Showing posts from June, 2016

Caterpillars in the Pantry

Once again, Robb and I are raising Anise Swallowtail caterpillars in our pantry. The butterflies lay tiny, tiny eggs on our fennel, and once these eggs hatch, I bring the caterpillars inside, to protect them from predation.  The caterpillars go through a series of life-stages, transforming over and over before their final metamorphosis.  Its a fascinating process to observe, up close.   This year's group seems hell-bent on attaching themselves to the Worst Possible Places.  The green chrysalis is attached to a piece of screen that used to be part of their tank's lid.  The lid is seated in a track, which means that anything attached to the lid gets squished when the lids opens.  Or, since we're tender-hearted, it means that we cut apart the lids to save the butterflies.  Robb assures me that we can replace the screen without too much trouble.  Yesterday, another caterpillar did the exact same thing, despite all the tempting sticks I've

Plum Wine

... When one has backyard fruit trees, there's a moment of use-it-or-lose-it.  Since we have a laughably small freezer, and since we had already made plenty of jam, it was clear that we would have to make a batch of plum wine. Plums -- like grapes -- have a naturally-occurring yeast on their skins.  This yeast is perfect for wine-making.  Also, it's just so beautiful. Next time you're in a museum, go look at the still life paintings, and really take a moment to marvel over how beautifully the grapes and plums are painted. What's not so aesthetically thrilling is the process of home wine-making.  This is another in my series of uninteresting circular cooking photos.  In this case, you're looking at week-old smooshed plums that have just had additional yeast sprinkled over them.  Thrilling.  I know. I picked the last of our backyard plums, which weighed exactly ten pounds.  We pretty much doubled this recipe (although we didn&#

Plum Jam

... It's plum season, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This past winter gave us a slight respite from our years of ongoing drought, and the fruit trees have been celebrating.  Last year, our plum tree bore almost no fruit at all.  I doubt we got more than two dozen fruits, all together. Not only are my trees laden with fruit, but I'm lucky enough to have friends who want to share their bounty.  Both DJ and Terrence invited me over to their yards, and let me pick surplus fruit from their trees. They've both got trees that produce tiny plums.  One of the things about having fruit in an urban area, is that folks don't tend to know the variety of fruit in their yards, because they weren't the ones who planted the trees.  I believe these are cherry or myrobalan plums .  They have burgundy leaves, and are planted widely as an urban street tree.  Because they produce (and drop) massive amounts of fruit, these trees are not universally be

Jam Time!

It's that deliciously fleeting time of year, when fruit trees are weighed down with plums, friends are keen to share, and I'm happily cooking up vats of jam.  Life is sweet. 

Some Time in the Garden

Despite the ongoing drought, the back garden seems to be thriving.  We've got a delightful variety of insects and birds visiting.  Our honeybees are enjoying the flowers.  (This rather weedy-looking plant is weld, a dye plant that dates back to the Viking times. It produces an eye-searing yellow dye.) In addition to European honeybees, we have a variety of native bees (and bee mimics). I've been digging aged compost into our vegetable beds. On bad days, it's a bit depressing to think about how much compost I've added to our garden soil. Today, I added five eight-gallon basins-full of compost to a relatively small area. And in four months, there will be no evidence that I added any organic material at all. Our dirt will feel as rock-hard as ever, seemingly devoid of any life.  On better days, I think about all the plant waste and kitchen scraps that didn't go straight to landfill. I imagi