Monday, November 29, 2010
Until just before the freeze the arugula was providing salads aplenty and the mustard greens were prolific. But they have all faded and fallen. They'll be back though. Both are in well established spots that have been reseeding themselves for a couple of seasons, for an almost continuous harvest.
The Carrots made it through the cold and there are probably some beets I have overlooked. These are called Purple Haze, and they are sweet and delicious. Only a week ago they were trapped in the ground, frozen in place.
And although I miss the hens, I'm glad I didn't have to try and keep their coop warm and their water thawed during the cold snap.
And now the garden really does feel as if it is sleeping. But we aren't far from the shortest daylight of the year and after we turn that corner, around Christmas, the days will get longer, not by much each day, but still moving in the right direction. Seed catalogs will start to arrive in the mail and daydreams will be filled with what to plant next year. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but there you have it. It's a common strategy among gardeners during the winter.
Every fall I plan to put some bulbs in the ground for early spring color and life. I just got them last week. Just a little late. And I'll probably just put them in pots so I can enjoy them indoors. Hyacinths and Narcissus for color and fragrance.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
And so this, the overgrown zucchini, which turned out to be an acorn squash upon examination of the interior,
turned into this.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Here is an example of one of my annual traditions; growing a giant zucchini. I just let one of them go and see how big it gets. Pearl has kindly agreed to stand beside it to lend scale. I may carve this instead of a pumpkin this year. And hopefully I won't graduate up to growing gargantuan pumpkins.
I love to grow peppers, but there is no way I could consume all of them. I like to string them up into ristras and hang them in the kitchen, or a front door ornament.
And speaking of peppers, I found this beautiful produce on a recent visit to Montreal at the fabulous Marche Jean-Talon.
A visitor stops to rest on one of the zinnias.
Monday, October 4, 2010
I have a patch of strawberries in the backyard, in less than perfect soil. This patch has also been neglected and not thinned out. I planted 13 plants 2 years ago and there are hundreds now. It has been prolific, but the berries were smaller this year.
So, as I removed withering tomato plants and many pounds of rotting or slug infested tomatoes from the raised beds, I hatched the idea to move strawberry plants into their place. This will give the strawberry plants a fresh start in good soil with plenty of room to clone themselves. And it will cover the dirt during the wet and cold. I will also plant some cover crop or spinach or lettuce in between the strawberries.
When I need space for the summer plants again I can just remove enough strawberry plants to make a space. This will hopefully keep me on top of the thinning. And next year I'll have a bumper crop of these delicious, fragrant, Rainier berries. I like the idea of a plant that provides food and also multiplies itself, like garlic, or Jerusalm Artichokes.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Here are several at the bottom of this group shot, and one in the spotlight dance.
I've grown this variety previously, but not had much luck with it. I do love most of the tomatoes described as purple, dark, or black. They seem to have a real depth of flavor and good balanced acidity.
Among the other varieties I grew this year were Japanese Trifele, a gorgeous little pear shaped tom. Very prolific. Another called Polish Linguicia; a paste/sauce variety. The fruits on this plant are huge, but none are ripe yet. Also Aunt Ruby's German Green, which don't seem ripe when green, in fact they turn quite pink before they seem ready to eat. So maybe I didn't really get what was on the label. And Cuore di Bue, literally translated to Oxheart. These are big, beautiful pouch like tomatoes, but the yield has been disappointing; only a few pleated beach balls have appeared.
So that's the tomato roundup. A few weeks ago I didn't think we'd have anything but cherry tomatoes, but the bigger ones are ripening and I think we'll have good enough weather so that they won't all have to ripen on the kitchen counter.
A week ago I planted some salad greens and rapini. I also planted some Dutch White Clover as cover crop in some of the beds. Happily all of these seeds have come up and hopefully will get a good start before the weather turns cold. I hope I have done a better job of covering bare dirt this year than last.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I also reaped about 2 quarts of blueberries. Washed and frozen too.
And since I have so much garlic this year, and so much of it was harvested a little too late, and was splitting apart, I decided to roast up a big pan full and hopefully freeze it for later use. As a sneak preview we schmeared some onto crusty baguette, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with coarse salt and pepper.
The garlic can be thawed and spread on bread, stirred into soups and sauces. This may turn out to be one of my best ideas ever. It's got to be better that dried out cloves before the new crop is ready to dig up.
And I trimmed all of the excess leaves off the tomato plants, along with any fruit that didn't look mature. I really just want the plants to ripen any exiting fruit.
But what I really need to do is plant some salad greens. I may have left it a little too late, but it's worth a try. Who knows what kind of weather the next few weeks will bring. If the rest of the summer is any indication it should be changeable and unpredictable. At least we can count on that.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
And maybe on the menu in a few months will be this beauty, a Fairy Tale Pumpkin. It's about the diameter of a plate right now. I also took a photo of the leaves, which I find particularly beautiful. They have splotches of silvery coloring on the leaves and they actually do seem to reflect light. And when they are in shadow they look almost like moonlight. But maybe I've just been out in the sun too long.
Speaking of sun, there is a rumor afoot that we may be heading into 4-5 days of 90 degree plus weather. Maybe that will help with some of the green tomatoes.
Some of them were run by paid coordinators, some by parents and some by teachers. And the gardens are part of a larger program called Farm to School, designed to educate kids about healthy, unprocessed foods and to teach them where food comes from.
One of the schools had a scratch kitchen where food from the garden was prepared and offered for lunches. Most schools only warm up food that is prepared elsewhere at a distribution center.
Some of the gardens were funded with grants, some with fundraisers, some by PTA money. Many of them have artwork adorning the garden spaces.
One of the gardens was created on a de-paved black top area, and shares the space with a community garden, where neighbors and parents can tend small plots.
What all of the gardens have in common was dedicated, passionate people who saw the value in exposing kids to the miracles of growing some of your own food and giving the kids a sense of their place in the natural world.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
And they have become very noisy, especially Queenie the Barred Rock. She starts squawking as soon as the sun came up and has taught herself how to crow like a rooster. And I've been thinking about redesigning the coop to be more accessible and easier for my neighbors to manage whenever I go out of town.
So I decided to take a break from chicken keeping and maybe start again next year with a new coop and some new chicks. I wasn't sure how difficult it might be to place 3 adult hens. They are 2.5 years old. So I posted an ad on the chicken board for my area and I had an offer within 24 hours from a specialty poultry farm called C & L Farms.
So now it was time for me to take them to their new home. I figured I could take them in separate boxes, hoping the darkness might keep them calm. Queenie and Scarlet went happily into their chicken carriers, aka cardboard boxes, excited about their new adventure no doubt. But The Fonz, my Black Australorp took me 5 tries and we were both the worse for wear afterward.
When I got to C&L I was certain I had found a good 2nd home for them. Exotic roosters strutted around the front yard and I could see all sorts of fancy birds in pens, Quail, Guinea Hens, Ducks, etc. They also raise goats and pigs at C & L.
Curtis, the owner took each of my hens out of their boxes, told them they were pretty birds and assured each of them that he had just the boyfriend for them. He intends to breed them for a while and then keep them for laying, unless he finds a customer who wants to keep grown chickens.
Now my girls are country girls instead of city girls and they have already outlived most of the chicken population in this country, since most battery hens are butchered after just one year of intensive egg laying, stimulated by round the clock daylight.
I thought I'd be more sentimental about parting with them, since they really were like pets for a while. But for me a chicken is really more like an employee than a pet, and if I stick with this analogy, I guess I had to let them go on to pursue other opportunities. Not exactly fired, since I found them a new gig.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
But no. All we have so far are gigantic, leafy, overachieving tomato PLANTS.
Okay, I can't honestly say there are no tomatoes, here are some Sungold cherry tomatoes on tone of the plants. They are currently the size of peas.
The beans are playing the same game. Lots of lush, healthy, leafy growth, but no beans, no flowers even. It won't be long though, and just like every year, we probably won't be able to keep up with the abundance.
Until then at least I've got theses lovelies.
Calendula and Crocosmia.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I gave everything a good soak yesterday morning, and I'll be monitoring soil moisture closely for the next few days. Today we may hit 100 degrees and break a record.
The hens don't seem to mind the heat at all. 2 eggs yesterday, and 2 more today. I made sure they have full food and water feeders, and I set up another big dish of water outside of the coop, in the shade so they have plenty to drink. And for a treat today I gave them some frozen corn.
Poor Pearl , my black cat, is not enjoying the heat as much. She's doing a lot of laying around on the cool kitchen floor and looking at me as if to say, "turn off the heater, why doncha".
Hot again tomorrow, they say, then cooling as we head into the weekend.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Greens for Hens
Friday, June 25, 2010
"My Favorite Summer Pastime".
It was quick and easy, 1000 words or fewer, and I figured it would just be good writing practice. Well I won. It felt great to share my enthusiasm for gardening with a wider audience, and I get $100 for about an hours work. Here's my entry.
AWAI Writing Challenge Winning Entry:
My Favorite Summer Pastime …
Gardening is my favorite summer pastime. I long for my summer garden all winter long. I pore over seed catalogs and dream of the scent of herbs and tomatoes riding on the heat waves of summer.
I know there are millions of people who feel the same way. And although I do some amount of gardening all year round, it's summer when everything speeds up and intensifies. And the summer bounty of flowers, fruits and vegetables is astounding.
The miracle of a seed unfolding into a plant never fails to hold me spellbound. And I derive tremendous satisfaction from being able to grow my own food. Of course you can get terrific produce from farmers markets, but there is nothing more local than a tomato from your own plants.
Even more rewarding is sharing my love of gardening with other people. Lots of folks enjoy their hobbies in the company of those with similar interests. But gardeners have a deeper bond to their hobby than most, almost spiritual, since they are dealing with miracles on a daily basis. And that sense of joy and wonder is very contagious among gardeners.
But even better than hanging out with fellow plant enthusiasts is teaching people to grow some of their own food, especially folks for whom access to healthy, affordable food is sometimes a challenge.
My town has a program that partners garden mentors with low income folks who have expressed interest in growing some of their own food, but who don't know how, or don't have access to the tools they need. Many of the people have never grown anything before and many of them are intimidated or unsure that they will be able to succeed.
Being able to produce some of their own food delivers nourishment for the soul as well as the stomach. The confidence they gain at producing even the smallest harvest is particularly heartwarming. They stand taller in their children's eyes too. And they feel like they have more control over their lives and their diets, and the diets of their kids.
And yes, gardening inspires my writing. Time spent in the garden can be contemplative even when it is hard labor. I spend many hours gardening and writing in my head. Or letting my thoughts meander until I arrive at a solution to a problem or and angle for an assignment.
Gardening also inspires me to write about my experiences in the botanical world. Backyard Farm is my gardening blog where I document my adventures, misadventures, and obsessions.
Last year it was all about a pepper called Rocoto. I read about this exotic plant in Sunset magazine and embarked on a quest to add it to my garden. The pepper captured my interest because it claimed to be cold tolerant, and since I garden in the Pacific Northwest I thought it might fare better than other varieties.
The more blank stares I got in response to my inquiries the more determined I became to find this elusive pepper. I finally did locate seeds for the red variety, and plant starts for the yellow version called Manzano. While the plants didn't survive our winter freezes, they did last much longer than the other peppers, and were so prolific that I still have dried peppers from last years harvest. The plant was a beauty too, with a profusion of purple flowers preceding the peppers.
And this year, who knows what the most fascinating plant in the garden will be. Already I can tell that one of my apple trees and a hardy kiwi will bear fruit for the first time. So I will be monitoring them closely.
So yeah, gardening would have to be my favorite summer pastime, in fact one of my favorite activities any time of year. It's a great way for mere mortals to participate in miracles.AWAI
Above is the link to the site where my essay appeared.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Snap peas have begun to produce more than just a few for snacking while surveying the garden. And the tomatoes are looking great, almost all of them have blossoms, so I will need to do a detailed inspection to see which have set fruit.
Neighbor children have been over almost everyday to forage for raspberries. There are more than enough to share and we still have plenty for our cereal everyday and the occasional smoothie.
Lately all of the leeks I have harvested have had a hard, woody center. Still usable, but I think I may have left them too long. Here's confirmation that I did, and some great info on growing leeks from Garden Web, which holds a wealth of gardening information.
Garden Web / Leeks
Monday, June 14, 2010
They are fleeting though and it demands vigilance. On a sunny day an unripe berry will be ripe by afternoon, so the patch requires constant monitoring to catch each berry at peak ripeness and flavor.
I don't know what type of berries they are, other than they are twice bearing, once in June and again into October / November. But the second harvest isn't as good as the first, or maybe I am just so jaded by then by all the other garden treats that they can't measure up to the rapture of the first fragrant, red produce.
They are reliable, producing an abundance of berries each of the 5 years I've lived here. And although they came under the fence from the neighbor's patch, and although these neighbors, mostly the kids, love to remind me that the raspberries actually belong to them, I feel no remorse popping them into my mouth and swooning in plain sight of these same neighbors. And I pretend not to notice when these neighbor kids come over to my side of the fence and raid the berries.
The patch on my side is now about twice the size of theirs and I suggest to them that the berries are happier living with me. And then I pop another into my mouth and smile.
Although most often associated with New Zealand, this type of kiwi is native to China and was planted in New Zealand in the early 1900s, and later in California.
Due to some well meaning, but overly aggressive pruning the plant has not produced fruit for the last couple of years. So it will be especially welcome this year. We should be enjoying the fruit by October or November.
It is actually two plants, a male and a female. For most kiwis it is necessary to have both for the flowers to be pollinated and produce fruit.
And on my side of the fence I've got this little guy, a hardy, self pollinating kiwi, Actinidia arguta 'Issai. I got the plant last year at The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Sale, and it produced 3 blossoms and no fruit. It lived in a container up until this spring when I decided it needed to go in the ground. It sits next to the backyard fence and I have strung wire between the fence posts on which I hope it will climb.
Along with lots of new growth since it went into the earth, there has been a profusion of blossoms and now lots of tiny green fruits. Excitement is mounting.
And this is Pearl returning from patrolling the neighbor's yard.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
or so the weather forecasters promise. But we've been fooled before. And although the next week or so shows temperatures in the 80s (for the 1st time this year), Portlanders are wary. June 10th is later than usual to still have this much water falling from the sky and for the mercury to have failed to breach the 80 degree mark. We've had more rain in the first few days of June than the average for the entire month.
I know we aren't supposed to be surprised. We are supposed to love it because that's what make the Pacific Northwest so greeeeeeeeeen. But even we sodden stoics want to get out of our fleece and get our tank tops and flip flops on. Sheesh.
It seems the cartoon sun in the weather report is always 4-5 days in the future and by the time we get there the sun has been obscured by the gray cloud with diagonal lines. Following today's 62 degrees and showers we are being taunted with a smiling sun and 2 days in a row above 80 degrees. We shall see if the weather gurus continue their sadistic game of bait and switch.
In the silver lining department, it's great weed pulling weather. The soil is so soggy they come right out, roots intact.
But most of the plants are taking a beating and the summer vegetables and herbs are in suspended animation. Plants whose growth you can see with the naked eye under normal sunny, warm conditions, like beans, squash and tomatoes are frozen in time, as if encased in amber for eternity.
Of course everything will come to life tomorrow, when summer begins. I just have to have something to believe in. Please.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Queenie, the culprit.
Since the crowing was triggered by sunrise I finally figured out that if I could just keep the sun below the horizon until I was ready to get out of bed the problem would be mitigated.
So while I schemed how to delay daybreak I decided to try locking the birds in the dark coop at night. And letting them out when I got up.
It seems to work. They wake up later and once I let them out into the run there doesn't seem to be a need to crow.
I still hear muffled squawking some days if I wake up too late. And I will admit there has been the occasional cock a doodle screech. But overall the very aggressive, noisy crowing has stopped.
And outsmarting a chicken is a thrill beyond compare.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
This was oozing out between the boards of one of the raised beds the other day. Kind of gooey, with little bubbles or beads. When it first appeared it looked like scrambled eggs. As it dried it turned reddish brown. The crack research team here at Backyard Farm, aka my dear husband, found it immediately online.
It's called Slime Mold, although it's not actually a mold, it's a fungus.
Here's a link with lots of info
Fun Facts About Fungi
Turns out it's harmless, and should disappear once the weather warms and dries up. It is usually caused by shredded wood products common in compost.
Besides seeping out between the boards, it has also oozed up through the burlap that covers many of my raised beds. That little puddle of cream at the edge of the bed is the slime.
The burlap started out as an attempt to keep cats from digging in the raised beds. But I am thinking it will also act as a mulch preserving moisture and protecting the soil from caking over.
And as I watch a passing spring shower pummel the plants I am happy that the burlap is preventing the plants from being splattered with mud, which can cause mildew problems.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
We've had a few nice, warm days and the plants are really starting to take off. So I've been outside as much as possible. And I was fairly preoccupied with building, placing and filling the boxes at the front of the yard.
Now I feel like I am playing catch up. I just planted sweet peas today. And I haven't even started zinnias and marigolds.
Sunflower volunteers are coming up in the back and front yard, along with lots of Calendulas.
And the currant bush has formed tiny fruits.
One of the apple trees in the back yard is loaded with miniature apples. And this from a tree that didn't even blossom last year.
I transplanted the Yuzu tree into the ground. It's leaves were yellowing and I thing it may have been suffering from wet feet in the pot. I also planted the hardy kiwi in the ground, and it too is full of promising blossoms. If it fruits this year it will be a first.
Kale is in full swing, great for juicing and kale chips, as well as more conventional treatments like with sausage and pasta.
And as if I need more distractions, our local Moreland Farmer's Market kicked off the summer season last Wednesday.
We stock up on tomato and pepper starts, along with anything else that catches our fancy. We eat sausages and pulled pork and sometimes sneak into the volunteer area for a cookie.
But the most fun is observing the assorted conveyances that people use to haul their botanical finds. This year a new pinnacle of ingenuity was achieved. And here's your winner.
No it doesn't belong to Rhonda, but she sure wishes it did. We don't know if that upper bucket was actually able to carry any weight. Seems doubtful. And yes, those are recycling bins.
And here are a we felt deserved honorable mention. Note the creative use of toolbox and coffee holder on the Radio Flyer.
We also like to see what THE Hot plant of the year is. This year it was a Salvia called "Hot Lips", which had sprays of garish red and white flowers. The vendor couldn't haul them out fast enough. And folks weren't just buying 1 or 2, they were filling carts with this curious plant.
Best of all, this year we added a new tradition; taking advantage of the MG parking lot. We flashed our badges and in we went. I'm already looking forward to next year.
Monday, May 3, 2010
I scored French and Spanish Lavender, a large Nandina, lots of flowering ground covers for my new raised bed fence.
There were lots of Day Lillies, Raspberries, Strawberries, and Rhubarb. Also on offer were seeds and gardening books. We sustained ourselves with homemade cookies, plenty of coffee and mimosas. You gotta keep your strength up.
It's a great chance to catch up with gardening friends, meet new ones and chat about the summer gardening season we have been looking forward to all winter.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I added Rhubarb to the garden last year and was given this recipe about the same time. I am certain it will be a fixture on the spring schedule. Here is what I wrote about it last year:
So the dirt arrived and the raised beds are in place. Leveling them and trying to place them in a semi-straight line were the most challenging parts of this project. But the payoff has been huge. I am really happy with the way they look. And now comes the fun part, filling them with plants.
Here is what the raised bed living fence looks like stretched out across the front of the yard. Neighbors seems to like it. Lots of folks have stopped by with complimentary things to say. We will eventually add one more four foot bed on the left side of the driveway and another on the right side of the yard.
So far I have planted a relocated Rosemary, a Nandina, and some low ground covers. I plan on adding a bamboo that I will move from the back yard and split into 2 or 3 plants. I don't intend to grow food in these beds, mostly evergreen, fragrant, screening plants. I can't wait to see how it changes as the plants grow over the summer. Come fall I'll probably move some things out and some new plants in. It'll be fun to change the window dressing.