Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working the soil

I am sweaty and gross. I have a blister. My back is killing me. I must be a gardener.

Well, I am gardener if I can be called that without yet having planted anything. Soon, I hope, soon!

It is supposed to rain tonight and pretty much all weekend, I think, but I snuck into my garden for an hour tonight and did one last cultivation. I think it took me as long to do the last quarter of it as it did to do the first three-fourths. I was exhausted!

The soil in E.P. has a lot of clay in it - it's not even a black soil, but very gray. This means cultivating it by hand is very tough. You basically have to repeatedly stab at the soil in order to break it up. I'm sure it would have been a quicker and more fun job if I had been really pissed off at someone today and could imagine hacking at their head. Alas, no.

It is amazing what you find in a 20x30 piece of soil. Sticks and rocks. Burs. Weeds. Glass. Seed markers from years gone by. Black plastic from bags that were used at some point in the past to prevent weeds, I imagine. And, a couple of really large pieces of wire - no idea what that might have been used for. It's thick like a nice wire hanger, and really twisted into the ground. I bet I pulled out a piece tonight that was more than 2 feet long. ??

Anyway, I am gaining a TON of respect for pioneers who actually did this to live and not just for fun. (Hmm. Am I having fun? Not sure yet.)

I probably should have raked it before I left, but my hands and back just couldn't take it anymore. Now if I can somehow get into the garden and plant before Sunday, since I am leaving town for a week then. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Back to Square 1

I went back for another 1.5 hours tonight. I weeded by hand and learned two important things: 1) Knee pads are essential. 2) My garden is full of burs - which, I might add, are not too comfortable to plop a kneecap or buttcheek on. On the plus side, getting up close and personal with my dirt allowed me to pull out a bunch of small rocks, lots of random plastic and other detritus, all of which added up to two-plus gallons in my 5-gallon pail.

I started to hoe/till again, but only got a quarter of the way through before I was "dying" of thirst/my back started hurting. So, basically, I spent three hours getting myself back to where I started.

It is supposed to rain tonight, be nice Wednesday/Thursday and then rain all weekend. So, my goal is to let things dry on Wednesday and then hopefully finish hoeing/planting on Thursday. If I don't get back in there before the weekend, I might as well just give it up as a jungle.

Procrastination never pays

^ My garden when I first got there this afternoon.

^ My garden when I left.

The good news is: my garden is fertile.
The bad news is: I hadn't planted anything yet.

Between going out of town for Memorial Day Weekend and rain seemingly every other day, it's been a few weeks since I had been to my garden. It was really too wet to do anything today, I figured, but thought I'd at least go check it out. As I was walking toward my plot I was starting to feel guilty. Everyone's gardens were looking so green and lush, and mine was going to be a giant patch of black dirt. Or so I thought.

I get to my plot and I think my jaw literally dropped open. My garden was TEEMING with plants. Carrots, dill, radishes, tomatoes - you name it. My garden is covered with lush, green plants. So then I had to debate with myself - do I tear up what seem to be perfectly good plants, or do I just go with what Mother Nature gave me and garden what's already growing?

Tearing up everything won out. It took me an hour and a half just to pull out all the stuff 6 inches and up. I called it a day after that, but I'll go back after supper and do some actual weeding and cultivate/hoe/till one more time. If all goes well, I'll plant on Thursday, assuming the ground is once again dry enough after raining all day tomorrow as forecasted.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tracy the Gardener

Well, folks, this blog is about to take a sharp turn. While still technically about food, I’m switching the focus from decadent nights out at fabulous restaurants to me attempting my first garden. Wish me luck!

Fact: I know very little about gardening. My grandma always had a garden, and my mom did when I was little. So I know what a hoe is, but that’s really about it. I’m not exactly sure what sparked my interest in gardening this year, but I am lucky in that the City of Eden Prairie has community garden plots that you can rent for $54. They are nice sized plots – 20x30-feet – and I am giving it a whirl.

Tonight I went and hoed my garden. I guess I was expecting nicely tilled black soil just waiting for me to come by and drop seeds in Johnny Appleseed-style. Yeah. What I got is gray soil that looks like it has never been tilled in its life with a plethora of green things already growing in it. I don’t know much about plants, but I am pretty sure a good third of that garden is filled with carrots. At least, it WAS, up until the point I started hoeing it up. Till? Hand till? I’m not sure what the right word is. It’s basically a long stick with four long curved teeth on it that I used to till a/o hoe up the soil.

Hoeing took me about 40 minutes, which wasn’t bad. A perfect day for it – 75 degrees and gorgeous, with a breeze so you didn’t get hot. I am pretty sure I am going to be sorry tomorrow, as I can already feel it in my back. The soil in E.P. has a lot of clay to it, so it took some muscle to move it around. If I hoed every day, I would have fantastic arm muscles.

I am lucky I was able to hoe (till?) at all since I helped my friend Dee and her husband move last night, and most of my gardening stuff was accidentally unpacked at her new place. Going to have to make a trip over there this week.

I suspect one of the most difficult things about gardening will be carving out time for it. I am lucky that my plot is so close to home.

I did notice most of the other garden plots are fenced off, so I will have to look into that. Don’t want all my hard work going to rabbits and field mice.

The next thing I have to do is plant. I’m ready for it – I think!! What I don’t know is how much of the green stuff that’s currently in my garden needs to come out? I hoed/tilled it up, but some of it is still rooted in, I am sure, and otherwise it is just laying on top ready to take root again. So maybe I need to “weed” all that out before I plant? Probably. Advice, anyone?

Monday, March 15, 2010

La Vie Boheme

I’ve really fallen off the blogosphere, haven’t I? Well, let’s make amends!

For Christmas Josh bought us tickets to La Boheme at the Ordway, which we went to Tuesday, March 9. Beforehand we went to Meritage in downtown Saint Paul for dinner. It smelled awesome the second we stepped into the Hamm Building. Very small place, and got very loud by the time we left. Cute, though not dripping with ambience.

Their wine list is very good and I was happy to see a Boomtown Cab from Dusted Valley on it. It was delicious! Josh had a Riesling, I believe. My one complaint about the wine is it was served far too warm. I just feel like I’m not even a total winehead, but for a restaurant that prides itself on knowing wine, they should know better. But, I digress.

We liked our server, though he did seem to go missing now and again. Not a big deal; the place was certainly hopping and I don’t know how they even expect servers to maneuver in such tight quarters.

They had several of what are essentially amuse bouche(s?) for sale at $3/each. Josh and I each had two – I had the smoked mushroom pain perdu and a duck strudel. I really think duck is fantastic; I don’t know why I never order it. Josh had the billibi soup and the tiny tuna taco tartare. Say that 10 times fast!

For dinner I wavered between the “composition of winter squash,” a NY strip and scallops. I got the scallops but wasn’t entirely happy with them – they were gritty (and I hear scallops are difficult to wash properly), and merely warm rather than hot. In full: pan-seared dayboat sea scallops with MN pork belly, du put lentils, kabocha squash puree, brussel sprout petals and sauce diable. The lentils were very good, and the brussel sprout petals were crunchy and salty. There wasn’t enough “sauce diable.” Josh had the moules frites, which I was even brave enough to try. I didn’t totally hate the taste, but it’s the texture that really makes that dish a big fat “no” for me. His meal also came with pommes frites and the ever-tasty bĂ©arnaise sauce, of which I helped myself to plenty.

For dessert I had a salted caramel ice cream “lollipop” dipped in chocolate. Kind of complicated to eat but it tasted good. Also had a glass of icewein and Josh had a glass of absinthe. It tasted like black licorice and we both agreed we probably never need to order that again. One and done!

Walking over to the Ordway was exciting – we’re going to the opera! I, of course, kept making Pretty Woman references such as “It’s a band!” and “Mine are broken.” Yes, I think I am hilarious.

I wasn’t sure if I would like the opera – but I did. The music is really beautiful. I wish it had been louder so as to “envelope” you, if that makes sense. My other complaint, if you will, is the subtitles were far, far above the characters heads, so you couldn’t really read them and watch the scene at the same time. Fortunately, it was La Boheme so I knew the general storyline pretty well, thanks to repeated attendance at Rent.

I think one thing about opera – or this one, anyway – is that people seem to think it’s really highbrow, when really there is some lowbrow humor in it and is, in general, very approachable. Much like Shakespeare, I guess. If you can get past not being familiar with the language, it’s pretty enjoyable.

All in all, a lovely evening. And, now that I’m back on the blogging saddle, hopefully I won’t fall off again for a while.