Finally! Phew!

There’s something really amazing about the day that you actually start planting the garden.

I have this sense of – I dunno – relief? I feel like yelling, “FINALLY!”

And then doing a little happy dance.

I can admit it – I say a little prayer of thanks and sing a little song of thanksgiving to God for this incredible blessing of dirt to plant in.

So – Denise – you asked about John’s tomato trellis system. Here’s a sort of closer look at a panel he added to the line-up yesterday.

It’s three tall fence stakes and a panel of cattle fencing. These one he secured the fencing on with zip ties. (My husband LOVES zip ties!) That’s it. It works fabulously.

This year we’ve got 62 feet of tomato trellis. We’ve got 32 tomato plants in the ground along these 62 feet of trellis. We plant on one side of the trellis with tomatoes, and on the other side I’ll add things like chives and basil and maybe some marigolds – all of which are great companions to tomatoes.

We’re growing Cherry tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, Roman, Brandywine, Beefsteak, Legend, Siletz, and Romas. A nice blend of both determinate and indeterminate, early, moderate, and longer maturing varieties.

:sigh:

I can’t wait until that first tomato comes in from the garden!

Today we also got planted:

A variety of lettuces on the underside of the green bean trellis. The first planting of the blue lake green beans are on the “outside” of the trellis, too.

A variety of radishes. John decided to mix it up a bit – literally – and broadcast these together on the next segment of this green bean trellis. (And yes, we do staple the seed packages to the frame. We’re getting old – it helps us remember what’s where! )

Beets were next. We’re out of John’s mind-blowingly amazing pickled beets. It’s SO time for a good harvest of beets!

This shot gives you a better idea of how the lettuces, radishes, and beets were laid out:

Along the back and side of the fence are two varieties of Peas:

…and…

You can sort of see where they are here:

John’s standing next to the potato condo, and then to the right of where he’s at you can see the envelope for the Cascade Bush Snap Peas. The Oregon Surgar Pod Peas are planted along the fencing to the right.

And then about 8 feet of turnips:

It’s a pretty sweet thing to look across the yard and actually see things planted in the garden!

(Impressive fencing job, huh?)

All-in-all, a pretty productive day.

The girls sure enjoyed the snippets of sunshine, too.

So did Pepper!

Hope your Memorial Day was – and continues to be – filled with blessings.

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Tomato Plant Sale Today!

Yep! It’s time!

Time to plant the tomatoes!

People ask us all the time – what’s the secret? Why are your tomatoes so gorgeous? How do you know when to plant them? What do you do to make them that bountiful?

We have a few secrets – and we don’t mind sharing.

Start with really good tomato starts.

We’ve sourced them many places over the years, but we’ve been happiest with those that are grown from seed organically and started in a greenhouse that is unheated. They’re heartier – better able to handle the wacky Oregon weather.

We’ve been so fortunate to partner with a local master gardener who was willing to utilize our recycled pots and her greenhouse space to get these starts going for us.

They’re gorgeous plants! I’m so excited to get them in the ground!

Get them in the ground at the right time.

In theory, it seems like you really ought to be able to get your tomatoes in the ground by early to mid-May, right? Um, no. Not in our corner of Oregon! Our goal is to get them in the ground over Memorial Day Weekend. Any later – and well, it’s just not a happy result. Any earlier – there’s a good chance you’ll lose most (if not all) of your starts to frost.

It’s important to make sure they are situated so that they get LOTS of direct sunlight. They will not thrive without it.

Compost, compost, compost!

We add organic material (leaves in the fall, chicken coop litter in the winter, etc.) to the garden plots all through the year. A week ago John took the tiller out and rototilled the garden plots. The soil is fabulous.

Now that the soil is prepared, we’ll get our tomato plants (all 32 of ’em – 4 of each of the varieties we’re selling) in the ground, sprinkle around each of the plants with a little bit of DE, put down a layer of newspaper or brown paper bags, and then heavily (6 to 8 inches) compost on top of the paper.

Most years we end up buying a load of compost available commercially for that final layer of compost. It’s worth every penny for the end-result yields on our garden.

Water from the roots.

We use soaker hoses – and oftentimes will bury them below the compost layer (on top of the paper layer above). This means that we don’t have to use as much water, the leaves and fruit on the plants won’t suffer as much damage or disease, and we water much less frequently.

Just in case you didn’t know – watering a nearly ripe tomato directly can make them crack – bad. If you want fruit that will stay on the vine until they are utterly ripe and undeniably mouth-wateringly delicious – water from the roots!

Fertilize.

Here’s the thing – we believe in organics – i.e., Miracle Grow is from the pit of hell! We use fish emulsion, compost, compost tea, etc. You CAN over fertilize – more is not always better. Follow the directions and you’ll be glad you did.

Trellis, stake, cage – something!

John has used cattle fencing (available at Home Depot) to fashion some pretty awesome trellises for our garden. They last years and years and years. We love ours. Just as soon as the tomato plants are ready to go in the ground, the trellis system goes up, the plants go in the ground, and then they get tied to the trellis.

Tomato plants that are trellised/staked/caged and tied will grow beautifully. They love the extra stability. They will reach for the sky given the opportunity. We’ve had tomato plants that have grown easily 8 to 10 feet tall given appropriate support.

We make sure to go out about once a week and tie new growth to the trellis. I go to Home Depot and pick up the fluorescent pink flagging tape (non-adhesive) and use it so that I can see where I’ve tied as I go.

And that’s pretty much it. It’s not terribly complicated. Yes, it does take planning and some effort.

I’m so excited to get the garden going! We’ll be out in the yard today getting the new fencing up, the tomato trellising up, and tomato plants in the ground.

Come get some tomato starts for your garden, too!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Garden?!

[Weed infested excuse for a garden!]

What garden?

Ohhhh… yeah. We did plant a garden this year, didn’t we?

A garden we had high hopes for, in fact.

[One of our most prolific items in the garden this year – thistles! They abound!]

Yeah… sad, sad story.

We’re still kinda pondering the turn of events – the outcomes, as they are at present. Trying to figure out, “What went wrong?!”

There have been factors to consider…

…weather – truly horrible garden weather.

…deer – we’ve fenced in a fairly complex manner – I’m amazed they can still get in!

…soil quality – we’ve begun to feel that this may be our biggest issue at hand.

[Can you believe this is all the corn that’s survived?! So much for knee high by the 4th of July!]

In years past we’ve begun dealing with the soil as soon as the summer’s harvest has been completed. We layer fallen leaves, grass clippings, compost, and organic matter all on the garden plot(s). The past several years the girls have done an amazing job of tilling in all of those things – leaving us with a beautiful soil consistency and composition.

The past two years – at the conclusion of a full year of deep litter coop management – we’ve transferred the deep litter to the garden plots. Last year we did so in January. This year, in April. (It was a crazy year – what can we say?!) Both years the girls did a lovely job of tilling the litter into the soil.

[We will likely refer to this as the year of the green bean – those, we can grow! This is green bean plot number 3.]

We usually till the soil anywhere between 3 and 6 times before we get our garden planted each year. After we’ve got either seedlings in the ground, or items that have been direct seeded have sprouted and grown sufficiently, we go to the next step.

That step involves putting down a layer of DE (Diatomaceous Earth); a layer of newspaper or brown craft paper (i.e., brown grocery bags) – making sure to tear the paper so that the base of the plant is not too smothered; then we put down soaker hoses; and finally, we typically purchase a load of organic compost from the local lumber company, and spread several inches worth over the garden plots. These steps do a number of things: help with pest control, build up the soil quality, reduce the amount we need to water, and help with weed control.

[Two types of green beans here – the ones on the left are Blue Lake Pole beans. On the right, the asparagus beans I was SO excited to try. Yeah… not so impressive, are they?]

[Asparagus green beans.]

[Blue Lake Pole green beans. Planted the same day. Draw your own conclusions!]

It’s a great system – and has worked beautifully.

This year we had some twists in the plot, though. With my illness and prolonged recovery, and the resultant financial strains that accompanied it – we couldn’t afford to bring in the compost; the time I’ve been able to devote actually in the garden has been curtailed due to greatly compromised stamina (not to mention having to work away from the home, as well); and our soaker hoses are pretty much toasted, and we just can’t afford to replace them at this point in time.

[Apparently, I am still able to grow a decent plot of basil, at least! Phew! I was starting to feel a little paranoid!]

The weather has also played a part – and not just in regard to the fact that things got in the ground a solid month later than is typical for us. One of the things that we’ve heard from some old timers is that the very heavy rains we experienced in the Spring could well have washed vital nutrients from the soil.

[Pretty much NONE of the 20 cucumber plants made it. This is a store bought that we broke down and put in the ground when it became apparent that the others weren’t gonna make it. And yes, that’s a straggler at the bottom of the picture…. 6 weeks later!]

Compound that with the fact that our deep litter method in the coop uses wood shavings (but no cedar – which has a known growth inhibitor in it) – well, we’ve begun to suspect that our soil may well just be really, really wacked out.

Cases in point:

  1. We couldn’t even get marigolds to grow!
  2. Zucchini wouldn’t sprout.
  3. Cucumbers wouldn’t move past seedling stage.
  4. Tomatoes – which normally go crazy wild here – have struggled merely to survive. The majority of them have died off. By now, most of them are as tall as I am. They most vigorous ones are merely knee high.
  5. Virtually all of the flower seed that I planted simply did NOTHING. We’ve always had wild success with flower seed!

Needless to say, it’s been pretty discouraging.

[Okay, we may amend it to be called the year of the green bean AND the potato condo! The potatoes are doing nicely.]

For a number of reasons, of course. First – the financial loss. About the last thing we need right now with all of the medical bills and the fact that I’m still in the recovery mode! Second – so much hard work – down the drain. Ugh! Third – we’re scrapping our plans for a fall garden now – if the soil is bad, why even go there?

[Volunteer lobelia… Which is pretty wild, ’cause I haven’t put any in this garden plot, and the one I did put it in, it’s been 3 years since there was any there!]

The plan right now is to see if we can’t get the soil tested. There used to be an extension office in our little community, we’re going to investigate and see if they’re still there and ask how much it will cost.

[Stinking deer grazed right through my lettuce patch!]

We’ve been working hard at getting the battle with the horrible, invasive weed problem won. We’re about 65% of the way there. Once it’s all weeded, we’ll fertilize with fish emulsion, water well, put down the paper, and then mulch with straw. We gave up the newspaper in our cost-cutting measures, so I’ll put a “want” out on Freecycle to see if we can’t get our hands on some. We have the straw on hand, and it’s what we can afford right now.

[Yes, an actual tomato blossom. There may still be some hope for a few tomatoes from this garden. Certainly won’t be the bounty of years past!]

And a dear friend and neighbor has a connection to a farm that will not only will give away manure (as in FREE), but they will also load it for you. Said dear friend and neighbor has also volunteered the use of his truck for said venture – a huge blessing! We will plan to take advantage of this wonderful offer in the fall – giving the manure plenty of time to age and compost down.

[Only one out of 30 of my hard-fought for Romanesco Zucchini seeds germinated and made it past seedling stage. I could weep!]

And – depending on the results of a soil test (I’m really hoping this is an affordable thing!), we’ll plan on growing an appropriate winter cover crop(s) in answer to whatever our soil might need.

Accordingly – the plans we’d made for the yields from our planned for garden have been amended.

The few tomatoes we are lucky enough to harvest will likely go for immediate consumption. If we’re fortunate enough to have some excess, I will can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.

[The dill has actually done fairly well – at least in comparison to lots of other stuff!]

The dreams I had of pickling all sorts of bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, and dill pickle relish – not going to happen unless we find a good deal at a u-pick somewhere nearby. At least there will be a few slicing cucumbers available for munching on!

[A few struggling squash plants…]

But that’s life, right?

When things don’t necessarily go as well as you’d experienced in the past, or hoped for for the future – you analyze, you prayerfully consider, you seek wise counsel, and you go forward with a new plan.

I will say – one thing that we have oodles of is…. (drum roll please…)

…luscious blackberries!

I ate the first truly ripe and perfect one today.

I’m thinking I may get to harvest the first batch tomorrow, and I’ll probably make syrup with it. Or… if there are enough, maybe a batch of jam!

Such is life.

We’ll move forward.

And count the blessings for exactly what they are – gifts from the hand of our Mighty and Faithful God!

A Rare Day Off…

I had to go back to work at the end of May – after 4 months off for medical leave.

I’ve had few days off – although I have been fortunate enough to be able to work first half-time, and most recently, about 3/4ths of a typical work day.

On an average day I’m at work by 7 am, get home by 1:15 pm – and pretty much crash. Getting over this lengthy illness will take a concerted effort and quite a bit of patience! It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to accomplish the many things that I feel I ought to accomplish.

Over the course of the last week – after a substantial delay due to the very cool, very wet Spring we’ve had – our garden has begun to take some shape.

HOORAY!

Here – let me show you what we’ve got put together so far…

This is the “old” garden. I.e., the original garden plot that’s been here since we moved her 5 years ago.

In the foreground are three rows of squash… they are yellow crookneck (my very favorite in the whole entire world), and Mexican squash – sometimes also seen as grey zucchini. The Mexican squash is a new variety for us – I buy it sometimes at the store, but it’s expensive, and not reliably available. So I decided we oughta grow some!

Next, is a row of dill. I’m relying on it to be wildly successful – I have big pickling plans this year!

There’s a reserved space next (i.e., empty) – right before that trellis. It’s for the trellis that is currently being used for peas. When the peas are done, the trellis will move here, and we’ll get another planting of green beans in. And the trellis that you see here:

On the left side are the old standard – Blue Lake pole beans.

On the right – another fun new option:

In the right growing conditions, these beans can grow up to 36″ long! WOW! The rumor is that they’re fabulous, too. I hope to find out. That would mean, of course, that we NOT the deer get to eat the green beans this year!

To that end, I’ve planted lots of flowers that are supposed to be deer deterrents. Like:

My goal is to edge each plot with plantings that the deer are said to be particularly repulsed by. They include: astilbe, coreopsis, gallardia, chives, lavender, sage (quite a number of varieites), purple coneflower, candy tuft, and bee balm. Here’s hoping it works!

After the green bean trellis are five hills of another new to us planting – Romanesco Zucchini. I think this is the variety of squash that I enjoy so much when I’m in Spain – or at least something very similar to it. I heard so many raves about it – and it was SO difficult to obtain the seed. I’m really hoping for success with this one!

And lastly in the old garden – four or five rows of corn – I can’t remember how many now. We’ll see when it comes up! πŸ™‚

In the “new” garden plot we’ve got…

A potato condo with both Red Pontiacs and White Kennebecs. Here’s to a more successful potato year than last year!

Cucumbers! The trellis on the left has pickling cucumbers. The trellis on the right has slicing cucumbers.

In the foreground you may be able to discern a hill – there are actually 3 (I forgot to get a shot of them!) – one of a variety similar to cantaloupe that we’ve enjoyed in Spain, another an heirloom cantaloupe, and then an heirloom watermelon.

We’ve got forty tomato plants in the ground. A few aren’t looking so great. Gosh – they could sure use a few solid days of genuinely summer weather! They are all – of course – heirloom varieties: Paul Robeson, Copia, TC Jones, Grammy Cantrell German Red, Moon Glow, Dr. Wyches, Grace Lahman’s Pink, Roman Candle, Weeping Charlie Roma, Amish Paste, Isis Candy Cherry, Dr. Carolyn Cherry, and Tess Land Race Currant Cherry.

Separating the two banks of tomato trellises is a row of basil plants. I have some serious pesto plans for those basil plants!

Also in the new garden is my weed-infested patch of cabbages…

As well as my weed-infested patch of peas – which have pea pods on them now!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Aren’t they beautiful?

You may recall this entire plot was completely weed infested – as recently as just a week ago! We decided to just till it all under and start over again – sadly, saying goodbye to the spinach and green onions that had limped along thus far. I need to get out there and weed this little corner – and soon! – but only as energy allows.

Also in this plot are…

Parsley…

Cilantro…

Beets…

…and marigolds.

So far.

We will fill up nearly every spare inch we can.

I still need to get lettuce planted, a new planting of spinach, and a new planting of green onions in, as well. I put those under the trellises – it works out nicely.

John also got two more beds tilled tonight.

The front bed – along the street – will have pumpkins and lots and lots of perennial seeds that I’ve saved up and need to get in the ground!

And a bed where we’ve had great success with green beans in the past, will play host to green beans once again! John will get the trellising up in the next day or two, and then it will get planted. And then immediately thereafter – fenced! One MUST protect the garden from the chickens!

And speaking of chickens…

Buffy and three of the babies… the fourth (the Dominique) is always trailing behind somewhere!

One of the little black sex link chicks. Isn’t she pretty?

And – one of the EIGHT mostly naked chickens I have on my hands right now:

I don’t know if it’s the weather being so cool and yucky that’s caused so many of them to decide to molt all at the same time – or what! But there are feathers EVERYWHERE! Poor things – they look kinda pathetic! At least it’s not as cold as when Crayon molted last year! But has sure put a damper on egg production!

So – while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to on this lovely day off, I’m thankful for every moment I got to spend here at home with the kids and in the garden, and out with the girls. I even threw together a new fun salad, that I’ll post about later this week. I think it’s going to be a keeper!

Oooh! And – Shelly‘s broody again! I think I’m picking up fertile eggs for her to set in the next day or two. More on that as details are available!

I love this time of year…


I was laying down on the couch-y piece of lawn furniture in the yard this afternoon and looked up and saw this pretty cloud formation. It was about 85Β° F, there was a bit of a breeze, and it was lovely.

Here’s Crayon checking out the new digs. She – along with the rest of the girls – are trying to figure out the new set up. John built new roosts – so that everyone is at the same height when they sleep. It’s really throwing them for a loop – you should hear them squawk when it’s bed time.

See? It’s cool, huh?

Of course, at the end down there – right before the fan, you take a left into the old part of the coop, where the nest boxes are. There will be additional nest boxes soon – John’s working on them. They’ll be to the right – between the door frame closest to us in the picture and the beginning of that roost.

Are those not the cutest little feet? Isn’t it the cutest little butt? And look! Wing feathers! The chicks are going to be 2 weeks old on Monday. There seriously is nothing more precious than watching these three little adoptees follow their Mama Shelly all through the yard each and every day. She clucks when she finds something yummy for them to eat. She’s teaching them that I am the queen of the world because I bring fun snacks. I love it that they are excited to see me! We are SO doing the letting the broody hen set on fertilized eggs again thing!

There have been lots of visiting kids here the past couple of weeks. My neice and nephew have been visiting off and on over the summer thus far – although they’re returning home on Tuesday. I’m going to miss them so! And my best friend – who lives in Mexico with her husband and children – spends the summers here with her parents, who live right down the street from us and go to the same church that we do. So Pepper has been on recipient of oodles of love overload all week long. I think she’s had more kids throwing balls for her to chase the past two weeks than she has in the entirety of her life. She’s really been sleeping well at night!

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Here’s one of the Blue Andalusians. I think they’re just beautiful. They are great foragers – and so GREAT for a backyard flock that gets to free range. They’re quiet, polite, and are reputed to be excellent layers – of white eggs! Go figure!

Here’s one of the Delawares in the garden – eating weeds. I love it when they eat weeds – and remember to leave my cucumbers alone! Isn’t she pretty? She’s got black tips on her tail feathers, too. Interestingly enough, the Delawares lay brown eggs!

John and I were lamenting tonight about the sad state of affairs the garden is in this year. Well, I did have a major orthopedic surgery – so I’m almost no help. I can weed some – but as you can see here – not nearly enough! Here a couple of the Speckled Sussex are helping me with weeding. Those are lima and bush beans behind them.

But when it comes right down to it – we’re doing the best we can – and were just so thankful that we have a garden to grow things in!

Look – lots of cucumber flowers – woo hoo!

When this cucumber grows up – it’s going to be in my next batch of Creamy Cucumber Salad!

Here’s Caleb – without a nose. When I was out weeding in the garden tonight he HAD to get close – and as I was trying to take his picture he turned away! Stinker!

OH! And look what we have! I actually ate one tonight – and it was perfectly ripe, sweet, luscious, and perfect. It was the ONLY ONE that was ripe, though. That’s okay – I need the week that it will take them to ripen up to get some projects done before I jump in and start canning jams and jellies.

This is our first year to do corn in AGES. We just really hadn’t had success previously. But with the expanded garden plot we decided to try again. It’s actually about as tall as John – and has put tassels on. I love that! That means there will be corn!

The green beans are coming along nicely. Thus far – no deer have obliterated them. I’ve got a couple of tomato plants that have bites out of them – but so far, they’re leaving the green beans alone.

And if this isn’t cause for rejoicing, then I just don’t know what is!

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I love these tomatoes – even with the couple of little chicken peck marks in them. They’re a green stripey tomato. I think they’re going to be similar to the ones I eat in Spain – I sure hope so. If so – then it’ll be tomato mush for me!

This really has been the weirdest tomato year we’ve had in a long time. Some of the plants are thriving. Some have set fruit literally at the GROUND – what’s with that? Others are just looking like late bloomers – big time. Virtually every plant has some fruit on it – but man, not the bounty we had last year. Of course, it’s still early…

One of the blogs I’ve read in the past – The Shibaguyz – have constructed potato condos. John decided to give the design a go this year. You build this frame, put the soil in the bottom, add your seed potatoes, and then when the potatoes have come up about a foot or so, you add the next row of boards all around, adding more soil. Again, you wait until more growth, and repeat the process. They say you can harvest 100 pounds of potatoes from one Condo. When it’s time to harvest, you unscrew the bottom row of boards, pull the soil out, and there will be your potatoes! Cool, huh?

Here’s a good peek at the expanded garden plot. See all of the blank space? Yep – it’s the stuff we just haven’t gotten around to planting this year. It’s so bizarre. But, oh well!

Here are my sunflowers (three different varieties, if memory serves), nasturtiums, and poppies that are coming up in the little bed along the street. Please ignore all of the weeds that are coming up along side of them. One day I’ll make it there – just not today, or likely this week.

William was so proud of himself – he caught one of the Delawares!

The hammock my sister sent from Mexico back with Jonathan last year has gotten a real workout the past couple of weeks. The kids swing each other about halfway up the pear tree that it’s tied to. I just don’t watch. They have a great time, though!

So – that’s pretty much what’s going on in the yard!

We’re loving summer – and the beautiful evenings that we can sit out and enjoy the cool breezes and the company of friends and family.

We are blessed.

Spring is sprung!

This is probably just about as random a collection of photos as you’re gonna find, but it’s spring – and I was outdoors with the camera – and so – well, here you go!

BiL’s Farm Fresh Eggs has got itself an egg sign – and finally – a holder – and it even works! Woo Hoo!

The peas are looking like they may well give us something to snack on soon. I keep looking for a little pea pod to snap off and pop in my mouth – but we’re not there quite yet… soon, tho!

Is there anything more beautiful than Japanese Iris?

This is the new garden plot that John has laid out, tilled, and prepared. We got corn, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini planted in it yesterday.

Do you have sons? Cause if you do – this next photo will make total sense. Look! One of the pear trees is armed!

The flower bed along the street (adjacent to the low fence at the front of the property) got planted yesterday, too. There will hopefully be lots of Shirley Poppies, nastursiums, and sunflower seeds of varying types.

There are now 30 tomato plants of different varieties planted in the main garden plot, thanks to my husband’s ever diligent efforts.

We love these trellises John put together for tomatoes. They are so easy to tie up (we use construction tape – it’s amazing, and cheap at Home Depot!), and they get lots of good sun and ventilation this way.

This is John’s stack of lumber for the chicken coop expansion project that he’s working on.

He’s removed the little run that was attached to the coop – that was the first step of the project, the demo. Now he’s going to frame out the new addition area, and floor it first.

Can you see them? Baby pears!

Hanging out in the yard with Pepper, admiring the planting John did yesterday.

Pepper, the wonder chicken dog at play!

Gosh I love this time of year! Is there anything better than hanging out in the yard with the one you love and planting some amazing stuff that will enrich your lives?

I was wrong!

Remember the mondo egg? The 2 and 7/8ths ounce one? Here’s a picture:

And remember how we thought it was BB who had laid it?

Well – I was wrong! It wasn’t BB at all – it was Millie! Here she is below – she’s the darkest of our Rhode Island Reds – and has the sweetest temperment. Not only has she laid that one mondo egg – she has followed it up a couple of times now with others of exact same size! She’s kind of coming into her stride egg-laying wise. She’s laying pretty much daily now and the majority of the time her eggs are right between the 2 oz and 2.25 oz range.

Remember my late planting of the Scarlet Runner Beans? Well, they worked hard and finally filled out – and produced the most beautiful peachy color blossoms… See?

Here’s a picture of the other planting on the other side of the trellis:

These ones (which I can never remember what they’re called) have a pretty little yellow flower.

And this is what they look like now – after the deer came to visit my garden:

I’m not feeling very warm or fuzzy toward the deer right now. Grrrr!

On Saturday late afternoon – with the skies and the weather forecast predicting rain, we realized we ought to pull the ripe tomatoes in. When all was said and done – we picked about 120 pounds of tomatoes of various varieties…

We love the stripey yellow/orange/red tomatoes that you can see below. They are so sweet and robust tasting.

We decided to try a yellow Roma this year. Wow – they’re gorgeous! And tasty!

We always plant cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes, and pear tomatoes, and… you get the idea. This year we planted a variety called sugar lump – here’s a good picture:

Here’s a couple of baskets full of the mini tomatoes. They’re amazing!

Thus far we’ve made pomodoro, diced tomatoes, tomato basil sauce, garlic tomato basil soup, and I’ve got about a gallon of peeleed and seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed.

This is the pomodoro, above; and the tomato basil tomato sauce below.

John’s Hungarian Wax peppers are nearly ready to harvest! Aren’t they pretty?

And just a few of his bell peppers… They’re nearly ready!

Henrietta – always willing to reassert her role as leader of the pack – loves to sit up on the lawn furniture. Here she is – on her throne – observing her minions!

And lest you think we’ve gotten all of the tomatoes that our garden will offer – THINK AGAIN!

These are from Wednesday evening.

That’s a BIG tomato, huh?

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me! Our tomato plants are still pretty loaded and it’s supposed to be 90 on Monday – in the mid to high 80’s on days on either side of Monday. I’m thinking there’s gonna be lots more tomato processing!

Okay, I admit it…

Getting a good downpour is GREAT for weeding. I can grudingly admit that. I will not however, proclaim my love for October weather in August! But, I can concede that the rain did, in fact, give the garden just the soaking it was needing after our long dry spell.

…but telling when mushrooms start popping up all over the place!
The bush beans are loaded! So we picked a whole bunch of them – 5 pounds of them to be exact. We ate a pound of them with dinner – they were lucious! And canned the rest… see?
We got 9 pints out of the 4 remaining pounds. Not bad, huh?
And – finally! – some ripe tomatoes! It’s a good thing we’ve got lots of cherry tomatoes… I must have eaten about 20 of them while I was weeding!
It’s interesting that the yellow pear tomatoes are so fleshy this year. Their color is so much more profound this year, as well.
And the yellow tomatoes are ripening nicely.


I’m finding that I like the bush cucumbers better this year, as well. They grow very uniformly, and the taste is excellent. My favorite eating cucumber is the lemon cucumber – but this one comes in close second. We harvested 13 cucumbers today – 1 lemon, 4 straight 8’s, and 8 bush.

I know next to nothing about eggplants. Grammy used to grow them in her garden in California and I remember that they were huge and nearly black (obviously the Black Beauty variety). It wasn’t until I was older that I developed a taste for them, and this is the first time we’ve tried to grow them. This is the Ichiban variety – it will be interesting to see how they develop. I’m not even sure how large they should be when they are harvested! Looks like I’ve got some reading to do!


All three of John’s pepper plants are loaded – some of the peppers are actually nearing appropriate size to pick – now all they need is a little more sunshine to start to develop their colors!
The middle girls are growing up! This is Speedy and a couple of her bunkmates – the California Whites. The California Whites are so difficult to tell apart that they’ve never gotten themselves named. Well, they are very anti-social so a few names have been called, but not the kind one should perpetuate!

These “middle girls” are quickly nearing laying age. They will be 18 weeks old on September 1st. It will be interesting to see how they ease into that phase.

And it’s time to pick blackberries again! Couldn’t you just reach right out and pick these and pop them into your mouth?


That would be great if they weren’t ALL THE WAY UP THERE!

I’m thinking we’re gonna have to break out the tall ladder!

There’s so much that I should be doing in the garden today – but it’s Portland CityFest today and tomorrow. So the garden must wait! I mean – seriously – how often is Kirk Franklin in Portland?! Hello! Can’t miss him! And tomorrow night – Toby Mac! We’re really looking forward to the entire event… Hopefully I’ll get some blackberries picked in the morning and made into syrup before we head out tomorrow. We’ll see…

The thrill…

Will I always feel that thrill when I open the door to the nest boxes and see this? Will I ever be able (willing?) to go to the coop and check for eggs without camera in tow? I’m sure that at some future point in time it will change from a feeling of utter delight to drudgery perhaps… maybe in the dead of winter? Nah… I don’t think so!

I actually have a spreadsheet that I’m keeping that includes which hen laid which egg, what time of the day, how much said egg weighed, and the age of the hen. I’m sure some additional fields will eventually make their way in there, but thus far, these fields seem to be sufficient. I’m such a wierdo sometimes! LOL!

Suffice it to say that the egg watch has retained it’s high level of importance at our house – from the youngest kid on up – we’re all still thrilled with the discovery of a new egg.

Today Millie joined the egg-laying ranks! Woo Hoo! Her first egg was 1.5 ounces – just like Henrietta’s first real egg. But note the difference in color! Millie’s egg is on the left, Henrietta’s is on the right. Interestingly enough, Henrietta is the lightest in color of our three Rhode Island Reds. Wild, huh?

Henrietta’s egg shown here was 2.25 oz – thus far two of hers have been 1.5 oz, and two have been 2.25 oz. We haven’t cracked the second 2.25 oz egg yet, but the first one was a double yolker. Jonathan has dibs on the second one, and I’m sure will be a part of his breakfast in the morning!

This is the first time I’ve raised eggplant. This is an Ichiban variety, and is supposed to be good eats. If lovliness of a plants flower has any weight for the flavor argument, this one is gonna be really good. Wow – isn’t it gorgeous?
John’s pepper plants seem to have gone bezerk all of a sudden. One day you can’t find a pepper, the next, this!
Tonight at dinner John actually took one of these Hungarian wax peppers and diced it to enjoy with the tacos. (Yes, he was the only one interested in consuming it!) He reported that it’s a very sweet pepper thus far, but he’s read it has the potential to kick some serious butt!

Aren’t they gorgeous?
And look! The new planting of green beans are doing their thing!

By the way… I know this is difficult to see, but if you’re good at deciphering clues, you’ll find as we did – HOOF PRINTS! That’s not all we’ve found… more plants uprooted, green tomatoes with bites out of the sides of them, etc. Darn deer!

Thankfully, we’ve got enough tomatoes that the few the deer have gone after thus far have been inconsequential. (I could get QUITE cranky, however, if they don’t watch it!)


Last year our cherry tomato offerings were a little bit paltry. That will not be the case this year!

I think one of the most astounding things in life is to find a tiny little zucchini one day, and the next come back to find a ready to pick and consume fruit!

Of course, there is no such thing as too much yellow crookneck squash, but WOW – we’re getting lots of it, and it’s only just begun! Isn’t it pretty?


I’m watching the berry bushes daily (and of course quality control testing) the fruit to determine if it’s time to start picking. I hope to harvest many, many times in the coming weeks so that we’ll have plenty of jam, jelly, syrup, pie filling, and frozen fruit. I’m sure I’ll find some other things to do with the berries, too – just give me a little time! πŸ™‚

And our first green bean patch is growing like crazy – there are blossoms all over, and baby beans left and right – hooray! I can hardly wait to start canning these for the coming year!

We took a ride out to Ag West today to pick up a couple of things. My heart just yearns for a place that we can call our own… driving through the countryside just outside of the urban growth boundary was a call to my heart… oh, please Lord! Let there be a place for us one of these days!

Pesto!

It’s really been time to make pesto for at least a week – but time, you know – it just evaporates and then I find myself looking down a row of basil that just simply needs attention NOW! That’s where I found myself this afternoon – with a spare hour to my credit – so pesto had to happen!

Believe it or not, pesto is one of the easiest things to make. It doesn’t really take much – a couple of cups of basil leaves, some pine nuts, some garlic, some parmesan cheese, and some olive oil. Being the lazy girl that I am, I really feel strongly that a food processor is high up on the list of necessary ingredients of making pesto! πŸ™‚

See – only takes up a little corner on my counter:


But of course, we start with the garden – where the basil is yelling, “Dina! Get out here! We need attention! NOW!”

Ideally, you want to wait until your basil plants are at least 10 inches tall before you start harvesting the leaves. And if you hadn’t heard it before, it’s time for you to know that plants that go to flower tend to be bitter – so you want to harvest when they start to flower. Important note: if you deadhead (i.e., pinch off the flowering part of the plant) it doesn’t actually halt the flowering of basil, it just spurs the plant to produce more flowers. Rather than deadhead, cut at least six leaf pairs down the stem. The plant will then begin leaf production again – giving you more to harvest soon! (See Organic Gardening magazine for some excellent resources on growing basil.)

So – as you can see, this plant is definitely at least 10 inches tall – in fact, it’s 18 inches tall – so time to harvest! A good rule of thumb is to cut the stems just above the second set of leaves (counting from the ground up). This will cause new stems to form at this juncture. (Cool, huh?) If you trim your basil often – every 10 days or even less – the better flavor your basil will have.


Here’s the same plant after it’s little – ahem – hair cut.


Not a bad harvest, huh? And just to make sure we’ve got some truth in advertising going on here, this is harvest from TWO plants, not just one.


I typically put the collander in the sink, pull the leaves from the stems, and put the just pulled leaf into the collander. The work goes pretty quickly. I pull all of the leaves I can possibly get from a stem – avoiding any flower or seed “spikes” that are at the apex of the stem.


Once all of the leaves have been pulled from the stems, I wash them thoroughly – seriously, can take up to five full minutes to make sure they’re thoroughly clean!


That was a lot of leaves, huh? Would you have guessed it was only 4 cups of leaves? Make sure to pack those leaves down pretty firmly – and don’t forget to drain out any excess water that might settle to the measuring cup. (By the way, I’m making a double batch here.)


The step I forgot to take a picture of is the one where you throw those leaves into the food processor and pulse until they’re pretty finely chopped.

Next, you add the pine nuts. I used about 7 tablespoons of them. Also, some people prefer walnuts – it’s fine to use either, but I love the pine nuts myself. Pulse some more, until they are chopped and incorporated.


Now you add the garlic. Some people keep minced garlic on hand. See – true confessions come out there… I’ve got a bad attitude about the minced garlic you get in the jar – I just really don’t think it tastes as good or fresh (well, cause it isn’t!). I, of course, recognize that for some folks it really is the best choice for them – but for me, not. Soooo… if you add minced garlic, you don’t need to pulse much here – if at all. If you add cloves of garlic, make sure you pulse until they are minced and incorporated. The recipe calls for 3 garlic cloves – being the garlic-loving girl that I am, I usually double that.


Now the parmesan cheese. Again – going back to the lazy girl thing – while I could pull out the microplane and hunk of parmesan and grate like crazy to get the 1/2 of a cup of parmy, but instead, I hit the freezer for my handy bag of frozen shredded parmesan from Costco. Hey, it works! Go ahead and pulse to incorporate the cheese.


Now, while the food processor is running, gradually add in the 1 cup of olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil – use whatever you prefer.

Then, I do something that really isn’t called for in any of the recipes that I’ve seen yet, but I do just ’cause I like it this way: I transfer the ingredients from the food processor into a mixing bowl and throw in about another 1/4th a cup of shredded parmesan and use a spatula to mix it in.

Now it’s time to package the pesto. I pretty much make it to put in the freezer – where it will store nicely for up to a year. Woo Hoo! I use 1-cup freezer containers and fill leaving just a little head space. I’ve found over the years that adding a little layer of olive oil on top of the pesto works wonders at keeping it fresh tasting once it’s thawed.

And – voila – I now have my first three 1-cup containers of pesto in the freezer for the coming year.

I think the best part about having basil plants in the garden is that it really only takes a few minutes to throw together a batch of pesto – whether it’s a small batch to be used immediately, or a larger batch to prepare for the freezer.

And just in case you don’t have a way to use your wonderful batch of pesto, here’s one of my favorite ways to do so:

Dina’s Favorite Pasta Salad

1 pound of orzo
3/4ths pound Italian roast beef (1/2 inch thick slice)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1 small zucchini (peeled, sliced thinly)
1 jar pickled baby corn
1/2 cup pickled carrots
1/4 cup pickled asparagus
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
5 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsalmic vinegar
3/4 cup pesto
1 large avocado, diced
6 small tomatoes, wedged

  1. Dice up pickled vegetables according to your personal preference. Combine all prepared vegetables (omitting avocado and tomatoes) into a large mixing bowl. Add diced italian roast beef. Toss together.
  2. Cook orzo according to directions. When done, drain – but DO NOT rinse. Toss the hot pasta with the vegetables and beef. (This will steam the vegetables a bit.
  3. Quickly add in and toss with the pesto, vinegars, and olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Shortly before serving add in grated parmesan cheese and avocado.
  6. Once completely mixed through, garnish with tomato wedges and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as well as a few shavings of parmesan cheese. Serve.

Ta da!