Intro to my garden patch!

Each of the street trees in New York has a little patch of dirt around it (“tree square”). The NYC Parks department owns them, but officially sanctions adding plantings around the tree to reduce erosion and runoff (as long as you don’t kill the tree).

My local tree squares were sadly bare, so I took them over after seeing a guy down the street planting tulips! Competition is non-existent. In fact, I get a lot of weird stares when gardening 🙂 I was fortunate that the closest tree square is quite large (around 50 sq ft), although the tree, a red oak, has lots of shallow roots that get in the way.

The main garden layout. Seeds were donated by sibling C. Bearded irises were from my mom. They should be quite hardy. Mint was transplanted from an indoor hydroponic garden setup. The sweet potatoes were grown inside from a couple sprouting grocery store sweet potatoes.

The fence was used (“for parts”) on eBay. Apparently it was from a junk yard. It was the cheapest fence option I could find.

Side view. I’ve been encouraging the melons and sweet potatoes to vine around the fence.
I planted a few squash seeds in the next tree square down the street. The one in the center is doing well (although I have to trim back the weeds occasionally to make sure it gets enough sun), but the one on the side got trampled and never recovered.

I’ve decided that I’m willing to eat street-grown food, but only in cooked form. Who knows what goes on in the tree squares!

Disposing of old drugs

I’ve been struggling to “properly” throw away some old medications recently. You’re not supposed to put them down the drain because they aren’t removed in the water treatment process and can end up contaminating your or downstream areas’ water supply. The landfill seems fine to me (they are pretty good at keeping things contained), but drug disposal programs apparently incinerate everything, which is better.

I figured that most pharmacies would have take-back programs, but I guess not! I visited a handful of places, chosen for their convenient location or because an (out-of-date) city website listed them. Some of the pharmacies I tried to go to didn’t even exist at that location any more!

I finally had luck with a DEA drop-off finder tool (thanks for finding it, J!). The drop-off I went to only took pills, though, no liquids.

Another ‘nother rag rug

I just finished another requested rag rug from sibling C. The first request was finished around this time last year, and a non-requested rug + instructions a few years ago.

This rug is meant to replace a solid-color rug that shows hair and dirt too easily 🙂 The rug uses a new-to-me construction method.

You lay out strips side to side as a warp — I initially had this on a makeshift cardboard loom. The length should be the length you want your rug. Then you take strips of fabric and twine them around each other while doing plain weave. The warp ends up completely hidden.
Used part of a sheet, several pairs of underwear (the elastic was worn out), 3+ tshirts (including one I pulled out of the trash when I realized I was running out of white), and one button-up (stained).

The final rug looks nice but it was sloooow to make and pretty difficult to keep the tension even.

Central Park and warmer weather

We’ve braved going out more now. Especially with the warmer, sunnier weather, others are venturing out too.

That field in the back was so full. I thought at first that picnickers came for a special event, but I think everyone just had the idea in tandem.
In the deeper recesses of the park, you can almost not see any buildings.

Spring bulbs

Early on in the season we saw crocuses and snowdrops, and some grape hyacinths, but the majority of the bulbs in New York seem to be daffodils and tulips.

They seemed to come up quite late despite early warm spells.

Some extravagant varieties.

Trying to buy small-farm beans

After my smashing success buying cornmeal and flour from Castle Valley Mill, a local mill, I want to try getting beans! In the past, I’ve bought some from Rancho Gordo, a California-based company selling heirloom and rare bean varieties. Now that we’re in New York, however, I’d love to find some East Coast suppliers!

The small grain farm and mill map I’ve shared previously has some overlap with beans. I also found a list focusing on bean growers, and an organization and map focusing on small farms near Boston. Some bean suppliers I found mostly in the eastern half of the US:

  • Anson Mills (SC) – heirloom sesame seeds, red field peas, purple cape beans. They also have larger quantities and a wider selection of products available “wholesale” (not sure if you actually need a wholesale license).
  • Meadowlark Organics (WI) – black beans, cranberry beans
  • Mulberry Lane Farm (IL) – various common types of beans, lentils, and peas from the US and Canada. Also sell other dry goods.
  • Ramona Farms (AZ) – tepary beans, chickpeas
  • Rio Del Rey Beans (CA) – tepary beans, anazape beans, rio zape beans
  • Westwind Farm (MI) – kidney beans, cannellini beans
  • Shadyside Farm (MI) – variety of heirloom/rarer beans, sourced from other farmers in area
  • Aurora Mills and Farm (ME) – yellow split peas (can’t buy from directly?)
  • Zürsun Idaho Heirloom (ID) – not-so-small operation, but has a wide variety of beans, peas, and lentils. Works with several hundred farmers in the area (can’t buy from directly?)
  • Baer’s Best Bean (MA, some items sourced from other farms in ME, NY, and the Midwest) – wide variety of heirloom and common beans, and lentils and split peas!! Good East Coast replacement for Rancho Gordo. They also have an Instagram page showing bean-processing steps!

Honorable Mentions!

  • Quality Organics (IL): buckwheat hulls as an agricultural byproduct! Anyone need to make a pillow?
  • Flourist (British Columbia, Canada): wide variety of traceable Canadian beans. Farmers are in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan

I’m looking into Baer’s at the moment. I sent a message to ask where the lentils and peas are grown – from a 2007 interview with the owner, lentils and chickpeas don’t do well in New England due to the relatively wet weather.

Brewing project

We use alcohol a lot in cooking, mostly for deglazing things and marinating things. The last batch (not shown, but here’s a prior experiment we tried) is close to running out, and buying alcohol through grocery delivery services is a bit complicated (I’m not sure if they just ask you if you’re 21, or if you have to slide the delivery person your driver’s license under the door and hope they don’t run off with it).

So I’m starting a new batch! I’m vaguely following these instructions.

We used some arborio-style rice we got for cheap from our food rescue grocery delivery service
Add the koji, a culinarily important mold used in making many different Asian fermented food products (miso, sake and other rice alcohols, rice vinegar, soy sauce).
After about 3 weeks.

After a week or so of fermenting, the koji sank, indicating (I hope) reduced density of the liquid due to increased alcohol content! Apparently rice takes longer for the yeast to ferment compared to simple carbohydrates, like sugar, so you’re supposed to let it go for several weeks in total.

Hydroponic garden is going slowly

J received a hydroponic garden system from his parents as a Christmas gift. Gardening is not so much his interest as mine, so I’m glad to play with it.

The promise!
The setup. The light is soooooo bright; this photo was taken in a well-lit room.
So we normally wrap it in foil to keep it from being blinding. Another J family member blocked theirs with construction paper.
The first plants to sprout (7 days in) are the Italian basil and the Thai basil. I hear the other herbs (thyme, parsley, mint, and dill) can struggle.

We’ll see how much output we get from this kit. If these particular seeds don’t do well, I’ll stick my own into the growing medium. It’s some sort of dirt-foam material.

Christmas food!

Chickpea salad
Left to right, front row: chickpea salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, hummus; second row: roasted cauliflower with raisins, walnuts, and capers, plate of bell pepper, avocado, goat cheese, mozzarella, plate of brie and romano (?), cream cheese, peppadews; back cluster: bacon bits, baba ganoush, artichoke hearts, marinated sun dried tomatoes, olives, zucchini salad, lox.

We also had focaccia and homemade bread. Friend J, the one who does robotics, pointed out that this is a very Greek/Mediterranean meal.

Christmas Eve food!

Cinnamon rolls and hot cross buns before baking.
A bit over-done. The corners were hard. Sibling A tells me that she has a new recipe that stays soft, even around the edges!
A huge amount of lasagna – this is a 13″ pan.
Lechón and rice. We didn’t make this, we bought it from a local Filipino restaurant.
Apple “galette”. It was supposed to be thinner, but turned out very pie-like. Maybe I used too many apples. The spice seasoning for the filling (included Chinese five spice) also wasn’t super strong.

Both the lasagna and the cauliflower soup (not shown) were good, but quite rich. Not a good combo since we didn’t have any plain dishes. Next time, I’d decrease the amount of cream in the soup by half or three-quarters.