Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seeds are Sprouting!

Another day off, another post! Starting the day with coffee and homemade corn muffins with Sarabeth apricadabra jam, then pulling all the random empty glass jars and bottles out of my pantry so I can go to Rainbow Grocery and fill them up, courtesy of today's 20% off coupon.

Yes, any Wed & Thursday, you can use that 20% off coupon from the back of the Yellow Pages. Go, look in your phone book. There's one coupon for every month, so you can save up the pricey stuff you buy, like cheese or vitamins, and get it snappily discounted. Pretty cool, and thanks to my Facebook pal Sara S. for alerting me to this. Maple syrup, honey, dry beans, weird flours--I'm stocking up!

And soon it will be strawberry jam-making time, too. The jam cupboard is pretty much empty by now, except for a few jars of leftover winter marmalade. Time to start filling it back up with summer fruit! Lagier might have sour cherries for pie and preserves this weekend at the Ferry Plaza farmers market--maybe this will be the year I finally make my own brandied cherries. This jam season will be a good one, if only because I finally found the one tiny piece of jam-making equipment that had been missing: a lid-lifter! Essentially, just a chopstick with a magnet on the end, but completely necessary for fishing hot flat lids out of their sterilizing water. Thank you, Cole Hardware and your well-stocked preserving shelf!

What else to do today? Get my glasses fixed at the always accomodating Urban Eyes, brave the fashionistas to see if I can get lunch money for some castoffs at Buffalo Exchange, research & write a bunch of columns for Cosmic Cooking (hello, Gemini!) and Bay Area Bites (hello, rose wines!), and pick up some more pots for the patio. Yes, the Summer Salad Project continues apace.

The lettuce has popped up, as have the radishes. Even the carrots are finally sending up feathery little emissaries to the wider world. Very exciting! Picked up some yarrow (a temptation for the pollinators, and a good drought-tolerant flower) and another salpiglossis (yes, we're representing the solanums pretty heavily this year, what with the potatoes and tomatoes too) at Flora Grubb last week--now I just have to hit a more common-man nursery for ordinary stuff like marigolds to keep the aphids away.

Happily, there's one just down the hill, Flowercraft Garden Center on Bayshore at Cortland. They have loads of good stuff geared more towards people with yards (rather than people with lofts, like FG) and they're not too proud to carry pansies and petunias and yes, marigolds. Plus, numerous lavenders, and even six-packs of honey-scented sweet alyssum, a cute little bedding plant that's also a great habitat/food source for various beneficial bees and wasps. It's such a good home for aphid-munching wasps that even the big organic farms, like Lakeside, interplant it among their brassicas (broccoli, kale, collards, etc) to keep the crawly population down. They also had tons of big, healthy-looking early girl tomatoes, and I'm wondering if I can fit one more big bucket out there for one more tomato plant, even though it never really gets warm enough for tomatoes here. By the time the temps warm up, in Sept/Oct, the days are too short. (I had dozens of tiny still-green tomatoes on my plants come last November.)

And because I'm such a sucker for seeds, I also came home with seeds for borage and chives. The chives because the flowers make such a pretty pink vinegar, and because if you're growing potatoes, you ought to grow chives. (Where's my sour-cream bush?) The borage for its pretty starry blue edible flowers, but also because it's such a great bee-feeder. Bees love blue, and they particularly love borage, as do butterflies. The young leaves supposedly taste of cucumber, but they get big and hairy fast. Susceptible to powdery mildew in our damp climate, but we'll see if Gayla's milk-and-water spray helps with this.

So, on the patio now: lettuce, red and green; easter-egg radishes; cherry tomatoes, 2 kinds; morning glories, blue; marigolds (planted among the tomatoes); sweet alyssum; salpiglossis, red and chocolate-brown; sunflowers; borage; chives; scarlet runner beans. Seeds still to plant: cucumbers, sugar snap peas, more lettuce.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

blogging in my underwear

Well, hello! One thing that's become abundantly clear, these last few months: full-time job=good for bank account, bad for just about everything else, especially writing! It feels like I barely have time to wash my hair and eat cereal before getting back on the bus to work these days, a feeling definitely exacerbated by having to work 11 hours+ every Saturday. And then needing to write for Bay Area Bites and other places in my 5 minutes of spare time.

But you didn't come here to hear me whine, did you? After all, I have a job, which is no mean feat these days, even if it's one that I'm not especially trained for or good at. Right now, I'm good enough and hopefully getting better as I get it together.

Today, though, is a Day Off, and what am I doing? Lying on the bed in my underpants typing, obviously, but mostly I'm waiting for the seeds to sprout on the back patio. The Summer Salad Project is underway, and right now, with nothing but a few square feet of concrete, I'm going to have a garden or else. I'm on the waiting list for a couple of community gardens in Bernal, but until then, it's container gardening for me.

(A good inspiration/resource for beginning city gardeners is the website and book You Grow, Girl. I'm particularly intrigued by her suggestion of using a dilute (50/50) milk-and-water solution as a foliar and soil feed to prevent mildew and generally boost plant health. Also with adding crushed eggshells to the soil, or adding crushed eggshells to your watering can, so the water used picks up minerals from the shells).

The fingerling potatoes, planted back in early March, are looking very good. Or at least their leafy parts up top are; presumably, somewhere in the 15 gallons of dirt below, beautiful baby potatoes are growing, too.

This week's backyard determination came from Sunday's inspiring trip to the truly cool and awesome Flora Grubb. Even if you don't have a single corner in which to put a plant, it's worth it to grab a pal and swing down here on a pretty afternoon. You can treat this place like your own private garden, one full of palm trees and swaying tropicals and relaxing lawn chairs and little tables for your shiny red coffee cup. Yes, Flora Grubb is that very San Franciscan place, a nursery with an in-house Ritual Roasters coffee bar.

S., bless his heart, stood in the long sunny-afternoon/Mother's Day line and brought me the most velvety cappuccino you'd ever want to bless your lips, then went off to admire a pink-leaved hip Hawaiian beauty while I hit the seed rack and tried on sun hats. Came home with seeds for French baby carrots, heavenly blue morning glories, emerald-and-ruby salad mix, and my favorite multicolored easter-egg radishes.

The lettuce, carrots, and radishes are planted, and I've been going out every morning to drizzle on water to keep the seedbeds evenly moist, as promised. A few scarlet runner beans have been shoved into another pot, and now I've got to go out and plant the morning glories, already starting to sprout after their two-day water bath.

Nothing has come up yet, since it's only been a couple of days, and carrots in particular are verrrry slow to germinate. But that hasn't stopped me from squinting hopefully at the dirt as I shake on the water, looking for a jump-starting cotelydon.

What else? I'm blogging about astrology and food over at, your portal to the stars, and being a wee bit jealous of Maria Helm Sinskey's wonderful life over on KQED. I've got to re-start my lovely Eatwell Farms local-wheat sourdough starter, since I left the last batch a wee bit too long and it started growing some fairy-hair mold around the edges, although the rest of it looked great.