Sunshiney Awesomeness

Someone asked me about this recipe rececently, so I thought I’d dig it out of the archives.  Enjoy!

About 20 years ago my best friend Carol and I found – and essentially – fell in love with Pizzicato. Back then it was a tiny little pizza place on Sylvan Hill – not too far away for us to sneak out for a to-go pizza boasting mouth-watering toppings like lamb sausage, feta, artichoke hearts, and lots and lots of roasted garlic.

As the years have gone by my love for Pizzicato has continued on unscathed.

My Mom actually got sucked into the Pizzicato obsession some years prior to her death, as well – and she introduced me to something new and fabulous at that time – and – well – my life was changed forever.

She introduced me to the Roast Turkey panini. The description is deceptively mild – it reads:

ROAST TURKEY, provolone, tomatoes & housemade aioli

Seems pretty – well – boring, right?

Au contraire, my love!

That housemade aioli is all sunshiney awesomeness (to borrow a phrase from my son, BiL) and enough to make you weep for joy.

One day – shortly before the Tanasborne branch of Pizzicato closed it’s doors… sniff… I was blessed enough to meet the guy who made the housemade aioli. I was explaining to him how it made my heart sing and taste buds rejoice – so much so that I always asked for extra for my sandwich, and an additional side to dip my kettle chips in. He smiled and laughed and said, “Sounds like a woman who needs to know how to make her own!”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

He walked away.

Mom and I shrugged, sat, and continuing to enjoy our shared Roast Turkey panini when – lo and behold – said young man returned, quietly slipped me a small piece of paper, then held his finger to his lips and said, “Shhhh!”, smiled, and then walked away.

BE STILL MY BEATING HEART!

He gave me the recipe for the housemade aioli!

I was nearly weak at the knees.

And I promptly went home and whipped up a batch.

Now – my friends – I shall share the wealth.

The great news is that you probably have everything you’ll need for a quick little batch of this wonderfulness. (Have I mentioned here ever that BiL adds “ness” to the end of most descriptor words?)

You’ll need a couple of cloves of garlic, some kosher salt, an egg yolk, a little lemon juice, a bit of Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable oil.

This goes so fast – you’ll be amazed!

First – peel your garlic cloves. Yeah – I know – the recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic. I wanted 3 – so I used 3. The world has continued to rotate on its axis. Life will go on. Okay – so I throw the garlic cloves into my cute little OXO chopper, and mince away. Once it’s pretty decently minced, I scrape the garlic into a small bowl, and add the 1/4th teaspoon of kosher salt.

With the back of a spoon I mash the garlic and salt together to make a sort of a paste. Be warned – it smells fabulous and your mouth is most definitely in danger of starting to water here! When the paste comes together into a kinda mushy mass, set it aside.

Now – in a small mixing bowl you place the egg yolk, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice (and yes, fresh would have been better, but I’m fresh out!), 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard.

With a wire whisk blend this together until it’s smooth. See? Nuthin to it!

Now, I combine the remaining oil – i.e., the 1/4th cup of extra virgin olive oil, and the 2 remaining Tablespoons of vegetable oil – in a glass measuring cup. Add those just a few drops at a time to this egg/lemon juice/mustard/oil emulsion. Be sure to mix it thoroughly – you don’t want to see any streaks of oil. It will look sort of like this after the first few additions of several drops of oil:

As you add oil and beat the emulsion, it will lighten in color slightly, and decidedly thicken in consistency. Take an extra minute or so after the final addition of oil and whisk it briskly.

Now… add the garlic/salt paste:

…and go ahead and whisk together for another minute or so.

And…

Voila!

….stuff to make your heart sing!

I transfer it to a small storage container and refrigerate for a good hour before using.

Let me just recommend taking some deli meat and cheese, rolling it up, and dipping into this fabulous stuff at the conclusion of that hour – it will make your world a better place!

Enjoy!

Aioli

Ingredients
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large Egg yolk
2 teaspoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Vegetable oil
  1. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with the kosher salt using a heavy knife or chopper.
  2. Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and mustard in a bowl.
  3. Combine the remaining oils and add – a few drops at a time – to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly until all of the oil is incorporated and the mixture is emulsified.
  4. Whisk in garlic paste and additional salt (if needed) and fresh ground pepper to taste.
  5. If aioli is too thick, whisk in 1 to 2 drops of water. Chill, covered, until ready to use.

Notes:

If the mixture separates (at step 3), stop adding oil and continue whisking until the mixture comes together, then resume adding oil, just a drop or two at a time.

If you have a mini food processor – it would be a total breeze to use to throw this aioli together in just a few minutes, rather than whisking it in by hand.

DO try this as a spread for a lovely turkey and provolone sandwich.

DO try it as a dip to eat with your Kettle chips, pretzels, or breadsticks.

DON’T keep it for more than three or four days – this isn’t the kind of thing you make bazillions of unless you know it’ll get used. But it’s SO worth making just the perfect quantity of for a specific application. I promise!

100 Years

His name is John Mark Bennett. He’s my great-grandfather.

He’s holding Helen Omega Bennett.

She’s my Grammy.

She was born 100 years ago today.

She was feisty.

She was beautiful.

She loved deeply.

She was determined.

She was intelligent.

She believed in righteousness.

She believed in justice.

She was hilarious!

She would laugh until she cried, and then she’d sigh and say, “Oh me!” shake her head and smile, and go on her way with a big smile on her face.

She could make just about anything grow.

She was a dedicated teacher – passionate that children be given every opportunity to learn!

She loved God with her whole heart – and dedicated each and every one of her days to be His first and foremost.

She listened to J. Vernon McGee on the radio pretty much every single morning.

She took great delight in every moment she got to spend with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

She lived her life ready to meet her Maker and looked forward to that amazing Reunion in Heaven that was hers on June 23, 2006.

She was a history buff.

She loved a good comedy.

She loved a road trip!

She was an amazing artist – she loved to paint watercolors, draw, and sketch.

She was a quilter – and considered it a great privilege to finish some of the quilts that her own mother and grandmother had started.

She would take me into the department store when I was a little girl, tell me to point out a dress I particularly loved, she’d quickly sketch it, and then she’d go home and make it for me.

She had a love affair going on with the public library.

She was possibly the worst driver ever!

She literally DID hit the broad side of a barn.

The last time she drove – at age 93 – was memorable – to say the least!

She was granola way before it was cool to be granola.

She made the most amazing pot roast for Sunday dinner after church.

She ate things that would have killed someone with a weaker constitution!

She loved chocolate – and always had a stash.

She adored See’s chocolates.

She fell out of the apricot tree in her back yard and broke her leg – when she was in her 70’s.

She caught a line drive with her shin on recess duty while in her 60’s – and was in a cast for seemingly ages.

She taught summer school sometimes and I remember clearly getting to go with her and thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world.

She used to always make me a roast beef sandwich (from Sunday’s leftovers) on whole wheat bread with a little bit of mayo and a generous bit of mustard, always wrapped up in waxed paper when I’d go to summer school with her.

She LOVED Disneyland.

She LOVED to take her grandchildren to Disneyland.

She was faithful, available, and teachable – her entire life.

She was an amazing friend.

She had the most amazing memory – she could remember and recount for you things that she experienced as a very, very young girl.

She adored her Papa.

She had a particularly soft spot for her sister – 19 years her junior.

She treasured her nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.  Each a precious blessing to her heart.

She was fascinated by her own family history – and how her family was a part of the fabric of what made up this nation she loved so very deeply.

She was incredibly proud of her brother, the Ace who flew in WWII – for both the British and the US.

She was brave!

She packed her bags and climbed on a train in Arkansas and made her way to California, where she made a new life for herself.

She went back to college when her children were young and got her teaching degree – when it wasn’t so much the thing to do.

She didn’t love spiders.

She did love the first chocolate chip cookie out of the oven.

She was incredibly into politics.

She was one of those people you should NEVER begin a discussion on politics with!

She could get good and riled up – know the term “spitting nails” mad? Yeah – that mad.

She often sang while she painted or worked in the garden, or puttered around the house.

She loved hymns.

She had a beautiful singing voice.

She personally cared for my Grandfather through a long, very difficult illness.

She was never afraid of a challenge – and always willing to learn something new.

She taught me that even though reading was difficult for me to learn, that I could not only learn to do it – but to do so exceptionally well.

She taught me how to believe that I could do just about anything.

She encouraged me to set aside preconceived ideas and follow wherever my Savior would lead me.

She wrote me a letter once a week – for decades!

She LOVED to talk on the phone with me.

She told me – innumerable times – to NEVER settle for second best.

She always wanted to know what I was knitting or crocheting.

She encouraged me to pursue art – in whatever form brought joy to my heart.

She encouraged me to look at the people that God had placed in my life – to look around, and to choose to love. No matter what.

She believed that God appointed each and every day of each and every life and considered each and every person to be a gift from God.

She was little – less than 5 feet tall – but that never stopped her from accomplishing what she set out to do.

I miss her so.

She was one of my dearest friends – and well, still is.

I know – with absolute certainty – that she’s having the BEST time in Heaven. She used to tell me the stuff she wanted to ask about when she got there. And she had a few issues she wanted to discuss with God!

Until the day I die I will thank God for the incredible gift of my Grammy.

I will never forget the day – in 1985, shortly before my Grandfather died, and it seemed as if Grammy was killing herself taking care of him – asking God specifically to please – if I was ever to marry and have children – please, let my children know my Grammy.

I will praise Him for the fact that my children did not know her passingly – but knew her deeply.

I will forever treasure the memory in my mind’s eye of Grammy in her long flannel night gown at the kitchen table with the kids before school, reading the Bible story book to them, and praying for them before they started their day.

I will take up where she left off – praying for the generations that descend from her – that they will know God and love Him and commit to obey Him all the days of their lives.

I will ask God to help me to grow up to be like my Grammy – a woman of faith, a woman of integrity, a woman marked by a love that has nothing to do with myself – but everything to do with HIM.

And I will look forward to that day – whether He returns for his Bride, or He calls me home first – when after that first welcoming to the true HOME of my heart in the arms of Jesus, my Grammy will be there – ready to hug me, and kiss me, and will have an excited gleam in her eye – ready to show me the ropes of Heaven.

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Mommy Material

About a month ago a pair of my Cuckoo Maran hens went broody.

Some broody hens just stay out of the way, are relatively docile, and are over it all in a few days.

Some broody hens are persistent. They just won’t give up – no matter what – unless they get babies.

Occasionally, I’ll have a broody who is not just not nice – but who is downright mean.

This particular pair of Cuckoo Maran hens that went broody last month are of the persistent AND mean variety.

I tried kicking them off of the nest.

I tried keeping them outside of the fenced run so they couldn’t get back in to the coop and the nests they were so committed to.

I pretty much tried it all.

But to no avail.

What’s worse – these two particular girls have a propensity to take eggs that the other girls are laying and somehow transport them from one nest box to the other to collect a nice sized clutch of eggs.

There was – of course – more than one broken egg in the process!

About two weeks into this persistent broody behavior I decided maybe I should look for some fertile eggs to let them hatch. The problem being – I usually only put one broody in the broody mama section of the coop at a time – and these two were determined to be broody together. What a pain! So I started reading up – and what do you know – sometimes that will work out, so I was willing to consider giving it a whirl.

I just couldn’t decide what breed of egg to find.

And then when I decided – I couldn’t find fertile of that breed!

Recently I talked to a couple of chicken owners who had had success with switching out non-fertile eggs from under a persistently broody hen with store-bought day-old chicks – effectively tricking the broody hen into believing she’d just hatched out a clutch of eggs.

We tried this once before.

It didn’t work well.

But after more research, we decided we know better how to pursue this and that conditions were right. We were gonna give it a whirl.

So yesterday we moved our two broody hens into the broody mama section of the coop, gave them each a nest with 5 eggs on it, and left them to settle in.

We also picked up a dozen day-ish old chicks from Burns Feed. My goal in breed this time? The youngest chicks I could find.

Fran, the amazing chicken lady at Burns Feed recommended the Light Brahmas and the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes – they were both the youngest good layers she had on hand.

As it turned out, there were 11 of the Light Brahmas, and I couldn’t bring myself to just leave a few of them behind, so I got them all and added in one of the BLR Wyandotte – I’m gonna call her Lucy because she’s going to have a red head.

So – late last night – after it was good and dark, after all of the girls had settled in for the night, John, Jessica, and I and the box full of chicks made our way out to the coop.

I started by reaching under the more settled of the two hens (Bertha) and replacing one egg for one chick – she seemed perfectly fine with it. Then I tried the same for the other hen (Mable) – she wasn’t so sure about this!

By the time I got to the 3rd chick for Mable it became clear that Mable was NOT mommy material. We grabbed her up and sent her packing to the other part of the coop!

So – wow – that meant Bertha would have to mother TWELVE chicks. I wondered if she could even FIT 12 chicks underneath her! But I managed to trade out all of the eggs under her (she’d stolen some of Mabels) and replaced them all with chicks – and then added the balance.

All we could do was leave them for the night and check first thing in the morning to see if Bertha was mommy material or not.

John set the alarm for 5:30 am this morning.

Success!

Bertha is MAJOR mommy material!

Can you believe she’s got ELEVEN chicks under her with just this one out checking things out?

I’m so impressed!

She’s not even phased by the fact that she’s the mother to an even dozen!

Woo Hoo!

Now – all I gotta do is sell the Anconas…. Anyone want 3 laying hens?

More chick shots as I’m able.

I’m Not Ready

A week ago it was nearly 100° in Portland following a week of temperatures in the 90’s – finally!

Today – showers and a high of 67°.

There is every indication that Fall will be here – soon.

I’m not ready.

The garden is showing signs of slowing down. (Even though there are just shy of about bazillion green tomatoes yet on the vine.)

The babies are only a month from coming into lay!

Oh – you need to meet Cleo (she’s an Egyptian Fayoumi) – isn’t she pretty?

She’s the most unusual chicken! She sings like no other chick we’ve had – really quite melodious – but – she’s FAST – and fairly anti-social. She loves her adopted sisters, though, and wherever they go – she goes!

The big girls are starting their fall moult. There are quite a few nearly naked chickens running around here!

To be honest – I had hoped we’d get another month of summer. I mean, it only seems fair given how late it started and how cool it’s been. Right?

:sigh:

Not ready.

See?

My tomatoes agree with me!

What is that Smell?!

What do you do at 10:50 pm the night before you have to be up at 4:15 am the next morning to get ready for work?

You take the cucumbers, onions, and peppers that you sliced up a little while ago….

…and then you…..

Boil up some brine….

Shortly thereafter at least one person in the house will say, “What is that SMELL?!”

I can admit it – it is pretty potent!

And then you put ’em all together and….

Voila!

Beautiful bread and butter pickles.

YUM.

Night night!

Garden 2011

I should probably be required to write:

I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger. I am a bad blogger….

(you get the idea)

At least 100 times on the blackboard.

Sigh.

Funny how completely working and just accomplishing those basic activities of daily living still leave me completely incapacitated at the end of the day.

I makes me REALLY look forward to the day when it won’t be that way. Please, dear Lord, let there be that day one day soon!

Tonight – after dinner, John and I walked out to the garden to see how things are progressing. The remainder of those post is going to pretty much be photos with a few comments.

Enjoy our garden.

We sure are!

…..

The hydrangea is finally in bloom! In August, for heaven’s sake! I love that it blooms right outside the kitchen window.

Here’s a peek at the “new” garden – this is the plot we put in a few years ago and is adjacent to the “old” garden.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my Romanesco Zucchini is finally putting out fruit! HOORAY! These plants were grown from seed saved from last year’s planting. I love it when a plan comes together!

TONS of grey zucchini blooms coming on the plant.

And with John’s brilliant new fencing job around both garden plots – it looks like we’ll actually get to eat the green beans this year – instead of the chickens and the deer! I can’t tell you how much that thrill my heart. J

John found a volunteer trio of sunflower plants in the pathway between the two garden plots, dug ’em up and planted them next to one of the cucumber trellises – it’s about to bloom – I can’t wait!

Look! Pickling cucumbers actually usable size! Hooray!

…and the first burpless cuke – just about ready for picking.

The lemon cucumber has lots and lots of blossoms – just no cukes yet. (They make the best Cucumber and Green Onion Salad. I can’t wait!)

Tomato plants…. Lots and lots of tomato plants…

Cherry tomatoes! Now all we need is enough sun to get them ripened up!

Look! It’s blushing!

Jessica – just in case you read this – there will be fresh green beans when you’re home – AND – squash. J

Can you believe this? I’ve still got lettuce in August!

The peppers are ripening up.

And the potato plants in the potato condo are at least 6 feet tall!

Yes, it’s true – there are actually still a few pea pods to be had.

And…

:sigh:

They’re back…

Did I mention that I’ve got 50 tomato plants planted in my gardens? And – oh – probably that same number of basil plants, too?

Squash and zucchini. Be still my heart.

Holding out hope for lots more sunny days – even if they’re on the cool-ish side, I’m okay with that.

Here’s to another 60 days of summer! J

Home Made Mayo

It wasn’t that many years ago that I didn’t know you could make your own mayonnaise.

I mean – hello?! – raising her hand to confirm that yes, she indeed, is a product of mass marketing.

Make your own mayonnaise? I thought.

What’s even IN mayonnaise?

And if you read the label of the mayo that most folks keep in their fridge – you know, the mayo that gets stored at room temperature on the shelf until you open it up (ewww) – you’d see:

Which some folks would be just fine with.

I’m not.

I kept wondering why my mouth would be burned and blistered after I’d have mayonnaise, and then I read the label.

DUH.

I’m allergic to soy!

So when I heard someone mention they made their own mayo I was A-M-A-Z-E-D.

Really?

You can do that?

Oh my yes, and not only can you (it’s easy – I promise!) – you should.

Honestly – once you have the home made stuff, you’re just not gonna be happy with the yucky store-bought stuff anymore.

Yeah, it’s that good.

So – without any further ado – let’s make some Home Made Mayo!

First, the ingredients: Egg, oil, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. (Sorry – the oil didn’t make it into the shot!)

I know! – Right?! – Only FOUR ingredients, okay 6 if you count the salt and pepper.

I should say right here and now – I’m making a double batch here – the basic recipe (here’s the link) is one egg – this post has twice the called-for amount of the ingredients. Just want to make sure we’re on the same page and all.

It’s all about balance, mayo. And getting emulsification going.

I’m all about getting a good result and doing it efficiently. So – I pull out the Cuisinart. I love my Cuisinart. 🙂

So let’s stop a minute and talk ingredients, okay?

Eggs: First – the fresher the eggs the better this mayo is going to come together AND taste. Yes, I know, not everyone has hens in the backyard and can walk out the door, gather the eggs, and then make mayo like I can. If you don’t have your own egg-laying little miracles in the backyard – find someone who does and buy a dozen from them!

Also – you can use whole eggs, or you can use just the yolk. I’ve been known to use one whole egg and one egg yolk in a (double) batch. You can mix it up. If you use the whole egg it’s going to be a smoother, looser consistency when it’s all said and done. If you use just yolks – which is totally a-okay – just be prepared to maybe need to thin the consistency out with a few drops of hot water at the end.

This particular batch I used 2 eggs that the girls laid this morning. Hence, the lovely bright orange yolks.

Oil: I prefer to use Extra Light Virgin Olive Oil. LOVE the stuff. You can use whatever oil that you prefer – the big caveat here being you want the oil to NOT convey a lot of flavor. Something neutral is best.

Acid: This recipe is using lemon juice – and the stuff in the refrigerator to boot! Yes, you could use fresh-squeezed lemon juice – it’s SO good. I just happen to be out of lemons at the moment. You could use white wine vinegar. I’ve used rice wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar, and lime juice, etc… Yes, each one brings a different flavor profile to the finished result – just keep that in mind.

Mustard: If you’ve known me any length of time you know I’m biased. When I find something that’s good – well, why use something else?! That’s how I feel about Dijon mustard. Yes, I use Grey Poupon. Why mess with perfection? I guess you could try others – I have in the name of saving a few pennies. SO NOT WORTH IT! So now you know my bias about Dijon – just use the good stuff, okay? Okay!

Into the bowl, with the metal blade in place, place the eggs, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and 2 Tablespoons of oil.

Now, put the lid on and turn the thing on.

Process for ONE MINUTE.

Yep – just 1 minute. That’s all you need to get this emulsification thing going.

Here’s what it looks like just as that one minute is almost up:

Now… You know the little tube-y thing that’s in the shute in the lid of your food processor? It’s got a dribble hole in the bottom – brilliant people who designed them. Now – making sure the lid is on and locked – turn the food processor back on, and take 1/4 a cup of the 2 1/2 cups of oil that you need for this recipe and put it in that dribble tube. See?

And this is what it looks like after the first 1/4 cup of oil has been added in and it’s been processed for a couple of minutes…

…kinda bubbly and no big oil slicks on the top, right? Hooray! That means emulsification is doing it’s thing!

So – what do you do if there is an oil slick on the top? Put the lid back on and turn the thing back on for another minute or two. Chances are it’s going to incorporate in that time and everything is going to be okay.

Now – with the food processor running – dribble in the oil, in a very fine stream.

It’s gonna take a little while. See the time stamp on the pictures? The one just above was taken at 2:57. The one below – when all of the oil has been added in and incorporated was taken at 3:12.

And this, my friends is what it looks like when it’s mostly done:

Some people don’t want salt and pepper or any other spice in their mayo. I just like it better with the salt and pepper, so I added in 1 teaspoon of Mediterranean sea salt and about 1/4 a teaspoon coarse ground black pepper.

…and then processed again for maybe another 15 or 20 seconds. Then, Voila!

It’s all done!

I wish you could smell it and touch it. Smells fabulous, and the texture is satiny smooth and wonderful.

This double batch made a bit more than 3 1/2 cups of mayonnaise wonderfulness.

Now – before we get any further, you need to know you can seriously put a twist on this recipe.

Try adding in some freshly minced – or – OH! – roasted – garlic cloves. YUM.

[Memories of sitting on the patio of a little cafe along the promenade in Benidorm, Spain – with the sun shining on the Mediterranean just steps from where we were sitting, dipping those fun little skinny breadsticks in a wonderfully garlicky mayo. :sigh: Must go back to Spain!]

Or maybe a few leaves of just-picked-and-brought-in-from-the-garden basil. :swoon:

Or how about a little green onion and/or chive?

See where I’m going with this? The possibilities are nearly endless!

So – here’s the thing, I do this kind of revolutionary thing after I get the mayo into my storage container…

I put the lid on, set the timer for 4 hours, and then leave it on the countertop in the kitchen.

Yep – you heard me right.

I don’t speed it right to the fridge.

Why?

So those lovely little probiotics can get to work and get established in there, that’s why.

After the 4 hours are up, off to the fridge it goes, and it can stay there for about a week and a half. This is not – after all – your store-bought, preservative-laden, mayo. It will go bad, and why eat bad mayo when it’s so easy to whip up another batch of the good stuff?

Okay – so see? It was SO easy.

Go make some mayo. Really – completely worth the 20 minutes of your life it’ll take up.

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.

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!