Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Nice, No Ice

Lucky me! The weather forecast for tonight has been updated to include the possibility of a freeze which would set a new record. To put the icing on the cake we are having high winds today and this evening which makes it virtually impossible to do anything to protect my plants. If it really does freeze I am out 60 tomato plants and 50 peppers. Not to mention all the herbs and flowers. Not a disaster but darn near. Keep your fingers crossed.

I do have some back-up in the greenhouse for the peppers and tomatoes but not for anything else like the Italian, Thai and French basil or all the marigolds and zinnias.

Just so you won't think I'm crazy for starting the garden this early here is the record for last frost since 1948. I had peppers and tomatoes in 3 days ago (4/12). We have only had a frost this late in 1950, 1962, 1978, 1983, 1986. Notice that the last frost for the last 10 years has been before April 9th and in 2011 was in February. Just eager for that first garden tomato.

Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center. 

                      Growing Season Data (base=32 F)
                   Station: ( 90451) ATLANTA_WSO_AIRPORT      
                Years:  1948 To Present    Missing Data:   0.0%

            Last    First            Last    First            Last    First
           Spring    Fall           Spring    Fall           Spring    Fall
     Year  Freeze  Freeze     Year  Freeze  Freeze     Year  Freeze  Freeze
     1948   3/29    10/18     1949   3/19    11/18     1950   4/15    11/21
     1951   3/22    11/ 3     1952   3/16    10/29     1953   3/ 5    11/26
     1954   3/16    10/31     1955   3/29    11/20     1956   3/25    11/ 9
     1957   3/10    10/28     1958   3/22    11/29     1959   3/18    11/ 7
     1960   3/23    11/ 8     1961   2/26    11/ 9     1962   4/16    10/25
     1963   3/23    11/ 3     1964   3/31    11/21     1965   3/22    10/25
     1966   4/ 6    11/ 2     1967   3/19    11/ 5     1968   3/24    10/26
     1969   3/27    11/ 5     1970   4/ 3    11/16     1971   4/ 3    11/ 8
     1972   4/ 2    11/18     1973   4/11    11/10     1974   3/22    11/13
     1975   3/31    11/14     1976   3/18    10/29     1977   4/ 6    11/12
     1978   4/22    12/ 6     1979   3/26    11/15     1980   3/ 4    11/19
     1981   3/20    11/21     1982   4/ 7    11/ 5     1983   4/20    11/12
     1984   3/11    11/13     1985   2/16    12/ 2     1986   4/23    11/13
     1987   4/ 4    11/12     1988   3/17    11/29     1989   2/25    11/17
     1990   3/21    11/30     1991   3/ 5    11/ 4     1992   4/ 3    11/ 8
     1993   3/15    11/ 1     1994   3/11    12/11     1995   3/10    11/ 4
     1996   3/22    11/ 3     1997   3/16    11/16     1998   3/13    12/18
     1999   3/12    11/ 3     2000   4/ 9    11/15     2001   3/27    10/28
     2002   3/23    11/18     2003   3/31    11/14     2004   3/23    12/14
     2005   3/ 9    11/17     2006   3/26    11/21     2007   4/ 8    11/ 7
     2008   3/25    11/17     2009   3/ 4    12/ 5     2010   3/ 7    11/ 7
     2011   2/12    11/11     2012   2/13    11/25     2013   3/27

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Dog, Old Tricks

Just came in from a full day in the garden. Going to set back, drink a few beers and watch the Master's. Got 20 tomatoes in the ground and the last of the peppers. All of the tomatoes and peppers now have their cages and, if needed, a little extra support in the form of a bamboo stick. The rest of the tomatoes will go in tomorrow.

Miss Zoey has learned a new trick  from Minimonk's new dog Mr. Peterson who loves to play with and demolish pine cones. Miss Zoey, being very prim and neat, makes sure she brings the pine cone indoors and demolishes it on the white  living room carpet. Doesn't do any real damage but there is enough of a mess and quantity of small bits that it requires getting out the suck broom to clean it up.

Zoey was a big help in the garden today. I use Popsicle sticks to label the individual plants I put out since peppers and tomatoes pretty much all look alike until they start to fruit. Miss Zoey likes Popsicle sticks and likes to pull them from the ground by the plants and play with them for a while. She has not learned to put them back where she found them.

Oh! The Met Life balloon flew directly overhead today and at a pretty low altitude. I would guess about 1500 feet. Cool!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back to The Garden

It's dried out enough to get back in the garden this afternoon. Our friends are heading off to Augusta in a bit for the Master's. Been a good visit and it was good that it was too wet to garden as I could spend time entertaining and not be anxious about missing good time in the garden during this critical time. This afternoon will be about moving herbs and flowers into the garden and that's where the cinder block holes come into play. They make perfect little containers for a a basil or dill plant or a marigold or zinnia. Flowers are important in the garden to attract pollinators plus they look nice. The tomatoes will start going in tomorrow I think and then I'll have to decide what goes into the last two finished beds and get started on more beds. I'm leaning towards squash.
Anyhow, off to one last lunch with our friends and then back to work. I must admit that it has been a nice rest.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Lots of Spring Rain

Looks like we pretty much got all of April's allotted rainfall last night and this morning. Flash flood warnings are in affect in the area. It is still raining so I haven't been to the garden yet to assess the damage, if any, and I am hopeful my flood control strategies are working. A good stretch of gardening accomplished in the last week with 12 10' x4' beds completed and filled and prepared for planting. Yesterday saw the first of the greenhouse plants(other than onions, leeks and shallots) go into the garden proper. One bed of 14 egg plants(7 pickling and 7 Amadeus) with 6 long cayenne plants. Another two beds with strictly peppers (7 ea. Carmen, 7 ea. Karma, 7 ea. Big Guy jalapeno and  7 ea. Early jalapeno and finally 6 ea. Jimmy Nardello. with room for six more of another pepper as I ran out of energy and light. I was trying to beat the rain and I just hope all of the little plants survived the deluge. All were supported with a bamboo stake and tied so they should be ok. Fingers crossed.

As soon as it dries a bit it will be time for the tomatoes. I've reserved 3 beds for tomatoes and haven't quite decided how best to plant them. In the eggplant and pepper beds I panted 7 plants along each long edge and 6 down the middle for 20 plants per bed. That should be enough space for the peppers plush some small things like lettuce and other greens in between. Tomatoes should have a bit more room to allow for air circulation and sunlight to reach the fruit. Maybe 5 down each edge and there may be enough room for 2 or 3 down the middle. If I can only get 36 plants in 3 beds I'm probably going to have to dedicate at least 2 more for tomatoes. I'd better get building.

Got friends coming to stay for a few days on their way to Augusta for the Master's which will put a cramp in the gardening for a few days but if the weather cooperates I should actually have it all ready to go.

I just checked the radar and the rain should be ending in a few minutes, at least for a while, and we'll go check things out.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Weather Lies

The forecast  was for thunderstorms and rain all day. Not a drop. I had planned to take advantage of the rain to get some "not outside" things done. I did get the mower prepped with new blades and drive wheels and a clean air filter and oil change. I was reluctant to start anything big outside since it was 90% chance of rain but I finally decided that the weather people were smoking funny stuff and went out and got some stuff done in the garden.
Got friends coming for a few days next week on their way to the Master"s They live in Arkansas now and it's nice that we can stage them for the tournament and get to see them. When they lived here we were constant companions and really miss them. Of course Madam gets insane when they are due for a visit. Nothing is ready for the visit. So far the carpets are cleaned but it looks like I have a major effort in the front with fresh pine straw and whatever. So tomorrow is forecast to be nice and I am going to trust them and start putting out plants. Eggplant, tomato and pepper plants  should see freedom tomorrow.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Trader Joe's Frozen Pizza

Yes, I bought a frozen pizza. Two actually. I bought a 4 cheese and a Margherita from Trader Joe's. I can't speak about all their frozen pizzas but we had the 4 cheese for lunch today and it wasn't half bad. It is made in Italy and the ingredient list is honest pizza dough (flour, water, yeast, salt, oil) and the toppings are tomato, tomato juice, oregano, pepper, Edam, Asiago, Gran Padano, and Pecorino. Nothing else. Making your own pie is always going to produce a superior product but for a quick meal this is not a bad deal....about a 12" pie and it was 4 bucks. I'd say it was a win.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rouladen Time

Updated: After I made this last night I decided that a beurre manie is a better option for thickening this. The butter adds a nice gloss to the sauce and brings in some flavor as well. I've updated this below to reflect using flour and butter for the thickening. I also corrected the spelling of spaetzle.

I mentioned my brain fart at the grocery this morning confusing the ingredients for rouladen and braciole, Whatever, I got home without the Parma ham for the braciole so I am making rouladen instead. Indecision is the key to flexibility and besides Madam much prefers rouladen to braciole anyway.

Anyhow, here is my version of rouladen.
This recipe uses potato but it is also done with sour or dill pickle...just use a piece of
pickle instead of the spud. And yes, a slice of parsnip, rutabaga or turnip will do as well. We're talking peasant food here folks...you make do.

8 slices top round steak, (1/8 or so inch thick and about a pound or so) a good butcher
will know what to give you if you tell him/her what you are making. If they don't know
from rouladen then maybe they know from braciole which is a similar Italian dish.
4 strips thick bacon cut in half
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1  medium baking potato (russet or Yukon Gold)  cut into "dinner fry" pieces
salt and pepper
2 dry bay leaves
5 or 6 whole allspice
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 cups beef broth preferably low sodium

to thicken the sauce

2 TBSP  all-purpose flour
2 TBSP softened butter

adjust salt and pepper

Chopped fresh Italian parsley, optional

Make the meat rolls.
Lightly spread mustard on each slice of steak; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 1
bacon strip piece, a potato wedge and a few onion wedges on each slice then roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks.

In a large skillet, brown beef in oil until no longer pink; drain.  Add broth,allspice and
bay; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer or braise for 1-1/2  hours or until
meat is tender.  Remove meat and keep warm.Using a slotted spoon, skim out the bay leaves and allspice and discard.
Knead together the butter and flour to form a smooth paste (beurre manie) and whisk into broth. Bring back to a boil, stirring  until thickened. Remove toothpicks from the meat rolls and return to
gravy.  Heat through and and serve. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Serve with noodles or spaetzle

6-8 servings.

Odds and Ends

It's a rainy day so gardening is out but there is other stuff to do. Did manage to get to the grocery and Trader Joe's so that's out of the way for week or so.

Discovered that Kroger is now carrying Homestead Creamery products. Milk in old fashioned glass bottles (deposit required). I bought a quart of buttermilk and it is actually real buttermilk (whole milk and live cultures). I had pretty much given up on buttermilk from the grocery as it is now all low fat and actually dead with additional things added...doesn't even taste like buttermilk. The first thing I did when I got home was pour a big glass and gulp it down. Rich, creamy and almost too thick to pour. Brilliant.

I also bought some beef bologna at Kroger. After I finished putting away the groceries I satisfied my craving for a fried bologna sandwich. I just have to indulge in such things every once in a while.

Kroger had some thin sliced top round on sale and it's the perfect thing for braciole but somehow (old timers disease?) I was thinking of rouladen which is made from the same slice of meat so in my confusion I came away without the required ham. I could sill make rouladen which doesn't require the ham but I was leaning Italian not German.

Trader Joes's had a big special on frozen pizzas. Imported from Italy no less. They were pretty cheap, $3.99, so I bought a Margherita and a 4 cheese. It's something I never do as I prefer my homemade pies and sauce  but I thought WTH, worth a shot. Sometimes TJ's really surprises with the quality of their stuff. I'll report.

Oh! I've decided on German so rouladen it will be. I'll post my recipe in a separate post next for those of you feeling like German food.