Monday, March 18, 2013

Springtime, Invasive Weeds & Lovely Dirt

I am working very hard right now to remember that winter isn't forever. I know that winter in Seattle is incredibly easy going and relatively quick to get through. I know that back home they're dealing with highs of 28 degrees and feet of snow still on the ground. I know. I do. It's just that I'd be happy with four weeks of winter a year, with the rest of the seasons happily taking up the other 11 months. That's all.

I bought my house back in December, and up until the past few weeks had done a remarkably great job of ignoring the state of my back yard. I knew that I had huge garden beds and four fruit trees. I also knew that I had ivy, blackberry, mud pits, and an overflow of trash from my neighbors property. I had automatically assumed the worst and was nearly ready to admit defeat on having a garden this year. Yes, before I had even put my hands in the dirt. It seemed like such an overwhelming amount of work, and I had assumed it would take me countless hours and yards of new soil just to get my beds into usable shape.

I was so wrong. Well, at least half wrong. I have spent close to 9 hours just pulling ivy, blackberry, and tiny fruit trees out of my garden beds. I am less than halfway done. I have pulled out roots longer than my body. I have fallen on my ass, gotten dirt clumps in my eyes, tweaked my back, strained my hands, been stabbed by blackberry thorns more times than I can count, and am now fairly certain that my entire neighborhood is built on a giant foundation of ivy roots. 

But! But! My soil! My soil is magnificent! My soil is rich and healthy. It smells beautiful and earthy and dark. It had gone years without being cared for, but because of that it had been filled with rotting fruit and leaves and is full of worms and bugs and magic.

I went from thinking that I'd be growing a few herbs in pots this year, to now plotting the largest garden  I've ever had. I haven't planted anything yet, but am dreaming of root veggies and peas and tomatoes. I may even attempt watermelons and rhubarb now that I have the space. 

What's going in your garden this year? Any favorites or suggestions for someone who has never grown more than a handful of tomatoes and peppers?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Come Join Me! Nettle Foraging Workshop with Slow Food Seattle- March 30th

Come join me & other Slow Food Seattle members & friends - I'll be leading a nettle foraging workshop on March 30th, from 12 PM - 2 PM at Discovery Park in Seattle! Tickets are $10 per person, and you'll go home with a bag full of nettles, as well as plenty of ideas on how to use them! Tickets are available here!

"Join Slow Food members & friends on Saturday, March 30th at Discovery Park for an afternoon spent identifying, harvesting, and sharing recipes & uses for stinging nettles.

Experienced nettle foragers & Slow Food Board Members Renai Mielke & Julia Wayne will be leading this two hour class. We'll go over how to identify stinging nettles, safe & ethical harvesting practices, as well as our favorite ways to use & store them once home.

Please meet us in the grassy area at the end of the North parking lot, promptly at 12 PM. We'll spend a few short minutes talking before heading out into the park to hunt, and will not be easy to locate once we begin. We will be doing some easy paced hiking, likely no more than 2 miles.

We ask that you bring a pair of gloves to wear while harvesting (rubber gardening gloves, or dish gloves are best), and a plastic or cloth produce bag to collect nettles. We highly recommend wearing both long sleeves as well as long pants, and avoiding open toed shoes. Please dress for Seattle weather.

Each attendee will leave the class with their own harvest of nettles and an information sheet to use as a resource once home.

We will have some nettle filled treats to share at the end of the event. Please feel free to bring a light snack to share once we are done harvesting."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Homebrewed Ginger Beer

I started brewing kombucha at home several years ago now, and just recently became interested in expanding a bit further into other naturally fermented beverages (and foods!) Sourdough wasn't the biggest success for me, but a recent attempt at sauerkraut came out absolutely fantastic and has led me into a bit of an obsession. Oops.

I've been loving ginger beers for some time now, and the more I saw how simple the list of ingredients was the more I knew it was something I wanted to experiment with on my own. I recently picked up a copy of Wild Fermentation and the first recipe I found myself drawn to was of course- one for ginger beer.

I found this recipe unique, wherein most recipes for ginger beer that I've seen online rely on the addition of commercial yeast to create carbonation. This recipe has you first create a ginger "bug" a few days in advance that is added to the rest of your ingredients before bottling.

Homebrewed Ginger Beer (Gently adapted from Wild Fermentation)

Ingredients for Ginger Bug:
Several inches fresh ginger root
Pure cane sugar

Mix 2 tsp grated ginger root (skin is fine) with 2 tsp sugar, and 1 cup of water in a small jar. Stir well and store in a warm spot, covered by cheesecloth or paper towel. Continue adding 2 tsp of grated ginger and sugar daily, until ginger bug begins to look frothy or bubbly- 2 days to a week, depending. Once ginger bug is bubbling, you're ready to start your brew. If you decide to wait to brew- continuing adding sugar and ginger to your bug daily.

Ginger bug- pre-bubbles

Ingredients for Ginger Beer:
2-6 inches fresh ginger root, grated (depending on how gingery you'd like it to be)
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
Juice from 2 lemons

Boil 2 quarts of water. Add grated ginger root (I went for the full amount), and sugar. Boil mixture for 15 minutes, then allow to cool completely. Once mixture is cool- strain out ginger, then combine with lemon juice, and strained ginger bug. Add enough water to total 1 gallon (4 liters). Stir well, then carefully bottle. Store in a warm place for 2 weeks. Refrigerate at least several hours before opening- and open very carefully as carbonation may be very strong.

Tips on bottling: I used two 1/2 gallon growlers with screw-on lids from a local homebrew supply shop. You can also use recycled plastic soda or juice bottles, flip-top beer bottles with rubber seals, or standard beer bottles if you have a capper. Basically anything that you can safely seal. Large canning jars would also work.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recipe: Pink Grapefruit Soda

This is incredibly simple, as far as recipes go. I've been experimenting with making my own soda flavors lately and while this one takes very minimal effort, the flavor is perfectly sweet, tart, and bold.

1 cup fresh squeezed pink grapefruit juice
3/4 cup raw or organic sugar
Soda water and ice

Heat grapefruit juice over medium high heat, until it begins to simmer. Add sugar and stir until disolved. Allow to cool- then mix with desired amount of soda water and ice. I used about 1/4 cup of grapefruit syrup in a 12oz glass, which was a little sweet for my taste. Start with a few tablespoons then go from there!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Snail Bombed

Yes, I'm breaking my months long blogging hiatus because of snails. I feel really okay about that.

I was informed yesterday afternoon that the park down the street from my apartment was going to be art bombed - with giant knitted snails. I've gotten into the really glorious habit lately of actually sleeping in past 6:45 am on weekends, and figured I could probably get myself cleaned up with shoes on my feet before 9 am. Success!

The artists were encouraging people to pick one or two out to take home. The cat seems to think that they are now hers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cape Disappointment, Astoria, OR & The 2012 FisherPoets Gathering

This past Friday post work I loaded up my tiny car and scooped up my friend Katie- we hit the road to Astoria, OR to meet up with Brittany who I hadn't seen in close to a year.

Brittany, who's also from Southeast Alaska, now living in Portland- always seems to find the most Alaskan-centered activities possible, and this trip was no different. We'd been talking about attending the 2012 FisherPoets Gathering since sometime in 2011 and it was the perfect excuse to get out of the city for the weekend and have a bit of a ridiculous adventure.

The drive down was a rainy mess, and I was beyond grateful to have Katie navigating while simultaneously feeding me pieces of quesadilla from the taco bus. We had decided to stay on the Washington side of the Columbia- in a yurt at Cape Disappointment State Park. It's about a half an hour drive between Cape Disappointment and downtown Astoria but it takes you through some sweet little communities with plenty of fun signs to read. Over and over again.

Our first night was fairly uneventful. There was a bit of miscommunication and a lack of cell service, but we all ended up at the yurt, warm and dry and safe from the freakishly aggressive band of park racoons. We somehow managed to bring enough food to feed about six people for a week, and regardless still ate mostly cheese and grapes.

Saturday morning we headed to Astoria- the plan being to check out a few of the FisherPoets events, and then to see what other sorts of trouble we could get into.

Our first stop was Pier 39, where we went through a self-guided tour of the old BumbleBee Seafood cannery. "Work Is Our Joy" was the phrase of the weekend- used in a lot of the poetry readings. I found it a little off-putting, but there's some really intense gillnetting history tied into it. More information via Salmon For All if you're interested.

 There had originally been a tour scheduled on one of the local fishing boats, but unfortunately it was moved due to the weather- you can't tell from the photo, but there was really intense wind and hail almost all day Saturday.

I'm pretty sure this was the entire old outboard motor show.

Huge, old, really neat canning equipment.

There were some beautiful old fishing boats on display as well- I couldn't get over how tiny the fish trap skiffs were!

From the waterfront we headed up a few blocks to the Fort George Brewery. February is stout month, and while I'm not normally much of a stout drinker- their Kentucky Tart Stout was absolutely phenomenal. We hung out in the brewpub for a good chunk of time, deciding to wait for their 1 PM brewery tour. We were very serious.

The tour was short and sweet, and the brewery smelled mysteriously of fresh oysters. I really love that so many small breweries are starting to can their beer. 

Brittany photo bomb!

Cutest hot water tank ever!

Post brewery tour we did a little bit of wandering, and ended up at the Astoria Heritage Museum. It was tiny and covered a lot of history in a few small rooms. My favorite was the upstairs- the largest room was nearly half full of vintage coin banks.

At this point we headed back over the bridge with the intention of taking a serious nap before our evening began. Easily distracted- we ended up instead at the North Head Lighthouse.

Once thoroughly napped and full of fruit and cheese, we headed back into Astoria for spoken word and music by The Ratfish Wranglers at The VooDoo Room, then finished out our night at the beloved Sea Hag.

On Sunday morning I decided that it would be fun to get the flu, and ended up cutting our plans for the day brutally short. A quick stop at the beach to check out driftwood, and we were back on the road fairly early.

All in all a great weekend, and much needed trip out of the city.
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