Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Alive!

We have been pretty busy lately doing non-photo worthy things. It hasn't helped the computer is sick. We have been running, hanging out, and generally enjoying summer. The concrete patio table is almost finished, stay tuned for pictures of that. Sam ran with her girls on the run team last Saturday while I was in St. Louis at a baseball game. So things that keep changing without much of our assistance is the garden. We have started eating radishes, spinach, and lettuce from the garden.
Even with the week or so of wet weather the tomatoes are getting big. In our current hot humid weather they are going about 6 inches a day. Yesterday I saw that the Romas are blooming so tomatoes aren't far away.

The bush beans have some little ones. The second planting will be all blue beans because I like the color.

The peppers really want some warm weather. I planted marigolds around the garden to help keep the bugs down. I can't say that it is or isn't working though it is nice to have some color.

Peas are climbing. It is pretty cool to see how fast they grow, we are at about 6 inches a day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Journey Towards Self Sufficiency

Ok maybe not completely self sufficient, but we are going to be up to our ears in tomatoes and peppers if it warms up. I have been doing urban gardening research and reading a few interesting blogs to inspire me in the midst of the cold rainy weather we are having. Although designed for commercial farmers, the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture has lots of good information. Last year I sat on a community panel for them and met some very interesting, enthusiastic people. The other blog I have been reading lately provides some perspective from London. While our yard/garden is relatively small around here, it is huge compared with true urban gardeners.
Last weekend we transferred a few of the last tomatoes and peppers to pots. The first tomatoes planted in the garden got a little sunburned, but are starting to recover.

The summer squash, cucumbers, and these peas are up and heading towards the trellis. The salad box is looking good. First planting lettuce and spinach are coming along and the second planting is out of the ground. The radishes are getting close and the second planting is in the ground.

The first radishes out of the ground at 41 days. These are still a little small and will be ready in a week or so.

It was a very successful year for starting plants. These are all our extras. If you are looking for plant starts send me an email. We have heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, and hot peppers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Boulevard Pilsner Wins International Beer Competition

Here's the scene. Imagine it is the first part a June, weather is warm, and you are drinking a most refreshing beer on the patio at a tiki party. Your coconut bra and grass skirt are fitting well, you are looking good, with nothing but time and icy cold beer. What beer would you be drinking? That was the question posed to our panel of judges Saturday night at the inaugural Roe Circle Official Beer of Summer 1st Annual Beer Throwdown Battle Royal. It was a highly scientific process to determine the best summer beer and to determine the selection for the upcoming tiki party.
The competition was a single-blind randomized single elimination bracket-style tournament that put a selection of summer beers in a head-to-head battle royal for the hearts, minds, and most importantly the taste buds of the people. How might you ask did the lowly, local boulevard pilsner reign supreme? What was the competition? Alright here's how it went down. Let's meet the players.
What qualifies as a summer beer? While I love a good stout or porter as much as the next person, dark, heavy, float a spoon on the head type of beers that keep you warm in the winter do not fit the bill this time of year. A summer beer must:
1. Be crisp clean and refreshing.
2. Be able to quench the fire from a variety of spicy foods encountered from the backyard grill.
3. Be able to provide an evening's worth of drinkability, should certain revelers encounter a "finish the keg" situation.
The interesting thing is that one type of beer fits these criteria and is available in many forms. Pilsner style lager originated in the Czech republic and was quickly adopted by their German neighbors. As the Germans sought to spread cheer around the work, they brought along the delicious and refreshing pilsner. In the US that landed of course in Milwaukee where many of the typical domestic beers originated. However, a few Germans looking for a sun tan landed south of the border in Mexico and beyond. So yes, most of the Mexican summer beers we think of, owe their heritage back to the German pilsner. This is also why traditional Mexican music sounds like a German polka, because that's what it is.
So there we were in the liquor store selecting from a variety of tasty summer beers, which all turned out to pilsner lagers.
On to the competition. The rules were simple, unmarked beers were placed in clear glasses and provided to the beer commissioners. Similar beers were grouped together for the first round. The beer commissioners were allowed to talk, discuss, argue, beg, or whatever else was necessary until a consensus was reached to send the winning beer to the next round. As this was deciding a keg beer, no fruit modification was allowed. Realistic palate cleansers of sour cream and cheddar or BBQ potato chips were provided. The brackets were single elimination except for one losers slot for the highest ranked loser.

Round 1: Corona vs. Pacifico

Pacifico was light and refreshing. Corona had a little bit more bite, enough so that a lime was suggested to improve the flavor. We had some pretty experienced beer commisioners. Keep in mind these were blind testing. But, beer to beer the Pacifico was smoother than the Corona.

Round 1: Boulevard Pilsner vs. New Belgium Blue Paddle
Both pilsners are summer staples on the circle. Both had high marks, but unanimously Boulevard Pilsner won.

Round 1: Miller High Life vs. Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus
High life is a staple on the circle as well. Since there are a number of flavored summer beers out, Sam picked out her choice for a flavored beer. This was easy to distinguish. The idea of a keg of flavored beer was hard to imagine and the High Life was the easy winner.

Round 1: Modelo vs. Corona (loser)
Since Corona was the top ranked loser, it went head to head with Modelo to fill out the round 1 brackets. Again, Corona lost and Modelo advanced to round 2.

Round 2: Pacifico vs. Modelo
Round 2 got a little tougher and the decisions were slower and more hard fought. Pacifico was smoother than the Modelo and in the end triumped.

Round 2: Boulevard Pilsner vs. Miller High Life
This was the first two glass decision. Both were highly ranked and after two glasses our judges couldn't make a decision. So, unlike normal tournaments both advanced to a three way third round.

Round 3: Boulevard Pilsner vs. Miller High Life vs. Pacifico
The point behind the unexpected round 3 was to narrow the field to two. When these beers were head to head the judges couldn't make a decision. In a three way battle, Pacifico went down easily.

Championship Match

Miller High Life vs. Boulevard Pilsner

The judges had a number of points to describe these two. High Life was crisp and refreshing and "I could drink a lot of these is a short amount of time." But, the depth of flavor of the Boulevard ruled the day. Unexpectedly the local Boulevard Pilsner came out on top.

So if you are trying to find the perfect beer, all you have to do is set up a backyard battle royal. Or take our word for it and pickup some Boulevard Pilsner.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Some More Chair Press at Diffa

Last weekend our dining room chairs were featured in an arrangement at Diffa KC. Diffa is the Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids. Various design organizations arrange tables at the Hyatt. Friday was the table hop and taste where local restaurants had stations around the exhibit hall. Our chairs were in the KC Home Magazines area, which had a Mad Men theme with TV trays.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dig for Victory

This weekend involved lots and lots digging and planting. It was a nice weekend to spend outside getting things in order. Although we will be spending the better part of the next week with black fingernails.
The wind and storms this week brought down another big branch in the back yard. Luckily these keep missing the house or anything else too important. This one even fell on a bunch of weeds on the berm, so it prompted me to pull a few to keep them under control.
I finished the second planter for the side deck. Since these weigh ~150lbs each, oh high thermal mass concrete, the bottom half is filled with foam to reduce the amount of dirt we needed. Sam planted an annual topiary mix to block the air conditioner.

Horsetail reeds got planted in the front. Eventually they will create a screen for the side yard.
So cool, very prehistoric looking.
We finished planting the rest of the garden. In the five planters there are tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, basil, carrots, beets, leeks, summer squash, cucumbers, peas, bush beans, broccoli, radishes, spinach, and lettuce. I put the tomatoes in right before a hot day and some got sunburned. We have plenty of backups plants should a couple not make it.
There are plenty of tomatoes and peppers that will have to find another home. The hoop house plastic is now rolled back to allow some sun in and help shade the lettuce.