Monday, September 21, 2009

Box of Veggies (16 of 22)

We split the corn, tatsoi, fennel, and peppers. E&A took the lettuce, onions, cucumber, and carrots, as well as the tomatoes and grapes since I have a surfeit of these in my yard. I took the potatoes, summer squash and acorn squash.

Chris is home! Woo-hoo! Well, most of him - he's 15% lighter than when he left. Last night was our first supper together in months. We had potatoes, tatsoi, and last week's corn. I'll probably serve this week's corn with the roasted acorn squash later this week. I have one of the summer squashes marinating in teriyaki with last week's onion and pepper. I have one more summer squash to work with as well as an eggplant from my garden, these might end up fried and served on pasta, or maybe on a pizza. I still have to come up with something for the fennel.

The tomatoes are still coming in by the pound, but last week seems to have been their peak. I won't bother canning these; the small batches that I dried last week worked out really well, so I think I'll do some major production tomato drying now. The tomatoes might have 2 or 3 more weekends before they're done. I have one small eggplant left still growing, but after that, I think the vegetable garden will be done for the year.

The yard produce is all about grapes now. Yesterday I pick 40% of the concords on the vine and juiced them to yield 15 cups. I'm experiment with making fruit leather in the dehydrator now and will also make some jelly. I might also try to make raisins, but they have seeds which is problematic. The red grapes will be ripe imminently, and the green ones will follow soon after.

The fruit trees are babies, so they don't produce much yet. I harvested the last of the pears (only 6 or so). The asian pear tree isn't going to provide anything edible (the 4 fruits on the tree are too buggy). One of the apple trees provided 2 apples and is done for the year. The other apple tree will have 3 or 4, but they're not ready just yet. The second wave of figs probably won't ripen in time, but if they do, I'll have dozens of them next month.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who is Yann?

This is Yann.

He is the boarder that has been staying with me every other week for over two months. I've made references to him on this blog, but I've never properly introduced him. He's a Ph.D. in Human Computer Interaction and he's been doing research at OSU this summer.

He is French and has spent a couple years in Australia. He speaks English fluently but with an accent that's somehow both French and Australian. He loves photography, scuba diving, and cheese (natch). You can check out his photos in his Flickr gallery.

This picture is from a juggling lesson I gave him, but I think I benefited more from the things he taught me.

He taught me how to cook gougère, quiche, and crêpes. He didn't personally show me how to make ratatouille, but it was on his recommendation that I figured out how to make it on my own.

He showed me how to work my camera better. I now know why purple was showing up as blue in all my photos (like in the balloon arch). But I still have to remember to revert the setting back when I'm indoors so that my photos don't turn out too red (like the bird on my head).

Yann influenced my opinion on public health care. He has strong opinions on the subject and it's easy to get him started on it, but he makes a compelling case.* (at this point I go off on a tangent so I cut and pasted it to the bottom of the post.)

He introduced me to some great new music from France (Les Hurlements D'Leo) and Australia (The Cat Empire). We were each impressed that the other was familiar with Manu Chau and Xavier Rudd (although I was surprised to learn that Chau was French and not Spanish).

Also, he taught me how to sharpen my knives.

His project's deadline is tomorrow (Thursday) and that will be his last day in Corvallis, but I will certainly see him again. He and his wife live in Seattle in a neighborhood not far from Andy and Jung-Eun, and I've promised to meet up with him next time I'm in town.


*My opinion on health care was only that I hate the way insurance companies work and I would support anything that made the whole process less aggravating. On principle, I would prefer a solution that didn't involve the law, but I don't have any idea what that would be exactly. Since the government seems set on getting involved anyway, I was just hopeful that the end result would be an improvement.

I admit that a major reason I want health care reform to pass is because I'm a fanboy of the President and I have a rooting interest in seeing my guy succeed (or perhaps more honestly, I want those folks who want my guy to fail to fail). But I don't have the idealism to believe that a government run insurance plan would be a hassle-free streamlined solution to all our country's health care problems, nor do I have the inherent distrust of government to fear it as a first step in the U.S. becoming a totalitarian police state.

After listening to Yann's testimonial, my opinion on the issue has shifted from "government run health insurance is an unobjectionable if not ideal way to treat the symptoms associated with dodgy health insurance practices" to "government run health insurance has proven to be an effective and popular alternative around the world".

I bet we're smart enough to come up with a way to keep the best parts of our system and incorporate the best parts of other countries' systems. Maybe we could provide a basic public insurance, but still keep the option of signing up with a private insurance company. Has anyone thought of that? It works for schools.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Box of Veggies (15 of 22)

We split the corn, tomatoes, and onions. E&A took the potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and green beans. I took the lettuce, bell pepper, Jimmy Nardello pepper, and beets.

I have no inspiration this week. Tomatoes, lettuce, onions and peppers are all basic enough to toss into salads, stir-frys, pasta sauces, or anything, which is probably what I'll do. I already ate the melon. The corn will be easy.

I now have a collection of peppers to work with: the Nardello and last week's Anaheim plus the santakas and the runty rejects of my failed jalapeno plants from my garden.

I'm also stumped by the beets, but at least they will last a while.

I'm more inspired by the backyard harvest. I pulled out over 5 pounds of tomatoes again this weekend and canned four quarts of them. More importantly, my food dehydrator arrived and I have been experimenting with dried tomatoes. I'm anxious to try it out on the pears, apples, figs, and grapes when they come in.



This is the last week that Yann will be here, but Chris comes home next weekend (Yay! - I hope he likes beets!).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Best Uses For Blackberries

Before blackberry season came to an abrupt end for me two weeks ago, my bushes were bursting with fruit. I figure between my friends and I, we harvested over 4 gallons of berries throughout the month of August. Here's some of the ways we came up with to use all these berries:

Blackberry Scones - These are a little trickier than blueberry scones. The trick to preventing purple batter with blueberries is to toss them with a couple tablespoons of flour until they're coated, but this does not work blackberries. Blackberries are not very cohesive, and there is no way to prevent them from getting all squished up in the batter and making a sticky mess. Maybe I'll try freezing them first next time. Nonetheless, they were quite tasty.

Blackberry Milkshake - This very simple treat was a favorite of Yann's. It's just ice cream, milk and blackberries in a blender.

Blackberry Jelly - This was my first attempt at canning. I strained the blackberries to remove the seeds and leave mostly juice, then cooked it with Sure-Jell and tons of sugar.

Blackberry Cobbler - My friends Karen and Chris came over last month to pick blackberries. A week later, they invited me over to their house for pizza and served blackberry cobbler for dessert. It was delicious!

Blackberry Margarita - Originally, I just tossed a handful of fresh blackberries in the blender with Margarita fixins, and it turned out delightful. Then I made them a little more elaborate by puréeing the berries and straining out the seeds then premixing this with the alcoholic ingredients and lime so they can be preserved in the freezer indefinitely. Now I have over a half gallon of this premix in my freezer ready to just add ice and Sweet-and-Sour in the blender.

Blackberry Dessert Topping - The quickest thing to do was just rinse a pint of berries and stir them up in a bowl with a few tablespoons of sugar and leave them in the fridge overnight to get syrupy. I spooned this over ice cream, French toast, and crêpes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dunawi Creek is Moving

This is the new Dunawi Creek:

This is what the old Dunawi Creek looks like now:

They're moving the creek and restoring the wetlands as part of a plan to redirect Reservoir Drive so that it intersects with 53rd at Campus Way to my north (Yay! there will be a light there!) instead of at the railroad tracks to my south (that intersection was deemed unsafe).

The creek used to run along the western border of my property, now it's being moved to something closer to it's historic banks.

This is what my house looks like from the old creek:

This is what my house looks like from the new creek:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bye Bye Blackberries


This is what my blackberry bushes looked like last Thursday.


This is what they looked like the next day.

It was kind of sad at first, but then I remembered that this is Oregon - You can't get rid of blackberry bushes by merely bulldozing them. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up with more blackberries than I can eat again next year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Box of Veggies (14 of 22)

We split the leeks and the dill. E&A took the purple potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, and watermelon. I took the carrots, onion, eggplant, bell pepper, and anaheim pepper.

My in-laws were staying with me on Sunday and Monday, so I wanted to share some of my favorite recent recipes. So I made sure to keep what I needed for the quiche (the leek), the ratatouille (the eggplant, onion, pepper... no squash this week!?), and the carrot cupcakes (the carrots, natch). They all turned out beautifully. I was pleased because the cupcakes failed the last time I made them. The ratatouille turned out well despite being squash-free.

I still have to use the eggplant (I ended up using the eggplant from my garden for the ratatouille), I will probably just fry it up and serve it on rice or pasta. I'll roast the anaheim, and keep it chopped up in the fridge to add to stuff (stir-frys and omelets and such).

I have no use for the dill. or last week's cilantro. and last week's lettuce is probably beyond salvage. I may have to give up and compost these.

The backyard produce is a bigger challenge. The plums all ripened at the same time. I ordered a food dehydrator to make prunes, but it won't be here for another week; The plums'll be gone by then. I'm pulling out five pounds of tomatoes a week. I've frozen some, I'll can some others, and I'll dry some if they last that long. I finally got my first eggplant, I expect 2 or 3 more before it's done. I can keep up with the pears - I get about 5 a week. The apples and grapes are still a week or two away. The blackberries... well, the blackberries will have their own blog post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bird On My Head

Yes. It is just what it looks like.

You might wonder why these guys were in my house in the first place.

They came over for game night last Saturday.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Box of Veggies (13 of 22)

We split the onions, cilantro, Squash, corn and green beans. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes. I kept the potatoes, lettuce, pepper, and watermelon.

I fried up the squash, pepper, with tomatoes from my garden and served them on pasta. I also used these in omelets for breakfast. The potatoes were fried up for breakfast. I plan on eating the green beans and corn tonight. The lettuce and tomatoes have been and will be made into sandwiches. No plans yet for the cilantro.