Friday, August 28, 2009

A Big Day

This morning when I dropped Kendra off at school, I am pretty sure all her teeth were in place, intact, with not a wobble in sight. I know because I checked very thoroughly yesterday afternoon after she had bemoaned the fact that all of her friends had lost teeth, and she had not lost any.

Now, not even eight hours later she has COMPLETELY lost her first tooth, just like that!

I have been informed that I am responsible for this due to the particularly hard apples that I put in the girls lunches today.

I anticipate that tonight is the night that a certain long awaited, and much celebrated fictional fairy will pay a visit to our home.

Things surely are moving fast around here these days!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blooming Desert

My favorite cactus is in flower again. It bloomed back in June too so I feel very lucky.

I adore the waxy look that the buds have before they start to open up,

The hint of the petals as it is half open,

And finally the white bloom that gives me a sense of coolness, even in the heat of the summer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Phoenix is getting greener!

Mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon has presented a plan to "make Phoenix the first carbon neutral and sustainable city in America." The plan will be called not surprisingly perhaps "Green Phoenix".

"Building on existing initiatives to reduce the heat island effect, conserve precious water resources, and increase the use of solar power, Green Phoenix will provide homeowners and businesses access to affordable weatherization resources, energy-saving retrofits, and the latest in solar technology. Large-scale rainwater capture, groundwater recharge, and riparian restoration will result in improved water quality and stabilized water supplies."

This plan will present many employment opportunities in green industry as well as providing benefits to residents such as "lower utility bills, better air quality, a greener environment, and a smaller carbon footprint for the region."

This is very good news I think, although with our current budget crisis I will wait a little while before getting too excited.

For more information about this plan please visit the City of Phoenix web site.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A brief review of my current favorite cookery books

I have a passion for cookery books, it is a family trait, and as a result I own and use many. Here is a very quick review of my favorite cookery books that I have been enjoying this summer.

If you have ever looked at the vegetables you have brought home from your Farmers Market, or grown in your garden, and wondered what on earth you will do with them, then Local Flavors is your answer. This is a visually stunning book, especially for someone such as me who has a passion for vegetables, and there are many new and delicious recipes for seasonal produce here. (I am looking forward to making Braised Root Vegetables with Black Lentils and Red Wine Sauce after the weather cools down, and I can finally celebrate the arrival of winter). This really is more than a cookery book though; it is also a celebration of Farmers Market around the country as gathering places where we can all embrace a true sense of community.

Vegetarian Suppers is another Deborah Madison book I have discovered. I love the idea of supper, and there are many ideas here for original and interesting vegetarian suppers. This book also has amazing pictures, and although a few of the recipes are a little fiddly to make, they are worth it for when time is not scarce. Special commendation must be made for “Pasta and Chickpeas” which is by no means fiddly, and is absolutely superb. “Zucchini Skillet Cakes” is also a great recipe for using up some of those zucchini’s that are inevitably taking over the kitchen counter tops.

Food Matter’s by Mark Bittman is described as “A plan for responsible eating that’s as good for the planet as it is for your weight and your health.” It is not a book filled with colorful pictures, but it is very easy to read, and is packed full of very good reasons why we need to rethink the way we eat, (as if we needed any more). The basic premise is that by eating a mostly vegetable, and wholegrain based diet, one can reduce ones carbon footprint significantly. I love the recipes that are included at the back, and keep this book on my kitchen counter because I use it so often.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Independence Days Update

It has been several weeks since I have done one of these. I have been feeling so out of my groove recently, in so many ways, and even the thought of blogging, (which is usually something so enticing I can't resist it), has not seemed very appealing.

Anyway, I am feeling better, well better than I was this time last week at least. I still have episodes of wandering around the house not knowing which job to start first, but generally I am getting back to my usual active, and fairly productive self. I finished my stats class too, (hurray), and will now start a health policy class which I find really interesting, and which is rather appropriate for what is occurring in our country right now.

1. Plant something: Yes, snap beans, and three types of summer squash. The pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatillo's, and basil are all growing faster since it has been cooler, and more humid. I have tons more to plant over the next few weeks, and am having my usual fight for space of course.

2. Harvest something: Just basil which is never ending, and I love it! I will post a picture soon of all the pesto I have stashed away in the freezer. We definitely wont be going short this winter.

3. Preserve something: Pesto, in the freezer. I am living vicariously through my friends who live in places that have a normal summer, who are busily harvesting and canning all their wonderful produce. Lovely, and of course for me in true gardener style, there is always next year!

4. Reduce waste: Recycling, composting, using cloth bags, saving water, (I captured lots in an amazing storm that came through last Friday night), keeping AC at 83, washing and reusing Ziploc bags, line drying washing, taking clothes too, and buying clothes from Goodwill, etc, etc............

5. Prep and storage: Not much. I STILL have not finished the sand box digging project. ARRGGGHHH! It is never ending, and soon I will need the space desperately. I have been wishing I hadn't decided not to get chickens in my usual wobbly way, but I do know in my heart that it is the right decision. Not too much else. The backyard looks AWFUL. There is junk everywhere, and I haven't swept the back patio in weeks. Ah well, the end of the summer is at least in sight now.

6. Build community food systems: Spoke to one of the PTA ladies about maybe starting a garden at Kendra's new school. The PTA is very active, so I have every hope that they will at least be interested in hearing what I have to say. Fingers crossed.

7. Eat the food: Just basil.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All Alone

Today is the first day that both girls are in school, and I am at home, all alone.

I have been wondering how I would feel on this day for a while, and I am actually feeling pretty lost and empty. I know that this is just the first step in the process of letting go of my little girls, and I don't feel ready, not yet anyway.

I am not sure what I need to do to make myself feel better. Perhaps I will go and plant the bean seeds that have been sitting on the kitchen counter for a week or more. Maybe that will help..............

Friday, August 14, 2009

Roots And Shoots

I planted a little Minneola orange tree that Dad bought me back in April. I was in a rush to get it in the ground, and as a result it's root ball collapsed, something that citrus doesn't like at all. It wasn't planted well, unlike the lemon tree that Dad and I planted together.

The poor thing has struggled all summer. It has been looking really sad with brown leaves, and no new growth at all. The fact that we have had such a hot summer this year hasn't helped.

However, I have been tending to it daily, providing it with lots of water, and shade, and I think the special care has finally paid off. Now I am seeing lots of new shoots sprouting out, which leads me to think that the roots are established, and it can concentrate all of its energy on growing now.

A welcome sight.

** Update. My friend Marilyn pointed out to me the fact that the new shoot is actually growing out of the original sour orange that my Minnneola was grafted on to! Of course I hadn't even thought of that but luckily there are also shoots growing above the graft as well so hopefully after removing that lovely new shoot that I was so in love with I am now safe. Phew, thanks Marilyn! :)

National Community Gardening Week, August 23-29th

Check this out!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Sweet, Local, Summer Treat

A month or so ago I was introduced by a friend to an amazing ice cream store called Sweet Republic , which we are lucky enough to have fairly close to where we live.

It is an independently owned store, modern and bright, and it is a member of Local First Arizona which is important to me.

It offers "hand crafted, artisan ice cream, made with all natural ingredients, and locally sourced fresh milk and cream. The sorbets are made from seasonal fruits."

I am not a huge fan of sweet foods such as ice cream, but I have to say I cannot speak highly enough about this place.

Flavors are original to say the least, and I have never had one that I did not like, although I have many more to try.

A special mention is deserved for the Cheese Course Duo ice cream, which is a "pairing of Roquefort blue cheese and Arizona Medjool dates", and for the Basil Lime Sorbet which is made from "fresh basil leaves and zesty lime". The Coconut Sorbet made from "real shredded coconut in rich coconut cream" is also to die for.

I took the girls back recently and although we arrived a little early before they were open,

We took our time choosing our flavors,

And they were well worth the wait.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What, no chickens?

I have finally decided with heavy heart that now is not the right time for us to get chickens. :(

The extreme heat we have been having over the past month or so has really had me thinking, and researching about how chickens cope with the heat. They apparently get stressed above 95 degrees or so according to several sources I have found, and of course days on end of 110 plus degree weather would in my opinion stress them out to the max.

Of course many people keep chickens successfully here in the valley of the scorching sun, with certain provisions to cool their chooks such as adding ice to their water, providing ample shade, using misters, and feeding them less. None of these things would be a problem for me to do, however, as worried as I am now about how they would cope, I know I would be worried to the extreme on a daily basis once I actually had the chickens, and the extreme temperatures hit. We have 100 degree plus temperatures for about five months of the year here, (although people living here will try to convince you it is for less time). My personality is such that I fret about our pets, and I know that the constant daily worry about keeping my chickens cool, and alive would probably tip me over the edge. That may sound weird to some but it is just the way I am made.

I feel really sad that I am having to let go of a dream of mine for now, but it is not forever, and when we finally do move somewhere more temperate, I will finally get my long awaited chooks.

So, that's that. I actually feel better now that the decision is made, and I will continue to live vicariously through others here in the valley who are successfully raising urban chickens.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Independence Days Update

Well here we are again, and how quickly these weeks pass by.

Here is a link to Sharon Astyk's blog which is the one I follow for the Independence Days Challenge in case anyone was wondering why I do this each week.

1. Plant something: Well actually yes! It seems that August is upon us, and so our Fall planting season begins despite the scorching temperatures we are still having. I planted two types of regular cucumbers, and tomatillo's today. The pumpkins and basil seedlings have sprouted and are doing well despite of everything that is conspiring against them.

2. Harvest something: Just basil which I managed not to make into Pesto although I was rather tempted I have to admit.

3. Preserve something: No.

4. Reduce waste: All the usual stuff, nothing new. (Some day I will actually describe in some detail what "all the usual stuff" actually is, but for now I am too tired. Those of you who have followed my blog from last year will probably already know because I used to do regular updates back then.

5. Prep and storage: Lots here! I have almost finished digging out the endless sand box which must be the longest project ever. The sand is all over what was the back lawn and looks OK actually, better than the grass used to look anyway. I am wondering if this will count as xeriscaping on the cheap? Robert started the fence which will eventually separate the dogs from the chickens, and I did a ton more research about chickens which leads on to another whole issue that has come up, but I will save all the gory details for an actual blog post. Suffice it to say I am feeling a little discouraged about us, and chickens right now.

6. Build community food systems: Lots of emails to members of my Permaculture group. Not sure if that really counts but anyway.

7. Eat the food: Just basil with a tomato and mozzarella salad neither of which were homemade.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hurray, it's the weekend

I am sitting here thinking of all the things I want to get done today. I work every other weekend so this makes my weekends off pretty valuable.

We got back from another camping trip yesterday afternoon. This time we went up to Flagstaff, another of my favorite towns, and camped in the forest nearby. It was great. We are so lucky having such amazing scenery a mere two hours away.

We went with a friend this time so I actually have a rare picture of me, the girls and Cocoa, (who was the lucky dog that got to go with us this time).

I am so glad I took the girls camping this summer because now I know I can, and next year will be so much easier.

Only two weeks before the girls go back to school and I was thinking we might be able to squeeze in another camping trip, but really that would be a bit greedy, and anyway I have lots to get done.

In two short weeks both girls will be in school and I will have free mornings which should be a good thing but honestly, I am feeling a bit wobbly about it all. How did I suddenly get a kindergartner, AND a preschooler?

Anyway, today after I get my statistics assignment submitted, and the tent cleaned and put away, I need to go and buy a new wheelbarrow. Our old one has a flat tire that can't be repaired apparently, and new wheels cost as much as a new wheelbarrow. It is such a waste, and really makes me mad, but what is one to do? This time I am going to get one with a solid tire that wont go flat, and hopefully it will last forever. After that I am going to finish the sand box veggie bed once and for all because I can't stand to look at it anymore.

I also still have to finish sanding and varnishing the trim around the front door. I have finished the actual door, but the trim is still not finished. Just one other project that I want to complete.

The girls really want to make cupcakes this afternoon which doesn't seem like such a great idea in view of the fact that it is going to be 110 today. However, sometimes one just has to do normal stuff, and so that it the plan for late afternoon.

I hope you are all having a great weekend whatever you are all doing!