DIY

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Do It Yourself

Why I Garden #33

Canyon Grape - Raisins on the Vine

Fall. Autumnal Equinox. The first hard freeze.

Frankly, the garden and I need a rest. I love a full season of planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. And I love the end of that season just as much. We had our first hard freeze several days ago and I'm happy to look out on a mostly dormant garden. I did expand the cold frame and will be planting hardy greens (Arugula, Mustard Greens and Spinach) to go with the Kale and Chard that have survived the freeze without complaint. I still need to mulch a few beds and will be turning the compost one last time this season.

Flushed With Pride

Dual-flush Toilet Conversion Kit - installed

I've finished many efficiency-oriented, DIY projects around our house. Some projects, like insulation, are nearly invisible and some are quite simple, like weather stripping. But few are as subtle, yet a regular part of our daily lives as this one. I've just installed a dual-flush conversion kit into the most frequently used toilet in our home. It's not something we're likely to show off to the neighbors, but it will help reduce our household water use.

Why I Garden #32

Fernbush blooming

Once again this summer I looked into the garden and saw new flowers on plant that hadn't bloomed before. Despite the ongoing drought the Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria millefolium) that we planted a few years ago decided to blossom. Scores of small, white, rose-like flowers with yellow centers popped up between the lacy foliage. Here is one more native plant that has thrived in our arid Southwestern climate with little to no attention.

More Info:

New Mexico Plant Materials Center - Fernbush

New Tricks with Old Dirt

Compressed Earth Blocks

Adobe bricks are a traditional building material in the Southwest. Made with water, sand, clay and straw, adobe is simple to produce, has good thermal mass and is appropriate for arid climates. Unfortunately, building with adobe is very labor-intensive which has made this dirt-simple material quite expensive to use. Now there is a modern alternative to adobe that retains its earthen qualities at a much lower price - Compressed Earth Block.

A Fruitful Year!

Apricot Ratafia

It's been a fruitful year! This amazing feat requires some magical combination of weather, timing, pollination, and possibly prayer. I've seen apricots all over town and also pears, apples, plums, and cherries. I'm hoping to gather some apples for sauce soon. The kitchen is in high gear in years like this.

The apricots were a bonanza and their beautiful goldenness showed up in many of our kitchen productions. Here's what I made:

Why I Garden #30

Shishito Chile Peppers

As much as I love the herbs and native flowers in our garden I love the food we grow even more. This season we planted four Shishito Chile Pepper starts from a local nursery and they have been bearing quite well so far. We've harvested a few dozen peppers and have several more dozen peppers almost ready to pick. Shishito peppers are quite mild and with a little pan searing and salt make a great appetizer.

More Info:

Wikipedia - Shishito pepper

Why I Garden #29

Lavender blooms

Lavender (genus Lavandula) is member of the mint family that grows across the 'Old World'. Lavender is used in medicine, foods, for decoration and its scent. We've found Lavender relatively easy to grow in our arid climate with only occasional watering, mostly when in bloom. Our bees also love lavender and were ardent in pursuit of pollen and nectar.

More Info:

Wikipedia - Lavender (Lavandula)

Made the Bread, Bought the Butter, pt. 6

Cornstarch

Many years ago I perked up upon reading an article in the New York Times food section about homemade butterscotch pudding. I would have been at my stove in a flash if not for the fact that the recipe called for two saucepans and I only owned one. Also, the pudding required that technique filled with kitchen terror: tempering beaten eggs with hot milk and then cooking the whole mess until it has thickened but not scrambled. So, that recipe was not going to happen.

Why I Garden #28

False Indigo Bush

Amorpha Fruticosa (a.k.a. Indigo bush, False indigo bush, False indigo, Desert false indigo) is another native shrub we've planted in our backyard. Although it may grow to 6+ feet and form a dense thicket, this example has been slow growing and is barely 2 feet high. This is a subtle and attractive plant with small flowers that look similar to lavender and leaves like a pea plant.

More Info:

Tour des Jardins et les Coops

Garden & Coop Tour 2012 - Fancy Chickens

This Sunday I took the Home Grown New Mexico Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour. Since I took the tour by bike I decided to call it the Tour des Jardins et les Coops. The tour was an easy loop of less than 20 miles and great way to spend a morning in Santa Fe. I was very impressed by the garden landscapes created by these generous and welcoming Santa Feans. I learned quite a bit from the gardens and I've been inspired to continue expanding our little garden.

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