Now You Tell Me...

Here is our potted jalapeño plant. I'm really looking forward to the taste and heat it will add to our late summer dishes.

Notice anything unusual about it?

I didn't either for a long time but there is.

There are two plants in the pot. Even when you look at the surface of the soil, it looks like it's all coming from a common root but, as you can see above, there are two different leaves. It helps that one of the plants foliage is turning purple.

My wife tells me this is a volunteer from an epazote plant (Dysphania ambrosioides) that she planted last year. Some of the seeds must have blown over into this pot.

Epazote, my Mexican wife told me after 26 years of marriage, is used in Mexico to add with beans as a carminative...that is, mixed with the beans, it cuts down on the intestinal gas much like a natural version of Beano.

After all these years, now she tells me...

Another difference is the flowers. Here are the flowers from the jalapeño.

Here are the flowers from the epazote.

It'll be nice to mix this with the jalapeño, the chiles, and the beans we're sure to cook later on.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Goin' Green With the Cheapskate

While I'm not above turning to a chemical solution when times get really bad, I try to avoid it as much as possible. I like to keep my gardening as green and organic as I can without giving away the farm to the pests waiting in the wings.

Some of the things I do to keep this space sustainable and in harmony with nature are listed below.

Since I don't have room for a compost heap, I practice "compost in place," such as when I deadhead the roses, throw them on the lawn, and use the lawnmower to mulch them into the grass.

And, while I sweep up the debris that lands on the patio, I leave the plant detritus in the planters to decompose naturally to provide nutrients for the soil.

The leaves and other green waste swept up goes into the green waste container, which is then picked up by our sanitation company to be turned into commercial compost.

I also recycle everything I can, such as using an old plastic shopping bag to line this hanging basket. It provides me a way to control just how much I want this planter to drain.

I have this can crusher in the garage that can crush six aluminum cans at once.

When this trash bin gets full of cans, I take it to the recycler to get more money for my garden.

Previously, I've posted about my sprinkler system, which is mainly a drip system on a timer that puts just enough water on the plants, saving that precious resource in this very drought prone area.

Some kitchen scraps can be thrown into your garden as well, composting and making the soil rich in nutrients. Coffee grounds, orange peels, and egg shells are some of the kitchen scraps that have found their way into the soil. No, someone didn't throw up on our chile plant, this is leftover wort from when I made some homebrewed beer earlier this year.

Finally, I like to use the least harmful methods of pest control I can. From building an inert barrier on the grape vine, to using naturally occurring controls such as sulphur and iron pellets, to manually pulling weeds when I can. Here, I'm using my own concoction of vinegar and garlic to spray the aphids on my rose bush.

Those of some of my eco-friendly ways of gardening, what methods to you use?

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Grilled Buttermilk Herb Chicken

I'm picking two ears of corn, two zucchini, a handful of oregano (that I dried last week), Rosemary, and garlic chives

Now I need to incorporate all of this into a meal.

First, I'm using chicken thighs for the primary portion of the meal. I'm soaking them in buttermilk for 4 hours first. 

Next, I crush up all the herbs and mix with a cup of flower.

I Take the zucchini, slice up, put into a plastic bag with salt, pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a half teaspoon of hot mustard.  I close the bag and toss it all up before wrapping in foil.

I dredge the chicken in the herb/flour mixture, pick a couple of ears of corn, and then toss everything on the indirect side of the barbecue and cover with the lid.

Cook for 20 minutes, then put the chicken over the direct heat of the coals for 3 minutes on each side, then serve.

Copyrights 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

It's a Bloomin' Bachanalia

What new delights do we have this week?  The plumeria are dressing up the patio and providing a heavenly scent.

Angel Face has shown its face this week.

Double Delight is being delightful...

...and the day lillies are brightening our day.

Along with the zucchini, the squash blossoms are very edible too.

I'm picking a couple ears of this red-eared corn for our barbecue (recipe coming up later this week), along with some oregano, garlic chives, and rosemary for seasoning.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Smoked Tri Tip

So the Cheapskate got a new smoker for his birthday. Time to break it in.

To keep this with our gardening theme, I picked some zucchini and the first two ears of corn for the season to throw in with the roast.

4-5 Pound trip tip roast, USDA Choice or better
Pineapple juice
Lemon Juice
Rub (here's a recipe)

Cooking is simple but time consuming.

First, is the marinade. I cover the roast in pineapple juice with another cup of lemon juice thrown in. Then, I let sit in the refrigerator overnight. It's important to get a good piece of meat with good marbling. This one is USDA Prime but Choice would be good too.

Once the marinade is done, I coat with a rub that my wife makes. I put a semi-circle of charcoal and wet wood (mesquite in this case) in the bottom of the smoker.  I'll light only one end so it will slowly burn in a circle like a fuse.

I let smoke for about 4 hours, monitoring the meat temp with a probe thermometer.  When done, I slice and serve with the corn and zucchini, as pictured at the top.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Grape Harvest is All Sewn Up

I have a very productive grape vine. It's a ruby red seedless vine and the fruit from it is delicious.

It's so delicious that all the birds, racoons, possums, and other assorted vermin line up to strip it just before the fruit is ripe.

Earlier in the season when the plant was at the peak of dormancy, I put some wildlife netting on the back of it and draped the rest over the wall.

I let the fruit go as long as I thought it could before the animals would get to it and now it's time to finish the job.

Bringing the rest of the netting over the top, I match up the sides.

I take some twine and tie it around a screw. A nail with a thick head would would just as well, maybe even better.  This I use like needle and thread to stitch the two sides together.

A half-an-hour later, I've sewn the plant shut inside, like sewing up a big pillow case.

Now I've got my critter barrier in, let's just let those grapes ripen.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Seasons of Bounty

After finishing the chores this weekend, I had some time to reflect on the upcoming harvest.   I nabbed some zucchini for the evening's barbecue. I think I'll get about a fruit a day from the plants the way they're going now.  What else can I see...

I counted 13 ears of corn on the 7 stalks in our 4-foot long cornfield. We'll have some with the coming weekend's barbecue...I'm going to smoke a tri-tip in my new smoker. I think there will be more than that as the season progresses, too.

The chiles are showing fruit...

...while the plumerias bloom.

Our heirloom tomato is climbing in its cage while the sweet onions are maturing to the right.

For a long time, I didn't think this jalapeño was going to make it but we'll have some good salsa after all.

The guava tree is in bloom, we're hoping for our first crop in three years.

On the flower front, this epidendrum is back in bloom...

Mr. Lincoln is going on his third bloom of the season, with backing from the Lincolnettes...

...and this unnamed yellow rose is on its second.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

A New Month and Some Old Chores

A touch late today but worked up a nice sweat in the garden this weekend, starting with mowing the lawn. I like to do the hardest chore first. Then, each chore after that get progressively easier and more enjoyable.

The lavender is getting rangy so I need to give it a trim.

No big trick to it except that you want to try to avoid the bees that swarm all over it. Luckily, most of the bloom is done so no bees today. In bloom, you'd want to do it early in the morning before the bees start their pollen runs.

The zucchini is putting out fruit. Need more? Wait a few hours and we'll harvest again.

Not only do we grow veggies and fruit but we've got quite a few herbs in the garden too. Here, you see the oregano overflowing into the walkway.

I trim it back, put it on top of our fire pit's grate, and let it sit in the sun a few days to dry out.

It's also time to treat the grapes and the front yard roses with sulfur dust again to fight off mold and fungus. Soon, I'll be draping the wildlife netting over the grapes to keep the critters from eating them.

Lastly, I'll fertilize before calling it a day.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...