Archive for the 'gardening' Category


Sometimes life just gets in the way

It’s good to be loved.  It’s good to know that people not only read the words I write in this blog, but actually enjoy and learn from them.  Feeling blessed is only the beginning of the gratitude I have for all of you who come to Vampire Gran’s Kitchen.  Thank you all for your kind comments, especially the funny ones!   

 I’ve been getting a lot of “What’s ups?” from many of you.  Some via email and comments here, and some walking down  aisle  1 at work.  Thank you, Cat, for scolding me ever so nicely!   

So, what is up?  Well, summer time for one thing.  I made a conscious decision to enjoy the hot weather this year.  Anyone who knows me well, knows I am not a big fan of hot weather.  That’s why I moved to Portland, after all, for the most-of-the-year cooler weather.  But this year I have been determined to like the summer heat.  Fortunately, we have only had maybe three days this year that reached 100 degrees.  Thank you, Universe, for your support.  This has been a glorious summer, weatherwise.   

We’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors.  Running the streets of downtown Portland, leisurely walks along the Willamette, enjoying street fairs and just hanging out in our park like back yard.  And, I have been working in the garden – a lot.   

It's gotten crazy big since the last time I posted about it

In fact, I think the last time I wrote about the garden I was harvesting beets.  Those are long gone.  I also harvested shelling peas, lettuce and broccoli.   

Here are some of the lovely peas from the garden

I have a whole new crop rotation happening now.  I planted five hot pepper plants, jalapeno, hot cherry, Serrano, Thai and something our neighbor gave us.   

Hot Cherry pepper - it will turn red when it is ready

Thai chili - will also turn ready when it is good n' hot

Pepper from the neighbor - he says it's mild, not sure what kind it is

I work in a nice grocery store where we are well taken care of.  One of the perks we receive is free food and plants!  I spent some time checking out the back lot every day in search of homeless plants that needed some TLC.  I rescued a scraggly tomatillo plant and it blossomed into this:   

Now, what am I gonna do with all of these tomatillos?

All of my tomato plants were freebies, too.  Three from my neighbor and three from work.   

I can always use tomatoes

There's a nice big 'un

Every garden has to have one - the obligatory zucchini plant

The final garden picture is the butternut squash plant.  I am in awe of how one tiny plant can take over the entire garden, if I let it.  The garden expert neighbor told me I could cut it back and it would still live and produce.  Thank god, cause I thought it was gonna attach itself to everything, including me if I didn’t move fast enough!   

Hard to believe that is one plant

Ok, I lied.  Here are two more shots because these squash are so photogenic.   

Look how pretty that guy is. And there are those grabby tendrils, just poising itself to latch onto anything in its path

Another thing we have been having fun with is dinner and a movie al fresco.  We set up the computer on the patio, haul our dinner out and presto – instant good time.  

Yeah, I look like crap. It's hot, what do you expect?

What’s the pink stuff on our plate?  Beautiful candy stripe beets.  So good.  

Steamed golden and candy stripe beets tossed with orange muscat vinegar, kosher salt and cracked pepper served on a bed of steamed beet greens

So many more things have been going on this summer, but I think this post has gone on long enough.  I will be participating in the Blog Challenge on Foodbuzz so there will definitely be more to share with you as that progresses.  The work on my self published cook book  continues and looks like I am  about a quarter of the way done with that.  So much to look forward to.  So enjoying this journey called life.


How does your garden grow?

Welcome to Vampire Gran's Garden!

On March 30th of this year I started planting a raised bed garden.  It’s difficult to believe that tomorrow is the official first day of summer, June 21st.  Here in the Pacific Northwest we have had days and weeks of unending rain and very sporadic bursts of sunshine.  And somehow my garden seems to be thriving.  We’ve already harvested and consumed all of the lettuce that was planted at the end of March.  It was my first attempt at growing lettuce and it was a success.  Not one head was lost.  Probably because I identify with the Evil Queen from Snow White and not the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland!

Harvesting my very first beet

Wow, look at those beautiful beet greens!  Life is truly wonderful when a simple thing like pulling a fresh beet from the earth can bring a smile that I could feel through my whole body.

I look like a proud parent

Growing our own food is so awesome.  Everyone should do it, no matter where you live.  The cool thing about beets is that you can eat the whole plant, not just the root.  I’m steaming these greens tomorrow for dinner.  The root is going into our fresh veggie juice  this afternoon.  It’s gonna be delicious.

Five raised beds all in row

The bed in the foreground used to hold large heads of lettuce, but we’ve already enjoyed those.  There’s a jalapeno and a butternut squash starting there now.  You can see basil, dill, chives, Italian parsley, orange thyme and summer savory closer to where I am standing.

View from behind the garage

I’m standing in front of the shelling peas.  Those things really grew fast!  Leeks and onions are in that bed as well.  To the right are the beets and broccoli.  To the left you can see tomato plants.

Checking out the peas

It was just last weekend that the pea pods appeared.  They are so sweet and tender.  We like to pick and eat them right there on the spot.   What a treat!

Just beautiful!

Such a beautiful shade of green

OK, one more shot - jeez, who knew peas could be such hams!

Not to be upstaged by the peas, the beet greens make another appearance

Seriously, look how gorgeous those greens are.  When I was a kid, people used to tell me I would make a good farmer’s wife because I used to get up before the sun was up.  Who knew I was the one who would end up being the farmer.

Thanks for coming to check on our garden's progress

Well, now I’m heading to the garage to ditch my gloves and gardening garb.  Then off to the kitchen to rinse my beloved beet and enjoy it our afternoon juice.  Cheers!


Daylight in the Garden of Good and Tasty

I am so glad I planted early this year!

A couple of months ago, March 30th,  to be exact, I wrote a post about planting our garden.  I likened myself to Martha Stewart, sort of, well, in the fact that we both have gardens on our estates.  I sure wish I had a couple of henchmen though, like Martha, who could help with all of the details of said garden.  Oh, I guess they are called gardeners, not henchmen.  Drat!  I really want a henchman.

Anyway, this short post is an update complete with a few photos of how the garden is progressing.  The top shot is of a Golden Beet plant.  We’re pretty stoked about growing our own beets.  I think I’d like to show some before and current views of the raised beds.  Here goes:

Day one - Lettuce

When I first planted the lettuce, some kinda bug thought it was Hometown Buffet or something.  Small bug teeth sized holes started to appear in the leaves almost immediately.  Katie was concerned as was our friend Emily.  I’m the kind of gardener who plants things and just expects them to grow.  I believed that if I was meant to grow lettuce, it would grow.  My inner being never lets me down.  Here is what the lettuce looked like this morning and, mind you, I added nothing to the soil nor did I put anything on the leaves.  100% natural and organic, baby.

Can you believe it?

Here’s a nice close up shot:


So, let’s take a look at the beets progress.  We are really looking forward to not only eating the beet roots, but also the tasty greens.  This is the ultimate no waste vegetable.

Day one - Beets

The plant front and center in this shot is the same Golden Beet whose picture graced the beginning of this report.  Not bad, eh?  Here’s a shot of the whole group.

Growing like, dare I say it, weeds?

The plants in the background are broccoli.  You may be noticing the yellowing outer leaves here.  I’m leaving  those leaves on, even though the pictures would look better if I manicured the plants a bit.  But I’m thinkin’ maybe if the moocher bugs return, they can gnaw on the crappy leaves a bit, get pissed off and move on.  Ours is not the only garden on the block, ya’ know?

Some new additions

If you recall, the chives, on the right, were the only thing that survived the winter.  Since March, I’ve planted parsley and some Orange Thyme, back in the corner.  I still need to buy some basil and I would also like cilantro.

Yeah, I know I need to weed, but it's been raining cats and dogs here in Portland!

These are shelling peas and in the background you can see leeks.  In the past I have only ever grown tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and a few herbs.  This is really fun growing our food.  Speaking of tomatoes, I need to get some planted soon.  I mentioned in my other gardening post that our next door neighbor is a Master Gardener.  She generously shared three tomato plants and a green bell pepper with us.  She has the coolest little greenhouse and always something growing in there.  No, I haven’t noticed any bright lights coming from there at odd hours.   Man, you guys!

Thanks to Miss Snowy, we will have tomatoes

Okay, well that’s my update for now.  Oh, there’s a break in the rain.  I’m outta here.  I have some weeds to pull!


Martha would be proud

It’s been a while since I’ve perused a Martha Stewart magazine, but I recall there was always a calendar listing all of Martha’s to-do things for the month.  One time there was an entry stating “prepare garden beds for planting such-n-such.”  My daughter made the comment “It’s more like, have Javier prepare the garden bed.”  Something tells me Martha probably had one of her staff do the work, but I like to think that she gets out there and really does get her perfectly manicured hands into some muck once in a while.  After all, she’s an ex con.  She’s hard core!

In the spirit of Martha Stewart, let’s get ready for spring.  What does that mean?  For some it’s enjoying the warmer weather while others delight in the spring rain.  Kids and students of all ages look forward to Spring Break.  If you are a fan of the Easter Bunny, it’s your season.  And whether you are a seasoned urban farmer or someone who just likes to dig in the dirt and throw some seeds in and cross your fingers, the time is now.  I pretty much fall into that second category.  Although the seed thing has never really worked for me.  I like to buy the plants already started because I feel I have a pretty decent chance of getting something to harvest in a couple of months.

We just celebrated our first year in our current home.  We moved in March 1st, 2009 and spent so much time getting moved in and settled that the five raised beds in our huge back yard were low on my priority list.  I did manage to get a few things planted and growing in the summer last year, kind of  a baby step in gardening terms.  I was determined to start earlier this year and I actually made progress last weekend.

See all of those weeds in the back two beds?  That is what all five of the raised beds looked like before last weekend.  Fortunately for me, the dirt in all of the boxes is really good stuff, soft, loose and easy to dig and weed.  If it wasn’t I probably would’ve put plywood over the top of the whole mess and made a deck.  Did I mention that I am lazy when it comes to manual labor?

Here are  three beds all cleaned up and ready for planting.  I really enjoy the prepping of the beds because it is so much like cooking.  Mixing the compost into the dirt, getting my hands in there and really connecting with the ingredients.  I don’t think I am ready to actually taste the stuff to adjust seasoning, but ya’ never know.  Anyway, raking and smoothing the earth was like frosting a cake; I kept leveling and smoothing just as I do when I’m whipping up a confection for a client ,until it is baby bear just right!

The chives actually survived the winter ( so did the little tag) so I left them in place.  I will be adding more herb friends to this little area soon so the chives will not be so lonely.

The front box has lettuce and the rear box is home to broccoli and three varieties of beets.

Golden beets are in the foreground, to the left are Shiraz Top Red beets and on the right Candy Striped beets.  That’s the broccoli in the background.

This is the rosemary shrub that grows by our deck (see, we already have a deck so that crack I made about building one is kinda moot).  I just put this picture in because I think it looks pretty nice and I love having fresh herbs on hand all year round.  The next three pictures are of our back yard.  I wish I had a panoramic lense on my camera so I could capture the entire thing in one shot.  We love this yard; it’s like having a city park behind our home.

To the left you can see the raised beds and our next door neighbors yard.   We just happen to have a master gardener for a next door neighbor, which comes in pretty handy when I have questions.  The fact that she is in her 80’s , hard of hearing  and a little unsteady on her feet doesn’t stop me from asking for advice.  Besides, I can talk pretty loud.

The smaller tree by that shed is an Asian Pear.  That gets really loaded down by the end of summer! 

This is a shot down the center of the yard.  From left to right we have a cherry tree, and apple tree of some kind and another apple tree.  We have yet to see any apples but we did get some cherries last year.  Our gardener, Ed,  and his daughter Katie, were here working the day before these pictures were taken.  The college aged Katie mowed the lawn and we’re not sure if she has balance issues or was perhaps hung over.  You be the judge.

 This final shot has the apple tree from the previous photo plus an Italian plum tree.  There is a currant tree way back in the corner near the wood fence that the humming birds love!  It’s the little tree with the pink flowers.

We also have raspberries, blueberries, a green gage plum  and a fig tree on our property.  Today, when I got off work,  I purchased 6 pack starters of peas, leeks, cippolini onions and cabbage.  Looks like I may become an urban farmer yet.  Thanks for reading my ramblings and checking out the photos of our back yard.  It may not be as grand as one of Martha’s estates, but it feels like a royal garden to us.



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