Buon Dia!

Orion is hiding behind this very bright moon.

Orion is hiding behind this very bright moon. It looks like a pinprick of light in this picture, but this moon lit up my bedroom last night.

Biscuit tree’d something at about 4am, and so began my day.  The moon was very bright, the creatures were restless, me too.

I snapped a picture of the moon at about 5:30, and another about 10 minutes later.

The same moon, same sky, about 10 minutes later.

The same moon, same sky, about 10 minutes later.

 

And there’s the proof – time flies. The sun is like our taskmaster - get up, get up! Things to do! I remember how The Duke used to like to say, “We’re burnin’ daylight!” How true!

So, as soon as I got my head on, I realized this was a good opportunity to get the bread done early. Nothing says “Hello There!” like a festering pot of dough.

You'll have to take my word for it when I tell you, this smells so good, like a fresh loaf of bread.

You’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you, this smells so good, like a fresh loaf of bread.

The starter is already excited this time of year, cause the kitchen is already warm. Add yeast, warm water and more flour, and you get a happy little mound.

A new beginning.

A new beginning.

 

And now I can have my smoothie and sit down to read the paper for an hour while that sits in a pot getting even bigger.

A piece of frozen banana, a frozen peach from our trees, one of my husband's weird little melons, and a nectarine I got pretty cheap at Safeway - Buon giorno!

A piece of frozen banana, a frozen peach from our trees, one of my husband’s weird little melons, and a nectarine I got pretty cheap at Safeway – Buon Dia!

 

Look how excited that dough gets in the pot.

Get back Loretto!

Get back Loretto!

 

Time to turn on the oven, while there’s still a cool breeze blowing in the windows. I already forgot what I read in the newspaper, same old hard scrabble, lots of phony promises – the more things Change!, the more they stay the same.  Meet the new boss, and all that.

Every loaf is like another day - somehow different, but somehow the same.

Every loaf is like another day – somehow the same, but somehow, very different.

 

Well, off and running.

 

 

 

Growing pains

Toss some almonds and a few cloves of garlic with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, spread then out on a baking sheet and leave them in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Toss some almonds and a few cloves of garlic with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a dash of salt, spread then out on a baking sheet and leave them in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

 

Yeah, Summer’s on the way out. You’ll notice the days are shorter, quite noticeably, and the hot part of the day doesn’t sink in as good or last as long. The mornings are more pleasant, time to get some cooking done early.

This morning I realized I need to hurry up and eat the rest of the nuts I have from last year, the new crop is coming in fast. I roasted a cup or so with garlic, oil and salt, and I’ll dry roast the rest (20 minutes on 200). The garlic will add a good zap to my salads, the nuts are nice for a snack or also chopped up on salad. 

My kids are grown up, the last of my wee biddies is scheduled to leave the nest in a few days. Instead of getting drunk and listening to a loop tape of “Simple Man”, I  have to rethink the way I do things. I realized, I don’t need a gallon of milk anymore, I don’t need to cook big batches of so many things. There won’t be so much laundry, the dishwasher won’t fill up so fast – after all these years feeling like Wishbone on Rawhide, I’m not sure what I will find to fill up all the extra hours.

We'll be getting more meals out of a tri-tip now that my son is headed off to college. Here's one of my faves -  tri-tip and beans on a homemade corn tortilla. This time we fried it in oil instead of dry, makes it crispy around the edges.

We’ll be getting more meals out of a tri-tip now that my son is headed off to college. Here’s one of my faves – tri-tip and beans on a homemade corn tortilla. This time we fried the tortilla in oil instead of dry, makes it crispy.

 

It’s been a lazy Summer, compared to school time anyway. I’ve almost got over the compulsion to wake my son early – DON’T BE LATE! GET UP AND EAT! It’s been nice this last month, we’ve been doing things my son wanted to do before he set out on his own. Alone away from home the first time – I know he is both excited and a little anxious, at different times. Several of his friends have already been off to their first year away from home, others have been with him at Butte College, and plan to stay here. Some of those who went off have been woefully disappointed and come home, glad to be here. Others have adapted. We’ve watched the other parents go through their stresses, and now we send ours off with all their best wishes. It’s good to have co-parents. 

I don’t want to have a big empty nest, so my husband and I are downsizing. I’ll keep you posted. 

 

 

 

I’m like a cactus – if you handle me the wrong way, I’ll stick ya!

This is something I think about all winter - a tomato and cucumber sandwich fresh out of the garden.

This is something I think about all winter – a tomato and cucumber sandwich fresh out of the garden.  It’s even better on my own bread. 

Nothing puts a shine on my day like a tomato and cucumber sandwich.  Now that I know how to make my own bread, it’s just scrump-dilly-umptious. Lather on that mayonnaise Honey, you only live once.

Home gardening might not save that much money – not with water prices – but it’s a healthy lifestyle that gets you out in the sunshine and gives you simple, whole foods. My family never thought twice about gardening – of course you garden, otherwise your children might grow up thinking food  comes from the  grocery store.

Food grows out of the ground, you just have to know what is edible and how to eat it.  One weird food you might not believe you can eat is the young leaves of the Nopal cactus,  found throughout Mexico, and wherever Mexicans go, they seem to take it with them. And like Mexicans, it’s a tough and thrives on hardship. There are huge stands along driveways and next to pump houses all around the Woodland area. It didn’t get there by itself, but once it was planted, there was no stopping it. These are tough plants, they might wither and look sad in times of long drought, but as soon as they get a drop of water they are growing like nobody’s business.

I found mine next to my mother’s door after she died. I had to sell her house, and the cactus was thorny and threatening. I was afraid of it – I’ve had spines in my skin, one caused an infection and had to be lanced with a razor blade. So one day I put my gloves on and got a big plastic garbage bag and I just ripped it out of the ground. 

I didn’t know what to do with it – at that time I felt I had to hold on to everything that had belonged to my mother as for dear life. I missed her and I still do. I kept stupid little things, things I take out and handle often to remember her. The cactus went into a plastic pot, and we toted it in that pot as we moved from one house to another over the next few years, fixing up old junkers and putting them on the rental market, then moving on to the next junker.

When I got here, I decided, time to quit moving into junkers. This is the junker I decided to stay in. The cactus had become so big, it was top heavy in the pot, so I picked out a good sunny spot, and I dug a little garden. It’s a good thing I cleared a good big spot because there turned out to be three separate plants in that pot by the time I got it out of there.

This is the "mother plant," the biggest one in the pot. To me it looks like the Virgin of Guadalupe, but you might not get that out of the picture.

This is the “mother plant,” the biggest one in the pot. To me it looks like the Virgin of Guadalupe, but you might not get that out of the picture.

I set the biggest plant in the middle, and flanked it with the other smaller plants. Wow, once they were in the ground, they went to town. 

These are three new leaves, but they're probably too old to eat now. You're supposed to get them when they're about half as big.

These are three new leaves, but they’re probably too old to eat now. You’re supposed to get them when they’re about half as big.

 

My plants have never put off the little “prickly pear,” a neat little round red fruit. It’s more popular to eat than the leaves, here’s a post a friend of mine did recently:

http://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/cactus-apple-jelly-and-jam/

These growing here at the base of the bigger plant are leaves that I thought had died in the freeze last year. I had thrown them in my compost pile, and later in the year I found they were growing, so fished them out and laid them on the ground, where they have just kept growing into this little mess of cactus.

These growing here at the base of the bigger plant are leaves that I thought had died in the freeze last year. I had thrown them in my compost pile, and later in the year I found they were growing, so fished them out and laid them on the ground, where they have just kept growing.  The upright leaves have all grown since I laid the old shriveled leaves on the ground. They’re not even planted.

 

I have to remind myself, this plant has tricky spines that will really bug the heck out of you if you get them in your skin.  I put them in an out of the way spot, off the main path. I also found out, the cuttings, no matter how dead they look, are still very much alive – don’t put them in your compost bin. These are a plant that you need to keep control of, don’t let it spread somewhere you don’t want it, or you’ll have to glove up and deal with it. 

 

 

Back to the garden

Here's a little baby loofah.

Here’s a little baby loofah.

 

Life has been berry, berry good to me. I notice, just when I thought the garden was about to hang out the old “Gone Fishin'” sign, there’s all these baby loofah’s starting to develop.  They look like zucchini. I hope I get several more nice ones, I’m already enjoying the first one for a good scrub.

I'm sorry I didn't get the flowers before they withered with the first morning sun. They open at night. There have been a lot of gorgeous, way tropical looking flowers, but only a few have developed the little "washrag gourds."

I’m sorry I didn’t get the flowers before they withered with the first morning sun. They open at night. There have been a lot of gorgeous, way tropical looking flowers, but only a few have developed the little “washrag gourds.”

 

The garden has gotten so overgrown, it’s like a safari into the deepest jungle when we go in to scavenge fruit. There aren’t many tomatoes left – well, lots of these yellow cherries still, you just can’t stop them.

These yellow cherries were the big producers this year, and they're still going strong. They make fantastic salsa.

These yellow cherries were the big producers this year, and they’re still going strong. They make fantastic salsa.

We been getting nice cucumbers, and some sweet bell peppers.

Add these to the salsa, or grill them with your meat.

Add these to the salsa, or grill them with your meat. Or try some pickled peppers with sugar and vinegar.

The biggest surprise this year was the melons, I never thought we could give them enough water to amount to anything, but we’ve got three wonderful varieties. The first two had a less sweet, more mellow, “adult” taste, very wet and cool. They added body to my smoothies. But the third is sugary sweet, tastes like cantaloupe.

This is a pear melon - it had a very distinct pear shape before I cut it.

This is a pear melon.

The squash vines were looking saggy but now they're starting to have little squashes again.

The squash vines were looking saggy but now they’re starting to have little squashes again.

I could eat these every day.

I could eat these every day.

We got a lot of Indian corn, the big variety, very pretty. This is the variety used to make corn flour, maybe I’ll try it. 

Even this little one was full of colorful kernels.

Even this little one was full of colorful kernels.

These are good for grinding into cornmeal. I can't use my flour mill, but if we grow enough of these next year, I might consider getting a corn mill.

Red, red, I like red. 

The other morning my husband and I walked out to the garden to find a row of stubs where there had formerly been a row of gorgeous sunflower heads. Squirrels! Now I know why Donald Duck hated those little varmints. They gnaw through the stem and run off with the head, leaving a little trail of seeds and bits. I like squirrels, I just don’t remember when we’ve had such a pack of hungry ones. 

These are some of the only sunflower heads we have left after a particularly brutal raid from our squirrels.

These are some of the only sunflower heads we have left after a particularly brutal raid from our squirrel neighbors.

We got a few of these nice gourds this year.  They'll make nice Halloween decorations.

We got a few of these nice gourds this year.

 

The garden is a good place to gather my thoughts. It’s cool beneath the canopy of leaves and vines. The dry cornstalks rustle with the slightest breeze, smells like late Summer.  The bees are humming in the flowers, a Tiger Swallowtail comes fluttering through every now and then, and the blue jays are squawking and cavorting in the sprinklers. A finch eats big mouthfuls of a sunflower head. Suddenly I realize, the squirrels aren’t the only ones predating on the garden – the finches eat the young sunflower heads when they can, and come back later for the seeds of the heads that make it to maturity. 

Me and my homies. 

 

Dog Days – that’s when people and dogs go crazy!

I think Fall is getting her foot in the door.   My lawns have been covered with oak and sycamore leaves for a couple of weeks now. We’ve swept our roofs and cleaned our gutters a couple of times this month, chock full of junk. The sky is slowly changing color behind these clouds we’ve been getting, the sun has made is circuit over to my neighbors house, and now it seems to be swinging back toward my front yard. 

It’s darker when I get up in the morning, and that’s okay, because today I got outside in time to see Orion the Hunter mount the sky.   Betelgeuse is fairly bright, even in the presence of that intense moon we’ve been seeing lately. 

And, you know what that means – Dog Days. I’m with Cicely Tyson – that’s when people and dogs go crazy.  We have a pack of slobbering hounds running for city council, that’s for sure. We have a pack of wolves running our police department, and manger dogs in our city staff. Snarling curs. 

I’m watching my behind, that’s for sure.

Juanita Sumner – Loofah Rancher

Here's that little loofa I pictured earlier this spring, all grown up, dried out, and ready to take a hot shower.

Here’s that little loofa I pictured earlier this spring, all grown up, dried out, and ready to take a hot shower.  It’s full of little black seeds for next year.

 

The big news out of the garden this year is, we got a really good loofah. Yeah – one.  We don’t have the best luck with these, we figure one good one is pretty WOW!  It’s a good size specimen, about as big as you’d buy at the soap shop. And it cured perfectly, the outer skin just breaks right off to reveal a soft but tough sponge inside. The seeds shake out and we’ll save them to plant next year.

My husband complained, he paid $2.50 for the seeds, and watered the plants all Summer.   I told him, one of these babies costs at least $2.50 at the store. I never buy them, they don’t seem sanitary enough to use for long, and I can’t afford to pay for something like that just to toss it out in a week. So, I’ve always dreamed of owning a loofa ranch. Wanna get cleaned up? Just walk out back and pick yourself a loofah…

Yes, I am a woman of very weird wants.

 

 

 

You don’t have to eat everything you grow in your garden

This is a "fox glove". Yes, it looks like a furry little mitt.

This is a “fox glove”. Yes, it looks like a furry little mitt.

 

I gave my husband a gift certificate for a seed catalog for Christmas, and he got a pack of flower seeds as a bonus with his order. He put them aside while he carefully planted the tomato and corn and melon and other seeds in tiny containers in our little plastic green house. One day late in Spring he brought them out and asked me if I had somewhere to put them – I still had that old plastic tub full of dirt from my lettuce garden. I cleaned that out and sowed them as instructed.

It was a struggle, with the hot weather, to keep the little tub watered adequately. These flowers are tough, but I’d set the tub right in one of the sunniest spots in our yard, so I had to water it every morning and evening to make sure it got through that noon blast. If I missed more than one watering, they’d tip over and droop, what a guilt trip. 

About half the seedlings perished in the nasty hot sun, but these that survived just grew and grew. In their little tub they stand over my head.

About half the seedlings perished in the blazing hot sun, but these that survived just grew and grew. In their little tub they stand over my head.

They outgrew their little tub. It's like they're growing on a sponge, I have to wet it down twice a day.

They outgrew their little tub. It’s like they’re growing on a sponge, I have to wet it down twice a day.

I only planted about a third of the packet, next time I’ll clear a little space in one of my rambling weedy flower beds and sow them right in the ground. There is so little dirt in that tub – I had to water them often, but not alot.  I imagine they’d really take off in a well-drained bed.

Soft and furry, like velveteen.

Soft and furry, like velveteen.

Yesterday coming home from Forest Ranch I saw an animal run across the road ahead of my truck, too big to be a squirrel, I thought it might be a young cougar. It had run up a driveway, so I pulled over to look after it. As I sat there with my engine running, another animal came running along in the same direction – a fox. It was bigger than foxes I’d seen in Bidwell Park, and dark black instead of the grey-brown I’d seen. He was not wearing gloves, as far as I could tell.