Friday, September 30, 2011


Family: Brassicaceae or Cruciferae
Genus: Brassica
Species: Brassica oleracea

Red cabbage "roses" interlaced with pumpkin vines
Maybe you grew up in a family that consumed borscht in large quantities and never want to see or smell cabbage ever again. However, Bumble and I are weird; we adore cabbage (and beets); we share some Polish roots. Besides, red cabbage contains flavonoids, antioxidants that actually prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in our bodies. Cabbage is low in calories (1 C. = 28 calories), yet high in protein and fiber, Vitamin B, C and K, and minerals. Red cabbage is richer in nutrients than its green brother  - it is one of those attributes that purple foods possess called anthocyanins. And if you still are not sold on cabbage ask yourself these questions: Where would corned beef be without cabbage, and what would Thanksgiving be without Brussels sprouts, the little cabbages? 
For a new gardener, growing cabbages will make you feel like you sprouted a green thumb overnight. They are highly productive, you can leave them hanging out in the garden until you need one because they stay sweet without getting starchy, and they are happy in cooler autumn weather. Also, women in Poland, who consume large quantities of cabbage, have very low incidences of breast cancer. And like the stork story, there is an old tale that babies come from cabbage patches. So, be on the look out for one of those.
The word cabbage derives from the French word “caboche” which means head or noggin. I adoringly said to Bumble, “You are my little cabbage head.” 

“That means I am stupid," Bumble replied.

“Well, well, well,” I said. And that is exactly what eating cabbages can make you.
Here is an easy enzymatic coleslaw recipe; Bumble loved it and forgave me instantly. We ate the slaw with these delicious Lemon Rosemary Brauts from SWEETWOOD CATTLE COMPANY, located in Steamboat Springs. 
My red cabbage coleslaw
Note: I got lazy and used my food processor but you don't need one.
1 medium size red cabbage sliced VERY thin. (take off the limp outer leaves and any white core)
3 or 4 organic carrots grated
1 medium apple cored and grated (I keep skins on)

3-4 T. apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the “Mother”)
3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste.

Grate carrots and the apple, and slice cabbage very thin. If you are using the food processor use the “grater” attachment and cut your cabbage into a size that fits the feed tube. Add cider vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Toss and adjust by adding a bit more vinegar, oil, salt and pepper if needed.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do you have an artist within?

Eye-popping exhibit @ the Eco Quilts show

I have been close to two women in my life who are painters. One woman paints the visual life of her environs in a colorful Matisse-like style that delights. She paints her interior and exterior landscape, her cats, chickens, dogs, and friends. I was lucky enough to live nearby and was included in many of her paintings.  The other woman paints enormous canvases in a style reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe and shares whatever vision she is currently being fed from the collective unconscious. I think Carl Jung would have liked her paintings because they are filled with mythical symbolism.  Both artists received BFA degrees from hometown colleges, and they were driven to this artistic expression. Both make painting look easy.
There have been times when I have tried to emulate them and attempt to paint something.  The finished product ended up looking like my kindergarten paintings – all the primary colors colliding with each other and dissolving into a muddy brown.  There is much creativity wanting to pour out of me, but painting may not be my medium. Thankfully, there are ways other than painting to create. Gardening and landscape architecture are a way to bring a Monet painting into the third dimension. Furthermore, there is architecture, design, photography, jewelry-making, sculpture, and textile arts, to name a few.  For years, I have admired the artistry of Amish quilts with their bold use of geometry and color; they are incredible graphic creations that incorporate form with function.
Eco Quilts Show exhibit
In southeast Denver there exists a place where textile artists can share, learn, experiment, and exhibit their work. It is called TACtile - Textile Arts Center, Rocky Mountain Region. There is always something being stitched up by the center. Coming to an end this week is an exhibition of “Eco Quilts: Earth Sensitive Textile Arts.” Patchwork and quilting has for centuries been a creative way women have recycled torn or worn clothing into blankets. The show is being held at the Women’s College at the University of Denver through September 30.
Eco Quilts: Crazy quilt and Hankie quilts
When the call for entries came for this show I sent a photo of a “crazy quilt” I had stitched from old velvet, silk and satin dresses. Crazy quilts do not form straight lines or squares but are put together in a haphazard and crazy way. The embroidery on the quilt - plants, animals, birds, buildings - tells a tale of travel and signifies the many countries that I have visited and experienced. To my amazement, the quilt was selected for the show and in that acceptance I was termed “an artist.” Who knew? There are two quilts on display, close to mine, in the gallery hall which are made from old “hankies” collected from different places around the world reflecting the travel theme of mine. Other wonderful quilts at the show use beads, buttons, and colorful fabric scraps to create eye popping graphics. The photos say a thousand words.

Other exhibits at the Eco Quilt Show
Information below:
Textile Arts Center
1955 South Quince Street, Suite 200    
Denver Colorado 80231
Located Northeast of Quebec and Evans/Iliff



Another big shout out to a great community center devoted to art, creativity and yoga – how cool is that? - the Half MoonStudios in Denver. The Half Moon Studios mission is to:
“to promote art and creativity on a community level, bringing joy and inspiration to others through the arts. Housed within Half Moon Studios is a working artist’s studio, as well as a multi-use gallery space which exhibits culturally relevant, contemporary works. Half Moon Studios also hosts a variety of open studio events, art salons, film nights and creative workshops throughout the year, as well as art classes for both children and adults. We at Half Moon believe the arts should be tangibly and financially accessible to all and aim to touch the lives of the people we serve in profound and encouraging ways.”

The current show on exhibit there is titled "Back of Beyond" and features the large scale ink paintings by one of the co-founders, Jared David Paul.

Information for Half Moon below:

Half Moon Studios
901 West 7th Ave.
Denver, CO 80204

These are two great community centers that can encourage and allow the artist within all of us to find a medium of expression.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Grape Harvest

My daily grape harvest in Colorado
1. SUPPORT - a trellis, arbor or fence
2. SUNSHINE - and lots of it
3. LOW HUMIDITY - breezes and winds
4. WELL DRAINED SOIL - not soggy

1. FOLKS who can build SUPPORT
2. SUNSHINE - 300+ days
3. LOW HUMIDITY- breezes and winds
5. LONG WINTER - well no one is perfect

Every few days I receive an email feed from one of my favorite blogs, French Word-A-Day. Immediately I am transported to another place – to Provence, on a vineyard no less, and the farm of beautiful Kristin Espinasse and her husband, “Chief Grape.” On her site the “About Kristin” link shares this history:
1990. Aix-en-Provence. While on a language exchange program from Arizona State University, I was dancing the night away wholly devoted to study when I met my future (French) husband. Not two years later, I packed three cardboard U-Haul boxes and said adieu to the Phoenix desert.
Her blog is a lovely blend of fairy tale and daily toil, of growing grapes and raising children. Her exquisite regional photos say a thousand words, and I look forward to each and every post. There is a certain comfort in reading about Kristin’s weekly life in the French country and comparing and contrasting it with my own in Colorado country. 
This week, like me, Kristin and Chief Grape are engaged in la vendange or the grape harvest. Their harvest will be lovingly made into award winning fine wine (See: and mine will be eaten raw with some cheese (Brie or Gouda).  They have hundreds (thousands?) of grape plants and I have only two. I cannot tell you my exact grape variety (Vitus ?) because I lost the plant tags. Both are a white grape - one is seedless and one has seeds. However, they are awesome producers of fruit and shade.

A mid-summer's grape shade

3. RAISINS - love 'em
4. GRAPE SEED OIL (Vitamin E)
5. WINE (need I say more?) and VINEGAR
The Arbor: A support system for grapes

Yes  Dorothy - you really can grow grapes in  Colorado! OK maybe not the varieties that do well in France, California and Oregon, but there are many successful wine growers on the Western Slope. On the Front Range you can grow several varieties of table grapes that survive and thrive in our crazy climate. You can eat them off the vine or make jams, jellies and juice. Your local nursery can help you find the right variety - right after you find someone to build a support system for your plants. God knows we all need a support system.


Allen, Jacqi. "Growing Grapes on the Front Range." Colorado State University Extension. Colorado State University Extension, 10 Oct 2009. Web. 22 Sep 2011. <>.
"Colorado Wine 2011." Colorado Wine. Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, 2011. Web. 22 Sep 2011. <>.
"Grapes." Plantalk Colorado. Colorado State University Extension, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Green Industries of Colorado, Inc., 22 Oct 2010. Web. 22 Sep 2011. <>.
"Great Grapes." Front Range Food Gardener. Colorado State University Extension, 05 Feb 2009. Web. 22 Sep 2011. <>. 
Hamman, Richard A. et al. "Colorado Grape Growers Guide- Bulletin 550A." Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Colorado State University, 1998. Web. 22 Sep 2011. <>.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Three Sisters

Three sisters daily harvest

Bumble asks, “What’s for dinner?”
“You know what I always make this time of year, the Three Sisters Summer Squash Goulash.”
“We’re having your sisters for dinner?”
“No," I tell him, "the three sisters -- the corn, squash, and beans -- the companion planting we did because we were too lazy to construct any kind of pole support for the beans. The three sisters planting which combines corn, squash and beans into a beneficial community. You know the Native Americans introduced the concept. The corn stalks provide the beans with “poles” for climbing, the huge squash leaves shade and retain moisture in the soil, and the beans which are "nitrogen fixers" provide natural fertilizer for all. You've heard the phrase, All for one and one for all!  What a family they are!”
Three sisters in June (a corner section)
“Yo,” replies Bumble - which is what he always says. Besides, I went off on one of my tangents and all he really wanted was the food.
My eclectic haphazard way of growing in the yard makes for a decent variety of plants out there. One of my favorite principles in ecology is that healthy sustainable ecosystems are more biodiverse ecosystems. To put it another way polycultures are preferable to monocultures. And I am a big proponent of mixing it up. If one plant species becomes infected by a pest and doomed, at least the other species may go unscathed. Your sweat and labor will not be for naught – you will have something that may survive and in the end and your stomach will not be empty.  And, if growing certain plants together actually helps them perform better; that's a bonus.  Not to mention, if everyone planted just one squash (or zucchini) plant in their back yard there would be enough food to feed the world. I swear. 
Summer Squash Goulash
 SUMMER SQUASH GOULASH (from the Three Sisters)
1 lb. organically-raised ground meat (use either beef, turkey, chicken or lamb) I sometimes use 1-1/2 lbs. of meat
3 to 4 C. summer squash peeled and diced small (use either yellow squash, zucchini or mix both) and remove center seeds area

1 medium onion diced small
2 cloves fresh garlic minced or smashed
A bunch of fresh basil (several handfuls)
3/4 C. fresh string beans (snapped and halved)
1- 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes
1/2 C. broth (beef or chicken depending on your meat choice)
Seasonings: salt, pepper, Italian herb seasoning, and about 1/4 -1/2 tsp. nutmeg and cinnamon (trust me)

Brown meat in a large skillet with a touch of olive oil (about 3 T.), salt and pepper while browning. Then add in diced onion - saute a few minutes, then add garlic. Next add summer squash and the rest of the ingredients. Saute a few minutes uncovered. Season to taste with at least a 1 tsp. of salt and Italian herb seasoning; some fresh ground pepper and nutmeg and cinnamon (1/4 tsp. at least). Lower heat, cover and cook until squash and beans are tender (15-20 minutes).  Serve with French bread and corn on the cob (if available). Enough food for 4 Bumbles. Hey, if you don't like or have  string beans leave them out.


Begon, Michael et al. Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities. 2nd ed.. Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications , 1990. 614-844.

Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability . 3rd ed. Hepburn, Australia: Holmgren Design Services , 2006. P. 165. Print.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Bye, bye love!

One of the loves of my life

1. Everyone, no matter how much they weigh, feels weightless in water.
 2. Every human began their life in the warm watery environment of the womb.
3. It cools one down on a blistering hot day - can you say aaah?
4. Anyone, no matter how uncoordinated, can do the doggy paddle or sidestroke.
5.We all had a fish tail once.

Growing up I was fortunate to have had a neighbor who had a cement pool in her back yard. And even more fortunate that she let me -- a freckled-faced bratty kid -- swim in her pool. It was glorious to be in the blue diaphanous water.  I mimicked the elegant strokes of Esther Williams from her movies and slowly had a free style of my own. Lolling around and floating there I spent hours with fantastic fantasies. In one, I grew a mermaid’s tail just like Lenore (Ann Blythe) in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.
The neighbor, Alice, was a nurse who had been involved in a terrible car crash and suffered several broken vertebrae. She was told by doctors she would never walk again. She decided that if walking was impossible then perhaps swimming in the weightless atmosphere of water was possible. She invested in hope and had the a huge hole dug and cement poured. The pool was built complete with cabana house. Then Alice began to do the crawl. Over time, the swimming strengthened her back muscles and slowly her crawl led her to eventually walk in the water. Later this evolved into walking on land - upright and proud.
In the late 90s, when I was house hunting, I saw the house that I now live in for sale. The cement pool in the backyard circa 1955 was it for me. It called to me like a mermaid’s song and I bought a home that was $20,000 over my budget.  I have never regretted it. When I suffered a broken pelvis in an accident that required a walker, Bumble threw me into the water. I was weightless and pain free. I crawled and crawled.  Eventually after weeks of lap swimming, I slithered out of the pool onto dry land a healed strong woman with gills. Just kidding.
The pool will soon be closed for the season. A green canvas pool cover will blanket it through the fall and winter. The turquoise mix of hydrogen and oxygen molecules will be put to sleep. Bye bye love – I will miss you! And we will rendezvous again next Spring.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Apple Harvest

Backyard apple harvest
All those hot "dog day" weeks of August which are spent waiting -- waiting for the weather to cool, the fruit and vegetables to ripen, and the bounty to be harvested and enjoyed -- are now over. There is that moment in September when the angle of the sun sinks a few degrees lower in the sky and it is like a switch -- click -- and you know that summer is ending and fall is beginning.The swimming pool will soon be getting closed for the season and this seasonal transition brings a mixture of moods. There is sadness for summer's end and invigoration for autumn's start. 

We picked a bushel basket of organic apples from our 55 year old crooked tree. The whole time I was picking I was thinking about apple crisp, baked apples, apple turnovers, apple pie, caramel apples, and fried apples. Which was the first apple treat I would produce? I could not wait to enjoy apple something. The kitchen cabinets lacked a few necessary ingredients for making the crisp which I adore, so I decided to make fried apples instead. It is so quick, easy, and yummy. Put with a pork loin or pork chops fried apples are a dinner companion, but topped with fresh whipped cream they are a scrumptious dessert. My mom, who raised us kids on overused cliches, used to say, "An apple a day keeps the doctor's away."

Cooking my fried apples
 LEE'S FRIED APPLES (Lee is my mom) 
8-10 green apples cored and sliced
4-5 T. organic butter
1/4 C. brown sugar (or white)
Seasoning: cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to taste

Melt butter in your favorite pan (I use my caste iron pan) over medium heat. Add sliced and cored apples and sprinkle with generous amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg (to taste) and a dash of salt. Saute until the apples become golden and caramelize. Sprinkle with sugar, stir and continue heating until sugar dissolves and coats apples. Serve over pork chops or pork loin. Or for dessert top with homemade whipped cream.