For me, the highlight of last weekend was a solo drive through the mountains, at sunrise, just so I could see the Autumn colors. (And, to take my puppy on his first five-mile mountain hike.)
Hands down, it’s my favorite time of year.
Inspired by what I saw, I later roped the kids into helping me install a new garden. With autumn colors.
The crabgrass (digitaria, i.e. lawn pest) was dug up and tossed over the fence. I’m hoping that in a few weeks, the chickens will have eaten off all the greens (and their seeds) so I could re-use the dirt in another part of the yard.
- I initially used a pick to skim off the grass from the dirt, only to find that that took A LOT of work, and I missed the root system entirely. To get rid of all the crabgrass, I ended up digging out about 9-12″ of the soil, throwing it all over to the chickens, then replaced the hole with purchased potting soil.
- Bigger shrubs were plated first, with plenty of room in between them, and then I filled in with annuals or succulents in between. By the time the shrubs fill in the space, the annuals will be long spent, and I can easily remove and re-plant the succulents.
- I like to squeeze in my edibles wherever I can. Somewhere in here are: marigold, basil, dill, red leaf lettuce, and assorted pansies. The marigolds and red lettuce definitely contribute to the “Autumn” factor.
We stopped for the day when we ran out of potting soil. (At the moment, we’re about 30% complete. The rest will have to wait until next weekend.)
Autumn colors for the new garden. Author’s note: 95% of all these plants were trampled on and otherwise mangled and destroyed by two of our three dogs in the middle of the week; they bypassed the temporary screening we had up to protect the plants while they were still small.
Just before dusk, I wandered into the front yard to grab some kale I knew I’d need for dinner.
According to the botanist husband, if a leaf is missing leaves from the outside in, it’s being chomped on by grasshoppers. If it appears there are holes inside the leaves, those are work of worms. It appears we have both.
Awhile back, I lamented with a friend about how, despite my best efforts, my zuppa toscana recipe was consistently… not right. After about ten minutes of good discussion and troubleshooting (thank you foodie friend!), it was determined that perhaps the culprit was my sausage. After all, the sausage is where the flavor is, and bad sausage can wreck the whole recipe. This same friend insisted that I get my sausage at Claro’s Italian Market.
Over the years, I’ve been to Claro’s quite a few times. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their stuff and the regular customers are on a first name basis.
It’s my go-to neighborhood/specialty Italian market for pre-made pizza dough, Italian San Marzano tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, mortadella, calabrese, and semolina and 00 flour. However, until suggested, it hadn’t occurred to me to go to Claro’s for Italian sausage. Evidently, they make their own, and all I have to do is look for it inside the big fridge. Who knew?!
Also: prices are very reasonable. At my last visit, the 28-ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes were $2.99 each. The sausage was $3.99/pound.
To test my theory (that a sausage can make or break my zuppa toscana recipe), I went back to my zuppa toscana recipe and stripped it down to highlight the sausage (pork, water, salt, garlic, spices). In other words, no bacon. Just onion, garlic, broth, potato, peppers, cream, and… bug embellished garden kale. Very scientific, yes?
A pretty awesome bowl of zuppa toscana.
Simple, quick, spiced just enough, but not too much, and cooked just long enough for the potatoes to break apart, but not so long that they disintegrate altogether. Then topped with red pepper flakes and garden kale leaves, artfully torn so you can’t tell where the grasshopper helped himself to his share.