Onions, Onions, Onions and Some Garlic

Onions This Last Year

DSC_8146_edited-1

Last year at this time I ordered some short day onion plants from Dixondale Farm. 

Even though the bed I chose ended up being slightly flooded during the winter; and this super dense short weedy grass/moss junk, impossible to weed out without removing all the soil around the onion, grew around most of the onions, they still produced pretty well. 

DSC_8292_edited-1

Because they were short day onions they were done bulbing and ready to harvest in early-mid summer but also held well in the field until I could take a break from haying responsibilities to stay home and harvest the onions, that are still being used in the kitchen by the way, long after the catalog information said they would. 

All in all, a good enough experience to repeat.  Especially since my long day onions were an utter fail this year.  It wasn’t so much a crop failure as a farmer failure.  Just too much going on, and I fell into that unfortunate locally located mire called Overwhelmed.

This Year’s Onions

In January, I will still start long day onions, some Walla Wallas just ‘cuz and lots of Copra. 

DSC_7339_edited-1

Copra is a crazy storage onion, last year (2013) when we grew it was still being used in our kitchen until spring from a late summer/autumn harvest. I doubt that I will play around with other late summer harvest onions.  Summer is an insane time here at VF&G and I would like to think I could fit in a hike or two or a trip to the lake to cool off.  So Copra it is, leaving working out the quest for open pollinated storage onions for another year.  I think my onion experiment this winter might be enough for now. 

Growing Onions Overwinter 

Short day onions are usually not grown north of the 36 parallel.  That’s the line that makes the bottom of Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky and Virginia and the top of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Carolina

Here in at VF&G in between Mount Rainier and Puget Sound we are just above at the 46 parallel, specifically: 46*56’11.56” . A line that goes through the middle of Washington; the panhandle of Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Bismark and Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; a barge in Lake Superior; Sudbury, Ontario; Quebec City, Quebec; and just below Caribou, Maine.   But a degree and a half below Paris, France!  (But that tidbit of info is for another article.)

DSC_9305

But we can grow short day onions because we may be north of the 36 degree line but we have the winter weather of much of Texas. USDA Horticulture zone 8. This year is predicted to be an el nino and so even more Texasy, yay for my winter grown spring/summer onions, too bad for skiers.  

So yes, our winter days are mild but the hours of daylight that trigger bulbing will come quicker than in the South.  The key for growing them here is, don’t start them so early that they’ll think they have been alive for two years come next spring, feed them really well all winter (except for nitrogen) and pump them full of nitrogen as soon as real cold weather is past.

DSC_9701

Some other issues: keep their feet warm and reduce weed pressure.  Mulch works.  Specifically for me, wool works great!  The only mulch I know that slugs dislike;  I have lots; it doesn’t bind up nitrogen as it breaks down; it holds moisture with out soggin’ out flat; keeps the ground from heaving; and it slowly feeds the soil.

The Varieties This Winter

CIMG9232

In August in flats well marked, I started nine main onion crops plus shallots, and about three green onions. 

DSC_9702

Three onion varieties that I purchased from Dixondale as plants last year that are indeed short day onions: Texas 1015, Texas Early Grano, and Red Creole.  We’ve planted about 300 each of these. They will be our late spring and summer eating onions.  Chopped up in potato salads, caramelized on burgers, caramelized on burgers, deep fried onion rings, caramelized in hash browns.  You know, summer eating.

DSC_9699

Three onion varieties from Territorial Seed Company said to be really good short term storage onions, planted about 300 each: Gate Keeper, Keepsake, and Top Keeper.  Not necessarily short day onions (some I just can’t find out about as far as short, long or intermediate), but ones that are touted for overwinter plantings and early harvests (wait, isn’t that the definition of short day onion?)  Really looking forward to these onions.  They aren’t supposed to store much longer than November after harvesting in mid summer but it will enable us to save the Copras we will grow for long term storage.

DSC_9704

A variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Bridger, another short-term yellow onion – 300 each. Plus, Ailsa Craig, a sweet Spanish onion similar to Walla Walla (which also work as an overwinter onion) but Ailsa’s are bigger and different from what everyone else is growing – 300 of those. And Red Marble, a long day but overwinter onion, a versatile little fellow that can be harvested as a scallion but that will bulb up cipollini style if given room and time.  We, actually Bet, planted about 500 of the Red Marble, they are the ones in the foreground bed in the picture above, you can see the closer spacing.

DSC_9707

Beds to finish up this week: the last three beds for onions. Two for shallots and three varieties of scallions and one experimental bed (I’m trying my hand at hot beds, more on that in another post) with all the left overs from the other varieties we already planted.

And The Garlic

Lots of garlic will be planted beginning next week, well that’s my plan any way.  Lots and lots of garlic.

Three sets of three beds 2’ wide and 40’ long. Six inches apart one way (short rows cross ways on the bed) and three inches the other.  So about 600 each bed give or take about 50. Some where around 5000, if the seed garlic supply holds out.

The varieties?  Yeah… who knows what they are.  I can tell you the varieties I started with, what they might be.  But for some reason I just can’t seem to keep them labeled.  I’m thinking it has to do with haying season occurring at the exact same time as garlic harvest.

 DSC_9725

They are separate, I think, just not labeled as to what variety is what.  I have lost some very distinct varieties – of course I lose the ones that are easy to identify.  And maybe someday I will get back to having definite varieties and carefully harvest, plant and mark so that I can keep them separate for more than the two years I did.  But… not now.  For now we just eat garlic, some is hard neck, some soft, some hot, some not so much.  But we have garlic.

DSC_9726

The debris from this summer’s crops and weeds haven’t been cleared from the garlic beds, plus a couple of the beds still have things, cauliflower and cabbage, still growing on them.  “Planting next week” really means getting started.  I figure by the time I work myself over to the beds that have crops growing still they will be done and harvested and I can finish up with those. 

Funny, I say I dislike spring so much because of the soggy wet dreary weather and all the work I have to do, planting and prepping for the growing season.  With this whole “year ‘round garden and harvest and seasonal eating”, spring isn’t the only crushingly busy wet soggy dreary season.   But I could never dislike autumn.  It is still hanging in there as my favorite season.

Categories: Crops, Garlic, Onions | 1 Comment

Tree Planting

DSC_9611 DSC_9612

Gathering up potted trees from around the house and outbuildings and taking them out to the Highway Hedgerow.

DSC_9614

So how come trees along the highway fence line?

 

Trees are assets, like tools on a farm.

CIMG6117 DSC_8017

DSC_9627 DSC_9629

First off, trees drink a lot of water.  We have a lot of water.  We already had a good deal of water on the farm.  Plus, remember the 2006 picture in the last post where it shows that the year we put in the original punkin patch that across the highway houses went in and next door our neighbor harvested his trees?  Yeah, that all increased our water in the front by a little bit.  Houses, driveways and streets where there weren’t any, that is the worst.

Don’t get me wrong, I like new neighbors and there is nothin’ cooler that cuttin’ trees for logs – or firewood – but like some physicist somewhere said, for every action there is a reaction. 

Secondly, these trees will be a much needed barrier.  There is a lot to be said about this barrier aspect of trees:

DSC_9630_edited-1 DSC_9629_edited-1

DSC_9625_edited-1 DSC_9678_edited-1

Trees absorb a lot of sound.  It is funny how they do that.  You expect it from trees in between the hearer and the noise, but you’d be surprised by how much they absorb even just being in the area.  Like curtains and carpet in a house.  Anyway, the trees we are putting in are for a sound barrier between the hearer and the noise.  Us and the highway.

Not only do trees stop noise, they also stop bugs.  Bugs like to travel but they do get a little ADD sometimes, so by putting up a variety of trees they will get distracted from heading into the Market Garden.

DSC_9632

Trees stop wind.  I know, our prevailing winds come from the southwest, but we get our cold winds from the north and northwest, those are the ones the tender things in the garden need the most protection from.  Not to mention similar to the effect on sound waves –absorbing and calming or quieting them all around, trees effect the wind in front of them as well as behind them. 

Trees trap heat.  Gardens like heat, so even though we sweat and mutter, and drink lots of beer, and go sit in the shade, gardeners like heat too, and however we can trap and store heat, we do.

Trees also make shade and keep things cool.  I know what I just said, but they do both.  And I know that I just said gardens and gardeners like heat, but we also like shade.  We like things to not be parched.  Trees keep things from being parched.  They are very handy that way.

 

Trees and shrubs are a creative outlet

DSC_9628

Trees create mystery.  What?  Yep, it is part of why I decided to put trees out on the highway line.  Mystery.  I like being an open book.  Ask folks who know me really well and they will tell you that I like to share what I’m doing, often I over share.  But I also like a little mystery.  I like folks to come and ask, what is going on, can they peek behind the curtain of flowers and leaves? I like creating secret gardens and secret places that surprise and delight.  So I’m creating a living garden wall.   Big boy sized.

Not to mention that the wall itself will have eye appeal.  So as you drive down the highway past our place you might not be able to see the interesting crops or flower or the cute little lambs frolicking, but hopefully the beautiful colors and textures in our “garden wall” will brighten your day and lift your spirits.

We like that what we do can produce that for others.  Just like the artist with a canvas or camera or the writer with pen and paper, we like to create with living things, scenes for your eyes and heart.

 

Trees add to the Farm’s product line

DSC_9634

In a few years we will be harvesting cuttings from the conifers and evergreen broadleaf bushes and trees we are planting now for holiday trimmings.  Winter is a slower producing season and every little bit helps, not to mention it is one of the many things I love to do.  Cut things and bring them in the house.  Or cut things for you to take into your house.

After the holidays, in the bleak winter and earliest of spring when it seems like so long a time for blooms to be coming on, the intensely colored branches of some of the deciduous trees and bushes will be cut for their color an/or forcing emerging catkins and flowers.

 

Health Benefits and Food

A lot of that benefit is the same as mentioned earlier in regards to the Market Garden. 

But some of the trees we are planting in this hedgerow will actually have medicinal properties for humans, livestock and wildlife.  Just a few examples:

DSC_9641

Willows are a vermifuge (wormer) especially for sheep, and willow was the precursor to synthetic aspirin.  We have a few different willows already and will be expanding.

DSC_9716

Some plantings will produce food stuffs.  Juniper berries are one of my very favorite flavorings for meats.  We already have American Cranberry growing, tart little buggers, big seed but a good little berry. 

DSC_9650

In a few years we should have plenty of acorns for Bet’s piggies. and maybe for us as well. 

And the wildlife, birds mostly, will find lots of seeds and nuts to eat plus places to hide. 

 DSC_9643_edited-1

Around this farm, because it is old, and was carefully tended in the past by folks who valued such things, there are plenty of margins.  The space between wilderness and man, or between man and man.  Those places are good, full of health and well being for man and animal.  We thought we would add to the vital history of the land and create some more margins.  Margins in which to hide a little bird or chipmunk or ourselves for an afternoon or two.

 

Categories: Change, Farm Make Over, Farming Manners | 1 Comment

Highway Hedgerow

Changes were mulled over, consequences – benefits and detriments – weighed and now the time has come, the plans have been made, fence removed.

Well almost the fence is removed.  Three-fourths is out of the bindy mess of grass and dirt.  We are workin’ on it. 

What fence?  Why?  What the heck is goin’ on? 

Sometime last year, in the middle of feeling overwhelmed with the whole Market Garden thing and feeling lost and unsure and adamant all at the same time, I decided the Market Garden needed to expand. 

What?!

Well when all else fails and your feeling over whelmed and exhausted, dive in deeper I always say.

So what once was the original Pumpkin Patch with a nice little fence dividing it from the Front Pasture until it got so flooded from housing development run-off that it had turned into the Highway Hedgerow, has now been integrated into the new Market Garden area and the Highway Hedgerow is actually going to be a “row” instead of a giant swath.

Here, in picture format, the history of the Market Garden at VF&G:

How it once was_edited-1

2005 clearer pic_edited-1

We all fire at once_edited-1

August 2012_edited-1

Hedgerow_edited-1

The timeline for the plan?  

That most all of the big changes that impact planting and harvesting will be done soon and we will be on track for a productive spring!

A lot of work, besides ginormous change ups, is also going on.  All in an effort to not only eat from the farm year ’round, but feed others likewise.

Categories: Change, Farm Make Over | 2 Comments

May Days Tomato Plant Sale

Tomato plants go on sale this week!

Monday-Wednesday!  Facebook and Blog Friends Special  Come out between 10am and 6pm, the gate will be closed but we’re right out in the front in the Market Garden.  Give a quick toot on your horn and we’ll come open the gate.  Get the early bird price of $3.00 per plant. (Don’t wear nice shoes! you will be going out to the Market Garden it will be wet and muddy.)

Thursday – Sunday (or until sold out)  Open to the Public. drive down to the Market Shed,  $4.00 ea. 

We don’t have an endless supply of any one variety so if you want certain ones make plans to come early!  When they are gone they are gone!  

We only start tomatoes that we intend to plant here at the farm, in order to make sure we have plenty for producing lots of tomatoes for our produce customers we start about twice as many as we need. 

They start on the propagation bench, and are up potted twice.  The last time into half gallon pots using our own mix of farm compost, vermiculite, perlite and fishbone meal.  Once they are in the half gallons they go out to a cooler hoop house to begin their hardening off.  Now they are sturdy strong plants, ready to be planted out in garden beds or big containers.

We appreciate good ol’ hearty tasting tomatoes and we like to sell what we love, so you don’t need to worry that you are going to get boring lame box store type tomatoes or whacky worthless weirdos.  Most varieties that we offer we have grown here at the farm for several years.   

DSC_9197 DSC_9196DSC_9192  DSC_9194

These are the tomato plants for sale this year at VF&G:

Cherry Types

Yellow Pear open pollinated, indeterminate, 75-80 days.  “A great tomato just loaded with hundreds of small 1-2 inch yellow pear-shaped fruit. A good cage or trellis is recommended for heavy production. An old-time favorite from Grandma’s garden. F1, F2, V”

Hartman’s Yellow Gooseberry open pollinated, indeterminate, 75 days. “Believed to be the same yellow cherry as listed by seedsmen since pre-1930′s, was reintroduced by John Hartman Seed Company. The very long vines bear clusters of 1″ “Gooseberries” that are sweet, mild and tasty. Light golden-yellow in color. One of the largest yielding tomato.”

Chocolate Cherry  open pollinated, indeterminate, 70 days A Victory Farm & Gardens’ favorite!  Many years it is our only cherry size tomato.  Better than a chocolate covered cherry. Very attractive in a dish, or your hand.  Super productive, plants produce trusses of 1 inch round fruit nonstop.

Early Slicer Types

Stupice  open pollinated, indeterminate, 60-65 days Another Victory Farm & Gardens’ favorite!  Very early, very reliable even in minimal sun situations, deals with chilly nights.  Sweet, red, slightly oval, 2 inch fruit that slice up for sandwiches, dice up in salads, or peel and can for stewers. A very good tasting early tomato and it continues to produce all summer on very tall vines. Bred in the former Czechoslovakia it is a potato leaf variety.

Glacier  open pollinated, determinate, 55 days.  Another VF&G staple.  Amazingly, days earlier and about a half inch bigger than Stupice and every bit as tasty.  A nice sweet all around useful tomato. Get it in the ground now and give it a little protection and you could have a nice tomato salad for Independence Day! Many of our plants already have nice flowers on them.

New Hampshire Sure Crop  open pollinated, determinate, 78 days. “This tomato has a rich history and some valuable traits for today’s gardener. Using wild species from Mexico, it was developed by Dr. A.F. Yeager in 1957 to be resistant to late blight (Phytophthora infestans).  4-5 inch tomatoes full of rich old-time tangy flavor. Excellent for canning and slicing.”

Sauce & Paste Types

Oroma open pollinated, determinate, 70 days. “Oroma peels easily to make thick tomato sauce and paste. One of the earliest to mature, the fruit sets early in clusters of 4-7 and keeps very well on and off the plants. The smooth, cylindrical tomatoes are gradually tapered at the blossom end. The 1 1/4 inch wide by 5 inch long fruit average about 4 ounces and have a thick, meaty wall. Parthenocarpic. V.”  Everything the catalog says about this one is true and then some.  I will always grow it for its earliness and flavor. Way better than other open pollinated determinate romas.

San Marzano Gigante 3  open pollinated, indeterminate, 90 days. The catalog says it is “A heftier version of any San Marzano tomato that we have trialed with a magnificent, robust flavor to boot.” and it is all that and more, have a good support for this one, you want to make sure you don’t loose any on the ground!  They are fantastic and my favorite tomato for processing and dicing for salsa.  The fruit measures 2 1/2 inches wide and 7 inches long, is a beautiful ruby red with green streaked shoulders and very few seeds.

Super Marzano a hybrid (oops, make that two hybrids offered this year) cousin to the one above, just a few because they were seeds left over from a couple of years ago in daughter’s garden.  Any Marzano tomato is what spaghetti noodles were made for.

Plum Dandy hybrid, determinate. 82 days. The only hybrid I grow, but I love it.  If other plants are done in by the crud Plum Dandies just keep producing – Catalog description tells why: “Early blight can be one of the most daunting challenges for the home gardener, and a release from Dr. Randy Gardner at North Carolina State University makes the challenge easier. Very tolerant of this devastating disease, Plum Dandy bears heavy yields of blocky Roma-style fruit. Firm, and deep red through and through, they are perfect for saucing and cooking. At 3-4 inches, they are a great size for fresh eating, too. The compact, plants are ideal for small gardens, raised beds, and container gardening. EB, F1, V.”

 

Beefsteaks!

Kellogg’s Breakfast open pollinated, indeterminate, 85 days. Planted these for the first time last year and they will now be a permanent fixture in the hoop house!  They were easily bigger than any burger we served up last summer.  Beautiful orange.  Like a giant sun on a plate! and for a beefsteak really produced a lot. And they weren’t just another pretty face, the taste was sublime.  I even put them in several sauces.  What a trip, a deep tomato sauce flavor, but orange!  This was the tomato that made me willing to try other beefsteaks!

Gold Medal open pollinated, indeterminate, 75 days.  New for us, but a daughter has grown it and says what the catalog says is true. “This whopper is unbelievably early for its size. The large yellow fruit have an interior blush of red and weigh over 1 pound, some reaching 2 pounds. They have a classic heirloom look: round and lobed with big blossom ends that some think are ugly. We see the beauty and enjoy the full, sweet, low acid tomato flavor. The plants grow well in cool nighttime temperatures.”

Delicious open pollinated, indeterminate,  77 days (though here it may take longer) “An excellent slicer, with most fruits over 1 pound – many 2 to 3 pounds – and still holds the world record of 7+ pounds for a single fruit! Produces smooth and solid fruits that seldom crack, with small cavities, nearly solid meat, and excellent flavor. Developed from Beefsteak after 13 years of careful selection.”

Mortgage Lifter open pollinated, indeterminate, 95 days. “As the story goes, a tomato farmer facing bankruptcy selected a tomato that produced so well, he was able to sell one crop of fruit and pay off the mortgage. We’re not sure that would be the case today, but Mortgage Lifter certainly produces an abundance of 1-2 pound fruit. Not the prettiest in the world, but meaty and full of heirloom flavor. “

Beautiful Colors

Japanese Trifele Black open pollinated, indeterminate but not crazy long vines, 80-85 days. I liked this one last year and look forward to growing more.  Like the catalog says, it is: “A truly transcendent tomato. Pear-shaped fruit has green-streaked shoulders, deepening to a burnished mahogany and finally to a darkened, nearly black base. The meaty interior has similar, opulent shades and an incomparable, almost indescribably complex and rich flavor to match. The fruit reach 2 1/2-3 inches long and wide and are very crack-resistant. Despite the name, this thoroughbred has its origins in Russia. potato-leafed plant.”

Indigo Rose open pollinated, indeterminate 80 days.  The catalog says:  “The 2 inch round fruit have nearly blue skin that occurs on the portion of the fruit that is exposed to light, while the shaded portion starts out green and turns deep red when mature. Inside, the flesh reveals the same rouge tone with a superbly balanced, multi-faceted tomatoey flavor. Bred at Oregon State University.
Our Indigo series is creating a new class in tomatoes, and changing the face of the tomato world. Not only are they extraordinarily colorful and tasty; they are extra nutritious. Developed with traditional breeding techniques, the fruit of these unusual varieties contain high levels of anthocyanin, a naturally occurring antioxidant found in blueberries, and is reported to combat disease. Anthocyanin reveals itself in the vibrant indigo pigmentation of the fruits. Each of these varieties has unique characteristics, and all are stunningly beautiful. For the best flavor and texture, harvest when the colors have deepened and the fruit is soft to the touch.”  We found that this tomato was a bit trying, it took a really long time to ripen for such a little tomato, but it was a great addition to sauces, really gave a lot of depth without having to over cook the sauce.  If you want it to have good flavor you have to be patient and leave it on the vine.  And provide good soil nutrition.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Tomatoes | Comments Off

More of May Days!

Please!

If May first and second are any indications of what this month could be like most of the time, more please mum!

Blogging Report

I have to apologize for the whole comment situation.  I am under, have been for quite a while, spam attack.  I even accidentally erased some comments from a couple of friends, sorry ‘bout that, going through 100-200 spam deletes a day. 

I must admit it has been one of the dampers on blogging this winter and early spring.  I know the spam are here ‘cuz they show up in my e-mail, the ones that my grey mail doesn’t sift out.  So I come over here to my administration page and spend all my bloggy time erasing spam – fun.  But I am determined to do more than deal with spam and I need to find a way to actually deal with the spam before I have to see it.  To bad it isn’t edible.

Market Garden Report Part Two –Tomato Plants & Corn

So what have I gotten done?  In spite of record rainfall? 

I have been able to get tomatoes started and some hoop houses moved over the beds they will go in. 

DSC_9194

All the tomato plants I started have been up potted twice and since being in big pots, have been hanging out in my tool hoop.

DSC_9197 Apparently they are very happy, some have begun to put on flowers.  Time to go to their summer homes!

The daughters, and a husband or two, are converging on the farm tomorrow to pick up their tomatoes, watch the Derby, eat tacos (Cinco De Mayo) and other such nonsense like grandsons driving tractors, eating cake (maybe cuz it was an Auntie’s birthday today and lighting bon fires.  I’ll plant mine or at least set mine aside, by Sunday.  Then the rest go on sale, starting Monday.  Hopefully they will all be gone by next Saturday.  But if they aren’t Happy Mother’s day and come buy a tomato plant!

If you are local Dear Reader, I’ll post a list on Sunday of what will be available and the hours that I will have the gate open for biz. 

It is Derby Day tomorrow, so yep, the corn was planted today, two forty-by-four foot raised beds under a hoop.  Not sure that they will need a hoop but just in case and to give them a chance to actually mature at the estimated maturity date (nothing does here in the Puget Sound region) they have been hooped.  The rest of the corn beds will be al a naturel  I’ll get those in next week to ten days time, depending on the weather, which has gone back to rainy as of this evening.

Time for the head to hit the pillow, thanks for stopping in Dear Reader.  Happy Derby Day tomorrow, wear a big hat, drink Mint Juleps and plant some corn (weather willin’ in your area)

One more photo before I go

DSC_9199

It’s the wisteria from yesterday’s pic, from the other side. 

In the foreground is a lilac.  Both frame the doorway into our laundry house.  The fragrance is amazing, heavenly for sure.  But notice the color match?  A week ago it was not such a good match, the lilac has changed color and now they match perfectly.  I always forget.  When the lilac first blooms, I always wonder why I thought it was a good match and then, it is. 

Good night Dear Reader!

Categories: Corn, Daughters, Flowers, Spring, Tomatoes | Comments Off

May Day Report

May Day and Mid-Spring Report.  (This next week is smack dab middle of spring and full of some of the bestest silly holidays!)

Spring so far… what a wild ride! We’ll start with the Market Garden…

 

Market Garden Report Part One

Here in the Puget Sound region we had one of the strangest winters.  It was oddly mild.  And yet,  the resident ice skater managed to get in two big skates and have a skating party with her nephews and friends. 

This meant death to the winter brassica (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts etc.)  They just weren’t ready for the two surprise deep freezes.  Both freezes followed exceptionally mild – warm – trends and then stuck around long enough to ensure frozen ponds and dead plants.  They rallied after the first freeze and I was sure I could nurture them over the shock, but then, in spite of the protection I gave them the second deep freeze just plain took them out.  After that I was just nurturing molding piles of mush. 

Things looked up after that and the mildness continued including mild rainfall, this spring was looking good…back in February, before spring started.  At the end of February, the holding ponds around the Market Garden were empty!  And then March began.  And the rain came.  Record rainfall March.   It seemed to never stop.  Then it did stop for a few days, mid April, and when it did rain, it didn’t seem like a lot of rain at once.  I even smoothed out the tractor tracks on the access road to the garden.  Things began looking up, again.  And then it rained, really rained, putting this April into the record book right along with March.  And the tractor ruts are so deep a large child could get lost in them.

The Market Garden has remained too wet to till the empty beds; too wet to move season extenders to their next spot; the over winter beds have been too wet to weed; the interior of the main hot house and other season extenders have been flooded; the Gardener has had massive bouts of depression. 

Chaos has ensued.  Plans have been rewritten and rewritten and hands have been wrung. 

This was not the year to decide to reconstruct the Market Garden and have a productive year (and yes, I did the former and wanted the latter).  So yes, next year will be better because even if it rains the same amount or more. 

And hopefully these last three days of April and this incredible first day of May is a sign that not only will next year be better but this next month will be as well.

The overall mildness of this last winter and early spring has sent things into bloom well ahead of time.  And that Dear Reader, along with sunshine, always picks up my spirit.

The wisteria is in full bloom, the apple trees are on the back side of bloom time, the pear and cherry bloom is over, service berry is in full bloom, lilacs are blooming, the tulips are done but the lupine buds are coloring!  It was a fragrant heaven stepping out my door this morning!

DSC_9187

Categories: Just Now (Phenology), Spring, Vicktory Farm and Gardens, Weather | 1 Comment

Temporary Abundance of Eggs

We’re getting all the girls and boys (poultry) lined up for producing some incubatable eggs – breedings that will result in meaty birds or replacement layers and brooders. 

In the mean time, waiting for indiscrete fertilized eggs to pass, we’re being forced to consume a lot of eggs.  Ultimately it isn’t a problem, but so far as food monotony goes, we’re almost there…

Bet reminded me that we had come across aged eggnog too late for last year’s egg glut but we were going to try it for this year’s.  We were nearly out of eggs by the time the holidays and “eggnog season” rolled around or at least so low that using a dozen to make eggnog seemed extravagant.   But using the glut we have now, to make an aged nog, that supposedly only gets better with aging…  Merry Christmas!

I’ve done my research, there are a few recipes out there, some use only the yolk and then next winter when you use it you add in whipped egg white.  Yeah, the point would be enjoying eggnog when the hens are enjoying not producing.  Next.  Then there are the ones that add dairy and the ones that don’t.    

My head began to spin with the multitude of combinations until I found a couple of folks who stated that as long as the alcohol content is 20% then spoilage is of no concern.  Perfect.  Now I can just come up with my own recipe for eggnog and we can decide if we want to add the dairy now or when we serve it.  The resident Dairy Princess is very temperamental, some holidays we have milk still and some holidays she decides she is drying the crew up. So she will have to decide.

Just about to get up to start the process but the reluctance to get out of my cocoon on a chilly rainy day and I allowed my mind to wander to other milky eggy alcoholly concoctions.  March!  Irish month!  Bailey’s Cream! 

I hate the prebottled stuff and the idea of ingesting manufactured sweetened condensed milk and chocolate syrup (which is fake chocolate, just in case you didn’t know that little tidbit Dear Reader, I didn’t for a long time) does not interest me in the least.  Okay, it would interest me if someone came over with a cake and a bottle of Bailey’s premade or “homemade”, either one.   But since that isn’t going to happen, not wanting to go out and get those less than desirable items not to mention the instant coffee, I push back in the recesses and remembered someone had posted somewhere that they made condensed milk.  Perfect.  And I know I can make chocolate syrup like no body’s business. 

So off we go to the kitchen Dear Reader!  I am done outside for the day! 

I did my bit in the garden already, weeded a few beds, firmed up some hoops, rolled up one side for ventilation on another hoop, moved things out to harden off, tidied up, consolidated baby pea plants that came up sparsely, thinned out carrots, and made a muck mess digging a trench to drain water off a couple of beds.  Returned to the barnyard and moved some turkeys over the asparagus beds, tidied up, looked in on things in the Hippy Hot Hut and finally couldn’t stand the soggy feet I was sporting. Hosed off the mud from my boots, my legs and my butt.  My boots are drying, my pants are drying, my coat is drying, hopefully my brain is drying.

To the kitchen!  To come up with some delicious ways to preserve the egg harvest! And have eggless Bailey’s by Saint Patrick’s day and an egg version for Easter!

Categories: Christmas, Easter, Eggs, Thanksgiving | Comments Off

Raising Grain

Did you read that as raising cain, Dear Reader? Well usually, I am, but today it’s just grain. Yup, I’m off on another horticulture adventure. This time I’m attempting to be a grain grower.  Today was the big shove off, the bon voyage party happened.

3 – 160 sq. ft  beds planted, one to barley, one to oats and one to spring wheat.  Not sure I’ll see any production from the spring wheat, but we’ll see. Not many folks in this area are into growing grains, none that I have come across any way.  So I’m figuring things out from info that is out there for the general growing audience.  The Puget Sound Basin is a funny little area though, so I know I’m up for “failures” in some aspects and lots of tweaking in others.

Even after more years that I could count (or more like wanna count out loud) I still have yet to figure out what the heck other gardeners (in books) mean by “early spring” or even late spring, fall, summer, mid summer, they are all bizarre vague references to times I’m not sure really exist on a calendar.   So even though the “directions” say early spring, and it isn’t spring yet, I went for it.  One book said, “early spring, even as the snow is melting” Uh, yeah, that could be January or April here. Or even January AND April, so I just decided today was the day, before it rained so much more that I needed the canoe to get to the garden. 

Because of the sogginess of the soil just under the surface of the beds, (my feet were in standing water several places on the path today while I worked) I just barely scuffed up the surface. (the beauty of raised beds) I didn’t have weeds to contend with because all the beds had been previously tilled and shaped, back when it was dry enough to handle the tractor and tiller. 

Instead of doing as the book on small scale grain raising suggested, planting in tidy rows across the bed, I broadcast the seed for each.  I had Elisabet help me cover the 4 foot wide beds with floating row cover.  Mostly to keep the birds from eating all the grains and it will help the seed germinate and grab hold of the soil without being beat to death by the rains that will continue to come I’m sure.

All totaled it took two hours, a basic garden rock rake, a previously tilled garden bed, and a day that didn’t pour down rainm and a half pound of each of the grain seeds purchased from Johnny’s Select Seeds out of Maine, .  The barley is the Conlon hulless variety, the wheat, Glenn Hard Red Spring Wheat and the oats, just an unnamed variety of hulless oats.

Well lunch break is very much done and I’ve got some more shifting to do down at the Hippy Hot Hut so that I can start some more seeds.  I moved out more flats of onions and the lettuce and brassicas, took them out to the Center Hoop in the Market Garden.  But more on those later. Have a great day Dear Reader, I’m enjoying the momentary absence of rain.  Greatly.

Categories: Farming, Grain, Row Cover, Winter | Comments Off

Winter Knitting

CIMG9093

I just now used this potholder. It was knitted up this last month and I was fairly disappointed in the design so it just sat by my knitting waiting to undergo scrutiny on what all needs to be changed.  But just now I needed to grab the tea kettle off of the wood stove and it was handy and thicker than my shirttail.  I love it!

I loved using it so much just now that I had to stop doing what I was doing Dear Reader, and tell you all about it!

There are lots of things I will be changing when I make another one very much like this one.  But the thickness (it is knitted in the round, so it is double thick) and the flexibility over stuffed quilted fabric…I love! 

I knitted several potholders over the last three months and I truly love the whole process of creating them.  Today was the first time I actually put the one I am keeping (because it is a bit of a mess) to use.  Well, other than flapping the ones I did make together, pantomiming actual use, kind of like testing it out before I gave them away.

 

DSC_8462

These are three of my first potholders I made from a pattern found on Drops Yarn.   These snowmen all went out as Christmas presents to my three married daughters.  Two more snowmen, not shown, also went out: my first one and the only one done exactly (okay, nearly) as the pattern said, went to a niece; and one made with a bright lime green hat went to our friends the Bowermans. Those two not pictured had the crocheted edging that was called for, where the ones above have attached i-cord for edging.

It was fun to give them as gifts and so pleasing to knit, most likely I will make more again next year, but the whole point to making these potholders has been to learn colorwork.

I’ve been meaning to learn color stranded knitting, especially after having learned how to do Swedish twinned knitting, but push came to shove when Bet posted, er, pinned on Pinterest (I do not pinterest, I have enough magazines with hoped for recipes and patterns and DIY’s marked with post-its to last an actual “Completer” a short life-time) these amazing mittens and claimed that she would have them by next year. You can go see her “pin”, I can’t for the life of me get an image here of it.

If you went to see it, you can see where the pattern for the top potholder came from.  As I made up my first snowman potholder all I could think of was making up my own stranded colorwork patterns.  As I worked more and more I went right past the fantasy of making Bet her wished for mittens and right on to sweaters.  Oh, I’ll make the mittens, the gauntlet has been thrown down.  If you went to Bet’s pin page, you may have notices that she said, “These will be my mittens for Next Year”.  She did not accidentally capitalize the “N” in next and the “Y” in year.

We have an ongoing joke around here Dear Reader, I may have even wrote about it out-right or you may have picked up on it, Bet’s and my anthem that often rings out around here after a  perceived failure or on the heals of realizing an idea that comes too late for right now, “Next Year”.  Our constant repeating of our anthem finally culminated in our promise to ourselves to make a “Next Yearbook” (pun on Yearbook intended) filled with all the things we promise to do better or just actually do.  Apparently the making of said book should be the first page!

My first attempt at a my own stranded color pattern were three evergreen trees like the three snowmen. (No pics, it too went out quickly like my very first snowman to another niece.) Learned a lot on that one about translation from the chart into actual knitting.  In the sky above the trees, the gold stars turned into several small flocks of gold birds.  Yikes!

CIMG9094

The robin that I did was slightly modified and with something completely different on the back.  And as you can see if you went to the picture of Bet’s-wished-for mittens, I changed up the branches for an all over background pattern.  Yeah, don’t like the “check” so that  will change back to branches.  I also tried a three color cast on, wow doggy did it get tight tension.  The pulled together top isn’t a photo distortion, it is a knitting tension distortion.  That will need to be fixed.

CIMG9092

This is the back of the robin. The pattern was a compilation of some stranded colorwork motifs that I wanted to try and a few I invented.  Most stranded colorwork is done with two colors, but of course that can’t do for me, I wanted to tackle three colors all at once, nearly immediately.  No one said it couldn’t be done (as if that would have even stopped me) and the original robin on the mittens were clearly done working three colors across the rows that included the robin and his branches.  So, of course I figured I could too.

Between learning stranded color knitting, three stranded colors, attached i-cord, attached two color i-cord and making my own patterns, I’ve learned a ton, and made myself a little tool as well.

Somewhere in the whole learning stranded colorwork, I did read about how you need to keep your background color and your image color in certain positions.  Side note: Most people do stranded colorwork (often just called fair isle, incorrectly) using both hands to hold the two working yarns.  I cannot, without completely ruining the flow of my knitting, use my right-hand, and I am supposedly, right handed.  When I first began knitting again as an adult, I taught myself pik knit or continental knitting, simply because I knew if there was not a better way than “throwing” the yarn, I would not be able to become a real knitter.  Trust me, I take that word “throw” to a whole nuther level Dear Reader, throw usually includes the needles as well.

I could not for the life of me figure out even from tutorials on Drops on stranded colorwork continental style, how to keep the two colors separate for background and image.  And my first snowman taught me that I really did need to.  It wasn’t until I read someone’s blog about some other knitting problem that I came across a tool called the Norwegian Thimble.  I actually found a couple of styles on Amazon, but even ordering speedy get here as quick as possible, it wouldn’t get to me that night so… I made my own.

CIMG9105

Ta-da.  I cut the finger off of a dollar store knit glove in our Glove Box and put stitch markers into the fabric to act as my thread holders.  How do I remember where the background thread goes?  Blue = B = background yarn. The pink and white are insignificant colors, just different from B.

CIMG9103

The potholders are knitted in the round, my preferred method of knitting.  The sides then are closed but the bottom and top are open, the original pattern called for stitching them together with a yarn needle and then bordering the whole pot-holder in a crocheted shell.  I don’t mind doing either but…

CIMG9102

I figured since I like putting an i-cord loop in the corner for hanging, surely I could put i-cord all the way around.  So I searched until I found attached i-cord.

CIMG9101

Sure enough, it’s doable.  And because you pick up stitches, to make the i-cord attach, you can pick up two stitches, one from each side of the opening, and make the attached i-cord also close the openings.  My adventures into attached i-cord and certainly-there-must-be-i-cord-using-more-than-one-color musings, I found candy-cane i-cord and attached it!

CIMG9098

All pretty much making my latest design pretty Christmassy with the whole Scandahovian Dala Horse thing going and yet,

CIMG9096

very St. Valentiney as well.  Which works great in my world since several certain selections of my Christmas décor stays out until after St. Valentine and the burning desire for snow. But, all that quirky business for another post if, I haven’t already told you about my crazy trickle out decorations and slowly put away bit by bit, thing I do.

Well Dear Reader, I loved telling you about what I was doing all November, December and January instead of writing.  But now, I really must get back to making sense of all my seed packets and deciding how many of what tomato and pepper seeds varieties I plant the day after tomorrow when it warms up enough for the Hippy Hot Hut to get my seeds off to a good start.

CIMG9120

I think the petunias I planted January 26th are a fail, in spite of bottom heat mats,

CIMG9124

wood stove going twenty-four hours and a propane heater at night right next to the seed bench.

CIMG9110

The onions came up fine and

CIMG9113

even the begonias are bustin’ out (little pink nibs in the center of the pic).  But all that for another post, soon Dear Reader, soon.  I admit, I gotta get this no-writing bus turned around and turned around quick.  I don’t like not writing.

Categories: Christmas, Fiber arts, Propagation, St. Valentine, Winter | Comments Off

First Days of February

A Joyus Candlemas Day

to to all those who have come to see the Light. 

I love the day’s Candlemas moniker, it always reminds me that He is my light.  Not being born Jewish, I am by the original meaning, a Gentile.  And even though I was born to believing parents, a strong Christian heritage, I was still a Gentile and in need of His Light, very much the Gentile Simeon spoke of when he said,

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Truly through Christ I have come to and become able to understand the Father.  The path was lit and the pages of His word illuminated, with Light.

 

Farmin’ News

A few rhymes for the day:

If Candlemas day be dry and fair
The half o’ winters to come and mair
If Candlemas day be wet and foul
The half o’ winter’s gane at Yule.

You do know that really it only means that no matter what we are half way through winter today?  Oh that crazy Ground Hog Day tradition, sometimes it is fun to join in all the silliness and maybe watch the movie at least once, (if it isn’t Super Bowl day and your team is in it for the second time in the team’s life).  But really for here in the Puget Sound area, we don’t really have much of a winter.  What is winter here actually stays far beyond the six weeks it has left according to the calendar  or the ground hog.  We don’t have a pack of snow to melt, though we may finally get some about April 13th or later.  Our first snow is as likely to coincide with our last frost date as any other weather oddity.  But it is fun to note the weather today and wonder what the next six will be like.

Here is a poignant, if not another terribly obvious proverb for the day:

Half your wood,
Half your hay
You must have
On Candlemas Day!

If I get the whole prediction thing, it goes something like, whatever today is like, the rest of winter won’t be like that.  Well today is a pretty nice day, started frosty and foggy, it is still overcast, thirty minutes to game time, (gotta get this finished before the game starts) but I love it, ‘cuz for me I love starting something on a great note and February is startin’ on a high one.

Yesterday, was a great first day of the month.  February is always the month that I really get into winter gardening.  And here, in the Puget Sound region winter gardening most certainly can include weeding.  As long as the soil isn’t too saturated, that you disturb it as little as possible it is a great time to weed. 

And weed I did! 

The asparagus bed is so neglected.  Certainly not because we don’t absolutely love asparagus but more likely it gets buried at the bottom of the roundtuit pile, then when thought of it is too late to do any vigorous weeding because the crowns have been awakened and the tender tips are so vulnerable to being broken.  Then once the tips are up and a little emergency weeding is done and weeding while harvesting is over, it easily slips onto the roundtuit pile once again.

I have determined that everyday that the ground isn’t frozen, I will be weeding for no less than four hours in the asparagus beds and then I will turn that same time to the raspberry beds once the asparagus is all done.  Based on what I’ve already done I have approximately 22 hours of weeding left in the asparagus and I would imagine that the raspberries will take about 27 hours of weeding.  Hopefully I will have enough nonfrozen days (I’ll need about 13 if I’m by myself) to get it done, because I also need to relocate all our strawberry plants, and move an oak tree… .

Frozen days will be devoted to starting seeds, up potting as needed, taking cuttings from fuchsias and geraniums, and dividing, repotting and stooling chrysanthemums.  

All this while helping Dirt and Bet with lambing and kidding, and that ain’t no joke.  Especially when it happens in the middle of the night. 

I do believe I am grateful for the blessing of rest during the lovely relaxing holiday months of December and January, where the biggest farm biz pressure was getting seeds inventoried, organized and ordered.  Done.  Well a bit of organizing is still needed, but mornings will be cold, chilly and dark this month and more time is freed up this month with the end of the holidays, the end of football and decidedly the end of watching most of the tv programs we have watched in the past.

Lent doesn’t start for another month but Bet and I decided that we didn’t need the conviction of Lent to cause us to stop watching the garbage that Hollywood keeps feeding us.   Actually I barely watch when I do, mostly I’m “working” on something, I’ve become and obsessed knitter, or the whole seed project. or emails (ugh), but we figure our work might actually be more productive without the distraction of the pure foolishness that is television.  Nothing like reading other people’s in depth facebook discussion of a popular show to place a glaring light on how stupid watching tv or even movies can really be.

Well I’m wrappin’ this thing up so I can settle into the game, now that I have suffered through all the pregame nonsense.   Gotta make sure the body is ready to sit for an hour and a half before it has to get up.  And then for the last half of the game.  Because yes, I am a fan!  A Twelfth Man.

See you on the other side Dear Reader, I hope your team wins, (as long as you’ve picked the Hawks)  But most of all,  a glorious Candlemas Day to you and yours.

Categories: Farming, God the Father Son and Holy Spirit | Comments Off