Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My own garden

One foible of living in a city  - especially a big city (Philadelphia has about 1.5 million people!) with a population density of something like 14,000 people per square mile - is gardening space. Fortunately, Philadelphia has a lot of community gardens, so some people can scratch that particular itch to a certain extent. But I want my own garden. And I got one!

I know it doesn't look like much!
I've been given permission to have my way with this disused, rather shady backyard  about a block from where I am currently living. There IS a yard at my current residence, but who knows how long I will be here? And even though I will not be living at this garden, nor own it, I have had a degree of autonomy there so far that I could not get at home. Also, I could move from where I am to anywhere in the neighborhood and it would make no difference to this garden. One thing gardens need is more than just a season; this way, I can get that.

 I've been working at the garden when the weather (and mood) permits, so it looks more like this now.

My housemate Bob, who has worked on clearing this backyard in the past and who hooked me up with the possibility of it, cut down the tree in the back of the garden and has been chopping it up for firewood for the garden's planned fire pit. The brick walkway was laid by one of the owners and their tenant several years ago - I simply uncovered it. I have been doing a fair amount of excavation.
And I've done even more since this photo was taken.
The plan? A somewhat shady garden with some organic vegetable and herb growing. Something to get me some exercise, get me some fresh food, get the kid a safe space to play in and a nice place for people to hang out around a fire pit.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Painting a tree + kid

While the kid was at preschool today I started an oil painting of a photograph I took of her and a tree in the neighborhood park. I took the photo with the intention of painting it - I was fascinated by the colors and texture of the bark - and of course, V. got in several of the shots. When I reviewed them later, i found that I really liked the composition of one of them. So my tree painting became a tree and kid painting, after all. I paint in sessions - spurts, I guess. It's difficult to do it when the kid is home, so when she is a preschool I paint. Today was Session 1, and hopefully soon, there will be a Session 2.

Raw beginning of Session 1
I like to take photographs of the paintings I do as I go as a way to gain perspective. It looks different in a photograph on the computer screen. This is sometimes good, sometimes bad. It helps me find the adjustments I need to make and also, alas, to know when to stop for the day because it's getting worse, not better.
A little progress
I should have stopped here for the day.
But I went on.
I hung it on my wall where I think V. won't touch it, but where I will see it so that I don't just back burner it and never finish it. I'm already itching to work on it some more, but the kid is home now (and literally on my back as I type this!) so I will have to wait until she is asleep... and hopefully I have the energy to not simply join her in slumberland.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stovetop bread

I'm finding myself in the unusual position lately of not having a functional oven, and having no realistic hope in sight of it ever being repaired. This is a real shame, because I like to bake.

So this morning I experimented with making stove top bread. Yesterday, I started a batch of yeast dough, and let it sit overnight. To say it rose in this sub-freezing weather in this inadequately heated old leviathan of a house would be an exaggeration. It moved a bit, like it wanted to rise, (this yeast is fresh!) but it was really just too cold. Next time, I'm going to have to strategize a bit about where it can sit that is a bit warm... where ever that is!
I made the pieces of dough into palm-sized patties and fried them in butter. Which was my second mistake, other than the rising issue, because they turned out too thick. Next time I'm rolling them out.

At least there was good pan that didn't stick!
Not that V. minded. She was more than prepared to eat the dough as it was, and even ate some of the finished product, provided it was slathered in apple butter. However, I think this little kitchen helper will be much more pleased with the next batch.
"Yum! Tastes just like unsalted play dough!"