Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sweet Alyssum, a prolific volunteer

Lobularia maritima...nobody calls it that.
Alyssum is a classic garden staple. Available in any nursery all year in California, easy-to-grow is an understatement, mostly pest and problem free, ranges from white to pink to purple flowers, and re-seeds itself.

This is one of my garden favorites because it re-seeds itself readily. It will eventually revert back to its wild, somewhat leggy origins, so I re-seed myself every other year or so. Some varieties from the nursery are sterile so you may not get volunteers the following season. I usually buy a few different seed packs and sprinkle them about. The photo above is this year's garden and all the low white flowers are volunteer alyssum from last year's plants. 

As the older plants become leggy and over grown I pull them out and then shake them over the bed to drop any seeds. By that time there's already seedlings coming up to take their place. In the foreground of the photo you can see the starts coming up between the stepping stones. They will likely be flowering in the next two weeks.

I'm a huge fan of plants that re-seed themselves. Larkspur, Snap Dragons, Lobelia, Cosmos, tomatoes and well, all of them... If they start themselves, chances are they will survive. 


Bodie loves alyssum too

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The odd but likable Cucamelon...

Melothria scabra 

I'm not surprised this strange little fruit has many names...mouse melonMexican sour gherkincucamelonMexican miniature watermelon and Mexican sour cucumber...It's been a food staple south of the boarder since pre-Columbian times.

Slow to get started, I often worry it's not doing well in the beginning. This delicate little vine really takes it time getting established but then one day you discover it's one of the most vigorous and high yielding plants in the yard. Drought & pest resistant, it can grow up over 10 feet. 

So, what's the big deal? How do they taste? What do you do with them?
I often eat these right off the vine. The taste is a bit like watermelon rind and lemon cucumber. Crunchy & slightly sweet, they are great in salads, stir fry, can be pickled, canned and put into salsa. I pickled some whole last year and wasn't crazy about the result...the inside went soft while the outside stayed crunchy, making for a strange texture. This year I will try slicing them thinly, pickling and serving it like a slaw or sauerkraut. Stay tuned...

So tiny and yet...
If you are looking for something different to grow or a vine that won't take up a ton of space, try this (next year). Seeds are readily available from many good companies on line. Sew in April - May to harvest July - September.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More notes from the garden

I mentioned yesterday that I like to grow my veggies with my flowers. I don't like the look of a raised bed, plants all rowed up, nothing but the same plant and soil. Give me texture, color, depth and chaos! Controlled chaos that is...The garden is a great place for a control freak; I'm like a god here. If a plant doesn't perform well, grows the wrong way or in the wrong place, I cut it or move it or pull it completely. My garden is exactly that, MINE. It looks the way it does because of the choices I make and the care I put into it. 

From right to left: Bee Balm, State Fair Zinnia, Gomphrena "Fireworks", Cucumber, Gazania, Portulaca, Sun Gold Tomato, Alyssum, Thyme, State Fair Zinnia, Coreopsis, Chive, Painted Tongue and a bunch of snap dragons that seem to blend in.
The cucumbers are being trained up the trellis. Last year I grew gourds this way with great success. I don't have room for trailing vines on the ground so vertical gardening has allowed me to grow some sprawling plants not possible before. Also on trellises: Cucamelons, Hops, Cherry Tomatoes and Thunbergia.

'Flora' is the sweetest hen

On the other side of the bed shown above, is the chicken run. The cherry tomatoes are trained to grow over the fence and into this space. The hens can't get enough sun golds and I can never eat them as fast as they're ready. This arrangement keeps everyone happy and the chickens out of my yard (always a heart breaker with their scratchy ways). Chickens are fun and easy to keep but they will turn every bit of land into a moonscape eventually. I toss weeds, plant clippings, bugs, worms and all manner of garden detritus into the chicken area. This makes for delicious eggs and content chickens.

Hops & Sunflowers on a perfect Oakland day



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let me tell you about my garden

Dear Sweet Baby Jebus...it's been quite some time since I've written anything here. I'm sure I warned you this could happen. Let's see if we can just pick it back up, shall we? 

My favorite thing about Oakland lately is my garden, so I'm just going to tell you all about it. Wild America is happening just outside my backdoor! There's a visiting oriole who likes to gulp from the hummingbird feeder. He is so very orange and a real exotic compared to the usual visitors. The male house finches think they're special but this guy shows up in a flash of orange that hits you like the sun. He's elusive and plans his visits for when my camera is elsewhere. 

The bees are out in full force. I see so few of them outside of the summer months, it's worrisome. The Borage is the first flower they show up for in any real numbers. Now that the Bee Balm is blooming they are all over it and seem happy. I'm going to say any bee that isn't on a stinging rampage is probably pretty happy...

video

Monarda (Bee Balm)

I like to stay organic in my yard. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) seems to work for me...I don't mind squishing a cucumber beetle between my fingers and tossing it to the chickens. Aphids are easily removed with a blast from the hose and if a plant doesn't do well or attracts pests, I toss it out. Insecticides just don't feel like the right option. Not because of any moral code or strong beliefs; just that they bring imbalance, they're not necessary and there's already too much of it being tossed around. I grow my veggies mixed in with my cut flowers; why would I apply poison?. Part of gardening for me is creating a full ecosystem...I want all the bugs and birds at the party; just as long as there's a balance. The wasps never bother me and I enjoy watching them hunt in the sunflowers and zinnias. I don't mind sharing some of my fruit with the bugs and squirrels and sometimes they do take more than their share. But for the most part, there is balance and place for all things. Even weeds...some produce seeds that draw Goldfinches so I let them grow in a wild corner of the yard. I feel like I'm drifting off point...but what is the point really? To share my happy Oakland experience with you, dear reader! (who is likely friend or family and can hear this prattle from me any time) Thanks for listening.

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Phat Matt's BBQ

As a worshiper of the pig and the bounty of meats it provides, I get pretty excited about BBQ. Now, tell me you'll buy if I fly and I'm over the moon. Needless to say I was pretty excited about trying Phat Matt's wares.


This place is easy to get to and has plenty of parking (joy!). The interior is roomy and Raider Nation themed. I noticed a bar so it looks like a good place to watch the game. I also noticed that each table had its own roll of paper towels which struck me as good planning. Honestly, that's all I have say about the interior of this joint because as soon as I got 10 feet in I was stuck with the sweet sweet smell of slow cooked meat. 


2-way brisket & ribs, baked beans & potato salad
We got our order to go and had a bag tip over in the car so the beans got all up in Brett's potato salad. But did he complain? No sir! Both of these sides were tasty and he ate every bite. The Memphis style pork ribs got good reviews too. Pork ribs can be hit or miss and Matt was spot on here.


2-way brisket & ribs, greens & coleslaw
Do you see the chunks of meat in those collard greens? The meat to greens ratio was almost 50/50. That's one way to get folks to eat their veggies. Delicious! And how about the meat portion? HUGE! She put in a mighty effort, but was unable to consume it all.


Brisket plate, coleslaw & mac and cheese

So the coleslaw was good but no one went crazy for it. The Mac and cheese was deemed good but not awesome. We all had brisket in our orders and all agreed it was super tasty. Cooked to perfection with a good bark on it and a reasonable layer of fat. 

2-way brisket & pulled pork, beans & yams

I've saved the best for last...the pulled pork. Dear sweet baby Jesus it was fantastic. It had a vinegar based sauce and was so moist and delicious. I am pretty sure I was humming or moaning when I ate it. It's a good thing I tried the beans and yams (tasty) before diving into the pork because it had my full attention once it hit my mouth. Dang it. I want some now. And again, do you see the huge portion size? I could barely get any brisket down I was so stuffed with pork. I will be a repeat customer for this meat alone. And you can buy it by the pound/piece if you don't want sides.


What could have possibly made this meal better? 

This photo sucks.
Freaking candied bacon! I wanted to push everyone else out of the way and gobble this down in the corner like an animal. But I have learned to control my base instincts so I shared like a proper lady. Dry like a jerky, not too sweet and smokey flavored; this was a treat. 

These folks are doing BBQ right and I am so pleased they chose Oakland to set up shop. Matt started in Chicago 30+ years ago and by some kind of magic here's here. All of his fantastic ketchup-based sauces and rubs have no added salt. I didn't even get into their weekly specials or talk about their desserts...I will leave that for you to discover. 

Get down to Phat Matt's (family owned and operated) and try it for yourself. You know you love BBQ and you love Oakland. Spend your money here and support them both.

3415 Telegraph Ave
(between 34th St & I-580) 






Monday, February 27, 2012

another ART MURMUR post

It's a good thing cheer leading for Oakland isn't my real job because I would have been fired for not showing up...it's been some kind of month. Family is never easy, but an aging mom with Parkinson's and a husband on disability will take the starch out of anyone. Now that my life is back in some kind of order I'm ready to pick up my pom poms and rah rah rah for Oakland again.


Bodie wants to know why you aren't hanging out in Oakland.

Let's get this cheer started with a personal appearance by yours truly. I am going to be at art walk this Friday helping Darkwear Clothing  sell their wares. This local lady is showing off her stuff for the first time LIVE since she moved to the Bay Area from LA. Come down and help make her feel at home. We'll be serving tea! 
Check it: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Darklysewn?ref=ss_profile

Leather holster hotness


Darkwear began a long time ago, in a little room full of feathers, leathers and fabrics where Tiffany began pegging jeans for friends at school in the 80's. She's come a long way baby...


You know you want it.


Art walk is a great opportunity to support local vendors. Here's the link to learn more: http://oaklandartmurmur.org/about


  Find us on 23rd Street between Telegraph and Valley this coming Friday night


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Piedmont Ave Art Walk


Did you know that Piedmont Avenue hosts an art walk every third Thursday? Well, I didn't. Let's go check it out this Thursday 6-9 pm!
http://piedmontavenue.org/avenue-art-walk