Sunday, August 31, 2008


First there was a flower.

P1010386Looks like an ordinary squash flower.


But squash does not grow in our garden. We've tried and tried, winter and summer squash. The little plants get powdery mildew, shrivel up and die shortly after we transplant them. 

I swore I'd never grow squash ever again--or at least not while I lived here in the PNW. Then Wing Nut brought home four little plants that looked an awful lot like squash plants. "They have a French name," she said. So of course they were allowed into the garden. After a visit with my friend I learned that this particular type of squash has been grown in the Far East since ancient times, in China and in particular on Japan's second largest island, Hokkaidō. But they are much beloved in French cuisine.

So we planted them. And I tried not to get my hopes up. And within days of planting them the first little plant began to shrivel up. And then it was dead. it didn't even last long enough to get powdery mildew!

Today as I was out in the garden, in my shorts, sandals, socks and Viking rain gear (see previous post), I saw a little round something hiding among the squash leaves. It looked suspiciously like... but it couldn't possible be...

P1010396revYes it is! it's a squash! A very special little squash. It's a POTIMARON!!! And if we're very very lucky it will grow up to look like this. Right now it's teeny tiny. But it's healthy and growing. P1010395

Their name comes from the French potiron (squash) and marron (chestnut). This cucurbita has a very unique nutty flavor. This is the squash to feed to people who claim they hate squash. It can be stored for up to twelve months. The longer it is stored, the higher its sugar and vitamin content. It can be used in tarts, tortes, soufflés, gnochis, flans, breads and of course soups. Here in the US they are known as Hokkaido squash. Other names include Chestnut pumpkin, Kuri pumpkin and red-skinned Kabocha. In the UK The Potimarron Project has pledged itself to work towards ending world hunger. There is a Pumpkins For The People Revolution going on! Anyone out there participating in the revolution?


Friday, August 29, 2008

Foxworthy Forgot One!

If you read our previous post, here's one we think Jeff Foxworthy forgot.

You know you're from the PNW if you keep a tide schedule on your fridge so you know when is the best time to go romp on the beach with your dog.


Today was a good day as you can see from this chart courtesy of ProTIDES. Low tide was at 10:20 a.m. and it was actually a minus tide -1'5". The sandbars went on and on. The winds were pretty strong so we saw kite flyers and also paragliders. We also tried our hand at using the video feature on our camera. Apparently our hands were not steady or talented enough, so we don't have a video of Diva Dog running on the sand for this post. Stay tuned -- maybe a post in the near future will have one. So for now we have more photos of our beautiful girl playing on the sand. 




P1010415 As Curmudgeon mentioned above, we had a negative low tide today, which revealed the lovely sand bars in the photos above. At higher tides, only the rocky parts of the beaches remain. If you look at the upper left corner of the picture, you can see a rock wall that separates the beach/waterfront from the train tracks. When we were here last week during high tide, the water was half way up the rock wall.


Besides the kite fliers and paragliders, we noticed a few fishermen, including this one. 


-- Curmudgeon & Wing Nut

The Pacific Northwest according to Jeff Foxworthy

The Wenches are not from the PNW, having both grown up on the east coast. We moved here four years ago. When someone emailed us this Jeff Foxworthy routine we thought it a great opportunity to see just how well we've adapted to our new home. Our comments are in italics.


1. You know the state flower (Mildew)

Silly me, I thought it was Mold.

2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.

We are nothing short of passionate about recycling here. Recycling paper, plastic, glass, etc. is already mandatory here. Starting in Jan. 2009 Seattleites will be required to compost all food scraps in our yard waste recycling bins. Think we're a bit fanatical about our recycling? Have you people seen The Garbage Patch? Seriously, get with the program.

3. You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.

Even if we don't drink it, we all speak coffee. It's a very unique language.

4. You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.

We see lots and lots of boats but we hang out with the "wrong" crowd apparently. All the people we know own bikes not boats!

5. You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.

A suit just doesn't go with Viking rain gear and hiking boots.

6. You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it is not a real mountain.

Well, duh! Like you could get to the top of a real mountain in a car! The only way to get to the top of a real mountain is on foot and with the help of lots of climbing gear.

7. You know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon.

Also known as King, silver and red. And don't forget Chum (dog) and Pink (humpy).

8. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon, Yakima and Willamette.

Okay, not at first. But we learned fast! skwim, pyoo-AL-up, IZ-a-kwah, ORE-e-g'n (does not rhyme with 'gone'), YACK-uh-mah, wil-LAM-met

9. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.

Hey, don't forget Vietnamese. Phô is amazing!

10. In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark - while only working eight-hour days.

We have little flashing disco ball lights hanging from our backpacks, rain jackets AND the dog--all to help make us more visible. Hey but in summer the skies start lightening at 4 a.m. and it's still light out close to 10 p.m.

11. You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.

There's a commercial here about this--Blue Tarp Camper.

12. You are not fazed by "Today's forecast: showers followed by rain," and "Tomorrow's forecast: rain followed by showers."

Sounds like tomorrow the weather is going to improve!

13. You cannot wait for a day with "showers and sun breaks."

Woo hoo! A really nice day! Sun breaks are our best friends. You learn to drop EVERYTHING and run outside to load up on vitamin D--never know when you'll see that bright shiny orb again.

14. You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.

One and the same, no?

15. You know that Boring is a town in Oregon and not just a state of mind.

Yeah, it's south of Portland. But I still prefer Concrete here in WA. It's a philosophical concept, a musical style, a form of poetry AND a type of frozen custard.

16. You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you cannot see through the cloud cover.

Come on, there are lots more than two! And they actually spew out stuff!

17. You notice, "the mountain is out" when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.

We are obsessed with "the mountain". Mt. Rainier is truly spectacular when it is out. This is a REAL mountain--can't drive to the top. it's 14,410ft or 4,392m, covered in glaciers all year round, takes experienced climbers 2-3 days to summit, and can easily kill you if you don't know what you are doing.

18. You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50, but still wear your hiking boots and parka.

Oh please! We lived in MN, WI and IA. We'll wear shorts until it gets down into the 30s. Seattleites are a bit wimpy about the cold.

19. You switch to your sandals when it gets about 60, but keep the socks on.

There's a commercial about this too--Sandals and Socks Guy.

20. You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.

It's just water! It's not like you're going to melt. Besides, using umbrellas with the winds we get here is truly a menace to fellow pedestrians.

21. You knew immediately that the view out of Frasier's window was fake.

Wasn't much of a fan. But Fraser was way too uptight to be a real Seattleite.

22. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit under a raincoat.

We bought a raincoat for our dog.

23. You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer), Deer & Elk season (Fall).

Spring = not that much rain

Summer = July = no rain

Fall = some rain

Winter = rain--of biblical proportions--and wind and flooding and mud slides and ark building

--Curmudgeon & Wing Nut

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Flora and Fauna (of the creepy crawly kind)

This weekend, while tidying up around the garden, we discovered some lovely flora...






Potimarron Squash

And then we discovered the fauna...


The Good -- pollinators on the bronze fennel


The Bad -- but lovely green



And the Ugly

Look at this huge snail!  Is it dead?


No!  It's very much alive!


AAAAACCCKKKK!!!!  It's coming right at me!


For what it's worth, the snail promptly fell off the cement block following this photo shoot.  Wing Nut then picked it up by the shell and gave it a rolling tour of the neighborhood... Seattle hills are steep you know!

--Wing Nut

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bloom Day -- August 2008

It's the 15th of the month and it's once again time for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. After you've strolled through our garden, make sure to visit Carol over at May Dreams Garden. She can point you to other Bloom Day posts.


Today we discovered the first hollyhock bloom hidden behind all the sunflower leaves.



A fuschia from last summer that was supposed to be an annual. That happens a lot around here.


Calibrachoa that was also supposed to be an annual but returned and bloomed beautifully again this summer.





Chocolate Cosmos


Lobelia and nicotiana


Purple Cardinal Flower


Black & Blue Salvia


Agastache 'Blue Fortune'


And finally, 'Snowball' Chrysanthemum

--Curmudgeon & Wing Nut

Monday, August 11, 2008


Isn't this the cutest little thing you ever saw?


It's the first habanero pepper. While the other pepper plants have been setting fruit for several weeks now, the habanero plant has stubbornly refused to even flower. We did read that habaneros take longer than other peppers. We're growing a variety called Caribbean red--heat index of 400,000 Scoville units. That's C-A-L-I-E-N-T-E!


Did you know that these peppers are named after La Habana, the capitol of Cuba, known in English as Havana? My dad always kept a glass jar in the fridge. The jar contained vinegar, habaneros and whole garlic cloves. Sometimes olives or pearl onions would be added. On occasion mom would dip into the jar and pull out a few garlic cloves to add to whatever she was cooking. But mostly the jar was my dad's idea of snack food.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why don't we go to the beach more often?

Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Ship Canal, Salmon Bay, Shilshole Bay, Elliott Bay, the Puget Sound, the Straight of Juan de Fuca, the Pacific Ocean, water infuses everything here. We come in contact with it every single day. I walk along the Ship Canal most days on my way to work. Before she began working with plants, Wing Nut would daily cross the Ship Canal and walk along Lake Union on her way to  work. Perhaps because of this constant daily contact, we hardly ever go to the beach. In the four years we've lived here we've been to the beach maybe four times. And we've yet to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean.

So today when we woke up expecting clouds and rain, but instead found blue skies and sunshine, we decided it was time to feel the sand under our bare feet--no socks, no sandals. Diva Dog isn't much of a swimmer--she's actually a bit of a drama queen when it comes to getting her paws wet. But she does enjoy all the interesting smells and a good game of chase.



We strolled on the warm sand. We dipped our toes in the chilly water. We sat and enjoyed feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces.


We even found some cool purple rocks.


As we headed back to the car we both had the same thought. We're going to make an effort to get to the beach more often.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The cookbook wars--the wenches join the fray

Today while visiting one of my favorite blogs, Poor Richard's Almanac, I stumbled into the midst of a war--a cookbook war. Never one to retreat from battle, I shook my head in disbelief as I read that Our Friend Ben thinks there are too many cookbooks at Hawk's Haven. Silly, silly Ben! The Wenches are definitely on Silence's side on this one. We proclaim that there is no such thing as too many cookbooks! Ben, if you don't start showing Silence and her cookbooks some proper appreciation why we'll... we'll... we'll start hurling socks at you!

People who come to our house often comment on how many cookbooks we have. Considering how many books we have in our house in general, we find it odd that visitors would find the number of cookbooks worthy of noting. But apparently it's something people remember about us long after they've returned back whence they came.

A few months ago a friend from Victoria BC sent us an article from The Globe & Mail by Don Gillmor titled "You Are What You Read." While perusing a new bibliography of Canadian cookbooks Gillmor ponders his own journey through the world of cookbooks, from his grandmother's collection of old world Scottish recipes to his own adult guilty pleasures of Nigella. Reading the article, our friend said, made him think of our shelves full of cookbooks. We were intrigued by Gillmor's observation.

Cookbooks are a barometer of society; an indication of our priorities, our desires even. You could map the romantic history of the country through its cookbooks; every era gets the cookbook it needs.

What can cookbooks reveal about our past or about who we are today? We decided to take inventory.

We have a smallish bookshelf in our kitchen that holds our cookbooks. There is quite an eclectic collection residing on these shelves. Our collection is definitely international, though the Mediterranean is strongly represented, followed closely by North African and the Caribbean. There is an unequivocal emphasis on fresh produce. Some of our cookbooks are deteriorating due to high usage. Some have sentimental value, reminding us of our travels. Some are gifts from friends and colleagues. Some are unique, odd, bizarre.  A few are eye candy and are poured over only with immaculately clean hands. Here is a sampling.

Bern Union Church Cookbook compiled by Sunday School Cookbook Committee. Wing Nut's mom and grandma both have recipes included.

Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch by Jeff Dietrich and Lucetta Trexler Muth, illustrations by Gladys Lutz. A gift from Wing Nut's mom when we visited her stall at the Kutztown Festival a couple of years ago.

Cocina al Minuto by Ediciones CUBAMERICA. Because Mom said so. This was the ONLY cookbook Curmudgeon's parents ever used.

The Political Palate: A Feminist Vegetarian Cookbook (vol. I & II) by The Bloodroot Collective. Because the personal is political and the political sure better be edible. This one is from Curmudgeon's crunchy granola co-op days.

101-CocinaPP II

The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil, M.D. and Rosie Daley.  At our house this one is known as "the old geezer and hip chick cookbook" since we can never recall its proper title. Wing Nut's to-die-for scones started here.

The Low GI Diet Cookbook by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller et al. And all the other Low GI and New Glucose Revolution titles put out by the Australia based team, foremost authorities on the glycemic index. 

Salmon by Diane Morgan. Yes, an entire cookbook dedicated to salmon. Come on, we live in the Pacific Northwest. No, there aren't any desserts.

The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley. The town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim) located in the Dungeness Valley over on the Olympic Peninsula is considered the lavender capitol of the US. Every July Sequim hosts the Lavender Festival, a lavender lover's paradise. At the festival lavender finds its way into everything from lemonade to bratwurst to ice cream. Lavender, it's not just for eye pillows!


Fresh Moroccan by Nada Saleh. Wonderful recipes combined with beautiful photography. Once upon a time, way back in kindergarten, Curmudgeon had a traumatic experience with raw carrots. She hasn't touched a raw carrot since. This is the cookbook that got Curmudgeon to eat raw carrots.

Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean by Joyce Goldstein. This book rounds out a trilogy by this author, with the first two books focusing on Italy and Spain. In this volume Goldstein explores the spices of the Maghreb--Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.

Fresh Moroccanrev saffron shores

Three Dog Bakery Cookbook by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff. Yes, we do bake our own doggie biscuits.

Biscotti  by Maria Robbins. Yes, we do bake our own biscotti.  No, you and your dog cannot come live with us.

Waffles from Morning to Midnight by Dorie Greenspan. As Margaret Atwood wrote, "One man's cookbook is another woman's soft porn."

Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier. This is our most recent addition. We enjoy her writing as much as her recipes.

 wafflesrevChocolate & Zrev 

What cookbooks are on YOUR bookshelf? Do tell...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Potager update in shades of green and gold and purple

Today was a most inspiring sort of day. A very exciting thing happened here in Seattle. Well, in West Seattle to be precise. It was the 1st Annual Edible Garden Tour organized by Community Harvest of Southwest Seattle. It was a day full of seeing and learning new things, exchanging information and anecdotes with other gardeners, getting refueled and revitalized.

On the tour there were well established gardens decades old and gardens in the making only months old. There was a garden in a reclaimed alley and a garden growing food in the shade. Several gardens donated produce to local food banks. One garden had an espaliered fig tree and another a Belgian fence. There were worms and chickens and mason bees, oh my!

We visited one well-established garden with a seasoned experienced gardener and one fairly new garden consisting almost completely of containers. At the well-established garden we saw in practice things that we have only just begun to explore in our own fairly new garden: a worm bin, succession planting, companion planting, permaculture beds. a hive for mason bees. The newer garden we visited was a wonderful example of what you can do in a small space. You can grow a jungle! At this garden we had the great pleasure of meeting fellow bloggers, the Shibaguyz. They garden on their 20x30 patio. And boy do they garden! I think I heard someone say they're growing 21 types of tomatoes. And that's not the half of it. There is a potato condo. What is a potato condo you ask? Check out their blog to find out.

When we got home we were all fired up to get back to our own garden. We found all manner of surprises waiting for us.








san marzano



Bulgarian carrot



corno di toro









Beets and carrots and cabbage, oh my! And some garlic to go along with the shallots.