Summer fun[k]

Over a month ago, I wrote a post about a mini bicycle adventure, intending it for this space, but it instead morphed into my first piece for The Savvy Cyclist blog.  After weeks of waiting, the post went live today — check it out here!

I almost had a bigger bicycle adventure to share — my first ever bike camping trip, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and the trip is on hold indefinitely.

Anyhow, the ride chronicled on The Savvy Cyclist kicked off my summer, and the weeks since have flown by, with both highs and lows along the way.

Summer Fun

  • Harvesting veggies from our own yard!
  • Picnic dinners and acro yoga jams at MOBot Whitaker Concerts
  • Shakespeare Festival to see The Winter’s Tale on a deliciously cool [almost] summer night
  • Continuing our aerial journey with our first level 3 (!) silks class
  • Fun times leading a Sunday morning social ride
  • Watching Jesus Christ Superstar at The Muny from lovely ticketed seats (and singing the songs on the bike ride home)
  • Blueberries!
  • Hosting a potluck and game night

If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a lot for parents of a young one,” you’re right!  We enjoyed an entire week where Gabriel was traveling with my MIL, which was reminiscent of our pre-child summers — fun and tiring — and we continue to benefit from regular “Baba overnights.”

Summer Funk

  • Adjusting to a new routine, i.e., summer — I get there eventually, but change is hard.
  • Remembering that “just taking one” summer class is deceptive, because it’s 16-weeks worth of work and material packed into 8 weeks.
  • Gabriel’s drama over swimming lessons (clearly I learned nothing from last summer)

I was going to put the garden on both lists, but it’s not fair to call it a “low.”  It IS, however, a ton of work, which can be overwhelming at times.  With the commuter garden located at my MIL’s, we had a lot more of her help.  Now it’s all us, and we’re working on garden-life balance.  There will ALWAYS be more work to do!  (Any volunteers???  We’ll pay you in beautiful vegetables!)

While the official season of summer has just begun, it feels like we’ve already had a full summer’s worth of stuff, but it’s not over yet — birthdays, big cats, and naked bike rides await!



Welcome to our garden

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago, we were completely immersed in a rehab and preparing to move — whew!  In contrast to the spring of 2016, we’ve spent the spring of 2017 turning the yard at our new house into a garden to rival our old commuter garden.

Speaking of the old garden, it is more or less finished.  Matthew had considered continuing to use that land for low maintenance, high space needs crops, like winter squash.  For better or worse, the municipality where our commuter garden was located — let’s call it Jerkwood — squashed that plan when they decided that the chicken wire fence that kept rabbits out of the garden for YEARS was no longer acceptable.  No affordable rabbit prevention = no garden.  I started a longer post dedicated to the subject last fall, but at this point, it’s probably best to let it go . . .

. . . so here we are with our very own backyard garden!

After a few years of helping with the commuter garden, I’d largely removed myself from the garden scene — the all day Saturdays, especially in the heat of the summer, were just not working for me.  Matthew has done the majority of the work to date in our new space, but with a bit more free time now that my classes are over for the year, plus the incentive provided by the harvest, the garden is sucking me in, bit by bit.

Kale yeah!

Turns out that weeds threatening to choke out my beloved cilantro (and other yummy plants) are great motivation to weed!  Also, weeding is strangely satisfying (though having less of them to remove will also be quite satisfying).

Gabriel’s garden

Gabriel has his very own 4×4 plot.  He is most excited about his beloved ground cherries (not yet planted in the above pic).  Matthew wisely suggested radishes for a quick spring win, and Gabriel was very proud to contribute his radish harvest to our meals.

After a misguided attempt to have grass paths in between the beds (too much work!), we’ve reverted to our coffee bean bag pathways.  I’m interested in trying a biodegradable weed barrier that I read about in Mother Earth News (like this).  I assumed that it would be prohibitively expensive for the amount we’d need, but for a little over $100, we could cover almost all of our vegetable beds, and if it works, that would be money well spent!

Currently harvesting

  • Kale (a few different varieties — Red Russian is my fave!)
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro (a little bit — would love to have more)
  • A few strawberries
  • Garlic scapes
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Artichokes
  • Turnips (we like the sweet haikuri variety)
  • Rhubarb

Each of the beds is 4′ x 30′, and there are twenty-seven vegetable beds.

Coming soon (or soonish)

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Snow peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Broccoli and other cruciferous (if they don’t get too grumpy in the heat)

In the ground for summer harvest

  • Garlic (planted last fall)
  • Tomatoes — lots of varieties
  • Sweet peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Edamame

In the ground for fall harvest

  • Celeriac
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Peanuts

. . . and probably more than a few things I’m forgetting!  We also have blackberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries planted, plus a bunch of baby fruit trees and blueberry bushes.  The trees won’t yield much this year (and I think we’re supposed to remove any fruit that sets so the trees can put their energy into general growth), but they’ll be fun in years to come!

Stay tuned for more garden posts!

Losing the lawn

Well, we finally have the huge, sunny yard we’ve been wanting  . . . and it’s covered with zoysia grass. Zoysia is a drought-hardy, warm season grass, which means you can’t just kill it by letting it dry up.  It will also readily invade our garden beds (which will be most of the yard) if we just till and try to work around it, so it’s got to go.

This resource from the University of California lists several methods for removing warm season grasses.  Any of the effective methods will involve noticeable time and money for a yard our size.

Our plan is to use solarization, which basically bakes the grass to death by trapping the sun’s heat underneath a sheet of thin plastic (you know, the good ol’ greenhouse effect).  This means that we have to buy a lot of plastic, and stay off of the yard for several weeks.

We will likely use sheet mulching in a couple of areas, primarily to create some walkways through the plastic-covered portion of the lawn.   This may, in some ways, be the “greenest” option, especially if we obtained enough old cardboard, but at 4 layers of cardboard over the entire yard, that’s a LOT of cardboard (and mulch, which you need to cover the cardboard).

All of the plastic for solarizing is far from the greenest thing ever — not sure how to weigh that against multiple rounds of Round-Up — but in the end, we’ll be on our way to having a space that is growing food, not lawn (so ready to be done with the mower!).

Solarization has additional benefits, according to the U of C guide: “This method not only kills grass but can also improve soil structure, increase nitrogen availability and reduce some species of nematodes and soil borne disease.”  Sounds good to me!

If all goes well (i.e,. we can afford to buy All. The. Plastic. and the solarization works), we will be laying out our garden beds, perhaps in time for some fall planting.  Once the grass is gone, we’ll bring in some compost as well as any indicated soil amendments (Matthew took soil samples for testing waaaaayyy back in December), and get our garden on!

We’d love to hear from others that have successfully used solarization (or other methods) to get rid of warm season grasses!


Curried coleslaw

I was planning to make coleslaw a few weeks ago, but my usual recipes all sounded a bit blah.  I love a good slaw with peanut or sesame dressing (good recipe here), and my MIL makes a lovely Greek slaw, but I was in the mood for something a bit different, so I turned to the interwebs, where I came across some interesting slaw variations, including a recipe for Curry Bacon Slaw.

I decided to give it a try, minus the bacon.  I had a bit of leftover masaman curry paste in the fridge (masaman curry paste is one of the few store-bought canned goods that we regularly have on hand; I usually don’t use the entire can when I make a batch of curry, which leaves some extra to mix into things (it’s great in sweet potato or winter squash soup)), and I decided to use that in place of the curry powder and cayenne (the masaman has plenty of heat for us).

While I’ve entertained some fantasies about BLTs recently, finding a replacement for the bacon in the recipe was easy enough.  I often top my slaw with toasted sunflower seeds (or peanuts for the peanut/sesame slaw).  I started with my go-to sunflower seeds here.  They work fine, but toasted cashews work even better.


Note: In the above picture, the coleslaw is accompanied by my first attempt at a barbecue jackfruit sandwich, which will be the subject of another post.  Now, on to the recipe!


Recipe by Melissa, adapted from Curry Bacon Slaw recipe at
Serves 6-8

1/4 c. mayonaise
1/4 c. plain [unsweetened] yogurt (regular or Greek)
2 T. white vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1-2 t. masaman curry paste (this is the kind I buy from our local global foods store)
1/2 t. sugar
2/3 c. toasted cashews
5 c green and/or red cabbage, shredded or cut very finely (can also sub in some kohlrabi and/or turnips here)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks (okay, to omit, but adds nice color)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk together all dressing ingredients to make a rich, thick dressing.  Taste, and add more salt and/or curry paste if desired (at this point it should taste fairly salty, since the veggies haven’t diluted the dressing as all).

Prep your veggies.  I cut the cabbage by hand and use a box grater for the kohlrabi and turnips.

Pour dressing over prepared vegetables and refrigerate at least one hour (2-4 hours would be even better) before serving.  To serve, garnish with toasted cashews.  Enjoy!

Bicycles, egg hunts, and garden time!

‘Twas a full, fun weekend in these parts!  The usual Saturday gardening was on hold due to the ground being much too wet, but Matthew headed out anyway to pick up G after his overnight at Baba’s house.  While there, Matthew picked the first asparagus of the season (if you don’t count the single spear from last week) and supervised the delivery of a dump truck full of compost (20 cubic yards).  Gabriel was very excited about both the asparagus and the dump truck!

That afternoon, we headed to the local school playground with G’s new bike in tow.  As you’ll see in the picture below, we went ahead and put on training wheels.  Even with that addition, getting him to ride the darn thing turned into quite a saga (later post), so this was huge progress!

Bicycle Boy

We kicked off Sunday with an indoor Easter egg hunt (Gabriel had been having “practice” Easter egg hunts for two weeks).


Nothing fancy — just a few eggs with stickers, chocolate covered raisins, pistachios, and a few jelly beans.  He picked out one jelly bean to eat before breakfast.

After breakfast, we put on our Easter best, packed our bags with a change of clothes for garden work, and headed to church, then a very nice brunch (my FIL went all out!) . . .


. . . and egg hunt number two!

This marked the first day ever (I think) that I have planned on Gabriel not napping.  I’m not going to make a habit of it, as most days he could really use that extra bit of sleep, but it worked fine.

Eggs were found, pictures were taken, and we were off to the garden!


While we loaded and hauled 5-gallon buckets full of beautiful compost, Gabriel played king of the hill (and also “compost pile slide” and various other activities that would ensure he was thoroughly coated in the stuff).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t warm enough to strip him and hose him off outside, so we settled for the bathtub at my MIL’s.


The compost is still hot, so for now we’re just using it to line the paths in the garden (the dark rows in the above photo).  Eventually we’ll add some to the beds.

Matthew planted parsnip seeds and a few more potatoes.  My MIL transplanted celeriac seedlings.  I just pulled weeds and hauled compost.  Despite the cool, wet weather, they’ve now finished almost all of the spring planting.

The tired gardeners returned home to a simple dinner of black-eyed peas, rice, just-harvested Swiss chard, and sweet potatoes.  It was just what I wanted after the rich brunch!