edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 2: pepper plants origin story, or how did you get interested in gardening? (for jen) [Tumblr crosspost]

For gardening in general, well, I've always thought that seeds are amazing -- these tiny, dead-looking specks are actually alive, and with nothing but dirt and water, light and air, they produce such marvelous and varied ends. And then some of them you can eat. How is that not astounding? When I was a kid, my parents tried a few times to have a garden, plus we had a little strawberry patch and some raspberry bushes/vines, and an apple tree. Even when they gave up on the garden per se, we still had a row of asparagus, and you have not tasted proper asparagus until you've had it grilled less than half an hour after it was picked. Delicious.

But I am lazy at heart, so I never did much gardening after I moved out. I kept houseplants -- I don't think I've ever had fewer than six houseplants at a time, even when I was living in tiny rooms in shared apartments and group houses, and I currently have twenty-one and counting -- but houseplants aren't really gardening, you know?

The peppers, therefore, were an accident.

My friend Susan came to Ithaca in spring of 2013, and since her visit happened to coincide with the Cayuga Wine Trail's annual Wine & Herb event, we decided to buy tickets and see what that was like. It turns out that at each participating winery, ticketholders get to sample a small selection of wines chosen to accompany a dish prepared with the herb (and/or vegetable) which that particular winery has been assigned. You are also given a small live version of that plant in a little plastic seedling pot. Susan and I got to twelve wineries that day, which was only possible because we stopped for a long lunch at which we drank nothing but water. (FYI, I do not recommend following our example unless you have a designated driver.) So we arrived back at my apartment with twelve small seedlings, which we decided to split equally.

I don't remember exactly why I ended up with all three peppers -- one jalapeño, one plain bell pepper, and one fancy bell pepper -- but I did. A week or two later, I gave my three actual herb seedlings to my mom, since she was more likely to use them in cooking. Then the peppers sat on my coffee table for a month while I wondered what on earth to do with them.

Eventually I bought two plastic pots from Target and dug out a big ceramic pot I had been vaguely intending to use to repot one of my houseplants. I also bought a bag of potting soil from the local Agway and walked a mile home carrying it and three stakes to tie the plants to as they grew. And I potted the peppers and stuck them onto my back porch, where they sat on a weird, low, metallic table left by the previous tenants.

The fancy bell pepper succumbed to squirrels within a week, but the others survived and I discovered all over again how ridiculously amazing it is to watch plants spin dirt and water, light and air, into life and growth. There were leaves! And flowers!! And I got actual peppers out of the process!!!

Of course I had to do it again the next year. And I will continue doing it again until it stops being amazing, which I think will happen approximately half past never. :-)

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December Talking Meme: All Days

(I still have seven days open -- the 14th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 27th, and 30th -- if anyone wants to claim them.)
edenfalling: colored line-art drawing of a three-scoop ice cream sundae (ice cream sundae)
Mom drove up to visit on Sunday, mostly because it was the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble's last concert of the 2013-2014 season, and thus the last concert for which I had a pair of tickets. (Or rather, a season pass for me + a guest, but psssh, details!) This one was not at First Unitarian, but in the Lodi Historical Society building. Lodi is about halfway up the lake, and closer to Seneca than Cayuga, so there was no way I could get there on my own without a car.

She arrived shortly after 11am, carrying some frozen leftovers and household supplies (she likes to bring me food and toilet paper and stuff, which I obviously have no reason to object to), and also bringing two plastic pots and the fabric mesh nets to hang them (the intent is to pot several of my baby spider plant crop and hang them in my kitchen windows). She also brought a random bell pepper she'd acquired and didn't particularly want to grow herself, so I now have twelve peppers to manage. An embarrassment of riches!

We ran one errand before hitting the road: namely, we went to Agway to buy a new pair of screws and two of the little plastic sheaths you use to anchor them better in drywall, because the hook I use to hang my pajamas fell off the wall last week. I'm going to fix it on Wednesday, when I will have good midday light and also won't run any risk of banging tools around after general working hours.

Anyway! We ate at Dano's Heuriger, which is... kind of like an Austrian version of tapas. We started by ordering a small bread basket, accompanied by two spreads and one small salad. The breads are an assortment that includes a really nice oat bread, a white baguette sort of thing, and a rectangular white bread with interesting spices. We chose the Hotel Sacher spread (very interesting, involved peppers and dill and some other stuff), the roasted red pepper spread, and the cucumber & dill salad; the latter was for Mom alone, obviously, since raw cucumber is tied with tomato for the vegetable I am most allergic to. *wry* Then we each ordered a sausage -- bratwurst for Mom, smoked Hungarian sausage for me -- and split a side dish of spätzle and a side dish of seasonal vegetable (which was green beans that day). The sausages come alone on a plate, with a little cup of coarse spicy mustard to use as a sauce if you wish.

It was definitely an odd meal, but quite tasty. And now I really want to fry some bratwurst, cook a bunch of sauerkraut, and make a bratwurst-and-saurkraut sandwich. Which is a delicious sandwich that I first encountered in Nürnberg back in the 90s, and wish were more common in America. It's best if the bratwurst is charcoal grilled, of course, but frying will do in a pinch. :-)

After lunch we visited two Seneca Lake wineries before heading back to Lodi for the concert. The music was as follows: Mozart's String Quartet in D (KV 575); four of Max Bruch's Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (Op. 83); and Antonin Dvořák's String Quintet in G (Op. 77). The Mozart was lovely; he is not my favorite composer, but I don't think I have ever disliked any of his music; he is very listenable. The Bruch was a really interesting combination of instruments. I think it works best when the viola and clarinet are not playing in unison, since they have such different tonal qualities that they can sound slightly out-of-tune with each other even when they're not. The four pieces chosen were the "Allegro con moto," the "Nachtgesang: Andante con moto," the "Allegro vivace, ma non troppo," and the "Rumänische Melodie: Andante." I liked the second and fourth best. And the Dvořák was awesome, particularly the second movement. Mom was not wildly enamored of it; she said that string pieces with a lot of sawing back and forth are not really her cup of tea. Which is fair enough!

We headed straight back to Ithaca and Mom left immediately after changing her shoes, since this was a one-day visit and it's a long drive back to New Jersey. And that was pretty much that. :-)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
peppers

It's been a while since I talked about my peppers, hasn't it? Anyway, they are still doing fine -- we have yet to get any real frost down here in the lake valley.

jalapeño

As you can see, I haven't picked any of the jalapeños yet. I am waiting for them to ripen a bit more, after which I plan to pick them all simultaneously, dice them, and freeze them to dole out over the winter, because while I like spice, I don't like that much spice all at once.

bell pepper

You may remember that in addition to the three full-sized peppers, the bell pepper also produced two tiny peppers about the size of my thumbnail. I hoped that once I picked the large peppers, the little ones might start to grow again... and while one had sadly rotted in the meantime, it appears that the other has indeed taken advantage of the sudden lack of resource competition and is growing once more! It's now about the size of a plum and I look forward to seeing how it does.
edenfalling: colored line-art drawing of a three-scoop ice cream sundae (ice cream sundae)
Today I picked my remaining two bell peppers and made stir fry for dinner. This involved both peppers (as you can see, they were pretty small. very cute! but small), half an onion, half the squash, one third of the chicken (aka, two boneless thighs -- dark meat all the way, baby!), and a handful of spinach leaves. I think on Friday I will buy a red bell pepper at the grocery store and do it all over again, since I will be eating the rest of the current stir fry Wednesday and Thursday... and maybe Friday lunch, too, depending. Stir fry makes a lot of leftovers.

bell peppers, how so cute?

ingredients before prep

ingredients after prep

stir fry

my dinner

I think next time I should add some black pepper to the mix, or maybe cook with soy sauce instead of the salad dressing -- the end product is just a little sweeter than I prefer. Possibly this is because of the onion; a red onion might produce a sharper flavor. *ponders options*

I have no recipe as such, but my method is to add the ingredients in the following order: first onions, then peppers, then squash, then chicken, and finally spinach at the very end so it cooks just enough to wilt. The mushiness of the vegetables is intentional. I like my onions and peppers very thoroughly cooked, thanks ever so.

For those who may be curious, the bread is sourdough bought from Collegetown Bagels, because why the hell not. :-)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
bell pepper

bell pepper

One pepper picked! As you can tell by the weird brownish coloration, it hadn’t finished ripening, but since bell peppers are more often eaten green than ripe, I don’t think it matters much.

I gave this pepper to my parents, who stopped by to have lunch and retrieve their second car, which they’d left in my possession while they were away on vacation. The other two bell peppers are still ripening on the plant, but I have stir fry supplies (onion, summer squash, spinach, chicken, and Italian salad dressing for flavor and oil) so come Tuesday evening, they are getting picked, cleaned, and damn well cooked whether they’re completely ripe or not. :-)

(FYI, those are my mom’s hands, not mine. You can tell by the watch and the wedding ring.)
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
My peppers, on Tuesday Sept. 17, 2013. The biggest of the bell peppers is just starting to ripen and change color! Do you see the faint smudge right near the stem, facing directly at the camera? That is where green has begun to shade into red... which of course photographs as muddy brown, blargh.

I gave both plants a bit of MiracleGro this evening, though not much as they were both still quite damp from this weekend's interminable drizzle.

peppers, front view

bell pepper

jalapeño
edenfalling: circular blue mosaic depicting stylized waves (ocean mosaic)
My peppers, as of September 10! You will note that I moved them from the front porch to their old home on my back deck/porch/whatever.

The bell peppers feel like they could be picked, if I wanted -- they are no longer rock hard and you can tell there's a bunch of empty space inside -- but I'm still waiting for them to ripen and change color. The jalapeños are growing nicely but are obviously not anywhere near ripe. They are also very staggered in size, since unlike the bell pepper plant, which seems to have settled on three full-sized peppers and two tiny ones about the size of my last thumb-joint, the later jalapeño flowers are still turning into new peppers and growing at the same ridiculous pace that the earlier flowers did.

We had a two-day heat wave this week, but aside from that the nights have begun to get chilly, verging on actual cold -- regularly down in the 50s, sometimes down in the 40s, and once down as far as 38F. I will bring the peppers indoors when we begin to get frost, but for now I'm trusting the weather to help them ripen. It's been quite damp the past few days so I haven't fertilized them, but after the weekend I hope to give them a last dose of Miracle Gro. I think the jalapeño, in particular, will appreciate that as it pours resources into its fruit. :-)

my lovely, lovely peppers

more photos )

-----

In other news, I've been downloading a bunch of vacation photos tonight and will probably do some extensive photo posts about Star Island in a day or three. But don't hold your breath -- my time management skills are as iffy as ever. *wry*
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Before stargazing on Monday night, I lit a candle for Meteora, the great goddess of weather and airplanes, asking her for smooth travel. I also asked Constricta, the goddess of travel delays (traffic jams are her particular specialty, but she is not restricted to them) to ensure that my flights were on time, and Wayland (the god of rest areas and other temporary journey stops) to ensure that nothing would go wrong in the various airports.

Hey, it makes me feel like I'm doing something to alter things that are, in reality, beyond my power to alter, and aleviating one's own sense of helplessness is highly beneficial whether the ritual does anything to the outer world or not. :-)

Anyway, all did go well. I got up around 8:30am on Tuesday, we left the island at about 10:45am, and reached Bemidji airport a bit past 11:30am. All my planes were on time -- even the minor delay embarking in Detroit turned out to be a tiny, easily fixed mechanical problem and we landed early in Ithaca despite losing five minutes in Detroit.

I bought a trade paperback edition of Wolf Hall at Simply Books in the Twin Cities airport; I enjoyed reading it so much I wanted my own copy! I also bought Bring Up the Bodies -- a much shorter book covering a much shorter period of time, apparently -- which I will start as soon as I finish Anna Karenina.

Anna Karenina had been my intended island reading project -- I got halfway through last summer and planned to finish this year -- but Hilary Mantel distracted me wonderfully. Nonetheless I got back into Tolstoy on Monday and read a bunch more on Tuesday. I am now about halfway through Part Six (of eight parts), or more technically, on page 605 of 817. (Long book! Still shorter than War and Peace! Eeesh.)

My peppers survived my absence, though they are still not ready to pick. I will post pictures of them tomorrow, maybe, along with a bunch of pictures from Star Island. The thing about picture posts is that first I have to email the pictures to myself from my phone, because I don't have any way to do a direct data transfer to my computer. (I should probably look into that sometime...) Then I have to download the files from gmail, then post them to Tumblr, then make image links from Dreamwidth since DW doesn't have its own image hosting service. It is a stupidly long and convoluted process.

But, you know, pictures! I like pictures. So I persist, slowly and awkwardly. *wry*
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
These will be the last pictures of my peppers for eight days, since I am going away on vacation. I have moved them to the front porch of the house (as you can see from the fourth photo) and left a note for Downstairs Neighbor S asking her to keep an eye on them since they are now under a roof and won't get any delicious rainwater to drink. They got a good dousing this afternoon and evening prior to the move, though, so hopefully that won't be much of an issue.

I would have liked to bring a pepper with me to Minnesota as a gift for my parents, but alas, though the bell peppers have grown quite large, they are still far too firm to be picked, even if I wanted to pick them while they're still green and thus technically unripe. (Which I don't, really. I like how bell peppers get mellow when they turn red.)

cut for photos )

I would like to clarify that none of the junk in the fourth picture is mine, though that is "my" side of the porch. I am not quite sure where it all came from, but Downstairs Neighbor S says it belongs to my new Upstairs Diagonal Neighbors (the ones who replaced the couple who replaced K & N; there's been fairly rapid turnover this past year) and she's trying to get them to move most of it up to their balcony so she can put some patio furniture out instead. My reaction is that as long as there's room for the house's collective recycling bins (which I keep on my side), I can get to my mailbox, and crap isn't actively pushing in through my front room window, I don't much care... but patio furniture will look a lot more intentional than two bikes, several stacks of who knows what, a folding chair, and a random skateboard.

-----

And now to bed!
edenfalling: stained-glass butterfly in a purple frame (butterfly)
My peppers, as of Monday afternoon. :-)

The bell pepper seems to have settled on producing three good-sized peppers. A couple of the other tiny proto-peppers have fallen off the plant, and the others are kind of in stasis, neither growing nor dying. Perhaps once I pick the three large ones the others will begin to grow again.

As for the jalapeño, it inched upward maybe another couple centimeters, but seems to have stopped growing taller/bushier and is now concentrating on the all-important business of flowering and producing actualfax peppers. As you can see, the first lone blossom has already become a distinct pepper, while a couple others are shedding their petals to reveal tiny baby peppers. The jalapeño flowers themselves are interestingly different from the bell pepper flowers -- for one thing they face downward rather than sideways, and for another their petals spread into a much wider and flatter array.

peppers front view

cut for more photographs )

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Elizabeth Culmer

October 2017

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