Rice Against

We got about a foot of snow twice this week. I’m not sure it’s necessary to cover lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots and cilantro before a snow, but I did because it was going to be in the teens at night (Fahrenheit) so I let the snow be an insulator. Today I removed those covers, it got warm, and an avalanche from the roof slammed down on these beds, so there was no point. But I did get a cute pic.

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Here they are the day before this snow.

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“Rice Against”, like Wicked Garden , is a nod to one of those rock, punk or pop bands I like to reference. I guess that started since the name Deathplow was inspired by a fictional metal band a coworker made up for fun.

I don’t actually know if rice is one of the grains in the steaming mix of beer by-product I got from a local brewery today. I don’t know a lot about making beer, but brewers like Liquid Mechanics in my area are happy to donate the spent grains to farmers and gardeners. What I scooped into buckets and an old cooler was fluffy, still warm and smelled kind of nice. I’ve never used this as a soil amendment before but I did some research and it seems safe.

For starters, I dumped a load of the grains on my new experimental hugelkultur mound. Beneath that, besides snow, is a layer of cottonwood logs, sticks and bark, then upside-down turf I removed from nearby, then grass clippings and other biodegradable material including dirt from the yard. This does *not* include last year’s nightshades or squashes, as they may (and probably will) have and transmit blights or undesirable fungi. Stalky, seedy greens like orach I did include, and when they sprout in there, it’s a bonus.

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I don’t want to dig and till; I’m trying to stick to the philosophy of building up, not digging down. On top of that, a bag of store bought cottonwood compost.

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It doesn’t look impressive so far. But I have a pretty good feeling about this becoming a hill of beans, then a hill of greens, then a site for more complicated plants like peppers. Because last year was pretty good for my peppers, I’ve gotten more into them, with a second generation of fish peppers, anchos, and some exotic spicy ones. I joined the hot peppers subreddit.

Periodically I come across heart-shaped instances in nature, like this bit of snow that dropped from an overhead branch.

snowheart

Before the snow, it was hot and sunny and I was able to dry a load of laundry including our homemade pandemic masks. One of the old shirts drying has a message for our neighbor’s kitty, Boo, who is adorable but seems to be stalking our birdy friends:

Here is our actual fish, Twerp.

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He has plants in his underwater garden, too.

I didn’t put this on the spreadsheet as an expense, but I ordered a case of canned sparkling mineral water, and most of it went to the seedlings.

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Quench yourself

I almost gave up

Last night the worst hailstorm I’ve ever experienced blew in and pummeled the area for about 10 minutes. I hadn’t covered my plants, not that it would have helped much. the weather has been weird – on June 22, horses were blanketed because of persistent cold rain. Then it was finally summer a couple days later. The hail punched through a shade sail and left holes in our picnic table. I wondered what area horses without shelters were doing. Kids gathered a bowl full of frozen balls and put them in the freezer because kids do stuff like that. I about cried.

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This morning I surveyed the devastation. It isn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. Several poblano plants are barely injured at all, and I’m not sure why. Most of the tomatoes and beans took a hit, and the few squash plants, which were thriving and optimistic-looking before the storm, are beaten down. They look how I feel. I think they will recover, but it would eat up a lot of the growing season and once again I will get, if anything, a late harvest. I hope the frost will hold off until late fall.

I gathered broken tomato branches and a fish pepper into a desperate bouquet and put them in water with a little fertilizer, knowing they will grow roots and clone themselves. Whether the clones will become viable plants I’m not sure. This morning there was still a pile of hail that had collected in a shade sail and taken it down.

 

I guess there’s nothing to do but move on. I’m glad some of our house sparrow friends have a nest box.

I don’t know if this is just a tough year or if it’s related to climate change. I can blame myself as much as anyone for climate change, since we just got back from a trip to Santa Fe we took in our fuel-burning minivan. This will be our last fuel-burning vehicle.

This is not a food blog

How did I make pasta for decades without knowing I could stop the water from bubbling over by simply placing a chopstick over the pot? I learned this recently from one of our favorite shows, Chef & My Fridge

A wooden spoon works too. A stick would work. The bubbles pop when they hit whatever item you rest on the rim of the pot and it doesn’t boil over onto the stove. My dad lived his whole life without knowing that, and he made a lot of pasta. Is there anything else simple and obvious I should know? About cooking, gardening, parenting, putting my pants on, anything?

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Here’s another stupid thing I did. Somehow I mislabeled seeds either when I collected them or planted them, and came out with plants I didn’t expect. A lot of them are cherry tomatoes, which is fine. They taste very, very good and make an excellent sauce. They just don’t impress your friends with their size and aren’t some wacky color, and it’s easier to harvest a few large tomatoes than 100 small ones.

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I also have a variety I can’t even identify as one I previously planted or bought seeds for. It’s pinkish and medium-sized; looks a lot like a bald peach.

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I wonder if I hybridized something, although I don’t know how. It’s shaped like a German Orange Strawberry but not golden in color and frankly not as tasty. And I haven’t grown those in several years because they were susceptible to disease and not very productive. I won’t give them a bad review, I just might not have the right climate for them.

Lucid Gems are as expected, and a couple Brandywines I didn’t have much hope for are producing. Almost no large tomatoes are ripe yet, and most are still getting larger. We had a party last weekend and I was unable to impress the other parents with a tomato salad, but there are some decent Marketmore cucumbers. These and a zucchini make pretty good, inoffensive low-carb noodles. I recommend eating them raw. They have a nice, crisp texture and that’s about it. They taste only as interesting as the sauce, oil or whatever you put on them.

Here, we’ve had smoke from the California wildfires and several downpours they could use in California. To get an idea of how bad it must be there, this is Boulder, CO on a clear day, which normally means the sky is a saturated blue and mountains are visible:

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I am starting to see something like Septoria Leaf Spot on a few leaves but that doesn’t freak me out. I excise the affected leaves knowing it won’t eradicate it completely, but I have seen it this time of year frequently and healthy plants usually overcome it for the rest of the season.

 

Peppers are doing unusually well. I don’t know what the ones that look like Ancho chilis are – they might be Ancho chilis. The seeds are from a plant a coworker gave me last year, and he didn’t know what it was either. The long curly ones are Jimmie Nardellos , grown from seeds I removed from ripe peppers I bought at the farmers’ market. They are sweet and not spicy at all.

 

I used about 4 cups grated zucchini to make 2 bundt cakes, which were very good.

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Metal Pig made Kolaches (traditional Bohemian pastry) with cherries from my friends’ tree. But I didn’t get a pic of the cherry ones before they were gone. This has poppy seed filling:

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