Archive for March, 2012

homemade ricotta

I finally got to one of K. Ruby Blume’s cheesemaking classes last week – offered by the Institute of Urban Homesteading, headquartered here in Oakland.  She is a great teacher and an inspiration for me.  Ever since I helped a friend make mozzarella many years back, I somehow knew making cheese was one of my callings.  And I have had many unfulfilled cheesemaking urges lately.  No longer!  This week I bought some cheesecloth from the Oak Barrel in Berkeley, and got to work making my first batch (well, second…) of lemon ricotta.  It is so simple to make: just heat up good whole milk and stir in lemon juice (in my case, giant ones from our friends’ tree – a wonderful part of living here in Oakland), wait for curds to form, strain off the whey, and you have cheese.  With garlic and some fresh herbs mixed in, it couldn’t be more delicious.  Mine was more dry, but you don’t have to strain it as long if you want more creamy cheese (or you can add some fresh cream – always makes everything creamier!). Here’s a similar recipe from Smitten Kitchen if you want to try it yourself.

spring potatoes

I love the colors purple and green together in the springtime.  And I love discovering vegetables growing and hiding underground.  And what should I dig up today when I was peeking at how far along those baby potatoes might be?  Purple potatoes.  I had forgotten that I planted the purple ones (among others) late last year.  I usually order my seed potatoes from Peaceful Valley up in Grass Valley, and plant them in November; but now is a great time to plant potatoes as well.  The fresh ones have such a vivid color and taste to them.  I can’t wait to dig some more (thought I would wait for my daughter to help, seeing that they are planted in “her” bed) and cook them up.

pea trellis

I have been wanting to build a new pea trellis for weeks, but it has fallen down on the list of important things to do around here.  The last few years we have built a bamboo teepee and hung netting around it.  Last year we tried this wonderful jute netting, which the squirrels quickly chewed through, thus making a mess of my dear pea plants.  This year, I had a slightly different idea – an A frame of bamboo with twine providing the vertical support.   Tom helped out with the binding (he is the knot man!).   No squirrelly problems thus far, and it gives me such joy to look at the kitchen window and see the trellis, with the peas trying to reach up and grow.

community pot pie

It makes me feel so good to be living amongst friends.  I am never without a neighbor I can ask for an egg or cup of milk.  We have friends upstairs, next door, and across the street, and they always remind me why I like living in my community.  We had a spontaneous group dinner a short while ago; our upstairs neighbor wanted to make a pot pie.  I made the crust, he made the filling (which was scrumptious), and our neighbor Kristen came by with her kids, and turned out some lovely leaves for the top.

rain filled barrels

It’s raining today, finally (we really need the rain here).  I also finally decided to practice what I preach (not that I typically evangelize), and installed 2 rainwater barrels at the Pumpkin House.  We got them quite cheaply from the City of Oakland Rain Barrel Program.  I have used the water for my compost pile, and other hand watering in the vegetable garden – especially during this dry winter!  They only take a few days of rain to fill, and unfortunately don’t capture as many gallons as we begin to use in our veggie garden.  But it is so wonderful to collect the rainwater and return it to the earth while using it to feed ourselves (and our worms).

flowers on the table

I love having colorful flowers on the table.  It used to feel like an extravagance, but when our old CSA Full Belly Farm started offering weekly flowers, I leaped.  And I haven’t looked back.  Now we usually get them from the yard (if we are lucky) or from the farmers’ market.  And they bring me great joy throughout the day.

early spring planting

I finally got to plant in the garden this weekend.  What a nourishing 30 minutes it was.  Or maybe it was an hour………… as I weeded, turned the soil, turned the compost pile, dug out some fresh compost, added it to the bed, and planted the little lettuce and kale seedlings – amongst some of their older cousins.  Sometimes I start my own, but now that local growers Kassenhoff sell seedlings at our local farmers’ market, it feels great to get them and plant them – all in a day.  And perhaps because the well-tended organic seedlings are started nearby, they all seem to flourish and grow well in our garden.  Here’s to the homegrown salad we will be enjoying in about a month……….

I also finally found flowerettes growing in my cauliflower.  I have been checking them weekly, hoping that they would finally grow the little ones.  It happened quickly, likely with the recent warm weather, as the little “flowers” are already an inch across – maybe you can see below.

making yogurt

I gave my daughter a yogurt maker for her 4th birthday, and it has been well-used ever since.  I love the little glass jars.  She loves yogurt, perhaps even more than I do, and particularly loves the homemade maple vanilla variety we make at home.  It is so simple, and therefore even more wonderful, to make at night and then wake up and eat warm homemade yogurt in the morning.  With strawberries, ideally, but jam can sometimes be substituted.

new life for an old chair


I wasn’t particularly fond of these bentwood chairs my husband Tom bought for a pittance at a local yard sale.  But we needed some new chairs, and so they were put to use, brown naugahyde and all.  I grew more accustomed to them around our dining table, and decided it was time for their makeover.  I searched for and found a fabric that suited the chair, our house, and Tom (and me, of course).  I did the first ones, and later involved my son in the effort.  With fun tools such as vice grips, screwdriver, and staple gun, what’s not to enjoy.  And I love these chairs now around the table.  I had to say no to my inner perfectionist who wanted to refinish the wood frames – they fit in well here with their bit of roughness……