I’m looking forward to getting into some history and biography from my library, but since summer is winding down and I’ve been in the garden more than usual this year, I’m choosing The One Block Feast for my next book. I learn from the introduction that Sunset Magazine’s campus is a “Lab of Western Living.” It is about 5 acres and on it the staff gardens, raises chickens and bees, erects garden structures, makes wine and cheese and beer–it sounds idyllic. The Sunset Magazine building is even designed by icon of the ranch-style, architect Cliff May, who designed the Mission-like Robert Mondavi Winery.
The editors of Sunset make it sound so easy, but from experience I know that composting, growing plants from seedlings and irrigating is not so much about the labor (although there is a lot, especially at the beginning) as it is about vigilance. You have to remember to cut up large pieces (such as branch clippings) to add them to the compost. You can’t add weeds with seeds or meat scraps or cat poop. You have to water your seedlings every day, but not too much. You have to irrigate, and the systems seem to break down with leaks or broken timers. In other words, you can’t go on vacation and expect everything to be peachy when you get home. No wonder farmers never go anywhere.
There’s straightforward information in One Block Feast, as well as inspiring photos and drawings of super tidy garden layouts. Since I keep a small flock of chickens, I read the section on chickens and eggs carefully and it jives with my experiences over the last few years. They raised their hens from chicks, which is quite labor intensive and requires indoor space and special supplies; we’ve just purchased grown hens from a feed store and replaced them as predators (hawks, foxes) have taken a hen out here and there.
Of the summer recipes, the purslane and mint salad was most surprising, since I consider both weeds and am always pulling them out of our garden. Another appealing recipe is the pattypan squash with an egg baked into the middle of it. Delicious and adorable.
Note: Since I don’t drink alcohol, I skipped the beer making and wine making sections throughout.