Posts Tagged ‘West Coast Seeds’

The Most Ambitious Project Yet

Garden 2010

After much deliberation (and a healthy dose of procrastination), I’ve finally selected and plotted my intentions for the 2010 garden.

It might seem awfully early to some, but seeds must be ordered, delivered and started before a springtime sowing in late May can be accomplished.

This year will be interesting for a number of reasons.

Primarily because I’m going to be trying to grow a couple crowns of asparagus for the first time, but I’m also attempting rare French strawberries from seed, as well as leeks, garlic and chard.

As you can see from my crude 10,000 foot drawing, there are lots of different veggies being installed, as well as a small bee garden that I hope will attract a healthy amount of polinators to our rooftop sanctuary.  We had a bit of a problem with the lack of bees last year, though I’m not sure if it was due to colony collapse or the overall shitty weather, but it can’t hurt to encourage them with a pretty flower garden.

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The Constant Gardener

Rememberies

Isn’t that a beautiful picture?

That is an heirloom caprese salad courtesy of my own garden, circa September 2009.

And as winter drags on in it’s pithy little way, I find myself drawn to the photos I have of my garden (or the spoils thereof) to help keep me going during this wretched time of year.

As usual, I had seed catalogues to pore over at Christmas again, and have spent the better part of a dozen hours agonizing over what I should, would, could grow this year.  In a surprising twist of fate our condo board reversed their decision to rip up and replace our roof deck this year, so I unexpectedly have the luxury of planning a 2010 garden once again.  It may seem early, but once I determine what to grow, seeds will need to be ordered and started indoors, so really, I’m right on schedule.

Given my (ample for a roof) yet rather confined space, it’s always a difficult task deciding what I should grow.  Successes from previous years fight for acreage against new plants I’ve been seduced by but have yet to try.  The fun part is attempting to harmoniously blend them all together in a symbiotic way.

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Anything Goes…

Every day that passes brings the gardening season that much closer (fingers crossed that we’re done with snow).  To while away the time I’ve become hooked on something I read about over at You Grow Girl several months ago… Gardening Mama!  It’s a game from the people who making Cooking Mama, which I also obsessively love, but more than that, it keeps my hands busy while I’m waiting for the universe to hurry up and warm up outside already…

Though I may have let the past few months pass in relative silence on the garden front, you can be assured that I’ve not been dormant.  From taking my seed catalogs with me on Christmas vacation so I could pick out my new projects (yes, I am a garden dork and I was mocked mercilessly about it the entire vacation), to harassing the people at West Coast Seeds when an order didn’t arrive, to finally breaking out the potting soil and mucking about in my basement laundry room, the last 3 months contained their fair share of preparatory activities.

Project Sustainability 2009 is well underway, with approximately 60 seedlings chilling out on the grow tower.  Considering that last year was my first attempt at growing anything more involved than a cactus, I was pretty impressed with the end results.  There were definitely lessons learned, and notes made about plants I wouldn’t bother to grow again (read: corn and those weeds I thought were beans).  But this year, along with bringing back favorites and successes from 2008, I also picked a bunch of new plants to try.  As our diet becomes increasingly varied, the memories of how explosively flavorful my completely organic, fresh picked produce was last year inspired me to try my hand at even more.  I can never replace Bob (our organic delivery guy) or our CSA farmshare from Zephyr Organics, but being able to combine two of my all-consuming passions is just too good to pass up.  Plus, creating your own tiny microcosm means being able to experiment with more unique and just plain bizarre produce that larger growers might not bother with.

So far on the rooftop roster this year we have:

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Bits And Pieces, Odds And Ends

I’ve got a lot of concurrent projects on the go right now, so instead of wracking my brain to come up with enough time and material to write 5 or 6 posts, I’ve decided to aggregate my updates into one smaller post.

Firstly, I finally managed to get my shit together garden-wise and inventory what’s growing in the basement.  I was able to determine what I needed to replant, and what had not been planted at all.  By the time I went to bed last night, all tomatoes had been started or were already sprouted (with the exception of the Sungolds) and the artichokes, celery root and chili peppers were planted too.  Hopefully I still have enough time to get them to seedling stage before it’s time to go outside.  I even managed to give West Coast Seeds a call to find out what was going on with my Sungold tomatoes and Ambition shallots; it’s been almost a month and a half since I ordered my seeds from them.  Turns out that my back order was just shipped on Tuesday (finally), so any day now I should be able to plant the rest.  I definitely feel like a weight has been lifted now that the majority of it is done.  All I have to do now is wait for warmer weather and pick up my kiddie pool, hanger bags and strawberry vines and let the nature handle the rest.

On the baking front, I’ve been nurturing the Bride of Frankenstein for several weeks now, and her progress has been quite promising.  Now that I only need to feed her once or twice a week it’s been much easier to manage.  I imagine she must’ve attained some depth during that time, so I am eagerly awaiting this weekend for another chance to make bread.  I also broke one of my ironclad kitchen rules and am anticipating the results of that decision.  Recently while reading Local Breads, I came across a list of somewhat essential tools for successful bread-making.  Typically I shun single-use kitchen gadgets because I hate clutter and have already completely filled our decently-sized kitchen with stuff.  Yesterday I caved and ordered myself a baguette pan and bench scraper from Golda’s Kitchen.  I can make a case for the many uses of a bench scraper, but the baguette pan as far as I can tell has one purpose only; alleviating my laziness.  You see, one of the techniques that my book recommends is “couching” your loaves while they proof and bake in order to obtain the correct size and structure.  The manual way to do this is to create an accordion out of parchment paper and then slip it between the loaves so that they are supported on each side.  While it rises, you slip a few kitchen towels under the folds to further support the dough.  This is not only time-consuming but annoying, so I bought a pan shaped for the purpose instead.  I intend to make lots of baguettes from now on, so rationalizing the cost/benefit was slightly easier.  I just don’t know where I’m going to be able to store it since I’m completely out of room.  I made myself feel better by not also purchasing a banneton and proofing box; two other things I wanted but don’t have room for.  D’oh!

Project guanciale has been coming along nicely too.  Every time I peek in, they’re slightly smaller than the time before.  I am continually amazed by how much of the marinade coating  has adhered during the curing phase.  The only things I’m not quite sure about is whether I’m supposed to rinse it off before serving and if I should’ve removed the “rind” before marinating.  Until this past weekend all the guanciale I purchased came pre-sliced.  While we were at the Cheese Boutique obtaining cottage provisions, we managed to score a hunk of guanciale; it just had to be sliced at home.  Whenever we go there I leave the meat to the Everyman and I tackle the cheeses, so he bought the chunk (which I later realized was a bad idea considering how much I have hanging at home).  Ah well.  They’ll be plenty of meat at our house!

The majority of our food comes from an organic grocery delivery service called The Clean Food Connection.  In the summertime they provide us with a fresh, local farmshare from Zephyr Organics and in the winter we leave most things to chance with something they call a vegpak.  A vegpak is a bundled order of fruits and vegetables that comes in several different sizes, and is assembled based on what’s in stock at the store that week and a list of our preferences.  Year-round our grocery deliveries are a sort of culinary roulette; you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.  Our vegpak last night included a handful of lemons, which were hastily thrown in my chalice (current housing for a glut of multicoloured citrus).  Staring at the lemons and lamenting how to use them, the Everyman came up with the perfect solution; lemon curd!  I still have half a jar left from the last time I made my version of the lemon/lavender/white chocolate Black Hoof dessert, but I really don’t think you can ever have too much.  Kudos to the Everyman for a brilliant suggestion!  I’ll be curding it up while the bread bakes this weekend.

Making it two for two, the Everyman also had another fantastic idea that I can’t believe he heard about before I did.  While perusing Cowbell’s website, he noticed that they will be participating in Ontario’s first Outstanding In The Field dinner.  If you’re not familiar with Outstanding In The Field, I suggest you check it out.  It’s a roving, open-air dining experience that pairs farmers, chefs and the dining public for a not-to-be-missed culinary adventure.  I purchased their cookbook last year and was captivated by it, but never realized that they organized dinners in Canada as well.  Apparently they’ve done some in BC to great success, but this will be the first Ontario event.  It’s sort of Stadtlander-esque, but on a grander scale, as dinners can include as many as 200 guests.  The Everyman and I have decided that we’re going to go, so I now have something else that’s fun to look forward to this summer (aside from his birthday).  Plus, it’s being held at Dingo Farms so I bet there’ll be cows to hug too!  If you couldn’t tell, I’m very excited.  Now I just have to find somewhere to stay in Bradford that isn’t a B&B.

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