Hiking, Garden Dreaming, and In the Kitchen

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Does this look like February in the Rocky Mountains??  If it weren’t for all the dead, brown grass, you might think it was June.  Sheesh.  I’m trying not to freak out about the weather–it has been in the 50s and 60s for what seems like days, if not weeks.  Almost all of the snow is melted in town AND in the mountains.  The good news is a few lower elevation trails are clear of snow and dried out enough to be hikable.  The weather has been, admittedly, beautiful and very pleasant.  The chickens are loving this weather.  Loving it.  But I have this uneasy feeling that the weather is out of whack and we are going to pay dearly for it sooner or later.  Will winter actually return?  Will we get more snow?  When??  Will my fruit trees bud out only to be killed by a late winter-early spring cold snap?  I guess there is nothing I can do about it except enjoy the weather and hope for the best with my fruit trees–for my sake–and mountain snowpack–for fire season’s sake.

Because the weather has been so nice, the gardening bug has bitten me hard.  I started some seedlings last weekend (in an all-day snow flurry storm) and they are looking really good now.  Most of my onions and shallots have germinated, except the Walla Walla seeds–but they were old and I’m not too surprised (see 3rd row from the left below).  I thought I would have gotten at least one seed to sprout, but I guess that was just me being optimistic.  My  2 artichoke varieties are doing very well.  Green Globe was the first to germinate and I love their big, dark green cotyledons.  They just look like the epitome of a small plant seedling.  Violetto, yep they are purple, was several days behind Green Globe in germinating.  They are just now beginning to poke their little yellowish-green cotyledons up out of the soil.  I’ve got high hopes for these little plants this summer.  I’ve never grown artichokes before, so I’m hoping that by starting them early, I can set them out when it’s still cold if it ever gets cold again to vernalize them so they will produce flower buds (the edible ‘choke) this year.

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Left: my seedlings are coming up (from left: Red Long of Tropea onions–2 rows, Walla Walla onions (duds), Violetto artichoke, Green Globe artichoke, lavender, English Thyme.  Right: close up of a Green Globe artichoke seedling.

The lavender has been a little hit and miss.  I planted 2 varieties, and only 1–lady lavender–has germinated so far.  It looks like the other variety wants to germinate, but if in another few days I don’t see anything, I will just assume that the seeds were too old.  My parsley still has nothing to show for itself, but I’ve read they can take up to 3 weeks to germinate, so I’m still holding out hope for them.

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My grow system in the basement.  I’ve got another light and 2 more heating mats for when the time comes to get really serious about starts–broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers!

I’ve been in a cooking/baking mood lately.  This past week I made another rhubarb coffee cake, this time with raspberries.  The verdict?  I liked the blueberry one a little better, but I think with a little bit of tweaking (maybe some lime juice/peel?) the rhubarb/raspberry could be at the top.  Next I will try cherry.  I also made a BBQ pulled pork with a delicious BBQ rub.  We had pulled pork sandwiches on some winter squash/pumpkin-herb rolls I made and it was a winning combination.  I need to make those rolls again (and take photos) so that I can post the recipe.  What else did I make last week?  Oh yes!  Monkeybread.  I liked the BBQ rub on the pulled pork so much that I decided to experiment with it on monkeybread.  The idea?  To stuff each bread piece with a piece of mozzarella cheese before rolling in oil and BBQ rub.  It turned out pretty well, but there is room for improvement.  The cheese didn’t offer much flavor, so I think next time I will try blue cheese and maybe just incorporate it into the dough.  I added a little bit of tomato sauce to the oil for rolling the dough balls in before the rub.  I liked that, but the tomato paste and oil were messy, so I need to figure out a better way to incorporate the tomato paste.  And finally, yesterday afternoon I made some rosemary chocolate chip cookies.  For whatever reason, this combination intimidated me just a tad.  I don’t know why.  I love chocolate.  I love rosemary.  But together?  I just wasn’t sure.  But I offer these two words: Home. Run.  Hubby raved.  The recipe?  Well, I was being incredibly lazy and I just threw ingredients into a bowl–no measuring cups made an appearance during the making of these cookies.  You can do a quick internet search for “rosemary chocolate chip cookies” and you will find a vegan recipe that was my inspiration.  Another option?  Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and add 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons crushed rosemary to the dough.  Mmmmm…I think I need another cookie.

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