Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hot summer days..and nights.

Hello, sunshine.

It absolutely amazes me that my plants can handle being outside when it's like this. The month of June here on the Central Coast has had three weeks with significantly above average temperatures..meaning in the 100-degree range. 110 yesterday, 109 the day before; you get the idea.

And yet, here are my lovely plants in all their greenery. While they are not exactly thriving in the heat, they are definitely surviving. The plants at the winery are doing similarly well. Which is more than I can say for myself. How do they do it?

Growing strong.

For humans, there's a completely different time schedule when days are like this. You must finish your chores by about 9 a.m., when the temperatures hit 90 degrees. You must close all the curtains and blinds in the house to keep out the heat. Running the air conditioning is not optional at this point, it's mandatory. Our house thermostat is generally set at about 78 degrees and the a/c comes on by about 4 pm. (A testimony to what good insulation can do for you). 

And of course, you must content yourself with sitting inside throughout most of the day with a good book, and using the "chore and hide" method of being outside, where you pop out the door for about five minutes to complete some task (which you no doubt forgot to do before 9 am) and then run back inside to the cool house before you begin melting onto the sidewalk.

Big Ag says that the summer heat is something you acclimate to, but he's a native of Arizona so no acclimation necessary on his part. For me, summer is my season of discontent. It's when I check and look at how other places (like Spokane, which we just visited in May) are faring in the high days of summer. I dream of autumn, of sweaters, and most of all, I dream of rain. Lots and lots of rain.

But there are a few advantages to this kind of heat, believe it or not: The outside clothesline dries clothes much faster than a clothes dryer can. It doesn't matter whether you hang it out at 9 am or at 6 pm. It will be dry in about an hour. You also have a built-in excuse for not tackling any large outside task. And the term "summer reading" jumps to a whole new level when it's pretty much all you can do on a burnt-to-a-crisp 110 degree afternoon.

Not amused.

You could also amuse yourself (if that's even the right word) by watching coverage of the state burning up in various wildfires, some close, some farther away. But it's just too heartbreaking to see the toll in terms of human and wildlife loss. So instead I'm watching the first two seasons of "Vicious," a PBS show about two elderly gay men living in Britain. It's absolutely hilarious. Sometimes you have to laugh, or you'll never stop crying.

Our evenings also cool off nicely most of the time. Last night we went to an Industry Night being held downtown and stopped in at our favorite winery, Bodegas, to taste and buy.  Then we took ourselves out to dinner (too hot to cook -- another great excuse in summer). And by the time we got home, we were able to open the windows and let in a little nighttime breeze.

While it's true that I'm still counting the days until autumn, I will accept summer's compensations and enjoy them. They'll be here for at least another four months, so I'd better!

Four-bottle box of Spanish-varietal deliciousness from Bodegas Winery. Yum!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Have a seat. Finally!

They screamed "take me home!"
So we finally have some chairs to go with the antique mahogany table we found at auction several months ago. We were using our old, totally-not-a-good-match oak Mission Style chairs with it while we waited to find new ones, which of course took longer than expected. 

I got to serve Christmas dinner with a mismatched dining room set, which I'm sure no one else noticed but me. But prime rib just tastes better when everything matches or at least goes, as they say. 

And at that point the only thing that needed to go was those chairs. Out the door.

But the providence happened. A friend and her beau decided to begin living together and needed a dining room set, so we were able to pass on both our old table and the chairs to them -- which unfortunately left us minus six dining room chairs, matching or not. But they are in love and so it was worth it. We patched together some seating from other chairs around the house, but I really regretted not bidding on some chairs at the same time as we got the table.

But I was patient. For once.

And lo and behold, this month at the auction there were some dining room chairs which matched our table perfectly. And even better, I already liked the seat upholstery and it was in good shape! 

So yesterday I did the online bidding, which was very quiet, and ended up snagging these beauties for $20 each. Definitely a deal worth waiting for.

And now I have wonderful seating for six, plus two more Chippendale chairs if we need a couple of extra seats. Just in the nick of time, too, as we're hosting a lunch gathering at our house  in another week or so.

Plus it's 110 degrees outside right now, so sitting inside and admiring my new chairs seems like an acceptable and cool activity.

So I did.
Right now I am just finishing the book, "How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are," which discusses how important tablecloths are, style-wise....unless, they say, you have an heirloom table which looks better uncovered. And I thought, "well I do." Not because we are loaded with money or inherited great furniture from our grandparents, but because I'm willing to wait on a good antiques deal and pounce when I find it. 

Perhaps I'll cover it with a tablecloth later in summer, but right now I just want to enjoy all that matching wood. It's been awhile.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hot and loud

You know how sometimes you don't notice something until someone points it out? I experienced this recently, when my blogger friend Stephen Andrew commented on the hot, saturated colors I put into a flower arrangement I brought indoors a couple of weeks ago.
And today I was outside in the back yard in the one place I allow myself to plant all manner of large raised planter in the "pretty" section of the yard. Again with the hot colors. What in the world is going on with me?

Most of my life I've been a pastels kind of girl, who would no more choose hot colors than fly to the moon. OK to slightly clarify that, I would TOTALLY fly to the moon if offered the chance, and hot colors did once have a place in my life, when I was about 7 years old or so and the Raging 1960s were going strong. I was all about COLORS, and even had a Stingray bike with a sparkly hot purple banana seat and tassles on the handlebars.

An exact replica of my bike...think it's in the Smithsonian by now?
I dressed in what I liked. And sometimes those fashion choices worked out OK.

Coordinating with the bike.

And sometimes they did not.

That is my mother in the rear. How did she allow me to leave the house dressed this way?
So through my teens until just recently, I really shied away from those super "loud" colors. But in thinking about it, they are the perfect colors for someone middle aged and older to totally rock. I mean, you might as well get noticed for something right? And let's face it, your face no longer commands awe (except when someone says, "awww, look at that old lady trying to lift that bag of fertilizer. Let's help her.")  Honestly. Our dewey loveliness fades and pastels are no friend to faded hair and skin. And while we're discussing it, you're not going to get any attention for your legs, either, except from 80 year-old men with a Viagra pill in their pocket and high hopes. Heels are too damn hard on your back and anything form fitting is a sign that you really need to go home and take an honest look in the mirror at what your form actually is in the present day, not 1983. Blousing, ruching, and all things billowing are your friends now.

Yet we still have options to make a statement with, if we wish. If you wear a hot pink collared shirt or lime green suit people will sit up and take notice of your bad-ass-ness. The world is your freakin' oyster once again. 

WOW! No further comment needed.

I don't think The Queen would have been caught dead in this color 20 or even 40 years ago, but at her age she probably figures why the f*ck not? I concur. And so what's been happening subconsciously is now exploding into my waking hours, and I find myself looking for bright yellows, pinks, oranges and greens to augment both my wardrobe and my life in general.

I may not be "hot" anymore (except for hot flashes of course), but perhaps that's the perfect time to let hot colors make the statement that I've still got some color -- some "hot" -- in me.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What more can be said?

A few gratuitous work photos

The Office . My boss said he didn't want anymore flowers along this fence line, but if a couple of packets of sunflower seeds should just happen to be spilled around there, I will invoke culpable deniability/willing suspension of disbelief -- whichever one will work best.

So I'm finally at the point when the big, planting phase of the summer garden at work is finished, and the chefs are busy harvesting what I've grown for use in the menus for the weddings we host as well as in our café. This has been immensely satisfying for me and I'm proud of how the garden looks, as well as the poundage it's producing in terms of food. Of course it wasn't all about my skill -- I just got very lucky/blessed in terms of weather and the fact that we had an early El Nino spring. 

Mexican tarragon

Herbs, nasturtiums, zinnias and alyssum

One thing that I'm happy I did is intercrop some ornamentals-beneficials and ornamental-edibles in and around the food crops. We've put nasturtium blossoms on all the cheese plates and in salads and the alyssum and marigolds seem to be attracting the good bugs and repelling the bad.

Squash bed is very squashy.

My Master Gardener classes are also drawing to a close and it will be a huge relief to not have to drive an hour south every week to attend class, although I've learned a tremendous amount and am so grateful for that opportunity to have done so. But clearly July is going to be a slower month for me than I've had in the last five months or so, and I'm grateful for that.

I have a few projects I'll be working is refurbishing two Adirondack chairs I bought for $15 at a garage sale (pics to come). Another is working on some kind of dining room table for our back patio. These are all great things to occupy oneself with in the mornings before the heat sets in.

Mmm, who doesn't love Genovese Basil in summertime!
But until I start those projects, for now this is the time to gaze and savor all that has come out of spring's labors, which were many. What delicious results for the eyes and palate!

Meanwhile, at Justin Vineyards...

The new owners of Justin are clear-cutting old growth oak forests to make room for more grape vines plus a huge reservoir, the filling of which will likely lower the aquifer level of the entire area, thereby impacting the wells of every neighbor they have (which luckily is not us).

They put some bullshit statement on their website about planting 5,000 NEW oaks to replace the century-old forest they ripped from the ground, but those will take 100 years to grow, assuming of course that they CAN grow to maturity amidst fields of water-sucking grapes, which I doubt. 

As for replacing the habitat and ecosystem of an entire oak forest? Ain't gonna happen, people.

If you drink Justin wines, this is the kind of environmental stewardship you are supporting with each bottle purchase. I don't know about you, but I've enjoyed my last bottle of Justin wine.

Actually the one thing I can say about their wines now is that they have unmistakable notes of dead forest on the palate and a very bitter finish. For me, anyway.

Here's a link to the article if you'd like to read it.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Good soil by the cup

So I've known for years that using coffee grounds to help improve the texture of soil was a good thing. After all, when we describe good soil, we usually use the term, "texture of coffee grounds" to describe the crumbly-but-dense growing medium plants love most.

But whenever I'd try and save my grounds, I ran into problems with mold...ugly, smelly mold, sitting atop the grounds after they'd been in the tabletop composter for a few days. Perhaps the mold would make a great inoculant against all sorts of bad garden diseases, but then again perhaps not. And I'm not the kind of person who has enough time to run the used grounds outside to the big composter every morning. 

So for awhile, I just stopped saving them, but felt guilty every time I threw them away. (Believe me, the combination of Jewish/Eco-Green guilt is massive and never sleeps.) 

So I finally opened up some space in the freezer for a one gallon freezer bag's worth of coffee grounds. Every day I plop the used grounds into the bag and stick it back in before anything has the chance to get mold on it. Once the bag is about half-full, I do take it outdoors to the composter and add it to the chicken waste and shavings already fermenting in it. It adds moisture plus contributes to that so-sought-after coffee ground texture that good soil amendments have.

No matter how many years I work in farming/gardening, I'm amazed that I can still sometimes come up with new solutions to old problems.

In somewhat related news, I bought these crazy corn kernels off the internet. They are like tiny, multicolored gems, and produce the most amazing colored corn I've ever seen. I can't wait to get them planted and see what they do! I'm a little late to the party regarding correct planting dates for corn, but being late for stuff has never stopped me from having fun and probably never will. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Welcome June

June is bringing in the hottest weather of the year so far; no June Gloom fog and clouds here this year, sadly -- although the month is young, right? But things around the garden are loving this spate of heat, which will likely go away within a week or so. (hear oh Lord our prayer)

Milk Carton Tomato Kids.
The tomatoes are snug in their milk cartons to protect them from the wind and are quite happy.

As are the zucchini squash I said I wasn't going to plant again this year....Why do I plant zucchini. Why? Why? Because I need something to leave on my coworkers' desks when they are not looking. That's why.

I even planted a bed for cutting flowers this year with a couple of Bell Peppers thrown in for good measure. We'll see how that goes.

20 more just like this one!

And I've had the best berry harvest since moving here. More than enough for pies and sauces and galettes galore. While I sold some of these beauties in the past, this year everything is being preserved, because last year I got only a handful of berries. The moral of that story is that you just never know what the weather is going to to for, or to, your crop. The Great Berry Deficit of 2015 was a crisis of epic proportions, so this year I'm not taking any chances. Sorry, friends and neighbors. It's every man for him/herself where berries are concerned. Get your own.

My garden at work is producing zucchini already, along with tomatoes and lots of herbs. And my corn and pumpkins are popping up, too! (Pics later this week)

But still, when it's this hot, the order of the day is to finish work early, say by 10 a.m., and shelter in place somewhere cool, like inside with a good book. I'm currently reading "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner...a look at the places on earth where people are the most happy. Fascinating.
Berry good.
I'll tell you long as I have plenty of berries and a cool place to retreat to in the heat of the afternoon, I'm convinced I'm actually in one of the happier places on earth, even when it's triple digits outside.

Hope your spring is springing up lots of greenery and food!