Category Archives: Gardening
Summer is in full swing. The kids are fighting while playing Monopoly. Theo has been caught cheating red- handed trying to load the dice in order to land on and buy Boardwalk. I never liked Monopoly. I still don’t. What I do like is Pork with a capital “P”. We’ve been buying our pork at Costco. I know it’s a huge warehouse store and it’s driving smaller stores out of business, but a pork loin roast priced at $1.85 per pound is just too tempting to pass up. Besides there’s already enough blog postings about wonderful farmers markets and small organic free range ranchers. This post is about the BIG PIG. This is a meal that stretches. Check out what we do with our big pig!
Pork loin braised in milk Bolognese style is what we do first. This recipe comes from “The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan. It’s easy to make, cooks on the stove top and simply wonderful. First we have to cut the pork loin in half (it’s about 2 feet long) to accommodate the roasting pot. Basically, we braise the pork on all sides in olive oil and ghee (clarified butter) until it is browned, add salt, pepper, fresh sage, porcini mushrooms and simmer lazily in milk for 2 hours or so with the lid slightly ajar.
Next on the menu is pork dipped inspired by Philippe’s. I know it’s not the same but these dips are pretty darn good. And with Debbie’s homemade coleslaw if you close your eyes shades of Philippes run through your taste buds. Shown above with a Japanese cucumber from our war garden. In case you forgot, we are still at war.
What would pork be without carnitas or vice versa? The recipe is simple. Go surfing for 3 hours get real hungry and thirsty then just fry littleÂ pork chunks in canola oil till crispy, add salsa serve on top of a flour tortilla. Drink beer and you are set.
Now batting forth is pork fried rice. Take out the wok satute whatever is left of the pork loin in a touch of peanut oil with a few garlic cloves and remove from wok. Then sautee a carrot, celery stalk, frozen peas, green onions, water chestnuts and whatever else you might think would be good and scramble it all up with 2 eggs. Put the pork back in the wok add cooked white rice soy sauce, touch of rice vinegar, a bit of sugar and you’ve just taken your pork loin on a journey from Costco to Italy to Downtown LA. to Mexico and finally to China all for about $15.00.
Hopefully it’s not too late for our little ones to see progress in the past. That being said, there is a sprinkling of spring in the air. The wildflowers we planted this winter are starting to flower, it’s lighter when we get up in the morning (except for Debbie who gets up at 5:00am to go swimming.) I planted sweet peas and poppies in the parkway in front of our house. Ollie and I harvested the radishes we planted from seeds in our “public garden” around our plumeria tree. They look like weeds and nobody seems to know what lurks beneath the soil.
What is really going on beneath the soil? Everyday as people pass by on foot and cars tuned in to cell phones, radios, and iPods our little hidden harvest does nothing but grow if given enough water.
I am reading The Alchemist by Paulp Coelho to the 5th grade during woodcarving. In the book, a boy meets with a gypsy fortune teller to talk about his dreams. A dream is a homonym whose meaning changes with the sleeping or wakened state. Can one know of the future by looking at the past. How do we realize our dreams? Questions, questions, questions…
Sometimes you need to look underneath, behind, in between, above, beyond and yes below. In the meantime, take care of what you plant.
Was it murder? Was it natural causes? Was it a pest? Was it too much water? Was it root rot? Whatever the reason, our plum tree died of an unknown cause. After a bountiful harvest of plums in June and July upon returning from Summer holiday in September we found the tree dead. It was the biggest tree in our yard. It was the kids only climbing tree. It was what we saw outside our kitchen window while we were doing the dishes and bathing our babies in the sink. I cut it down this weekend with the intention of documenting the whole before and after process. As I made my first cut I became sad and the thought of taking pictures became morbid. I cut it down as quck as I could and stacked it in a bundle behind the house, hiding what I had done. As someone said, “its probably dead, nothing is forever ..
A rainy ,windy morning in the Southland had Debbie and Simon up early morning bakingÂ cookies for a kinder pot luck after their winter spiral walk.
After drop off at school Simon and I head Home Depot to get an Christmas tree. It’s never crowded in the Xmas tree lot at Home Depot at 8:30 in the morning. This day is no exception. I don’t even see anyone working the lot. We’ve got our pick of trees and no line to check out. As I’m looking up and down the lot using my pocket knife to unbind some of the trees which strike my fancy, Simon is drawn to one tree in the 6′-7′ section. It’s all bundled up yet he insists that this is the one and only tree on the lot that will please him. Well, since it’s starting to rain a little harder and I honestly don’t care what the tree looks like. I lobby annually for a live tree which we can replant in the parkway- but am always vetoed. I put the tree on my shoulder and hand in hand walk back to the mini van and strap the tree to the surf racks.
Before we all got sinus colds this past week, whenever we entered the kitchen, our olfactory senses were greeted by the wonderful smell of narcissus (paper whites) that we “force” on the window sill . Even though I can no longer smell them I am still thankful for the beautiful distraction they create each time I find myself at the sink doing dishes.
In our Southern California, snow-less(relatively) cold-less existence, paper whites hearken our family’s white Christmas. After Halloween, we dig out the yogurt jars we have saved from the year, fill them with water,put a bulb in and sit back and watch them grow (a bit like the sea monkees Ted was remembering, except that these really work!) Within three weeks we have blossoms galore and we know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christams.
Sometimes my kids think I’m a bit insane, embarrassingly so. Last year I entrenchedÂ myself in a book called Niwaki by Jake Hobson. I think I checked it out of the library 8 times. In a nutshell, it’s a Japanese gardening book written from Westerners’ perspective.Â I learned that most Japanese gardeners who trim trees use a three legged tripod ladder.Â Apparently you can get the single leg closer to the tree you are shaping therefore getting closer to your work. It has less impact on the tree and is more stable than a four legged ladder. I don’t know why, but I thought this was great. The first tripod ladder I saw was on my way home from picking up our kids from school at a house on Alla Ave. with a lovely Japanese garden with Black Pines, Junipers and gravel in all the right symbolic places. We carpool with another family so, the car was loaded with kids. I stopped the car, told the kids I want to talk to this gardener on the three legged ladder. The kids thought nothing of it. They are used to my forays into the unknown with stopping for stray dogs, loading firewood, and hunting down Gambusia . The ladder was beautiful. The gentle curve of the two front legs juxtaposed to the firm solitary rear one was exquisite. The gardener had no idea what I was talking about, perhaps it was because I was speaking in English, butÂ he pointedÂ to the house as he looked at me strangely. So I knocked on the door and and an elderly Japanese woman answered. I told her she had a lovely garden and I was interested in getting a three legged ladder and did she know where to get one. She also gave me a strange look and said it was her husbands’ ladder but he passed away years ago. I thanked her anyways and I toldÂ her I was sorry about her husbands’ passing away. I got back into the mini- van and continued home. Over the past year I’ve seen one or two tripod ladders around homes with gardeners trimming trees but they were unable to tell me where to get one.
Last weekend on the way to the archery range I had 4 kids in the car and I saw a a three legged ladder leaning up against a hedge. I yelled ” a three legged- ladder!” They yelled, “we are going to be late for archery!” I had my camera in the car so I pulled a u- turn and pulled up to the site. No one was on the ladder but there was a gardener milling around. I asked him if this was his ladder and he said no, it was his dads’. He had no idea where to get one. I took a few photos then left.
That same afternoon on the way to a tennis lesson lo and behold I saw yet another tripod ladder. This one again was unmanned. I stopped the car and noticed a crew of tree trimmers on a break. Again, I had my camera so I started taking some pictures. I was approached by a gentleman who asked what I was doing. I said I was interested in purchasing a three legged ladder and I asked him if he knew where to get one. He said they are called orchard ladders and you can get them at Home Depot or OSH. This took a little of the mystery out of my ladder adventures. However, I can still search for the worlds’ best three legged ladder.
Shhh, don’t tell anyone. I just planted an oak tree in the parkway in front of our house. It’s city property, we are only the stewards of the land. The sapling is only 5″ tall but it’s still a act of Guerilla Gardening. The city of Santa Monica plants camphor trees on our stretch of street called “the parkway”. They also suggest grass as a ground cover- boring and an unwise use of water. I get yearly weed abatement notices from the city citing my parkway plantings encroaching on the sidewalk. The tree is so small now, it’s hard to I imagine my boys climbing it or swigging from it’s branches. I meant to plant this “mighty” oak the day after election day to symbolize change, hope and the hard work this country needs to do but you know how things pile up. So let’s just say it went into he earth the day after President Elect Obama named Hillary Clinton Secretary of State. It’s a Canyon Live or Maul Oak tree (Quercus chrysolepis) which I got from Theodore Payne Nursery, one of my favorite nurseries. It specializes in California native plants and has such a great selection of interesting plants. They also have a great selection a wildflower seeds which I’m sowing on city property as well.