Photo by Flickrite Kelly Sue DeConnick

If you are familiar with this San Francisco favorite, you know there is no definitive recipe other than starting with the catch of the day — whatever that may be. And tomatoes. Then you could add sausage. Or not. And serve it on rice. Or spaghetti. Or as a soup. In other words, Cioppino is a grab-bag, just like this post. I’m hoping, if I throw in all the bits and pieces, nuggets and chunks I’ve been collecting over the past few days, it will all turn out beautiful and tasty. We’ll see.

First up: I’m having a blast with the Wine Country Wildflowers field guide I told you about in yesterday’s post. That’s the one that wisely categorizes things by color. I see a blue flower and I just flip to the blue chapter and scan through the glossy pictures until I find a match. The book also wisely puts the common name in big bold letters and the Latin names in little subordinate italics. Don’t get me wrong, I love Latin. Took years of it. But it just seems to take the fun out of flowers. Say I told you I had some nice stands of Liliacae, Mimmulus guttatus and Cynoglossum grande. You might yawn. If I told you they were Diogenes Lantern, Sticky Monkey Flower and Hound’s Tongue. Well, now you’ve got the picture.

Behold the Hound's Tongue. Named, I'm assuming, for the leaves.

See the resemblance?

Yes, I’m forming a Chapter of The Campaign for Real Plant Names. And I’m appointing myself President. Consider Henderson’s Shooting Star. I don’t know who Henderson is, but I love his flower. Apparently so did California Natives. They roasted the leaves and roots for dinner.

My wildflower book calls this "a perky little charmer". Its other name is just as descriptive: Mosquito Bills.

Thus ends the teaching portion of our program and we move to the question period. Where I ask the questions and, hopefully, you give me answers. You’ve probably guessed that the topic is going to be my misadventures with vegetables. So Question One: how do you tell when carrots are ready for harvest? Do I dig them up to check? If they aren’t ready, do I replant them? How do carrots feel about this?

I uncovered a little bit just for a peek. They aren't very orange. Not ready?

Similar question with Fava Beans, which I’m growing, not for beans, but as a nitrogen fixer and green manure. All my gardening books say they’ve “fixed” when the nodules on the roots turn pink. So, I pulled one up. Not ready.

I quickly replanted it, but I think my Fava will like this as little as the carrot did. There must be a better way.

Next question: how does anyone grow bulbs outdoors? Mine are dug up and chomped down by varmints as soon as I put them in the ground. That’s with a fenced raised bed covered with netting. And two terriers on patrol.

The remains of the feast.

Okay, bored with showing my ignorance. How about a quick check of this week’s highlights at Two Terrier Vineyards?

John the Baptist found the tracks of a Bobcat and a baby Bobcat. So I guess Bob the Bobcat will have to be rechristened Roberta. I rushed to take a picture of the track, but two terriers stomped all over the site before I could focus.

Cats walk with retracted claws. So I think this is the right print. It was the only one without toenail marks.

The Barn Swallows are getting set to build nests in the eaves of the barn. One little bird dude decided there was an evil interloper living in my wing mirrors.

I had to park 100 yards away before this little guy decided we were out of his personal space.

On a culinary note, I finally tried the American Bison meat that Sonoma Market has been pushing. Yeah, yeah, lower cholesterol, less fat. But what got me to buy was their great new slogan. And I’m always a sucker for a good tagline.

Buffalo: The Meat Americans were meant to eat.

The verdict: delicious! Especially when served with Sonoma produce (obviously not my own.)

So that’s it. Everything’s in the pot and hopefully coalesced into some sort of post.

Now be vewy, vewy quiet. We're hunting varmints.