It’s not a food blog but I made these oatmeal cookies…

My family loved them and thought they should be shared.  It’s probably like most of the oatmeal cookie recipes out there, though vegan and gluten-free. Came out of the oven lovely, thick and moist, and cooled to be thick and chewy.

Note that my experience is at a mile high altitude, and if you live much lower you may want to adjust your recipe with slightly less flour and slightly more sugar, but frankly I don’t know how much. I just pulled this recipe out of my @ss today and it worked.

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Gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookies:

Wet ingredients:

5 tablespoons Earth Balance (or any solid fat, probably)

5 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 1/3 cup water

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:

I cup oat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients added last:

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup raisins or chocolate chips, or whatever you like to add to oatmeal cookies

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Step 2.

Cream fat and sugar for about 2 minutes.

Step 3.

Add other wet ingredients to creamed fat and sugar.

Step 4.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

Step 5.

Add dry to wet ingredients and beat until combined.

Step 6.

Mix in the oats and other additive(s). Raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and any of those things people like in cookies are welcome!

Step 7.

Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop batter onto baking sheet. I put parchment on a baking sheet for cookies, but you could just use a little lubricant or whatever on a bare sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Step 8.

Share cookies. This is an important step! They will taste much better if you share them.

I like sharing. Sharing’s my favorite.

 

To be consistent with the theme of my garden, I’ll post a pic of some guacamole made with avocado I wish I could grow, cilantro and a green Jimmie Nardello pepper which I did grow, lime juice, salt and pepper.

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Chef friends who follow me: first, thanks for following! Second, I know I’m not a chef so I post my simple, kid-friendly recipes most humbly. Your comments and criticism are welcome.

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Holes

Metal Pig is helping me finish the fence. I tried to do everything myself while he worked on projects that actually needed to be done, like remodeling. I got to a point where I just wasn’t man enough to dig the last post hole and I can’t plumb fence posts alone. I was hoping for some child labor but the kids were useless, playing soccer, video games or whatever. Metal Pig, who is twice the man I am by weight and volume, brought his big muscles to the project and it’s finally almost done.

I’m reminded of a book and movie in which boys were forced to dig holes in the desert. This is Colorado dirt and these are the tools I used to dig 2-foot post holes, and the mixture of sunflower oil and white vinegar used to treat the bottoms of the posts to prevent rotting:

 

 

There’s no setting the posts in cement because I don’t want the toxins from it in my garden. They have to be set in packed, hard dirt, which we do have a steady supply of. The O.G. posts were set that way 4 years ago, and are still solid, plumb and level.

This hardly ever happens, in the kitchen, my professional life, my pursuit of being ripped and muscular, but my vision had become real.

 

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I do need to be small to tend the plants and harvest in the fenced area, so my size is an advantage in that way.

I’ve heard of zucchini races, where kids add wheels to zucchini and race them downhill. It’s a cute and fun idea, but I can’t stand to see food wasted. I love sauteed zucchini. It also makes an amazing cake, like carrot cake, which at my last party was more popular than chocolate cake. There’s also the low-carb noodle impersonators you can turn them into, which aren’t like actual noodles no matter what you read, but I love them. You can use a spiralizer but I don’t usually spend money on unitaskers so I use a knife and vegetable peeler.

A spiralizer would make them look more like linguine. I need a real camera, don’t I.

Sunday: Olivier Giroud’s hair won the World Cup and it rained in Colorado

Those unrelated situations were the biggest news of the weekend. It was a great match. I almost didn’t care who won, but was leaning slightly to the underdogs of Croatia. They were so cohesive and tough.

I know kids are all gonna want Mbappe jerseys now, but Giroud’s hair did its part too.

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Look at the French, with all their vowels and hair

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In other news, there was a 30-degree F temperature drop to 70-something. Some rain finally soaked my area, although based on the smoke that remained visible after it cleared up I guess it didn’t fall on the parts of the Southwest that are on fire.

I had to pull up a tomato plant that looked like it was going to succumb to a blight. A strong plant could have overcome that I guess but this one was small and already compromised by her hail injuries. I feel bad for the plant and, while I’m at it, the fungus or whatever was killing it. I had to remove it to save the others. Pulling it up seemed like a violent act. I didn’t even let my 9-year-old son see me do it, because he’s sensitive like me.

There’s no way for me to know if or how plants feel. It’s not a stretch to relate to another mammal of a different species or a bird, but it’s a little more of a challenge to try to get inside the head of a fish or reptile. Understanding beings from the plant kingdom – the other kingdom – requires some real outside-the-box thinking. I know they don’t have a nervous system like mammals do, but they are living. I love them, raise them and eat them, which is a relationship many people have with some mammals and birds. I only eat plants, because I have to eat something. I feel like I owe them respect and stewardship, and I’m not sure how benevolent it really is for me to raise them up to die in the winter. Well, some don’t die, and virtually all of them live on via their seeds.

 

Having written all that, I still find this article about plant abuse hilarious.

 

 

I’m getting too old for this shirt

 

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Everyone in my office was given a Deathplow shirt as a tribute to the longtime employee who invented “Deathplow” as a fictional heavy metal band. He gets credit for it, not I. He grew up on an actual farm, not a “farm” like mine. When he left the company after 10 years, we all wore these shirts on his last day.

This is really a stupid obsession. Digging two-foot post holes into hard, cracked clay with my analog tools and cussing the whole time didn’t help me pack on the muscles that atrophied when I skipped workouts. These little buggies kept eating stuff I direct sowed, reminding me that my “thou shalt not kill” policy is sometimes unrealistic. And day after day, with 3-digit (Fahrenheit) temps and sometimes 1-digit humidity percentage, it keeps not raining. Except that one time in late May we got a hailstorm that injured my established plants. It was like they were getting punched, over and over, although I covered as many as I could.

It’s not an unusual summer here, it’s just the first time in 10 years I’ve tried to crack into new dirt and plant a fence.

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I couldn’t give up and leave a pathetic pile of dirt in the backyard which I’d have to explain to kids who come over to play. Besides, the OG (original garden) doesn’t have much more going on than cover crops and salad greens.

The good news about the blazing sun is it’s now powering our house because we just got solar panels.

Somehow, those direct sowed seeds and most of the transplants I nursed from seeds are growing and producing.

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Holy shirt.

I planted a cover “crop” of buckwheat (soba) for the first time. I always plant legumes, because I love them and they are good soil conditioners, but that alone isn’t going to help turn this worthless slab of dirt into somewhat fertile soil. And the buckwheat addition won’t either. I’ve mixed in topsoil, vermiculite and compost about six inches under the plants that are thriving. I’ve had to water them with a hose. I can’t imagine how original growers in what is now the American West survived. I mean, I know millions of them didn’t, but many did, and I’m here today struggling even with better tools.

 

Out Standing in my Field

I’m digging up and terracing 200 square feet of lawn to create a second garden. I think the biggest expense will be a fence around it, which may not need to be as substantial as the one around the bigger garden. It will be > 200 SF of turf on a slope I won’t have to mow anymore. This area faces east – southeast and will have a little morning shade from pine trees on the eastern perimeter of the yard. Most of the day it will get unfiltered sun like the original garden – I’ll just start calling that one the Original Garden, or OG, if you will.

First, EG and I measured the rise and run and calculated that the slope is only 1 degree. Here’s his TinkerCad model of this simple plan. The stones that = 1×2 feet are his suggested footpath down the middle, but I changed that to a 2′ wide path horizontally instead of steps down/up the center. That removes 80 SF of planting space but I need that to reach into the  planting beds without stepping on them.

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This will allow two 4 x 10 beds with a short retaining wall on the downslope sides of the top bed and the path. There will need to be a perimeter on the outside as well, so I can access the beds from all sides, so I might as well remove the turf there too. I don’t know what to use for those paths; maybe pea gravel. Removing turf, Minecraft-style with a pickaxe, is burning a few extra calories.

How much can I grow here? This is a rough draft of a goal:

-8 tomato plants, potentially 80-100# of tomatoes or $280-$350 worth (Market value $4-5/pound in my area, but I’m conservatively valuing mine at $3.50 because I’m not a market grower)

-2 pepper plants, which I am never optimistic about, at best providing 10# of peppers or $25 worth

-4 rows of legumes grown vertically, providing about 2 cups per day fresh green beans  in June, July and August (and a few pounds of dried beans in the fall

-Steady supply of mustard, kale and some other greens that grow throughout the summer; maybe $30 worth. I love lettuce but the ship for planting that here has sailed. It’s May and I haven’t gotten this bed ready for planting. Lettuce I already planted in the established beds in March.

-A cucumber vine or 2, maybe 3, hopefully giving us 10# of fruit in June and July. My experience with these makes yield hard to predict. I feel like I have little control over the success and much has to do with the weather.

Speaking of weather, this is what the sky is like today, and I wish I were collecting the rain for when it’s dry later:

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That is a sculpture made of trash (plastic or Styrofoam cups) we saw on a recent trip to Boston, where it’s cold and rains all the time. Apparently. It was at a place called the MFA, which turns out to be an acronym for Museum of Fine Arts. I thought the MF stood for something else. I am fortunate enough to have been so saturated with the experience of fine art museums in my childhood that I hate them. Still, this sculpture made an impression on me. I hope it makes an impression on other parents who run lemonade stands and could use compostable cups. They do jack up the price of your lemonade though.

Here is the new Garden ROI spreadsheet for 2018: Garden expenses 2018

 

 

Stuff to do so I’m not tempted to start seeds too early

I’m a busy parent. There are kids to play with, horses to ride and this Prosecco isn’t going to drink itself. It’s all I can do to fit in a 2-hour workout.

That’s not really me. I would never wear that. Also I don’t really have that much time on my hands. I don’t even have a string of horses. Just access to a string of horses. And I bought several bottles of Prosecco but it was for our holiday party. There were two left over and I made jelly with one and used half the other in risotto (see this blog for risotto recipes and pics). Don’t remember what happened to the other half.

Making jelly is fun. I wouldn’t normally waste a good bottle of wine on a batch of jelly, but it was Christmas and I sent some to family members. I added lemongrass and basil to the Prosecco jelly and rosemary to some I made with Moscato (EG colored it green). That’s not really relevant to this gardening blog, is it. I didn’t grow the wine, it was just left over from a party. But I did make jelly from the raspberries that grow in my front yard, and that got good reviews. I also happened to score a cheap case of blackberries in the fall and made insanely good preserves out of those, which was almost too pretty to eat.

My friend Mean Charlene (ironic nickname) grows a variety of hot peppers, which she shared with me. I combined them with heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper for a decent salsa.

I would grow peppers, but as long as Mean Charlene does every year, I can just trade with her. I did have two plants outside this year, one I planted and another that was a surplus seedling a coworker gave me. Right before the first frost, I made a last minute decision to dig those up and bring them in. They blossomed in November and have little peppers on them.

And here’s a blurry pic of the owl in my neighborhood, who has little to do with gardening but I was just so excited I got this close and s/he let me take pics, I’m posting one.

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Not just the man who gave us PB&J

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7 grams of complete, delicious, stick-to-your-ribs protein

 

Not trying to hijack MLK day, like the the Commonwealth of Virginia did when I lived there, but I want to mention GWC.  Mostly because this is a blog about a tiny farm. Today Metal Pig talked about George Washington Carver after reading a comment along the lines of, “If you think you’re not getting the resources you need, read about GWC…” That’s not an exact quote. It was something like that. Can’t believe I don’t go around thinking “What would George Washington Carver do?” Although sometimes I think, “What would Joan Jett do?” and that’s good, because she’s a great entertainer, citizen and intrepid entrepreneur. I am not two of those things, but it doesn’t hurt to think like her sometimes. Or like I think she thinks.

What were the most defining traits and experiences that Dr. Carver, a slave as a child who would later become a Master of Science? Can I relate to any of them? The couple who once owned him also homeschooled him, I think in part because he wasn’t a strong boy who could work the fields. The elementary education was at least one less obstacle but it could not have been easy. How did he think? Did he have a natural curiosity and obsession he pursued relentlessly? Did he have low or no expectations? He’s given credit for inventing peanut butter, which he didn’t, but he did popularize it. His breakthroughs include:

  1. Saving crops, such as cotton, from destruction by introducing crop rotation with legumes
  2. The science of improving nutrition in soil and the plants that grown in i
  3. Tapping the value in previously overlooked legumes, sweet potatoes and even useful wild plants (you know, weeds, like delicious purslane)
  4. Improving the health of many through improved nutrition by agricultural education and general resourcefulness
  5. Believing in, and promoting, harmony (many sources use the phrase “racial harmony” but I feel like his influence was not limited to race issues and “harmony” is more inclusive)
  6. He didn’t do it for the money, either. He was an academic, directing the Agricultural Department at what was then called Tuskegee Institute, and I’ve read that he turned down a very lucrative offer from Thomas Edison.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.biography.com/news/george-washington-carver-facts-national-peanut-month
  2. My elementary school education