Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party!

Last weekend we threw an end-of-season party at the community garden. We carved pumpkins, ate home-made sweets (carrot spice muffins, gingerbread cookies, and several kinds of delicious chocolate chip cookies) and drank home-made hot spiced apple cider!! Mmmmmmmm.

The garden looked great and it was really fun to show it off to friends and family. My parents came to town for the event and I was so proud to show them what I've been doing all summer.

One of our gardening families came with a gaggle of friends and relatives and the kids ran around the garden examining everyone's pumpkins and adding the perfect amount of unbridled enthusiasm to the event.

We carved 34 pumpkins in all and most of the people stayed so we could line them up and light them. Remember that this garden is in a cemetery, so it was a nice touch to be able to stay until after dark and enjoy the spookiness of jack-o-lanterns among the graves. It really gets you into the Halloween spirit.

Here are our masterpieces. Mine is on the right and the other two were made by J and M (duh).

It was the perfect fall event.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bartram Blackberry Jelly

Back in July when I was working at Bartram's Garden I foraged several quarts of blackberries from the blackberry bush (more like blackberry hedge) in the parking lot. I suffered sunburn and mosquito bites to harvest those berries, then I let them sit in the freezer for several months before getting around to processing them. Wild berries are notoriously seedy, so I decided to make jelly.

**thawed blackberries**

**straining the juice through cheesecloth**

When I squeezed all of the juice out of the berries I came up a little short, so I ended up using 4 cups of blackberry juice and 2 cups of peach simple syrup left over from the preserving I did earlier this month. The peach syrup thing was just a whim, I was shocked that there wasn't enough berry juice from all of those berries so I just improvised to finish the recipe.

In total, I used 4 cups blackberry juice, 2 cups peach simple syrup, 7 cups sugar, and 1 box pectin. And I found out that that is waaaaaaay too much sugar. So much that it almost didn't set (it did, but it's very liquidy). I would have thought that the more sugar you put in the better it would set, but that's not what happened.

I brought the juice to a boil, added sugar and pectin, returned to a boil, and poured into clean jars.

**Clean jars, fresh from the dishwasher.**

**18 cups final product.**

After pouring the hot jelly into jars, the last step is a 10 minute sterilization in boiling water, which is still very difficult because of a lack of jar lifters and rack for the pot (though I hear that that might change come Christmas :) ). I usually put a dish towel on the bottom of the pot and use tongs to lift the jars in and out.

A few of my coworkers at Bartram's took this jelly home with them, of course. It's only fair, considering they helped me pick the berries and they suffered the same mosquitoes and sunburn! Ah, what I wouldn't give for a little sunburn right now, it's been in the 40s and raining recently. We actually turned the heat on in the house, not a good sign. But eating this jelly on my toast every morning (in my new work space!) makes me smile. It gives me a little summer to start my day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Carrot Grows in Camden

Again and Again

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with it's sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, October 24, 2009

You should live in West Philly . . .

And here's why. (Ahem, Jaja, I'm talking to you). The places profiled on this little video are all of my favorite places. My farmer's market, my food co-op, my corner store with tofu hoagies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wild Bill, Ladykiller

Hi. This is Wild Bill.

I know. Seriously.

He is about one month old and he is being raised by my housemate Mike (who is moving out soon, so I'm trying not to get attached, HA). There's really nothing more to say until I can get a good video of him, then he will speak for himself. You think you're prepared for it, but you're not.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Garden in Trouble!

One of our local community gardens is being threatened by a developer (shocking, I know). Check out their fundraising website where they are trying to raise money to stay on the land that they have tended for almost 10 years. There are adorable gifts for each pledge amount, like homemade baked goods, garden cards, tutoring, paintings and other art, a violin concert, and more!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leaves on the Tree

This week I was sitting next to a woman in the doctor's office, passively eavesdropping as she spoke to someone on her cell phone. She seemed to be consoling the person about something that had happened recently in his/her life, and my ears perked up when she said this:

"It's just one leaf on the tree. Let it fall."

Yes. Yes yes yes. As my life has changed and shifted in the last few years there have been many leaves. But the tree is healthy and strong, and for that I am grateful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today on Era's iPod

I'm really loving this group right now, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

"We laugh until we think we’ll die/Barefoot on a summer night/Nothin’ new is sweeter than with you . . . Ahh Home/Let me come home/Home is wherever I'm with you"

And Jackson Browne. I love "discovering" an artist decades after everyone else does.

"And looking back into your eyes I saw them really shine/Giving me a taste of something fine."

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Space

Recently I decided that I needed a little place to call my own. M works from home, so our bedroom doubles as his studio space. J has been between jobs so he's home a lot too, and the dining room table that I often use as my desk is occupied.

So I took matters into my own hands. I cleaned the front room and did a little switcheroo with some desks in there. Now I have my own space that gets good light and is surrounded by plants! What more could a girl want (except a little bit of heat in the winter, we'll see how that goes . . . )

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Community Garden updates

We had our last work day of the season at The Woodlands Community Garden. We have done so much at this garden in the last three months, I almost can't believe it! We built eleven 8x8 ft raised beds, filled them all with soil, built a sign, found a storage shed, and built a compost bin, all in bi-weekly work nights from July to October.

It's been wonderful to come every other week and see my fellow gardeners, work in the garden, and see the garden and the community grow. It's been a time to meet new people, share stories, catch up with old friends and plot new adventures and expansion of the garden.

Here are the last three plots that we added to the garden:

And here's our new compost bin! We used old wooden pallets so it's kind of small. But there's room for expansion and we will build one or two more sections as the compost builds up next year.

On the left you can see our new storage shed. We found it sitting lonely and neglected in the back of the cemetery's storage area and we got permission to adopt it. It has a sign that says "Private" above the door, which we find hilarious. Maybe it will prevent people from trying to get in and steal our tools.


The Blue Line Garden is also coming along. The flowers are blooming like crazy and we're trying to keep the weeds down, although that morning glory climbing up the fence has been hard to control.

I recently met with the new staff member at The Enterprise Center, the non-profit that will get this land sometime in November from SEPTA. He is working on the Center for Culinary Enterprise project and he wants to make this land into a mini-farm! The Center for Culinary Enterprise is a kitchen incubator; community members will go through a program to learn how to process their own food and market and sell it in the community. The program will basically create local food entrepreneurs and will include a store where they can start selling their products. The mini-farm will be used primarily by people going through the program who will grow, process, and sell their own food products locally! I'm really excited about the new development in this garden's life and even more confident in the future success of the garden.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love amongst the aspen trees

As promised, pictures from Nicole's wedding. It was gorgeous, of course. Jaja and I traveled to Aspen and had only a short time to enjoy the gorgeous setting before the party started.

The ceremony took place in a park with the mountains in the distance. Nicole asked Jaja and me to read a poem at the ceremony and we were honored and excited to do it. We chose an e.e. cummings poem because he is one of our mutual favorites and we've read lots and lots of his poetry over the course of our friendship. And we read so many beautiful poems while trying to choose that we made a little book of them to give to Nicole and Mike as a "honeymoon present."

The party favor for all of the wedding guests was a gorgeous little recipe book written by the bride and groom and illustrated by the bride. It is completely adorable and wonderful with pictures, narration and stories from Nicole and Mike's life.

The event itself was a perfect reflection of the couple. Short and sweet, not too frilly, and filled with food! Nicole's parents own and run a restaurant in the area and the food just kept coming.

Jaja and I got so full on appetizers that I actually had to loosen my belt (no joke) after I stuffed myself with the main course (which involved an entire roasted pig). Of course I still had room for dessert, which included two different cakes, canolis, cream puffs and lots and lots of Italian cookies.

We ended the night with smores. It was just perfect. Thank you so much, Nicole, for your friendship and the honor of reading a poem at your wedding.

the great advantage of being alive
(instead of undying) is not so much
that mind no more can disprove than prove
what heart may feel and soul may touch
-the great (my darling) happens to be
that love are in we, that love are in we

and here is a secret they never will share
for whom create is less than have
or one times one than when times where-
that we are in love, that we are in love:
with us they've nothing times nothing to do
(for love are in we am in i are in you)

this world (as timorous itsters all
to call their cowardice quite agree)
shall never discover our touch and feel
-for love are in we are in love are in we;
for you are and i am and we are (above
and under all possible worlds) in love

a billion brains may coax undeath
from fancied fact and spaceful time-
no heart can leap,no soul can breathe
but by the sizeless truth of a dream
whose sleep is the sky and the earth and the sea
for love are in you am in i are in we.

-- e. e. cummings

Monday, October 5, 2009

Whew, I'm Busy!

Now that I've started my new full time job, I'm realizing just what those words mean. Full time is exhausting. But I'm trying to get into the routine and I'm sure I'll have it down in no time.

I've been doing a lot of work outside, building new gardens and expanding old ones. We have a wonderful crew of Americorps volunteers helping out with the community gardens. Here we are planting at a brand new garden, one of the smallest gardens we've built.

That's me!

How nice! We're using mushroom compost from Kennett Square, PA to build raised beds. Woodchips cover the pathways and a wire fence surrounds the whole thing. This is the way we build all of the gardens, though each community group takes the garden and makes it their own.

I also spent some time at another garden, this one at a day care center. We took the kids out to dig up the potatoes, which was probably the cutest thing ever. They were so excited! They rushed to show me what they found, and they dug furiously with their hands covered absurdly in plastic gloves that were too large for them.

I'm really enjoying the work so far and I'm learning a lot from going out into the community to talk to the gardeners. There are a lot of different cultures involved in the community gardening movement in Camden and I love talking to everyone and seeing how everyone gardens. There are a lot of different plants that people are growing and some of them are completely new to me. I'll keep you posted on the progress, and try to take more pictures to share my new experiences.