The New Home Economics


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The designed garden

I’m a graphic designer by day, so naturally I’m attracted to various textures, colors, and patterns in the garden (beyond “what color is the flower?”). My overall landscape is still a work-in-progress, so why not focus in a bit?

bottle brush grass seed head

Bottle Brush Grass seed head

Tiny fennel plant in the garden

Tiny fennel plant in the vegetable garden

Who doesn't love a purple coneflower

Who doesn’t love a purple coneflower? It’s a classic for a reason.

Bee on milkweed flower

Bee on milkweed flower

Red Lake currant

Red Lake currant

Catawba grapes – this will be the first year I get fruit from this plant

cucumber flowers

Look who was hiding under a cucumber leaf!

In case you can’t tell, we are switching into high gear here in Minnesota! Here we go…


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A Minnesota Solstice Salad

A backyard-foraged salad: ‘winter density’ lettuce, arugula, dill blossoms, nasturtiums, scallions, a mix of alpine and regular strawberries. The ultra-local theme fell apart when I dressed it with a bit of balsamic vinegar, but, wow. Delicious, especially with a Summit EPA. Happy Solstice!


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Growing tomatoes on a trellis system

Here’s something new we’re trying this year: a tomato trellis!

tomatoes growing up a trellis

We bought six 8-ft cedar 2×2’s, cut 24 inches off of two of them and about a foot off the other two, then fastened it all together with screws to make a 7 foot tall x 6 foot long x 2 foot wide structure. Adam pounded it in with a mallet to about 1 foot deep.  It is very sturdy — I hope we can get it out in the fall so that we can rotate crops next year!

Twine is strung from the top bar, tied near the base of the plant, and wound around the central stem once a week or so.  I’m also pruning out all suckers — I’ve never pruned tomatoes this drastically before so we’ll see how it goes! (Here’s a great video tutorial.)  I can’t believe how big these plants are for early June.  And look:

Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes already!

Sungold tomatoes

Sungold cherry tomatoes: we’ll be eating these in just a few weeks. Never in my life have I been able to produce tomatoes before July. This is a strange, warm year.

How about the rest of the garden? Well things are just looking amazingly large and healthy. Maybe we’ll make up for 2011’s shortcomings this year.

Milkweed will be flowering soon. I want to make the pickled milkweed capers recipe from Trout Caviar, but I’m not really sure when they’re going to be ready to pick. It says 1/2″ pods, so we’re not there yet — I’m thinking it’s the post-flower seed pod he’s referring to.

Insane hops, herbs, disappointing nothing on the left trellis (heirloom melons never sprouted), de-scaped garlic. I made a small batch of garlic scape pesto this morning. Substituted sunflower seeds for pine nuts and omitted the parmesan; I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. Result: excellent.

green beans and bok choi

Two more things I’ve never tried before: four heads of bok choi flanked by two rows of haricot verts green beans (cucumbers approaching the trellis in the background). The bok choi seems ready to start harvesting the outer leaves. I sense a stir-fry in my near future.

The whole garden, as seen from the deck (standing on a chair).  Anneke found a whole handful of snow peas that I had missed and ate them perched precariously by the rain barrel.  The zucchini and watermelon are in the foreground, this side of the fence.  I’m going to add some beneficial nematodes this week in hopes of avoiding the issues I had last year with squash vine borers. Fingers are crossed! How’s your garden growing?


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Making bulk section shopping easier

I’ve posted about my undying love for Seward Co-op’s bulk section before, but there’s one aspect of bulk section-shopping that can get a bit tiresome: weighing the jar, writing down the PLU, etc. for each item on my list takes time. Time where my cart is blocking the aisle and my anxiety level goes up with each person who has to steer around me.

A while back, I realized that our 3 types of canning jars all pretty much weigh the same, regardless of the brand:

narrow mouth quart jars= .9 lb
wide mouth quart jars= 1 lb
wide mouth pint jars= .65 lb

Armed with this knowledge, I set out to make some more permanent labels for the tops of my lids.  First I looked through our box-o-lids and found a bunch with old PLU stickers still affixed.  Then I downloaded some jar lid templates (wide mouth and narrow mouth).

I imported the templates into Adobe Illustrator, added the names, PLUs, and weights of many of the things we buy regularly, printed onto magnet sheets, and cut out the circles.  Next I found a little-used area of the refrigerator to store the labels:

I also made some blanks because I know I forgot several things.  But this should make our weekly bulk-department stop a bit more pleasant.  I made a small and large version for each of the things we buy often — that way it doesn’t matter if we only have one type of jar clean when we’re getting ready to go get groceries.  I’m ridiculously excited about this little project. It was easy and fun.