Archive for the ‘gardens’ Category

Winter Treats

January 25, 2012

Oh Butternut!

Who could say what grows under your awkward bulbousness,

that thin exterior the color of an old Barbie doll torso,

that hollow yet hallowed center,

until your flesh was split.

Oh Butternut, who knew you contained the essence

of a star crystallized, as well as the most coveted

liquid in the universe, your fragrance

steeped in centuries of early morning mist.

Oh Butternut, who knew the myriad consorts you might favor

in the name of flavor.

The spicy Italian Sausage with his garlicky breath and Asiago


the sautéed Chanterelle drunk with wine, sly and praising

of your tenderness.

Oh Butternut, only you could tame the narcissistic Gorgonzola,

wrapping him in ravioli, napping him with cream.

You, Blistered Chard, toasted Pine Nut, what a manage a trois you make!

And oh, Butternut, the sacrifice you make,

your blossoms before the fruit, a last splash of eros,

stuffed with black beans, chilies, urfa biber,

as September wanes, turning us back towards summer

as though it might never end.

This is the sauteed Italian Black Kale with toasted Pine Nuts, some baked Chicken chunks and the Most Honorable  Roasted Butternut. I cannot say any more about it. Let us pull up chairs, enjoin our forks and eat.


School Lunch September 13 and 14, 2011

September 15, 2011

Here it is, the LaConner School District lunch for September 13, 2011. The menu is described as a chicken caesar salad, whole grain biscuit, chocolate chip cookie, grapes, and choice of milk or juice. The chicken is baked, sliced, boneless, skinless chicken we prepare here at school. I used to bake the biscuits, however this purchased product is pretty good, the students like them. We serve cookies about once every two weeks, when our carbs for the day are on the low side. We serve fresh fruit at least three times a week, with a bowl of apples, oranges, bananas out on the counter as another option. Notice that the beverage of choice here is a plain milk. We also offer lactose free milk, apple and orange juice. We have taken the chocolate milk off the menu except for Fridays for this year. There are some expected and understood complaints about this.

My plan has been to discuss the fact that a 8 ounce chocolate milk has the equivalent of 3 Tablespoons of sugar, and that it isn’t just sugar, it is high fructose corn syrup. I say, look it up, high fructose corn syrup has been studied for a while now and is linked to our rise in diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. When you realize that this stuff (not food) is going into little bodies, when you realize that most of the high school boys take two chocolate milks (1/3 cup sugar) for lunch, no wonder they have trouble staying calm right after lunch, and fall asleep as their metabolisms crash 6th period during algebra. It is time to realize that manufacturers (not farmers) can purchase real food and by the time they are finished with it, there is no longer any real food there to sustain a person.

So, ok, yes, we serve cookies sometimes for lunch, or a really nice apple crisp with a buttery, crunchy topping. This is called dessert and we all need dessert sometimes. These foods are not trying to be something else, we are not conning children into eating these foods by making up what they are. Chocolate milk is not really milk if you understand me. We’re going to call it dessert.

Lunch for September 14, 2011

This menu is described as beef nachos, re-fried beans, fresh made salsa, and apple crisp. The student decided to add the apple from our fruit bowls and milk. We make the cheese sauce from scratch using mild cheddar cheese. The next time we make the beef nachos we will be using beef we purchased this summer from Skagit Angus Farms up off of Cape Horn Road. They have cows grazing in meadows next to the Skagit River. These are our neighbors and we are so glad to support them. We make the salsa with fresh tomatoes, green onions, lots of cilantro, garlic and honey. Sometimes we add in a can of diced green chilies, sometimes we add a few diced fresh red peppers. The first few times we made it fresh instead of the prepared stuff many students balked. Now, they love it and are happy when leftovers are sent to the salad bar the next day with a bowl of tortilla chips. And the apple crisp is made with Washington grown apples.

If you are interested in what we are doing at LaConner Schools go to the school website and click on the lunch menu, then click on the welcome page. There is a mission statement and information about how we started changing our menus and recipes, and what steps we are continuing to take today. If you are wondering why we began this project, I would say that our school board and superintendent have a collective conscience about walking our talk. We cannot be educating kids with one side of our mouths and shoving chicken nuggets in  the other side. (although we do still serve chicken nuggets once in a while)

This is a teachers lunch. this  guy has a tremendous schedule and needs all the calories he can get.

This next photo made me really happy. The student was not prompted in any way. There are always going to be 14 students who are your bell-weather eaters, who are the first to complain, first to verbalize their fears about new foods. These students are my friends and are on my mind all of the time. There are familiar, friendly foods for them most of the time. But we really need to be motivated from our hunger, not what is cheap, not what is flashy on TV. This is what I tell the elementary teacher who sees a kindergarten student who eats nothing on the tray but would have drunk the chocolate milk: hunger will take over soon and the child will try the foods. It just takes some time and a few kind words from an adult.

As far as the home garden is concerned, we have been picking some sweet one million cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for pickling and a nice lemon cucumber. The white carrots are fun, they are not parsnips, which I am not fond of. Green beans are still coming. the corn is late. we are hoping for next week. It’s been a rewarding summer after some difficult starts/stops. Tell me about your garden, what flourished, what tasty new varieties have you tried? Watermelon radishes?  Sunflowers are finally blooming! Rain is predicted for this weekend.

could someone help me with these photos? I don’t know how to crop them or flatten them horizontally. there is no lunch tray in the universe that looks like these!

Two Days of Summer So Far

July 26, 2011

If you live in the Pacific Northwest you know what I am talking about. The rest of the nation is sweltering. We are wet and very green. This was not the year to plant eggplant, peppers, cantaloupe, or tomatoes. If in some wonderful twist of fate the on-shore-flow from the jet stream taking a dip goes away and we get our great northerly winds August and September could still be warm……and we surely would relish a few tomatoes for our toasted bread with goat cheese and basil. The romaine has been fantastic…..delicious Caesar salads, and triple stacked in big sandwiches for a good crunch. Our radishes came and went quickly as they do. we tried those watermelon radishes. Good! As you can see from the pics, this is the third week of July and the garden looks as though it is June…..if I compare it to the spectacular summer of 2009. But I shouldn’t do that. Each summer brings its own offerings. A lesson in being present with what is. A challenge to create new recipes for that great crop of Walla Walla sweet onions…..discovering new twists on applesauce because we will have apples beyond belief. We have a Jonagold semi dwarf tree and a variety of Gravenstein that produces smaller apples. One of my favorites is Caramelized Applesauce. It is great as a dessert, breakfast, and glaze on fowl and pork. I will give the recipe when October comes around!

Western Washington Wet

October 18, 2009

If you live in Western Washington and were present today, October 17, you were witness to our watery weather phenomenon called “wet”. The weather person will just say “it is going to wet” and we all know what that means. If you know what drizzle is…this isn’t it. It is rain, all day, without relief, until late, just before sunset. When I say wet think of the gutters if the seams have cracked over the summer and there are waterfalls at the corners of the house. Think of a dogs food bowl on the back porch full of water and swimming slugs. Think Helly Hansen yellow. Even the intrepid folks who invented REI are having second thoughts about that hike up to Schreibers Meadow or Sauk Mountain. If you are a high school football or soccer player, or coach, who had a game today, I am so sorry. Make sure you take your vitamins and get to bed early tonight.

And then……about 5pm, the front, which is what this is called, broke up from the southwest, which is usually the direction the “wet” comes from. And the light is special, one of our little secrets here, especially in Skagit Valley. Know that first spring day, the really first spring, day, not necessarily March 21. There is warmth coming down from above, everything sparkles. Or how about that first snowy evening when you watch the wonder of flakes dancing in the street light?

This is what happens here after the front blows over and we get the last 22 minutes of sunset.. Can you believe these colors?




IMG_0240The tree above is a 75 year old black walnut. Thank god the neighbors know what they have and keep it. Wood workers are hoping for the storm that will blow it down.

And here are some more mysteriously beautiful critters.



Thanks for joining me today….I hope you enjoyed the “wet”, and are now inside…waiting for the lightening they say is coming along with the next front.

So Long to Summer said Mr. Frog

October 15, 2009


Habernero Pickled Golden Beets

October 15, 2009

Here is a jar of my husband’s famous habernero pickled golden beets. these are just on the cusp of a delightful heat. Maybe too hot for you, but as a condiment with soft corn tacos with fish or shrimp, wow.


Basil in October

October 11, 2009

Today is October 10th. An extraordinary day for a gardener in the pacific northwest. There is basil to pick, the last of the late white corn, cherry tomatoes are still ripening like strings of exotic jewels draping a weary vine. Roses are getting a second wind, our spring clematis is blooming on the front porch. We are at sea level and haven’t had a freeze yet although about 5 miles in from the water I’ve seen frost on the ground in the mornings. Jonagold apples have more sun burn than i’ve seen here ever.

The shadows from an ever southern sun make one drowsy and nappish on these weekend afternoons. We’ve done our job here, and change is coming. Glorious change, an unknown future no matter what the almanac might predict. Most of the garden has been worked over. there is still a row of potatoes, one of beets, and the basil. We will hang on to it until the freeze that turns it to sludge. I’m leaving the sunflowers to turn to seeds for the birds and squirrels. I’ve seen blackbirds sit on the tops of fallen over sunflower heads, crane their necks down under and peck the seeds out.

We’re pretty satisfied with the garden this year. Despite our late start with some vegetables, we’ve managed a good harvest. And now, we’re both tuckered out, as they say. I don’t think I could weed a row if life depended on it. But it feels good to wander out there amongst the birds, the freshly turned earth. Look for one more possible ear of corn, a slight breeze talking.

I think we had 5 neighbors weed, water, and harvest this year, more than ever before. We planted about the same amount of everything and there was always a handful of green beans, a zucchini, peas, carrots, kale, and lettuce when we were ready to eat. You can dream all you want about the big community garden/harvest/romantic idea, but I think most of us like the solitary work, the quiet heat of the afternoon, after spending the day or week at our current hectic pace.



This one is about 18 inches across.

IMG_0200The squirrel dinner party was interrupted…..

IMG_0202This apple would have been worth all the trouble….

IMG_0205shadows where a few weeks ago the sun blazed away.

IMG_0208our porch in October….yes, this is a friendly place and the humans who live here are quite nice.

Pumpkins in October

October 5, 2009

I promised some more photos of my friend Eddie Gordon’s Family Farm Pumpkin Stand when they opened this weekend. And here are some. I hope to get a few early morning misty ones in the next week or so. And there are more fields, more ghostly spots to reveal.

IMG_0182IMG_0183IMG_0185IMG_0186IMG_0187IMG_0191They grow the usual carving pumpkins and eating winter squash, like butternut, buttercup, acorns, delicata, hubbards, turbans, plus about 25 different heirloom types with wonderful striations, mellow colors. they also have Indian corn, decorative gourds, and corn stalks.

Behind the barn an old stable houses a ghostly tableau, finely carved pumpkins and lights. This is one of my favorite places in the world.

Hedlin Farms Eat Local Picnic

September 22, 2009

Last Sunday, folks all around the Skagit Valley attended their neighborly eat-local, eat home made, picnic. Us LaConnerainians (rhymes with Pommeranian) went out to the Hedlin Farms Stand. David and Company provided the accoutramont, hay bales and picnic tables, beverages, fresh cooked corn from the fields. The rest of us gleaned from our gardens, our CSA boxes, roamed the many local stands, to fulfill our part of the bargain. There were fresh crudite platters and home made dips, salads showing every conceivable color and shape, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. Kai’s fresh salsa with home made pita was not to be missed. There was delicata squash stuffed with an incredible nut mixture, tabouli with more tomatoes, lovely scalloped potatoes, several recipes of this, I had Janna’s. And the desserts……pear crisp, apple crisp, stewed Italian Plums, (WOW!) and…..fresh pumpkin ice cream. This is just a sampling. If I missed your dish….I know I am sorry!

Here’s a few photos of the day and the Hedlin Produce Stand:








thank you Serena, David, Mary, Lauren, Kai, and everyone else at the farm, and all my neighbors.

The Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad Revisited

September 20, 2009

Here it is once again…..traveling to the local garden pot luck this time. I added two ears of fresh uncooked white corn off the cob. A touch of sweetness, and maybe a bit more balsamic.


Please post a comment below on how you liked this salad. I would love to know what you would add from your garden. Thanks!