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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Garden Is Going Nuts!

If you look closely at this photo, you can see that my kumquat is blushing and nearly ready to pick! How exciting is that?

I traveled to Oregon last week to visit family. Flying in over the Siskiyous the fall colors were just amazing. I drove through the Willamette Valley and the vineyards and blueberry fields were on fire with yellows and reds. Gorgeous. I also stopped by Territorial Seeds and got almost everything on my spring planting list. But as I observed things starting to wind down in preparation for an Oregon winter, here in Austin things are just getting started.

The hot days have given way to cooler day and night time temperatures that are perfect for growing vegetables. Even though we have had a couple of rain storms that tried to beat everything in the ground, my plants are growing before my eyes. We are eating salad greens and spinach. The summer squash will be ready this week. The beans and cucumbers are blooming and we are just now starting to get ripe tomatoes.

It is so nice to eat fresh produce again and not be limited by what's on sale at the grocery store! Ed and I now "shop" in the yard every day. Many times we just stand next to one of the boxes and graze like deer. We've considered leaving the salad dressing bottle in the raised bed, but figured that's pushing the fresh food thing a little too far. One must be civilized after all. I'll have to figure out a way to store the napkins...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The First Harvest From Austin

I am happy to announce that the first produce has been harvested (and consumed) from the Austin yard.

It is so gratifying for me to be able to go outside, pick stuff, then bring it into the house and prepare a meal. What is especially delightful about this first harvest is that I've grown things I've never grown before, and prepared a recipe I've only enjoyed in a restaurant. A first-first-first! Wow.

Many of you know that Ed and I are nuts about Asian food (and Asians, you know who you are.) I am especially fond of hot and sour soup. There was a restaurant in Portland across the street from where I worked at Far West that had a really cheap lunch special featuring the soup. It was so hot that it made me sweat - but the flavor, oh the flavor. Unfortunately Mr Chens closed and I have never been able to find another hot and sour that was as good.

That is, until I moved to Austin. There is an Asian restaurant just a few blocks from our house. It is run by a really nice couple with the most adorable 1 year old twin girls. They serve mostly Japanese and Thai food plus the husband is an amazing sushi chef. I ordered the hot and sour soup the first time I went there and fell in love. It's the Thai version with that amazing lime flavor. It is because of that soup that I snatched up my kaffir lime tree when I saw it in the nursery, and then later added some key limes. I've put those trees on my bricked in patio where they get lots of heat and won't get frost bitten this winter. I also added lemon grass to my herb garden.

I've been noticing that I had two limes that appeared to be ripe. I surfed the net and found this recipe, and it seemed to have the same ingredients as the soup I enjoy at the restaurant. We stopped by the local Asian market while out doing errands today and got a really great deal on shrimp ($2.99 a pound!) Suddenly I was in the soup business.

I went out to the back patio and harvested two of the limes. (I wore my tropical shirt for the full effect.) I snipped off two leaves from my kaffir lime (which is grown only for it's leaves - when you crush them in your hands it almost makes your eyes water.) I have two key lime trees to produce fruit for me and grabbed two little globes that looked ripe.

After that I ran out into the rain and cut off some lemon grass. It was great to be able to harvest the stalks and then trim them into the compost bin. Suddenly my life became normal again after all this change we have been through since moving from Oregon in March.

The soup was easy to make. The scent from the chopped up lemon grass was amazing. I've never had any that I bought at the store smell nearly as good.
My key limes were juicy and easy to squeeze - again, much better than anything I've bought. The house took on a wonderful aroma as the soup was simmering.

The shrimp was thrown in at the end and cooked until pink. I ladled the hot mixture over chopped cilantro to serve. The recipe makes four helpings but Ed and I managed to clean out the pot. Gluttony is a terrible thing but I think we'll just overlook it this time. It is so great to eat out of the yard again -- surely that allows for a little indulgence?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why I Garden

The storm of controversy on twitter over comments being made about Generation Y and why they don't garden has made me reflect on my own journey with dirt. I had no interest in gardening when I was in my early twenties. It was just one more chore for me to do that interfered with my entertainment agenda. I didn't start digging in the yard until I moved to a large city.

It was in Portland that I discovered how connected I am with the earth and how terrible it is to be separated from it. Living in an apartment suddenly made me feel trapped and devalued. My stressful job pushed on me and I had no outlet from which to re-energize. Luckily my friend Jess didn't live too far away, so I gardened in his yard. I finally got my own little weedy patch when Ed and I got married.

But why do I garden? I've discovered that it isn't because there is a definite outcome, like flowers or food, although that is nice. It's not because I think it's the right thing to do or because I need an exercise program. It's not because I am competing with anyone. And it's not because I'm trying to prove to Mom that her lazy daughter can accomplish something. It's because it is a process and a journey that touches my very core. I garden because it is so infinitely satisfying to be outside and smelling the flowers. I love watching the birds and insects that take advantage of my handiwork. The garden is not something I can ever control, so I must accept things as they are and just do my best. Success or failure is part of the process, not a judgement of who I am. Even if I do puff up in pride over an exceptional blossom or vegetable. Nature is so sublime and wonderful, I'm so thankful to be a part of it.

Right now I am listening to the rain after coming in from a morning of ditch digging. The water that runs off the top of the ground is gathering in my trenches and soaking into the ground as designed. The white beacons of yucca blossoms are swaying slightly in the breeze on this gray day. A little bird has taken refuge in the rose bush. This is why I garden.