Kitty was found, then lost, and found again, and now she is back to being an indoor cat only, which she isn’t too happy about. I think she is especially cranky since we added a new family member — Chloe, a 3 year old female boxer — to the mix. Chloe, on the other hand, is super sweet. Munchkie likes to lay on her, pull on her jowls and hug her, and Chloe doesn’t even budge when she does it. We got her from a family with three kids that was moving out of state, and needed to rehome her. They had only had her for 10 or so months, and I am not really sure what kind of home she had been in prior to that, but she is really well behanved, listens, and great with kids. She also doesn’t really seem to care about Kitty (her previous owners had a cat too), although Kitty hisses and tries to scratch her if she gets too close. I have ordered some calming products for both cat and dog in the hopes that this will help them to get closer to each other.

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Other than that, not much is new. I am 24 weeks along right now and have been completely over the morning sickness for a while now, although I am enjoying things like an overly relaxed pelvis instead that makes it painful to walk, stand, roll over in bed, climb stairs and other basic things like that. Other than that, things are going well.

Summer is in full force over here. We went camping last weekend at Honeyman Park, which was fun. It is located on a peninsula surrounded by lakes, forest, and amazing, long, white sand dunes. We came back to the city to unbelievable 107F/42C degree weather, which makes being pregnant almost unbareable. My garden is loving the heat though, and I have already picked a few batches of yummy ripe cherry tomatoes.

Yesterday I also picked sweet, tree ripened figs off of our own tree, and the apples look like they are coming along nicely too. The pear tree is sporting just one single lonely pear, and the plum tree is completely bare, but I assume it’s because they were planted last spring and are still young and getting established.

Our CSA is in full force as well. Yesterday we got a fabulous bin full of fresh, local veggies. It’s actually gettinga bit difficult to keep up with all the veggies they are sending us, but there are always some yummy recipes on their blog. I think I will try the Squash Cookie recipe and use up the over abundance of zucchini in my fridge right now.

Squash Cookies
From Donald Kotler, Owner of Toast Restaurant
Provided for Zenger Farm Cooking Camp

¾ cup flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter (soft)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of ½ an orange
1 cup grated summer squash
Add chocolate chips, nuts, or raisins if desired

Preheat oven to 375?F. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and orange zest and mix until evenly combined. Add grated squash and mix. Then add chocolate chips, nuts, and/or raisins if desired. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. For best results remove cookies from tray to a wire rack for cooling. Enjoy with a glass of milk!

Gardening is hard work– emotionally, more so than physically, for me at least. You invest so much energy and time and love, getting these little seeds to sprout and grow… and then the heat comes and your lettuce and broccoli and chard bolts practically overnight, becoming bitter and inedible. You nurture your onions– water, weed, and add lovingly add compost… and then your chickens decide to trample and dust bathe on top of them! And eat all your cabbage sprouts and carrot tops, and digging up your blueberry plants’ roots.

And then… then you take a workshop, and realize the weed cloth you thought you so cleverly added underneath your vegetable boxes to prevent weeds from growing into the veggies is actually preventing your tomatoes from rooting deeply like they like to do. Mystery of the stunted tomato plants solved!

So you, on a whim, decide to pull everything out as gently as you can, remove all the weed cloth and replant your tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and a 6 foot tall mammoth sunflower (does this equate a momentary bout of insanity??) hoping that this will help them mature before summer is over….

It’s all very disheartening to realize that I basically have no clue about any of this gardening business… but at least I can say I am learning, right? And maybe next year will be better and easier?

I am going to plant some winter crops and just see what happens. I have some nice organic fingerling potatoes that are sprouting in my pantry– those should be good to go. I am not sure exactly how to grow potatoes, but I know we don’t have enough room in the ground, so I am thinking of doing the bag (or possibly more attractive barrel) method. Should make harvesting (if we get that far) easy at the very least!

Yesterday was our monthly Thundering Hooves drop. I had been up the night before till 1:30 am or so compiling an order of over 1,000 lbs of organic produce for Portland Green Parenting, and completely forgotten about the scheduled 9 AM meat drop. When someone knocked at my door, I didn’t even know what day it was– I was completely asleep and just out of it. Luckily, everything went well and we got quite a bit of nice, grass fed meat for Dan. I know I promised a review, and I am happy to say that Dan was very pleased with the quality of this meat. I’m a quasi-vegetarian (I do eat sea food), so what do I know? But he tells me the meat is fresh, tender, and nicely cut. For our 2nd order, he ordered everything below, except for the marrow bones that I got for making that nice and rich stock that I have been wanting to make for a few months now…

Marrow/Soup Bones $3.80
Beef Sampler Pack $19.00
Ground Beef 6 x $3.99 = $23.94
Hickory Smoked Bacon $6.99
Spicy Italian Sausage $8.99
Rib Steaks $27.29

Today was our biweekly Azure drop. The drop was quite large this time, with almost 2 dozen invoices and enough boxes to take up one entire side of our front porch. The drop is growing, but I am barely ordering anything from them since we are still so well stocked, squirrel syndrome style. I only bought:

Jack, Raw, Jalapeno cheese 5 lbs $26.55
POTATO Chips Lt. Salt (KING SIZE) 3 x 16 ozs. $6.67
Coconut Juice with Lime 36 x 17.5 ozs. $42.30
Total: $75.52

Tomorrow is our OGC produce drop. I ordered over 1,000 lbs of produce for about 30 families. I should really take photos tomorrow to post of the craziness that is produce day…

Other than being busy with all of that, I have also started anew with my demolished-by-our-chickens garden boxes. It’s amazing how much damage 5 heavy breeds can do. They ate absolutely everything except my tomato plants, and those were spared probably just because they don’t have any fruit yet. They also dust bathed on top of my onions, and under my blueberry bushes, exposing the roots of the plants. So aggravating!

I finally just had it with the destruction, and bought a Scarecrow Sprinkler (haha, yes I am evil) to keep them out, and have started replanting. I think it’s late enough in the season to plant winter veggies, but I am not sure since I have never really gardened before. Regardless, I bought some compost and winter veggie seeds today at the nursery, and will plant some more in the next few days. I am excited for the upcoming gardening workshop taught by Toree and Kendra of the Urban Farm School. There are still a couple of spots open, if you are interested in learning how to extend your harvest season.

Speaking of harvests (and I hate to admit it), but we can’t keep up with our CSA. Mainly, we are drowning in lettuce, but we are also getting enormous amounts of fennel that I have no idea what to do with… next year, we need to either split our share with another family, or simply plant more and grow our own food. Anyway, I made this recipe for lunch tomorrow:

Beet, Carrot & Fennel Slaw

3 beets (about 1 pound), peeled and coarsely shredded
3 large carrots (about 3/4 pound), coarsely shredded
1 fennel bulb, coarsely shredded
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons sesame seeds, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation

Toss carrots, beets and fennel in a large bowl. Whisk together brown sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Add salt and pepper. Pour dressing over vegetables, and toss until well coated. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sesame seeds.

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Munchkie loved this slaw, and when it was all gone, she wanted to drink the dressing from the bowl and said, “Yumm, salad juice!”

I harvested all our fingerling carrots today because I noticed they were getting less sweet.

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I didn’t thin them when they started sprouting, so some of them grew funny– twisting and wrapping around each other. This particular pair was Zoe and Munchkie’s favorite. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, Munchkie prefers to be naked around the house and in the yard. She is completely dry now, both during the day and night. It’s awesome!)

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Azure $130.65 (local distributor)

Alden’s Chocolate Choc Chip Ice Cream 6 x 48 ozs. $20.00
Alden’s Cookies ‘n Cream Ice Cream, Org 6 x 48 ozs. $20.00
Alden’s Chocolate Mint Chip Ice Cream, O 3 x 48 ozs. $10.00
FFL 7-Sprouted Grain English Muffins,Org CASE of 12 $26.00
SB Pimento Stuffed Olives 12 x 5 ozs. $26.60
M.O. Whole Capers, Organic 3.5 ozs. $3.00
Spectrum Balsamic Vinegar, Organic 3 x 16.9 ozs. $15.83
Spectrum Canola Mayonnaise 12 x 32 ozs. $51.60
Lundberg Wild Rice Blend 5 lbs. $9.32

Raw Cane Juice Crystals 10 lbs. $12.00 (Cafe Mam, local coffee roaster)
Dairy $28.00 (local, farm direct raw milk)
Produce $140 (local, farm direct prepaid CSA share)
Chickens $39.13 (local, farm direct Deo Volente)
Beef $19.00 (local, farm direct Thundering Hooves)
TOTAL: $368.78

OK, OK, so we eat an obscene amount of ice cream…

…but other than that, I love seeing our budget shrinking. We have canceled Organics to You because we get to eat the excess fruit from Organically Grown Company (which I pay for with my labor taking orders and assembling bins for the families in Portland Green Parenting). We have also canceled Noris by default because forgetful me didn’t put a check out 2 weeks in a row.

Also, our garden has been producing greens like crazy, which is nice! I don’t quite know how to figure in the cost of our garden (especially the loss of all my seeds due to eaving them outside to get ruined in the rain– did I mention I am forgetful?), and I have not kept track of restaurants this month either, so my accouting is not perfect, but all in all, I am very pleased to see this month’s out of pocket spendings under $250!

Speaking of our garden, today I harvested a bunch of green and rainbow chard and sauteed them in lots of delicious Noris butter with some garlic scapes and broccoli florets from our CSA share. For dinner, we went to our friends’ place for Dinner Club (a wonderful new tradition that a few of the PGP families started) and I brought a huge green salad with lettuce from our garden, and spinach, mizuna and fennel from our CSA share that went well with the homemade flat bread, dips, and veggie pie that were served. Yumm!

We are not there 100% yet, but eating mostly organic and so much more locally than before really feels great. I am loving learning about the business of produce by reading the weekly reports put out by Organically Grown Company, and just starting to feel more in touch with the seasons. I am also loving getting dairy, chickens, beef, and produce farm direct as much as possible, cutting out the middlemen and of course cutting way way down on food miles. It feels good to know who I am supporting and where my food comes from. I am also starting to think that my initial idea when I set out on this crazy ‘no more grocery store shopping’ mission to only buy dry goods/staples twice a year was not such a bad one. It’s been very liberating to not have to depend on the grocery store and to learn how to make food with what I have on hand. It’ll be interesting to make it through this 1st experimental year, and be able to look back and see where I went wrong and what I did right… no matter what, so far I am enjoying the experience!

Here is a long overdue update on how our backyard is doing. You may want to compare this photo collage to a similar one I compiled just a few months ago…

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Our ecolawn has come in very nicely, and is starting to look like it needs a serious mowing.

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Our fig tree looks like it will produce nicely this summer.

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Our kiwi vine is growing and even sprouting little kiwi buds.

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At least 1 out of my 4 garden boxes is doing very well… we are getting radishes and lettuce galore!

 

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…and our chickens are happy being allowed back out into the yard!

Yesterday I picked my first harvest from my very own veggie garden– French breakfast radishes!

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I cut them up and tossed them into a yummy salad I made with lettuces from our CSA share, avocados from our delivery last week, sunflower seeds from Azure, and a tangy yogurt-lemon dressing made with Noris plain whole yogurt, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon, and a teaspoon local honey. Yumm!!

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These avocados were amazing! Each one was perfect and so buttery!

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I can’t remember where I first heard about upside down tomato plants, but somewhere I saw the Topsy Turvy Planter. I have no idea if the tomato plants they grow are a special variety that does well upside down, but I decided to try it myself with 4 different varieties of organic tomatoes!

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I bought 4 hanging planters with coconut fiber liners, cut an X shape into the bottom and planted my tomato seedlings upside down. I planted some Nasturtium as a companion species on top– I hope they are shallow rooted and won’t interfere with the tomato plant’s root system. I think it will look pretty cool!

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And doesn’t the neighbor’s hedge look so much better behind our beautiful, brand new fence? Thanks Dan!

Except this time we brought in 4 cubic yards of composted cow manure to till into the ground to try to break up the hard compacted clay that masquerades as soil in our yard. Back breaking labor, but I think it worked– thank you Dan!!

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As excited as I was about planting Stepables as an alternative ground cover, I made a gross miscalculation and underestimated the cost by about $2,500!!! So instead, after seeing an eco-lawn at Metro’s Demonstration Garden, which I thought looked really pretty and reminded me of a flowering meadow, and reading some of the research articles by Tom Cook at Oregon State University in Corvallis, we have decided to seed our own low maintenance, self fertilizing, little water requiring eco-lawn like the Fleur de Lawn or Envirolawn, described below. I think we will like this solution, and I know our pocket book will as well since less than $30 will cover 750-1,000 sq ft.

Blended from a hardy, low-growing fescue, rich-green ryegrass and nitrogen-fixing clover, this new lawn alternative eliminates the high-maintenance requirements of a conventional grass lawn while it maintains an attractive, always green, low-growing landscape. Sprinkled with annual and perennial flowers for extra color, Enviro-Lawn is ideal for golf course roughs and low-maintenance areas around office parks, cemeteries and parks. Enviro-Lawn establishes quickly and provides an excellent, easy-care ground cover. it requires little or no fertilization, infrequent mowing and minimal watering even in the dry season. With maintenance costs soaring and water usage being limited, Enviro-Lawn is your ideal solution. The savings in time, effort and water will add up quickly.

I can’t wait to see what this will look like. Here is what Tom Cook has to say,

These lawns do look different! They are not intended to produce perfect green lawns. People who understand this seem to like their lawns. Folks who heard this is the latest miracle and try it without researching it first, generally are disappointed and replace their lawn in one to two years. People who want green lawns that don’t grow and never need water should have their heads examined. They will never be happy with this lawn or any other lawn. I generally encourage them to buy a condominium.

Ha!

The weather was gorgeous today, so I spent most of the day in the yard planting my first veggie box while the kids played in the mud with the water hose and our henny-pennies got to free range and catch some bugs and slugs. I planted 2 square feet each of rainbow Swiss chard, New Zealand spinach, onions, carrots, French breakfast radishes, broccoli raab, and some lettuce mix. Now we just sit and wait and hope the birds don’t eat the seeds and the neighborhood feral cat doesn’t crap in my boxes again. I also have seeds for tomatoes, mustard greens, cabbage, arugula, mesclun salad, kale, lotsof herbs, scallions, and my favorite flower — the mammoth sunflower, which I will probably plant on the strip of grass by the street along with some wild flower seeds I have. I just love how ridiculously huge they get!

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The wee one had a lot of fun trying to pet the chickens.
I tried to take some photos, but apparently I must have had some weird setting (tungsten instead of daylight, I think),
so the photos came out blue. Sorry about that.