Garden 2017, Part Three

Wow, lots of growth in the garden since my last update! (Here’s part one and part two.) I’m liking the layout this year, and I can heartily recommend DeWitt landscape fabric. This is NOT a sponsored post — we just have some tenacious weeds out here, and spending money on good landscape fabric has turned out to be very much worth it!

Looking at the top photo, on the left (the row with mulch) I’ve got some perennial plants — my rhubarb, two new blueberry bushes, and herbs. Then several broccoli plants toward the back. At the very back are cantaloupes. They’re flowering right now, but the plants are still really tiny, so who knows if we’ll get anything. The second row has bell peppers, more broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Third row is onions, carrots, lettuce, beans, corn, and cabbages. The bean seeds I had were pretty old, and only two of them came up! And our local nursery doesn’t have bean seeds anymore. I wanted to grow bush beans this year, but I think it’ll have to be pole beans instead, as I can actually get some of those. The corn is flint corn, for milling and using as cornmeal. I haven’t tried that before, so our twelve stalks will be an experiment. M is very into the process of growing food (she still talks about her mini potato harvest from her indoor plant!), and I think she’d find it cool to make something like cornbread from corn we grew ourselves. The fourth row is all potatoes.

We also have a big raspberry patch (off to the front right) and strawberries in the back right corner. And two plum trees, both of which need to be tied up straight — you can tell which way the wind blows most often! There are actually a few little plums on my Toka tree, which I wasn’t expecting; I planted the other tree after the Toka had finished flowering, but I guess it must have self-pollinated. Fingers crossed that nothing will steal our plums before we get to them! I also, at the front of the garden, have a mystery tree. It was a sucker that grew up from the rootstock of a plum tree that died. I don’t know what they tend to graft plums onto — different plums? Apple trees? If it keeps growing, we’ll find out!

Projects

My project list feels particularly never-ending at the moment. Especially with the floors — I only have my bedroom left to do, but then I have to paint, cut, and install all the quarter-round along the baseboards. And I still have to paint the big window in the family room (my least favorite painting project). Once the floors are 100% finished, everything is back in its place, and I can consider that project over and done with, I won’t know what to do with myself! (The answer is the million other projects on my list.)

Yesterday, I quickly knocked out this floor bed, which is just a modified IKEA bed frame. I cut the legs down and changed the headboard a little. There’s still more I’d like to do (add slats to the headboard and make rails for the side), but I’ve got a while before F will be sleeping in there, anyway. It’s been a big attraction for both the girls so far. F likes to lie down on it, and it would be interesting to see what would happen if I put her there for a nap — but on the other hand, I like it better when she sleeps!

Chickpea Brown Rice Patties

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I’ve never been much of a recipe developer, especially the past few years, when I’ve tried to get away with as little thinking about mealtimes as possible. But yesterday I was feeling tired of cheese and bread and veggie burgers, so I resolved to make something new with what was in the pantry. The only “beans” I had were chickpeas, and I knew there was a 50/50 chance M would turn her nose up at them whole. So I came up with these little patties, which are a bit like milder falafel. She said, “Mmm, this is yummy!” — and F ate all of hers and wanted more (F is my awesome eater; M could take or leave food most of the time).

Chickpea and Brown Rice Patties

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
6 Ritz crackers (= 1/4 cup crushed, could probably substitute bread crumbs)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Oil for frying

You can make these without a food processor (use a potato masher to mash the chickpeas), but your patties will probably be chunkier and might not hold together as well.

1. Put the Ritz (or similar) crackers into a food processor and pulse until your have crumbs. Add the egg and pulse a few times until it’s nicely mixed in.

2. Add the chickpeas. Pulse until they’re broken up but not completely mush. You should still see large chunks of chickpeas.

3. Add the brown rice, salt, and seasonings. You could definitely up the amounts or kinds of seasonings, if you like. I thought these were perfect for kids, though. Pulse until all ingredients are mostly mixed together but the rice hasn’t become completely puréed. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and finish mixing by hand, so you can retain some texture (just a few strong turns with a spatula should do it).

4. Pour vegetable oil (or preferred frying oil) into a small frying pan, about 1/4″ deep. I’m guessing you could also deep-fry these, and you could probably bake or sauté them, but I haven’t tried any of those. Heat it over medium to a suitable frying temp. (I just waited until a small drop of the mixture started sizzling appropriately.)

5. Make balls of about 1-2Tbsp and flatten them slightly. I used a cookie scoop that’s about 1.5Tbsp, and it was perfect. Fry a few at a time, for 2-3min per side. Place on a paper towel after frying, to absorb the extra oil.

6. Eat, eat, eat! They were really good dipped in sour cream (with chives from the garden), but F says you can eat them as-is, as fast as possible.

New Dolly

I know a little girl who, according to her mom, was changing her dolls’ diapers and putting them to bed by the time she was eight months old. My girls are not like this! They’re both drawn to animals — M has always loved her Kitty Cat Doll, and both like little animal figures more than people or dolls. But you know what? I wanted to make a doll, so I made a doll! And M actually played with her for a half hour straight yesterday — or rather, we played with her together: I was her voice, and M talked to her and told her how the world works, since the doll had just been “born”.

I used the Waldorf method for making the doll’s head (not sure that it’s an official “Waldorf method”, but if you search for Waldorf doll tutorials, you’ll find lots of instructions out there), and her hair is made from alpaca yarn. I have sooo many lone skeins (or partial skeins) of yarn, and it turns out that dolls are the perfect project for them! I decided to knit her body, and I really like how it turned out. One aspect of crafting that I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older is that every new pattern can teach a new method, and I get to store those methods in my head for later. So I didn’t have a pattern for the knitted body, but I know how to shape a raglan top (her shoulder and arms), knit short rows (her bottom), create a gusset and kitchener stitch it closed (to start her legs), and how to increase and decrease in a way that’ll look nice and tidy (her feet). So it wound up being quite a fun little project, always moving on to the next part, since dolls are so small. I used the same knit fabric as her face for her arms, stuffed her with wool roving and put her together. Et voilà! And now I get to start on the part I really like — her clothes!

Indoor Potato Harvest

At the very beginning of March, M and I planted a potato that had gone squishy and sprouted on the counter. I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to grow any potatoes in a container inside, but we were happy watching the plant grow. It had been over three months, and it was dying back, so we took the plant outside today to see what we could harvest. Bumper crop! Heh. Three tiny potatoes. M thought it was pretty neat, though. I fried them up in butter and gave them to her for a snack, and she said they were “Good!”. We’re hoping to get a few more (and bigger) potatoes from the garden this year. I love the discovery of digging up a potato plant to see what’s grown!

F is One

My little F is a real toddler now — she’s been walking for almost a month and a half, but yesterday she turned one! We had a low-key day yesterday; M had helped me decorate the kitchen the night before, and we opened F’s little presents after lunch. We’re having a party tomorrow, so she has to wait until then for her many fans — and her cake!

What a year it’s been. She and M are so alike in the ways that matter: both are sweet, happy, funny, smart, and super cuddly. But the first years felt so different. I wasn’t new to motherhood this time around, and more importantly, we didn’t have to weather the trauma and heartache of M’s medical issues. F has been a little challenging in the normal ways, but that stuff is easy.

From the minute F could hold her head up and catch a glimpse of her big sister, she’s been on a mission to catch up. She hit all her milestones about 1-1.5mos earlier than M (who was no slouch!), and I swear it’s because she sees this big kid running around and desperately wants to join in. She’s also SUPER dramatic, and I think part of that comes from having a 3.5yo as a role model. Preschoolers aren’t known for their mild reactions to setbacks! So F has taken some of that on, and I think there’s also just a need for her to be louder so I can hear her over M’s constant chatter! I can’t wait for (but am also kind of dreading?) the day when F is talking up a storm, too — I just hope that the two of them occasionally talk to each other and not both at me, non-stop. They’ll probably have their own comedy routine by the time they’re school-aged.

It’s such a joy seeing F growing up, but this change to toddlerhood definitely feels more emotional than when M was going through it. I think it’s partly because I know she’s my last baby and partly because the past year was so full of sweetness (and less stress). The good part is that the sweetness doesn’t end! In fact, now that F can walk, I’m frequently hobbled by shin-hugs, so the sweetness just keeps coming!

Roosting Babies

It seems like the young chickens are getting along a little better with the big ones. They’re still pretty timid around the big guys, but the hens mostly leave them alone, and even Red seems indifferent to their presence now. The chicks have been roosting up with everybody else when I go in to close their door at the end of the day. I love seeing chickens all lined up for the night! From left to right: Veggie Bite, Poppy, Beatrice (a boy), Tofu, Sally, Jellybean (a boy). Eddie is currently alone in the little coop because he and Jellybean fight too much, but Eddie will be going home with friends this weekend. Their flock needs a rooster, and he needs to stay away from other boys!

Day Out

M had two doctor appointments yesterday, in St. Paul — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So we headed over to Grand Avenue in between and did some eating and shopping. As M said, “We’re having a fun day!” She loves going on outings, especially when it’s just the two of us (F stayed at home with my mom).

We had a delicious lunch at Cafe Latté. I almost walked back out after we got there, because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to find something for M, but I reeeally wanted to try their vegetarian salads. And M was able to get a peanut butter sandwich, which is a recent favorite of hers (I never think to make them at home), so we were both happy. We went to a handful of shops in the area, and I think Red Balloon was the favorite for both of us. I’d never been before, but kids’ books are definitely a weakness of mine!

Can you see the back of M’s shirt in the photo above? The front says “Future President” — we got lots of comments on it! M doesn’t actually know what a president does yet, but that hasn’t been proven to be a barrier to entry…