Not For a Minute

I couldn’t stop myself. The radishes (watermelon, breakfast, champion, and daikon), kale (red and lacinato), mustard greens, turnips, leeks, snow peas, and English peas are all in the cold hard ground.

And the miraculously overwintered spinach has a new home and place of honor at the front of the house.

To the musing: “It’s too early to plant anything else, so I think I’ll plant some rocks.” The Endurer replied: “Have you ever feared for your sanity?”

Not for a minute.


And the Product Description of the Year Goes To…

Mauro Seed Company!

I may be rushing into this relationship. My friends may think I’m crazy. But I think I’m in love. Not that I’m known for my seed company fidelity, but I really, really want this one to work out.

Let me count the ways I already love this Nashville-based company:

  • Local? Check.
  • Socially-driven? Check.
  • Non-GMO? Check.
  • Guffaw-worthy (slash borderline inappropriate, slash 100% corny) product descriptions? Check.
  • Quick on the response time? Check.
    Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 1.04.58 PM

Planning a Raised Bed Garden for the Ages

Plants On Deck 2018 PlanningOr, for 2018, at the very least.

What better time to think about a summer’s harvest than the moment we emerged from a record-setting spell of brutally cold weather. Miranda the Garden Cat spent her nights atop a heating pad and hand warmers (only because they were fresh out of paw warmers) and MNPS decided to shut down for an inch of snow. For sanity’s sake, it’s time to start thinkin’ on next year’s harvest.

Last year’s promised third bed never became a reality, thanks to an overlong construction nightmare — a nightmare that left us with a dreamy Garden Fort, so I can’t really complain. This year, however, that bed’s gonna’ happen because, in addition to a second revenue stream, the Endurer finally has the workshop of his dreams.

Plants On Deck Garden Plan

Plants on Deck Spring & Summer Planting Calendar

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Nashville’s last frost is expected to occur around April 6. Since the dates are calculated using the 1981-2010 climate normals, I feel pretty confident reserving the first week of April for planting most of the spring crops. For others, I’m going with my gut and will be getting dirty a little earlier. You’ll notice some repeats, it’s intentional; we’re going for an extended harvest. You’ll also notice that I’ve given myself some wiggle room, including two whole weekends to plant. Because. Well. Life.

Seedlings we’ll take care of in-house. Starts will come from Nashville’s amazing Bate’s Nursery.

Seed Indoors

January 20: Celeriac
March 1: Basil
March 1: Peppers

Direct Sow February 24

Sugar Snap Peas

Direct Sow March 10-17

Mustard greens

Direct Sow March 31-April 7


Direct Sow April 14-21

Celeriac seedlings
Lemongrass starts
Pepper seedlings
Tomato starts

Direct Sow April 28-May5

Black-eyed Peas
Lima beans
Peppers seedlings

Direct Sow July 7-14




A Fantastic Feast

Saag Paneer with Masaledar Sem

I’ve made this meal a couple of times now and have finally tweaked it sufficiently to our individual tastes. So much so that the original recipes no longer quite suit us. Although if you’d prefer the source materials, by all means, go for it! They’re sublime and probably better-written recipes. And by “probably,” I mean most certainly.

Homemade Paneer: Anna Jones A Modern Way to Eat
Palak Paneer: Food52
Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans): Food52

If you feel like you can trust me (and like me, you have a garden full of beans and chard that you need to use) then read on. And yes, I realize that barren plates don’t make for the most appealing photos, but it was so good, we scraped ’em clean. All of us.

Saag Panner

Let’s start with the paneer. I know that the Food52 Palak Paneer recipe gives store-bought paneer the thumbs-up, but I have absolutely no idea why. Homemade paneer is pretty darn easy (assuming you don’t boil the milk over and flood your stovetop and coat the bottom of your Dutch oven with nasty scalded milk scum that will take you about an hour of steel wool scrubbing, leaving you with bloodied fingertips and ruined cheese). Plus, it’s totally more delicious, if not more convenient, than that rubbery stuff you can purchase. Plus, the Hurricane can attest that watching the curds form is cool kitchen science.

The Secret to Perfect Homemade Paneer

Watch it carefully. Then watch it some more. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the stove unattended to do some laundry, put your child in the shower, or pick the chard and green beans for the saag paneer and the masaledar sem. And when the recipe says “Pour the milk into a high-sided saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring every now and again so the milk doesn’t form a skin,” do so. Only if you’re going for a gallon, go for the Dutch oven.

We like a lot of paneer in our in our saag so we doubled Ms. Jones’ recipe.

1 gallon whole milk (the better the milk the better the paneer, I’m sure, but Kroger milk is still more delicious that premade paneer.)
1/3 cup lemon juice (I far prefer real measurements to “the juice of 2 lemons” because that really doesn’t mean anything. Some lemons make more lemonade than others. True fact.)

Feel free to make this the day before and let it soak in the fridge in its whey. It’ll make your life easier. Then again, if you make it the day of, all you’ll need to do is rinse out the scalded pan and use it for the saag. Your call.

POD’s Saag Paneer, with thanks to Food52’s Palak Panner

If “palak” is spinach and “saag” is greens, “saag” it is because we’re using up an s-ton of Swiss chard here. I’m not on board with the creamy saag thing, as the paneer is creamy enough for me, but folks seem to love a creamy saag. Add 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. cream at the end if you’re feeling really decadent.

Serves 6-8

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 lb Swiss chard (wash it good, wash it real good. Remove the greens from the stems. Slice the greens into 1″ ribbons and then chop a little more. Slice up a cup of the stems as you would celery for a mirepoix and set them aside.)
  • Paneer (see above), cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 12-24 (your call) black peppercorns
  • 4-6 cardamom pods
  • 4-8 cloves
  • c. diced red onions, about 1/2-inch pieces
  • tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Thai chile diced (optional)
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, squished. Reserve the liquid)
  • 1 small drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar if you’re worried about acidity
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 heavy teaspoons garam masala (If you toast your own spices and grind your own garam masala, you won’t be sorry.)
  1. Pour 2 tablespoons oil in your not-scalded Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, dump the Swiss chard into the pan and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. After 5-10 minutes or so, the greens will wilt down (chard takes longer than spinach, so be patient). Once the chard is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a blender or food processor and purée.
  2. Boil 4 cups of water and once the water comes to a rolling boil, add paneer slabs. Turn the heat off after paneer has been in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid for 12-20 minutes or so. Use a slotted spoon to remove the paneer from the water and then cut it into 1- by 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
  3. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom pods.
  4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat (you can use the same Dutch oven). Add onions and chard stems and stir till they get a brownish tinge, then add ginger, garlic, and, if using, Thai chile pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chopped tomatoes followed by a touch of honey or a pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes break down, add a splash of the reserved tomato juice and spice mix of peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves. Stir till the liquid evaporates and the onion/tomato mixture starts turning dark, about 9 to 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in blended spinach purée. Add salt and 1/2 cup tomato juice or water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
  6. Once the spinach mixture boils, gently drop in paneer pieces. Let the paneer soak in the flavors and spices of the spinach purée for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add garam masala.

I find that this holds well, so I’d make this and keep it warm while you deal with the beans.

Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans)

Well, folks, Food52 hit this one on the head. There’s nothing I can do to make it better. Except to warn you that a pound and a half of green beans feeds three, not six.

Now, get cooking. And don’t forget the basmati rice peppered with a few cardomom pods and whole cloves and a handful of frozen peas tossed in at the end of the cooking time.

Despair and Redemption

Late Spring Harvest.jpgAfter descending into a pit of election-related despair for a few long months, we have emerged winners! Thanks to a new job, fresh vegetables, a happier Hurricane, and a brand-new Beta fish named Squiggles, we’re looking on the brighter side of life.

In celebration of my folks’ 49th anniversary and my own 19th, we triumphantly harvested $12-worth of fennel, a priceless romanesco, baby carrots, French beans, and a few watermelon radishes for good measure. All of which went beautifully with a feast of filet, shrimp, and fish.

Fennel with Romanesco, Baby Carrots, Haricort Verts, and Radishes

6-8 baby carrots (peeled and halved or quartered into similar sizes as necessary)
3-4 fennel bulbs (thick stalks discarded and  bulbs cut into halves or quarters and then thinly sliced)
4 watermelon radishes (treat them as you would carrots. Totally optional, btw.)
1 head of Romanesco (washed thoroughly to remove loopers and cut into florets)
1-2 cups haricort verts (stem ends removed, snap them half if you absolutely must)
4 cloves of garlic (or 2 shallots) peeled and minced
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoons white wine
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400 °F.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic or shallots with the olive oil, white wine vinegar, white wine, Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine carrots, fennel, romanesco and haricort verts. (Or whatever vegetables your garden has decided to provide)
  4. Toss the vegetables with the prepared vinaigrette. Arrange vegetables on 2 cookie sheets.
  5. Cover pan with foil and roast vegetables for 15 minutes, swapping racks halfway through the cooking time.
  6. Uncover and roast, turning occasionally for 10 minutes.
  7. Switch pans and roast until vegetables are tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thanks, Trump.

Because everything that goes wrong from now on, from OMG-that-hurt medical tests to the Hurricane’s tempers, to snow falling on my pea shoots and greens (following a week of 70-degree days and the balmiest February this Northerner has ever experienced), it’s the President’s fault.

Logical? With the exception of taking “science” out of the EPA’s mission statement no, it’s not entirely logical, but I need a scapegoat. And what’s a better target for my ire than a carrot-colored narcissist with a lot of power who actually hates science, wants make healthcare even crappier (and probably more painful) than it already is, and who will likely make it even harder for those who suffer from mental illnesses to obtain care.

Anyhoo, if you’re still reading after that little tirade, well, cheers.

February Seeding, Nashville Raised Bed Gardening
Alien fingers and February sowing.

Back in February, I needed some optimism. I needed to feel dirt under my alien nails (thanks, iPhone). I needed to forget myself. But I think I jumped the gun. Here’s hoping my darling greens and pea shoots aren’t disqualified for the season. After waking to snow flurries (and, briefly, a very happy Hurricane) I’ve tucked them in, under a layer of sheets and straw. But the forecast calls for a few nights in the mid-20s.

I’m not entirely optimistic about anything anymore.


Basil in a Ball Jar: Why Didn’t I Think of This Sooner?

It’s no secret that POD’s best ROI comes in the form of its abundant herb garden and that sticker shock at the grocery store is an actual thing come February. Our garden may be tiny, but it’s mighty.

So basil. We miss it so. It’s nowhere to be found at the Kroger and a wee wilty stem of the stuff sets a cook back at least $3 at the local organic place. Add that to a recent trip to the Home Depot for a light fixture we couldn’t find, rope that no one was available to cut, hooks that don’t exist, and air filters that were out of stock resulted in this near-genius idea:

Basil in a Ball jar
Basil in a Ball jar


Basil in a Ball Jar. Oh, yeah. Not an earth-shattering or a particularly new idea, but duh! Instead of shelling out $8-12 for a kit, the Hurricane and I shook off our frustrations, grabbed a bag of dirt (which, miraculously, they had in stock) hurried home, dusted off a few canning jars, sniffed the Sharpies, and broke open the seeds.

Dirt+1/2c water+seeds+sunny sill = 10 days later and we have basil and cilantro seedlings! Huzzah!

Making Plans: Bed 3

4×8 Raised Bed Garden Map

Surely, this is a huge mistake. 2016’s tomatoes were incredible, amazing, prolific, and enduring. And honestly, I didn’t do a thing. Stakes collapsed, proving entirely insufficient for the task, the previous year’s wildflower offspring snuck up between the vines and I didn’t have the heart to stop them, and I watered when I remembered. Fruits were smushed by the alley’s traffic but it was totally fine because there were plenty more on the vine. Tomato-devouring squirrels lived in fear (or died by the dozen). I’m pretty sure the garden cat did more for the tomatoes this year than I did.

Happily, tomato-devouring squirrels lived in fear (or died by the dozen). I’m pretty sure the garden cat did more for the tomatoes this year than I did.

garden cat gets the squirrel

This year, however, we’ve got big things in store for our tomatoes.

Bed 3 will feature a purpose-built tomato support system, a first for POD. In addition to Jelly Bean, Easy Sauce, Orange Whopper, and a volunteer (which we’re sure to have), we’ll plant a few basil plants and marigolds.

raised bed garden plan

Making Plans: Bed 2

The Usual Suspects: Corn, Beans, & Muskmelon

Nothing to see here, folks. This bed spells summer.

First sowing of beans: May 1
Corn: May 1
Pepper Seedlings: May 1

  • Note to self about peppers. So, in a marathon session of online seed ordering, I ordered Gurney’s California Wonder peppers. Not really thinking about the fact that they’re SEEDS, not plants. And while I love the idea of growing peppers from seed –and the magic of seeds, in general — our tiny house isn’t the best place to cultivate seedlings. Our little home is a dangerous vortex of clumsy cats, a demanding Hurricane, poorly positioned windows, and too-much-to-do-to-little-time-disorder. It’s enough that I manage to keep a kid and three cats alive, let alone seedlings. Anyhoo, I digress. So that May 1 thing is a loose guideline. The Hurricane and I are going to make seed germination a cool science thing this spring and she’s in charge of keeping them alive. Not that she knows that yet. Plan on an early to mid-February seeding session.

Beans: May 1 (or earlier, weather depending. It’s been, like, 70 degrees, for 3 days. In January. But hey, Global Warming is just a thing scientists cooked up to get funding. No biggie. Nothing to cry about here.

Cucumbers: This year we hit Gurney’s for our seeds and sets. Just not super happy with Burpee’s last year — plant sets arrived late and battered and the cucumbers succumbed pretty immediately to blight.

Melon: Here’s hoping the Li’l Sweet Hybrid is amazing, because we need melons to work it this year. We need a money maker.


Making Plans: Bed 1

Making Plans (POD Style): Bed 1

I’m pretty sure the Russians are going to be taking over the Kroger by the time spring rolls around, so January feels like a great time to get my head straight and garden plan on.4x8 Raised Bed Garden Map

It’s a brand new world, good garden people. As I type, a grand garden shed is being erected in the back 40 (more on that later) with plenty of room for tools and just enough room for out-of-towners.

We’re expanding to four, count ’em FOUR, 4×8 beds this spring which means all sorts of fun. Undoubtedly, I’m being over-ambitious here, but hey, a gardener’s gotta’ dream. The first bed features early spring goodies. Nothing terribly earth-shattering in this particular bed, other than one last (I swear) attempt at growing something in the brassica family.


After suffering a series of catastrophic cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts failures over the years (thanks for being so dependable, cabbage loopers and stink bugs, you’re the best!), I swore I was done. Then the Endurer hit me with puppy eyes and we’re giving romanesco a shot. We haven’t seen one of these fractal beauties since fleeing the East Coast.

I thought Nashville was the next “It” city. Come on y’all, get with the program.