Pea Patch

Spring fever has well and truly set in, despite the fact that yesterday was cool and grey all day. We are particularly ebullient since we again have had a weekend without full-time office work. Planting and cooking and cleaning urges can by met head on. Yesterday was one of those close-to-perfect days, which perhaps can never be the majority of our days, but I certainly aim to increase their frequency.

We slept pretty soundly through the night, which is still a treat, as the last year has been a pretty insomnia-haunted one. We arose rested at half past 6, after a pleasant round of post-alarm dozing and pre-day chatting. We did a work-out lite, doing only stretches, push-ups, and yoga, saving our energy for garden exertions. Saturday is no paper, so we cruised the week’s leftovers over a breakfast of “chippy eggs” and bacon. Chippy eggs are our bastardization of chilaquiles, which allow us to use up those dregs that occupy the end of a bag of tortilla chips. We have accumulated so many such dregs lately that I actually put them in a quart jar after a recent cupboard cleaning and have forbidden us from purchasing tortilla chips until we go through some of these. We’re wondering if we could market them at a yuppie-mart somehow. “Aged Tortilla Crumbles” perhaps? Anyway, I generally start with some onions gently carmelized in butter or oil, in our medium iron skillet, with minced chiles if some are around. When they’re nice and sift and brown, I add a healthy dollop of canola and raise the heat, and then toss in a good handful of crumbles. The amt of crumbles is based on the number of mouths to feed, and the number of eggs to be tossed in. I whipped 4 eggs yesterday, with some milk, S&P, and poured it in, stirring around and allowing it to set up a bit. We had a very soft avocado to dispatch, and some nice Israeli feta, so I put the scooped avocado and feta in and folded them in, and lidded it all, and turned off the skillet til the bacon was done. This was a really nice combo.

After breakfast we headed down to the garden. Our plans for the session were to clear the plot for our pea patch, turn compost, plant a sunflower border, and then do any little miscellaneous poking in of seeds we were struck to do. And let the girls out for some rooting around. In less time than we’d have estimated we got all of this done — say, maybe 3 hours. Here’s some pics from today, showing the results.

Here’s a birds-eye from the landing of the stairs, which shows pretty much the whole left half of our little half percent of an acre. It’s a leetle blurry, sorry, but for mapping purposes does the job. The patch in the right bottom corner is pea-heaven. You see drip hoses, and the little maintenance path leading to what looks like a circle. That’s a paper pot protecting the novia-chayote we put in last week. It seems to be settling in pretty happily, not growing much above ground right now, which is hopefully due to some serious root-setting. Our two full compost bins are in front. In the 2 plots to the left of the pea patch are some mustard, our giant kale and some favas to the far left.

Here’s a pretty picture of our crazy kale. We planted this wonderful thing in January 2004. It was a sport from a pack of siberian kale, but this one, not a true siberian kale at all, with its lovely deeply cut purple leaves and lofty ambitions, was the one that flourished. Supposedly, sometime in its second year it should go to seed. We’re going to try to save some, though, as this fellow demonstrates, what will result is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, it keeps growing and putting out really tasty leaves.

Though Patrick had sighted some sprouts from the lettuce bed we planted last week, there are no extant early comers at this time. This may be becuase that bed gets little full sun this early in the year, or because our friendly neighborhood slugs and snails are fattening themselves up on a diet of greens. At least, if this is the case, we’ll still get the benefits of the lettuce, since we feed our slimy friends directly to the hens as we come across them.

Here’s a ground-level overview which shows the lettuce patch, right beyond the greenery in the foreground. You can see the looming shadow of the house, which blocks all sun for the winter months from ever kissing most of the yard, except for the very back reaches. This was taken at around noon, probably. The sun will sweep along over the course of the day, moving the shadow around to the east, giving the section from the herb bed over to the pea patch back to the fence late afternoon sun. It’ll probably be April before we get midday sun hitting the whole plot.

In addition to pea planting and compost turning, we did plant sun flowers all along the leading edge of the garden, in the hopes of creating an herbal fence. The owner of our house is having some construction done on the back of the house, and we have a deep-seated fear of the contractor tendency to use all available surfaces for storage and bracing material. We’ve lost some established plantings that way in the past. Flowers seem to be some of the only plants that are recognized as intentional in a permaculturally-influenced space like ours. To many observers, it apparently just looks like a lot of weeds. So, we’re trying for a flowery advance guard. We’ll see if it works.

The lengthening days and warmth are bringing plenty of blooming flowers already, as my burning eyes, and these pics, will attest.

Our jasmine is going crazy, making this corner of the yard a heavenly smelling bower. I don’t know what this little flower is, it’s a shade lover, I’m sure it’s a woodland native.

We only have a couple, but I am always heartened when I see it. If anyone knows what it is, I’d love to find out. This one lives in the east sideyard, which never gets any sun, and is the hens’ main stomping ground, which makes it especially surprising that this little beauty has survived!

Here are some narcissi poking up in the front yard. In the overview pic above, you can see a couple big heads of blue fescue. Our ex-roommate put a number of perennial plants in this bed — she is also the planter of the jasmine which makes this end of the yard so lovely. Here is some stock she planted a couple years ago, and is an early surprise this year.

I didn’t expect it back this year, as I thought it was a biennial, and last year was its 2nd year. Perhaps it’s another California per-annual.

Not yet blooming, but exciting to see, are the beginning shoots of our maximilian sunflowers. Maximilians are a perennial sunflower. Last year they were late starting, and pretty overwhelmed by a crazed stand of tomatillos, annual sunflowers, giant cosmos and amaranth that we filled this plot with (the pea patch this year). They seem to be getting an excellent start on year two. I can’t wait to see where they go.

All that, and it was only about 1:00 in the afternoon! Our fellow Oakland homesteader, Novella, came over and we did a great seed exchange, scoring some new varieties of climbing beans and lettuces, and passing along some of our runner and cannellini beans, seed mustard, and some of the new herbs we got from Richter’s. She and her partner Bill have a crazy big space, with almost continual full sun, which causes me no end of envy. They just got a passel of chicks from Murray McMurray. They got a mixed batch, so it’s going to be pretty exciting to see what they grow up to be. This has got Patrick really hankering to get going on building a permanent run for our girls, since once we do that, we’re going to get a few chicks to add to the flock. We’re hoping to have a work party in April to help clear the space and build the run.

Novella and Patrick went over to Amity Works to pick up some of the latest bounty of lemons they had. Here’s a few gleaming in the sun from this morning, when patrick was preparing them for an Indian pickling process. Can you believe that most of these lemons go to waste each year? It is so cool that they are doing this! They gave us another jar of the Temescal marmalade. While Patrick and Novella went a-gathering, I dragged out my sewing machine after way too long, and tackled a long neglected project. I got some very cool vintage linen towelling a few years back when Patrick and I were (pretty unsuccessful) collectibles dealers. I bought it from a very sweet woman, another dealer, with an amazing fabric stash. She sold me a box of 1920s shirting scraps, with this uncut toweling in it. I’ve been meaning to do the fairly simple task of turning it into napkins and towels for, well, for years. I’m always startled by how much of sewing isn’t sweing. It’s washing the fabric, and drying the fabric, and ironing, and planning the project, then taking the risk and finally cutting the fabric, then ironing some more. Finally, after all that, you have a few fleeting minutes of running seams, lengthened in my case by my starts and stops of realizing I need to change my thread color, and fill a new bobbin, and remember that groovy trick my fabulous, underutilized Bernina has for automatically lockstitching, etc etc etc. Then, finally, trimming all the little threads, and voila! Simple little napkins. But I’m actually very proud of them, and satisfied to see this great fabric I’ve had in a box for years on my table, and hanging from my towel hook. I love making stuff.

To appropriately top such a wonderful day, we had a mediterranean feast, with some double cream brie, a very fresh loaf of good bread, some bean soup made from Jacob’s Cattle beans from last summer’s garden, and 2 young artichokes from last week’s veggie box. Patrick made a really wickedly good garlic mayonnaise to accompany the chokes. We’ve been struggling to figure out how to get off the remaining mega-corp products we still consume, Best Foods mayo being a tough one. We’ve not liked any of the natural brands, finding them generally too sweet. When we’ve hand-made mayo in the past, it hasn’t really recommended itself as a regular practice, but this time, with the blender, and Jack Bishop’s recipe in Vegetables Every Day, it worked really well. We thought, hmm, maybe we could do it. So we’ll see. Maybe we’ve knocked another one down.

And then, after all, we went to bed contentedly oozing garlic from our every pore, and tired to the bone.

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One Response to Pea Patch

  1. mary mcguire says:

    What a nice break for me after i spent several hours, putting edits into my computer. I want everything neat and tidy right now but it was a pleasure to come to your garden as it is each time. thanks

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