California dreamin'

They say that scent memories trigger the strongest memories and emotions and it's very true for me. The distinctive scent of tomato leaves bring back vivid memories of my childhood when my granddad was a commercial tomato grower in Southern California. I'm 14 in that picture above, sitting on a tractor next to the man I loved so much. I'm certain his spirit follows me around as I'm tend my own garden. I reach down and the distinctive bouquet of the tomato leaf instantly transports me back to Ventura County where he lived and farmed. Spending a summer night at granddad's meant waking up before dawn, shivering into shorts (later on it would get so hot!) and then covering up with a sweatshirt. We sat in an ice-cold kitchen and ate bacon and eggs and toast prepared by my great aunt, my grandfather's older sister who tended house for him after his wife, my grandmother, died. We would then hop into granddad's Ford pickup where a scratchy wool blanket was waiting for me. We drove on bumpy lumpy dusty dirt roads as the sun rose, past endless miles of cornfields, tomato fields, bean fields, and orange and avocado orchards. Depending on what field we were checking on that day, we might head west to the coast to check on his tomato fields in Oxnard, or as far north as Ojai where it was hotter and everything ripened sooner. (I learned early on what our California micro-climates meant to a farmer.) We stopped at noon for lunch, always at a Mexican cafe, both of us being big fans of spicy cuisine. Our favorite spot was the Owl Cafe in Camarillo, smack dab in the middle of nowhere. I marveled at how my grandfather found it each time--there were no landmarks that I could see, just fields and more fields, then plop, a little cafe would appear off in the distance. (Over the years, and after my grandfather had died, that little cafe was eventually surrounded by a shopping center and a housing development.) My husband and I are lucky that we have our 2 year old grandson visit us often, and as we spend time with him, a lot of that time is spent in the garden, I wonder what he will retain and what he'll recall. What memories will he hold? Those pictures of him above are too funny! He is really putting his back into his work! We bought him his own set of miniature tools so he is quite prepared!

These last two weeks we've had some big tomato harvests.  One day we picked 40 pounds of tomatoes, that's 3 large buckets, and they totally filled my sink. I saved a lot for giving away and for eating fresh, but I also made 14 quarts of roasted tomato sauce. I'll end up with over 30 quarts in the freezer before summer's over and over the course of a year we'll use it all for spaghetti sauce and tomato soup, plus other recipes too. We're having a great tomato year but our green beans, cucumbers, pattypan summer squash, and beets are doing well too. It's just a good year all around! I've got some links to share below:

Here's my recipe for roasted tomato sauce. It's awesome!
We plant a few dozen tomato varieties each year, but these are the standouts for flavor:
Red (and Pink) Brandywine are my husband's favorite. We also have seeds for a black Brandywine that we are going to try next year. I love the black tomatoes and
my favorite black/purples are Cherokee Purple and Black Krim.
The big almost-two-pounders pictured above are Kellogg's Breakfast. Delicious and gorgeous.
Mortgage Lifter and Big Rainbow do well for us too.
We love Sun Gold for a cherry. These pack a big tomato flavor in a tiny fruit and are sweet and tart without being too sweet. Some cherry tomatoes leave me cold with their extra sweetness. These are great!
We LOVE this green bean variety and now will plant no other because they have great bean flavor without being sweet--again, I don't like the trend towards sweetening up every vegetable and def. not in my beans! They grown nicely on the upright bush and have long, thin, easy to pick pods. 
I make pesto once a week and put it in the freezer in small containers to use later in wintertime.
Here's my favorite recipe for pesto.
Ugh, I cannot find the name of the cucumber variety we planted this year. It's great for eating fresh and pickling and I think I got them from Burpee. Doing some searching now because I want to plant them next year. The plants stay on the smallish side and are nicely bushy and make fab pickles.
Dan Kochansky has the BEST recipe for dill pickles. They are easy too. I make several batches a week all summer long, and while we eat a lot, I also hand out jars to friends.
We've been invited to a few summer potlucks and I always volunteer to bring a veg. dish and a platter of pickles. Here are two recipes I found this year that were big hits with everyone.

To make a comment, click here. I really love it when you do!


the big zinnia post

I know most of you come here for the knitting, but c'mon, you love gardening too! Am I right? Me too! The garden is so beautiful right now--mid summer, sigh, I love you so very much. Today I'm sharing all the beautiful zinnias that are growing in this summer's garden. This year I went with pastels, muted and bright, and sacrificed the big familiar zinnia blooms for smaller and more interesting blooms. Aren't they GORGEOUS? I'm so happy.

These zinnias are planted in the front of our perennial flower border. The border has wisteria, roses, hydrangeas, dahlias and Shasta daisies. I save a two-foot border at the front for summer annuals. Nasturtiums pop up on their own and I leave about half of them in, ripping out any that are going to take over, then I over-plant with a summer annual I've started in the greenhouse from seed--usually zinnias.

This zinnia border is not a flower border that can be appreciated from afar. The blooms don't shout for attention, and because of that, they invite you to step in for a closer look. Take a wee walk; it's not far. On closer inspection you'll see how truly beautiful and individual (and quirky) the blossoms are: you might spy a thin neon-pink edge surrounding a neon-lime green center or a feathery domed pincushion sitting atop a single layer of plain petals. Each blossom is unique.

These zinnias won't be found in your garden center and are only offered as seeds. They need to be planted in a greenhouse or protected environment which is easy enough but does require a little TLC. The germination of these specialty zinnias is good, not great--a little spotty to be honest, but good enough. They do however transplant very well. All the shopping links are at the end, but in the meantime, enjoy the show. Next week I'll have a vegetable garden post. It's summer!

Behind the zinnias are dahlias, shasta daisies, cosmos and roses.

The bright pink hydrangea is underneath the wisteria pods that need to be trimmed. Next weeks chore.

The Queen Limes

The Starlights

The Pincushions


All the seeds are from Burpee:
Zinderellas (the pincushions)

To make a comment, scroll down or click here.

Pine Creek

My project notes say that I finished this in March, and here it is July and it's finally photographed, then, whoosh, it was packed away for summer. Won't it be a nice surprise this fall when I open up my chest full of wooly winter knits and see this lacy beauty again!

The lace was easy and fun despite looking very complicated. The pattern is charted and written out row by row but I almost always follow charts. This just needed a little glance at the chart at the beginning of each row to get started, then the row would sail by. Honest! But I did use markers for each repeat and that made it easy to keep track. The yarn is Rowan Purelife British Breeds Blue Faced Leicester DK that I purchased 5 years ago when I was visiting England. The yarn had been discontinued and was deeply discounted. It's so gorgeous I wish I had bought it all up.

The fit is so oversized, yikes! I know it's meant to be, but I'm a bit shocked at how big it really is. I cast on for the smallest size and added less stitches at the sleeve separation but it still came out very big. I made the sleeves way less balloony and made the neck wider and shorter to rest lower on the neck. I do love it but I think oversized is tricky and doesn't always look right on me. This one looks best if I tuck it in a bit.

The two pictures below are what I'm making at the moment; one is fitted, one is oversized. The first is a test knit for adorable Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle. I LOVE knitting it! This picture was taken last week and as of today I'm done with the body and tonight will start sleeve number one. I'll let you know when the pattern is available--I think at the end of July. The last one is a Weekender that has only one sleeve to go. I guess I don't have to say that much about the Weekender, it's so popular!

Pine Creek by Samantha Guerin 
my project page for Pine Creek
project page for Circus
project page for Weekender

To make a comment, scroll down or click here.