Friday, November 30, 2012

You Say Potatoes, I Say...

Last winter, I bought five pounds of seed potatoes (little spudlets) from Fedco's Moose Tubers.  Half of them were "Augusta" potatoes, a Yukon Gold type. And goodness, did those potatoes ever go for the gold.

(The other 21/2 lbs were "Purple Viking, but more about them later.)

Most of the Augustas were planted in early April. They grew into beautiful, large, healthy plants with pretty flowers. They even came out with flashy seedpods that looked like little green tomatoes.

Three months later, I dug up the potatoes (forget about your manicure folks, this is dirty work). And the harvest was thirty-five lbs. of gorgeous potatoes. Big and little ones. All golden and tender. And all organic, meaning expensive to buy but very safe to eat.

"Best roasted potatoes, ever," was the quote at home. Yup, my spud-loving, best guy was happy, very happy. But where do you put all them 'taters in a little bungalow? Under the bed?

Answer: Eat them. Share them - with friends, family, neighbors, your barber, your dentist and whoever is around and might appreciate them. But insist that they tell you how the potatoes were prepared, and whether they tasted better than regular ol' potatoes.  Surprise, surprise, everyone quickly cooked them up and said "yes!" But really, what are you gonna say to free, home-grown potatoes?  Especially organic ones.

OK, small print time. There is a fair amount of dirty work involved in growing potatoes - literally, someone has to haul buckets of dirt or compost to pile up around those plants as they grow. And these potatoes were totally boo-booed: they were hilled three times; grown without chemical help; and lived on a drip watering system. But the payoff was enormous - typically, you can expect one lb. of seed potatoes to produce 5 - 10 lbs. of harvest. I got a lot  more - almost thirty-eight lbs. of Augustas alone. And did I mention that they really tasted wonderful?

Would I do it again? I plan to. The Augusta potato was a big winner. I'm saving some of the tubers and will re-plant them in February or March, but on a smaller scale. Gotta leave some room for their cousins, the San Marzano tomatoes.

P.S. I would never have even considered growing potatoes in my teeny backyard without the encouragement of my sister Jane and my friend Sarah. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wild Turkey

photo courtesy of Kathy Kenny
We all know what we are supposed to do this Thursday - eat and eat and eat ourselves silly. And then have sandwiches a few hours later, with football or perhaps the National Dog Show filling in the gaps. 

All in honor of Meleagris gallopavo, the wild turkey of North American. Benjamin Franklin confided to his daughter in 1784 that he considered the wild turkey to be far superior to the bald eagle as a symbol of this country.  He wrote, 

"For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

Ben, however, was not quite correct - the wild turkey is not native to all of America.  At least not in California for the past 10,000 years or so. Though in all fairness, at the time that he was writing, California was not part of "America" either.

If someone asked me, I would have guessed that the turkey arrived in California along with all those other nineteenth century immigrants on the Oregon Trail. (There is a wonderful poem, "Turkeys" by Mary Mackey, which describes her great uncles driving - as in shepherding, propelling, pushing forward - their turkeys to market. And I thought herding cats was hard.)

But turkeys got here along a different route. They didn't come with the pioneers. And attempts to introduce them in the 1870's and again in the 1920's were unsuccessful.  It wasn't until the 1970's when California Dept. of Fish and Game introduced a subspecies from along the Rio Grande - small, tough immigrants from a different part of North America - that the birds decided to stay. And flourish: an estimated 240,000 turkeys now live in the state.

You don't have to go far to see wild turkeys in Oakland. I've seen small flocks along College Ave. in the Elmwood and in Rockridge, and Mountain View cemetery has enough turkeys to supply a small food bank. Although, during the week before Thanksgiving, not a one of those "Birds of Courage" was to be seen. They may not be as brave as Ben thought, but they aren't silly either.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Bay Nature
KQED Quest

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Civic Duty

It was a lovely day to get out of town, so we got in the car when it was still dark and drove to Reno. We thought we might help get out would-be voters for Obama in Nevada. 

The Nevadans were most welcoming, fed us muffins and coffee, handed us clipboards with names of likely voters and told us not to come back until we had knocked on all the doors of all those people. We did our best that morning. Then they tanked us up again and sent us back out to a different neighborhood to do it once more.

Well, I never knew that so, so, so many people in Nevada had oh, so, so, so many dogs. Like almost every house. And more than one dog. Thankfully only one person was bitten, and she was the dog's owner.

We stayed in Reno for the party. The crowd went home very happy. So did we.

Me, a cuppa tea, and a young Obama helper

Photos courtesy of Michael Reardon

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Know What I Did This Summer...

You thought I spent my entire time out on the patio, goofin' off with the damn cat. Playing dress-up and chasing after bugs.

But, nooo, I was busy, busy, busy making lampshades to pair up with some beautiful lamps that we have at the shop. 'Cause the lamp shop has now been around for forty (yup, four-zero) years, so in celebration, all this year we have been showcasing some very special pieces. It's been a load of fun, too.

At this point, we're moving on to the annual BIG Fall Lamp Sale.  The sale runs until Sunday, November 11th, so you still have plenty of time to harvest the last of the tomatoes, prick up your ears for the remaining katydids and snag a bargain. Just in time for those dark, wet winter nights.

Only remember to bring your lamp, wear comfortable shoes and be really nice to the staff.

Photos courtesy of Mary Shilman