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!

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

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!

Dina’s Tex-Mex Stew

I’ve been very, very busy lately.

Longing for a good home-made soup or stew.

Too many meals that have been a grab of something out of the fridge as I’m racing out the door.

I don’t like that.

What I do like is this: Tex-Mex Stew.

Just what I needed this day – a chance to throw together a pot of yummy stew while I wait for my girl to get home from college tonight!

I probably should have gotten a shot of all of the ingredients corralled up – but I didn’t even think of doing that until now – so – yeah, didn’t happen! 🙂

Let me just start by saying this: use a big stockpot. At least 8 quart. Really. I hate it when I start making soup in a pot that’s too small and then I’ve got to transfer everything into a bigger pot and it’s such a hassle. So – got it? Make sure the pot is big enough. And you should know: this makes enough for dinner for the family with some leftovers to boot. If you don’t want that much: cut the quantities in half!

All that being said – I thinly slice ribbons of sweet onion, and then sauté them in a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a large stockpot over medium-high heat.

Next, add some sliced celery. I like celery – a lot – and believe in using as much of the leaves as possible. If that bugs you, then adjust accordingly.

Now add in the ground beef, making sure to break it up until it’s a pretty fine consistency as it browns.

You might think this is a little bit wacky – but believe me, it’s fabulous. You’ll thank me later for this next step.

Add taco seasoning mix, ranch dressing mix to the meat mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.

Doesn’t it smell amazing?!

(Normally I wouldn’t be semi-brain dead and gotten the order of adding things in mixed up – not that it’s the end of the world or anything – but if you print out the recipe and then compare my photos – you’ll note a bit of a disparity in the order of stuff. Sorry – I’m tired!)

Now add in the minced garlic, making certain to keep it from scorching.

Next I added the carrots. I want them to get a bit of a brown before going on to the next thing…

As you may recall, we can our own beans here. Love ’em. Will never go back to the store bought variety. SO much better. This would be a great opportunity to use a jar of mixed beans, or use smaller jars of a variety of beans. But – if you’re feeling kinda lazy (like I am today), then just pick a variety you like and throw them in. This time I used red beans.

A little note about one of the ingredients here. I’m allergic to bell peppers. Don’t know why – but they blister the heck out of my mouth. BUT… I can handle fire roasted canned peppers – go figure! And not only can I handle, I kinda love ’em! I particularly love the red and yellow mixed variety. What’s not to love?

Once most of the moisture in the bottom of the pan has been absorbed/cooked off, add diced tomatoes and the rough chopped fire roasted peppers. Use the juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, making sure to loosen up any bits that have adhered to the bottom of the pan.

I use home-canned chicken stock and typically a quart of it is gonna do you. But every now and then I like this a bit thinner and will add a bit more. And – I can’t extol the virtues of tomato juice enough. It’s GREAT for stuff like this, or pasta casseroles, etc. You’ve got some in your pantry, right?

Add chicken stock and about half of the can of tomato juice, stirring to make certain everything is well incorporated and nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan

Another ingredient I have a little love affair going on with here:

You may not know it – but you need this stuff. Yes, it’s worth the work to find it. Just get it, you’ll thank me later.

Add in chipotle chili powder and chili powder, adding more or less to your preference.

Turn heat to medium-low and add in corn, zucchini, and rice. Make sure to stir the rice in thoroughly. Allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, taking care to scrape the bottom to prevent the rice from sticking and scorching.

Now – all you need to do is eat some of this fabulousness.

YUM!

Hurry up and get home, Jessica! Soup’s on!

Dear Jessica…

Just in case you don’t remember – Oregon is REALLY wet.

The thing is – when it’s not – it can be simply glorious.

Like when Spring comes to call…

Today the clouds were fluffy – with an occasional shower tucked in there – the sky was blue, the sun even shone some. And the green is coming back in force.

(I’m not gonna lie – I’m kinda in love with this beautiful little farm I drove past today.)

Ignore the power lines on this one – focus on the daffodils… tons and tons of daffodils. Hard to believe they’re nearly done blooming. The tulips in the front yard are just about ready to bloom!

Just in case you wondered – the traffic in Cedar Mill sucks just as bad as ever. Yeah – not much to miss in that department!

Oh – and look! The babies are getting big! They came home 6 weeks ago. Hard to believe they’ll start laying in just 3 more months! Not sure, but I think I got a roo in there… Wasn’t Mr. Darcy a Cuckoo Maran roo? I can’t remember!

Oh – and Pepper got a haircut. She seems quite happy with it. (As are we!) And look!

…the willow is getting leaves galore! (Yes, that does mean quite a few of the girls have decided it’s time to sleep in the willow at night again. Ugh!) Oh – and…

…the tulip tree across the street is in bloom. Sublime!

So – you should come home. I miss you. A lot.

Love,

Your dear, sweet, adoring Mother.

OUCH!

There comes a time in (nearly) every girl’s life when she just has to drop everything and blog.

This is one of those moments.

That, people, is a BIG egg.

How big, ask you? (I knew you would, so I hauled out the kitchen scale.)

THAT big:

Yes, that says 4 ounces.

FOUR stinking ounces.

Poor little hen. Hope she’s okay… Didn’t see anyone having keeled over or limping along or anything….

Owie mama!

Okay – back to the many other things I ought to be doing…

Be a Friend to Bees

Apis mellifera (European honeybee)

Image via Wikipedia

This from the friendly folks at GloryBee Foods.

If you’ve never checked out their web site – please, do. They’re great folks. We’ve had great results every time we’ve ordered anything from them.

Be a Friend to Bees by Cultivating These Plants

As winter ends and warmer weather begins, bees will emerge from their hives and begin to forage again. You can help add to their options by including these nectar and pollen-producing plants in your garden or back yard—bees love them! Also remember that pesticides and herbicides in the garden can be harmful to bees! Herbicides contaminate bee’s water sources and pesticides can be fatal. So if you must spray, please take care to spray well away from the bee’s food and water sources.

  • Oregon Grape
  • Bee Balm
  • Fireweed
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • White Clover
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Deciduous Fruit Trees
  • Cabbage
  • Dill
  • Dandelions

Each year we make a point to companion plant pollinator-friendly items throughout the entire garden. It really does make a difference.

I’ve read up quite a lot on sage over the past year – I’ve stockpiled quite a little collection of seed, and I’m hoping that it will not only attract pollinators – but also discourage the deer from coming through and decimating my garden!

Here’s hoping!

Have you ever noticed?

John and I have committed to once every other month making a large batch of soup for a ministry that serves the homeless in downtown Portland.

It’s not much.

The need is so great.

But, it’s something that we can do – and do joyfully.

Honestly – it’s kind of fun – I get to experiment with all kinds of fun soups that the boys would NEVER in a million years eat – and are all sorts of fabulous – and someone will actually enjoy and appreciate them. I love that.

Today it’s white chili.

I’ve never made it before. What with being allergic to chicken and the boys being opposed to any form of bean – yeah, not high on the menu planning priority list. It smells great, and was – frankly – really easy to throw together. Now it will just simmer while we wait for the very nice lady from church to come pick it up and deliver it to where it needs to go.

John and I have mentioned to one another countless times how ironic it is that whenever it is our turn to make soup for this ministry some event or the other – or just the fact that I’ve worked less than 40 hours since the last of September – these are the times when we find ourselves in our most dire financial need.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

And it’s not like it’s once or twice it’s happened.

It happens every single time we’re scheduled to make soup.

Yes, the rent is paid. Some of the bills will have to wait. There’s not much gas in the cars. No, there’s no money for groceries.

We’re not likely to starve to death any time soon – ha! If things got really scary, the boys may well break down and actually want to eat beans! I’ve been canning – and beans we have!

It used to really stress us out – “Ugh! Time to make soup! What are we going to do?” And we’d go through the pantry looking for things that could be pulled together to make a nutritious and delicious soup.

Nowadays – we just kind of smile and look at each other and say, “Time to make soup.” It’s almost a challenge to see who can spot what God has or will provide (just in the nick of time, of course) to make that big old pot of soup possible.

Have you noticed that in your own life?

That God asks you to trust – even when it doesn’t seem like the practical thing to do?

There are things we could do.

We could back out – not follow through with the commitment. But then we’d miss out on getting to see the amazing things that we get to see God do each time.

We could freak out. Been there, done that – doesn’t accomplish much.

Lots of options of responses.

But there’s one thing we choose to do…

Only You
by David Crowder Band

Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting go
I lift it up to You who’s throned

And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord

Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything

And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now

You should see the view
When it’s only You
© 2003 Six Step Records

Ever notice how much better it is when you choose to stop – acknowledge that God is HERE – right now… No matter what the circumstances are? In the midst of it all – whatever it all is. No matter how afraid you could or should be? No matter how great the need or perceived need?

…that He does what only He can do…

He shows up.

Without fail.

To envelop with His incredible peace.

His unmatched love.

His beautiful mercy.

His matchless grace.

Ready to do just what needs done.

Ever notice what a delight it is to just step out and obey?

…feeling pretty honored to be a child of the King this afternoon.

Urban homesteading is in my blood…

My Grammy had a green thumb.


[Victory Garden circa 1943.]

She grew up in the garden, really. As did my Grampa – he was the son of a dairyman and a professional cook – both of whom believed in having a large garden out the kitchen door.

I love the old pictures of Grammy as a little girl, playing in the garden. So much of life revolved around the garden of their Booneville, Arkansas home. They lived in town – in a house that my great-grandfather built (he lost his right arm in a cotton gin when he was 11 years old – but it didn’t stop him from doing pretty much anything!) – that had a small barn, a chicken coop, and lots and lots of garden. There were fruit vines and trees, vegetables galore, and lots of “sustainable” living going on in that city lot!


[Tom Thumb wedding circa 1919.]

My Mom spoke of her love of the time spent in her Grandmother’s garden when she was a girl. For her, the love she felt related to her time spent with her Grandmother had very close ties to the amazing food grown, prepared, served, and enjoyed as a family in their lovely Southern California garden.


[My Great-Grandmother and my Mommy circa 1947.]

Growing up we always had a garden in the back yard. Mom and Dad always grew tomatoes, squash, corn, beans, peas, lettuce. Mom always had a patch of strawberries going and there were the plum trees that put out all kinds of crazy quantity of succulent Italian prunes. (Little did we know we loved prunes!)

If something important happened when we were growing up – we’d snap a picture in the garden!


[Grammy holding baby sister, my brother Joel, and I circa 1968.]

In the summers – nothing better than sharing a meal out-of-doors – featuring the very foods we’d grown just feet from our table.

When John and I married it was a no-brainer that no matter where we lived a garden would be involved. Better yet – a garden that could yield enough produce that we could preserve for future use! (I married a man with amazing skills. He’s the one who taught me how to can!)

Some of the sweetest memories I have are of my Grammy out in the garden with my own children – showing them just how it’s done!

[Grammy – age 82, and Jessica – age 2, watering circa 1994.]

When we came across this house that we live in – listed for rent – on HALF AN ACRE just a stone’s throw from downtown Portland, well – our pulses quickened a bit. Could we afford it? Could we even possibly be in line early enough to be in the running to luck out to rent it? We nearly fainted when we got the word that we could indeed afford it (barely), and that we were the first in line with a completed rental application and application fee attached.

:sigh:

A house with a garden. A REAL garden – the kind you can live off of. Just what we’d longed for.

What a gift!

What a blessing!

What an amazing God!

Yes. There is great responsibility. But oh – the benefits far outweigh any sense of burden.

But here’s the thing…

It scares me a bit how little people of my own generation, much less those of my children, understand where food comes from. It scares me significantly more that if you stood on a street corner and surveyed the folks walking by – asking if they could grow a garden given the resources – that the vast majority would look at you with a blank stare.

There are so many deep philosophies at play here – this beautiful thing called urban homesteading represents.

Accountability.

Appreciation.

Availability.

Historicity.

Patriotism.

Stewardship.

Sustainability.

…the list could get very, very long.

For me – bottom line – it goes back to WHO I am accountable to in my life. I believe with every fiber of my being that there is a God and He is Creator and that He has gifted us with this very precious resource. I consider it nothing short of Worship to be able to steward this little corner of the world. We consider it our privilege and honor to take the yield from His blessings and our labors, preserve them, and to gift excesses to those in need in our community.

NOTHING about any of this is new.

It is the way it was done in my Mother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Grandmother’s day.

It is the way it was done in my Great-Grandmother’s day.

…and for generations prior.

My fervent hope is that my children, my children’s children, and for generations to come – it will continue to be an important part of life. That they will never take for granted the beauty of this thing.

If you’re an urban homesteader, consider joining us in celebrating this beautiful thing we do – and make a stand for the unrestrained right to proudly declare so. There is a Facebook group to check out here. Other excellent posts to read here and here.