What I’m Growing this Winter

Rucola Coltivata sel Ortolani K

Winter in our Mediterranean climate is when we grow cool season vegetables. It’s my favorite time of year here. The hills turn green, the smog blows away and we have that phenomenon called “rain” (hopefully).

As usual, I’m planting seeds from an Italian seed company, Franchi. Here’s what I’m growing:

Arugula “Coltivata Sel. Ortolani”
One can never have enough arugula. It’s my favorite vegetable. This year I’m trying Franchi’s arugula “Coltivata Sel. Ortolani.” Franchi sells both “cultivated” and “wild” varieities of arugula (confusing, since the “wild” varieties are actually cultivated). Cultivated varieties tend to be milder and less sharp in taste. I like them both. Franchi highlights certain varieties by featuring them as “Selezione Speciale” which is why I chose this particular arugula.


Chicory “Pan di Zucchero”
I chose this chicory on the recommendation of Franchi’s West Coast distributor The Heirloom Seed Store, who had a booth at this year’s Heirloom Exposition. The owners of the Heirloom Seed Store, who run a farm in the Santa Cruz area, raved about this particular chicory. It’s a large-leafed variety that can be used in a salad or cooked.


Radicchio and Chicory Mix: “Misticanza di Radicchi”
I’ve never gone wrong with Franchi’s salad mixes. The best damn salads I’ve ever had in my life have been made with these mixes.


Mache “Valeriana Verte de Cambrai”
This is my first attempt at growing this cold tolerant weedy vegetable.


Portuguese cabbage
I’m usually hesitant to grow cabbage due to pest problems. But I thought I’d give this unusual variety, that does not form a head, just for the novelty factor. It’s the primary ingredient in a traditional Portuguese soup called caldo verde, or “green broth.” This cabbage variety is also heat tolerant as it’s from southern Portugal which has a climate similar to ours. I’m hoping the open leaves don’t provide as much slug habitat as normal varieties.

If you grow during the winter (or are in the Southern Hemisphere) let us know what you’re planting this fall.

On Shoddy Workmanship


An engraving by William Morris. Note the skunk proofing.

You’re in a hurry. You’re frustrated and impatient. You say to yourself, “I don’t really need to secure this skunk proofing, my vegetables will be fine.” You might call it shoddy workmanship. I call it half-ass-itis. I’d say it’s the number one sin of the DIYer and I always know when I’m doing it.

There are those whose personality tends towards careful and elegant craftsmanship. You’ve probably met such a person. They craft their own musical instruments and win the blue ribbon at the county fair for their perfectly textured quince jam. I’m not that person (I’m more like this NSFW video). But we have freedom of choice. That’s what makes us human. We can change.

I had a rude reminder of my shoddy workmanship the other night when skunks breached poorly secured bird netting that protected a newly planted bed of vegetables. But at least I can do a better job of securing my skunk proofing as a start. Step by step, I vow to pay more attention to details. Otherwise they’ll be no home grown vegetables this winter.

Craftsmanship is not to be confused with perfectionism. A craftsperson is not afraid to make mistakes, to fail and to learn from setbacks. But to cut corners and know you’re taking an easy shortcut is to fall into halfassitis mode.

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Morris’ craftsmanship was a reaction to the newly industrialized world. I can’t think of a better role model for countering halfassitis thinking.

Do you suffer from halfassitis or are you a detail person? Comments!

Shock the Worm


From the November 1932 issue of Modern Mechanix, an idea from an era when people were a lot more cavalier about electricity. Personally, I prefer the safer worm grunting method. Via Modern Mechanix.

Update: Reader Don pointed out the similarity of this idea to the plot of a 1970s horror movie in which a downed power line causes a upward migration of killer worms. Here’s the trailer:

Saturday Linkages: Stealth, Mules and Opiates


Stealth Pickup Camper http://frommoontomoon.blogspot.com/2013/10/stealth-pickup-camper.html …

Rocket Stove Heating http://www.notechmagazine.com/2013/10/rocket-stove-heating-systems.html …

Conservation You Can Taste http://garynabhan.com/i/archives/2327 

The Very Different Nomadic Lifestyle Of John Sears And His Three Mules… http://theflyingtortoise.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-very-different-nomadic-lifestyle-of.html …

Restaurants in China spike meals with opiates to keep diners coming back? http://barfblog.com/2013/10/restaurants-in-china-spike-meals-with-opiates-to-keep-diners-coming-back/ …

Okay, Then, It’s a “War on Cars” http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/okay-fine-its-war/Content?oid=9937449 …

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