Category Archives: fall

Tacoma Soup Picnic

We are in love with a Tacoma soup counter called Infinite Soups. It’s such good food, it’s hard not to lick the last traces of soup from the container. I imagine their soup is the perfect lunch for the downtown Tacoma worker. Since we don’t live or work close enough, we use every visit to Tacoma as an excuse to pick up some soup.

Since there is no seating, we use any dry day in Tacoma as an excuse for a soup picnic. Luckily, Wright Park is just up the street.


chipotle cream

They post their daily soup picks on Facebook (in creamy and non-creamy options that contain meat as well as vegetarian and vegan). There are so many choices it can be hard to choose, but they are generous with the samples.

We have never sampled a flavor we didn’t like.


potato green chile

Wright Park has been around since 1890.


white birch

It’s full of some of our favorite trees.

Late fall means naked trees showing off their woody skeletons, or in this case revealing giant seed pods, perhaps?

No 19th century park is complete without lions.

Or cannons.


strawberry rum ball & valhalla brownie

And if you need dessert, Corina Bakery is just around the corner.

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Spuds growing up

It’s the time of year when we dig through our potato stacks, collect the dirty, jewel-toned potatoes and start to pick our favorite potato recipes. This year we grew six varieties in our stacking potato towers. We alternated layers of 50/50 compost/soil and straw. It was interesting to see the layers when we began to unearth the potatoes.

The chickens were super interested in the potato harvest. Pepper was the most involved. Of course, she’s very interested in all human behaviors.


I planted 1# of each variety in the stacking boxes. Here’s the yield:
viking purple – 2#
german butterball – 6#
russian banana – 1.5#
french fingerling – 5#
princess 1.75#
red thumb 2#

Conclusion: 99% of the potatoes were in the bottom box of our stacked wooden boxes. That means our shoveling, stacking, side dressing and work was for naught. We could have achieved the same yield by growing potatoes in the ground. I’m happy we grew potatoes, don’t get me wrong. Nothing beats the taste of a fresh-dug, homegrown potato. The yield of some of our ’11 varieties was good, but overall, the stacking method was a lot of work without a lot of benefit. We’ll be retiring the wooden boxes next year in favor of planting in-ground rows. It will take up more space, but we can squeeze ’em in since we added those 400 square feet at the community garden. Now, we have to figure out what we can reuse these stacking wooden boxes for…. Any ideas?

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Filed under fall, garden, urban farming

Books from my nightstand

The nights are growing longer and it suddenly got chilly in Olympia this week. It hasn’t technically frosted yet, but our nighttime temps have dipped to 35ish. This weather means that I can find time to turn my attention back to the books on my nightstand that have been languishing all summer while we spent our daylight hours weeding, plucking, picking, shoveling, etc. So, here’s what’s on my nightstand.


Grow Great Grub, by Gayla Trail.
I must have read this book four or five times already, but everytime I find something new. Gayla Trail is a smart person. She’s one of those garden writers who knows what she’s talking about, and writes factual, true things. The advice in this book is solid, and I always recommend her work to beginning gardeners. I think it’s important to have advice that actually works when you are starting out. Failure is so discouraging when you start gardening, so set yourself up for success.


Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
We’re always on the look-out for interesting new canning ideas so I get a lot of jam and pickle cookbooks from the public library. Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy for a jar of plain-jane blackberry jam, but inspiration and challenges keep me excited about what’s happening in the kitchen. It saves canning from becoming a chore. I’ve heard good things about this book, but haven’t cooked from it yet.


Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway

Permaculture is the idea of designing your space into a sort of ecosystem where each piece supports the others, a sort of “closing the loop” for sustainability and self-sufficiency. Most permaculture examples are BIG, like acres of land, but this book tries to scale the ideas down to a home-sized permaculture system. I don’t think that “real” permaculture is our goal, personally, but I would like to be more closed-loop about a lot of things, so I’m reading this book for inspiration.


Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture by Sepp Holzer

Speaking of permaculture – Sepp Holzer has been practicing permaculture for decades in high elevations in Austria. He has a lot more space than we do, but I’m interested to learn about hügelkultur and some other ideas we could apply on a much smaller scale.

I’m also reading 1Q84, but that seems a little out of place here. So, what’s on your nightstand for these long, cold nights ahead?

We were in no way compensated for including any of these books. We either bought them, received them as gifts from family, or checked them out from the public library. All of my opinions are entirely my own.

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Autumnal Cupcakes!

We have mentioned how much we love Cupcake Royale, and you know we’re crazy about pumpkin. So when you combine the two, we suddenly find an irresistible reason to drive to Seattle. Behold! Pumpkin cardamom cupcakes!

Pumpkin goes well with all the spices you find in pumpkin pie, but it wasn’t just cinnamon, allspice and clove. The cardamom elevates this cupcake to another level. I’ve eaten a lot of pumpkin-flavored baked goods, and this was an especially tender and delicious morsel.

Oh, but that’s not all. Cupcake Royale must have been struck by a lightning bolt of genius recently. They have a tiramisu cupcake that can be ordered affogato. The traditional affogato is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with espresso poured over it. We’ve been affogato fans for quite some time. However, Cupcake Royale takes a delicious tiramisu cupcake and drowns it in espresso.

From the moment I heard about the cupcake affogato, I thought it sounded like a good idea. It’s hard to explain how much of a very, very good idea this is. The cupcake soaks up the espresso like a ladyfinger. The icing is mascarpone mixed with Stumptown coffee – a great companion for the coffee-soaked cake. So, basically, there’s nothing about this cupcake that isn’t awesome.

These cupcakes make me want to wear a plaid scarf and my favorite legwarmers while I walk through a big pile of autumn leaves.

xoxo,
Jess

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our fall tradition: the local cider mill

Every October we head over to nearby Lattin’s Country Cider Mill. There’s a pumpkin patch, an apple slingshot, tractor-pulled wagon rides, and all the adorable farm animals you can handle. The real reason we go (and the teenager still comes with us): fresh from the fryer apple fritters.

This year and last we ended up going on the weekend, which means a lot of patience and determination are required. People for miles around know about these fritters. First you wait in a long, slow line to pay for the fritters. Then you get a number and have to wait with a crowd of people until yours are ready and your number is called. We figured out a couple years ago how to pass the time: apple cider slushies!


Apple cider goodness in slushy form. Genius.


Levi & Jess saved their appetites and got smalls. I went for the large. No regrets!

The other way to pass time while waiting for your fritters is to watch them being made. It is mesmerizing. They have them already prepped, and then lower entire trays directly into the fryer. Then they stay nearby with what look like giant chopsticks to flip them over when the first side is golden brown. Once they are pulled out they dump them off the tray and literally pour a pitcher of glaze over them.

The glaze melts before your eyes and the gleaming apple fritters are ready to go. Once we have our bag of fritters in hand, we make a beeline to the nearest spot to sit outside and eat them while they are still nice and warm.

Levi took the first bite and declared that not only were they worth the wait, they would be worth 10 times that wait. Then he did the math and we decided maybe they wouldn’t be worth that long a wait, but they most certainly were worth the 30 or 40 minutes we waited and then some.


Warm and gooey sweetness with bits of fresh apple. There is nothing quite like it.


I have no idea how Levi made himself this short but I appreciated it.

There is so much to see and do. I’m so glad we were able to fit this into our busy weekend. A few more highlights:

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Filed under fall, family, traditions

PSMS’s 2011 Wild Mushroom Show

We really turned up the nerd quotient this weekend at the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Annual Wild Mushroom Show. We’re rank amateurs when it comes to wild mushroom knowledge and experience, but we make up for it with enthusiasm. There were cooking demos, mushroom identification experts, and activities for kids (including a mushroom petting zoo). We even squeezed in a fascinating lecture by Britt Bunyard about really weird mushrooms.

The highlight was the main room of the show: an exhibit of countless mushrooms, grouped by type in semi-natural forest exhibits. The diversity of mushrooms is extraordinary, and I was impressed that they had so many fresh specimens in one place at one time. We saw famous choice edible mushrooms, like chanterelles, bolete/porcini mushrooms and the coveted Matsutake. There were poisonous mushrooms, deadly mushrooms, and mushrooms that didn’t look like mushrooms at all. Here are some of my faves:


Witch’s butter, or Dacrymyces palmatus. It’s an edible but flavorless rubbery jelly. Just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should. The name and appearance made it look like a witch had hocked up a bright orange witchy loogie and spit it out on a log.


Ramaria/coral fungus. This haunting fungus looks like the tiny hands of lost souls reaching up from a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean. I love it.


Pseudohydnum gelatinosum / jelly tooth. There was a specimen of this guy in the petting zoo. Playing with it reminded us both of sticky hand toys. We learned you can roll this mushroom in sugar to produce “Nature’s Gumdrop.” Let me know if you try that.


Clitocybe odora smells like licorice, no joke. We also sniffed candy caps (maple-y), Matsutakes (spicy), and a Russula that smelled like shrimp. There was even a mushroom that smelled like grape soda, though we could only detect a hint of it.


Mycodeltiology: the study of postcards with fungi. I’m not sure if this is a real thing but the postcards were adorable.


This gnome was knitted with yarn dyed with mushrooms. I learned that you should not underestimate the extent of mushroom-inspired art.

Oh, and during the lecture we learned there is a fungi called cordyceps that infects insects and turns them into zombies. Well, okay it controls their body just before killing them and growing out of the corpse. Check out this video:

You can see more of Krista’s mushroom photos here. I had a great time at the show, and I know so much more about how much I don’t know about mushrooms.

xoxo,
Jess

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what to do with all that squash

Goodbye tomatoes. Hello squash!

Somehow our plant only produced one of these gorgeous sweet meat squashes. So what in the world should we make with it?

Confession: neither of us liked squash as kids. The older I get, the more I like squash. These days there are a handful of squash varieties I absolutely love. I suspect that list is going to grow. So now that we have squash on the brain, how about a little SQUASH LINK LIST:

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