Garden, Plant, Cook!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Weekend - A Tale of Three Vehicles And a Trailer Park

Dear Folks,

As mentioned in yesterday's post - we had such a weekend I just had to write it as a short story - hope you enjoy it!

A Tale of Three Vehicles And a Trailer Park
A short, but true, story by Catherine Crowley

It will probably be about 103+ degrees today and the humidity is up, so at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning in August we are getting ready to take our hike in Usery Mountains in the far East Valley.

My name is Catherine, my hiking partner is my long-time friend and companion Deane and the third person you will meet today is friend Jodi.

The telephone rings. Now everyone know that someone calling at 5 a.m. on any morning let alone a weekend is not someone bearing good news.

It's Jodi, thinking she is just going to leave a message but I scoop up the phone, and she explains the RV resort where she has her mobile home is dark and completely without power. This is one of those great resorts, like a small-city, where some folks live year-round but many come for the winter to enjoy all the outdoorsy stuff and the country-club like amenities.

Since it is early we all agree to check with her when Deane and I get back from our hike.

We climb into Deane's Toyota truck and go off to our hike, it goes nicely, and come back.

I go to my office to do some work and Deane calls Jodi to check in with her. The news is not good - the power is still out and since it is going to be roasting outside and inside her home in short order, Deane gets back into the Toyota and picks up Jodi with things she needs for the day, brings her back, and settles her in for a nap - it was a really long night for her as the power outage began in one part of the park the prior evening and continued to blink out the rest of the homes in the park a little at a time.

Deane tries to get some more sleep but can't so we chat a bit and I decide to go do some errands and shopping I had planned for the day - it is about 9 a.m. at this point.

Because my Dodge van has been leaking a bit of radiator fluid I decided to check to see if I need to top it off. Deane is chatting with me as I check the fluid level and not only is the radiator dry, but there is a dime-size hole in the lower hose. Well darn, and darn!

Now in the ordinary coarse of life replacing a radiator hose is a messy job, but not hard. And Deane will replace the hose, but we need to get the several pieces to do that.

It is still relatively cool outside, the van is in the shade - this is a big deal here in the summer - but Jodi is sleeping and we don't want to wake her to tell her we are going to get parts, so I decide to get the food items we planned for dinner. Deane wants to do one of his favorite meals "Crab Louis" and we need some additional ingredients. So I decide to take the Toyota - the one we used for hiking earlier and go to the store, which I do.

I head out to Fry's ‘cause its close and I know where everything on my list is so I can keep it to a short trip. Get to the store, shop and exit in record time, put the things in the cab of the truck (pickup) put the cart in the cart coral, get in the truck and it won't start! Well triple darn!

Deane had been having trouble intermittently with the Toyota not starting, but since it appeared to be one of those ‘get the key just so' things I waited, tried again, waited, tried again, etc. for about 4 or 5 times and decided if it was something like the starter or solenoid it was not going to help. So I climb out of the Toyota and call Deane on the pay phone.

He gets it on the second ring and I tell him what's going on - and of course I have fresh food in the truck and it is probably now about 95 degrees outside. Deane says he will take the Jeep over and give me a jump-start, if it will start - he has not driven it regularly (1951 Willys - Deane's main ‘squeeze-love'), so he may have to put it on the battery charger to get it going.

So I wait - I'm dripping sweat, and yes I could go in the store, but I can at least sit in the truck, I'm parked facing away from the sun, and I cover the food to keep it from warming too fast. I decide to count my blessings, ‘cause the day is not going well. We have friends and neighbors who can help us out, I have Deane in my life, it is only about 3-4 miles to the house, so I can walk home if I need too, and it ISN'T 115 degrees! - which is was two weeks ago.

Deane shows up in the Jeep about 20 or so minutes after my call and says on starting the Jeep it gave this funny kind of hiss he had noticed when backing it in the last time he ran it - he could not find anything upon lifting the hood that time, but he did this time - the carburetor base was cracked and one bolt was only holding the broken flange - not good! (Understatement here).

He tried his key in the Toyota and the silly thing started right up! We made sure he could get the Jeep started too and we both made it home and the food was okay.

Now we have 3 vehicles and a RV trailer park with mechanical / electrical problems and I contemplate calling my cousin Gayle to find out if Mercury is retro-grade for mechanical issues!

Jodi is up by now so we plot our next course of action. The Jeep is dangerous to drive with the carburetor sucking air and likely to spout gas. The Dodge is down until the radiator hose is replaced and the Toyota does not reliably start with the key, and it is a Saturday.

The Toyota is, luckily, a manual trans, it is about 11:30, so we decide to take the Toyota to run for parts for the Dodge, and plan on ALWAYS parking it on an incline in case we have to push start it, and we take off.

Two hours later we have hit the four major auto parts suppliers and a dealership parts department (which we missed by 10 minutes their having just closed as we pulled in) and we have a hose, reducer coupling for the narrow end of the radiator, clamps, and we have not had to push start the Toyota once!

Now, I enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of beer sometimes and I have been very good for a couple of months now because I want to 1) not drink as much so I've had maybe a glass of wine or beer, maybe two, about every two weeks, and 2) I am trying to loose the rest of the weight I want to take off. Deane is not a drinker with the very, very rare exception of a glass of plum wine or very sweet red port. I suggest one last stop for some cheese and to see if they have a bottle of wine for me and some plum wine for Deane - we are beginning to think a liquid dinner is due.

So we stop at Fresh & Easy because I know they have the cheese I like and they may likely have the plum wine. We get the shopping done, joking about explaining to Jodi that Deane and I are having a liquid dinner and she can have all the food - it is that kind of day, and at this point you can only laugh and joke about things.

It is about 2:30, we are about 2 miles away from the house, we are getting ready to exit the parking lot and an ambulance goes by in the direction we are going to go. Deane jokes that we can exit easier because everyone else has to pull over and we are going in the ambulance's wake. We exit, get up to the next traffic light, which is now red, where we will be turning right - luckily, and we hear the sound of another ambulance coming up from behind us, but far enough away that we have time to turn as the light turns green. The clutch slips, the engine stalls and dies and won't re-start!

The guy in the back of us is blowing his horn, the ambulance is coming up fast, and we hop out and start to push the Toyota around the corner and we are on an uphill sloop. The guy behind us finally sees what is going on and gets out to push from behind, we get it rolling and Deane hops in while I'm still pushing and pops the clutch and the engine roars alive! Deane has to pull me in ‘cause my bad hips and knees won't let me jump — the ambulance clears around us and the corner just as the clutch popped the engine started and we are out of its way.

At this point I'm laughing so hard I'm still trying to catch my breath - the only thing you can do on a day like this is laugh.

We get home, unload the parts and food and it is close to 3 o'clock..

It is too hot for Deane to work on the Dodge, so he picks up his guitar and does some practice, we get our meal put together and eat about 3:30 or 4. Deane goes to work on the Dodge about 6 p.m. with what little help I can offer and the Dodge is fixed by 7:30 - the power is still not on at Jodi's home and park so she spends the night.

It's Sunday, Jodi went back to a functioning home about 4 p.m. The Dodge runs fine, the Toyota will probably need a starter but we can deal with that later, and Deane's going to order the Jeep carburetor on Monday or Tuesday. Deane is practicing on his guitar and I am reading "The World in Six Glasses." Think I will have another glass or two of the wine we bought yesterday.


Lettuce mix
Imitation Crab (can be eaten by folks allergic to shell fish and it is cheaper)
1 hard boiled egg for each person, shelled and sliced
for each person half tomato, sliced and quartered
lemons, 1 quarter for each person
bacon pieces (I bought a nice ‘natural' no nitrates and we cooked it up fresh)
ranch-style dressing.

I like to squeeze some of the lemon over the crab pieces while preparing the rest of the fixins' - I also like to add some chopped fresh herbs to any lettuce mix I use for salads.

Assemble: place a small pile of lettuce on each plate, spread chopped tomato on lettuce, top with crab pieces, place sliced egg over all like petals, and sprinkle with bacon pieces.

Serve with lemon wedge and dressing on the side.

Have a great day, folks,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot August in the Garden and Kitchen

Dear Folks,

Temperatures up and down, humidity up and down - typical summer in the southwest desert. Last Thursday it started out with overcast skies, the pumpkin seedlings coming up (see note below about the picture of the seedlings) and the Arabian Jasmin in full and fragrant bloom and my experiment with growing sweet potatoes producing good vines anyway.

Pumpkin seedlings: You can see the small tube of chicken wire I've placed there. The first sowing of the pumpkins seeds a couple of weeks earlier were dug up by the birds, bless their feathery-hides, so I went back to a tried and true method to keep new sowings safe. Plant the seeds, cover lightly with soil, crush some dried leaves over to keep moisture in, water lightly (don't do too much right now or you could wash the seeds out) and place a tube of chicken wire around them. I keep the tube in place until the seedlings have a good head start then remove and allow the plant to continue unlimited growth. We use these kinds of tubes or even large square 'hats' for protection from the birds and bunnies until new growth is galloping along.

My cucumber is not only hanging in there (literally and figuratively) but is thriving with huge yellow flowers beloved by the bees - when getting this picture, Deane had a picture of a honeybee in one flower and a carpenter bee in another flower, when he tried to get a closer look as the carpenter bee moved to the same flower as the honey bee the carpenter bee kicked the honeybee off the flower - talk about territorial disputes.

Bullies in the garden are not limited to critters - some plants can be bullies too. The garlic chives can become so dense nothing else will grow easily amongst them, so it is a good idea to clear out clumps from time to time.

The garlic chives are starting to put out flower buds (everything on the chive is edible from the bulb, leaves (most often used) the flowers and the seeds). The cucumber plant decided to rejuvenate after Deane did a clearing of excess material. The horseradish plant I left in the ground is dying back, but there are younger plants that seems to be taking off. Some of the scented geraniums died back and I'm trying to figure out if there was a specific cause for it.

The desert summer garden is like that: you win a lot and lose some, even with 'expert' experience.

As we move towards the end of the monsoon season make good use of your water/moisture meter to make sure you are not over/under watering. After going through some of the most intense summer weather this is the time when some gardeners lose plants, because the transitional times of the year can be the most problematic — attention to a schedule as opposed to what is happening in the garden can mean the cause of some plants dying off before their time.


Tarragon, both French and Mexican/Spanish are doing well in the garden, so here is another use for tarragon. Make the meal lighter with the side salad dressed with lemon juice and black pepper.

1 package (8 oz) imitation crab
1-2 lemons squeezed to give you 1/4 c juice
3 tablespoons of salted butter melted
1 tablespoons of fresh tarragon finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh chives or onion tops finely chopped
pepper to taste.

Mix lemon juice, melted butter, tarragon, chives and pepper to taste. Adjust for salt if needed.
Dip crab pieces and enjoy!
A green salad on the side, with a light vinaigrette dressing and you have a great lunch or light dinner.

Wraps are great for hot weather and families on the go. Use tortillas or soft flat breads, large lettuce leaves or both for the wrappers. Perfect for a buffet, let folks make their own from platters of ingredients.
PROTEIN: Sliced or slivered meat, cheese, tofu, whole shrimp, or a mix of precooked beans and cheese
HERBS: leaves of these herbs work well in wraps: Basil, mint, lemon balm and Epazote (great with beans or tofu) -- these herbs are in season right now, you can also add cilantro and parsley
VEGGIES: bean sprouts, slivered cucumber, squash, radish, Jicama
SAUCE: Mayo, yogurt, seafood cocktail sauce (particular good because of the horseradish) barbeque sauce, plain horseradish, salsa, or favorite salad dressing.
On the open tortilla, layer herbs first, then protein, veggies and then a line of the sauce over all, fold up and dip into extra sauce of your choice.
NOTE: if you grow mammoth basil, the leaves make great wrappers for mini wrap sandwiches, put only enough ingredients to allow you to wrap the basil leaf around all.

For more detailed how-to gardening and harvesting information - subscribe to my new e- newsletter - just $15 a year if you sign up before October - link in top side bar or click here to go to payment window

Tomorrow I'm posting a short story - we had the most incredible weekend, I thought I would write about it.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady