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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Around the Garden

DANGER!  DANGER!  Will Robinson!  (Does anyone else remember that series? ? ? )  Long, wordy post alert!  I guess I am making up for the length between my posts!  And, BTW, cuz . . . mom and I were about to send out a search party for you over on your 9 Acre Farm!  I'm glad to see you are back!  I am envious of your garden!  It is soooooo pretty!  And, compared to mine . . . gi-normous!


One of my colleagues brought me some honey he had collected from his hives.  It was delicious spread over toast.  I had never before tried honey that someone I knew had collected, so it was a bit of a treat for me!  I am anxious to try it in other things as well . . . tea, baking, etc . . .  It was such a thoughtful thing to do, I was surprised and really appreciative!   How nice it would be to have the room to have a nice, large garden with enough space for all your vegetables, berries, flowers, a small orchard, a  compost area and a spot for a hive . . . or two . . . and maybe some horses, and a pool, and . . .  well, one can dream, right?  **sigh**  But, at least I have a little space for a tiny garden . . . which is, afterall, better than not having one at all!

Things are progressing pretty nicely with the things I did manage to get planted into my little garden.  I think now, it is a good thing a lot of the things I tried to start from seed didn't thrive!  (MY error, not the seed company's error.  I get too heavy handed with the watering!  I bought this seed a couple of years ago, and nearly everything at least germinates!  What I didn't drown was eaten by the darn roly-polys!) The things that did manage to survive me and the "bugs" (I know roly-polys aren't technically bugs/insects), seem to sprawl much further than I thought they would!  You can see I haven't done a lot of gardening in the past, because if I had, I would probably have known this would happen!  

I thought I could train my pumpkins, watermelon and squash to climb up a trellis and that they wouldn't take up as much room that way!  Well . . . that seems to be only partly right!  I needed taller, stronger trellises and a better idea of how much room they would still need diameter-wise when they send out their leaves!  Goodness!  My little modification of the square-foot garden didn't even come close to anticipating how many "squares" each plant would need!  It would seem they need my entire raised bed garden!  ;-)

I have planted a few things I have never eaten before, or have just recently been introduced to, as in the case of fava beans.  YUM! ! !   I have been buying them from my local farmer's market and making a spread for toast with them.  Sautee them in a little EVOO and garlic, add a bit of salt and pepper, puree them and spread over your favorite crusty bread toasted, drizzled with a bit more EVOO if you wish.  Delish!  I planted my fava beans a bit late . . . apparently they do not like hot weather, but so far, they are doing too badly.  I think our May Gray and  soon-to-be June Gloom are helping, not to mention a bit of unseasonably cool spring weather.

I only have two plants as I didn't have any idea what to expect when I first planted them.  One of them was nearly killed by those darn, voracious roly-polys!  I caught them encircled around the base of the smaller plant and chewing it to bits.  I can't bring myself to kill bugs on purpose, so when they rolled up into their little balls, I picked them up and threw them as far away from my garden as I could, knowing full well, within a few minutes, they would probably be back . . .  When I looked at the other one, I could see there was a LOT of damage to the main stem on it as well.  

I headed into the kitchen, grabbed a spray bottle, added a drop of dish soap and water and went out to spray my poor little favas, hoping to save them!  I also noticed they had developed a colony of black aphids, so I hosed them off and sprayed them down with the soapy water . . . That was a few days ago, and so far, so good . . .

One of the things I hadn't tried before was the Cocozelle zucchini.  It is an Italian heirloom variety, which I ordered from here.  I like zucchini, but I can't honestly say I LOVE zucchini, but I was anxious to try this one.  I got my first one last weekend.  I didn't even see this guy coming on!  I just happened to notice him peeking out from under the canopy last Sunday.  This time I went into the kitchen to grab a knife!  :-)  I cut off a slice and tasted it raw.  Very good!  I could tell it would be great in salads, on a veggie sandwich (grilled or otherwise), etc.  I sliced the rest of it up and tossed it into the skillet with some butter and salt and pepper.  My taste buds were very happy!  Yummmm, yummmm!

I have also planted some Patty Pan and Yellow Straight Neck Squash.  So far, the plants look pretty good and strong.  I think I am going to have squash coming out my ears!   I am rethinking the placement of these little solar lights, though.  I obviously wasn't thinking when I put them around my little garden . . .  now, what does light attract at night? ? ?   Perhaps things I do not want in my little garden!  I may just have to take these out and put them around my little patio instead!

I have also planted a couple of pumpkins, Lumina and Sugar Pie.  Both plants have some little baby pumpkins on them about the size of ping pong balls, but I was only able to get a decent shot of the Lumina.  By the way, I got all my seeds from Botanical Interests.  I love their selection and the seeds are pretty darn hearty!  Those that I don't drown, that is!  I am just learning to grow from seed, and there is a little bit of a learning curve involved!  But, just look at these lovely plants when I don't "care for" them to death!  Everything came from BI except the tomatoes, rhubarb and asparagus!  Those I started from plants purchased at a big box store or a local nursery.

I wish I had had my camera with me while watering a little while later, as I found an Alligator Lizard just hanging out, basking in a tiny patch of sunlight that managed to squeeze through all the squash leaves.  Pretty little guy, about 12" long, pale "tannish" skin who didn't move while I was talking to him and thanking him for making my garden his home.  I asked him to stay there and prepare for his close up while I got my camera, but alas, he must have had some other previous, very pressing and important engagement, as he was no where to be found when I got back.

Out of control volunteer Yellow Pear Tomato - nearly as tall as I am!
I also have about 3 varieties of tomatoes growing out there.  The volunteer yellow pear tomato seems to be hell-bent on taking over the tiny little back yard again.  I think he is secretly jealous of all the space the squash, pumpkins and rhubarb are taking up and is in competition with them.  My poor little Roma tomato just looks miserable.  I am not at all sure what to do with her.  I am thinking I should take her out of her pot and try a different pot/soil.  She is trying valiantly to produce fruit, but I was really hoping to be able to make her really happy so she would thrive and produce lots and lots of tomatoes for my pasta and bruschetta.  My lone slicing tomato, Big Beef, is happier than my Roma, but not exactly thriving.  Both the Roma and the Big Beef are in pots, while the volunteer is coming up in the yard (and not in the most convenient spot, I might add!).  Perhaps I will have to give in and try to find another spot in the yard where I can plant my other tomatoes directly in this obviously rich, previous farmland!

You can just barely see my poor asparagus fighting for dear life just behind the rhubarb and
right between the pumpkins!  Come on asparagus!  I'm rooting for you!  No pun intended!
My rhubarb is going great guns!  I was also surprised to see how much space it would spread out as well!  It is crowding out my poor little asparagus, which doesn't seem well prepared to fight for sun (and air!)  with the rhubarb.  I am now thinking I should have switched their placing with each other.  hmmmmmmmm . . .   I was hoping both would co-exist in a special section of my raised bed planter I had set aside just for the two of them, but the asparagus just doesn't seem to be able to stand up to the big bully leaves of the rhubarb.  I was a kid all those thousands of years . . . errrrr . . . , I mean . . . , a couple of years ago when I last saw it growing . . . somehow I don't remember it taking up soooooo much space!  What I have read says you should not harvest the first year to allow the plant to gather its strength . . . but  . . . it looked soooo robust and full, I couldn't resist picking some for the cake below!  And, if it is this strong now . . . what in the world is it going do next year!   I'd better run out to buy a machete . . . .

My mom had sent me this recipe for Rhubarb Cake and I was itching to try it . . . sooooo, I picked about 6-7 stalks and baked me up some cake and it was scrumptious!  (By the way, I really probably should have had 9-10 stalks to really do it justice . . . I only ended up with just over 2 1/2 Cups)  I topped it with some Fresh Strawberry Frosting and  . . .  well . . . you just have to try it!  Really! ! ! Thanks, mom!  I'll put the recipes at the end of this post if you do want to try it.  The amount of sugar in this thing is astounding, but honestly, we all deserve a little treat now and again, don't we?  I mean, I won't be making it on a weekly basis . . . for now, anyway . . .  ;-)  I have to wait until next year, when my rhubarb plant is stronger, right?  Then all bets are off!  I'd better run out and buy a treadmill, as well . . . 

I didn't get any pics of the cake . . .  sorry!  But, it really wasn't a thing of any extraordinary beauty, just a regular cake in a 9"x12"x2" glass pan, with a thin layer of frosting.  Just a cake . . . that was really, really tasty!  No special decoration, etc.

Anyway, here are the recipes!  I hope you'll try them and let me know what you think!  See you over the garden gate!

Rhubarb Cake - not sure of the origins of this one

Yellow Cake Mix - homemade or from a box (my grandma liked Duncan Hines, so that is what I used)
Rhubarb - 3 1/2 Cups diced
Sugar - 1 Cup
Condensed Milk - 1 12 oz can

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare baking pan - grease/flour.
2.  Mix cake mix according to directions on recipe or box (depending on which you are using!) - pour into greased/floured 9"x13"x2" cake pan.
3.  Sprinkle diced rhubarb evenly all over the top.
4.  Shake 1 C sugar evenly all over the top.
5.  Gently pour canned condensed milk evenly over the entire mixture.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees F until toothpick comes out clean - about 50-60 minutes
7.  Frost when cooled.

Strawberry Frosting - from this site

Strawberries - 1/2 pint - 8 oz
Sugar - 1/4 Cup granulated
Butter - 4 Tablespoons - softened
Powdered Sugar - 3 - 4 Cups

1.  Wash strawberries, then hull and slice.
2.  Put strawberries into a bowl, sprinkle with the 1/4 granulated sugar and mix well.
3.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
4.  Drain excess juices from strawberries (I used mine to pour into fresh squeezed lemonade for a very yummy strawberry lemonade!).
5.  Crush or mash the strawberries (I put mine in my little mini food processor for a few pulses)
6.  Beat butter until smooth.
7.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and the crushed strawberries.  Slowly beat until the sugar is blended in, then beat on medium speed until fluffy.  Add more powdered sugar, as needed, until the frosting is a nice spreading consistency.  (I couldn't bear to keep adding sugar, so mine didn't get fluffy!  But, it was still DE-licious! ! !)


  1. Great post, Daughter! We had company for dinner yesterday. Drove up through the Oakdale Cemetery where your Grandma and Grandpa are buried. Flags with the names of the local men who served and have passed line both sides of the road, up the hill along the river and all the way around the cemetery....beautiful...your Uncle Jerry's name and flag is there.......Mom

  2. That is such a nice tribute to all those who have served for Memorial Day. I'm glad they do it for them. I wonder when they started doing this. I don't remember seeing the flags when I was growing up there!

  3. Hello Sherrill! I Love this post sweet girl! I keep forgetting you live in California (lucky) You almost have a full harvest... Lovely recipes I'm sure to try! Rhubard is just coming into season can hardly wait, in your comment to me you called them roly poly's, my Mother called them fiddleheads we would eat them basically the same way as asparagus, delicious...But they do open quicklu so I wish you luck... :)
    Lots of hugs, Rosemary...XX

  4. Hello dear,
    congratulations for your crop,
    must cultivate beautiful
    all the goodness!
    A hug
    Susy x