Friday, August 23, 2013

pattypan psa

In recent years, most of the farm stands and farmers' markets in this area seem to be selling pattypans at a very small size. Sometimes just 2 or 3 inches across.

They are undeniably adorable at that size, but since those miniature vegetables are often sold at so-many-per-dollar instead of so-much-per-pound, they can also be quite expensive.

I've experimented this year with my own squash, and am here with a Pattypan Public Service Announcement:

Large pattypans are delicious.

And simple to prepare. Just cut the squash in half, and scoop out the central seed portion. This is a tablespoon, which gives you an idea of the squash size. It's over a pound in weight.

Two quick turns of a spoon, and the center section comes out in one clean piece. Easy peasy!

The hens enjoy the seedy centers, so nothing is wasted.

I usually just cut up and steam the squash until tender but not mushy, then enjoy it plain, or with a little butter, or mixed with other veggies. I've never bothered with sauces because the squash is so mildly flavored I didn't want to overwhelm it. But live and learn: this week there was just a bit of leftover broccoli cheddar soup in the fridge...reheated and poured over chunks of steamed pattypan squash, it made a lovely lunch.

This is the first year I have grown pattypans, and they have added much to the gardens. Earlier this week a friend stopped by and it was a pleasure to walk out into the garden and pick two pattypans for her to take home. Really, does anything feel more sweet than having enough of something special to share with friends?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

small task, big reward

Yesterday, I did everything that was on my list.

I am clearly getting better at writing lists.

Lately I have also been able to cross off a few things from the bigger task list; the list of things that linger and loom but because they are not tied to a season or weather, can be postponed.

Sometimes they can be postponed for years.

Here's an example: replacing the door seal on the dishwasher.


Don't I sound...effective?

Less so when I tell you I postponed this little job for so long I honestly can't give you an accurate estimate of when the door seal started coming partway off every time I opened the dishwasher door to unload clean dishes.

The dishwasher is used about twice weekly, so poking a little saggy swag of rubber back into its track is not a big deal compared to the prospect of an expensive Service Call.

Gradually the swag got swaggier, though, until eventually I had to poke the entire strip back into place along both sides and the top of the door. Every time. But being of a frugal mindset, I reminded myself that spending one minute poking a rubber door seal into its track after every load of dishes is still WAY better than washing those dishes by hand.

Opinions will differ on this, I know.

My feelings about washing dishes hark back to growing up in a family of 7; a family in which 2 people washed all the dishes.

As an adult, a dishwasher was just about the only appliance I wanted, and I wanted one for years and years and years. About 7 years ago I finally decided I could afford one. I'm not much of a shopper or "consumer," but when I visited the local appliance store (there really is a genuine local appliance store in the next town) to choose a dishwasher, well, what a glorious day that was! The manager gave me a lot of advice, and at one point referred to certain things I would "still want to wash by hand" because of their size or some other factor. I let him finish, then told him, "From this moment on, nothing that I can fit in this dishwasher will ever be washed by hand again. Lobster pot? Turkey platter? Pickle crocks? Dishwasher!!!"

Ah, memories.

Where was I? Oh yes, the door seal. I finally tried to put a value on what it would be worth to me, to not have to keep poking that piece of rubber back into place. The answer I came up with: fifty dollars. If a new door seal would cost more than $50., I would keep poking until the rubber itself was completely shot and could be poked no more.

I called the appliance store and asked how much the part would be.

The same manager looked it up. It was $48.50.

"Are you going to install it yourself?" he asked, because he knows me.

"Why, yes," I said. And I did. There were q-tips involved, and a big flashlight. Also rubbing alcohol and a razor blade and a tube of silicon.

And then the dishwasher was closed. In an excess of caution I waited three days to cure the silicon completely before doing a trial load of dishes.

No leakage!

And the door seal stayed firmly in place!

The End.
Wasn't that a lovely story?

But here's the reason I appreciate my dishwasher so much. It can do magic.

These pie plates were recently excavated from a cupboard at my parents' house. The last time I saw them was about a hundred years ago, back when I was one of the two dishwashers. They hadn't been used in the last decade or two, but I was still a bit disturbed to see their condition.

So as soon as the newly-installed door seal had cured, these four pie plates went into the bottom rack. I gave them lots of room; in fact, it reminded me of the appliance store manager telling me about washing some things by hand because they would take up so much room in the dishwasher. Ha! Take all the room you need, Pie Plates. You have been waiting a long time to be reclaimed and rejuvenated.

Your wait is over.

I love my dishwasher. I really, really do.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

gifts from the tropics

I have a new favorite recipe!

It's an easy-peasy gem from one of my favorite food websites: Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

If you like coconut, I strongly recommend clicking the above link and giving this crustless coconut custard pie a whirl.

I wish I had taken better pictures, but it's too late now as the pie has been eaten. Maybe I'd better make another one?

Flashback! Years ago I did field work in the Caribbean National Forest. I remember driving up and down narrow, winding, mountain roads, and at one point, seeing a coconut vendor by the side of the road near a waterfall. A person, a machete, and a pile of fresh coconuts: a complete roadside stand.

If there is an obvious association between the pie in my kitchen and a heap of coconuts in Puerto Rico, this one will be more obscure: a broken tooth and an orchid.

Sunday I broke a tooth. Apparently my life has reached a point where, in addition to lots of things aching, other things are going to simply fall off with no warning. Like half a tooth.

Don't worry - there will be no photograph of the broken tooth. Or of any teeth whatsoever. You're welcome.

But here is a preview of the orchid:

My truly lovely dentist made time for me to come to the office Monday morning, for some very welcome smoothing of sharp edges. (Welcome and successful: further treatment in the form of a crown can be postponed for a while, I am happy to say.)

So I left the office with good news, the ability to speak without wincing, and the bonus image of this orchid which was brightening the pristine treatment room: 

Is it not a beauty?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

circumstantial evidence

I don't know how this happened

Not for sure.

But I have my suspicions, Betula.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


We had a couple of very soggy days and nights this week, but yesterday was lovely. A perfect day to poke around in the garden and discover what's been going on out there.

Unfortunately, I was held captive all day by a rogue migraine, and spent most of the day indoors.

But today! Today I spent hours in the garden!

Some of the goats kept me company, on the other side of the garden fence. This is Tsuga, nibbling mullein leaves and pretending she is not waiting for a chance to sneak into the garden and chow down.

"I am not trying to sneak into the garden! I am just minding my own business and eating mullein! Why are you always so suspicious? Sheesh!"
Five seconds after this picture was taken, Tsuga squeezed her pudgy little body through a four-inch gap in the gate. I grabbed her as she was reaching for a cauliflower, and bundled her right back out to browse with her mama.


Okay, now here's a little update.

 The lemon cucumbers planted on the last day of June have been growing and reaching and grabbing on to the fence.

At least a few of the onion sets planted on 10 June survived the Massachusetts Monsoons of 2013 and are still holding their own:

This is one of only two potato plants from sets that went in with the onions. Both are an experiment; clearance-priced at the feed store, and already looking a bit sad when I brought them home. Not sure I'll see any actual potatoes, but you never know:

The first tomatoes! This may be one of the Cherokee plants. I've added so much goat poop and "used" hay around all the plants, it will now require some cautious excavating to locate the labels. The labels I carefully stuck in the ground by each tomato plant because I knew I would forget which is which.


Oh, and here is the first little zuke:

Isn't it adorable? It's a type that grows little round green globes instead of the traditional baseball-bat zucchini.

So, lots of activity in the world of plants, but the big story in the garden today is the pattypan squash!

Look here:

And here!

Ooh, and here!

 The patterns and markings are different on each one.
There seems to be an infinite variety.


Was Shakespeare writing about pattypan squash?

  I think maybe he was.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

welcome August

A couple of hours ago there was a sudden torrential downpour, right in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

An hour later, the sun was shining again, and the air was cool and sweet with the smell of flowers.

Lately, people here talk about the weather with such heartfelt relief in their voices, after the long wearisome rains, heat, and high humidity of early summer.

Seems like we had the Dog Days of August in May and June, this year. There was only one way to deal with it, and it only worked for some of us.

But recently we've been enjoying delightful glimpses of May.
In July and August.

Blue skies.
Cool mornings, with clear air.

It may not last.

Heck, it will not last.

But these are moments and hours and days to savor.

And you never know...

there may be more miracles waiting in the wings.

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of August, whether you are in the middle of summer or the middle of winter, or somewhere in between.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

first fruit

Pattypan squash is my favorite summer squash, and I can't always find it at the local farm stands.

So this year, I bought three organic seedlings as soon as they were available at the feed store, then waited and waited and waited  for the weather to warm up enough and dry up enough to plant them.

My nagging fear was that I would somehow manage to kill the little plants before I could get them in the ground.

There is some historical basis for this fear, I am very sorry to say.

On 25 May, I planted the three squash, each alongside reputedly protective companion plants: pot marigolds and calendula.

As you can plainly see, I miscalculated the "companionable" factor to an absurd degree, and planted them way too close together.  Not sure what my thought process was, there. Maybe I was picturing the protective marigold having to physically rear back and thump a caterpillar on the head if called upon to do so.

Note: I have since gently relocated some of these brave guardians, to their very obvious relief. It is impossible to grow sideways fast enough and far enough to escape the shade of a squash-leaf canopy!

This pattypan variety is said to produce deep yellow squash with dark green caps.  I waited to see some yellow before picking this squash, but it was growing so large I didn't want to wait any longer and risk toughness or hard seeds.

Or a flood or drought or insects or a tornado landing on my garden.

Some of these things have happened before.

But not this morning!

At this exciting moment moment of harvest, Sambucus suddenly turned away from the hay feeder - and the Closing Soon Milk Bar - and headed toward me with a purposeful step.

"Pardon me, ma'am! Do not proceed further. I must examine that squash immediately."

Have you ever crossed a border where the guards were required to examine any fruit or vegetables before allowing you to enter their territory? It was just like that.

"Glad the kid has finally got a job! This hanging around the Milk Bar is getting old. I need some time off to focus on...well, hay."

I know what you mean, Violet. I also had a delicious breakfast today, and paid attention to every bite.