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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Is It Worth It?"

Back in June
That was my husband’s question, when I told him I have an idea for next year’s garden and how I can combine straw bales with the first stage of raised bed constructions. “It’s worth it to me,” I answered, and he did not push me further. 

Before the olives
I tell the dog, as I choose vegetables from the garden,  that my Greek salad contains “all things bright and beautiful.” Cucumbers are soft green, peppers soft yellow and bright orange, tomatoes as red as red can be. Since we don’t live in the south of France (let alone in Paris), I’ll need to buy olives at the store in town, but it pleases me to look at my own garden’s bounty in a bowl. In the garden, stiff training supports that held heavy peony heads earlier in the summer now bear aloft fat purple fingers of eggplant. A few of those split in two and brushed with olive oil can go on the grill next to a couple of chops, and with salad on the side, that will be dinner.

eggplant this morning
Yesterday’s forecast of “scattered showers” for Wednesday and Thursday has been downgraded to “partly cloudy,” with hope for rain pushed back to next Monday. Having to water my garden every morning and evening, though, keeps the daily status of that riotous jungle clear in my mind.

“Is it worth it?” 

In terms of what? Given the cost of plants and straw bales and fertilizer and the time spent watering, am I saving money over buying the same vegetables at the store or the farm market? Well, they wouldn’t be the same vegetables, would they? Not to me, they wouldn’t. It is worth it to me to feel that I am inhabiting my own life, rather than simply commuting to and from a house and visiting the country as a tourist. I am living, here and now, on my home ground. 

The piper must be paid in any life. Is life worth living, with all its work and troubles and woes? I say yes. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From My Michigan Garden to My Paris Kitchen

A few little organic holes don't bother me
My home version of “farm to table” requires no transportation by air, sea, or land, unless you count walking from the garden into the house. If my tiny kitchen were in Paris, France, my only “garden” would be a row of pot herbs on a windowsill, but in Leelanau County I am not that limited, and the vegetables are doing well this summer in my garden's straw bale beds. Above, with parsley between the two plants, you see chard, glorious chard! Years ago I discovered chard as the answer to my problems with growing spinach. Spinach doesn’t work for me, chard does. Our grandchildren adored it, too, baked in a cheesy cream sauce (music to my ears: “Is there any more chard?”), which I have done again this season. Grated Parmesan sprinkled on top, baked until brown — but I didn’t photograph it, and you don’t need a recipe for anything that simple. 

Nightshade family but very edible
Eggplants are still small but coming along, as are their garden neighbors and near botanic relatives, the peppers. Acorn squash look promising. We’ll see if the tiny melons make it to eating size before frost. I hope they do.


Lots of growing to do!
I’m not finished this summer with tabbouleh, but you’ve seen that already, so here is something else to make with cucumbers: a refreshing cold summer soup. Pick the cukes while still tender (before large seeds develop), and peel, cube, and puree in a blender with as much chopped fresh onion as you think you’ll like, plain yogurt (I prefer yogurt made with whole milk, because what is the point of vitamins if the fat that makes them soluble has been removed?), and enough chicken or vegetable broth to achieve desired consistency. Curry seasoning is transformative. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time, and when serving garnish with fresh nasturtium blooms, parsley sprigs, chopped chives, or any other attractive, edible, summer-appropriate note.

Cold cucumber soup with nasturtium garnish
The flowers in my garden give me as much pleasure and satisfaction as the vegetables — purple stars preceding eggplant, large yellow squash blossoms and smaller, lighter yellow blooms on the melon vines. My straw bales are arranged in a square, with entry on two sides, but most of the weeds inside the square are safe from me, because — why remove them? They’re not in the bales, competing with the vegetables for water and nutrients. Besides, wild clovers attract and feed pollinators, and the beautiful milkweed beloved of monarch butterflies — how could I uproot and toss aside such a banquet for beauty?