Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bloom whether you are planted or not.

As a person who learned early on that "putting down roots" can be a rather nebulous concept and inevitably leads to the painful task of yanking those roots, staying in a house long enough to plant things in the ground has taken on exaggerated importance for me. I thought I'd be afforded some degree of stability in my current house in East Sacramento, to which I moved three years ago. Three years isn't bad, but plans changed.

The divorce that brought me to this house as a middle aged woman was soon followed not by 10 cats, but the boyfriend. Who knew?!!! The boyfriend soon became the fiance. Still is! My one and his two kids are grown or nearly so, so we could make this little 2 br/1 ba 744 sq. ft. "dollhouse" work for the two of us. Except we are not dolls. And we've grown accustomed to things like cupboards... and dining rooms. By Manhattan apartment standards, I suppose this place is huge, but one of the benefits of living in Sacramento is affordability and spaciousness of housing. That game room and exercise room we've talked about is not just crazy talk to a Sacramentan.

I was initially very excited about the prospect of tending every square inch of this little urban property, but when my initial euphoria wore off and circumstances steered me toward remaining a renter instead of buying the place like I'd planned, I found myself not wanting to garden here. At all. Goodbye garden mojo.

When you don't know how long you'll be in a home but want to garden, the notion of growing everything in pots becomes the next logical coping mechanism. Having done the pot thing before in this hot-summer climate where containers often require water twice a day from July-September... I ended up on a gardening strike instead.

The strike felt right for this home & garden limbo state I'd found myself floating around in. The problem is, I'd get swept up in a momentary urge to plant, but it often came at the wrong time. Like last spring, when I wasn't going to plant a summer veggie garden. Then did. Too late. I got nada for my efforts.

Thinking I'd be in my "real home" by now, I almost didn't plant a summer garden this year. But the seasonal urge struck at the right time, and I was realizing that I might be in this house longer than I'd anticipated since my man and I had several logistical hurdles to jump before we'd be able to start house hunting. I'm happy to report I got my tomatoes in. Tomatoes were followed by 'Gold Rush' zucchini,  a few peppers, and most recently, cucumbers and Chinese long beans. I know! Root city, right?! I'm done planting veggies, as far as I know today.

My 2012 tomato line-up

My first little 'Indigo Apple' is already coloring up!

Being a renter also means I can't prune or... God forbid... cut down the giant sycamore raining twigs and pollen on my morning-light-robbed backyard. So I garden where I can. Even if it's also where I park my car.

Nor can I get rid of the ankle-breaking chunky bark surrounding the backyard tree. And there will be no tearing up the patch of driveway preventing me from screening my backyard from the neighbor whose windows peer into my yard.

Szechuan Green Bean Recipe


  • 1 pound Chinese longbeans (also called yardlong beans or just longbeans)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
  • 2 scallions (spring onions, green onions), white parts only
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Pepper to taste, optional
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, or as needed


Wash the longbeans, drain thoroughly, and trim the tops and bottoms.
Cut the longbeans on the diagonal into slices approximately 2 inches long.
Chop the garlic, ginger and white part of the scallions.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the longbeans and stir-fry until they start to shrivel or "pucker" and turn brown (5 - 7 minutes). Remove the long beans and drain in a colander or on paper towels.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the wok on high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the chili paste and stir-fry for a few more seconds until aromatic. Add the longbeans and the remaining ingredients. Mix together and serve.

So, damn it, if I'm going to be in this house a bit longer, I might as well be a bit more securely tethered to the earth here.