgotten to go “geowcashing” or missed out on the “splash prak”.  Moon Beach Camp was the first thing they wrote down, followed by “play with frends”.  We might not get to everything in the list, but those two are a given.

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For now, I have firm plans to sit on my deck with coffee and a book.  This might be the last quiet morning in 82 days.  Not that I’m counting.

 

Ninja

June 11, 2014
by

A black streak flew past me while I was gardening, disappearing into the rhubarb.  I didn’t catch a very good glimpse of it, and tried to coax it back out into the yard.

A cautious ninja peaked out at me, pants wound around his head for a mask, shirt backwards in order to be dressed entirely in black (well, from the front, at least).

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Enough rhubarb to feed the city

 

Tea wore this improvised costume for most of the day, darting through the yards of neighbors who were kind enough to declare, “Oh my!  Who IS that ninja?”

Pea joined him for awhile, but didn’t have the stamina to wear a hot mask of pants around his head for long.  But Tea was dedicated.  He practiced his sword fighting moves.

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Note the katana tucked down the back of his shirt. I was sure he was going to fall and puncture an organ.

He hid quietly in the garden for ages.  (No pictures of this, because, you know, ninjas.)

He practiced stealthy tricks.

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A Photoshop Wizard, I am.

And finally, after a long day as a ninja, he sat next to me, unwrapped his head, and said, “Don’t you just want to see my beautiful face?”  Absolutely, sweet boy.

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