Monday, December 25, 2006

What's Growin' On: 12/25/06

Wishing you peace, beauty, and joy--
in & out of the garden, today and every day.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's Growin' On 12/18/06: December Greenhouse Green

Swiss Chard & volunteer arugula

Realization Of The Day:
Things are still green in the greenhouse—but they are no doubt pretty confused. That storm I wrote about on November 30th did sift a pretty layer of snow over the farm, though not the 5 to 9 inches that were predicted (which was just fine by me). And I was right about our wet weather creek—it started running after just one day of rain, which almost never happens.

Plenty of ice followed the snow, and it got very, very cold. Like 0°F (or maybe even lower—I stop checking the thermometer when it drops below about 10) kind of cold. And the power was out for about 21 hours.

My somewhat reliable digital thermometer I have tucked in a raised greenhouse bed recorded a low of 20 degrees in there. But thanks to floating row covers, old bed sheets and quilts, and a little oil-filled radiator heater*, nearly all of my plants survived.

They spent some time in the dark (when I didn't bother to uncover them) and the taller ones are a little flattened, but they're alive and that's all that really matters. (Click here for a list of everything that's still growing in the the greenhouse right now.)

Then it got hot. Okay, not exactly hot, but that's how 66° feels in the middle of December after you've just spent the past couple of weeks clomping around with constantly cold toes and three or four layers of clothing on. We've been breaking heat records left and right. It's mostly been cloudy, but when the sun does out, it heats up very quickly in the greenhouse.

I can only imagine what the plants are thinking.

* These oil-filled radiator heaters are perfect for greenhouse use as they are very safe, easily moved, hard to tip over, have variable settings as well as an automatic thermostat, cost about $50, and don't use much electricity.

I only use mine on the coldest of nights, and although the greenhouse plastic cover doesn't hold the heat all that well, I think those few extra degrees do make a difference. I set it at 600 watts, so it only costs about 5 cents an hour to run. And of course if the sun comes out during the day, it'll automatically turn itself off until the air cools down again.

We have four of these heaters because they're so handy. There's a newer one right next to me here in my little office that can be set to the exact temperature you like. I put it at 60 or 65 degrees, shut the door on very cold nights, and it stays toasty in here without pulling in heat from the adjacent living room where the wood stove (our main source of heat) lives.

We also keep one in the tiny insulated well house, again set on low, but also attached to a simple outlet timer. It goes on for several hours each night and keeps the water holding tank in there, as well as the pipes, from freezing.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

What's Growin' On: 11/30/06

Realization Of The Day:
It's time to harvest everything still growing outside in the garden.

Five to nine inches of snow are predicted to fall tonight, and the rain that has been steadily coming down for about 20 hours has turned into something that crackles when it hits the windows. There are flood warnings in effect until tomorrow, and I wouldn't be surprised if our wet weather creek started flowing.

It's not the snow I'm worried about, though--it's the several nights in the single digit temperatures supposedly on their way. A heavy snowfall can actually be a friend to the cold season gardener, as the snow acts as a wonderful insulator on both the mini greenhouses and the large greenhouse. But since I can't be sure that we'll end up getting those 5 to 9 inches, I'm taking the Better Safe Than Sorry approach today rather than gambling with the goods like I usually do.

While I may be able to (for once) ignore my obsessive leave-it-in-the-ground-because-you-know-you-want-it-freshly-picked mindset, I naturally waited until the last minute to do the actual deed. I harvested the Oriental greens yesterday, but there is still half a raised bed of mixed baby lettuces and another filled with Batavian Full Heart endive, Russian Red kale, Nero di Toscana cabbage, and Swiss chard. There's the original spring planting of Nero di Toscana, too, with its larger leaves that I decided yesterday should definitely be put into some soup. I think I may leave the few struggling beets out there as an experiment. So as soon as my wet gloves and overalls hanging by the woodstove are dry, and I've finished my Tension Tamer tea, I'll be headed back outside. The ground is already turning white.

The unheated pantry will be perfect for storing all of these greens, which is good because there's no way they'll fit in the fridge. I will go ahead and take my chances in the greenhouse. Like I do each year when it gets this cold, I'll cover the arugula and Swiss chard and various flourishing herbs with floating row covers and old bedsheets, plug all the holes up the best I can, turn on the little radiator type electric heater I use out there on just such occasions, and hope that nature's insulated blanket falls before the temperature does. Everything out there (except for the rosemary) has survived previous winters just fine. One of the rosemary plants is growing in a pot, and I may move it and a few other potted herbs into the house for the next several months. Okay, yes, it's all coming back to me now. I really do think I must block out much of what goes on during the previous seasons. Either that or my memory is simply shot.

I'd by lying if I said that when the weather people start bandying about phrases like "ice pellets" and "accumulated sleet," and the wind is whipping across my wet face and my fingers are stiff with cold, the thought "I left Northern California for this?" doesn't flit briefly through my head. But then a more immediate question comes to mind: "How badly do I really want that last bit of lettuce?"

There is often great beauty to be found during these arctic blasts. Thousands of frozen water droplets glisten from every branch, and when the entire landscape is encased in ice it truly does look magical. But this is the kind of beauty I much prefer admiring from behind a pane of glass while snuggled next the fire, slurping up a cozy bowl of soup. With a fresh garden salad on the side of course.

Friday, November 24, 2006

What's Growin' On: 11/24/06

Realization Of The Day:
This would have made a perfect Christmas salad, but it sure tasted good on Thanksgiving.

The tomato is a VFN, an easy to grow, disease resistant, heirloom salad variety that has been a mainstay in my garden for years, and whose boring name comes from the first letters of the three diseases it is resistant to: Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt, and Nematodes. I picked it (and many others) back in mid-October when the nighttime temperatures began to plummet. It's been living in the cool pantry all these weeks, slowly turning from green to red. While the flavor was (understandably) not comparable to its warm from the sun, vine-ripened counterparts, it was still very, very good--and a glorious addition to the holiday table. Is it wrong to be so thankful for a tomato?

The tomato is resting on a pile of freshly picked arugula and baby Swiss chard from the greenhouse. What you can't see are the perfect little Nero di Toscana Cat Cabbage leaves hiding underneath. I have several dozen small plants still thriving in a raised bed outside, as well as a few from my original spring planting. If it's possible, I think I love this stuff even more than when I wrote about my romance with it back in September.

And yes, believe it or not, that is indeed a tiny worm on the arugula. I was surprised to see it, considering we've had several mornings in the teens, and even if it had been hunkered down in the greenhouse it still must have been awfully cold. But, while its hundreds of ravenous and ruinous friends and relations were one of the banes of my organic gardening existence throughout the spring and summer, my first thought when I discovered this one last night was that it was actually kinda cute.

It must have been the champagne.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What's Growin' On: 11/21/06

Chinese Pak Choy Direct Seeded In Early September

Realization Of The Day:
If I don't get caught up soon, I'm going to look back at this so-called garden journal and think nothing was growing in November--when in fact this has been my best year yet for fall crops.

Because I can't seem to get around writing the detailed posts about all of the wonderful greens and other things I have been harvesting for the past two months, here at least is a list of what is growing now, with links to previous posted photos or write-ups about them.

From Garden To Table:
--Chinese Pak Choy
--Canton Bok Pak Choy
--Batavian Full Heart Endive
--Nero di Toscana Cat Cabbage
--Russian Red Kale
--Several varieties of lettuce
--Three kinds of mostly red beet greens (sort of still alive)
--Kohlrabi (bulbs too old to eat, but still putting on new leaves)
--A few scraggly garlic plants, started as an experiment in late summer to see if I could get another crop of green garlic
--Garden Mint

And in the greenhouse:
--Arugula (in the new permanent arugula bed)
--Swiss Chard
--Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
--Lemon Thyme
--English Thyme
--Greek Oregano, Lemon Balm, Pineapple Mint, & more Rosemary in pots

Yes, I've been enjoying enormous, freshly picked salads almost every night. And they taste all the better knowing that I've been using my Gardening On The Cheap tricks to outwit the weather and extend the harvest--my plants have no idea it was 16 degrees the past two mornings. Okay, they might have a slight idea. But still. This gives a whole new meaning to the term Victory Garden. Yes!

Monday, November 06, 2006

What's Growin' On: 11/6/06

Realization Of The Day:
It took me so long to get around to posting this photo that it is now completely irrelevant. (But I really like it so I'm putting it up anyway.)

This is a close-up of one of the three Aconcagua pepper seedlings I transplanted into the greenhouse back on August 12th. They were leftovers from summer, and rather than simply toss them into a compost bin, I figured I'd put them in the ground and see what happened--knowing full well that it takes something like 80 warm days for these peppers to mature and that we would probably be seeing frost in about 60. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a poor, forgotten plant. In the photo you can also see some of the basil I transplanted at the same time--more seedlings that had been languishing in tiny plugs for months.

Both the peppers and the basil were thriving despite a few nights at 21 degrees F. There were even several peppers a couple of inches long and looking very hopeful. But last week the temperature dipped into the teens, and despite my covering the plants and the protection of the greenhouse, well, all that's left now is a soggy, stinky mess. Yeah, I really should have harvested that basil.

The way I see it, though, is that not only did I enjoy having those warm weather plants in the greenhouse for a while, but now I have more available growing space. This also shows that if you live in a slightly warmer climate than I do (we're Zone 5), you might just be able to keep peppers and basil growing well into winter. And maybe even tomatoes, too. On the other side of the greenhouse was a lone Thai Pink Egg tomato plant that sported several blossoms and even one cute little tomato. (Another forgotten, pathetic, rootbound specimen I didn't have the heart to toss out last summer.) It's history now, too, but many years ago I did harvest ripe greenhouse tomatoes in January, and ever since then I've been willing to take my chances.

If you do plan to nurture tomatoes through the colder months, I suggest growing cherry tomatoes as the fruits take much less time to mature than larger varieties. Those January tomatoes I enjoyed so much were actually teeny tiny red currant tomatoes. They are cute as can be and practically as sweet as candy. I've found the plants to be easy to grow and resistant to diseases, pests, and weather fluctuations.

Hmmm. I wonder if I should start some seeds now. Ripe garden tomatoes on Valentine's Day, anyone?

Realization #2:
I have no idea why I thought I'd suddenly have tons of time to spend blogging once fall arrived. Instead I seem to be busier than ever. So much to write about, so much still to do in the garden. But I hope to be back to posting more frequently soon. (And I'm also behind on answering questions. Thanks for your patience.)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What's Growin' On: 10/29/06

Realization Of The Day:
Sometimes the only thing you can say is, "They sure look pretty when they're frozen."

These are Crosby's Egyptian beet greens (although there's a slight chance they might be Detroit--don't ask) that survived a few nights in the 20s quite well just covered with an old bedsheet. Then I forgot to cover them. For some plants, that little bit of protection can mean the difference between death and the dinner plate. Oh well.

Fall Beet Bed Back On October 10th

These are (were) growing at the other end of the raised bed where all that volunteer basil came up (it's history now, too, despite being covered, but that's understandable). I direct seeded three varieties of beets back on August 8th (Detroit, Crosby's Egyptian, and Bull's Blood), and not long after they had sprouted the dogs ravaged the bed. Fortunately more seedlings survived than I first thought, so I've been enjoying the tender, beautiful leaves tossed in salads for several weeks. (I have been known to sow beet seeds without any intention of ever harvesting the beets themselves because I love the greens--which are often more redish purple than green--so much.)

A few leaves survived the accidental freeze, but overall the plants are now looking pretty dismal. What's interesting is that there appears to be no rhyme or reason regarding which plants died and which didn't. It wasn't only one hardy variety that toughed it out. It wasn't even just certain plants--there are many that have mostly dead leaves but a few that look fine.

In the last post about my fall lettuce crop, I promised I would write more about my cheapie methods of extending the growing season. I'd completely forgotten that I sort of covered (ha ha) this subject back in August. So until I get around to writing more, you can click here to read all about the wonders of using floating row covers, along with some other tips on fall planting. Of course no matter what materials or methods you choose to employ, the most important thing is (surprise) to actually remember to use them, as so clearly evidenced above.

Out Of My In Box: I've Dug Up Some Discounts
Gardens Alive!, a wonderful environmentally-friendly mail order company I wrote about in September (click here and scroll down to "Out Of My In Box item #2) is offering "spooktacular savings" of 20% off all items sitewide through November 1st. Just use Offer Keycode: 143032.

2. Amazon Grocery is offering a $10 instant rebate when you spend $49 or more on any combination of items, including food and household items. Just use code GROCERY3 when you check out. This offer is valid through November 30, 2006, and there is no limit to the number of times you can use it. Plus, all products offered in Amazon Grocery are eligible for Amazon Prime and FREE Super Saver Shipping.

This relatively new store at (that I first wrote about in the article "I Can't Live Without. . . My Wide-Brimmed Sun Hat!" because they sell my favorite sunblocks) offers more than 14,000 non-perishable items, including many from some great companies--Celestial Seasonings (my beloved Tension Tamer Tea plus 90 other items), Newman's Own Organics (47 items), and even Wild Oats (110 items). There are also 55 different Seventh Generation products available. Too cold to work in the garden? Click here to start shopping at Amazon Grocery instead. And click here to visit my Farmgirl Favorites Store at Amazon and see what I can't live without.

From Garden To Table:
Lots and lots of beautiful fall bounty! More about it coming up.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What's Growin' On: 10/25/06

Realization Of The Day:
At this time of year, even the little weeds look pretty. This is one of the varieties of lettuce I direct seeded into a mini greenhouse raised bed back on August 30th.

Realization #2:
I just figured out what variety it is!

I read over the list I'd made of the different lettuce seeds I started in that bed and couldn't find one that sounded anything like this. For some reason (even though it's right there in my 2006 Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog) I didn't include the description in my list. So it's Gentilina: "Lovely, bright green, frizzled, leafy heads that are very ruffled. Good resistance to bolting. Tender leaves are first rate in salads; an extra fine Italian variety."

And there's the reason I'm sure I ordered it--that "good resistance to bolting" you know I can't resist. Though the words "frizzled" and "ruffled" probably would have won me over on their own. The tender leaves are indeed first rate in salads, and I have been enjoying them for several weeks now. Of course hot weather and bolting aren't going to be a worry for this crop--just the opposite. So far so good. This lettuce and the other varieties that sprouted along with it have survived several 21 degree nights with minimal protection, though I did officially "set up" the mini greenhouse the other night.

I'll write more about my Gardening On The Cheap methods for extending the harvest in my next post--which should be up soon. And don't think this site will be hibernating for the winter. No way. I have too much backlogged information from spring and summer to share--as well as lots of photos and a few more of my Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes. And of course there is something going on in the garden and greenhouse every day of the year--even if it is just protecting plants or snapping snow photos.

Today it's rainy and cold, though, so I'll be tucked inside the house for much of the day, soaking up the cozy warmth. The woodstove in the living room is crackling merrily, and my wooden dough bowl is perched right next to it, full to the brim with rising dough for a new bread I just invented. Wood heat, warm bread, wonderfully rainy weather. Oh, how I do love autumn!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's Growin' On: 10/15/06



Realization Of The Day:
The garden is always full of surprises. And many of them are good ones!

Regular readers of In My Kitchen Garden have no doubt realized by now that unless a plant's situation is really and truly hopeless--or I am desperate for space in the garden--I refuse to pull anything out of the ground.

Like my beloved Nero di Toscana Cat Cabbage, purple kohlrabi is another one of those hardy vegetables that simply refuses to say die. These plants were direct seeded way back in March. The tiny seedlings
survived a hard frost and were soon offering up tender, nutrient-packed leaves that I happily tossed into early spring salads. In late May, I thinned out the row of plants to give the remaining ones enough room to mature. (I try never to thin anything until it is large enough to eat.)

Not long after that, cabbage worms attacked my purple kohlrabi and pretty much devoured the leaves for lunch. But they quickly grew back, not caring one bit about the summer heat and humidity they found upon their return. Then Cary discovered them, and she proceeded to nibble the tender little leaves down to nothing but nubs--day after day after day after day. By this point I had given up caring that the kohlrabi bulbs had gone beyond maturity and reached the woolly point, since the only way I really like to eat them calls for using the leaves as well--and obviously I had none.

I turned my attention to more edible areas of the garden, kicked Cary out of the garden, and the kohlrabi bed quickly filled up with weeds. I forgot all about my crop until I went into a weeding frenzy recently and was thrilled to discover that not only had the plants survived, but that while in hiding they had put on yet another batch of leaves.

More tender salad greens without lifting a finger!

Easily started from seed, tough enough to withstand burning sun and freezing cold (including 21 degrees F the other morning), virtually maintenance free, and doesn't take death for an answer--purple kohlrabi is definitely my kind of plant.

Realization #2:
The beauty of vegetables is highly underrated.

NOTE: This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #55, a deliciously informative traveling event sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted this week by Sher at What Did You Eat? Food and garden bloggers from around the world participate, and you never know what interesting new edibles you'll discover each Monday in the roundup. Check out the WHB rules if you'd like to join in the fun, and click here for the list of upcoming WHB hosts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's Growin' On: 10/10/06

Think Thin

Realization Of The Day:
This is one of those rare occasions when my garden gives me lettuce and tomatoes at the same time.

A cold snap (and probably a killing frost) are expected Thursday night, so I am savoring every luscious bite. The tomato plants (which have already halfway succumbed to the season) will be history, but lettuce will survive temperatures below freezing if covered with an old sheet, so I expect to be picking from this plot for several more weeks. If it is still producing once it starts getting really cold, I'll cover the homemade, inexpensive mini-greenhouse frame with thick clear plastic that is sealed up at night with simple clamps, then opened up during the day so the plants don't fry. (If the sun is out, any kind of greenhouse, no matter what size, will become extremely hot inside very quickly. Venting is always necessary. One day of forgetting, and you will most likely murder your plants. Click here and scroll down to the comments section to read more about my mini-greenhouse beds.)

This is a mixed bed of heirloom lettuces that I (very heavily) direct seeded back on August 31st. (Click here to read more). For some reason quite a few of the seeds didn't sprout (the photo doesn't show the big patch of baby weeds happily filling in the other end of the raised bed), but the ones that did came in thickly. I always wait until lettuce seedlings get about this size before I start to thin them. That way they become people food rather than chicken food.

Click here to learn how you can go from seed to salad bowl in less than a month (even if you don't have a garden).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's Growin' On: 10/4/06

Freshly Picked

Welcome new visitors! Click here for a brief introduction to this site--and to learn why it's not just for gardeners.

Realization Of The Day:
Fall salad greens are gorgeous.

This mix includes Batavian Full Heart Endive, Red Russian Kale, Detroit Beet Greens, Bull's Blood Beet Greens (the dark reddish purple leaves), Swiss Chard, & Nero di Toscana cabbage. Everything was direct seeded back on August 8th. There are several other fall greens doing well in the garden and the greenhouse. Since I'm growing varieties that are both heat and cold tolerant, the crazy weather we've had these past few weeks (frost warnings follwed by a record breaking 88 degrees two days ago) hasn't killed off or harmed the plants in any way. Even the lettuce I started are heat tolerant varieties, but since the leaves are still so small, I doubt this brief heatwave would have turned them bitter even if they weren't.

Note: Due to some really irritating technical difficulties involving my dial-up connection and Blogger, I'm taking an unplanned break from blogging for a while. Until I get things straightened out, I will post periodically if and when I am able. Click here if you'd like more details.

I hope to be back blogging on a regular basis soon! In the meantime, if you don't feel like constantly popping by to see if anything new has sprouted here, I invite you to subscribe to In My Kitchen Garden via email. Just enter your email address in the box at the top right of this page and click on 'Subscribe Me!' You will then receive all new In My Kitchen Garden posts via email.

Thanks for all your support and wonderful comments over these past months. I'm so glad I started this companion blog to Farmgirl Fare, as I have really enjoyed sharing information and getting to know you and your gardens. And as we head into the slower pace of autumn, I look forward to catching up on all those things that went on in the garden this summer that I haven't had a chance to write about yet.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #52

The One Year Anniversary 'My Favorite Herb' Edition!

I Heart Homegrown Garlic

It's hard to believe that it's been an entire year since Kalyn put up her first plant post because she didn't have a pet and wanted to join in the weekend fun. What started as a joke between her and Weekend Dog Blogging host Sweetnicks has grown into one of the most popular blogging events around. Food and garden bloggers from all over the world participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, with new people joining in every week. Not only is each weekly recap offer amazing recipes, but it is also chock full of interesting facts and information about practically every kind of herb and edible plant you can imagine. Click here to read the wonderful Year In Review recaps Kalyn has been posting over the past week.

For the one year anniversary, Kalyn has asked everyone to name their favorite herb and then post one of their very best recipes using that herb. Click here to read about this cream of the crop of recipes.

Well, hands down garlic is definitely my very favorite herb. In fact I have been known to say that if a recipe doesn't contain chocolate, then it most likely could do with some garlic. Since garlic figures so much in my cooking (there is even some in the Mexican ground beef that's simmering on the stove as I type this), it wasn't easy to choose one favorite recipe. But this Savory Tomato Pesto Pie, which I created and wrote about this summer on Farmgirl Fare, was not only a big hit with readers, but it also contains my second favorite herb--basil.

So here, once again, is one of my favorite new original recipes, Savory Tomato Pesto Pie. Enjoy!

Worth Turning On The Oven For

Sometimes it is good to be alone in the kitchen. That way, when you pull a pie like this out of the oven and are standing there staring at it cooling on the counter, mesmerized, your mouth watering, stomach rumbling, fingers twitching, you do not have to worry about losing control and getting your hand slapped because you cannot resist it. You can simply tear off a piece of that warm, golden crust with your fingers and pop it into your mouth--and nobody will ever know (because pieces of crust break off all the time). Of course if you end up nibbling off five or six inches of the edge. . . well, you're going to have to come up with a really good explanation as to why it is missing (pets can be quite handy for this). If the pie is just for you, then you will be forced to face the fact that you just gobbled up the very best part off a large portion of your pie.

This recipe (which I created in my head a few days ago and then created in the kitchen the following night) is actually a combination of four things that I love. The first is pizza. The second is homemade pecorino romano crackers (yet another recipe I've been meaning to share for over a year now) which I don't make very often because Joe doesn't care for them. This means it is up to me to eat them all--and I have absolutely no self-control when they are around. I have had entire meals that consisted of nothing but these crackers. The third thing is a similar pie I've made with tomatoes, cheddar cheese and fresh basil using a recipe from a 1998 issue of Country Home magazine. The fourth thing is something I invented on a whim years ago when I had my little bakery cafe in California. It was basically a freeform calzone made with a biscuit-type crust and filled with sliced roma tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and pesto. I called them Pesto Piezones, and each one was about the size of both of my hands put together (with fingers spread apart). I sold them for four dollars apiece, and they were usually all spoken for well before lunchtime. Until the other day I had forgotten all about them.

Now this may look like a pie (and I may even be calling it a pie), but it is really not a pie. So those of you who are afraid of pies can keep on reading. And now I'm going to say this again in a slightly different way because people who are afraid of making pies have often been tricked into making them and then suffered traumatic experiences: This is not a piecrust. It is made with a biscuit dough, but (for those of you who are afraid of making biscuits) it is not made from biscuits. This dough is easy to work with. This pie is quick and easy to make. That--for anyone who is still suspicious--means that this is by no means a difficult culinary endeavor. You can make this pie. Yes, you. And when you do--if you decide to share it--it will most likely make whomever you feed it to immediately smile with delight and love you even more than they already do. And you certainly can't beat that.

Purchased pesto will give you perfectly good results in this recipe, but if you have half an hour to spare and can get your hands on some beautiful fresh basil, by all means make your own. Use your favorite recipe or try my latest version that I created specifically to use in this pie. It is adapted from the Basil Pesto recipe in
The Sonoma Diet book, which I am currently reviewing.

(Since I have no idea if or when I will actually get around to finishing the review, let me just say this: I highly recommend
The Sonoma Diet book for anyone who loves great-tasting, real food that also happens to be good for you--regardless of whether you want to lose weight. The book basically offers a new way of thinking about and appreciating food, and it doesn't involve counting or measuring or scary meal replacements. In my opinion, the "Seasonings" recipe section alone is worth the price of the book. And the Peachy Berry Cobbler came together in minutes and did not taste like diet food.)

The Sonoma Diet pesto recipe caught my eye because it called for pine nuts or almonds. I never put pine nuts in my pesto. I don't particularly care for them, and they are always frightfully expensive. Almonds, however, I like. And compared to pine nuts, they are a bargain. I had never thought of using almonds in pesto and was thrilled with the results. I'm looking forward to enjoying this new pesto in other ways besides in this pie and by the spoonful. (If desired, you can omit the almonds or substitute pine nuts in the recipe.) The tomatoes are my own addition. They give the pesto a whole new flavor while making it thin enough so as to be spreadable. You can save time by making the pesto a day or two ahead. Or you can make the entire pie ahead of time and simply reheat it in the oven. Individual leftover slices can be wrapped in foil and reheated in the oven or toaster oven, although it isn't too bad cold either. If you are very, very gentle, you can heat a slice in the microwave.

What I like most about this recipe is that although the tomatoes are cooked, they manage to maintain their fresh-from-the-garden taste. Yes, I've gone from
Summer In A Bowl to summer in a crust. Be sure to use the meaty plum/roma tomatoes, as other varieties are too juicy. As always, I urge you to seek out the best locally produced and organic ingredients you can find. They will make all the difference in this (and any) recipe. Enjoy.

Farmgirl's Savory Tomato Pesto Pie
Makes One 9-Inch Pie

For The Pesto:
Makes about 1-1/2 cups (you will need 1 cup)
1/2 cup (about 2-1/2 ounces) raw whole almonds (optional)
4 ounces fresh basil leaves (about 4 cups packed, but it's best if you weigh it)
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
4 Tablespoons finely grated pecorino romano cheese
10 ounces tomatoes (about 3 smallish ones), any kind, quartered
1/2 teaspoon nice salt

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil and place them in a 350 degree oven or toaster oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Mix all ingredients, including almonds, in a food processor until thoroughly combined. (You could probably also use a blender--or a gigantic mortar and pestle if you are trying to build up your arm muscles.) Add more salt to taste if necessary. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For The Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use
Heartland Mill organic)
4 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it's fresh!) **
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/ 4 ounces) cold butter
1 cup (about 2-1/2 ounces) finely grated pecorino romano (or other hard cheese)
3/4 cup milk

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the butter using a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until the largest pieces are pea-size. Stir in the pecorino romano. Pour in the milk and use a fork to gently form a soft dough. Do not overmix. Divide the dough in two pieces, making one slightly larger than the other.

On a generously floured surface, use a rolling pin to gently roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches across, rolling from the center outward. Sprinkle dough with flour if sticky. Gently fold the dough in half and transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. If the dough tears, simply press it back together with your fingers. Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a slightly smaller circle and set aside (or wait until you have the filling in the pan and then roll it out).

Assembling The Pie:
1 cup pesto, divided
2-1/2 pounds of the best plum tomatoes you can find, sliced lengthwise into 4 or 5 slices each (I used San Marzanos & Golden Romas to add extra color as well as more flavor)
8 ounces mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced (I used fresh which can't be grated)
1/2 cup (about 1-1/4 ounces) finely grated pecorino romano (or other hard cheese)

Using a spoon, spread 1/2 cup of pesto over the bottom layer of dough in the pie pan. Layer about half of the tomatoes over the pesto. Cover the tomatoes with about 2/3 of the mozzarella. Layer on the rest of the tomatoes (you may not need them all to fill the pan). Carefully spread the remaining 1/2 cup of pesto over the tomatoes. Cover with the remaining mozzarella and the pecorino romano.

Roll out the second piece of dough if you haven't already, and carefully place it over the pie. Fold the edge of the bottom piece over the top piece and press together to seal. Use your fingers to make a crimped design around the edge. If any dough falls apart, simply press it back together with your fingers. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. The handmade look has much more charm. Cut four slits in the top of the pie for steam to escape. Bake at 375 degrees F in the center of the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cover the edge with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Crust edges may be sampled much sooner. (As with nearly any fruit pie, if you cut into it while it is still warm, some juice will seep out. If you plan to store any leftover pie right in the pan, simply drain off the juice so the bottom crust doesn't become soggy.) Or cool pie completely, cover, and refrigerate.

This pie also freezes beautifully. I wrapped a hunk in foil then put it in a zipper freezer bag and tossed it into the freezer. I defrosted the whole piece overnight in the refrigerator, then cut it in half and reheated the slices in my handy little
DeLonghi Convection Oven for 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees, each on a fresh piece of foil and covered lightly with the foil so the tops wouldn't brown too quickly. The bottom crust was a bit soggy, but I'm pretty sure that was because I let the pie sit in the fridge three days before deciding to freeze it. Otherwise it looked and tasted as if it had just come out of the oven the first time. Hint: If you plan to freeze the entire pie and don't want to freeze it in the pan, use a disposable pie pan or line your pan with a piece of heavy duty foil so you can simply lift the whole cooled pie out of the pan.

Other Ideas:
arugula pesto or spinach pesto instead of basil pesto.
--Omit the pecorino romano from the crust, and use cilantro pesto (thinned with salsa, if desired) and jalapeno jack cheese in place of the basil pesto and mozzarella.

**Fresh baking powder is essential to the success of any recipe that calls for it. If your baking powder is more than a couple of months old, toss it out and buy a new container. It will cost you about two dollars, and your homemade baked goods are surely worth much more than that. I buy Rumford brand because it does not contain aluminum and consistently gives me good results.

Entire Contents Copyright 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Recipe: How To Make Homemade Pizza Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes

Easy Cooking with Less Fuss, More Flavor

You made the pizza dough, why not make the sauce, too?

Homemade pizza is one of my favorite things to eat. (Click here for my easy pizza dough recipe.) Throughout most of the year, I make what I call Feels Like Cheating Pizza Sauce. It really is almost too easy. Of course you can't take into consideration all the hard garden labor you put into it months earlier.

First I defrost a plastic freezer container of tomatoes (usually San Marzano or Yellow Plum that have been blanched, peeled, and seeded) that I put up during the previous summer. Then I take a pair of kitchen scissors and snip the whole tomatoes into pieces before pouring the contents (minus some of the liquid) into a heavy saucepan.

I turn the burner on medium, toss in a couple of frozen pesto cubes (also put up the previous summer—you just scoop fresh pesto into ice cube trays and once frozen, transfer them to a zipper freezer bag), then head out to the garden or greenhouse for a handful of fresh oregano. This gets de-stemmed, chopped up, and stirred into the pot. Dried oregano can be used in a pinch.

Bring it all to a boil, then simmer until the desired consistency is reached (I like mine very thick). For years it was done at this point.

But then I bought a KitchenAid hand blander (one of my most useful kitchen purchases ever), and while I still adore the chunky version, I was thrilled to discover the joys of having a smoother, more easily spreadable pizza sauce.

Note Of Caution: Blending up a small amount of tomato sauce is a bit more, um, dangerous—think splashing hot tomato flying about the kitchen—than burying the hand blender in an entire pot of soup, which is probably why they call them immersion blenders.

A regular, counter top blender or a food processor would be a safer option for a less reckless and lazy person.

During tomato season, there's simply no reason to use up your stash of preserved tomatoes when you get a hankering for a homemade pizza—unless you're looking at an almost frighteningly bountiful harvest in the garden and are frantically trying to gobble up everything left over from last year.

Making my fresh pizza sauce takes a little more work than the Feels Like Cheating version, but not much. Chopping the fresh basil and garlic is required, but blanching and peeling the tomatoes is not. That is definitely not my idea of less fuss.

If you chop the tomatoes into fairly small chunks, you'll probably never notice the bits of skin buried under the toppings. And besides, the skin is probably good for you. If you happen to have some pesto handy, you could use a couple of dollops in place of the olive oil, garlic, and basil and save yourself some steps.

The nice thing about this sauce is that you can make it with any kind of tomatoes. Pink, orange, plum, salad, even little cherry tomatoes—it matters not one bit. This is also a great way to use up all of those end of the season 'seconds' hanging around the kitchen and languishing on the vines; the ones that aren't pretty enough to toss into salads or slice up for burgers.

Soft spots, cracks, wrinkles, bug bites, funny little bumps on the skin from who knows what—just cut them off and toss them in the compost bin or give them to the chickens.

A few months ago I read about a farmer who feeds his chickens marigold flowers so that the yolks of their eggs will be very orange. It might be my imagination, but—before the chickens went into non-laying mode a couple of weeks ago—their yolks did seem to be darker after a diet heavy on tomatoes.

Of course perfect tomato specimens can be used as well—and none of the ingredients have to come from your own garden. I'm sure the finished sauce would freeze just fine, though I haven't actually tried it.

Less Fuss, More Flavor Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce
Amounts are entirely a matter of taste

Some nice extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic, coarsely chopped with some nice salt and allowed to sit 10 minutes if possible, so the beneficial compounds have time to mix with the air and become more available
Plenty of vine-ripened, garden fresh tomatoes (preferably heirloom & organically grown), cut into chunks
Fresh basil (at least twice as much as you think seems like the right amount—I measure fresh basil by the handful)
Fresh oregano (more than you're about to put in)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not allow the garlic to brown.

Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks out. Cooking time will depend on the juiciness of the tomatoes.

When there is still some liquid left in the pan, carefully purée the sauce using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor.

If you prefer a smoother sauce with fewer seeds, you can put your cooked sauce through a food mill instead. After lusting after one for years, I finally bought an Oxo Good Grips food mill and love it. It's great for making Homemade Vegetable Tomato Juice and makes the best homemade applesauce.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and continue simmering until desired consistency. Let cool, then spread on pizza dough.

If you're like me and never remember to make the sauce ahead of time, you can transfer it into a heat proof bowl and stick it in the freezer for a little while. Just don't spill it, because it will immediate freeze to whatever it falls on and is practically impossible to clean up.

And there you have it. Homemade pizza sauce so simple, yet so delicious, you'll wonder why you never thought to cook some up before.

Of course, if you're so inclined, you can embellish this basic recipe by adding a personal touch. Perhaps some chopped onion, diced sweet red pepper, grated carrot for sweetness, or a few dried mushrooms. (Pizza sauce is an excellent vehicle for hiding vegetables from finicky eaters.) You could even stir in some chopped fresh mushrooms after you've blended it up.

Just be sure to make enough pizza so that you end up with plenty of leftovers.

My other favorite ways to use fresh tomatoes are here:
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip (and going on factory tours)

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

Growing your own tomatoes? You might find these posts helpful:
9/4/08: How To Freeze Tomatoes the Really Easy Way (and Why I Don't Do Much Canning Anymore) (lots of great comments from other gardeners here)

©, the vine-ripened foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, & photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's Growin' On 9/21/06: How To Keep Your Basil Plants Growing Into Fall

Don't Cut Your Basil Season Short

Volunteer Basil On August 8th
(Those bamboo stakes form a teepee for some pole beans that never popped up.)

Begging To Be Picked Just Over A Month Later

The smaller plants were rootbound seedlings I transplanted shortly after taking the top photo. I find it interesting that the volunteers are so much bigger and healthier. To me, there is nothing better in the garden than a happy volunteer, and basil always seems willing to make a reappearance in mine. Growing basil from seed is easy, and growing volunteers is absolutely effortless, so don't forget to allow some of your plants to bloom and go to seed each year. An added benefit is that the pollinators will love you.

Don't Worry, It'll Grow Back

Realization Of The Day:
I don't think I've ever pulled a live basil plant out of the ground. There's simply no reason to.

About 14 or 15 years ago, when I was still living in northern California, I came upon a vendor at a farmer's market who was selling nothing but basil. He had a long table set up, and on it were several dozen brown paper bags, each holding one entire basil plant that had been uprooted only hours before. They were $1 each, and I remember thinking this guy was brilliant. (And still do.)

But even when I was selling fresh basil to an upscale restaurant a few years back, I still didn't pull up the entire plants when the basil was ready to be picked. Instead I simply snipped off most of the stems and left the stubs in the ground. The plants grew back, and this way I was able to get two or three good harvests over a period of many weeks from just one planting.

So even now, with that crisp feel of autumn in the air, I saw no reason to declare an end to basil season when I did a major harvest the other day--despite the fact that temperatures for the next two nights were predicted to be around 40 degrees F (and heat loving basil will turn black and croak well above freezing). The snipped plants are healthy and happy, and they survived the cold snap just fine tucked under a light blanket. As you can see, I left plenty of leaves on them so they didn't go into some kind of naked shock. Given a few more temperate weeks, these plants should fill out and reward me with more beautiful bounty. And since we're supposed to be having days in the 70s for at least the next week, I think the probability of more basil is very high.

Worst comes to worst? An arctic blast swoops in and kills off my crop. In the meantime, I'm putting in no extra effort except the ten seconds it took to cover and uncover the plants. It may not be a sure thing (because nothing in the garden ever is), but it seems foolish not to make this basil bet.

Pining For Some Pesto Now? Click here for my new favorite recipe.

Coming Up:
Another Less Fuss, More Flavor recipe—Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce.

NOTE: This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging #51, a deliciously informative event based at Kalyn's Kitchen. Food and garden bloggers from around the world participate, and you never know what interesting new edibles you'll discover each Monday in the roundup. Check out the WHB rules if you'd like to join in the fun. And click here to read about next week's Special WHB Event.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What's Growin' On: 9/18/06

Realization Of The Day:
My glorious garden mint is being seriously underutilized in the kitchen. Any suggestions?

Weather, Please Make Up Your Mind!
Saturday we had a record breaking 88 degrees F, and yet tonight and tomorrow night it's supposed to dip down to 40F. These between-season fluctuations always discobulate the heck out of me. I can only wonder what the plants think.

I've harvested most of the basil except for the half dozen plants in the greenhouse, and I'll cover the giant bushes outside that are going to seed as best I can. I was thrilled by all the volunteer basil I ended up with this year--I'd hate to have an early cold snap kill off the plants before the seeds had a chance to mature. I'll be making another big batch of pesto tonight using my new recipe. I plan to put it up in its own little post, but for now you can find it here--it's the same pesto I used in my popular Savory Tomato Pesto Pie.

I took the large shade tarp off the greenhouse last week, so now the scraggly herbs on the north side that were painfully stretching toward what little sun they could reach are getting much more light. They should be upright and smiling soon.

Outside I still need to pick a bunch of Aconcagua sweet peppers that are earmarked for the freezer. There are still various tomatoes are here and there, but pickings are getting slim. I know I complained a bit about a tomato glut a while back, but that was because the majority of slicing/salad tomatoes, like the VFNs and the Arkansas Travelers (as opposed to the plum tomatoes I freeze for use during the winter and spring), all seemed to ripen at once. I picked my first tomato way back on July 9th (and a lovely birthday present it was), but suddenly it seems like this year's tomato season only lasted a couple of weeks.

I'll also be tossing old sheets over the squash plants and of course the late planting of Straight 'N' Narrow beans that are finally putting on some bounty--neither of them will like these cold temps. Whatever sheets are left will go over the tomato plants that are still producing, along with anything else that is a cold weather wimp. All the new fall green seedlings should be just fine. Some, like the Nero di Toscana Cat Cabbage, taste even better after a frost (not that I'm hoping for a frost anytime soon--not yet, please!)

Gee, it sounds like I need to get my tail out to the garden and get busy.

Out Of My Inbox:
A is For Apple, C Is For Cookbook, F Is For Foodie--and Free!

Belly DuJour, a free twice-weekly email newsletter, is "the definitive insider source for epicureans, gourmands, foodies, gastronomes, bon vivants, hedonists, gluttons, and all-around eating enthusiasts seeking delectable specialty foods."

The fortunate foodies at Belly DuJour act as our "own personal tasters and forage through the country’s gourmet offerings and report back with bite-sized reviews on the ultimate farmstead cheeses, single-origin chocolates, aged vinegars, handcrafted sausages, wild mushrooms, artisanal ice creams, and other mouthwatering delicacies—all of which can be ordered online or found at your local market. Additionally, we focus on the unique people, farms, restaurants, and companies behind these products—the artisans, farmers, chefs, and dedicated producers who labor to bring deliciousness to our collective table." How cool is that?

Their latest Bite is called "Apples Of Our Eye" and offers everything from interesting apple facts (I had no idea that apples give off a gas that ripens fruits and harms leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables) to a link to a free downloadable cookbook by Chef/Owner Scott Carsberg of Lampreia Restaurant ("for those who want simple, seasonal cuisine") in Seattle, Washington.

All About Apples is the first cookbook from Publishing. It includes 100 pages and 291 beautiful photos. The book comes in Adobe's Acrobat (.pdf) format and is readable on almost any home computer (Windows and Mac) using Adobe's Reader software (which you can download here). So click here to take a look and decide if you would like this book!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What's Growin' On: 9/16/06

Sedum Autumn Joy

Realization Of The Day:
After several minutes of closely scrutinizing the mysterious squash plants in the garden this morning, I have changed my mind about them once again. Yep, less than twenty four hours after writing about them. I saw tendrils. I saw leaves nearly 12 inches across. I am now thinking gourd. I am also thinking that I need a break from these blasted garden mysteries (oh yes, there's still more than one squash mystery to solve), so I am going to spend the rest of the day admiring something that I can positively identify instead--my Sedum Autumn Joy. (And if that isn't what it really is, please don't tell me until tomorrow.)

Realization #2:
Rats. I just remembered the pot of Sedum Autumn Joy has a mystery plant growing alongside it. What is it with me and purchased plants? I almost never buy them, and when I do, they all come with weird companions. There was the ajuga that arrived with the lovely pink flowering unidentified perennials, the strawberry plant that looked very wrong and turned out to be (thanks to all of your help) a dreaded wild violet (which, I just realized, is still in the strawberry bed, forgotten once it became obliterated by weeds), and then the Sedum sidekick. Oh well, who am I to knock free plants--even if they are weird.

Out Of My Inbox: Discounted Daylilies
Gardens Alive!, a company that sells "environmentally friendly products that work" (you can read what I recently wrote about them here--just scroll down), is offering a special "Winner's Circle" collection of 10 daylilies for only $19.95 (which is 68% off the regular price). They say that "daylilies are one of the easiest to grow of all hardy flowers. Plant them once-that’s all there is to it. They grow with little care… reproduce annually… are immune to pests and diseases… yet they bloom with spectacular beauty week after week, year after year." Click here to read descriptions of each of the daylilies in the collection or to place an order. The offer is good through September 28th, or until supplies last. (Note: if you do decide to order them, you might need to enter Offer Keycode: 143025 in the keycode box in your online shopping cart.)

We actually have a few ancient daylilies in the yard, and I can attest to the fact that they do indeed grow with little care (and that they can miraculously survive years of being ravaged by moles, mole-digging dogs, ravenous baby lambs, and a Lawn Mowing Guy who doesn't differentiate between grass and everything else in the vicinity). I don't think I have the courage to order an entire collection of plants right now, though. I can only imagine what else might show up in the box with them.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What's Growin' On: 9/15/06

They Look Like Squash Plants

But Not Like Any Squash Plants I Can Recall Ever Seeing

Realization Of The Day:
I think 2006 is going to go down in history as (besides The Year Of Cary Laying Waste To The Garden) The Year Of Mysterious Plants. Looks like I've got yet another one.

I recently mentioned that some volunteer cucumber plants were coming up in one of the newly planted raised beds the dogs decided to dig up and destroy (obviously for my own--but unknown--good, as Finny Knits, who so totally takes the animal's side in these matters, has assured me). Then I amended my statement because the little seedlings were beginning to look like squash plants rather than cucumbers (hey, a lot of those first leaves look alike). No problem. I love squash, and if you've been reading about my garden for very long, you know that there is a dire (and really pathetic) shortage of it here.

But now I'm just (once again) a teensy bit worried. These squash plants are very, very happy and are practically growing by the hour. They're surviving nights around 50F just fine, and I haven't seen a single squash bug on them! All good news, yes. The only thing is, well, they look weird. Really weird. As in, I don't know if I can handle another mysterious plant in the garden this year weird. Of course if the weather continues to cool down at night, I may not have to worry about it as they will self-destruct. In the meantime, a proper identification sure would be nice.

A few years ago I did successfully grow some lemon squash (which I used--along with my faithful Aconcagua peppers--to make my Simple Summer Harvest Soup, as well as the Autumn Version), and although I don't remember exactly what the plants looked like, they may have resembled these, with the flower buds popping out all the way up the stalks. I just came back in from a very close inspection and did discover the teeniest, tiniest yellow squash you've ever seen on one of the plants, which could possibly someday turn into a full grown lemon squash. At least right now it's the correct shape.

The thing is, though, that the lemon squash from a couple of years ago grew in a raised bed all the way on the other side of the garden. And even if, say, some seeds ended up in the compost bin, why would they suddenly decide to sprout now? (I didn't recently spread any new compost in this bed.)

So this brings me back to the unlikely explanation I made in a previos post--that the dogs felt so bad about digging up all my newly sprouted fall greens that they planted some squash for me instead. Now I am thinking this may not have been as preposterous as it seemed at the time. Perhaps the seeds were actually hiding several inches down in the soil, and only the canine excavation brought them up to sprouting level?

It's the only thing I can come up with at the moment. But you can be sure I'll be watching these plants closely for any signs of suddenly transforming into something else entirely--or, more hopefully, putting forth some edible bounty. Squash, cucumbers, whatever. As long as I can eat it, I won't complain. Of course it is always nice to know what you're eating.

Miscellaneous: Seeds (that I actually planted) are popping up all over!
--About half of the Oriental Greens seeds I sowed on September 4th have sprouted already.
--The beet and chard seeds I planted in the spots where the dogs had obliterated the original plantings are also poking out.
--Various stray seedlings that escaped dog destruction are doing well: a few Nero di Toscana (or Cat) Cabbage, a few Red Russian Kale, and a surprising number of rapidly growing Escarole plants.
--Lots of tiny lettuce seedlings are slowly covering the mini-greenhouse bed. But considering I literally sowed about 5,000 seeds, I was expecting more of a showing than what's come up so far. And of course I have no idea what varieties sprouted and what didn't since I raked them all together when I sowed them. At this point, though, I'll happily munch on any lettuce that will grow!

From Garden To Table:
--I did recently harvest three of the Summer Straightneck Squash (that were supposed to be Golden Zucchini) and cooked them up in my Less Fuss, More Flavor manner by simply slicing them into rounds, sauteing them in some nice olive oil, and flavoring them with nothing more than a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Delish! I think there are a few more babies out on the vines, and I am looking forward to hopefully harvesting them soon. No sign of any actual zucchini on any of the palnts--golden or black.
--I am thrilled to report that my salad bowl is once again full of the dark, tasty, incredibly good-for-you greens that I love so much: baby Nero Cat Cabbage, baby Red Russian Kale, baby Purple Kohlrabi leaves, Escarole, Yellow Chard (from the greenhouse), baby Arugula (greenhouse), and baby beet greens (though some are actually red). And in a week or so, some of those Oriental Greens should be big enough to start sampling.

I am not, however, thrilled to report that yesterday I spotted two large deer ambling toward the garden at five o'clock sharp--dinner time! I spied them through the back window and could practically see the cartoon bubbles floating above their heads: "Hey look! She planted fall greens!" and "Oooh, I love them when they're so young and tender!"

I grabbed my camera (I know, I know, I should have grabbed the gun) and--smart and stealthy farmgirl that I am--sneaked out the front door and then slinked around the house, camera on, ready to shoot. Damn! Spotted! They casually bounded away, flashing me with their big white tails. When I later reported the incident to Joe, I told him that I'd been this close to having a clear shot before they spotted me and took off.

"They can see you moving inside the house, you know."

"Well, if that's true, they don't seem to be scared of me when I'm in the house. They didn't run away until I was outside."

"That's because they know that almost nobody will shoot at them through a closed window."

Catching Up:
I'm still behind responding to your wonderful comments, questions, and emails. Please bear with me, and thanks for your patience. I'd start catching up right now, but it's well past 5pm, and I think I'd better go see if anyone is outside munching on my dinner. I'm sure you understand.