Kitchen / Garden / Sanctuary - Urban Homesteading to Nourish Body + Spirit

Month: August 2010

August Photo Update

How have you been these past two weeks? Hopefully you’re out enjoying summer while it’s still around! The mornings are already getting cooler around here, and the autumn birds are beginning to sing. The garden is really at its peak, and we’ve been blessed with heaps of organic cucumbers, zucchini, kale, parsley, basil, cabbage, onions, potatoes, mini pumpkins, and tomatoes. I love the bounty! It’s the freshest, most organic, delicious, wholesome, high-vibration, grown-with-love food, and ingesting it just feels good! We are certainly eating like kings right now! I am so grateful for our garden.

August has been busy around here in a good way; my sister was in town for a week (so fun!), and Hubby and I went camping last weekend at my parents’ land which was completely wonderful. In the rush of work-a-day living, I forget how peaceful and healing it is to just hang out in nature. Sitting in the sun, looking out at the view, I kept thinking “This is life.” The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and we just hung out and read, cooked at the coleman stove, drank tea, ate, laughed, watched chipmunks, ate wild currants, hiked around a little, and enjoyed the fresh mountain mornings, the twilight hour, a few shooting stars at night, and the nearly-full moon shining into our tent.

And since we had a rental car, I took all of our giveaway stuff to the thrift store drop-off after we got back; that stuff had been lingering in our entryway for far too long, and it felt great to clear it out. Doing that inspired me to clean up the rest of our house, too. It has been in shambles because we’re both too busy and too tired to devote energy to it. I find that in terms of the house, my outer realm both reflects and affects my inner realm. So when the house is out of control, it’s an accurate snapshot of my life at that moment in time. But if I take the time to really get it back under control (9 1/2 hours on Friday!), then I feel as if I have my whole life back under control. Whether your house is clean or dirty really affects your psyche more than I’ve ever realized.

Anyway, here are some photos from the past month:

The Garden in August

Cute sign

HAD to take a picture of these lovelies!


Each wild currant bush has its own taste.

Aspen grove on the Land

Look at that -- our campsite is as messy as our house!

Nourishing Mixed-Herb Pesto

Oregano, parsley, & cilantro pesto

Pesto is such a versatile condiment — it’s wonderful over fish or chicken, on crackers, tossed with pasta, spread over eggs or sauteed zucchini, in a roasted vegetable sandwich, used as a pizza sauce, or straight off the spoon. And although basil pesto is the most common type, pesto can be made with any combination of herbs. In fact, I think I like mixed-herb pesto even better than basil-only — it has more layers of flavor! And don’t forget that herbs are mineral rich and packed with nutrition, and can definitely be thought of as a medicinal food.

Make a healthy snack with goat cheese and mixed-herb pesto on a raw zucchini slice "cracker"

Use any combination of fresh herbs that you want; pesto is a great way to use up heaps of herbs at once, such as the cilantro sitting in the back of your fridge and the overabundance of oregano in your garden. It’s also a nice way to preserve those herbs for use later in the year; use ice cube trays to freeze pesto into small portions and thaw as needed over the winter.

One nice combination is oregano, parsley, and cilantro — this is probably my favorite. Use equal parts…or not! Just combine according to the amounts you have. I do suggest, however, that you go easy on the fresh sage if you choose to use it; it lends an overpowering (and not all that tasty) element. Also, mint is nice as an added “splash” but go easy on that too, since it can also overpower.

My basic pesto recipe is as follows, though you’ll probably find you don’t even need a recipe. Just gather a bunch of herbs, add a clove or two of garlic (start with less garlic and add more later if needed), add nuts, cheese, and salt, and then olive oil to form a paste.

Basic Herb Pesto

1 cup fresh herbs, packed

2 garlic cloves, small-medium size

3 Tbsp olive oil, approx.

3 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, approx.

1-2 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts, approx. (optional)

Salt to taste

Put everything into the food processor and blend until a paste is formed.

Instead of using the food processor, though, I like to make mine the old fashioned way using a knife and cutting board. If you use a nice sharp chopping knife, the task goes faster and is more fun than the food processor (at least for me — I get angry at my food processor when making pesto!). The key is definitely the sharp knife. Chop your herbs, garlic, and nuts as finely as possible, add the parmesan (chop it up too, if you like), and then add olive oil until a loose paste is formed. You can replace a little of the olive oil with water if you want. Add salt to taste. The texture will be more rustic than paste-like, but that’s not a bad thing. 😉

Making pesto without a food processor

Bumblebee Advice Needed!

Straw bale beehive (hive entrance is the hole at the bottom right)

Have you had a nice week? I have! My sister has been visiting from out of town, and the past week has been all about having fun — like being on vacation while still being home!

Anyway, I have a question for those of you with beekeeping experience. In my parents’ yard (where my gardens are), there’s a bumblebee hive (not honeybees…but the big, fuzzy bumblebees) inside one of the straw bales that I was going to use for garden mulch. This is such a special thing, and I feel honored that these bumblebees have chosen a home near my gardens; it makes the yard feel like a nature preserve!

I’d like to do everything I can to encourage them to stick around. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article about bumblebees states that they only use their hive for one summer, and don’t overwinter in it. Is that really true? Do you have any experience with bumblebees? Should I build anything around the straw bale for the winter to persuade them to stay?

Leave a comment if you have any insight!

Growing Fruit Trees From Seed: Peach, Plum, Nectarine, & Apricot

I’d always thought that growing fruit trees from seed was too much of a long-term proposition, and so I wouldn’t bother with it. And then three years down the road I’d still be thinking about fruit trees from seed — no closer to my dream orchard than I was three years prior.

Determined to put an end to this mental hangup, I began saving the pits from the most delicious local peaches and plums that I ate during the summer of 2008. I then followed the instructions in this great article, which takes you through the whole process:

Mother Earth News: “Growing Free Fruit Trees”

4-month-old Plum and Peach seedlings (in the foreground — plum on the left, peach on the right)

Now my baby fruit trees are about a year and a half old and I’m astounded at how big they are. These things are growing like weeds, and I need to seriously start considering where to plant them!

As a side note, I overwintered the baby trees in the black pots in the photos below, against the south side of the house, mounded up with dry autumn leaves. All survived the winter!

So if you’d like to embark on this fun little project, now is the time to begin saving your peach, plum, nectarine, and/or apricot pits. I let the pits dry on a shelf for several weeks (more like months, actually). To open the pit, use whatever tool you have the most success with (as outlined in the article), but the nutcracker I initially used broke clean in half before it cracked even one pit. So I got out the hammer and had no problem shattering pits out on the back sidewalk; surprisingly, none of the actual seeds got crushed in the process.

After a year and a half of growth, here’s what my trees look like:

1 1/2-year-old Plum trees

1 1/2-year-old Peach tree


Update 5/3/2012: The three-year-old peach trees have baby peaches on them! Click here for photos.

Update September 2016: Many of the trees died due to peach tree borer. The surviving trees are marauded by squirrels each year so that there are few peaches left. Here are some that survived this year! The peach I picked was picked too early I think, but otherwise the squirrels were going to get it. Its taste was ‘ok’ once it sorta ripened.

Peach tree from seed (c) The Herbangardener

Peach tree from seed (c) The Herbangardener



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