It’s About Face!

Dear Diary,

I think Mama L. should give up gardening and concentrate all her free time on us. She worked so hard on those metal tubs but I’m not so sure she’s getting much of a return. At least not for the zucchini anyway. Guess which one of these is hers? I’d be embarrassed even taking this picture. Uncle Steven gave her the big one — his neighbor sure knows how to grow monster size zucchinis. She seems to do a little better with the green beans though…

I am a little worried coz I think the Mamas have gone off the deep end again. They are getting ready for our annual trip to the Glass House. Mama L. already got her list of supplies started, but now she’s more concerned about our well-being than before. We already got life vests for our swim in the lake. We now have Doggles to protect our eyes from the sun’s ultra-violet rays. Whatever. And now, booties! Here is Madeleine modeling them.

I blame it all on Tara. She doesn’t have short hair like us, and if only her Mama would keep her clean and trimmed, we wouldn’t even be discussing this right now. Tara gets foxtail and burrs and Dog-knows-what on her hairy troll paws, so I get it that her Mama would want to make sure she is taken care of. But us? Now we have to wear these ridiculous boots too! I know Madeleine doesn’t mind so much — she actually likes parading around wearing silly costumes and being a princess. But I really hate anything on me but my own hair.

Well, maybe I will worry about it tomorrow. Right now I am too sleepy to care. I’m going to curl up with Mama M. on her Save Your Face Pillow. It’s supposed to keep sleep wrinkles away, but maybe it will help get rid of my gray muzzle hair too!

Dog Day Afternoon

 

Dear Diary,

 

Mama M. had to study for her CFP exam today, so I tried to help by reading a few books to her. But it was so hot I could barely keep my eyes open! Madeleine and I napped pretty much all day. Is that what they mean by “Dog Day Afternoon”?

Mama L. told us about some dude ranch for dogs called Dog Day Afternoon. But it’s in Kansas, so I doubt if I’ll ever get to see it. But maybe we’ll get to snuggle up and watch the movie.

 

Look at these tomatoes that Grandma B. is growing in her backyard. They are huge! I don’t think I have ever seen Mama L. growing anything that big! Are dogs allowed to have tomatoes?

 

Kale Pesto

I was going to name this Amy Lee’s Kale Pesto, but since she didn’t share the recipe with me, I can only acknowledge her for the inspiration. If you have a buttload of curly kale from the garden, like I did, this is a wonderful addition to your menu. I had to do this in a couple of batches because there was so much kale. You can reproportion this to suit your taste.

I modeled this recipe after a similar experiment with broccoli. Traditional pesto is usually too hot (from all the basil) and too garlicky for me. So I swapped half the amount of basil for a whole head of steamed broccoli. The result was an amazingly creamy and light (and more nutritious) version of pesto.

I think you will like the kale version too. Because kale is more of a bitter green than broccoli, I would recommend adding the juice of a lemon to brighten it up a bit — but it’s not necessary. You could use this in a pasta dish, or as a marinade/rub for fish and chicken. It’s really delicious.

The following yields 4 cups of kale pesto. There was so much of it, I had to package them up and freeze them for later use.

Ingredients:

1 armful of kale, approximately 8 bunches if store bought.
1 really big bunch of basil
8 thumb-size cloves of garlic
1 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 cup grated parmesan (I used pecorino romano)
1/2 C. olive oil (this is about half the recommended)
1 lemon (juice)

Since I used pecorino romano, I did not add any salt, because it’s a saltier hard cheese. If you use parmessan, you might want to add a pinch.

Remove the stem (rib?) from kale and steam-cook them until soft. Remove stem from basil. Throw everything together in a food processor. Pulse and process for a couple of minutes until well blended. (Unless you have a really big food processor, I would recommend doing this in a couple of batches.)

Dear Baron Rousemüncher,

Today was a beautiful day with sunny skies and a mild breeze. The weather people said that we may have had a record — 73 degrees — and it’s still technically winter for a few more weeks! The Mamas don’t mind at all (and neither do we), although they both got sick from this change in weather.

Last week Mama L. came down with a two or three day flu. She was riding her bicycle home when she actually felt the bad winds entering her body, between the shoulder blades. She told Amy Lee this story and Amy said that she is living testament to ancient Chinese beliefs that bad winds enter one’s body through either side of T-2. Or the ankles. Mama told us that back when she was very young, her Grandma would do the coining to get rid of the bad wind. In Vietnamese it is called “cạo giὀ”, or literally, “scratch the wind”.

Now Mama M. is sick too. She has bronchitis, so completely different from what Mama L. had. But it is still wind-related. She had to go to urgent care tonight to get some medicine because she wouldn’t stop coughing. That was because Mama M. went to some gala event over the weekend and stayed out too late. And she wasn’t dressed adequately against the wind. Then she missed hiking with all of us the next day and Auntie Juni is still mad at her. We had a great time hiking though — this place might even be better than Redwood Regional Park because it is so wide open. Mama L. doesn’t know what it’s called, but it’s up in the hills overlooking San Leandro.

With the weather getting nicer, Mama L. has been wanting to spend more and more time outside. We don’t mind at all, because we get to keep her company and help out with the gardening even though she usually protests with our choice of activity. She’s been doing a lot of reading and research on small spaces, and has decided that this is the year that she is going to grow everything. And she’s going to grow them all in containers, not in the ground. She even decided that she would plant them according to favorable moon phases.

We thought Mama L. had gone off the deep end, when she exclaimed that you would have been proud to see this bountiful harvest as she carried a big armful of chard into the house! She had grown three varieties of Rainbow Chard from little seedlings. She had also grown some beets in the same planter, and the leaves are nearly as big as the chard. The picture shows a mixture of all the pretty greens. The chard just seems to keep producing greens, as long as she keeps harvesting the leaves every so often. And they seem to get bigger too! She had thought they were supposed to be replanted every season, but so far it has lasted through two.

This season, Mama L. gave up the idea of building more wooden planters out of the extra wood we had in the garage. That would have required too much work, she said, and she was getting antsy to get started. So Mama L. purchased several small galvanized tubs and punched holes in them for drainage. Then she lined the bottom of each tub with an inch of drain rock. Then came several layers of rich soil and coconut coir fiber. She read somewhere that this is actually even better than peat moss, rockwool, vermiculite, perlite or pumice. And it’s ecologically good as well. It is made from compressed coconut fiber, and has a very good balance of wetting and aeration and a resistance to bacteria and fungus growth. It holds 8-9 times its weight of water and has a high nutrient-absorption capacity. After she brought a huge bale of it home, she went crazy and started adding loosened chunks of it to all the containers. She said it’s probably the best admendment she’s ever added to the clayey soil we have. From the look of things, we will have lots of yummy veggies to eat soon.

Last weekend she planted cauliflower and broccoli and red cabbage and collard greens and peas and bunching onions. This past weekend, she planted have several varieties of lettuce, three different kinds of carrots with really great names (“Cosmic Purple”, “Chatenay”, “Solar Yellow”), two types of radishes including a “Japanese Long Scarlet”, and some more beets. Except for the lettuce, the carrots and the radishes were seed-sown. She’s a little nervous about those, because she’s not had much success with starting things from seeds. Maybe the coco coir fiber will help.

Here is a picture of the birds commenting on Mama’s gardening techniques.

 

Dear Journal,

Today I learned the shocking truth about how I came to be, when Mama M. let it slipped that I was supposed to be a hen. Well, a couple of hens, specifically the egg-laying kind. Apparently a few years ago, Mama M. was trying to figure out what to get for Mama L. for her birthday present, and they decided that it would be neat to have backyard chickens. The Mamas started doing all this research on the types of hens and dug up all sorts of interesting facts. They even went to a local feed store to buy some chicks, but the brood they wanted wasn’t going to be ready for a few more weeks. They found out that within the City of Oakland, they can have as many chickens as they want, as long as the chickens are enclosed and at least 20 feet away from neighbors. No roosters are allowed within city limits, but the Mamas said roosters don’t lay eggs anyway. They even did all this research into building their own chicken coops and where to place it in the yard. With urban farming becoming more and more common, chickens are quite popular where we live now. Little Sis and I see them all the time on our daily walks.

The only reason why they did not get the chickens was because the Mamas were afraid that the raccoons and the rats would get into the cage. Mama M.’s friend Doug had told her about the time when the rats got in his cage and chewed off all the chickens’ feet. Mama L. was so upset when she heard this that Mama M. said we can always go to our local store up the street to buy eggs. Perhaps Mama L. might want a puppy instead?

Obviously the rest is history. Mama L. found my picture on some internet site. My name wasn’t Madeleine then; I was called “December”. I was named after a stupid month, and not just any month, it had to be the last month of the year. The coldest, darkest, wettest most miserable month of the year.