Local Living – Mixed Greens Blog http://mixedgreensblog.com Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 14 Sep 2017 22:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 With a Cooler & a Coleman Stove http://mixedgreensblog.com/2015/06/04/local-living/field-trips/with-a-cooler-a-colman-stove/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2015/06/04/local-living/field-trips/with-a-cooler-a-colman-stove/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:41:59 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=13227 Cooking and eating outdoors.

I just returned from a hiking-biking-camping trip to southeastern Utah – yes, the SUN still shines somewhere – so camp cooking came up during our meeting. I like to eat as well as possible no matter where I am so I’m motivated to arrange for a decent meal even via a cooler and an ancient Coleman stove. In a recent conversation, Poppy and I wondered about experimenting with similar meals when we camp out this summer on her Orcas Island property, I in my tent, she in her tiny cabin. Not there to mess around, but to work and plan. Seriously. No, seriously. No messing around.

Camping, picnicking, road tripping . . . what’s the food that’s good and makes sense? And let me be clear, this was a car camping trip. Back packing meals are another story.

(This is a repost from several years ago. On the cusp of another summer, seems like a good time to revisit the culinary side of this Utah camping trip. In whichever ways you celebrate summer, eat outdoors whenever you can. The porch steps will do.)

Here are a few ideas that worked for us in Utah. We hiked and biked all day long, poked into every nook and cranny, I swear, sunscreen and tank tops, a lot of sweat and wiped out in a good way at the end of the day. A tasty meal was important, but putting a lot of time and effort into making it wasn’t. Most meals were made in one pan, cast iron with a lid that could be used when we needed it. The thing is that we stocked up and planned in advance for five dinners for two – increase quantities for more people but the ease of preparation still fits – so we didn’t have to wonder what we were eating each night. There was a plan. Leftovers expanded those five meals to seven and we ate out two nights.

Dessert. Every single night we had a few bites of the rhubarb sauce made and frozen before leaving home, sometimes with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a cookie. Also, the need for s’mores never dies, there might be a campfire, so pack accordingly.

In addition to the basics, here are a few things that were indispensable: our Coleman stove, a beloved hand-me-down; a cast iron skillet with a lid (in our case the lid was a metal plate that fit); a thermos for making coffee; a good quality large cooler with room for 2 quarts of yogurt, 2 small Greek yogurts, a cube of butter, mayo, mustard, milk, half & half, Parmesan cheese, 2 quarts of frozen rhubarb from home, washed lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cilantro (rinsed, wrapped in a paper towel and a wax paper bag), salad dressing, sour cream, Gorgonzola cheese, one frozen chicken breast, one package frozen Italian sausage, a dozen eggs plus a half dozen hard boiled. We normally don’t eat so many eggs, but this was the perfect week for it. Mid-week we resupplied salad greens, avocado, a red pepper, milk and juice. Before heading out I washed and packaged all produce.

A large plastic storage bin was a great camping pantry for staples like granola, onions, potatoes, ground coffee, a package of pre-cooked brown rice (which I’d never heard of before, from PCC market), a packet of Tika Marsala sauce also from PCC, 1 cup green lentils and 1 cup of rice packaged together at home (they both take 25 – 30 minutes to cook so they can be cooked together); cookies, chocolate, a loaf of Dave’s bread which, astonishingly, was good for the entire week; tortillas, tuna fish, salsa and chips, a tiny container of Italian herbs from home. A couple of bottles of wine and some beer, sent to the cooler a bottle or two at a time as there was room.

Some meals required a little chopping. Other than that it was cook and assemble in thirty minutes, often less. Each of the meals mentioned below were cooked in one pan, almost always the cast iron skillet. And with camp food, people are more easily satisfied – it doesn’t have to be an exquisite culinary home run every night, though you might come close.

Several camp meals worth considering (also great in the backyard):

Chicken Tika Marsala with pre-cooked brown rice. Never had tried pre-cooked rice before or a packaged tika marsala sauce, never thought I would, but for camping it was perfect. Leftovers the next night wrapped in tortillas with sour cream, avocado and cilantro.

Directions were on the Marsala packet. I sauteed onion, red pepper and bite-sized pieces of chicken for a few minutes, then added the packet of marsala sauce and some water. Put a lid on, let it simmer for 20 minutes stirred it occasionally. Then a bit of cream, reheat slightly and spoon over the brown rice. It was fabulous. The leftovers in the tortilla wraps were equally delicious.

This one was a long shot, we virtually never buy packets of ‘flavor’, but this was the deal for a fast meal. And . . . a person could easily discover the key flavors in tika marsala, package it in a jar or a zip lock, probably dried herbs, and save yourself from the processed packet. Even better.

Italian sausage ragu with cheese ravioli. Leftovers for lunch. This was done in one pan, an experiment that worked.

Ingredients and directions: Saute’ whole sausage in olive oil, add chopped onion and red pepper on the side, cook it all together for 7 – 10 minutes. Remove sausage, slice into bite-sized pieces and put it back in the pan. Add a jar of tomatoes or a marinara sauce. I used Cucina Fresca’s smoked tomato sauce. Bring it all to a simmer, adding a bit of water as needed. Add fresh raviolis, again Cucina Fresca’s (a fine local business) to the pan, stir to cover with the sauce. Put a lid on this or not. Fresh ravioli, not dried, will cook in the simmering sauce in about 5 minutes. Dish it onto the plate and enjoy. Breadsticks are a fine accompaniment.

A big green salad with hard-boiled eggs, tuna, asparagus, avocado a delicious dressing . . . and bread sticks.

Angel hair pasta with plenty of cheese. One night it got late and meal plans went south.

Directions: Unintentionally, we concocted a whirlwind, but delicious Mac & Cheese. Cook a big handful of angel hair pasta (enough for two in our case) 4 minutes give or take, drain all but about 1/3 cup of pasta water; add half & half (1/4 – 1/3 C or so), salt & pepper and reheat very gently and briefly. If you have herbs and spices on hand, add a pinch of chipotle pepper. Off heat add grated Parmesan, any cheesy leftovers, like a piece of Gorgonzola or some grated cheddar, whatever’s on hand. Stir it thoroughly, add more cheese, more liquid? Maybe reheat. Whadyaknow, Mac ‘n cheese. Don’t all culinary roads lead in that direction? Carrots on the side, late in the day, sun setting, we’re dead tired. Perfection. One pan, two plates, two forks, two wine glasses.

One note. This would have been even better with another pasta, but cooking time would increase dramatically.

Clam Pasta. Almost the same as above, but with some onion, herbs and clams.

clam pasta

Directions: Two pans needed, one the boiling water for angel hair pasta (which will cook in under 5 minutes), and a pan for everything else. Chop and saute’ half of a medium sized onion, 2 cloves of garlic until they’re soft, (and a small can of drained pimentos are a colorful addition if you have them). Add a tablespoon of Italian seasonings or just some oregano. Stir. Add the juice of two cans of canned clams (a splash of white wine if you have it) and simmer/reduce for 3 or 4 minutes. While the angel hair pasta cooks, add clams to the simmering sauce, cook for just a couple of minutes. Serve with a little grated parmesan and a glass of that white wine.

Basic frittata with 5 eggs, potatoes, onions, cheese and a few bits of Italian sausage from a previous meal.

Ingredients & Directions: Finely chop 1/2 onion and 2 potatoes/ Add 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil to skillet/ Add onion and potato to piping hot skillet/ Turn the heat down a bit, saute’ and stir until potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes/ This would be the time to add other ingredients as you wish, like broccoli, fresh herbs, mushrooms/ When potatoes are tender, stir in the mixture of 5 beaten eggs and 1/4 C milk or cream/ Salt & pepper/ Stir constantly until eggs are done enough and not overcooked – the key to a frittata, any egg for that matter, is to not overcook it/ Each serving can be embellished with sour cream, avocado, a grating of cheese. Whatever. It’s a good meal.

Spanish Omelet from a previous post would be good camp fare.

Steamed eggs with spinach and breadcrumbs. A few gratings of parm, a small packet of bread crumbs brought from home and sprinkled over the eggs and spinach before serving provided a salty and buttery crunch, the kicker for these ordinary ingredients. For breakfast or dinner, so good. Again, one pan, one lid.

Ingredients & directions for two servings: Saute’ 5 – 6 C uncooked spinach and 1 finely minced clove of garlic in plenty of olive oil/ Stirring often, lid on or off, this will take 4 – 5 minutes/ Remove spinach to plates, wipe pan and add 1 T butter/ When butter is sizzling crack and gently add 4 eggs to the pan/ Salt & pepper/ Add a smidge of water to the skillet, put a lid on, turn heat down a bit and allow to steam for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are done to your liking/ Place eggs on servings of spinach, sprinkle with herbed bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese and have at it. If you have leftover cooked potatoes use them too.

The meal that didn’t happen. One of our favorites, but it turned out we didn’t need it. Lentils & rice with caramelized onions and yogurt/sour cream. This one requires two pans. Cook the rice and lentils together, 1 C rice, 1/2 C lentils in 3 – 3 1/2 cups of seasoned water or broth for 25 – 30 minutes. Add more water if it becomes too dry. While that’s happening slice one or two onions and saute’ with olive oil and butter until tender and golden. When all is done cover the rice and beans with a big scoop of onions and yogurt or sour cream. A universal combination, great for camping.

So, we didn’t starve. We returned home with a nearly empty cooler and pantry, bought a little fresh produce in Moab, enjoyed good food and didn’t spend much time at all preparing it. Dinner out a couple of nights helped.

And no kids along, which is a different story, but these meals would serve. Increase quantities, same meals but use two burners and two skillets. The kids’ help could be a significant contribution if they’re not too distracted by creating hideouts, stone building or squirrel sighting. With two of us making the meal there were moments of down time when either of us could have been on kid duty. It helps to give kids of any age the same task at each meal to be in charge of, they become the master of something like setting up chairs, creating a seating arrangement, setting the table, organizing and serving a simple dessert, keeping the pantry neatly packed after each meal, chopping and cleaning up when appropriate. In an ideal world.

We ate well. The tent thing, sleeping well? Somebody help me with that.

And Poppy, you ready to hit the road again this summer, cook outdoors, mix a cocktail, make plans?

Desert in bloom, sunshine, distant storms, mountain biking, hikes and meals outdoors were all part of our May trip to southeastern Utah. The landscape is otherworldly beautiful and the warm sunshine a respite for webbed feet and brain.

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It’s Back at the Market: Asparagus http://mixedgreensblog.com/2015/04/07/local-living/farmers-markets/its-back-at-the-market-asparagus/ Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:50:10 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=20429 Asparagus

To every thing there is a season and asparagus says Spring in the Northwest like no other vegetable. The highly anticipated arrival of local asparagus at the University District Farmers Market signals the floodgates are opening and from here on out, there will be new and exciting produce arriving every week. Those of us who frequent the farmers market regardless of the weather have been waiting all winter for this moment.

Asparagus

Just in case you’re new to asparagus prep, this post will help you out. First-of-the-season asparagus needs almost no embellishment, maybe some butter, salt & pepper, a squirt of lemon. I’ll keep it simple for the first few weeks before I start adding sauces just to savor the unique taste I’ve been craving. Once I’ve gotten my fill of unadorned asparagus, I have a few new tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share with you. But, if I’m being completely honest, this miso butter is so good I’m already eating it on everything in sight, asparagus included. My inspiration for the following recipes came from a beautiful vegetarian cookbook called Feast by Sarah Copeland.

Asparagus with Miso Butter

 Miso Butter Recipe

Ingredients: 2T unsalted butter at room temperature/ 1 T miso – I used white, her recipe calls for yellow/ 1/4 t sriracha, to taste.

Directions: Mix butter and miso together with a sturdy spoon in a small bowl until fully incorporated. Add hot sauce, if you wish.

Seriously, I had a hard time not eating this by the spoonful so I slathered it on a cracker and somehow that made me feel less decadent. Go figure.

Asparagus with Miso Butter

If you’re more in the mood for a spring asparagus salad, try this ranch dressing – a great way to use fresh chives from the garden and green garlic from the farmers market. Charlie loved it, but then again, he didn’t get to try the miso butter. It mysteriously disappeared….

Ranch Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 cup plain Greek or any full fat yogurt/ 1/3 cup mayonnaise/ 1/3 cup buttermilk/ 1 clove garlic, minced (if you happen to have some green garlic, use it instead)/ 1T fresh lemon juice/ huge bunch of fresh chives/Salt & pepper/ 1/4 t sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, to taste, optional.

Directions: Whisk everything together in a medium bowl/ Adjust salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste/ Store in a jar in the fridge until ready to use.

Asparagus with Fried Tofu

I used a recipe from the above mentioned cookbook, Feast ,for cornmeal fried tofu on asparagus but the ranch dressing would work with any asparagus salad, or any salad for that matter.

If you can’t stand the thought of throwing away at least a quarter of these lovely stalks, Sally has a recipe for a lovely broth, using all of your asparagus, um, butts.

 

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Julia’s French Onion Soup With a PNW Accent http://mixedgreensblog.com/2015/01/13/seasons-eatings/julias-french-onion-soup-with-a-pnw-accent/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2015/01/13/seasons-eatings/julias-french-onion-soup-with-a-pnw-accent/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 10:21:39 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/2009/01/13/uncategorized/julias-french-onion-soup-with-a-pnw-accent/ We love Julia Child because she relishes making hoity-toity French food, but brings it down to earth. Pun intended. When she drops a chicken on the floor or licks her fingers we know she’s one of us. Fr Onion soup 19

I’ve made her French onion soup for years and while she’s specific about process, ingredients are straightforward. As she said, “Onion soup is simply a large quantity of sliced onions slowly cooked and browned in butter, then simmered in beef bouillon.”

Not a refined soup, it’s meant to be full of oniony character, chunky and rustic, kind of like Julia herself. Caramelized, softened onion imbued with the subtle flavors of bay, sage and thyme, toasted bread and melted cheese on top – comfort food in a bowl.  This soup is of winter’s landscape. Onions, lots of them, a stock of your choice, beef, chicken or vegetable, and but of course a smidge of wine. Use onions from nearby, a locally/regionally produced cheese, and make your own stock if possible.  Another mostly local meal.Fr Onion soup 29

Plus, French Onion Soup is a great way to have a party meal, any meal, that’s easy on the pocketbook. The cheese topping is potentially pricey, though you need very little, and onions and elbow grease for chopping come pretty cheap.  After that just time is required to let it all simmer into a pièce de résistance.

Onions, Aliums, are full of anti-oxidants. *Check out links and info at end of this piece for more about the Allium’s nutritive benefits.

I use Julia Child’s recipe from The French Chef Cookbook (a rumpled little paperback I’ve had forever) and I feel free to adjust it as needed. It calls for a cup of red or white wine. I’ve often used red which ‘colors’ the soup. For that reason I use white wine if I have it. Taste is great either way.

The work for this soup comes at the very beginning when, with tissues nearby, you roll up your sleeves and peel and chop a big pile of onions, a mountain of onions when you’ve finished chopping five or six of them. They diminish in volume significantly during cooking. This recipe makes 4 – 6 servings.

I’m always grateful to have fresh herbs in the garden, especially mid-winter. Bay and rosemary are thriving in spite of recent cold snap, thyme and sage are sad looking, but new growth is coming even now and I foraged enough for this soup. More about Herbs and Herb gardens coming soon.

Fr Onion soup 22

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Recipe

Repost from January, 2009. I made this soup yesterday, 1/12/15, and with homemade stock it took a chunk of time. Using stock made ahead or store-bought this would come together fairly quickly. And I must say, it’s a soup worth the effort. !!!

Ingredients & Directions:

Melt 3 T butter with 1 T olive oil in 4-quart pot/ Add sliced onions and stir to coat/ Cover pan and cook slowly for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent/ Remove lid, turn the heat up to medium and stir in 1 t salt and ½ t sugar/ Stir together and sauté another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Onions will gradually turn golden brown/ Lower heat, add 3 T flour and a bit more butter if needed/ Cook together for two minutes/ Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of hot beef, chicken or vegetable stock along with 1 C red or white wine, 1 bay leaf, ½ t sage, salt & pepper to taste/ Stir with a whisk to blend everything and then add remaining 7 cups of stock (which could be diluted with water)/ Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

That’s it. OK to make it a day ahead of time. Like many soups it gets better after sitting a few hours or a day.

To serve: Ladle into a bowl and enjoy as is, or give it a French accent: nearly fill oven-proof soup bowls with the hot soup, place a toasted slice or two of bread, preferably French, on top of each and top that with a handful of grated cheese. Gruyere is traditional perfection. Place bowls on a cookie or baking sheet under a broiler for two or three minutes. Watch carefully while cheese melts. Remove from oven and serve with more bread, a green salad or fruit and a sip of wine.

The cheese topping is the opportunity for a Pacific Northwest touch (or skip the cheese entirely).  Julia suggests Parmesan and/or Gruyere which are local if you live in France. If there’s a locally made cheese that you like, try it. I used Mt. Townsend’s Trailhead with a little parm mixed in; Beecher’s jack or cheddar would be good; Sea Breeze’s Vache de Vashon or their Alpine goat cheese; Port Madison’s Goat Farm & Dairy is a source of excellent local cheese available at Farmers Markets most weekends. Goat cheese would be something to try.  Goat Cheese and onios are delicious together in a tart – it ought to translate to this soup as well.  If anyone out there tries it, let me know.

Fr Onion soup 36

Alliums’ Health Benefits:

Onion a day keeps doctor away?

*Many onions are chock full of anti-cancer chemicals. However, certain varieties are particularly high in these compounds as well as more effective in inhibiting liver and colon cancer cell growth.         According to a new study by Cornell University food scientists, led by Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of food science, shallots, Western Yellow, pungent yellow and Northern Red onions are higher in anti-cancer chemicals than other varieties tested. Furthermore, Liu found that shallots and Western Yellow and pungent yellow onion varieties are particularly effective against liver cancer cells, while pungent yellow and Western Yellow varieties have the greatest effect on colon cancer cells.

“Our study of 10 onion varieties and shallots clearly shows that onions and shallots have potent antioxidant and antiproliferation activities and that the more total phenolic and flavonoid content an onion has, the stronger its antioxidant activity and protective effect,” says Liu.

Onions are Beneficial to Health, Vegetarianism & Vegetarian Nutrition

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Resolutionary Thoughts: Snacks Unwrapped & Plastic http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/12/28/seasons-eatings/snacks-unwrapped/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/12/28/seasons-eatings/snacks-unwrapped/#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=7084 dried apricots and hazelnuts

I’m reading the paper the other morning, oblivious to the impending New Year, when from across the room Bob asked if I had resolutions for 2010. Not yet, was my absent-minded reply. But then the brain started buzzing, independent of what I thought I wanted it to do, and it began to muse about the list I make each new year, an enumeration of intention. Flights of fancy some, and difficult or impossible to accomplish, others easy enough and will be checked off the list before December 31, 2010.

(Yes, this is a repost from 2010, but apropos again, we think. Happy New Year, 2015.)

Dried fruit and nuts

Collectively the list is biographical, a reflection of the small and large things in life that currently seem important,  a personal state of mind-ful or mind-lessness. Every year, because I love a physical thrill like zip lines or kayaking into caves, I consider putting sky diving on the list – the flying through the air part tempting, the jumping out of the plane part preposterous. And that’s the dilemma of what could vs. what will end up on a list. The exercise reveals the presence, or lack thereof, of a lifestyle yin and yang, sometimes well balanced, sometimes not. Last year’s list included tiramisu from scratch, building a stone sculpture, more dancing and writing a story. Attainable.

From out of the blue came two of this year’s nominees: nuts and plastics. (I know. Yaaaaaawn.)

*”Except for the very small amount that’s been incinerated – and it’s a very small amount – every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”

Would I like to know Dr. Oz’s Realistic Resolutions for 2010? Again, from across the room. And this time he doesn’t wait for a response, just starts to read a list from the NY Times. Commit to family night, seven minutes of yoga a day, go to bed earlier, keep nuts/healthy snacks handy, make space for sit-ups in front of the TV . . . the list goes on, but he had me at the snack, simple, sustainable, healthy nuts. Not  revolutionary, we’ve heard it a thousand times, but then the moment arrives when you’re ready to take it in. Not sexy material for the annual list, but healthwise a grand idea. Resolutionary. So, Oz, along with *Sue Casey (science writer), brought me to a couple of this year’s convictions: to drastically diminish my consumption of plastic and to increase my consumption of nuts.

And now you know this isn’t going to be a hefty food story with a recipe at the end, but a statement about a simple resolve: to snack healthfully, and, it turns out, sustainably – without the requisite specially snack sized cutely wrapped plastic containers. For me, a snack of hazelnuts (Holmquist Farms is a good Washington source), and dried apricots or our own dried plums is appealing – crunchy protein with a chewy bite of sweet fruit. Local food without excessive wrappings and trappings. The environmental trick is to buy in bulk and then make sure they’re available in the car, at the desk, in the kitchen. Despite resolve, those other snacks won’t disappear, the chips and chocolate, but diminish. I’m not completely crazy.

dried fruits and nuts snack

Inexplicably perhaps, a couple of common snack foods are off limits in my book. Peanut butter and energy bars. Never, nada, nichts. I know that it’s a culinary sin to hate peanut butter and my credibility just took a nosedive. I made a decision about peanut butter when I was four and it has held. Unless it’s baked into a cookie, forget about it. But, a simple pile of nuts (no peanuts) and dried fruit, I’m in.

And there’s no extraneous, small-portions-plastic-packaging involved. Bonus points. This is significant. Our planet is suffocating from discarded plastic. (Take a look at this site, amazing environmental/informational art,
Chris Jordan’s photographs of America’s Intolerable Beauty.) 

And here’s to un-wrapping healthy snacks in 2010 (& again in 2015.)

*The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2007 includes a piece by Susan Casey called Plastic Ocean, which might change a person’s sensibility about buying anything at all that’s surrounded by or made of plastic. Of the plastics we commonly use and conscientiously recycle, only 3-5% are reused in any way.

“Except for the very small amount that’s been incinerated – and it’s a very small amount – every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”

“Set aside the question of why we’re creating ketchup bottles and six-pack rings that last for half a millennium and consider the implications of it: plastic never really goes away.”

Maybe we can scare ourselves into healthy unpackaged snacks. A worthy resolution. snacks unwrapped

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Still Life with Blossoms http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/06/01/in-the-garden/still-life-with-blossoms/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/06/01/in-the-garden/still-life-with-blossoms/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 00:00:53 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=20693 Peony Flower arrangement

The big beautiful blossoms in my garden are begging to be photographed and the timing couldn’t be better. I’ve recently discovered the rich and wonderful world of photography e-courses, primarily those taught by Kim Klassen. Oh my goodness…. If I were to try to dream up my ideal course, hers would be it — she’s a master at giving generously of her vast knowledge in way that is so easy for me to receive and use. I’ve even switched over to a whole new photo-editing software under the guidance of one of her courses. No easy feat — especially when I have thousands of photos to organize and edit. The latest course I’ve been taking is on Still Life Photography and luckily I have subjects galore, free for the picking — irises, lilacs, peonies and of course, lots of poppies.

Iris Still Life  Peony Arrangement

No need for a studio, these were taken on my deck in the morning with indirect natural light using scarves as backdrops. For me, low tech is the best way to go when I’m learning something new and want to be creative and free.

Poppy Still Life  Poppy Still Life

I have lots of vases, some inherited, some art pottery collectibles and lots and lots of thrift shop finds.

Lilacs  Peony Still Life

I couldn’t stop playing around using an antique distressed mirror in our dining room, adding a whole different dimension to these poppy photos.

Reflection of Poppy  Reflection of Poppy

Reflection of Poppy  Reflection of Poppy

This summer give yourself the gift of setting aside some time to be creative. Taking an e-course is a great way to have inspiration available whenever you can get to it without adding one more thing to your busy schedule. If you don’t know what to do, start with anything you’re curious about. Check some books out of the library or start researching on line. Once you’re inspired, take a first step giving yourself permission to just play without any expectations for an end product or where you might end up. Take each step on your creative path as a clue to the next step. I find great inspiration in nature so sometimes I’ll just walk in a beautiful place until something speaks to me. It can be right outside your door if you just take the time to look. It’s almost summer so get yourself ready to play, explore, create and have fun!!

 

 

 

 

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Get Started: Plant Some Greens http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/03/30/local-living/farmers-markets/get-started-plant-some-greens/ Mon, 31 Mar 2014 00:00:42 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=20221 Vegetable Seedlings

Vegetable starts, I love you. For years, I was under the illusion that since planting seeds takes longer, I should garden the slow way. Now I know better. Don’t get me wrong, planting seeds is a great option, especially if you want a particular variety or if you plan to do successive planting. For my style of quick and dirty gardening, getting something in the ground is key to my ability to stick with it. When the weather is unpredictable, as our Northwest spring can often be, waiting for seeds to emerge and then going back and filling in the gaps, can be very discouraging. If you want a garden jump start, head over to the farmers market or your local nursery, buy some starts and voila, instant garden and gratification.

This time of year — actually, all year at our house — we’re all about the greens. Can’t get enough of them. Last weekend at the University Farmers Market, River Farm had beautiful, organic vegetable 6 pak starts, 3 for $8. They assured me that these plants were hardened off and I was sold. I bought arugula, romaine, spinach, chard, kale and mustard and could have easily spent the same $16 on seed packets that I may or may not end using completely. Oh, and by the way, each pack had way more than 6 plants, most had between 12 – 15, so they were a great value too.

But, first things first. Amend your soil. There again, it’s not cheating to buy some bags of compost if you don’t make your own.

Wheelbarrow with Compost

We have a compost “pit” that came with our house, along with my treasured wheelbarrow. We aren’t very scientific when is comes to compost. Just keep a container under the sink for vegetable scraps and dig it deep into the pile when the container gets full. Easy, peasy. For our large container garden, I used about 2 loads of compost to get raise the level and amend the soil. Last year in my vegetable garden I put down what I thought were straw bales as mulch. It turns out, it was hay instead and many of the grass seeds sprouted. Luckily, the roots are very shallow and are easily pulled out. This mulch cover has been composting down over the winter and so I just pulled it aside and added additional compost where I wanted to plant my new rows.

Spinach Vegetable Seedlings

Now comes the fun part. Make sure your starts are well watered and if not, soak them before planting. Put on your reading glasses and take off your gardening gloves because you’re going to be doing some delicate surgery. As I mentioned, each of the 6 sections of the pak may have several seedlings, usually growing together. I enjoy untangling these Siamese twins and planting them as separate little plants. It takes a gentle touch and you have to move quickly so that the roots aren’t exposed to air for long. Then, make sure they come in direct contact with soil and pat them in well. Finally, get your watering can and give them a very thorough shower. I planted my seedlings late on a warm sunny day with rain and mild temperatures predicted for the rest of the week. If this whole separation process doesn’t sound like fun to you, you can always go ahead and plant the intertwined seedlings as one and thin them out later once they get established.

Fenced Vegetable Starts

Once you’ve got your babies in the ground, you’ll need to give them a little added protection while they get established. Even though they aren’t quite as vulnerable as seeds, a whole row of starts can be quickly destroyed by a neighboring cat or even a raccoon looking for a convenient litter box. Charlie put up some temporary fencing using scraps from previous projects. The containers are more likely to be burial grounds for squirrel bounty or feed for birds — crows can be especially destructive. You can’t exactly blame them when you see all the big juicy worms in the soft compost.

Wire Fencing over Vegetable Starts

A roll of chicken wire over the top of the container held in place with bricks should do the trick to keep the squirrels and birds away. And then there are the ever present slugs to contend with. Slug patrol anyone??

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2014: Honor the Beginning http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/01/05/local-living/2014-honor-the-beginning/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2014/01/05/local-living/2014-honor-the-beginning/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 01:00:46 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=19852 New Year's Day Sunrise

Stopping for a moment to reflect on last year before launching into the new year, I realized that possibly for the first year ever, my resolution has nothing to do with food. I’ve made some changes in the way I eat over the last year – and (don’t hate me) managed to lose several pounds without even trying but it all happened so gradually that it actually felt simple and uncomplicated, which pretty much sums up my preferred way to eat. So I want to give you a quick food tip and a brief cabin update before I get to my resolution.

Eating local, seasonal food goes without saying in our house. We’re hard core when it comes to shopping at the farmers market. In 2013, after almost 25 years of marriage, I’ve finally adopted Charlie’s unique method of “scissoring a salad” as the basis for everything else. Don’t ask me why he cuts greens with scissors when everyone tells you to tear, not cut, but I’m sure he has his reasons. Night after night, he gets out a large bowl, cuts up a variety of greens (which we always wash as soon as we get home from the market so they’re ready to go), dresses them with olive oil, salt & pepper, then piles whatever else I’ve prepared (often something carefully plated for a photo) on top. His version of the ever popular Chop Salad is something he could probably write a book on and might someday but this is it in a nutshell.

Scissored Salad

I use a plate instead of a big bowl but yeah, I’m now a convert to the “scissored salad.” What I’ve realized is, this is the best way not only to eat a helluva lot of greens, but also to eat a smaller proportion of the other stuff and it’s delicious too. Charlie is one of the healthiest people I know so he must be doing something right. Here’s a typical weeknight meal for me. It may look pretty spare but that’s just the way I like it — fresh and simple.

Simple Meal with Salmon

Enough about food — the other reason that I’ve lost weight is that I’ve been working outdoors ALOT. In 2013 we completed the exterior of our cabin on Orcas Island. Since I have no carpentry skills whatsoever, I ended up staining hundreds of shingles, siding, trim and doing a ton of schlepping – moving piles of construction debris, clearing brush, loading and unloading, you name it. Physical labor aside, there’s something very healthy about spending some time every day outdoors. I know how hard it can be, especially for a southern girl like me, but trust me, with the right number of layers, anything is possible.

What started out as this…

Original Cabin

Cabin in process

Has become this…

Orcas Cabin

The exterior is complete but there’s plenty to do in the interior. We recently had all the wood for the floor and trim milled from island fir at a local sawmill. Funky as it is, I love the feeling that we’ll be surrounded by wood grown and milled right on the island.

Saw mill

Saw Mill

While the floor is down, it still needs to be sanded and finished but that will have to wait until the trim is done.

When my help wasn’t needed on construction, I spent many hours in 2013 working on uncovering a lovely stream that previously ran underground through a portion of our property that we’ve named the Japanese Garden.

Orcas Stream    Orcas Stream

The stream only runs in the winter so my summer project was uncovering the beginning of a rock wall and beginning some terraced garden beds for herbs. Since it isn’t fenced in, it’s been a challenge to find plants that the deer won’t eat. Apparently, our deer haven’t gotten the memo that they don’t eat sage, oregano and catmint. The rosemary and thyme have been spared so far but by the end of the winter, the deer may be so hungry even those will be appealing.  I got lots of help from family & friends (thank you Mike, Adrian & Sally) on this project after discovering that dry-fitting rock walls is a lot harder than it looks.

Rock Garden Walls

Now that 2013 has come to a close and we’re starting out again, I could easily be tempted to resolve to finish what we’ve started by this time next year. We get asked all the time when we’re going to be finished. Sorry to disappoint but we’ll probably never be “finished” until we’re too old to work. But that’s the point of this project — the process of being good stewards of the land and uncovering the beauty that already exists there. One project leads to the next and the next.

Which leads me to the beginning of 2014. I hope to be ready for all the new possibilities, all the people I may encounter, all the adventures, whatever lies in store for this new year. Keeping an open heart is a big enough challenge that it may take at least a year to learn not to shut down even the tiniest bit. Letting go of old grudges, opinions about the right way, not trying new things out of fear, staying in the present moment — it’s a tall order but I’ve decided this is the moment to start by honoring the beginning. A chance to keep on with what’s working and let go of what isn’t. Happy New Year!

Heart Rock

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My Daily Practice: A Photo-a-Day http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/12/22/local-living/daily-practice-a-photo-a-day/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/12/22/local-living/daily-practice-a-photo-a-day/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 01:00:47 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=19752 water droplets

Last March I started a new practice – take a photo every day, print it, pin it up on a board and notice the patterns that emerge. In the city, on the island, in the car — no matter where I am, I can see my own point of view more clearly when I take it out of the camera, off the computer screen and put it on paper. I’ve found the different aspects of my life fit together and make sense instead of feeling scattered and compartmentalized. Letting go of judgment of what I’ve created, following my intuition, letting it guide me, going back to the same spot over and over, taking a different route than normal, working toward my 10,000 hours to perfect my craft — these lessons and much more, all from this simple practice. Here are some of my latest favorites.

Shop Window   Water Droplets on Smoke Tree

Frozen Lake   Shop Window

Side of Barn   photoaday2 of 15

House with Star Light   Water Droplets on Smoke Tree

Log Jam   photoaday9 of 15

Christmas Wreath   Young Buck

Orange Cafe Table & Chairs   Madrona Berries

Winter Sunrise   Santa in Window

When the New Year begins, I encourage you to find a practice of your own — make your mark, do your doodle, find your rhythm, move your body, live YOUR life.

Sally and I plan to spend more time on our new website poppyandsallyphotography.com in the year ahead. We hope you’ll join us there. Happy Holidays!!

 

 

 

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Botanical Alchemy with India Flint http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/09/29/in-the-garden/botanical-alchemy-with-india-flint/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/09/29/in-the-garden/botanical-alchemy-with-india-flint/#comments Mon, 30 Sep 2013 00:00:05 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=19249 Naturally Dyed Fabric Samples

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking an awe-inspiring natural dye workshop with Australian textile artist, India Flint who describes herself as a “maker of marks, forest wanderer & tumbleweed, stargazer & stitcher, botanical alchemist & string twiner, working traveler, dreamer, writer.” That description alone was all the encouragement I needed to sign up and keep my fingers crossed that I would make it to the top of a long waiting list.

India has combined a deep respect for the environment with her unique art form. Every step of her dye process from start to finish is ecologically sustainable. This is no easy task considering the textile dyeing industry is considered among the worst polluters and water wasters. If you’d like to know more about her work and process, I can highly recommend her book, Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles.

Patsy's Garden Shed

I’d like to tell you about the major points India made throughout the three day workshop but first I wanted to show you the perfectly gorgeous location on Lopez Island. In my mind, it’s inseparable from the whole experience. Our instruction took place in and around this lovely building referred to as “Patsy’s garden shed” but to me it immediately became “Poppy’s dream studio.”  As a matter of fact, put a woodstove in and I could practically live here.

Patsy's Garden    Patsy's Garden Shed

The only reason I can think of to call it a garden shed is that it’s right in the center of the most amazing garden. Here you can see the group of 12 of us happily working around several long tables surrounded by every fall blossom you can imagine right outside the door. The garden, as well as the forest surrounding, provided much of the plant material we used for dyes.

India Flint's Principles

India gave us lots to ponder including her guidelines, the first of which was “know your plants.” She talked to us about the value of learning about the native plants from your area and which ones can safely be used for dyes. Windfall is far preferable to harvesting plants for many reasons. She obviously doesn’t want you out stripping leaves off plants in the arboretum. Surprisingly, plants that have turned colors (even brown!) and fallen can produce a better dye and impression than green ones can. Our native salal has such a tough umbrella-like upper surface that we had to “rough it up” with stones, sandpaper or wood to penetrate the surface and release the dye.

Salal leaves for dyeing

Every part of the Madrona tree ended up in a dye bath — leaves, fallen bark and berries. If you don’t happen to live near the forest, there are lists of noxious weeds in your county that are threatening to crowd out native plants. In the San Juan Islands, two of these — scotch broom and tansy ragwort have been used successfully as natural dyes. It’s almost your civil duty to pull out these plants wherever you see them and throw them into a dye pot.

Madrona Bark Dye Bath

Plant material is wrapped into natural fiber fabric and tied with string into bundles. Some are wrapped around stones, pieces of rusted metal or copper pipe. India reminded us that even though we’re not using nasty chemicals, go to the thrift store and buy some dedicated dye pots — if you’ve stopped cooking with aluminum, you may already have what you need.  If the odor given off by a plant smells toxic, trust your nose and don’t use that plant.

Madrona Dyed Fabric Bundles    India Flint's Hands over Dye Pot

“Time is your friend” means that the longer you let the fabric sit in the pot, the more interesting the dye and impression will be. Taking time to let the magic occur is a great lesson for all of us impatient types. The most exciting part of the workshop for me was unwrapping my bundles and hanging them on the line with all the rest, each one so unique and beautiful in it’s own way. (The string gets dyed too so be sure to save it for stitching or wrapping gifts).

India Flint    Natural Dyed Fabric Samples

Naturally Dyed Fabric Samples    India Flint Teaching

Speaking of impatience, somehow I got so excited about the forest wandering, etc. that I completely read over the hand-stitching part of the course description.  When I realized I was in a group of women, many of whom hand-stitch for fun, I was immediately filled with performance anxiety. Luckily India made the time go by quickly telling us her family stories and jokes while we stitched. My rustic running stitch became more natural as it fell into the rhythm of her voice and those chatting around me.

Plant dyed fabic squares

From what I’ve read on Facebook and in her blog, I think the Lopezians may have won India over and hopefully she’ll return again soon. Personally, I’d love to go back and do it all over again.

Barn

 

 

 

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Oh Dear: Our Local Blacktail Deer http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/06/09/local-living/oh-dear-our-local-blacktail-deer/ http://mixedgreensblog.com/2013/06/09/local-living/oh-dear-our-local-blacktail-deer/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 00:00:06 +0000 http://mixedgreensblog.com/?p=18758 black-tailed deer

The solstice is less than 3 weeks away but the long days already feel like summer. Many of us will be heading out to the San Juan Islands to enjoy nature and undoubtedly, we’ll encounter at least one and more likely, several black-tailed deer. Locals have a love-hate relationship with these gentle animals. They’re beautiful to look at, especially now with their velvety new antlers. This time of year they’re relatively tame and you can observe them from a close distance. The main problem with deer is that they eat almost everything in sight. I’m not just talking about garden plants, which you may as well forget about unless you have a tall fence. They significantly decrease the shrub understory that so many birds, pollinators and small vertebrates depend on. It’s well documented that on islands where the deer population is the highest, the richness of species — plants and animals — declines dramatically.

black-tailed deer6 of 6

They no longer have significant predators and hunting season is only for a few short weeks in the fall. Summer living is easy and they’re free to roam and graze, take a little rest. There used to be wolves and cougars on the islands to keep the deer population down but with the introduction of livestock and domestic pets, they no longer exist. If you were to even mention reintroducing these predators, you’d get shouted down in any community meeting. On some of the Canadian Gulf Islands, they have even banned hunting.

black-tailed deer

For a nature-lover like me, this presents a huge dilemma. It’s hard to imagine life without some of the most iconic island plants like the gorgeous Madrona trees. These trees are extremely sensitive and very difficult to cultivate under the best circumstances. I’ve noticed many small sprouts that do manage to come up are gone before they can grow into full-fledged trees. Bracken ferns are much more plentiful but it was disconcerting to see that every single fiddlehead had been eaten the week after I took this photo.

Madrona Trees     Bracken Fern

During the winter, the deer feed on Douglas fir, western red cedar, salal, deer ferns and lichens. In the summer they add grasses, trailing blackberry, willow leaves, maple, salmonberries — you name it and if they’re hungry, they’ll eat it. Surprisingly, they haven’t eaten any of the herbs that I’ve planted. They’ve stepped on them but haven’t even nibbled yet. Fingers crossed.

Salmonberry     Bird's nest

The songbirds are often the biggest losers in this scenario. Loss of food and protection leave them greatly affected.

Black-tailed Deer

All this said, I still get a thrill every time I see a deer. I’m very careful when I drive on island roads — for their safety and my own. This is fawning season and I’d be over-the-top excited to catch a glimpse of a tiny white-spotted little bambi. I don’t pretend to have an answer to this problem. It makes me more aware of what a delicate balance our environment depends on. In nature, too much of a good thing can lead to not enough of something else. It appears that being a good steward of the land might involve some “harvesting.” Any thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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