Saturday, May 28, 2011

Permaculture Planning

I'm already pretty in love with my yard & garden, but I've been taking a permaculture garden design class through the Permaculture Research Institute that is filling me with plant envy.  This class is fantastic- I get to use giant graph paper and measure every single thing in the yard (seriously.  everything.) and then dream about how I could use the space more productively.  Is there anything I like better than graph paper and productivity?  I think not.

 With the West End Garden Tour less than a month away, I have to be careful.  I'm tempted to go all extreme makeover on my yard, but I know that that's too much to handle when I'll have hundreds of people touring the garden so soon.  Plus, I don't have a crew of people working for me.  Slow and steady, Liz.

But even if I won't be doing a total overhaul, I've got to plan what I'll eventually to do make the yard more low maintenance, productive and beautiful.

So every single nice day, I've been outside working on the yard.  Every single rainy day, I've been working on my homework (a.k.a. the yard plan).

Here's my "base map".  This has every permanent structure on the property: house, garage, raised garden beds, sidewalks, trees, treehouse, etc.

The next step was to create a "bubble map" of areas by purpose or function.  Then, after finalizing the general areas of plantings, we mapped out each plant's size and shape.  On Monday we'll start choosing plants.

Except I cheated.  I didn't wait until Monday's lesson to choose plants.  I did the research early and I went to Leitner's and Linder's and bought all the fruit bearing shrubs and vines that I know I'll need for the landscape. I just couldn't help myself.  I figure there will be several phases to this project and getting in the bigger items can be the first step.  Now...where should I get 8 cubic yards of wood chips?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Berry Patch Clean-up

After a couple days of weeding and hauling mulch, the berry patch is finally looking good! If only it would stay this tidy... Can't wait for these berries!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best Day Ever + Bok Choy Salad

Today was basically a perfect day.  I just started a 4-day weekend.  I woke up early with the itch to start gardening before breakfast.  Why not?  I can always take a nap later!  (And I did).

I spent about 6 hours in the yard: digging up weeds, planting new plants, spreading straw mulch and transplanting some stubborn columbine and ferns that keep sprouting up in our stone walkway.  I called and got estimates (all in one day!) from 2 tree services to remove the scrubby mugo pine that is dying in our front yard and a maple being destroyed by chestnut borer.  I took breaks to watch Jeopardy, take a nap and lounge on the deck.

Lunch was a crunchy, fresh bok choy-peanut salad and dinner was scrambled tofu on toast.   Even though it's technically work, I enjoyed reading a couple chapters of Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe while I ate.   What a fantastic day!  Sure, I did a lot of hard work.  But it was all relaxing and fun. I even got my new issue of Bon Appetit in the mail! The best part?  I have 3 more days like this coming right up.

Here's the recipe for this really easy bok choy salad.  We made this on Tuesday night and the kids loved it! I made it again today with a bit of leftover bok choy.

Bok Choy Peanut Salad
You could do a lot to fancy this dish up or give it more color.  But I love how easy it can be!  This makes enough for 4-6 people.

1 package thin rice noodles (I like the maifun brown rice variety by Annie Chun)
1/2 cup peanut butter
3-4 Tbsp. tamari or Bragg's aminos
1 cup hot water (reserved from cooking noodles)
1 head bok choy, thinly sliced
(if this is a giant head, use about 1/2)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Cook rice noodles according to package instructions.  Usually this involves simply soaking the noodles in boiling hot water for about 2 minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of the hot water.  Rinse noodles in cold water.

In a pint jar, combine peanut butter, tamari and 1/2 cup of the hot water.  I like to use an itty bitty wire whisk for this task.  At first it'll look like it won't dissolve, but the hot water will melt the peanut butter and this will become a thin, salty, creamy sauce.  Add more hot water if needed. Don't worry if it seems too salty, you're mixing this with a lot of noodles and bok choy.

Combine cooled noodles, sauce, bok choy, onions, carrot and cilantro in a large salad bowl.  Use tongs to toss until everything is coated in the peanut sauce.  If you want to serve this later in the week, just refrigerate the salad and dressing separately and mix it up just before serving.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pear Tree is blooming!

Despite much abuse in the form of my experimental bonsai-espalier hybrid pruning and shaping, the pear tree is alive and flowering. It really is Spring!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Spring Roast

It might be spring somewhere, but it's still pretty chilly in Minnesota.  I think still being able to turn on the oven is the only advantage of the cool weather.  I indulged my gluten-loving self this past week by heating up the house with a seitan roast.  I try not to tempt Mike with too many glutinous foods in the house, but I was craving this! 

A "before" photo

I didn't use a recipe for this one, but there was lots of poultry seasoning, Bragg's aminos and nutritional yeast in here- I remember that much.  And, of course, the obligatory roasting veggies along with the seitan.  The onion melted into the most divine texture!

Aside from eating the seitan and veggies straight-up, cold out of the fridge, I've used it in some stir fries.  All it takes is a crazy hot cast iron skillet, a little oil and tons of vegetables to make a successful stir fry!

I was going to serve this one over quinoa or rice, but opted to just enjoy the veggies and seitan on their own.  This dish included broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, tons of ginger and seitan.  I finished the stir fry with a little sauce of lime juice and Bragg's aminos mixed with a bit of cornstarch so it thickened up to coat the veggies as soon as I added it.  I think I ate about 3 cups of vegetables in one sitting!