Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad Dog & The Giant Peach

I love how my garden is doing this year! For the first time since coming to The Ranch, I feel like I am doing something right. There are beans and tomatoes, squash and peas, corn and cucumbers, buckwheat and amaranth and even broom sorghum growing.

NOW I understand why people grow their own corn!

The orchards, on the other hand, have been behaving strangely this year. Things are ripening at odd times. The plums, peaches and nectarines came all at once and we have the fewest peaches and nectarines ever. Oh, but they are bigggggggg! And, oh so tasty!
Peach Girl with Friends


Labels: ,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Che Guevara

What was I thinking, posting a picture of my poison oak blisters?!

Are you nuts? Like, anyone would want to see that? Big Dog would surely say if he had seen it.
He has not. At least not to my knowledge. I think I have successfully trained him not to be very interested in what I do.

I assure you, no more dumbass photos. Unless, of course, the blisters look like the Thousand Armed Goddess of Mercy -- or at least Che Guevara.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Hawaii on My Arm

"Leaves of three, leave them be." So they say about poison ivy and poison oak.

There is a lot of poison oak in these areas and it's easy to leave the ones up in the hills alone, but when they start appearing around your house or driveway... Big Dog was just getting over a giant rash on his chest so I volunteered to be the eradicator. I had long sleeves, long pants and heavy duty gloves but they still managed to get me.

But, hey! Don't the blisters look just like the Hawaiian Islands? Could this be a new alternative to tattoos?
Molokai, Lanai and Maui have sort of fused together on this "map."

Labels: ,

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Jungle Garden

The others have their gardens so nicely organized. Mama McCain's is tidy, weed-free and nicely labeled with the different varieties of lettuces, onions, squashes and tomatoes. J&R have a huge sprawling garden divided into sections for straight rows of tomatoes, corn, legumes, greens and so on.

My gardens are scattered haphazardly around the ranch, with the biggest one turning into one happy jungle. Nothing is labeled. There is no real plan. But I think it's doing alright.

Because of last year's disappointments with store-bought starters, I started everything from seed this year and it was definitely worth it! We only have to go into town to buy dairy products. Maybe next year, I'll get a goat for milk and cheese!

Sometimes, drunk on pollen, the bees will fall asleep inside the squash blossoms.

Short, stubby and sweet!

Buckwheat for my buckwheat noodles.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Season of The Visitors

Here they come!! Apricots! Peaches! People! When it's Stone Fruit Season at The Ranch, it is also the season of visitors here at The Ranch.....and the Central Coast in general. (We can always spot the out-of-towners at our local markets. They're too happy, or too loud, or too clean.)

We're also getting the furry or feathered visitors, too. Deer are coming back down from the hills (guess our New Age Redneck didn't get them all!), several quail families have taken up residence, the wild turkeys sometimes come through. An owl couple love to perch on our fence post, as does a juvenile hawk. There's a bunny living in one of our gardens and I am praying he/she never finds a mate. If it stays dry enough, the big cats will also start coming down to the creek.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pretty Wild Things

I wish I knew the names of all the pretty wild things growing on our ranch...

Wild Thing 1

Wild Thing 2

Wild Thing 3

Oh, I know this one. It's a monkeyflower.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 08, 2011

Heart of the (Artichoke) Matter

It's artichoke season at The Ranch.

J&R have a pretty nice artichoke patch in one of our orchards and the McC's have some nice plants growing in their zone. So why aren't there any artichokes on my plants? And why don't the others pick and eat theirs?

It can be a little discouraging when others have harvestable fruit and you have none, but I have plenty of wild artichokes and they can be a handful to deal with.

Most of mine grow in the front pasture, on the other side of the creek. It's an uncultivated pasture filled with wild things -- fennel, bristly ox-tongue, yellow mustard, tall grasses, things I know not the names of. You want to be in long pants -- I am sure there are ticks that would just love to pounce on you at the slightest hint of butric acid. Wild artichokes are way thornier than domesticated ones, so sturdy gloves are good, too.

It's a pain harvesting, but that's the easy part. Then, you have to cut away the thorny tips of the leaves, then boil them, then strip them down to the heart. The center is mostly gnarly choke. The tiny leaves have a small nib at the bottom that is so very tasty -- much nuttier than domesticated artichokes -- but you only get a tiny nibble out of each leaf. I guess you could set them out like beer nuts to nibble on while drinking, but it's the heart that you really want.

Last year, I froze the hearts but once frozen, they seem to lose their tastiness, so this year, I decided to marinate the hearts. It was a whole day affair, cleaning, boiling, stripping, paring and getting down to the heart of each tiny artichoke.

Are these wild artichokes really wild cardoons? I have no idea, but being the ever-curious Bad Dog, I also tried boiling the big spiny outer leaves to see if they were edible. Aaaaaagh! They are the most bitter thing in the world! (Now I read that you don't eat cardoon leaves but the ribs of the leaves and the inner stalks.)

The leaves of the artichoke, I sent through a blender and strained, for use in my wild artichoke soup (so green! so nutty! so creamy!) I think I really put my poor blender to the test -- she was starting to complain and I thought she'd quit on me before the last of the artichokes were processed. But at the end of the day, I had a nice tub of marinating artichoke hearts, unlike anything you have ever tasted, and a beautiful soup for dinner.

Labels: ,

Friday, July 01, 2011

Getting Back to Me

Has the situation in Japan affected me that much? I seem to have lost the urge to write, draw, create. Maybe it was seeing all that destruction. I thought my trip to Japan would cure this weird ennui. I thought I would encounter a changed (for the better) nation, ready to shed its old ways and come together to face this immense challenge. Instead, of course, we found out just how much TEPCO was covering up the extent of the nuclear disaster. Bureaucrats were more concerned about "not causing a panic" than disseminating proper information, while politicians merely sought to use the crisis as political leverage in their own factional or partisan struggles.

What's the point?

To add to my listlessness, there was an interminable wait for our vehicle to be repaired in Los Angeles, delaying my return to The Garden...then more matters to attend to in LA. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that we finally got back.

"Everything will be dead," I moaned to Big Dog nearly every day in LA. He was so sick of hearing me whine about how I needed to get back.
"They're just plants."
"And we weren't there for the major gopher action -- I'm sure they've taken over the entire place." OK, so Big Dog cares naught about plants, but maybe talk of gophers will make him want to get back, too.
"There's nothing we can do about it, so stop complaining. I've been holed up here in LA all during the time you were in Japan!"
"I should have stayed longer," I frowned.
"Well, what do you want me to do about it?"
We were testy, testy, testy. I could have told him that he could have 1) rented a vehicle! or 2) taken the train back! or 3) borrowed a vehicle from his family -- everyone seems to have more cars than they need. But I was too...listless.

But here on The Ranch, it seems like life carried on without us. A few seedlings did die. The greenhouse seems infested with ants and aphids. There are surprisingly few strawberries and not a single cherry left. Much has bolted either from the heat or water-stress. And there are gopher mounds everywhere, but amazingly they have not taken over the place. Many plants are still alive. Some are actually thriving! My summer garden is a jungle of haphazardly planted things, weeds, volunteer arugula and chard.

I was wrong to think I could find strength in any society. Nature is where my power source lies. Maybe I can finally get back to Me.

Labels: , ,