Thursday, May 28, 2015

garden update

It has been 10 days since the last post.  Doesn't hardly seem possible.  I have been keeping busy.  The lawn is growing like crazy and between yesterday and today I finally got it mowed.  Parts of it was pretty long.  Last time I mowed I was only able to finish part of it before the rain so what didn't get done was really long now.  The nice thing about when that happens is that it makes for lots of grass clippings to collect and lay in the walking rows to help with weed control.  If the weeds keep growing like they are we will need lots of grass clippings.  So far I have enough for five or six rows. 

Nathan and Michelle were here this past weekend.  While they were here we got the rest of the sprinkler timer installed.  I had mounted it on the post and attached one hose and now four hoses are attached and they are all programmed.  I wanted to get the lawn mowed around the garden before I watered but I did turn it on to see if it was working and it is working great.  There is nothing planted yet in the west end of the garden so Zone 3 and 4 are turned off.  There are thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow so if we get a decent amount of rain I might be able to turn it off for tomorrow. 

I did get some stuff planted in the garden, some tomatoes, some kohlrabi and some peppers.  The very next day I noticed that some of the kohlrabi had already been nibbled on and a couple of the tomatoes had been sampled as well.  Lots more stuff to plant, both seeds and transplants.  Hoping the weather cooperates.  It has been kind of a cool wet spring.

I got the rings around the plum trees enlarged.  The pears are left to do and I have to spread some wood chips around but it is one of the tasks on my to do list so it is nice to make some progress.

I have this cute little distraction.

 Cait and Robb have a new dog.  She is a rescue puppy named Willow and I am babysitting while they travel to Kansas for the wedding of a college friend.   This weekend the rest of the dogs and their humans will be around.  We will be going to a nephew's grad party and maybe doing a little gardening.  Should be some exciting times.  I will try to get some pictures. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

catching up

It seems like there is so much to talk about that hasn't made it to a blog post yet, so I am trying to catch up.

May 18 is our last frost date

The farm is in zone 4 and resources list May 18 (Today) as our last frost date.  There is actually a frost warning for tonight.  Our expected low for tonight is right around 32.  It has been too wet to plant so I don't have any tender vegetables in the garden yet so nothing to cover tonight.  A couple of area friends were tossing around that dreaded S-word--snow--I hope that they are kidding.  It is cloudy so I suppose that anything is possible.

weekend weather

On Saturday this past weekend our area had some tornadoes and thunderstorms go through and I feel very fortunate to have missed the worst of it.  There was lots of tornado activity in the afternoon and early evening.  I am hearing reports of as many as ten tornadoes touching down or spotted in all directions within 40 miles of the farm.  I am not hearing reports of damage so hopefully that was minimal.  We also had rain and thunderstorms, receiving a couple of inches at the farm but only a few miles away the story was significantly different.  About four miles to the west there is lots of standing water and I talked to a friend who is about that far west but farther north and they had five inches in their rain gauge.  There is water standing in the fields and the road ditches and dredge ditches are full in some areas.  I took a few pictures from my car as I drove into town.

garden tools and toys

Between Mother's day and my upcoming May birthday my kids have gifted me with some great garden stuff.  I am truly blessed to have such wonderful kids.  Most of these are new this year but a couple are from previous years but they are some of my favorite tools so I included a picture.  I am excited to put them to use.  A garden cart from Nikole and Brad and assembled by Brad.  I have already used it to haul cement clocks down the driveway.  It says it will hold 900 pounds.  I had 240 pounds in it and was not able to pull it very well.  When I removed 80 pounds it pulled like a charm.  Thanks Nikole and Brad.
 Nathan and Michelle gave me a timer for my garden hoses.  I will be able to set it to automatically water my big garden.  It can run four hoses.  I am thinking that I can get by with three but we will see.  Since it has been raining and everything is still muddy this is not hooked up yet but it will be by the time things have dried out a bit.  Thanks Nathan and Michelle.
 From Caitlin and Robb I got two new hoses which were desperately needed and
 a new rake.  It has the most interesting features.  The handle is hollow making the rake very lightweight and there is tines on one side and these notches on the other.  I think the notches will be great for leveling and spreading.  Thanks Caitlin and Robb.
 These are two of my favorite tools.  The red is a stirrup hoe.  It cuts on both the push and the pull making fast work of weeding.  I got this from Nikole and Brad last year.  Now that Bobbie has a garden she got one this year from them and I am predicting that she will love it.

The second tool is a hori hori.  It is a garden knife that I got from Nathan and Michelle a couple of years ago.  It has a wood handle and a slightly cupped (convex?) (concave?) blade that is serrated on one edge and has measurements down the center of the blade.  I use it mostly for weeding.  It works great for taproot type plants but I think that it would also work great for planting or transplanting. You can plunge it into the dirt and pull it toward you slightly to make a hole for dropping a bulb or seedling into. 

The farmstand 

The farmstand made it to the end of the driveway and soon it will be ready for plant sales and then later vegetable sales.  I need to put the signs up yet but it is in place.  As windy as it  has been lately I am hoping it won't need much in the way of dusting.  Tomorrow I will spend a good part of the day in the greenhouse sorting and organizing the seedlings so that I can set aside those plants that will go into my garden and those that have been grown for the gardens of our family.  The surplus will be offered for sale on the farmstand.  I will use my new cart to haul the plants back and forth between the farmstand and the greenhouse.

the baby goats

Yesterday the goats had their last hay in the barn and today were turned into the pasture with the rest of the herd.  They stayed right near the gate at first, eating the very first grass they came across.  The fresh green stuff is so much more interesting than that old dry stuff.  They are doing well, sturdy little goats who are sticking pretty close to mom yet.  I need to get a new picture of the babies. 

blog changes

I have been working a bit on the blog, I added my list of 2015 farm goals to the right side bar and am going to try to keep a running total of how much produce is generated from our gardens and fruits.  I have always been amazed when gardeners talk about how many pounds (or tons) of food that they have harvested.  I am going to try to keep track.  I have my little cute scale which so far is keeping up although I only have asparagus so far.

I am also finally getting caught up on recipes for the Mother's day food on my other blogs.  Feel free to check them out.  Click on the list at the top of the right side bar.  I am going to be making some dandelion jelly and spicy pickled asparagus so those recipes should show up there soon as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

well, my new rain gauge works

On Mother's Day my new rain gauge had over three inches of rain in it.  There will be no gardening outside for a couple of days.  But there is still work to do in the greenhouse with the seedlings.  I did not have a chance to make dandelion jelly yet but there will be more opportunities for picking and using dandelion flowers.  I have a few flowers picked by Caitlin that are sitting  in my refrigerator and if I can get enough more while those are still good I will report how it turns out.

Last week in this post I mentioned in the last paragraph that I have a couple of events that I am cooking for and one of them was Mother's Day at my mom's house.  I am planning to serve the same food at both events using my Mom's dinner as a trial run on a couple of new recipes.  I brought a salad and an assortment of homemade candy bars for dessert.  I really liked the salad.  It is a Thai coleslaw, colorful and flavorful.  I would definitely make it again.  The candy bar assortment included homemade Trix, homemade Payday and homemade Butterfinger candy bars.  None were especially difficult and I thought they tasted good and similar to the originals.  All in all it was a fun culinary day. 
Thai peanut slaw
L to R- twix, payday and butterfinger
PS.  this post has been sitting on the blog in draft form for several days (since Mother's Day) just waiting for me to come back and hit publish.  Oops. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A fun surprise

Today my mom and dad stopped to collect some cement blocks from the farm for a project that they have going on and while they were here they dropped off a rain gauge for me.  Mom called it an early birthday present and it is so cute.  I have for a long time had a collection of black and white cows in my kitchen.  At one time I had a lot of them but right now I am displaying only a few.  So the black and white cow on the rain gauge is similar to many others that I have.  Isn't it cute?

I placed it in the corner near the door that we always use to come and go from the house.  Hopefully it is far enough away from the house and trees for an accurate reading.  Last year we removed all the plants that were there and relocated them.  We added some dirt to correct the grade so that it ran away from the house and added the border.  Nikole and Brad brought out a pickup load of wood chips when they were out earlier this spring.  This is the area that will hold my herb garden.  My herbs will be in large pots sitting on top of the wood chips.  I have to admit that my mom has a knack for finding great gifts and will usually buy them when she sees them but a little bit of trouble waiting to give them at the appropriate time. :)  I am glad to  have it even if it is early and hope that she remembers when my birthday rolls around that she gave me this very cute rain gauge.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!!

Speaking of rain, we did have a nice downpour of at least a half inch of much needed rain.  I was even glad to give up on the mowing once the rain got started.  Tomorrow will be soon enough to get back at it.   

a couple of experiments

Nikole's experiment

This winter Nikole left at the farm a couple of grow bags for me to plant in the greenhouse and then she would grow them at her house in the city, perhaps on her beautiful deck and patio that she and Brad built last summer.  The tomatoes are getting to be  pretty sturdy in their red solo cups and she reminded me about the bags so today I selected a couple of tomatoes and got them planted.  It will be interesting to see how they do.  Because they are quite large and because they will need to make the 2+ hour trip from the farm to the big city, I decided to set each one in a tub for transport.  I also filled each pot only half full with the plan that Nikole will place the pots in their final location and then add more soil to fill the pots.  I placed the plants quite deep and tomatoes will grow roots along the buried stem so by the time that Nikole puts them outside, our last frost date is 10 days away yet, she should be able to fill the pot up to the leaves with more dirt.  The pot is called a smart pot and according to the label that was stapled to it there are many advantages to using this type of container.  The label says it was $10 when she purchased it but that may have been before last years growing season.  If she has any 'after' pictures on her blog I will post a link.   The fabric looks and feels like a type of felt and I think that black color will warm up the soil which the tomatoes should appreciate.  

Big Beef (back) and Oregon Spring (front)

My experiment:

The farm is mostly a no spray farm.   Although we have occasionally used a little spray on the fence lines for the most part all the lawn and garden areas do not receive any chemical sprays or fertilizers and I follow mostly organic processes.  So, this is my lawn every year in the spring and off and on during the summer.

This is the lawn in front of my house, between the house and the road.  It has hundreds--thousands--of bright yellow dandelion flowers.  Earlier this year  I found this recipe for a honey colored dandelion jelly. I think this might be the year to give it a try.  I am thinking that if I hold off mowing that patch until I can pick the blossoms it should be a fun project.  My kids will be at the farm for mother's day and it might be something that we can do together.  I wonder if small jars would sell on the farmstand? 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


A few flower pictures which are blurry due to the very windy conditions:
lilac flowers starting to open

west apple tree

east apple tree

ornamental flowering crab

 a few greenhouse pictures:


peppers (three kinds)


tomatoes (five kinds)


East end of the greenhouse



west end of the greenhouse

butternut squash
and half done with the raspberries
the row of raspberry canes

the unfinished half, old canes and long grass

the finished half, canes tied to wire and weeded
I have been working on the raspberries.  A couple years ago I dug up some black raspberry canes that grow wild on the edges of our grove.  I was hoping that by moving them to a dedicated space of their own that I could get bigger, easier to pick fruit.  Usually by the time the fruit is ripening the weeds have made it difficult to get to the berries to pick them.  These raspberries fruit on the second year canes.  So each season there are three types of canes, the new ones, the one year canes from last year that will fruit this year and the two year old or older canes that have fruited.  The growth habit of these canes is that they grow tall and are arching.  When the tip of the cane touches the ground they develop roots and will start another plant.  This habit will eventually create a thicket or bramble if not managed.  This is what happens on the edge of my grove.  Last year was the first year that we have gotten much of a crop off of these plants and so this spring I am cutting back the spent canes and tying the year old canes to the top wire to keep them from arching all over the yard.  Last year it got to be impossible to weed or even mow close.  This year I am determined to do a better job of keeping the canes fastened.  I have been pruning the old canes and pulling the grass that is growing around the plants.  Then I am using long twist ties to fasten the prickly canes to the wire.  I have a low wire that is not helpful at all and I will remove that once I get the rest of the row done.  I am using the stirrup hoe to weed out any remaining grass or weeds and when the row is finished I will mow close, cutting the long grass on the edge of the bed that has been growing under the arching canes.  Once the new canes start to grow they will need to be tied up as well but getting these done will make it so much easier.

I am transplanting more raspberries into the big garden.  They will be planted between the posts alternating with rows of asparagus, four sections of each.  I started last year and hope to finish this year.  It will be a couple of years before we are able to harvest a crop.  Last year I made a jalapeno onion black raspberry chutney (recipe here) and I have been pinning raspberry recipes on pinterest and keeping my fingers crossed that we get a big crop.  

If I am blogging in the afternoon I must be avoiding the lawn mower...

I am embarrassed to note that I have not posted many recipes this winter and spring.  My last post on my Farmstand Cookbook blog was in way back in November.  So today when I was grabbing a quick bite between transplanting seedlings in the greenhouse and getting ready to hit the mowing I grabbed a quick picture of my lunch.

Omelet with browned butter and fresh sage
The recipe is here.  Or click on the left side bar where is says my other blogs if you are interested in my lunch.

My A Dozen for Dinner blog was in even worse shape with it being 10 months since my last post.  To be fair, it has an entertaining focus and I have not be very entertaining lately.  I have a couple opportunities to cook for others coming up and I promise to get some pictures and post the recipes.  I have my menu decided for my supper meeting next week.  One old favorite, and some new facebook/pinterest finds.  I will trial run the new recipes for Mother's Day and report back how they turned out.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

anothrer beautiful full moon...

I don't know why the sky in the country can look so different that the city sky. 

It was a beautiful weekend.  We didn't get the rain that was predicted so I am busy watering.  All of my hoses were leaky so I spent part of the day replacing washers.  I have some of the sprinklers set up in the big garden and am trying to keep the few things that are planted moist.  The pea seeds have sprouted and part of the onion plants are in ground.  A row of carrots is planted but they have not sprouted yet.  I watered the ram pens and rows by the potager and the grapes and the orchard. 

More trees are flowering, the lilac, the ornamental flowering crab, both apples and both plums.  The pears are not started yet.  If we don't get more rain I will need to water the flower beds as well. I also spent some time in the greenhouse.  There is getting to be a bunch of time spent watering.  Most of the greenhouse lettuces have bolted and in their place are the spring garden seedlings that I started in the house and moved to the greenhouse.  Most of what is there are the tender vegetables, some flowers and some herbs. 

I have been doing some pruning and all day today I have been drinking basil infused ice water.  We are growing two varieties of basil, a genovese basil and a citrus basil.  The prunings of both make really tasty water.  Yesterday afternoon I picked some asparagus and sent it with Robb who was making the trip to the big city to see Caitlin.  Today there was asparagus that was too short to pick yesterday but today had doubled in size.  I picked a couple of the biggest ones and brushed them with a little garlic flavored olive oil and put them on the grill in the kitchen.  They were great.

Today when I was watering in the greenhouse I counted 360 red solo cups with tomato plants and pepper plants.  Next time I will have to count the smaller white cups.  And take some pictures. . 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

first harvest of the spring

The first half pound of asparagus has been harvested and will be headed to the big city.  This is from the first asparagus bed that we planted several years ago.  Last year we were able to enjoy a few of the spears but this year we should be able to harvest and use it at will.  We started our plants from seed instead of buying year old crowns so we had an extra year of growing needed before we can enjoy them.  This is the row that is east of the potager and last year I planted two more rows in the big garden and I have seeds started for two more rows that will also go in the big garden a little later this spring.   

Friday, May 1, 2015

april showers bring may flowers

All of the fruit trees in the orchard are leafing out but today on May Day the only ones with flowers are the two plum trees. 

the east plum tree

The west plum tree
While not quite flowering yet the west apple is getting pink flower buds and should be close.