Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Waddling Wayfarer

Every year around this time, a mated pair of mallard ducks comes to spend a few weeks in the front yard of some neighbors about two blocks away. Without fail, they come to that same house, hang out for 2-3 weeks, and then fly away…probably back to the nearby lake.

I have to admit that I’ve secretly envied the lucky people who these ducks chose to be their hosts. When  I pass by, I wish that they would come stay in our yard for a while. I'd even put a little kiddie pool out for them to use. It would be like hosting web-footed foreign exchange students!

 Well, the other day, the female of the pair wandered all the way down to our place.

She liked the large puddle in front of the house.

I was hoping she would stay, so I put together a makeshift duck shelter under a low-hanging bush:

But she wasn't inclined to use it. She spent several hours sitting in the grass and enjoying the puddle, then took off just after dusk. 

I was a little worried about her because there was no sign of her mate.  Moreover, our neighborhood, although a quiet area, is really not a terribly safe place for a duck. They don’t seem to have any savvy or fear of cars, often waddling casually out into the streets...I worry that they may get knocked down. And, there are also raccoons in the neighborhood; a duck would be an easy target for them.

Anyway, here's to wishing this little wayfarer well in her travels and hoping she will be reunited with her mate.  And, Michelle and Lilly: if you're out there, as the lovers of water fowl that you are (and in Lilly's case, the water fowl that you are)...this one's for you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carmelita and Huge Dandelion Things

Grilled white and green asparagus, pistacio-tarragon emulsion, miners lettuce and hearts of palm salad -vegan 

We had a (mostly) smashing dinner at our neighborhood veggie restaurant last night. I say mostly because this place, Carmelita, can be hit or miss. Their seasonal menu always sounds fabulous, and you can get a great meal there...but sometimes not so great. Last night was definitely a hit...with only one little miss. For starters we had grilled asparagus (above) in a pistacio-tarragon sauce...hit! (Sorry about the dark shots)

We also had this deliciously moist foccacia with a tangy and citrusy sun-dried tomato pesto...hit!

Homemade foccacia, truffled artichoke-sun dried tomato spread -vegan

PizzaFor mains, I ordered this foraged mushroom and nettle/spinach pesto pizza, topped with mizuna rabe. The crust was absolutely perfect and very tasty, and the mushrooms were tender, grilled to perfection and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The nettle-spinach pesto was earthy, rich, and full of flavor, and the raw rabe on the top added a fresh and peppery finish...definitely a hit and the star of the evening!

Nettle-spinach pesto, grilled spring onion, foraged mushrooms, seasonal greens, balsamic -vegan option 

Now for the miss part...this would have been a perfect dish as well if the linguine weren't overcooked. Such a basic mistake...not sure how a place that makes the rest of the food so delicious and beautiful can screw up on pasta..but it appeared that they cooked the fresh pasta like you would have done dry pasta, and as I said, the result was not good...would have been lovely otherwise as all the other flavors and ingredients were well-conceived and very good. I loved the little chive flower garnishes.

Housemade linguine, snap peas, morels, chive-pistacio pesto - vegan

We took a bit of a walk around the neighborhood afterwards and cut through the food co-op parking lot...they really have lovely gardens surrounding their lot. You'll find all sorts of wonderful aromatic shrubs, herbs, and vegetables growing there. Last night, I was struck (not literally...the dandelions were very peaceful) by these extra large dandelions. They are growing about 5 -6 feet high! I think these are wild variety...not sure whether they are technically called dandelion, but I'm sure they are in the same family at any rate.

Update From the Comments: Apparently, these plants are most likely salsify...and they are in the same family as dandelions: Asteraceae.

mammoth dandelion-type plants (salsify), worthy of prehistoric times

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dark Times, Garden Update & Some Sunshine

I usually keep things cheery on this blog, but I've been feeling quite glum lately. With the horrifying situation in the Gulf of Mexico, and the horrendous violence and brutality at Conklin Farms exposed by MFA  last week...actually,  glum is an understatement. Try brokenhearted, angry, deeply saddened, and disgusted.

I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling this way. I mean it's extremely sad and disgusting that dairy/animal product industries exist at all, but it is especially so when things like that come to light. Likewise, although we are polluting the earth at an alarming rate in the best of times, the spill in the Gulf is a devastation. When I see the images of pelicans soaked in oil, all I can do is cry...and that's just one small part of it.

Of course, there are various ways to get involved and help with the rehabilitation efforts in the Gulf. And whereas sadly, that type of brutality is the rule rather than the exception in the dairy industry, at least MFA exposed the crimes at Conklin Farms, and hopefully those monstrous people will be brought to justice. No punishment could be too harsh for them in my opinion.

So, when I'm down, I spend time in the garden...it helps center me and reminds me to grateful. In this way and on a slightly brighter note, here are some lettuce, mesclun, cilantro, and rocket that are coming into harvest mode:

lettuce and mesclun

rocket and cilantro

 A resulting salad:

On the cabbage front, it's been an ongoing effort to repel the cabbage moth. I've been spraying the cabbages after every rain with a homemade garlic/chili-pepper barrier spray. The spray consists of garlic cloves, hot chilis, and a bit of sunflower oil liquified with water, and is meant to repel the moths. It's a long haul  trying to keep cabbages predator-proof and intact until harvest. I'm not sure I'm coming out on the winning end of that one this year.

Under the row cover behind the cabbages, you'll  find three rows of heirloom carrots, (hopefully) safe from the carrot rust fly.  In addition to the row cover, I also did a bit of companion planting with onions--the carrots are surrounded by them. Onions are supposed to repel the rust fly. June is an emergence time for this little fly, which like to lay their eggs around the carrots so their babies can feed on the roots...the problem is, I want to feed on those roots too.

Potatoes are coming along...I hope they are busy growing tubers.

Spinach is coming onto the scene as well:

But, these little mustard mizuna sprouts are trailing behind their spinach-y neighbors:

I separated a rather large clump of garden sorrel into two pots...never a shortage of sorrel around here:

Kale is going to seed, which I'll collect for an early autumn planting:

And this is kind of exciting...it looks like I will be getting a few chickpeas! As an experiment, I planted four little chickpea sprouts about 2 months ago...and here are the four little plants beginning to set their flowers...I've never eaten green chickpeas before, and I'm looking forward to it.

Soon, I'll be transplanting my tomato starts outdoors...but my peppers and eggplants are still very small, so I don't hold out a lot of hope for getting a harvest from those:

And now, some sunshine:

A few days ago, Blessed Mama from the Blessed Vegan Life blog, graciously bestowed the Sunshine Award upon this blog. I want to thank Blessed Mama very sincerely for this award: Thank you, Blessed Mama, most sincerely!  If you haven't done so, check out her blog...she feeds five hungry vegans everyday with delicious vegan creations from her kitchen!

Now, as is the custom, I am behooved to pass this award on to other worthy recipients...but not being one to follow rules especially well, I simply convey this award to all vegan bloggers everywhere...you are inspiring, talented, soulful, and compassionate! In this (largely) uncaring world it can sometimes make the difference between a grey day and a bright day just knowing that there are other like-minded people out there. You are all a little ray of sunshine for me.

It has been a brutal week at my work, so we're heading out of town  for some fun and play. Hope everyone has a good one.

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Roasted Ratatouille, Foxy Love and More...

Above was a quick and delicious supper that really puts you in the mood for summer...a combination of roasted veggies based on ratatouille: yellow and green summer squash, aubergine (aka eggplant), peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and leek. Topped with fresh thyme and some orange zest (not in picture)...it's simple, but wonderfully tasty.

And now, a treat for the eyes. Recently, I ordered some original art prints from My Zoetrope. She is a wonderfully talented woman; be sure to check out her blog, and her artwork!

Entitled: Foxy Love

Entitled: Teeter Totter

And, she sends  a lovely little notecard along with the order...

I must say, I am ever so charmed by this asparagus man! Notice the letter 'A' on his y-fronts :)

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