Thursday, January 27, 2011

Garden Inspiration

A couple of nights ago, I was lucky to catch Joan Gussow being interviewed by Novella Carpenter. I was already a fan of Novella's after having read her awesome book Farm City, and now I'm a fan of Joan's too. I bought her latest book Growing, Older, and haven't been able to put it down.

Both women are pioneers in their own ways, and both women know a thing or two about food, farming, and writing. It was truly a pleasure to hear their insights, and my only complaint was that it was too short! I could have listened to them for hours!

After spending a short while listening to these two witty, engaging and inspiring farmers talk about growing food, I came away more determined than ever to really learn to become a better gardener.

In our old place, we had the garden placed in an area where it received abundant sunlight, and although we had our share of challenges, I was constantly amazed that it seemed like all you had to do was plant the stuff, water it, pull weeds occasionally, and then reap the gorgeous fruits of your labors! We were fortunate to grow some incredible tomatoes, peppers and squash.

In the new place, the garden lives in an area that only gets sun later in the day, and definitely not for eight hours per day. We started with cool weather crops - lots of lettuce, and also chard, kale, broccoli, beets & cabbage. I'm thrilled to say that we harvested all the broccoli recently (see a few pics on my last posting) and although the crop wasn't prolific, it was tender and vibrant green and absolutely delicious! There has also been a ton of kale which has also turned out wonderfully, and I've been enjoying that, along with some chard which turned out only partially well, in my salads almost every day.

We were also very lucky that the yard came with a meyer lemon tree which, despite the need for serious pruning, still turned out bucket loads of top-notch fruit! In addition to giving bucket loads away, I made a pretty large batch of preserved lemons recently. I had to stop while eating my lunch today to appreciate that the great majority of food in my bowl came from our yard - kale, chard, broccoli, and preserved lemons, hurray!

As for the beets, they didn't fare so well because I forgot to thin them, and the jury is still out on the cabbage but it does seem to be growing. The lettuce did just fine but didn't quite thrill me the way the kale & broccoli did. Some of the lettuces and chard and beet greens developed some kind of brown rot and I never quite figured out what it was or what caused it.

The point I'm getting to here, is that there is still so much to learn! I feel like an absolute beginner, and I also feel that if I'm able to get this many good results when I barely know what I'm doing, I can hardly wait to see the kind of results I'll get once I apply myself a little more proactively!

But where to learn? I'd bought the book How to Grow More Vegetables but it seemed far to complex for an absolute beginner like me. Today I was poking around on the old interweb and I stumbled upon the Alameda County Master Gardeners site, which is a great resource for someone growing right here in Alameda County. Just perusing their site and clicking on their links, I've already learned a lot, and I am more excited than ever!

If anyone out there reading this has a good book to recommend for beginners, I'd love to hear about it.

In other news, can you believe I've nearly made it 21 days without coffee, sugar, alcohol, dairy, eggs, corn, gluten or soy! And would you believe that I've eaten better than ever during this time? It's true! I'm sure I will enjoy adding some of the things back into my diet that have been left out these last weeks, but I'm also really excited to continue many of the healthy habits that I've learned. The whole goal was to get to feeling good, and it feels good to be able say that I'm feeling good! Here's hoping this finds you feeling good too!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Greetings From a Whole New World....

...Today is day 16 of a 21-day cleanse, during which I'm not consuming any alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, corn, soy, dairy or eggs. And you know what? I feel pretty good!

Truth be told, I've had a few moments of cheating, including a couple of cups of green tea, and the other day I splurged on something that felt extremely decadent: "ice cream"! Actually it was sorbet from Scream Sorbet, my absolute favorite local "ice cream" shop. The flavor, coconut thai basil, was out of this world. It featured only four ingredients: coconut milk, basil, lime and sugar. Yes, white sugar is something I'm not supposed to be consuming right now but I won't beat myself up too much, for it was a tiny scoop, and I've done really really well with giving up all this other stuff, most of the time without feeling terribly deprived. But on this day, that little scoop of bliss was just what I needed! I think I could give up dairy forever as long as long as I knew that Scream Sorbet was around.

The first day without caffeine was beyond brutal, and I really wasn't prepared for how awful I would feel. I'd only been drinking half a cup a day, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to give it up, but oh, was I wrong. The pain in my head was absolutely unbearable, enough to make me think I might have to never touch coffee again, or if I do, then NEVER EVER GIVE IT UP AGAIN! So the next day, I drank a little green tea to help keep the headache at bay, and that seemed to work. I'm happy to report that now I'm doing just fine without the coffee or the green tea, and without all the other stuff too.

And as for the foods that I *am* eating, I'm loving them! Lots and lots of vegetables and fruit and some grains and legumes and fish. I'm not finding myself hungry during the day and I feel much more energetic, too. And I'm still having fun trying out new recipes, some of which I'll post soon, so don't despair! For now, I'll leave you with some pics of one of the first harvests from the garden at the new house - broccoli, chard and kale. Perfect timing cause I've been eating a LOT of that stuff lately!

Until next time, have some cheese/eggs/pizza/beer/wine/nachos/etc.... for me!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

In With the New

Suddenly it's 2011. Seems like it just crept up when I wasn't looking.

The last couple of the weeks of 2010 were pretty rough for me, what with losing my dear furry friend and then getting sick, so I didn't exactly feel as if I started this year with a bang. It was more like a pathetic little whimper. Although I'm almost entirely over the head cold sickness, I'm sure the heartsickness will be lingering for a long, long time. Damn, I miss that old gal.

On the up side, I had a wonderful visit with my family, and am happy to report that my Dad is doing great, and that I finally got to learn how to make the family recipe for sauce & meatballs & homemade pasta. Thanks, Dad! I'll make it one of my goals for 2011 to make it on my own and report back.

Along with the arrival of the new year, so too has the annual alcohol-free January arrived. I was really looking forward to it and feeling very excited about all the benefits: more energy, improved health, clearer skin, dropping a few pounds, sleeping better. But so far at least, my insomnia seems to be worse than ever, and I feel nothing but sluggish and uninspired. Nothing like feeling crappy to make a person want to drown her sorrows in red, red wine! I know, I know... it's only been 5 and 3/4 days! I'm not really giving up that easily.

In fact, today it occurred to me that since I'm already feeling so cruddy, I might as well go all the way with this detoxing thing and do a real cleanse, something I haven't attempted to do in years. So starting this Saturday, besides the alcohol, I'll also be losing dairy, gluten, soy, corn, caffeine & sugar for 21 days, something I've never attempted to do before (possibly because it's INSANE!!!). The goal is to get to the point of feeling good, but I imagine that before the feeling good starts, there's going to be a LOT more feeling bad. Oh well, I've felt bad before and I've gotten through it, and at least in this case, the feeling bad comes with a purpose.

Not sure how much posting I'll do in the next 3 weeks but will do my best to update periodically once I recover from the sheer shock of it!

For now, I'm wishing you all a very happy, healthy and inspired 2011! Feel free to have a glass of wine or three for me this month, won't you?