When Life Hands You Lemons…


Accidentally harvested a handful of my precious Meyer lemons from the tree earlier this morning while clearing a branch from a nearby tree. They are delicious and I only get a small number of them each year, so I tend to treat them like gold. Will have to make something special with them…

Yes, also, there’s a metaphor somewhere in there for other things going on, so…

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

A Present

rose_animation_jan_2014My mum has been visiting for the holidays. For her recent birthday I decided that instead of making a birthday card from a photo of one the roses from my garden (as I usually do) I would make her a drawing/painting of one on a card instead. The paper of the card has a ridged texture and I imagined that this would be an interesting component of the final piece. Using a photo of one of my roses as reference on screen in front of me, I sketched onto the paper [...] Click to continue reading this post

Automatic Beans

self_shelling_beansSo here’s a nifty thing. The beans on the left are a sort of speckled butter bean (or lime bean, if you prefer) that are pretty automatic. Each year, since I first planted them long ago, I get a lot of new bean plants appearing in the patch that the last ones grew in. Basically, the beans tend to [stay on] be left on the vine until they dry and then they pop open and replant themselves, ultimately, since I never find all of the ones that fall on to the ground. This is great, since it means that I never have to actually plant the things again… they just show up and start spreading. I need only put some stakes and climbing frames out, and each year they will just cover it with vines and new beans. This year I discovered another automatic feature. […] Click to continue reading this post

Late Arrivals

20131103-074202.jpgThe garden is quite dormant right now, after a busy Summer. But not as dormant as I thought. I spotted these a week ago, to my surprise, and gave them a bit of extra time. Today, I harvested them, mostly because they are close enough to ready, partly because Fluffy is very active in all trees outside, gathering Fall finds, and anything round seems fair game for being picked, and then mostly discarded. (Because of a fortuitous alliance with Flitty, which can raid my traps for nuts without being caught, annoyingly, Fluffy is difficult to control right now.)

Anyway. A pleasant arrival in the kitchen…

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

When Life Hands You Tomatoes…

… make chutney!


So the garden has been yielding a great deal in the tomato department, as you saw from earlier posts. There’s been quite the fig surplus too, but more on that later. Last night – late last night – I decided to work on another food item that allows me to use them up and save this glorious condensation of Summer for a later time. I decided to make a tomato chutney. Well, I’m making two. I wanted to take the yellower tomatoes to make one with a lighter colour and flavour, and I will (later tonight perhaps?) make another, darker one with red tomatoes (with a little pepper from the garden for warmth).

A chutney is simple. It’s a bit like a savoury jam but even easier. I halved the little yellow pear variety tomatoes, and chopped a yellow onion – about half as much in volume as I had tomato. (Some extra tomatoes showed up late – I found a few green [...] Click to continue reading this post

Red, Gold, and Green

red_gold_green_july_2013_2Happy 4th of July, those of you who are celebrating it. I should have brought you Red, White, and Blue, but those are not the colours prevailing in the garden right now. Also, I don’t know of any blue tomato varieties. There’s a bit of a bonanza of tomatoes right now, I am pleased to report. All that time spent composting is paying off again, perhaps. A small part of the harvest is in the photograph above, showing six of the varieties in the garden this year. (Click for a larger view.) I don’t recall all [...] Click to continue reading this post

Lattice Experiments

... and out it came, just as I finished hand-whipping some cream for an accompaniment. Hurrah! Apologies in advance to people who clicked over here because from the title they were expecting a post on discrete approaches to quantum field theory such as lattice QCD. This is mostly about lattice cherry pie, which, you’ll perhaps admit, is at least as interesting. Best to use the ones that have a slight sour edge to the taste, in my opinion… not too overly sweet.

Yes, it is time for an Asymptotia visit to the kitchen. Sunday I had a little dinner gathering for five, which called for an afternoon of cooking. I took some pictures, but in the end the set is incomplete since I got distracted with the important business of helping serve everything nice and hot and on time. So the main focus will be the pie (shown at the top so you don’t have to wait – the photo makes it look at lot darker than it actually is. It is not burnt!), since that’s all I have a complete set for. The [...] Click to continue reading this post

Baby Harvest

The many squash plants in the garden this season all started a rather cluttered rush of fruiting. Some of them stalled in their growth, and overall it seemed a good idea to remove these small ones and some others, generally thinning the plants a bit to allow them to focus their energy resources into fewer squashes. A bonus of this procedure… an early Summer squash banquet!


Earlier this week I made a very tasty bean stew with some beans harvested from last [...] Click to continue reading this post

Late but Still Great

Here’s a rather pleasant surprise from just outside my front door.

This started out as a “volunteer” tomato plant. It just showed up in a patch of soil somewhere, and so I planted it in the front garden and left it, occasionally watering during a particularly dry spell…

Now it is very late in the Fall, and it is producing some tomatoes! It’s not a particularly interesting variety, but nice to see all the same, this late in the year. (And to taste…)

Because of the unusual warmth of the Fall, the main line of tomato plants in the vegetable garden (that were quite prolific during the Summer – see some [...] Click to continue reading this post

They’re Back!

…And this time they mean business…

That wonderful giant cactus plant in the back garden has done its trick of suddenly producing a host of lovely large flowers again. (Click to enlarge photo, and see below for links to earlier years’ posts on the very same phenomenon).

I saw them Tuesday morning, and I think they’ll be gone very soon (by Wednesday or the day after).

So lovely, so massive… and so sad that they last for so short a time.

But such is life. Enjoy and revel in things while they last, and then move on, holding the essence of it close inside you.


-cvj Click to continue reading this post


Little cherry sized tomatoes always seem to be the ones that survive the extremes most readily. At least in my experience. The many varieties (see a previous post) that are out there in the garden have been suffering a lot in the extended heat wave of late, and although more or less healthy, don’t flower, and hence there’s no fruit. Not so for these red cherries. They just keep on giving. (I took this photo near the end of August, when I [...] Click to continue reading this post

Red, Gold, and Green

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, the garden continues to produce tasty things. (I had to sneak back from Aspen for a few days for some meetings, and a couple of business-social events…) There are still several varieties of tomatoes producing, and I got to spend some time building new stake supports for the various plants as they are much more extended and weighed down than just a couple of weeks ago…

There’s a runaway giant flying saucer squash, ready for turning into something [...] Click to continue reading this post

Tomato Bounty

I stopped off in LA after Amsterdam, to recharge and to just be home for a bit. The garden is now bursting with tomatoes of various types, I’m happy to report, and you only need to wait a day or two in order to pick a variety pack such as the lovely one above. (Click for larger view.) I brought a bunch of them to Aspen with me, and continue to work through them, in cooking, sandwiches like the ones I’m just about to eat for lunch, and so forth.

I’ve had none of the rodent problems with the tomatoes this year, since I [...] Click to continue reading this post

Containment Cube

No, not some geometrical artifact of immense power… It is the containment for my next batch of compost. Click for a larger view. I made it last year out of PVC pipes and chicken wire, and it was a huge success (see recent posts with pictures of the produce that has been appearing from that compost batch….) with one design flaw: It was a bit high so that digging in it to turn the forming compost over and so forth was tough on the back – I put my back out for days one time. So I’ve cut it down to a smaller height and now it [...] Click to continue reading this post


This is actually a picture from Saturday (click for larger view)… Several plants in the squash family are going crazy in the garden and producing fully mature tasty vegetables already! A friend of mine has suggested that the compost I produced in the last cycle (that everything is planted in) is somehow super-great for them. Maybe that has indeed helped. (See earlier posts, e.g., here and here, for more on making your own compost, how it works, and so forth, by the way…)

I’ve been running a bit late on posting things, so since then I’ve harvested some of these, and I took a few pictures. I’ll show them to you tomorrow!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Back to the Routine

I’ve finished my four weeks of back and forth between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. It was very rewarding, although it (of course) meant that I had to make several adjustments to my usual routine, putting aside a number of things (including and consistent work toward moving The Project forward). This is fine, as it was part of the plan to put things aside somewhat and focus on the visit. It meant an interesting process of trying to put most of my Los Angeles business (including teaching and any meetings, etc) into Monday and Friday as much as I could, and catching up with reading and lecture writing in the in-betweens, often on the three to three and a half hour journey on the train. (People universally assumed that I’d driven up, and were mostly surprised when I mention I took the train. One person even inquired as to whether I don’t have a car. I politely explained that I do, but I don’t feel compelled to drive it everywhere. One person could not understand how I would get to the train station in LA without a car. I explained there was a subway system… Others talked about how they never visit LA from Santa Barbara because they can’t get around without a car and the traffic is terrible… They prefer (in one or two examples related to me) to go all the way up to San Francisco where they can just leave the car and explore without it. I smiled politely and mentioned that you can do this in Los Angeles too. This had no effect on their belief system, as far as I can tell. I am constantly amazed at the incredibly limited images of Los Angeles that people hold in their heads. In all cases, we agreed that getting to work on the train was in fact a good thing. I explained, as a bonus, that I get over the business that the train takes twice as long as it should be simply pretending it is twice as great a distance than the 95 miles it actually is. This is true.)

So anyway, sad as it was to leave the KITP behind, with all the stimulating conversations, great talks to attend, friends old and new, and so forth, it is time to [...] Click to continue reading this post

Looking Back and Forth

Somehow after Wednesday I lost track of time, in a sense, in the natural course of having another very busy week. There were several things competing for time, and some of them may be of interest to you. (Left: Some lovely pink gladiolus flowers that have sprung up in my garden.) The Nobel Prizes kept coming, of course, with some very interesting winners announced. In addition to the ones I mentioned already in two earlier posts, I’ve got to find some people among our faculty who’ll be willing to spend 10 to 15 minutes making some informal remarks about the Who/What/Why aspects of the prize at one of two lunches I’ll be hosting in the coming weeks about the Nobel Prize. I’ve mentioned this before. It is an annual event I’ve tried to get going as part of the Dornsife Commons (formerly known as College Commons) series. I’ve locked in Physics and Peace, and want to get people for all the others. This year I know that if I have problems with Chemistry, I can step in if need be, although I’d rather not have to do that – I want to broaden participation, not do everything myself. Look out for those lunches (see here) and come along!

Speaking of doing everything myself, I’ve been continuing the weeks long struggle to get support, interest, and participation for the Science Film Competition I told you about earlier. Having spent a lot of time meeting with many faculty and other parties to build support and understanding, getting lots of faculty to make announcements (one time even coming down from Santa Barbara to campus to give a ten minute announcement in a class at the film school and going up again after!) and so forth – and thanks everyone who has helped! – I decided to amplify my focus on tackling [...] Click to continue reading this post

Fig Goodness

Ah. First morning back in LA, and I see that the fig tree at the front is under attack by lots of small birds. I managed to rescue some, picking a few maybe a day or two earlier than I’d prefer, for optimal flavour, but they’ll still be great. Of course, the ripe ones bursting their skins with flavour are wonderful.

I’ve left some of the half-eaten ones on as a distraction to the feathered visitors. The [...] Click to continue reading this post

Dark Red and Orange

These are lovely. The dark ones are very unusual, perhaps. They are Purple Russians, usually thought of alongside the Black Russian varieties that I think are usually more round. There’s a whole black tomato category in the tomato-growing world, and this is one of many. (Click for a larger view.) These were the second of the clusters of handsome green tomatoes in a previous post.

The garden continues to produce a variety of tasty things. These were from a little over a week ago. The downside is that one part of the garden is under attack from [...] Click to continue reading this post

Orange on the Table

One day a few days ago I decided to make a quick meal from some things I’d find in the garden: Two orange food items were available – some crookneck squash and a few small orange tomatoes. Excellent.

How did the meal take shape? Quickly, simply, and tastily.

I chopped an onion, diced the squashes, crushed a few cloves of garlic, and chopped a red tomato into small pieces too (the three tiny orange cherry toms were not enough). I also finely chopped a small piece of ginger. I heated a tablespoon or two of olive oil in my large deep (high-sided) frying pan (another All-Clad treasure), and [...] Click to continue reading this post

Little Green Courgette

(I think that perhaps Prince ought to write a song with this as the title. Hmmm…)

So to accompany the other types of squash that have begun to appear (see previous post), I’ve some courgettes (or zucchini) coming along nicely. It seems I have two plants of these this year (with a bit of leaf mould infection that I ought to see to), and so in the next few weeks I should have some nice additions to various meals…

Still to be unveiled are some Mystery Squash plants that I put into the soil a bit late. I grew them from some seeds that [...] Click to continue reading this post

Gourdy Goodness

Ok… So that was a bit unexpected. I was not expecting these when I planted them. Crookneck Summer squash.

I’ve got several of them coming along in three clusters… They look very much like tough, inedible gourds, and I imagine that they can be like that if picked at the wrong time. So I’ve picked a few small ones and the bigger one in the second photograph (below) and will see how they deal with being tossed into a stir-fry.

* * *

[...] Click to continue reading this post

‘Tis the Season

There are a lot of silly, ill-informed things said about Los Angeles, mostly in the form of lazy clichés. Sometimes said by people who are otherwise quite sensible, but the power and groove of a truism is hard to resist, even when it is an untrue one. One of them is that there are “no seasons” here. This is just a silly thing that people say in place of saying that they are used to seasons from a different climate and they have not taken the time to listen and watch for the march of the seasons that is evident here. (I think also that we have it amplified by popular culture that the standard symbols of the Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter cycle involving snow and red and gold leaf colours and bare trees and jack frost nipping at your nose and so forth are “the way things are supposed to be”.) A friend of mine has in her email signature the slogan “I have a life. It is just different from yours”, and so I will retool it here: “We have seasons. They are just different from yours.”

jasmine_in_bloomJust like anywhere else, the seasons wink or call (sometimes even shout) at you through certain combinations of colours, smells, temperatures, and so on. I think people miss a lot of cues in Los Angeles because they don’t get out of their cars and walk the streets very much. Even a few gardens or hedgerows passed along the way can show a lot about the mood of the season the city is in. For me, colours and smells are very big cues in Los Angeles, and there are times when large parts of the city seem to be dominated by a single plant’s smell or colour or sometimes both. For me, it is the Jasmine time of year now. This is when the night-blooming jasmine bushes (cestrum nocturnum, apparently) of the city all seem to work in concert and fill the air with a great scent, and lovely clumps of creamy [...] Click to continue reading this post