Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Custom Garden Coach! And Garden Ramblings!

Requisite Disclaimer:  I live in Northern California and, yes, Spring is starting to be sprung here!  Glory Hallelujah!

Jeez, a Garden Update...  With no pictures!  (I may need to correct that tomorrow!).

Okay, I have to give a shout-out to fellow-blogger Finnyknits.  She recently quit her job, went back to school, and is starting up her own garden-coaching business, Indie-Farms.

Well, Gawd knows I like supporting local, small businesses.  We all know I love gardening!  And...  Well...  After Finny posted her report card on Facebook (Straight-A's - Friggin' over-achiever!), I noticed that she had just finished a class on Greenhouse Maintenance.  And ya know what?!  I've got a greenhouse that is hellaciously under-utilized.  We originally built the greenhouse to overwinter my Plumerias - but now they're too big to fit through the door!

So I put two-and-two-and-whatevers together and figured "What the hell!"  I know I could always stand to learn more - and Gawd-knows I need some motivation sometimes.......

So Finny came over this afternoon and I got my first Custom Garden Coaching Session!

She looked over my greenhouse, took lots of notes, gave lots of suggestions and followed-up with a summary email - documenting her suggestions (Good Call, Finny!).  Actually, that follow-up email and summary was fantastic because the hour felt like it just FLEW by - with way more information than my brain could absorb!  Much of it, I knew already - but lots of it was new! (Jeez, maybe school is useful after all?!).

Going forward, I think she'll be sending out emails to all of her little Garden Minions, so we'll see how all that pans out.  But I am very pleased with what I learned today.

NOW I just need to set things in motion, right?!  (Ohhhhhhh that!)

This has been a weird year for me (Already!).  See, I love gardening and I have ALWAYS loved that we have this huge yard.  Yeah, the setting-up and putting-away of all the summer furniture is kind of a pain ("Hello Rent-A-Son!").  And the wintertime "haul-away-the-dead-sh*t" routine is certainly not high on my list of FUN activities.  But, honestly, I've always taken pride in the fact that the yard is "My Creation."  And I actually enjoy puttering around in it.  Gardening is like exercise without FEELING like exercise, ya know?!

Well, this year, I had to reluctantly admit that I am just not up to the challenge of tackling all of the winter clean-up chores, due to health constraints (#$%^!!!).  And the extent of the chores goes beyond what "Rent-A-Son-Services" can handle.  I had started to prune one of our peach trees.  I think I got through about 1/4 of what needed to be wacked-off, then I glanced around at all the rest of the fruit trees (and palm trees, and overgrown vines) and decided "to hell with it!"  Seriously - why torture myself?!  Just pay someone and get it done already!

So we hired sumdood with a chainsaw and a wood-chipper to do the "hack-it-down-and-haul-it-away" chores (taming wild vines, cleaning the palm trees, weed-wacking the cannas down to ground level).  That got done last week and the yard looks a WHOLE lot better.

Oh, here are a couple of pictures:

Morning Glories Before

And After...

Mind you, the vines did NOT look like the "Before" picture when sumdood showed up.  I think we had about a week and a half where the temps dipped below freezing, every night, so the leaves had turned to mush.  Oh, but they'll be back!

And, in a couple of weeks, I've got another guy coming over to prune my fruit trees.  O' how it pains me to give that up!  I'll probably end up "supervising" him while he does it - I am such a freak over my fruit trees!

As for the rest of my Gardening Plan - more specifically, the greenhouse - I hope to actually get off my butt and put some of Finny's suggestions to good use!  I do want to start the majority of my veggies from seeds this year and the greenhouse seems like the perfect place to do that!

Hopefully I'll get out there with my camera and post updates as it happens.  We shall see, right?!

Anyway...  If you're in the SF Bay Area and need a good Garden Coach give Finny at Indie-Farms a shout!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy 2013 (and 'Twas a Very Spreckles Christmas!)

Wow.  I'm sure glad THAT'S over with!

We survived the Mayan Apocalypse *and* Holiday Traffic.  Que Milagro!

Christmas was actually pretty quiet and low-key for us - which is good.  I did bake a simply phenomenal Spreckles Holiday Ham (and I have never ever cooked a big fresh ham before).

Christmas is not a day for documenting recipes, so I'll just kinda cheat and post links instead...

After confirming with the butcher (and I can't tell you how many of my conversations w/them started with "Can I ask you a really dumb question?!"), the ham - having been smoked - was considered "pre-cooked" and therefore only needed to be re-heated.

I lost track of all the websites I'd perused in my quest for "How to cook the perfect ham" - but this is the one I followed most closely: Here.  I put a splash of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey and maple syrup in the bottom of the pan.  As for glazing: I sliced diamonds in the skin and placed whole cloves at each of the intersections. Then I smeared a glaze of yellow-mustard, honey and maple syrup on the ham, let it melt a bit, then - toward the end of cooking - I added pineapple slices, maraschino cherries and a generous dusting of white + brown sugar.  Baked it @ 425* for the first hour, then reduced the heat to 350* and cooked it for appx 2 add'l hours (I honestly don't remember how long I cooked it!).

Yeah, so I stayed pretty true to that recipe - except for the addition of appx 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup.  And, even though that recipe was for a much smaller ham (Spreckle's butt was 10#!), I had plenty of leftover glaze that never even made it onto the ham!

So, to recap, Spreckles before:

A Mighty Fine Pig!

Spreckles during:

Spreckles after:

Yes, Spreckles was delicious.

And my shiny new Henckels knives (prezzie from Hubs) came in MOST handy!  I loves me some good knives - yes I do!

So yeah, we snarfed down most of Spreckles on Christmas, and we had quite a few tasty ham sandwiches.  I still had a big chunk o' ham leftover, so I wrapped it up and tossed it back in the freezer for future meals...

We also had Gulliver's Creamed Corn (orgasmic!), mashed taters, and baked apples.  Oh, and a store-bought Pecan Tart for dessert.

All told, a very delicious meal!

Now, unfortunately, you may have noticed that I've gone a bit quiet, of late.  That's because I'm in the midst of another Psoriasis flare-up and I'm feeling pretty crappy, overall.  In fact, it was bad enough that I had to miss out on our NYE plans - Furthur Concert in San Francisco.  Hubs ended up hooking up with one of his Deadhead Friends, so it's not like the tickets were wasted.  But still, it bums me out in a big way...

I've gone back to the Dermatologist and her advice (now) is to stop ALL drugs - except antibiotics - and wait and see if it clears-up on its own.  There was a "rant" post in the works, but I'm just too run-down to even bitch about it (but I am already thinking about going back to Stanford Dermatology and insisting on a newer doctor).

So there is the Holiday Wrap-Up - such as it is.  Hopefully I'll pull out of this funk soon - and get back to blogging!


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