June 27, 2013

verdolagas con huevos

201306_verdolagas con huevos
Another great use of purslane! This is a traditional Mexican dish and it turned out really well. I coarsely chopped the purslane in a food processor which saved chopping time.

Sauté onions and purslane, then add beaten eggs, cook until the eggs firm up, and season with salt. I also added garbanzos which helped change up the consistency.

Topped with some purslane tzatziki!

Recipe: http://www.examiner.com/article/huevos-con-verdolagas-eggs-with-purslane-recipe

June 26, 2013

purslane tzatziki

201306_purslane tzatziki
I harvested an enormous amount of purslane, which is our "volunteer living mulch." One of the things I made was purslane tzatziki. Like spinach and lambsquarter, purslane is high in oxalic acid. If you're worried about oxalates, it is sometimes recommended to consume calcium within 30 minutes of eating the oxalate-containing food, so pairing purslane with yogurt makes a lot of sense.

(though I pretty much made up the proportions)

June 25, 2013

thou shalt sit on thy front porch and greet thy passerby

2013.06_flagstone path (1)
Our house came with a combination entry walk/ porch that was a little crowded for my liking.  I personally like front porches that are generous, celebrated places that have the potential to activate community.  This lead us to separate our entry walk from our porch.  My Dad helped with the digging.  Thanks, Dad!  Eric and I went to a few stone yards to pick out the stone.  Then we installed the flagstone path our very selves.  We also put in switch grass for visual interest and biomass along with gypsophilia (baby's breath) for a historic throw back to what was grown on our neighbors land way back when Wheat Ridge was carnation capitol of the world.

Check out the different scales and textures of stones!
2013.06_flagstone path (2)

Of course, we gleaned our design inspiration from the internet.
Landscaping Network

Hammerhead Stoneworks


June 23, 2013

lambsquarter saag paneer


I picked a pound of lambsquarter from the various plants scattered around our yard. I really like the taste of lambsquarter; it is quite like spinach. Since it can be tedious to pick the individual leaves, it is nice when the plants get big and have large leaves. I also found it possible to twists the top leaf clumps off all at once, which speeds up harvesting a bit. What it your preferred method of harvesting lambsquarter?
I roughly followed this 101 cookbooks recipe, but instead of cream, I used almond milk, yogurt, and some ground peanuts and almonds.

Oh, and I subbed delicious Nabulsi cheese for the paneer.

June 22, 2013

top bar beehive

2013.06_top bar bee hive (1)
We finished the top bar beehive!!  But it doesn't look like we will have any inhabitants this year... We were on a few lists for getting swarming bees but an unusually low number of bees actually swarmed this year.  It could be a sign of the general health issues that bees have been facing lately including colony collapse disorder or it could be because all our late spring snow reduced early nectar supplies.

While we've been waiting for our swarm lists to pan out, Eric has been attempting to lure a swarm to our hive with a cotton ball of lemongrass essential oil because that supposedly mimics a queen bees pheromones.  He sweetened the offering with sugar water and a few chunks of bees wax.  No takers though.  Now that we are past summer solstice, it is unlikely that bees will swarm and even if they do they will not have much time to build up a new hive for winter.

June 16, 2013

lemon rice soup

2013.06_lemon rice soup
This just in: peas!  Every spring I get a serious case of ants-in-the-pants in anticipation of eating my garden veggies.  You'd think I would know by now that these things take time.  Ah well.

I tried this soup recipe from Martha Stewart in the winter because I was craving lemon.  It was good but I felt that it needed spring veggies in it so I made it today with fresh snap peas.  Much better.  Next time I make this soup I will use some interesting mushrooms instead of the fake meat product because, well, that's more my style.

8 c. veggie broth
1 1/2 c. white rice
2 Quorn chik'n cutlets (or mushrooms)
2 c. snap peas (or asparagus)
3 eggs
2 lemons
black pepper

In a large pot, bring the veggie broth and white rice to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  Heat up the fake chicken per the packaging.  Slice it up so it looks shredded.  Add the fake chicken to the cooked rice.  Whisk the eggs.  Juice the lemons.  Pour the lemon juice into the eggs while whisking.  Slowly pour 1 cup of the hot rice broth to the eggs while whisking.  Pour the tempered egg mixture into the soup and stir.  Add dill, salt, and black pepper to taste.  Cut the snap peas into bite sized pieces and add fresh so they keep their crunch.  Enjoy!

June 15, 2013

pistachio kale pesto

2013.06_pistachio kale pesto
Why wait for basil?

grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
lemon juice
black pepper

Blend the pistachios in a food processor.  Lightly steam the kale.  Throw everything in the food processor for a whirl.  Adjust flavors as necessary.

June 14, 2013

harvesting mallow (malva neglecta)

2013.06_mallow harvest
Like good permaculturalists, we are trying to start small and close to the house. We have roughly 1,000 ft² of annual beds (10 times bigger than our previous two years' community garden plot) and that feels very big with all the bindweed we're facing.

As I documented earlier, the remainder of the 11,000 ft² lot is some turfgrass, some xeriscaping, and the rest a mix of mallow, glechoma hederacea, dandelion, and some native grasses and wildflowers.

There is a lot of mallow. So, I harvested a bunch for mallow tea. What is the best method for harvesting?

I tried two methods: 1) picking individual leaves and then drying; and 2) cutting large bunches of mallow, drying, and then separating the leaves.

I think method #1 is slightly easier. Pick method #1 if you want to be outside. Pick method #2 if you want to be inside.

Either way, multitasking by listening to podcasts/audiobooks or conversing is good!

Either way, drying in a paper bag is the way to go in our climate.

Also, just learned that we have one globe mallow plant, which would be even better for tea.

June 13, 2013

simple and delicious lettuce tofu wraps

Julie and I love eating lettuce wraps this time of year. There have been days when I ate wraps for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mix it up with whatever is handy: beans, hummus, olives, etc.

Heat up a tortilla for 20 seconds and put on some olive oil and nut. yeast: 2013.06_wrap1

Lay on some thin slices of firm tofu (yes, not cooked, but it is good!): 2013.06_wrap2

Cover with more nut. yeast and season with cayenne, garlic powder (or my favorite, sambal oelek): 2013.06_wrap3

Pile on as much lettuce, arugula, purslane, etc. as you can fit: 2013.06_wrap4

Roll up and enjoy:

June 11, 2013

this is terrifying

Root system of field bindweed (can be up to 20 feet deep), Convolvulus arvensis.
Redrawn from B. F. Kiltz. 1930. J. Amer. Soc. Agron. 22:216-234.

We've been in an almost constant struggle with bindweed since planting our annual beds. It leaves me wondering: Is there some permaculture-based reasoning to embrace bindweed? Not that I know of. I read that it is possible to eliminate bindweed from cultivated areas after 3–5 years of dedicated removal.

Predictably, there is almost no bindweed in our sheet mulched beds. But most of the annual beds we planted were in the existing soil since it is relatively good soil that was already tilled and cultivated in past years. Plus, it takes a lot of effort to accumulate materials for sheet mulching, so we started small.

Well, we will continue to remove every root segment of bindweed that we find. That is, at least in the annual beds–the mallow, dandelion, etc. is fortunately keeping it away from the more wild part of the yard.

June 10, 2013

beating the heat

2013.06_beating the heat
(another weatherspark screenshot)

Today was the hottest day yet this summer, with temperatures in the high 80s and 90s all day. I am quite pleased that our house only got up to a cool 76ºF by 6 pm.

And I baked bread today. Albeit, it was in a bread machine. I suppose reducing kitchen heat gain is another benefit of the bread machine! I could even plug it in outside, or better yet, bake bread in a solar oven!

I attribute our retention of coolth to:
  1. The air sealing, attic, and wall insulation we had done this winter
  2. Our heavy plaster walls and ceiling provide a lot of thermal mass
  3. Opening windows and using the whole-house fan for night/morning sub-cooling of said thermal mass. Our climate's diurnal swings mean that we can use night ventilation to cool the house down as much as possible before sealing it up for the day. I ran the whole-house fan for an hour this morning. Another good reason to get up at 5 am!
  4. While not perfect, we do get a good deal of shading from trees to the east and west northwest, as well as a large patio overhang on the west side of the house.
  5. At lease one of our windows is low-E (west-facing). The rest are at least double-pane and I hope to do the lighter test soon.
I hope this performance continues–we usually get a stretch where night temperatures only drop into the 70s as opposed to the 60s. The ceiling fans, which we've yet to use, will definitely help in that situation.

June 4, 2013

dandelion coffee

2013.06_dandelion root coffee
Why feel guilty about the weeds in your backyard when you can harvest them??  As an apartment dweller not long ago, I urban foraged the weeds along the sidewalk edges of people's lawns.  Now I have plenty of weeds in my own backyard!  Though, of course, I might like to have a little more intentional growth as well someday...

We recently had a whole lot of bushy dandelions that were thriving.  I pulled them and harvested the roots for roasted dandelion coffee.  It makes for a neat variation on your standard cup of coffee - sort of like chicory coffee in New Orleans. 

I followed instructions from Prodigal Gardens.

June 3, 2013

sprinkler system sabotage?

2013.06_sprinkler system sabotage?
I struggled for days trying to figure out why one of our drip irrigation zones could not be activated from the timer/control box. This is our first season with the system that came with the property, so I was assuming it was my own ignorance or worse, that we cut a wire during digging.

After reading the valve manual, playing with all the knobs, and poking around with a multimeter, I finally discovered that the green wire going to the solenoid valve was not connected to anything in the timer box. Conversely, the timer box's red wire for this zone was snipped clean and dangling free in the valve box. It wasn't stripped, so I don't think it fell out of a wire nut. A mystery, but it makes me wonder if the sprinkler technician who blew out the system for the winter snipped a wire to try to guarantee a spring service call. Well, it didn't work this time! It makes me want to figure out a way to avoid having to hire someone to blow out the system in the winter.